They Say the Darndest Things

Alright, so I know I said I would not be one of those women who write only about their pregnancy (and I’d like to point out that I haven’t), but I am today. Honestly, it’s all I think about nowadays anyways. I spend a lot of time just staring at my stomach and watching and waiting for her to move…it’s simply amazing and a little pathetic how mesmerizing it is. I have been substitute teaching a lot lately and I’ve learned that I’m not the only one amazed with pregnancy. Little kids are in complete awe of giant baby bellies, and they say the gosh darn cutest things you ever did here.

Here’s a bit of what I have heard over the last couple of weeks:

In Kindergarten…

“Is there a baby in your belly?”

(After a hug) “Your belly feels big.”

(During a hug, and in a whisper) “Hi baby.”

“Why is your belly big?”

(Keep in mind my belly button is a complete outie now) “Oh my god! Your baby is poking out!”

In 1st grade…

Boy 1: “Are you having a baby?” Boy 2: “Jose! You cannot ask a woman that question!”

“Does that hurt?”

Girl: “When will your baby come out of your belly button?” Me:  “My belly button?” Girl: (Giving me a It’s cool. I KNOW. look) Yes, my Mom already told me where baby’s come from…your belly button.”

In preschool…

(After walking up to me and placing a hand on my belly) “Baby.”

(After staring out my belly and belly button for a long time) “I think your baby’s toe is coming out.”

“Is it real?”

Along with all of these adorable questions and conversations were lots of little hugs and belly pats throughout each day. They are just so sweet, loving and a little too curious. I have to say it makes me a little sad that I don’t have my own class this year to share this time with, but I’m glad I’m getting to spend so much time with so many new and different little ones.

Doctor appointment tomorrow!


What Money Can’t Buy You…

I have taught in very different types of places with very different types of families over the last six years, and have heard a similar question after each experience:

What are the parents like?

That’s actually a much kinder version of the various similar questions I was actually asked.

When I taught in a low-income, high-crime, gang-ridden, mostly minority town in Texas I was often asked, Are all the students raised by their grandparents? and Are any of the parents involved at all?

When I taught low-income, mostly white students in Tennessee I was usually asked, Do your students get any help/discipline/care at home?

When I taught oversees in Albania at an International school the questions became more positive, Are all the parents super involved and much more appreciative there? 

While teaching extremely wealthy over-privileged children in New York’s Upper East Side I usually heard, Are are all the students raised by nannies? Are they all spoiled brats?

It was in New York that I began reflecting on all of these questions. At first I was shocked and appalled that everyone assumes that families are less involved, less educated, less caring and worse parents in the U.S. Most people automatically assumed that parents are better at their job in Europe, why is that?

Then, I was angry that so many people concluded that low-income families and wealthy families are equally bad at raising their children.

Finally, I became disappointed in myself. I often vented to friends and family about the hardships I dealt with in the classroom and failed to acknowledge the wonderful experiences I had with many families.

Now, I want to set the record straight. No amount of money, lack of money or geographical location makes a good parent, or a bad parent.

In every single school I taught I had to handle difficult parents. I had meetings with chid-protective services, angry emails with misspelled words and cursing, parents doing lines of coke on the premises, parents who had no respect or faith in their own children, parents in jail, parents who should be in jail, racist parents, sexist parents, lying parents, uncaring parents, unhelpful parents, step-parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle parents, nanny parents, you name it I’ve dealt with it.

However, in every single school I had wonderful experiences with families. I had parents volunteer to read to my struggling students on their mornings off, parents come in after school to help me decorate for celebrations, parents who wrote me hand-written thank you letters, parents thanking me with tears in their eyes, parents who would drop anything, do anything, give anything if it meant helping their child, parents who do all that if it meant helping any child, parents who stayed home to spend quality time helping their kids become amazing people, parents who worked numerous jobs to give their kids experiences they never had and parents who were so freakin’ awesome I only hope I can live up to half of their standards.

It does not matter where you live or what your income is to kids. All children need is your love, support, respect, help, belief in them and discipline. It’s pretty simple. No amount of toys or lack of extra special expensive after school programs compares to those basic needs.

It’s time we stop judging families who are different from our own, and start supporting each other. Parenting is hard for everyone, so stop assuming that the single-mother who looks like a wreck every morning is unable to properly care for her children. Maybe she is exhausted from night-shifts  she works so she can be with her children before and after school. Don’t assume that Nanny is the only one caring for the kid in the stroller. Perhaps the parents both work in order to afford their life and health insurance while simultaneously paying off student loans. That Dad on his cell phone carrying the girl in mis-matched clothes with tomato sauce down the front might be on the phone with doctors trying to save his wife’s life. Maybe these parents need a helping hand. Maybe most parents are doing the best they can, and the few that aren’t need our help and some good examples.

