That's not the kind of gold we're digging for...

Today at the beginning of the day, my little Maria danced into our room. She's a gorgeous little thing, all decked out in her Sunday-best for picture day. Here's the first thing that came out of her mouth:

"My mom told me I have to stop eating my boogies.

But the crunchy ones are just so good. I don’t eat the gooey ones. No, no, no! Just the crunchy ones."


DonorsChoose - Redeem those cards today!!

Have you ever heard of DonorsChoose.org? It's an amazing resource for teachers, but an even amazing way for someone to donate to a particular school, teacher or project that is close to their heart.

I first found out about this program last year, when a teacher NEW to our building introduced it to our staff. It's a program that enables donors to CHOOSE a project that they wish to donate to- and it helps teachers across the country.

I'm here to tell you it works. This new teacher was given new bookshelves for his classroom, and I saw them delivered with my OWN EYES!!

I am telling about his NOW, because those of us who were lucky enough to attend BlogHer received $25.00 GIFT CARDS to this program. They expire TOMORROW!!!

You can give this FREE MONEY to a lucky teacher/classroom ANYWHERE in the country!

If, perhaps, you might want to donate to THIS teacher's project, zip me a little email (vodkamom@gmail.com) and I will give you my class's project number.

However, there are TONS AND TONS of wonderful projects worth donating to.

Do it.


Tightwad + Sick Golden Boy = A M.E. S. S.

Note to Self:

When Tightwad offers to stay home with what we THOUGHT was a very sick Golden Boy, you might want to leave this list.

1. Do NOT let him go anywhere NEAR a phone. Odds are great that he will call me 26 times during the day; once during our morning centers to tell me that he just saw a slicer/dicer that doubles as a juicer on the Food Network that would be PERFECT for me. (The upside is- this class can now sing and dance to the first two verses of Beyonce’s “Put a Ring On It”.)

2. Do not let him drink RED raspberry tea in his room where he MIGHT spill the WHOLE MUG on his off-white carpet. (Yeah, I know. Ten years ago I was stupid.) Oh, and don’t let him leave the carpet cleaner by the front door, I might get suspicious.

3. Make sure that ONE of you boneheads puts the dogs out when you’re home. (I now understand why the carpet cleaner is by the front door. They don’t call me Vodkamom for nothing. And can’t anyone light a candle in here for God’s sake?)

4. Venture upstairs from the basement at least ONCE during the day to witness the carnage/tornado/explosion that was caused by one sick boy. And a naughty, naughty dog.

5. Sick, smick. Did we even take his temp this morning?

That’s all I can think of for now, but don’t worry – it’s only 5:00 and I haven’t even VENTURED downstairs.

I’m a little afraid.

(And had I known he was staying an extra DAY, I wouldn’t have had that little going away party for him last night after that kids went to bed. And by going away party, oh, well, never mind. I’m too tired to explain.)


I Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts...

Things that go bump in the night fascinate me; I love Ghost hunters, Ghostbusters, Ghost stories and Sylvia Browne. (Come on-let’s be honest here.)

I have shared on this blog some of the fascinating encounters I’ve had in my dreams. (And no, M. Night as NOT called me yet. He has no idea what he’s missing.) I have also had some amazing coincidences occur enough times that I am NOW of the belief that there ARE no coincidences. (My good friend Suzy has convinced me of this particular notion.)

My family puts up with my strange sensitivity to these encounters and typically laughs them off. However, when Bitchy found out that her boyfriend’s mother had an amazing experience of this nature, she immediately insisted I get together with her. I am so glad she did.
We met this morning in a local coffee shop where she shared with me her recent experience with a local “medium.” I was simply spellbound and loved every single story.

To make a long story short, this particular woman believes there are angels who spend time with each of us- who look out for us and occasionally guide us when our path gets dark and treacherous. They are not necessarily people who are related to us, but more spirits that "like" who we are.

I can’t wait to meet this woman, and see what she has to say. I am a bit nervous, but am very interested to see if there really IS someone who is making this journey with me. And frankly, I’d love to really chat with my parents. I’m still pissed that they left us all alone for so long.

I am very interested in hearing from all of you. Do you believe in this? Have you had strange and amazing encounters of your own? Have you been to a medium???? Do tell……….


What Dads Teach Their Sons...

We have four kindergarten teachers at Smythe Elementary here in Smith, Oregon.

