Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Spring Break!!!

Oh my goodness, I have been BUSTING to talk about this for nearly the entire two weeks I have been away....

I have finally nailed down my spring break plans, and I could not be more exited!!! No tropical vacation or trip to back to Paris for me (which I was looking in to until I remembered that I don't have a MONEY TREE in my backyard!!! I really need to rectify that.) Nope, I'm going to small town Iowa! Ah-WOO-HOO!

My very-bestest-friend-in-the-whole-wide-world (hi Rachelle!) and her hubby live there with their two boys, one who I have yet to meet! He'll be 5 months old when I go down to see him. I am SO looking forward to seeing them! I definitely miss seeing them all the time since they moved down there nearly two years ago... NO! Wait... THREE years ago. Wow. They used to live 8 blocks away from me. I miss them!!!

BUT, that's not all!!! I have met lots of very neat-o people through blogging. Three of those neat-o people are Sarah Cool, Anne, and Jean. Sarah lives in Cincinnati, and Anne and Jean live in Michigan (Ann Arbor? Grand Rapids? Somewhere in that area...) They are each such neat women, and I really enjoy reading their blogs and corresponding with them over email. I've chatted with Anne a bit on messenger, and Sarah and I talk on the phone sometimes, too. They have truly become friends, not just people whose blogs I read.

So, I figured it's about time I meet them!

After spending a few days in Iowa with Rachelle and Nathan, I'm taking the train up to Chicago and meeting up with Jean and Anne and Sarah for a total girl's weekend!!! We're booking a hotel, going to go see a show, and taking in the sights in Chicago!


I've been telling friends that it's simultaneously the nerdiest yet coolest thing ever! It amazes me how small the world is getting!

So here I sit doing a little excited dance in my chair! I fly out in 18 days!!!

Here's Anne!_____Here's Jean!_____Here's Sarah!

Two weeks

Well, it's been an interesting two weeks. Thank you all for your comments, emails, phone calls, and visits. They have been such an encouragement to me. It always amazes me the care that comes out of the woodwork here in the blogosphere (and even more so in real life!). Thank you for those of you who have been praying for me.

I won't really get into a lot of what was going on with me (and still is, though things are getting better), but suffice it to say that I have been feeling more than a little overwhelmed with work and with a whole bunch of stuff coming at me in my personal life all at once, too. That, paired with just the blah-ness and monotony of February, it got a little much.

I've been up to not a whole lot of exciting stuff the last two weeks*... getting priorities re-established, learning a lot about myself, and trying to develop better habits. I've also learned that I have better friends than I even thought I had (and I already knew they were great!). Thanks especially to Trudy, Bex, Sarah, Brad, and Brian for your extra doses of listening, care, and prayers these past few weeks. A gal couldn't ask for better friends!

So I still have more work than I could possibly do, I'm still working on getting (and keeping!) my priorities straight, working on some character stuff, and I'm still trying to figure out what the heck to do about this lil' ol' heart of mine (in the metaphorical sense... my ACTUAL heart is healthy, as far as I know!).

Blogging will probably be fairly sparse for a while yet, but just thought I'd pop on and say hello. Yes, I'm still here!

* Well, that's not entirely true. I was away last weekend with 6 other friends. We rented a "cabin" (it was gigantic!) right on the water in Qualicum Beach on Vancouver Island and chilled out there for the weekend. It was glorious. Time spent with good friends, falling asleep and waking up to the sound of the waves, spectacular views, lots of good food and good wine, a few good soaks in the hot tub, long walks on the beach, a crazy dance party, and lots of laughs... I hadn't been that relaxed for a very very long time.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Sometimes you've got to just walk away

So that's what I'm doing.

I hit the breaking point today. I'm not ok.

But I will be. Hopefully sooner than later.

I'm taking some time to make sure I get back on track.
I don't know when I'll be back. Not for at least two weeks.

In the meantime, go snoop in my blogroll - see who I read, head over, enjoy!

This is me, over and out.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Emphasis mine

OK, OK, OK!!!

Wow. That little 'men's cologne' post sure generated a lot of interest in the comments! Also, when I got home, I had THREE messenger windows open with people asking about it, AND one voicemail. Hokey dinah.

I was going to leave it as an enigma, but I'm afraid of what some of you might do to me if I don't explain myself! haha!

So. Friday after school, I had to call one of my student's parents to just explain a comment I made to her in class about her assignment. Messages have been crossed before, so anytime this same issue comes up, I call the parents to explain the same thing to THEM so that we're clear. I believe it's called covering my a$$. I made my phone call and went back up to my classroom.

