Friday, March 30, 2012

Rearranging

Today was the last day before Spring Break. Conferences are done, grades are starting fresh, and restless bodies are ready for some fun. This is when my cleaning begins. This is a time for fresh starts and I am jumping at the opportunity. Before leaving work, I sifted through paper and got friendly with the recycling bin. Desks were rearranged and furniture found new places to take root. I love coming back to a prepared classroom with some little changes.

My cleaning itch made it's way home with me too. I moved the boys furniture and gave them each their own personal space. Framed pictures will come next along with personal touches. It was like Christmas for them. Eyes lit up and the exploring began.

"Do I seriously get my own private space? The little ones won't be able to get my planes and Lego's?", was my oldest sons first reply.
"Mama, I have all my favorite toys in here.", burst my youngest.

They share a playroom together and have loved sharing the bunk beds but a change was needed. Sometimes a little rearranging goes a long way. Let the Spring cleaning begin!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bedtime Stories

I love bedtime and the opportunity it gives me to have some special time with my boys. They are both at unique ages and add a little extra excitement and enjoyment to my life.

I am a book lover, like most readers in this community. I tend to read a lot of middle grade books so I can put them in the hands of my students. Nothing makes me happier then putting a book in a child's hands. I get to do it every day in my job and in my life as a mom. 

I have two boys, ages six and three, who love to hear stories. J is my youngest and he enjoys a good picture book. He loves to hear the repetition of a good story and likes when I pause for him to add the words. We talk about pictures and what is happening. It's almost innate for him. What happens as they get older? Why do they forget to do things like this? 

My six year old is a phenomenal reader but lacks that drive to snuggle up with a good book on his own terms. We get to read chapter books together at night. I've introduced him to Geronimo and Thea Stilton, Jack and Annie from The Magic Tree House, and even Nan from Nan Cracks the Case. He enjoys each story but still hasn't found his just-right book. I'll keep introducing new books and will eventually find one that strikes him as perfect. 

Tonight was a night to break out the Ireland accent while two little heads rested on my arms. Heads got heavy and eyelids began to flicker. The perfect way to end a busy day. I finished the chapter, turned off the lights, turned on the laser stars, and gave goodnight kisses. As I got to the door, I paused to take in the picture. Two perfect boys snuggled together after a good book. I couldn't ask for more.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Flicker

Yesterday was a long night of conferences...which led to me crashing on the couch while waiting for the clothes to dry. No post for yesterday...sorry!


Whew, whew, whew! Whistled the wind has it whipped outside my classroom window. I watched as the wind danced with the trees. It sashayed them from side to side with the occasional jerk. I couldn't help but stare while I waited for my upcoming conference. The dancing trees would stop for a rest, only to be dragged back on to the dance floor.

Black and back....black and back.

The lights began to flicker. It really didn't seem like it was that bad outside. My eyes left the papers I was grading to see the trees bowing to their partner. The wind had picked up the pace and was wreaking havoc outside. He was throwing a temper tantrum and it was effecting everyone.

Our Northwest windstorms have begun. Lights will go out and temperatures will dip from day to day. It is frustrating but it also means that Spring is finally here and the weather will warm up soon. I look forward to those blue sky days where the snow topped mountains stand out in all their glory. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Thank You

Today was our first day of conferences. I am always so nervous about the first day. Did I put enough helpful information in the packets for parents? Can I support the grades I've given? Will parents be upset about some of the things we need to talk about? The list is endless. I try my hardest to be the best teacher for each student in my classroom.

I had a couple of challenging conferences today. One parent wants her bright child to be challenged. I try to find ways to challenge her daily but I am always worried that it won't seem like enough. I had a couple of conferences that required some behavior concerns. I hate having those type of discussions but they make such an impact when done together. Each conference went better then I anticipated. The parents were so supportive and the children were so accepting of the conversation. It was almost too good to be true.

I went home in high spirits and ready for another LONG day tomorrow. I check my school email a couple times a night just in case parents have last minute questions that I can take care before everyone goes to sleep. I had a special one waiting for me tonight. 

A mom wrote to say thank you for taking the time to get to know her daughter and to work with her through the challenges this year has brought. She said that it was nothing short of a miracle that I was able to get to know her and her quirks so well. She thanked me for our conversations and the support we've given each other this year.

It brought tears to my eyes to hear/read this. We have been on a journey together and it has had it's ups and downs. I know that wonderful things will happen for this young lady and I am so blessed to have had a part in her life. These are one of the many things that I love about my job. I truly feel like I make an impact everyday.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Play Day

Today was "Play Day" for me. My mom has season tickets at the two local theatres in Seattle. It's kind of our mommy daughter time. This time we got to bring my sister-in-law with. It was so nice to have girl time with out the little ones around. On the agenda today was lunch, the play, and Pike's Market. A fun filled day with a little touch of Spring in the air to keep us dry.

We started by walking off the ferry and heading to lunch. My lunch consisted of shrimp and lobster tacos. I wish that I would have taken a picture for you. Two blue crispy tortillas were wrapped in a soft flour tortilla and filled with lightly sauteed shrimp and lobster. They had a buttery taste that complimented the tangy lime dressing that went on top. The bed of lettuce was spotted with pico de gallo which gave it some extra zip. My mouth is watering just explaining it to you.

Next stop was the Paramount theatre. They are showing "Mamma Mia!" right now and it was AMAZING! It was such a well rounded show. The story was beautiful, the acting was superb, the costumes were blinging, and the singing was goosebump inducing. I am one of those people who get goosebumps on my arms when I hear something amazing. Today, I had goosebumps upon goosebumps. An amazing show full of laughs, shaking in your chair with the beat, and a few tears. I left with the urge to watch the movie. If you haven't gotten to see this, I strongly recommend you take the time if it comes to your town.

