Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Break

I'm finally off for winter break! Yippee!!!

Typically, I'm exhausted, stressed, and on the verge of some upper respiratory illness by the time winter break finally arrives. But, this year is different. This year I'm feeling really good. I can't quite explain why, but this year I have a skip in my step, a song on my lips, and a smile in my heart.

Of course, work did everything in its power to make this last week challenging for me.   I got observed by the principal on Monday and held multiple screenings of the parent volunteer video (how to report suspected sexual harassment, child abuse, or child neglect) on Tuesday.  Yeah, it's a real edge of your seat, nail biting thriller of a movie.  The parents were unhappy for having to watch it once.  I had to watch it five times this week. Wednesday was a double header day; the superintendent of schools did a walk through of our building in the morning, then we had a delightful afternoon listening to young musicians during the winter band, strings, and chorus concert.  This all led up to the piece de resistance on Thursday... wait for it...patience is a virtue... an outdoor education field trip, complete with winter canoeing. 

Turns out the fear of hypothermia is enough to keep all the kids
and adults inside their canoes. Why didn't I think of that last year?!

That's right! Two days before winter break started I took 48 kids and 25 adults to the county's outdoor education facility for some hiking, canoeing, and scientific experimenting.  Being a firm believer that you have to get back on the horse after falling off, so to speak, I grabbed an oar and got back out in a canoe with a few first time canoers.  However, I may never get in a canoe with another adult again, at least not with any Army personnel.  Last year, we had a few parents who were in the Army as canoe instructors and one of them tipped my canoe.  This year, we had volunteers from the Navy, which made me feel much safer.

I managed to stay dry on this year's canoeing adventure and if you don't know how big a deal that is, then you need to click here.  I took a fair amount of friendly teasing, joking, ribbing, joshing, funning, and jesting from friends, co-workers, family, and my fiance.  He repeatedly texted me to stay out of the canoes, away from the dock, the water, and anything else wet on site.  All out of love, that much I'm sure of, but everyone else was doing it because they found my swim last year hysterical.  I get it.  The lady who's been a canoeing instructor for years was in a canoe that tipped.  It's funny.  I get it.  I'm just sick of hearing about it.

My adventures in swimming the previous year did have one pleasant side effect.  Every parent on the trip who took kids out canoeing left their smart phones and cameras on the dock this year.  Last year, we had five people take an unexpected plunge, which resulted in three phones and two cameras going extinct.  Had anyone taken a sudden swim this year, there would have been no loss of electronics.  I can't tell you how many parents have ruined cell phones from canoeing and seining accidents in all my years taking this field trip.  It was too cold for seining this time.  What with it being December and all, walking through the creek in hip waders seemed like a bad idea to the camp muckety mucks.

But, I digress.  I'm on winter break for eleven days.  Yay!

Of course, we had the usual holiday shuffle back and forth between families on Christmas Day, but the weather cooperated with us, so that wasn't bad at all.  I'll write more about our first Christmas together as a couple later, but right now I'm just happy to be relaxing in my living room, watching the snow fall outside, and contemplating what to do with the rest of my winter break.

My Winter Break To-Do List:
1. Catch up on sleep!
2. Do the laundry that has inevitably piled up.
3. Snuggle on the couch with my fiance and look at the tree lights.
4. Enjoy all of my presents.
5. Sleep late as often as possible.
6. Exchange gifts with family and friends.
7. Visit with friends who've come into town for the holidays.
8. Ring in the new year and get a kiss from my fiance at midnight.
9. Blog!
10. Clean the house.
11. Grade papers. (It can't be helped and has to be done.)
12. Catch up on my Dr. Who viewing. (I missed the mid-season finale, much to the horror of my nephews.)
13. Make our days merry and bright.

I'm going to enjoy this winter break a whole lot!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Being a Teacher in the Modern Era

For those of you who may not know or may have forgotten, I am a teacher.  It is a responsibility I take very seriously, possibly more so now than ever before.  When I became a teacher, I knew it was my responsibility to teach my students how to read, write and do math.  It was my responsibility to broaden their vocabularies, expand their knowledge of all things scientific, and create in them a love of history.  Nine years later, I have a new responsibility to add to all the others.  In a very real way, I am responsible for the safety of every child that passes through my classroom door.
Don't get me wrong.  Teachers have always been responsible for the safety of their pupils.  However, when I first started teaching that meant counting heads before the bus left to make sure we didn't leave anybody behind on the field trip.  It meant keeping a watchful eye on the playground during recess to make sure everyone was playing nicely.  It meant keeping disagreements from turning into pushing, shoving, and hitting.  Now, though, it means something different.
Keeping students safe in the modern era means running a background check on their parents before allowing them to chaperone the field trip.  It means running those same parents' driver's licenses through a machine which checks a national database to ensure they aren't a convicted sex offender before allowing them to enter the classroom.  Keeping my students safe means that if a parent shows up at my classroom door without a printed visitors badge, I must call the office immediately.  In fact, even with a visitor's badge, I am never permitted to release a student to a parent that shows up at my door.  All early dismissals are to be authorized through the office via the intercom system, not by the parent showing up and requesting their child from the teacher.  These are safety measures that we have all come to accept as necessary.
In the modern era, keeping students safe means not just practicing fire drills, but earthquake drills, tornado drills, gas leak drills, and yes, shooter in the building drills.
In an act of kindness, my principal kept the students and staff completely in the dark about the horrors unfolding in Connecticut last Friday.  One parent showed up in the classroom that day to volunteer.  I wasn't expecting the parent, but I also wasn't unhappy to see him as I desperately needed spelling lists and math homeworks copied.  I later realized that he had come in more to put eyes on his child than to help with my copying needs. 

