Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Email Diet

Procrastination technique # 1: Check my email
Procrastination technique # 2: Check my email

Hey, if I find something that works, I stick with it.

When I wake up, checking my email is a prelude to starting the day.  Before my head hits the pillow at night, one last check.  Oh, and did I mention the several times in between?  Increasingly, I've become aware of what a giant waste of time this is. 

First of all, I'm just not that important.  We're not talking about emails from senators, people.  We're talking the Groupon deal of the day and a notice that my new contacts have shipped.  Also, the process of checking to make sure nothing is new is getting more complicated.  I've checked my work email, so as long as I'm here I'll take a quick peek at staff news and my home account.  Oh, better check Facebook too--real  quick, only take a minute.

In addition, at least one email will inevitably lead me off on a tangent.  I receive a list of the contents of my weekly vegetable delivery. Hmmm, beets?  Three websites and 20 minutes later, I've found a lovely recipe for a roasted beet and fennel salad.   The email says my library books are due soon...which reminds me to check the library website catalog to see if The Book Thief is available but it's checked out.  I try to put it on hold but I can't log in because I can't remember my pin number.  I thought I had it written down in this notebook but there are so many different usernames and passwords in here that I can't find it.  Maybe I should type these up and organize them....

I'm sorry, where was I?   I may admit my procrastination problem but my heightened awareness has done little to curb this addictive habit.  Now that I have a flexible schedule with work, my problem seems to be getting worse.  I have to be self disciplined about getting things done and I mean to start that project... right after I check my email.  Enough is enough.  I'm going on an email diet.  Starting right now I am going to limit my online activity to once per day for the next 3 weeks.  Honestly, my hands started shaking as I wrote that.  I think I feel a headache coming on. 

Be nice to me.  I've heard withdrawl is not pretty.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Sew What?

I will never be Martha Stewart.  Not that I'm complaining.  But sometimes I look at my crafty friends with a little envy.  I have friends who knit, friends who sew, friends who design their own adorable greeting cards for every occasion.  Last week I heard from a friend who is making a chandelier out of wooden clothes pins.  I am awaiting the picture.  She says it is heavy.  (Amy-maybe consider a decorative wastebasket instead of a lamp that hangs from the ceiling??)

Now that I am working fewer hours, I've resolved to make time for some projects that take me out of my comfort zone, just a little.  First stop, my sewing machine.  It's ten years old but runs like new.  Probably because I never use it.  Oh, I dust it now and again and plug it in when my mom comes in town to help with a project.  Today I'm on my own.  I have two small projects: sewing several Girl Scout badges onto a vest and hemming a pair of pants.

First, the badges. It's a little tricky to sew in a circle but I have to admit that it's going rather smoothly.  Slowly at first, and a little crooked, but I'm getting the hang of it.  If you stand back and squint, the vest looks pretty good.   Now, onto the pants which I've decided to make into shorts. I cut the pant legs, fold the hem under and pin the sides.  I try on my new shorts to make sure the edges look straight before I sew.  OUCH.  Next time I won't use so many pins.  I'm ready.

Success!  I know you crafty sewers are laughing--I believe hemming pants is cause for celebration.  Scoff all you want--I'm happy.  And, bolstered by a small success, I'm wondering what to tackle tomorrow.

Here's Katherine modeling her vest full of badges and me in my "new" shorts!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Just back from our 7th annual neighborhood camping trip.

Now, I know there are some who will tell me I can't call it camping when I pack my own mattress pad.  These outdoor enthusiasts probably roll their eyes when they hear that we actually have cabins with mattresses in the first place.

Well, I looked it up and here's what Webster has to say about camp: a place usually away from urban areas where tents or simple buildings (as cabins) are erected for shelter

There's nothing in the dictionary that disqualifies me for packing my own coffee maker.

