Thursday, May 29, 2008

Registry Madness

As I mentioned before, M and I found the process of registering for wedding gifts to be quite unnerving. First of all, it's not like we are a pair of poverty-stricken teenagers who've never had to think about housekeeping before. Let's just say we own one or two pots already, and we're not so sure about asking or friends to get us more.

However, several friends tell me that if you don't register people still buy you gifts, only they have to guess about your taste. I do not want to get any gigantic commemorative Disney clocks like some poor people I know. And so we gritted our teeth and went. Making all those choices should be fun, but after a while it gets kind of overwhelming. Nevertheless, we created two registries, and we were most happy to be able to check that task off our list. Then came the email.

It seems that one of our choices, Linens n' Things (I should have known not to trust a company with such bad punctuation), is feeling the effects of tough economic times. In fact, they've filed for chapter eleven, but, the email assured us, it's "just for restructuring purposes. Your registry is perfectly safe with us!" they claimed confidently. Ha! One friend just brought me a copy of our wish list, and about half the items are either "unavailable" or "out of stock." It seems we must make a new registry once more.

Therefore, we are now registered at Macy's and I am VERY much hoping that we can now be done with this whole gift list thing, but I guess you never know. Macy's could suddenly start carrying commemorative Disney clocks.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Status Report

The brief run-down of my tiny life in no particular order:

1. M --- Great! He's still the nicest one around.

2. Health --- Good! No complaints here.

3. Wedding --- All in hand as far as I can tell. Still some things to take care of, but I think we're on track. See item #1 :)

4. House --- Not exactly perfect, but nothing to terrible pressing in on me.

5. Friends --- Lovely! Did I mention that my fabulous friend C took me to Vegas this weekend? (more on that another time)

6. Family --- All well and happy as near as I can tell.

7. 1000 other nice things --- All good.

8. Work --- Still bumpy. Kids are great, but some days the co-workers are pretty tough going.

The purpose of this little exercise is to remind me about all the wonderful/satisfying/exciting things going on. That last item is really only one small part of the whole, so I really should try to keep it all in perspective. Maybe this will help me to quit whining so much (ha! ha! I promise to try). Besides, only 16 more days, only 16 more days.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Getting Through

Life at work is quite an interesting thing lately. Ever since the big blow-up, I've been struggling to find a mind set that will allow me to get through. Previously I just worked as hard as I could, tried to keep things on my team running smoothly, and tried to keep my leadership position on track. However, since the bad thing occurred, I'm less inclined to get involved with projects and concerns outside my classroom.

In fact, since others complain that I am "bossy" I've decided not to do a single thing for/with my team that is not specifically spelled out in my duties (is this immature? I don't know, but I don't feel that I have a choice). This means that all those little details that I used to take care of (just because they needed doing) such as booking rooms for meetings, organizing subs, creating agendas, distributing materials, are not my problem any more. I won't steer the conversation back to the task at hand. I won't double-check that the speaker is booked for the correct day and time. Well, what do you know, the fall-out from my stepping back has already begun.

One day per year, each team is allowed to have subs for the day, so the entire group can get together and work on curriculum. That means you have 7.5 hours (not counting half an hour for lunch or the two .5 hour blocks before and after school) per year to get everything done (otherwise it has to take place in .5 hour chunks). Needless to say it's kind of important to use that time wisely. This is why I have always created an agenda using the items of importance I solicited from the team. This is also why I always tried very hard to keep everyone on task during the actual meeting. Not this year.

This year's meeting was roughly divided into four segments. Part 1 lasted for about an hour, and consisted of the group discussing what things we might want to tackle for the day. Part 2 lasted for about 1.5 hours and consisted of one teacher passing out "getting to know you" activities. The main activity was a page on which were written the names of each team member. Every person was supposed to go down the list and write a paragraph of positive traits for each individual. Then we read our paragraphs aloud to each other. Lots of really really fun and meaningful personal stories were shared. I won't even bother to explain the next part where we had to tell each other what personality type we thought they were.

By the time we finished part 2, it was time to go to lunch. Again, in an attempt to not be bossy, I did not comment on lunch plans. It was assumed that everyone would go, and that one person should choose because "he likes food." We ended up going to Japanese. I hate Japanese, and so does one other member of the crew. Lunch lasted nearly 2 hours. This was part 3.

Part 4 of our day, which began just before 1pm, was the actual work. The bell rang just after 2:00pm. We got through two, count them, two work items. Nevertheless, the day was considered a big success by some because "it was such a fun time with everyone." I just keep repeating in my head "only X more days! only X more days!" I'm viewing the whole thing as an exercise in self-control. Granted, I nearly lost my composure during the long story about body surfing with an angel, but I didn't, and that's what will get me through without bloodshed.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cake Tops

Okay, I must confess that I like cake toppers. You know those horrible fake brides and grooms and stare out from the tops of wedding cakes with fixed smiles on their little plastic faces? Something about the cheesiness appeals to me, so after we ordered our cake, I started hunting for one that would suit. My first attempt was too cheesy even for me. The little people were so poorly painted that their faces appeared sort of deranged (perhaps that was intentional because brides and grooms often do look that way?), and the bride had a fountain of real netting glued to the top of her head. Not good.