Yesterday we were all outside for our afternoon recess discussing an upcoming field trip. Most teachers have developed a unique talent of scanning a playground while carrying on a meaningful conversation. My eyes did the quick scan, and then I turned my attention back to Jane.

“Jane, don’t you have Frank Jones in your class?”

“Yes! He is just adorable.”

“Well, don’t look now, but that adorable boy is peeing in the bushes while carrying on a conversation with the kids on the climbing wall. I’d say that in addition to being cute, he’s awfully talented.”

“FRANK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”, she screamed and off she ran.

Good thing she’s a runner.


Do NOT answer that phone...

Dear Tightwad,

How long have we been married? HOW LONG? Twenty years you say?? Yeah, and of those 20 years, how many of those have I spent teaching? Did I hear you say ALL OF THEM?

Well, then, you surely know by now that I am WORKING between the hours of 8:30 and 3:00, and PROBABLY at 9:30 I am doing something like, oh, perhaps keeping TWENTY FOUR 5 year-olds in line. And on the OFF CHANCE that one or two of them is listening, I might even be teaching them to READ.

So, when you call me at that time you know I am going to answer it THINKING that a LIFE ALTERING event has happened. Then, when you had the nerve to YELL at me because we were bouncing checks (again) after I told you I was working??? Yeah. I’m about as hot as, um, well, I’m just HOT. (And when I say HOT I don’t mean smokin’ gorgeous.)

So, when you come home on Friday, don’t expect that welcome home meeting that we usually have in your office. I’ll be rolling quarters and dimes in the hopes of crawling out of our negative balance.

(Next time I remind you to go the bank, don't call me a nag and just DO IT. Oh, and you might want to stop putting money in all those separate accounts of yours and just use ONE. The ONE we pay bills with.)



Here we go again...

Dear Golden Boy,

Now that you are in the middle school, I expect you to do several things yourself. FIRST, remember your &$@& homework! You are no longer in a building where your mother has a key to enter at all hours of the night to retrieve a stray paper here and there that you might have forgotten.

SECOND? I refuse to email your new teacher ONE MORE TIME. If you can’t get your act together at the end of each day to bring home what you need, you’re gonna have to pay that piper yourself. My piper coins are ALL USED UP.

Yeah, about that yelling match last night? If you EVER talk to me like that again, I will smack you so far into next week that you won’t even know what DAY IT IS.

And when I say, “Please get out your backpack and do your homework.” You better say “How high??”

I have a headache.

Love, mom


Let it be known........

The MOST important word ever to teach your new kindergarten children who MIGHT speak only Chinese, Arabic, Korean or Japanese - and not a bit of English??



And we shall never speak of it again...

What do you do in the face of adversity? In the wake of an unspeakable tragedy – does anyone really know how he or she will react?

I have faced some of what I thought were insurmountable obstacles in my life. We lost our father when I was 19, and our mother a mere seven years later. While some young people were deciding what career path to choose, and what job they should accept, I was simply trying to maintain a hold on life.

My sister and her amazing family have spent two years trying to find their way through a haze of shock and grief, as they re-shape their family and try to glue together the whole that was ripped open when they lost their son. (May you rest in peace, my love.) I am convinced that they are amazing people as they forge ahead with acceptance and contentment, all the while keeping the knowledge close to their hearts that they will be reunited once again.

Some of you might remember my other little challenge last year, when some folks at my work discovered this little writing project I had fallen in love with. All the while I thought I was anonymous – but I was making some mistakes with names of certain places – like where I worked, etc. It was an amazingly difficult time for me. This blog is really a product of my heart and soul- it’s comprised of thoughts, feelings, experiences, it’s who I am deep inside my soul. It. Is. Me.

I thought long and hard about what direction I was going to take and I made a decision. I realized that I made some mistakes and the only way I could swallow this bitter pill was to have it be a medicine that would make me a better teacher and a better person. I wanted to forgive and move forward with the knowledge that none of us are perfect. We are never where we NEED to be- but it’s the journey that counts, right? I choose to make this journey with a smile, a laugh and the belief that there IS some good in the world. (Right, Mr. Frodo?)

Bitchy and Sassy were shocked that I wasn’t still angry about the whole unfortunate incident when I returned to work this fall. I made it clear to them that I had to use this as a teachable moment. If I didn’t, then I was surely a hypocrite. I teach the children that "every day is a new day, and that we learn from our mistakes." I had to walk the walk.

