Thursday, August 27, 2009

So. Much. Sweating.

So, you know, I have this whole book thing coming out in five days. FIVE DAYS! FIVE FREAKING DAYS!! (Ahem. Perhaps I am overexcited...) Anyhow, yesterday I had a very interesting experience. One that I didn't think would be a big deal, but ended up rendering me a sweaty, babbling, um, I guess there's no other way to say it... idiot.

I KNOW! I usually write about how fabulous I am! This took me by surprise too.

What was the experience? Right...I guess that would be an important little detail. I had my picture taken. For you know, book stuff. That's all.

Or so I thought...

Call me crazy, but I thought that spending my entire working life with forty little eye balls boring into my very being would prepare me for one little old camera. I mean, you know how honest kids can be. And how observant. Yeah, that's what we'll call it - observant.

"Mrs. Mimi, are those new shoes?"

"I like your shoes."

"You have funny hair."

Not so bad. Not so bad at all. However, the above comments are also peppered with these gems:

"What's that red thing on your face?"

"Why does your hair look like that today?"

"You look like you feel sick."

Perhaps they are said with love, perhaps they are said with concern, or perhaps they are said because children have no filter whatsoever. None. At. All. But whatevs...I am the FABULOUS teacher with FABULOUS shoes and a FABULOUS new dress.


You see, I thought that all these little observations would give me a fairly thick skin when it came to looking at myself critically. But oh my, oh my...looking at hundreds (YES HUNDREDS) of yourself up close and personal and all on the computer is...alarming. Clearly my defense mechanism of choice was to babble on and on. I was all, "I hate myself in pictures, and isn't my hair flat, I know I totally do slouch, I should work on my posture, should I look this way, do I have food in my teeth and ha ha ha THIS IS UNCOMFORTABLE!" I was literally spewing a negative amount of self-confidence, vomiting up insecurities all over the floor.

Hot, right?

And the photographer was so nice. And patient. So very, very patient. Because eventually we got a shot that didn't make me want to run screaming to a remote village without mirrors. Actually, he was able to get a shot that I really like. Despite all my sweating.

Guess I'm just more comfortable with my friends.

Guest Blogger - Principal's Page

Even though we don't want to, we have to admit it - summer is almost over. I know, I hurts just to say it, right? This is usually the time of the season when I think to myself, "Self, what have you gotten done? Where is that To Do List? Is someone nearby to freshen my drink?"

Well, THIS summer I made a new friend over at Principal's Page. Now we all know that I loves me some teachers...but it's REALLY REFRESHING to read the perspective of an administrator with a sense of humor. A SENSE OF HUMOR, PEOPLE!

Here is one of his past favorites. I thought we would let his work speak for itself. Enjoy:

As I sit here on the day after Thanksgiving, I have a couple of thoughts.

One is that I need a bigger chair.

The second is that last piece of pumpkin pie was a bad idea. I feel like a bloated rotting hog that has been lying out in the sun for too long.

Too graphic? Sorry. I get cranky when I am too fat to fit in the shower.

Honestly, I am one more scoop of mashed potatoes away from needing a hand rail to successfully bathe.


Because I am going to have to sit down in the shower while the water pours over my humungous carcass (take away the c-a-r-c….). Eventually I am going to have to stand up.

It would be inappropriate to call 911, so the hand rail is a must.

I really need a glass of water and a small salad. A really small salad. And do they make diet water?

Why do I overeat on Thanksgiving? I know it is going to happen, yet my self-control fails me.

I am pathetic. And uncomfortable.

It got so bad that loosening my pants didn’t solve the problem. I was thinking long and hard about just taking them completely off (yet another reason to always wear clean underwear kids).

If I never eat again it will be too soon.

This got me thinking about the last meal I enjoyed when I still weighed less than a Ford Focus (you are welcome for the gratuitous plug Ford… I am doing my part to save the auto industry).

On Wednesday, I didn’t have school but my wife and daughter did.

There are some advantages to working in a different district than the rest of the family.

One, my daughter doesn’t have to hear my name used as a curse word on the playground.

Another is she can invite me to eat lunch with her when I have a day off.

At this point in her life she considers this fun. And so do I.

You would think that eating another school cafeteria corn dog would be the last thing I want to do on a day off, but in this case it is an honor and a privilege.

And one that won’t last forever.

I don’t know how much longer I have, but I am trying to milk it for all its worth before I get banned to Daddy Dork Land.

