Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

And Happy Fall, and Happy Daylight Savings Time, and Happy Autumn and Happy Almost November 4th!

SO much going on this week...not all of it good. But a lot of it really sweet. There's actually a dual feeling for so many things that happen. It's funny, as a kid, things either seemed 'good' or 'bad'. As an adult, things are really pretty gray-area style. Or, maybe it's always wanting to look on the bright side of things. Or maybe there really is good and bad to be found in everything.

I ended up getting into some serious craft making for school this week. After the craft afternoon last weekend, it felt pretty natural to be working with construction paper and glue stick. Not my normal bunch of materials, but I'm digging on 'em. Made these three little boxes for a "Feed the Scary Things" game the kids play to show they know the sounds of words. There are a bunch of cards with pictures on them and if the word in the picture matches the first letter of the box (G, W, P) then they drop it in there.

The teacher I work with is so very cool. We decided on a split second change of plan and that meant that we would come up with all new Language Arts Centers for Halloween. We made that decision on Monday, so, we got to making 'em!
Another one was "Scary Bingo" All in all, a pretty successful, good time was had. By way of the afternoon comes the Halloween Parade, so I knew I had to have a good costume to really thrill the kids with.

Lucky for me, T has a sewing machine, a good sense of humor, and a way with material. I found all the "ingredients" at SCRAP, brought them over to T's and we nearly wet our pants laughing while we worked out a caterpillar costume. I'm not normally that into this particular holiday, but with 30 kids, thrilled to the tips of their toes about Halloween (I mean, for the last thirty days, we've read Halloween books, talked about goblins and ghosts, and made pumpkin bread, and talked and talked and talked about it...) I felt I owed them my very best. We happen to be studying butterflies this year and I had heard a rumor that all the kids were (secretly) planning to be butterflies for the big day. So, I told Miss P. we needed to come as a caterpillar and a...... "Chrysalis!", she said. Um, I didn't wanna make that costume, so she picked Lepidopterist. And I came as the caterpillar (which one of the kids calls a "calapitter"--so adorable!). Sewing the thing together and trying it on over and over, and figuring out how to make arm holes in the right places, and how to make a hood, and how to walk in a tight tube of fabric, and not really trying at all to make the stripes even in the back...all of it, classic. The kids loved it. I did too. I even laid down on the floor and did the worm a couple times.

All in the name of good times.
And to all, a good night!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

all stories have happy endings

Growing up, my mom used to tell me the funny stories she remembered from being a Kindergarten teacher. One of the best ones was the day that she was trying to get the kids to say "M" words: "mmmm, mother or mmmmm, mountain". One little boy raised his hand and said: "mmmmmmmm, telephone!" Gads, that always made me crack up! I never understood why he would pick 'telephone', so obviously a "T" word.

And now, I do.

I run reading groups for my first graders, which means they come to me in little groups of twos or threes and they read to me. Or, in some cases, with me. And in other cases, I read to them and they stare longingly at the jumble of letters on the page. It's fascinating. Take a moment to try and recall the feeling you had when you first were learning to read. I've found... I can't. I could read when I entered Kindergarten (my mom credits Sesame Street) and had a tutor (who was really a fifth grader that was my sister's best friend) that I met with so I could read to her while the other kids learned the alphabet. Although, I must say, that's an assumption I have today. I actually remember it as meeting with the tutor to read, while the other kids got to play longer at recess. I don't particularly remember being an early reader as a winning quality while at school. It really benefited me at home, when I could curl up in the corner of the couch or on my bed and get lost in whatever wonderful book I had going at the time.

I loved reading and still count it as one of my top three favorite things to do with my time. I try and squeeze in a good book just before I go to bed, in the morning while eating my breakfast, or commuting somewhere (I was actually disappointed the other day when I had to Bart to Oakland and ran into a fellow teacher. It meant talking the whole way there, instead of me reading my latest New Yorker magazine. Isn't that awful of me?!)

Anyway, back to my first graders: I understand now that, to some of my kids, these letters are a foreign language totally undecipherable. When I show them a letter, some of them can call out "B!", but when I say, "What sound does the letter B make?" One might respond with "bbuuuhhh", while another is going, "aaaaahhh." I can imagine it's a slightly scary feeling to realize you don't know the sound.

