Monday, December 20, 2010

Killing the Christmas Spirit

There is only one reason that I absolutely hate teaching 5th grade. It's not the transformation of kids from a sweet child to a witchy pre-teen. It's not even the period of time when they should start wearing deodorant but don't. It's this time every year-a few days before Christmas.

Every year I have to intervene in a very uncomfortable argument about the existence of Santa. There is always the insistent brat who can't let it go that he's not real, and then there's always one brave soul who has the courage to try to prove him wrong. Then the rest of the class sits watching and listening, while their childhood literally balances on a thread- do they believe, or don't they?

5th graders are at a precarious age. They are caught between childhood and adolescence and their beliefs are caught there, too. I remember being about this age and being asked what I wanted for Christmas. I was too old for dolls, but that Caboodle I really wanted seemed silly to ask for considering the fact I wasn't old enough to wear makeup. I totally understand where these kids are coming form-even if they do think I'm old. So when one smarty-pants is moving someone to tears about the prospect of Santa not being real, it breaks my heart. One less believer, it seems, means a little less Christmas cheer in the world. And less Christmas cheer means a world full of Bah Humbugs.

I have noticed a definite decrease in holiday decorations this year. perhaps there aren't enough believers to keep the spirit going. I hope this isn't the beginning of the end of childhood magic. It certainly could be the screenplay for a fantastic made for TV Christmas special. Maybe it could spread a little happiness around for the season.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Everyone remembers their

When I was 16, I got a red, 1977 MGB convertible. Actually, that's a lie. I got it when I was 12, but, for obvious legal reasons, it wasn't really mine until I was 16. And, then it was really my parents' seeing as they paid for and housed the thing, but that's just getting picky. And getting me sidetracked. I was overjoyed at 12 at the thought of driving a real live convertible when I finally got my license. For 2 years, I had happy dreams of what would be described as totally awesome (it was the mid-90's). When I got my learner's permit at 14, I started in my mother's Maxima in the parking lot where now sits a Chick-fil-a. There was no business in that building at the time, so other than the fact that it was on the main thorough fare, it was generally out of public view, and not really embarrassing at all. After practicing in the lot, my mother instructed me to drive home, which wasn't that far from there. I would now swear that the mailboxes and curbs jumped out of my way as if I were the Knight Bus (see Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for full reference). I'm pretty sure there was a hole in the floor from her trying to brake for me and I'm sure aspirated a few bugs with her gasps of horror all the way home. Needless to say, that ended my one driving lesson with my mom. Those reins were passed to my dad, which was fine since I would soon need to graduate from the Maxima to the MG, which was a stick.

I'd love to save face and tell you that I hopped in that baby the first time, and took off like some kind of NASCAR prodigy, but I did not. After many, many, many tries, I had made no progress and was pretty much convinced I would be walking to high school because there was no way I would be able to drive that car. About 2 months before my 16th birthday, though, I'd realized I was going to need to take some serious action in my driving skills acquisition if I didn't want to endure the mom drop off in front of high school forever. I was one of the lucky sophomores to turn 16 the first semester and I needed to take full advantage of the situation. So, I buckled down and learned how to drive that thing.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 2.5 years I drove it, but I knew that as much as I loved the car, there was no way it would be able to accompany me to college. I was convinced that I would be walking to college, when I received a fantastic graduation present-a 1997 Mazda Protege. I loved this car. Not because it was the most beautiful car in the world, or the most sought after, but because it had a seat belt that I thought might actually save my life in a crash, rather than just help to pin me in as I careened off a cliff, unable to escape a fiery death. (The MG wasn't exactly 5 star crash rated.) That car did me well, hauling me home and back for 4 years of college, and then for the first year my husband and I were married. It drove me to my first and only job interview, and heard me squeal with delight when I got in it upon being offered the job. The following fall, a week before I started my new job, we decided it was time to part ways and we traded in the old girl for a Volkswagen Jetta TDI. I had very mixed feelings but in the end the brand new, shiny, silver, leather interior, 5 speed, diesel engine won me over. Who would have thought I would choose a stick after my learning experience. Still, I said goodbye and went on my way. That was in 2006.

