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Although I was fortunate enough to have landed two LTO (long term occasional) assignments since becoming an occasional teacher, I’ve learned a few things during my days as an on-call supply teacher too:
Bring something for the headache.
Wear comfortable shoes.
Arrive as early as possible to review the day plan and make sure the resources listed are actually on hand. And to use the washroom.
Don’t forget to pick up the attendance again at lunch.
If you can mispronounce a name, you will.
Count kindergarten children before and after they so much as walk through a door, every time.
Always make sure there are smocks before getting out the paint.
Bring a whistle. And something to write with. And it wouldn’t hurt to bring your own white board markers. Really.
No matter how clear the lesson plans seem to be, the students will ask you a question about the assignment you won’t be able to predict–and probably won’t be able to answer. (Bonus: when you are the classroom teacher, be sure leave explicit instructions. And an answer key where necessary.)
Kids love it when you know Percy and Junie B. and Chester and Babymouse and Raina and Geronimo and…
Even if you have to speak to “that” student over and over again, she’ll still smile and wave and say hello the next time you are in. You should do the same.
Nothing beats a good read aloud.
It’s almost October, and I’m just finally sitting down to write: what I did on my summer vacation. I moved. Which, if you’ve moved, you know is a special kind of hell.
Spent the month of June trying to keep the house in “showing” condition. Spent the month of July sorting and packing. And spent the month of August sorting and unpacking. Okay, starting to sort and unpack. The basement is still full of boxes, but at least there are just semi-organized piles instead of the labyrinth that took our moving guys a good 12 hours to create! So that’s progress, considering one of them commented “You aren’t going to have a basement when we’re done, you’re just going to have boxes!” Did I mention we moved on the hottest day of the year? Sorry, moving guys!
Turns out our 1,300 square foot townhouse actually had quite a bit of storage space, including built-in shelves, a good-sized utility room, a cold room and a loft in the garage, that our only slightly larger new-to-us detached home does not have! And we had made good use of that space, storing things that had actually never been unpacked when we moved in to our first home almost 11 years earlier! So instead of squirrelling away the bins and boxes, we actually have to look at them.
Which really begs the question, why on earth are we keeping all this stuff?!
We did spend some time prior to the move decluttering. For example, I gave away or donated or recycled probably 15 large boxes of books. Which left a mere 30 large boxes of books. What can I say, we love books! I kept my very favourites, any signed-by-the-author books I’ve received over the years, and kids’ books–for the boys, and for my classroom (which I currently do not have but you never know…)
I also parted ways with essays I had forgotten I’d written, journals I wish I’d forgotten I’d written, and a bunch of other things including toys. Mine and my husband’s, not the boys’. Those we still have in abundance.
The good news is our kitchen is quite a bit bigger, and I now have cupboard space for things like serving trays and glassware that we got as wedding presents but never used. (Did I mention it was our 15th anniversary this month? Heh.)
But I’m still overwhelmed by what we do have, to the point where I don’t know what to do about it. Keep it? If I’ve held on to it this long, it must be important to me, right? Like my vintage Cabbage Patch Kids, circa the original craze in ‘84. Throw it away? Ugh, the landfill. And the memories! Sell it? Who else would want it? We’re talking well-loved Cabbage Patch Dolls here, not never-played-with, still-in-the-box. Donate it? If it’s too grungy to sell, it seems wrong to donate it too.
The thing is, we’re constantly at our boys to consider donating or otherwise parting with their plethora of “things” too—especially the papers and the toys. But how can we expect them to do so when we have difficulty with this ourselves? I know I’ve changed from a little girl who expected to live in a large Victorian-style home with a room just to display her doll collection to a woman who hates to dust and fantasizes about a kitchen counter with nothing on it. But actually throwing out those dolls, even if they are just taking up space in a box right now, is another story, one I can’t seem to write The End on yet.
Not to mention, our current reality is that my husband works from home and requires a great deal of equipment and a space to do his job, and I have only just begun my teacher hoarding. And with kids there comes a certain amount of stuff—we may have left behind the baby swing, stroller, and Thomas train years but have entered the snowboard, electric guitar and amp, adult-sized bike years. And then there’s the Lego…
We’re going to need a bigger house.*
*expect I’m never moving again, so I guess some of this stuff is going to have to go…
Inspired by my late friend, Tracy Chappell, I ask the boys the same twenty questions each year around their birthdays. It’s a fun tradition (they now ask, “when do we answer those questions?” and insist I include pauses and “ums”!) and I love comparing how their responses change (or don’t!) year over year. So in honour of BB#1’s eleventh birthday (I can’t believe it’s been a year since I wrote him this! or that his baby brother is going on eight!), I’m finally posting (it’s been a busy year, more about that later!)
Look back at:
1.What is your favourite color?
BB#1: Green. I think.
BB#2: Probably, I don’t know, purple.
2. What is your favourite toy?
BB#2: Lego and my Bionicle six arms awesome guy.
3. What is your favourite fruit?
BB#1: Peaches I guess?