In the end I discovered another surprising fact of life. All these years I have been thinking and preaching “tragedies and obstacles make you who you are.”

I recently discovered the real truth of the matter.

Those obstacles and tragedies -- they don’t make you who you are, they REVEAL who you are.

And, I’ve decided…I’m pretty proud of that person. Cracks and all.



Just hold it....

Okay boys and girls, are there any questions about our schedule for today? Questions? Yes, Stephen??

"Mrs. Smith, did you know I can hold my pee for a really, really, really long time?"

"Huh. Well. I'm not sure what that has to do with the schedule for the day, but thanks for that valuable piece of information. "


There ARE good manners in field hockey

Dear Sassy,

Yes, I was a blubbering mess on the night that your team played a brilliant field hockey game against one of your arch rivals. And, when YOU scored the winning goal in overtime? I never knew my heart could burst with pride.

However, I was wrong. A few days later your team put forth a valiant effort against one of the best teams in the area. They shot goal after goal, and played an amazing, very physical game.

You and your team never gave up. You fought with integrity and dignity and even though it was a bloody, frustrating battle - you rallied your team play after play. You all played with all your might even until the last buzzer sounded.

And then, when you limped off the field beaten and battered, you held your head high and showed the underclassman what sportsmanship was all about.

THAT was my proudest moment.

and now I am blubbering again. dang it.


Hello?? Who IS this?

I have an adorable little fella in my class this year who I am SURE is going to give me a run for my money.

His name is Jackson, and his hair has a hint of red, and his face is kissed with a sweet splash of freckles. He talks non-stop, cannot stop moving and yet I know in my heart he is trying his very best.

Today while I was talking to the very quiet children and stressing the important of rules, I heard him in the back of the group CHATTERING away.

Me: "Jackson. Jackson!!! WHO are you TALKING to???"

Jackson: "I am talking to God!"

Me: (Not wanting to offend the very person I've been trying to contact...) "Well, please tell him you're busy and you'll chat with him after school. Now come on up here and join us. Please."

Yeah. I DO believe this little fella is my new best friend.


Dear Chris Mann's Mother...

Dear Chris Mann’s mother,

After meeting your son in Chicago, I’ve been wracking my brain for a proper way to share him with some of my bloggy friends.

Should I tell them that he is a classically trained opera singer, having studied in Italy???

Should I tell them that he is, well, very good looking?

Should I tell them that he has an EP out? (I'm afraid you'll have to google that like I did...)

Should I talk about the way he rocked the parties at the BlogHer Conference with his incredible voice? And dare I mention he has a blog?

In the end I decided, instead, to write you a note. I wanted YOU to know what kind of son you have.

At a tiny party held on a rooftop in Chicago, he spent a good amount of time chatting with a 50 year-old kindergarten teacher. He was gracious, humble, funny, kind, curious and thoughtful.

And when he told me that I reminded him of his best friend’s mom? My heart swelled with the compliment, and I KNEW that HIS mother must certainly be incredibly proud of the man he has become.

I wish him well and will continue to watch him –with the fervent hope that he achieves great success.

However, with all that you have taught him, I feel he already has.


Sniff, sniff. Do you smell smoke?

Note to Self:

When leaving the house to take your daughter to her sports massage and breakfast, make SURE to turn off the stove. Apparently the water you are boiling with cinnamon and nutmeg IS flammable.

The first sign something was wrong? Hearing the dogs barking wildly and the smoke alarm going off when I got out of my car. I managed to throw the pot in a tub of water JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME. Oh, and apparently I CAN run.

I was going for the great smell of cinnamon and nutmeg and ended up with the smell of freshly burned forest.

I like to f*&@ up once a day. It keeps me humble.


How to Lose a Cat in Ten Days...

Today during sharing:

Jack: “Guess what? We have a spray cat!”

Me: “Um, do you mean a STRAY cat?”

“No! It’s a SPRAY cat. SPRAY. We found it. And guess who it belongs to? The barking dogs behind our HOUSE! The ones that keep us up ALL NIGHT LONG!”

Hm. I think we’ve discovered why he’s a spray.


Sewing is not good for your health

Dear Sassy,

I don't care HOW many goals your score or HOW many games you win, there comes a time when you need to turn your brain on and THINK.