So where does the cologne come in, you ask? I noticed it while I was on the phone, but didn't really think anything of it, other than thinking, "Phew! That's STRONG!" But an HOUR later, up in my room and an entire floor and opposite end of the building later, I was still catching whiffs of the cologne on me. From using the telephone.

There's a teacher at my school who kinda bathes in it... though it's never overwhelming when you're talking to him, so I don't know what's up with that. But he's also always on the phone (during non-teaching times), and the phone in the nurse's room and the phone right outside his classroom pretty much permanently smells like his cologne.

So much so that *I* smelled like it an hour after using the same phone.

So there's the story. Sorry it's not juicy! hehe. Or is this just a cover-up...?
(HA! Yeah right)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

A breath of fresh air

I went down to Stanley Park today to get down to the beach, to walk, to enjoy the sunshine, to take some pictures, to clear my head a bit. I realized I needed to allow myself the time to just relax and do something I enjoy doing. I need to do way less of what I usually do, which is fret about the work I have to do, and not really do the work and not really relax, either. More work. More play. Less fret. It's a recipe for a happier Hillary. I need to spend more time doing things that make me happy.

"Is it something that makes your life better?"

That's a question a friend asked me a while back, and it's become a really good measure by which to judge whether what I'm doing is worthwhile (not that I remember to use it, but hey, it's a process!).

So let's take a look at today, shall we? It was a beautiful day. Sunny and clear after many days of grey. And, sorry to all you socked-in-by-snow-and-freezing-your-tushies-off folks out there, but it was warm. (I even saw a few folks out in shorts, one guy in sandals! Crazy!) Despite all the downed trees, the park was still, well, Stanley Park. There's a reason it's called the jewel of Vancouver.

It was BUSY today, too. But with the business comes the kids, comes the families, comes the "Give me another underduck, daddy!" and the "Look mommy! A jellyfish!" and the run-skip-and-jumping and the kisses on the tops of toussled-haired heads.

I love watching families playing together.

I love being by the ocean.

I love taking out my camera and just shooting whatever.

I love looking at the incredible, glorious place that I live.

I love hearing God saying, "I love you."

Was it something that made my life better? Absolutely!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


... cause it's easier than seven, but more detailed than three. I snagged this one from Leesepea, pretty much one of the coolest teachers ever. Consider yourself tagged!

Four jobs I have had in my life:
1. Summer camp counsellor/activity instructor (canoeing, archery, etc. O yes. I've given a six year old a bow and arrow. Fready deaky.)
2. Labourer at a grain elevator (which, one shift, involved suiting up in paper coveralls and industrial air filter mask thingy, hunching over underneath a 4 foot tall platform and scraping out the four inched of rat crap - complete with dead rat - that had been piling up underneath for who konws how long. Cause you really wanted to know that.)
3. Before I had my teaching degree: substitute teacher, private school teacher, bartender/hostess, tutor, babysitter, all at the same time.
4. Maintenance worker at the Capilano Suspension Bridge. I chased Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins around the park with a broom once. Oh yeah.

Four movies I would watch over and over:
1. Amelie
2. Zoolander
3. The Emporer's New Groove (noooo touchy!)
4. The Princess Bride. I really need to buy that movie.

Four places I have lived:
1. North Vancouver, BC
2. Vancouver, BC
3. Mackenzie, BC (a teeny tiny town located here - zoom in to see how out in the boonies it is, whose major attraction is the world's largest tree crusher)
4. Hope, BC (does 9 summers working at camp count?)

Four TV shows I love to watch:
1. Grey's Anatomy
2. King of Queens (mostly cause it's on at the time I'm usually home and crashing after work)
3. ummm...??? wow, I don't watch a lot of TV these days... My Name is Earl
4. um um um.... I really should start watching The Office (right, Sarah?)

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Penticton, BC - we went there nearly every summer growing up
2. Europe! (um, so that's kinda broad: highlights - Paris and the Cinque Terre)
3. Iowa
4. Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia

Four Favorite foods:
1. Thai red curry with chicken and vegetables -yummmm
2. Tortilla Pie with black beans. I should make it for you sometime.
3. Pretty much anything Mexican
4. "Recipe" (Nana's creation. Basically ground beef and gravy with peas, carrots, and corn over 'smashed potatoes.' It's a warm fuzzy memory from childhood. I haven't had Nana's 'recipe' in years. No-one else can make it the same way she does.)
5. Mangoes. Yes, I know that's 5. Mangoes MUST make the list. And Pineapple. Basically, I belong somewhere tropical.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It never ends - an after school tale *updated*

3:00 - Bell rings, students are dismissed

3:03 - I snag the seven kids who I have to talk to after school. I get one down to work - he owes me 15 minutes for wasted class time today.

3:05 - I explain the social studies assignment to the three kids who missed the explanation while they were in band, and the one student who was away all day at a First Nations conference.