Then I've got kids who can read really well and are reading chapter books (i'm not sure when books that had chapters in them started to be called 'chap books'--but that's the common phrase these days). Our next title is Lindy's Happy Ending. When I asked my first graders what they thought might happen in the story just by reading it's title, adorable little M. spoke up, with a sort of resigned tone, she said "I know, I know, the story is going to have a happy ending! All stories have happy endings!" Well, I wasn't out to burst any bubbles but, as is often the case with six year olds, I felt the need to clue her in on a couple things. "Ummm, actually..." I started with, "that's not totally true." All three of their little faces dropped: They couldn't believe it! What in the world was I talking about?! I kept on, "Some stories are actually so sad, they make me cry." They were aghast. "Like what? What could happen? What makes you so sad?" Unfortunately, the first story that came to mind involved a child being abducted...that didn't seem right to mention. So, I said, "Um, well, like if a pet died. That can be really sad. Or if someone gets really sick...or," At this point, I just wanted to change the subject and they looked as if they did too. I found a quick non-sequitur and talked to them about using expressions while reading. We came up with little hand signs for what to do when you see a comma, a period, or an exclamation point and that seemed to make it all right again.

Sometimes I've got to learn to just keep my mouth shut and, for awhile at least, believe that all stories do have happy endings.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

one spooky sunday...

I was slated to teach a "Spooky Art Class" today at our cool little community spot, 18 Reasons. Such a neat little spot that is growing into a super community gathering space. When they asked me to teach a little art/craft class, I jumped at the opportunity. I had planned on ten kids, ages 6 to 10. I had a great time picking out the crafts and getting the supplies (spent some serious time at SCRAP, one of my favorite joints in town!). Today, woke up, had some coffee and proceeded to cut out ten pieces of cardboard into the shapes of gravestones. I was ready!

J. and I had a great time setting up the space...
Paper on the walls for the haunted houses and trick or treaters--made of construction paper, crayons and glue & I found this great, thick black adhesive vinyl to represent the roads--all materials laid out: tissues and cotton balls for little ghosts, paint for the gravestones, bobby pins for hairpin ghosts.

And then, we waited. And waited. Aaaaannnnd waited.

Sooooo, here's the funny: one little girl showed up. She was 2, she was adorable, and she was the daughter of J's good friends. She made our day. And when I say "our", I mean some of my most wonderful friends and my supportive husband. Word had spread (by me, of course) that no kids had showed and I could use their help (not to mention their company!)

They all showed up and made haunted houses, tissue ghosts, trick or treater characters, gravestones and hairpin ghosts.
We got the space looking fantabulous for next Friday's Halloween opening.
Of course, we had to fudge things here and there. Six barely motivated adults can't possibly make what ten kids might have got through.

One of the roads which should have been filled with haunted houses, I made a sign that said, "Lots for Sale". We thought about having it say "foreclosures", but wanted to keep the spirit somewhat light...
A row of haunted houses, with trick or treaters strolling along...
One trick or treater dressed as a UPS man...

Another went as a Hawaiian tourist (an angry tourist?)
We were trying to figure out what to do along this stretch of blank "road". I thought it should say, "where were you?!" but Sarah came up with a much better idea: I ain't 'fraid o' no ghosts.

The gravestones were classics...(that middle one says "my 401k")

and the wall of ghosts, that we all agreed, looked like a life-size game of pac man...

All in all, an excellent Sunday. Thanks to all who showed! We're doing it again for Thanksgiving, so wash your hands and get ready to make turkey feathers!!

Friday, October 24, 2008

the zone of six year olds

We went on a field trip with our first grade class. It was awesome and exhausting and everything else you can imagine it might be. We went to the Conservatory of Flowers. Specifically, The Butterfly Zone. One of our year long studies is butterflies and boy, have we learned a ton about them! I was a bit obsessed with butterflies and their seemingly magical powers long before this opportunity came along, but now....well, I'll never look back.

