Saturday, October 31, 2009

But I'm Not Ready!!!

I have always taken a perverse pleasure in disaster prep. I know it's weird. I honestly don't live my life as if the sky is falling. I go through my days like everyone else. I live. I laugh. I've even been known to break out in the occasional awkward dance. I just do it with an eye upward because if the sky does fall, I don't want to miss the early signs.

I suppose there is a certain sense behind all this. My mom is one who likes to be prepared and can be counted on to have anything a person might need. She also regularly gifts Baby Brother Sheep and me with foods, beverages and paper goods that she thinks we should have on hand "just in case." You can believe me or not, but I swear to you that I haven't bought toilet paper in 15 years. I wouldn't even know where to begin looking for it in the store.

I also received a firm lesson in the need to be prepared during the dreaded Monkey Pox bout a few years ago. An extremely severe case of pneumonia kept me housebound for a week and I was in bad shape for much longer than that. I literally ran out of any food that I might even consider appetizing, but couldn't stand up long enough to shop. We shall not even discuss what it was like to lug groceries up to a second floor condo. I have vivid memories of having to stop and rest three times at the Gigantic Store Of Stuff because I couldn't catch my breath long enough to make it from housewares to frozen foods.

And let us not forget my firm belief that the coming Zombie Apocalypse will keep us all trapped in our homes for God knows how long. That is not the time for anyone to run out of snack foods. Or the aforementioned toilet paper...

You don't even want to get me started on this whole H1N1 pandemic either. You'll wish you'd catch it just to get rid of me once I launch into the third hour of my lecture series entitled "Things We Should All Be Doing In This Time Of Crisis." In my defense, I think it is a fairly well thought out speech and really the fault of the Center For Disease Control because I never would have thought of this without their timely updates.

Yeah. I'm fun at parties. Why I don't get more dinner invitations is simply beyond me...

I am very dedicated to a task I call End Of The World Is Nigh Shopping. I always have food in the cupboards, especially the kind that can be stored for a length of time. I have candles aplenty, a crank-powered radio, a charged ipod and the means to keep myself warm and/or dry in most situations. I keep a mini kit with similar items in the car. It's a little bit crazy, but it makes me feel better. If I do that stuff, I don't have to think about it.

This is why it is incomprehensible to me that I cannot show you any pictures tonight. There were many things around here that merited being immortalized in digital form this week. There's that cool cabled square thingie I've been knitting. There was the kitchen disaster after a poorly planned pasta making attempt on Thursday (which resulted in the trashing of my cheap pasta maker.) And yesterday's discovery of an entire skein of cotton strewn about the living room courtesy of a certain Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty would have made for a great blog photo. Any time you find yarn trailing about the house and wound around various pieces of furniture, you probably should share the moment.

But I can't show you any of those things. I am utterly unable. I can't believe this. It is beyond my ken. For this to happen to me, of all people, is the stuff of nightmares. It is, I suppose, appropriate that it is happening on Halloween but that doesn't make it any more bearable. I am shamed and horrified. My camera is dead.

And I have run out of AA batteries.

This is clearly a sign of bad things to come. Go hug your loved ones and say a few words to whatever higher power you feel is yours to honor. I will do the same. Between us, perhaps we can create enough good karma to keep the bogey man at bay for just a little while. We don't need but a day or two.

Just long enough for me to make a battery run.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WNBP: Remote Blogging

Greetings all! Sheepie blogs to you from her classroom tonight as it is Parent/Teacher Conference day and I have to be here rather late. In spite of having no scheduled conferences, I will soon be coming up on 12 straight hours in this school and that won't be the end of it.

Since I have managed to do all the work-related things I can possibly do and have spent enough time bothering people down in the office, I figured I'd best get the Wednesday Night Bullet Post out amongst the inter-webs. I need to look busy before someone finds a task to keep me "occupied." That might involve actual work and I just can't manage any heavy lifting right now. Not even the mental kind.

Let's take a look at the bullets for this week:

*I meant to blog last night so I wouldn't feel pressured tonight.

*You never know. There might be five thousand parents who suddenly decided I was worthy of conferencing and booked my time at the last minute.

*This did not happen.

*It's just as well. Yesterday was a miserable day and I just didn't have the heart to wax hilarious on the blog.

*The Invisibility Shawl is sitting in my bag. Any minute now, I'll probably feel the urge to knit up a few rows.

*Honest. Any minute now...

*It is entirely possible that I've gotten a bit of the brain freeze after hours of sitting in a classroom where there are no parents ready to conference.

*No. I can't leave. It is part of my contract and I get a day off in November for doing conferences.

*Besides, all the other teachers have to stay and we don't want them feeling jealous of my freedom.

*Or pity for my lack of company...

*Most of my students have longer meetings at least once a year. The regular conferences really aren't such a big deal and I don't begrudge parents skipping them.

*I had two meetings with various boss-types in the afternoon so I think I managed to meet my meeting quota even without conferences.

*The Parent/Teacher Organization makes dinner for us and we get to eat it in the cafeteria.

*Well...the people who can eat unfamiliar food get to do that.

*I am not a person who can eat food prepared by strangers or that has possibly been spat upon by slighted students who happen to live in the house where the food is being cooked.

*It could happen.

*I'm not paranoid. Except for the part where I am.

*I always feel badly about not eating the meal the parents prepare because I know it is not contaminated or filled with spittle. They work hard to do this for the teachers. It is a kindness.

*But I can't help thinking about it.

*It's better to think that sort of thing alone in my classroom rather than to be suddenly seized with doubt while my fork is trembling at my lips and the parent who baked the lasagna is eagerly awaiting the sight of my happy dining.

*And the making of "yummy" noises.

*Dropping one's fork and fleeing the cafeteria whilst shouting, "Unclean! Dear unclean!!!" is bad form. And untrue.

*And not the sort of thing that gets you the Teacher Of The Year nomination.

*I ate a peanut butter cup in my room and kept my crazy to myself.

*The school nurse is tired of giving me free tissues and cough drops. She is beginning to suspect that I am selling them on the internet or something.

*I'm not. I need the free tissues and cough drops if I am to survive the last lingering effects of The Cold That Will Not End.

*And which has nothing to do with spit poisoned food no matter what I may say in my more crazy moments.

*But it does probably have to do with the district running out of flu shots and the nurse giving mine to some kid who didn't appreciate it one little bit like I would have.

*I pointed this out to her several times today.

*But I don't think this is going to result in a shower of free cough drops.

*Sometimes you can just tell these things...

Well, the knitting is calling and I do believe I might risk a trip down to the teacher's room for a nice, sealed soda fresh from the machine. One that has not been touched by human hands because if you are going to be crazy you might as well go all the way.

It's not like I have any witnesses all alone up here in my conference-free classroom...


Monday, October 26, 2009

Luck, Pride And The Double Tap

I'm not normally one given to insomnia. I happen to like sleeping in all its many forms. Long naps. Catnaps. Car snoozing (assuming, of course, that I'm not the driver). Zoning out to the point where I'm sort of asleep except for the part where I'm actually awake. And bedtime, the regular kind of sleeping that I do for 7 hours per night.

Sleep is my friend and I treat it kindly. We meet regularly.

