It's a strange and incredible power these five-year olds yield.

I was feeling pretty great this morning as I walked into my classroom.

I loved my new haircut, and am still thanking the Gods that the “gray hair gene” has apparently skipped the members of my family. (We won’t talk about the other ones that did not.)

I visited the nurse’s office scale and was happy to see that I was still losing the baby weight I had been clinging to for the past 12 years. Frankly, I think that might have been the last of it. (Uh oh. Did I just jinx myself?)

To top if off, I was able to make a trip to Starbucks before school after receiving a gift card for contributions I had made to a project at the university. (Those incredible barista’s thought I had fallen off the face of the earth.)

So, when one of the other kindergarten teachers called me into her room after the children had arrived, I was on top of the world.

“Mrs. Smythe,” she said, as she put her arm around me in front of her class, “we were just sharing with each other what we did last night, when Joshua told us something very interesting. Joshua, do you want to share your fascinating fact with Mrs. Smythe?”

He was beaming as he looked at me. “My mom’s name is Suzy Snowflake. You were her TEACHER in FIFTH GRADE!!”

blink. blink.

“Why yes I WAS, Joshua! What an incredible coincidence!”

And in one fell swoop he managed to remind me that no matter how many gray hairs I DON’T have, I am probably old enough to be his grandmother.

Oh Sweet Lord.


The blink of an eye.

It was the overwhelming smell of flowers that hit me as I walked into the building.

It’s always that way.

I breathed it in as I glanced around the packed parlor of the funeral home. The line when I arrived had been so long that it took quite a while to make it inside the door. It was the line that first caught my attention. Not the length, I had expected that; it was the large amount of young people peppering the line that reminded me of the enormity of this loss.

We are members of a large educational community; but in reality we are a small group. We know each other from schools in which we work, from committees, from the pool, the grocery store, little league, soccer, swimming, field hockey, PTA, PTO, football games and wrestling matches.

We are a family.

But now the members of this very large family are standing in line to pay our respects to a small family. A family that is trying to figure out how a vibrant, loving, healthy, active young teacher and mother could be taken from this life so soon.

And that is an answer they will never receive.

As I inch closer to the family, I notice their incredible strength. Her husband and son hug each friend, and even though they’ve been experiencing something that will forever alter the course of their lives, they stand tall and strong, comforting the people who have in fact come to comfort them.

I think, from my own experiences, that they might not remember all of the dozens and dozens of bouquets, the hundreds and hundreds of people, the number of hugs they passed out, or the words we all struggled to find.

But I do think they’ll remember this.

This daughter, sister, wife and mother is greatly loved and admired by everyone in this community. She smiled every day, loved every child, laughed at herself and helped others do the same. She impacted her students, her co-workers, loving friends, and people too numerous to mention. Her joie do vivre will continue to live on through all of them.

And while that might not bring comfort today, tonight or tomorrow; sometime soon, it will. It will be something they will always remember.

That is an incredible legacy that we would all be grateful for.

The lift.

This is a reminder that goodwill and great sportsmanship are alive and well.

And it gives me hope.


A note to the best janitor in the whole wide world.

I’d like to apologize for any and everything that you find awry in the room tonight. We had an afternoon filled with planting seeds, constructing buildings for our city and gluing tissue paper flower projects together.

At the end of the crazed hands-on learning activities that I had stupidly planned for a Monday afternoon, one of my little guys decided that there was no time like the present to get a haircut - from himself.

As I helped Stanley look for his hair under the tables, this provided an amazing distraction for our Frank who slipped into the bathroom and got to work. He managed to slather LAYERS of soap all over the toilet seat, toilet bowl, the sink and the paper towel dispenser. I had no idea the soap dispenser could HOLD that much soap. And neither did he.

I guess you could thank him for making your job just a tad easier tonight. His efforts, however, made my job a tad harder.

(Please enjoy the tiny bubbles floating in the room. Cue Don Ho.)


Thought for the day.

As I think about navigating these bumpy seas, I hold this thought close to my heart.

‎"It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself." ~Joyce Maynard

If you have a moment in the day, say a prayer for the Japanese, for those in harm's way, for your neighbor and for our children.



Awesome Stanley and Dr. Frank’s Traveling Road Show

(When the line above appears in the Re: section of the note from the sub, you might want to grab a glass of wine before reading.)