3:12 - I determine why S, my extremely academically low and highly HIGHLY distractable student was asked to stay after school after their grammar class. She totally lost focus and did nothing all class. Huh. Quel surprise. She's been driving ME batty the last two weeks with fiddling with stuff in her desk, doodling, talking to her neighbour, and just generally not paying attention. Then when she goes to do her work? "I'm stuck." After school today, I begin by assuring her she's not in trouble with me (or else she'll totally shut down) and we ask what are some of the things that make her lose focus. We check in her desk and determine what things are a distraction and what aren't. We develop strategies and rules for her to help her stay focused. Pencil and eraser on the floor during lessons. Pencil crayons, scissors, pencil sharpener on the bookshelf by my desk for her to get when she needs them. Comic books and toys OUT of her desk. Hands are to be on top of desk at all times. Let's see how tomorrow goes.

3:26 - We finish up and I tell S, "OK, see you tomorrow!" She stands there staring at me. "Can I leave now?" "YES! haha, You're freeee!" I cringe inwardly. She doesn't realize I just said she could go.

3:29 - My friend arrives from her kindergarten class downstairs and we head out for a coffee, walk, and a long overdue hang out session. Mmm... chai latte. Even better was catching up with her. We're in the same building every day, and seem to have said no more than two sentences in a row with to each other for two months!

4:13 - Arrive back in my classroom. Check email, respond to a few, chill out for a few minutes.

4:30 - Make a step by step instruction page and worksheet to try to rescue my students from 2 digit by 2 digit multiplication hell. Photocopy it. Make overheads. Realize I've made a huge boo boo on the last page. Try not to rip all my hair out right then and there. Take apart packages, fix the master, recopy the last page.

5:47 - Make a list of what HAS to be done tonight. Marking for tomorrow. Shopping. Making a lab report page, complete with instructions for each station, observation tables, and follow-up questions.

5:54 - Plan the week's French lessons.

6:12 - Stealthily make my way down to the office. I am supposed to be gone by 6. Not gonna happen. Photocopy French vocabulary packages. Photocopy workbook pages.

6:26 - Head back upstairs to fill in day plan for tomorrow.

6:39 - Gather materials for science lab tomorrow.

6:52 - Write a few post-it notes for students telling them things they need to do right away tomorrow morning (cause I KNOW I'll forget!). Try to remember where the heck they sit. Leave the notes on their desks.

6:58 - Find custodian and tell him I'm leaving. An hour later than I'm supposed to be gone. AGAIN. Make a light comment about "yikes, I'm trying to be out by six, I swear!" Get chewed out by the king of rants. THE. KING. Once he gets on something, he doesn't stop. Ever. But, I can't complain much, cause he usually just lets me be.

7:04 - Get in my car and head to Home Depot.

7:18 - Arrive at Home Depot and wander the isles of the building supply section looking for items of varying surface texture. Find a few things and stop to mentally plan out my friction lab for tomorrow.

7:36 - Am snapped out of my daze by two customer service reps at the paint counter. "Can we help you?" Realize I've been staring absentmindedly into my cart for who knows how long, muttering to myself and counting on my fingers. "Oh! No, thanks. I'm planning a science lab for my students tomorrow. I was just thinking through some stuff. [in an over-enthusiastic voice:]We're learning about FRICTION!" As if they care. Kick myself for looking like a crazylady and sounding like such a dork.

7:48 - Go through checkout and realize I am SO. HUNGRY. No time to cook when I get home, so I apologize profusely to my body for what I'm about to do to it.

7:51 - Drive through the window at McDonalds. At least I got a side salad with my burger? And skipped the pop/sugarwater? But I did get a small fries, I am so weak!!!

8:03 - Arrive home and woof down my meal. The banana, bran buds, and yogurt I had for lunch just wasn't holding out. (Yes, I've succumbed to my school's bran insanity. They've sucked me in.) Check email, read some blogs while I'm eating.

8:19 - Begin this post.

It is now 9:04. I still have to mark a class set of story outlines, make the lab report, and... and... and... oh shoot, there was something else... [checks list] RIGHT. Stamps. Cripes. I've been forgetting those for almost a week now. There's no way I'm going out again tonight.

Mental note: roll up rubber-backed carpet for lab tomorrow. I have to pack a lunch, too, cause I have to work through lunch tomorrow to set up the lab.

Marking, here I come!

... if I don't collapse at my desk first.

*updated* - It's 11:28pm. I give up. No lab report yet. I suppose I can get up early... or make them write it out themselves. Now THAT'S a recipe for a gong show. Stupid story plans aren't finished either. A friend called shortly after posting, I talked to him for about half an hour, then decided my dishes really needed doing and my brain really needed a break from school stuff. Now here I am staring blankly at my pile'o'marking and my brain is rebelling. Or sleeping. My vote is with the latter. Methinks I'll make my body catch up with my brian.