It’s coming. It’s just a matter of time. I can feel it.

Sure my corny jokes play well to a 2nd grade audience, but in a few years she will have to disown me.

I can’t blame her. She can’t afford to risk her social status by letting me show up at her middle school for lunch.

By then my best hope is she doesn’t tell her friends that her father was killed in a horrific coal mining accident. Or worse, she tells them she is a test tube baby (again, I apologize about the graphic nature of this particular blog… I am not myself as gravy courses through my veins).

I can live with dropping her off two blocks from school each morning, but I don’t want her to have to fake my death. Or lie about her conception.

Anyway, she let me eat with her and I even got a special bonus.

Yes, I was a proud recipient of a very public kiss and hug (I can feel these slipping away…).

So while I have been on lots of hot dates (not really), I think I will always remember when a pretty girl asked me out for corn dogs on a special lunch date.

And I might add. Pineapple, corn, and my choice of white or chocolate milk.

I felt like a prince.

Soon, I will be the frog.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Open Letter To Staples

Why must our relationship be so contentious? So fraught with emotion? Longing? Mistrust?

Year after year, you taunt me during my time of rest with back-to-school commercials that seem to appear earlier and earlier each summer. Don't you know that these commercials, while humorous to many, only serve to remind me of the hundreds and hundreds of dollars soon to leave my wallet? I can't count the number of times I have been reclining on the couch with a fruity, cool, umbrella topped drink, happy to engage in utter mindlessness (read: Golden Girls and What Not To Wear reruns) when your commercial (read: cruel reminder) pop up on the screen and my state of zen is disrupted by visions of school drama to come.

I feel like we keep trying to break up, but can't quite make it stick. Every time I think I'm through with you, you lure me back with promises of Big Savings for Teacher Appreciation Day. Come in now! Get your free tote! Filled with goodies! We appreciate what you do! Lies. All lies. Because I DO come in, I DO ask for the free tote and every time, EVERY SINGLE TIME you tell me I have the wrong date. Suddenly, I'm all dressed up with no place to go. Even my cries of, "I checked online and it said today was my day!" don't seem to phase you. With a cool, "that must be the date for another location" you dismiss me, toss me aside.

I hate myself for it, but I keep coming back. Is it because I'm too lazy to find a replacement? Too used to your ways? Complacent? I don't know.

There are just enough good times though, just enough for me to fool myself that you are the one for me. Like today. Convinced I had the date correct, I came back to you and as my eyes adjusted to your fluorescent lighting I saw it. Your gift to me. Your apology.

A brightly colored mix-and-match assorted paper clip stand. Mix. And. Match.

There were various sizes of containers to choose from which could be filled with big paper clips, small paper clips, animal shaped paper clips, colored paper clips, SHINY paper clips....whatever I wanted. Whatever. I. Wanted.

(sigh) I love you Staples. I just can't seem to quit you.

Mrs. Mimi

Stop. Fairy Time.

Let's be honest with ourselves here for a moment, shall we? Sometimes it is hard to psych yourself up for a new class at the begining of the year. Last year, it was definitely not love at first sight for me. I remember being all, "I'm so excited to start the year with you!! We are going to do so many fun things together!! Second grade rules!" And, as I wiped sweat from my brow, they were all *blank stares*. But whatever, we got over that initial little hump, bonded and were totally obsessed with each other by the end of the year. I try to think of the whole thing as a process...

Keeping in the spirit of it being a PROCESS and reminding ourselves that the first few days of school can be very exciting but also INTENSELY PAINFUL AND ANXIETY INDUCING, I thought it best to dwell in a place I call Happy Memories of Successful Teaching Past.


You see, earlier this week I had lunch with a very special friend of mine. This person volunteered in my classroom for three years (I know, she totally deserves a trophy...Most Tolerant Person Ever) and saved my behind on many occasions. She filed, she conferenced, she corrected...she ROCKED. (I'm not sure why I haven't blogged about her more often, but you can read more about her here. I HEART her.) We were chatting and reminiscing about all of our past faves and funny stories from our time together. It reminded me how every year a new batch of students goes from being a sea of blank stares to super cute just takes awhile.

She reminded me of the story of the Math Fairy.