After the play, we worked our way back down to the ferry. On the way is Pike's Market. This area is mostly known for the boisterous fish throws that launch sea creatures back and forth to each other while yelling and singing. It's also know for it's amazing fresh flower arrangements. It's one of my favorite things about Seattle. They also have amazing produce vendors snuggled in between the seafood and flower vendors. With Spring, comes an abundance of flowers. The roof of Pike's Place is covered with flower pots of Daffodils. Rows and rows of them. You can't help but look up in amazement. Today's arrangement consists of Daffodils and Tulips. They look perfect on my table. When you buy them at the stand, they wrap them in paper for their journey. It's like a mini parka for the flower. People nestle them in the crook of their arms like Ms. America. It's a sight to behold all the flower arrangements that make it on to the ferry.

Such a perfect way to end the weekend. Now it's time for me to stuff my conference folders and get ready for a busy few days. Have a wonderful week everyone!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Has Sprung

photo © 2011 Matthew Grapengieser , Flickr
Spring has finally arrived in the great Northwest and I couldn't be happier. The timing is perfect and my window of opportunity was wide open.

The boys and I woke up to a hazy day. I began kicking myself for not mowing the lawn when I got home from work yesterday. I figured that we'd take some time to snuggle before heading to the store to get our weekly food trip out of the way. When we'd return...I'd mow the lawn, no matter what.

While we were out, I picked up some Hyacinth, Daffodils, and other flowers to fill our pots with. I was in a hopeful mood and figured that some Spring flowers might do the trick. We cruised through our checklist and exited the store to warmer weather and the sun kissing our cheeks.

The boys were anxious to get home so they could play outside. We weren't home 5 minutes before lunch was eaten and little boy hands were digging in the dirt. I love when screen time takes a backseat to sun time.

While they were digging, I went to work on some flower planting. Soil was gently shifted to the side while I decorated my garden for a new season. Dead leaves and fallen flowers were given a different resting place while I pulled and picked. The Hyacinth fragrance was already filling my nose as I nestled the flower pots into their places.

The lawn mower was pulled out of the shed, filled up with power juice, and yanked at (repeatedly). It was like a couch potato getting back in the gym...with each pull I made, it pulled right back in disgust. I finally won out! It roared and complained but began to comply as I pushed it through the overgrown lawn. The first mow of the season.

Grrrr.....sputter, sputter....stop!

Pull the clogged grass out of the way and try again....yank, grrrr....

With crazy weather comes inconsistent mowing. Which in turn leaves thick, long grass in places that need a little more persistence. My arm got it's workout today.

Allergies + mowing the lawn = itchy hands, eyes, and skin.

Beautiful lawn + fragrant flowers + blooms on the fruit trees = One happy home owner

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's That Time Again

It's that time again....

Time for assessments to be filed
Standard check sheets to be filled out
Examples to support grades
Pesky report cards
Test Prep packets
Tutor suggestions
Reading level continuum's
Math fact flashcards/Xtramath.com encouragement
Behavior talk
Neatly packed folders with perfectly printed names

It's that time again....

To watch parents faces light up with encouraging words
To show art and the connections that are being made
To talk about upcoming projects and opportunities for growth and improvement
To reflect on goals and make new ones

It's that time again...

To take a deep breathe and rejuvenate before another trimester
To reflect and make changes
To catch up on the TBR pile that is quickly crawling up my wall
To take care of those home improvements that can't be done in just one weekend.
To clear the clutter and start fresh
To get rid of the bags that are beginning to form under my eyes
To get healthy and hopefully get some vitamin D


It's Spring, which means conferences, fresh starts, home projects, rejuvenation, and hopefully warmer weather. I can't wait!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Say Cheese!

Today was class pictures day. I am always so nervous about this day. Normally pictures are from the neck up...but not on class picture day.

I rummaged through my closet this morning and settled on a silk blend navy dress. It looked classy but also Spring like. I figured it was a good bet. I threw my curling iron into my school bag and was ready to go.

As soon as I exited the house, I was met by a wicked breeze...you know, the kind that makes your insides cold. It was one of those. I wrapped the scarf tighter around my neck and hoped that Spring would make it's appearance today.

I walked the hallways with my sweater wrapped around me and my scarf nuzzling my neck. It was our turn to get our pictures. I gathered up my third graders and followed them down the hallway like a mother duck with her duckling.

When we entered the gym, the same corny blue tie-dye like background hung behind the silver bleachers. You would think that they'd have nature drops, cherry blossom drops, or maybe a good beach theme....Nope, just a blue mess.

My kiddos listened carefully as the photographer lined them up to make the picture memorable and symmetrical. I quickly threw my sweater and scarf behind the bleachers, shook out the few wrinkles in my fabric, and took my place.

"Jeez, your teacher looks like any other student in your class!", said the photographer.

I couldn't help but think, "I'll bet you say that to all the teachers!"

After pictures were taken, the photographer came over to talk to me. Did I make a mistake in the little papers I was supposed to give the kids?

"You look really familiar, have I seen you before?"

"Well yes, you have! You took my senior pictures at NKHS a decade ago.", I replied in my sweetest voice.

"Oh, I knew that I knew you from somewhere."

How many times are you going to have your high school photographer take pictures of you in your profession? And have them remember you at that?

It was a pretty cool day! Oh, and the sun decided to make an appearance when I left the building. I could actually put the scarf and coat in my bag....kept the sweater though. Beggars can't be choosers.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When the Lights Go Out

photo © 2007 Crystal , Flickr
Moments after I hit the orange publish post button last night, the power went out. I was in a panic about getting my writing posted and gave my sister-in-law a phone call to help me out. I'm so blessed to have her.

