a delicious mistake

This is day two in Alabama with the grandfolks, and day two of all-you-can-eat buffet dinners.

Each time, the food has been quite delicious, but there's just something about a buffet that makes you forget all of your common sense and ignore that little voice that keeps telling you: "Stop eating, you pig! Do you want to end up like that oversized lady over there?" Instead, you're like "I can't hear you lalalalalalala" as you stuff more ribs into your mouth.

And eating at a buffet when you're on vacation is a double-whammy because you think: "I don't need to eat healthy - I'm on VACATION". So you pile on the fried shrimp and get a second helping of ice cream.

And then when it's time to leave, you find yourself struggling to get up from the table... all of that deliciousness is keeping you anchored to your chair.

If you had been eavesdropping on our party of seven tonight as we rolled walked back to the car, you would have heard us say:

"I won't need to eat again. Ever."

"Grandma, do you have any laxatives?"

"Where's the vomitorium?"

"I've got a 'food baby' in my stomach."

"That was a mistake."

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go pass out on the couch while I try to digest....


I might be Missing in Action for the next little while.

Max and I (and the dog) drove over to Alabama to visit with the folks -- next we'll be driving up to Michigan to do some more visiting with folks.

We arrived at 3 AM in the morning because Max got inspired to go right after I got back from my professional development meeting yesterday. So far it's been great!

Our dog Barney is so excited, he's already thrown up five times on the carpet...

Next on the agenda, we might brave the 100 degree weather to go to the beach!

a rude awakening

Today I went to Day 2 of a three day training for reading workshop. It's a statewide event, so there were TONS of teachers there.

I managed to find two other teachers from my school and we met up for lunch. On our way back to our afternoon sessions, I asked "Paula" how she liked being a teacher. Paula came to our school in January of last year to take over a Kindergarten class. She had been a banker for a number of years before her career change.

Here's what she had to say:
You know, it's funny. It seems like every time I turn around, another assessment is due. I feel like I'm always testing. I always thought that as a teacher, I would be doing more..... teaching.
So in honor of Paula, and all of the new teachers out there who may or may not have heard this from their training programs, I offer the following chart:

Teachers in the classroom

Does this ring true with you?

caution! hard hat area -- uncoordinated teacher at work

For the last three weekdays, it's been just me, the janitors, and the principal at school. I've been trying to get things set up so that I can leave on our last vacation of the summer without wigging out at all the stuff I have to do before the first day of school.

Below are the fruits of my labor:
This is my front door. I'm going to write the names of each of my five first graders on the spyglasses. Hopefully it will have a welcoming effect!
Do you sense the pirate theme yet?
The left side of this bulletin board is for showcasing great student work. The right side is going to change on my whim. I think for the first few months, it will be for posting classroom rules.

If you're wondering why it took me three days to put up four bulletin boards (one is not pictured), LET ME JUST TELL YOU. Have you ever tried to hang butcher paper all by yourself? Without crinkling the paper? Without falling off the chair/counter/stool you're standing on? Making sure the whole thing is straight and not lopsided? It's hard work. Especially when I technically have only one bulletin board made out of cork. For the others I had to either use tape or a staple gun.

So that's why it took me so long! If only I wasn't such a perfectionist...

For all of my teacher readers out there.... have you started working in your classroom yet?

sunday, bloody sunday

Here's the thing. There's only three weeks left of my summer break. (And while saying that, I'm dodging knuckle sandwiches and evil eye glares from all my readers out there who have "real" jobs!)

Summer break is ten weeks long, but for my purposes here it's best to think of it as just a weekend.

The first month is like Friday night: you're ready to PART -TAY! You stay up late, you meet up with friends, you go out on the town, you yell Woo Hoo a lot, and have a general disregard for the future. You can still taste the sweet flavors of freedom.

The second month is Saturday. On Saturday, you sleep in late (of course!) but you end up getting out of your pajamas around noon to run some errands. You might clean the house, or work on that project you've been putting off.

The last few weeks is Sunday. Sure, you're technically still off of work, but Monday is looming a little too close in the horizon. On Sunday you might start to panic. You might finish that report that you were supposed to write, or get to those emails you were supposed to have dealt with on Friday. You may not enjoy your day very much because you're thinking about how awesome Friday and Saturday were and how LONG you will have to wait until the next weekend.

It's definitely Sunday for me over here. I've been back in my classroom, getting things ready before we go on a last little jaunt to visit the in-laws. Three out of four bulletin boards are set up. Files have been reorganized and resources have been copied. I'll go in tomorrow to tie up some loose ends (and finally realize that I'll never be able to get it ALL done before the kids come) then it's three days of professional development before our last trip of the summer.

I'm determined to squeeze out all the fun I can before "Monday"!

I still shiver at the thought

Last night as I was trying to fall asleep, I kept hearing this buzzing and clanking noise near our bathroom window. Max said it was probably june bugs, which wasn't reassuring enough for me to fall asleep right away. Plus, shouldn't june bugs be gone already? I mean, it's practically August....

One june bug, I can handle. Swarms of them? Not so much.

When we were in Costa Rica many years ago, we decided to take a little overnight trip to Tortuego. We got there by boat, winding through little channels of water surrounding several small islands. Our "hotel" (and I use the term loosely!) was on one such little island. As we were getting off the boat, some tourists were just leaving to get on our boat. One lady told us how one night the hotel staff turned on the lights inside the pool to divert the swarms of june bugs away from the communal areas. 

