End Times

A half marathon finish line photo seems appropriate to illustrate the last week of school. Please note the hang-dog posture.
A half marathon finish line photo seems appropriate to illustrate the last week of school. Please note the hang-dog posture.

The end of the school year does feel slightly apocalyptic. The children are not themselves. I am not myself. And we have no work left to do. This week is an odd mixture of babysitting, cleaning, and sentiment. I veer from pulling my hair out to getting a little teary thinking about how it’s the last time they’ll all sit in their desks, heads bent, quietly crafting letters of advice to next year’s 6th graders. And then they throw all the trash from their lockers on the floor and call it clean, and I’m back to tearing my hair out by the roots.

In an attempt not to go down as the least fun teacher in history, we had a sad little paper chain with one fun thing per day for the last 6 days. The funny thing is, I thought these ideas were super lame, but they have been so happy to have a little cheer in their school days.

On Thursday they were allowed to write in pen. Pencil is the name of the game in 6th grade, so this was a big, big deal.

On Friday they were allowed to sit wherever they wanted in homeroom. Because of our Friday schedule, this meant they were allowed to choose a new seat for about 15 minutes before heading to their blocks. But they were still happy.

On Monday they were allowed to eat during free-reading time in the afternoon. The lack of snacks in the afternoon is still a tragedy for some of my little people, so again this was monumental.

And today they were allowed to chew gum, an infraction which usually results in recess on the bench if I’m strict or spitting it into the trash if I’m feeling lenient. They had so much gum in their mouths today. They just kept popping piece after piece. I myself am an ardent gum chewer, but they were making my jaw ache.

Tomorrow is hats inside the buildings. Hats all day. This is handy because it’s about 40 degrees and rainy and we’re due to have a party outside tomorrow. Stocking caps all around!

And of course the last day will involve the holy grail – the white board. Writing on the white board is not an everyday thing. It’s not even a monthly thing. But on the last day, messages will be written on the white board for next year’s class. No one has ever quite picked up on the fact that I’ll erase it (probably with tears in my eyes because I’m a sap) a few days later.

And that will be that. No more school. Nothing but so many teacher meetings and classes, and then freedom for a few months before the whole cycle begins again.


The Vampire Books

For a month or so I have been trying to convince everyone to read my vampire books. I’m not even sure where I heard about these, but I bought The Passage by Justin Cronin and read it in about three days. The book itself is unattractive. It looks like a meaty bestseller you’d pick up at an airport newstand after learning that your flight was delayed. But of course, we must never judge a book by its cover.

It opens with “Sonnet 64″ by William Shakespeare. This is how you know a book means business. Every major section also opens with a quotation. That is the way to my heart, by the way.

This is also a book of unlikely heroes. The true heroine is  the illegitimate daughter of a young mother who finds herself alone and friendless, and does what she thinks is best for her daughter. Amy Harper Bellafonte is the least of these.  I’m well aware that I am reading too much into this book, but there were some beautiful biblical parallels about Noah and the Ark. Also, God is not absent from this dystopian world. I’ve always found it unsatisfactory when society breaks down so completely after a great disaster. I’d like to think that in a time or crisis when the world was free-falling into chaos I’d remember my Bible. And that I’d remember my Shakespeare. I’d be thankful for all the poetry I’ve memorized. I’d try to pass on those things. But I digress.

Another thing this book had going for it was the way it treated the vampire/zombies. Without giving too much away, they possess complex stories, particularly one of them. While they are certainly violent and doomed, they also still bear a vestige of their humanity. They’ve forgotten who they were, and that is their greatest tragedy.

The book is at its strongest when it focuses on lesser characters. I read this books not because the plot was so compelling (it was, though), but because of these smaller vignettes. In the second book, there is a developmentally disabled man who loves Thomas the Tank Engine. He drives a school bus. Most of the children make fun of him, and he endures a lot. His mama always told him to be a “good little engine,” and so as the world crumbles about him, he puts on his striped conductor’s hat and drives the bus (filled with survivors) to safety. Once again, the least of these.

The third book in the trilogy will be released this October, and of course I will be reading it. It was so refreshing to read a book that was thrilling and well-written. I devoured The Hunger Games and I’ve dabbled in Divergent, but none of them made me think, and I certainly wouldn’t consider re-reading them. But I think I’d revisit these. At any rate, I would highly recommend The Passage and The Twelve.

Work Uniform Part II

Clearly, a fashion blogger I should not be. But I did try the uniform thing for a week. This also coincided with Whole 30, so monotony reigned supreme for a week. Don’t worry. I have a whole post cooked up on Whole 30. Basically, I haven’t stopped bingeing on everything that was verboten.

Monday - Crazy pattern pants.
Monday – Crazy pattern pants.