Last night, however, I found myself not sleeping. There was no real reason for this. I just couldn't stop thinking of stuff. The little project I've been knitting up and which has taken me fifty bazillion tries to get right was on the top of my brain for a while. Then there was the nagging feeling that I'd forgotten to do something and which I still can't identify as having been left undone. I thought about the cats, what shoes I'd be wearing the next day and all sorts of stuff that had no relevance, but still kept me from sleeping.

This was not good. I knew that the Cheerful Teaching Assistant was going to be out today and we are never at our best when we are short-staffed in the classroom. The alarm went off this morning at its usual time and I knew that I was not really Student Ready.

I arrived at school and logged onto the Infinite Campus program that now runs my working life and read more bad news. Not only was the CTA out, but the Organized Teaching Assistant was also listed as "absent-no sub." There is only one thing worse than being very tired and having one of your teaching assistants out:

Being very tired and having to single-handedly manage a classroom full of teenagers who are "spirited to the point of requiring special programming."

I got lucky, though. Two students were out today and they happen to be the two who have the most difficulty keeping on task. The kids who showed up were the ones who like me enough to cut me a break on a day when I'm manning the fort alone. I also got all kinds of phone calls from people who realized I was going solo and wanted to make sure I was "OK." When I reassured them that I was fine, I came across like quite the little heroine.

The truth of the matter was that I had a pretty good day. The kids were easily bribed with promises of extra free time for computer games and regular doses of candy. They worked hard and enjoyed their well-deserved treats. I even had a free minute to wander over to the book fair in the library and make a few purchases to benefit that fine establishment.

They had a nice selection, including a few titles for the adults. I finally broke down and purchased a copy of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies for the cause. I'd resisted for a long time because (and please don't hate me for this) I don't much care for Jane Austin. But I'll tolerate overwriting and simple plot lines gone horribly awry if there is the promise of a zombie or two.

Feel free to knock one or two points off my High Class Rating. I'll understand. I should be more of a literary person.

What could have been a bad day turned out just fine. It was actually pretty darned good. It had definite high points. Here's one that occurred with The Stalker Who Has Followed Me Since Fourth Grade:

Ms. Sheep: Hey, Stalker! Will you be OK for a minute while I run down and pick up something from the printer?

The Stalker: (barely looking up from his computer game) Mmm-hmmm....

MS: You are in charge for the next minute and half. You got it covered?

TS: Mmmm-hmmm...

MS: And if the zombies come? You know what to do if the zombies attack?

TS: (without looking up from the screen or missing a beat) Go for the head. Destroy the brain. Do the double tap.

MS: (wiping away the tears of joy) I'm so proud...


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Auto Knitting

I was really doing much better with vehicle maintenance up until recently. In the past, I may have put off things like routine oil changes just a bit longer than is recommended. I figured that, eventually, the little picture of the oil can would pop up on the dash and that would be my signal to deal with the matter. If I didn't have time for it just then, a hard left took care of the problem. The light goes right out once the last dregs of oil swish around in there...

But this is not a responsible way to live. I was lucky for a long time, but knew that my luck would not hold out forever. My resolve weakened a little back when the truck exploded in a spectacular display of lemony excitement. I'd been quite good with the oil and it rewarded me by dying well before its time. Or before I'd finished paying for it. That seemed rather harsh considering my new responsible attitude.

I have stayed the course in spite of this betrayal, though. My new car tells me in no uncertain terms when it wants oil. It tells me when it thinks it might be wanting oil in the near future. There are no excuses with the new car. It doesn't have issues with getting its needs met.

That doesn't mean I don't slip every now and again. The message center does have a "reset" button, after all. If I don't have the time or the resources to get an oil change, I can always tell the car to shut up. And that's just what I did back when it started to complain a while back. After a fashion, though, even I couldn't reasonably delay an oil change. The car was only going to tolerate so much before it decided that "reset" was no longer an acceptable response on my part.

I headed in for my scheduled appointment this morning at 9:30 sharp. This was the agreed upon time. This was the time Mr. Fixit and I both felt would allow for the oil change and me getting to my 11:00 appointment with The World's Greatest Stylist And Life Coach. The matter was discussed at length in our Thursday phone conversation. In fact, I even got there early just to be on the safe side.

Sheepish Annie: Good morning! I am Sheepish Annie and I am here for an oil change because my car told me I had to.

Car Lady I Deal With Often: Hello, SA! Let me just look you up in the computer here...

(There is a great deal of clicking, followed by a smidgen of brow furrowing. Then there is more clicking. After that there is some lip pursing. And more clicking...)

SA: I probably should mention that I talked to N*** when I called.

CLIDWO: Ohhhhh! I see. That changes everything!

(There is still some clicking, but far less than before. The brow furrowing and lip pursing is replaced with rueful head shakes)

SA: I figured with all the clicking, you probably needed to know that I talked to N***.

CLIDWO: He can answer the phone all right. He just can't get things into the computer. I go through this every single, stupid time!!

SA: I know. That's why I mentioned it.

CLIDWO: I'm going to give him so much crap for this.

SA: Don't mention my name. He scowls like he has anger control issues. Plus he's the manager and all...

CLIDWO: No worries. I've never thrown a regular customer under the bus.

In spite of her reassurances, I knew that this was going to take just a bit longer than I'd planned. Thankfully, I remembered to bring the knitting along. It was a tough decision. The logical choice would have been to pack up the simple hat or the boring sock. However, neither of those appealed to me and I ended up toting The Invisibility Shawl. This, of course, is not a good travel project because it involves counting and I don't do that very well when there are distractions. My car on a lift is a distraction. The scent of new tires is a distraction. People chatting on cell phones and the sight of freshly pressed sales people wandering around looking for victims is a distraction.

But the shaw is what I brought.

If nothing else, it's good for some attention. The lady sitting next to me commented on how "fine" the work was and I had to be honest with her about the pattern. It's four rows. Two are the exact same thing. Another is a purl row. The last is a knit. Not brain surgery unless you happen to be me, can't count and are scared of car salesmen. There was no glory in the pattern.

Fortunately, she also mentioned the yarn and asked where I got it. On that point, I could be justifiably proud. When you spin your first laceweight, you don't get all humble about it. You hold your head high and hope that the audience is suitably impressed. She was.

An extended oil change is good for three repeats on The Invisibility Shawl, in case you are wondering. That's almost exact. It doesn't allow for the time spent going back into the dealership because they forgot to reset the "OH MY GOD YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR OIL OR WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!!! message on the dashboard. That only takes the technician a minute to do and the rest of the time you are driving around trying to find your way out of the repair center because they don't move the car for you in that situation.

It all worked out. I even had time to dash into the used bookstore before my hair appointment. I got to chit-chatting in there and was a minute or two late, but not so much as you'd notice. Honest. My stylist was ready with very sharp scissors in hand and a smile on her lips. She may have taken advantage of the situation just a little bit because I let her cut off more hair than she ever has before. But I can't prove that...

The car is now happy because it has oil and I am happy because I was the only one in the waiting room who just got to pay and go. Everyone else was approached by a serious looking repair representative who wanted to "discuss" a few things with them. I almost felt guilty but then I remembered all the very serious discussions I've had in there over the years and decided that I was due for some smooth visits to the dealership.

