Our lights and ornaments sit out in the living room, waiting patiently for this year's tree, a reminder that I am not waiting quite so patiently.
Our mantle... Brad really did choose his blue stocking. And it was great until yesterday when he saw a KU stocking at Target.
This Willow Tree nativity was a wedding gift from my aunts and uncles on the Klaassen side.
In case you're wondering, the wise men are slightly separate because they don't actually show up until Epiphany. One year, in my mod, we had the wise men move around the room, closer and closer to baby Jesus, all advent long.
This carved nativity was a wedding gift from my growing-up pastor.
This is probably one of the most special gifts I have ever received. One year, for Christmas, five mysterious gifts showed up under the tree, one for each kid and one for mom, the labels scrawled in dad's unmistakable handwriting. Each box held a nativity, because, as dad said, "Everyone should have a nativity." Each was from Ten Thousand Villages. Mine is carved stone from Vietnam. It has three wise men and a shepherd, also.
It started a tradition, and each year since then we have received "mystery gifts" from dad.
The Crippled Lamb and Humphrey... were mystery gifts one year. Danny Dozer was last year, along with John Deere Jenga. The Christmas Storybook was a staple of my childhood.
Christmas this year will be different. Thursday we will wake up at my parents' house and open presents. This week will be a frenzy of activity with my family. But that means that Christmas won't be. It's different. Not better. Not worse. Just different...
I feel like this is where I should have something profound to say about that. Sorry. I don't. Give me a break, please. I'm still recovering from the broken drawer fiasco. (It's still an available project for the bored handyperson. Anyone? Really. Anyone?!)
I've been taking great comfort in this over the weekend... Sometimes smart people do stupid things.
Like bang body parts on doorways and shelves. Hard.
Like misplace a cookbook.
Like lose a hubcap. Uh-huh, that's right, a hubcap like from the car.
Like break a kitchen drawer.
Just in case you're still unclear, yes, I have done all of these things in a matter of days. Well, the hubcap could be weeks ago. I don't pay that much attention to my tires...
I'm not sure how I managed to get anything done this weekend.
But I did. Of course there was the laundry. And cleaning up after the high school girls who took over our living room Friday night for the annual showing of Hoosiers. The Christmas decorations are up (minus the tree) and all presents are purchased and wrapped (purchased mainly thanks to Brad's patience and help). Four batches of peppernut dough are in the freezer. The kitchen is as close to spotless as my house ever gets. I guess I did alright.
And just in case you're doubting (like I was yesterday afternoon) that I can do anything without a horrible mishap... don't you just wish you lived closer to me, so you could come fix my drawer and enjoy some cookies?! I could probably even manage to lose something important for you, too.
It was tough to hear today that Grandma's cancer numbers (for lack of a better simple explanation) have gone back up - the cancer is active. I can't describe how I feel right now. So instead of dwelling or even processing... another:
Meet Meggie. She spent years in front of Grandma's porch, in the midst of mums and pansies and begonias. I still remember when they first bought her and put her out. She was unmistakably new. I immediately picked a few flowers and placed them in her basket, with the puppies.
From then on, my daydreamed stories at Grandma's revolved around this girl and her puppies. Her "life" was at the mercy of my imagination. Her life stretched my imagination.
I do not remember if it was that same day or one day later that week or even months later. But one day, Grandma told me, "I named the statue 'Meggie.' It's after you, but I couldn't use 'Megan' because the other grandkids would be jealous." At least, that's what my memory serves to me.
Never mind that my dad, brother, and Grandma have all called me "Meggie" for years... Of course my cousins wouldn't realize.
And it was at that moment when I, like all the grandkids did at one point or another I'm sure, became completely and irrevocably convinced that I was, in fact, the favorite.
Meggie was my first gift "from Donna, with love." I remember visiting one day, fairly soon after an apartment opened in town. Right before leaving for Abbey and Pete's wedding, I think.
By this time, Meggie had become weathered, speckled from years out in the Kansas sun, rain, snow, and wind, despite slight shelter from the porch overhang. Still, though, every time I would visit - as long as the flowers were blooming - the basket filled.
The first thing Grandma said that July evening, other than "Well, Melvin, if they're here to take our suitcases, we'd better pack!" was "Megan, you need to have Meggie. Take her today."
And so I, proudly and humbly at the very same time, loaded her into my car, mentally planning my flower beds around where Meggie would stand.
Just a few weeks ago, I met Grandma and Grandpa at the house (the farm? the old house? the country house? Grandma and Grandpa's? I don't even know what to call it anymore) to pick up a tablecloth and dig some mums.
While carefully placing the wedding dish into a waiting box, Grandma explained to me how she just hopes to make sure each grandchild has one "really special" piece from her house.
I'm not sure she quite understood when I tried to explain to her, but I already have mine.
Basketball has begun. Yesterday practice was over by 5:30 and Brad was home long before 6, ready to eat. Today, I made supper, anticipating another such day. Alas. I wait still.
Now, you know, I'm sure, that I'm definitely not complaining. I love basketball season. It's just an adjustment. And this year, I think, it will especially be an opportunity for - um - growth (especially in the patience category, for Coach K.). So while I wait...
2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. melted butter
3/4 c. milk
1 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen (I like to buy them when they're on sale in the summer and freeze some)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients; in a separate bowl combine all wet ingredients. (For muffins, it's important to combine the dry and wet ingredients separately to avoid over mixing and therefore tough or chewy muffins.) Fold wet into dry, careful not to over mix. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin tins. Sprinkle tops of muffins with sugar (optional). Bake 20-25 minutes until tops are firm to the touch.
