First day of school!

… was last week. I’m a little behind here. School kept me SUPER busy this week and it was over 90° every day! It was an exhausting week, but after and awesome Saturday I’m feeling more in the mood for blogging. :)

Back to school photos were, as usual, silly and rushed.

We got three in the picture this year! Three high schoolers!!

This boy drove himself to school on the first day! (and every day after)

Starting high school after 75 weeks, 525 days out of a school building. (I know those numbers because the high school principal commented on it in his back to school newsletter.)

Three high schoolers this year: freshman, sophomore, and a junior! One drove to school in his very own car, one chose to take the bus, and the third wanted me to drive her to school even though it meant she’d get to school 45 minutes early. We all made it to our respective schools and had a good first day, despite the ridiculous heat!

Welcome back to the library!

The AC in the library broke two years ago and needed to be replaced, a huge project that costs a ton of money. I was thrilled when my principal told me it was going to be fixed this year.  A little less thrilled when I walked in on the first day and found the AC guys at work! I was so excited to welcome students back to the library, but instead I had 90°+ temps, sweltering humidity, and construction. Sigh. The AC guys are great though and understanding, so I was able to get most classes in the library and only a few held outside under the tent.

Here’s to a new season!

A big day all around!

School starts tomorrow. In normal town this day would have been spent celebrating the last day of summer and getting ready for school. I think I need another month so I can do those things! Instead today we 1) got news from the judge 2) bought a car and 3) … umm… I guess that’s it. It just felt super big and busy!

The judge in B’Lake’s merits case ruled that merits were found and the boy are to remain in custody! It was a huge relief and I let out a big breath I didn’t realize I was holding. There are more steps in this process, but we now know that he’ll be staying here with us for the foreseeable future and brother will be safe as well. Thankfully!

On the car front, Lex and Alan have been doing some research on used electric cars. If you don’t know, the used car market is HOT these days. And by HOT I mean, cars are flying off the lot and dealers are charging a fortune. :/ They found several used Nissan Leafs and a used electric Ford Focus. We drove up to Burlington today to check them out. Lex drove a pretty red Nissan Leaf, but it was a little more money than we were hoping to spend and the dealer had zero interest in negotiating. He told us his dealership hasn’t sold below list price in many, many months. We decided to go check out the Ford Focus at a different dealership and Lex decided he liked that car better. It’s a 2014 (one year newer than the Leaf) and has a backup camera, which surprisingly, the Leaf didn’t have.

2013 Nissan Leaf

2014 Ford Focus Electric

Lex drove it, Alan drove it, we had a little discussion, and bought a car!! I’m in the process of refinancing the house and will get some money out of it to pay for the car, so Alan wrote a check against his stock account (or something) for the short term and I’ll pay it off when the house closes. I was shocked at how much quicker the car buying process goes when you don’t need a loan!

Eeek! Lex and his first car.

I mean, Lex and his first car and his silly dad. :)

The Focus doesn’t have a long enough range to get from the dealership to our house, so Lex stopped at Alan’s house for a few hours to charge, geek about the car, and have dinner. I headed right home to see Eve for a few minutes and then pick the other one up from his new job. Lex drove himself home in the rain and dark and fog. I worried just the right amount and everything was ok. :)

Alan’s car and Lex’s car. Can you tell the Tesla Model 3 from the Ford Focus? :)

Throughout the whole day I was getting incoming back-to-school emails, website update emails, and having conversations with the bank about the refi and an estate attorney about updating those docs. I felt like a very busy person! :)

Tomorrow we go back to school. Five full days a week. All in person. Lex will be driving himself to and from school. B is taking the bus (unlike the other two, B’Lake says the bus is just fine and he sees nothing wrong with it), and E has chosen to have me drop her off at school each morning, even though that means she’ll get there 45m early each day! She said that beats taking the bus. Our sweet carpool deal from last year was complicated this year because of the closed bridge right between our two houses, making a short drive much much longer and therefore way less convenient.

