Monday, March 27, 2006

for The Byrds

With the coming of Spring comes the urge to rush into planting season. Actually there are many other things calling to me, or pulling me in wide directions.

Today was the first day of Spring Break for this school division, and I had every intention of conquering the day. I had planned to silently leap out of bed well before anyone else stirred and begin the day purposefully moving through the kitchen making a double batch of my famous gooey cinnamon buns. The only noise to be heard would be the temporary violent gringing of coffee beans. Well...that didn't happen. I think I was the last one out of bed.

I had also planned on getting the back porch completely prepared to receive paint. I did manage to get to the hardware store and buy the paint from the mis-tint section. We weren't picky about the colour, as long as it was somewhere near where we were pointing on the colour wheel...and the prices couldn't be beat.

While at the local male gathering shed (hardware), I remembered that there was a number of electrical changes that needed to be made, seeing as the male owner of the house before us bought all of his parts used or dented. I thought I could probably fit the changes in today as well. I noticed that the 10kg bag of bird seed was on sale, so I got one...thinking that it would be nice to finally fill those three cedar bird feeders I bought an an auction last fall. I paid the friendly lady at the desk, and returned home with a smile.

By this time, Joyce had made lunch for the family. We sat down together. There's nothing like soup and sandwiches on a rainy day. With my resolve renewed, I sat on the couch to take a break. There's no need to rush into these things.

After talking with Joyce on the couch for a while, I started to think about taking the pressure off of my darling wife to plan dinner. I asked her to join me in the basement to look for some meat in the freezer. She thought that it was code for something else and said she couldn't...she had daycare kids to look after. I found some baby back pork ribs and decided that this was going to be dinner. I boiled them for an hour and set them in the fridge to wait for the outdoor grill when everything else was prepared.

During the afternoon I managed to head over to a friend's house who was beginning the installation of a hardwood floor. I had to go and see his technique and feel his new tool...I mean his nail gun. Whenever someone gets a new tool, it's the community's right to get together and grunt and nod our collective approval.

Dinner was grand. The family is fed and the house is quiet. Joyce and the girls are out at the local thrift store gathering together all of the treasures of long ago. Re-purposing is a word heard a lot around here. Those treasures were good in their time, but are even better now in ours.

So, upon evaluation of the day, the closest I got to accomplishing any of my goals was to begin them. The electrical items are still in the bag and the paint hasn't left the tin. I did, however, managed to yell at a couple of my kids, and then apologize for being impatient yet again...just to round out the feeling of accomplishment.

Tomorrow is another chance. The weather is supposed to be even more Spring-like than today. The call to plant will be heard all the more, but I've already taken care of that today as I purchased pepper seeds, and have started the plants indoors just as suggested, six weeks before last frost.

There is a time for everything, and everything will get done in it's time (turn, turn, turn).

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

so they say

" when you're all done, you may spend the rest of the time reading, or drawing in your sketch books."

(Insert classroom noises such as rustling papers, binders opening, pencils sharpening, and general quiet sounds of progress being made on assignment.)

25 minutes later, heard from the back of the room at the table designated for group work.
"I'm gonna draw a horney owl...I love using that word, horney. It's my favourite word. I'll draw a picture of The Great Horney Owl."

Friday, March 17, 2006

pit boss

I've built up quite a reputation for myself in a few schools in this division. "You're the guy with the dice, right?" As luck would have it, "Yes I am."

I begin each new day with the clear, determined, and sincere explanation of the source of the rattle in my pocket. I remove the five dice and begin to explain the reason why each and every wide-eyed student will desperately want one of these five dice in their possession by the day's end. They Oooo and Aaaaw at the prospect of winning the mysterious grand prize.

When the explanation of the rules has been clearly given, and every student nods in agreement, including the ones who didn't hear it the first time because they were still in the hall getting their ski pants off, or returning from crossing guard duty, I raise my arm and say, as I lower my arm in one smooth motion, "The contest begins...NOW."

Not a creature was stirring...not even a runny-nosed eight-year-old.
One di given just before every recess; and a bonus one given at the end of the day...just for good measure.
"I sure hope I get one of those dice, Mr. Hildebrand. Do you like my printing? I'm doing my very best."
"You sure have a nice smile, Mr. Hildebrand. Could you sing us another song later? You have a really good singing voice."
Anticipation grows with each di given. They can hardly bear the thought of not being chosen.
The end of the day has arrived and nary a wimper from the little pups. Pavlov would be proud.
The dice are rolled, the prize is won, and everyone wants me to come back tomorrow.
I win.

Monday, March 13, 2006

the go-to parent

I'm still waiting for someone to nominate me for World's Greatest Dad. However I might have to decline the award, depending on what time of the year the title is awarded.

I'm often good at what I do, and sometimes I'm not. Depending, again, on the time of year, brian the mennonite can often be found simply sitting on his arse, attempting to hatch the it warmth, and protection from predators. Actually, what I do most of the time, is sit where I am right now and crawl around the web while my family misses out on my parenting, and my wife misses out on my help. Maybe that's why my four children usually go to her when things are needed, like a glass of milk, bandaids, sign this form, or "do you know where the remote control is?" "Yeah I's sitting on it...he's trying to hatch it, the lazy arse."

Sometimes all it takes to get me to pay attention, is for me to be put in a position where I could potentially be embarrassed. I think criticism is perhaps my greatest fear. That certainly lines up with my "C" personality of the DISC personality system. I may not be an exact match with all the other traits, but I'm certainly right in there with the fear thing.