Ironically, our school had scheduled a safety drill for that Friday afternoon. Which drill you ask? Was it the earthquake drill, the tornado drill, the gas leak drill?  No, it was the shooter in the building drill.  Officially, it's called a lock down drill, but the jist of the drill is that we practice what to do if there is an armed intruder in the building.  We held the drill in spite of the days events, which some might view as in poor taste, but the other option would have been to do the drill on Monday, when the children would have known about Connecticut and been that much more scared. 

I assure you, practicing the lock down drill is scary even on a good day.  We lock doors that are normally never locked when the children are in the building.  We turn off lights, close blinds, and hide silently in darkened corners until the drill is ended.  The children always ask questions about why we have to do this and some get scared by the seriousness we show about hiding and being quiet.  We do our best to allay their fears and assure them that they are safe at school, but the events of last week prove that those fears are more than justifiable

The principal called a staff meeting after dismissal, explained what had happened in Connecticut and why we had a police presence in the parking lot during dismissal, and then told us all to go home and hug our families. My honey had been especially texty on Friday, lots of texted ILY's and wishes that he was hugging me.  I had responded by telling him that I was so lucky to have such a sweet and expressive man in my life.  Once I got home and turned on the TV, I found out why he'd been so expressive.  My honey had also made the executive decision not to mention the school shooting to me while I was at work for fear of worrying me.

Monday morning was a challenge all by itself. The kids had so many questions and needed a lot of reassuring that everything was okay and we would keep them safe.  The children weren't the only ones in need of reassuring.  A student teacher in my building came in to work looking worn through with worry.  She was emotional, distracted, and looking for answers.  Her mentor teacher was in a morning meeting, so it fell to me to get her ship shape before the kids arrived. 

I told her what everyone should realize about the school shooting in New Town.  It could have been so much worse.  While what did happen was unthinkably awful and horrific, the number of victims was limited to the two connected kindergarten classrooms because every teacher in that building did exactly what they were supposed to do.  They got their students safely behind locked doors and hid them from sight, sometimes bodily blocking the door to protect their young charges.  I told the young student teacher what all the other teachers already knew. Our job is to make school a safe and happy place for our students, so it was time for her to check her worries at the door and be present for her students.

Teachers all over the country went to work on Monday morning.  They didn't call in sick for fear that it could happen to them, even though some parents kept their kids home for that very reason.  They put on a brave face, perfected a very British stiff upper lip, and read through the half dozen school security emails reminding them of safety procedures.  They smiled at their students from the doorway as they arrived at the classroom, greeted them all by name, and issued calming reassurances and hugs, as needed.  They made the day as normal as possible so that every child could relax and get down to the business of learning.  That is what I did for my students on Monday and it's what the student teacher did, too.

I began this blog with an old American proverb, "If you can read this, thank a teacher."  But, now I would like to propose a new proverb.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Eight Months To "I Do" & Fiance To The Rescue

I started writing this blog three and a half weeks ago and never got back to it.  Such is the hectic, chaotic mess that is my life right now!  For the most part, it's a happy chaos, though.  Three weeks ago, however, I was experiencing a decidedly unhappy chaos. 

In the span of a few days, I received some bad news from a friend, got a migraine, had to stay late after work on two different days to make up parent-teacher conferences (for parents who stood me up on conference day), and was temporarily orphaned while my mother was out of town on a business trip.  But, I am not about to write a gloom and doom blog, so please keep reading.  Nope, this blog is going to be about the silver lining that appeared on the gray cloud that was my week.

The silver lining to this story is not a what, but rather a who.  Someone stepped up for me that week.  This person went above and beyond to smooth over the rough patches and ease my distress.  As should be obvious from the title, my wonderful fiance was the one who helped me through a very challenging week.

When I came home from getting unpleasant news from a friend, it was my honey who held me while I cried out the tears I'd been holding back on the drive home.  He was also the one who patiently listened to me as I sniffled my way through the explanation of what had happened.  My honey even tried to help me think of solutions for the problem I sobbingly dropped in his lap. 

I admit it!  I've been a real cry baby lately.
Prior to getting engaged, I rarely ever cried in front of my fiance, probably because he always makes me so happy!  But, in the eight short weeks we've been engaged, I have cried buckets over the stupidest little things.  I cried over the wedding dress debacle.  You'll be happy to hear that I finally found THE dress when I went to a different wedding boutique.  The second place had much better service and a much wider selection for curvaceous girls like me.  I cried over bridesmaid drama.  I cried over the engagement photo proofs, which as predicted did not show me at my best.  I cried over our Thanksgiving Day schedule when his mother didn't have dinner at the time I was hoping she would.  I cried until I was dehydrated from all the tears I had shed.

I cried so much and so often that I actually looked my behavior up on the internet.  Did you know that there is actually something called post-engagement blues that many engaged women experience?  Go ahead and google it.  I'll wait.  Apparently, going from the thrill of the chase to the elation of getting your engagement ring to the stressful reality of planning a big wedding causes some brides-to-be to get the blues.  I seem to have been one of those brides. 

I'm doing much better now, but when I didn't have the answers to any of the big questions people were asking me it made me a little emotional.  Okay, I was a lot emotional.  So sue me!  I was also very easily flustered or frustrated. When's the wedding? Where's the reception?  Have you found your dress yet? Have you booked your DJ? Photographer? Videographer? Caterer? Cake Baker?  Until I had the answers everybody was looking for, I just couldn't seem to relax and the only place I seemed to be able to vent all that stress was through my eyeballs in the form of tears. 

My poor fiance didn't know what to do with me.  But, as he always does, he found the perfect things to say and do.  He held me every time I cried and told me he loved me.  He even stepped up to help me make some wedding decisions and take those worries off my plate.  He's been a real trooper!