The Butterfly Zone is this intensely heated, humid room that has butterflies flying all around you. One, I swear to god, landed on my nose. Of course, I couldn't yelp for any of the kids to look at me because I would scare it off....which, I did anyway... but, no matter, we thrilled at every wing flutter and every near miss of a landing, whether it was on us or another student there exploring.

We ate lunch outside and then made our way over to the flower garden where there are don't know how many...but, A LOT of different varieties of Dahlias.
It's one of my favorite parts of that area of Golden Gate Park. Strangely, it's in the middle of a road, so you really have to watch yourself (and 15 6-year-olds) when enjoying the beauty. I must say, I'm amazed even one of these flower photos came out what with battling the intense sun beating down on us and the screaming madness of lots and lots of kids!

On our way out of the park, we were trailing along (though we were all totally wiped out, none of us really wanted to head back to school...) and there was a sprinkler watering the grass. Standing back and resisting the urge to jump in it, we saw a rainbow. A really beautiful rainbow.

Sometimes, I feel really, really lucky to be blessed with the wonderment of a kid. And to have a job where I hang out with six year olds who believe in the same things I do: pots-of-gold and leprechauns and fairies, well, I'd be hard pressed to find better company.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A time to remember

I remember three distinct things from the first grade:

1. Miss Martin's long, painted finger nails.
2. The time that the kid who sat next to me begged Miss Martin to go to the bathroom, and she kept telling him to wait until the lesson was over, then the bell rang and at that moment, he puked all over our shared desk.
3. Miss Martin playing the zither. She played "There was a b-i-e-i-e, upon a wall-i-all-i-all..."
I loved when she did this.

I'm wondering what the kids in my first grade class will remember about me?
Maybe it'll be the high-fives I give them after they really try to read something to me. Maybe the way I call them 'sir' or 'lady', as in 'what can i do for you, sir?' My big sunglasses at recess? The fact that I squeeze them so much? The way I change all the voices of characters when I read them a story?

Whatever it is, I hope it's good.

Monday, October 20, 2008

and may it never end

Of course, one of the best things about going back for my reunion, was actually going home. Most of my brothers and sisters came down to mom & dad's house to hang, eat, drink and tell/hear stories. And as we gathered 'round the computer the next day (wake up, immediately download all photos from reunion night before, get coffee, commence with stories), I felt myself melt into that familiar, wonderful warmth of home.
My family always makes me feel like not a day has passed except for the memories.
When I saw this comic, it made me think of one of our old favorite jokes (a quickie kind, involving a chicken), teaching it to the nieces when they were little, while some sarcastically screamed, 'oh, don't teach them that!', while laughing hysterically....
Oh, family, how I adore you!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Once in a lifetime...

Not one, not two, not fact, at some point, I lost track...but at least FOUR standing ovations for David Bryne and his band last week at Davies Symphony Hall. And that was before he'd started into his first song! It was, as are all his shows I've seen, quirky, joyful and downright inspirational. RK bought us the most amazing seats: dead center, just a few rows back. We smiled from ear to ear, we boogied, and yes, I bawled. I always do, if it's a really moving concert (damien rice, arcade fire, andrew bird...okay, yeah, I cry very easily!)

So, he rocked the full show, and his backup singers, his band, and his totally creative add-in of dancers--while they were all dressed in white, head to toe--just once again confirmed his powerful talent for entertaining with passion. The people walking out of the theatre that night, after seeing the extra action marching band and David Byrne burn down the house, sang his praises and buzzed with excitement. We floated down the street thanking the universe for David Byrne. Good ole bike riding David Byrne.

The other little highlight of my night was seeing Miranda July nervously making her way thru the bar area and I had to stop my beating heart long enough to tap her on the shoulder and say, "You are so talented and your work is so inspirational."
I love the thought of these two collaborating (again!)

talk, talk, talk, do, do, do, vote, vote, vote

Things to do for Obama this week:

1. Get new 8mm ideas voting cards out to Candystore.
2. Give out 8mm ideas VOTE card to everyone that you meet/and for every customer at Candystore.
3. Donate the Miranda July way.
4. Offer to install an Obama themed window in favorite local shop.
5. Send out packets of 8mm ideas political cards (Available: obama/democratic supportive themes only) to anyone that reads this little story line and would like them. Just let me know.
6. Listen to the wisdom of Horton, while repeating the mantra, "yes, we can!"

my thanks to audrey heller for the photo and the dr. suess goodie.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Those were the days my friends, we thought they'd never end...

