Letters to Santa

It's recess time, and I couldn't resist copying a letter one of my students wrote in her classroom journal. Here it is, word for word, just as she wrote it:

"Dear Santa Claus,
Please give me a puppy. I would like to play with Sant Claus. would you give me a teddy bear. I would give you a cookies. I would like a crayons. you make me lap [laugh] Santa Claus. I would like a Book. and I would like a apple. Please Santa, I would wait for Santa.

Awwwwww. In the midst of their hyperactivity this week, they still manage to be precious...

Holiday Survival

Well, I'm still slacking. I know this because I'm blogging as my students are working. But it's Monday, December 18th, and I shouldn't even be in school right now. It's so hard to be at work when my parents and my brother are in town; furthermore, Max and Peter are done with school and get to sleep in. Life's not fair is it?

This week is typically a week when nothing gets done... between holiday music program dress rehearsals and the actual program on Wednesday, "Santa's workshop" all day Friday (each class in the DHH program hosts a craft and the kids are split up into groups and rotate), and general craziness and hyperactivity, anything academic that occurs is a coincidental byproduct of our frenzied activities. Being the good teacher that I am, I will of course still try to sneak in some actual teaching and learning this week... but just in case I can't get motivated to do any work, I've scheduled "holiday language activities" such as: watching "The Grinch", and watching "The Polar Express". With any luck, this week will fly by and we won't even have to crack open a book (just kidding. Or was I?)

Here's to surviving until Friday!


Well, I'm officially no longer contagious, so I had to get up and go to school today. Yuck. It turned out to be a wonderful four day weekend, though. I spent all day yesterday (Tuesday) with my mom and dad. First, I went out for breakfast with my mom. We had a wonderful (though somewhat expensive) meal at Haute Cakes. When dad joined us later, we bought a real, live Christmas tree from Target and then went out to Goodwill to get the decorations. We had a fun time decorating it (ever so quietly as Max was writing a paper in the next room...). And I think for a total of 36 dollars spent, we did okay!

(It looks even nicer when the lights are on, but the camera wasn't doing it justice)
Since then, I've been back at school, realizing just how far behind I am after two days off. I would normally just throw myself into the work, but I can't seem to get motivated with Christmas around the corner. I have a lot of baking to do for staff parties next week, and I'm trying to get ahead so things will be prepared on January 9th when I go back, but mentally, I'm already on break. I don't feel like doing any more work (and I think the kids feel the same way too!). I deliberately came home at three today, even though I knew I had work to get done. Tsk, tsk. Here's to slacking off!!

Pink Eye Vacation

As you may have inferred from my oh-so-subtle title, I'm home right now because I have pink eye. I wondered if something was wrong when it took me five minutes to open my eyes this morning in the light. The tip off was the color of course. I put my glasses on and headed off to work anyways, because I am just that conscientious of a teacher. I did start to get a little nervous, however, when the drive to work was little more blurry than normal....
I waited outside the school nurse's office at 8:30 to see if she thought the redness in my eye was serious. I think she did, because she took one look at me and told me to go home immediately. So, with five minutes before the morning bell, I realized that there was no time to call a sub and my aide was taking a personal day. I split my kids in two groups and sent them to spend the day with my dear, understanding, helpful colleagues.

And that was that. I went to the doctor to get some eye-drops, and I've been home ever since. This is the FIRST sick day I've taken in all my years of teaching (one and one half years to be exact), and ironically, I feel just fine. I'm just uber-contagious.

I have big plans for today. Before my parents come over at four, I'm going to read my very interesting new novel, drink some hot tea, and I may even indulge in a bath. You should get pink eye too. It's fun!

Proud Pet-Owner

Well, I've finished all three sessions of the CTEL review (for the tests I take on Saturday). It was a lot of information--fortunately, it was all familiar and common sense to me. I actually enjoyed the sessions; I find myself fascinated by language acquisition and development, as well as cultural issues (I guess that makes sense since I grew up in another culture and I teach language to deaf kids). One student in the class, a science teacher, referred to the review sessions as "bulimic learning"--get it? He's learning all of this information just to regurgitate it on the test and forget about it forever. I thought that was an interesting analogy...

In other news, I went to an all-day conference about how to teach the life cycles of a butterfly to second graders. It was a very good conference, and I came away with lots I can use in my classroom.... as well as three sample caterpillars in jars. Instead of bringing them to my classroom (I'll wait until spring to do that unit because that's when I get the kit from the district), I brought them home to be the pets that I've always wanted. Pets that will only live for a couple of weeks, but pets nonetheless. They're in three separate containers, and I've named them Alvin, Simon and Theodore after my favorite cartoon chipmunks. They'll probably be butterflies by the time everyone gets here (I think). So exciting.

I need a puppy.

Ticking Away

I can hardly keep my eyes open and it's barely 7:30 at night. Ahhh, Monday.
I started out the day by poking myself under my right index finger fingernail with a quite sharp bristle of my roller brush. There was definitely blood, and definitely screaming (muted screaming, as Max was still asleep)--the perfect start to my morning...

No really, today wasn't that bad, it was just hectic and hyper. That is, my schedule was hectic and the kids were hyper. It was like they've been ticking time bombs since September, storing up all of their hyperactivity to unleash today. I couldn't get them to close their mouths or sit still. I'm not sure what all of the excitement was about... If this is Christmas excitement, then I might as well crawl under my desk and wait it out until December 22nd because it's only going to get worse from here on out!

I have quite a busy week this week. I'm taking three three-hour tests on Saturday and I've got study sessions to go to during lunch, as well as a three hour review session on Wednesday evening, and a two hour review session on Thursday evening. I'm also going to be at a science conference all day Thursday, and while I'm looking forward to a break in my weekly routine, it sure is going to be a lot of work getting sub plans ready! I'm sure by Saturday the LAST thing I'll want to do is get up early and sit through nine hours of testing, but on the next day.....


Gingerbread Teacher

So the gingerbread graphing activity was a success! The kids were all really excited, and they all promised me they would only take one bite, then finish the rest after they did the worksheet. To my surprise, everyone loved the cookies (usually there's one kid who doesn't like to try new foods). I was also surprised that the kids didn't all bite the head off first (that was my first thought: a decapitated gingerbread man would be funny). In fact it was practically a tie between how many people bit off arm, leg, or head--which was too bad for my graphing activity but oh well. One student made me laugh out loud when, after he had taken one bite and done the worksheet and it was time to finish the cookie, he folded his napkin around his gingerbread man and said: "First, I will give him a memorial". He said it quite somberly with almost a hint of regret that he would eating the rest of it, it just made me crack up. Plus, where did he learn the word "memorial"?? Too funny.

This is what my gingerbread man looked like after my first tiny bite... I wish I could have included pictures of the kids, but you'll have to wait until Christmas :).

Gingerbread News

As I let my toe-nail polish dry, I thought I'd write a quick update. Not much is newsworthy these days. We started our Gingerbread Man unit this week and the kids are getting a kick out of all the different versions I borrowed from the local library (the Gingerbread Boy, Girl, Baby, Mouse, Cowboy). They are all familiar with the basic story. I'm getting the sneaking suspicion, though, that they only consider the "gingerbread man" as a story character, and not as a cookie. Most of my kids are Hispanic, and I'm not sure if make gingerbread in that culture.... I'm assuming they don't. What a great excuse to eat cookies in class! I have Nestle pre-made gingerbread cookie dough in the form of boys and girls cooking in the oven right now. Tomorrow I'll distribute one cookie to each child; I'll let them take one bite, then we'll do a graphing activity based on what body part they ate first, then they'll get to eat the rest of the cookie (hopefully they'll have enough self-control to stop for a minute after the first bite!). We'll see how they do :).
Friday, we'll use an array of different candies (M&M's, cinnamon hearts, licorice strands, etc) to glue down to gingerbread men made of cardstock as an art project. That should be fun, and hopefully I'll remember to bring my camera so I can post pictures!


Wow. It's been a while since I've posted... I'll recap this last week for you using mostly words (for a pictorial summary, click here)

Tuesday's Thanksgiving Feast with the DHH program went very well. The food was excellent, the kids were downright hyper, and things went smoothly. After feeding forty kids, the staff got to sample each others' cooking, and it was all very yummy (though a little bit cold by that time). I can't even describe the sweet sense of freedom that was mine as I went home that night... five whole days off!!

Wednesday was a shopping day--some last minute Thanksgiving items, and a jaunt over to Goodwill where I found the cutest black boots. Peter arrived later that evening, and after a walk around the back bay, we watched "Nacho Libre" (a very silly movie, much in the style of "Napoleon Dynamite")

Thursday we enjoyed a very yummy turkey dinner, mostly prepared by Max (though I did contribute another green bean casserole). We ate sooo much--but not cranberry sauce, because nobody likes that stuff anyway. Peter and his friend came over to help us eat all the food. Here's a picture of us waiting for the food to be ready:

Max is smiling, but he's secretly disappointed that I forgot to get rolls at the store... ;)

After dinner, we watched "Elf" to kickoff the Christmas season. Woo hoo!!

