Bloggus Interruptis

Bloggus Interruptis: when a blogger takes a blogging hiatus for a period over four weeks.  Some key words associated with Bloggus Interruptis: writer’s block, blog insecurity, Vegas vacation, beach cocktails and many barrels of red wine.

I took a little break from my blog this summer.  It was going to be a short hiatus, but turned into more than a month of bloggus interruptis.

These were  good beach drinks!

The reality has set in, all that is left of the beach drinks are little umbrellas, I need to push past the writer’s block, give up my blog insecurities and jump into jeandayfriday like I originally planned.  So, in the words of the Terminator, “I’m back.”

At the start of the summer, I set a few goals for myself.  One was to come up with a bi-weekly blog schedule.  The second was to exercise daily.  The third was to spend as much time with family and friends as possible.  I succeeded in only one of my goals: lucky number three.  Three is a magic number after all.

After getting behind on my blogging, I began to avoid it as I avoid scales and balancing my checkbook.  I would open the computer and see the WordPress bookmark on my bookmark toolbar and then gently close the computer and walk away.  I knew my blog was calling to me to write, but I began feeling insecure.  The inner voice started taunting me saying, “You don’t have anything to write about,” and, “Your writing is poopie,” and even, “You know you will be interrupted a million times so why even begin?”  Eventually, the inner voice got to me and I avoided my blog.

The inner voice started taunting my about the blogs I follow.  She would say, “You don’t have time to sit and read those and give them proper comments,” and, “The comments you make are silly,” and even, “How can you read all of these when you will be interrupted a million times?”  Darn the inner voice!

Bye bye inner voice!

So, as I mentioned, I’m back.  I have put the inner voice into a wine bottle, corked it and set it free in the high tides at Hilton Head.  It may find me again next summer, but hopefully I will have some strategies to deal with her nagging presence then.

But even with her on a journey to the ends of the ocean, I still have some questions for my fellow bloggers.

1.  How do you crush the inner voice of doubt?

2.  How do you manage the blogs you follow and give them a fair shake?

3.  What is a good blogging schedule?  Once or twice a week? Or more?

and lastly, 4.  How was your summer?

The Red Plate

In 2007, my mom, Crazy Pat, bought me one single set of red dishes.  It contained a red plate, red bowl, red teacup and red side plate.  As strange as this sounds, she had a reason for the purchase.

Before I get into the story, I need to fill in a little background on Crazy Pat.  Crazy Pat is very happy 99.999% of the time.  She is someone who, if given the opportunity, would dot each “i” with a heart, and doodle grapes and puppies on any paper within reach.   She is rainbows and roses, and always looks at the bright side of life.

The red plate. A must-have for every household.

She read somewhere about a tradition where for every celebration, the birthday girl, the graduate, the promotion, uses the red plate.  It is the celebration plate.

And she bought me a set.

The red plate has graced our table for different occasions ever since.

When I received Teacher of the Year in 2008 and 2010, the red plate was out and ready to celebrate (and even the subject of the acceptance speech for the 2010 win).

When The Captain celebrated his 45th birthday, the red plate graced the table.  He has requested it to not come out for any more of his birthdays.

When String Bean brought home all As, the red plate revealed itself.

Even when Squishy got his tree on Arbor Day, the red plate came to dinner.

In the summer, the red plate really hasn’t made an entrance onto the sacred kitchen table.  So, in honor of it being Friday, I am going to make a fun plate of appetizers and serve them to everyone on the celebratory red plate.

Red wine. A must-have for Fridays.

Happy Friday.  Time to get out the red plate, grab a glass of red wine and celebrate the arrival of the weekend.  TGIF and cheers to red plates!

The Yes Mom

After watching, for the millionth time, Jim Carrey’s Yes Man, I began thinking about just saying yes to everything for a day.

Interesting prospect.  I just wonder how long it would take for folks to catch on.

Would you like to super size this? Yes.

Would you like to add a rental car with your hotel? Why, yes.

Would you buy me a puppy? Yes, of course.

