My Buddies

After reading Melanie Meehan’s post yesterday about her dog and his personality quirks called, “Adjusting Like a Pro”, I was thinking about my two dogs, Harry and Ace. I decided to post about them and the funny differences they display. Harry, a labradoodle, is all about his people. “I’m with you guys!” is the look he tends to give us as he sits ever nearby, drinking in our conversation and assuming he is in on whatever delicacies are being passed about at the table. Ace, our Rottweiler/junkyard dog (I’m kind of kidding, it was a construction yard) mix, is all about the adventure. “Did someone say out, did someone say out, did someone say out,” is the soundtrack in his brain. He has taken down numerous squirrels, at least one chipmunk (really hard to do), a young groundhog, and let’s not even think about those poor bunnies who insist on trying to live in our yard (dumb bunnies?). “Put me out, I’ll take care of them,” is Ace’s motto.

But Ace, the warrior, is also our sweetheart. He loves family and friends when they come over. He has his favorites who know they are not going to get past him without one of his kisses (all 70 pounds of him making one quick leap up to bestow a quick lick to the face). And then there is his “moo moo” face. While you are petting him he gets this look on his face, he goes down on the floor and rolls on his back to be petted by lucky you! Harry, our doodle/human is the care giver. Remember, he is one of us, the humans, so he doesn’t require much pampering. He’d rather do the pampering. So you can pet him for a bit, then he flings his nose up in the air, sort of snorts, and he is done with it. He walks away.

Harry owns all the toys. They are his babies and you better not touch them. He needs to pick them up when he greets you in the morning or at the door or anytime you enter the room. But don’t take it from him. Labradoodles may be lab mixes but he ain’t no retriever. If you toss one of his babies he will run, pick it up and plop down in his bed with it. Game over. Ace, the play master, knows this about his buddy. So sometimes he takes a baby just to antagonize, to get attention, to draw Harry out into some rough housing. Ace is all about play. In his younger days he would leap 6 feet in the air to catch a Frisbee, bring it back for more and more and more. Once Harry would show up and get the Frisbee, game over. Remember, Harry owns all the toys.

It has been a lot of fun these past 13 years watching these two buddies grow old together. Watching their personalities, so different yet so complimentary, wind with them through the years. They are proof that opposites can and do attract. They are even aging differently and yet, aging the same. They are slower, sleep more, spend more time checking in with each other. “How ya doing, old buddy?” “I’m doing ok today, how about you?” “Same here. Thought about asking to go out but I think I’ll take a nap instead.” “Sounds good, I’ll join you.”

A Little Spring Egg-quinox

One morning in early March I greeted my class with an announcement. “Children, very exciting! Rodger is coming!”

“Who is Rodger?”

“He is a guest who will be visiting,” I said.

“Is he a leprechaun?”

“No, he is not a leprechaun,” I replied.

“Why is he coming?”

“He comes every year,” I replied.

“Is he coming tomorrow?”

“No, he is not coming tomorrow,” I replied.

They were asking the wrong questions. But it was ok because it was a few weeks away until the first day of Spring. That was when Rodger, the Egg Day egg, would return to our classroom. But for now I was letting them guess.

As we got closer to the first day of Spring the questions began to improve!

“What is Rodger?”

“Now that is a good question. He is an egg.”

“An egg?” “What kind of egg?” “Will he hatch?” “Will he become a chicken?” “What if he falls on the floor?”

It was pretty funny, listening to them process what I was telling them. Rodger, you see, is the egg I stand on the first day of Spring. I do this every year. He was named Rodger by a student about 10 years ago. It is one of my quirkier traditions and it is a lot of fun. There are myths about standing an egg on the first day of Spring but I just do it because it was introduced to me many years ago by my husband’s grandmother. I’ve done it ever since then. And this year was no different. Except…

“Spring begins on March 20th.”

“That’s a Saturday,” one of my students replied.