My bulletin board with 250ish student names on it. :) It looks like confetti to me. ❤

I’m looking forward to seeing all the kids again, and the fun of school, but dreading the humidity in my unairconditioned library and a little anxious about getting back into the swing of early mornings, work/school/work/karate/meetings/activities/etc. I’m already looking forward to next weekend! LOL!

This was my library last Friday morning. 🥵 I can’t wait until they fix the AC!

Last day of school!

This school year has been a hot mess since day one, but we did it! We survived a year of schooling in a pandemic. Everyone had their bets placed in August on how long we’d keep the building open and I don’t think a single person thought it would be all year! My money was on October. But instead we rocked the house with hand washing, masking, social distancing, and contact tracing. One class had to quarantine for a week because of one student, but otherwise we as a school were Covid-free! It’s hard to believe. And another school year has come and gone. The kids all finished school yesterday (technically today was a remote day for them, but none of them had any work to do) and I finished today. As I walk the hallways on the the last day of school I peek in classrooms and see how empty they look, then return to the library that is as full as ever, plus some as everyone brings their computers, iPads, library books, and Chromebook carts back. Every year it’s discouraging, but I have to remind myself that the library is different from a classroom and doesn’t do the transition that a classroom does each year. It serves a different function. I was happy today that the boss approved an extra paid day to inventory and organize the Chromebook carts, then a little less happy when he said it had to happen next week. So I’ll be back in the building a few times next week, once for a committee I signed up for (paid) and again for the computers. It’s ok though. It won’t be Monday! :)

Don’t worry fish, someone will feed you.

Yesterday was field day at my school and I volunteered, as I always do, to staff the “quiet space” for kids who have lost field day time (for being naughty!) and for kids who just need a break from the heat and excitement of field day. I’m sometimes a tiny bit sad to miss the field day excitement, but always happy to be out of the sun and get a few extra minutes to shelve books! I had 20 kids take advantage of the space yesterday and one non-reader who came in for a break and discovered a graphic novel he LOVES! He spent the remainder of the afternoon reading, then came in a few times today to read when he needed a break from the classroom. That might be my win for the year! 😁

Eve also had field day yesterday. She was remote all year and only went in to the building a few times in the past few weeks to take the required standardized testing. This week they had 8th grade graduation and field day. She didn’t want to do either, but I wanted her to do both. We compromised on one. She was adamant about field day right up until the night before, then she started considering graduation instead. The afternoon of graduation she switched her choice back to field day, so on graduation night we were all home. After the ceremony was over a friend surprised us by stopping by with a her kids (one just graduated from 5th and the other from 8th) and a celebration cake! It was a wonderful surprise! We moms had a nice visit and the kids talked over each other for an hour, anime anime and more anime. It was an awesome celebratory way to end an otherwise quiet day.

My friend offered to take a picture and I first said no, then said wait, yes! This is not at all what I wanted to look like in this photo (or any photo) but I’m trying to focus on the big smiles and the memories of the fun evening, and not focus so much on my width or Eve’s height!

The next morning Eve went to school for field day. My awesome neighbor/carpool partner even drove Eve, despite the fact that it wasn’t a regular school day for our carpool. This year has really emphasized the “it takes a village” philosophy. I reminded Eve a few times to bring sunscreen and water. She came home looking like this:

At least she wore her mask. 🤷🏻‍♀️

Sigh. She said she put sunscreen on in the morning, but insists sunscreen doesn’t work on her skin. I insist she doesn’t do it right. We both hate sunscreen. 🙄 Today she has some blisters on her arms and cheeks. I do what I can as a mother, but I guess we all learn in our own time. She keeps telling me what it feels like and saying “can you imagine…” I say YES, I can, I don’t even need to imagine, I’ve lived it, which is why I told you to wear sunscreen! Sigh.