Yes, I was out the other day for some kind of incredibly important training. I received the following email from the substitute, whom I know. Needs no other intro.

Dear Mrs. Smythe,

First, I want to say that I hope you had a great day at your training! Thanks for the great plans, and you were right- your para is amazing!

First, you have established a great routine with the children and we completed all the morning activities according to your plans. Everything went very smoothly. Well, until lunch.

I won’t bore you with the details of Frank’s antics at lunch, for I’m sure that your paraprofessional will fill you in with those. After lunch we went outside, and when we were out at recess Frank managed to find the only pieces of ice left on the playground and then he proceeded to eat them. They were filthy and disgusting. He refused to give me the remaining pieces, and ran circles around me before I convinced him to stop. We managed to get him inside with the rest of the class, and got him focused on listening to the story I was HOPING to read to the class.

That was when Stanley and Frank decided it would be fun to have a wrestling match on the carpet. While most of the class tried to ignore the show, there were several children shouting and watching in delight. (I’m sure you know who they are.) During this incredible WWIII wrestling match, Suzy decided it would be a great time to dump the entire tub of toys on the carpet in the kitchen area. (How she snuck in there I will never know.) I instructed her to clean it up, and returned to the situation at hand. (The wrestlers.) I got things taken care of, and when I checked on Suzy 20 minutes later NOTHING had been cleaned up. She was, however, having a great time laughing and hiding under the 4,000 toys that were covering the floor.

There were several other incidents, but I think you get the picture. An overwhelming majority of the class was beyond excellent today, so I don't want you to think it was just an awful day. But those four or five little ones sure made me wanna have 5 or 6 tall ones at the end of the day...

Thanks again -- ask me anytime. I love working in your room -- even when it's making me feel about 80 years older than I am --because it's always interesting, which keeps me on my toes, and the kids make it all worth it in the end.

I’ve decided that this is the year you deserve a GOLD MEDAL. Get a hold of me if you have any questions – but not tonight. I am having beverages – and plenty of them.

(check over here today. If you're not busy, of course.)


Sure, I like to be generous, but I like to CHOOSE who gets my money.

Dear Mustafa Whateveryournameis:

I want to thank you for turning my world upside down today.

While generally I only allow Frank to do that, you did it when I WASN’T even looking! In fact, you did it from another state altogether. (That’s talent.)

Thank goodness I went online to check my bank account during lunch today while trying to figure out how in the world I was going to pay $650 for Sassy’s car repairs. I thought perhaps I MIGHT be able to juggle some money here or there, and maybe tap in to that whopping $200 I had managed to save in the last three months.

However, your illegal use of my personal information you obtained from SOMEWHERE here in the cyber world sure put a halt to those efforts. In fact, you not only charged an amount that took what was left in my checking, you also took all of my savings and threw me so far in the negative that I need sunglasses just to open my eyes.

After performing CPR on myself, I managed to call my credit union AND the company from Las Vegas at the SAME TIME, and we performed an intricate three-way that ended with a solution that I had no choice but to accept.

Let’s re-cap, shall we? I’m in the negative about 350 dollars, and apparently all the overdraft charges that will surely occur in the next 3-5 days that it takes for the money to be returned will probably be returned to me. In the meantime I’m gonna try real hard not to need gas, food or any other essentials for the next 3-5 days.

They say it’s the darkest before the dawn, right? In that case, I’m betting all I got that tomorrow will be my dawn.


If only they DID sell them at Target.

Yesterday at morning meeting I could tell that Emily had something exciting to share. She sat in the circle smiling and watching intently as we started around the circle. (Surprisingly, she's not typically this patient.)

It was finally her turn.

"Yesterday I got a new boy toy!!! I love my boy toy! It's the best boy toy ever, and I played with it all night long!

I had no choice but to find out where she located this incredible toy. "Suzy, can you tell us where you got this boy toy?"

"McDonald's. It's a boy toy truck."


(Want to chat with us about the creative writing process at BlogHer'11? Vote for anymommy's proposal here. Read below....)


We'll do it by the pool with umbrellas in our drinks.

Many of us who blog are spending quite a bit of time right about now planning and thinking about the BlogHer conference coming up in August.