Not to mention knitting props and four shawl repeats in the waiting area!


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Days Of The Week? Whatever...

Last week started with a holiday and I was calendar-confused right up until Thursday. This week, I was at home on the couch "enjoying" a sick day when Monday rolled around so I still don't have a clue. This is a recurring theme on this blog, I think. I never know what day it is anymore. I used to. I really did. Now? Not so much.

I'm counting on tonight's TV lineup to give me a hint. It's looking like a Wednesday so I'm going with the Wednesday Night Bullet Post. If it's not Wednesday, I don't want to hear about it. I half think tomorrow is Friday and I am going to be disappointed enough without you telling me it's really next Tuesday. That would mean I've missed more than I thought...

*My staff was out at a training today.

*That meant I had to run the classroom all by my little lonesome.

*No problem. I can do that.

*I just don't get to go to the bathroom for 7 hours.

*I teach two different grades and they have different lunches so I always have kids in the room.

*I usually bribe them to be good with a movie on days when I'm alone.

*But they watched a movie on Monday so...

*To sum up: No bathroom. No other adults. Nothing but my sparkling wit and charm with which to distract a room full of behaviorally challenged teenagers.

*Thankfully, the training ended early and my Cheerful Teaching Assistant decided to come back to work rather than sneak home like I would have.

*Bless her. Bless her all over the place. Then do it again because I really had to pee by 11:00.

*I'm not knitting tonight because I'm too busy blessing my CTA and her willingness to come back to the classroom.

*Or, as I like to call it: The Belly Of The Beast.

*I wore a turtleneck today because it has been rather chilly of late.

*They even turned on the heat at school.

*It was sunny and 70 degrees by lunchtime.

*And the heat was still on.

*Let's recap again: Kids. No movie. Need for sparkling wit. Restrooms off limits. Turtleneck worn in the aforementioned Belly Of The Beast.

*Oh, and did I mention that we also had an evacuation drill?

*Should've gone to business school...

*The Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty and the Big, Fluffy Kitty have been fighting over a chair for two days now.

*It is a stupid fight because it is a very small chair and there are way better places to sit around here.

*They don't care. Sweet reason has no place in sibling rivalry.

*The AGK has the chair at the moment.

*Dinner time is coming. That means he'll have to move and we get to start all over again.

*This all serves to take my mind off my cold, though. That's nice.

*We're at the Blow Your Nose Every Ten Minutes And Wonder If You Just Snorted Out Actual Brain Matter stage of the festivities.

*That's usually the tail end of a cold for me so I'm hopeful for a healthy weekend.

*Good thing since I ran out of tissues Monday night. Frankly, that's the real reason I went back to work.

*Free tissues.

So, there you have it! Wednesday in a nutshell! I actually do have a knitting project in the works so I'll probably get in a little time with the sticks & string before the night is done. I just have one more hour or so of blessing the CTA and another few minutes of reassuring myself that it is really Wednesday. Then I'm all set!

Unless I have to settle another chair dispute...


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

True Purpose

I arrived at school today still sniffling, but feeling much better. I anticipated being greeted by hordes of happy co-workers bearing words of welcome. I'm usually missed when I'm out for a day. I like to think that it's because of my sparkling personality but I suspect that it is more due to how the kids misbehave in my absence. Still, being missed is being missed.

However, instead of finding a crowd of well-wishers, I was greeted by Mrs. School Secretary Who Sits At The Back Desk. She did not look happy. She looked, dare I say, disgruntled.

Mrs. School Secretary Who Sits At The Back Desk: Well, I hope you're happy!

Ms. Sheep: Pretty much, I guess. I mean there's still world hunger and I'm bummed about how they took BBC America off my cable subscription. But, yeah. I'm generally fairly happy if I don't think about that stuff too much.

MSSWSATBD: Isn't that nice for you? Meanwhile Mrs. School Secretary Who Sits At The Front Desk saw Zombieland this weekend and you were out yesterday!

MS: So?

MSSWSATBD: Well, who do you think had to listen to her talk about it all day while you were lounging around at home?

MS: I was sick...

MSSWSATBD: Excuses, excuses!

MS: (hangs head) I'm sorry. It won't happen again.

Later that same day, I was trying to teach math. Math is never a good time in my classroom, but I bribe the kids with promises of computer games if they can give me thirty minutes of solid math time. This usually works. Today, though, The Stalker (who has followed me from 4th to 8th grade and through three different schools) was having some difficulty getting his assignment done.

Ms. Sheep: C'mon, Dude! You can do this! It's only been fifteen minutes and I need thirty. You're not going to make it at this rate.

The Stalker: This is not my fault.

MS: Failure to own one's behavior is not demonstrative of good character, my friend. Take some responsibility.

TS: But I saw Zombieland this weekend and you were out yesterday! We needed to talk about it before I started math. That took fifteen minutes!

MS: Fifteen minutes? Really? I could have sworn it was like three...

Clearly I serve a purpose in this school. It probably wasn't the purpose for which I was originally hired. In fact, I'd guess it is far from that purpose. But it's nice to have a niche so I don't complain. I did, however, happen to think about my conversation with the secretary that morning and decided to voice a concern:

Ms. Sheep: You know what? Last week, I got in trouble for talking about zombies in the office while you were working.

Mrs. School Secretary Who Works At The Back Desk: Correct.

MS: Then you got mad because I was talking about zombies in the office while you were out running errands.

MSSWWATBD: No. I got mad because you came into the office and stood over my empty desk saying, "zombie-zombie-zombie-zombie." Then you ran away in fear when I came back early from running errands.

MS: That was creepy. It was like you somehow knew I was there...

MSSWWATBD: I know all.

MS: And today you got mad at me because I wasn't here to talk about zombies at all yesterday! I don't see how I can possibly win this game!

MSSWWATBD: You can't. Because now I am mad at you for talking about zombies in the office again.

Knowing your purpose doesn't necessarily simplify your life. It's really more of an outline. You have to fill in the details as you go along. Figuring out how I can not talk about zombies in the office, get a full math class taught and still be available to talk about zombies when needed is going to be something of a detail nightmare. I'll keep working on it.

I've got the time. I'm starting up the holiday knitting that isn't ever going to be finished and I need to take my mind off all those looming deadlines.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Guilt...I Think...Maybe Not...Or Perhaps...

I awoke this morning still stuffy and aching, but feeling markedly better than I did over the weekend. I almost didn't check my temperature, but I guess I had a little more time on my hands than is the norm. I was surprised to see that I did, in fact, have a slight fever. How very ironic!

The rule of thumb at school is this: If you have a fever, we do not want to see you. You are a plague-carrier and will strike us all down should you so much as breathe in the parking lot. Stay home and boil yourself until you can claim to be completely sterilized but not so much as to give yourself more of a fever because then you can't come to work.

I was scheduled to be at a workshop today, but it was on school property. I pondered the matter, but finally decided to take advantage of the rule. I didn't feel well. A day resting at home when I wasn't expected in my classroom anyway was something of a gift.

