Sunday, May 27, 2012

When I Was Little: Coffee Eyes

When I was little (three years old to be exact), there was a man who would sometimes keep nursery for my class at church. He was an older man, and he was a lot of fun. I do not remember much about him, but I do remember that he had one blue eye and one brown eye.

One time during class, he asked all of us if we drink coffee. I said that I did. My momma gave me coffee with milk and sugar all the time. He said, "Really?" (I mean who in the world, other than my momma, would give a toddler coffee to drink?), and then he said, "That's why your eyes are brown."

I can remember looking at him in disbelief. He said, "See? I only drink coffee on this side of my mouth," as he pointed to the side of his face with the brown eye.

For years, I thought that my eyes were brown because I drank coffee...

When I Was Little: The Ugly Word and The Toddler

When I was little, my car seat was in the middle of the back seat. How do I know? I remember. I remember being able to see my dad in the driver seat and my mom in the passenger seat. I can remember one time when I was riding in my carseat quite vividly. I can even remember that we were riding down Elm Street, and my dad, who at the time was not the Christian that he is now, said an ugly word. I can remember that I knew that it was an ugly word, and I can remember smiling.

Fast forward a few days. I remember sitting in my high chair in the living room. I was watching cartoons and happily eating something while my grandmother kept me. She was in the living room with me, and she was rarely ever not busy so she was probably ironing or folding towels or something. I can remember repeating that ugly word - with a smile. I thought I was so grown up. I was the baddest toddler that ever lived! ...and then, my grandmother popped my little leg. I think that's the only time she ever popped me. I did not say that word ever again. She made me promise never to say that word again, and I didn't. I can remember even thinking that I deserved being popped because I knew what I had said was not supposed to be repeated. I never was angry or upset with my grandmother for that instance. I remember this instance just that vividly.

...And as much as I hate that word now simply because it is an ugly word, I still smile when I remember how sneaky-smart I was and how grown up I felt back then. I smile even wider when I think of how my mild-mannered grandmother popped me back into my place. Strange, isn't it?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

When I Was Little: ABCs and 123s

When I was little, I loved Chef Boyardee's ABCs and 123s. I can remember asking my mom for some and then climbing into my high chair to wait for them. I watched my mom open the can, pour some into the bowl, and place the bowl in the microwave. I remember smiling when the microwave said "Ding!" Then, I remember my mom taking the bowl out of the microwave and dropping the bowl on the floor. The bowl shattered into a million pieces. There were shards of white all over this huge blob of orangy-red. I can remember my mom fussing at that bowl as she cleaned it up, and I can remember very calmly and rationally in my little toddler mind thinking, "Now, what did I do wrong?" I wasn't upset; I genuinely wanted to know how I caused the disaster. Maybe it was because I asked at night time, I could see how dark it was outside our sliding glass door. Maybe it was because I crawled into my highchair myself. But then my mom made another bowl full of ABCs and 123s and put it in front of me, and I do not remember anything but sheer happiness after that! :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

When I Was Little: Ritz Crackers

When I was little, I wanted to eat some Ritz crackers. I must have been about three years old. I asked my mom if I could eat some Ritz crackers so she gave me the box. She gave this word of caution, though, "Make sure you eat them at your table, and make sure you don't eat them and put them back." I said ok, and I toddled off with my Ritz cracker box.

I remember all of this so vividly. My brother and I had our own little, wooden, kid-sized table in our living room. We had our own little chairs for our little wooden table, too. The table was stationed between an 80's dusty blue recliner and a 70's piece-of-furniture television set. You know the sets I'm talking about - the ones you had to dust. Our set was somewhere between cherry and walnut, and the speaker screen was a 70's gold piece of diamond weave fabric. I sat down at my table in front of the TV. I happily watched cartoons as I took the cracker sleeve out of the box. I set the box to the side, and I opened the twist-tie on the cracker sleeve. Without thinking, I popped part of my cracker into my mouth as I watched cartoons. I would not stake my life on it, but I am pretty sure I was watching Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound.

As I munched on my bite of cracker, I started to put the other part of the cracker on the table when I remembered what my mom had told me, "...don't eat them and put them back." A sudden moment of confusion and panic swept over my three-year-old mind as I held my half-eaten cracker. All I could think was Don't put it back where?! In the box? Who would put a half-eaten cracker back in the box? On the table? Oh, ok. No problem. I can just hold the cracker. But what if she meant back in my hand? Oh no! What to do?! And with that thought...

...I stuffed the rest of the cracker into my mouth. My three-year-old mouth was not very big, and I had a huge wad of cracker inside. I was trying very hard to concentrate on Huckleberry Hound, but I really had to concentrate on this cracker to keep from choking. I swallowed my cracker, and then I picked up another. Without thinking, I took a bite of cracker, and then in a much quicker panic - I popped the rest of it into my mouth.

I concentrated on this cracker while making sure to rake up any crumbs even though this cracker had never had contact with the table. I did not want my mom to think that I had put it back. I still did not know where back was! Still determined to eat the crackers, I popped one in my mouth whole. This task was even more difficult than getting one started before putting the rest in my mouth. This cracker had to be washed down with Kool-Aid. The combination was less than desirable.

I gave up after only three crackers. I carefully twist-tied the cracker sleeve back into its neat little twist. I carefully placed the sleeve in the box. I made sure there were no crumbs on the table, on my Osh Kosh B'gosh's, or in my hand. I closed the box. Then, I marched my toddler little self into the kitchen, and I handed the box to my mom to which she replied, "Did you even eat any?" I nodded and went back to my table. Eating crackers was too much work.

