Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Are You There God? It's Me, Allison

Dear God,

First of all, thanks a bunch for the torrential downpour on Monday night. 

I know someone, somewhere thought an 8:00 p.m. baseball game in Herndon on a school night was a peachy idea.  I, on the other hand, was busy trying to coordinate the completion of Algebra homework, (Jack) dance class, (Katherine) and identification profile assessment for grad class (me).

Meanwhile it dawns on me that I have not yet A: walked the dog (And has he eaten dinner?  Wait, did anyone even feed him breakfast??) B: Cooked dinner (Beanies and Weenies again, dear family?) or C: done the laundry since Jack's last baseball how much do you want to bet his uniform is in a sweaty crumpled pile at the bottom of the hamper?

And then, just as I was on the verge of losing any and all remaining sanity, the precipitation began.  And I knew it was you, God, sending a storm.   A storm outside to cancel the game.  An extra gift of time to help calm the storm inside.    Thank you.

Second, I am really sorry I've been so bad about talking to you lately.  You know these last few weeks have been pretty crazy busy with me going back to work full-time and taking this grad class.  I really don't know what I was thinking with the grad class, by the way.  September is always busy in the classroom and switching grade levels adds another level of stuff to do.  Plus the new report cards, err, excuse me, Progress Report Standards.  And the training for the new teacher evaluation standards.  And helping Jack and Katherine with homework. 
And Girl Scouts. 
And baseball. 
And guitar...sometimes I wake up at 4am and can't fall back to sleep thinking about everything and hoping I won't forget anything.  (I told Paul I felt like I needed to cover my whole body with Post-It note reminders.  Paul said he'd love to see my body covered with nothing but Post-It notes.  Not sure he got my point.) 

Friends keep asking, "How's it going?" The truth is that it's going fine.  Better than fine, actually.  I love my class and my team.  My days fly by in a sleep-deprived, adrenaline-buzzing frenzy.  I feel challenged, needed and appreciated.  Every day someone makes me laugh.  Every day someone makes my heart swell with warmth.  My class, bucket-load of work that it is, is stimulating and thought-provoking. Life's far from perfect--I haven't figured out how to fit in exercise, cooking or cleaning.  But I'm setting my sights on October... (October, It's the New January!) when we get settled a bit more. 

Meanwhile, God, I just wanted to touch base.  Every day I am thankful for so many things and, even though I haven't lately stopped to tell you, I really appreciate all of them.  Especially the rain.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Remarkable Friendship

The first week of school I chose to read Owen & Mzee: The True Story of A Remarkable Friendship to my class. The book tells of an orphaned baby hippo who befriends Mzee, a 130 year old tortoise. It's a heartwarming story and I thought the theme of the unusual friendship was appropriate for my new third graders.

I put a lot of emphasis on friendships during September. The first few days of school can be difficult as students learn new routines and rules surrounded by unfamiliar faces. So we spend a lot of time learning names and building a sense of community. We share objects that are special to us and begin to learn a little about everyone in the class.  I love getting to know each individual student--learning who loves his rock collection and who wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up. I know who is left handed and who is tri-lingual.  I know who loves math and who hates writing... (Not for long, I hope!) I know who, despite his head-to-toe Redskins gear, is actually a Dallas fan. We play games to see what we all have in common.  We practice shaking hands with eye contact and listening to one another. I hope these activities help to foster new friendships that will grow stronger throughout our year together.

After reading the story, we talk about it together.  My mind is so focused on the theme of friendship that the first question takes me by surprise. 

"How long do giant tortoises usually live?"

Then there were more--

"How long do hippos usually stay with their mother?"
"What do hippos eat?"
"Is Mzee still alive today?"

It is the first week of school and I'm already in love with my entire class. I love their inquisitive spirit.  I love their thoughtful hypotheses.  I love their true caring nature and concern for Owen.  I love that they remind me to look at a book from a different perspective.  I quickly switch gears and together we create a list of facts we've learned and questions we have. 

We begin as 29 people with different backgrounds, interests and strengths. We'll share our stories and knowledge, ask questions and sometimes make mistakes. Together we will grow into a community of learners and friends.  I think this is the beginning of a remarkable year.

Giant tortoises can live over 200 years and Mzee is still alive today. Hippos are herbivores and their diet consists mainly of grass and some water plants.  Baby hippos usually stay with their mothers until they're around five months old.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Here We Go!

Tuesday is first day of school.  Eighth grade for Jack.  Sixth grade for Katherine.  And Third grade for me. For the first time in 13 years, I have a full-time job. Not that motherhood isn't a full-time job, of course, but you know what I mean. I'm really excited.  

Being in part-time in kindergarten the last five years has been a blast. I think that's where the expressions "never a dull moment" and "just like herding cats" were originally invented. That said, I'm ready for a change and a new challenge. In third grade, the kids are old enough to already know the basics of school but young enough that they don't roll their eyes at me too often. 

Besides excited, I'm nervous too. At first I wrote down everything I wanted to do and I only need about 27 more hours in every day to make it work. So I had to make some realistic adjustments. The bad news: the house won't be as clean.  The good news: I won't be home to look at it! We created a family schedule for cleaning, homework and meals and activities.  It all looks good on paper. That will be the mantra I keep repeating over and over when it all falls apart by Wednesday. 

Really, I know it won't be perfect. It will never go according to plan. This new chapter in our lives will never look like the rough draft I've drawn out. But I also know it will never completely fall apart. I have the help of my loving family, supportive friends and my awesome teammates. And usually, its the unexpected events that make the best stories later. See? It all looks good on paper.