But, seriously, some issues may arise from this.

At school: Mrs. M., can we leave the classroom and go to our cars and drive around for a while?

Mrs. M., can I be exempt from taking the final exam?

Mrs. M., can you buy me beer? Not gonna happen.

At home: Mommy, can you buy me the Lego Death Star for $499 bucks?

Mommy, can we get a giant boa constrictor?

Mommy, all first graders have a cell phone, so can I get one? Not gonna happen.

Maybe I am not ready to be a Yes Mom just yet… But maybe today, since we are in Walt Disney World, I can be a Yes Mom for one day.

Yes, I think that could work.  Just don’t let my dudes know about it, OK?  😉

The magic of saying yes – for one day!

Under the Big Top

The end of a school year is a circus.

As teachers, we can fight it or we can embrace it.

A circus costume!

I am now embracing the big top and all of the eccentric things that can happen under it.

Students?  They are the audience after all. If it wasn’t for them, there wouldn’t be a show in the big top. Some do not like the show and are vocal about it. Some sneak out of the show never to be seen again. Some are there because they are waiting for the circus treats. Some are there to socialize with the animals – who may, in fact, be other students. Some cheer, some yell, some cry and some are silently waiting until the circus comes to a close.

The animals are ready.

Teachers?  They are the performers.  Some are masters at walking the tightrope.  Some are clowns, laughing and making the last days seem like a hilarious joy ride.  Some are the lion tamers.  They make sure all is well under the big top for the final performance, and navigate all of the hoops with ease.  There is the bearded lady who is counting down the minutes to summer and a good facial.  There is the strong man who willingly holds down the audience and makes sure they stay in their seats until the end of the show.  There are the trapeze artists (like me and The Captain) who feel as if they are on solid ground and the next moment feels the rush of the floor free-falling beneath them.  Swinging and balancing in the air until the final details are complete.  And lastly, there is the tired ringleader, who is hoping for a smooth and serious ending to a lengthy run.

Staff?  They are the tireless crew.  Some make sure the big top is successfully taken down, some clean the big top after the audience leaves and some ensure the big top will rise again.  Without the crew, the circus would not go on.  They are the planners, and the ones in the background who make things run.  Even though they are out of the spotlight, they make things happen.

Circus dogs are a must have.

All that is left is the circus dog, and a good trapeze artist always has one of these at home.

The circus will return, the performance will resume with a new audience, new faces and new tricks.

And that is the power of the big top.

***A brief side note:  This post is dedicated to one of the crew who has made my life as a teacher in my district wonderful.  He is the behind-the-scenes in all areas dealing with technology, and has taught me more than I can ever repay.  He is making a career move, and he will be greatly missed by me and the rest of the circus we call a district.

Tales of the No Good, Very Bad Fourth Grade

String Bean is reaching the end of fourth grade. I must admit that it has been a no good, very bad school year for him.

He liked school in the third grade. He liked school in the second grade. He liked school in the first grade. He liked kindergarten and preschool.

He hates fourth grade.

The homework menace.

Each day after school is a struggle. He has more homework than I assign high school Language Arts students. Some days, we sit for over two hours while he works on his homework. This is not only torture for String Bean, but torture for The Captain and me.

I have to be honest when I say that the homework routine gets really draining. Who knew that 4th grade would be so hard? There are some days when I have come to be the peace maker during homework time. If String Bean gets frustrated, The Captain gets frustrated. The cycle is endless. It usually ends with tears (from the 4th grader) and me calming both parties down. I should have been in politics.

As a teacher, I want both String Bean and Squishy to love school. I want them to enjoy learning and become passionate about subjects that interest them.

But I do not have patience with a grade that is killing my child’s love of school.

The Salt Map of Ohio. I am not even going on record to say how long it took us to make this.

In fourth grade, String Bean had to make a salt map of the state of Ohio. I do not know what the point of this was besides seeing whose parents make the coolest project.

