Thursday, August 9, 2012

MOVING DAY!

Hello Friends!

After nearly 2 full days of pulling my hair out, I have managed to successfully move this little blog over to my new online home:

www.missnightmutters.com.

Please come visit me over there, I miss all  your smiling faces and loving comments!

If you read this using a feed reader: I'm pretty sure I re-directed the RSS feed correctly, but you might want to double check your settings just in case.

Lots of love;
Miss Night

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

In paradise, there ain't no clocks*

Last night, I sat down to start a semi-big project that I have been semi-dreading: migrating my blog from blogspot to wordpress. The reasons are many, but the short and sweet answer is that wordpress has more capabilities to do more things, and as my little blog community grows, it seems to make sense to move over there. I knew there were a lot of steps involved, things I have never done before, and don't entirely understand.  I knew I was going to have to LEARN a bunch of new stuff, and make it make sense, and apply it. I knew there were certain risks involved.

What if I do this wrong? What if I screw it up? What if my blog disappears? Wait, I need to buy the domain name AND the hosting. Ok, so the domain is like the name of the restaurant. And the hosting is the physical space for the restaurant. And I need to pay for both. Ok, that makes sense. But how MUCH space do I need? I don't want to pay for more than I will use. But what if it's not enough? Can I make it bigger later if I want to?

Ok, deep breath. Why I am doing this again? Am I sure the easier way is not worth considering? No, the easier way really isn't what I want. If I'm going to do this, I'm doing it all the way. Even if it's hard.  

Learning is hard, folks. You try, and you play, and you ask for help, and you struggle to UNDERSTAND the help that you get. And then you apply it, and you realise you didn't even ask the right question, so of course you didn't get the answer you needed... So you ask again, and the first answer isn't quite enough, but it sends you to another answer that helps a lot. And just when you think you have it, your pencil breaks (or, in my case, Google wallet took an unannounced 10 minute vacation.)

To be clear: for the 2 hours I sat at my computer, trying to figure this all out, I was deeply engaged. It got dark outside, and the house got a bit of a chill, and even though I was sitting FACING OUT THE WINDOW, I was surprised to discover these facts when I finally looked up. I was engaged, the task was authentic. I was learning, asking, self-correcting, trying and error-ing, and trying again. Reading and squinting and doubting the double-taking and cursing the people who DON'T MAKE THIS CLEARER. But I was doing. Bit by bit, I was doing.

I think the lesson here is that: there is nothing that says learning shouldn't be hard. It is and can be hard. But maybe, as learners, we are far more likely to persevere through the task if it is also meaningful, and tied to an outcome that matters to us. I WANT to make more of my blog. I WANT to own this space more than I currently do. I am committed to figuring this out. But that doesn't make it easy. If I had been tackling this task for reasons I didn't choose, or for reasons someone else decided where important... I probably would have given up.

I persevered through a difficult task because I was personally invested in the outcome. There's a thought to chew on when we think about student motivation.

In 2 hours, I got exactly one step of this process completely figured out and squared away. I bought my domain: www.missnightmutters.com now belongs to me. (Go ahead, type it into your address bar - you'll find yourself right back here. Isn't that SO COOL?!). There is satisfaction in that, in having ONE STEP done. But there is also frustration that ONLY one step is done.

Later today, I will chip away at the next step: choosing and paying for a hosting service. Then installing Wordpress on that host. Then taking a really deep breath and moving the blog over.

It has been hard. It might get hard again. But I can do hard things when the process and the outcome really matter to me. I can do hard things.

My students, even in kindergarten, can do hard things. Our students can and will do hard things, and do them willingly, but only if the process and the outcome really matter to them.


As my grandma would say "put that in your pipe and smoke it!"

*A Lot to Learn About Livin', by my boyfriend Easton Corbin

Monday, August 6, 2012

Before you hit the highway, you better stop for gas*

How I make it feel more like vacation even when I can't leave town.

