Back to School

Well, I survived my first week (technically a week and a half, but only four days of that was with students) as a middle school librarian!

This past Monday we didn’t have students, and because of an annoying scheduling fluke with day care (H will go to an actual day care center on Mondays) he ended up coming to work with me that day.

Lucky duck gets to make spreadsheets in his jammies.

Lucky duck gets to make spreadsheets in his jammies.

You're fired!

You’re fired!

He definitely has a village that loves him and wants to help raise him! Between all of the ladies at church, and everyone at school, he’s a very cared-about little kiddo.

Speaking of being loved, I’m a pretty lucky lady. R, who (for those of you who might not know) teaches at the same school as I, has always surprised me with flowers on the first day of school when I go to a new school. Tuesday was no exception as he employed two of the school’s administrators and various other staff members to distract me so that he could load up my desk with welcoming gifts:

Beautiful flowers in our school colors.

Beautiful flowers in our school colors.

School-colored watch straps!

School-colored watch straps!

School logo jewelry! Apparently our school shares a logo with Burberry, and R found an Etsy artist who repurposes Burberry buttons into jewelry!

School logo jewelry! (Sorry for the terrible photo quality.) Apparently our school shares a logo with Burberry, and R found an Etsy artist who repurposes Burberry buttons into jewelry!

The only word I can come up with for not being a classroom teacher is “surreal.” The first day, in particular, was a little bizarre to me; I kept feeling like a guest in someone else’s school, like I was just visiting and helping out before going back to my own classroom. The children seemed so tiny and young. I ended the day without having lost my voice. Nothing about it felt like the first day of school to me. I really loved being a classroom teacher, and it’s going to be quite an adjustment to slip into a role that feels a little bit more administrative.

As the week went on, things got busier and busier, and I found my rhythm. It’s still weird, but it has gone from feeling surreal to feeling pretty nice. I’m getting excited (all over again) about some ideas and upcoming events. I love my coworkers. And let me just say how nice it is to be going BACK to a school I already know, rather than going to an entirely new place. I always struggle to find my place socially, and here I feel like the worst of that is over.

One of my amazing assistants, B, came up with the idea of highlighting the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington in our end-cap displays. I found several MLK biographies and books about the March and about the Civil Rights Movement. I’m not sure if any of the kids got it, but I thought it was pretty neat and a subtle way to bring current events into the library.

We also made a display of some of the newest books in the library, which gave me some practice in reviewing past orders. I’m having a lot of on-the-job, on-the-fly training in different programs and systems and databases, and surely am thankful for my staff and their expertise and patience.

new books

There’s SO much to learn. As the Library Media Specialist, I’m not only the “book person” but also Level One Tech Support for the school. Everyone comes to us with their basic technology problems. One day, for example, we had four distinct problems with document cameras; we have frequent printer problems, issues with projectors, and — thanks to a district-wide software update — questions about how to use Microsoft 365. And it’s not as if we have consistent equipment from one classroom to the next, so I have to learn 3-4 different solutions to every problem. On top of that, of course, there’s just simply all of the details of working the library. No chance to get bored here!

It could all be a little intimidating, but honestly, nothing else is quite as intimidating as the faculty restroom nearest the library. What if it occurred unexpectedly? Are there alarms? Consequences? Such anxiety!

Even if I didn’t love my job (which I do) it would be worth it, though, to be able to walk in my front door at the end of the day and be able to spend my evening with Henry instead of grading mountains of papers or planning hours of instruction. I guess I ought to feel a little wussy or something for saying that, and I certainly don’t mean to downplay how surprisingly difficult librarianship is, but you know, I’m just at a different point in my life right now, and I’ve never believed in prioritizing work over family.

I don’t have to explain “leaving my baby to go to work” to anyone who has ever had to do it, and if you haven’t, I’m not sure I could do it justice. It wasn’t quite as hard as I’d feared, probably because he was staying with family — we are SO lucky. But it wasn’t what I’d call easy, and it made for a less enthusiastic back-to-school on my part. I’ve also found pumping to be (predictably) a PITA, but I might write more about that later. One thing about it: I’m a lot better about getting my work done within contract hours so that I can leave on time, now that I have a baby to get home to!

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Final verdict: I’m happy. It is different, and I miss CHS. But it is different in good ways, and it is right for me right now. I’m going to be challenged, I’m going to get to know a lot of great books and great kids, and hey, maybe I’ll even do some good for the universe. I’ve already decided that in addition to my Nerdfighteria mantra (don’t forget to be awesome) I’m going to bring in a little Jeffiness and make it my mission to make the library a place of sweetness and light for my students (all 1,000+ of them!) and my fellow staff members.