I always say that you really get to know your students after meeting their parents. Often, I am guilty of judging a family before I even know them. It’s a constant battle to stop judging, but it’s one I am willing to always fight.

Whenever, Husband and I become parents I hope to respect, help and get to know the parents I meet along the way, and maybe get the same in response. It’s hard enough raising a dog and a Husband. So, on the morning I show up to drop-off  in my PJ’s, hugging my large coffee, with one eye lined and a crying child yelling that I burnt her breakfast again, I’ll prefer a helpful hand or knowing smile. Don’t judge.


Best Things About Leaving My Job

One of my photos from work

I may have mentioned I’m leaving my job soon, and I’m sad about it. However, I recently realized that quitting your job has its perks, and I am going to enjoy these perks for the next 8 weeks. I started this morning…

It was a typical morning,  I woke up feeling grumpy, needing coffee and desperately wanting to get back under the covers and snuggle Belle. Then, I remembered that I have 8 weeks left at work. 8 weeks left to spend with my co-workers and students. Many students I only see once a week! That means I have very limited time with these people! I immediately felt a little more awake and way more excited to get to work.

At work, everything is easier because if I am doing a task I hate I simply think…”only 8 more weeks!”. If there’s a trouble-child I think 2 thoughts…1)”Only 8 more weeks to have a positive impact on this kid!” and 2) “only 8 more weeks…Thank God”.

If there is a difficult parent, an annoying meeting, an ugly email or a demanding co-worker I don’t dwell on what a proper response it, think it over, re-write it, or sit quietly like I would have a week ago. I’m never unprofessional or mean, but it’s WAY easier to speak your mind and be honest with people when you aren’t concerned with losing your job. Suddenly that scary overbearing Mother doesn’t seem so intimidating…it’s a good feeling.

Knowing that I have a short time with my students also makes me a better teacher. I have more energy, I’m more positive and happier to spend time with them. Like all teachers, I want to create a brighter future for every kid I teach, now I have 8 weeks left to teach them everything I know! I want every lesson to be a good one, and every child to have a positive memory of me.

I want to be remembered as a good employee as well. I have to say…I am a HARD worker, but every employee has their dog days. But, knowing my days at work are numbered makes it easier to look past trivial instances that might normally bring me down, and stay focused on the bright spots in the day.

Looks like I am going to really enjoy these last two months at work. Maybe I’ll be able to drink less coffee too….but, probably not.



Hi-ho, Hi-ho, It’s back to work I go

NYC kids began their new school year today, which means I began my new work year. Obviously, I was thrilled. I got a new backpack to put my work supplies in, ate a healthy dinner, went to bed early, and woke up with the sun… excited for a new year with new friends!

Yeah right.

I ate an entire bag of popcorn at midnight, didn’t got to sleep until 4am (but that’s typical anytime I go back to work after a long break), and slept through my first 2 alarms.  I really do like my job, but I like my days off better.

This morning, I decided to put on my Positive Polly attitude and get pumped up about going to work, and to do my very best to keep that outlook all day.

Here’s my list of why it’s so totally wonderful to go back to work.

-Being productive and busy makes me more productive and busy. One of my favorite quotes is “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” ~(Lucille Ball) I definitely get much more done when I am working, even though I have SO much more time when I’m off.

-Get to see my work friends.

-I’m starting a brand new dance program that I get to create from scratch, and I KNOW it’s going to be awesome!

-Getting a raise, woo!

-Getting health insurance, double woo!!

-The smell of coffee first thing in the morning.

-Good Morning America

-An excuse to buy new clothes

-AND seeing the smiling faces of all the sweet cuties I’ve missed this summer.

I guess I do have a little to be excited about. I think it’s going to be a great year. Good luck to all the teachers and kiddos who start school this week!


Tears of Joy

Have you ever been so happy you could cry? Or, maybe you actually do cry. I know I have. I mean I cry pretty easily anyways, but I can very clearly remember some special moments that pure joy brought me to tears.

The first time Fiance took me to  New York was our one year anniversary, and I thought I was flying to Ohio to visit Fiance at school. It wasn’t until I was screaming at the poor lady working behind Continental’s desk that they must have screwed up my flight, that Fiance called to let me know that I indeed was flying to NYC. Surprise.

