Library, Library

Mrs. Green

My 20th college reunion is this May, but I remember very, very little of my college experience. I don’t remember many people, professors, or classes. I have to reach deep to remember names, even with the professors and students I truly liked. Most of the time I draw a blank. I don’t know why this is, but my token excuse is that I had a serious college boyfriend all four years. Too serious, not good for me. I remember three friends from college, and one of them is planning the 20 year reunion.

The boyfriend excuse seems solid, because high school is equally a blur once I hit senior year, the year I was finally allowed to wear makeup and have a boyfriend. But, unlike college, I remember a lot of it and have loads of friends from high school–at least on Facebook. I planned our 20th high school reunion with one of my closest friends, and in doing that connected with people I was once too shy to even look in the eyes. If any of you think I’m a socially awkward hermit now…well. You don’t even know!

Elementary school is an entirely different story. People often cringe when I mention that I went to a Catholic school up until college. “I’m so sorry,” they say. They ask me if the uniforms bothered me, if the nuns beat me, if the priests attacked the children, if I always felt guilty, and if my education suffered.

No. No to all of it. I loved my Catholic school education. I loved that the uniforms made us all the same, down to the shoes, and took away the stress of fitting in. Nowadays, the kids express themselves with their shoes. You can tell a lot about a child’s socioeconomic status just by looking at their feet, but back then, we all wore Buster Brown Mary Janes or Oxfords. By the mid 80s we were super cool in our Keds.

The nuns, especially my principal, Sr. Celeste, were all wonderful. The priests were nice, but I was always too shy to pay them much attention and back then, they were much more formal. Confession was stressful, but mostly it was a time to place bets to see how many Our Father’s and Hail Mary’s John M. would get. Not enough, apparently, because I just spent 30 minutes Googling him and I think he’s in jail. These days, Mikey and Nico joke around with their school priests and I sometimes pick them up Starbucks. We text.

I never felt guilty about anything–though the Catholic guilt joke is fun–and my education was fine, thanks. Maybe I lucked out with my Catholic school? If so, I’m glad.

Unlike college and high school, I remember the teachers from elementary school. That’s my librarian, Mrs. Green, standing fourth from the left. She always wore dress suits with pumps and nude nylons. Always. There was sometimes a broach on her lapel. Her hair was blonde and wispy, and in my head I remember it tall, like a beehive, but I think it was just Aqua-Netted to a crispy finish. She was serious, somewhat stern, and never let us check out books above our reading level. Silence was absolutely golden. Her name was Mrs. Green but she always, and I mean always, wrote in a red pen. There are still cards in the library with her precise, Palmer Method cursive in red.

My 1st and 4th grade teacher were one and the same, which was great for me because she loved me to bits. My 3rd grade teacher taught us how to sing the alphabet backwards, which I can still do to this day. I consider that and my ability to raise one eyebrow my crowning achievements in life. My 5th grade teacher gave me a hug every morning because I was so anxious about school. My 7th grade teacher pushed me to work to my potential and my 8th grade teacher was the first one to ever say out loud what I would one day discover for myself: it’s possible to achieve at everything except maintaining a healthy weight. I don’t remember much about my 2nd grade teacher and I would not be surprised in the least if you told me my 6th grade teacher answered to the name Screwtape. Nothing is perfect.

Where to go

I went to the funeral of my kindergarten aide in January and wasn’t surprised to hear her two daughters were teachers. Teaching seems to be a career choice that passes through families like brown eyes or red hair. What surprised me is when the oldest daughter asked those of us who remembered their 1st teacher to stand. Everyone stood up, of course. She said, “You always remember your first teacher and your best teacher.” You remember your worst, too, but that’s besides the point. (Screwtape!)

That thought has stuck with me ever since. I remember my first teacher and I remember my best teacher and I remember my librarian with her teal knit dress suits, nude nylons, and ever-present red pen. When people ask me why I am willing to volunteer so much of my time and money to the school, I can admit that at least a little part of me wants to be remembered. The idea that I could make a small difference to even one child keeps me showing up. Well, that and the books. I doubt I’d be Super Volunteer if I was the lunch lady.

