Where the inside of my mind leaks onto the screen.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

First Impressions

Adam waited anxiously as all his friends went back to school.  His new school, Navigator Pointe Academy - where I teach, did not start until yesterday.  Depending on the day he was apprehensive, excited, nervous, or grouchy with me for expecting him to change schools.  Thankfully, on the big day, he was just excited.  "Mom, I'm not scared or nervous or anything!" he announced to me as I did his hair.  He was also careful to point out just how daddy had taught him to line up his belt with his pants.

I saw him twice during the day.  I passed him once in the hall, and he smiled an adorably full-faced smile but dutifully remained quiet.  His class visited the music room, and I was very proud that he did not loudly announce that Mrs. Fife is his mom.

Apparently he also passed Grandma Casdorph in the hall.  She must be cooler than me, because he did say, "Hi, Grandma," to which she replied, "Hi, buddy.  But remember, there's zero conversation in the halls."

After school, upon careful questioning, he reported the following:

Favorite part of the day: "Recess"
Favorite part of the day besides recess: "Lunch"
Favorite part of the day in the classroom: "Mo-om, lunch was in our classroom."

He also mentioned that he didn't have many friends.  "At this school, I only had five friends.  At my old school, I had like ten friends."  But it wasn't in a complaining format.  He simply stated it as observation.  I encouraged him to give it a few weeks.

As for Alex, I explained to him that while Adam was gone, he would get to be the big brother.  He exclaimed, "You mean I get to play whatever games I want to?"

And Dylan has taken to following Alex around like a shadow.  I am loving this, because until this time, I wasn't sure Dylan knew Alex existed for any purpose other than to be screamed at.  This morning when Alex was pouting with his back against the door, Dylan turned around and backed himself up so his little back would be against the door, too.

And for me?  I love being the first person to see Adam after school.  Even if I am technically still at work, I can take a second to greet him and get his stories when they are fresh on his mind.  And we get the drive home as just the two of us.  

So first impressions of first grade?  I'd say favorable!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to the Routine

Some people thrive on routine while others feel constrained or bored.  I feel like a routine gives me structure which acts as a launching pad, something I can control to allow me more time and space to be creative.  But it is a love-hate relationship to be sure. 

I have many self-directed routines.  For example, I make muffins every Monday, cinnamon rolls and sausage every Tuesday, etc.  I don't have to think when I first get out of a bed - and that is beautiful.

But ask me to remember to wear my seatbelt?  Yeah, not going to happen.

I can only start new routines on Mondays.  So if I get the idea on a Wednesday that it is time to start working out again, I have to wait until Monday rolls around.  And if I miss on Monday, the whole week is shot.

With all the craziness I've been involved in this summer, my routines have largely gone out the window.  I have survived crisis to crisis, knowing all the while that I was not functioning at top efficiency.  And yet, I functioned.  I survived.  I even got some stuff done.

And now that I am facing the start of a new school year, I have to decide if it is time to "routine up" again.  Can I survive without the rigor of a personal schedule with workout, meal, shower, etc. all carefully laid out and pinned to a certain time?  Can I wake up each morning and loosely prioritize the day, moving from task to task with a go-with-the-flow efficiency?

I doubt it.

School starts Tuesday.  I guess it is time to think about what I can realistically fit in between school drop offs and work and kids and meals.  Time to evaluate how early I can get out of bed and still have energy to teach and dance and not snap at the kids.  Time to buckle down and just do what needs to be done.

Here we go.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Different Is Good

Every summer, the sun turns the last 3 inches of my hair a light golden brown, many shades lighter than my roots, and I end up looking like I used to dye my hair and just let it grow out awkwardly.  And so, at the beginning of most school years, I spend $3 on grocery store hair color and match the ends to the roots.  In adventurous years, I sometimes go darker than natural.  But this year, I finally got up the guts to do what I've always wanted to do.  Red.

I had planned to choose a very safe, very brown auburn.  But I took Kirk to the store with me, and he urged me to be a little more daring and try this one, titled "bright auburn."  I took one look and thought I'd end up looking like Ariel.

I went ahead, though, and colored it. It turned out a gorgeous color, definitely the brownest red could possibly be, and I LOVED it.  Then I washed it, and it faded.  You could barely tell I'd even done anything.  I read the box again and noticed that it said for hair longer than shoulder length, you might need two bottles.  Thinking the color didn't take due to a lack of saturation, I tried one more time.

It took.

And I felt like Ariel.

But Kirk assures me that it looks good, and after convincing him to take a few pictures, I think I'm liking it.  (It looks a little more kool-aide red in person.)

Well, it's fun, and it's spunky, and it's different.  In this case, I've decided different is good.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Equal Parts

If I had equal parts of imagination and follow-through, I'd be rich.

At least, I think so.  Then again, I am kind of full of myself.

I'd have patented and sold my late-night idea of a formula dispenser (of which my brother even designed a 3-d model).

I would run an after school center where kids would come for private music lessons, homework help, personal tutoring, theater groups, competite sports, and exercise programs.  And it would be funded largely through grants so the kids who really needed it would have access.