  • I go stay in different house. Seriously. I enthusiastically volunteer to stay in the homes of friends and family when they go away. Right now, I am in a colleague's very large duplex in an old inner-city neighbourhood. I have stayed on acreages, in townhouses, apartments, log homes, cottages, modest family bungalows, 100 year old historic homes. A change of scenery, exploring a new neighbourhood, discovering a new coffee shop (or, in my present situation: re-visiting an old favourite coffee shop because this house is just blocks from my very first teeny-weeny apartment) these things have a vacation vibe even within the boundaries of my own city.
  • I have figured out the things that "feel like vacation" to me, so that i can do them at home (or in someone else's home, if I so choose.)
    • Letting soaking-wet hair dry in the sun.
    • Sunscreen that smells like coconut.
    • Reading for as long as I want, without checking the time.
    • Lemonade in mason jars.
    • Coming in after being in the sun, to a shower and lotion and soft dry cotton clothes.
    •  Sitting outside in my pyjamas to eat breakfast.
    • Bare feet in green grass.
    • Steak, hot off the grill, on a plate next to a big baked potato with butter and sour cream and salt & pepper.
I've done all of these things, in the last few days. I have felt time stretch out, the way it only does when I have gotten rid of any sense of obligation. It feels oh-so-good. I'm starting to be able to think about the beginning of a new school year without panicking. I'm sort of looking forward to setting my my new office (yup, the promotion comes with an office. It's a glorified closet, really, with no windows, but still: an office. All mine.), freshening up the classroom. I'm thinking, in an idle way, about things to cook and bake to stock my freezer and help me survive the first crazy 6 weeks of kindergarten. 

My "noise fast" is supposed to end tomorrow, but I'm not so sure about that.... But that would probably make a great post, for tomorrow.

*My friend Carrie Underwood. Shut up, she is totally my friend.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

These are the years that we have spent, and this is what they represent *

So it turns out that blogging, like many other important daily habits, is best done in the morning, because if you (*I*) wait until night time, you (*I*) probably don't have the energy and focus to really do it right or well. And you (*I*) end up just blurting something out so that you (*I*) can go to bed feeling like you (*I*) blogged today.

On a somewhat-related note, I have now exercised in a focused and deliberate way for 15 straight days, and hot damn do I ever feel good about that. I'm using the Jerry Seinfeld technique, where I put a big mark on the calendar for every day that I DO the thing I am supposed to be doing (in this case, exercising) and the motivation is supposed to come from fear of breaking the streak. It works like a son of a gun. I don't have any lofty weightloss goals or anything, but I know that I am spectacularly BAD at making exercise a priority, and that probably needs to change.

Other marbles rolling around in my head:
  • I'm currently house and dogsitting for a friend, a chore that I pretty much love doing for anyone, anywhere (seriously - if you are taking a trip and would like Skip and I to stay in your place, let me know. We are the dream team of house-carers.). Living in someone else's space always makes me thing about what I would do if I lived in the space. If I lived in this space, I would have less air-conditioning and more ceiling fans. I would also have more places where one can lounge and still have a secure surface on which to place a beverage. There is a distinct lack of coffee tables around here.
  • I have been thinking a lot lately about how much harder it is to accept generosity than it is to offer it, and why that is. There is a specific context for this in my own life right now, but I think this is a broader phenomenon, right?
  • Every time I think about the upcoming school year, I have a brief moment where I forget that my students from last year will not be back with me, and then I remember, and I get this little biting ache for a few minutes. I've never had this before, this extreme reluctance to let them go, this thrumming worry about how they will do in first grade. I'm not sure what it's about, or what to do with it.
  • Hanging out with someone else's dog makes me realize how much I love my own pup. This dog is rather barky - every time I open the back door, she springs out of it, yapping full volume to let the neighbours know she's there. My own sweet, quiet, Skip gives me a look of utter confusion every time this happens, then slowly wanders out to find a comfy place in the sun.He really is such a good boy, this funny little dog of mine.
Ok, there. I blogged. It is not a great post, maybe not even a good one. But it is a post. And that is something.

And now: to bed.

*Why, by Annie Lennox

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Heaven holds a sense of wonder*

Not many words tonight.

An alarm-wake up on a summer Saturday, made less painful by a day spent in the sun with my dear friend over at Music4Munchkins. Guiltily delicious summer holiday food, including a shared basket of salty French fries and thick milkshakes.