I remember the first year I went some incredible, incredible things happened. I learned that there are amazing souls in the world, and I learned that each conference is what YOU make it. I would link to all those things, but they are among the 200 posts deleted after the incident. You remember that, right??

I am so thrilled that I am attending this year’s conference, and was honored to be asked to participate in a Room of Your Own proposal. Let me take a minute to explain.

Conferences consist of sponsors (who provide amazing meals, gifts, and other support for the BlogHer organization) speakers, volunteers, organizers and panels that facilitate and initiate discussions. (That's not all, but my mind is a blur right about now.)

Each conference is geared towards meeting the needs of its attendees. The best way to do that, is to have proposals “put out there” to the general public, and see which ones would be well attended.

Here’s where I come in.

The amazing Stacey from anymommy called me and asked if I would be interested in participating on a panel for a session on creative writing.

Would I? WOULD I?????????

I felt like the girl who got asked to the prom by the best looking guy in town. “Cept she’s a girl.

I am devoted to the craft of writing, and am pinching myself each and every day that this audience is kind, grateful, patient, supportive and ha a GREAT sense of humor. (And a great sense of honor, of which I am also grateful.)

So, if you would like to attend a session facilitated by yours truly, anymommy and the talented Bon of cribcronicles, then click here and go to Post Process, from creative spark to blog post, by anymommy. All you have to do is say you’ll attend!!

And while you’re there, There are several others I highly recommend!! Scary Mommy, Anissa, Lucretia and Tech Savvy Mom all come to mind!!!! This is our conference, and we decide what we listen to and who we learn with. Make your choices!

And now, I have to go the gym. Frank was in rare form today, and I have to lift about a thousand pounds before I can even talk about it.

(The good news? I still love him.)


Jon Stewart, Will you marry me??? (aka teacher cribs)

This about says it all.

Come after teachers? COME AFTER TEACHERS?? Yeah, we're living in $75,000 homes; driving the sleek Honda Accord and shopping at Wal-mart. We are LIVING the high life.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Crisis in Dairyland - Apocalypse Cow
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Sweet Lord in Heaven, I don't know what this country is coming to. Call me crazy, but I think there might be other pockets a bit deeper than ours.

I'm not sure if missing the Play Doh station is a good idea.

Our darling girl is not the only child in my classroom who came from a different country. I have another boy whose family is originally from China.

They've lived in our college town for some years, however, as the parents are well-respected members of the university faculty here in Smythe, Oregon.

I was walking to the faculty room after school when his mother came down the hall to talk to me.

She stopped to me fill me in on her family's travel plans. She was very worried because she was taking her sons out of school for a couple of days, and my student would miss the St. Patrick's day festivities. He was worried that he would miss something magical.

She went on to explain. "Since J (her older son in fourth grade) is studying Festival of the Arts in class, we thought it would be beneficial to allow him to see some of these works of art in person. Therefore, we are taking him the Louvre in Paris for a few days."

I looked at her.

blink. blink.

"Hmmmm. Let me think. One one hand you have the Louvre in Paris, and on the other I have activities involving glitter, coloring, cutting and pasting. I think missing these two days won't injure him too much."

I smiled, hugged her, and asked if perhaps they MIGHT have room for someone else with short brown hair and a quick wit.

With a nervous laugh, she declined.

Now, I'm just hoping that his missing the Play-Doh center won't ruin his chances to be valedictorian. I'd hate to carry that burden.


Take a WILD guess

Guess who was playing in the Barbie area today during free play? ("Frank, what did Ken ever do to you???")

The good news? He totally admitted that he did it, and fixed it.

I love that boy.

Even though he kicks my *$$ every single day.

(and a vote over here? Won't do anything except lift my spirits. And that, I need. )

All is well.

I just received an email from our darling girl's family. They are all in Japan, and fine. I just wanted to ease everyone's mind!

Now, after weeping tears of joy, I am putting my make-up back on and heading off to school.

Today we will celebrate miracles.


Going Green.

This morning before Kid Writing, we talked about leprechauns, rainbows, pots of gold, and all things Irish.

As Frank added more and more information to the legend of the leprechaun that I’m convinced he gleaned from watching the movie “Chuckie” every weekend, I steered the conversation back towards the rainbow.

