Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hello Goodbye

There was a trail through the woods to Missy's house, and we kept it clear by walking it at least once every day in the summers. When we were at her house, we played elaborate games of "teacher" and "library" and "grocery store"--really, anything that allowed at least one of us to feel grown up and in charge. We also made up some serious dance moves to her dad's old Monkees and Beatles records, although I'm afraid my dancing skills piqued at age eight. Every once in a while those songs push their way through my subconscious and out of my mouth before I know how they got there. It happened today, actually.

Halfway home from work--the last day of work for the foreseeable future after eight years of working--my mind was wandering, jumping from deep, nostalgic thoughts to more pressing, shallow ones, and I realized that I was singing--out loud--"Hello Goodbye." I don't think I've heard or sung that song in years, but there it was and the timing of it all made me laugh.

Today I turned in my keys, pulled out of my parking spot, and checked my work email and teacher box for the last time--things I've done every day for the past six years. Oh, I'm sure I'll be back to visit, but probably just once or twice next year. After that it'll just be weird; it won't be my place anymore. It'd be like going back to my alma mater: I love it, and there are parts of me all over that campus, but it's not mine anymore; it belongs to those young 18-year-olds who just discovered streaking in the outfield during a baseball game. Even though some of the best parts and years of me are at the school where I taught, it's not mine anymore, not after today. And most of me is okay with that. Most of me is relieved to slow down life's pace, to do fewer things and do them well, and, most importantly, to have more time with my son. But I'd be lying if I said today was completely easy because it wasn't.

Thank goodness for the Beatles who live in my subconscious and have a sense of humor. It was a "Hello Goodbye" kind of day. I'm not sure what to feel. I've never done this before. But what I can tell you is that I'm looking forward to spending the day with Moo tomorrow.

When we had been dating for about three months or so, I remember asking Phil where he thought our relationship was headed. In retrospect, it was kind of an intense question after just three months, but Phil navigated the super-planner in me with grace. He said, "I loved hanging out with you today, and I'm looking forward to seeing you again tomorrow. That's all we need to know right now." So, that's where I am. I loved hanging out with Moo this afternoon and evening, and I'm looking forward to seeing him again tomorrow. And I hope I never stop looking forward to seeing him.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Thank you

I was going to tell you about how tonight is my last night as a working mom. I was going to tell you about how we find out this week if Phil gets a fellowship and where/if we'll be moving in a year. I was going to do the hard work of thinking and writing deep thoughts about all of that, but I can't. Not on Memorial Day. Not on a day when we remember our veterans, remember people who have given so much to those of us who live as if we care so little.

Today's a day to remember those who have fought and fallen, those who have taken time away from family, friends, and comforts to stand for something greater than themselves. So, to Jason, who gave his life five years ago, to Pop-pop who is no longer with us, to Stuart, to Uncle Gordie and Uncle Rick, to Corey, to Whitney, to Manda, and to so many others, thank you. And to their families who made the sacrifice on the home front, thank you. You have played monumental roles in the mosaic of our country's freedom.

Those thank yous fall short, though. We have over 100, 000 homeless veterans in America and most kids today don't even have a reference for the kind of sacrifice these soldiers have offered. We have crazies who hold up offensive signs at military funerals. We have a long way to go to make our thank yous really mean something. But we've also preserved respect for the military in our country in some ways. I appreciate that we say the Pledge every morning at our school and make the students stand for it even if they don't recite it. I appreciate that flag burning is looked down upon. I appreciate the solemnity of the war memorials in Washington. I love seeing strangers stop veterans in an airport to thank them. We need more people like that.

"Thank you" falls short, but it's all I know to say, so thank you, thank you, thank you to the veterans and families who have preserved freedom for those of us who may never get to say thank you in person.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Moo lately

Fair warning: this is a kid update, so if you're not interested, stop reading now.

Well, my little guy isn't so little these days. He turned 6 months old a couple of weeks ago and he's doing all kinds of amazing things. I love seeing the world through his eyes--how everything is new and overwhelming and fascinating and funny all at the same time. What a way to see.

See how he's grown?
1 week

1 month

2 months
3 months
4 months
5 months

6 months
 He is one happy boy and likes to be moving, unless he's sleeping, of course. Here's what he's into these days:

  • rollin', rollin', rollin'. We are looking baby-proofing the house in the face. Bring it.
  • baby food (favorites are pears & sweet potatoes but hasn't had anything he doesn't like yet except peas, and let's be honest: who can blame him?)
  • loves his stuffed animals--"Raffe (a giraffe), Malcolm (a monkey), and Ewey (a, well, ewe)
  • sleeps through the night most nights (thank you, Moo!)
  • can almost sit up unsupported
  • loves bath time, splashing, and eating his waterproof book 
  • wearing 9 month clothes since he was 5 months old
  • enjoys walks
  • loves drinking water out of a grown up glass
  • has a definite sense of humor: fake coughs and then smiles about it, puts his burp cloth over his face to play peek-a-boo
  • would spend all day in the Johnny-Jump-Up or Exersaucer if we let him--he loves to kick!
  • really into texture--wants to feel and scratch anything he can get his hands on
  • knows his name
  • loves music and starts kicking & squealing when we sing him songs
  • obsessed with any screen. We don't watch TV when he's up, but if we're texting or on the computer, he'll do whatever it takes to be a part of it.
  • sounds he makes: mama, baba, dada, lala, blah blah, ooh, rara, and a myriad of high-pitched squeals
  • only cries when tired, hungry, or gassy--SUCH a happy disposition
  • recognizes and prefers Phil and me over others
We are head-over-heels, over-the-moon in love with this boy. Only one more day at work until I transition to a stay-at-home mom! Mostly looking forward to it. Home with him today and my heart is swelling. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Three Things Thursday

One. I just got this tankini in the mail today from White House Black Market. Needed a new suit to accommodate my adjusted body, and this one is true to size, flattering (thank you, patterns, twists, and ruching), comfortable, and affordable. Comes with a cute black and white polka dot removable strap. Definitely a winner.

Two. Speaking of that adjusted body, check out these awkward pregnancy photos--NOT of me, thankfully. I like to keep it classy. But not everyone does. I need to stop being surprised by the weird things people do. Here's a preview:

Three. Speaking of awkward, my 9th graders have been acting out scenes from Romeo and Juliet as a culminating activity for our Shakespeare unit. One group chose to do one of the kissing scenes and go for a real stage kiss rather than fake it behind a fan or something. No lie, these words came out of their mouths at some point this week:

GIRL: "Mrs. Johnson, do you have any tips for how to make the kiss less awkward? I mean, I can't initiate." (Probably not, honey. You're in 9th grade. It's going to be awkward.)

ME TO GUY (after successfully performing their scene): "Hey! The kiss looked good! Very natural. It wasn't awkward at all."
GUY: "I don't want to have to do it again, though. She didn't kiss back." (Hm, so which is it? You don't initiate or she doesn't kiss back? The world will never know.)

My favorite part: At one point during rehearsals, I actually sent them to a room by themselves to practice kissing so they wouldn't be embarrassed practicing in front of their peers. That's right, I sent two teenagers to a room by themselves and told them to kiss. Hey--whatever works.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The good kind of slap in the face

Ever need a good slap in the face? I do. And this article gave me some much-needed perspective on my transition to being a stay-at-home mom. Nothing wrong with processing, but good to remember that the world is much bigger than my little corner of it. 'Nough said.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day was


A whole day with my two favorite men in the world.
A letter from each of them.
Lots of dark chocolate.
Swedish pancakes made by that handsome man I married.
A walk.
Cooking therapy. 
(pasta salad, chicken salad, and these banana-chip oat muffins)
No agenda.
Mother's Day wishes from friends and family.

A son who brings joy indescribable.
A husband who loves me well and long.
A mom and mother-in-law who teach me what good mothering should be.
And a God who directs all these things.

I am blessed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Three Things Thursday

One.  The kitchen challenge is in full swing, which is why I ate an almost-too-ripe banana today, a perfectly ripe pear, and salad on its last day of green, among other things. So far, so good! On the menu this week: homemade calzones with salad (enough for leftovers) and chicken kabobs (turned into wraps the next night). Not sure what's next. Maybe feta and tomato omelets?

Two. Was recently reminded a few weeks ago of a book I read in college called When Faith and Beliefs Collide by Carolyn Custis James. Several friends and I are thinking of reading it this summer. Anyone in?

Three. My latest favorite picture of Moo, who will be SIX MONTHS old next week! Sheesh. I love that kid.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Kitchen Challenge

I'm all about experiments, especially when they're temporary. So, my latest experiment is what I call "The Kitchen Challenge"--so creative, I know. Here's how it works: I just stocked up at the grocery store and my goal is to see how long I can make the food I have last without buying more. Exceptions: weekly, I'll buy milk, produce, bread, and other perishables as needed.  Other than that, I'll be cooking my way through the pantry, freezer, and fridge for the next...three weeks? maybe?  I'll have to get pretty creative toward the end.

What'll be tough about this challenge is that we'll have nights where we eat what we have, not necessarily what we want. And I think that's good. I can get a little too entitled about food, thinking that it exists to serve my desires, when really food, while meant to be enjoyed, is primarily fuel. So, I'll have to let go of loving every meal and embrace resourcefulness. Did you know that the average American throws away between 15 and 40 percent of all groceries bought? Woah. I don't mean to get all "there-are-starving-children-in-Africa on  you, but there are starving children in Africa. Heck, there are starving children in America. Certainly I can put on my big girl panties and be resourceful for a few weeks. (Secretly, I'm hoping that those few weeks can become a lifestyle, although secretly, I'm hoping that lifestyle can still accommodate my love for frozen yogurt. :) All kidding aside, I'm shooting for a few weeks. Baby steps, right?)