In fourth grade, String Bean had to create a brown bag book report. Now, I am all for book reports, but apparently the brown bag I sent along was not the correct brown bag. Minus 10 points for String Bean because I wasn’t correctly informed.

In fourth grade, String Bean has been sent home with four behavior slips. This is my quiet, Lego building child. Turns out, the behavior slips are not for what one would think are traditional “behavior” issues. One was for neglecting to put his name on his paper. One was for leaving his folder (which was empty) at home. One was for not have eight lines in a poem (he had seven). And the last one, the one that The Captain almost rocketed through the roof about, was when a girl tossed a swing that hit him on the back at recess, he told the teacher about it and the girl said it was his fault and he got into trouble. What a democracy!

As I look toward the light at the end of the tunnel, I hope I can salvage String Bean’s zest for learning. I hope I can remind him of what he liked about school before this year. I hope I can re-engage his curiosity in the world around him. I hope.

But, for now, I will hold my breath, hold my frustration and keep smiling to help him make it to the end of the fourth grade road.

Wish me luck.

I am ready for this sweet smile.

Field Day is the new Hunger Games

As an elementary kid, I was never too excited about field day.  According to my dad, I was a bit of a girly girl (still am!).

I’d rather be hanging with the daisies.

If there was an event in daisy chain necklace making, I would have won the gold.  If there was an event in skipping while singing, I would have been given a trophy.  If there was an event in twirling in circles until falling down dizzy, I would have received a first place ribbon.  Sadly, none of these options were available when I was in school.

We did have sack potato races, balloon tosses, one-legged races and egg/spoon races.  Those were fun.

At Squishy and String Bean’s school, their field day was much different.  Gone were the sack potatoes.  Vanished were the balloon tosses.  Abandoned were the eggs and spoons.  All were replaced by Olympic style battles fit for Odysseus and a slew of Titans. Or Katniss, her faithful Peeta and all of the psycho warriors from District 1.

Kid’s organized sports have nothing on Field Day.

As for preparing for the exclusive Field Day, there has been extensive training in gym class.  For the last month (I am not kidding) there have been time trials, practice races, and even qualifying heats.  With all of the suspense surrounding the day, both dudes were anxious and a little concerned about their events.  Who can blame them?  Training for the summer Olympics sounds vaguely similar to the festivities known as Field Day.

“Mom, you have to pack us water bottles for field day tomorrow.  It is going to be hot and we may get dehydrated,” he stated as if he was a pediatrician.

“OK.  Gotcha.  Anything else you need to get through these mighty games?” I asked, without a hint of sarcasm.

“We need to bring our best to the field,” he said.  I wondered if I let him watch Percy Jackson too often.

Field Day is serious business.

Next year’s Field Day dress code.

Prior to the start of the extreme games fun, as all of the students are gathered outside gripping their water bottles, an announcement came on the PA informing the students of the intricate procedures.  Maybe all of the important items were scattered around the cornucopia or something.

The static voice resembled something like, “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor.” Oops – not really.  More like, “Off to the races we go!”

And, with that, String Bean and Squishy were both sacrificed for the games.

The lone ribbon.

After school, there were long faces.  There was only one ribbon given to my dudes.  It was the magical Participation ribbon that only first and second graders receive.  Wise fourth grade String Bean, tired from the exhausting day and discouraged from being ribbonless, dismissed himself to the basement to play on the iPad.  His parting words as he melted down the steps were of the final PA announcement that said, “Congratulations to the winners, and better luck next year to everyone else.”

Squishy lagged behind and, in his first grade humor, regaled tales of his success in the tug-of-war.

“Did you get a ribbon for tug-of-war?” I asked him.

“Nope.  But we were the champs!” he exclaimed, “And I was the reason we won because I was in the back of the line and used my massive muscles to pull the other side down.”

Triumph.

“Why didn’t you get a ribbon?” I inquired.

“Hmmm,” he pondered, “We really didn’t need a ribbon.  Our teacher told us we were awesome and gave us a hug.  That was better than a stupid ribbon,” he said with a big smile on his face.

“I agree, Squishy, I agree.”