 A blessing: spontaneous invitation from a 3 year old to attend his birf-day party next weekend.

Home to the shower off the sweat and sunscreen. A small triangle of angry pink skin where, apparently, I missed a spot. Soap and citrus lotion. Clean pyjamas by 7:30 pm. A puppy warm in my lap. A plan to take a book to the deck for the last hour of daylight.

A few tears shed, for a Canadian Olympian who made our collective heart swell with pride as she finished the triathlon in last place. To repeat the part that matters: she finished the triathlon. The Olympic Triathlon.

Tomorrow: coffee and my favourite muffins, from my favourite coffee shop, eaten in the sunshine.

Yes, quiet is good.

*Silence, by my longtime favourite, Sarah McLachlan.

Friday, August 3, 2012

This business of caring: it makes me righteous, yes it makes me feel whole*

Yes, I am woefully behind on the summer #kinderblog2012 challenge, and am sort of strangely pleased that my behind-ness on one challenge will now likely help me fulfill another challenge...

But first, the question, for the 3rd week of #kinderblog2012:

Tell us about your pet peeves. Do it however you want: write a list of 50 things that drive you crazy, or an essay about just one thing, or story combining several things, or write a song, or some limericks, or an epic poem. A photo essay! A slideshow! Video journalism! Stand up comedy! The sky is the limit, just tell us what grinds your teeth as a teacher (or an administrator, or a program director, or in whatever capacity you are joining this challenge.) (Yeah, parentheses again. I think I need an intervention.) Be careful: your blog is public, and you never know who is reading. Be positive and professional, but tell the truth. You can do it.

If you go through the comments on the original posting of the question, you'll see people did some pretty awesome things - making comic strips, writing songs. But me, I blog because I like to write. Words have long been my dear friends and most favourite tool. So here you go. One of my single biggest pet peeves and professional aggravations: 

It's like fingernails on a chalkboard for me when I hear the words "I am not a babysitter" or "This is not a daycare" when uttered by a kindergarten teacher. Says who? If you are responsible for the safety and supervision of your students (which, um, YOU ARE), and your students are not old enough to be left alone without adult supervision (which, um, THEY'RE NOT), guess what: you are a childcare provider.

This expression tends to come up when teachers are irritated with parents, often over the most trivial of things: having to peel a child's orange, helping with a change of clothing after a toileting accident, being asked to store a car seat because the child is going home in a different vehicle. The underlying belief seems to be that we "shouldn't have to" do these things. Parents should pack snacks that kids can open independently. Kindergartners should be long past toileting accidents.  Parents should have... two car seats?... really?

I'm not sure where it comes from, this need to separate teachers from babysitters/daycare providers/caregivers/nannies. Yes, I lumped all of those things together because, whatever your preferred vocabulary, anyone who makes a living in a context that makes them responsible for other people's children is ALL of those things. We are IN THE BUSINESS OF CARING FOR CHILDREN, folks. To say that we are not caregivers suggests that caring is not part of our job. There is no way around it. I'm honestly not sure where the line is between "caring for" and "teaching," but for the love of all that is good in the world, I certainly hope that we are doing both.

And honestly, if I had to choose? Between being acknowledged for the "teaching" or being acknowledged for the "caring?" Between kids remembering the things I taught them or the way I cared for them?

The caring wins every time.

Photo by AJC1


*Van Morrison, as sung by my boyfriend, Michael Buble

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The way you keep the world at bay for me*

Sitting in my silent house. No TV. No music. No podcasts. No Olympics.  Just me. The rain outside. The hum of the appliances. The dog wrestling with an empty milk jug. (Don't ask, I don't even know. The jug is bigger than him. For real.)

Yesterday: coffee on the deck with the sunshine and the flowers and the butterflies. A kitchen scrubbed clean while singing show tunes. A plan, cooked up with a favourite friend, for a shared blog post about How and Why You Should Send Your Child To Sleepaway Camp Even Though It's Really Hard and You Will Miss Her/Him. Coffee-and-a-walk date with a guy who... I could actually really like. Maybe. Groceries and the snug feeling of having a full fridge and stocked pantry. A surprise and precious gift of loving comments from others on this NaBloPoMo journey.