The surprise didn’t end there. Our second night in NY, he took me to see Wicked, 8th row dead center, seats. I had never seen a broadway show, and I had been obsessed with Wicked from the moment it opened on Broadway. I was in disbelief through the entire show. When the curtain came down for intermission, tears were just streaming down my face. Fiance looked surprised and asked what was wrong… “I am just SO happy.” It felt like a dream.

Aww young Hilarie and Fiance

While teaching elementary school in Tennesse, I was also coaching dance, and middle school drama. I put every single bit of me into these 3 jobs. I was working often over 70 hours a week, Monday through Sunday, through literally blood, sweat, and tears. (Luckily, I was not alone in this. My friend Marsha was working with me side by side through the whole year.) We were eating, breathing, and sleeping school, but mostly drama. The drama club was our baby and we were determined to rock everyone’s socks off.

By the time the end of the year rolled around, my 1st graders had taken their state standardized test and blown it out of the water, the dance recital was the best one yet, and all that was left was our first full-on broadway-esque performance of Seussical. The night Seussical opened was insane. Fiance was scarily ill (out of nowhere!), my family had flown in to see what I’d been spending ALL my time working on,  hundreds of people were filing into the auditorium, and our precious middle schoolers were nervously applying their stage makeup backstage..

The curtains opened. The students sang, danced, and acted unbelievably well! The curtain fell, the crowd roared with applause, and before I knew it, I was on stage holding a microphone attempting to thank everyone for coming and supporting our students. Before I knew it, tears were streaming, and a sweet student stole the microphone to thank US for our hard work and dedication. That was one of the happiest and proudest moments of my life. I cried tears of joy the rest of the night.

Several of my friends have gotten married…I cried at every wedding. Now, lots of those friends have children.. more tears of joy. It just warms my heart to see my friends start their beautiful families!

Being a very anxious person, can cause “tears of joy” to be very tricky. Sometimes this happiness quickly morphs into fear, and often guilt. Let me explain…

The day after we returned from Albania (about a year ago) I woke up about before 6am (yay for jet lag) and found myself sneaking out to my parents back porch in Texas to watch the sunrise. I sat in a large rocking chair contemplating all the amazing things that had occurred over the last few days.

-Fiance and I were so thrilled to be done with our year in Albania. Even though we had lots of fantastic and unforgettable memories traveling through Europe and making new friends. 

Some of my favorite friends in Albania

-We had just completed a three week journey through Scandinavia with some of our favorite people.

Exploring Norway

-Within hours of flying back to the states we were at our most favorite place – Disney World.

-Fiance proposed!

-And, in a blink of an eye we are on a  flight to Texas to share the great news with my family.

Everything was so surreal. I felt the warm summer breeze on the back porch and thought, “Damn, I’m lucky.” My eyes started to well up with tears. I was just so happy, and could not believe how everything in life was unfolding. But, then it hit me.

The panic monster. “Im too happy. I shouldn’t be so lucky. There are so many less fortunate people in the world, what have I done to deserve this happiness? Surely, something terrible is lurking just around the corner.” All I could think about was impending doom…and my tears of joy soon changed to tears of panic.

I had a very similar experience today. Fiance and I have been working our little tails off on several special DIY projects for the wedding. Fiance mentioned that he felt like he “is working in a sweat shop” this weekend, but I think that has more to do with the fact that the AC was off and it’s been 85 degrees outside. I was laughing at all his jokes, as we sat sprawled out on the floor trying to convince one another to cook something. It got quiet for a few minutes, and I looked at Fiance, who was writing a very nice letter to someone he cares about, and I became overwhelmed with joy.

I get to marry this wonderful, smart, caring, and hilarious man in just 12 days. Damn, I’m lucky.

Daydreams of our dance party/reception began to fill my thoughts, when out of the blue, Mr. Panic sneaks up on me. The same terrible thoughts consumed me. I don’t deserve to be this happy. I don’t deserve him. Surely, something horrible is going to happen before the wedding. No one is this lucky or this happy.

I tried to hide what I was feeling, but Fiance sensed something was wrong, as usual, and I broke. I’ll spare you all the rest of the conversation. But, it ended with a decision to take a break, go to the park, get some fresh air, and enjoy the summer-like weather.

Now, after all of this. I do feel much better. We came home and finished our projects while watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Thankfully, I have  fiancé who knows exactly what to do in my times of need. He reminds me that it is okay to be happy, I should feel happy, deserve to be happy, and it in no way means something terrible is forthcoming.

That’s something I’ll have to talk to a psychologist about, next year, once that insurance kicks in! I should probably start making a list: Hilarie’s List of How She’s Crazy.

I guess I’m feeling pretty damn lucky again. I may even feel some joyful tears coming on…

Geez, I am going to be such a ball of mush at this wedding! Have your hankees ready!