Luray, Virginia is less than two hours from home situated at the foot of the Shenandoah Mountains.  On Saturday we drove down Skyline Drive to explore the White Oak Canyon Upper Falls trail.  After the crazy rain we had last week I had a renewed appreciation for a warm, sunny September walk in the woods.  The squirrels must have felt the same way, scampering back and forth across the trail.  Deer peeked out through branches dappled in sunlight.  After a few miles, we had worked up an appetite and a slight sweat.  We sat on some rocks beside the waterfall pools to enjoy our picnic lunch and let the kids splash around. 

Tired, wet and happy, we headed back to camp for the evening to circle up by the campfire.  Over the years, we've had different daytime excursions but our evening routine is always the same.  First we grill some burgers and hot dogs, then we roast marshmallows for s'mores.   Dog-eared copies of our neighborhood song book are passed around as guitars are tuned.   Kids and adults both call out requests for favorites... funny ones like Do Your Ears Hang Low and Yellow Submarine mixed with more traditional selections by John Denver.

I could get used to the relaxed pace, the absence of phone or email, the togetherness of friends.  Sunday morning arrives a little too soon.  On our return trip, we stop at a local apple orchard and pick a bushel--a little souvenir of our adventure.  Back home, we'll have pictures, memories and an apple pie. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Take Me out to the Ball Game

Katherine's first day of 5th grade
While officially still summer, this week marks the unofficial beginning of fall in our home.  School begins and football season starts.  Sometimes Jack's homework is like a football game. It can take about 4 hours to watch but there's only 60 minutes of actual playing time.

Tonight Jack does not have four hours because he is on his way to a Nationals baseball game.   Paul and I have a different opinion of this game.  One of us (I won't tell you who) feels strongly about the significance of this particular baseball game.  Steven Strasburg is scheduled to return to the Majors tonight to pitch.  What an opportunity to watch history!  The other one of us wants to emphasize the importance of starting a new school year off  right by organizing school supplies, eating a healthy dinner and getting a good night's sleep.

In the interest of preserving our happy marriage, we devise a compromise.  Jack agrees to complete all his homework before departure.  I'll pack a healthy dinner for the road.  Paul will leave the park early, promising to have Jack home and in bed by 10pm.

Jack's ready for7th grade
But first, the homework.  He has to write a paragraph.  First, I try letting him work independently.  Then I try offering advice.  As the clock ticks, I can feel the tension rise from my shoulders to my neck muscles and into my clenched jaw.  "Jack, you don't have a lot of time to get this finished."

"Mom, you are rushing me," he accuses.  Well, yes, I am.  Because we are in a hurry here.  He gets it done--not his best effort--and leaves for the game.   All that scrambling and aggravation.  Is it worth it?

Around 9pm the phone rings.  "Mama?  We're on the way home.  Thank you for letting me go to the baseball game tonight.  I promise I'll get all my homework done tomorrow.  I love you."

Yes, it was worth it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A New Title

Kindergarten Coach?  Too cutesy.
Curriculum and Assessment Consultant? Too stuffy.

The signature on my outgoing work emails includes my old title "Kindergarten Teacher."  Monday was my first day of work in my new capacity as an hourly employee.  Rather than working full-time this year, I'll be working part-time to help support the new kindergarten teachers.

"What are you going to do?" people keep asking.  I'm looking for a short answer to describe my new role--a new job title. The honest answer is that I'd like to do whatever is most helpful.  Having taught kindergarten for the past 4 years, I'm happy to help in any capacity.  I hope to help some with curriculum development as our school expands to a full-day K program.  I'm available and trained to administer the standardized assessments.  Of course, I'm delighted to work with the students and spend time in a classroom.

The problem I'm having is that my new title ideas somehow allude to my being in charge or being an expert.  That's not at all the case.  The three new kindergarten teachers are all experienced and bring different strengths to contribute.  Having the chance to work with them this year will provide opportunities in learning and growth for me personally.  Meeting together will push us to develop, stretch and improve as educators.  Spending time collaborating and learning from each other make us all more effective teachers. 

Thinking this all through, I edit my outgoing email signature.  I position my cursor after "teacher" and backspace 4 letters.  Then I add an "m."

Now, under my name, it says "Kindergarten Team."  I'm a part of the K Team.  I'm really excited!

Go Team!