That is why I was so happy with the second attempt. The next bride and groom arrived just a few days ago, and they are so much the opposite of the previous pair. First of all, they are made of porcelain, not resin, and the paint job on them is excellent. They have nice serene smiles on their faces (as if they are actually happy to be married!), the clothing is in a timeless style, and the bride is even carrying a bunch of tiny, perfect, porcelain roses. They are, dare I say it, even kind of elegant. I'm looking forward to keeping them as a memento, and I don't even think I have to be embarrassed of them. Now our only trick will be to paint the grooms head blond without ruining his good looks.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


We finally got our acts together and managed to send out the invitations. It was very much a group effort with several kind people helping out. Some stuffed, some stamped, many addressed, and eventually we were done. Fingers crossed that we didn't mortally offend anyone by misspelling their name or leaving off their S.O. The actual invitation card is quite lovely if I do say so myself. M took them all to be posted. Now I have the fun of going to the mailbox each day to see who else has sent back a reply. It feels so good to get each thing checked off the list!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Dress Success

A few weeks ago, my mom, my two nieces, and I all took a trip to the bridal salon. My mom was in the market for a mother-of-the-bride gown, I wanted something to wear to the rehearsal, and Big Niece was in need of a junior bride’s maid gown. Yes, you read that correctly; Big Niece has agreed to wear a dress.

Now I was all set to have Big Niece wear pants and a nice blouse because I am well aware of her life-long hatred for dresses. However, a few subtle comments from her seemed to imply that she might want to wear a dress, but not want to admit to that desire. I posed the question to my brother over the phone one night. He promised to speak to her about things, and only a few minutes later he called back. "She wants to tell you herself" he said. Big Niece came on the line, and without any greeting she said "don't expect me to wear it EVER again and NO pink or sparkles or bows." I agreed that these seemed like quite doable requests.

When we got to the store, she tried quickly identified the dresses that were unacceptable. Some were too frilly or fluffy, others came in the unmentionable color, and a few she found too revealing (shocking cuts for kids I have to agree with her!). This left us with three choices. She tried on all three, chose two she liked, and finally selected one after receiving reassurance that Grandma could remove the one objectionable bow/sparkle from the strap. What she doesn't know is that I got her a Lord of the Rings leaf pin to replace the unfortunate bow. I think we've come to an excellent agreement. Now we just have to deal with shoes.

By the way, the rest of us were successful in our searches too, but that hardly seems worth mentioning after the triumph of getting Big Niece into her gown.

Saturday, May 17, 2008


I'm still on my poetry kick. Here's one of my absolute favorites from Longfellow:

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! ?
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,--act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Poem for the Day

I've been sifting through a lot of poems lately because we're working on a Poetry Slam in each of my classes. This is a competitive form of poetry reading, and the kids have really gotten interested. Originally I'd only planned to have the slam in my highly capable block. I made a competition bracket for them and posted it on the board so they would know when their turn was coming.

Then, my small, TLC block saw the bracket and begged to be allowed to do their own! I found myself saying "I don't know kids; you'll have to read a lot of poems..." This only made them beg harder, so I finally "relented" and they are having their own little competition. All the kids come prepared with poems, and then they compete in pairs. After the second reader is finished, the audience votes to decide who will go through to the next round.

I created a blog so they would have a "safe" source of poems from which to choose (lots of sites on the web include some really, ahem, mature material). The nice part is that I can see which poems they're looking at, and which ones they ultimately choose. Of course not everyone uses the site, and I've had to nix one poem about boobs and another about toilets. It's a weird thing to be the censor, but there you are.

The great part about all this is watching the kids discover poems for the first time. One boy ran up to me in a panic before class one day and said "Miss X I think I picked a dumb poem! Have you ever even heard of a poet called Emily Dickenson?!" I reassured him that "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" is not a "dumb" poem by any means. I swear I'm not making this stuff up.

Another boy chose the poem "War is Kind" by Stephen Crane. He has always been an angry and difficult child who often refused to do the simplest tasks. For a while, none of his peers would sit next to him because he was so unpleasant. However, when he read this tragic piece about the horrors of war, all the kids were transfixed. His hands were shaking as he went up, but he did such a beautiful job that no one said a word when he was done. Who knows what that moment might have done for him, but it certainly made an impression on everyone else.

Here's the poem he read, and don't worry, we spent quite bit of time discussing the use of irony. We also talked about how the ultimate message of the poem was very much an anti-war sentiment.

War is Kind

by Stephen Crane

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.
Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die
The unexplained glory flies above them
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom--
A field where a thousand corpses lie.
Do not weep, babe, for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.
Swift, blazing flag of the regiment
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die
Point for them the virtue of slaughter
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.
Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind

Monday, May 12, 2008

Band Class

Recently, I did one period of emergency subbing in Band class. Now I've subbed in the orchestra room several times, but this was my first exposure to Band. There is no question that band and orchestra kids are not the same kinds of people. Don't get me wrong, both groups of kids are quite wonderful, but there is something very different in the feel of the class and the attitudes of the students.

