November 25, 2011

Grandma's Secret Ingredient

We started a new tradition last year where my family goes to my grandparents' home for pie after our holiday dinners. My grandma makes the best food in the world, so this is something I look forward to each time. She always makes three pies: pumpkin, apple, and pecan. You should be jealous right now. And here's why...

Me: (as I take a bite of her delicious pecan pie) Grandma, you seriously make the best pies in whole world! I've been looking forward to this moment for weeks.

Sister: You do! Even the restaurants and stores don't compare to your pies. They're SO good!

Grandma: Do you know my secret?

Sister and Me: (in unison) It's baked with LOVE???

Grandma: Nope. Rum!

Sister: Rum?! Really?

Me: I was sure you were gonna say love.

Grandma: Oh yeah, that too!

Papa: (completely disgusted) Rum? You seriously use rum? You know I don't drink!

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is one more reason I love my grandparents! 

November 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday (Sunday): Sisters

So, I know I've totally sucked at my Thankful Thursday posts this year, but I have another post for ya'll, albeit super late...

My sister.

She turns 27 this week, which means that I've had my longest friend for that many years. Awww!

We celebrated her birthday last night by taking the train downtown with friends to eat at her favorite Spanish tapas restaurant, Cafe Iberico. I'm not a very adventurous eater, so I was fully prepared to eat very little. I promised Amy, though, that I would try everything, and I did. We had grilled octopus, steamed clams, goat cheese and tomato sauce, garlic shrimp, beef tenderloin and potatoes, some kind of pork, a seafood salad, chicken (ironically, the only dish I didn't try all night because it was gone before it got to me), and bananas foster and a Spanish tiramisu for dessert. I can't remember any dish that I didn't like, and that's saying something coming from this picky eater. If you're a tapas fan or want to try it out, I highly suggest you try this place.

After dinner we went to Kingson Mines up in Lincoln Park to listen to some blues music. This was my first time ever at a blues bar, and as a people watcher, I was impressed by the very eclectic patrons. The bar has two rooms, and they switch back and forth between bands in each room. If you like that kind of music, you'd probably love this bar too. I'm not a huge fan of this genre, so I liked it better when they played in the other room, and we were able to talk while we still listened.

The train ride home was probably the most eventful with a drunk guy passed out on his wife across the aisle from us. I could see in her eyes that she was near tears when we boarded. And then he started heaving and puking. She tried to stop him by covering his mouth, which ended up in a nasty mess all over her hands. And I know she was super embarrassed. I felt so bad for her. She called someone and explained that he took 8 shots with someone at the bar, almost got into a fight with a homeless man, and punched the windows at Macy's all before passing out on the train. She looked at us at one point and said, "This is not my job. I'm a wife, not a babysitter!" I know that totally sucked for her, but it was good entertainment for us. Haha! I hope she makes him pay for it today while he's surely hungover.

Anyway, it was a great night on the town. I didn't get home until after 2:00, but it was worth the exhaustion. Happiest birthday, Seester! I love you!

November 16, 2011

Mission: Closet Organization

Today, I subbed for the Library Director at one of my schools. She asked for me, specifically, because I often stop in to help out during my down time other days. I love to sit at the circulation desk where I get to be in charge of checking in, checking out, and renewing books to students. It makes me feel powerful. And I like to use the scanner. And I never have to discipline students. Instead, I get to talk to them about what books they're reading and help them find the perfect selections. It's so fun!

And yes, I realize this makes me sound like a huge nerd.

So be it.

Or should I say, So B It? Ahhh, teacher humor!

Anyway, I was only scheduled for a half-day of work, so I had every intention of coming home and doing absolutely nothing productive. But then I was browing furniture on Bookoo, as I often do for fun (or self-torture depending on what I find), and I came across a listing for a seven-drawer storage cart for only $10.

I've mentioned before that I love to organize. It gives me a sense of calm in this chaotic world.

And as an organizer, I have admit that I get overly excited about these things. I have a few already, but I always imagine what I could do with just one more. Within minutes, the lister confirmed that the cart was mine and the planning stages began.

What should I put in it?

Where can I put it?

The one thing this house really, really lacks is storage. It's pretty much non-existent. Unless you count the tiny, under-the-stairs closet where I store my shoes, coats, purses, scrapbooking supplies, towels, scarves and other outdoor accessories, reusable bags, and my tool kit. (Yeah... you have to be a really good organizer to get all of that in there!)

My bedroom closet is the only other option, but that's been busting at the seams for months, being my only storage space and all.

But, I'm nothing if not determind, so I set forth in organizing my closet.

Note: I did not purge anything. Because I already got rid of tons of clothes earlier this year before I moved. This was a mission of re-organization, not downsizing. This has actually been a challenging task for me because I grew up in a home with closet organizers. If I wasn't a renting, I would put one of those babies in immediately.

But here's the end result. Not bad, huh?

Note: The Scholastic box is where I store all of my gift bags, tissue, and boxes. I'm a sucker for a cute gift bag and always keep some on hand to make my life easier. The clothes on top will be stored under my bed as soon as I get myself a proper container. The bags on the floor are both empty and can easily be combined to make more room when needed.