Happy Memorial Day…We can all be happy to have our freedom!


Nice Guys and Clumsy Me

There is a scene at the beginning of an episode of Gilmore Girls where Loralei is eating pizza out of the box at the edge of her sink.  As she finished and goes to close the pizza box, she accidently knocks the entire box on the floor and fails at her attempt to catch any part of it. She gives up, throws her arms in the air and says “Annnddd…Scene.”

I love this scene because I can very much relate to it. You’d think I’d have a little bit of grace after taking dance for most of my life, but no. Outside of a dance studio, there is not a hint of grace to be found.

Fiance finds it hilarious when I accidently bump into a glass and end up knocking 14 other items over in my attempt to salvage the one glass. My mishaps always find a way of snow balling into a huge catastrophe.

When eating ANYTHING, there is a 100% chance that it will end up somewhere on my clothing, whether it be my shirt, pants, shoes, or hair. One brave day I wore white to work (a couple of years ago). I heated up a vegetarian barbeque riblet for lunch. While carrying it from the microwave to my desk I tripped, dropped the plate, and the ribs literally rolled from my chest, down my pants, and landed on top of my tan suede shoes. I had barbeque smeared from chest to toe.

Another time, I was teaching, and we were drinking hot chocolate. It was Polar Express Day. The chocolate was hot, and the kids were all wearing adorable pi’s and slippers. I told them at least a thousand times to “be careful! the chocolate is very hot! Keep it in the center of your desk! Do not bump into anyone else’s desk!” I gave out every warning I could think of to prevent a major spill. Within 5 minutes of passing out the refreshments I tripped over my own slippers, fell onto a students desk, and spilled their hot chocolate all over my own pajamas.

“Class, this is exactly why I told you to be careful.” So glad I could be the example for everyone.

More classroom mishaps? Why, yes….

Anytime I’ve attempted to paint (mostly in my classrooms) I have proved that no amount of plastic and tape can keep me from making a mess. In classrooms in particular, one has to be VERY careful to not make an uncleanable mess. The principal will start quoting price damages to you, and the janitorial staff will put you on their black list.

One summer, I spent all day painting the walls in my classroom until I could stand the paint fumes no longer. By the time I HAD to leave, I had dripped paint from wall to wall, knocked a can over and made a puddle of paint on the floor, stepped in the puddle, and left blue footprints across the room. The building was empty at the is point, I knew I would be back at sunrise, and would indeed make another mess. I decided to put off cleaning until the next day and call it a day. No one would be the wiser.

I totaled my car on the way home.

I believe my second thought after crashing was “Shit! How am I going to clean my classroom in the morning!!!!” After dealing with the police, EMT, firemen, my Mom, and fiancé, I crawled under a blanket and called my Vice Principal (the most understanding of bosses). I wanted to be the first to explain my mess that would indeed be found by a cleaning lady the next day.

He actually understood my fear of the janitorial black list so much, that he cleaned my classroom himself the next day! Talk about a great boss.

Speaking of nice guys… I had a little “accident” this morning. During my morning break at work I decided to run to the grocery store to pick up much needed items (a frozen burrito and bananas). When I got to the checkout, I had my arms full of food because on the way in I had refused to get a basket. As I sat my items on the counter my coffee mug slipped from my grasp and crashed to the linoleum floor.

The lid popped off and my coffee went everywhere, including on my clothes, and on the ladies shoes in front of me. Embarrassed I asked the cashier for something to clean the mess, and began my “I’m so sorry!”’s to the annoyed woman in front of me.

Within a minute a manager ran over and handed me a wad of paper towels. I apologized to him too and then knelt down to clean my mess. Before I hit the floor he pulled me up by the shoulders and said. “No! I gave you those paper towels to clean yourself. You are my guest in this store, and it’s my job to clean this.”

I was floored. I explained to him that it was my fault and that I should clean it, but he absolutely refused and told me that “everything is okay, I got this” as he patted me on the shoulder and smiled.

All I could do was smile back and say thank you. When I left the store, he came up to me and said that I had made his day. Really????

I never imagined that making a mess in a public place could make me feel so nice. Thanks Mr. Manger man.

I thought about this kind gesture all day. All day long little “accidents” happened (like getting kicked in the face), and I thought of this manager and vice principal’s kind deeds. I still felt irritated on the inside, but I definitely tried to hide it, put on a smile, and say “everything’s okay, I got this.”

I don’t think I will ever be less clumsy or messy, but hopefully I will take a few pointers from these kind men and learn to be more tolerant of others mistakes. Tolerance is a virtue right?