Oh, and I’m going to be eating my elephant one bite at a time, too. Mmmm, elephant. 🙂

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Shoes for My Stocking

I used to try to write a “December wish list” (my birthday is in December as well), for the fun of window shopping if not to provide actual shopping inspiration. I’d gotten away from doing so in the past year or two, but I actually have a few things that I’d love to show up in my stocking now — or rather, that I’d like to stick my stockings into — so here we go! Santa Claus, take note! 😉

I love shoes, but not like most women; you can keep your Manolo Blahnik wearable sculptures (okay, I like looking at them just fine) but please, keep my closet well-stocked with Alegria and Dansko! What can I say; I’m a teacher. I’m a big fan of comfy feet, and these brands are actually really cute and quirky on top of being kind to my toes. The only problem is that, at around $100 a pair, these are definitely special occasion purchases… or, this time of year, the perfect thing to request from the North Pole.

teva

I live in Teva Tirra sandals from the earliest hint of warmth in the spring until the last possible moment in late fall. And when I say “live in,” I mean it doesn’t matter if I’m at work, church, a mountain trail, the shopping mall, or wandering around my house in the middle of the night; these are my warm-weather uniform. Currently I have a pair of black and a pair of red; I’d LOVE a pair in Chocolate Chip. These are an awesome investment for me. If I had these, I would wear them until they fell apart three summers later — which, incidentally, is what is about to happen to my black ones.

The Tirra sandal is also apparently available in green, and I’ve been hunting for a pair of green shoes forever… just sayin’…

Speaking of green shoes:

_alegria greenIsn’t that beautiful? Perhaps the crown jewels of my shoe closet are my three pairs of Alegria Paloma mary janes. I love these not only because of how they feel, but because they come in such delicious colors! My existing Palomas are patent leather pink, yellow, and metallic red; I would dearly love to add this pair in Forest Magic to their ranks.

On those rare occasions when I actually acquire a pair of good work shoes, I tend to go for fun colors (hey, I work with kids, and besides, I’ve always said that life is too short to have boring feet). The consequence of this is that I don’t really have good shoes in black and brown — and as fun as school bus yellow shoes are, one doesn’t necessarily want to wear them to an important meeting, y’know? So if the elves were feeling like putting something practical under the tree, they could not go wrong with any of the following. (I especially lack brown shoes for some reason.)

_alegria black

The Alegria Abbi Oxford (shown above in Black Emboss Rose, but there are two other black versions that I like just fine) is a great shoe. I have a pair in blue that I adore and wear all the time, once it’s not Teva season :). The only sad thing is, I think the Abbi may no longer be in production, so it may be unobtainable.

_dansko brown_dansko black

I saw the Dansko Ainsley on the display table at Dillards and fell in love with the floral-ish detail and name, so despite the price I tried them on and really loved the fit (most Danskos are really wide, but these fit like a dream). They come in Dark Brown and Black, as well as some less practical metallic shades; honestly, in this shoe, I wouldn’t want the sheen. They’re pretty enough as is!

Others I like:

Just in case you are Santa Claus and actually want to spend $100 on a pair of shoes for your favorite blogger… Post-baby, I am a pretty solid 9.5, or a 40 in European sizes. No petite tootsies here! By the way, I’m linking to an online shoe emporium, but sometimes there are better prices on Amazon or other places.

The Difference a Year Makes

One year ago, all I knew for sure was that our most recent attempt to summon the stork (thank you, Piers Anthony, for enriching my collection of euphemisms at an early age) had been unsuccessful. As I geared up for another school year, my emotional strength was analogous to the physical strength of someone just completing physical therapy; our lost baby had been due July 4, 2012, and it hadn’t been the easiest of summers, but time and the power of writing therapy/talking therapy courtesy of the Boise State Writing Project summer institute had done a lot to glue me back together.

At the beginning of August, I knew that I hadn’t been pregnant a few weeks before.

But even though I hadn’t taken a test, by this time last year, I had a pretty strong feeling that the stork had finally checked its messages. And it wasn’t too much longer before my suspicions were gleefully, fearfully confirmed — fearful because I was so scared that we were in for another heartbreak.

Nine months of pregnancy lined up with nine months of teaching. There was a scare early on with some bleeding that cleared up. There was a point at which I really just didn’t know what to do with the idea that this little miracle inside me was going to be (duh duh DUH) a boy. There was exhaustion and terrible heartburn and the weirdest appetites. Some afternoons I’d have to pull over halfway home, not to throw up but to desperately scarf down potato chips or crackers or whatever else I could find in the car to stem the tide of stomach acid.

We were due April 25; I squirreled away my sick and personal days and began my maternity leave a few days early so that I could feel well-rested and ready. What a funny joke. By the time this baby — my baby — my son — arrived, it was four days into May, I was so exhausted I almost couldn’t remember how to use a toilet, and I felt just about as prepared as I had for weeks before. Not that I wasn’t ready — I was no more ready. I was so, so ready to be a Mama.