When I come home from a LONG day in kindergarten, and an even LONGER night of meetings, do you think I'm in the mood to HEM A PAIR OF PANTS? Have you forgotten that my idea of hemming involves duct tape and scissors? Surely there is SOMETHING in your closet you can wear to dress up before an away game- can't you rifle through Bitchy's stuff she that left here when she moved on campus?

Also, can we PLEASE remember to do all the laundry that you need for the game at least a DAY before??? Running the washer and dryer at midnight is not something I wanted to be doing on this first full week of kindergarten. (Have I told you I have 25 students? Have I told you that five don't speak English? Have I told you I told you that my feet hurt?)

Oh, and please tell your little brother that interjecting the fact that he left ALL of his homework at school during our little screaming match did not improve my mood. I'm sure I didn't mean to bite his head off, and if we look very, very hard we might find it before school this morning.

Yeah, it's a new year- but it's the same old crap all over again.

Now, can anyone out there sew??????


Wednesday Shout Outs!

I've got some friends who are celebrating some exciting moments today.

First, go visit John and Steve over here, and you can enter a contest celebrating some great news. New parents can enter to win oodles of cool, cool stuff. Oh, and if you mention my name, you'll get some additional entries.

Also, my friend Elise has a lovely post about The President's speech to kids. Frankly, I loved it- and I'm happy that someone else did as well.

My friend Barrie has a new YA book out - go check out the cover!!

And this is the time I beg shamelessly for some votes over at the blogger's choice awards.
I don't like to be competitive, but I wasn't a collegiate gymnast for nothin' people. I know most of you voted, and it takes a bit of time to register (four or five minutes) but I would appreciate it. I wish I had some cool prizes to offer (like the other blogs who are now in the lead) but all I've got left from all the swag I managed to snag from BlogHer are some reuseable grocery bags (about 10 of them), some key chains, flash drives, fake nails and eyelashes and a couple DVD's about photography.

So, if you visit these friends, manage a vote or two for me and want ANY of these items, feel free to let me know. I'll zip you out a package. or two.

Now, I am going to go gloat about the fact that Sassy scored the WINNING GOAL in her varsity field hockey game in OVERTIME last night. I am still walking on cloud nine as a proud mama- and will never forget the look of joy on her face as she leapt a HUNDRED FEET IN THE AIR after the goal.

I have a feeling last night will be one of the top ten moments in my life. whew.


Why we don't eat bark.

Boys and girls, we have to be very careful about germs when we are in school. It’s important to wash our hands, stay clean, and keep our fingers OUT of our mouths.

“Mrs. Smith, I had a germ once. I had a germ and it was in my THROAT! It kind of tasted like, well, like MULCH!”


Whose kids ARE these?

Dear Bitchy and Sassy,

The next time you make my cry at a HUGE friends and family cookout (here in Oregon) that doubled as a “surprise” 50th birthday party, I will have to kick your collective asses.

As for the scrapbook you’ve been working on for weeks now that included ALL my columns, articles, and published writings? It’s absolutely incredible.

But, the fact that you’ve been working on this secretly for over a month now, even as we’ve been arguing, fighting and screaming at each other, is even MORE incredible, and speaks volumes to my heart.

Dammit. I love you both more than I can say.


WHY do I always learn things the HARD WAY???

Today is the day - THE day. I am 50 years old. What have I learned?

I have learned that you are never too old to learn a lesson. I’ve had lots of embarrassing moments over the years, and I actually like to call them “great learning opportunities." They are often the most important lessons of all.

Remember these?

1. When I first started teaching fifth grade, I showed a whale video to the whole class, and in the middle of it this HUGE penis was flashed on the screen – FREEZE FRAMED, as the narrator described the huge penis (16 feet in diameter) of a gray whale. I only knocked over two kids and one garbage can as I FLEW over to the VCR to shut it off. The School District Superintendent brought that story up when I ran into him at my school several weeks later. He still laughs about it to this day.

2. When I lived in California I was invited to a lovely Christmas Dinner at the incredible home of a rich, well-to-do family who had befriended us. I decided to bring my Grandmother’s famous Christmas Bean Soup (a tradition of my mother’s large Slovak family…). I forgot how GASSY everyone would get after eating it. Needless to say, I have NEVER served that at a party since. NEVER!!!!!

