Carry On…

I received the ultimate compliment from a teacher the other day. She said she wished she could spend more time around me because I’m always smiling and ‘spreading cheer’ throughout the school. I told her that even if I’m having a bad day, the kind you wish you could spend in a dark room under the covers, it always turns around when I’m at school with the kids & staff because there’s so much positive energy here. It’s great therapy!

One example happened this week Tuesday. I was with my first group of kids, 8:10 in the morning. Before we got started on their reading work I chatted with them about their Easter weekend. I questioned them if they knew that candy has sugar in it and that, blech-gross, they shouldn’t eat it. The reaction I get from the kids is always entertaining. The conversation worked its way around to age and I asked them, “Well, how old do you think I am?” The first boy, “Somewhere in your 30’s.” Second boy agreed, “Yeah, you’re in your 30’s.” The third boy must’ve noticed my eyebrows rise & the smirk in the corner of my mouth, “You’re 40.” The last kid and only girl said, “I think you’re 36.”

I told them what any old sane woman would say, “I LOVE you guys! I love each and every one of you and if I had candy I would give it to you!” (Yeah, I know, sugar is poison…blah, blah, blah). Then I told them that I was really 53. *insert dead silence & the sound of crickets* I wish my eyes could take pictures; it was a Kodak moment. The shocked look in their eyes & their open mouths seemed to say, “And, and you’re still alive?!” The girl was the first to speak, “You don’t look that old at all!” Which I replied, “And YOU are my favorite!”

I love working with the kids; I love the interactions with the staff. I love my job.

And then I have to go home.
And deal with responsibilities in life that just aren’t fun; stuff that’s emotionally draining.
And during a moment last night of just letting some of the emotion out through my tears, the Universe (via my favorite radio station) reminds me…

…to carry on.

We all have hard-hitting crap happen in our life that tests us. I remind myself that some people have it so much worse than what I’m experiencing. It doesn’t make my problems go away but it does make me think of all that I’m grateful for. I like my life. I especially love having fun & laughing so I do it every chance I get; it balances out the sad times where you just have to take a lot of deep breaths, cry (to wash away the toxic chemicals) and carry on…which I believe most of us do very well given the circumstances.

And that’s why I seem to be happy all the time to some people. I’m not always happy…but the alternative isn’t nearly as fun.

Herding children is a lot like herding cats

Recess on the playground of the Kindergarten, First & Second graders. We’re surrounded by expanses of a snowy winter wonderland. The play equipment that is usually strung with screeching monkeys is virtually empty. The slides, swings & tunnels are now occupied by the quietest kids. Despite the freedom of “Muahahahahaha…it’s all mine!” I would think it’s still a little unsettling having the place all to themselves. And boring.
Meanwhile, back on the range, three quarters of the kids have left the confines of the play equipment and ventured out into the fields of snow and the snow covered blacktop. Toys of choice: snow shovels (big ticket item), sand shovels & pails, their mitten covered hands. There were groups of kids making huge snowballs or adding to the ones from previous classes, piling snow up into random mounds, trying to make snow castles, snow angels, pushing the shovels around making trails on the blacktop and attempting snow football. It was so cool watching the kids just being kids. No toys and basic toys. Kids don’t need a lot when it comes right down to it.
So as I stood outside during the recesses, basking in the beautiful cold winter day I noticed two things. I hadn’t heard a lot of, “Teacher…so-and-so told me I can’t be blah-blah’s friend and she was my friend first.” (because Norman Rockwell wouldn’t have put that in this picture) and with the wide expanse of children all around me, it felt like I was in the middle of this commercial:

If I had put a big empty box on the playground I definitely would have caught a few

The sounds of playground ruckus & the fierceness that comes with it

If my life was a game right now it would be called

Strip & Go Naked! I’ve been having hot flashes since I was 31. When a nurse told me that I was too young to get hot flashes I laughed to myself. Oh really?! Then why is heat rolling off of me like a smelting furnace? Granted they were few and very far between and very doable as far as intensity & duration goes. They’ve accelerated slowly as I strolled my way through my 40’s and entered my 50’s. The last 3 years the night sweats started, still…not a major problem. Not at all like the horror stories I’ve heard that other women were having; poor women & their crazy sweatiness! Well, in the last 5 months my hormones have cranked up the thermostat and are blazing like an inferno that could start a brush fire. One recent day at school I was totally bundled up in winter wear heading outside onto the frigid, windy playground; whining because I forgot to put my Cuddleduds on under my slacks that morning.