Having both kinds of kids in class, I've been noticing over the years the differences in these two groups. Orchestra kids are confident, sophisticated, and very well-spoken for their age. They are the kind of people who are always on time, always willing to help, but perhaps with a slight tendency to be humorless.

Bad kids, on the other hand, are cool. They may not always remember their homework, they may be late sometimes, but they have a certain sense of creativity. They often seem wise beyond their years, and they definitely have more street smarts than some of their peers. All this seems doubly true of kids in jazz band.

Am I over-generalizing? Of course. Nevertheless it is kind of fun to notice the different cultures that exist within a given group of people. There is nothing so reassuring (especially to a young person) as feeling that your personal quirks and oddities are simply proof that you belong to your own special club. Young adult literature is full of stories about this effect because it is so enticing to kids of all ages.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A Moderate Vegetarian

What a great article on Slate about being a vegetarian. If I had more time and better writing skills, I could have written this almost word for word since my opinions match with his almost perfectly. I need to print out a copy, keep it in my pocket, and use it to explain myself when I can't come up with the correct response. Just two days ago I had one of those "oh you're one of those" moments while waiting in the lunch line with a bunch of co-workers. The crowd really does go quiet as everyone listens for the story on why you're such a freak. Bravo Taylor Clark.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Okay, I am officially sick and tired of it all. There needs to be choice made. This whole thing is taking away from the momentum of the Democratic party. The primary portion of things should be over by now, and we should be deeply immersed in the actual election. I think there need to be systematic changes to the way we hold primary elections. For example, it might be worth moving all primaries to the same day so that everyone's vote counts equally. I know this causes problems for the candidates (how should they divide their time and money etc.), but I think it might be worth doing to end this kind of endless campaigning. I do not want to see another debate between these two, or listen to another round of primary results. Enough already!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Iron Man

M and I saw this last weekend, and I would enthusiastically recommend it to anyone. I must confess that I've liked Robert Downey Jr. since his stint on Ally McBeal (embarrassing guilty pleasure I know), and I was very disappointed when his drug arrest led to the downfall of the show. Now that he's back in form, it's nice to see him doing something that's this much fun.

The comic book feel of Iron Man is preserved, but it's not too cheesy. I don't like it when they turn a fun comic into a dark and brooding story (Spiderman), so I was pleased to see that the fun was still intact. There is a fair amount of corny humor, but it never goes too far. What really makes the movie are some great flying/fighting scenes. Of course, there's always a little "hmm how exactly does that work" kind of doubting, but if you just let that go, it's quite a fun ride. The NYT even has a feature right now about the conceptualization of the robot that builds his suit. It turns out most people like some good stupid fun every once in a while. Go see this movie!

Monday, May 05, 2008

DJ Yes Planner Maybe Not

On Friday evening M and I headed downtown to meet up with a young couple who work as wedding DJ's. There was some confusion as we played the "which of these five Starbucks do you think she meant" game. However, without too much wasted time, we found the correct place. Bamboo Beats is a husband and wife team who DJ for weddings and other kinds of parties like proms and sweet sixteens. They seemed very nice, very knowledgeable, and good at helping us figure out what exactly we were looking for. We are reviewing the contract, but I think we will sign with them. Now the only part left to this is to figure out which songs should go where.

On Saturday, we met with a wedding planner. She seemed very young, and her portfolio of events was quite limited. The only reason we were even considering a planner was to help get all the decorations put up, and to ensure that everything and everyone is accounted for. As it turns out, she won't do a major portion of the decorations we wanted. Therefore, I think the odds of us hiring her are quite slim. It may be more of a trick to get in all together, but the things she was willing to do were just not worth the price. Hers was the least expensive of all the quotes we got from planners, and by my estimate, she was still earning about $125. Under no circumstances should 22 year old wedding planners with no education earn that kind of money. Go figure.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster and pass me a cup of tea because this is a great day indeed!

You know how it often happens that most parts of your life are going fine, and then one of them just has to fall spectacularly apart? Lately a certain portion of my life has been quite unhappy. This has been especially hard because I'm just not used to being unhappy. Of course, everyone has their moments, but usually they are just that, moments. With most things I can just mentally put it aside when there's nothing I can do to change it. This one, however, was such a problem that it kind of followed me around. Lucky I had M, and my family and friends, to keep me balanced or it would have been really tough.

Good news on the subject arrived this morning. The problem is not 100% cleared up, but the central issue has been resolved. I expect that most lingering effects will sort themselves out as time passes. The thorn in my side has resigned, er, been removed, and now we should be able to get back to business in a more constructive mode. Hooray! hooray! hooray!

Thursday, May 01, 2008


Yesterday I finally made it to the jewelers to pick up my wedding ring. It was there to be re-sized (jeweler oops) and I was anxious to see if the engraving would survive the process. When I actually got to see it again, I was delighted to discover that it looks nearly perfect. It's just so pretty! Trying it on was a surprisingly surreal experience.

As we go through the wedding planning process, I have this feeling that it's all for some distant event. Every once in a while, though, it all comes sharply into focus and I realize "we're actually getting married soon!" I can't hardly wait.