BB#2: Peaches and strawberries.
4. What is your favourite TV show?
BB#1: Wakfu. That’s pretty much the only TV show that I watch. [This is a French show he watched on Netflix this summer. We don’t have cable.]
BB#2: (long pause) I don’t know. [See above]
5. What is your favourite thing to eat for lunch?
BB#1: I have no idea. Crepes I guess.
6. What is your favourite outfit?
BB#1: My black pants that are like jeans and a t-shirt, and maybe a hoodie with a zipper.
BB#2: My all-black outfit.
7. What is your favourite game?
BB#1: I going to say a board game because that’s easier. I think Apples to Apples.
BB#2: Spore. [A computer video game]
8. What is your favourite snack?
BB#1: Crackers and cheese.
BB#2: Dried mangoes.
9. What is your favourite animal?
BB#1: Crested gecko. That one’s easy.
BB#2: A snake. [He wants a milk snake as a pet…]
10. What is your favourite song?
BB#1: I can’t decide between “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zepplin or “One” by Metallica.
BB#2: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.
11. What is your favourite book?
BB#1: The Kill Order from the Maze Runner series.
BB#2: Harry Potter. [We’re currently reading Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix together.]
12. Who is your best friend?
BB#1: I don’t have a best friend, I have only a bunch of friends.
BB#2: I have two, Jason and Kian.
13. What is your favourite sport?
BB#2: Basketball, soccer and football.
14. What is your favourite thing to do outside?
BB#2: Swimming and biking.
15. What is your favourite drink?
BB#1: Pina colada.
BB#2: Lime smoothies, like the ones at Cuba. [Where we spent March Break, and also drank pina coladas. Virgin, naturally!]
16. What is your favourite holiday?
BB#1: Christmas? No, Halloween, Halloween is my favourite holiday.
BB#2: My birthday. [Last I checked, still not a national holiday…]
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night?
BB#1: My big dog.
BB#2: My one of my tiny dogs and my biggest dog.
Note: all of these dogs are of the stuffed variety.
18. What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast?
BB#1: A bagel with cheese. Unless it’s a super egg sandwich, with ribs on it and bacon and cheese. Because I love that.
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday?
BB#1: (shrugs) Steak I guess. I can’t decide. We kind of eat everything that’s special treat dinner every few weeks. So steak or salmon. [We’re having steak.]
BB#2: Pizza, ribs, or filet mignon.
20. What do you want to be when you grow up?
BB#1: A rock star? Or a professional snowboarder.
BB#2: A singer.
When I checked my phone on Wednesday morning, and photos of Tracy Chappell popped up in my Facebook feed with words like “gone” and “missed”, it did not compute. I momentarily thought perhaps she had left her job at Today’s Parent, though that didn’t seem likely. Because surely such a young, vibrant woman could not be “gone”. Not the woman who had posted that beautiful picture of herself and her two little girls among the cherry blossoms the day before.
I met Tracy when we were both students in the post-graduate Print Journalism program at Sheridan College. I was immediately impressed by her positive attitude, her amazing writing, and her good taste in movies.
After graduation, it seemed she was always one step ahead: when I turned down a corporation communications position with a pension fund for a more “fun” job at CANOE.ca, I soon learned that they’d offered the job to Tracy first. She’d turned it down too, for a more “fun” job at Chapters.ca. Less than a year later, I found myself in a cubicle down the hall from her—at Chapters’ short-lived online home and garden shop, Villa.ca. Which meant lunch dates and shopping on Queen Street! As a content writer for the movie section (perfect for such a film buff), Tracy often got free passes to new releases, and I was fortunate enough to attend some of those with her. She confided she had fallen for a cute techie guy in the office. They attended my wedding–just two short months before Tracy and I and 70+ other employees were laid off when the Internet bubble burst in 2000!
But it wasn’t long before Tracy found her home on the Today’s Parent website (confession: I had applied for that job too.) In fact, she was one of the first people to know I was pregnant for the first time—because I had posted a question on the community forums she moderated and she recognized my “anonymous” handle. She feigned annoyance that I wouldn’t be able to make the trip to her hometown for her wedding because I was due the same day! But she was thrilled for me. And I saw the photos–she glowed with happiness.
Meanwhile I had found my own great job at Harlequin.com. We continued meeting every now and then for dinner or a movie (Tracy didn’t mind that I was already bawling during the opening montage of Love Actually). She was also one of the first people to know I was pregnant for the second time when we both attended a seminar on freelance editing and I confessed my secret plan to become a work-at-home-mom.
In recent years, we interacted mostly through social media, and of course, I kept up with her family like so many others through her blog. That thoughtful, positive, loving person that came through in her writing was the real deal. I loved the gorgeous photos she posted of her girls, who look so much like her, and so much like their dad at the same time. The perfect combinations. Her birthday letters to Anna and Avery reduced me to tears. And some of my own posts were inspired by hers. With kids about the same ages, I completely understood why she decided to stop blogging.