Friday, we picked up my grandma from the airport (she just got back from China).
Saturday, we went to the beach and bummed around. I fed the seagulls (way fun)--many of them were hovering above my head, waiting to catch a crumb mid air!

And today, I did everything that I was supposed to do during this break but was putting off. I did three loads of laundry. I went grocery shopping. I watered grandma's plants. I took three practice tests for the CTEL I have to take on Dec. 9 (don't ask me about it unless you want to hear some ranting...). And to reward me for all my trouble, Max made me the Best Baked Potato Ever--complete with cheese, sour cream, green onions, and bacon bits fresh from the frying pan. And since I'm dreading going back to work in the morning, Max is going to give me an extra helping of ice cream to make me feel better.

He just doesn't know it yet...

Oh Happy Day!

This morning as I walked across campus to my classroom, I noticed quite a few teachers with happy, giddy faces walking around. As I paused to think why my colleagues would be so chipper this morning, I suddenly remembered that this is a two-day week in honor of Thanksgiving! Duh. So then I was walking around pretty happy too :). Today was Monday and tomorrow is like a Friday--why can't every week be like this?
Nothing too major happened over the weekend. We ran errands, we cleaned. We had company over Saturday night (old high school friend and his new wife) which was fun. Sunday was very relaxing--I even picked up a book from the library! Today was fairly uneventful, aside from the birthday mini-celebration we had for our classroom volunteer (I'm guessing she turned forty-something but I wasn't about to ask...). The kids gave her the sweetest cards, and I gave her some chocolate from France. I could tell she was really touched....
Tomorrow is our Thanksgiving Feast at school. It's a tradition for the whole DHH program to get together (about 30 kids) and the staff (us) bring in the turkey with all the works. It's always a lot of fun, and the kids have been looking forward to it since last week! Speaking of which, I need to get crackin' on that green-bean casserole I'm bringing in tomorrow...

The Case of the Missing Supplies

Over the past few months, my aide has said things to me like: "Hm. I thought we had more markers", or, "Have you seen the red construction paper?" Today when she was looking for gold-yellow construction paper and it was all gone, I started to get worried. Before, I just assumed that things were messy and got lost, or moved, or maybe we were just losing our minds. But I could have sworn we had lots of gold-yellow construction paper left the last time I checked. My aide suggested that maybe somebody was taking things from our room. I dismissed the idea quickly, but the more I thought about it....

Two weeks ago, my colleague wanted to borrow a certain edition of the second grade reading curriculum. I directed her to where I keep that stuff, but it wasn't there! And even more telling, Monday morning I noticed that one of my two large classroom clocks was missing. One clock is a district clock, and the other was a personal clock that the teacher before me had bought--the one missing was the one belonging to the teacher before me. My colleague from across the hall, upon hearing of my little problem with disappearing items, was sure that the culprit was this other teacher who left right before I came. She must have kept the room key (she took a year off last year, and went back to teaching at a different school this year). So we went to the office to request a lock change.

The whole thing is quite bizarre. If she wanted her clock back, why not come and ask for it? Or call? As for the markers and construction paper--that stuff isn't hers, it stays with the classroom. Our supplies like construction paper come from district allotted budgets. Anyways, it could be that we're wrong, and it's not her... but she is the only good suspect so far.

And furthermore, how come I keep getting robbed? But I suppose missing markers is better than missing thousands of dollars :)


No fun pictures this time, but I do have a lot of mental pictures of parents smiling at parent-teacher conferences, and that is always good. Unless they were evil, menacing smiles then it wouldn't be as good. But their smiles were genuine....

So far, I've talked to four children's parents, so I've got six to go. I love conference week because there's early dismissal all week, and no kids on Wednesday so that the upper el. teachers who have thirty sets of parents to see can fit it all in. Yea! I only have ten parents to see which means that I get to play... or catch up on work, whichever I feel like. In any case, this week is a breeze, despite not sleeping well (getting used to a bed can difficult--who knew?). Tomorrow, everyone in our DHH program is going out to eat so I'm definitely looking forward to that! I miss my colleagues... sometimes it seems like I only see them at the copy machine or on bus duty!

Quite a few parents have told me that their child REALLY enjoys coming to school. It somehow made me feel flattered, but the more I think about it, the more I believe that my kids are just too young to feel cynical about learning. Either that, or we do way more cooking and crafts than we should be doing and they're not working hard enough :). Either way, it was an odd feeling to have one set of parents look at me with an outright grateful look. But I'll take it!! The more I think about it, the more I feel like this group's parents are much more accepting of their child's disability and more able to support what I'm doing in the classroom. Maybe that's what makes the difference...
But who knows. I still have six more sets of parents to see and lots could happen to change my theory by the end of the week :)

A weekend in pictures

I can't believe my long awaited long weekend is almost gone! Where did it all go? Well, first off, Thursday afternoon, we made "haystacks" (which is a mixture of butterscotch chips, peanut butter, and dried chow mein noodles--it sounds gross, but it's surprisingly good!). The kids were really into it, and some of them made it a point to remind me that hay turns into cow poop later. Whaddaya know? My kids do listen to me :).

Here's a flattering picture after my aide encouraged me to mix with my fingers!

And this weekend, we FINALLY bought a bed and a couch. We're happy with both, although we cheaped out big time on the couch and bought a futon at IKEA. We just couldn't stomach paying 6 to 800 dollars for a couch we knew we wouldn't be keeping forever. The futon is comfortable enough for us, and plus, it will give overnight family visitors a place to stay ;).

I then went out and bought a nice comforter set for our new bed. What a luxury it is to sleep elevated from the floor!! Wow. I guess three months was long enough to sleep on the floor. Our apartment is definitely more homey now. It even inspired me to do some cooking and cleaning!

And today, we went out to lunch with my old friend from high school and his new wife. So it's been a very busy, productive, and fun weekend! Now it's time to go suck the fun out the last remaining hours of freedom I have before work starts up again tomorrow! Either that, or I'll go do the laundry...

It could always be worse...

I should be safely tucked away under the covers right now, but the thought of a long-awaited three-day weekend is leading me to believe that I can stay up really late and not suffer the consequences tomorrow (Thursday). Tsk, tsk. Early morning regrets are usually quickly forgotten by the end of the day :).

I've been running around like a semi-crazy woman gathering student work for portfolios, grading papers, writing report cards, creating assessments, testing one-on-one, and writing IEP's. Today the administration was gracious and allowed us to have the afternoon to work in our classrooms instead of boring us with some useless drivel at a staff meeting. It would have been great to have that time, but it turns out all four of the DHH teachers had to stand at the bus stop for thirty minutes after school waiting for a late bus to take our kids home.... So I really only had half of that time. But, don't worry, I made up for it by staying extra late!

Actually, I have nothing to complain about. Most people aren't getting a three day weekend for Veterans Day. And at least I didn't have to deal with a student who had explosive diarrhea like my colleague who teaches across the hall had to. This poor student... it got all over her clothes, in her shoes, and all over the floor.... I'm getting her next year, so let's all start praying now that I never have to come across that kind of situation!

Have a mess-free day today, everyone!! :)

"Fantastic" California!

I shouldn't even be posting, I should be working... But I needed a break from all of the report card writing, assessment grading, and IEP writing. A short week sure doesn't mean a slow week! I was observed this morning by the principal (wouldn't a more accurate observation be an unscheduled one? I guess I should be careful what I wish for!). I thought it went well. When I got to his office, I found out that he thought so too, so I was pleased. I think the word he used was "fantastic", but I don't want to pat myself on the back. But maybe I can justify an extra scoop of ice cream for my "fantastic" performance..... ;)

In other news, I spent $296 signing up to take the CTEL tests in December to prove that I know how to teach English Language Learners in California. There were deaf kids long before there were ELL kids, but whatever. I guess I can just tack on that bill to my $80,000 education for a degree that allows me to teach ELL! California is SOOO special! (You may want to wipe off the dripping sarcasm from you computer screens, folks) I guess it's the price I pay to live in year-round nice weather :)

Speaking of that, I need to go vote today....

Bathroom Talk

I had a really fun activity planned for today's "Fun Day Friday" time (kids can only participate if they've turned in their homework!). Unfortunately, I had to cancel it because I was forced to spend that time lecturing my students on the importance of proper bathroom behavior instead. Apparently, two of my students were observed by another staff member to be rough-housing in the bathroom, as well as peeking under the doors, locking doors, etc. The culprits wouldn't admit it to the other staff member, even though they had been identified by said staff. Well, after a long lecture, two detention slips, and quite a few teary eyes as I packed away all of the ingredients for my "haystacks" recipe, I decided that I would at least read them a story.

So I pulled my "Haystacks" book which I borrowed from the public library. I hadn't read it yet, so I decided now would be a good time. Well.... the book is all about farms, and farmers and hay. Near the end, it had a drawing of all that was left after the cows and pigs ate the hay. So my kids learned a new word today: manure. They were all quite shocked and grossed out when the next picture showed the manure being spread all over the field and I explained how it helps to grow our food. One student was particularly expressive and I saw visible relief on his face when I explained that the manure wasn't actually on the corn, just that it helped it grow. He later put his head in his hands and said, (in what I think was a statement intended to communicate overwhelming shock): "This is really a new day for me!"