I turned on the computer and logged onto the district's Website Of Illness Documentation and entered my intentions. The Internet seemed satisfied that I was truly ill. I logged out of the site.

Next I went through a few million sites so I could log onto the web-based version of my school email. (I just can't seem to get the "real" version to load onto my home computer...) From there I emailed the person organizing the workshop to let her know that I wouldn't be there today. Just for good measure, I also emailed my director in case she showed up to take attendance. Since I was already on the site, I emailed everyone else I thought might be interested in my malaise. You never know who might be suddenly overtaken by the urge to send me a balloon bouquet...

Then I went back to bed because I was exhausted from all the energy it takes for a teacher to arrange a day of rest.

I awoke to discover that my fever had broken and the aches had subsided. I blew my nose forty times, then checked to see if any balloon bouquets were delivered during my morning's respite. There weren't any in evidence, but there is still time. Truth be told, I'm sort of re-thinking the whole balloon bouquet thing anyway. They take up a lot of space.

Checking my school email from home is a pain and, since it never contains good news, I rarely do this. But I was nervous about missing the training and wanted some reassurance that people weren't writing up my pink slip. All responses were very understanding and I was relieved. Then I opened the one from my principal. The one in boldface. That he marked "urgent" and sent to the entire staff. I kind of knew what it was. But I'd hoped for better.

It was as I'd feared. One of our colleagues passed away yesterday. This has been coming for a while now and we were prepared for the news. However, no one thought it would be quite this soon. This woman was a much loved member of the staff and a favorite of many students. The school has been providing meals for her family since last spring and last Friday's dance was a benefit to help out with medical costs. It is a loss of epic proportions.

And I barely knew her. My job isn't one that lets me get out and about very often. When I learned she was sick, I had to stop and think a minute before I could visualize her. If the situation was reversed, I suspect she would have needed the same minute to picture my face.

Now I sit in that awkward position of sadness, but not really feeling the impact in the same way as others. The building will be different when I go back tomorrow and I've emailed the principal to extend my condolences as well as offers of support. But I can't claim the same sorrow. This always makes me feel a bit guilty even though that is rather irrational.

You do what you can. And if you happen to be home sick when you get the bad emails, you do what you can from there. Which isn't much. With limited options, conflicting emotions and the need to do more than just sit, I did what made sense to me in the moment.

I spun.

I don't think my colleague knew I was a spinner. Most people with whom I work don't. But I think she would have appreciated it. She seemed like the type. She took an interest in my knitting that one time we were in a work group together. It's not out of the question to think that she might find spinning kind of cool.

I guess I'll never know. And that, I think, is the heart of the matter for me.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

In Sneeze Time

I felt pretty darned good on Thursday. I hadn't given it much thought until my Cheerful Teaching Assistant mentioned that she was exceptionally tired that day. That's when I realized that I was rather perky for a Thursday. In fact, so hale and hearty was I that I made a point of saying so. Because who doesn't like it when the conversation gets turned around to someone else's good fortune? I'm kind that way. I always like to take people's minds off their troubles.

My refreshing outlook on life continued after the school day was done. I stopped off at the local Department Store Of Never Ending Goods to pick up a few supplies and a movie for the kids to watch on Monday while I'm out at a training. I also found an emergency water purification system on the clearance rack. This, of course, has little to do with anything. I only mention it because:

1. It demonstrates that I was feeling good enough to peruse the clearance racks rather than just make my weary way home for the day


2. If one is the kind of person who would buy an emergency water purification system from the clearance rack then one is not going to miss an opportunity to mention it even if it doesn't have a darned thing to do with the story.

Once, home, I carried all my shopping bags, school paraphernalia and my over-stuffed purse up the stairs in one trip. I opened the door and deftly maneuvered around the Absurdly Gi-normous Kitty who was determined to trip me up for his afternoon entertainment. I set down my bags and, suddenly, I sneezed.

Just like that...I was sick.

Sneezes vary in duration. By comparison, this was a short one. It wasn't the kind where you stop dead in your tracks, raise your arms so you can flap your hands, crinkle your nose a few times in anticipation, announce to all and sundry, "I feel a sneeze coming on," and then go, "AH...AH...AHH......CHOOOOOOO!" But, just for the sake of argument, let's say it was that kind of sneeze. I still don't think that this is a reasonable amount of time in which to go from "perfectly well" to "sick enough to scare small children."

Apparently it is, though. Who knew?

That sneeze was followed by a billion more and I'm on my second box of tissues in as many days. I'm shivering and aching and not afraid to let everyone know this. When I arrived at school yesterday, I blamed all of the following in this order:

1. My Cheerful Teaching Assistant who sneezed the day before and covered her mouth with her hand instead of the crook of her elbow like we are supposed to.

2. The kid I call The Stalker because he has been in my class every year since fourth grade. He didn't much care that I blamed him and told me that I was mistaken because he never gets sick. I responded by licking my finger and rubbing it all over his pen. This seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do given that he called himself out sick just last week. Upon further consideration, though, I felt kind of badly about that and gave him candy. I'm supposed to be the mature one in the mix...

3. The school nurse because she gave my flu shot to some kid who probably didn't appreciate it like I would have.

I blamed these people and did so in my outside-my-head-voice. I don't care if I sound crazy. I have the plague and there will be suffering or my name isn't Needy, Whiny, Sheepish Annie!!!!! No one seemed all that concerned about my rampant laying of blame, though. I'm starting to get the impression I may have done this before and that it is no longer all that interesting.

It made me feel a little better, though. Not physically better, mind you. I'm dying here. But, on an emotional level, it was quite satisfying.

I've knit a little bit this weekend, but not much. Mostly, I've been enjoying the knitting of days past. More specifically, I've been rather grateful to my new hot water bottle cozy. When you are all shivery and miserable, there is nothing quite like a soothing hot water bottle nestled in its own little jacket. I don't even mind the dangling threads I haven't yet trimmed off the buttons. That minor detail doesn't affect the operation of a hot water bottle one little bit.

It took me a week or so to knit a hot water bottle cozy. It is going to take me considerably longer to knit the simple hat I'm working on. But a killer cold? That's quick and easy to achieve.

In sneeze time, anyway...


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday Isn't Tuesday And That Is Good

Monday was a holiday so that made Tuesday our Monday. Tuesday follows Monday during a normal week, but this week Tuesday is really Wednesday. Oddly enough, tomorrow is still Thursday no matter how the week began. I suppose that could get confusing, but it really makes sense if you think about how the "beginning of the week adjustment time" factors into the whole thing. All you really have to know is that it is Wednesday (sort of) and that it is time for the Wednesday Night Bullet Post! Here we go!

*I'm knitting a hat. I just thought you'd like to know that.

*I don't know if I will finish a hat, but that is something we will worry about down the road.

*For now it is enough to know that needles are moving.

*The schedules at school today were, once again, completely messed up.

*Yesterday, half the kids went to the wrong lunch.

*Today, the other half went to their "specials" while the rest went to their academic blocks like they were supposed to. No one got the email that reminded us to remember that email from a month ago which was designed to refresh our memories regarding the schedule changes that would be implemented during 7th grade state assessments.

*There have been several emails sent out over the past two days to help us remember the five tons of information we need in order to deal with state assessments.