The boys didn’t get field day or graduation at their school. No graduation, yet. We still have a few short years before that. They both finished all of their school work and projects and had nothing to do today, their final official day of school. I heard no complaints from any of them about that!

The first half of the week had brutal temps. High 90s for days on end. The AC in the library is broken (still!) so I felt a lot like Huxley, moving a bit, then looking for a cool place to sit down. On this particular walk we made it to the end of the street, then he laid down in the shade for a break. :)

While I worked my way through field day, remote academy wrap-up, step-up day, library cleaning, and all the other end-of-year busyness, I also tried to keep in touch with my family, many of whom were in NYC! Joyce successfully underwent a kidney donation surgery, with mom and dad by her side… in a Covid-safe way. It was not the usual scene that they are used to (and a little sad that they are used to a usual kidney transplant scene), but they are all troopers and got through it together. I sent love and good juju whenever I could. 😊💚

Now I have three days of R&R before heading back to school for a day of meetings. Then a day off (with playdates for the kids), then a day on with the computers, then a day off with twice vaccinated kids! Eve and B’Lake get their second dose on Thursday. Lex was also scheduled for that day until we realized his karate BLACK BELT test is on Friday. The unknown of the second vaccination coupled with the stress of the belt test seemed like a bad combo, so I rescheduled his appointment for Saturday. It’s a further drive, but he’s always happy to get driving practice anyway!

We celebrated the year end with sushi and a new show (Loki). Alan came over to play Minecraft with the kids. I got a bottle of wine, then dropped it in the garage, then while I cleaned that up Alan ran to the store and got me another one. He’s a good man.

I am so ready for vacation!! Happy summer!! 🌞

Musical Theater

Lex’s script binder and the program.

Another year of musical theater has come and gone. This year it involved outdoor rehearsals, unknown locations, prerecorded singing, clear masks, limited audiences, livestreaming, and day of quarantine concerns. Lex designed and ran the lights again. B’Lake was on the tech committee, but due to an unfortunate Covid exposure he had to quarantine this week and miss the play. He gave us some good inside info while we watched the livestream last night. Tonight I got to attend in person! They were allowed to have 20 people in the audience, but for some reason limited it to district teachers only. No complaints here! The show was fantastic, the audience enthusiastic, and my view of the stage was primo!

Friday night, watching from home. Live theater from the comfort of my couch.

Next year Lex will do lights again, B’Lake wants to do crew again, and Eve wants to (maybe) be in the show!

Fall Concert

The high school band and choir have been practicing outside all fall, doing their best to promote music and stay safe. I’m so glad they are making this effort! When I talked to Lex about remote learning or hybrid learning (alternating at-home/at-school) he choose hybrid and one of his big reasons was so that the could continue with band.

This weekend they put on an outdoor, socially distanced, Fall Concert. The band and choir are both small this year because some students are remote learning and because those who are there in person were asked to choose band or choir this year, but not both.  Many kids in the past have done both. Due to the hybrid schedule they also practice in halves, which Lex calls “red band” and “blue band” because the hybrid schedule is split that way. Lex goes on blue days and is therefore part of the “blue band.” For this concert they all performed together as one band, with only a half hours practice beforehand to come together. It was great!

Then I had a little fun with video editing to make this compilation: HHS Fall Concert

Enjoy!

Teacher of the Year!!

Wha, what?!

Every year in the spring teachers in the building nominate someone for Teacher of the Year. We all have a chance to nominate, then there is a vote, then the winner is announced at the District-wide Back-to-School Breakfast at the beginning of the year.

This year, Covid-19 hit and all norms went right out the window! I maybe thought about Teacher of the Year briefly when I realized we weren’t doing the District Breakfast, but that was about it.  I assumed we were not doing it this year due to Covid.  There is A LOT we are not doing this year because of Covid! But you know what they say about assuming…

At our first official staff meeting, held virtually, of course, the principal announced the two longevity awards (for teachers who have been in the district for a long time) and then said this:  Video

I had no idea! If I even suspected, I would have done my hair and not been eating an apple! :)  The one day I woke up late, threw my hair in a ponytail, and tossed some random foods in my lunch box… turns out to be the day the whole school is looking at me!  LOL.

