29 June 2010

School's Out for Summer

OK, I was running short on titles today. We've been working like crazy at Atala, and we're making great progress every day. However, as someone who has worked through every summer for the past three summers, I can tell you that the highlight of my summer so far is the weekly free movies at our local Flagship Cinemas. Every week for two hours, I get watch last year's movies with my kids, their friends, and about 200 other folks. I know, it sounds miserable to some people, but we have fun yelling at the screen (along with everyone else) and just being together. I haven't been able to spend much summer time with Colby and the kids at all the last few years. This summer has been awesome since I am not strapped to a desk pushing papers all day. I think it's taken the last month to decompress, but the transition has been pretty easy, especially when I think that FIU is beginning their 10 hour workday schedule. That's 10 hours of work Monday through Thursday with Fridays off for good behavior. It's a killer schedule for anyone. But if you are someone with children, you leave before they're awake and get home right as they are going to sleep. I don't wish that on anyone, and I am very grateful to not have that kind of schedule again this year.

More updates in the next few days--our paperwork is currently at DERM. Hopefully we'll be on to DCF and the Health Department by the end of the week. I am crossing my fingers that the construction can start as early as next week. Sitting back and waiting for people to respond is not really my strong suit.

Spread your wings!

24 June 2010

Everyday, something new

Tomorrow we will have internet and our security system. Woo hoo! Today was filled with parents stopping by, calling, and emailing. Nice to get to know people better this summer. We usually make the birthday circuit for the children in our kids' classes, but I haven't gotten to know many of the families from other classes and ages. So now I'm learning names, ages, siblings, etc. on a whole new group of children and having a ball.

Summer camp for Liam starts next week. We're sending him (and three friends) to the art camp at ArtSouth. Should be cool--I've been watching the kids out there for nearly two weeks now, and they look like they're having a ball. Can't wait to see what he brings home!

Spread your wings!

22 June 2010

Growing, growing

So much happens in one day it's crazy. Today we met with a friend of mine from the theatre department at FIU. He's awesome--totally creative and half crazy. But I adore him and wanted him to come down and brainstorm with us. So over a couple of iced teas, slices of pizza, and salads, we dreamed up ideas of how to incorporate drama into our curriculum for next year. Things like make-up classes (wouldn't it be cool for the students to learn about monster make-up at Halloween time?), costume design, accents, lighting design, and even script writing and improvisation will all make it into our classrooms next year. We're also planning field trip for the elementary students up to FIU to get a behind-the-scenes look at theatre and get to experience a dress rehearsal of FIU Theatre Department "Pride and Prejudice" production!

Then onto the Internet, our office tiling, donation collection, and best of all Atala Foundation, Incorporated. This is the non-profit arm of our school, which will allow us to apply for a number of grants and eventually lead to offering scholarships to our students, as well as renovating rooms, purchasing additional materials, lecture series to our families, etc. I'll post the website as soon as I have a minute to set one up as a companion to http://atalamontessori.org.

Not much else to tell. We're all exhausted, but it's a happy, contented, hard-working exhausted.

Spread your wings!

21 June 2010

Summer has Begun!

It's just Monday, but already a lot has happened. We have internet as of tomorrow! I can't tell you how crippling that has been for me. For the past 20 years I have been connected basically 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So to not have internet from 9 am to 6 pm every week day has about killed me. But fortunately, tomorrow, my troubles are all over. Thank you SkyeNet!

We have the last wall of the office plastered and will have the final tile flooring finished tomorrow morning. So we should be able to paint tomorrow or Wednesday for sure. Yeah! Now we can finally start to put together the office.

My throne: OK, I really don't have an ego. But when we were going through all the materials in our spaces (and we had floor to ceiling of "material") we had to make a lot of decisions of whether or not it was "art" or "junk." One of the many treasures we found was an old throne that had to have been put together for some theatrical production over the years and just tossed in a room for storage. Well I had to fight Cheryl Morgan for it ( ;) ), but I finally won and will have the throne as my desk chair in the office this week. Woo hoo!

Other things--Cheryl took care of the window treatments in our bathroom (the pretty white curtains she got work a lot better than the newspaper we were using!). I've also got curtains going up in the office. We should have that whole space ready to go this week.

We'll move forward quickly on the playground and the rooms in the next week to two weeks. And we have parents dropping by almost daily, which is awesome!

Spread your wings!

17 June 2010


Things are rockin' and rollin' here--registrations are coming in daily, parent meetings are taking place daily, the phone is ringing off the hook, rooms are primed and painted, playground is cleared, and no one is getting any rest these days. All is great!

Spread your wings!

