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Worst “Quarantine” Day Yet – the one where I lost my shit

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I put quarantine in quotes, because technically, we’re not truly quarantined. No one in my family has Covid 19, but like the rest of the state of California (and hopefully the rest of the country), we’re staying at home to flatten the curve. It’s been 17 days since my last day of school with students, and 14 days since my last day with staff, all keeping 6 feet apart as we learn how to “teach remotely.”

I started knitting again.

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We’ve tried to keep ourselves busy with different activities, which includes watching loads of Jim and Pam, Michael and Dwight. Lots of podcast listening, and lots of baking.

My husband has sort of unofficially designated himself to be the one who goes to the store, or to pickup any food-to-go from restaurants. He wears a mask and we always put the food onto clean plates ASAP and then scrub our hands to make sure we stay healthy. Sometimes it takes us 5 – 10 handwashings when dealing with outside food. Trust me, I’ve never been a germaphobe, but this pandemic has changed me… has changed us all.

Yesterday, I volunteered as tribute. I went to go pick up Chinese food at one of our favorite restaurants. My husband was tinkering with something, so I just left. He called while I was still in the car, waiting for it to warm up (it had been over a week since I’d driven it anywhere) and insisted I come back for a mask.

When I got to the restaurant, it wasn’t too bad. Only 2 other groups were there – a couple sitting and waiting for their order, and a single person waiting about 10 feet away. I kept my distance from both of them. I paid, and then had to wait for them to bring one item. After the gloved employee handed me the bag, I went to the car, put the food in the back seat, and proceeded to wipe my hands and keys with clorox wipes. Just as I was starting the car, another employee came out with another part of the order. I got the bag out and we went over everything together, and discovered we had one wrong item in the bag. I gave it to her and she repacked everything, on the pavement of the parking lot. We were not social distancing at that point, but she did have a mask and gloves on. (I’d taken my mask off in the car, because it was fogging up my glasses.)

I thanked her and she ran off. I put the bag back in the back seat and wiped off the side of the bag, as one of the items leaked when she put it back in. I shakily sat in the driver’s seat and touched my nose, by accident, and promptly had a freak-out. I wiped my face with a clorox wipe, then wiped my hands, keys, steering wheel, and door handle. If you’ve never done this, I can tell you clorox wipes BURN your face.

I was really trying hard not to cry all the way home. I’ve never felt so vulnerable as a person just being out in the universe.

I came home, we transferred all the food, wiped every sauce container, and had a nice meal. I had just made some dough for cinnamon rolls I’d been wanting to make, when I got a call from my dad.

“I just dropped your mom off at the hospital.” he said.

I felt like the floor dropped under my feet. I know my mom had been feeling bad. A few years ago she had surgery for an intestinal issue. She felt similar pains lately, but was doing her best to stay away from doctors and hospitals, to stay away from any Covid threat. She called the doctor and he sent her to the hospital for a CT scan. The hospital staff wouldn’t allow my father to accompany her, and he hated leaving her there.

I have to say, I’ve been very good at keeping calm and not freaking out, (okay, aside from my freak-out after the Chinese restaurant) but this undid me. I just cried. I was so scared for my mom, I felt the helplessness of my dad, and I had absolutely no control of any part of the situation. I’m 90 minutes away from my parents, and this was terrifying. My 14 year old was telling me things would be okay and that Grammy was going to be fine. She was right. Thankfully my mom’s ct scan came back negative and she was sent home.

Then, on top of everything, while we were waiting to hear from my dad, we got a message from my school district that someone who’d been working in the kitchens where daily meals are given out to the students has “possibly” been diagnosed with Covid 19. So, who knows how many families, co-workers, and volunteers have maybe been exposed…

It’s all getting too close to home. I’m so fortunate that no one I know directly has contracted it or died. I know many, many families around the world have been affected and thousands have died. And thousands more will die before it gets better. I’m sure this won’t be my only day where I lose it multiple times. I just hope I can keep it together and find new ways to keep myself and my family safe and sane.