Fast forward to June, 2010. My husband and I were celebrating our 5 year anniversary and we went to the big city for dinner. While searching for a parking space, I said "OMG!" No, I'm kidding. I'm not 12. I said "Look over there! Does anything look familiar?" Sure enough, he spotted it. there was my old Mazda.

How I know this is my old car and not one of many identical 1997 Mazda Proteges? Allow me to highlight some places of interest in this picture.

#1-This is the place where my dear younger brother hit a foul ball in a baseball game, which avoided every single car in the parking lot, except mine. Obviously, sibling love knows no bounds.
#2-Dented gas cap cover, which I still don't know what happened.
#3-The exact mark of a hexagonal bolt that held on the license plate of a car that I may have gently nudged when trying to parallel park once during college.

There you go. That's all the proof I need. If I could have seen the front bumper, I know I would have found the scrape marks where I may have accidentally run into my brother's basketball goal that was laying beside the driveway. (After typing all this, I'm pretty sure I know now why my husband is so hesitant to let me drive him anywhere. I'm thinking I might not be that great behind the wheel.)

The moral of this story: Never give up hope that a goodbye-even a goodbye to something as trivial as your old vehicle-is forever. You never know when you'll be staring into the face of a thousand memories and enjoying a blast from the past.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Prayers are always welcome

I'm sure that we have all said prayers even we didn't personally know the people for whom the prayer is intended. This may be a good moment to do that.

I left my house this morning at 7:05. It was a very cold 5 degrees with a windchill I don't even want to say out loud. My husband was home sick today and was awoken at 7:15 by many, many fire trucks. Our next door neighbors' house was completely engulfed in that short time. There was NO SIGN of a fire when I left 10 minutes before. They were still spraying water on it when I arrived home at 3:30. It is completely gutted. Even though we've lived here for 5 years, we don't know them that well, but that doesn't stop my heart from breaking for them. I can not even imagine such a tragedy, especially smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. So, if you have room in your prayers for a household in a small Missouri town, I'm sure it would be appreciated. Thankfully, everyone made it out safely. That is something to truly be grateful for in the face of disaster.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Feeling like a marked man....uh...woman

There are often times when you feel like every clock is ticking off the seconds specifically toward something. It could be good, like a birthday (if you like getting older) or Christmas Eve (if you're waiting for Santa). But sometimes, it feels like its heading to something bigger, something terrible, something you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. Like the ominous music on Jaws, every minute feels like your heart is going to stop while waiting for that other shoe to drop. Wondering what terrible thing I'm waiting for? Two words: stomach flu.

As a teacher, I am obviously exposed to many, many, MANY germs. I've become almost compulsive about hand washing and I appear to be a downright cold and soulless teacher because I refuse to have physical contact with children at school because I am so obsessed with NOT getting sick. Shake their hands at an awards ceremony? I think not. Pat them on the back for reaching their math goal? No freaking way. I've seen how well they wash their hands while standing at the next sink, and that's the girls. Can you even imagine 10 year old boys and their hand washing hygiene? Ew. So now, when I know there's nasty stuff going around, I'm even worse. I want to channel a bit of our speech teacher in 9th grade and put a masking tape square around my desk area and make it off limits. I want to go beyond that and wear gloves and a face mask to prevent rogue germs that may cross that tape barrier from entering my personal body space.

When it gets right down to it, I would rather have a 104 fever, a stuffed up nose, a throat so sore I can't swallow even a sip of water, and sore stomach muscles from coughing my lungs up, than get what is going around. And believe me, it's going around. What's even worse, not only do I definitely not want it, I don't want my 3 year old to get it either. That, my friends, would be the living definition of H-E-double hockey stick.

In my 4.5 years of teaching, I've only used 1 sick day. It was my very first year, it was the day before Christmas vacation began, and it was the very sickness I'm diligently trying to avoid. Not that I'm superstitious (ok, maybe a little) but I can't help but feel doomed, like history is going to repeat itself. Now, every time another kid or teacher goes down, it's like I can see a giant hand marking off a hit list that's working its way down to my name at the bottom. Then I start imagining I don't feel good and then I start feeling crazy. Am I really getting sick or am I having a psychological breakdown? It's all just too much to handle sometimes. I guess there is nothing to do but sit around, waiting for the ax to fall. I tell you though, this is not going to end well. I'm starting to think there isn't enough Germ-X in the world to protect me from this fate.