Until next year when the games resume again.

True triumph.  Almost better than a daisy chain necklace.  May the odds ever be in your favor.

The (Almost) Perfect 10

About a month ago wrapped up the 10th musical The Captain has directed at his high school.  It is also the 10th high school musical I have choreographed alongside him.  I felt this decade of musicals was a big deal, and so on closing night, the cast called him up on the stage, said a few words about the big “10” and gave him an amazing bouquet of balloons and flowers.  He was mortified but was OK with it in the end.  The Captain is very modest about his successes.  He actually turned a few shades of tomato.  Mission accomplished.

When The Captain took over the theater program over 10 years ago, it was following a director who was a legend at the school.  Kids can sometimes be strange (imagine that!), and they were none too accepting of “the new guy.”  It took time, but he made it.  And 10 musicals later, he really made it.  I believe this is a milestone that doesn’t occur often, so balloons, flowers and adequate blushing were required.

Being a director is extremely time-consuming.  We had both of our dudes during  the 10 years.  String Bean was just an  infant during the production time of the first musical.  I would wear him in a Baby Bjorn while I choreographed the dances.  Squishy came along four years later, just in time for me to demonstrate dance techniques a la Kevin Bacon.  I rode the ride alongside The Captain during the journey, filled with ups and downs,  crazy teenagers, overly involved parents and a fickle administration.  Ten spring musicals.

Here they are in order:

  • Once Upon a Mattress
  • South Pacific
  • Guys and Dolls
  • Footloose
  • Fame
  • The Boyfriend
  • Godspell
  • Crazy For You
  • Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat

I am proud of The Captain and the almost perfect 10 shows.  I say almost perfect because some of them were bumpy rides.  In Footloose, he cast a brother and sister to play the parents of the wild and strong-willed Ariel.  The brother and sister sinister duo teamed up on him and attacked him on a social media website.  Anonymously, of course.  But, besides that little snafu in year four, it was almost smooth sailing.

The conclusion of the tenth musical.

So, in the words of Joseph, “Any dream will do,”  but three standing ovations also work.

Why Act My Age?

Later this year I turn (gulp) 40.  And with this big birthday around the corner, I began thinking that maybe I should start acting my age.

Because here is the thing:  I don’t act my age.  I just don’t.  Mostly because I don’t know how an almost 40-year-old is supposed to act.  Is there a textbook on this or something I can download on my Kindle to explain how to act my age?  No?  Really, no?  Hmmm.  I didn’t think so.

Which brings me to my question, do I really need to act my age?

These are some things I am pondering.  So should an almost 40-year-old:

  • Skip or dance down the hallway if no one is around?
  • Enjoy a trip to Toys-R-Us as much as my dudes do?
  • Sing loudly and poorly and not be embarrassed even in the grocery store?
  • Say words like “cool,” “sweet” and “cute” frequently?
  • Sport a pony tail frequently?
  • Be mesmerized by glittery things (oooh, pretty!)?
  • Chew gum and blow bubbles?
  • Making up crazy car dances when certain songs come on like Train’s Drive By or Madonna’s Borderline?
  • Use hand gestures that resemble those of a 13-year-old drama queen?
  • Cry when people are mean to animals in movies?
  • Laugh really loud and not care who hears me (Valleygirl96 aka Brainvomit40 knows my laugh travels miles)?
  • Go to the midnight showings of all of the Twilight movies and the final two Harry Potter films (and consider dressing up for the latter)?
  • Giggle when the word fart or poop is mentioned?
  • Jump up and down when I am happy or excited about something?
  • Sneak Halloween candy from my dudes?
  • Take super silly pictures of random things on my iPhone (wanna see my picture of the rock that cracked my windshield)?
  • Screen calls from assorted people (sorry, Mom!)?
  • Take almost daily naps after school (thanks to The Captain this can happen!)?
  • Continue my text conversation with my brother that contains newly created words like poopalicious, poopapalooza and poopsicle?
  • Randomly speak in different accents (my Southern and New Jersey ones are best!)?
  • Give silly nicknames to everyone (Sorry again, Crazy Pat, I mean Mom!)?