For everyone who might be reading this, are you freaking out? Are you eerily calm? How are you coping with our “new normal” which isn’t normal at all? I would love to hear from you!

Much love to you.

~Genevieve

 

 

A Little Perspective

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Last week, I was upset because I got pink-slipped, and told I had no job next year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still thinking about it and worried about what’s going to happen. However, over the last 11 days since I posted it, everything’s changed.

This is my classroom right now.

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There will be no children in this room for who knows how long. There will be no learning in this room. No giggles, no reading, no writing, no math, no science, no excitement, no yawns, or even boredom. Nothing but deep cleaning and silence.

I miss my littles. As much as I enjoy being with my family and as important as it is to be home and isolated right now, knowing that we’ll NEVER be in the same classroom together is really depressing.

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Just weeks ago, we had visitors reading to the class on Dr. Seuss’s birthday.

Now, my own children are teens. My 14 and 16 year old daughters are in high school, and are very used to using online platforms and email to get assignments and information from their teachers. Though they miss seeing and eating with their friends every day, and getting together on the weekends, the learning part is going pretty smoothly for them.

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We may need to figure out a better place for them to learn, but for the first week it was okay.

My 19 year old son is home from college, with no plans to go anywhere til next year, probably. (In all honesty, we have no idea when he’ll be going back, but we are hoping things will be better by the fall.) It was exactly one year ago that we were celebrating his admission to his university. How different things were back then.

Being a teacher during this time in our history is completely new and weird. For some teachers, doing online teaching might come very easy and will be something they’ve already done. For others, it’ll be an adjustment to their lives – some more than others. For primary teachers, it’s hard to imagine, and I’m trying to find my way. I’ll be doing training to learn how to use new platforms online, and how to update content and connect with my kiddos. I’m nervous, but hopeful that I can do this and my students won’t miss out on too much.

To all my fellow teachers, hang in there, good luck, and if you have any advice for remote teaching, I’d love to hear your ideas!!

To everyone else, please stay home. Please follow directions. Please help to keep everyone safe.

Much love,

~Genevieve

 

The Principal’s Office

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On Monday, I had a pretty good day. I got 2 new students who are really sweet. My kids had a good day. Things went pretty smoothly. I lined the students up for dismissal and, as we were walking toward the door, our coach said to me, “The principal wants to see you in her office. I’ll take your class outside.”

Um, okay? What could she want? Am I in trouble? Is a parent complaining about something? Is this for an observation? I’m nervous as I walk to her office. I hear a male voice, and I start getting confused. Is it one of my student’s fathers?

As I round the corner to her office, I see one of my fellow teachers, sitting at her desk, with a packet of papers in front of him. It’s then that it hits me. I’m getting some very bad news.

In hindsight, I should have seen it coming. Our district is closing THREE elementary schools and one middle school, so it only makes sense. When our Union Rep assured us that there would be no layoffs, I allowed myself to believe it. When our principal assured us that she was going to be able to keep all of her teachers when the other school was merging with us, I should have questioned it. I didn’t. I allowed myself to feel secure in my job. So, when she handed me that packet and said, “I’m sorry. This isn’t my decision,” I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.

Teacher: (noun) One who teaches, especially : one whose occupation is to instruct

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This teacher, many years ago

That’s all Webster’s has to say about the word teacher. The job description in my own district is an entire page long and lists 15 different duties.

Our job is constantly changing and evolving. Our main goal is to teach students to read, to write, to compute, to solve problems, science, and basic social studies. (Nutshell version… there’s lots of skills, facts, and ideas in those big picture ideas.) That’s what we were hired for. But, we have to make it exciting, and fun, and we have to make sure to reach the students who are far behind while keeping the most advanced kids engaged.