November 10, 2011

Elf on the Shelf

Some parents have moral dilemmas about lying to their children about Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny. Even though I don't have kids of my own, I can already tell you that I will not be one of those parents. I love the holidays and want my children to embrace all the magic that comes with them.

OK... and I'm not going to lie, Santa is a fantastic behavior monitor. I'm all about anything that motivates children to act like little angels so they can be handsomely rewarded on December 25. It's bribery on steroids, but you know what? It works!

For any parent that has not yet been introduced to the magic that is The Elf on the Shelf, you need to request one from the North Pole immediately! He's basically Santa's gift to parents around the world who need to start threatening consequences to bad behavior before the holidays (or July, if you live in my home... because I like well-behaved children all year long).

Clearly, keeping a watchful eye on all the children of the world is a very daunting task for the Cookie Monster Santa, and he needs the assistance of his little elves to create his Naughty or Nice list. So he sends his spies...narcs... elves, whatever you want to call them, into the homes of young children to be a tattle tale, kinda like the geeky hall monitor you saw on every after school special but never knew in real life. Because, you know, we teach our children not to tattle, but it's totally okay for elves.

The magic of these elves, or little people as I'm sure they'd prefer to be called, is that they mysteriously move to a new location each night. That's right, people. These are no ordinary dolls. The little guys bring the joy of Easter egg hunts to Christmas with a morning ritual of Find the Elf. Sometimes, he might even be carrying a note from Santa himself, a behavior report card of sorts for any naughty children who need redirection.

I've heard tales from my mommy friends of children who have literally cried at the first annual appearance of their Elf on the Shelf, knowing full well that their behavior is being monitored day and night.

Any toy that produces that kind of terror in the mind of a young child is welcome in my home! I mean, there's obviously nothing at all creepy about a doll that watches you all day and turns to life while you sleep, right?

November 3, 2011

Thankful Thursday: My Relationship with Former Students

Last November, I did a Thanksgiving post every day of the month. This year, I'm giving myself permission to consolidate my thanks into weekly posts instead. If I'm completely honest, it's largely because I'm often without Internet access all day at work, and I used to do my writing during my lunch or planning period. I guess I'll have to make each post extra special to make up for it!
So, for my first Thankful Thursday post, I wanted to focus on something that I appreciate at my core: the relationships I have with my former students. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I love, love, love that I'm still connected with so many of my former students. Every time I get a message or email from them, my heart swells with happiness. I feel so privileged that I was able to create the kind of relationships with my students that they want to keep even after I'm gone.

This is especially important to me now, after spending much of the last two weeks supporting a student who lost his mother to breast cancer. I'm so thankful for the relationship I have with him, and that I was able to stand by his side at the wake and funeral services. And I can continue to support him by being a another caring adult in his life. We've agreed to weekly hangouts, and today was our first. He brought along a friend (another former student) for dinner and ice cream, and we had a great time catching up. He can have different conversations with me than with his father or siblings, and I'm so grateful to be able to be another mentor in his life.
And I'm not just thankful that I was there to support him. I was also immensely thankful to be able to reconnect with several of my former students (and parents), some whom I haven't seen in years. My heart was so full to be able to see the excitement on their faces (and sometimes tears in their eyes) when they first saw me, to feel their embraces, and to hear them tell me how much they love and miss me. Although the circumstances were tragic, I can't tell you how good it felt to be surrounded by my kiddos again. It made me miss them even more!

Earlier this week, I was approached through old coworkers on behalf of another parent. Her son wasn't technically one of my students, but we formed a great relationship anyway because he was on my team. He used to sneak into school early for two years to hang out with me in my classroom and help with whatever project I was doing at the time. Anyway, this weekend, he's attending a church retreat. One of the things they do is give each kid encouragement letters written by adults in their lives. His mom asked me, of all people, to write him a letter. I was so touched, and of course, sent off my letter last night.

Everyone may not agree with my teaching style, but I think I must be doing something right to have so many former students still in my life today. To me, these relationships are even more important than the academic lessons I teach them. I love that I can be there for a student when he/she is struggling with an issue and doesn't know where else to turn (yes, this has happened). I love that they want to share their lives with me. I love that they remember me and my classroom fondly. I wouldn't have it any other way!

November 1, 2011

No Makeup November

I have more Halloween goodness to share, but before I do, I have something else on my mind...

Apparently, it's a thing for the menfolk to do No Shave November, or Movember, as they're calling it. The idea, I learned, is to get sponsors to back you on the no-razor thing for the entire month, and the proceeds benefit prostate cancer.

I'm not generally a fan of facial hair beyond the five o-clock shadow, but I'm down for a good cause.

Taking a cue from women across the globe, some students at my alma mater have banded together to make this month meaningful for the women as well. Today, they kicked of No Makeup November in an effort to remind women what we really look like under all those cosmetics: beautiful!

And it worked out well for me since I was lazy this morning (or last night, to be precise) and didn't have on any makeup when I read about this on the alumni page Facebook page.

I'm thinking about officially "joining the cause" so I have an excuse to do one less thing in my routine for the next 29 days.

Unless I have a hot date.

Or a job interview.

A girl has to have priorities, you know!