16 June 2010

Main Street Party

The Homestead Main Street Committee invited us to join, and I attended the first meeting this evening. They are a fantastically cool committee firmly committed to preserving the historical downtown Main Street. They are basically adopting us and want to throw us a Welcome to Main Street party this summer. All the local business owners will be invited to a wine and cheese celebration of Atala opening on Main Street. Yeah!

Spread your wings!

Just meant to be

So much is going on with Atala on a daily and sometimes hourly basis. Yesterday we were given the word that the city is giving us permission to put the school in. Sounds trivial, I know. But at noon yesterday I received a call that we'd have to have a special zoning meeting with a committee that only meets once a month. Then it would have to go through three other committees before they would award us permission. That could tie us up for 6-8 weeks in meetings. Uh...that's not going to work. With lots of sleuthing, we were able to prove to the city that the spaces are already zoned educational (which a quick search in MiamiDade.gov would show you) and were part of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Surely if the public school system had a school space there, then we could, too, right? Right! So by 4pm, all was well and we are now moving ahead to the Fire Department. We've already had an unofficial walk through, so we know what we need to do and will be able to fix things up before the real inspection. So again, we're moving ahead at an incredibly fast pace.

We've had 30 high school students with us every day this week. They come from Christ Fellowship Church and are all attending a Mission Camp. They come from as far away as West Palm Beach clear down to Homestead. They are awesome kids, and we are incredibly grateful for all they have done.

Two of our husbands pulled out the entire bouganvilla hedge (for lack of a better word) yesterday. Both are cut up like crazy, but it's gone. Can't have thorny bushes on a playground...Now through the help of an awesome parent, we'll start to plan how to set up the space. We have offers of free fill, free planting material, free plants, and free labor from various friends and family. Can't beat that!

The IT guys arrive today! Woo hoo! It's been tough on me not having Internet at work.

We're also getting a number of inquiries from all over. Parents are stopping by and making appointments on a daily basis. So enrollment is definitely picking up.

Do I miss FIU? Not really. I do, however, miss a handful of people who are very hard workers and extremely supportive of each other. I receive cheers mostly over Facebook and can't wait to actually drive up with some ice coffee when they start their 10-hour work days next week. Yes, I said 10-hour work days. FIU has a policy to save money in the summer by requiring people to work 10-hour days four days a week, and then lowering the thermostats Friday through Sunday. It's awful, but no one stands up and says so. The administrators don't care because they are earning six-figure incomes anyway, they are workaholics, and they either don't have kids or they are all grown. For a family with young children, it's an awful schedule. You leave in the morning before the kids are awake and get home just in time to put them to bed. Sure, you have three days off on the weekends, but you're so tired you can't enjoy the family.

Not that men can't be the primary caretaker (Colby certainly was the last three years), but it's just one more way in which FIU keeps women from really moving up that ladder. Although there are certainly a notable exception here and there, it's very much a men's network, run by men who have no concept of what it means to really raise to a family.

In my new position with Atala, my kids are with me every day, all day. If you bring your kids to FIU, you get "the look" of righteous indignation and the behind-the-door conversations about why are they here. My kids and husband are now working side by side with me, sometimes painting, sometimes working on homework, and sometimes playing hide and seek in the classrooms. I couldn't ask for a better summer! They are building the school as much as everyone. When they invite kids over to play, chances are, they mean at the school. It's become a second home to all of us, and we love it that way.

This is getting too long. I'll save the updates and additional thoughts for another post tomorrow...

Spread your wings!

12 June 2010

Party in Homestead

It's been four days without a post. A lot of work during the day, and I've been too exhausted at night to write anything. We had a fantastic week! To start it off, we had meetings with the insurance company, the security company, the contractor, the architect, the fire department, DCF, a courier named "Lefty," and the expediter. All in all, it was extremely productive, but exhausting.

The office is now primed and painted! All the classrooms except the toddler room are clean, prepped, and primed. We are now in a holding pattern until the contractor gets in and starts the work.

The nicest things happened this week: we had 35 high school students come all the way from West Palm Beach to help us out. They cleaned, primed, painted, hauled trash, etc. There is another group from the same church coming back on Monday and Tuesday this coming week. It was amazing how quickly all the sanding and patching took place. Their only payment was brownies and cupcakes!  :)

Then we started to have donations come in from parents--boxes of books, office supplies, etc. Parents are dropping by just to say hi and see how they can help. It's awesome!