I’m shameless in my quest to insert myself in the memories of the kids. Remembering Mrs. Green’s red pens, I started asking the Mister to bring back tourist pens from everywhere he traveled. He has, and they’re what the kids use in the library. Dallas, Texas; Arizona; Denmark; New York; Las Vegas–and Monica recently sent me two from Germany! I have them out next to the globe (Target) and when the little ones check out their books I say, “Where do you want to go today?” and they pick a pen. Then, I have them look for the state/country on the globe. A lot of the kids pick Las Vegas, which kills me.

Years from now, a guy will tell his kids a cautionary tale about the librarian who loved books and kids more than anything–except gambling. She had a desk full of Las Vegas pens, so obviously she had a problem.

Trust Me, I Know What I’m Doing

potting table

Yesterday I started my post with a link to my latest Wayfair post about plants and gardening, this one being about potting tables and the features to consider before you buy one. I’ve since edited my post from yesterday and removed the link to my Wayfair post. Here’s why.

I’ve been so happy blogging about plants over at Wayfair, and they’re a great company to work with. I’m terrible at self promotion and my contact at Wayfair, Lindsey, knows this, so she always sends me gentle reminders to promote my latest post. I have no problem with this because I really do need the nudges to put myself out there. Therefore, I was so proud of myself on Wednesday when I promoted the potting bench post without Lindsey having to send me another reminder email. Then, I checked the link. Not working! I emailed Lindsey about the broken link mainly to show how on top of things I was because I knew the link would eventually go live.

Below is my actual email conversation with Lindsey. I started a few days earlier to set the scene and humiliate myself further.


From: Lindsey Bachelder
Sent: Mar 25, 2014, at 8:32 AM,

To: Jules | Pancakes & French Fries
Subject: Potting Benches

Hi Jules,
Here is the link to your potting bench post that will be live on Thursday! We’d love if you could share it then as well. :)

http://www.wayfair.com/IdeaLounge/How-to-Pick-the-Perfect-Potting-Bench-E4228

Hope your week is going well!
Lindsey

From: Jules | Pancakes & French Fries
Sent: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 11:33 AM
To: Lindsey Bachelder
Subject: Re: Potting Benches

Of course! :) Thanks for being so great to work with and for letting me geek out on plants.

All the best,

Jules Kendall
Pancakes and French Fries

Twitter: @TheMrsKendall
Facebook: Page

On Mar 25, 2014, at 8:39 AM, Lindsey Bachelder wrote:

Of course! Can’t wait for your gardening tool roundup for April. :)

From: Jules | Pancakes & French Fries
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 8:04 AM
To: Lindsey Bachelder
Subject: Re: Potting Benches

Lindsey,

When does the link go up? I linked to it, but so far it’s a broken link. :-/

All the best,

Jules Kendall
Pancakes and French Fries

Twitter: @TheMrsKendall
Facebook: Page

On Mar 26, 2014, at 11:04 AM, Lindsey Bachelder wrote:

It’s not Thursday yet! ;)

From: Jules | Pancakes & French Fries
Sent: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 11:11 AM
To: Lindsey Bachelder
Subject: Re: Potting Benches

SHUT THE FRONT DOOR.

Do you see how crazy I am lately? I’m presenting a huge report today and the days are starting to blur!!

All the best,

Jules Kendall
Pancakes and French Fries

Twitter: @TheMrsKendall
Facebook: Page

On March 26, 2014 11:20:35 AM, Lindsey Bacheldor wrote:

Haha no worries. Happy hump day!!

I mean, honestly. You guys, I don’t know what is up with me lately. I’m so scattered and just…ditzy. I can’t tell you how many times in the last two weeks I called out a student’s name only to find out they are right in front of me, book in hand. It’s like I have two braincells left and they’re fighting.

Anyway, if you are interested in potting benches, please check out my post. Not interested in potting benches? Check out the link anyway because you never know–the way my month is shaping up, it’s quite possible I just accidentally linked to a post about a Norwegian teen who tattooed a McDonald’s receipt on his arm as punishment for being “too active with the ladies.”

An Assortment of Links (Mostly Books)

marthabooks

I had to change the image and opening content of this post because I’m a blooming idiot. I can’t wait to tell you all about it tomorrow. Prepare to laugh at my expense. Anyway, the error on my part worked out great because I forgot to add something else to this post. Of course I did, but whatever. Parents are now giving me money to buy books for the school. How great is that?! They trust me to buy books for their children. I’m so honored/overwhelmed/GIDDY WITH POWER! (Kidding about the power thing.)