We feed them snacks, bring coats for kids who don’t have any, give hugs to them when they’re sad, teach them kindness and manners, meditation and yoga,  and spend our own money on materials that are not provided for us by our district. We create calm spaces in our classrooms for when they feel anxious or upset. A safe space.

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We try to keep them all engaged, despite sometimes severely disruptive behaviors that really throw the class off track. We look for signs of learning disabilities, abuse, neglect, and trauma. We are trained in new techniques and pedagogies on a regular basis and have to adapt accordingly.

We make sure the classroom is inviting, and engaging. We want the students to feel welcome and comfortable, and for it to meet their needs. We hold fundraisers so we can get materials and furniture for them, often paid for by ourselves, and our generous friends and family members.

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lots of seating options for different learners

We also make sure they are safe. We have drills on a regular basis to make sure we keep them safe from fires and earthquakes. Now, we also have drills to keep them safe in the event we have a shooter or dangerous person on campus, and every now and then we have an actual real lockdown or shelter in place situation when there’s a dangerous situation NEAR our school. We have to do this without scaring them, and keeping them feeling safe.

Sometimes during a drill, you only have a 10×10 space to fit 25 kids and 2 adults.

Now, we also have to protect them (and ourselves) from Covid-19. We have to monitor them all and make sure they wash their hands. If my first graders pick their noses or put their hands in their mouths, I need to make sure they wash their hands. And keep their hands to themselves. And wash their hands after using the restroom. And before lunch. And after lunch. And before they use a chromebook or a book. But all the supplies we need are not in stock at most stores. We also have to keep teaching and not scare them.

Some of us have to keep teaching as if it’s a normal day or a normal week, but we just found out we don’t have a job next year. We have to act as if we’re not completely stressed out and distracted, because these children are looking to us for everything (see above), and we have to do it for 2 and a half months. Name another career that has to do that.

Two years ago, over 100 teachers in my district were “RIF”‘d (Reduction in Force) – another word for this is pinkslipped, though there is no actual pink slip. What it basically means is that you get a letter handed to you by your principal that says, “Your services will not be required for the coming year.” This year, it’s half the amount, and yet here I am, with 2 years more seniority, going through it again. In fact, all the teachers in my wing except ONE got a letter on Monday. 2/3 of the kindergarten & first grade teams.

When districts make choices like this and lay off dozens of teachers, knowing that they will probably hire them back at some point, but they’ll have to move schools or grades, they are not creating a safe environment for the teachers or the students. Teachers stress out about whether to hang in there and hope for the best, or to try to find another job. They worry if they need to start packing their personal items now, and get a head start on the  moving they will most likely have to do – whether it’s moving their stuff to another class, to another school, or back home until they know where they’re going.

Teachers make friends with their co-workers and their grade level teams. They work closely together, attend meetings and trainings, plan together, eat lunch together, and sometimes just commiserate about life (or how horrible indoor recesses are). Teams are broken apart, teachers have to uproot themselves, and start all over with a new set of coworkers. Students and parents and communities feel the loss of these teachers, sometimes thinking they’ve been left behind by a teacher who wanted to work somewhere else, not realizing the teacher had no choice in the matter.

For most of us in this position this year, it’s not the first RIF we’ve been a part of. Some of us went through it last year – some two years ago. Some will go through it again. Every single time, it will suck. Every single time, it will be stressful. Every single time, it will affect more than the teachers. This is not the way to run a district. This is not the way to treat your “valued” employees who have the community’s children in our care day in and day out.

I don’t know how many times I will go through this before I decide to try another career. I don’t know how many teachers will ultimately leave the district, or the profession, because it’s too stressful, and the pay isn’t worth the headache and stress of losing your job every year. I do know that it’s going to be a problem that won’t be solved any time soon, and that’s a damn shame.

