Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Eight Favorite Things

Today, I received a very unique holiday gift from my assistant principal. It actually was not just one gift, but an assortment of items. They were, in no particular order:

1) A sled

For the Holiday break, my wife and I will be taking our twin girls to Incline Village for five days of snow and hopefully a little relaxation. This is the first time our daughters will see snow in the United States. I add the clarifying location qualifier to the previous statement, as my wife and I adopted our daughters two years ago from Russia at the age of sixteen months. I have a feeling they "saw" a lot of snow in their orphanage in the town of Murom, five hours Southeast of Moscow. This journey will be a blog topic for another day, but seeing the sled brought a smile to my face. It will be a "first" for us as a family. Just a simple, beautiful gift.

2) Candy

There are only a few negatives about working at middle school, one of which is the accessibility to candy during the work day. I definitely have a sweet tooth. While I've had lengthy periods of time of perfect "no candy at work" behavior, I find myself struggling when there are Gummy Lifesavers or Tootsie Roll Pops available in the office. Just imagine the torture of cookies everywhere during the holiday season. It's not a good scene. Here, I was given two boxes of these two kinds of candy, enough to last me through the new year.

3) Panera French Baguette

Last year, I had a moment of weakness. It began with a lunch trip to Panera where I decided to purchase a french baguette for that evening's dinner at home with my wife. I brought the baguette into my office with my purchased salad and left it on my desk. As I returned to my office throughout the afternoon, I would break off a piece of the baguette and quickly devour it. Within an hour, the baguette was gone. I had eaten the whole thing. Eating a two foot baguette does wonders to your body while working in the parking lot after school. A few staff members asked why I wasn't feeling well. I shared the above baguette story and now this disturbing tale resurfaces every time I mention I'm going to Panera to grab lunch. "Don't forget your baguette!"

4) Forty One Cents

Early in the school year, we visit our 6th grade advanced math classrooms to explain a supplementary math class, this year available online, for those students interested in advancing to (the class formally known as) Algebra 1 in 7th grade. I explain, in great detail, that there are extra work demands if they choose to participate in this class. An over-scheduled student who just likes math may want to not participate in the online class. Instead, I explain to these eager eleven year old students that if they have a love of math, if they dream of equations at night, if their favorite squares are 25 and 625 because they have the original number in the same place values when squared, or if they intentionally spend fifty nine cents at stores just so their change will be a penny, a nickel, a dime, and a quarter (forty one cents), they should join the class. It's a bit over the top, intentionally so, as I hope to inspire those students who share my own love of math to take on the extra challenge during the school year.

5) Costco Gift Card

Where to begin with my love affair with Costco... While my visits have increased to 1-2X weekly with the addition of our twin girls, I've always enjoyed the Costco shopping experience. Described as an intentional "treasure hunt-like experience," I have spent many hours walking through the local Costco's and noticing all of the subtle differences. Once, on a road trip with my future wife from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, we stopped at every Costco along the way. We would grab a cart and sprint through the store. It probably was the best part of the trip. I spend a ridiculous amount of time at Costco and probably an even more disturbing amount of money. It's my Disneyland - the happiest place on Earth.

6) a $2 bill

Recently, all administrators in our district were asked what our favorite present was for the holiday season. The purpose of the question was to guess which "favorite gift" went with what administrators. Given that my birthday and the Winter holidays often overlapped in our family of six, one of the most consistent and appreciated gifts has been from my Aunt Shelley, a former school teacher, since retired, in San Diego. Ever since my early teens, my Aunt Shelley has been sending me anywhere from one to two dozen $2 bills. I believe we're past the twenty five year mark now. I've never spent any of them and one day will present my daughters (or nieces and nephews) with similar gifts. Today, as part of the multitude of gifts, there was a $2 bill.

7) 12 pack of Diet Soda

On my best days, I limit myself to just a few diet sodas during the school days. On the longer, perhaps more intense, school days, I've been known to come close to double digits. The double takes I get from my doctor and dentist when I share with them how much diet soda I drink tells me that it's something I need to one day curb. If they were to forget to remind me of the perils of drinking diet soda, I fortunately am reminded daily by my wife that I should be drinking water instead. And yes, while my doctor, my dentist, and especially my wife are right, some days there is nothing better than a cold diet soda as you walk the school campus.

These are all of my favorite things, as presented by my assistant principal. But that's not the purpose of this blog post. Actually, the message I've discovered in re-reading the above gifts is how essential it is to have a co-administrator who listens.

I had only briefly mentioned my upcoming holiday trip to Tahoe, of which I never thought about purchasing a sled for my daughters. It was a random day and a passing moment in her office when I expressed how awesome Gummy Lifesavers were. I don't even recall sharing the story of the baguette. During the visits to the 6th grade advanced math classes, she was just silently standing nearby as she learned about her new job. Having a Costco gift card just encourages an additional visit with my girls this weekend. The $2 was a short snippet from a weekend holiday gathering. I'm not even sure how she knew I was out of diet soda as of today.

So yes, these are all of my favorite things, but truly my 8th favorite thing would be the opportunity to be working along side such a talented administrator. Thank you, Mrs. Cathy Bailey, for joining the UMS team this year. You have been a blessing.

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