I feel pretty dang appreciated though!

Later in the evening I logged into the high school performing arts department’s Welcome Back zoom meeting for parents and students. When the music teachers pulled up the website to show parents, they also gave me a shout-out for all the work I’ve done on it and how awesome it is.

I work hard, for sure, and I never feel taken advantage of, but it is pretty nice to get the accolades!  And the plaque!

First day of school — corona style!

Students returned to school today for the first time since March 17th! Teachers returned for in-service three weeks ago, which seems like a lot of time, but boy did it go fast! There is a lot to do and even more decisions to make when you are opening school during a pandemic! But things were done and decisions were made and today we welcomed kids back with smiling eyes and lots of air hugs! It was weird and good and crazy and hard. Kids were on their best behaviors, for today, as we all navigated this new world together. I hope that behavior continues, though I’ve been around long enough to know that’s not a realistic hope!

On the home front, Eve has decided to participate in the fully-remote option and Lex has decided to do the hybrid options.  This meant that today Lex went to school and Eve was home. I made a deal with a neighbor friend that she would bring Lex to school and I’d pick her kids up with Lex at the end of the day. It was very weird leaving this morning and hoping that my kids would both get themselves to “school” on time. We did lots of prepping and planning, and it all paid off! Both kids got where they needed to be, did what they needed to do, and reported back that they had good days.  Whew!

First day photos are a little weird this year.  In hindsight, I wish I had made a #2020 or #coronatime (or something!) sign that they could have held with the pictures, but I didn’t.  Oh well.  I think Eve’s outfit says it all though. :)

We need to work on our group selfies. :)

I tried to take a picture of how exhausted I felt at 7pm, after a full day of school, kid pickup, and then an hour Remote Academy Zoom call (I’m running 4th grade for Remote Academy this year!). My phone decided to do portrait mode. I think it couldn’t handle my exhausted face! LOL.

2020 – the year when school supplies included masks, thermometers, and tick tweezers! 😲😱

Thoughts about back to school

We are exactly four weeks out from when I’m supposed to start back at school and five weeks until the kids’ official first day back. Assuming nothing changes. In a normal year I would be making plans, we would be checking school supply lists and back to school shopping, I’d be writing lesson plans and we would be trying to cram as much fun into the remaining few weeks. And by “fun” I mean relaxation! :)

This year is a big who knows! I’ve been reading the articles online, listening to the news, talking to my teacher colleagues, and trying to find the balance between relaxation and panic. Panic! Not even taking it account politics and racial tensions, back to school planning is overwhelming.

For my entire life as a parent, I have put the needs of my own kids first. I have done everything I could to make sure they are supported and cared for. I left a high paying job to be home with them. I got into teaching to be available after school and during the summers. I have worked very, very hard to make sure they are successful human beings. I don’t regret a single second of it, but now I wonder if my plans are backfiring. My kids did really well with remote learning. Eve is happier now that she has been in a long time! She was really struggling with middle school and since we switched to remote learning she has been so much more relaxed. She’s even wearing light gray clothes, instead of all black. :) Lex missed band class, but otherwise did really well with remote learning too. None of us are interested in wearing masks for 8 hrs a day. Lex has opted to continue remote karate and drum lessons so as not to have to wear a mask in those settings. If I didn’t have to go back to school, I’m 90% sure I’d keep them home in the fall. The other 10% is because I would actually let them have input if it was an option, but it’s not an option because I have to go back to school. I have to go back to school and be surrounded by small children who won’t be able to social distance and won’t wear masks effectively for a full school day.

