Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Dilemma of Oral Hygiene

First, to my students: I'd like to apologize if I offended any of you by standing too close. I was not ignoring my dragon breath; I just didn't have time to slay it while you were there.

I should explain.

Because of its 50-minute commute, my morning routine rarely allows me the time to eat breakfast and enjoy my coffee properly so I can clean my teeth before I get to school. Thus, it is often the case that I have to deal with it when the flow of the day allows for it (sometimes, even during class). I keep a toothbrush, toothpaste and some mouthwash in my desk for just this eventuality. I keep lots of weird things in my desk. Maybe I'll do a 10 Things post on that someday...

Anyway, I really hate when I don't get the chance to brush because I feel like I'm breathing coffee breath (or worse) all over my students.  Plus, I feel better (and probably teach better) when I'm all minty fresh.  There are days, though, when, despite my best efforts, it just doesn't happen until later in the day.  Listerine® and Trident® help a little, but neither is really an all-day fix.  It's a daily challenge to keep a minty fresh face.

Disappointingly, today was not a minty fresh day. I walked in the door and it was non-stop stuff: Meetings, teaching, the 48 conversations that take place in the hallway as I'm going to one or the other. Like many of my days, it was a challenge today to find time to take a deep breath, let alone dig out my toothbrush.

I had to be at school a little while after the students left this afternoon to work on a college recommendation for one of my seniors. I waved good-bye to them as they left, had the standard 48 conversations on the way to my classroom and planted myself at my desk. I realized at that moment that I actually had time to take a deep breath. That led quickly to the realization that I needed to get right back up and, with my Reach and my Tom's of Maine, make my way to the sink.

I returned much better able to focus on the recommendation, and I'm sure the student for whom I'm writing it will appreciate that I did so with a clean, fresh face.

It was a better recommendation, I'm sure.

The image above is from animator Jeff Robinson. He is working on a short film project titled Eye Like Pizza. He has a production blog [HERE]. This is one of his main characters.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

10 Things Tuesday -- Holiday Traditions

Although much of the luster has faded from the celebration of Xmas, there are certain elements of this holiday (and others) that very definitely make them more meaningful and enjoyable. Here are ten of them:

1) Black Friday. I don't start thinking about Xmas until after Thanksgiving is done with but, when the time is right, I like to jump into it with both feet! I have a tradition of going out early-ish on Friday morning, getting breakfast and heading to the mall. I don't do this to take advantage of sales or do any real shopping; I just go out to immerse myself in the spirit of the season. And people watch! I love to just watch people do their thing at the mall, and rarely are there more people to watch than on the day of Thanksgiving. NOTE: I did not get the chance to do that this year because we were with my folks, which might account (at least in part) for why my attitude toward the holidays is so subdued.

2) Evenings until Christmas Day. Sitting in the softly lit living room with Theo all dressed up (Theo is our ficus tree, who doubles as our Xmas tree), listening to good holiday music or watching It's a Wonderful Life just radiate all the best things of the season.

3) New Year's Eve and New Years Day. Wifeness and I have been celebrating our anniversary with the Wayfarer Community on this date for 432 years (give or take), and it has taken on a life of its own. We've done a culinary theme for many years, we (those who have stayed up) always go outside just at midnight to quietly wish each other a special year ahead (going back inside almost immediately because it's arsefreezing cold outside), and then there's Fatty's. It's a wonderful, special way to commemorate our year of wedded bliss!

4) Chinese New Year. Of course, we bring in all manner of Chinese food, and our little lion does its annual dance of blessing (complete with lion dance music). It's nothing like what you'd see in Chinatown, but our humble way of paying homage to the culture of Shaolin helps keep our house connected to some very important and special people.

5) Memorial Day Weekend. This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer at Wayfarer House and, as such, the beginning of the grillage season, as well. For me, personally, it's also the beginning of the long and exhausting annual trek that is my school year.

6) Graduation Night. I wear a tie only twice a year for my job, for Parent's Night (but not the last two years because I've run straight from the soccer pitch to the classroom) and Graduation Night. Graduation at my school is special for a lot of reasons, but this is the day that I say a formal good-bye to my students. I give them hugs, tell them I love them and reiterate that, although my role as their classroom teacher may have ended, I am still there to support them in any way I can. I'm very honored by the number of alumni who continue, even years later, to renew, expand and strengthen their relationship with me into something mature and reciprocal. It is a testament to the value of connecting with students as people first.

7) Father's Day. On this day for many years, Wifeness' family gets together at a local lakeside camp for the annual lobster feed. The big table is unfurled (seriously, this table is like 15 feet long!) and everyone brings a dish, their lobster (or other food, as desired)... In recent years, I've taken to biking from Wayfarer House to the lake for this event (a hilly trip of some 30 miles). It's two hours of nothing but me and the quiet sounds of country roads, which is really about the best way to celebrate being a papa.

