Teaching Your Own

I consider myself to be a good teacher. If you were to ask my colleagues and administrators, I’m pretty sure they would agree. But no matter how good of a teacher you are, I’ve learned, when it comes to teaching your own kids there is nothing but frustration to be had.

“I thought you’re supposed to be some great teacher.”

I still remember those words my hubby muttered at some point during remote learning when I was trying to help one of my own kids with their school work to no avail. The icy glare I shot him rivaled Elsa’s most powerful frozen blasts.

The problem with teaching my own kids is that they don’t listen to me. I know this, and yet here I am sitting by the pool, amazed that my seven-year-old twins are actually swimming! How many times have I told them,

“Swim with your head under water!”

“You don’t need to hold your nose when you go under.”

“You can do it!”

only to have them completely ignore each statement. But when their tanned, teenage swim teacher in aviator glasses tells them the exact same things, they just do it!

I am a good teacher. As long as I’m teaching other people’s kids.

Real Sand

My three children are spoiled, growing up surrounded by Puget Sound beaches that are just a five minute drive or 20 minute bike ride away. Exploring low tide, building driftwood forts, and collecting sea glass are commonday childhood activities in our corner of the city. But there is one thing that our rocky beaches don’t have.

“You’re going to love this beach,” I told the kids as we drove towards the trailhead for Second Beach in Olympic National Park. “It has real sand.”

The trees started to thin as we started the final descent out of the forest towards the beach, giving us our first glimpse of Second Beach. The Pacific sparkled in the afternoon sun, majestic sea stacks rising from the vast expanse of sapphire water. When we finally reached the bottom, we stepped past driftwood logs and onto the wide stretch of white sand. Real sand.

All three kids squealed with delight, kicked off their shoes, and went running across the sand toward the surf. I unlaced my hiking boots, peeled off my socks, and sunk my toes into the warm, fine sand as a smile spread across my face.

Nothing feels like summer as much as real sand.

Unfathomable

Search “5 Minute Crafts” on YouTube and you will come up with an endless supply of videos that will teach you every hack, trick, and project you never possibly needed to know. These shows are among my 7-year-old twins favorite things to watch, and they are constantly trying out the not-actually-5-minute crafts that catch their fancy. They’ve made popsicles in their Pop-Its, dehydrated toothpaste tabs to take on vacation, and crafted a wide array of accessories for their Barbies.

This morning’s project was no-sew Barbie ball gowns that required some adult supervision (i.e. ironing and fabric scissors). We were nearly an hour into the project by the time supplies were rounded up, fabric was chosen and pressed, measurements and cuts were made, and Barbie was ready to be dressed. I was sitting on the ground, tying the finishing bow on the ribbon belts when A looked down from where she was perched at the table.

“Mom, did you watch 5 Minute Crafts when you were a kid?”

“There wasn’t any 5 Minute Crafts when I was a kid. There wasn’t YouTube when I was a kid,” I responded.

Four wide eyes stared down at me as they contemplated what life might be like without YouTube.

A’s voice was hesitant, but gentle, when she spoke again. It was the voice a parent might use when asking a child about a scary dream, worried that the question might upset the child. “But, did you still, uh, did you still have fun when you were a kid?”

A moment of silence hung thick in the air as the question registered in my brain. I looked up from the Barbie and smiled at their worried expressions. “Of course I did!” I laughed. “Do you think you can’t have fun without YouTube?”

P shrugged. “I don’t know…” she giggled, ducking her head as she smiled.

Kids these days!

The Red Pony Bead

“Do you remember when P got that bead stuck up her nose?” C asked as we coasted down the hill towards the beach. The sun was shining, the sky cerulean blue now that the morning fog had cleared in celebration of the first official day of summer.

“How could I forget?” I replied dramatically.

“Didn’t you get it out with the nose sucker thing?” C tried to remember.

I shook my head. We did try the NoseFrida when P was two and stuck the red plastic pony bead up her left nostril, but it hadn’t worked. At first, I thought I could grab the bead with the tweezers, but it was too tight to grasp around it. Then I tried bending a bobby pin to hook through the hole of the bead, but it was too slippery to get any traction. My hubby tried duck taping a straw to the end of the shop vac hose, but P was having none of that and wriggled free of our hold.