My mom still cracks up anytime I tell that story. She does not remember a bit of it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Are you...always this articulate?

"Are you...always this articulate?" Name that movie!

I wish I was more articulate especially when I am talking to a potential employer on the phone.

I just watched Rachel Berry speak exactly what she wanted to say into her phone onto the voicemail of the lady who could potentially fulfill her dream. Yes, I know that she is a character on a TV show. There are people who can do that, though. They know exactly what they want to say and to convey, and they do it. On the spot! They don't write it out and read it over the phone like a caller on an episode of Frasier. ...not that I would do that...notes, maybe, but not word for word.

Ok, ok. Name this movie:
"No, I know what you mean, and I'm completely jealous. What happens to me when I'm provoked is that I get tongue-tied and my mind goes blank. Then, then I spend all night tossing and turning trying to figure out what I should have said."

"I have you to thank for it. For the first time in my life, when confronted with a horrible, insensitive person, I knew exactly what I wanted to say and I said it."

Ok, so I do that, too. I figure out what I should have said to someone who was less than friendly later on in the day/week/month, but my main problem these days is talking to potential employers.
I talked to all sorts of people - while cooking no less - during the Pilsbury Bake-Off. They were important people, the kind of people that made other contestants cry and/or freeze up from nervousness. Did I cry or freeze up during the Pilsbury Bake-off? Nope. I was the picture of Southern hospitality.

What is the difference between interviewing with NBC during the Pilsbury Bake-Off and interviewing with/talking on the phone with a potential employer for a teaching job? Cooking is not my passion. Teaching is.

A few years ago Bobby Flay said, "If you aren't nervous about your passion, you aren't passionate about it," to a bunch of potential Food Network Stars. The quote struck me hard. When am I most likely to be a babbling and incoherent? Answer: When I am trying to get a job.

Why can't I just tell them that I am awesome and wonderful? Why can't I brag on myself? Why can't I convey all of my above-and-beyond qualities? I blame Southern humility. It is the only time I can think of that it has shot me in the foot. *Sigh* I think I need to eat cake.

Seriously, name those movies! AND any advice?!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

When I Was Little: Kindergarten Cutting

When I was little, I was already a perfectionist. I already knew how to read before I started kindergarten, so my kindergarten teacher would occasionally let me do little jobs for her. Almost any time she got something laminated, she would ask me to cut out whatever it was. One time she got a huge pile of rolls of things that had been laminated. She asked me to cut out some of it. Since she said some I asked her how much. She told me, "Just keep cutting until I tell you to stop." Ok, simple enough. So, I went over to the carpet, and I happily began cutting out laminated stuff. That may have been the moment that I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I loved the way the scissors glided through the laminating film. I loved the way the slick laminate felt. I loved how shiny it made all of our artwork look. I loved how I had no idea what the other kids were doing because I was totally immersed in cutting out all of this shiny, slippery stuff. It was just me, the huge pile of laminate, and the brightly colored rug that was ticking the space between my socks and pants where the skin was bare. The kneeling position I was in made my pants bunch up under my knees. I was happy.

"OK, everyone line up for music!" I did not budge. I kept cutting. She told me to keep cutting until she said stop. The class lined up. Someone turned out the lights, and off they marched. I stayed in my kneeling position on the carpet, happily cutting away. I was in there a long while. I never got tired of gliding those scissors along the paper lines. I never got tired of piling the extra laminating film next to me on one side and laminated stuff on the other. I just kept going. It must have been 15 minutes later before my teacher walked into the room. She turned on the lights, and I stopped cutting for a second - only because my eyes had to adjust to the new light. Once the spots went away I noticed my teacher staring at me.

"Amber, what are you doing in here?"
"You told me to cut until you said stop."

I do not know that I even knew what lying was at that point in my life. I don't think I even would have known what it was - much less how to do it. I was very honest, and my teacher knew it. She kind of chuckled and asked if I wanted to keep cutting or go to music for a little while. I honestly can't remember which one I chose.

I recently taught a leave of absence in the school where my kindergarten teacher who is now a 5th grade teacher works. She introduced me as her former kindergarten student to her class when I came to revive her computer. I told this story to the class. She laughed, and she said, "I had forgotten all about that!" I laughed, and I said, "Oh, I remember that very well."

She e-mailed me later that day to let me know that I was the only student she ever trusted to cut out her laminated stuff. I smiled really wide. My head grew three sizes. I was happy.

P.S. I still love cutting out laminated stuff. :)

Intro to When I Was Little Series

One of my favorite lessons as a teacher is one that I stole borrowed from Jeff Anderson's Mechanically Inclined. He suggests using Jamie Lee Curtis's Book When I Was Little to help students "get" the concept of introductory phrases. Every scenario in the book starts with "When I was little,". After this lesson, I would ask students to write as many of these statements as they could think of - and they could use that list as an idea bank for journal entries. One of my students wrote 2 1/2 months worth of journal entries from that one list.
Occasionally, I will tell my mom something I remember from when I was little, and she inevitably cracks up each time. She shakes her head and wonders aloud how my brother and I ended up with any sense as adults (which is debateable). I think it would be fun to write some "When I was little's" on this blog - so I will! Coming Soon: When I Was Little: The Series.