Fall and Field Hockey

November 12th, 2011 by Annie

Yes, it has been a long time, but this fall I’ve been too busy to even think about blogging. However, since I’m suffering from a herniated disk and I’ve decided to spend most of the weekend on the couch, now is a good to write.

First, the herniated disk: I’ve dealt with pain before – years of knee pain, recovering from heart surgery, other back woes, but they have all paled in comparison to the pain of this. It has gotten so bad that my chiropractor is sending me to a pain specialist. I can’t stand outside my classroom door for the full five minutes between classes. I can’t walk down the hall to the main office. I can’t stand up and teach my class unless I put one leg up on a chair. Even then I don’t last very long and I have to sit down. At the end of the day I get home and doze on my living room couch until I’ve recovered enough to move to the family room couch and watch TV.

Fortunately, I’ve been getting lots of help both at school and home – people pick up my mail or walk my class if they need to go to another part of the building. Scotty has been dealing with a lot of dinners and shopping. John doesn’t complain when I ask him to bring me my ice pack or tote and fetch other things. Finally, today I have seemed to turn a corner and the pain is minimal.

The best part of my fall was coaching the JV field hockey team at West Potomac. When I was in high school there was nothing better than being out on the field, playing hockey on a beautiful fall afternoon. Things haven’t changed. But this season it wasn’t just my love for running up and down the field and smacking the ball that made it so great; it was dealing with the girls on my team. It was a joy to work with friendly, enthusiastic kids who were always happy to see me, really liked each other, and wanted to work hard and get better. It was gratifying to see them improving in ways both on and off the field. I even loved that my most timid freshman at the beginning of the year was talking out of turn by the end.

After a day of working with my emotionally disturbed (ED) students who are frustrating to work with since they tend to be angry and uninspired students who don’t want to listen or focus on their work, my players would always rejuvenate me. My best moments were in the middle of a half time huddle asking the players to comment on what they were doing well and then talking about what we needed to improve for the second half. I’d come out of the center of 22 players who were all eager to share and encourage each other feeling like that huddle was the place I was absolutely meant to be.

Such a contrast to my days at school! Sure I’ll sometimes have a few minutes when a peace will settle over the classroom - when everyone is focused and really tuned into what I’m saying and even appear to enjoy it. And then something will blow. One student will look at other – words will be exchanged and then . . . Sometimes with a quick word I can contain the disruption and we’ll continue on. Other times, I’ll need to chat with someone in the hallway or send someone out of class. On a good day I can anticipate things and stop them before they really get started. On a bad day, well, I’m writing referrals and contacting parents. As I say to the students, “I don’t get you into trouble; I just report your behavior.”

Most days I’ll have one or two small things which will make me feel like I’m making progress and those thoughts will carry me through the rough spots. But occasionally I have my “suck it up and get through it days,” when I’m wondering why I’m working with these kids. Those are the days I wish that it was still field hockey season so I could go out to the field, hit some balls, chat with the girls, and feel rejuvenated.

Back Again

July 24th, 2011 by Annie

I haven’t really given up blogging. It just appears that I have.

To say I’ve been busy this year is putting it mildly. (Well, I was up until July 9th. Since then I’ve recovering.) And actually, I’ve been more than just busy. I’ve been mentally consumed by other things - first being a first year teacher who is trying to get her masters and keeping up with her family and then with planning and attending All Star I.

My school year ended well. And by “well” I mean that my students seemed to learn things and more importantly I know much more about how I want to teach next year. Plus I’m much better at conflict resolution than I ever was before. Emotionally disabled kids are tough. They all have earned their labels. What kept me going was about half way through the year I started looking at some of their antics as fodder for a chapel service at Star. This helped me keep things in perspective and laughing instead of crying.

However, I don’t think any of the stories actually made it into our chapel service. But it turned out okay anyway. As did the rest of the week. And when I say, “Okay” I mean really well with rave reviews. Both Scotty and I will feel good about the All Star week for a long time. I plan to pull out this feeling in mid-February when things are going badly and the grey has gotten me down and remember that Larry Yermack said our week was an “11 on a scale of 1 to 10.”

If I’m depressed enough at that point I’ll also remember that Larry thinks the chairs only account for about 20% of whether people have a good time. Joe Watts thinks the weather covers another 50%. And just being back at Star with so many long term friends makes up the rest. We certainly had the cooperation of the weather – except for Sunday it couldn’t have been better – perfect blue skies, warm enough to swim, but not so hot you did much sweating, and some interesting clouds brought on by nearby thunderstorms. The All Star I people are dear friends who I can never spend enough time with. And to add to it most of Scotty’s and my family were out for the week.

Not that I ever got all the conversations in that I would have liked to have had, but once I adjusted to the fact that as soon as the conference was set in motion all the volunteers stepped in and did their jobs to perfection. I know I’d always worked really hard to make sure that the activity we were in charge of went as well as possible. But what I hadn’t realized in our planning was that everyone in All Star functions this way. For example, we wrote down a banquet theme of the “Roaring 20’s – Flappers and Gangsters” and got ladies in fringy flapper dresses and feather headbands and men in zoot suites and hats; Adrian, Carl, and Jackie crooning 20s songs at social hour; a ragtime interlude at dinner; color coordinated tables; and comments which sounded straight out of the 20s. Our only effort in making this happen was agreeing with Caitlin when she came up with the theme and letting people know about it.