One of my first graders said to me today: "I'm gonna do so many things with my life you won't believe it..." and on the post high from my High School reunion, it was just the right thing to hear. I pictured him at his high school reunion years and years from now. My 20 year reunion finally arrived and I'd known some of these kids since before we were six. Here we all were...

What a funny thing, reunions, to think that all these people would still want to hang out with someone they once kissed on a dare, cheated off of during a test, asked to the dance, made out under the bleachers, ditched class with, sang in front of in choir, made mixt tapes for...or people you never really knew in those hallowed halls. That's what reunions are for: a chance to hang out again.

Though my old friend, Angela, and I stood at the front door to the hotel, just outside the party, stomachs rumbling, both agreeing, "this was a bad idea"--we finally went in and had the time of our lives! People were genuinely thrilled to see one another. Each person almost surprised at how excited they were to see one another. People gushed over one another and hugged two and three times.

The best exchange at the end of the night, from some of the nicest guys in school:

C: "If I had known how popular or well-liked I was back then, it would have all been different."
S: "well, sure, if I knew then what I know now....of course."
M: "Oh, boy, can you guys imagine all of us trying to go to school together? Everyone filled with security and confidence. It wouldn't have worked..."

And they were right. Each one of 'em.

If you get the chance, run, don't walk, to your high school reunion. I haven't heard about a bad one yet. Only missed ones.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

and then i saw...

// i am sorry. honestly, i'm sorry i ruined your day. i am sorry. i never meant to inflict no other than myself. i came along, i turned the right to wrong, turned it all to this, nothing was said i poured the good out, im the peculiar one// i came along, i brought the shade, i turned it all from here, nothing was said, you had a glance at me; said i'm the odd one/// --loney, dear

i'm not sure i ever properly thanked meighan, blogger-style, for introducing me to the album, the band, that has gotten me thru some serious good times and bad.
Thanks, Meighan.

(and how wonderful is the beauty of flickr where photos like the above self-portrait can be found and celebrated! click on photo to enjoy her other gorgeous shots)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

In walked love...

A number of years ago, on a gorgeous, snowy winter night in February, one month after we'd met, and right after we had slid home on our shoes down an empty, icy 7th avenue, RK and I first said, "I love you." Right then and there, I wanted to run to the roof and yell out to all of New York City, to all of the world: I LOVE THIS MAN SO MUCH!!!

Three years ago, today, still feeling exactly the same way, we found a way to tell our friends and family (and some runners and some people riding segues, and some walking their dogs) in a very public park, at our wedding.

And today, all these years later, I have the opportunity to shout it out again to the blogosphere:

I love the way he holds my hand. I love the way he pulls me closer to him when we're walking down a sidewalk and some wacky person is heading right for me and I'm not paying attention. I love that he introduces me to new music every week. I love that he lets me warm my freezing cold feet on his warm legs. I love the way he laughs to tears when I'm trying to tell him about a song or a movie that I can't remember. I love that he listens to me talk and talk and talk. I love the way he takes care of our plants. I love that he writes poetry and sometimes reads it to me. I love that he can play instrument after instrument. I love that he wants to know what I'm wearing when we go out for a big dinner or to a wedding, so he can wear a complimentary outfit. I love that he looks out for my health. I love his eyebrows. I love his nose. I love that we have the same crooked teeth. I love the way he smells. I love his lips. I love the way he continues to try to explain computer technology to me, even when he sees my eyes glaze over. I love his unending patience for my tardiness to every event we attend. I love when he talks to his brother on the phone they usually end up in hysterical laughter and talking in a brotherly language only they understand. I love the way he gets along with my family. I love how he puts his hand on the small of my back and dances with me even though I have two left feet. I love how we are both in (happy) awe over how much we constantly enjoy each others company.

Whether it's January 10th or October 1st, I love you RK.