My friend Martha was the first to give me money, and I was all set to buy the Wendy Mass Willow Falls series when I stumbled across an end cap of retold classics in Michael’s for $1.00 each. Yes! I snapped them up for a few reasons. First, I was able to spread Martha’s money farther, which is nice when you’re shouldering some fiduciary responsibility. Second, Melissa reminded me in the comments of my Clean Romance post that fairytale retellings are hot with kids. Alice in Wonderland, Hans Christian Andersen (the movie Frozen is based on The Snow Queen), Beauty and the Beast…they’re all being retold on TV and film right now, and the kids who love them want to read books with the characters and storyline they can’t quit. Our library has all the books I bought, but these retellings are easier for them to understand. Also, the covers aren’t as “baby” or old fashioned in appearance. The logical, practical side of me balked at first–why buy something we already have?!–but I quickly settled down and tried thinking like a Generation Like kid. <-----So much more I can say on this, and I haven't forgotten the documentary. Well, I did, but in my defense Buster died a couple days prior to my scheduled post.

    I haven’t only read Harry Potter fan fiction this month though, yeah, I’ve read a lot.

  • I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which is not for the faint of heart. This is a novel about a father and son doing everything they can to stay alive in a post-apocalyptic world. There are no hot rednecks. It is macabre, dark, depressing, and seemingly without hope. Naturally, I loved it. I gave it the elusive 5 stars on Goodreads. (Oh yes I did, Kendra!)
  • The Rosie Project was another great book, and no one had to resort to eating people. There was, however, a great deal of eating animal organs, sustainable seafood, and humble pie. Don Tillman, gifted genetics professor and possible Aspie, decides to use logic and a survey to find a wife. It goes as well as you would expect. The link I used is to the ebook, which is on sale for $1.99.
  • Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell, was okay. Epistolary novels aren’t my favorite, though this one was a little different in that they were emails. It was a little bit rom-com for my taste, what with all the reasonably stable people and happy endings.
  • An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer proves that the last 30 days for me has been all about the man-love. I’ve read about father/son-love, socially-awkward-heterosexual-males-love, and even tore apart everything J.K. Rowling holds dear and read about Harry/Draco-love. It only makes sense that I also read about widower/senior-citizen-love. This book actually wasn’t bad, and it was refreshing to read about characters older than myself.
  • Hold on, I forgot I also read about young-dude-on-a-plane-love. I read this one for the girls at school, as previously discussed.
  • I’ve also read an unfair quantity of research on reading programs. I read so much, in fact, that when I walked into the library on Tuesday and saw that Faith Formation had set up (and left) a TV, I almost put it away for them in a fit of procrastination. Then, unable to ignore the cords, the giant TV on the counter, the cords, the kicked up dust, AND THE CORDS, I had the most minor of freak-outs. This resulted in excessive/obsessive cleaning, cord wrangling, repositioning of computers, perspiration, and a highly detailed to-do list with the words MANAGE CORDS—HOOKS!!! underlined three times. You can see a little bit of what I’m talking about in this picture. Under no circumstances should electrical outlets be at eye level. This should be a rule of law, it can not stand, and I need to William Morris the library. (Because, hello, I’m there more than I am in my own home!)

The William Morris Project 2014 | The Bill Drawer, Revisited

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The William Morris Project

Last week I revisited the bill drawer I lasted cleaned out in July of 2012. Yikes!

WM-bill drawer, 1

WM-bill drawer, 5

At least I can say it didn’t look that bad considering it hadn’t been cleaned out in over 20 months.

Bill Drawer, 1

I said it didn’t look that bad; I didn’t say it didn’t look bad. Luckily, it was just a collection of clutter. There wasn’t a problem with the system or how everything was organized.

Bill drawer, 2

I cleared out the paperwork that collected in the middle of the drawer, disposed of old mail (mainly coupons), and organized all our many gift cards in a coin purse. I was surprised by the number of gift cards we have collecting dust.

I also put all the stationery in a box. Because I had stationery and cards of different sizes, I wanted to use a document box. I didn’t have one, so I tried out a shoebox, not expecting it too work. It didn’t. It’s the size of a photo box, and those take up too much room and allow me to keep too much of what I don’t need. I still used it because it bothered me to leave the job so close to being finished.

Bill drawer, 3

Bill drawer, 4

Bill drawer, 5

The next day I went and bought a document box. Much better!