One of my favorite things about my friends is their tendency to believe anything that comes out of my mouth. Seriously, by the middle of the year they not only sound like me (Imagine kids looking at each other's latest piece of writing and exclaiming, "That is FAB!" or saying, "I totally heart this book" when in the library. Yeah, maybe I DO take it too far...) but they also hang on my every word. It's quite the power trip (Bwahh haha ha haaaa!) yet is an ability that I never want to abuse. (No matter how tempting it is to force them to believe that the Golden Girls is classic television from which one can learn many life lessons or that I really DO have eyes on the back of my head.) However, sometimes I say things in passing and don't even realize what an impact they have on my little friends.

Get this. So, all the kids in my class have Finish Folders. These folders are not only TOTAL GENIUS, they are an F'ING LIFESAVER when it comes to digging up last minute sub work or dealing with that group of friends who take 45 FREAKING MINUTES just to get their name on the paper and therefore never complete anything. I stole the idea of the Finish Folder from one of my ultra-amazing Super Colleagues and never looked back. You see, if we are working on a page in our math journals, or practicing a word sort or whatever, I'll walk around and see how everyone is doing. Once I get a sense of things, I usually will call my friends back to the carpet to debrief. Many times, it really isn't imperative that they finish each and every problem, rather it is more important that I determine who has got it and who needs more help. (Um, were you so just totally impressed that I used "rather" in that last sentence, because I was...) In the interest of time, it's more important that we move on and so my friends either turn in their work or lovingly tuck it into their Finish Folders to work on at a later time when they have a free moment (read: a sub is in the room because I am called to a last minute meeting or I just found out that I lost my prep and there is no coverage...again).

A side note on these Finish Folders, in case you try to implement them in your classroom (which you should because they are BRILLIANT and you're CRAZY if you don't, but that's just my opinion). Watch out, because you will have an occasional friend or two who allows so much work to be placed into their Finish Folder, that it quickly grows to be two, two and a half inches thick. This happens very quickly and often will float under your radar. Let me pose a quick and simple solution to this dilemma which worked wonders in my classroom. I noticed that one little friend's folder was bulging with incomplete work - now keep in mind that none of this work is absolutely essential...if it was something I used for formal assessing, it HAD to get done and never went in the Finish Folder - these papers were more of the pencil-to-paper-keep-you-busy-when-you-walk-in-the-room-and-unpack variety. But still, COME ON! Do something! Take some responsibility! So, I sauntered over to said friend the day before our spring vacation and said, "Hey. I see you have a lot of work in there, huh? I was thinking it would be perfect fuel for your brain on vacation." And BAM! I stapled a note to his parents on his folder so quickly that he never saw it coming. The note explained the purpose of the folder and also included exactly how many pages their child had lovingly stuffed in there. (Yes, I counted them.) Problem. Solved. When word of that little incident spread, friends started to miraculously turn in previously incomplete work and folders began to shrink like Biggest Losers. (Another note: I quickly learned the need to occasionally check the garbage/recycling to see if any crafty little devil had decided to suddenly purge their Finish Folder in a not-so-responsible fashion. ) (If they still got away with getting rid of incomplete work after all that, I say Bravo! Good for you and your problem solving mind!)

(Don't worry, I'm getting to the Math Fairy part.) (Geez.)

Every once in awhile, I would notice that so-and-so's Finish Folder was getting low, so I would sometimes put additional practice in there, you know, as a little surprise. Enter My Rockstar Volunteer and Partner in Crime who would most often be the one to tear out unused pages from their math workbooks for this very purpose.

The next morning, the following scene would inevitably take place:

Friend: HEY! There's new stuff in my Finish Folder! How did that get there?
Me: Oh, it must have been the Math Fairy. Sometimes she visits our class at night.
Friend: (Giving me that I-Don't-Know-If-I-Believe-You-Or-Not stare and in the interest of not looking like a douche in front of their friends simply responds) Cool.

And we go on with our day.

I never thought my references to the Math Fairy got noticed. It was really just some flippant thing I said before I finished my usual travel mug of coffee. I didn't realize that My Rockstar Volunteer and Partner In Crime had overheard me and began to leave notes from The Math Fairy on future pages. Evidently she thought to herself, "Duh! They'll know right away it's really me and it's just a little joke" when really she should have been thinking, "Perhaps they won't know it's a joke because they won't recongnize my handwriting since Mrs. Mimi is too anal retentitve to let anyone else letter anything in her classroom." Because THAT'S the truth.

We discovered the damage we had done one Monday morning, as we went around our meeting circle and shared tidbits from our weekends.