Of course, it's quite possible here at the end of the school year that I just can't follow through on this experiment right now and need to opt for easy dinners, so I may re-challenge myself to this in the summer. I'll keep you posted on how it goes and let you know what I'm cooking along the way. Anyone else want to join me in Operation Resourcefulness?

What I've been reading...

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond
A friend recommended this book to me, and since I was in a rut in Jayber Crow (don't worry--I will finish!) and was longing for some nonfiction, I jumped at the opportunity to derail from my regular reading. Perhaps the title sounds familiar? You foodies out there may know her from her blog, which is best known for its mouth-watering recipes, although it features plenty of other topics. She's one of the lucky ones whose blog has taken off, gotten famous, and turned into a book. While the book has several recipes in the back, it isn't a recipe book; it's the true story of how she fell in love-at-first-sight with her husband, a rancher whom she affectionately refers to as "Marlboro Man" throughout the book. She grew up with a charmed life on a golf course--something I would think would make for dry writing--but Drummond tells such honest, hilarious, and sometimes sobering stories that she connects with all (female) audiences. The book chronicles her whirlwind love with her husband from their first glance to their first child, noting especially where their two worlds collide: where golf course meets rancher, or where, as the title suggests, black heels meet tractor wheels. A great read, especially if you're looking for something pretty lighthearted.

Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Pharr Davis
When I first met Jennifer Pharr Davis, we were RAs together at Samford. She was an amazon woman, deciding to run a marathon the day before the race (and finishing with a decent time!), playing college tennis after playing basketball in high school, and trying to talk me into taking a semester off after college to hike the Appalachian Trail with her. I knew myself well enough to know that I could never keep up with her (and she would leave me behind if she had to), and when she mentioned it, for me, it was like running a marathon or traveling the world--it sounds cool to say you've done it but I didn't actually want to do it. Not so for Jen. She turns pipe dreams into realities.

Onto the book. Phil and I actually read the it together, and while I loved her writing and the craft and experience of her stories, Phil was enthralled with the hiking aspect. We learned so much about through hiking and about Jen, and her experiences were often stranger than fiction. Despite surviving a snowstorm, a wall of mosquitos, a foot infection, dehydration, near frostbite, almost getting lost, and being stalked, what stood out most in the book was her honesty. Jen currently holds the record for the fastest through hiker (male or female) on the AT, but when she began her first hike on the AT, she was hiking with a pack from her basement and she barely knew how to set up a tent. I love that she began as a self-proclaimed novice and now owns her own hiking company. In addition to her honesty, I love  the overarching theme of how the trail changed her--often in ways she didn't expect. Experiences do that to us. They change us. Sometimes in the middle of those experiences, I forget that.

Whether you're outdoorsy or not, Becoming Odyssa (she nailed the title) is a must read.

Don't Shoot! I'm the Guitar Man by Buzzy Martin
I picked up this book to see if we wanted to add it to our 9th grade summer reading list for next year, and while the content is definitely not appropriate for 9th graders, the story was interesting. The book tells the true story of Buzzy Martin, a music teacher who taught music classes to inmates at San Quentin State Prison ("The Q") in California. I have to be honest. The writing left something to be desired. Lots of repetition and simple descriptions. BUT, the story was fascinating enough to keep me reading. In many ways, it's a dark book, a tale of little if any hope, about evil and how our world copes with it. It's a short book, so I finished it in a matter of days, but it left me a little rattled. Part of me felt I needed to read it, needed to look that kind of raw reality in the face, and another part of me wished I didn't know what I had just read. So, I recommend this book with reservation.

Currently reading:
  • Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry
  • I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Three Things Thursday

Another Thursday here already. I have about five "real" posts in the queue, but they may have to wait until school is out to be polished and posted. On to this week's three things:

Thing one: I eat hamburgers out about once a year, and this year's juicy burger has been calling my name lately. I don't cook on Fridays, and, since tomorrow's Friday, I'm on a hunt for Birmingham's best burger. Any suggestions? 

Thing next: Funniest comments from my Junior High kids lately:
  • "Mrs. Johnson, what do you get when you cross a hippo and a hammer?" (I had to nip that one in the bud so I didn't even wait for the answer. Makes you wonder, though, huh?)
  • "Mrs. Johnson, can I pop this bag of popcorn?" (holds up bag of popcorn). Um, no. No, you may not. Any other questions you know the answer to?
  • "I'm a sweater, Mrs. Johnson. I just can't help it." Thanks for sharing. Bring some extra deodorant to school. Problem solved. 
  • "Could we do our Romeo and Juliet scene with Australian accents?" Once again, Shakespeare rolls over in his grave. 
Every day. Man, I'm going to miss that.

Thing last: Eating green beans COLD out of the fridge: yum, actually.

(Okay, so "thing last" was pretty lame. But I have serious writer's block tonight and a stack of papers to grade, so this is as good as it gets for now.)