But, I digress. My point is, he saw me through the teary days.  The day after that I was supposed to get up at 3:30 in the morning to take my mom to the airport.  Again, my knight in shining armor, I mean fiance, came to my rescue.  My honey decided that I had been through enough the day before and needed my rest, so he tucked me back in after my alarm went off and took the dawn patrol to the airport with his future mother-in-law.  Can you see why I love this man?

Later that day, I came home from work with the worst migraine of my life.  My head felt like it would explode.  I was sensitive to light and sound.  I was even mildly nauseous.  In short, I arrived on our front stoop looking like a hot mess.  Once again, my fiance donned his suit of shining armor and came to my rescue.  He got me some medicine to ease my headache, ran out to get me dinner, and spent the rest of the evening watching over me like a mother hen.  He was awesome!

The following two days, my honey had dinner waiting for me when I got home from working late.  Parent-teacher conference day is long enough without dragging it out for two weeks, but my honey made it less stressful by having the home fires burning and a hot meal waiting for me when I dragged my tired self home.

All that was three weeks ago, so long ago now that I looked at this blog posted and considered deleting it because I could hardly remember what I'd been writing about.  But, I am determined to keep my blog going, even in all the wedding planning chaos.  So here it is, my somewhat hazy recollections of being weepy six to eight weeks ago and my fiance being awesome three weeks ago.  Much more has happened since then and maybe I'll have some time to tell you about it once I'm off for Christmas break.  We'll see.

But, just in case I don't get to post before the holidays...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turkey Day x 2

or Time To Break Out The Elastic Waisted Pants

Norman Rockwell's Vision of Thanksgiving

We've just made it home from our first Thanksgiving as an engaged couple.  This meant that we had two mothers to keep happy this year.  It was a tall order and did a number on my gas tank, but I think we were successful.  Now if only I didn't feel like I'd been stuffed, rather than the turkey!

The parade and potato peeling just go together in my family.
Every family has holiday traditions, those certain things that just make it seem more like the holidays.  Our families are no different.  In my family, it's tradition for me to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade while helping my mom peel potatoes.  Then, she dices up the potatoes (so they are ready to boil and then mash) and I steal small slices of uncooked potato to eat from the pot.

 Later in the day, I help my mom make the green bean casserole and then I get out the potato masher and go to town on the spuds. We finish up just in time for my grandparents and all my aunts and uncles and cousins to roll in to supper, each bringing a different side dish they prepared.  In total, we usually have somewhere between fifteen and thirty people gathered around the table depending on whose coming in from out of town and whose going to their in-laws for dinner this year.  It may sound weird and overcrowded to some (like my honey, who couldn't understand the merits of eating an uncooked potato slice or enjoy the melee of elbow to elbow dining), but it's what we do.

My family's Thanksgiving Day reality
My honey's family traditions are a little less crowded and hands-on.  His family's traditions seem to be a lot more eating and football related.  His mom does all the cooking herself, no one else is allowed in the kitchen unless they are coming in looking for a drink or to talk to her while she's cooking.  My honey can't even articulate the rest of their turkey day traditions, though I did discover that his dad watches Chicago's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which is sponsored by McDonald's if my googling is correct.  Luckily for me, his dad is rather fond of me and switched over to the Macy's parade when I asked if it was on upon our arrival. 

But, let's step back a little bit in time because successful multi-family holidays don't just magically put themselves together.  For three weeks before Thanksgiving, my mother was asking me (read that as nagging me) to find out what time my honey's family ate their turkey day feast.  She doesn't share me easily with his family on holidays and she wanted to make sure that I was going to be available to help her get dinner ready.  Plus, she had graciously moved the time of her Easter dinner to accommodate his family's holiday schedule last spring and was hoping they would be the more flexible family for Thanksgiving. Ah, the joys of being the only daughter of a widowed mother!

I pestered my fiance to talk to his parents and find out what time they were eating on turkey day.  I don't want to think of it as nagging, as that is something my mother does and something I never want to do, but it was probably pretty close.  At any rate, he eventually called his mother and she was waffling about what time to have her dinner.  My family may have a lot more people to coordinate food with on thanksgiving, but his family has a lot more in-laws and exes to schedule dinner around.  Both his siblings have kids and are in various stages of divorce, so exes and in-laws must be consulted to determine when Nana and Papaw can have the kids for their holiday dinner.

It took a couple of days to work it out, but eventually it was revealed that his parents' dinner was going to have to be later in the day.  This kinda crushed my hope that we could eat at his parents earlier and still make it on-time to my mom's to spend the rest of the evening hanging with my family.  I'm woman enough to admit that I had a little "emotional bride" moment over things not going my way.  I was NOT a bridezilla, just pouty that my grand plan didn't work out.  Once our schedule was nailed down, my honey and I realized we were going to be ping pong balls for the day, travelling back and forth between his mother and my mother. 

Here's how it played out:
9 am: Parade and potato peeling in my mother's kitchen

11 am: Brunch at his mom's house so that everyone didn't starve waiting for the grandkids to be released from their other family commitments and dinner could be served.  We didn't have a starvation issue, but his mom wanted everyone to be there, so we went.

1 pm: Back to our house for a much needed nap, followed by making two green bean casseroles to take to mom's house.

3 pm: We arrived at mom's house in time to help her finish getting dinner ready before the rest of the family descended upon the house.

5 pm: Dinner is always slated to start at my mom's at 4pm, but I have certain relatives with on-time issues.  By five, we were finally sitting down to eat dinner.

7 pm: Back to his mom's house to catch the tail end of their Thanksgiving feast and dessert.