Moving around in the dark was a HUGE wake-up call. I moved out to WA from NH at the beginning of the school year without my husband. He was supposed to be finishing up things on the boat and joining us around December. The Navy wouldn't give him orders so we couldn't ship all of our belongings. I took the bare necessities, the kids, two pets, and headed off across country. Little did we know that orders would continue to get pushed and I'd be finishing the school year with no husband and missing my home supplies.

Back to the story...because I have so little in my house, the power outage caught me by surprise. We've had some pretty bad wind storms lately but have lucked out on the power department. Well, last night was my turn.

As I sat typing away, everything went black. I leaned back in my computer chair and processed what I was going to do next. Where are the flashlights? Oh, that's right...I don't have any. How about candles? Yup, I know exactly where they are and where the lighter is.

I rose from my seat, careful not to anger the four legged blanket. Then I shot out my arms and did my best Frankenstein impersonation as I felt my way out of the room and down the stairs. Since I had been just staring at a computer screen, my house was pitch black. There was not a speck of light coming from outside. The moon had decided that this would be the perfect time to play hide and seek. I was failing at finding it.

As soon as my foot hit the kitchen floor, I was bonked into my a large furry creature. Needless to say, the hungry dog knows what bare feet on the kitchen floor sounds like. She jostled me as I rummaged through the drawer in search of the fire wielding wand. I sure wish those nightlights were working.

After the candles were lit, my other senses were activated. My house alarm was persistently beeping. Then the fire detectors decided to chime in...of course they didn't want to interfere with the alarm so they alternated. Taking turns with their ear shattering beeps.

I debated on bringing the kids downstairs to huddle by the fireplace, but decided that I'd venture upstairs with the candles to tuck them in a little tighter before retiring myself. Blankets were layered like a princess was coming to join us. The boys didn't bat an eye as I moved them to snug the blankets under their sides.

I have no idea what people did without electricity. I am very appreciative to have it....and can't wait for my generator to make the trip across country to keep me warm on these powerless nights.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A puppy at 10

I have woken up the last few mornings to litter all over my floors. I tend to be a bit of a neat freak and clutter is not something I leave when I go to sleep. I have chalked it up to having children and pets. Today I discovered who the culprit was.

I have been finding shredded napkins, fruit snack wrappers, and yogurt containers around the floor in the morning. I figured that my boys weren't cleaning up their mess so the dog was getting a midnight snack. It's happened before (see here).

Today I cleaned up the kitchen, taught the boys (3 and 6) how to load the dishwasher, and wiped off the counters before starting our bedtime routine. When I returned to plunk my bottom on the couch...I discovered a microwaveable dish, a Popsicle wrapper, and a container with ranch from my lunch on the kitchen floor.

Nestled in the center of each of these perfectly cleaned and slimy scraps was my dog. Her eyes were as big as half dollars when she saw me. Her eyes quickly became teardrops as she put them into puppy dog mode. It wasn't going to work this time. The trash was promptly picked up and the pantry door was closed.

What is going on?

Is she having a midlife crisis?

Do dogs have those?

My dog will be 10-years-old in June. She never chewed on shoes as a pup. She never destroyed furniture like Marley in the movie? And she certainly never got into the trash can!

I thought that we made it past the puppy stage. I guess not. I guess that I'll be puppy proofing the house for my ELDERLY DOG! Grrr!

With her puppy behavior, I wonder if I can get her into a puppy training class. Hmmm? Things to consider.



Monday, March 19, 2012

A Comment for my SOLers

Since I am in the rhythm of writing comments for report cards, I figured that I'd write one for my Slice of Life friends.

What a wonderful community of writers. I can see strengths in each and every one of you. I appreciate how you are all open books and welcome us into your world. I love how everyone has different strengths. Some of you are able to write an amazing setting while others are able to make me belly laugh in an instant. I love the touching tales that each of you weave each and every day. You share stories of your classrooms, children, and journeys. You all push me to be a stronger writer, which in turn makes me a stronger teacher. I value all of your comments and relish waking up in the morning to your kind and encouraging words. It has been a wonderful experience so far. I look forward to continuing this journey with you and look forward to a story filled March.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Not Now!


I woke up this morning with a sore throat. It felt like my cat had used my throat to sharpen his claws instead of the scratching post. That's OK...I can work through a sore throat (my personal pep-talk). Thankfully my boys let me sleep in and I was forever grateful to them. As I looked at the clock and begged it to move backwards, I swung my legs over the end. My cat greeted me with a gentle rub and led the way. We needed to leave for hockey in a couple hours.

Creak!
             Crunch!
                             Ow!

I was having a tin man moment. Where was the oil when I needed it? As I gingerly walked to the bathroom to brush my teeth, I was met with a pasty faced being.

Oh My Goodness, I looked like a zombie from those movies. My eyes were bloodshot and my normally olive skin had been given a white wash. As I brushed away at my teeth, I heard T coughing up a storm downstairs.

It was now a family event.

As the day continued, symptom after symptom began to show up. Sensitivity to light, pounding headache, head that weighted more then my dad's bowling ball, fever, and eyes that didn't want to stay open.

The stress cold has arrived early (or at least I'm hoping that's what it is). Normally I don't get it until after report cards have been handed in and conferences have been checked off. Spring Break is the perfect time for my body to shut down on me...NOT THIS YEAR! It decided to come when I needed to focus.

Seriously?

Please let some sleep and medicine take care of it. There are comments waiting to be finished, children to be taught, and two boys that need to be smothered with  healthy mommy kisses.

On the bright side, I should be super healthy and productive for Spring Break!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Report Cards

A delirious poem written in the midst of writing report cards. I'll write about the delicious St. Patrick's Day dinner tomorrow. Happy St. Patty's Day everyone.


