When I was a classroom teacher, I was often plagued with the most bizarre occurences.  Random moments when I’d wonder if that really just happened.  Funny moments, really.  The English major in me knows that this particular humor is brought about by incongruity or “a conjunction of opposite or unexpected situations in a way that evokes humor.”

Like the one time I found a pair of pants on the floor of my classroom and had to hang them up on the chalkboard with an arrow that asked, “Whose pants are these?”

Or the time I rewarded a class with a party for winning a canned food drive, and I passed around a sign-up sheet for the food list, but when it came back to me, it only listed three items: “omelets,” “Jagerbombs,” and “Oreos.”

Or the time I found a stunning drawing in my own image left on the dry-erase board after class.  The incongruity of a kindergarten-compatible drawing penned by a high-schooler.

Or of course the subtle humor of some pimply-faced adolescent scribbling “Shakespeare sux” in the margins of MacBeth.  Because that kid certainly knows enough to claim such a thing.

The list goes on.  Whether they mean to or not, kids are funny people when they aren’t driving you insane.


And I kind of thought those sorts of bizarre and humorous moments were present in my life because of my daily interactions with 150 high-schoolers, but now that I am home with a toddler, it’s a daily occurence again.  I mean as I write this, there is a roll of toilet paper in our downstairs hallway; watercolor paints, a tape measure, and a random cord on my dining room table; and alphabet letters thrown in to a pan with a wire whisk resting on my kitchen floor.  And I do clean the clutter occasionally, I assure you.  But the randomness follows me everywhere, I swear.  Incongruity at its finest.  Just this morning I found Jude pushing a hand-me-down pink baby doll stroller with a serving spoon buckled in where the baby ought to be.

Like the pleading eyes of my poor dog juxtaposed with the joy on Jude’s face when he forces her to submit to some play time.  For all their annoyances, these dogs put up with a lot from us.

Jude also got a harmonica in an Easter basket, and he stumbles around playing the blues like some troubled old homeless war vet or something. And I don’t know what it is about that scenario, but it cracks me up.  Someone who knows nothing of trouble in the world and fills his days munching on cheese crackers now spends his time staring aimlessly out a window and playing the blues.

He’s also discovered that his favorite word is “cheese,” only he says it with this high-pitched and desperate “sheeeeeeeese” that you can hear a mile away.  And he asks for “sheese” at least five times a day, typically when it is not mealtime or snacktime, but the thought has graced his mind and he comes racing and pleading to me.

The “sheese” face is half-cute and half-scary.  Yesterday we were reading a book about a runaway sheep, and he jumped up from our cozy spot on the sofa, screamed “sheeeeeeeese” and ran to the refrigerator door.  Must. Have. Cheese. NOW.  The hilarity of screaming CHEESE at various moments throughout the day is not lost on me.

Incongruity at its finest.

I mean even toddler temper tantrums, painful though they are, are examples of this.  When the fretful moment has passed and I regain sanity to really think about what has just happened, I laugh a little remembering that handing someone the yellow crayon instead of the blue one he was grunting for resulted in flailing on the floor.  Next time I ask Scott to pick up something at the store and he forgot it, I think I’ll respond the same way.  You forgot coffee creamer?  OH MY GODDDDD, the horror!

My three-year-old niece is staying with us a couple of days a week, partly to help my sister out with childcare and partly to have a playmate for Jude.  I love watching all her delicate little mannerisms and girly habits after spending time with my rowdy boy. But then she plays her favorite game which is to “be a yion” as she says.  Or growl like a scary lion.  So here we are with this blue-eyed girly-girl making a loud, guttural growl and trying really hard to make a mean face.  Incongruity at its best.

And I’m realizing toddlerhood might be the funniest source, but it isn’t the only source of incongruity in my life.  I’m full of some contradictions as well.

As of last week, I am grinding my own grain in the kitchen and baking all of my family’s bread, yet I still love my cupcakes and can’t stay no to another cup of coffee or a margarita.

I’ve had major issues accepting television as part of our daily routine around here, and I tend to take it too seriously as a drain on a little brain’s budding intelligence, yet I adore the beautiful half hour I spend in the kitchen every evening before dinner when “Backyardigans” sing happily in the next room.