Not 3 minutes later a 500˚ wave of heat rolled off of me and was trapped inside all my warm, protective gear. In less than 10 seconds I had my hood down, scarf & ear muffs ripped off, wool mittens torn off, zipper undone from my coat, zipper undone from my sweater and facing my body into the relief of the winter wind. Ahhhhhhh, sweet relief! After about 3 minutes when the sweat had sufficiently evaporated from most of my body I resumed dressing myself again because it was really cold out!


I can’t wear the snuggly sweaters I love so much because I need to be able to strip down when an inferno rolls off me and then be able to add warmth back on because I’m cold again. Same goes for sleeping even though the heat vent is closed & the window is cracked open. I’m pretty sure the lack of a good sound sleep will affect me eventually. Fortunately, all 3 of us are taking it in stride…that whole strip & go naked & then getting dressed again. How long before I break is anyone’s guess. I’m sure I’ll let you all know when I no longer find humor in this. Until then I’m heating the house with my hot flashes!

Topsy Turvy SnowWoman ~ Topsy Turvy Apocalypse

Since seeing an upside down snowman on Facebook I’ve wanted one for my very own. It’s very difficult though when the ground is covered in brown frozen grass. So, I did what I do in most situations that seem somewhat futile…I wished! I wished a LOT for a lot of snow. I even talked about it to all the kids I encountered in school last week. First we talked about how to construct an upside down snowman and then on Wednesday I told them I wasn’t coming to school on Thursday because we would be having a snow day so I could make my upside down snowman (They totally believed me this time because the forecasters already predicted a huge dump of snow). And what happened because I believed & wished strongly for it? SNOW DAY! I had to wait until evening for enough snow to accumulate but it was sweet success! A lot of people have stopped to take pictures of her.
SnowBeth & Stella 009
The only problem I was concerned about was The End of the World. It could make my sweet SnowWoman become a puddle of slush. The intensity of the apocalypse prediction was similar to my towering inferno hot flashes.
Since summer, I wanted to have a party to celebrate. The End of the World; Party like there’s no tomorrow! What an awesome reason to have a party! Sadly, there were too many things I had to do and I would’ve lost my mind if I’d added that to the mix. So daughter #3 surprised us with a mini party. She played R.E.M.’s song “It’s the End of the World as we Know it” when I walked in to the decorated dining room with candles lit for ambiance.
Try to imagine that the bag of Red Vines is filled with licorice instead of cinnamon sticks & pretend that I didn’t eat the Almond Joy bar that’s missing from the table.
By midnight Friday, all was calm, all was dark, and it was freaking cold…WTH? No End of the World? No Zombie Apocalypse? I’m a little disappointed after all the hype. Would it have killed the cosmos to throw us a bone of sorts, something nice & uplifting? Like maybe the top 10% of evil overlords are suddenly immune to gravity and float off the earth into space, never to be seen again? Nope, I guess not, so it’s back to ‘normal’ living…for now. (I still think something topsy turvy is in the works out there)

December 18~Wear a Plunger On Your Head Day

I wish I’d known this was Wear a Plunger on Your Head Day before I went to school. I would’ve totally ROCKED the kids’ world! At least now I have plenty of time to get a new plunger to wear for next year. Working at school and being goofy with the kids is definitely good therapy, but even with that, the thoughts of what others are dealing with right now (& for a long time to come) creep into my head and try to take hold; normal I guess but not very welcome. Here’s a happy, feel good, pick-me-up about a community celebrating their 130th anniversary. I hope it helps for anyone in the same boat as me, even if it’s just for 5 minutes:
P.S. Pictures please if you actually wear a plunger on your head!

Yes, Elizabeth, there IS a Santa!!! So behave yourself!