~Genevieve

 

Summer Vacation Used to be Longer

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I swear when I was a kid, summer vacation was longer. I mean, it was always shorter than we wanted, because let’s face it, no kid is ever truly ready to go back to school, but I’m pretty sure we had more time. Of course, I have no physical proof of this. I’ve even looked online to find out when school started and ended, but I’ve had no luck. Suffice it to say, we start school in less than TWO weeks, and it seems like just yesterday I said, “Have a good summer!” to my first graders.

In reality, it’s been 9 weeks, and despite not going to the beach this year, which has been a wonderful get-away the last several years, we’ve managed to pack a lot of punch into our summer this year!

We started the summer celebrating a few things – our youngest promoted from 8th grade, our son graduated from high school, and my middle daughter turned 16.

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She baked her own vegan cake!

A week later, we were on our way to the East Coast. We visited Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City.

Here’s just a little snippet of what we did – Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, riding the Metro, National Portrait Gallery, Lincoln Memorial, the Capitol, & the Hamilton. (We did a LOT, but I don’t want to overload the post.)

In Philadelphia, we saw the Liberty Bell, the Eastern State Penitentiary with our good friends, saw the Museum of Art, Love (Kennedy) Park, and Independence Hall (not pictured, the Franklin Institute, the Ben Franklin Museum, and the Constitution Center).

And of course, we discovered food… we loved the Reading Terminal Market and

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Water Ice!!

In NYC, we rode the subway many, many times, went to several museums, walked through Central Park and the Highline, went on the Vessel, visited Rockefeller Plaza and the Empire State Building.

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We all saw our first *official* Broadway show.

In all 3 cities we ate a LOT of food. We did a lot of walking, and we saw as many sights as we could fit. We were home just in time to watch fireworks with friends and wash all of our vacation clothes before heading on another short vacation to one of our favorite places- Ashland, Oregon.

We saw 3 (well, 2.5) plays, did an Escape Room, lots of shopping, and finally tried Dutch Bros coffee! My husband also set up a cool activity for us. Archery!

Lastly, the kids and I had an adventure that has been our tradition for the last several years, San Diego Comic-Con.

All in all, in the short time we had for summer, we made the best of it. I do lament not going to the beach, but hey… we live in Southern California. We can go to the beach after school starts if we’re really needing to see the ocean.

For everyone getting ready to go back to school – both the students and the teachers – I hope you enjoyed the heck out of your break, and I hope the impending school year is a great one!

~Genevieve

Finding Nemo and Parenthood

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Every Friday night at our house, we watch a movie. (Well, every Friday unless we’re watching one of our kids perform.) Last Saturday (after watching our youngest in “Bye Bye Birdie on Friday), we watched “Avengers, Infinity Wars” despite our youngest insisting on “Finding Nemo.” I promised we’d watch it this week, so tonight we got take out and put in the movie.

Immediately, I was flooded with memories. “Finding Nemo” was the first movie we took our son to see in a theater. Our middle child was just a few days old, when my mom offered to watch her so we could take our little guy to the movies and spend some time with him. He sat on my lap in wonder for the whole movie.

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What he looked like when we first saw “Nemo”

My son was 2 1/2 when the movie was released. He is now 18. He wouldn’t start pre-school for another year in 2003. Now, he’s weeks away from graduating high school, getting ready to choose where he’ll study for the next four years.

It happened in the blink of an eye.

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One minute he was a baby, and the next he was old enough to vote

Of course, the theme of the movie didn’t help my sentimentality. A parent’s feelings of worry, pride, and love for his child? Forget it! I cried through far too much of the movie. I really tried to reign it in, because I could have just broken down into an ugly cry.

When my son was a toddler, he was curious, adventurous, and stubborn. He was my little buddy, and when he stopped talking altogether at 19 months, it was worrisome. After the doctor pulled a giant piece of wax from his ear and he could finally hear his own voice clearly again, when he resumed talking he’d lost several sounds he’d previously been able to make. He went to speech therapy at the age of 2, and continued til 2nd grade. I’ll never forget how nervous I was when he started kindergarten. Like Marlon worried about Nemo and his “gimpy fin” I worried that other kids wouldn’t be able to understand him. Thankfully, 5- and 6-year-olds are much more accepting than adults can be, and he made some great friends, who never made fun of him. Some of those kids he’s still friends with today.