Grades, Grades
I'm digging through data
It's work and stress
the whole Enchilada

Comments, Comments
What can I say?
I want them done
Yesterday

Report Cards, Report Cards
I'd rather just teach
or even better
go to the beach

Friday, March 16, 2012

Confused

photo © 2011 Nina , Flickr
I've heard the saying "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb" but I never really understood what that really meant. Well, I'm starting to make my own opinions about what that means.

We rarely get snow in my part of WA. We have had two days of snow this week. How in the world does that happen? It's supposed to be the beginning of Spring. My poor flowers are confused. They started to come out of their deep slumber, only to freeze mid bloom. The cherry tree went from a soft petal pink to a more burgundy color.

I'm confused!

This saying must mean that March starts out chilly and starts to warm up. I sure hope that is right because I am tired of freezing when I leave the comfort of my warm home.

Today was a day to make some warm mulled cider. Penzeys Spices is a store in Seattle. It is exactly what the title entails. A store full of every spice you can imagine. It's a feast for the senses. The last trip my mom and I made was the end of February and I picked up some mulled cider spices. My house smells like Autumn right now. I feel like I should be bobbing for apples with fall leaves decorating my yard. There is a mixtures of slow cooked apples, cloves, and nutmeg in the air. My taste buds are flooded with each distinct taste. I can't help but close my eyes and savor every mouthful. Once my taste buds are tickled, I enjoy the warm fluid traveling to my tummy. My chilly fingers are quickly warmed from the inside out. It is a great feeling.

Now I want to close my eyes and dream of warmer weather. I guess that my wish will have to wait. Papers are waiting to be graded and report cards are unfortunately calling my name. Spring...please get here!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Lockdown

I am SO very glad that we practice safety drills in school every month. No, I don't like dragging all of my kids outside in the rain for a fire drill. I grumble just like the children as we stand, shivering in the field. Today was an eye opener, as to why we perform these monthly drills.

My students were all huddled on the rug with their white boards, scribbling answers to our math review when we heard a firm voice bellow to us from the ceiling.

"Teachers, please lock down the building!"

Oh my goodness, I sprinted to the door to lock it. When I got back into the classroom, I found whiteboards scattered all over the floor and my children nestled into our reading nook in the corner. I closed the blinds and met my class on the floor. I glanced at the clock.....it was almost 3:00. We leave to go home at 3:10. I tried to stay calm but my heart cranked up the metronome a few more notches. I very calmly asked that the children be quiet as a mouse while I checked my email to see what was going on.

I emailed, letting everyone know that I had all my students and that we were fine. Other teachers did the same. I watched as the roll call kept appearing on my screen. No update. I began to run through every scenario in my head. How quickly can we get through my adjoining door? Should I quietly move desks to make an obstacle course for an intruder?

I felt like a duck. Calm on the surface but my legs were churning the water constantly.

The children began to ask questions. I told them that I didn't have any answers right now but they were safe here. I talked about how thick the windows were, how sturdy the door was, and how strong I am. You don't want to mess with a mama bear, I told them. They settled for a moment and then began to worry about their families. They were concerned that moms were going to be worried when they didn't get off the bus on time. The mama in me understood that worry but reassured the kids that parents would be called if we needed to stay too much later.

When we got the call to get children ready to go home, it was almost 20 minutes past release time. I looked around my room and asked the children to join me on the rug for a second. I complimented them on how quickly and quietly they went to our "safe spot". They were so grown-up and did exactly what was expected. I couldn't ask for any more from them. They beamed with pride and forgot about our scary incident. for a moment 

After getting everyone safely on to buses and into pick-up cars, I took a deep breathe. Thank you for our practice drills, and thank you for the heart that is slowly going back to it's normal heart rate.

What a scary day. We don't have any details about what happened. We do know that it was a precautionary lock down requested by the sheriff and that no one was in real danger. PHEW! Never a dull moment. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hell on Blades

I am a hockey mom...and a proud one at that. My oldest son is 6, almost 7, and is a very gifted skater. Yes...I know that I'm a bit prejudice but I'm also more then willing to point out things he can improve on....in a nice way of course.

We have hockey every Wednesday and Sunday. Today was a hockey night for us...pick up dinner on the way, watch J skate, wait a half hour, and then watch T skate. It's a busy night but one that we enjoy.

I sat back tonight and really watched my son. We are coming to the end of the season and it's my time to really reflect on how much he's grown. My son jumps on to the ice...he doesn't step any more. It's a fluid motion, like diving into a pool. With a push of his leg, he quickly zooms down the ice. Gliding and swaying from side to side. He no longer comes to a gradual stop, but gives a hop and digs his blades into the ice...stopping on a dime.

He will occasionally grab a puck and skate with it around the ice towards the goal....casually taking the scenic route. Most of the time, you'll see him making tight circles on the ice...moving his blade from side to side. He'll hop over dividers like skate boarders doing tricks off ramps. But speed is his forte.

Today they raced across the ice, trying not to be tagged. My son is terribly competitive when it comes to being first. He could really care less about scoring more points then his teammates but he wants to be the first one on the ice and off. I watched my son strategically place himself next to another player. At the last minute, he leaned on his blade and veered past the player...leaving the poor other kid to get tagged. Like a bullet, my son shot past the other players...zig zagging a new path. I was in awe. Time and again, he maneuvered past the taggers with grace, precision, and determination

I can't help but be incredibly proud. I have a talented skater...but more then that, an incredible son who is compassionate, wise, and loving. Yet another day to give thanks.



Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The right book

I love when I'm able to find that just right book for a student. I light up and say that I have the perfect book for them. I love when I'm able to get a book soon after it comes out. That way it's new and semi-unheard of. The shiny cover beckons and no child can resist a glossy jacketed hard back.

I have a student who is a fabulous reader but hadn't found the right book yet. Book after book jumped ship from her book box. I painstakingly sat back and waited for the perfect moment. R shuffled through books and watched as I carefully chose books for students in our class. Then, the moment came. I had been stashing this particular book away....waiting for the moment when she'd ask for help.

It finally came. R tentatively came up to me and asked for a book she might like. With a wink of my eye, I told her that I had the perfect book. I opened my cabinet to reveal rows of hard back books as well as ARC copies. Her eyes turned into saucers as I carefully shimmied out Bigger Than a Bread Box. I put it in her hand and told her that it was a story she'd have several connections to. R comes from a fairly recently divorced family and isn't dealing with it well.

Months later, and I just have to share that R LOVED the book. She has been taking it home at night in hopes of finishing it. Well, that moment was last night. R ran into class today with the book carefully tucked under her arms. She held out the book with two hands and a HUGE smile across her face.

"That was the best book EVER. It changed me. I don't know if I can pick up another book after that. It just won't be able to live up to it.", she said in a quick burst.

I smiled, went to the shelf and put Out of My Mind her hands. "This one is just as good. Enjoy and keep me posted on where you are in it.", I replied with a smile.

She quickly curled up in the corner and began to page through it.

What more could a teacher, or a mom for that matter, ask for? 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Connections

Today was our class field trip to The Admiral Theatre. I love when I'm able to give children the opportunity to make connections. This was the perfect opportunity. We were going to see the play (really a musical) called Junie B. Jones. My girls were so excited and couldn't wait to see which book they'd perform. My boys weren't as excited so I was a bit worried. None the less, we loaded on to the buses and traveled the 20 minutes to get to the theatre.
When entering the theatre, you quickly discover the under water theme. It's been forever since I've been in this particular theatre and I'd forgotten about the decor. The ceiling is a pale blue that, reflected off the lights, resembles the ocean. Fish swim on the walls along with turtles and mermaids. Now, I have a classroom full of 3rd grade boys and they were quick to point out the shell-less mermaids. I was mortified. They giggled, pointed, and whispered to each other. I can just imagine the phone calls that I'll get tomorrow. 

So we settled into our seats...first and second row right in front of the stage. My kids bounced like Mexican Beans while they waited for the performance. A HUGE writer's notebook was on the stage....Top Secret Personal Beeswax. The lights dimmed and out popped Junie B. Jones...singing at the top of her lungs. Then she opened up the notebook to reveal notes jotted all over. Each little snippet would be a large part of the play. The children tapped each other as they made the connections. The whole premise was written for all of them to see.

I was sandwiched between two of my rather opinionated boys. I knew that they'd be very verbal about their thoughts. They giggled, roared, and applauded throughout the performance. The play was a success.

I'd like to say that I left the experience at that but I couldn't resist asking them to reflect on their trip. The responses were phenomenal. They were not only making connections to their writer's notebooks, but were also reflecting on the story line. Multiple stories made up this one play. I also had disappointed girls who wanted to see the stuffed elephant and felt that he was a huge part of who Junie B. is. What a great opportunity to talk about literature. I was in my glory.

It was so nice to see literacy in action and to watch my kiddos be so engaged. I love when I'm able to step out of the classroom and let them see how it all connects to life. I SO love my job!
 

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Thankful


Today...I put the chores away and watched my boys play.

Today...I lingered a little longer during a hug.

Today...I inhaled the strawberry shampoo and hockey scented stench.

Today...I didn't mind the muddy footprints that littered my floor.

Today....I read an extra story and tucked two boys into bed a little tighter.

Today...I took an extra moment to savor my angels in their beds.

I have so very much to be thankful for. I take these things for granted...and then I hear about someone who doesn't get to savor moments like these. Today, I heard that my friend lost one of her twins. She is in her 30th week and lost one of her boys. She is now trying to hold on to her remaining baby. I can't imagine the pain that she must be feeling. I have so much to be thankful for.....and today, I savored every moment of it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ride 'Em Cowboy

We went to visit my in-laws today. It is always so nice to see them and watch them with my boys. It's interesting to watch other people's reactions to your children. I'm so busy trying to make sure that they are behaving that I miss out on some of the small moments and memories that happen. I didn't miss this one though.....

I believe that we had just finished having my belated birthday cake (TO DIE FOR! Raspberry Dream cake with white chocolate shavings on top. YUM!) when all of the sudden, I heard thumping noises. My fork had just left my mouth, so I wasn't able to ask what was going on...which was probably a good thing.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see my oldest son pass through the doorway. At first, I thought that he was pretending to be a dog or possible a cat...why else would he be crawling on the floor? Then he moved a littler farther, his shoulders had shifted from one side to the next. Was his sore leg hurting him again? Those gosh darn growing pains have been taking their toll on him lately. Then I noticed that his shirt was pulled up against his neck. By this time, I had savored my mouthful of cake and was ready to ask what he was doing, and then I saw J...saddled up on his back.

My youngest had his legs dangling from the side of T. He shifted with T as he crawled along the hard floor. J's fingers were tightly gripped along T's collar while he tried not to slide off the back end of the "pony." A smile spread from one side of his face to the other. T's face was a carbon copy.

I couldn't help but let out a little chuckle and savor the moment. I just love when my boys play together. They truly are the best of friends...I hope that it always stays like this.