*updated again* - 6:17am. *YAWN* OK. Lab report. Here we go.

*final update* - 7:56am. Lab report printing. Holy SMOKES, I've got to GO!

Friday, February 02, 2007

How to make your teacher misty-eyed

I knew they were planning something. Ten year-olds have a hard time containing their excitement, and still seem to believe that if a person can't SEE you, they can't hear you, either. All week I'd been hearing comments like, "Friday is going to be the best day ever!" quickly followed by "Shhh! Don't tell her that!!!" and "Miss Hillary, you're going to be so surprised!" again follwed by, "Shhhh!!!!" Yesterday at lunch, I was walking from my class to the staffroom and passed some of my students working at a table in the hallway. I was no more than six feet past them when I heard, "Oh my gosh, she jsut walked past!" "Do you think she saw?" "I can't believe she jsut walked by!" "We need to go hide this stuff!" I tried to keep my body rigid to mask the fully body shakes that surely would have accomapnied the laughter that was pouring out of me, albeit silently.

I figured they were making me a birthday card and might be drawing a happy birthday sign on the blackboard or something. Nothing could have prepared me for what I walked into today...

My plan was to arrive a little early and 'conveniently' leave the classroom door open and go do some prep elsewhere so the kids could do whatever. BUT, I slept a little late and had a few early phone calls from friends and family, so I didn't end up getting to school till about 20 minutes before the bell.

I didn't even have the car door closed when I heard one of my students calling to me from accross the street and in the playground, "Miss Hillary, I need help with my socials! I didn't get it."

Oh brother.

"Ok, M, let's let me get into the school first, ok? I'll meet you up in the classroom." Always on duty, apparently.

There must have been a memo or something, because EVERYONE knew it was my birthday today. I tell you, I couldn't round any corner without well wishes from students and staff alike. It was so sweet!

As I approached the stairs to my room, I heard whispers of, "Here comes Miss Hillary!" "Sh! She's COMING!" There were a few kids waiting outside my door, which was decorated with balloons and a great big sign wishing me happy birthday. Aw!

But that was nothing compared to what awaited me when I walked in. As I opened my door, I hear a voice from inside my room counting down.

3... 2... 1...

As I walked in, kids from both grade 5 classes came pouring out of the cloakroom yelling SURPRISE!!! The room was covered in balloons, streamers, and all kinds of twisty balloon animals and shapes. I was shocked! The kids were BUSTING with exitement, all rallying around me with birthday wishes and stories of how they had pulled this all together. Apparently while they've been in grammar thislast week with Mme M, one of the other grade 5 teachers, they'd been doing a crash course in party planning. There were about 20 kids who had been at school since SEVEN THIRTY in the morning setting up. That's over an hour before school starts. I was blown away.

Even M, who accosted me for help with socials, was in on it. "Miss Hillary, I was a decoy! I had to stall you! Didn't I do a good job???" Laughing, I told him, "Yes! You did! I was WONDERING what so so ipmortant that you couldn't even wait till I was out of my car! ;-) "

Wading through the kids, I got to my desk to see it piled with gifts and cards. I was quickly given strict instructions not to go down to the office. Oookay. I asked a group of girls if I could go to the staff room to put away my soup. I was granted permission, so long as they could follow me, "so you don't try any tricky business!"

So down the hallway I went, six ten and eleven year old girls in hot pursuit. "We like stalking people!" "Well you sure are good at it!" I decided that if they were going to follow me, they needed to do something silly. So off I went doing a goofy Hillary dance and then some good ol' disco moves. They fell into line perfectly!

After the bell rang, another staff member told me that the Vice wanted to talk to me, and don't worry, she'd watch my class. Uh huh. I tiptoed out, hamming it up. "Gee, I sure hope I'm not in touble!!!" said I to my kidlets.

No sooner had I gotten to the office than they told me that I was needed back in my classroom. Right. Up I go. I walked in to another countdown, and both entire grade 5 classes piled into my room (55 kids!), with sparklers and two cakes complete with candles. They all sang me happy birthday, and we posed for some photos.

As a thank you to my kids for planning such a great surprise, we had an impromptu class party. Cake, music, and games for the first 45 minutes of school!

I am so blessed to have such a great class, and an AMAZING teaching partner who loves to just give and give and give. Those kids may drive me bonkers sometimes, but I love 'em! This has got to be the best birthday I've had in a very long time! And it's not even over yet!!!

Happy Groundhog Day!!!

And happy birthday to me! Hee hee!