I must take full responsibility for not making more of an effort to stay connected in person, because if you knew Tracy, you know she was an amazing friend. I often envied her closeknit ties with high school girlfriends and her mom’s group. No, envied is the wrong word. Envy implies you think the other person doesn’t deserve what they have. Admired is better. She encouraged me to attend the Blissdom conference, but I chickened out, worried I would feel like an outsider, or a fraud. Another missed opportunity.
The last words we exchanged were via Facebook on May 18. Upon seeing my post about relocating, she replied “Oh, that’s great! Closer to me!” And I definitely planned to take advantage of the shorter drive to invite her for lunch, or a movie. To reconnect. You hear life is too short, but how often do we think, I’ll do that someday?
I have typed and retyped this last paragraph expressing my sympathies to those closest to her, her family and friends, but I don’t have Tracy’s way with words. Though maybe there just aren’t any for tragedies like this. So I will just say she touched so many people, in life and through her writing, and her grace, kindness, humour and friendship will be greatly missed.
A while back I was inspired by this Top 20 List of Legendary Lyrics to come up with a list of my personal favourites. I agree with many of the choices (“Time of Your Life (Good Riddance)” by Green Day would have been our final wedding song, if we’d had a dance. And while I love “Landslide”, I actually prefer the Dixie Chicks cover), but here are some others that deserve mention:
Any line from “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon, of course.
Just about anything written by Dallas Green. Genius.
“When you say it’s gonna happen now,
Well, when exactly do you mean?
See I’ve already waited too long…” – “How Soon is Now”, The Smiths
“So can you understand?
Why I want a daughter while I’m still young
I wanna hold her hand
And show her some beauty
Before all this damage is done.
But if it’s too much to ask, it’s too much to ask
Then send me a son.” – “The Suburbs”, Arcade Fire (and no, don’t read into this that I want a daughter…)
“For a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself…” – “Karma Police”, Radiohead
“Life is too short, so love the one you got,
‘cause you might get run over or you might get shot.” – “What I Got”, Sublime (recently overheard 7.5 year old singing this line…)
“All I ever wanted, all I ever needed, is here, in my arms.” – “All I Ever Wanted”, Depeche Mode (I used to dance BB#1 to sleep to this song.)
“Open up your ears and clean out your eyes
If you learn to love, you’re in for a surprise
It could be nice to be alive.” – “Alive”, Beastie Boys (I bought a pregnancy test after this song made me cry. Positive.)
“That’s a fine looking high horse
What you got in the stable.” – “Take Me to Church”, Hozier
“Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
If I didn’t I’m a fool you see
No one knows this more than me.” – “Just Breathe”, Pearl Jam (aka my funeral song)
“Some have wine and castle keep
But they can’t watch you drift asleep.”– “I Have You”, Connie Kaldor (mothers, I dare you to listen and not cry.)
“People say I’m crazy, doing what I’m doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I’m OK they look at me kind of strange,
Surely you’re not happy now you no longer play the game.” – “Watching the Wheels”, John Lennon
“Whenever I’m alone with you
You make me feel like I am home again.” – “Love Song”, The Cure (another potential wedding song, except that my husband is not a fan…)
“You can’t write if you can’t relate.” – “Loser”, Beck
“I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
It’s something that I’m supposed to be
Someday we’ll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me.” – “Rainbow Connection”, Kermit the Frog
What are some song lyrics that speak to you?
We’ve been house hunting lately. We have yet to buy a place. Here are some reasons why not:
The hair salon in your basement. Someone will love that! I’m not that someone.
The price. You’ve priced it 100K too high for a house that needs 100K of work done on it. And yes, the pink 1970’s bathroom fixtures would have to go.
It backs on to a restaurant. Convenient? Yes. Appealing? No.
It’s beautiful inside, but I can see a factory from your front door.
You turned the garage into a bedroom/bathroom.
2500 square foot house, and your kitchen still has less counter and cupboard space then my 1300 square foot townhouse. And my kitchen is the reason I want to move!
It’s going to cost me money to undo all the “quaint” personal touches you added over the years, and yet the price suggests you are expecting to get the money you invested back out. Good luck with that…
There’s a two-car garage, but you blocked it off with a fence and a shed.
The hot tub overlooking your family room.
I just bet the “green space” your house backs on to is used by the neighbors as a garbage dump, and the local teens as a place to “hang out” and “do stuff” on Friday nights…
Your neighbours’ toddler and preschooler kept running back and forth behind our car when we were trying to back out of your drive after the open house, while your neighbors just looked on and did nothing. I don’t want to be afraid I’m going to run someone over every time I leave the house!
The falling down fence in your listing pictures.
The alcove we called “the murder room”…
There’s snow in all the listing pictures, and it’s May. If no one has bought it so far, I’m certainly not getting suckered into it!
Your agent never responded to our request to see it! For reals!
Your neighbour’s above-ground pool is literally touching the shared fence, making it about three feet from the kitchen window.
Bonus: while I wouldn’t turn my nose up at the perfect house because of this, I’ll admit the unflushed toilet with the lid up did not help me fall in love with yours!