Now I just need to teach J how to tap his spurs into T's side....or maybe not.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hip Hop Ballerina

photo © 2008 LMAP , Flickr
I am by no means a dancer but I do love a good Hip Hop class. I love when the music is cranked up so loud that your whole body moves. Not just the outside that everyone can see, but the insides too. The sound moves from the speakers to your ears and flows all the way down to your toes. You body can't help but move with the beat. Aah!

Since being gone a year, the Hip Hop class I was taking got replaced with Ballet. Ballet? How can you go from hard hitting, dig into the floor tunes to soft, delicate classical music? Now don't get me wrong, I am a classically trained pianist but I don't want to dance to it.

My friend sent me a reminder last night that class was from 7:30 - 8:30 and she expected to see me there.

Why not give it a try? I'm a bit of a klutz as it is...why not just make a fool of myself. I'm usually good about giving things a good first try before making a decision. I went in with an open mind. This could be really good for me. I need to do some toning of my core and legs...ballet will be the perfect match for that.

I was met at the door by one of my favorite students. I've had her for 3 out of her 5 years of schooling. I'd keep her as my own if I could. She barreled in to me and began telling me foot positions. I contorted my feet from first through fifth position. That wasn't too bad. My knobby knees sure feel funny though and I can't seem to remember where my arms are supposed to go.

The door was opened and class was to start. I gave M a hug and headed into the studio. I nestled myself next to a bar and began to immitate the other dancers. Arm up, leg out, toe pointed.....arm to the side, leg to the side, toe pointed....arm arched in front, leg to the back, toe pointed, head tilted to the side and back. Piece of cake.

Then the combinations started. I felt like a new student entering at the end of the school year. Moves went from one to the next....quickly. I did my best to follow along but felt like I was missing something. The joy that I get when I hip hop dance wasn't there. I couldn't flow through the moves like those passionate ballet dancers.

By the end of the class, I was twirling and pretzeling my legs with the best of them. My friend asked what I thought. "It's not Hip Hop!" was my response...."No it's not!" was her reply. I'm not sure what I will do about next Friday when ballet class rolls around. I may need to give it a few more tries or maybe I'll need to find a Hip Hop class that takes grown-ups with a young personality. I'll have to wait and see how sore I am tomorrow.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Literacy Day

Every year, our school celebrates literacy day. It's a day devoted to reading and writing. To sharing our love for literature. I always do a read in and bring baskets of my favorite hardback books for the kids to read under covers with flashlights and stars over their heads. We also have a special guest author every year. Today was that special day. My children curled up in areas all around the room to read and write. I crawled from one person to the next...listening and asking questions as they read. This is not unusual for me, but today I wasn't looking to teach strategies...I was there to listen and share the love that I have for books.
My dear friend Theresa came to read. She is a published author, a fellow student's parent, and a good friend. She reads with the best voices. I can't read The Cat in the Hat because of her...my English accent stinks and that's what she uses for the cat. I told my class that she is an author, an artist, a great reader with voices, and a person who will make you lean forward when you hear her read. You can't wait to hear the next word that comes out of her mouth. They all giggled at me and thought that I was being dramatic.

Can you see how they are all leaning in to get a better listen? My kiddos giggled, wooed, and aaahed as she worked her way through Skippyjon Jones and The Cat in the Hat. They broke out in applause when she was finished and begged for more. We said goodbye and my children quickly hustled back to their corners for some more reading. I watched as faces contorted and squeaky voices came from different parts of the room. The passion of reading was evident in my room today. I'm so thankful that I have my own personal mentor author/reader to help inspire others.
After lunch, it was our turn to have a small group assembly with the author Kelly Millner Halls. It was only the 3rd and 4th grade classes, 6 classes total. We carefully filled the cafeteria and watched as an older lady worked her way to the computer. The lights were dimmed and pictures of her books began to run across the screen.....

Saving the Baghdad Zoo
                   In Search of Sasquatch 
                                         Alien Investigations
                                                          Mysteries of the Mummy Kids
                                                                                 Tales of the Cryptids

The children got more excited with each cover. Kelly, as she likes to be called, began to talk about how she was different from other kids. She always had questions and was incredibly curious. This curiosity and wonderment led her to writing. She researches "weird" things and likes to share the evidence that she gathers. She questions things and looks for the hidden information.

She shared about Sasquatch/Bigfoot. She didn't state her opinion, but shared the evidence that was available and how excited scientist are at the prospect of Bigfoot being real. It's the next step from Gorillas to humans. She showed us a casting of Bigfoot's foot and how it's disabled and probably limps because of it (see the crooked looking mold in her hand).
Kelly didn't stop there though. She told the kids about a creature who has the head of a monkey and the body of a fish. She called this the Fiji Mermaid. She quickly stated that this animal was fictitious but showed one that she bought on EBay for $4. The kids thought it was amazing and of course wanted one of their own. She inspired the kids to challenge their thinking and to follow their dreams...no matter how big or small they are.

Oh, I almost forgot to share that she brought fossilized dinosaur poo. The kids were so incredibly excited to check it out and touch it. How many times can you say that you've been able to touch million/billion year old dino poo? I'm sure that parents will be thrilled to hear about that.  
She's holding a Fiji Mermaid


Kelly also shared about a book she was working on. It's about a girl who dreamed of making an elephant hospital for injured elephants due to the fighting that was happening between two bordering countries. She dreamed about it as a young child and made it happen as an adult. Because of her dedication and belief in her dreams, she is saving injured elephants. How inspiring! Kelly was an amazing speaker....funny, relate able, and inspiring. I am so glad that my students got the opportunity to hear her speak. 

At the end of the day, the teachers performed/read a reader's theatre. Students past and present cheered. It was the perfect ending to an amazing day of literacy. I wish every day could be as fun. Tomorrow we'll read some of Kelly Millner Halls books and get inspired to ask more questions about the world around us. 




Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Next Generation


My house is busting at the seams with hockey equipment. My husband is an avid player (he even has the injuries to prove it) and my oldest son is becoming attached to the sport as well. My garage has 4 pairs of hockey pants, 7 pairs of skates, two helmets, and a bag of pads in all sizes. Along with this abundance of protection comes an abundance of stench. I am tempted to have my husband build a heated "hockey shed" outside to help my poor nose.

My little guy is now very interested in hockey and is in his second year of lessons. He wants to be just like the men in his life and relishes in putting on his padded pants, gloves, and helmet. Wednesday's are hockey days at my house. My oldest plays late on Wednesday night and my little guy now plays right before him. Let me paint a picture of what his practices look like.

You must always start with some mean gear, a growl, and some safety. His brother has been learning how to check people and J can't wait to get started. The fists just tell it all. With a grab of the helmet and a good shake....we are ready to get started.

We then race down to the ice. Crowds of cows....err, children, corral their way down the path. They are all eager to get on the ice. J holds my hand to steady himself as he gingerly places his blades on the ice...and then he's off. Arms immediately shoot out to his sides. I can't help but think about gymnasts who pop their arms out after landing a jump. His little feet stutter up and down as he works his way to his instructor. They all penguin waddle their way to the hand drawn stars on the ice. 


Oomph, be careful! Inevitably there is a fall but no tears. He gets into the doggy position (all fours) and quickly shows a knee. Time to push and pop. J steadies himself and pushes with all his might. POP! Up he goes and out shoot the arms.

He is quick to pop up when no one is looking. However, if the cute teacher comes over....he bats his loooong eyelashes and she quickly gives him a hand. Already working it and he's only 3. I'm in trouble.

Today was a great day. I saw gliding and motivation to get up on his own. The coordinator at the rink asked if he'd been doing lessons after Spring Break. Well, of course he'll be doing that.

"Do you think he's ready for the Skate to Play class?", she gingerly asked me.

"Are you kidding me? He'd LOVE that. I get to put a stick in his hand right?"

"You betcha."

"Sign me up. Just beware...he knows how to use it!"

One quick look back and he's ready to go. Another skater in the house and some extra stench in the garage. I couldn't be happier.   

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Winter Surprise


Today seemed like every other day....my bed was still incredibly warm and inviting, I had no idea what I was going to wear, the cat snarled at me when I moved my leg under the covers, and the warm shower water wanted me to stay all day.

I used my cell phone to light my closet up as I searched for my attire for the day. I settled on a skirt combination and was on my way to begin my morning routine.

"Mom, I want a snuggle!", came a groggy voice from in my bed.

"Let mommy finish getting ready for work and I'll come scoop you up!"

My casual morning routine was going to need to be rushed. Snuggle time would be a great addition to my morning. Once I was presentable, I scooped my monster out of the bed and went to awaken the beast in the other room.

Wait, what is that? My eye caught a glimpse of something out the playroom window. My head whipped back to the left to discover a bright light. This can't be right, it's March in WA for goodness sakes.

Winter had given us a gentle peck on the cheek. A dusting of white crystals clung to every surface.

"Mama, it's snowing. Is Santa coming?", said my now perked up 3-year-old.

Everyone was now up to start the day. Breakfast was on the table....time to start warming up the car. I opened the garage to a moderately cold environment. This isn't half as bad as I expected. I gingerly walked out into the dusting.....not slippery at all. Obviously it wasn't cold enough to ice the walkway and I didn't feel the need to put gloves on. This was definitely my kind of snow day.

After the crystal report from one of my students yesterday, I couldn't help but admire the bundles of snowflakes that clustered on my confused bushes. I couldn't help but think that they looked like mini cotton clumps. Or maybe coconut flavored sugar crystals like we had yesterday.

Here is a closer shot. My 6 year old said they looked like mini snow cones without flavor. I can see that too. What a fun way to start the day. Pictures to use to inspire metaphors in the classroom. I can't wait to see what my kiddos come up with.

Monday, March 5, 2012

High Expectations



I am a mom, a wife, a daughter, and a teacher (to name just a few). In every aspect of my life, there are high expectations and I love that. I strive to do the very best I can and I wish this for my boys as well as my students.

I teach 3rd grade at an amazing school. Every year, the children are asked to do a Personal Passion for Learning project (PPL). I teach researching skills and let the class research something they care about. They are then asked to share a visual and explain what they learned. I stress that they become masters of their passion (a very focused passion) and that they explain it in their own words.

Today was the start of our PPL presentations and I couldn't have asked for more. R presented about how cheddar cheese is made. She talked about curd, health inspectors, and cheese cloth. She was animated and knowledgeable about her topic. I smiled so much that my cheeks hurt. I couldn't help but give her a hug and share how proud I was.

L followed with a PowerPoint on how to build a tree house. L and his dad drew up blueprints and walked us through the building process...it was amazing. He simplified this detailed process so everyone could understand. He even joked with his dad that this project must be done in real life. I beamed from ear to ear.

E was my finale and I was mesmerized. I've seen the crystal presentation before but never like this. Eye contact was constant, inflection was abundant, passion was there, and he fully understand how the molecules worked together. We even got flavored sugar crystals to sample. I didn't even realize that my eyes started to fill with H2O until my students started to groan.

"Are you crying?" they moaned. "Not yet!" was my stifled response.

This isn't the first time that I've been proud enough to get teary. I expressed my pride and joy in watching today's presenters. Sharing most of my day with these kids makes them feel like my own. I have high expectations for my kids and today they rose to the occasion. I am a proud teacher mama! Bring on the rest of the amazing presenters this week! I'll make sure that I rest my cheeks tonight.