9 pm: Home at last and too stuffed to do anything more than breathe.

Here are some interesting highlights from both houses:

  • My brother's dog somehow managing to break a nail above the quick and walked all around my mother's kitchen before laying down at my mashed potato-making feet and bleeding all over my mother's kitchen rug.
Poor puppy: There is nothing sadder than a dog
wearing a sock over one bandaged paw.
  • My nephew, Squirt, announced that he had to sit next to his Nan Naine and booted one of my uncles from the table to get his way.  Plus, my soon to be niece, Jan, announced that she was sitting next to her Aunt Lainey and finagled the seating arrangement at his mother's brunch to make it happen.  I felt so popular yesterday!
  • My honey asked everybody what they wanted for Christmas repeatedly until he got answers other than a gift card. His mother wouldn't let him ask for a gift card, so he wouldn't allow his siblings or nieces and nephews to ask for one.

  • We didn't actually eat dinner at his mother's house because they started dinner earlier than planned and, despite leaving my mom's place earlier than she would probably have liked, we arrived as they were finishing dinner. But, my honey got some of his mom's blueberry cobbler, so it was all good. Cobbler for Thanksgiving?  So weird!
  • I got an extra holiday treat as I got to watch my Washington Redskins defeat the evil and hated Dallas Cowboys in Dallas from both houses. We switched families at half time so I wouldn't miss any of the game.
Crybaby Cowboys

Monday, November 19, 2012

Nieces and Nephews Everywhere!

My life is changing in some fun and interesting ways right now.  Beyond the changes my life is undergoing on the wedding front, my life is undergoing some entertaining changes on the family front right now.  I am being claimed, slowly but surely, by my new nieces and nephews!

It started out innocently enough.  I volunteer my time several afternoons each week at my school's homework club to help my current and former students build their skills to get ready for the state assessments.  On one such afternoon last week, I was in charge of homework club and my fiance's honorary nephew, Shaggy, was volunteering in my room.  This arrangement works out rather well for us since I get help with the 15-20 youngsters doing their homework and he gets credit for service learning hours that he needs to graduate high school. 

A dispute arose between Shaggy and one of the students over the correct way to solve a math problem.  I heard the conversation go from discussion to disagreement to argument from across the room and I was headed over to intervene when I heard this:

Shaggy: "You're wrong."

Student: "No, you're wrong!"

Shaggy: "No, I am clearly right!"

Student: "Fine, we'll ask Miss Lainey.  She's my teacher and she'll be on my side."

Shaggy: "Good luck with that!  She's MY aunt.  She likes me more than you!"

Aww, I'd been claimed by Shaggy!  I just had to smile and be on Shaggy's side in the disagreement after that. Of course, it helped that he had the right answer to the math problem.

While Shaggy is a former student of mine, his little sister, Princess Sassy Pants, is a future student of mine.  Next year, she'll be arriving in my grade.  That makes my aunt status interesting, to say the least.  I could end up being either her homeroom teacher, her social studies teacher, or possibly her math teacher. 
Princess Sassy Pants is also going to be the flower girl in my wedding.  She is incredibly excited about this and it even earned me an upgrade in title.  PSP had been calling me Aunt Insert Last Name Here in an effort to keep the school/home separation going.  But, once her royal highness heard that her brother was calling me Aunt Lainey, she announced that she would call me that, too.
Aww, the princess claimed me as her Aunt Lainey, too!  I'm really starting to feel the love here.
Finally, this Saturday we did our good deed for the week.  My honey's sister just had her third child and the baby's brand new middle child/big sister was feeling a lack of attention.  So, we volunteered to take Jan (get it... "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!") out to lunch and a movie.  We let Jan choose where she wanted to get lunch from any restaurant within a fifteen mile radius of our local movie theater.  Being a child and having underdeveloped taste buds, Jan decided to forego Panera, Chipotle, Olive Garden, and other preferable restaurants in favor of Friendly's.  And we didn't even get ice cream!  Who goes to Friendly's for the food?! 

But, I digress.  We took Jan out for lunch (at Friendly's) and then to see Hotel Transylvania.  She insisted on sitting next to me in the movie theater and even tried to force the seating so that she was between me and my honey.  My honey wasn't having that, though.  Did I mention that Jan is just the tiniest bit contrary?  If  you let her know what you want to happen in advance, she will insist on doing the exact opposite just to get my honey's goat.  When my honey held my hand during the movie, Jan decided she wanted to hold my hand, too.  So there I was with the popcorn bucket in my lap and no hands available with which to eat.  I had fun anyways.

When we took Jan back to Nana's house, she told her nana that she'd had a great time out with her Aunt Lainey and Uncle Jay.  And another niece claims me as her own!

Just by becoming engaged, I have gone from having one nephew (my beloved Squirt) to having eight nieces and nephews.  That's two nieces and six nephews or as they will be described in a few months, one flower girl, one junior bridesmaid, two ring bearers (Yes, I said two!), and three ushers.  I know that is only seven kids, but number eight is still into drooling and diapers, remember?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nine Months To "I Do!" & Still So Much To Do

Greetings, Life Lessoners!  Life has become incredibly hectic over here at Lainey's Wedding Planning Headquarters...oops, I mean Lainey's Life Lessons.  The last month is almost a blur.  So much has been going on and almost all of it has been wedding related.  We've booked the church and the reception hall, met with the officiant, and registered for pre-marital counseling (a must for all good little Catholic girls, which I guess I am).  We've also met with the florist, hired a DJ and a photographer and had engagement photos taken.

And by we, I mean that my mother made most of the calls, printed up and handed me forms that needed to be filled out, and generally rules my schedule for the forseeable future. 