I was just thinking today how much I love my kids! They can be cute even when they get in trouble...

I had a girl today chew out a teacher on recess duty for telling her to play in a different area. She yelled at her and pointed her accusing index finger right at her: "I don't like what you said! I'm so mad at you! I'm telling my dad and he'll be mad at you!". She went on and on. Thankfully the recess teacher had a sense of humor, and instead of getting mad and issuing a citation, she tried to keep from bursting out in laughter!
When said student got back to the classroom and my aide told me what happened, I pulled her aside and we had a chat about the right way to express our feelings. I told her that it's okay to let people know how we feel, but it's not okay to yell at a teacher because that is disrespectful. Because our classroom rules state that we follow directions the first time, and that we respect other people, I asked her to color her apple blue (that's one step down in the "good behavior chart"). She cried quite a bit and was obviously upset by the whole thing ("how did you hear me?" she asked), but I think she understands why her behavior was inappropriate. She will also be apologizing to the recess teacher tomorrow.

Ahhh, was I that funny when I was little and in trouble? I just remember having a sore bottom once in a while....
And, according to Max, he never got in trouble when he was little. Or if he did, he doesn't remember!

Kids have it easy!

Okay, okay, so I promised pictures :). I can't show the kids' faces, but I can show you some of what we did after our pizza party on Tuesday:

We made "ants on a log" (you would be surprised at how many kids are resistant to celery!)

Then, we made edible spiders--much more popular!

The kids also enjoyed making tissue paper ghosts.

After the festivities at school were over, I headed out to a high-class mall with my grandma to watch all the little trick-or-treaters go from store to store and get candy. My treat was a nice prime rib dinner!
Thankfully we didn't have a bunch of tired kids come in to school today.... instead it was just us tired teachers sitting in meetings from 8 to 3. Very draining, very overwhelming day. Good thing it's over--now I can get back to catching up on all my work!!


Tomorrow is Halloween, and the kids were already hyper today... We'll be having a "party" tomorrow: a parent will be providing pizza, and then later we'll be making tissue paper ghosts and making edible spiders. I'm guessing it will be a fun afternoon, but a long one too! I hope to post pictures tomorrow so stay tuned :)

In other news, we were robbed today. Someone stole Max's credit card number and pin number--the only reason we noticed is because the bank sent us an email saying we were overdrawn! Apparently the thief had a fun time in Vegas, at Disneyland, and at the mall. I would have liked to have a fun time in Vegas, at Disneyland, and at the mall, but I never would have blown through two thousand dollars to do it! We'll be praying that we get the money back (feel free to join us!), but we are incredibly thankful that we aren't in dire need of that money to pay rent or to eat. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what happens...


Well, I guess it's time for an update, but I really don't have much to update right now... School has been same ol', same ol'. Actually, this week is our last full week until after Thanksgiving; next week, we have a staff development day (so, no kids), the week after, we have Veteran's day off, the week after that is conference week (early dismissal every day and no kids at all on Wednesday), and the week after that is Thanksgiving! Yea!!
Max has been BUSY between reading his books and writing his papers. You should see our computer desk: there are two piles of books on either side of the computer screen... they kind of look like towers. He peers between them to write. It's quite comical, until you remember that he hasn't had much of a chance to relax because of all the upcoming deadlines....
Well, I got to school early this morning for a reason--there's lots of work for me to do here and right now it's calling my name!

"Ooey-gooey" and other vocabulary

On Friday, I got up the nerve to carve jack-o-lanterns with the kids. I wanted to do it last year, but chickened out because I thought my students at the time would start a pumpkin gut fight and I wanted to avoid that. But with my sweet, gentle class this year, the only thing holding me back was the mess. So... armed with two pumpkins we headed outside. The kids' jobs were to scoop out the goo and count the seeds. My job (and my aide) was to wield the knife and create a fantastic face.

The kids absolutely loved it. I'm guessing all but maybe two had never had this experience before. Some were really into it and even ventured to taste it. At one point, the science teacher asked me (jokingly), what academic content standard I was working on that afternoon :). The thing is, you can't teach vocabulary and language structure in a vacuum--and of course I'm only too happy to ditch the worksheets and do something fun!!
The jack-o-lanterns turned out great, and I think the kids even learned something....

What self-control?

I had a 25% off coupon (for any one item) for our local teacher store that I spent today. I went inside looking for something very specific that was brand new on the market. They didn't have it, so I also spent a whole hour browsing their stock. I kept picking up items and thinking: "Ooh, this'll be great. This will revolutionize the way I teach. This will help my students learn." And then I wouldn't put the item back, I would just keep adding things to my pile. I was going to just pick one thing for the one coupon I had, but I couldn't bring myself to put any of my great finds back. When I saw the clock hit five, I decided enough was enough. I put all of my stuff down on the counter and was ready to get out my card to pay, when some VERY cute Halloween erasers caught my eye--and for just ten cents apiece, how could I resist?
Anyways, long story short: I came in the teacher's store with a 25% off coupon, and one hour later and $57.13 gone, I finally made it back home.
But I got such cool stuff..... It's totally justified.... isn't it?!?

Sick and Tired

Not much going on over here... My aide has been out sick for the past two days (and she just called to say she'll be at the doctors' tomorrow) and it has truly been a struggle without her. Trying to do things with the whole group just doesn't work when you have half the class who can't read, and the other half who can read at about a first grade level. They're all over the place in math too... I'm exhausted from running from raised hand to raised hand. If I hear my name one more time, I think I'm going to scream :). I'm definitely tired of teaching by myself--I hope she feels better soon...

Max has been busy cooking dinner and finding good deals on plane tickets from Michigan to California. He kept asking that I mention him on my blog, so I had to oblige...

I also need to mention my father-in-law: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!! Hope you had a wonderful day with the administration leaving you alone and the kids minding the rules ;).

"Have Weekend!!"

Ever since the beginning of the year, when I discovered that my students didn't know that "weekend" meant Saturday and Sunday, I try to use the word whenever I can. On Fridays I always say something like "Have a good weekend!" or "What will you do this weekend?". On Mondays, I always talk about how I had a fun weekend and ask if they had a fun weekend. Well, yesterday (Friday), one of my students had to leave early. Another student popped up and, while waving enthusiastically, said "Have weekend!!" It was too cute...

I had a great Friday yesterday (it made up for all the rest of the days of this past week). For Fun Day Friday, we made pumpkin pie pudding. Since they all finished their homework, they all got to participate and they were SO excited (every kid I know loves to cook!). I mixed two boxes of instant vanilla pudding with four cups of milk--and I made a total mess because I was using a slotted spoon... The kids thought that was quite funny. Later, when they were all enjoying their pudding (with a spoonful of whipped topping), I opened the tub of whipped cream and put some in my mouth. I accidentally got some whipped cream on the side of my mouth, but I didn't wipe it away. The kids all started laughing and pointing--I kept saying "What? What's wrong? Why are you laughing?"--but none of them had the language to tell me what was wrong. And they were laughing too hard. One boy was literally in tears. The closest anyone got to telling me was saying "your mouth!". It was all quite memorable. We took lots of pictures, and I would love to post one of all of my students, but for confidentiality reasons, I can't.... so I'll post this one instead :)

Hanging in There...

I'm not going to lie: this week has been a hard one. After Monday's catastrophes, my ears started to hurt. That's no big deal, unless you're me and have no tolerance for pain! On Tuesday, the doctor said something about sinus pressure, but all I know is that every time I took a step, or leaned over, or bent down, it felt like an explosion going off in each ear. Last night I filled my prescription for my nasal spray and I felt a lot better today. I haven't been sleeping well either which doesn't help my performance during the day (but at least I go to bed, unlike some people who have to stay up all night and write papers... that's Max's department!).

Today, as I rushed home right after the bell rang so that Max could take the car to class, I had the option of dropping him off and coming back to school, or staying home. I chose to stay home. I thought I might go insane if I didn't take a break and get some rest. I've been coming home early a lot this week--I guess I'm just sick of working overtime! At least this week is almost over :).

Monday Madness

Today was going to be a big day for me. I was starting a new thematic unit (pumpkins), a new reading program, and a new math program, and we were writing new stories (which means we had to have a "language experience" then write about it--in this case, making playdoh). I got up extra early this morning to make sure I had all my ducks in a row. I had made carefully laid out plans and had a check-off to-do list so that I didn't forget anything vital.

School starts at 8:35, and by 8:45, everything was already going downhill. Another DHH teacher had a family emergency and the school couldn't get a sub, so I was stuck with three extra kids all day. I didn't even have enough chairs. Making playdoh with the first reading group (they're split into two according to reading levels) went well. But then recess happened and my new kid decided it would be appropriate to tie a jump rope around another kid's neck then step down on the rope really hard. The victim has a rope burn across his neck that is painful to even look at, and none of my kids would admit who did it. Finding the right culprit took about ten minutes and three eye-witnesses. I had to have the speech-therapist watch my kids as I went down to the office with the offending party as my aide was in a 30 minute meeting. I lost about 35 minutes of instructional time and, as a result, couldn't do the playdoh experience with the second reading group until after lunch, which resulted in not doing the new reading program at all today. And I was so excited to start it.

