Once a week I drop Ainsley off at preschool, and hustle back to the elementary school to volunteer in Addi's classroom for a couple of hours. Ainsley does go to preschool twice a week, so in theory, I should volunteer one morning with Ali's class and one morning with Addi's class, but Ali had a substitute teacher for most of the fall (her teacher had a baby shortly after school started) and I used that as my reason to not volunteer myself. After typing that all out, I realize it makes absolutely no sense -- I'm sure the substitute could have used help while she was there -- but whatever. Seemed like a good enough reason for me. Now I don't volunteer simply because I have 2 FREE HOURS to myself, once a week, where I can run errands and not take a certain 4 year old to the bathroom or listen to her whine about getting a new toy or play Barbies or dance to Barbie music or list every single snack she can have over and over again until she finally makes a decision on what to have for snack. For eight years, I have not had two free hours to myself on a weekly basis, so call it selfish, I am not giving them up. I'm going to call it cheap mom therapy and try not to feel guilty about it.
For the first hour(ish), I am in the classroom or hallway with the kids. The slightly terrifying part is that it is almost always math related -- games, work sheets or flashcards and I am horrible at math. Horrible may be an understatement... I use a calculator for everything, either the one on my phone, or the living one that I married. Each week I say a little prayer walking into the school that the 2nd grade class hasn't passed my math capabilities. Laugh all you want, but I started sweating profusely when Addi told me she was starting long division and fractions. Since I have the kids in groups, and try to get through all 25 of them before our time is up, the stuff we work on is a lot of review and I haven't embarrassed myself... yet.
When it's time for the kids to leave for music class, I get a stack of work to keep me busy. Mostly I spend my time in the teacher's lounge, making copies. Growing up, I pictured the teacher's lounge to have big fluffy couches, or comfy chairs for the teachers to, you know... lounge. Not the case. It's filled with copy machines, extra paper, cutting boards, enough paperclips to build a paperclip mansion, and hard chairs. There is no lounging in there... it's just a nice way to call 'room where you do all your prep work before your real work starts'.
There is one other room I go to... the laminating room. It's tucked way in the back of the school, right next to the boiler room, so it's always a balmy 130 degrees. It's also at the end of the hallway from the preschool rooms. This is all important information to know as I tell you about my little... incident.
Last week I had a few papers to copy, but a large stack to laminate. I headed right for the laminating room, only to find out that the machine hadn't been turned on yet. I turned it on, and stuck my head into one of the preschool rooms to ask how long it takes to warm up... and was told about 20 minutes. So, I headed back down the long hallway to the teacher's lounge to make my copies. Once I was done in there, I headed back to the laminating room. I started with my first stack of papers.
After the laminating sheet gets so long, I stop and use the cutter to tear them off to make it easier to trim them up all nice and neat.
I can laminate two papers at a time, and if I line the papers up just so... I only have to trim up three of the sides of paper.. so I was bending over to make sure they were going in correctly.... and I was so focused on the papers, that I didn't realize that my volunteer necklace had positioned itself on the laminator... and started. going. through. the. machine.
(Every visitor has to check in at the office and if you are going to walk through the hallways, you have to have a volunteer lanyard or you will be sent back to the office. The thought of getting sent to the office, even now as an adult, makes my stomach hurt. So, I always stop and get my hall pass. Always.)
Back to that moment where I realize I am going to laminate myself... As I expect most people would do... I panicked, let go of the papers, and tried pulling out the lanyard. Didn't work, so I quickly turned it off and .... just stood there for a moment wondering if I was going to be stuck there until someone finds me. The hallway is always loud... remember, it's between the boiler room and the preschoolers... so I would have to yell really loud. Or I could just hang out and hope that at some point, Addi's teacher would come and find me. I did have my cell phone in my back pocket and wondered what the secretary would say if I called and asked her to come and save me?
All of these thoughts rushing through my mind as I'm practically bear hugging the laminator.
I looked over at the buttons on the machine and saw there was a reverse button. I pushed it and after what seemed like an eternity, probably like 5 seconds, I was freed. Whew.
I wasn't going to have to call for help!
I wasn't going to have to tell anyone about what had just happened!
The papers I had carefully lined up, had turned into a clumpy mess when I let go of them to pull myself free, and pushing the reverse button had put wrinkles over the paper...making one big heaping laminated mess.
At that point I was experiencing a bit of anxiety, and wondered how I was going to get the big ball of laminating mess out of the machine without breaking it.
I pushed the reverse button again, hoping that between that and me pulling on them, they would come out. No such luck. I then said a quick prayer, pushed START on the machine, and hoped the papers would eventually make it out the other side.... A long sweaty 10 seconds later... they appeared. And the machine looked like it was going to be okay.
I stopped the machine and cut off the carnage of what was a 2nd grade math game.
I then had to make the long, lonely walk of shame back to Addi's classroom, where I had to ask her teacher to re-print off the papers I ruined so I could return to the scene of the crime and use the Lanyard Eating Death Machine and the 2nd graders could play their new math game. There was no way to hide what I had done, so as I walked, I just avoided any and all eye contact with anyone, even the little people, as I made the trek to explain what I had done.
Addi's teacher's expression when I held up what was supposed to be nice, clean, laminated sheets of paper... was shock and maybe a little concern. Concern for me? or the only laminating beast of a machine for the entire school??... I'll never know.
I just shrugged my shoulders and said... It's hard to find good help these days...