1 year down, 13 more to go

My baby girl, my only child has completed her Pre-K year. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

I know, I know, it’s a little silly when you think about being proud of completing pre-k, right? It’s not like she wrote research papers or received an associate degree while taking high school classes or worked a part-time job and maintained the A Honor Roll, or that she’s off to some Ivy League School. Like what did she really do that I should be so proud? Well, I’ll tell you what she did first and foremost. She blossomed! She blossomed and learned in so many different areas! That’s why I’m proud.


Just look at those pictures!  Just look at them.

You might not be able to tell, but she grew an inch and gained 5 pounds too!

The little buttercup went from being mostly shy and timid to outgoing and confident. Granted, she still gets a little nervous talking to people, but at least she’s not hiding behind my legs anymore. As much, anyway.  That’s why I’m proud.

Of course she learned lots of academic type of things. She can read several words and a few little books, she has great number sense, and a lot of common sense as well. She tries her best at everything she does and wants to succeed. She is responsible and superb! That’s why I’m proud.

She also did big 5-year-old things this year, like learning to tie her shoes and fix her own hair, which might look a fright most of the time, but she does it herself and her independence and self-confidence is more important in the big scheme of things than a perfect hair-do.  She also decided that she can put herself to bed and sleep alone. But every 4th night, I can still sleep with her. She’s growing up independent and confident. That’s why I’m proud.

She worked so hard in both her dance and gymnastics classes and more importantly had fun doing it. She can swing herself on the swings with just one push to get her started, and cross the monkey bars by herself. She is learning that hard work pays off and  practice does make almost-perfect. She is learning that things may be hard at first, but not to give up, keep on trying and eventually you’ll get there. That’s why I’m proud.

She is good and kind and thoughtful which is the most important aspects I would like her to develop in her years of learning.  I want her to know that it is better to be a friend to someone who needs one, than to fit in with the “in-crowd”. I want her to know that not everything is going to come easy, but she’ll never be disappointed in herself for knowing she gave it her all. She learned more this year of the important stuff than she might learn her entire academic career. Her foundation is laid.

These next 13 years are going to fly by. I know that all too well. It may be that some day she’ll be off to an Ivy League School, or maybe she’ll backpack across Europe. As long as she stays true to herself and discovers happiness in her journeys is my heart’s desire for her. It may seem silly to you that I write these milestones down, but I know my memories won’t always be as clear and I want to remember it all: every little accomplishment, every single stepping stone on her path to wherever she is heading.

She is such a joy, and I am so very proud to call her mine.


School Days

The posters are hung, the pencils are sharpened, and the acetaminophen  is stocked.   Although there isn’t the slightest nip of fall in the air, the calendar confirms that school begins tomorrow here in West Texas.
Elementary Teachers all around my area have laminated, cut, pasted, and labeled until their fingertips bleed.
Although the calendar confirms it, and the preparations have been made, somehow  it just hasn’t felt real for me. 

I haven’t had the nightmares.   Each year I have them.  They come to me in the few nights before school begins.   The terrifying night terrors of unpreparedness for the first day of school, filled with a room full of uncontrollable children, monsters you might call them.  The empty stack of uncopied papers haunts me,  the incomplete lesson plan book stares blankly at me. The sheer feeling of panic and inadequateness that accompanies these nightmares almost undoes me.

Despite the early morning alarms, the week long inservice, and the ever growing class list,  it hasn’t  felt like the beginning of school until last night.   Last night I was visited in my dreams by children who are too old for my grade, too many students, not enough desks, and what’s with the boy playing the electric drumset in the middle of the classroom who won’t listen to me screaming at him to stop?

And then there’s my feet. Even without the nightmares, they are the tell-tale sign that it is the start of school. No matter how comfy the tennis shoes are, when you go from sitting around swatting flies all summer to actual work, you just can’t help but catch a little flack from the old dogs.

Nightmares and throbbing feet.  There is no more denying that the first day of school is upon me.

Thank goodness for my husband. He’s cooking burgers tonight, bless his heart.   My feet are propped mightily on the couch pillows, bless their hearts.

   Multifunction Foot Spa MassagerAnd my dreams tonight will be filled with the longings of foot baths with bubbling hot water and lavender bath salts combined with massaging action in three different intensities.   I might even invent an Asian man named Dong who possesses great hands. 