It was a chaotic, stressful day. Add to that the fact that our new vice principal "stepped on my toes" (actually, more like stomped) twice today... I'm discovering that it's quite stressful to consciously choose not to be angry with someone.

But, I came home at 3:30 today (Max needed the car for class) and so I think I'll go and enjoy the extra rest so that I feel up to going back to school tomorrow......

The Reign of Terror and the Sunshine Committee

I feel like I should tell everyone what's been going on this week, but I can't get into too much detail because 1) confidentiality issues with students and staff, and 2) it's not Christian-ly of me to bad mouth my boss.

Let's just say that our new vice principal feels it's her Duty to be involved in EVERYthing, whether or not it's in her job description. And if she's not included in something and she gets wind of it, she'll get her feelings hurt and hold a grudge and not let it go until she's called two additional meetings and asserted her power (under the guise of being a "better support" to us, of course). In the process, she's treating the staff very unprofessionally--like we're students. I didn't realize how angry that would make me feel! Apparently I don't get along well with administrators on Power Trips.

The result of all of this is that the staff is unhappy. No one will tell her how we REALLY feel because we're afraid we'll be blacklisted and miserable for the rest of the time she's VP here. She has already created an atmosphere where the staff has to look over their shoulders before they say something (not even necessarily conversation about her). It's like a Reign of Terror. The solution then is to either 1) suck up, or 2) hide and avoid her like the plague, or 3) pray. I vote number 2 and 3.

But I have to stop myself from being angry with her and show her some mercy. I've never had to pray for my enemies before because I never felt like I had any enemies before. Turns out, it's kinda hard....

IRONICALLY, as fate would have it, I'm on a committee that voted me to be the one who presented our principal and vice-principal with Boss's Day cards and gift certificates at the Flagdeck tomorrow in front of the whole school. Needless to say, Max is coaching me on what to say so that I don't actually lie about how I feel, and so that I don't betray how I actually feel. I wonder if there's glue out there that will hold a smile in place?!?

Lotsa News

I realize it has been a while since I last updated... but there is news!!

On the home front:
Our renters insurance company FINALLY decided to compensate us for our losses from the mold. After almost seven weeks sleeping on the floor, this is welcome news. This is totally from the Lord--for so long it seemed like we would get nothing. We did everything right and were never vindictive--and we were rewarded!! God is good!

On the school front:
Things are busy and stressful. I'm getting a new student tomorrow (he'll be number 10--yikes!) and there is lots to do in preparation for that. I had a huge once-every-three-years meeting with parents this afternoon, and there was a lot of preparation for that (thankfully it went well). I'm starting two new programs in my classroom on Monday--one in reading and one in math.... and things have definitely been busy getting materials prepared and re-structuring our curriculum and our daily schedule to make room for them. I have lots running through my mind and I find myself exhausted at the end of the day yet unable to fall asleep for some time after I climb in bed... hopefully that will change soon!

On the social front:
I think the fact that I have a "social front" to mention is news in itself :). We had dinner with some colleagues last Sunday; we're having dinner tomorrow night with an old friend from our church in Grand Rapids; and this weekend we're probably going to get together with a couple from our current church who we get along really well with. I feel like a social butterfly this week...


I'm too tired for this, but I realize that there are people out there desperate to hear about what I've been up to and how I'm doing (...ahem....). So, let me sum up in bullet form:
  • I've been getting progressively sicker and sicker this week. When half of the class is coughing, it's only a matter of time... I never had to take a sick day last year, so maybe I'll use them this year?!
  • I had a very tense special education zone meeting yesterday (all sp.ed teachers from the district were there). One lady I didn't know went off for TWENTY MINUTES about how she hates the computer system on which we do our IEP paperwork. She was saying things like "we don't get paid enough to do this", "It's ruining my life" (verbatim), etc. I sat there in disbelief. Suck it up. Do your job...even the parts you don't like. Seriously, we could have been out of the meeting 20 minutes earlier if it hadn't been for her fruitless complaints.
  • We had picture day today. I survived.
  • I had cheez-its for dinner because I didn't feel like cooking...
  • I stayed at school until 7:00 tonight to do said paperwork on said computer program. It must be done! Better to stay late on a weekday then to come in on a Saturday, right?
  • I'm so tired right now, I literally feel like I'm sleeping with my eyes open....


I did something for the very first time last Thursday. I was inspired to write a grant for a software program called Earobics for my classroom. It wasn't a very large grant ($687), but it was definitely a last-minute grant (the deadline was Friday). I got some advice from some people who have written them and recieved them before and I'm pretty sure I wrote a STRONG grant. At least, I got positive feedback from colleagues, so that's good. Now all I have to do is sit around and wait till March to find out if I got the grant or not. I really hope I do.

My students are also very proud of themselves these days. My aide bought a device to help teach children how to tie their shoes (it's kind of like a large rectangle covered with material with large holes and laces). It turns out that half of my second and third graders can't tie their own shoes. Two of them have mild cerebral palsy issues, and two of them just never learned. My aide showed them how to do it, and they've been practicing like crazy ever since! They are so excited! They are even helping the younger ones across the hall now.

What a great thing it is to feel a sense of accomplishment!

Professor B.

I was in a meeting yesterday. But for once, I was the one running the meeting!! Granted, only the third grade team was there (about seven teachers), but it still counts. I was explaining a fantastic research-based math program that guarantees automatic memorization of basic math facts in only seven minutes a day. (I happened to go to a conference--I'm not actually a math fact expert...). Everyone was very excited to try it in their classrooms after my forty-five minute presentation on it. I thought I would be nervous giving the presentation but I absolutely wasn't. It felt totally natural, and I actually enjoyed myself. Ten minutes after the meeting was over, one of my colleagues said I did a great job and asked me if I had had any training in "educational leadership" (didn't know there was such a thing!). I was definitely flattered! I got worried, however, when upon learning that I hadn't met any of the "big-wigs" in the district, she vowed she would "show me off". I could get in trouble... In my previous post, I explained how I was "sticking it to the man" (Hannah's words). It wouldn't be the same if I met "the man", and if "the man" decided to look over my shoulder as I taught. Sometimes it's better to be just one among the masses :)

Old News, Mold News

I realize this may be old news, but last Thursday was Back-to-School night and I think it's worth mentioning. I never expect to see many parents at these functions since all of our parents in the DHH program are out of district and have to drive many moons to get to school. That said, you can imagine my surprise when five out of nine families showed up!! YEA for me! A great time was had by all, and I almost managed to forget that I was at school from 6:45 to 8:00 PM.

My weekend was equally good and bad. Friday night was a relaxing evening in a quiet apartment as Max was in class. Saturday, I went out to lunch with a friend from high school who just moved to Orange County over the summer. We had a good time, and I got sick on a Mint Chip Dazzler from Haagen Daaz. I picked Max up at 3:00, and since he was feeling sick from being sick, and I was feeling sick from my gluttony, we opted to sit in front of our enormous TV for the rest of the afternoon and get caught up on Monk. Sunday was entirely wasted on moving all of our stuff out of our oldy-moldy apartment and dumping it in the dumpster. We saved some things, but 80% of it was too risky to keep. You wouldn't think dumping stuff would take all day, but it did. Max worked for 10 hours and I worked for 8. Some of the things I had to throw away made me sad. I guess it was a good reminder that you can't take "stuff" with you to heaven!

Shhh! Secret Success

I'm sitting at the computer, dead tired. But this tired is a much different tired than last year... Last year, I was defeated-tired, fed-up-tired, exasperated-tired, and even depressed-tired. This year, I'm tired from having done my job, and having done it well.

I'm amazed at how different this year is turning out to be! I have ten 2nd/3rd graders (nine in the classroom; one is mainstreamed full time) who are very ... low... in every way. Two of them are non-readers, and one of the non-readers only knows 20 out of 26 letters of the alphabet. Then why do I feel so good about things at the end of the day? As I thought about it, I realized that these are two different classes.

Last year's class was competitive, rough, petty, hyper, sensitive, and even catty.
This year's class is sweet, friendly, CALM, and cooperative.

As my aide pointed out, this year's class is a joy to teach. And if you're thinking this is a honeymoon period, you're wrong; I checked with last year's teacher and this is how they are all the time. LUCKY ME!!

But the real kicker in my attitude/energy level/motivation/emotional well-being, is that I made the executive decision (shh, don't tell!) to teach my kids what they need to learn, whether or not that corresponds with the reading or math curriculum the state of California and our district has adopted. Revolutionary, huh? No longer do I feel like I'm banging my head against a wall every day trying to teach reading skills my students aren't ready for. Instead, I feel GREAT about what I'm doing, because it's working, and for the first time in my career, I'm seeing some growth!! YEA FOR ME!