8) Fourth of July. The other gathering day at the lakeside camp, but without the lobster. I bike to the lake this day, too, usually, and the water is usually warmer by then, so there is more swimming.

9) Family Reunion. The second weekend in August is always set aside for this event. Its location and attendance vary according to the year, but it's an opportunity for all of that branch of Wifeness' family to come together and renew their ties. My family has no such traditions, and I'm grateful that my girls are able to be part of this. It strengthens their concept of family and encourages other, less dedicated members of the bunch that to be active members.

10) Thanksgiving. Regardless of where it's celebrated, the chance to get together with family (given and chosen) and appreciate all that I have is special. And sure, copious amounts of turkey and football are great, too!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Holidays and Politics

I've come to the conclusion that I'm oversaturated with two rather seasonally ubiquitous things:

Holidays: It's not so much that I'm done with Xmas (although, to be sure, I'm slowly heading in that direction). Rather, it has to do with the fact that, more than ever before, Santa has stomped all over every other holiday from Columbus Day to Hanukkah and, in doing so, overwhelmed mind and media with the narcissistic belief that if it's not red and white, it just isn't worthy. Add to that this year's theme "Let's celebrate fanaticism!" which seems (to me, at least) like business and advertising are promoting unrestrained, extremist shopping behavior as an appropriate social value, and I have reached the point where my tolerance for (nay, hypersensitivity to) the high level of mania that is now deemed acceptable in the name of the holiday season has left my soul exhausted and my eye twitchy. I've written a letter expressing my support of Nordstrom's decision to wait until after Thanksgiving to put on their Xmas face and I'm doing my best to quietly, subtly suggest that the mainstream needs to take a step back. I cannot be the only one dismayed at the direction our holiday season is headed, but I worry that it will get much worse before it gets better.

Politics: The 2012 election season started right after the 2010 congressional elections ended, and this smacked of a blatant attempt by both parties, but especially the Republicans, to turn the Race to the Whitehouse into some kind of drama rich reality show, full of drama and completely devoid of any value whatsoever except as a diversion. Such premature agitation of the nation's political waters would seem to serve no useful benefit, and risks wearing out the voting public by overexposing it to a near constant stream of daily phone calls, issue ads and proclamations that the nation is "on the wrong track" (a statement made, as it happens, at election time by the minority party in every presidential contest since my birth). It has certainly pushed me, as a devout and passionate independent, to the point where I avoid any mention of politics in the media and steadfastly shun discussion of the topic during conversation (teachable moments with my students excepted). It's not that I do not have opinions about the issues facing our nation. It's not that I am an apathetic participant in our democratic process. It is simply that I have seen so little substantive dialog among either the candidates or the gaggle of pundits that dissect their every syllable that to follow the noise would amount to a colossal waste of my time. I intend to check the waters again after the primaries (as an independent, I don't vote in primaries, so I have that luxury). When the field is narrowed to two (or more, I'd like more), I'm hoping that someone on the dais has something intelligent to say. If not, I'm quite happy to turn off the tv and unplug the phone.

Are you oversaturated by something? 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Quotes of the Week: From the Archives

Even though it's been a while since I've posted them, I've been collecting quotes quite steadily for a year. Here are some I've set aside to share...

"I'm this close to rocking my Patriots snuggie to work tomorrow morning." Ashley, our new local television meteorologist, who is clearly a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander.

“Why would you even think that?” Karly, questioning why I was about to admonish her for socializing instead of practicing her French when I saw her pull up a chair to a classmate and get comfortable with a cup of tea.

“His success made him almost a bigger story than the World Cup itself. We may decide to give Paul his own small burial plot within our grounds and erect a modest permanent shrine. While this may seem a curious thing to do for a sea creature, Paul achieved such popularity during his short life that it may be deemed the most appropriate course of action.” Stefan Porwoll, manager of the Oberhausen Sea Life Center in Germany that housed Paul, the octopus that fascinated the world by correctly predicting results at this past summer’s World Cup soccer tournament.

“Yep.” Emily (RIP), after taking a random mouth guard from off the bench and putting it straight into her mouth to see if it was hers.

“Is there too much granola in this room for you?” Loris, questioning someone’s “hippie tolerance quotient”.

“I’m thinking of imposing an hourly limit.” Wifeness, on the number of questions asked by the children.

"Well, it's a rather complicated proccess. First, I go and get a paper plate, plastic knife, plastic fork, and napkin. I unpeel the entire banana and place it on a plate. Then I cut it up into tiny slices using the knife (and leave the banana on the plate still in its relative banana shape). Next, I proceed to pick up each slice of banana with my fork and consume it. In this manner of banana consumption I don't feel rushed by the peel and do not get my hands all yucky (of course, I have a napkin if that does happen.)" Joanna, on her particular method for enjoyng bananas.

