Budding Buddhist

You never know how much kids are paying attention until you see them mimicking you to a freakish tee. One of my cuteheads at school comes in to the office at least once a day. He's been there to watch me deal with a lot of sick kids and I evidently have a reliable spiel. As it was busy in the office and I was alone, he took it upon himself to help me out. I watched out of the corner of my eye as this second-grader got a blanket for the kid who just came in with a sick note. Then he said: "Would you like a cold cloth on your head? It's just a wet paper towel but it feels nice." That was followed by: "Okay, would you like the light on or off?" Then he came over to me all proud of himself and we talked about his day a little. He told me one of the big kids was picking on him. I told him it was totally cool to tell someone if they hurt your feelings because maybe they didn't even realize it. This sage little guy shook his head and shrugged. "He just be's what he be's." And off he went.

Missing Work

After six months at this job, I still consider myself the New Girl, but I have picked up a few tricks. Turning the lights off right at "closing" time is working pretty well keeping people out of the office after hours so I can get my work done. Tonight, I saw the office door open and then close but the person didn't reach above my counter. Finally, one of my favorite little 3rd graders came around the corner (it's 5:15 so I was surprised to see him still at school).
He looked at me, puzzled. "Why are the lights off?" Before I could answer he asks, "Why are you here all by yourself after school?"

"Well, buddy, I have a lot to get caught up on."

He looked at me and gave a knowing nod and impish smile, "I know, missing work."

Snow Day

Here is a summary of my last two mornings:

"Good Morning. Y...G....S...How can I help you? ... Yes, we're on two hour delay." And the snow is just coming down and it's phone call after phone call - here's my favorite one -

Overheard: (Young boy's voice)

"Hi - on the news it says two hour delay but do we really have school today?"

me: "Yep, two hour delay, see you at ten."

kid: "Um. Yeah. Look out the window."

My new least favorite holiday

So, I have a new least favorite holiday - Valentine's Day. This year I showed up at school with my cute Valentine shirt. Next year I'll know better. Next year I'll be in black. Or, better yet, I'll call in sick in advance. I was fighting another cold and I swear to God Tuesday sent me over the edge. I was the world's worst Valentine to Matt. Maybe not the world's worst, I didn't break up with him or anything, but I was pretty damn lame.

I'll spare you the details, but to sum up: my day started with a little boy ushered into the office because he puked (the chunky I-just-ate-breakfast kind) all over himself. The day ended with a call on the radio asking for help getting a BM cleaned up in the after-hours bathroom. Yeah. Good stuff. It was the stuff in the middle that really drove me out of my mind though, the over-the-top deliveries, meant as gestures of love, to kids. I understand someone wanting to do something sweet for their child. Take them out of a milkshake. This is a school, and I'm not your delivery boy. But those are things you can't say, so it comes out like this: "Sure, I'll stop what I'm doing and deliver all of these flower arrangements to all four of your children." Maybe there's no love in my heart. If that had happened a few times, fine. But you would not believe how out of control, over the top it was. I did, however, get some very adorable valentines.

Matt sent me an email during the day that said "Happy Valentine's Day - even though we're not Catholic." Which made me laugh at a perfect time.

Oh, yeah, if you and your spouse agree not to get each other anything for Valentine's day, have a back up, just in case, so you don't feel like a complete jerk when you come home to find a series of thoughtful gestures made by your Valentine. I came home (late) to Matt making dinner and a card and rose bush ... and my favorite part, after seeing the change jar ransacked on the counter, he slipped five dollars in there for me to find the next morning. So, even if I don't love the holiday itself, I adore my husband who is my favorite person on the planet and I'm so happy he's my partner in love and life! You're the best, babe.

Tardy Ms. Hardy

Technically my shift starts at 8. But, it's not a shift kind of job. The first few weeks at the school I was coming in at quarter till and feeling totally overwhelmd by the immediate rush of "here's my lunch money Mrs. Hardy" and "so and so missed the bus but we're on the way" and "Matt S. hit me." And on and on. It took awhile to discover that if I come in just a tiny bit earlier ( and use the back door)  there's a moment of quiet before the dam breaks. I've also learned that if I leave my house by 7:35 a.m., my chances for a good morning are significantly improved. If I leave at 7:38, I get stuck behind a school bus and have to smile and wave as I follow the bus up Hwy 47 all the way to school. Friday I woke up at 7:30. My first big decision of the day: make up or coffee? Coffee. Definitely coffee. I stayed up for ER on Thursday, and I now believe that kids are like animals. They sense weakness. I scooted into work just before the first bell rang, latte in hand. It just doesn't look good when the person handing out tardy slips is late.