My non-reader finally read the first five sight words from the Dolch list today. (the, and, to, he, a). We've been working with these words for three days, and I finally pulled him aside for some good old-fashioned "drill and kill". We spent five minutes seeing who could say each word on a flashcard first. If he could read it, he kept the card, and if he missed it or I had to remind him what the word was, I kept it. We went through all five words like, eight times before he finally got them all but when he did ... we cheered!! He was SO excited and SO proud! He got all five right three times in a row, and I am not kidding you when I say I literally had tears in my eyes. Seeing his beaming, freckled face under his white-blonde hair was all I needed to remember why I am a Teacher.

Teacher AND Housewife

With Max in school full time, I find myself in another role--that of a housewife. Last year, I was spoiled by anyone's standards: he took care of all the cooking and cleaning and laundry. This year is a different story...this weekend, I cooked TWO meals! I haven't cooked a meal, since, gosh, I can't even remember. My first turned out great: a fritatta recipe I found on the internet. The second meal went fine but I had to have some help seasoning the turkey burger. I had lots of time to be a housewife over the weekend. Not so much during the week, though... Today I'm dead tired; Max is tired and a little stressed and a little under the weather. We both got home around six tonight (one car, remember?) and we both looked at each other wondering who would cook dinner? :) We are learning the whole "give-and-take" thing again....

On the school front, week two is going well so far. We started our apple unit today by making "apple smiles" with round apple slices, peanut butter, and raisins. The kids loved it; it was really yummy; and I got them to say enough sentences about the activity so that it became a decent story :). I was actually surprised that no one turned up their noses at the raisins--I would have at their age!

I love you, Tomorrow!

Real quick post because it's 6:40 and I'm still at school (I know, I know...) and I need to get back in time to cook the pizza, eat the pizza, then pick up Max from class.

Crazy day. I had planned to assess all my kids in reading and language with informal placement tests. I had my assessment binder out and a plan all set for when and where this would happen. Then suddenly this morning my principal decides that the one student I have mainstreaming full time with Mrs. X is going to be moved to Mrs. Y's classroom because of a "numbers issue". Wouldn't be a big deal but said student has already spent three days in Mrs. X's class and is nicely adjusting and making friends. So I had to spend all my assessment time meeting with Mrs. X and Mrs. Y and talking to mom on the phone (in my most reassuring voice), then breaking the news to the said student (who thankfully seemed to take this all quite well...). Bottom line, I still have no idea how to group my kids for reading and language lessons thanks to a "numbers issue".

But I will not despair for There Is Always Tomorrow :)

Wasted Wednesday

Day Two went well. I'm discovering more and more about my new set of kids and my two new students. My second new student started in my class today (transportation issues yesterday). He's darling but from what I can tell, he has very little oral language--he's been signing all of his answers to me. I just lean in and say "I didn't hear you" and then he tries to say it out loud, but he is very shy about it :). He must think I'm pretty stupid for not understanding his signs!

Wednesday is our meeting day, so after the early dismissal I got a little bit of work done then headed over to the lounge. Our principal won us all over by provided free ice cream bars and popsicles for us, but quickly lost our admiration when he made us sit through a forty minute video we had all seen before (some had seen it twice before) at other staff meetings with him. So there we were, alternating between licking our ice cream, glaring at him, and checking our watches, and all the while he's standing there, smiling and laughing, clearly loving every minute of his favorite motivational video! Ah, meetings...the weekly waste of time :).

One down....

.... one hundred and seventy-nine to go!

Today was the first day of my second year of teaching. Last year on this day, my colleagues swarmed into my room and gave me congratulatory hugs and a gift signed by all of them to commemorate my first day of my career. Nothing like that happened when the last bell rang today, but I still felt a sense of triumph over a successful first day :).

It started way too early--my alarm rang at six, but I was so anxious about today that I tossed and turned from about 4:30 on. The kids came at around 8:30... so cute in their "first day" outfits and hair all neatly done. No one was really shy on account that they were all in the same class last year, but I do have a new student whose mom confided in me that he was very nervous. Fortunately, he fit right in with the rest of the class. All the activities that I had planned went quite well. My favorite part of the day was during calendar time when I taught them a short song about the days of the week. They were all so adorable as they sang out unabashedly (with no regard as to whether they sounded "cool" or not--something last year's class would have been self-conscious about!). I've got to find a way to sing more songs in my curriculum :).

By the end of the day, I was quite exhausted from all the excitement--I'm sure I'll sleep much better tonight! I also forgot how hard it is to get motivated to go on a walk after a full day of work... Back to the routine!


As you may have read from Max's blog, I was indeed at school for thirteen hours yesterday. But I do have an excuse! I was trying my very hardest to get all the loose ends wrapped up before Tuesday without coming in over the weekend. I would have been home sooner if the administration hadn't wasted four hours of my morning yesterday in a meeting. Oh well. It was a little spooky being at school after dark--I was even scared away from going to make copies in the work room. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), when I walked out to my car at 8:20, there were six other teacher cars in the parking lot, so apparently I wasn't the only one burning the midnight oil...
I apologize if my readers are sick of hearing about school, but 'tis my life now. I've been a little cranky about being back at work after such an exceptional summer. During the last ten days, every time I thought about Tuesday (in three days when I have kids) I've felt .... dread. Not that I don't like my job, but it's very hard going from having no responsibilities to having heavy responsibilities--from a slow paced summer to a fast paced job with all the busy-ness and stress that goes along with that. Having said that, something weird happened yesterday around three. I was still feeling that dread until the very moment I taped down the first desk-tag (like a name tag you use to label each desk). Then suddenly it was like something clicked... I found myself smiling down tenderly at the little desks, smiling in anticipation for when the little munchkins will get here. And now I'm strangely looking forward to getting started! Bizarre.

Check out Max's blog and find out why all I could say was "WHAT HAPPENED??" when I walked in the door last night :).

Ready, Set, ....

I just dropped Max off for his first day of school -- or should I say "his first day of his first masters"? Because, let's face it, he's a career student :).
Speaking of students, mine are coming on Tuesday and I'm still not ready, despite working in my classroom every day for the last 9 days in a row. My goal is to get everything prepared by Friday evening so that I can have a real 3 day weekend to relax and not think about school. We'll see if that happens...
My room is looking more "together" even though there are piles of textbooks and folders strewn about. Most of the important bulletin boards are up, and our awesome janitor came in and lowered the heights of all my desks-- I have a predominantly short group coming in this year :). Other than getting my room ready, I've also been in meetings all week. Most were relevant.
On the hair front, it turns out that the "shaggy dog" look looks good on me!I've gotten several positive comments from friends/colleagues, so I feel better about things and less like crying :). On the home front, we're still waiting for a check to drop out of the sky so that we can finally sleep on a bed and crash on a couch. Pray, pray, pray!

Odds and Ends

Well, we're still waiting and working. Right now, I'm taking a break from reorganizing my files--what a mess: papers everywhere! I went to get my hair cut over lunch and it turned out rather disastrously... picture a shaggy dog, and you'll know what she did to my bangs. Oh well. I guess hair grows back, right?
I just got off the phone with my fantastic aide. She said she is ready to come back to school (that makes one of us!). We're going out to lunch tomorrow so that'll be nice. I'll be able to brief her on all the changes I want to make! Hopefully I'll be a much better teacher this year than last year. I've been busy putting up bulletin boards and dusting off posters and putting them on the wall. I've decided that it's much more fun to take things down and put things away than it is to take stuff out and put it up!! I am trying to be motivated, no really, I am!
Max said that maybe tomorrow we'll go out and see a movie for one Last Hurrah of the Summer (my first staff day is Wednesday and Max's first day of classes is Thursday). I'm writing it on the blog so that the "maybe" will be "definitely" :). We'll see...

Waiting and Working

I think the title of this post sums up my existence this week quite well. On the one hand, we've been waiting for the mold inspector, the building management people, and our insurance agency to communicate and get to the same page so someone can write us a check. We won't let all this hassle deter us from collecting fair compensation :). In the meantime, we've been sleeping on roll-up mattresses on the floor, which was fine for a couple of nights, but it's getting old now! Since we can't shop for new stuff yet, we've bleached and washed our dishes and our dining room table (which didn't seem to be affected) as well as our TV stand. Waiting is frustrating, but at least there is plenty of work in my classroom to keep me busy! I am slowly but surely making progress on my long to-do list. First staff day is next Wednesday, and first day with the kids is Sep. 5th, so I have some time left before D-day. My conference on reading in Long Beach (in response to the comment on the previous post, I think they named everything "-beach" to show off) went really well. My colleague and I are really excited to start using this new curriculum for decoding. We even got the district to foot the bill for the 3000 dollars it will cost to purchase the materials--wonder of wonders!!

