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.

First Field Trip

Today I went with first grade on a field trip to the zoo-the first field trip anyone at our school has gone on in over two years. Field trips now are pretty much the same as they were pre-pandemic:

  • semi-trucks still honk their horns when a bus of first graders pump their fists up and down
  • kids still want to eat their lunch at 10:30 a.m.
  • one kid in your group is still ready to go back to school by 11:00 (“The bus isn’t coming to get us until 1:30, so we’re going to look at a few more animals.”)
  • one kid in the group is still determined to wander away (if only I had a dollar for every time I said “Where did ______ go?” today)
  • kids still have just as much (or more) fun playing tag in a field as they do looking at the animals
  • one group is still late getting back to the bus
  • parent chaperones still agree that it was hard enough keeping track of 4-6 kids and still have no idea how teachers manage an entire class
  • happy, exhausted kids still fall asleep on the bus ride back to school
  • teachers still marvel at how much work field trips are, but know that they are worth it!

Making Sure

Waffles stood looking out the big picture window in the living room, back legs on the couch, front paws on the windowsill, hot pink panties dangling from his mouth for all the neighbors to see.

One of my little girls skipped across the yard, smiling at me through the window. I smiled back and pointed at Waffles. She started looking up, down, all around, not sure what I was pointing at. I shook my head, walking closer to Waffles and pointing at our beloved dog and his beloved underwear. Her gaze followed my arm, her face breaking into giggles that I couldn’t hear through the window.

Suddenly a puzzled look crossed her face. Her eyes left the window and she looked down. Curious, I watched as she hooked a finger through the waistband of her leggings and stretched the elastic out and away from her tummy, glancing inside, I think, to make sure that the underwear in Waffles’ mouth weren’t the underwear she was supposed to be wearing. Satisfied with what she saw, her smile returned and she resumed skipping towards the backyard.

I laughed, rubbed Waffles on the head, and went back to what I had been doing.

Dying Daphne

Several years ago my mother-in-law gave me a daphne odora to plant near my front door. Daphne plants are one of the first plants to flower in late winter/early spring, and have a strong sweet scent. They are also evergreen, lending color to the garden even in winter.

At first, my daphne would be covered in fragrant, delicate pink flowers every March. But then a couple of years ago it started to lose its leaves, although it continued to bloom every spring. Now, after a year in which Seattle saw its hottest day on record (108 degrees last June) as well as its coldest day in half a century (17 degrees in December), my poor daphne looks like this:

At the same time, just a block away my neighbor’s daphne looks like this:

Clearly, I’m doing something wrong. I wish I knew what!

Right Now

Right now I am…

sitting at the half-cleared table where my family just finished dinner, pork chop fricassee tonight, a favorite of my husband, son, and dog, but deemed inedible by my girls.

listening to the giggles of my three kids playing monkey in the middle in the backyard, seven-year-old twins thrilled that their big brother made time to play with them.

ignoring the dog dropping toys at my feet in an effort to get me to play.

wishing I knew how to help a friend in a difficult situation.

wondering what I should choose to write about for an upcoming opportunity.

watching the light out the window fade as the sun sets, encouraged that it is 7:30 and still light out.

hoping the weather is good tomorrow so I can finish planting my seeds, frustrated that every time I went to plant today it started to rain.

telling my hubby I’m almost done writing my “thing” for the day and yes, I would like to watch a movie after the kids are in bed.

*The inspiration for this structure came from Terje at “Just For a Month,” who writes a “Right Now” post every year.

Livid

I clicked the red “leave meeting” button and slammed the lid shut on my laptop, so frustrated with one of the other teachers at the student support meeting that just ended. “Uuuuuhhh!” I grunted, shoving my arms into the sleeves of my coat.  I jerked up the zipper and headed outside to my morning supervision spot on the playground, angry thoughts swirling in my head. 

On the way down the hall, I passed my coaching partner.  “I can’t wait to hear how the meeting went,” she said.

“I am LIVID right now,” I said, the words coming out slow and low.  “I’ll tell you about it when I get back in.”

The cool morning air helped clear my head and calm my body.  Fifteen minutes later I was back inside, telling my partner what had happened. When I finished, I went into my office and sat down at my desk to get some work done, ready to put it behind me. 

I opened the teacher’s guide on an upcoming unit, but through the wall behind me I could hear loud voices, almost yelling.  One of the voices was the teacher that I was so frustrated with.  I couldn’t understand exactly what was being said, but I could hear enough to know that the conversation taking place on the other side of the wall was about the morning meeting. 

Just ignore it, I told myself, forcing my eyes to the unit overview page, trying to focus on the scope and sequence in front of me.  Let it go.

But I couldn’t.  I felt the frustration rising up from deep in my gut and I knew I had to do something.  I’m not a confrontational person, I don’t take things personally, and I’m really good at maintaining my composure.  But I felt like the comments made had not been said in the best interest of the student we were trying to help.  And that’s why I couldn’t let it go.

I pushed back from my desk and headed out of my office.  I still didn’t know what I was going to say as I opened the outer door of the special education room and walked to the office where the conversation was taking place.  I looked through the window on the door, my heart beating hard in my chest.  Why am I doing this? I thought.  This is so not my style

I raised my hand. Breathe.

Knocked on the glass. Okay.

Turned the doorknob. Stay calm.

Pushed open the door. Now what?

I paused for a moment, then simply said, “I can hear you through the wall.”

The teacher looked at me and I saw her face crumple as she dissolved into tears.  My anger instantly melted, replaced by concern for my colleague who was clearly in distress over something much larger than that morning’s meeting.  I waited for her to take some deep breaths.  And then I listened.

I’m glad I heard her voice through the wall.  I’m grateful that I didn’t just ignore it.  I’m sorry to have passed judgment without seeing the whole picture.  I learned a lot this morning.

OPOPs

I plopped onto my son’s bed, ready to read the next chapter in our bedtime book. C was stretched out, his arms bent up and under his head. I dropped my head onto his pillow and caught a whiff of his arm pits. “Whew, buddy, I think you need to take a shower,” I choked out. “Those OPOPs are pretty strong!”

A year or two ago, my son gave his stinky armpits a nickname: OverPowered Onion Pits, or OPOPs (pronounced ah-p-ah-p-s) for short. As with most elementary-age boys, bathing is not at the top of his priority list, and on hot days or after a week without a shower, the OPOPs start to bloom.

“I think I need deodorant,” he responded nonchalantly.

His simple statement hit me with a sudden realization. I need to buy my son deodorant! Why did this catch me so off guard? I’ve been an elementary teacher for a long time. I know what happens in the spring in 5th grade classrooms-teachers open their windows because it starts to get stinky. 5th graders start to get stinky. MY 5th grader is starting to get stinky.

“Yeah, I think you’re right,” I reply cooly, masking all the thoughts swirling around in my head. “I’ll pick some up for you when I’m at Target.”