I asked the children, "If you found a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow what would you do with it?"

Immediately hands flew in the air. After listening to several students shout out answers, Suzy finally piped in.

"I have been to the end of a rainbow and there's no pot!"

Several students disagreed, but she insisted.

“I have been on a airplane, and I SAW the end of the rainbow. There was definitely no pot.”

And so endeth the lesson.


Sometimes those straws we are grasping for give us hope.

We spent a good part of morning meeting talking about guinea pigs, Frank's birthday party, his new cat, and earthquakes.

When Frank asked, "What IS an earthquake??? HOW does it HAPPEN??" I was ready.

First, I thanked the Powers that Be for the ten years I spent teaching fifth grade, and was particularly thankful for the many years spent teaching geology, plate tectonics, layers of the earth, and earthquakes. ( And I was doubly thankful that my memory hasn't been completely destroyed. )

I described what happens, in terms they could understand, and then went on to talk about their classmate.

I told them most of what I knew, which wasn't much, but reassured them that she was most likely FINE, and wouldn't she LOVE it if we wrote her some letters? They smiled, and agreed.

We miss you ***. We hope you weren't close to the earthquake.

Dear darling, our whole class misses you. I hope you are safe. I will think about you.

And then, right after lunch, I received the following email from another teacher who has received some crucial information about our girl's family.

They live on the island of Kyushu, which is a distance from Honshu where the damage has occurred, so I'm assuming that they are fine. No news is good news, right? I'm telling myself that because I don't want to think about it otherwise. I'll let you know if/when I hear from their father. Thanks!

And while my heart is lighter, and my hope is brighter, we will continue to pray. We pray for her, her family, her neighbors and her country.

Frankly, I pray for us all.


It's not all Glitter, Play-Doh and Roses, is it?

I started the year with 20 students of varying ability, age and ethnicity.

We’ve worked very hard to build a caring community. We cheer when someone does a great job; we laugh when someone tells a funny story; and we shake our heads when someone forgets the rules.

Last week one of our classmates packed all of her things, and left our school. She and her family moved back to their own country, as her father’s work at the university here was finished. We hugged her, smiled and wished her well on her journey.

Her journey back to Japan.

I’ve spent most of the weekend, as have billions across the world, watching and waiting. Wondering where our darling girl and her family are; and praying with all my might that they are safe.

I am bracing myself for many discussions tomorrow. We will talk about the earthquake, the tsunami, someone's dog, and all kinds of things I can't even begin to imagine.

I don’t know where her family is, but I have emailed anyone who might have an inkling. I am convincing myself that her family told me there were traveling a bit before they headed to Japan, but I’m afraid that might have been wishful thinking. She did, after all, spend a good amount of time at Disney World a month ago.

Tomorrow’s plan for kindergarten?

We’ll sing. We’ll dance. We’ll read. We’ll write. We’ll play. We’ll break some rules.

And we will wrap each of our classmates in love, hugs and comfort; all the while reminding ourselves that each moment is a gift.

And then we will pray for our darling, darling girl.


We've all got SOME kind of allergies.

Overheard in a reading group at Smith Elementary, here in Oregon...

We got on the topic of allergies and one of my girls said, "Yeah, my dad is allergic to my mom's hair spray. Every time he gets near her he gets an allergic erection."

"Um, do you mean reaction? Allergic reaction?"

"Maybe...it was something like that."

(Yeah, it's a re-post. But I STILL laugh about it.)


APPs, Apps;, appS and ApPs. I don't care HOW you spell it, it's a pain in my Apps.

Dear People who are inventing Apps for the things I NEVER EVEN KNEW I needed:

While I’m sure some people with IPhones, LPhones, Smartphones and Xylophones are dying for the an APP called “come wipe me please”, “get my laundry cause I’m too lazy to get it myself” or “I don’t know how to use scissors so Zap me some coupons”, I’m not one of them.

Frankly, I can barely even get my razzly dazzly phone ON, let alone teach it how to bark and roll over. And really, if it is so smart, why can’t it teach ME how to use it?

So, to all of the billion people emailing me HUNDREDS of emails a day about your fabulous APPS that I can’t live without, please stop. I don't even know what APP stands for.