I met the new teacher that moved in next door to me. The Deaf/Hard-of-hearing preschool room used to be next do0r, but they moved it to a different site. So now, our quad of portables includes a third grade general ed. room! I think it's nice that we're not so sequestered anymore. Anyways, Ms. B is really great--she used to teach at this school for a long time before she had some health problems, but now she's back and I can tell we're really going to get along. She's a Christian too! I hardly got anything done in my classroom today because I was so busy chatting with everyone I hadn't seen since June--I guess I'll try again tomorrow! :)

Moldy Miracle

Well, I hardly know where to start...
As you may know from reading Max's blog, we were greeted by mold when we walked into our apartment last Thursday. The stink was awful. Upon inspection, we found mold growing pretty much everywere from our computer to our mattresses to our clothes and shoes. We decided it wouldn't be healthy to stay and went to Grandma's house until we could get things sorted out with our renter's insurance company and with the building complex. Things still aren't resolved yet, but we do have a brand new, renovated apartment upstairs and down the hall from our old one. The new apartment is awesome: light tan walls with crown moulding, brand new/bigger Whirlpool appliances, nice wood cabinetry, track lighting, and sweet-looking countertops. It's usually two hundred more a month for rent but the building complex decided to give it to us at our normal rent (if they didn't and the mold was toxic, we could sue for a lot--if we wanted that headache!). Right now we're sleeping on the floor on some mattress pads and eating out of Grandma's dishes. The only furniture we have in here is a new desk from Ikea, and a new office chair so that Max can do all of his studying as he prepares for his first day of class next week. We are waiting for the mold report from the expert. If he determines that it was caused by an event (which we believe is standing water from a few months ago when firefighters put out a fire in the dumpster), then our renter's insurance will reimburse us for up to 5000 dollars as we replace everything... so we're definitely praying for that to happen. It would be fun to go on a shopping spree and get a new bed, bedding, a couch, and new clothes and shoes! But I'm trying not to get my hopes up. We will definitely have a lot of work to do as Max studies, I get my classroom ready, and we both shop for items and/or clean salvageable items. I'm trying not to panic...

Today, I worked in my classroom for the first time since being back. The room got kinda trashed over the summer (summer school) and I have a lot to do to get the room reorganized, to get myself organized, and to plan for the first week of school. Tomorrow I go to Long Beach for a two day conference about teaching reading that the district is paying for. I'm going with a colleague so it should be fun!

California, here we come...

...right back where we started from.

Tomorrow, we leave for California. This is a sad statement because it means going back to work. I like my job, of course, but I like being on vacation even more! It also means saying goodbye to green, luscious, beautiful Michigan and saying hello to congested, busy, dry, empty, California. I might feel better about going back if I could take all of my family with me, but I can't.

As I think back to all of my other summer vacations (as a student), I realize that I took them for granted. They were natural stops in the school year, not necessarily deserved or earned. In the Real World where people work for a living, only teachers get such extended time off in the summers. It would be unheard of to give doctors and lawyers and secretaries and cooks two months off during the year (at least in America). So I didn't take this summer for granted.... never before have I felt such an urgent need to have a complete break from everything about my job, never before have I felt I deserved so much time off. I'm grateful for summers. Even though teachers have stressful jobs, they/we are probably more healthy individuals for the breaks we are given.

Since I've had nearly two months to recuperate from my hectic first year, I should be ready to march back into my classroom ready to get my hands and knees dirty in preparing for another school year. Why is it, then, that every time I think about it I feel so unmotivated?? I can only hope that once I get started, I'll remember how much I like my job and why I chose this profession!

On the Road Again

Well, after nearly four days on the road, we are finally in Alabama. I didn't break my record of "time spent sleeping in the car" from Croatia, but no one can say that I didn't try.

We had a lot of fun visiting the Biltmore Estates. Though built in a European style, it still contrasted with the French castles of the Loire. The Biltmore house was built in an old style but it looked quite new, comparatively, to Chambord for example. The tall doorways between bedrooms were also different from French castle doors (short to accommodate the shorter French). I really enjoyed being there, and I especially liked the guided audio tour we took. There are sooo many rooms that it took us nearly two hours to walk through it! It was nice that they opened nearly everything to the public--French castles generally don't do that.

We also had a lot of fun walking through its many gardens (despite the intense heat) and visiting the dairy farm. I even got to hold a baby chick! I thought about taking it home...

We've also been having fun with the grandparents in Alabama. Yesterday we went out to eat at a REALLY good seafood/chicken place (everything was fried.... everything). Then we attempted to watch Superman Returns at a local theater, but ten minutes into it we had to leave because the thunderstorm had shut off the power. But we got refund tickets and I expect to be giving it a second try before we leave :). Today is our four year wedding anniversary! Max and I are going to "celebrate" by being with family (plenty of time to be alone when we go back to California next week...). Right now we're getting ready to leave for Dauphin Island. It should be fun, if the storm holds off....

A Teacher's Nightmare

Last night I had a nightmare. It was the first day of school and I rolled in a mere half an hour early... and I had nothing planned and I hadn't even set foot in my classroom since June! I didn't recognize my students, and one little girl had brought in a real live panda and a tiger cub for show and tell. I felt like I was sinking into panic....
Luckily, that was all just a dream. I'm sure I'll be nice and prepared for the real thing :). I realized that I have two weeks left here with family before we fly back to California. Where did the time go??? I know when I get there I'll want to hit the ground running, so I'm making a conscious effort to milk this vacation for all it's worth. I'm going to bed late and getting up late, I'm drinking my tea in front of the TV, I'm still reading novels, I'm making cards to my heart's content, and I even baked cookies last night. I'm also trying my very hardest to push all thoughts of what needs to be done when I get back out of my head. That takes more effort than one might think!
Well, Saturday we leave for Alabama to visit grandparents. Am I looking forward to seeing them? Yes. Am I looking forward to the car trip? No. My goodness, no. I'm thinking of knocking myself unconscious with Dramamine to avoid all the carsickness. But who knows what fun I'd miss out on if I did? :)

Traveling Mercies

Well, we're back in good ol' Michigan. I maybe should have ended that sentence in an exclamation mark as it was quite the Event getting here... It was only supposed to take a little over twenty hours to get from Guebwiller, France to Lapeer, USA. Instead it took us 48. We were stranded in the Philadelphia airport for 28 hours as our original flight got delayed, delayed, delayed, then canceled. After spending a less-than-comfortable night sleeping in the airport (see picture on Max's blog from when we woke up), volunteering to get bumped on our 12 o'clock flight (giving us two free tickets), then volunteering again on our 2 o'clock flight (two more free tickets), then waiting as our 5:30 flight got delayed, then delayed again, we FINALLY arrived in Detroit, where the in-laws were waiting to drive us the 90 minutes it took to get home. Whew! But we're here, and that's what matters.
Max has been thrilled to watch TV he can understand, and I've been scrambling to find some more books to read. And we've both been battling the mosquitos and the heat. Later I plan to get crackin on making some cards as all of my supplies are stored upstairs in a box. But for now we've been hanging out with family and eating picnics. We just saw Rebekah, my sister, off to Syracuse, New York. She had her car all packed, managed to get her air conditioning fixed just in time for this awful heat wave, and she was off!! She acted as if she was just going for a quick trip to the grocery store, instead of moving to a far-away state.... She certainly has changed since she was that timid girl who was going off to college for the first time, unsure about everything. The New Rebekah is brimming with confidence and a taste for adventure! I sure will miss her....

Local Color

Blue: For our new house (carefully photographed to avoid the neighbors' houses)

Green: For the unwelcome visitor we had in our bedroom the other night!

Red: For Spaghetti Ice--obviously!
Yellow: For the brie cheese I often ate for lunch.
Brown: For the walking paths that wind through the myriad of vineyards on the hills behind the house.
Local Color (and Local Mom and Dad), I shall miss you!!

Breaking Rules

It's a sad thing when you break a self-imposed rule. On June 23rd, the last day of school, I made a promise to myself not to do anything education-related until we got back to town in mid-August. At that point, I would go to my classroom, clean out and re-organize my cupboards and my overflowing files, put up bulletin boards, brainstorm ideas for more lessons, and all of that fun stuff.
But then.....
I was surfing the net and came across a discussion board for new teachers on scholastic's website. A new teacher was asking for organization tips and a different teacher wrote her back and gave her two websites full of useful information. Curious, I clicked on the links. Before I knew it, I was thinking about the new school year and brainstorming ways to implement all of these great ideas I was finding on these sites. For the past two days now, I've been looking through the vast amounts of pictures, ideas, and advice on these websites. It's so fun, and a little addicting. And I think it was okay to break my rule this once, just as long as I don't burnout before the first day of school :).

Croatia P.S

(Suggestions for a caption? Anyone?)