My Bouquet Inspiration Board
created on

Never underestimate the motivation and determination of a Catholic mama that is getting ready to marry off her thirty-something daughter.  Between my mom and the wedding checklist at, I am well on my way to being an organized and efficient wedding planner.  The Knot and I made nice once it stopped telling me I had forty things overdue that needed to be completed ASAP.  Did you know it lets you delete items that you don't need to do?   Once I had pared down the to-do list, created a few inspiration boards to get an idea of what I wanted our wedding to look like, and let my mom take over like the total Type-A personality that she is, everything started falling into place.

Nine Months to "I do!"
a.k.a. 270 days to go

The pace of wedding planning has been grueling.  I'm spending my evenings chained to my laptop looking for wedding ideas on The Knot and my weekends accomplishing a myriad of wedding tasks.  The weekend before the hurricane was no exception, other than the weekend wedding planning started earlier than usual.  Thursday after work I had to call my family's former parish priest and schedule a meeting with him to begin planning the ceremony side of things.  From there, I rushed out of work and raced home for a quick dinner with my fiance before my mom whisked us away to look at a reception hall.  The reception hall was huge, which is good since my family is large, and included an open bar with all of their reception packages.  Not bad!  Plus, it had the added benefit of never having been used before by anybody in our friend group, so it wouldn't seem like I recycled someone else's wedding reception.

Friday after work, my fiance could see that I was worn thin from all the wedding running around and nonsense, so he grabbed a couple of movies and treated me to a relaxing evening of snuggling on the couch while watching old movies.  We watched Gene Wilder in "Young Frankenstein" and Albert Brooks in "Defending Your Life".  It was a much needed respite before Saturday's wedding mayhem began.  I think we will have to make Friday date nights a "must" between now and the wedding.

Saturday was H-E-double hockey sticks!!!  It had the potential to be a totally productive day of wedding-related activities.  In the morning, I was scheduled to go try on wedding dresses for the first time (with my mom and my maid of honor tagging along) and then in the afternoon my mother had scheduled engagement photos at a local park with a photographer that my sister-in-law recommended.  Neither event went off quite as planned.

Let me preface this next paragraph with a disclaimer.  I am a curvy girl.  I was really nervous about going to try on wedding dresses because I always have a hard time finding things that fit my curves. Okay, I'll say it.  My fiance is a lucky man because my chest is too big to fit dresses that fit me everywhere else.  I had good reason to be nervous. 

Bridal shops only care a limited range of sizes in store.  They'll be happy to order you any size you want, but they don't necessarily have every dress there in every size to try on when you come in looking for your dream dress.  Due to this limited vision on the part of bridal shops, they have a horrid practice prepared specifically for the event that the dress you want to try on isn't available in your size.  Clips!  They squeeze you into the too small dress and because it won't zip in the back they clip the edges of the dress to your bra in the back.

Someone should shoot the evil troll who thought up that brilliant idea!  I can't even describe the experience of being pushed, pulled, and crammed into a dress that is two, three, even four sizes too small and then having it clipped to your bra, with the back hanging open like a breezy hospital gown.  All I'm going to say about it is that this bride-to-be did not smile so much as once while trying on any dress during my entire visit and left the store in tears.  Evil sizist bridal boutique trolls!

And after all that fun, I had to go get engagement photos taken.  It took a ton of make-up to make it look like I hadn't spent a good portion of the morning crying, but even with a new face plastered over my own I still wasn't the smiliest of girls.  I can't wait to see how the photo proofs turn out.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fear The Knot

Okay, so I did own this book as a child,
but reading the book is as far as my wedding planning ever got.
I'm told that every little girl dresses up her Barbie as a bride and acts out her dream wedding.  It's one of life's stages.  You act out things that could happen to you in life, kind of like a mental preparation.  It's imaginative, it's playful, and it's dreaming of what life will be like when you grow up.

Yes, I owned Barbies and I played with them, but I never planned Barbie's dream wedding to Ken.  I was more of a career Barbie kind of girl.  I had the Barbie dream house and the pink Barbie Corvette, and even had horses for Barbie to ride around on when she wasn't working, playing house, or cruisin' in her Vette.  But, dressing Barbie up in white and having her walk down the aisle towards Ken's molded plastic head of hair wasn't my style. 

I have not spent the last thirty years of my life planning my dream wedding in my head.  Imagining the bridesmaid dresses and the flowers and the first dance... I was never that girl!  So, now that I'm newly engaged and in need of wedding planning, I seem to be a bit behind the curve.  I have no idea what I want the big day to look like.  I know I want to get married at my church and that's about it.

I took to the internet for some inspiration to the myriad of questions everyone was starting to ask me.  There were so many options to look at and I had to idea which site to choose, so I went with a site that I had at least heard of before,  It seemed like a pretty cool site, at first.  There were lots of articles for clueless brides-to-be, like me.  Articles on how to choose your color scheme, what to ask when checking out caterers and reception halls, etc.  Then I saw something I thought would be totally helpful, a wedding planner and checklist.

The Knot's Wedding Planner is supposed to be the ultimate guide to all things bridal.  With it, you can plan every last detail of your big day.  I thought that would be perfect for me since I was feeling like so overwhelmed by the enormity of the task I had just taken on by telling the love of my life that I would marry him.  All I needed to do was give The Knot people a few simple details about myself and tell them when the big day would be and they would help me to fill in the rest of the blanks.  Sounds so easy, right? WRONG!  HORRIBLY WRONG!

Fear The Knot!

Holy Crap!  Just telling them that my tentative wedding date was nine months and one week away meant that, of the 280 things on The Knot's to-do list, I had 40 checklist items to complete by Friday and 33 of them were overdue!  I'd been engaged for 18 hours and I was already behind on planning my wedding.  How the hell did that work?