I guess my final question is what is age appropriate? And who would be the role models of success to tell me and demonstrate the proper age I need to adjust to?  Because if I don’t have any idea, then I am just going to keep doing what I’m doing.  Like speaking in a Yoda voice and saying, “May the Fourth Be With You.”  Because, after all, Star Wars rocks, it is May 4th and I am a kid at heart.

A Clark Griswold Kind of Day

Don’t let me near any Christmas lights.  I may send Santa over the moon.

It has been a Clark Griswold kind of day. 

Everything I have tried to accomplish has backfired.  Where is the switch in the garage to light up my world?

I feel as if I am heading toward Walley World without a map.  Where is my family truckster?

I have no patience with people today.  “Kiss his ass, kiss your ass, kiss my ass, Happy Chanukah.”

Now, I have always been a fan of Clark (or Sparky as he is lovingly called), and I know that sometimes The Captain has some of Clark’s tendencies.  So, maybe if I recap some of those, my day will get a little bit brighter.  Here goes:

When The Captain starts a project, he must finish it.  He cannot stand to let it go halfway.  “Russ, we checked every bulb, didn’t we?   Hmm… Maybe we ought to just go up there and check some more…”

When unexpected company arrives, The Captain has a way with words.  “Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?”

When The Captain gets a little down, he can see the big picture.  “WORSE? How could things get any worse? Take a look around here, Ellen. We’re at the threshold of hell.”

When The Captain drives the mini-van, he can get a little road rage.  “Burn dust, eat my rubber!”

When The Captain has an annoying visitor, relative or otherwise, he can get sarcastic.  “Surprised Eddy? If I woke up tomorrow with my head stapled to the carpet I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.”

When The Captain decorates for the holidays, he takes the task very seriously as, I’m sure, he will teach to our dudes. “Dad, you taught me everything I know about exterior illumination.”

When The Captain is packing for a trip, he sometimes feels like a pack mule. “Well I’m gonna park the cars and get the luggage, and well, I’ll be outside for the season.”

When The Captain remembers his childhood, he always has fond memories.  “When I was a boy, just about every summer we’d take a vacation. And you know, in 18 years, we never had fun.”

And when The Captain has had his fill of family vacations, he looks on the bright side. “Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun.  We’re all gonna have so much  fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our damn smiles. ”

That helped some, but I think I am still Sparky today.

Here is the fearful thing:  I said this in the hallway and a student asked me, “Who is Clark Griswold?”  I began humming, shrugged my shoulders and shook my head.

Walley World, anyone?

The (Extremely Short) Case of the Chocolate Easter Bunny

There was a chocolate bunny filled with wonderful peanut butter.  He sat on my kitchen counter for over a week.

He stared at me.  His chocolate, lifeless eyes would bore into my soul every time I passed by.  He would not relent.

My diet said that I was not to go near him.  I was not to make eye contact with him, and I was not allowed to check on his whereabouts.  I had to stay away.

Believe me. There is nothing fluffy or cuddly about this bunny.

But I couldn’t.  He kept taunting me with his knowing smile and his perky ears.  He would not leave me alone.  He was a demon bunny encased in a glowing, glittering pink box.  He was relentless.

I had to ignore him.  I needed a strong dose of willpower stat.

He kept staring and I began pacing the room.  Homework took over.  I didn’t have to look over and see the glaring, evil bunny, only help with homework.  But I could still feel his magnetic pull like a moth to a flame.

The next thing I knew, he was gone.  He had disappeared and I was happy, oh so happy.

I went about my day relieved until The Captain asked me to look in the trash can.

Glancing into the round bin I noticed the glowing, glittering pink box sans bunny.

“Do you know who may have eaten this bunny?”  The Captain asked with a raised eyebrow.

“I don’t know for sure,” I answered coyly, “But I am positive he is in a better place.”  And with that, I licked my lips and left the room.

Goodbye, bunny from Hell.  I win.