Tuesday, August 18, 2009

An amazing, humbling gift

Today I got one of the most thoughtful, cherished gifts I have ever received as a teacher. In fact, in all my years as a son, student, construction worker, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, and starving unpublished poet, I cannot recall a gift as the one I opened today. Aside from my job as a parent (which I really don't view as a "job" per se, especially since the hours are horrible and the pay is even worse) today's surprise was almost as good as the time my kids cut up my Larry Bird rookie card and put my face where his was (previous incident embellished for dramatic effect--I did that very thing for my OWN father in 1984).

The best part about today's wonderful reward had nothing to do with the hours and hours and dollars and hours of time spent in creating the handmade gift over a course of two years. Neither did it have anything to do with the fact that it was a 30-page book with letters etched into gold-plated papers strewn with diamonds and rubies inlaid around the perimeter of each page (again this is exaggerated, but the fact that everything was hand-typed, as opposed to "typed by the hoof of a team of oxen" and professionally bound in a tightly-wound spiral spine lead me to see the precious jewels nonetheless).

The best part was that the two girls who collected, compiled, and collated the copious amounts of crap considerable content did so not only for ME, but for three of my closest, most respected colleagues. To give such a memorable gift to four different people, with the same covert comprehensiveness as these two girls did, it's amazing that they not only graduated at the very top of their class but made perfect scores on their AP test. If I, myself, had been charged with collecting the "non-critical curricular content" as they, I couldn't have concentrated, much less mastered, what the collection of material was actually trying to convey.

To keep the gift more personal, I will not go into more detail about what it was that was actually given, only to say that it was a book of collected mutual experiences over a span of an intimate academic year (or even two or three!) between awesome students and proud, passionate, pokerfaced teachers: a gem that will survive for posterity and will serve as an amazing, salient, and palpable reminder when times aren't so rosy of why people like the four of us fortunate teachers get into the business to begin with.

I'm proud and humbled to have received such an honorable and amazing gift that I can share with me, myself, I, and my family, and although I will miss the daily interactions with these and all my other amazing former students, I know they will continue to do well and succeed in each and everything they do if only they exert and exhibit a fraction of the effort and enthusiasm they put forth while under my tutelage.

As they each get older, wiser, more experienced, and richer, I only ask that if I'm NOT invited to the eventual wedding, that I am at LEAST invited to be their Facebook friend.

Friday, August 14, 2009

We're such animals

Want to hear about my trip to Disney World this Summmer?

Are you all ears. . .?

. . .what a time spent at Disney World again this year! With four parks and so much to see, this year's summer vacation was like an entirely different destination than last year's trip to the same wonderful place. But this year's experience was not only enhanced because of the insight gained from last year's trip, but also for a number of reasons.

For starters, the day we got there, it began to pour down in buckets, closing the pool at the Animal Kingdom Jambo House Lodge, much to the disappointment of my restless, traveling-in-a-car-for-hours weary kids. Coming from the nationally recognized drought-stricken area known as Central Texas, seeing rain (I THINK it was real and not just an elaborate Disney effect) was so magical, I felt like going to the Magic Kingdom and just walking up Main Street with my tongue held out.

It rained much more during our 8-day stay, and I'm proud to report that the pre-purchased ponchos from the Dollar General store in good ol' NB worked as well as the $8 ones with Mickey's mug that permeated the park during a downpour like cash permeated the register drawers in the park.

Last summer, on day two, my son got sick, really sick, and we spent our entire third day in a non-Disney minor emergency center watching a "Reba" sitcom marathon amongst Orlando's indigent just to get an overpriced script of antibiotics that weren't covered by insurance. And I thought Mickey set a Human trap! The rest of the trip was only tolerated as my sick, infected son melted in the son and forced smiles when I made him take pictures with the characters. This year, he (and everyone else) was as strong as Hercules (a character seldom seen or marketed at the park).

Additionally, last year, my then 5-year-old princess had the legs of a newborn Bambi, as I had to carry her most afternoons and evenings. This year, even though we came prepared with a stroller, she galloped through every park from opening to close often going through what looked like an epileptic fit of joy on the evening shuttle bus rides back to the lodge. Her mother and I met a lot of new people on the bus because of this, even though they were moving away from us as we befriended them . . .

On the bus with Jenna

With all the rich experiences (that leave you poor) we had this summer, by far the best part of trip was all the food and dining experiences. The smartes adjustment we made from last year, in addition to bringing our own antibiotics and the stroller, was to pack only pants and shorts that had expandable waistbands. Purchasing the dinner plan, our entire experience was planned around where our breakfast, lunch, and dinner reservations would be. The buffets were amazing, and not just because they had sneeze guards over the food, but the food itself was culinary cuisine. The African themed buffet at our resort was by far the best. "Boma" is a smorgasbord of authentic dishes that tempt the pallet and stuff the belly (almost all of which is either already off the bone, or at least killed and skinned in advance). Who knew falafel was so delicious or that one could eat 25 falafel balls . . . after a full course of other exquisite entrees? One really gets in touch with his saber-toothed tiger (a saber-toothed tiger with a wallet) at a restaurant like that. Then there was dessert and those addicting Zebra Domes. How dare they make them so delicious and bite size?! Thank God for elastic waistbands.

To make a long blog short, if you've never been to Disney World, you've gotta go. Unfortunately, you've also gotta come back (they actually have fine print on their literature that says their resort hotel rooms CANNOT be permanent addresses.) 'Tis the most magical place in the world where everyone is so happy and friendly, food is amazingly tasty and plentiful, landscapes are impeccably manicured, T-shirts run under $30 ($29.99) standing in line for rides is an air-conditioned educational experience, everyone wears Oakley's, you don't need long ears to be Goofy, and, of course

it rains!