The Knot's wedding timeline clearly operated on the assumption that everybody takes a year to plan their wedding.  I'm a teacher and getting married during the school year just wasn't going to work for me.  It was going to have to be a summer wedding, which meant either I was getting married in 8-9 months or I was going to be waiting 21 months to get married.  For some reason, a really extended engagement didn't appeal to my fiance.  Can't imagine why? 

I totally spazed out after looking at the wedding checklist.  I logged off the computer, walked over to my fiance (the artist formerly known as my honey), and crawled into his lap telling him that I didn't think we were going to be getting married when we wanted to because said we were behind schedule.  My honey held me and kissed me and told me everything would work out just fine.  The perfect thing to say.  If only I had been in a frame of mind to believe him at that moment, I would have felt so much better.  My honey told me we should call my mother and have her over for dinner the next day so that she could help me get started.  It was a good call on his part.

I posted to Facebook later that night that had scared me to death and every woman I know that was recently married told me to ignore the checklist and just focus on three things this week: the church, the reception hall, and the officiant.  I was assured over and over again that once those three details were locked into place, everything else would somehow work itself out.

I sure hope they're right!

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Everyone goes through word phases, right?  You know, when your vocabulary suddenly shrinks to one word that becomes your "go to" adjective to describe everything.  Don't tell me that's just me!

When I was a kid, "cool" was the "go to" adjective.  Mom brought home fast food for dinner. Cool!  You aced the big test. Cool!  Your parents let you skip school on your birthday and took you to see a movie.  So cool!

It's kinda like guys and the word "dude".  So, did you get the tickets to the ball game? Dude, we're covered.  A strange smell wafts across the room.  Dude. Restroom's down the hall.  I made out with your sister at the party last night.  Do you think she'd go out with me? DUDE! Keep your tongue away from my sister or my fist will find your face!

Last spring, my "go to" adjective was awesome.  Everything around me was awesome.  Wanna go to a hockey game?  Awesome.  Wanna go to a baseball game?  Awesome.  Wanna go to Hershey Park after school gets out?  Awesome!  Everything in my world could be described by awesome, even if it was used sarcastically.  How was your day at work? Awesome, I had to write a referral and make three parent phone calls because of a fight at recess.  Everyone and everything was awesome to some degree.
Now, a new word has taken over as my "go to" adjective.  Life has become "delightful".  How was your day at work, babe? Delightful!  My class aced the big math test.  How did it go at the playoff game last night?  Delightful!  We hit a homerun in the 12th to win the game.  Want to go get pumpkins from the pumpkin patch later?  That would be delightful!  I don't know why this has become my new "go to" word, all I know is that everything about my life right now feels delightful.

Here's my list of twelve delightful things going on in my life right now.

1.  My mom and I are closer than ever.  We had a rough patch right after my honey moved in, but now she's back on Team Lainey.  She and my honey even went to dinner without me this week when I got held up at a work meeting.  They get along really well.  All those times we invited her over for dinner and my honey cooked really did the trick.  I am delighted!

2. I have a class of bright, polite, motivated students this year.  What a difference a year makes!  I get to spend six hours a day with children who love to learn and are excited to take on challenging new assignments.  It's delightful!

3. I got a really good review at work.  Apparently, my enthusiasm when working with my delightful young charges can be observed by others.  My principal had a ton of positives or "glows" to report after my last observation and very few "grows" or areas to improve.  Being told I'm doing a good job was delightful!

4. My honey took me to Hershey Park again last weekend.  Delightful fun for all!

5. I got to spend some quality time with my BFF recently.  Conflicting schedules and busy lives limited the amount of time I spent with my BFF over the summer.  The only times I got to see her were at friendamily events.  But, last week we got together for dinner and caught up on what's been going on in our lives.  Hanging out was delightful!

6. My baseball team made it to the post-season for the first time in fifteen years.  Up until an untimely defeat last night, watching them was delightful!

7. My honey has proclaimed that I never have to go to another haunted house.  So delightful!

8. My honey and I have been living together for six months now.  No problems, no arguments, no deal breakers in sight. Delightful!

9. I haven't broken any bones in almost a year.  Not to jinx myself, but I haven't wobbled or fallen since May.  (For those of you who are new to the crew, I broke my ankle last November and have had a few falls and sprains since then.) Not being on crutches, in an ankle brace, or wrapped in an ACE bandage is delightful!

10. My honey's family has adopted me as one of their own.  I call his parents Mom and Dad (or sometimes Papa Bear since he is such a rabid Chicago Bears fan).  His siblings are great to me and his niece and nephews already call me Aunt Lainey.  Being welcomed into the brood with open arms is delightful!

11. My honey and I took our first trip to the Pumpkin Patch together today, which leads me to the most delightful news of all...

12. My honey asked me to marry him at the pumpkin patch today.  I'm engaged!!! (which, of course, is absolutely, positively the most delightful thing that has ever happened to me)

Friday, October 5, 2012


It's Friday and I am dog-tired!