“I know,” I said. “So I don’t know if Rodger will be able to return.” Well, that turned into a whole flurry of ideas and concerns. But I reassured them that I would try to bring Rodger back. I explained to them that Rodger would be far more willing to return to the class if they remained calm and quiet. We discussed sound waves and how I have witnessed prior Rodgers falling as a result of loud noises (true!). This news usually results in a calmer, quieter group of students.

On Friday, March 19th, I brought 2 eggs to school. As you can imagine this resulted another whole round of questions. When midday came I took an egg out of the container so I could give Rodger an identity. I drew his eyes.

“You should give him a mask!”

“You are right, I will give him a mask!” And I did. I reassured them that before I left school that day I would stand Rodger up. I reassured them that he would want to return to spend time with them. I told them that I would take a picture of him and send it to them as soon as it was true.

Rodger is back! Happy Spring Egg-quinox!

Happiness Is…

Hanging out with friends!

I decided one of the big things my kids were missing out on this year was time to just hang out together. I have had most of my third grade class in school all year. Some have been five days a week since September, some have been hybrid and some have been home learning virtually the entire time. It has been a good year so far. The kids have learned a lot and they seem happy. But one thing has just been missing…

Hanging out with friends!

Then I had a brainstorm! We have been using Google Meet to do Break Out rooms for small groups to work together. We even did one day where they got together to share their new Valentine’s Day stuffed animals. But it dawned on me that they really just need to have recess together. A chance to be kids together. Kid directed fun. That’s when it dawned on me that I could set aside some Office Hour time for just that…

Hanging out with friends!

So we brainstormed and came up with a name. Buddy Rooms! And then we brainstormed and came up with themes for the rooms. Names like, Roblox Rocks and Lego Mania and Circle Time and Pokemon Crazy and Google Genius and Story Talk and Book Club. Each room has a different mission, all chosen by the kids. I put the Rooms into “Schedules” with three choices for each schedule. I tried to place one sort of techie room, one “hang out” room, and one creative room in each schedule. We discussed some rules and I let the kids sign up. Then today we began…

Hanging out with friends!

Wow, did they have fun. I explained that although I would be near, I wouldn’t be a part of the room. It was more like recess and teachers don’t hang around during recess. They had a million questions before we began. It was funny because I seemed to be the one most at ease, they seemed to want more instructions, I wanted to give them less. Finally I pushed the magic button and sent them all off to the rooms of their choice. And you know what? It was awesome just…

Hanging out with friends!

Next week I plan to use Schedule B and C. I have 6 schedules altogether. I’ll just cycle through them over and over. I told the kids we will go in and tweak the rooms if we need to. Today one room (Roblox) had 10 kids and the other two (Circle Time and Lego Mania) each had three. I thought the room of 10 would be a problem but they loved it. They actually played Roblox on their other devices while hanging out together in Google Meet. Unbelievable! But I think I found a winner here, nothing is quite like…

Hanging out with friends!

That Look

He is giving me that look. You know the one. You’ve seen it before.

I. Adore. You.

It says so much. It’s wraps up a whole lifetime of love. It begs forgiveness for all the naughtiness. It winks and nods at all the escapades. All the cleaned up messes. All the late night outings because “somebody” needed to “go”. All the unspoken I’m sorries.

It says so much. It recalls fun times. It recalls those formative years. Those schooling days. All the rewards so lavishly offered. All the adventures. A world full of squirrels and bunnies and ground hogs. Comfy beds.

It is the look that says it was all good. Even the bad was good. You agree, right? It is all ok now. I’m old. Sometimes I hurt. Sometimes I’m a little goofy. Some days are harder than others. But it has all been good.

I am an old dog and our lives were both made better because we had each other.

Our buddy Ace who will be 13 in April!
Ace and his BFF Harry! Friends their entire lives. Harry will be 13 this month.

Egg Day Is Coming

“What’s his name?” Michael was always one of those students who had to have all the details.

“Uh, he doesn’t actually have a name. I didn’t even know he was a he!”