*No one can remember all of it. Half can remember a third of it. But of that half, at least a quarter can't remember all of it. An eighth of that information is useless anyway.

*Hopefully, there will be no fractions on the math portion of the test because I doubt we taught any of that stuff right.

*The state isn't so hot with fractions either. Or with whole numbers for that matter.

*Great, huge, whacking chunks of money that we were supposed to get this year are no longer coming.

*We received another email today letting us know that all budgets are frozen. We are only allowed to spend for emergency purposes.

*At the bottom of the memo was a clarification regarding what the districts defines as an emergency.

*"Think: Handing Over Your Firstborn Child As Payment."

*I wish I was kidding. That is almost word for word what the email said.

*I do not have children.

*I am, however, a firstborn child.

*Hence, I think I am safe in assuming that the handing off of a firstborn is unpleasant.

*I almost responded to the email asking if this was correct or if people who didn't have children were exempt from the spending restrictions.

*I rethought that reply.

*The mood around the school district is kind of grim right now and I doubt that certain forms of humor will be appreciated.

*Mr. Principal is pretty stressed out due to all the scheduling problems and probably won't defend my witty emails.

*He said he had a stomach ache today when I asked how he was doing and looked very, very sad.

*Even his normally jaunty moustache was kind of droopy.

*I also didn't get any chocolate from him like I did yesterday.

*Sad, broke, droopy-moustached, no-chocolate principal...

*Maybe I should give him chocolate.

*But then Mr. Assistant Principal would want some. Then the secretaries would get wind of the sweet deals being made with Ms. Sheep and the whole thing would probably snowball from there.

*I'll have to think about the chocolate thing...

*Did I mention I'm knitting a hat?

*Hats are nice, even if they never get finished.

*Maybe I can sell unfinished hats for a living after they shut down the school due to lack of funds, working schedules and chocolate.

There is nothing quite like a Tuesday/Wednesday! You go through the whole day thinking it's only the second of the workweek and that you still have three more days of looking at a sad principal who can't let you spend any money. Unless it is taped to your firstborn child, that is.

But then you realize there are really only two!


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

It's The Principal Of The Thing

It was cold this morning. Cold and raining. I considered myself fortunate because I heard tell that some places in this glorious state of mine might get snow. However, feeling that I was fortunate did nothing to make me less cold.

I arrived at school (late, although how that happened I don't really know) to find it rather chilly inside the building. We have two boilers. You'd think that two boilers would be enough. But it wasn't. Mostly because both of them were broken.

By the time the guy came to fix the thingie that broke (twice) we were all near to hypothermia. The clanking, grinding and pounding of radiators coming to life roused us a bit but not for long. Returning to school after a long weekend is always rough. Coming back to chairs that give you frostbite of the tuchas is just too much to bear.

I think that's how I ended up in the office at the end of the day exchanging witty banter with the principal and one of the guidance counselors (the one who had a horrible food allergy reaction this weekend and is still on massive doses of antihistamines). My staff will tell you that I just wandered off again. While I admit to sometimes doing this, I honestly think I had a purpose in going to the office this afternoon. I can't quite seem to recall what it was, though...

Mr. Principal: (waving from the far end of the main office) Ms. Sheep! Ms. Guidance Counselor! Wait right there!

Ms. Sheep and Ms. Guidance Counselor are startled and look at one another in order to size up the chances of laying blame for whatever may have caused this spate of administrative shouting

MP: (rushing over) I have a question for you.

MGC: Yes, sir. We are here to serve. Just remember that I've got a bit of an antihistamine high going on...

MP: Are you aware that everyone is wearing brown today? Ms. Sheep is wearing brown. Ms. Guidance Counselor is wearing brown. (Continues listing the names of staff wearing brown. It is a lengthy list.)

MS: Wow. That's really....something?

MGC: (too deep in her antihistamine haze to really be able to process this) Um...

MP: Why brown? Why?!

MS: I wear brown a lot.

MGC: Me too. I like brown.

MP: So you don't think it's some sort of collective expression marking a downturn in the overall mood?

MS: Well, yeah. I'm sure it is. It's a Tuesday/Monday, after all. But you probably shouldn't attach too much meaning to it.

MP: Wait right here!!!!!

Ms. Sheep and Ms. Guidance Counselor are, once again, afraid to move. A direct order is a direct order, after all. Even if it is sudden and doesn't necessarily make sense. Mr. Principal goes into a small room just off the main office and can be heard rummaging around. He periodically calls out for them to remain where they are.

MP: (emerging from the little room) Here you go! Chocolate! It's brown just like everyone's outfits today!

MS: Whoo-Hooooooo!!!!!!!!

MGC: Um...does this have nuts in it? I don't want to sound ungrateful, but the doctor says that nuts might kill me.

Mr. Principal snatches the offending candy bar from her hands and rushes off to the little room to find one of a less lethal variety. Ms. Guidance Counselor digs in eagerly. Both Mr. Principal and Ms. Sheep remain close by while she eats it just in case chocolate is the allergy trigger. You never know, right?

Having gotten chocolate as a reward, I was more willing to remain in the office. I could hear the sounds of restless children from my classroom at the top of the stairs. I could also hear my Cheerful Teaching Assistant pacing around up there and I knew I should probably be getting back. But there might be another mini chocolate bar for me. It was worth giving it another minute or two. I'm like a stray cat with chocolate. Feed me once and I'm slinking around for days until someone turns the hose on me. The conversation turned to movies.

Ms. Sheep: I saw Zombieland this weekend. It's good!

Mr. Principal: I'd like to see that one! Why, I may go this weekend. I think we'll go to dinner first then the movie.

MS: You should do it in that order. You probably won't want to eat after.

MP: Is it really that gory?

MS: Actually, it's not that bad. You don't have a weak stomach do you?

MP: (looking almost offended) Ms. Sheep, I have given birth to a baby daughter. I have seen the worst things anyone can see and survived.

Ms. Sheep and Ms. Guidance Counselor both want to point out that he did not give birth. There is a significant difference between being present at a birth and actually doing it, but they decide to let it go. Stumped for what to say next and still hoping for chocolate, Ms. Sheep does her best.

MS: You make it all sound like such a miracle, sir. That was beautiful. Like poetry...

I didn't get any more chocolate. Not even the dark stuff that no one else will eat. Maybe the poetry part was a little over the top. I dunno. I went back to my classroom with my one little candy bar and ate it in front of the children. That made me feel a little bit better.

I blame the cold. I don't think so clearly when I'm chilled. Maybe next time I'll wear a couple of extra layers and have the wherewithal to wax philosophical in the office until everyone is overcome with the urge to shower me with peanut butter cups.

Until then, I'll just sit here with my hot water bottle. It is all snug inside the new cozy I knit for it and helping to raise my core temperature to something resembling warm blooded. It's not the same as free chocolate from the principal, but you take what you can get on a chilly Tuesday night.

Tomorrow, I'm going to see if I can get into that little room. I'm curious how much chocolate he has in there...


Monday, October 12, 2009

That Warm, Happy Feeling

I was late getting my classroom set up for this school year. I'd planned to go in two weeks before the first day, get everything done and then have the last week of vacation free. The best laid plans are often thwarted by the weather...