What? A girl can dream can’t she?

In Memory of My Dad #25

Being a teacher myself, I found great joy in reading this story written by my dad on July 8, 1995.  How many of you have similar tales?

Why our little community was named “Briggs” by early settlers has been lost in the annals of time, but I was always ready and able to come up with a story as to why in my imaginative mind.

Briggs sits about three miles west of Eldon and about six miles east of Tahlequah on Highway 62.  Briggs lies on a relatively flat piece of ground not far from the Illinois River.  The pride and crowning glory of the community was Briggs School.

The school was a three-room affair, very small by today’s standards.  The first room took care of the first and second grades, and I’m happy to report my first grade teacher was a lovely young thing called Miss Jewell.  She was wonderful—pretty, young, and she smelled good.  What more could you ask for in a teacher?

I loved her so much that I had a hard time lining up with the others on my graduation from the second grade for a good-bye hug.  I remember running home and grabbing a huge piece of chocolate cake and going to bed to console myself with food.  (Having followed this practice religiously throughout my life, I can tell you that it’s a lot less expensive and easier on the body than tranquilizers and whiskey.) 

We were graduating on to the next room—a room filled with third, fourth and fifth graders, grizzled veterans of the school of higher learning.  Some said we were to find out what schooling was all about.  I had some trepidation about leaving the confines of Miss Jewell’s room because the third, fourth and fifth was taught by the toughest, meanest human being ever to embrace professional education.  It was gut check time.

We loved to hate this loathsome creature to whom the best-read of us referred to as “Miss Lizzie” (of Lizzie Borden fame) because it was rumored that she had hacked a couple of her charges to death.  In those days teachers chastised their students any way they saw fit, short of capital punishment and we weren’t sure that Miss Lizzie didn’t have special dispensation from the pope to invoke the death penalty.

Her favorite way of dispensing torture was to pull your hair.  And believe me it hurt.  Most of the denizens of the third, fourth or fifth grade had their mane rearranged by Miss Lizzie.  I myself had a head full of lovely brunette curls that seemed to daily catch the wrath of Miss Lizzie.

We had a couple of boys in the fifth grade who should have been in the 10th or 11th grade, but they had missed a lot of school time due to such things as hauling hay or driving a tractor.  These were just good old boys, meaner than junkyard dogs, and the rest of Miss Lizzie’s third, fourth, and fifth graders followed them slavishly down the path to wickedness.

Toward the last day of school, one of these guys came up with a foolproof plan which he felt in all probability would kill Miss Lizzie.  If it didn’t kill her, it would undoubtably result in her spending her remaining days in Eastern State Hospital at Vinita.  (He no doubt spent many hours praying about it, and received an answer from above.)  In those days breakdowns were not all that uncommon in the field of education.  As a matter of fact, they are not all that uncommon today.

Now the success of this plan hinged greatly on the fact that Miss Lizzie had made a deal with one of the few traitors in school to bring her a pint of raw milk each day to augment her sack lunch.  This was in the days before the school lunch program reared its ugly head.  Most of the kids had milk cows at home, but I would have rotted in Hades before I would have brought this teacher any kind of sustenance.

One day at recess the leader of this foul gang of reprobates filled us in on the plan.  It was beautiful—simplicity in motion, and in our own little black hearts we knew it could not fail.

The entire three grades were sworn to secrecy and the TREATMENT as we liked to call our project was to go into effect on April first.

On day one of the TREATMENT one of the older boys who thought of the scheme, surreptitiously dropped a small pebble into the milk.  Miss Lizzie choked and sputtered a bit, but she got the milk down and couldn’t proved a thing.

The traitor that delivered the milk was told to report the incident to her parents, who assured Miss Lizzie that they would be more careful in the future. 

Day two was a little worse, two roly-poly bugs were put into her milk, and while she was attacking our hair, one of the perpetrators removed the bugs, so she had no further proof.

Day three saw the end of the TREATMENT, and God help me, it was beautiful.  When Miss Lizzie opened the lid to the mason jar, she spied a small mouse frantically doing the breast stroke, trying to escape.

As we say in the hills, she cut and ran, straight to the principal’s office and fell into his arms babbling incoherently.