Finally, we our big Parent Informational Party today. We had over 70 people show up! Registrations started pouring in (we have already received a registration for August 2011!), we had parent sign-up sheets for volunteering, and overall just a fabulous time hanging out and chatting about next year. And now I'm exhausted (and hungry!) again. All this exhaustion is just great. I feel like I've contributed more to Homestead and to my family in the last two weeks than I have in the last 13 years. Feels great!

On the other hand, FIU just couldn't stay away! Had my first call from a frustrated department chair (won't say which one). Nice that the person called and great to catch up, but also a reminder of why I left in the first place. Also had a call from a former colleague in the School of Music, and unfortunately things there have gotten strange. I've also gotten a slew of emails from outside folks wondering what has happened. All I can say is that things move very slowly in academia, and all too many folks are only concerned with themselves. They don't think about the greater good of the community, and in many cases, they don't really concern themselves with educating their own students. All they care about is the next performance, conference, or off-campus lunch. It's sad when people loose sight of what's important in life.

Enough talk about that. We all had a great time, and we're very, very excited about the future! Time is just flying by. I've never felt so energized (even though I just got through telling you how exhausted I've been all week).

Spread your wings!

08 June 2010

Lots of updates

Lots going on this week, and it is only Tuesday. Architect and contractor visited us today. We're making plans for how to renovate everything from patching the walls to putting in new toilets and water fountains to replacing the doors. Tomorrow we have a visit from the alarm folks, and then sometime soon we'll have the networking people out. It's all very exciting!

The academic calendar has been drafted and will be posted shortly. Been working on all the promotional materials--t-shirts, professional cards, signage, magnets, and other related items. We're trying to have everything pulled together in time for our big party this coming Saturday. We're right around 45 people who have RSVPd, so I'm guessing as more people respond, we'll be up over 100 by the time the weekend rolls around. Should be a lot of crazy fun! Too tired to think about much else at this point, but all is good.

Spread your wings!

05 June 2010

It's a Wonderful Life

I have so much to say about this week, and just haven't had the time to say it. First and foremost, I feel like I'm having a Jimmy Stewart moment from It's a Wonderful Life. After working out butts off the last few months to finalize the lease, get the corporation set, figure out the financials (which of course we're still figuring out!), we finally got the keys to the kingdom and got in all but one of our spaces this week. This was a blessing and curse. Two of the spaces were clay studios--kilns, bags of stuff to make and color clay, molds--the whole nine yards. These two rooms looked like something out of the show Hoarders. They were seriously nasty looking.

After two days of having the most amazing volunteers, all our rooms were emptied, swept, and in one case prepped by pulling all the nails and already patched! It's like the whole town pitched in to make this happen. It's felt like at the end of It's a Wonderful Life when the whole town shows up at Jimmy Stewart's house to help him out with the bank loan. People just show up and start helping. I still am not sure how it all happened, but I am so grateful that it did.

So on to another Jimmy Stewart moment. I had been told by the Homestead Main Street Committee that there was going to be a movie night outside in the downtown area (and for those of you who don't know Homestead, it's a lot like I imagine Bedford Falls would have been, so "downtown" is all relative). I figured it would be a good thing to go to support everyone, plus we could see Night at the Museum 2, which we've seen a million times because we own it. But it's an awesome movie, and this would be an opportunity to see who really comes out to these events. I invited everyone from Atala via an email and Facebook, but didn't really know who would show or not. Even with all the jobs, vacations, and weekend getaways, we had nearly 30 people--kids ranging in age from just a couple of months old all the way to friends in their 50s. It was fabulous! We all sat in the same area, all the kids ran around, played tag, did cartwheels, danced to the music, had dinner, etc. What a great way to celebrate your town and kick off the beginning of summer!

I'm sure there will be many more Jimmy Stewart moments, but I thought I'd share these because they've been so poignant.

Spread your wings!

03 June 2010

What a difference a day makes

Day 2 of renovation. We had some phenomenal help from Homestead Transfer and Storage, and many parents, children, and friends to help clean things out today. We made tremendous progress, having cleared nearly all of both preschool rooms and the elementary rooms. We also received donations of desks, cabinets, and audio equipment from the University of Miami Music Engineering program and all our elementary chairs from ArtSouth! And most significantly, we had our first official registration today from the Leiferman family! Thank you so very much for believing in us! Check out the pictures from today: http://photos.atalamontessori.org/renovation. It's amazing what a difference a day makes!

Information party next Saturday--I sent an email last night. So if you didn't receive it, please let me know, and I'll send you the flyer.

Spread your wings!

01 June 2010

Keys to Success!

Day 1: Got the keys to our spaces, spent the day assessing everything and planning the next week. Here are some pictures to give you an idea of what we're working on the next two weeks.


Spread your wings!