I would be making gobs of money as the account manager of high-profile ad campaigns.  I'd work on the top floor of a downtown skyscraper, and I'd eat lunch at the corner bistro with my coworkers. 

The laundry at my house would always be clean, folded, and put away.  I'd make healthy dinners which we'd all eat together.  We'd actually be able to have a dinner table conversation, because the kids would be so well disciplined, they'd just want to be respectful.

Someone, somewhere would be performing my acclaimed, hit Broadway musical, based on Billy Joel's Leningrad.  I'd go further into that one, but it just exposes how far my imagination can run.

These are the kinds of thoughts that occupy my brain when nothing else demands it's attention.  

When driving, for example.  Subconscious thought handles the speedometer and the don't-run-into-the-car-in-front-of-you, and I disappear mentally into these lands of fantasy.

Mopping, mowing the lawn, shaving my legs... these are all activities I can do while my brain wanders. 

Sometimes I wonder if all this wandering is a sign of discontentment with my current lot.  That wonder is always immediately dispelled, however, because I love everything I am doing right now.  The job.  The extra-curriculars.  The kids.  The husband.  The house.  The ward.  The calling.  The neighborhood.  The friends.  It is all great!

What does it all mean, then, my inclination to wander?  I think it just means that there are so many ways I could be happy.  How lucky am I to have the dreams and the skills that if I ever decided to add the missing incredient (hard work), I could actually do most of the things I listed.  It's a mantra we always teach to young kids, but it's one I've always believed: I can be anything I want to be.

So, if I had equal parts imagination and follow through, sure... maybe I could be rich.  I feel pretty blessed, though, that even without the follow through, I'm pretty darn happy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Changed My Life

It wasn't until April 15th, 2009 that I was even aware that a little boy (Jonathan) in Adam's primary class was autistic.  I'd seen him sit on his mother's lap (she was their teacher) during singing time, but in a class of Sunbeams, that was certainly no red flag.  But when I received an email from his grandmother thanking me for a small kindness Adam naturally showed, I became more aware (and tried to be more understanding) of the unique challenges of that particular primary class.

The following December, I was approached by the primary president who asked if I'd be willing to move to the 4 year old class for the following year.  Informed that the class would be split based on the large number of kids, I easily answered, "Sure, as long as Adam is in the other class."  It was that first Sunday in a class of four year olds and with a new team teacher (Jonathan's mom) when I really got a chance to see how amazing both Jonathan and his mother are.

Through the course of our year together, Kristal never had a problem keeping the attention of our fidgety class while never taking her eyes fully off Jonathan.  The amount of energy she used during every minute of primary was such an example to me.  Thankfully, Jonathan and I hit it off immediately.  Although he's non-verbal, he communicated pretty clearly to me with just a look of his eyes which said, "I'm really smart.  In fact, sometimes, I'm probably smarter than you.  Wanna see what I can get away with?" 

So I got down on my knees and put my hands gently on his shoulders and looked right back.  "Yes, Jonathan.  You are really smart.  Really, really, smart.  I'm pretty sure you'll be a lot smarter than me someday.  But for today, you are 4 years old.  So I get to be the boss.  Go ahead and try.  Wanna see what I won't let you get away with?"

I watched Kristal all year, and took my turns with Jonathan while she taught (and carefully supervised me through the corner of her eye).  When the time came to reassign teachers for the next year, I thought and prayed and talked with the primary presidency, and I was given the opportunity to continue with Jonathan - without Kristal - for the next year.

It has been a challenging year.  Our class is huge and full of my son and his gaggle of Type A personality friends.  Only 2 of our horde are girls, and coming from an estrogen-challenged household, I struggle to relate to their more emotional nature.  We have three teachers in order to accommodate the need to occasionally take Jonathan out and still have two teachers in the room.  While two of us have been constant from the start, we've had no less than four people in that third slot.  We've tried several methods of organizing our class, some of which have fallen just short of disastrous nightmare. 

I've had good days and bad days.  After discussing with Jonathan's parents that I was afraid that our constant changing of teachers was causing Jonathan some undue anxiety, I discussed with the primary presidency a plan to restructure our class in such a way that I could be exclusively with Jonathan.  The next week, I arrived at church refreshed and ready.  The primary president pulled me out of class to let me know we were getting another new teacher, and that she and I would alternate weeks being with Jonathan.  I tried to be okay with it.  Then I went and hid myself in a classroom and bawled.

That's when I realized something.  Somewhere between April 15th, 2009 and now, my life changed forever.  I have had the unique opportunity to befriend - no - to love an incredibly little boy named Jonathan.  His parents are right there and always doing what is best for him, and still I melted down at the thought of asking him to continue to feel anxiety about switching teachers each week.

The primary presidency reconsidered, and I've been given until the end of September as Jonathan's personal buddy.  At that point, I'm being transitioned out so that I can teach a different class next year.  Which is good.  (Imagine me nodding my head decidedly.)  In the meantime, I'm working to re-establish a routine since our crazy year has been anything but conducive to an ideal environment for Jonathan.