Our Feathered Friend

I don't know how many of you out there know this, but my parents have a bird. She's an African Grey and her name is Gaby. We've had her for about 17 years now and she's supposed to live anywhere in between 40 and 80 years. Believe it or not, she's actually in the will! Gaby has entertained us for many years with her antics. In addition to teaching her all kinds of funny phrases that she'll blurt out at inappropriate times (most notably when she said "Whatever" during a momentary lull during a French Bible study at our house), she's amused us in other ways too. We let her out of her cage periodically--she just likes to sit on top of it and act like she's taller than everyone else-- and once she flew straight into the blinds and got herself tangled. Another time she flew right into the Christmas tree (it must've been all the dazzling lights). A few months after we taught her the wolf whistle, she did it as grandma was walking out of the bathroom wearing only a towel.... Ah good times.
Within the past few years, she's become what I like to call "psycho". She used to like me a lot but I noticed in high school that she would squawk furiously whenever I entered the room. Recently she's begun to pluck her feathers out so that she looks half bald... and half insane. We think maybe she's lonely but apparently there's "no way" we're getting another bird to keep her company. She also has some kind of problem with her nose and her nostrils are really big and stuffy. Oh, and her beak looks cracked but I'm not sure if it is.
The reason I mention Gaby is that we were at a garden store yesterday that was selling different kinds of birds. I saw three African Greys for sale and they all looked young, beautiful, and normal. (They were also quite expensive.) Maybe that's a good thing because if we brought another one home, Gaby might get jealous.... Poor bird. She's a mess but I love her anyway.


Well, as Max has dutifully pointed out, mom and I went out for another ice cream in Kandern's Eis Cafe yesterday. I ordered another spaghetti eis (I could have one at every meal and not get sick of them), and instead of getting teary-eyed this time, I just wanted to bury my face in it in an effort to shove the whole thing in my mouth because it was just that tasty. Sometimes I wonder if I have a problem....
Mom and I just got back from a pretty nice thrift store in France. It was very hot and muggy outside, and as there was no air conditioning inside, I soon found myself sweating (which is no big deal to everyone else but as I was never into sports or hard labor, it's a rather new and unpleasant feeling). But the good news, I'm happy to report, is that I got a cute shirt out of the deal.
Other than that, I've been reading quite a bit. I've strayed from Thomas B. Costain (not from boredom but from running out of his books) and wandered into the world of Jeffrey Archer. And what about this: they're now starting to make trailers for books. I'm not sure what I think about that yet.

Croatian Sensation

Ahhh, we're back.

We had a great trip, despite changing our plans rather last minute and ditching Venice (I'm sure it'll still be there to visit within the next ten years). Our two nights and one full day in Opatija, Croatia was worth the loooong car rides getting there and back. I never would have been able to stand the car sickness had it not been for the ability that the Lord (graciously) gave me to fall asleep at the drop of hat. Since I can't read in the car, it really is my only defense mechanism, no matter how much Max makes fun of me for it ;).
We arrived at our hotel and it was thankfully quite lovely (when booking through the internet, you just never know).

That evening, we found a restaurant that overlooked the fantastic coastline of the Adriatic Sea and ordered pizza. As it turns out, portions are quite small in Croatia (though the pizza was tasty). I reached the same conclusion when I used the bathroom in our hotel room and discovered that the toilet paper was dispensed one sheet at a time--picture an upside down tissue box. As the evening light became progressively dimmer, we opted for a stroll along the coast and an ice cream cone. The ice cream was practically gelato because of Croatia's relative proximity to Italy. They had flavors that were awesome... nutella, kinder chocolate, ferrero rocher... needless to say, I was in heaven.

The next day, after a very generous hotel breakfast (when there's all you can eat bacon, I can get a little crazy), the four of us headed for the "beach". I put beach in quotation marks because there's no sand. There's pavement/sidewalk, then water. At the edge of the water there were dozens and dozens of brightly colored lounge chairs and umbrellas for public use. Since we got there well after ten, these were all taken. Once we had settled on our towels on the cement, we plunged into the Adriatic. Actually, mom and dad plunged, and Max and I crept in inch by inch on account of the water feeling SO cold at first. We alternated between laying out in the sun and creeping into the water for a couple of hours, then decided to eat our lunch on our hotel terrace. And by lunch, I mean stolen breakfast rolls with meat and cheese :).

After lunch, we debated what to do next for quite a while. It was getting very hot and muggy, but despite that, we went on a walk around the coastline, finally landing at a little cafe where I had my first Orangina in I don't remember how long. We walked back to the hotel where mom and dad decided a nap was in order. I was only too glad to get back to the room as I felt in bad need of a fan--I am such a wimp when it comes to hot weather (and cold weather for that matter.... good thing we're in CA for the time being). Max and I watched Columbo in English on TV and learned some Croatian from the subtitles. I've decided it would be a hard language to learn (something that dad demonstrated as he tried to learn "Have a nice day" in Croatian from the hotel receptionist. The man was having a good laugh at dad's expense, I'm afraid!)

That night we ate at the Grand Hotel Adriatic at a secluded table for four overlooking the coastline. It was a nice way for mom to celebrate her birthday! Sadly, all the fresh seafood was gone by then, but everyone enjoyed their dishes anyway. We lingered for nearly two hours, enjoying the company and the view. Afterwards it was only fitting that we finish off the evening with another delicious ice cream cone. Have I mentioned that I like ice cream? We walked through boutiques on the way back to the hotel.

And the next day was our loooong car ride home. Thankfully, I slept for six out of the 15 hours we were on the road. (I'll try to beat that record on the way to Alabama!). We saw some amazing scenery on the way home as we drove through Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, then France. Needless to say, my hind parts were numb, despite a few stops to stretch. Here's a picture of us stretching in the Italian Alps ;).

Spaghetti Sentimentality

Two days ago, the boys went to Kandern (my "old" hometown and the site of Black Forest Academy, my high school) to play basketball, so Mom and I took the opportunity to eat ice cream at the Eis Cafe and walk around town. The Eis Cafe is a local ice cream parlor that I used to frequent VERY often during my days at BFA. It was a major social hangout and the scene of many high school dramas for me :). I haven't been able to go there in five years because they are only open in the summer and I usually visit in the winter. As I walked up to the shop, I tried to remember the owners--would they be there? Mom picked a table outside and I peeked my head inside. Sure enough, the wife of the owner was there and she hadn't changed a bit in five years! She smiled wide when I came in and I wondered if maybe she recognized me. When she came out to get our orders, she gave my shoulder a squeeze and said in German a very enthusiastic "How are you? It's been so long!" I was SO suprised (and flattered) to be recognized... I ate a lot of ice cream in high school :). The lady is Italian and German is her second language so you can imagine we did a big of gesturing to communicate. She pointed to her ring finger and exclaimed that I was married now. "Four years!" I told her. She asked me if I had any kids by showing an imaginary pregnancy bump on her tummy. I smiled and said no. Then we did a lot of smiling and nodding and Mom congratulated her on Italy winning the World Cup.
I finally gave her my order. What else? A "spaghetti eis". It's a glob of whip cream, on top of which is vanilla ice cream put through a little hand held machine and thus made to look like noodles. Then it's covered with a syrupy strawberry sauce and topped off with grated white chocolate made to look like parmesan cheese. It's FANTASTICALLY good--maybe you can tell from the picture. I've been craving one for five years! As soon as I bit into it, I almost choked up and cried. Call me sentimental but it was like eating a memory. As soon as I tasted it, it brought back a flood of high school memories I hadn't thought about in years. I feel so old.

Anyways, I wish you all could be here so that I could treat you to a spaghetti eis! There's nothing in the world quite like it ;). You won't be hearing from me for a few days as we are heading off to Eastern Europe for three days of adventure. We'll be staying at a beach town in Croatia, driving through Slovenia, and stopping for a short stay in Venice while the city is still afloat :).

French Skepticism Justified

At the end of last night's World Cup final, all that you could hear was eerie silence. Actually, I heard a lot of crickets. I think the whole country was sitting in shocked disbelief that their national team who had dominated the entire game lost to Italy in a shoot-out. But it was more than that. Their "best" player (Zidane) and hero totally threw the game by losing his temper and head-butting an opponent in the chest over some petty grievance, thus earning a red card and getting thrown out of the game during overtime. As Zidane was retiring after this game, this last act of his career will go down in history as selfish, prideful and ugly. What a shame! I can't wait to hear how the French news will spin this. Last night, the president of France was quoted as saying that "fate" was against us and that "chance" didn't go our way. How typical to pass off the blame!

Let's hope that the World Cup 2010 is a different story!

Sports and cars and sport cars

Forgive me as I post once again about the World Cup... it's hard not to catch the fever when you are here! I was watching the French national news the day after the big victory in the semi-final against Portugal. The news spent a full 35 minutes covering brief highlights of the game, and celebration all across the country. Apparently the entire country erupted in cheering, singing, dancing, and horn honking. There was also church bell ringing, fountain climbing and splashing, and running with lit fireworks. Crazy. I can't wait to see what happens on Sunday night when France wins. Because they will. Because I said so!

Anyways, we had big plans for sight-seeing in Switzerland today but the weather has thwarted us again. It's been surprisingly overcast and rainy lately after the first few days of sunny mugginess. Dad and Max are going to be playing some street ball with some French guys later today, but before that we're going to go see a free auto show in Mulhouse (yea for free!). I expect to see a lot of cool cars for midgets... that get like 70 miles to the gallon.

Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole!!!