This morning: a workout - a sissified version of the ballet barre I used to do every single day of my adolescence, but I am working up to more. A new smoothie recipe (spinach, blueberries, green tea, greek yogurt, honey, coconut oil. Surprisingly delish.) Time with my favourite blogs. Coffee with my best school friend, who has always taught 1st-grade-next-door, and is moving to 3rd-grade-upstairs and perhaps only teachers know how very far away 2 grade levels and a flight of stairs can really feel. A short walk in the rain.
Photo by quinn.anya
 Up next: A few more pages of my book. Another coffee, with a friend I met in kindergarten, lost track of after junior high, re-discovered thanks to the social media I am currently avoiding. An errand or two. Some laundry.

A realisation: this is not a social media fast, nor a tech fast. This is a noise fast. A break from noise in all in its forms. In this quiet, time feels expansive, fluid. Simple and clean.

I know this is not what you usually come here to read. Thank you for humouring me. I hope I don't disappoint.

*The Dixie Chicks, who say so much, so much better than me.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August NaBloPoMo: The trek begins

Welcome! Please visit the updated version of this post at http://missnightmutters.com/2012/08/august-nablopomo-the-trek-begins.html

Ok, so... I signed up for Blogher's August NaBloPoMo. (To save you some googlage: NaBloPoMo is short for NAtional BLOg POsting MOnth. You're welcome.) Basically, the deal is that you commit to blogging every day for an entire month, and you put the pretty badge (over there to your left) up so everyone knows you are doing it and can support you. The theme of the suggested prompts for August is "Sweet" but you don't have to use the prompts if you don't want to. Can you tell I'm sort of trying to convince you all to do this with me? Because I am. I like to write. I want to write more. I want to write better. The way to write better is to write more. SOOOOO, here I am.

The timing of this whole thing is interesting, because I also just started a one-week (maybe more?) break from social media. I'm not sure if blogging counts as social media, but here is my rationale: blogging is something I do FOR ME. It is, by definition, about what is going on inside of my head and my heart. And, while other social media (most notably Facebook and Twitter) are FOR ME to some extent, they also provide a steady stream of the contents of other people's heads and hearts, and conversations about those contents, and lately I have felt like those conversations are emptying me out instead of filling me up. Ugh, I feel like this sounds so self-absorbed and selfish. IT SHOULD BE ABOUT ME! I DON'T WANT TO KNOW ABOUT YOU! STOP MAKING ME HAVE CONVERSATIONS! YOU'RE SUCKING ME DRY! Seriously. Why do you people like me?

Let's try again:  There is a little over 2 weeks left before I will start gearing up for next school year. To start a year well, I need to be full-up: on energy, on sleep, on focus, on patience, on good humour, on perspective. Right now, for reasons both clear and unclear, I am not full up on those. I know myself, and I know that to fill up, I need quiet. Not just actual quiet as in "absence of noise," (although that is a part of it, and in addition to my social media fast, I am trying to reduce the actual noise level in my world. (In brief: I'm not playing  music or podcasts or TV just for background noise. If those things are on, I'm going to actually LISTEN to them.)) but also as in having a quieter mind (less multi-tasking, more reflection, more focus on the moment), and a quieter body (more exercise, done with more intention. More healthy food. More time outside.). I need to hang out face to face with people who fill me up. I need to sit on the deck with my coffee and look at my "garden" and hear no voice but my own.

If you know me, you know I LOVE me some social media. The power of it, to both strengthen existing relationships in spite of time and distance, and to create new relationships, leaves me weak with gratitude on a regular basis. But when you're in conversation ALL. THE. TIME. it's easy to lose the sound of your own voice singing solo. I love dialogue, but for this introvert, my internal monologue is the compass that guides me. I'm glad to know you all are out there, reading my monologues. I welcome your comments. I hope you understand.

Love and lots of it;
Miss Night

P.S. The official NaBloPoMo prompt for today is: "Name something sweet you ate today." For breakfast, I had peanut butter and raspberry jam on a whole-wheat English muffin. It was sweet, and delicious. I ate it while sitting on my deck with my coffee, looking at my garden. Things are off to a good start.