As such, I expected a "bad" day today.  That smart little 4 year old is now an even smarter little 6 year old who has figured out that if he doesn't want to be in class, all he has to do is make lots of noise.  I talked to his parents who agreed that I probably needed to tough it out and get through some noise to establish that he stays in class unless there's a really good reason to leave.  I prepared the other teachers and the class that Jonathan might make some noise today, but that we could all help each other out by paying attention to the teacher.  And I hunkered down, expecting a fight.

The secretary in the primary presidency is a special education teacher at one of the local elementaries, and she has been an incredible resource for me.  Knowing that with the start of school tomorrow, Jonathan was probably extra excited today, she stopped by to say that if I needed a break today to let her know. 

Two Important Sidenotes:

1. Jonathan doesn't like my hair curly.  When I do wear it that way, he pulls it in a non-malicious way that just seems like he's trying to straighten out the curls.

2. Jonathan is a runner.  One must be constantly on guard, and even at that, Jonathan gets away at least once or twice per Sunday.  If I'm lucky, I get to him before he leaves the room or reaches the piano.  When I'm not, I end up literally chasing him down the halls of the church.  I wear flats a lot.

Well, today we'd made it 20 minutes in when Jonathan decided that pulling my hair (already straight today) was a fun experiment in cause and effect.  "When I pull Sis. Fife's hair, she seems to get instantly frustrated.  That's kinda fun."  So I gladly took Sis. Okerlund up on her offer.  She took him to help deliver roles to the other classes, and I didn't see him for 10 minutes or so.  And then he ran into the room, with the primary president and Sis. Okerlund following behind.  Neither of them reached him before he opened the accordian doors to the baptismal font.  And I just laughed as poor, significantly pregnant Sis. Okerlund looked at me and said, "I'm not as fast as I used to be.  Wow.  That was borderline disastrous!"

I know I shouldn't feel triumphant about a moment like that.  But for all the times Jonathan has reached the bass notes of the piano or grabbed a handful of name sticks or slammed the door or turned off the lights or... before I could catch him, it was SO nice to see someone else just a little too late.

The best moment, however, was in speaking with Jonathan's dad after church.  With the exception of one battle-of-wills over a different teacher's watch (which I wouldn't let Jonathan take down to it's component parts - a favorite activity of his), we had a very calm class time.  The one battle was scream inducing, however, and unknown to me, his dad had come to observe though the window.  "I came to check on him," he said, "and I saw that you clearly had it under control.  I didn't interfere, because I wanted to make sure Jonathan understands that there is a chain of command." 

My countdown to the end of September has begun.  As in I only get 5 more weeks with Jonathan.  I thought of that as I held him on my lap today, quietly singing the ABC's to calm him down.  I thought of that today as he stood on a chair with his arms wrapped around my neck.  I thought of that today as I projected myself several years down the road to when he is inches taller than me. 

Jonathan has changed my life.

Friday, August 19, 2011

That's Good

A friend of mine recently wrote a blog about a family camping trip in a style derived from "a picture book titled That's Good! That's Bad! where the events flipflop between fortunate fun and an unfortunate twist. One moment good. Immediately followed up with one moment bad. Then back to another moment good!"  Since reading her post, I seem to naturally frame life's unexpected surprises in a "that's good; that's bad" sort of light.

An email back from my boss to let me know what my teaching schedule will be next year.
That's good.
Realizing that schedule will not work for the babysitter.  
That's bad.

Getting to keep the 6th grade music classes this year.  
That's good.
Adding the 1st grade classes.  
That's... (well, I'm trying to be positive.)

Being informed I will be getting a $2 per hour raise because of my "grueling schedule." 
 That's good.
Said grueling schedule (1 class, lunch, then 6 straight classes with barely time to pee).  
That's - scary.

Getting to be Adam's music teacher.  
That's good.
Having to be Adam's music teacher. 
 That's bad.

Knowing I have time to process and organize and figure out and plan because school doesn't start until August 30th?  
That's just plain awesome.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Boy Pile

I often think of the old "My Buddy" commercials when I watch my boys play:

"My Buddy, My Buddy, Wherever I go, he goes.
My Buddy, My Buddy, I’ll teach him everything that I know.
My Buddy and me, Like to climb up a tree.
My buddy and me, We're the best friends that could be.
My Buddy, My Buddy, My Buddy and Me!"

Lately, if one boy piles on top of mom or dad, suddenly, we have a whole pile of boys. 

Although much of what he does is inspired by older brothers, Dylan is definitely forging his own dare-devilish path.  Where Adam was naturally scared of everything and Alex possessed equal parts courage and sense, Dylan is 100% fearless.  What started out as a game of sliding down my legs turned into a game of diving headfirst off the bed with no mom-shaped safety net. 

Listen closely and you can hear Kirk encouraging him to dive.  Yeah.  We're that kind of parents.  I have dibs on Dylan breaking the first bone. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I Wish...

I wish I had time to post a better blog about this.  But for any of you familiar with Sondheim, the song is hilarious.  And any of you who haven't already been pestered to death by my facebook posts, come see me in INTO THE WOODS, tonight, Friday, Saturday, and Monday.