With temperatures well into the 90's, I knew I couldn't spend even an hour in my third floor classroom. The very idea of moving desks and whatnot in that kind of heat made me wilt. I waited and did it the following week.

When I arrived at school to begin this dreaded task, I made a point of stopping in to see the school secretaries. They are nice to me and a bright point in my otherwise dreary working day. Only one secretary was in, though. That was OK. She made up for the lack of greetings in stereo by coming around the counter and hugging me like a long lost child. Mrs. Secretary At The Front Desk and I are kind of like kindred spirits. She "gets" me. The first time I casually tossed out a movie line that fit the circumstances if not the company, she knew exactly what I was trying to say. Not many people do and I cherish the folks who don't look at me like I missed the morning medication rounds.

She is also very well-versed in the art of zombie lore. Not quite as well as I. At the risk of sounding pompous, I think I can claim to be something of an expert in that area. But she is darned close to thinking at my level and always willing to learn more. She is on the short list for Sheepish Annie's A Team when the dreaded zombie apocalypse arrives.

Sometimes she sends me articles about zombie ants that she found on the internet. She keeps me up to date on things like zombie parties and fun zombie games. And sometimes she even brings in a movie she's found on the clearance racks that she knows will tickle my zombie-hating fancy.

Not many teachers can claim to have been loaned a copy of Planet Terror while administering the state achievement tests. But I can. And I feel that I am a better person for having a school secretary in my life who knows that long weekends are meant for movie exchanges with like-minded co-workers.

I'm a lucky woman...

Movie watching is also quite good for knitting. Even better for knitting is the change from unbearably hot to surprisingly chilly temperatures. I am always surprised by how motivated a knitter can become when suffering from frozen toes. And fingers. And everything else.

Sure, the interwebs may chuckle. I don't blame the interwebs. I'd laugh too were I on the other side of the monitor. The yarn-based intentions were enough to elicit some giggles, but the very thought of me making up a pattern on the fly should have had everyone laughing until summer temperatures return to my corner of the globe. It's funny.

But I'm not laughing now. My self-designed hot water bottle cozy was finished in a nick of time and has proven invaluable as the mercury drops.

I probably should have just used one of the billion available patterns to make this, but you know how I am when I get a bee in my bonnet. Sometimes I just have to prove I can do it. Even if I can't.

Thankfully, this time I could because my toes are really, really cold. Essentially, I wanted a thin covering with little in the way of lumpiness. The idea wasn't to insulate the bottle, rather to give it a snuggly quality. I also didn't think that knitted cable or seed stitch impressions on the various parts of my body where this thing will be held would be all that attractive. When one is already using a hot water bottle, one is perilously close to looking a bit matronly anyway. It's best to not add further divots to the skin. The bit of ruffling at the top was probably overcompensation on my part after all that plain stockinette. But I'm keeping it. A few ruffles never hurt anyone...

In fact, I like my hot water bottle cozy so much that I might just include it in the backpack when the time comes to flee the approaching zombie hordes. Packing light doesn't mean you have to give up every creature comfort, does it? I'm still not sure, but bringing my new cozy along is on the table for discussion.

I'm going to school early tomorrow to see how the school secretary feels about it. I'll get back to you.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Go Limber, Go Light

I am generally opposed to zombie movies that make light of the whole nasty matter. I feel that these films will only serve to keep people from realizing the severity of the situation when the impending zombie apocalypse finally does rear its ugly, slavering head. This will be a very serious time, indeed. Do we really need to waste time trying to think up witty banter while the undead shamble towards us?

I'm not without some flexibility on this matter, though. Frankly, we are probably going to need to relearn the art of levity while we puzzle out how to run to the store for a quart of milk without becoming The Catch Of The Day. Hence, I was looking forward seeing the latest in survival cinema: Zombieland.

It did not disappoint. From the brilliantly shot opening sequence featuring super-slow-mo zombie attacks to the final battle fought across an amusement park, Zombieland was beyond awesome. There isn't much beyond awesome. There are black and white cookies. There are long weekends. There are those amazing stretches of lace knitting that flow along seamlessly even if you forgot the lifeline. That's about it.

I especially appreciated the protagonist's reliance on carefully compiled rules to survive in the new world order. When Columbus spoke of things like "cardio" and the importance of checking the backseat, I fairly cheered aloud. Knowing that somewhere out there another human being understands why I always check my exit points brought me near to weeping. I chuckled along with everyone else when he demonstrated how to limber up before investigating the back of a truck but, deep down, I was taking mental notes. I can use that later, I'm certain of it.

I know that some rules will be tough. Traveling light sounds good, but I don't know a single knitter who isn't going to justify dragging along the entire stash. If asked, each will assert that they simply want to ensure having something with which to wile away the hours should they be trapped in a phone booth by ravenous hordes of flesh eaters. That will be a lie. There are no phone booths anymore, at least not enough to make them handy hiding places. Even if there were still places where you might deposit change in return for a few minutes of phone time, they wouldn't be all that secure.

The truth of the matter is that no one will be able to bear the thought of zombie knitters getting their oozy hands on the yarn.

And seatbelts? Columbus and I may agree on the need for this sort of thing at the end of the world, but I doubt that anyone else will. It has long been my belief that, once the dust settles, the majority of deaths will not be zombie related. They will be more along the lines of "stupid." Scraped knees, untreated fevers, and poor driving habits...that's what's gonna get us.

That and random needle pokes because we refuse to drop the socks-in-progress when sprinting is required. It's hard to hear, I know. But I take my role in Zombie Preparedness Training seriously and I must set aside my usual nurturing tendencies in order that you might fully understand the seriousness of this topic.

If nothing else, won't you be embarrassed when you arrive at the pearly gates and find yourself having to explain how you got there? Do you really think that everyone who shuffled off their mortal coils as part of a zombie buffet will be amused to hear that you were undone by your belief that an airbag would be enough? I think they might be a bit miffed at your carelessness!

Zombieland gets a thumbs up, both as a training film and as pure entertainment. Even if you aren't the traditional fan of the genre, I'd still suggest you make the time to see it. Funny? Oh yeah! And if you happen to pick up a few survival tips in the process, so much the better.

I can't wait for this one to make it to dvd so I can include a copy in my growing collection of training films. In the interim, I'll spend some time updating my own "list" and double check the existing rules to see if they still apply. It's a never-ending job, but I do it willingly. You can never be too prepared for the coming zombie apocalypse. That's rule #1.

I have some thoughts on light travel. We could just leave my Absurdly Gi-normous brother behind. It's not because I hate him. It's just good survival thinking is all...


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Obligatory WNBP: It Would Be Better With Cookies

It was a near thing tonight. Sheepie is all tuckered out and almost said, "To heck with The Wednesday Night Bullet Post!" But when I decided to pull back a bit on the blogging routine last summer, I made a few promises to some people. The WNBP was one of them so I shall suck it up and dispense this week's dose of random brain burps for your consideration.

When all is said and done, I always feel better after a brain burp. I think it is very therapeutic.

*Everyone should know that I worked out this afternoon.

*You should clap and make lots of approving noises because I was very tired and had no interest in picking up heavy things or pedaling my way to nowhere.