This past weekend, Joyce left for her annual sister getaway. She and her four sisters take off to some rented cabin and eat fruit and hummous for three straight days...laughing their silly heads off. They enjoy the freedom of no schedule, no children, and plenty of uninterrupted conversation. While they are away, I am given an excellent opportunity to shine, or be completely embarrassed. I have to be on my toes meeting everyone's needs, like pouring the milk, applying the bandaids, signing the forms, and searching through the crevices of the couch for the remote...all the things that mom usually does 'cause dad is currenly obsessed with the computer.

I must say that I am fairly happy with my performance. And so yes, now would be a good time to give me that award. Because if it was based on this weekend alone, I would perhaps deserve it. And I have also become the parent who gets asked more frequenly for things around the house. At least it has lingered past the time when Joyce entered our tidy home once again.

I hope it lasts...

I'm a man,
but I can change.
If I have to.
I guess.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

the new brain

Science and the Anabaptist tradition have been at loggerheads for a very long time. There is a basic mistrust of many popular scientific premises and a deep felt pain at the lack of limits when the observed is reduced far past the point of familiarity or recognition. Science logically says, "Let's look at the evidence. We can trust our five senses."

In the past couple of years I have been giving science much more credit than I have all my life. The scientist was lumped with the group of heathens that I was trained to convert. We would refer to that group as "they" or "them" and it would be said with a bitter film coating the pallet. I now know many scientists and, strangely enough, their blood runs warmly just like mine. Perhaps I have subjected myself to a little too much sheltering...or have I?

Today I was the substitute teacher in a grade four class...a lovely group of nine and ten-year-olds. I took the teachers chair about 45 minutes before classes started so that I could have a good look at the day plan. Simple enough, I thought, as I fully understood each line and their intended outcome. I know the curriculum pretty well. Everything was clear until I came to the last page, where there was a description of one of the students in the class...a student with a problem. "You might want a heads up about 'Johnny' as he has Compliance Disorder. If you tell him to do anything, he won't do it. If you ask him nicely, he might. Just don't push him too hard as it will just cause him too much trauma."

Unless you have someone in your life with this same "disorder", your reaction is probably much like mine. "Compliance Disorder...what the hell is that? It sounds like spoiled brat who acts like a little shit until he's gotten his own way syndrom to me. After a good synical laugh I became curious enough to Google the brain institute...just to see what "they" know. Evidently this behaviour has been reduced to "brain malfunctions, themselves a consequence of faulty genes. The authoritative US-based Diagnostic and Statistical Manual now includes as disease categories "oppositional defiance disorder", "disruptive behaviour disorder" and "compliance disorder".

Well there you have it...the evidence...and my Anabaptist roots scream to be heard, "Has science reduced human behaviour beyond conscience and personal responsibility?" Now wait a scientist friends are still good people here. What has happened to our warm blood connection? Are they correct in their assumtions? Could they be wrong? Am I over reacting?
Perhaps this will be much like when Prozac and it's many forms came on the scene as the wonder drug for depression and the like. Many people that I dearly love today live better lives because of Prozac. Constant assurance and a barrage of warm hugs wasn't enough to settle the brain.

Perhaps this is just another one of those things that we will all just have to get used to. Out with the with the new. But this old teacher doesn't always want to learn new tricks.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

the cool web

Winter's web was woven while we watched with wonder. Spring's song summons sultrily still, sounds so soft saying stuff silkily. Summer satisfies sad seekers...sometimes singing soothing sentences. Autumn asks and answers any anthoms...always aiming away...anywhere, anyone.

Have you ever gotten something stupid into you head and just felt like putting it down? Well, the above was it for me...something silly, and not intentionally so, but something in the mind that was asking for attention. So be it. (amen)

Thursday, March 02, 2006

achtung baby!

Six years ago I was near the end of four and a half years of substitute teaching, and all the while being a part-time steakhouse manager. There was a certain air about the way that I thought of who I was and where I was going.

I'm now back in the substitute teaching saddle and the callouses from six years ago haven't disappeared completely. It's funny that you don't notice you have callouses until you need them. It's like taking a break from playing guitar. If you return after a short while, there is still a remnant of hardened skin. Return after a few months, and you become quite sore after a few minutes of sliding back and forth along the fingerboard.

There have been no sores for me these past couple of days, however, as the callouses still seem to be there, along with my bag full of well practised substitute teacher classroom management skills...otherwise known as a big fat bag of assorted candy and chocolate. Bribery is the only thing that works on kids between the ages of 11 and 14.

On Wednesday, I taught German and Social Studies...yesterday, juniour high band and elementary school music. This is my first day free from a supply teaching appointment. It's actually a self appointed day off, as this afternoon I leave for Minneapolis with my brother-in-law to pick up the latest addition to his collectable automobiles. It was his first ebay purchase. I helped him set up an account the other day so that he could bid. So, naturally, seeing as I had "nothing" to do, I offered to join him on the road trip.

I'll spend the morning at home with my Joyce, and Sammy, the only remaining preschool child. I'll have some more coffee from the freshly ground Starbucks beans given to me as a parting gift. I still need to pack an overnight bag as Mel and I will spend the night in Minneapolis...somewhere. I'll pack the CDs I'm listening to right now and my latest Chapter's purchase.

As we travel today, I'll probably search my coat pockets for something distracting, and I know that I'll find a few remnants of those bribery chocolates. A small sachel of Hershy's kisses and hugs given as a parting gift to me from one of my students.

Today I know where I am going and I know who I am...and I am happy.

My loyalties, too, can be manipulated with something sweet.