Treat Yo Self, Teachers!

Summer has finally arrived…and not a moment too soon. The last month of the school year often feels like I’m caught in a whirlwind, just trying to keep up and finish the year off strong. More and more I’m starting to doubt I’m the only teacher who feels this way since so many teacher memes cropped up on social media the last month of school. I decided to include my favorite one below…

Teachers through school yr

Sleep-deprived and exhausted, I struggle to find time for anything other than work and my son as the school year draws to a close; between lesson planning, creating final exams, spending time after school with my little guy, and trying [trying being the operative word] to make home-cooked meals, I barely have the energy to brush my teeth at night. That’s why I like catch up on some much-needed me time during the first week of summer vacation…Here are some ways I recoup and refresh the end of a school year:

Massage

We have a  Massage Envy in town, and I’ve finally started using the annual membership my husband got me for Christmas. Since they have various locations in different states, I can even use my membership if I travel. I certainly have stress built up by the end of the year, and a good massage helps me relax and reenergize as my summer break begins.

Mani/Pedi

Love getting summer-ready by picking out some bright colors for a mani/pedi. I was definitely thinking about one of my fave summer foods, watermelon, with my latest choices- pink and mint green.

Summer Reading

I’m definitely a book lover and there are so many books I have on my “To Read” list during the school year that I can’t wait for the summer to begin so I can dive into them.  I recently finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed and was completely inspired by author’s brave journey on the PCT trail after struggling to cope with the loss of her mother. Next, I’ll be working on some young adult books, since I’d like to try lit circles with coming of age books in the fall; I have some great titles and authors on my list: Deadline and Whale Talk, both by Chris Crutcher; Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan; and Slam by Nick Hornby, who happens to be the screenwriter for the film adaptation of Wild.

This year, I’ve signed my little one and myself up for the summer reading challenge at our local library.  It’ll be fun to keep track of all the fun things he and I will be reading this summer.

Best of all…Quality Time with Family and Friends

One of the greatest joys of summer is spending time outdoors with DJ and my husband!  We now have a pool and swingset in our backyard, so we try to be out running, swimming and playing as much as we can.

DJ Swining

Also, just because school is over doesn’t mean good times with great co-workers have to come to an end. The first week of our summer vacation, my fellow English teachers and I got together to unwind with some drinks and painting.  Our subject, a starfish on the shore, was just right for kicking off the summer season!

Summer Painting

Summertime Happiness

This morning I started off on the wrong foot. I woke up way too late to make it to my exercise class and then got poured on during some rain showers. I looked on the bright side, though. I had a pedicure appointment later in the morning. Nothing cures a yucky day like a great pedicure. I picked out some fun colors- mint green and gold for statement nails. As the warm weather and sun returned, I finished up some chores and spent the afternoon reading by the pool, occasionally admiring my colorful toes B)

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Seeing New Things

As a teacher, I’ve always treasured my summer breaks. This year it was extra special because I’ve been looking forward to spending it with my little boy, since this was my first year back to school from maternity leave & it was hard not spending the entire day with him. We’ve kicked off the summer with a visit back to my hometown.

Today my son’s godmother took us on a trip to the zoo- my son’s first time ever! We both relished my son’s reaction to all the things he was seeing. I loved how he’d point his little finger at the animals; I’d lean down and tell him these were all the animals we’d read about in his books- the cows, monkeys, birds….

At bedtime today, my son and I read a special book about animals at the zoo, his godmother’s gift at the end of our visit. What a special day!

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Interesting Incident over Christmas Break

“Heeey, how come Little Guy’s elf is still here? He was supposed to go back to the North Pole already.” It was January 2 when my niece had walked into the room while I was changing my son’s diaper. Her head was cocked to one side and her hand was on her hip. She was clearly perplexed by the fact that my son’s Elf on the Shelf had not left his shelf to report back to Santa for the final time this year.