Today was a busy, yet great day at work.  My students were delightful, as always.  I don't know if I mentioned it yet, (or maybe I didn't for fear of jinxing it) but I have the most delightful class this year.  These kids are such a breath of fresh air.  I'm actually starting to remember why I became a teacher in the first place.  Yay for me!
What made today such a great day at work?  Beyond the obvious of  having such delightful students, of course.  Today, I got to be a rock star.  No, I didn't hit the Schnapps while the children were at recess!  I actually got to sing like a rock star at work.
Yes, I was this cool. Well, maybe not really,
but I thought I was this cool.
We had an assembly to promote the new school-wide reading incentive program at the very end of the day.  To try and build excitement, the reading teacher asked for one teacher from each grade group to join in the fun and sing a reading themed version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing".  It was like Glee, only if the teachers were all forced to sing against their will.  I got volunteered by my teammate/work husband because I was in a meeting when the reading teacher came around looking for hostages, oops, I mean volunteers. 
Anywho, I got volunteered to join the band, which wasn't a totally awful thing since I am a singer in real life.  We had a few short and painful practices to get ready before the big day arrived. Not all volunteers had singing ability, but they had spirit and enthusiasm to make up for all the strangled cats.  Finally, this afternoon we had our big moment in the spotlight.
It wasn't the best performance in the history of the world and I don't think Hollywood will come calling anytime soon, but it was so much fun!  Plus, the kids loved it and started singing along and applauded like we really were rock stars when we finished.  My class was so jazzed about the assembly that they were all planning how much they were going to read so that they could win the grand prize, an opportunity to make their own rock video with the principal.  Sometimes, my job is so cool!

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Roller Coaster Day, Part Two

(or Can this flippin' day just be over already?)

My day had already gotten off to a bumpy start with the sibling yard sale debacle and unfortunately for me, it wasn't over yet.  We had made plans for the evening with my honey's best friends to visit the Haunted Mill Scream Park.  Oh, the horror of it all!

My honey loves haunted houses, I don't. Spooky music and lighting, things jumping out at you, men in masks with chain saws... to him that spells a good time. For me, that's a great way to insure a sleepless night full of nightmares.  But, he really wanted me to go with him. He was so sure I would have fun if I got into the spirit of things with him. I wasn't at all sure that would happen, but he also promised that if I tried going to one haunted house and didn't like it I wouldn't ever have to do it again. Fair deal, right? Oh boy!

I was already a real grump because of my morning run-in with my brother and now I had something I wasn't looking forward to ahead next.  But, in true roller coaster fashion,  there had to be a few highs to go with the lows still come.

We were taking my car because my honey's brakes were acting up, bad.
I had to clean out the mess in my back seat because his friends would be riding with us, bad.
We were going to be stopping at Cracker Barrel for dinner on the way up to the Haunted Mill, good.

Yum! Breakfast served all day and hash brown casserole!

While cleaning out the back seat, I found the flash drive I had been searching for, really good.  Really, really good!

This little purple flash drive had all my teaching and grad school files on it.
If for no other reason, I'm glad we went to the Haunted Mill because
 it forced me to clean out my car and helped me find this.

Before going, my honey and his best friends prepped me with the do's and don'ts of haunted houses.

Do... walk at all times. Everything is dark and walkways aren't all level or flat.

Don't... run away from the men with chain saws. They will chase you to get a bigger reaction!

Do... stay in the middle of the group so things can't jump out at you or sneak up on you.

Don't... show any overt reaction to the actors in the house or they will focus in on you.
(In other words, screamers or those who looked afraid were tormented more than everyone else.)

But, they forgot the one "don't" that almost got me in trouble. The performers are supposed to scare you and they get as close as possible to you in order to bring the terror. However, they aren't actually allowed to touch you. Touching people tends to initiate the fight or flight reponse and cause people to take a swing at the terror-makers.

Did you know a primitive response designed to save your life
can get you arrested or tormented at a haunted house?

The first performer at the first attraction accurately pegged me as an easy scream (probably because at this point I was begging my honey to let me go back to the car) and started creeping closer and closer to me. I didn't actually hit him. I simply put him on notice that if he got one inch closer to me I was going to deck him. Apparently, this is frowned upon at the Haunted Mill. They have huge signs that say any attacks on the performers will result in your arrest. I'm guessing I'm not the first person who's had the fight response when cornered. I got a huge scolding from the witch at the main gate and to insure my good behavior the first performer followed us through most of the haunted house. Was he guarding my back so no one else would sneak up on me and get hit? Or was he simply being an @$$hole and trying to scare me since I had threatened to hit him? Either way, we had a shadow all through The House of Eyes.

My House of Eyes travelling companion looked like this
only with a grim reaper cloak and a sickle he liked to bang on the floor.
(You know, just so I knew he hadn't left my side.)
We had a survival strategy that pretty much worked for me for most of the night.  My honey's friends would go first so that nothing could jump out at me and I would have someone to guide me through the mazes and dark parts.  My honey would stay behind me so that nothing could sneak up on me.  He promised to hold my hand so that I couldn't run if I got scared by the chain saw men.  He would later come to regret that last part.  He wasn't holding my hand so much as I had a death grip on him that tightened every time I got more scared.

We made it through the House of Eyes and I was soooo ready to be done for the night.  The actors had been screaming at us to get out or we'd be their next victim all the way through and it had really bothered me.  Not scared me, so much as frayed my nerves.  Nobody likes being yelled at, right?  But, no, an easy escape was not mine to be had.  Maybe I should have pulled the crying girl routine.  I bet a nice round of hysterical crying would have had the guys hustling me to the car tout suite.  But, at this point, I was still trying to go with the flow and be a good sport.  Don't get me wrong, I totally asked if I could go back to the car at this point.  I just backed down when I got the old "c'mon, you can make it" from my honey.

"I'm coming to get you, Lainey!"
So, onward to the Trail of Terror we went.  This was both better and worse.  Better because it was outdoors and so there were no confined spaces to get cornered in, but worse because the performers had enough room to get a running start on scaring you.  The Trail of Terror was really dark, like "I'm amazed nobody has fallen and sued the Haunted House people" dark.  Plus, the trail rules strictly prohibited lighting up the trail in anyway.  No flashlights, no glow from a cell phone, not even a glo wand to help you find your way along the bumpy, pothole ridden trail. 