Early on you could feel it was going to be a good week. I had several long time shoalers stop me in the first day or two and comment on how they could feel the positive buzz. While I think part of this was due to Dale and Keith getting everyone off to a friendly start with their get acquainted game on the boat, I think the rest was due to people ready to come together as a group and help each other to get over the two recent losses in the community. People came ready to share their strength and love and that helped to set a tone that carried through the entire week and couldn’t even be wiped out by the 4 a.m. fire drill. I think our reward for being so good at quickly responding to that was that beautiful predawn sky that lit up everyone’s faces.

We were pleased, but not surprised by how well our speakers went over. Of all the things we worried about, our speakers were one of them. Based on comments other people may have had their concerns, but they were quickly dispelled and everyone really enjoyed the lectures. Plus it was fun seeing Louise be a superstar. And hopefully she will run for office someday.

But the best part was that I got to have a great Star Island week. As always, it will probably turn out to be the best week of the year because it was full of great moments and great people. I’ve got a lot of wonderful memories to pull out this school year when things get rough. Memories like the everyone in the chapel singing “God Bless America” gospel style since that is what Kemp told us to do; Andrian and Ray working out “American Tune”; Nancy Wood leading our “Glee” discussion; a quiet lunch with the senior Powsners; walking through social hour on Sunday in my purple, not black, sweater; sitting in a rocking chairs circle with friends on the porch; dancing in Marshman on Thursday night then going back to my room and realizing that Newton was rocking just as loudly; watching the softball game from the dock and feeling completely relaxed; hearing Nancy Meyer describing Dick’s reaction to the fire alarm; listening to the women sing “Obladi Oblada” with Louise’s words about us; “Singing in the Rain”; Dick calmly pointing out that I was rowing backwards in the mix up at the start of our race; realizing how completely silent the dining room was during my banquet speech; sitting outside of Chapel pleased that it had been revived by Tom and Heather on our watch; watching the speakers argue in their rocking chairs on the stage in Elliott; and listening to Kemp singing jazzy numbers in social hour one night. I can’t wait to go back.

Spring Break!

April 16th, 2011 by Annie

I’ve never looked forward to spring break as much as I have been for the last few weeks. I’m so glad it is here because I truly need a break. I love my job. Really, I do. I go in happily every day and enjoy the work I do for it on the weekends. But I’m exhausted.

I think if all I had to do was my job, I’d be fine. But I’ve also got a Wednesday nights master’s class from 4:30 to 9:00 which makes for a 13 hour day. And it requires homework. On Tuesday and Wednesday I spent every spare second I had a school on getting my homework done. And I don’t really have any spare seconds there. (I guess it would have been easier if I had done my homework over the weekend, but my weekend mornings go toward planning for the week and I spent Saturday afternoon coaching soccer and Sunday afternoon on yard work. Plus the All Star planning took some time, too.)

I have tried to cut out extraneous activities. But they keep creeping up on me. The life of a six grader’s mother is a pretty busy job in itself. This week John’s afternoon/evening schedule was: Monday - boy scouts; Tuesday - soccer practice; Wednesday - West Potomac spring show practice; and Thursday - chorus concert. And that is just John. The girls require some attention, too. I did have a fleeting thought a couple of months ago that if I could just abandon my family I might be able to handle everything else. But then I realized I would miss them and gave up that idea. Mostly.

Tech Day

February 19th, 2011 by Annie

Today is our first tech day for my Odyssey of the Mind team. Depending how much we accomplish we’ll either have one or two next weekend in addition to our now twice a week practices. The competition is on March 5th so we are running out of time.

The nice thing about my OM team this year is that generally the kids are on autopilot. I set them up with a few questions or step in with a reminder to focus, but basically I just sit back and let them go. They’ve worked together since first grade so they really know what they need to do and for the most part how to do it. I just get the kids to brainstorm together whenever they get stuck and occasionally remind them of rule number one: “Don’t get hurt!” (Simon broke his foot while dancing at our first practice so this is a concern of mine.)

Right now we are in the midst of three hours of building scenery and props. My role is to keep everyone focused and on task. Since these kids are the opposite of the ones I work with everyday this is fairly easy to do. Plus no matter which way I mix the kids up in groups they’ll all just accept the group their in and work happily. I can’t tell you how refreshing this when compared to my day job.

My only real concern is that while this team may be fabulous at coming up with plots and characters and songs and dances, they can’t build things very well so the results of today may not be as good as they are hoping for. Since they really want to go to Worlds I am hoping that their play will compensate for their props. It may since they will also be scored on an original song and dance and those are our strengths. Or rather theirs. I just sit and watch. The other day in about three minutes they came up with their “Laughing Gas” song which is amazingly good. It has multiple parts, harmonies, and an accompanying dance.