“Well, his name is Rodger then. There’s an egg in a Sponge Bob episode and his name is Rodger. So that’s what we can name him.”

And so Rodger it was. And still is.

On March 20 we usher in the Spring Equinox aka Egg Day. And Egg Day means, well, an egg comes to school with me and is balanced on end. Skinny end or fat end, it doesn’t really matter. I usually go for the fat end because it just makes sense. I have been honoring this tradition in my classroom for more than 30 years. And I’m really good at it. If an egg won’t stand for me, it’s just not a good year for eggs! But here’s the whole story, since you were asking!

I learned the tradition of standing an egg on the first day of Spring from my husband’s grandmother. We would go to her place for Easter and that was when I learned the magic of the egg! Grandma Pariso’s egg would stand on her kitchen counter until some unseen force would make it slip over. She instilled this tradition in me and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Spring arrives on a Saturday this year but I encourage you to try it anyway! Try it late on Friday, you never know. Or try it at home on Saturday and take a picture! You, too, can begin amazing children with this little bit of magic. Even in this day and age of everyone knowing everything, most kids (and many adults) just haven’t heard about doing this. I’m not entirely sure why it works. Some say it is because on the first day of Spring there is balance in the universe because the poles are aligned and all the aliens in space are watching and no one can tell a lie…ok, I made up a few of those. But the reason, for me, is besides the point. I like doing it, the kids love it and so…TRADITION!

I Don’t Like Mondays

Actually, I do like Mondays. But they can be funky! This was definitely a funky Monday and, as it turns out, it was the day of my second observation! Hahaha. Yeah, it went that well.

So first of all, it was a Monday. This group of kids are not Monday people. I have noticed that about them. They warm up to the school thing as the week goes on. On Monday and Tuesday their brains are there, they are a bright group, but the lightbulbs are a little dim.

So we ended our Science lesson on Celsius and Fahrenheit. It was a cool discussion. One of my students mentioned the temperature of lava and that just got me going. (It’s just like those old high school scenes where a well placed question can get the teacher telling a story!) I started talking about the temperature needed to melt rock! Compare that to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit! So I was full into drawing a picture of a lava tube and describing the river of lava my family and I witnessed at Volcanoes National Park and in walks my principal.

Of course I knew why she was there!

I greeted her and explained we were discussing volcanoes. “Cool!” she said. I swiftly moved us into our writing lesson which wasn’t hard because the kids are totally into their nonfiction books. But it was Monday, remember? Funky Monday. And those lightbulbs were a little dim. As were their responses. Just a little bit dim. Enthusiasm at a bit of a low. But I was working it. We were going to write our Introductions today and it was going along fine until…

“I grabbed the wrong laces.” It was Tyler.

“What do you mean?” I asked, looking down at his shoes seemingly tied together.

“I grabbed the wrong laces and this happened. I can’t fix it. Can you help?”

Yup, he had tied his laces together. Right smack in the middle of an observation with my principal who was new this year and who honestly did not know me that well as a teacher. At least I didn’t feel like she knew me that well. I flipped through the seasoned teacher Rolodex in my mind and came up with,

“You know, Tyler, these laces are really tied tight. You actually did a good job of tying your shoes. Too bad they were the wrong laces (I wasn’t buying this line of his one teeny tiny little bit!). Tell you what, Bud, how about you take off your shoes because it is a little dangerous to have your shoes tied together. I will untie them after I have finished this lesson.”

Tyler was fine with that and we moved on.

And the lesson moved on. When I sent them all “off to write” they did just that with enthusiasm. Like I said, they are very excited about their nonfiction books. But they don’t like Mondays, this group. And it shows. I see it at least because I know what these kids can be like. They can be awesome. The learning in our room can be awesome. But not this 20 minute snippet on this particular Monday. It didn’t feel awesome. Snack time saved us though. The lesson came to an end. I have no idea what Mrs. Fenton thought about the lesson. She kind of ran out at its conclusion. And although it’s not true most weeks, this week…

I don’t like Mondays!