I revisit Blake and Shelley like old friends and ache for books in such a tangible way, yet I have been plowing through the same novel for weeks and know much more about Seuss than Renaissance drama at this point in my life.

Today I long to hit the road with my nomadic little family and jump at any opportunity that would have us moving and leave Jude learning on the canvas of some foreign city, but the next day I’ll decide I need to deepen some roots right where we are and my rocking chair on the front porch is all the exploration I need.

I think there was a time when I viewed these incongruities as something I needed to fix or make a decision about, but as I get older, I’m learning to accept them for what they are.  I can do pretty much anything I want, just not everything I want.  Or not all at the same time.  And sometimes that leaves me with one foot in and one foot out, straddling some fence and trying desperately to throw the other leg over.  And, students, since this has been a lesson on incongruity, I’ll leave you with a literary quote from a wise Walt Whitman, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself; I am large — I contain multitudes.”   For now, I love my multitudes.

On the Bright Side

What a week it’s been.  In truth, there is much complaining I could do at the moment, but in an effort to be a bit more optimistic, I’m taking a look at the things that have brought a smile this week.

  • As of tomorrow at 4:00, it’s the last week before spring break!  I have (count ’em) FIVE days of school until we get a week off, and my only plans consist of playing with Jude, unwinding from an insane semester, and getting a much-needed pedicure and haircut.
  • Spring break approaching means it’s soon to be the end of the school year. This means I have (count ’em) THIRTY-FIVE school days until I am a full-time mama.  Words cannot express how excited I am or how blessed I feel about this opportunity to give more of myself to little Jude.
  • Wednesday brought a less-than-fun massive faculty meeting about the cuts in funding and “reductions in force” that are part of the plan for my school district and many others in the coming months.  That state of public education in this state is quite dismal, folks.  Politics of public education can drive a sane man crazy, and I left that meeting feeling so discouraged.  I did, however, find this little gem lovingly sketched on my dry-erase board the same afternoon.
In case you were wondering, this is me. (illustration by one of my ninth graders)

Moments like this are why teaching might be lots of things, but it’s never ever boring.  Even when we have to deal with the ridiculous and discouraging outside our classrooms, we can always shut the door to remember why we teach in the first place.   They might be crazy.  They might be annoying.  But kids are funny.  (And can I point out that I’m skinny and I’m obviously a very smart person who likes to read large books?  I’ll take it as a compliment, I guess.)

  • It was Free Pastry Day at Starbucks on Tuesday.  Woot woot!  Somehow the Cinnamon Chip Scone tastes even better when you didn’t pay for it.
  • Jude is finally rolling over! I mean if you had to lug that massive head and big belly around all day, you’d find it difficult too.  He’s been reaching and even sitting up unassisted for some time now, and my pediatrician assures me he’s just fine, but at almost 6 months, I was growing tired of the “is he rolling all over the place?’ questions and subsequent feelings of oh-my-god-i-think-my-baby-is-broken.
  • I received my FREE Bumgenius AIO this week in the mail!  I am a cloth diaper addict, and AIOs are pricey.  Free diaper in the mail = exciting.
  • Hang on for this one, there’s a spark of gratitude eventually.  I received the horrible news about the passing of a college friend’s husband this week. I grieve for her so much, and there really are no words to describe what it feels like to think of someone who is so kind and giving living a nightmare like this.  While her situation is tragic, it’s times like these that I’m grateful for my experience at a small college where classmates and community become family. Seeing the outpouring of love for Melissa from her former classmates, professors, university officials, and other alums makes me so grateful that I have this second family.  That said, the shock and grief right now is unimaginable.  She is in my every thought; please pray for her healing in this difficult time.  This is a reminder to love hard and live out loud.  Nothing is guaranteed.
  • I passed a church sign on the way to work this week that says, “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” (C.S. Lewis)  Sometimes it’s the little things that can be a BIG reminder that you need.
  • Lastly, Atlanta has had some beautiful spring weather this week, and trees are in bloom.  Sunny barefoot porch times are on their way!