At first, this seemed doable for the long-run. I like cardigans a lot. And pants are quite comfortable.

This was taken approximately 5 seconds before I spilled coffee on my left leg.
This was taken approximately 5 seconds before I spilled coffee on my left leg.

Color combinations seemed endless. And I could spice things up with hair and jewelry. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but my hair is the same in all of these pictures. And I basically am obsessed with my sporty wrist watch because there is nothing more satisfying than knowing what time it is all the time!

And these pants have a permanent grease spot that I pretend doesn't exist because they are so soft and so versatile.
And these pants have a permanent grease spot that I pretend doesn’t exist because they are so soft and so versatile.

Sadly, no one noticed that I was wearing the same outfit (more or less) everyday. This either means that my regular wardrobe is way more monotonous than I thought it was, or I teach incredibly unobservant students. Both are probably true. Also, they wear uniforms, so I think they’re pretty used to things looking the same day in day out.

Slightly high-waisted. Super uncomfortable. But $10 at Target, so of course I got them.
Slightly high-waisted. Super uncomfortable. But $10 at Target, so of course I got them.

I lost a lot of good white t-shirts to this experiment. I only do laundry every six weeks, so using most of my white t-shirts in a week was rough. Of course if I hadn’t spilled I would have just folded them back up, but of course when you wear a white t-shirt everyday you spill everyday.

Nothing says wannabe mom like the denim shirt over the white t-shirt.
Nothing says wannabe mom like the denim shirt over the white t-shirt.

I would try this again with a slightly different outfit. Or maybe I would literally wear the same thing everyday. It was freeing but boring. I hate the mornings when I feel like nothing fits or looks cute, but most days I really enjoy the freedom of picking something bright and cheerful or grim and menacing. Since I have very little interest in doing my hair or makeup and jewelry is usually an afterthought, my clothes are really how I express my personality most days. Shallow that may be, but it’s the truth, and as long as it doesn’t become too time-consuming I think I’ll still shuffle to the living room closet and flick through my options hoping that someday it will be warm enough to wear a dress with bare legs. Did you hear that, CO? The rain has got to stop!

Work Uniform

I’ve already documented our work tradition of dressing in matching outfits for standardized testing weeks. We’ve done this for years, and now it truly feels like a nice vacation from deciding what to wear.

Somedays, I look at my students with envy. They never have to decide what to wear. And when they’re all dressed the same, I really see them. I know that sounds strange, but I think that the simplicity of their outfits actually allows me to really focus on their faces. Not that I’m just sitting there staring at them all day (although the teacher stare is a powerful tool). But, somehow without the burden of dressing for their peers they can just be themselves. And let me tell you, uniforms do not squelch personality at all.

So then the Matilda Kahl article came out about wearing the same thing to work every day. And while I don’t think I could do that, there were so many “aha” moments as I read the article. Decision fatigue is real. Clothing crises happen, and I rush out of the door late, unsatisfied with what I’ve picked out, a heap of clothes on my bed and my floor that I will later have to pick up and put away.

So this week I’m trying it out. I’m giving myself a uniform. Skinny pants (because that’s most of what I  own now anyways), white shirt (because they are legion), and cardigan (because even though it’s warmer outside my classroom thermometer has yet to get the memo). Oh and I’ll wear flat shoes. Because I literally cannot remember the last time I wore heels.

I may take pictures and report back at the end of the week. Or I may not if I wimp out, and it feels too narcissistic.

Spring Cleaning

I was not raised to let closets get into this state.
I feel compelled to say that my mother did not raise me like this.

Just like everyone else I bought The Magic Art of Tidying-Up. And then I left it with my mom. She read it and liked it. Then she returned it, and I promptly put it on the shelf without cracking it open.

I love clothes, and I love stuff. I don’t love clutter in other houses, but I like my things heaped around me. But I also live in a small apartment. Not small by NYC standards, but small by Colorado Springs standards. Something’s gotta give. And so a few weeks ago I started purging appliances, clothes, books, decor, throw blankets, beauty products, etc.

I have a high threshold for clutter and piles. I wish I was one of those highly-motivated, type-A gals who can’t sleep until the dishes are done. Or one of those women who puts her clothes away instead of heaping them on the chair. But alas, I can sleep the sleep of the righteous no matter what state the kitchen is in, and heaps of clothes don’t say slatternly, to me they say cozy.

Based on the first paragraph, you’d expect me to talk about how I read the book, and it changed my life. But I still haven’t read it. And I probably won’t. Because when you can read a book about Apollo 13 or Pixar or Gone with the Wind a book devoted to tidying up is just not high on my list. However, I did use the index. I turned to the page on folding clothes, read through the strategy for organizing clothing in drawers, and went to work. And my drawers are a thing of beauty. I may leave them hanging open just for the heck of it now. Who am I kidding? I leave the drawers open all the time because who really has the extra 5 seconds to shove a drawer back into place. I need to devote that time to something life-changing, like Trivia Crack.