“Do you have scissors and glue? I need to make fire.” Lindsay.

"GAAAARGHGHGH! That’s my noise of very frustration!" Ella.

“How do you say benefits?” One of the many seemingly random questions I receive during my classes that are assiduously ignored (in this case, because the whispered discussion I overheard that immediately preceded it involved the word 'friend').

“What if I know what the word is in Hebrew? Can I put that?” Jonah, during a Spanish exam.

“They smelled like past.” NiNi, describing the stuffed animals she recently discovered while poking around the attic.

“It's time for some thrilling heroics.” Jayne Cobb, from the series Firefly.

“I stopped a lot of balls. It hurt.” Jake, a first-grader, at the end of a first soccer match as a goalie.

Happy week, everyone!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Today's timeline...

2:00am Alarm goes off. Pitch black. Must get up.

3:00am Bags in car. Wifeness, children up. Eating something. Ready to drive an hour to Pensacola to catch our flight. Mom coming, too (she'll drive the car back).

4:05am Mom drives off.

4:06am Wifeness realizes her wallet is not in her luggage. Brief drama ensues.

4:13am Wheel breaks on Wifeness' luggage. Brief drama ensues, followed by exasperated phrase, "Really?!"

4:45am Through security (who lets Wifeness through, despite having no identification). At the gate. How is it possible that every, single flight we take goes in and out from the gate farthest from the entrance?

5:25am SiSi's water bottle leaks on her and her carry-on bag as she finds her seat on the plane. Brief drama ensues.

5:30am Wheels up. NiNi sits next to Papa and chats at regular intervals throughout the flight, breaking Papa's concentration as he tries very hard to control his motion sickness. Airsick bags are located, but are not required.

7:45am Arrival in Atlanta. Connection to Boston is at the other end of the airport at (once again) the farthest gate possible. The long walk begins.

7:55am Arrival at Gate A32,741. Several among the group decide to visit the bathroom just as the intercom announces boarding for next leg of the journey. Brief drama ensues. Intercom announces the wrong flight. Ours is NOT boarding at this time, after all. Again, the exasperated phrase, "Really?!"

8:35am Wheels up. Wifeness and children are seated separately, so Papa sleeps to alleviate the worst of his motionsickness.

9:30am Zzzzzzz.... *snork* "Beverage, sir?" So much for sleep. Airsick bags located, but are not required.

11:10am Arrival in Boston. The long walk from Gate 2.39x10³ begins.

11:18am Pitstop at Starbuck's. $40 for coffee? Whatever. Just give me that mocha goodness.

12:10pm On the bus to Newburyport. It's nearly as warm in New England as it was on the Gulf Coast! Kids sit by themselves, so Wifeness and I get to sit together. Airsick bag (stolen from plane) is located, but not required.

1:20pm Arrival in Newburyport. Switch to minivan. Just a little farther to go.

1:45pm Arrival at MomnDad's. Will decompress here for the day and leave for Wayfarer House tomorrow. A wise choice. That airsick bag was starting to look awfully inviting.

2:30pm Zzzzzzz....

Friday, November 25, 2011

How I spent our trip to Alabama...

Engaging in long discussions with my father over pipe and coffee.

Watching him build a table with plywood, dowels, glue, paper, resin, bondo and a log from a nearby tree (when asked years ago why he did things like that, he simply said, "Well, nobody else is doing it.")

Listening to my mother talk about how wonderful my children are, and how Wifeness and I are such great parents. I think she is genuinely in awe of this, and that she could have somehow contributed to this is a source of constant surprise to her. I don't know why. My folks may not have been the paragon of exceptional parents, but they did an excellent job of modeling for their children what a loving house should strive to be. Their example, and the fact that my youth was notably devoid of drama, neglect or abuse, gave me a good sense for what the ideal of parenthood is supposed to be -- and that it is not the same for everyone.

Watching both of my parents rediscover their grandchildren. They see them so rarely that the kids have changed completely between visits, and are entirely different people each time. I'm sure they'd like to be a greater part of their lives, they enjoy seeing how much they've grown each time.

Appreciating that, as older people, they do not have the endurance for the busy, always-on-the-go lifestyle we lead. Although I think it's good (especially for my mom) to be more active, the level of energy in our world is much higher than it is in theirs, and they don't maintain the higher level well for long. Even their dog takes more naps when we're around!

Trying not to roll my eyes while my father tries to convince me that buying a double-wide mobile home is the smartest financial decision one could make.

Arguing with my mother about the amount of (unnecessary) cleaning she's doing, just because we're here.

Realizing that my parents are getting older, and wondering how many more times their grandchildren will get to see them before they die.

Hoping that, as I hug them good-bye, that it will be at least one more.