I called the after hour nurse line, left my information and was told I would receive a call from the on-call nurse soon. When 30 minutes passed without a call and bedtime was creeping nearer, I put P in her carseat and headed to our neighborhood urgent care, only to find that it had closed twenty minutes earlier at 7:00 p.m. I drove back home, sitting in the driveway and discussing what to do next with Hubby when my phone rang. It was the on-call nurse, and she knew just what to do.

“You know how I got the bead out?” I said, smiling at the memory. “I had to plug the nostril that didn’t have the bead in it, then I told P that the nurse said I had to give her a special kiss to get it out. And I put my mouth over hers and blew as hard as I could. And PING! The bead shot out of the nose! It was amazing!”

“Seriously?!” C couldn’t believe it.

“Yes, seriously, it was so cool!” But even better is that fact that I’ve never had to use that trick again.

Mrs. Wishy Washy

There are two weeks left of school…the time of year when we cram as much fun into each day as possible in an effort to keep kids and adults alike engaged. Field day, writing celebrations, class plays, outdoor lessons, awards assemblies, and spirit week. Each day this week has a different theme, and today’s was my favorite of them all: book character day.

Last night I pulled my blue dress from the closet and laid my red shoes out by the front door. I folded my red and white apron into my school bag and tried to remember what I usually use for a head wrap, finally concluding that last time (was it two or three years ago?) I had borrowed a bandana from my work partner. Unfortunately, she is not a night owl like me and was most certainly already fast asleep. No problem, I thought. I’ll find something.

I went downstairs with the intention of getting a white shirt from my husband to cut up, but decided to check the fabric bag just in case. Lucky for me, I found a big square of leftover curtain lining that would do the job perfectly. I added it to my school bag and stepped back. All ready!

This morning I arrived at school in my blue dress and red shoes. In my office I tied on my apron and head scarf before heading down to my morning duty spot.

Arrival time was bubbling with excitement as students and teachers admired the boundless creativity on display. Students came dressed as princesses, fairy tale creatures, anime characters, lots of Harry Potters, and super heroes. Teachers were dressed as Cruella Deville, Carmen Sandiego, Piggie, and Alice the Fairy. The best, by far, was our assistant principal dressed as Fly Guy. Smiles spread across faces and exclamations of “oh, you’re…” or “who are you?” rang across the entryway and playground.

One of my favorite first graders stopped and stared at me. He spends most of his time in his own world and clearly wasn’t quite comprehending what book character day was all about.

“Why are you dressed like that?” he asked.

“I’m Mrs. Wishy Washy,” I said, pointing to the cover of the book I was holding. His eyes went from the picture to me several times. He still didn’t get it.

“Okay,” he shrugged, then headed off to his line.

I laughed. I love book character day!

Freedom

Swab both sides. Swirl in the tube. Twist on the cap. Drip, drip, drip.

Wait.

I set the timer for 15 minutes and watch the liquid slowly seep from right to left across the test window. It’s been two weeks since my seven year old twins tested positive for covid. Two weeks since I’ve been at school. Two weeks since our house divided: infected upstairs, healthy downstairs.

The red line under the “C” starts to darken, but the space under the “T” is still white. Eleven days ago a line appeared almost immediately in that same space after I noticed my throat felt dry and decided to check. Eleven days ago I pulled my blankets up and spent several days sleeping away the tiny virus that I’ve spent the last two years avoiding.

At first I was angry at the friend who kindly shared the virus with our family. We have been above and beyond cautious ever since the pandemic broke out. We have followed all of the rules and guidance and science. Did we really work that hard, just to catch it after two years and three months?

But now that we are safely on the other side, mild symptoms behind us, I feel relieved. Like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. The low-level anxiety that has hung like fog in my mind for more than two years has dissipated. The timing couldn’t be better, really. Now we have a little extra protection for a few months, gifting us a more carefree summer. I already have a list in my mind of places I want to go, all the places I’ve been avoiding. This summer is going to feel “normal.”