We are lucky that our COVID-19 rates are very low in Vermont, but that doesn’t mean we’re immune. I have such mixed emotions about school. I understand that kids need to be in school so parents can work (that darn economy!) and that they miss seeing each other. I understand that some kids don’t have the family support at home to be successful with remote learning. I understand. I also know that school will NOT look like school as we know it. We will be wearing masks. We will be social distancing. We will have Plexiglas barriers and one-way hallways. When kids come back and want to hug their friends and teachers, we will have to say no. When they want to hold a friend’s hand. No. When they want to sit next to me for a story. No. When they are feeling sad and need a hug. No. No?

I know a lot of kids needs the structure and stability of school (and safety, unfortunately). I know a lot of families need the childcare that school provides. I also know that nothing will be the same when students walk in the door on the first day of school. Nothing can be the same. We will all do our best, but I hope it’s enough. And I hope my working with kids doesn’t bring the virus into our home.

Who knew teaching was such a high-risk job? Sheesh.

A busy day!

In these COVID-19 times we spent most of the days at home, socially isoalting.  Usually a big day is a trip to the grocery store.

Today we had a legit busy day!

It started with a visit from the Geek Squad because our microwave has been broken for a week.  We have living like pioneers, cooking our food over an open flame in the woods… or something like that.  Finally the repair guys came. They spread a moving blanket over the stove, removed the microwave and went to work.  Alan was in the office and the kids and I were at the dining room table, all trying to do proper social distancing.  After a few minutes we started to notice an awful chemical smell that grew stronger and stronger.  I thought they were using sort of chemical cleaner or something. Eventually we opened the windows. Alan came out and asked if something blew a fuse. The Geek Squad guys had no idea what was causing the smell.  We all endured.  Awhile later one of the guys said, “Oh no!” and they realized that they had accidentally turned the stove on!!  The moving blanket, squished between the stove and microwave, was melting and on fire! He bundled it up and rushed it outside, where it continued to simmer.  The house smelled AWFUL!!  We open the windows, Alan brought out all the fans from the old house, the guys tried to clean the stove.  It was awful. Eve went outside to keep doing her school work.  After awhile she came back in and said that it was smokier outside than inside. What?!  Alan went to look and found the blanket still smoldering, and smoking like crazy!  He broke out the hose and went to work while the Geek Squad guys continued to clean up.  Sigh.  Needless to say, they needed a part they didn’t have, so our microwave still doesn’t work!  They ordered the new part and will be back next week to fix it. We will continue living in the dark ages.  I don’t know why anyone, ANYONE, chooses to live without a microwave! :)

After that adventure we taped some signs on the car and headed down to DBS to join the HSD parade!  In all honesty, I was dreading this.  The forecast called for 100% chance of rain today and I was just imagining wet cars, windows up, kids huddled under umbrellas, etc. It seemed awful.  Mother Nature, however, cut us a break today!  The weather was PERFECT!!  We had decorated cars, students and families came out with big signs and even bigger smiles.  I felt like a celebrity! Alan came along to drive so I could wave.  It was so awesome.  I had a huge smile!

When we got back to school, Alan and I sent up the donated tent and got ready for book checkout.  After being out of school for two full months, we organized a book exchange for this week.  On Monday and Tuesday we accepted book returns.  The principal and secretary took turns sitting outside to accept books on Monday and Tuesday.  All week I took email “orders” for books. Last night I went in to school and checked in all the books, then “filled” all of the book orders.  This afternoon I sat out front and handed out books to the 20 families who had requested new books.  It might not seem like a lot, but it was great!  So many parents and kids were thrilled.  One family, with three avid readers, were arguing over who got to open the bag.  Their mom said that book checkout was the highlight of their day.  I said, “really? We had the parade today.” She said, “yes, the liked the parade, but they kept asking when they could get their new books.” :)  In another car I handed the kindergartner his bag of books and he tore right in to it.  He immediately told his mom about all the great books, then handed one to his 2yr old sister in the car seat next to him. I chatted with mom for a few minutes, then said goodbye to kiddo who, nose in book, completely ignored me.  Mom apologized.  I told her I LOVE seeing kids with noses in books! No need to apologize!