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Being a parent is watching your baby turn into an independent person. It’s going from holding a helpless, tiny infant and doing everything for them to slowly letting them take control… first, sitting up, then crawling, then walking, until you watch them walk away from you on that first day of school, hoping that they’re ready. Hoping that you’ve done what you can to help them be ready for that independence away from you for 6 hours a day. Hoping they make friends and follow directions and learn and be excited about all the new things they’ll be doing.

Being a parent is watching your child get hurt – physically and emotionally. It’s comforting them when they’re sick and sleeping on an uncomfortable hospital cot when they have surgery. It’s holding their hand through blood draws and shots at their checkups. It’s wiping their tears when their first friend hurts their feelings. Or they didn’t get the part. Or they didn’t win the award.

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Being a parent is 18 years of love, culminating in their “graduation” not just from high school, but in a way, from you. Knowing that if you did your job right they’ll be able to go out into the world on their own… be a contributing member of society, and a good human. In a few short months, I’ll be moving him into a dorm somewhere, trying my damnedest not to breakdown into sobs as I walk out of the room and let him go on this journey. I think we’ve done a good job and I trust that he’ll do great, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

 

Rachel Green is Turning 50

I read a few headlines yesterday about Jennifer Aniston turning 50. Now, with most celebrities, I don’t pay much attention to their birthdays or their ages, but when my contemporaries have MILESTONE birthdays, it just brings it home that I AM GETTING OLD.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, this is what I looked like.

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(Yes. That’s a headshot. For a brief time I tried acting, but realized quickly that perhaps I didn’t have the constitution for so much rejection, so I stuck with my day job… teaching.)

When I moved up to LA, I started teaching at an elementary school in Hollywood. I was the youngest teacher there by at least 10 years. Despite being the oldest child in my family (and the oldest of 21 cousins), most of my life, honestly, I was always one of the youngest. I was one of the youngest kids in my classes all through school, and through college. I always dated older guys (though I married a younger one). I was comfortable being the youngest, and it always made me feel, well, youthful.

That changed a bit when I started classes at the Groundlings, and then started my favorite job of all time – Studio Guide at Universal Studios. There, I was still on the younger side, though I worked with several college students. Even though I was 24, I still felt like we were all contemporaries – whether my co-workers were older or younger than I was.

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My first day on the job!

Back in my 20s, I spent my time teaching, giving tours, performing improv, and going dancing at clubs with friends. We also went to several live tapings of sit-coms, which was fun. (One of those shows? “Friends.”)

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My friend Karen and I before going to a “Friends” taping

(While I admit I never got the Rachel cut, I did share some fashion choices with the ladies on the show, for better or worse.)

After I had my first child and he was in preschool, most of the moms I met were very close in age to me… either older or younger by just a couple of years. Most of those moms’ oldest children were the same age as my son. By the time my youngest child was in preschool, I was definitely one of the oldest moms, as she was my youngest, and the other kids were their oldest. I found I had less in common with some of those moms, because they were just beginning the journey of school with their children, when I had been through it twice already. When I was turning 40, they were still in their mid-30s, and somehow that felt like a big difference.

Then, 3 years ago, I went back to the classroom. HOLY. COW. Of course, there are teachers older than I am, or around the same age as I am, but I’m teaching with women and men in their 20s. And boy, there’s nothing quite like talking to someone in their 20s to make you feel old. The last time I was in the classroom, they could have been my students. I am *technically* old enough to be their *gasp* MOTHER.