Even on our most exhausted evenings, Matt and I do a quick rundown of the day's highlights - good, bad or indifferent,  just a little check in at the end of the day - sort of a barometer ... or a measure of one shot, or two, in the day's end highball.

So, to sum up, here's my day's highlights - the morning started with a little chaos when I got word that one of our kids was seen around campus but didn't come to class. I called his mom, who was surprised to hear he wasn't at school. I called and left a message at the kid's house. When the machine came on, I suggested he pick up the phone, or I'd have to call his mom's cell. Shortly after that, he called me back to let me know he was home sick and that I didn't need to bother calling his mom. Elementary school, folks.

Throughout the day was the usual chaos that is a grade school, understaffed, office and then the day ended, seriously minutes before the bell rang, with a transformer blowing, setting off a chain of events that involved a smoking heater, rumors of a fire, fire trucks, evacuation of the high school, rerouting of busses, angry parents wondering why children aren't on busses and why we didn't personally call to notify them ... pandemonium.

Two shots in my drink tonight, thank you.

Overheard: The morning's flag-saluters were 2nd graders. One voice rose above them all:

"One nation, under Guard, indivisible with liberty and all." Out of the mouths of babes!

Just Deserts

Just Deserts

I am home for Christmas break. My mind is foggy from lack of sleep, but standing in line with my best girlfriend, waiting for the bliss that is espresso and chocolate, my last final seems eons ago. We giggle as we catch up on our latest dating disasters. Yes, the same ones that didn’t seem so funny during our midnight phone calls as the sound of hearts breaking traveled thru the wires.

Speaking of guys, we scan Starbucks. The dark-haired hottie at the corner table reading the Wall Street Journal is more her type. She’s the money girl. And never mind, because there’s his wife, with their drinks. Now, the guy in line ahead of us looks like my type. Torn jeans. Long hair. Artsy. Probably has a record. Yep, just my kinda guy. I sigh and survey the dessert case. I love my friend, but she always wants to share dessert. Me? I want my own piece of everything. Sharing is for siblings and I’m finally on my own. Though, I still bite my straw out of habit from the years of having to share a soda with my brother. One can, two straws.

My eyes land on the sugar cookies. I decide on the frosted angel cookie just as I notice chubby fingers sliding open the glass door and taking the last one. I follow the green apron to the Starbuck girl’s face and notice her for the first time. As the espresso machine sizzles and sputters, time stops. We exchange that look. You know, the one that says “forgive me for staring, but don’t I know you?”

            “Can I get a drink started for you?” she asks as I watch her rack her mind for a reason to recognize me.

            “Yeah, soy, sugar free mocha please. Sixteen ounce.”

            “Sure.” She punches my order into the register. “Did you go to Curtis Junior High?”
            “Yeah. I was thinking you looked familiar.”

            “Didn’t you ride my bus?” A slow smile forms on her lips.

            “Yeah, the same stop I think, 40th and Alameda?”
            “Oh my God! Remember Butch?” She’s laughing now. “What a tool!”
            “How could I forget Butch?” And really, how could I? With her purple highwaters, short dykey hair and ridiculous, red Michael Jackson for Prez sweatshirt.
            “I haven’t thought about Butch in years!” Is what I say out loud.

           “I remember you now, but, sorry, I can’t think of your name,” she says handing back my change.

            “Oh, it’s Nathalie.” Her face remains blank. “But you used to call me Butch.”

Watching the color drain from her face was sweeter than anything she could’ve served on a dessert plate.

© 2006 Nathalie Hardy

What words can't say

Nat_on_robutussen Still sick - broke down and got a bottle of Rubutussen to help me sleep through the night yesterday. Overdosed on purpose to help me sleep through the night. One of our students committed suicide this week and the trauma, fear and despair it unleashed is hard to bear. I nearly crawled under my desk and bawled after the fourth parent yelled at me for not being able to answer their questions or get an administrator to talk to them, as they were all in a meeting determining the best course of action to notify the children. How do you explain to a small child that the person who taught them how to play the piano won't be able to do lessons tonight because they've hanged themselves? What do you write on a card to the mother who found her son, dead  by his own doing? What words do you use to comfort a teacher who's last interaction with him was to remind him about the school's public displays of affection policy? The teacher who will never forget the grin he gave her, the smile in his eyes when she teased him about it.

A bug in my stomach

Still in a theraflu-induced fog - it has something to do with being surrounded by these darling little germ carriers called students. Really, they are cute. And the most popular thermometer reading the past few days has been 100. So, one "overheard" just real quick and then I'm back to bed.

Overheard: First grade girl comes to the office - wide-eyed and says she feels sick to her stomach. She points to it and says "I don't know if she was joking, maybe - but my mom said I had a bug in there."