But I did got the knot out!

Hierarchy

This is a great word. It is formidable. It feels good to say it. And it lends weight to what we use it for. In other words, it is a perfect word. So is formidable. Again, it feels good to say it. And it lends weight to what we use it for. It feels like what it means.

We all walk around with a hierarchy of things we are willing to do. To accept. To neglect. To acknowledge. Or ignore. We possess a list. Numbered one to ten or lettered A to Z. Our hierarchy is not the same as our loved ones’ hierarchies. Not the same as our coworkers’. Nor as our boss’s (don’t they wish). If everyone walked about with their hierarchies floating above their heads, woohoo, wouldn’t that just be something!

But we each do maintain this mental list of things we are willing to put up with. Things we are willing to sit through. People we are willing to listen to. Annoyances we are willing to ignore. Think about a day commuter. They put up with traffic, tolls, distances and road closures every single day because on their list of hierarchies, something else sits higher.

We teachers have that hierarchy dilemma. Because our work day ends but our work continues. We bring it home with us. Monday through Friday, Saturday and Sunday, week after week we prioritize the work we do for our kids over the life we need and want to live. But it’s that hierarchy that gets us every time. Those kids in our classes need us to prioritize for them. And we do.

So next time you put aside a book you want to read, or laundry you need to fold, or a TV show you have been waiting to begin so you can do something for your students, remember, it’s your hierarchy. You are a formidable educator and nothing can stand in the way of that!

Hello Daylight

How many of us had this conversation on Friday before our class went home for the weekend?

“Children, this weekend we leap ahead into Spring! We will get one more hour of daytime!”

“Boys and girls, on Saturday night we turn the clocks ahead. So you will have to get up an hour earlier on Sunday!”

“Daylight Savings Time begins this weekend, we lose an hour of sleep.”

There we were, all cheery at the thought of reminding them about the start of Daylight Savings Time. Little did we know that inside there heads (or maybe even voiced aloud) the confusion was beginning…

“But, where is that hour going?”

“What do you mean we have one more hour of daytime?”

“Why do I have to wake up an hour earlier?”

“If I turn my clock ahead will it bE BROKEN?”

“I DON’T WANT TO LOSE AN HOUR OF SLEEP!”

Sometimes the things we say do not match what we mean. Or at least they don’t match what is actually going to happen. Twice a year, when the clocks change, this is what happens. The world gets confused. It’s mainly because we adults have a difficult time understanding Daylight Savings Time. Therefore we can’t explain it to our kids. We just abide by the rules and wake up Sunday morning completely confused about what time it is. Some of our timepieces change automatically. Some of our timepieces do not. Some of our timepieces are supposed to change automatically but by some hidden magic reach back to the original DST dates, wait, what, so I’m not crazy, it is coming earlier than my brain feels like it can accept it? Some of us change a timepiece or two before heading to bed but forget which ones we changed by the time we wake up. And then there is the clock in our car. Because let’s face it, does anyone ever change that?

My mother hated Daylight Savings Time. She used to say she woke up tired the day after the clocks changed and didn’t go back to feeling normal until Daylight Savings ended. I used to argue her points with her, they just didn’t make sense to me. But she stuck to her guns and never budged on her opinion of the notion of changing the clocks.

But let’s get back to those poor kids who headed home thinking they were losing an hour this weekend. How do we help them conceptualize the reality of Daylight Savings Time. Time itself is such an elusive concept, how do we help kids grasp the fact that time can change with the turn of a dial?

“So the day is going to be an hour longer?”

“No, we just moved the clock so the daylight stays with us later.”

“It doesn’t get dark at the same time?”

“Exactly!”

“So the day is longer!”

Hmmm, this is going to take a while, isn’t it?!