*You! In the back! Yeah, you. I said CLAP!!!!!!!!! That was not a suggestion. I am an amazing human being for working out this afternoon and not eating chocolate chip cookies like I wanted to.

*If nothing else, you should clap for my recent nomination as the neediest human being on the planet.

*I also knit on the hot water bottle cozy while I was riding the little exercise bike.

*You don't have to clap for that. It's just a weirdly shaped hot water bottle cozy.

*Let's not be the sort of people who clap for just anything...

*Baby Panda Update:

He's getting really big! It seems like only yesterday I mistook him for a naked mole rat...

*Tomorrow is Flu Shot Day at school!

*Yay!!! I'm going to get mine, then go to the back of the line and get another one!!!

*We who fear the flu think of Flu Shot Day the way other people think of birthdays and Christmas.

*We who are trapped in a classroom with leaky children all day are downright reverent about it.

*The school nurse says I can't get an extra shot even if I go to the back of the line and wear a clever disguise. She blathered on about limited supplies of vaccine and people not needing double shots.

*I think she is trying to deny me my right to double flu protection and am going to try anyway.

*No one will think twice if someone in a nun's habit who looks just like me shows up for a flu shot. It's foolproof...

*Sometimes when a student is telling his teacher about the latest in a series of things that have gone wrong, she can't help but reflect on how his choices got him to this place. In fact, she knows that everything happening right now is his to own and that consequences happen for a reason.

*But sometimes she sees in his eyes that, for just a second, he knows this. He knows it right down deep. It's a brief moment because he will soon start frantically finding ways to justify all that happened or blaming others for his predicament. The moment of knowing is just too much for most people. Even adults find it uncomfortable.

*Even though the teacher knows that this student was arrogant and blatantly disdainful of the rules the rest of us have to live by, she will be heartbroken for him in that moment. She shouldn't feel sorry for him...but she will.

*Of course she still has to make him take his state assessments and do his math papers. This will restore the balance. The student hates taking tests and doing his math and will no longer be quite so tragic a figure to his teacher.

*The average tragic figure doesn't skewer his math pages with his pen and then fling them around the room. They're usually a little more conscious of the need to maintain an air of quiet dignity.

*Sometimes I fantasize about a world where it rains chocolate chip cookies.

*Then I remember my fear of "outside food" or "things that have touched the ground" and realize that I couldn't eat the cookies.

*That would be a painful existence for me. Everyone else would be out splashing in the cookie puddles and I'd be inside with my sad, little nose pressed against the glass, looking all wistful.

*Maybe I'll make chocolate chip cookies this weekend...

*Speaking of which, it is a long weekend. I believe I've mentioned that fact already this week.

*But it's always nice to say it again.

Wednesday is done and Thursday is soon to make an appearance. I'll make it through the last day of 8th grade assessments and get me a couple of nice flu shots. I probably won't eat any chocolate chip cookies because that is not the sort of thing I do during the week. But I'll think about them a lot and eventually the weekend will arrive. Then it will be all cookies all the time!


Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Half Is Better Than Nothing

That's it.  I've had it.  State assessments have officially lost their charm for me and I doubt that we will recapture that special magic.  Ever.

Today we inflicted the last two sections of the math test upon the hapless students and they did not take kindly to this.  My earlier bribes of candy and free time in exchange for minimal effort on these tests are no longer effective.  Resorting to threats of an extended school year and the loss of gym or music because they have to go to the math lab during those times isn't working either.  They are done.  And we still have two more writing tests left to go.

It begins with one student losing all patience with the process and putting his head down.  (The first to fall today was the boy who is Gauged And Aerodynamic.  He and his holey lobes barely lasted half an hour)  This signals the first stage of the mutiny.  Eventually, he will begin tapping his pencil loudly.  Soon he will snap his state-issued protractor and his calculator will need to be removed before it suffers a similar fate.  Ms. Sheep will have no choice but to end his test session because it is clear he can go no further with it and she doesn't want the other students disturbed.  

But it's too late...

Soon, everyone will be affected by the I Hate Testing bug and it is only a matter of time before they have all decided that this is a waste of a perfectly good morning.  It's Game Over.  Worse, we can do nothing until the official testing time has passed and this leaves an hour and a half of dead time.  During this endless parade of minutes, the kids are no longer testing.  They are resting.  Granted, there will be repercussions, but those are very far away.  In that moment, they have beaten the test.  

Fine.  That's how they want to play it?  I hate these tests, too and am just as cranky.  I have weapons at my disposal.  When they pull this stunt tomorrow, I'll be ready with math worksheets instead of dead time.  I no longer have to wait to start classes.  I'm also going to sit there and eat all the candy.  I'm going to do this whilst making very loud "nom-nom" noises and I'm going to wave the wrappers right under their noses so they can get teasing whiffs of taffy that will never be theirs to enjoy.  

I might even use my laptop to play that motocross game they all like to play and announce my score every five minutes.  Loudly.  Or I might not.   I'm still considering that course of action.  I want to torture them, but not at the risk of my dignity.  I'm not very good at that game...

I'm just cranky.  I promise I'll be more mature about this when the time comes.  I will just take lots of deep breaths and remember this morning when Gauged and Aerodynamic asked, "Is Friday a half day?"

My original answer to that was in the negative since I didn't have an early-release day on my calendar.  However, a quick check with my Organized Teaching Assistant revealed my error.  The students do have a half day on Friday.  Sure, the staff have to stay for workshops but I can live with that.  The place isn't half bad without all those pesky children running around.  We can order out for lunch and talk about boys.  It'll be a nice way to kick off the long holiday weekend even if I do have to attend workshops.

All I have to do is make it through two more days of 8th grade testing.  I can do that.  If an early release day, lunch and a long weekend of knitting are being dangled before me, I can do anything.

And the first person who mentions to me that 7th grade testing starts next week will not be getting any taffy.  I'm not kidding.


Monday, October 05, 2009

Being Tested

I knew that today was going to be a long one. I also suspected that it might be trying at times. Mondays are always a bit of a gamble, even when you have all your ducks in a row. But when you add in a few wild ducks, you have to prepare yourself. They'll be quacking and getting underfoot all day.

Neither of my teaching assistants were scheduled to be in class today. Both needed to present themselves for mandatory training at the high school. There were other training dates on the calendar, but I'm the one teaching those and then who would look after the children? It made sense to just have my staff go together today and be done with it. This left me alone to man the fort and to carefully monitor my intake of fluids because 7 hours without a break is a very long time.

To add to my delicate situation, state mandated assessments continue. The fact that today was the first math test did nothing to improve the situation. Math is not the favorite subject in my class.

You do what you have to. I brought in a big bag of candy and promised to be liberal in its dispersal if only they would try to answer a few questions. I further promised a movie in the afternoon if they put forth even the smallest effort at making this day something along the lines of bearable. Everyone agreed and the day ran pretty smoothly, although I really wish I'd declined that second cup of coffee.

There was one problem, though. Being the only adult in a room full of teens means having no one with whom to share the disbelieving eye-rolls. Today was a good day for eye-rolling. And I was all alone. Here's an example:

State Assessment Victim #1: Hey, Ms. Sheep! Don't forget to put me on the make-up list for tomorrow. I won't be here to take the next two tests.