Time to call them back to work. They were thrilled that I gave them a break and they are out front happily throwing the football, but I’m sure they’ll all be ready to start up again. Because that is the kind of team they are.

Day 3

January 28th, 2011 by Annie

Three inches of snow have given us three snow days. This is one of those times I appreciate how much my family likes each other. We are all still laughing together at dinner instead of sick of each other. Of course, it helps that we had OM this morning and I went in for a few hours to school both Wednesday and today. Plus I finally saw the Harry Potter movie and took John so I’m good. Scotty has his work, Caitlin sent off her final college application, and John has his friends so they are good too.

Hopefully we can maintain this because the kids have a four day weekend ahead of them since we have teacher workdays on Monday and Tuesday. At least I’ll be out of the house for the last two days!


January 17th, 2011 by Annie

Once again, Caroline is living the life I aspire to. This time she is off to England to study at Oxford. I haven’t gotten a lot of details from her except that the group spent a day sightseeing in London, she really likes her professor for her two week seminar, and on New Year’s Eve her group had enough fun to inadvertently leave one of their own behind at a pub.

She is living in the UGA house at Oxford with the 20 or so other students in her program. From the pictures on the website is a rather grand house with a large dining room, library, and garden. It is exactly the kind of place I’d like to live, especially since it all comes with a housekeeper and probably a gardener. To top it all off she says the food is fabulous. She eats in the Keble dining hall, a 3/4 mile walk from her house.

Wearing out Lucky

January 2nd, 2011 by Annie

We’ve had a great visit from all the Stewarts, but it is a good thing we are down to just Dale and Keith since Lucky has turned into a very, very old dog over the last few days. Even lying down has become an ordeal for her as she has to slowly consider which limb to move first to get into the down position. Her snoring volume has increased so we could hear her at dinner even though all the Stewarts were, of course, talking. Fortunately for Lucky, her hearing seems to really have deteriorated so the talking and snoring hasn’t really been a problem for her.

Lucky does love these bi-annual visits since they includes her favorite people after Uncle Bobby. She is always thrilled to have Uncle John and the Knox brothers around and paying attention to her, especially since Russell no longer picks her up. After Sock’s death she was so depressed we even talked about having Stewart come over to cheer her up. But then it snowed and she turned back into just a fairly old dog instead of a practically dead one.

Since Lucky has basically stayed home and slept I don’t understand why she seems to be the most tired. While she has been snoring the rest of us having strolling around the monuments and across the Woodrow Wilson bridge, seeing movies and Candide, cooking breakfasts and dinners, and picking up and dropping off various relatives.

Update: Lucky has returned to her old annoying ways of busting out of the house and not wanting to come home. We are not amused.

My Superpower

December 18th, 2010 by Annie

Apparently I can affect the outcome of John’s basketball games. When I first arrived at his game today (after walking to the wrong school first) his team sunk a shot. Then I sat down and watched a 0-8 point run by the other team. When I mentioned this to the dad sitting next to me, he said perhaps I should stand. He was only kind of joking.

After another two points by the other team I took him seriously and stood up. Once I was on my feet John’s team put up 7 unanswered points and won by one. The dad congratulated me and now it looks like I’m standing for the rest of the season.

I’m actually hoping this is only a Fort Hunt gym thing because I’d much prefer to sit in the stands and chat with the other parents. Besides, I’m sure Scotty’s coaching is what really won the game.

An Expensive Snowstorm

December 18th, 2010 by Annie

Thursday’s mid-day snowstorm cost us $516 which is the repair cost for a broken tire rod in the Cabrio. But that amount includes the price of the lesson for Caitlin in learning how to stop in the snow.

As she was sliding through the stop sign she remembered Scotty’s advice for skidding was to take her foot off the break. Apparently she zoned out before she heard the, “And then pump the breaks so you’ll stop” part. She thought she was supposed to coast to a stop.

But now she knows to reapply the breaks and hopefully this will prevent future, much worse accidents. I’m just happy she wasn’t hurt. Plus this will be excellent fodder for teasing Caitlin for years.

We just should never let our girls drive the Cabrio in the snow. Several years ago Caroline slid off the road in it and into a fence. She wasn’t hurt either. She tried to explain to me that she wasn’t driving too fast. Oh really, Caroline? Then why did you end up in the fence? Apparently you were driving too fast. At least she hasn’t gone off the road since.

So the bottom line is that now any time it might snow Caitlin will drive the van and I’ll take the Cabrio. And we’ll remind her how to use the breaks. In the van it is steady pressure because of the anti-lock breaking system. Hopefully she’ll remember that!

A Long Day

December 15th, 2010 by Annie

Today is picking up Caroline day. Because she is going to Oxford for the spring semester she needs to bring home all of her stuff from UGA. Therefore, I’m flying down this morning to Atlanta, picking up a rental car, driving to UGA, loading the car, and then driving home with her. I got up at 4:30 am. Hopefully, we’ll be home by 11:00 pm.

Okay, so this is crazy, but I get to spend the day with Caroline. Plus I get to try out the free wireless on Airtran which is why I’m able to post this now.

Update: We rolled in at 10:17 after driving 590 miles in just over 9 hours. We are driving machines.