We liked the new teacher well enough, except for the part of writing Miss Lizzie get well notes up to Eastern State.  Finally we had to stop that because she kept screaming something about rodents in her milk and making a complete mess of the room by tearing the notes into a million pieces.

Our hearts soared at that bit of news.

Bob Briggs
January 16, 1943-February 26, 2011

Funnies from the SchoolHouse: Class Clown

Class clowns.  They’re in every classroom across America. 

Yes, even mine. 

Today before writing time (which I love to teach by the way), I read a sweet children’s book called The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant.

It’s about this cute little old lady  who’s outlived all her friends, so she reluctantly gets a dog and they become good friends.  Don’t you just love her cowboy boots? 

After reading, I told my students to think of a topic to write about.  To help them, I suggested they use the story I read as a springboard.  I recommended writing about a pet dog or cat.  Or maybe tell about a time a stray wandered up to their house.  Did they get to keep it?  Did they feed it like the little old lady in the story.   What happened?  Or, if they didn’t have an animal story, maybe they would like to  write about their grandmothers.  Their sweet, loving, kind grandmothers.

Here’s a story written by one of my girls

My Grandmol’s Flab

My grandmol has more chins than a Chinese phone book.

She can’t see her feet.

When she sits on the toilet it says a-b-c-d-e-f-g, get your fat butt off of me.


I hadn’t read this story myself prior to asking her to share it with the class.  Needless to say, she had the whole lot of us in stitches.

Yes, including me.

I hope someday I can say, “I knew her when.”

Snowballs in July

I opened my freezer and noticed a bowl of snow in there from last week.  Anyone for snow ice-cream in 75 degree weather?

When I was in 8th grade, I was sitting in the library, book in hand, talking and giggling with a girl across from me at the table.  Suddenly our teacher starts fast walking towards us.  We’d been caught.  The so-called friend looks up to see the teacher coming closer, yanks the book from my hand, and pretends to start reading it, while I sat there like a sitting duck. 

My 8th grade English teacher bends over the table, scolds us for acting up in the library, then wags her finger at me, and tells me that she was thinking of referring me to Honors English, but the way I am acting is showing her that maybe that isn’t such a good idea after all. 

I hung my head in shame.  This was the first time a teacher had really shown much interest in my learning, who saw  potential in me.  I hated that I disappointed her.

She walked off, I took my book back from the girl who left a smudgy dirty thumbprint on the page where she grabbed it from me.  My teacher held true to her word, however.  I was put in Honors English  my Freshman year, and it ate my lunch. 

I was used to making A’s easily, not working for B’s.  We were assigned to read a book by Ray Bradbury called Dandelion Wine.  We would read an assigned chapter or chapters, then have a class discussion of “literary terms”  like irony.  I never understood irony.  It’s like poetry to me.  Other students’ hands would be in the air, ready and eager to answer my teacher’s questions about “what does he mean on pg. 25 when he says he walks like an Indian?”  I tried to keep up.  I still remember parts of that book.  I don’t remember the plot or the climax or the resolution, but I remember the feeling of home it gave me and several scenes.  Especially one in particular where he saved a snowball and put it in the freezer to throw at his brother in July.  That idea quickened my spirit and I imagined myself doing it, looking at my sister’s surprised face with her tan legs and tank top when a snowball hit her in the face. 

The next time it snowed, I got a snowball, packed it good, wrapped it in Saran wrap, and put it in my grandmother’s side by side refrigerator/freezer.  I  hid it, so no one would know my ploy, on the bottom underneath something else that looked white and icy.  I started counting off the days.  My anticipation was high.  But as a young teenager blossoming into womanhood, my energies soon turned from annoying my sister to friends, boys, cars, and cruising the drag and I forgot about that lone snowball hibernating in the freezer.  Much time passed, and then I remembered.  I rummaged through the freezer burned food.  I never found it.  I asked my grandmother if she had thrown it out, but she claimed she never saw a snowball in the freezer. 

It’s probably best.  I’m sure it rapidly turned to a round block of ice and it probably would have taken Jolea’s head off. 

As for my English career, I went to the counselor and asked to be put back in regular English for the next year.  It was just too much work.  Someone should have taken my head off.