I froze. Thank God I was facing the wall, so my niece wouldn’t see the terrified look on my face. I hadn’t followed Christmas protocol this year and hid the elf away on Christmas Eve since my son is a baby. “He doesn’t even understand right now. What’s the point?” I thought to myself. I had simply bought the doll and sat him on the baby’s bookshelf, planning to officially kick off the tradition as soon as he was old enough to understand the elf story. I didn’t, however, plan on my niece and nephew walking into their cousin’s room well after Christmas and noticing the elf! I felt like the winner of the Ultimate Bad Aunt of the Year Award as I struggled to think up a story and QUICK! “Play it cool,” I told myself as I calmly turned to face my little interrogator and her big brother, who had happened to enter the room at just that moment.

“Nope, this is the elf’s first year with Little Guy, so he’s been assigned to stick around a little longer since he knows it’s LG’s first Christmas.”

My niece looked back at the elf, thinking over my story, and my nephew seemed to be doing the same as his eyebrows came closer together and he fumbled with one of my son’s toys. They were five and eight years old, wiser in years than my son and totally familiar with all things Elf on the Shelf (his reappearing in different places every day, the special elf dust-glitter you spread if you accidentally touch the elf, etc). I rattled on, trying to keep them from finding a contradiction…

“Oh, yes. You know how LG really doesn’t get into much mischief right now, so his elf has a different sort of job this year. It’s simply to watch out for him and report to Santa that LG’s getting big and drinking all his milk. The elf will watch over him and keep him company until our Christmas break is over and Little Guy returns to daycare.”

A moment of silence, and then my nephew spoke, “Yeah, LG can’t do as much as us… He doesn’t do much to get in trouble.” He seemed to be buying my story, which certainly clinched the chance that my niece would believe the story as well. I was almost in the clear, praying that my carelessness wouldn’t ruin the elf magic for my niece and nephew.

Finally, some help arrived as their mom, my sister-in-law, walked in and backed my story, “You know? The elves know how special first Christmases are, so they like to stay with the babies longer and care for them. They wait until the next year to start their mischief and hide in different spots.” The kids looked at each other, and then my niece looked at me. “I got a tatoo today,” she said, and she rolled up her sleeve to reveal a small Hello Kitty temporary tattoo on her right forearm. I leaned in close with my baby in my arms and pretended to marvel at the tattoo, inwardly breathing a sigh of relief… Crisis averted.

The next day, I stowed the Elf on the Shelf book and the elf doll in its original box and placed it in the basement where we keep our Christmas decorations. Next year, Ace, my son’s elf, definitely goes back to Santa on Christmas Eve.

A Word to Live By: Aloha

If I had to think of one word to live by as this new year begins, I would choose aloha. I discovered my word when I had to do one of the things I dread doing when January begins- taking down my Christmas decorations. I find Christmas to be one of the most magical times of the year- Christmas music, sparkly lights, Christmas cookies, Christmas movies, Christmas parties… the list goes on and on.  This year was extra special when it came to decorating because my husband and I worked together to decorate our new home for the first time (we moved in last spring), and I loved how our home looked after he and I planned everything and shopped for our decorations together.

My husband had already started taking the outdoor decorations down yesterday.  It was a tough blow to take on the same day I discovered that my Christmas radio stations were no longer airing.  I did bite the bullet, though; I started to take everything down this afternoon. I lovingly put my Christmas tree ornaments away and replaced my Christmas pictures with the usual ones I keep on our side tables and bookcase.

It makes me sad to say goodbye to all the beauty and magic that Christmas brings, but I got to thinking… 1) Goodbye isn’t really the right word, because Christmas will be back 2) I could apply this perspective to other aspects of my life as 2013 begins and start using the word aloha, which means ‘goodbye and hello’, instead…

Aloha to Christmas and all the wonderful things it brings- I can look forward to being surrounded by family and love around a Christmas tree again this year.

Aloha to life as I know it right now.  It will soon be changing as my husband and I prepare to welcome our first child  in a couple of months. This time in our lives will surely bring lots of new adventures, and I will be changed by it no doubt.

I’ll be saying aloha to my students in a couple of months as I go on my maternity leave, but I’ll see my eighth graders again at the end of May when I attend their graduation reception and join my fellow teachers and our students’ families in sending them off to bigger and better things that await them as they continue on to high school.

I hope I’ll be using aloha a lot this year. I’m not a fan of goodbyes, so I’m glad there’s a word to live by that helps me focus on what’s to come when something in life draws to a close.