It’s funny how it’s the little things in life…

To quote Zach Brown Band: “It’s funny how it’s the little things in life that mean the most: It’s not where you live, what you drive or the price tag on your clothes. There’s no dollar sign on a piece of mind this I’ve come to know.”

Yes, I actually just quoted lyrics from the song “Chicken Fried.”

But regardless of whether you love or loathe country music, the lyrics are true. Or at least, in my opinion, you should begin to think so. When it comes down to it, small things can be pretty significant. For example, these are seemingly “little things” recently that have made me happy—perhaps a bit overly so:

  • Eating onions without actually tasting them all day…and the next day…and the day after that. I may actually be able to stop ordering sans onions just because of the smelly after-effect! Bring on the Onion Rings!
  • Realizing that my PB Loco was somehow voided on my receipt. Cha-ching! I know, I probably should have told the cashier. But $5.99 for a jar of peanut butter is overpriced anyway, right? My taste buds trump my wallet when it comes to PB.
  • Getting a free issue of Cosmo, via a special email offer. Apparently, anything gratis is the key to my heart.
  • Having Harry ask me to turn our daily shared PB (no crust, no jelly) sandwich into two hearts. He had told me the time I watched him before that he loved me, so that made it that much sweeter.
  • Simply hearing the Uncle Kracker song “Smile” on the radio. It’s a sure-fire way to make me smile every time. And, to quote the ever-so-quotable Elf, “Smiling’s my favorite.”

Music Medley

When it comes to music, we’ve become partial to being impartial. Since each genre brings its own high-schoolish stereotypes (hicks, thugs, wannabes, posers, hippies, etc.) people feel more comfortable pretending they simply “love it all,” rather than letting people conclude that baby, they’re a thug.

Pretending is the operative word. Interests will meld slightly, but I dare you to find me someone who gets into a little George Strait, then pumps their base for T-Pain, gets deep with Duffy, jams out to come classic Jammin’ and then gets busy with Bach.

Yet in some ways, we’re more eclectic than ever. Babysitting Harry makes this ever-apparent: He’s a 2-year old with favorites from the ’82, ’94 and ’09. His favorite song to dance to is “Boom, Boom Pow” (which we do approximately 4 times in a row), his favorite Rock Bank anthem is “Eye of the Tiger” and he loves belting out “I just can’t wait to be king.”

His 9-year old brother Ben likes today’s hits, too, but he’s also big on Bruce Springsteen. He and his dad went to the Des Moines concert this past Monday. One would think a 9-year-old and a 60-year old, high-waisted jeans wearing singer wouldn’t be a perfect marriage, but it works.

Where are our music tastes going to be 10, 20, or even 50 years from now? Will we say adios to the 80s, or will we have moonwalking grandchildren? Corny as the message of Madonna’s anthem is, music really does bring the people all together. As a teacher, you don’t want to discover your desperately outdated iPOD. But perhaps Backstreet really will come back…all right. Ah, ok, maybe that one’s just wishful thinking.

A laugh a minute

I love to laugh. The problem? I cannot control my laughter.

There’s one fellow student in my classes that has me chuckling every time he opens his mouth. He gives an extremely detailed response each time he raises his hand—for example, his comments will go something like this: “Well, it started at 8am, when I got up and then had coffee and then let out my dog—who is a beagle, by the way—who ran into our neighbors dog that is black-and-white and pretty friendly. We walked in a loop around the block and then I came in and had some coffee and then I went to my practicum classroom, where I got stuck by two red lights on the way, and nearly missed the exit …etc.” He somehow goes through this whole chain of events and then eventually goes into his classroom experience.

Ok, his Gettysburg address-esque comments probably deserve a laugh or two. But every time he opens his mouth, I have to literally look down at my desk or else I’ll burst out into (loud) laughter. I also cry when I laugh hard, which makes uncontrolled laughter even worse.

My classmates seem fully able to let the rambler roll. Which makes me wonder: How am I going to control my chuckles as a teacher? There’s going to be plenty of off-the-wall comments, and I am apparently incapable of staying stone faced.

Field Trip: Literally

Field Trip. I’ve never really thought much about the name before, but it’s actually generally a complete misnomer. Field Trips are generally in locations as far from a field as possible. An art museum, perhaps. An outing to the aquarium. A bus trip to the ballet.

Yet today, I had my first field trip with the 8th graders Southeast Polk Jr. High—and, oddly enough, my first actual field trip in an actual field. We visited the Engelfield Marsh, where our activities consisted of: using nets to search for beetles, frogs and snails in a pond; using GPS to search for objects; canoeing; and chopping down invasive trees. The majority of time was spent knee-deep in mud, thorny weeds or, most frequently, a combination of the two.

It was an experience, that’s for sure.

I haven’t set foot in a Jr. High since, well, the year after I left (2001). So I basically had no idea what I was getting into when I set foot in Southeast Polk. There are 1,000 students—but the school is suited for probably half that. The students are outgrowing the school faster than their boyfriends. Walking in, I was pretty much trampled. And nearly mistaken for a student.

But after a 7:30 stampede, the day went smoothly. The teacher I’ll be doing my practicum with, Mrs. DeBrower, is so sweet and open. The students were taken aback by me initially—probably because my field messy bun and faded blue jeans make me look like a high school newbie—but they warmed up to me really quickly once Mrs. DeBrower introduced me. My name—Ms. Looney—broke the ice.