One of the unheralded benefits of my job is being culturally enlightened by 11- and 12-year-olds. It must be time for the holidays when a student is singing "Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey." Yes. It's true. The song exists. S. did not make it up as I had originally thought. I looked it up on You Tube during class and almost fell out of my chair laughing.......
Check out that link and watch the video. It's funniest the first time. But it's pretty darn funny every time after that. (If you don't laugh, don't worry. It just means you should not work with sixth graders. And you are slightly less cool than I.)
Also.... if you are planning to buy gifts from Barnes and Noble for any event in the near future, go this Saturday (November 21). My school library, along with the other middle school library in town, is hosting a book fair, and a percentage of all proceeds goes to our library. The one catch is that you need a certain id number in order for that credit to benefit us, book fair id #10060523. You can use the number at any B&N in the country. If you live in the Wichita area, there will be some entertainment at the Bradley Fair B&N starting at 1 (there will be a puppet show, in case anyone with little kids actually reads this, along with some music and maybe something else).
Please don't misunderstand me. I teach in a public school because I believe in public education and what it provides to kids. All kids. Without exception. I go to work every single day knowing that my job is important. I matter. I make a difference. I care deeply about each of these children, and I know that these problems will affect them, as much as we try to avoid that. Please remember that about my post, if nothing else.
Yesterday was rough. I had inservice. It included a faculty meeting. Our district principals met on Wednesday to talk about money. Those of you in public education can probably guess where I'm going with this.
The state of Kansas has no more money. In fact, they have less money than they planned on having. All services are suffering. It's true. Everything the state provides is getting cut in some way, shape, or form. (I know that the state provides many, many services. But the one I do know is education. So that is what this post, for the most part, is about.)
So far, for the most part, the budget cuts in public schools have avoided the classroom. So far. For the most part.
But that's about to change. There will be $150 per student cuts in the next few months. This is in addition to the at least $186 of per student cuts in the past year. Very likely, there will be another round of the same amount by the time the school year is out. In my district, as in probably every district in the state, this will mean people.
This is the information I started my Friday with. Needless to say, I did have an emotional breakdown or two before the day was over.
A 1% sales tax increase will help. It won't make the problems go away. It won't cure education or social services of the budget woes. But it will help. I can afford 1% if it means that so many people will still have jobs tomorrow.
I need to make this clear: this will affect you. Even if you don't attend a public school. Even if your kids don't. Let me repeat: these kids, who will be directly affected by these drastic cuts, are the future. They will be the teachers, the politicians, the businessmen and women, the doctors, the nurses, the electricians, the builders, the workers of the future in our country. Don't you want them to learn today so that they can lead tomorrow?
Brad's school t-shirt this year says "Learners Today Make Leaders Tomorrow." It's so true. Education is the profession that begets all others.
And even if the future doesn't interest you... If more people (social workers, teachers, education support professionals, custodians, etc...) lose their jobs, income tax revenues (and likely property tax, as fewer people will be able to afford to own homes) will decrese, ensuring that the state will have no more revenue to provide the services we enjoy.
It's not just education that's being affected. All public services provided by the state of Kansas are being affected. Roads, social services (foster care, adoption services...)... the list goes on.
So please, if you are a Kansas voter, contact your legislators. Tell them they need to find a way to fix the budget without cutting more and more and more. Tell them you're good with a tiny tax increase. It means education. It means safe homes for kids. It means roads to drive on. It means jobs. It means a better economy. Because our state will need it if we are going to recover soon.
http://www.kslegislature.org/legsrv-legisportal/index.do On the left-hand side of the page, find the House and Senate links. Once you are on the page, you can "find your legislator" by name, city, county, district, or committee number in the gold box on the right-hand side of the page. This will have contact information for your legislators. I've been told it will mean more to them if protests about school funding come from parents and concerned community members, rather than teachers whose pay and jobs are directly affected. I will still do what I can.
http://kasb.org/ On this website there is a power point presentation (Powerpoint Presentation Video with Tallman Voiceover ) over the achievement of Kansas schools and how it is connected to school funding. It also shows how Kansas consistently achieves in the top 10 states, according to national measures, yet has less funding than any other top ten state.
If you disagree or have a problem with what I'm saying here, please keep it to yourself. This is an incredibly personal and sensitive issue right now. I am stressed. I am worried. I am unsure how I can face 67 students on Monday like everything is the same as it was on Thursday. But I will, because that it what I do. I teach in a public school because I believe in public education and what it provides to kids. All kids. Without exception. I go to work every single day knowing that my job is important. I matter. I make a difference. I care deeply about each of these children. And I love my job. So thank you for your support.
I have almost no regrets.
Was it expensive? Yes.
Was it needed? No.
Was it maybe a bit frivilous? Yes.
Do I feel guilty, especially now that I've read Sarah's post? Yes.
But is it wonderful? Absolutely.
Yes, my little old point-and-shoot has served me so well these last few years. But it doesn't take good action photos, which is basically what I use my camera for from, oh, December to March.
This afternoon I finally convinced Brad that it's fun (yes, it took me all of about 22 hours). He has stopped referring to it as "your camera." I think.
I have lots to figure out. Basketball will start before I know it... so in the meantime, I will practice, read, and practice some more. And debate about whether or not to find a place to donate the old camera, since we really don't need two?