Ms. Sheep: You have to be here. This is Very Important Testing.

SAV#1: (in exasperated tones) We've already talked about this, like, a billion times. I won't be here.

MS: We talked about this? Really?

SAV#1: (pointing across the room) I also told you that State Assessment Victim #2 isn't going to be here either. We're..whaddaya call it? Oh yeah! "Co-defendants."

MS: I need the test administrator manual...

SAV#1: We're carpooling. I hear that parking at the courthouse is murder.

MS: OK. I've checked three times and there is nothing in the "Accommodations And Exceptions" section on court appearances. I don't suppose...

SAV#1: Nope. The paper they sent me said I have to go because of something called "failure to appear."

MS: (begins eating the candy she brought for the children)

Later that same day after the testing is done and everyone is just killing time between candy-eating and lunch:

State Assessment Victim #1: This whole town is full of rednecks.

Ms. Sheep: Really?

SAV#1: Oh, yeah! My dad is one.

MS: You seem pretty sure of that.

SAV#1: Yup. You should see him mowing the lawn. Beer in one hand, wandering around the lawn...

MS: That's not redneck. I see people doing that everywhere.

SAV#1: Yeah, but it's not our lawn.

MS: Not your...

SAV#1: I think he just gets off course sometimes.

MS: (digs through the candy bag looking for the last of the strawberry flavored taffy) I really miss my staff right now...

A few hours later, the movie is done and the dismissal bell is taking its sweet time about ringing:

State Assessment Victim #1: Can I go to my locker before homeroom?

Ms. Sheep: Not yet. We still have ten more minutes before that stupid final bell. You have time.

SAV#1: No, I don't. I have to go to my locker to get my sweatshirt. Then I have to go to my friend's locker so I can put my sweatshirt in it and get my other sweatshirt because that one is clean.

MS: What about the one you keep leaving in the classroom?

SAV#1: That's a spare for emergencies. It's also kind of stinky.

MS: You don't need to go to your locker. You can wait. I know how this goes. You visit all 75 lockers and then you start wandering around. You have to chat with everyone and then you end up getting into trouble and I get a call which will probably end up with me getting into trouble for letting you out early. It's a vicious cycle that could end up with me losing my job. I'll have to live in my car and feed the cats out of the cup holder...

SAV#1: (shaking his head sadly) I know what you're doing. You're stalling. Don't you know by now that this never works?

Teenagers make me tired. Very tired. They suck the life force right out of me and I still don't know how to classify an assessment make up if the kid is in court, although I suspect that the state testing officials would go toe-to-toe with the judge on this matter if it came to that. I'm also now going to be looking at every beer-holding, lawn-mowing dude I pass on the way home and wondering if he is, in fact, mowing his own lawn.

Is it any wonder I am now obsessed with knitting hot water bottle cozies? By comparison, this makes perfect sense.


Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Most Dangerous Time

All knitters are subject to the cycles of crafty inspiration. Sometimes we are simply overcome with the power to wield the sticks and the will to make the yarn sing. It might be that we are knitting up lots of little somethings like dishcloths and hats. Perhaps we are in a focused mode and able to spend hours on intricate lace or complicated Fair Isle patterns. Either way, production is impressive.

Other times, the muse deserts us and we struggle along with that one thing we absolutely have to finish on a deadline or we start multiple projects, none of which satisfy us for very long. In these times, we despair just a little bit and wonder if we will ever again be able to call ourselves Knitters. (the capital "K" makes a know it as well as I)

These things happen to all who knit. It is that unifying factor. We are understanding when a fellow knit-blogger starts to spend more time prattling on about the cats or the morning commute. We forgive. We know that it is only a matter of time before it is our turn to distract the masses with random bits of non-knitting blog fodder. Every knitter knows that this is just the way of things.

And then there is me. I like to take it to a whole new level.

With the end of my summer vacation, I expected a downturn in the knitting production. This isn't surprising since I'm back at school and have other things on my mind. Things like fire drills, lesson plans and the need to repeat every single thing I say forty-five times before anyone deigns to hear me always take their toll. I don't expect myself to knit like I do during the summer months when it's only the cats who aren't listening to me.

Hence, when I lost all interest in anything currently on the needles, I didn't really panic. I knew that it would happen and I simply knit when the mood struck. Sooner or later, the muse would return and poop all sorts of happy, woolly thoughts upon my noggin. I know me. I know how I operate.

Except that I always seem to forget about Stage Four. That's the stage that comes after Knitting Bliss, Waning Interest and Spurts Of Random Knitting Behavior. Any of those stages are manageable. The other stage, commonly known as I Can Do Better, is the dangerous one and you'd think I'd remember to note the symptoms after all these years. I never do, though. I guess it's denial or something...

In the ICDB stage, I suddenly begin seeing knitting opportunities everywhere. There is not a single thing within my range of vision that I don't believe I could either reproduce in yarn or, at the very least, cover in wool. My current obsession appears to be hot water bottle cozies.

I'm sure that your first inclination is to say, "Fear not, Sheepie! Your time of trial is over. For I have the perfect pattern for just such a thing and it's funny you should mention it because I was just knitting up fifty of them myself!" If this weren't the ICDB stage, that would handily solve my problem. But it is. So it doesn't. If only it were that simple.

The first sign of impending ICDB is the downloading of patterns. I somehow managed to pass right through that portion of the festivities without even noticing the high rate of printer ink consumption. I also failed to take note of the second symptom, the one characterized by disdainful snorting as each pattern is read and then discarded as not being "quite right." If you miss that warning sign then you are doomed. Trust me. I know.

Now I am fully enmeshed in ICDB and there is nothing to do but ride it out. I have somehow managed to convince myself that I can just make up a pattern that will revolutionized the world of hot water bottle cozies and make me a hero amongst hot water bottle cozy knitters for all eternity. The fact that I am not a technical knitter, have little use for such pesky things as gauge and math skills that are, on my best of days, unreliable does not deter me in the least. Those issues may have thwarted me in the past, but surely I have learned a few things from my mistakes. I can't possibly go wrong here. In fact, I'll probably knit three or four hot water bottle cozies before the weekend winds down!

I'll show you. Just let me rip off this last attempt (which was really just for practice anyway) and then you'll see something truly amazing! I'd invite you to sit while you gaze in wide-eyed wonder, but all the chairs are covered in yarn since I had to pull out every skein I own in order to find one that fits my vision. And be careful where you step. I wouldn't want you to trip on any of the needles currently strewn about the floor because none of them would behave in a manner befitting such knitterly grandeur.

I know. It's not pretty. Frankly, I think that ICDB is harder for the onlooker than it is for the afflicted. The good news is that Stage Four only lasts about 48 hours and then the symptoms begin to abate. Good sense is realized, the yarn is returned to storage and the knitter resumes work on the Invisibility Shawl like she should have in the first place. It's rough and there is no known cure other than time and the willingness to rewind a whole lot of yarn. But the recovery is quick and there are no lasting ill effects.

Until I suddenly decide that I can free-knit cat sweaters or toilet seat covers. But we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.