I have a feeling there are going to be many hilarious happenings to come. Peer pressure, I’m realizing, can actually sometimes be positive. Or at the very least, comical. For example, nearly every single boy today went knee deep into a mucky pond to attempt to catch a frog.  One boy, Devon, literally was covered up to the small of his back. The girls were pretty gutsy, too, especially one who said “she hates shopping so much, and could care less what she wore that she purposely wore her best shirt so that she’d have a chance to toss it afterward.” And they say that 8th graders are so concerned with their appearance…

8th graders have some solid street smarts, too. One boy, Chance (yes, he does like his name—I asked…of course), purposely got his shoes as muddy as possible so his mom would buy him a new pair. Genius.

And, wow, 8th graders are as relationship “ready” and “ready” to be independent as ever as ever. Two of my favorite moments of the day came from two girls that I chatted with quite a bit: Kaitlyn and Marley. Two of our conversations:

Me: So do you guys have any big plans for the weekend?

K&M: Yeah, going to Adventureland!

Me: Oh, cool!

K&M: Yeah, we love it there. We go, like, all the time.

Me: What’s your favorite thing to do there?

K&M: Pick up guys.

And later…

K&M: I like being young. I wish I could be young forever.

K: Well, actually, I’d like to be 16 and freeze that.

M: I’d be 21.

Me: I like the age that I am.

K&M: Yeah, you can do, like, whatever you want. Your parents can’t tell you what to do.

Me: Well, my parents live 5.5 hours away.

K&M: (Shocked) REALLY? That is AWESOME! You are SO lucky

I literally LOLed. I am eager to see what other angsty—or simply awesome—gems are to come.

Coffee Talk

I’m a caffeine late bloomer. I grew up on milk, not Mountain Dew.I gave up pop every year for lent when I was younger because, well, I never drank it. (Yes, I know, that’s the whole point). I’ve never been crazy about Coca-Cola. I used to not even be able to sip coffee without cringing.

But now, when it comes to caffeine, I just can’t get enough. A morning cup of coffee (or 2). A mid-afternoon latte. A Mountain Dew now and then. I have also become perhaps Strawberry Crystal Light Energy’s biggest spokesperson—120 milligrams of caffeine, 10 calories, and delicious…how can you possibly go wrong?

I realize I’m not alone. Caffeine addicts are abundant. The problem? I’ve realized that caffeine may be my trigger to incessant indigestion. Ugh. Experts recommend people in my situation giving up caffeine cold turkey.

I finally get the whole no-way-can-I-quit-smoking-without-going-insane thing. Caffeine is my cigarette. Today, I attempted a Caffeine-Free day. I lasted exactly 2 hours.

But unless I feel like popping Immodium like candy for the rest of my life, I need to cut down. I’m going to try to cut down to a single morning cup. We’ll see if this venture gets rid of my vice.

P.S-It is 3:30 pm right now, and I’m craving my caffeine like crazy. Do they have caffeine patches?

Not wasting it away again…

I hate waste. I cringe when I have to toss brown bananas. I get irate when my roast beef goes bad. I’ll eat freezer-burn ice cream before I buy a new gallon. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll toss moldy bread or soft fruit. I may hate waste, but I’m not about to sacrifice my stomach for a few cents.

Yet when you hang out with 2-year-olds, you’re bound to change your perspective on waste. Some waste is inevitable—acceptable, even: Crusts get cut off, leftover cereal milk goes down the drain, and re-heated eggs are as well, absolutely awful as they sound.

Other forms of waste are only impossible to avoid if you can control kids like Supernanny. Kids eyes are always bigger than their stomach. And it’s extremely difficult for them to realize that.

For example, today I took Harry to the Science Center of Iowa. After a day full of fun exhibits, pulleys and pseudo supermarket shopping, we ate some lunch. He wanted an individual pan pizza and huge Strawberry milk for himself (yes, I recommended sharing. He was adamantly opposed, though he said so extremely politely). After seeing him eat a quarter of a PB&J last week, I knew there was no way he’d become a member of the clean plate club. I was right: He drank exactly one sip of strawberry milk and ate one-quarter of his pizza.

The more I babysit, the more I realize the ingenious mind of McDonalds. Happy Meals deserve all their hype: They have a fun toy to play with and have a perfectly portioned meal to complement it. Without Happy Meals, I’m certain that there would be countless toddler requests for Big Macs and Supersize Fries. And many more either A.)Nearly full sandwiches in the trash or B.)A parental obesity epidemic, simply because of their hatred for waste.

Situation Scaredy Cat

In some ways, I’m the stereotypical scaredy cat.

I hate being alone. I still don’t like sleeping in a room by myself. Somehow, I think that nothing bad will happen when I have a bedtime buddy. I do realize that I’m 22, not 12.

I’m also not a huge fan of conquering the dark solo. I don’t like driving alone. Or even walking from a car to my house alone. After all, they had the show “Are you afraid of the dark?” for a reason. You’re practically supposed to be afraid of the dark.

Scary movies are also not my style. Forewarning to anyone who loves watching scary movies: Don’t let me join. I tend to talk excessively—even more than usual—and also close my eyes pretty much through the credits.

Yet when it comes to streets, I’m not so smart. Not in the lack-of-common-sense way (though, I lack that too). I’m just not as scared as I should be. Case in point: Last night, Kathy and I decided it would be a great idea to take a Midnight walk home from Court Ave alone. A near-3 mile midnight stroll. The potential dangers of said stroll didn’t even faze me. Though I probably should of, considering the fact that the usual suspects at this hour consist of older men yelling “HAAAAYYYY” and homeless women asking “‘Scuse me miss, can you spare some change?”