Early this morning I was called in to work at school. “Are you working for anyone today?” “Nope. I’m myself today.” More conversation…Oh, you want me to work in the 4-yr-old room? *shudder* Hmmm. “Can you call someone else first and then if you can’t find someone I’ll come in?” Yay! Relief settles over me again as I watch the Christmas tree lights pulsing quietly in my dark living room. Five minutes later…phone rings (my heart sinks). CRAP! (5 other subs have said No) “Sure, I’ll be there.” *sob!* There are a couple duties I have to do when I get to school before I work my way down to the Primate Center where they house the smallest of human animals. I put on my cheery smile (at least I think it was on my face..…yeah, it was) as the 4-yr-old who is today’s assigned door person hears my knock and comes to open the door. (Disclaimer: For those of you who don’t know me, I’m not a big fan of the littlest tykes. I will care for them, I will have fun with them, I will protect them but if given a choice, I will pick being with an older child first-the older, the better. My personality/sense of humor meshes better with them) So, first things first, I hug the two teachers who are in charge of this particular group of rug rats. Children got hugs on Friday, Teachers get hugs on Monday; I tried to hug as many as possible. I hope they liked it because it was tremendously therapeutic for me. And now for the Christmas miracle, “We’re not going to need you today because 3 out of the 7 kids are sick.” Oh Happy Day! “Thank you for my early Christmas gift!” (These 2 teachers are quite special being able to do what they do and they also know that I feel like a fish out of water with their wee age group.) Joyousness seeped out of every pore in my body! I think I did 3 happy dances on my way back to the Intermediate building. I went home without that paycheck but I’m a very strong believer that Santa is real…and he loves me!

Tattoo Me!

I volunteered 2 nights for The Polar Express Rail Event that a friend was in charge of. I had the pleasure of tattooing children and serving hot chocolate. If I had grandchildren I would probably bring them to this event. It was so cute watching all the wee children (& some grown-ups) dressed in PJ’s & robes with all the excitement that comes with that age group. It was hard not to smile just watching them all. Before I left, a co-worker (from school) & I nabbed a couple tattoos to wear on our cheeks at school. The next day, one cheek was adorned with a blue snowflake and the other spelled out JOY. And this was the conversation with some 3rd graders in the lunchroom. “Are those real tattoos?” “Yes” “Nuh-uh!” “They sure are and they hurt when I got them. There were needles and blood and tears ‘cause I was crying. It was pretty painful!” Silence from the table…they were deciding whether to believe me or not. The first boy, “My mom & dad didn’t cry.” “Oh, they cried all right…they cried inside.” Second boy who knows way too much about tattoos, “It’s gonna hurt a lot more if you get it removed.” I just nodded knowingly and walked away. If you talk fast, think fast on your feet, say some believable words and also emphasize with hand movements; it’s amazing what you can get some of them to believe. It was about 70/30 on believe/not believe. Because let’s face it; if I’m going to get a tattoo it’s going to be a big blue snowflake & the word JOY on my cheeks…NOT! The next day they proved to be sharp as tacks when after 15 minutes they noticed my bare face. All I said was, “You were right! It hurt a LOT worse when I had them removed last night!” Then smiled and walked away.



What do you mean there’s no Queen?

At school you need to have a formal name for the kids to call you. I’m not used to being called the Mrs. Name…that’s my mother-in-law’s name. I prefer Elizabeth over Betsy although most of the people have known me as Betsy for so long that, understandably, it’s hard for them to change. I answer to both. One of the Kindergarten teachers (& another followed suit) introduced me to her class as Queen Elizabeth. I liked that! So now I have quite a few kids coming up in the ranks (word is spreading and some of 3rd grade is involved) who think I’m actually a queen. Common questions asked, “Do you live in a castle?” “Yes, my home IS my castle but we had to fill in the moat because it dried up one summer and the alligators died.” “Do you have a king?” “Yes.” “Is he King Elizabeth?” *ahahaha, silent snicker* “No, he’s King Gareth.” “Were you a princess first?” “No, I was never a princess. I went straight to being a queen.” “Are your daughters princesses?” LOL “Sometimes they act like one but no, none of them were raised as princesses. They will decide if they ever want to be a queen.” I recently heard from one of the Kindergarten teachers who wrote this to me: “So I was teaching my students about the letter “Q” today and while they were brainstorming words that begin with the /kw/ sound, they of course mentioned “queen.” I proceeded to explain that queens are the “heads” of their countries, but that we have a president here rather than a queen. One of my students said, “No, we have a queen here. Remember the lady who gave us the Kleenex?” ;)” (I passed out individual tissue packets to them on Halloween for their ‘treat.’) One first grade boy has recently started saying, “Hello your majesty!” He has a sly look in his eye whenever he says it (he’s an unusually bright little bugger) and I smirk right back at him. Once in a while I wonder what will go through the minds of all these kids when they’re older and they see me. Will they question my queen status along with the reality of Santa Claus or will I always be Queen Elizabeth to them much like the moniker of Queen Latifah? Either way, I’m having fun…and it’s a nice compromise to having a ‘proper’ title.