Friend: I spent all weekend dreaming that the Math Fairy would visit me on Monday and she did! (beaming smile)
Me: Uh, what?
Friend: The Math Fairy came and now my folder is full! She wants me to practice counting coins and I agree! (blinding smile)

Sigh. Kids are cute.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Post Its and Sharpies...Horses and Carriages

In the spirit of tooting my own organizational horn (yes, I have been in Organize Mode quite a bit this summer...a girl's gotta have some fun, right?), I will now give you a rare glimpse inside my personal life and how my obsession with all things Post It have strengthened my marriage.

Usually I don't post that much about my personal life. Sure, you can read some more about me here (Thanks to Alexander Russo).But in general, I tend to refrain (read: save you) from updates such as the new shoes I bought today, my latest dinner triumph or the crazy lady I saw in the parking lot of the bookstore. You know, because you all probably have better things to do. However, from time to time, I have mentioned my family in posts (here, here and here) and have tempted you with insights into Mr. Mimi. Let's see, I've mentioned my lovely husband here, here, again over here, in this one.

Before I continue, let me provide you with a bit more insight into the mysterious Mr. Mimi, because we are very different. Mr. Mimi is a big thinker. For example, one night at dinner he'll say, "Let's go on vacation! We've always talked about going to (insert fabulous place here)...when is your vacation?" He will not let this idea rest (read: will bug me relentlessly) until I give him the requested dates and the trip is booked. And then this happens:

Sigh. Yeah, I took that picture.

Do you hate me yet? Are you, girlfriend needs to keep her personal life personal, because now she's just bragging?" If you are thinking this...I'm sorry. (Not really.) (But can we all stop for a minute and marvel at the fact that I actually figured out how to post a picture on my blog?? Watch out friends, I think I've got the fever...I may go picture happy on you.)

While I love my husband's Big Ideas, his fatal flaw (sure -cough cough -there's only ONE flaw) (and I know, you're thinking, "Cry me a river, you went to Italy" but whatever) is that he is NOT a details person. Cut to me frantically making lists...what we are going to pack, how we get from the airport to the hotel, where are we going to go, restaurant recommendations...endless, glorious, I-can-barely-contain-myself listing.

For I am a lister. List-aholic? List lover? Whatever. I like to make lists. Duh, you know THAT by NOW.

The same characteristics hold true in our professional lives. My day tends to be dominated by the myriad of lists that live inside my planner: lists of small groups, lists of To Dos, lists of copies to make, lists of upcoming lessons, lists of books to read...(shudder) (All this talk of I blushing?) Mr. Mimi's day is dominated by big business-y ideas. (Note: I would go into more detail about his type of business but he would a) kill me and b) I don't know about you, but my eyes glaze over as soon as I hear words such as "financials" and "budget analysis". Am I right or am I left on that one, people?!) As a result of our different professional lives and personality traits, we are generally unable to help one another in concrete ways. Yes, we support each other and he listens to his fair share of stories about the Bacon Hunter, who farted and the latest children's book I'm obsessing over, but beyond that...not so much.

Until last night.

Charged with a pretty intense, weighty project, Mr. Mimi spent the day in his office. (Which is a totally gorgeous space by the way...I really out did myself in that room. He left one weekend and Big Mama Mimi and I re-did it for him...very House and Garden Design Show/While You Were Out) Occasionally I would play the part of the good wife and bring him an iced tea or snack. I would find him surrounded by piles of papers, open binders and stacks of books. I had to bite my tongue because, seriously? I wanted to organize that mess stat! But hey, I can get with the whole different work styles thing...

ANYHOW. (Here comes the moment of truth, a.k.a. the point of this post.) At dinner he looked across the table at me and said five of the most beautiful words I have ever heard.

"I need help getting organized."

Friends, I almost choked on my beautifully poached salmon (another insight into my personal life - I like to cook fancy meals and then walk around the house with a very satisfied "I-have-conquered-the-kitchen" look on my face) at those five simple words.

Yet I managed to pull myself together and reply, "I know just what to do."

After dinner I confidently trotted to my office (also known as the guest bedroom) and put together my arsenal: a rainbow of post it notes, several blank index cards, some tape and my lucky plum colored Sharpie. I was prepared. Armed with these seemingly ordinary supplies, Mr. Mimi and I could tackle anything.

What resulted is really truly a work of art and an example of how we are a perfect pair. I'll let you know what the boss thinks!!

Who's Peeking?