Dah-dah-dah-duh. Dah-dah-dah-duh. Dah-dah-dah-duh.

I turn the timer off on my phone and head back to the bathroom to check. At first glance I still see only one line. I pick up the small plastic rectangle, tilt it back and forth in the light to check for any faint signs that I’m still infected.

Nothing.

Negative.

I’m free.

Quiet Coyote

Quiet Coyote is frequently seen around my school. He pops up in classrooms when students are gathered on the carpet. He congregates at morning assembly when the principal takes the stage to greet everyone. He parades down the hallway as classes move around the building. Quiet Coyote. A friendly reminder to stop talking.

But I recently learned that Quiet Coyote goes by another name among certain circles. My first grade twins were singing at the top of their lungs and driving the rest of us crazy, and without thinking I flashed Quiet Coyote at them.

“Do you know what this is?” I asked. “It’s Quiet Coyote.”

“No it’s not,” my fifth grade son piped up with a sly grin. He pressed his middle and ring finger to his thumb and pointed his hand in my direction. “It’s the Shut-Up Sheep!”

I stood there speechless, shaking my head, just like Quiet Coyote, er, Shut-Up Sheep, meant for me to be. And now, every time I see him at my school, I laugh to myself.

Kindergarten

First grade is my jam. I love the hugs, the lost teeth, the excitement for learning, and the amazing growth first graders make. I love the light in their eye when they realize that they really can read. I love that the S-word to first graders is “stupid” and that accidentally calling me mom is a regular thing. I love that some of them think I live at school, and that on my birthday some thought I was 10 and others 80. But most of all, I love that they are not kindergarteners any more.

Kindergarten is special, the life-time kindergarten teacher at my school reminds us at every single staff meeting and professional development session. Kindergarten teachers are special, too, I believe. Over the course of the school year, they work their magic and by first grade those feral kindergarteners have turned into, well, the first graders that I love.

Once upon a time, when I was starting my teacher ed program, I thought I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. When I told my brother of my plans, he laughed and said, “Why do you need to go to college for that? All you have to do is know how to break graham crackers in half.” I knew he was wrong–and let him know what I thought about his comment–but I had no idea how wrong he actually was! Not long into my program, I realized that I did not want to be a kindergarten teacher after all.

And so, this morning when I saw the email from my principal saying that we had two teachers out without a sub, I signed up to cover the 5th grade class instead of the kindergarten class. But there was a 10 minute slot that needed coverage in kindergarten room, so I said I would do it. I helped them clean up their snack, pick up the floor, line up, and walk down the hall to the gym for P.E. And in those 10 minutes I was reminded of how much I love…first grade!

Separate Spring Breaks

Late last spring when school calendars were published for the upcoming year, I was disappointed that my kids and I wouldn’t have spring break on the same weeks. After we returned from winter break this year, my disappointment turned to annoyance as I contemplated spring break plans and all the things we couldn’t do because I would be off one week and my kids another. However, once I figured out what my kids would be doing during their break while I was as work (thanks, Grammy, for coming to visit!), I started looking forward to my week at home with the kids still going to school.

“What time is it?” my hubby asked sitting next to me on a driftwood log at the beach. After sending the kids off to school this morning, we measured, cut, squared, nailed, and sanded some extra wood into a bookcase for the twins’ room. Then I cleaned the kitchen while he cleaned up the garage, we ran some errands, went on a short bike ride, picked up lunch from the taco truck, and then ate while chatting and watching the waves lap the rocky shore.

I checked my watch. “It’s only noon!” I exclaimed, amazed at how much we had already accomplished.

“It’s nice when you don’t have to work,” hubby replied.

“Yeah, it is,” I agreed.

This Time Tomorrow

This time tomorrow I won’t be staring at my computer screen, but I might be watching the television screen instead.

This time tomorrow I won’t be rehearsing possible stories in my mind, but I might be reading one in a book instead.

This time tomorrow I won’t be telling my hubby that I’m almost done writing my “thing,” but I might be telling him a story from my day instead.

This time tomorrow I won’t be sad that March is over, but I might be proud of writing for 31 days straight instead.