Well, despite French skepticism, WE WON!! We all watched the France-Portugal game last night and France won one to zero because of a penalty shot. The Portuguese were gracious losers, I must say I was quite impressed. The other thing that impressed me is that as soon at it was over, you could hear loud shouts and cries of excitement from our neighbors and the town. The other thing you could hear was loud, continuous car honking for at least a good half hour. It was a little hard to go to bed with all of the cheering and honking outside. But that's what the World Cup is all about ;). Well, we'll have to wait until Sunday for the final game against Italy. They will be hard to beat!!

It's raining right now, and despite the nasty weather, Max is outside again working hard with a rake, hoe, and shovel clearing a mess of weeds from the backyard. Later, we'll be going to Colmar (a charming town about 20 minutes away) to pick up some friends about my age coming from California. They're staying at the house for a night as they make their way around Europe by rail. Wouldn't it be nice if this weather cleared up? In fact, now that I think of it, my dad's out in town on his bike running errands in this downpour. I don't feel too sorry for him, though-- when we were little and had to be outside when it was raining, he always said "Suck it up, a little rain never hurt anybody...". Right back atcha, dad :)!


Disclaimer: The next several weeks will probably have nothing to do with teaching, or being a teacher. Instead, it will be all about my summer vacation. And that is, technically, a part of being a teacher (arguably the best part...)

We finally arrived in France yesterday. How different it was to pull up to a new house in a new town! Everything about this new home is unfamiliar to me. Right away, mom gave us the grand tour. The house struck me as old, creaky, and typically French. It was also light, airy, and overall charming. The great part for my folks is that it is big enough to accommodate lots of people, which is vital to my parent's ministry. I enjoy this new house in a disconnected way. It seems devoid of all the memories the old house had. It will take some getting used to.

This morning I woke up at 6:30 after a ten hour sleep. I'm still jet-lagged but definitely feeling better than yesterday :). I ate one of my favorite French pastries for breakfast called a "pain au chocolat". It's flaky bread with a chocolate strip hidden inside. Then, I watched French cartoons. I was surprised to see "Spongebob Squarepants" translated to French (over here, it's called "Bob, the sponge"). Quite funny. After that, Max and I went outside to the front yard where our neighbor/landlady had invited us to pick all the wild currants that we wanted from a big bush (they're called "groseilles" in French). Later, we'll make a tart with them :). The red berries looked a little poisonous to us at first and Max made up a delightful song about dying from poison set to the tune of "A mighty fortress is our God". Don't ask...

Later on today we'll probably go to the store with mom to pick up some patio furniture for the balcony outside our bedroom. And hopefully, I'll be awake tonight to watch France play Portugal in the semi-finals tonight for the World Cup. Germany lost to Italy last night, which was a very sad thing indeed. The French, typically pessimistic, are not waving French flags all over like the Germans did to root for their team. We're the only house on the block that's waving a French flag in honor of the game tonight.... Ironic, wouldn't you say?

Lazy Days

It hasn't been a week since school has been out. Have I thought about my kids? Yes. Have I been in a hurry to get back to work? No. Not yet, anyway :). I've had a fun couple of days, staying up late, sleeping in, traveling, watching TV, going to a Tiger's game, and reading my novel. I am basking in my empty schedule! Instead of waking up at six in the morning thinking about the million things I have to do when I get to school, I wake up at nine and ask myself "What will I do today?" and smile when I realize "whatever I want!" Ahh, the life of a teacher. How does anyone survive with just 2 weeks of vacation a year?

No School Today

How did I really feel about sleeping in today and not going to work? Take a guess ;)

Welcome to the End!

When I pictured the end of the school year, I imagined myself running free to the school gate (think slow motion, and to the background music: "Chariots of Fire") then floating to my car in sheer joy and exultation. It turns out that the reality was a bit different....
At 12:20 when I returned from dropping my kids off at the bus, I scrambled to get the last few things taken care of in the classroom. I tossed in the trash whatever I couldn't find a place for. I quickly threaded string through my filing cabinets, then chained up my four supply cabinets with locks. I grabbed my bag and rolled it out with my desk chair into the car. My colleagues and I were going to lunch at a local Mexican eatery at 1:00 and it was 12:45 by the time I got to the office so that they could sign my check-off sheet. That turned out to be tricky, as I had to chase down our principal so he could sign, then I had to wait for our office manager to get through talking to another staff member. By the time I got the needed signatures it was 12:55, and just as I was going for the door, I saw one of my moms walking towards me as she picked up her son. This particular mom is very nice, but she tends to talk a lot and monopolize my time, so I felt justified as I shot a "Have a great summer!" their way and literally ran to my car and zoomed off. But now I feel a little bad about it.... :)

I had a fun time with my DHH colleagues at the restaurant. Everyone was so stress-free and happy-go-lucky! I was feeling a little giddy about the summer too! I'm just so amazed that I actually made it through my first year of teaching! Yea! The fact that it's over hasn't really sunk in yet... I imagine I'll have more to say once I reflect on this crazy year...

If any of you out there are wondering, Field Day was a success! (And not just because I organized and led it--everyone said it was great :) ). We did a water balloon toss, some relay races, duck-duck-goose, and musical chairs. Then I led everyone in a rousing version of Hokey Pokey, as well as the Macarena (another teacher had the music to go along with it!). I'm exhausted and I know I'll sleep well tonight--and sleep in tomorrow!! :)

One More Day!!!!!!!!

Well, this long dreaded day is finally over! Today was the last full day of the year as tomorrow we only go until 12:15. We did our movies, pizza, and board games. Our "board games" turned out to be 90 minutes of BINGO. This turned out to be a brilliant idea as the kids ran the whole show. One student called out the numbers while everyone else played.... and while my aide and I worked on getting the classroom ready for the summer. Somehow, even though we pretty much worked all day on the room, I ended up staying at school till 5:30.
I learned something today. Never, EVER, put sticker name tags on wooden desks. They don't come off easily. I scrubbed and scratched with my "goo-gone" for forty five minutes and only ended up cleaning off four out of my ten desks. My hands and thumbs are raw and red. Fortunately, our janitor took pity on me and offered to do the rest with some better solution/scraper. Thank goodness!! Then all I had to do was to box up my books, store my two butterfly chairs and bean bag in the car, cover all bookshelves with butcher paper, file away all remaining loose papers, and have one last meeting, then I was gone! Just writing about it makes me tired ... and bored. Tomorrow will be much more interesting as it'll be four hours of "field day" ;).


:) Two More Days :(

With two days left to the school year, I have become no more than a glorified babysitter. All pretense of academics has been abandoned! It's a good thing we have fun things planned this week. Tomorrow is officially "pizza party/movie/board games day", and Friday morning is our DHH field day.
Today was the annual "staff vs 6th graders" softball game. It's tradition for the teachers to cream the students, but this year they apparently put up a good fight, and ended up only losing 21 to 6. And guess what? I actually played! And not only did I play, I actually hit the ball with the bat every time it was pitched to me! I wasn't planning on batting, but I was standing with the other teachers and our principal pointed right at me and said "you're up to bat!" and I was more scared of contradicting him than I was afraid to strike out. So.... I ended up hitting a foul ball my first try, a decent hit towards center field my second try (though it didn't quite make it to the outfield), and a pop-up my third try. I was so thrilled to have hit the ball, it didn't really matter that I never got on base! ;)
In other news, it turns out that the end of the school year isn't all joy, anticipation, and fun and games. I had a good cry on the couch this afternoon as I contemplated giving all my kids away to the next teacher. It's not just that I'll miss my kids, it's also that I question the teaching methods of the teacher they're going to in the Fall. But I suppose worrying and being sad won't help matters. I'll have to make the most of the last two days I have with my babies....

News Alot

"We will have fun alot!"

This is what one of my fourth graders told me on our "walking field trip" to the grocery store today. We had decided to go on a picnic. My aide and I took the kids on a fifteen minute walk to Stater Bros, and we bought hot dogs, buns, chips, watermelon, mini-pumpkin pies, and juice. The kids were so excited about it--I was actually a little surprised. We laid out a huge spread under the tree on the field next to the school and the kids had a ball eating themselves sick, lounging around on blankets, and laughing at inside jokes. The sun was shining, and the smell of freedom was in the air...

In other news, the caterpillar eggs that one of my students adopted back in April have become full-grown adults. Let me recap: first there were hundreds of microscopic eggs. Then, 42 ugly caterpillars ate a lot of leaves (see picture). Next, we had thirty-something chrysalides. It was at this point that I started seriously doubting whether or not these were going to be butterflies (they weren't fragile, and they weren't "hanging" chrysalides). I also noticed that the chrysalides seemed soft, and they squirmed and writhed a lot. It was also around this time that I started having horrible nightmares about what they would become and whether they would chew their way through the butterfly house and hide all over my classroom while procreating during the summer. I decided to send the chrysalides home with the lucky student (ah, what peace of mind!). Well, today this student informed me that he had.... moths!! He seemed happy and dejected at the same time. He told me on the way to recess: "I wanted them to be butterflies..." Ah well. It could have been worse.

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