Dog Smiles

Did you know that dogs can smile? If you have one, I'm sure you already know this. My husky, Sasha, smiles as well as glares at me. She raises her eyebrows and even winks. She sneezes and even has a devious twinkle when she does something naughty.  You may be asking why this is important to know. Well, I was lucky enough to catch my dog in a blissful moment this weekend. All of the human like traits expressed her utter delight. Let me explain....
For those of you who follow me, you know that my dog had surgery a little less then a year ago (Creamsicle or You'd never know). I have been super careful about limiting the space that Sasha has to run. My dad built her a ramp from the deck to the yard and even fenced off a safe space for her to play. Sasha has wanted to spend most of her time indoors of late and makes her outside trips brief. With the weather getting nicer, I've been trying to keep her out more. On Saturday, I gave her scruff a good rub and left her outside to enjoy the warm sun. I closed the sliding glass door and watched the begging eyes plead to let her back in. It broke my heart to turn away and get to work. She would be fine and this is what needs to be done to get her life back to normal.

I began working with my dad on the upstairs bathroom project but stopped to check on my girl. I went to the closest window, just like I would with my own children. My eyes scanned our yard in search of a black and white mass. Nothing to see...

                   Wait!
                              What is that thing coming up the hill?
                                                                                                You have got to be kidding me!

My eyes did not deceive me. On the wrong side of my fence was my black and white masterpiece. A smile spread from one side of her head to the next. Eyes were bright and ears were perked up. Her hair swayed with the breeze and her legs were lifting high. It reminded me of horses prancing about during competitions. Her chest was pushed forward as she took in every fresh breathe of air. She surveyed her land with pride as she worked her way back to the deck. I quickly ran downstairs in fear that she would hurt herself again. Visions of her accident replayed in my mind as I bounded down the staircase. I made it to the sliding glass door in a flash and was met with a smile and a slight raise of an eyebrow.

"Mom, what are you so worried about?", said her expression, "I'm just taking a little walk."

My heart was about to burst out of my chest. She wasn't limping or walking gingerly. She trotted up the stairs and waited for me to readjust the make-shift gate that was supposed to keep her safe. She rubbed against my leg in reassurance and let herself back into the house. A glance back put my heart at ease. Sasha flashed me her pearly whites while her eyes danced. I guess that I'll have to take a breathe and give my girl a little more room to roam.


Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Little Change

It's amazing what a little change can do. A little cinnamon or nutmeg can really make a pancake pop. A little trim can make your hair have more movement. And a new floor can make a room look snazzy.

I am the type of person who wants projects fully done immediately. I don't want it done today, I want it done yesterday and perfectly. I've been making little changes to my house and it gets me super excited. Today was the upstairs bathroom floor.

My amazing dad came over to help me lay down our new vinyl tile floors. My dad is a bit of a perfectionist when he does these things (Jeez, I wonder where I got that from?). He can also be painstakingly slow as he truly measures twice (or 4-5 times) and cuts once. I love my house but quickly discovered that it has it's many mini flaws....non-straight walls being one.

After the prepping was done, tiles were laid out in little sections. T shaped contraptions were put in one direction and then moved to another. Yup, these walls did not like perfect corners. What a great opportunity this would be to show my class what true right angles are (or aren't). Tiles were wiggled this way and that to make straight lines. After what seemed like hours, the tiles were finally ready to be stuck to the floor.

Peel and stick.  
                     Peel and stick.
                                          Oh no! It's too tight...must have room to expand.
                                                            Unpeel and move.
                                                                                         Unpeel and move.

Once we finally got the first section done, things finally started to move. Tiles were slimmed and trimmed to fit perfectly against my imperfect walls. Unused pieces were molded to fit while some imperfect corners found a spot in the trash. The finished product made me smile.

"Thanks dad, it's gorgeous! What time will you be here tomorrow to put in the downstairs floor with me?", I asked with a sly grin on my face.

My weary kneed dad just looked at me...."I'll talk to your mom and see. Be up and ready by 9....just in case."

I love my dad and the face lift that my house is getting. Guess who will be up at 9 in the morning, showered and ready to go? Yup...this girl!



Saturday, March 3, 2012

Restless Dreams

The boys were tucked into bed and my body was holding down the couch. This is always the signal for my cat to nestle himself somewhere on my body. Sometimes it is on my lap, under the blanket, or on the arm of the chair. His body must ALWAYS be touching mine...it's one of the "must" rules in our home.

A slight chill filled our home tonight. It could be from the cold front that visited or the clear sky that didn't hold in the heat. Either way, this meant that Mojo (my cat) needed some extra heat. He pawed at my arm until I lifted the drawbridge of fleece that covered by body before settling in under the covers at the crook of my knee. After a couple rounds of spinning in circles, he formed a perfect comma. My chills began to disappear and the mini earthquake of purrs began to dissipate as well.

Merra!    Merra!     Merra!

What in the world is that sound? It was high pitched and in short spurts. I stopped and listened for a bit....There is was again. This time it was coming from my leg.

Twitch!   Twitch!

Merra!     Merra!    Merra!

My cat began to twitch by my leg. Not wanting to wake the sleeping beast, I gently lifted the blanket to reveal ears twitching and front paws dancing. I've seen this scene many times before with my dog.  My dog dreamed all the time...usually with a grunt every once in awhile.

Today, I caught my cat dreaming for the first time. I only got a second before his eyes snapped open and then began to glare in my direction. I smirked, gave him a quick scratch between the ears, and lowered the blanket. My mind quickly began to wander. Was he dreaming about chasing something? Catching that pesky bug? Getting that piece of turkey meat? I will never know, but the high pitched "merra" sound is now saved in my memory for the next time it occurs.

Back to your kitty dreams Moj....hope they are fun!