Happy Daylight Savings everyone! Let’s all say Hello Daylight!

it is all good

I have to reflect on this one year. It has been a year. This sort of 62nd year of my life. My birthday is in August so (if my math is correct) it is technically half of my 61st year as well. But it has made every other year of my entire life pale by comparison. And yet, let’s think about this, because maybe not!

There was that first year I was born. My mom told me I walked at 9 months. That must have been a struggle. I wonder what drove me to walk that young? I don’t view myself as a terribly competitive person yet I must have felt driven. That must have been a year.

There was the year when I was about 9, maybe 10, and my grandfather took me to Congo Jones’s stable in Tinton Falls, NJ. The farm sat right alongside the southbound NJ Parkway exit. The farm is gone now. But I learned to ride a horse. I still remember climbing up on Goldie’s back. When I looked down it was soooooo far. But I was sooooo proud. That must have been a year.

And then there was the year when my mom was sick. She couldn’t care for my brother’s and me, ages 11, 9, and 1. We went to live with my aunt in upstate New York. It was a great adventure for us because my aunt lived on a farm. But my youngest brother began calling my aunt mommy. He was confused. Our lives had erupted. That was a year.

My wedding. My beautiful wedding day when my Richie Rich became my husband. I remember how my face hurt from smiling. I remember my family throwing shoes at us as we left for our honeymoon (for good luck, not because they wanted to get rid of us!) We traveled up to New England on the first road trip of our lives together. (There would be many others.) That was quite a year.

Then our sons were born. And we traveled to all 50 states. And we camped in National Parks. And we flew to Alaska and beat the sunset and got to see it again. And we welcomed a daughter in law. And we raised puppies to become dogs, great companions! And we said farewell to friends and family who moved away, or passed away. And we hugged and continued on. They were all years to remember.

So, when I think of this past year, and I think also of my whole life full of years…I realize that for how crazy and “unprecedented” (aren’t you sick of that word!) and really really not good it has been, in retrospect, it was just a year. Like each and every year has been and will continue to be. And if I dwell on the right parts, if I choose not to let it overshadow all.the.other.years that I have lived on this great Earth, then, well, even though it has been quite a year…

it is all good.

In My Own Little Corner

Are you humming? Is the next line of the song in your head? “In my own little chair.” Yay! I’m so happy because this song returns to me whenever I turn to walk down my stairs. The song and the story are entwined in my mind. It’s a tale that begins back, way back, as tales often do. It meanders through the lives of those I have loved, as tales often do. And it lands right at the top of my stairs, where I can relive it every day. Stay with me!

Growing up in the sixties, my brother and I would look forward to the varied annual specials that would interrupt our regularly scheduled programming on TV. We eagerly anticipated the Christmas shows and what week it was on “The 4:30 Movie”. One show we never missed watching was Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. The performance, the music, the dancing, this show had it all. And the songs were epic. “In my own little corner, in my own little chair…”

Growing up in the sixties and seventies also meant entertaining yourself because, well, moms didn’t entertain you. You had to go out and play. You had to disappear to the basement and, “Don’t get too loud!” You had to enjoy a stack of comics or a good book. I had an awesome bookcase in my room and it was loaded with books. Or…you spent time with Gram. My Gram and I used to bake and make fudge and we used to paint. Gram fancied herself an artist and I joined right in!

Flash forward to 2013. I am an adult and guess what! Cinderella is coming to Broadway. Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. My brother and I make plans to go because, well, it just brought back so many wonderful memories. When Cinderella (played to perfection by Laura Osnes) sits in her little chair and sings I am in heaven. I have tears in my eyes. And now, as of Fall, 2020, I have my own little corner and my own little chair. It sits at the top of my stairs and I see it, and smile, whenever I come out of my room. In my corner is a chair from my mom’s house, the book case loaded with many of the same books from my old room. Atop the bookcase is a hurricane lamp, also from mom’s house, and a painting that I created at my Gram’s knee as a little impressionable girl. I even bought a copy of the book that I painted the cover of, The World of Horses by Marguerite Henry.

In my own little corner in my own little chair, I can be what ever I want to be!