My honey's friends were awesome at recognizing my discomfort and tried to lighten the mood.  They started sauntering along the trail and calling out funny things like, "We're just a couple of virgins walking through the woods at night.  We're totally going to make it to the end of the movie."  I appreciated their attempts at levity and my honey certainly laughed, but it didn't really make my evening all sunshine and roses.  I wanted to go home so badly and I still had two more fun-filled attractions left to see!

You aren't the only one he was following, Jamie Lee!
The Haunted Mill and the Maze are a blur to me now.  I had implemented a new survival strategy at this point: tunnel vision.  I couldn't tell you what was in the Haunted Mill to save my life.  I can tell you that, according to my honey, someone in a Jason mask and someone in a Michael Myers mask tried to sneak up on me.  I had no idea!  That was behind me and I was concentrating all my attention on the back of the t-shirt worn by the friend walking in front of me. 

Our white-out guide

I do remember one completely pitch black room in the mill where you could here the performers, but couldn't see them.  I also remember a room that was so smoky and bright that it was a white-out.  The performers in that room had gas masks (and probably instructions to guide people through the room).

"Dude, you are SO lost!"

Whatever!  I made it through the ordeal without any screaming or girly crying.  My honey may have lost the use of his left hand for a few hours afterwards, but oh well.  I was a trooper, even though I hated every second of it.  Yay for me!  On the way home, the GPS took us onto an unpaved road through the middle of a cornfield and we all thought the Scream Park experience was being continued as we got horribly lost in BFE.

I've had two nights worth of nightmares (so far) as a result of going through the Haunted Mill.  But, on the bright side, my honey AND his friends have all decided that I never, ever have to do that again.

One more night of this and I'm bringing in the teddy bear!

My Honey's Latest Life Lesson: 
If your girl tells you she doesn't like haunted houses...
AND she tells you she doesn't want to go...
AND she tells you going there will give her nightmares,
(Did I mention my honey's a little sleep deprived right now?)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Roller Coaster Day, Part One

(and how my honey survives the ride)

Yesterday was a pretty rough day around here on so very many fronts.  I spent yesterday morning with my brother.  Never a good way to start the day!  As a result, I was frustrated and highly irritable, and that was before my honey took me to a haunted house. My poor honey!  He was in for a roller coaster ride of a day.

It all started out fairly innocently.  My mom asked us to come over and be the sales crew at her latest yard sale.  The reason the yard sale was needed at all had me irritated before the big day even arrived.  My brother had asked my mom if he could use her yard to host a yard sale a few weeks ago.  She'd said yes and that was a mistake.  My brother and his wife brought over tons of old baby clothes and baby toys that my nephew had outgrown.  But, when it didn't all sell on yard sale day, did they pack it up and take it home? Nope.  Did they load it in the truck and take it to Goodwill? Nope.  They left all their junk piled up in my mom's sunroom from floor to ceiling.

My mom assumed they wanted to have another yard sale the following weekend to try to get rid of the rest.  A week went by and then two weeks... no yard sale.  She asked them when they wanted to have another yard sale to get rid of the rest.  My sister-in-law bluntly told my mother that she didn't ever want to go through the hassle of a yard sale ever again.  So, my mom asked them to load up the junk and take it to Goodwill.  They had a myriad of excuses for why they couldn't.  The SUV was too full already.  They had somewhere else to go after they left mom's house.  Goodwill wouldn't be open by the time they got back.  It all boiled down to one thing: they were leaving the stuff at mom's house with no immediate or even distant plans to move it.

Being an intelligent and competent parent, my mother created her own plan for their abandoned stuff.  She would hold a yard sale without them.  She would sell their stuff and pocket the profits.  You snooze, you lose!  She invited my honey and I over to help out.  We weren't really excited about having the early shift at the yard sale, but my mom was really upset about the mess in her house and super ticked at my brother for his lack of effort to correct the situation.  I didn't mention this in last week's blog, but she cried when she thanked me for coming over to clean.  The mess was upsetting her that much.  So, we stepped up to help mom out.

The big day arrived, my honey and I peeedl our eyelids up, and headed over to mom's house only to find...

wait for it...

wait for it...

(You know what's coming already, don't you?)

You guessed it!

My brother had dragged his lazy butt over to mom's house and was claiming all proceeds from the yard sale.  Now, before you start thinking that he had every right to do that, know this...if she hadn't decided to have that yard sale without my brother, he would have left that stuff at her house to rot forever.  He didn't want it and he wasn't going to dispose of it.  Possession is nine tenths of the law, after all.  The stuff was in my mother's house, therefore it now belonged to her.

To make matters worse, my brother had brought along my nephew.  Squirt was eyeing all his old toys and claiming that we couldn't sell them.  I love Squirt, but he should not have been present at a yard sale where we were selling his old toys.  To solve this dilemma,  my honey and I were pulled from the sales staff and converted into daycare providers.

That's right, my honey and I were assigned to Operation: Keep Squirt Busy.
So we took Squirt for a walk...

we fed the ducks...

and we went to the playground for a swing.
Are you starting to see the roller coaster of it all yet?
Up super early on a Saturday, bad. 
Obnoxious brother at yard sale, bad. 
Spending the morning playing with Squirt, good.

My brother thanking me for helping out at "his" yard sale, bad.
My brother being lazy and not helping clean up after the yard sale, bad.
My honey and I going to the local craft fair to pick up pit beef sandwiches for the family, good.

That second one is almost counter-intuitive, isn't it? I should have been glad he said thank you, but instead I was pissed he thanked me for coming to "his" yard sale. If it had really been his yard sale, I wouldn't have had to be there at all, damn it.

Yard sale fiasco over, we headed home and got ready for our evening plans: the Haunted Mill.