One of my coworkers was there for another purpose (handing out Finding Our Strides t-shirts), so we took this picture and posted it to Facebook to remind families to stop by. We were both smiling, then laughed at ourselves for smiling with the masks on. :)

The weather all week has been iffy, so the director of the parks department, who also has a kid at DBS, offered to let us borrow a tent for our book exchange this week.  It was awesome! It kept the rain off the principal and books earlier in the week, and it kept the sun off of me this afternoon! The forecast still said rain, the clouds were dark, but the sun was strong and kept breaking through. I felt very fortunate to have a tent over my head as I sat at a picnic table covered in books!

By the time I got home the forecast had changed from rain to hail, with a tornado warning! I showered (COVID germs all day!) and then sent the kids up for early showers.  Then we all watched UP as the storm rolled in.  (It has since passed and we didn’t get hail OR a tornado! We did get lots of heavy rain though!)

After months of little to nothing going on outside the house, today felt like a real whirlwind of people and excitement!  Last summer this would have been just another Saturday.  But on a Friday. It’s a weird world.

We are looking forward to a sunny, no plans Saturday!

Home Learning – Day 2

Hello all, we are on day two of home learning.  Day one passed in a flash.  All the teachers and all the kids and all the parents trying to connect to all the things… kept all of me busy for a very long time! But we got through it, most people got up and running, and most people were happy. I left mid-day for a brief walk in the sunshine, which was great and helped me clear up a support issue that had me stumped. Nothing like a change of scenery to clear your mind! The email influx continued today. Lots of parents, some more patient than others. Some shared their frustrations with the situation. We all concurred and reminded each other to go slow, and take a breath, and we can get through this together.

My kids are enjoying home learning, though it has resulted in a lot more screen time for all of us. Something I don’t love, but they don’t seem to mind. :) Yesterday brought frustration from one and tears from the other, but we got through it, sorted things out, solved the problems, and got through our day.

Once the tech support need lightens I’m going to have to focus on our own schedule at home. If this goes from two weeks to many more, I need to develop a routine that doesn’t involve us on the computers non-stop. Today I was thinking a 4pm family game time would be lovely. Of course today at 4pm I was still working. :/ Then I had to remind myself the same thing I’ve been reminding everyone else. Go slow. Take a breath. We can’t do it all immediately.  We’ll get through this.

The best part of my day, was when I took 10 minutes to check in on my Library lessons.  I found over a dozen kids had left comments about how much they really liked the book I had read (recorded myself reading) and shared with them. They told me about parts of the book they liked, and that it was good I was still reading to them. One kid, completely unprompted by me, recorded herself reading The Book With No Pictures and shared it with me. She said she was reading it for her cousin and thought I would want to see it too.  She giggles the whole way through the book. It was fantastic and I literally LOLed many times! In the middle of tech support hell I hadn’t realized how much I missed the kids.  It was nice to reconnect with some of them, even just virtually.

Here was Eve’s Day 2 Advisory session:

Dog on head? Check! Cat on lap? Check! Full of giggles? OF COURSE!

Or maybe it was later in the Day 1 session?  I can’t keep track. It’s all blending together in my head! Today the governor issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, which I guess is a nicer, Vermonty-er way to say shelter-in-place or lock-down. I’m not sure how that’s going to affect my daily life, since we’ve essentially be home since last Wednesday.

Ok, it’s 8pm and this post is pretty rambly. I’m going to (attempt to) step away from the computer for awhile. It snowed a bunch last night. It was cold and wet today. I hope the warm sunshine comes back soon.  G’night all. <3

PS. If you want more (and better) things to read, check out this blog started by my friend and author Andi Diehn.  She is a great writer and her daily posts have been a highlight in my days this past week.  Mere Countrywoman