3. Two summers ago I had a jewelry party at my house (against my better judgment) for a friend of mine. When the consultant was preparing her grand displays, my son proudly said to her, “My mother said that if she weren’t HOSTING this party, she would NEVER EVER be going to it.” It appears he has inherited the foot-in-mouth gene from my side of the family.

4. Another day when I was teaching fifth grade, I wore pajamas to school. I thought they were classy day-wear from V. Secret, but the girls kept saying, "Mrs. Smith, are you wearing pajamas?” When I got home I called my sister, who sent them to me, and she said, “Hell yes, they ARE pajamas.” So there. Dang it.

5. I sat through three parent conferences several years ago with my zipper down. Finally, one mom had the courage to let me know.

Last night I received an innocent email from a friend of mine. I opened it, and pushed something I shouldn’t have pushed and it gobbled up my email contact list like a hot fudge sundae and spammed them all.

In my contact list were members of my huge extended family, wonderful blogging friends and colleagues from work. Oh, and did I mentioned that very important agent from NEW YORK CITY that I have been stalking for nine months now? Yeah. He’s in the list. And, as of last night, he SURELY received at least a dozen spam emails from yours truly.

That will SURELY impress him, don’t you think?

However, let me put this latest faux pas into perspective. Did I lose a precious family member? Did I lose a dear friend or colleague? Was my life altered in a horrible tragic way? Did my husband lose his job again? No, no, no and no.

Today I am celebrating my birthday. And even though my life is filled with bumps and twists and sometimes-embarrassing turns- I am very proud of the woman I have become.

I am human.

Now where’s my damn champagne?


It's a dog eat dog world out there...

We were playing a little game today on the first day of school.

It was called “That’s Me!” and we had to go to the center of the circle if the statement matched something about you.

When I said, “Whoever has a dog”, my little Frank shouted out…

“I USED to have a dog. But it passed out. Now I just have a cat.”

Friends - my address book was hacked and jacked. If you receive an email (or a billion) about photos - DO NOT OPEN IT.
I apologize for the inconvenience. You may return to your regularly scheduled programming.


The first day of kindergarten holds many surprises...

Some of you might remember that little trip I took to visit a few friends in Chicago at the end of July. My plane ride across the country was punctuated with a stop in the Philadelphia airport. It was there I switched from a large plane to one that I had to practically fly myself.

I had at least a two-hour layover, and spent most of the time at the gate where I was to depart for my flight home.

Not long after arriving at this particular gate, a large family group arrived after what I later learned was a long flight from Italy. They consisted of a “not-quite” middle-aged couple, three or four college-age young people, a young girl and several even younger toddlers. I was mesmerized by this family, and by the mother in particular. She was younger than me, but appeared to have children whose ages spanned at least 17 years or more. Did I mention she looked great? In fact, she looked better than I did after my FIRST child. The little girl was adorable, tanned by what were surely many days at the beach- her hair a bright yellow with help from the sun.

They were all jovial and upbeat, despite what surely was a long overseas flight with three young children. I am always fascinated by people, and watching and listening to this family helped the time fly by.

Imagine my surprise this morning when, on the first day of kindergarten orientation, in walked this mother – with the young adorable girl in tow.

Yeah. I’m her teacher.

Do I Smell Bacon???

I have been working my tail off to prepare for school.

However, I've also been SICK AS A DOG since Sunday, and am convinced (as is everyone around me) that I have the swine flu. If I turn pink and start oink-ing I've instructed my children to kill me.

If I DO in fact die tomorrow, I want there to be ham sandwiches and bacon wrapped wienies served at the wake.

And for God’s sake, please serve good vodka. I don’t want any of you puking in my urn. (Did you hear that Matt-Man? Make sure you bring the good stuff.)


Psssst....Pass it On.........

It’s the little things in life that make my day.

I was working feverishly at school today, preparing for the 25 young souls who will run through the door on Thursday. I took a few minutes to go to my mailbox to check for yet ANOTHER stack of papers, checklists, class lists and other items that find their way to the rectangular purple tub that bears my name.

Inside was a square envelope, with my name and school address carefully written in beautiful script.

This is what was inside.

It was a lovely and touching note from a woman in a neighboring community. She wanted to thank me for writing the monthly column that she so enjoys.

It touched me. It reminded me about little things I neglect. I am sending at least two cards out to friends.

It’s called paying it forward.

Sometimes I just need a gentle reminder.