I can barely get my phone ON. (Pssssst. Try Marinka, she’s a pro.)

Now pass me some Advil and really HUGE Diet Pepsi Frank kicked my *$$ so many times today I don’t even know what DAY it is.

The funny farm. (One more time)

Today would have been my mother's 75th birthday. And while she left this earth before she reached the age of fifty, she's been spending the last 25 years sitting comfortably in the hearts of her three children. Today I plan on frying some cabbage, shopping at the Goodwill, and pretending to do 100 sit-ups all in her honor.

(I am reposting this. You'll see why. )

There are many things that my sister and I have in common, and one of them is our love of flowers. I’m sure it’s because our mother adored her garden, and spent many hours weeding, planting, rearranging and sculpting her plants. We both do the same now, perhaps because in our hearts we feel it brings us a bit closer to her.

I recently spent a soggy week visiting said sister in her lovely coastal town in Connecticut. From the moment I arrived, she kept insisting that we visit a local nursery she discovered called “The Funny Farm.”

“We HAVE to go to the funny farm! You will love it. It’s just down the road from here – a couple miles.”

“K, I LIVE at the funny farm, why would I want to visit one?”

I could see that she was very excited about this little adventure, and as an avid gardener (whose garden could KICK the Captain’s garden’s ***), I couldn’t wait.

As we drove to the nursery, she told me the story about how this couple originally lived in New York City and would come to their farm on the weekends. This weekend hobby quickly turned into their full time love – and they chucked it all and moved to the farm lock stock and barrel. They acquired several horses, a donkey, a miniature horse, huge dogs, a billion chickens and turned a small pond with a few frogs into an incredible work of art involving HUNDREDS of frogs, including a large granddaddy who frankly scared me to death. (He could not POSSIBLY be real. I feared for my life, people.)

We parked our car and walked among the many plants that were blooming in all their splendid glory. I noticed a woman standing with her back towards us holding a hose, and knew instantly that this was one of the owners. Her black hair was pulled into a ponytail, with a little teased hair peeking out at the top from underneath a silk headband. We approached her, and when she turned around to greet us with a smile my heart stopped.

I found myself frozen, staring into the face of my mother.

My sister introduced us, and I listened as she and my sister chatted – and then I laughed as she shared a funny anecdote about her husband - Bob. (My father’s name…)

I knew she would have a sense of humor.

She gave us a tour of the farm, and we walked and laughed and were genuinely impressed by this amazing combination of nursery/antique shop/petting zoo and frog extravaganza that they’ve managed to create.

When K and I prepared to leave Claudia rushed over with free plants for us (there are amazing people all OVER this country) and one last smile and chuckle before she sent us on our way.

As we pulled out of the driveway I turned to my sister and said, “K!!! I can’t believe it. She looks and acts EXACTLY like mom!!!”

“I know! I know!! I couldn’t WAIT to see your face when you saw her. “

We rode quietly for a few minutes, both of us lost for a time in a sea of memory. Quite a nice, lovely, happy sea.


This, that (contest winners) and another thing.

I am fascinated by the useless information gadget that used to be located at the bottom of my blog and I can’t for the life of me figure out where it went.

So, while I’m off trying to locate it, I wanted to entertain you with the top TEN Useless Facts that I find interesting, and the contest winners of the necklace and book!

The top ten:

10. Charlie Brown's father was a barber.

9. The plastic things on the end of shoelaces are called aglets.

8. A pregnant goldfish is called a twit.

7. If you feed a seagull Alka-Seltzer, its stomach will explode.

6. Peanuts are one of the ingredients of dynamite. (Yikes. Don’t tell Frank that one.)

5. Octopi have gardens.

4. A snail can sleep for three years.

3. Dudley DoRight's horse's name was Horse.

2. A rat can fall from a five-story building without injury.

1. Your fingernail has the same ingredients as fly poop.

Oh, and the winner of the necklace is Mimi; and the second winner of my friend Sara’s NEW BOOK is Melissa E!! (We can thank Munchie, who I had to lure to the keyboard with pieces of chicken liver.)

I have one other copy of the book I will give away to the person who can find a gazillionaire to send me a gazillion dollars so that I can fix my life a bit more QUICKLY. OR the first person who tells me they want the book. (It’s a great book. I highly recommend.)