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Loveliest of trees

The white way of delight...
The white way of delight…

Today I taught 90 or so 6th graders how a steam engine works. I didn’t really know how a steam engine worked until earlier this morning. And actually, I mostly just asked a few leading questions and let the geniuses do the work.That would be my teaching at its finest.

But yesterday I was sauntering (actually hobbling a bit, thanks to blisters) along the Mall in Washington, D.C. I spent a few hours in the National Gallery of Art with senior citizens and elementary students. But the real reason I was in DC was to see Hannah (and James). And of course, we ran the Cherry Blossom 10 miler.

Being with Hannah means pictures. Thank you, James.
Being with Hannah means pictures. Thank you, James.

Our running partnership (or running mentor/mentee) relationship goes way back. But we’ve never run a race together. So at long last, we checked that off the bucket list.

I’m still grinning thinking about the weekend. From the minute I got into their car until I left yesterday afternoon I was spoiled. I laughed harder than I’ve laughed in a while. I ate the best food. I was given the book review section of Wall Street Journal. And we watched 30 Rock. This is the good part of adulthood. A ticket takes you to people you love.

It is in no way merited, but after the years these people are still in my life. And I’m so glad. All that time in college talking and studying and eating cafeteria food and stealing cafeteria food and so many little traditions and jokes have enriched our friendship now. I have never had as much time to invest in relationships as I did in college. And I was unconscious of the fact that that’s what I was doing. Life seemed so busy. Responsibilities seemed unending. In the end, I read a lot of good books, I thought about those books, I wrote quite a bit too. But my friends may have been the greatest gift that Hillsdale gave to me.

Love the light. Love Hannah. And love James because he too got up early, toted all our stuff, and came up with the cheer "Run for brunch. Run for glory."
Love the light. Love Hannah. And love James because he too got up early, toted all our stuff, and came up with the cheer “Run for brunch. Run for glory.”

Sick Day

Brilliant repartée...
Brilliant repartée…

“Hunger is the best sauce,” Ma Ingalls used to say. In that same vein, being sick makes any/all tv a lot more interesting. Yesterday and today have been glorious, because I somehow stumbled on an as yet undiscovered BBC miniseries.

At this point in time, I have to dig deep to find one I haven’t seen. I don’t mean to brag (because this is in no way something to be proud of, but I am?), but I have seen a lot of the BBC. I routinely go on the BBC website, check out what’s showing across the pond, and click on their video streaming in the hope that one day they’ll let me into their special zone.

But somehow I completely missed Berkeley Square. It might actually be horrible. But in light of Downton Abbey it seemed the perfect. It’s another upstairs/downstairs story. Only this time it’s about Edwardian nannies. Nannies who become friends with each other and do crazy things like swap in their own illegitimate babies when the rich baby dies from a laudanum overdose. And it works! They get away with it!

The story line is, of course, melodramatic, but it seemed more realistic in the way that it pitted the servants against their masters. It even pits the nursery staff agains the regular staff. I have never understood why the Downton Abbey servants like the upstairs crew. Who wouldn’t hate Lady Mary? If my wildest dream came true, Anna would snap and kill Lady Mary and Isis would help bury the body in the park, and no one would be the wiser.

In Berkeley Square seduction  and romance between the upstairs and downstairs is actually dangerous. And no, you don’t marry into the family, somehow becoming the confidant of Lord Grantham who stoically puts up with your socialist views. You not only lose your job, but you’re turned out without a reference if you try to protest. And you might have an illegitimate child, who also makes finding a job either impossible or tragic (you leave the baby at a “baby farm” in the country).

I guess what bothers me, and will continue to bother me is how little Downton actually humanizes the downstairs servants. They have their little quarrels and problems, but nothing gets treated with the same gravitas as the upstairs’ problems. It’s clear whose story we’re supposed to find more interesting. What I loved about Berkeley Square was the juxtaposition of the Nanny Hannah’s baby swap dilemma with socialite’s “which dress do I wear to the ball” drama. These women were working in these fine houses not because they had nothing better to do. It was a matter of survival and a chance to better one’s self. To gloss over this reality seems unfair to all the men and women who were in service. And honestly, it’s pretty shoddy storytelling, Julian Fellows.

That being said, I have the next episode of Downton all queued up. But only because I plowed through the one and only season of Berkeley Square in two days.

A grim, but not unpleasant view for a few days.
A grim, but not unpleasant view for a few days.