And now, I am the Mama of a beautiful, hilarious, so-sweet-it-gives-you-cavities three-month-old little boy. This kiddo wrinkles up his nose, snorts, and lunges like a hungry wolf puppy if he loses his grip on his dinner. He sleeps with his arms thrown over his head, just like his daddy, and his feet together and knees sprawled like a little froggy. He’s ticklish. He can sit up for a long time if he’s supported by a person or his Baby Snug, and when you put him on his tummy he holds his chest and head up practically forever, or until he remembers how to roll over onto his back, which is usually within thirty seconds. He has finally decided that it isn’t the Worst Thing Ever to be carried facing his carrier, which means he gives all kinds of great baby hugs. He tries constantly to fit his entire fist into his mouth, and currently likes the taste of his fingers or his little blanket-bear better than his pacifier. We had to remove the cushy newborn insert from his car seat, and now he fusses and squalls when we put him in it unless we can adequately distract him with funny faces and baby talk. He still loves having his diaper changed — Nakey Baby time, or Pants-Off Dance-Off — but has gotten a little nervous about his baths for some reason. He smiles and flirts at anyone who catches his eye and smiles at him. He babbles and hoots and has started to really delight in seeing how high he can crank the volume when he “talks” to his lambies or to us. Sometimes he sleeps for hours at a time. Sometimes he’s up every two hours on the dot whining for food. He lifts both legs at the hip as high as he can and then drops them, simultaneously, with a crib-shaking thud that helps him rotate a few inches at a time until he ends up 90 to 180 degrees from his original position on the mattress. We still can’t decide what color his hair is. His eyes are so blue, it’s astonishing. He likes music, from raucous hip-hop to meandering lullabies with misremembered lyrics. Sometimes, when I’m holding him, he lies there and stares at my face with the most adoring look in his eyes, for what seems like hours. I can’t tear my eyes away.

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My husband and I are both employed, full-time, by the same school.

Things that had fallen apart have come back together.

We are parents. We are a family of three. We have him. It’s like, you thought all the lights were on in the house, but it turns out there’s a dimmer switch and you’d never had your lights on all the way before.

What a difference a year makes.

From Where I’m Sitting

I am sitting in a chair at the desk that will be my home base for the foreseeable future. The chair is not particularly comfortable but is a vast improvement over the ergonomic nightmare I had behind my last desk. On my to-do list is to consider bringing over one of the extra office chairs from my house; it’s just taking up room there, and I think I’d actually have room for it in this office, whereas it would have been too much in my classroom.

From this seat, I can see pretty much the entire library. The only blind spot is the tutoring table and part of the computer lab. I can also see out the impressive wall of windows facing onto McMillan; it’s trying to blow up a windstorm, but the sun is shining through the weather, making everything kind of soft and yellow-filtered. The sprinklers are on, and the wind is shattering the sprinkler bursts into ineffectual splatter patterns. There are green trees out there, blowing in the wind. There’s also a Taco Del Mar, a Jamba Juice, and two — two — Starbucks across the street. One of the saddest things about my last school was that there was no coffee anywhere nearby.

Behind me, on the floor, H is lying on a quilt making hooting little baby sounds that might or might not be in response to the Saxophobia CD playing softly in the background. In the last 24 hours he’s discovered that his feet are something that he can grab onto, although he doesn’t seem to be very good at catching them yet. At this point he still prefers his favorite toy: a lightweight burp cloth (basically a dish rag) or, lacking that, any handy piece of fabric that he can grab onto and cuddle up under his chin. I’ve been trying to give him some tummy time, but it’s become impossible; once I put him on his belly, he stays there for at most thirty seconds before rolling back over onto his back. He seems delighted at this new-found control over his life situation. Behold! I need not submit to the indignity of lying on my stomach if I choose not to!

If you’re in the mood for some metablogging, here’s a photograph of my desktop, in which you can clearly see this blog entry being written:

desktop

And here’s a picture of what’s behind me:

shelves

I probably need to go through the magazines, catalogs, and toppled-over binders on the right side of those shelves and figure out if I want/need all of it, and straighten it up a bit.

I’m going to have to figure out the whole pumping/storing situation. Those lovely office windows that let me see the entire library mean that the entire library can see me. Behind those shelves is another little area that I think I’ll be able to use as a private corner, but it’s going to involve signage and what seems to me to be an awkward conversation with my assistants. And these book carts are going to need to find another place to be corralled….

This is going to be a sea change but I’m looking forward to it. Yesterday, when I saw someone else’s name on my door at the high school, and when I took my keys off the lanyard and turned them in, I was feeling a little melancholy about the whole thing. But if there’s one thing I’m good at/bad about, it’s introspection; I know that it’s just hard to feel how much I’ll love this job because I haven’t actually started doing it. That’s why, even though I probably should have been doing laundry today, I came in to the library instead. It helps to be here, getting my desk together, daydreaming about displays and projects and promotions and even the day-to-day grind of it all.

These are good things. Now, as I wrap up this post, I’m holding H in my lap. Makes typing a little tougher, but then again, I have years of practice with pushy cats. (That said, I’ve never had a cat repeatedly kick the space bar or suck on my arm while I’m typing.) I can lean over and kiss the top of his head between sentences. On the far side of the library is a picture book section for special education students and other needs; H thinks it’s his section, though.

And now I’m all drooled on…. so I think I’m going to wrap things up for now. More to come. 🙂