Yet, there is something that helps ease the pain of getting older. Each year I’ve inched toward a big birthday, I am reminded that I am not alone in this. My birthday is in November, so I have the whole year to think and ruminate about how I’m turning X. And then February rolls around and I read that Jennifer Aniston just turned that same age, and somehow I feel better. I realize I haven’t aged as well as she has, and I’m certainly not in such great shape as she is, but knowing we are somehow kindred in turning some MILESTONE number makes it a little easier.

It’s even better when you realize your own friends not only are turning the same age as you will be, but are going through a lot of the same challenges, changes, and insecurities as you are. It’s nice to feel like you’re in this together, and aren’t alone. So, while I’m not super excited to be turning 50, and I’m feeling SUPER OLD and starting to wonder how long I’ve got left on this earth, I realize that it’s not THAT old, and I will be okay. There’s a lot of life still to live, and as long as I take care of myself, I’ll hopefully have a great life ahead of me.

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So, Happy Birthday Jennifer Aniston! Happy FIVE OH. I hope this is a stellar year for both of us! I’m just mere months behind you.

~Genevieve

 

Travelogue: Day 15 & 16. London Sights

Day 15 started out with pancakes and ended with a trip to a local pub to watch England beat Columbia in a World Cup game. Talk about excitement!

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On the wall in London

 

 

 

“Where the pancakes are” was yummy, and they brought the check in a book.

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I had a hard time NOT singing “London Bridge is falling down, falling down…”

We met my brother Terry at the Tower of London, and went on a Beefeater tour.

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This grassy area used to be the moat.

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Our Beefeater was great!

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This was the line to see the Crown Jewels. They were pretty spectacular, but we couldn’t take pictures.

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This guy was marching back and forth. He looked about 19.

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Uncle and Nephew

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A recreation of one of the rooms

 

 

 

We met my parents and brother for dinner at an Indian restaurant named “Mango.” The papadums were in this crafty little bowl.

 

 

 

We had a great time at dinner, and it was very yummy! Afterwards, the 5 of us found a pub to catch the last bit of the England/Colombia game of the World Cup. Needless to say, the pub atmosphere was charged, and everyone was elated at the result. (England won with penalty kicks.)

The next day was July 4th. Typically, we spend this day watching a local parade and having fireworks at some point. This year, in England, you wouldn’t know it was the case… not surprising, considering it was America’s Independence from England that is celebrated.

We decided to celebrate by going to Westminster Abbey.

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The line was long, but they passed out water.

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One of the stained glass window clusters, as seen from the staircase going up to the Queen’s Jubille Gallery

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The details are really remarkable!

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The courtyard reminded me of Hogwarts. 🙂

We walked through the Abbey, listening to the audiotour being narrated by Jeremy Irons (side note- he also narrated the tram tour at Disney Paris). We had lunch in their restaurant and followed it with a tour of the Queen’s Jubilee gallery, which was pretty great. We then headed toward Trafalgar Square, and hopped on a tour bus.

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Trafalgar Square

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Touring London in a double decker bus

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Family Selfie!

A Scottish friend of mine highly recommended to me that we visit a place called Tattershall Castle, which is a boat that remains docked on the Thames. She suggested I go and have a Pimm’s, looking out at the London Eye, so we made sure it happened.

To my husband’s dismay, there was no room on the upper deck, so we went down below. It was a bit windy that day, so the boat did sway a bit. (My husband gets very seasick.) He knew this was something I really wanted to do, so he withstood it for me, and we discovered that Pimm’s is quite enjoyable.

 

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view from our table

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On the deck

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Mmmmm

 

We found a pub to have dinner not too far away. Sadly, it was NOT delicious, nor was the service at all good. Needless to say, I won’t be giving the name. We walked around for a bit, looking for a place to have some dessert on our way to the train. I was fascinated by the London Eye, as you can see.

It was a long, full few days in London. Up next – exploring on our own, Buckingham Palace, and heading home.

~Genevieve