Since most of what was inside the drawer was clutter (old mail/expired coupons) cleaning the drawer out was easy and filled less than 1/3 of a brown shopping bag. It didn’t take long to do, but it was interesting to see how much disorder a small pile of paper can cause. One of these days I will create a monthly chore chart that includes small declutter projects like this one. If I cleaned out this drawer regularly, it wouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to clean.

Happy, Happy

Newbery BN

I should probably change the name of these posts to “Library, Library.”

Monday

At the risk of sounding pathetic, I scored major mom points buy securing a copy of the Minecraft Essential Handbook. It’s hard to come by, you know. Oh, you don’t know? Lucky you.

I also bought Nico the first two books of The Notebook of Doom series. He loved them, and I think my reluctant reader found his series! Now to work on Mikey, now who only wants to read books his friends will think are “cool.” Sigh.

::::::

Tuesday

Mikey had some playground trouble, and it’s something that has been happening with more frequency. I’m not sure what’s going on. Is it the Mister’s busy travel schedule? Is it Buster? Is it the beginning of tween? Maybe it’s just been a bad month. What’s important is that I was in the library shelving books when he came in, clearly upset about something that wasn’t nearly as horrible as he believed. I didn’t say that, of course, but instead listened to him rant and rage and tell me everything. I’m so happy he felt okay coming up to me, an event I know won’t happen forever. I had a similar experience with the girls in his class the week prior. I was shelving books, chatting with one who gave up recess for Lent when all of a sudden I had 7 girls around my desk, one of them crying, looking to me to say something sage in response to gossip.

I’ve since bought Masterminds and Wingmen, and I think I should pick up Queen Bees and Wannabes next.

::::::

Wednesday

The Mister apologized to me after an argument using a new, and very much appreciated, technique.

Later, a student told me that she couldn’t understand her cousin because he hated reading and books. I told her that she should have patience and encourage him gently without making him feel silly/stupid/inferior. Maybe reading is a challenge to him for reasons we weren’t privy to, or maybe he hasn’t found his gateway book. (I didn’t call it a gateway book.) “Yeah,” chimed in one girl holding The School for Good and Evil. “I didn’t like books until I read Wonder, and now I like reading.” Even though I have yet to finish that book (I need more than 30 minutes with these kids!), she liked enough of what she heard in library to ask her parents to buy a copy. All hail the power of read-alouds!

I’ve been holding on to The Politics Book for a 6th grade boy obsessed with politics. We just got it in, and I knew the second I saw it that I would put it aside for him. It’s a really neat book, and he seemed to really like it. He came up to me after a different class to tell me that he read two different sections, “And can you tell me how much this book is so I can just buy it?”

::::::

Thursday

I didn’t have to go to school. Not once. Not for library, not to pick up the kids, not to drop off forgotten music instruments or homework. It was glorious.

Speaking of instruments, Mikey is going to switch to a bass clarinet over the summer. The school band needs another player, and Mikey’s teacher believes he’ll make the switch easily. The best part is that we don’t have to buy or rent another instrument because Mikey will play one of the school bass clarinets. This should be something to see. I’m pretty sure Mikey is half the size of a standard bass clarinet.

::::::

Friday

Back to the library! After that, I’m heading home to work all weekend long on a report on reading programs I’m preparing for the curriculum committee. I’m pretty excited, though the scope of my research keeps broadening. <----Not how it should go. I started off doing a review of reading programs, smug that research shows AR programs as ineffective as they always appeared to me to be, but then I started researching ALL! THE! PROGRAMS! and reading ALL! THE! LITERACY! BOOKS! and when I spoke with a woman who told me she was worried about her grandson and his learning disability, that got me researching ALL! THE! LEARNING! DISABILITIES! What started off as a simple review of reading programs on the market has morphed into a review of all the reading programs (none look good to me) to developing a proposal for a school-wide language arts program that encompasses ALL! THE! KIDS! regardless of reading fluency.

We're also going to a school play later tonight.

::::::

The Weekend

I’ll be knee deep in literacy research and loving every minute of it.

Hi! I’m Jules.

I used to be an attorney, but it made me grumpy. Now I write about life, sweet and savory, as a wife and mother to two small boys. My knowledge of dinosaurs knows no bounds.

You can read more, including the meaning behind the name Pancakes and French Fries here. And, yes, I really am phenomenally indecisive.