Because june bugs can't swim and are attracted to light, the staff ended up collecting FORTY trash bags full of dead bugs the next morning.

Unfortunately, all of the june bugs didn't die in the Great Drowning of 2003. Swarms of them were still hanging out, just waiting to pounce on squeamish tourists like myself. We had to walk through a cloud of them to get from our hotel room to the dining area... Even though we ran for it, I still had pick out june bugs from my hair.

Or rather, Max had to pick some out of my hair while I screamed and tried not to jump up and down.

My happy life

I had been looking forward to my reunion in a kind of nervous-excited sort of way. I was really looking forward to seeing about four people, but was very concerned about how I would feel throughout the weekend: stereotypically you feel like your high school self when you're surrounded by your high school peeps...

Much to my surprise, I didn't feel like a completely awkward nerd this weekend! I enjoyed hanging out with all 24 people who showed up (out of a class of 71) and meeting the spouses too. We were all so much more mature and confident about who we were to be catty in the slightest.

The hotel was fantastic (our organizer got us a killer rate). We spent a lot of time hanging out, eating out, playing in the hotel pool, and playing cards. Max did so great with my friends, some of the alumni spouses asked if he had graduated with us too!!

In the midst of all the fun, I started to worry that I would feel a sense of loss after this weekend was over. [High school was awesome for most of us.... an informal poll revealed that the day after graduation was the most depressing day of our lives for more than half of us -- the other half claimed the first day of college was more depressing.] Would I be sad going home to reality after such a FUN blast from the past?

As it turns out, no. Instead of leaving high school friends and starting over in a new country where I know no one, I'm coming home to our house, our pets, my career, my friends.... my happy life!

blast from the past

Hey, are you sick of hearing about my ten year high school reunion yet? No?

Then you're in luck, because I've dug out some pictures of me during my senior year:

Ahhh..... I've come a long way!


I wish that some of our teachers could have attended our reunion. One of my favorite high school teachers was my ninth grade English teacher, and most of my "big word" vocabulary is directly because of him.

In the first week of school, he assigned two chapters of "Great Expectations" by Dickens with a list of twenty vocabulary words. Our homework? Read the chapters, look up and write out the definitions for all twenty words, and use each word in a sentence. Due the next day.

It took us forever. I remember wondering if the whole year was going to be this hard.

The next day, after we had handed in our homework, he said this:

"You guys, I just need to apologize. I did the homework too last night and it took me over two hours to complete! I had no idea it was going to take that long. From now on, it will be a much shorter vocabulary list."

We all breathed a sigh of relief.

And now, fourteen years later, I want to thank this man who taught me what "dregs" and "anathema" mean. And more importantly, I want to thank him for setting such a good example for me: teachers aren't perfect, and it takes both courage and humility to admit mistakes and correct them!

at least I wasn't arrested

Today, we're jumping on a plane headed for my ten year high school reunion. Actually, we probably won't literally be jumping on a plane. There's always lots of fun security and shoe-removing before there's any actual jumping.

I've always been terrified of walking through that little archway that's supposed to detect any metal on you. It's silly because the worst that could happen is that it beeps and then you embarrassingly remember you left  your keys in your pocket. But still. I end up holding my breath walking through that thing.

One time a few years back, as Max and I had our luggage on the conveyor belt for the see-through thingy, they stopped me and my bag.

"There's a knife in your bag," the TSA agent told me.


I didn't pack any knives. I was sure of it! I left all of my knives, guns, and explosives at home. Promise!

Then she unzipped the front pocket of my backpack and pulled out a butter knife from our silverware set. It was left over from a picnic or some such nonsense. We obviously couldn't board with it (you know, butter knives being as sharp and dangerous as they are) so we had to throw it away right then and there.

So much for being a seasoned traveler....

words from ten years ago

This morning, I've been looking through my high school journals. Because before there was blogging, there was journaling... And the thing about journals is that they are so much more CANDID. The words were only meant for me, and as a result my diaries are absolutely dripping with teenage angst and melodrama!

I had originally thought that transcribing a journal entry would make for a fun blog post, but as I leafed through the entries, I realized that most of it is just simply too CRINGE-WORTHY to repeat here. Case in point: I wrote twenty-two pages (front and back!) of a phone call conversation I had with a boy I liked in the tenth grade. Yes! I actually taped the phone conversation and transcribed it into my diary. To relive forever!!

I especially enjoyed reading what I had to say after I had graduated from my international high school in Germany:

"I will have no problem falling for college guys (if there are any worth falling for...)"


"I'm definitely NOT going to marry before the age of 25"

Little did I know that I would be celebrating my FIVE YEAR ANNIVERSARY when I was 25!!

And here's one more little clip that I look back on with a smile (written just before I moved to the States for college):
"I'm terrified of starting over from scratch, of leaving Europe, of leaving home, of closing the doors of my high school world, of saying goodbye to all that is dear to me.... My biggest fear in life, my absolute biggest fear, is that I will look back on my high school years as the best years of my life. I don't want my life to go downhill from here. I want my high school years to be great ones, but I also want experiences that will be even better!"
I smiled when I read those words because my biggest fear didn't come true! The best years of my life are right now (thank you, Lord!!)

Did you keep a diary when you were younger?

officially old

This summer marks ten years since both Max and I graduated from high school.

For my reunion, a nice hotel was booked (with a special discount price), a catered dinner was organized, and various activities were planned for a whole weekend of fun.

For Max's reunion? Only about half of the class was invited, and they're all just meeting up at a local bar.

We'll be out of town for Max's reunion but it sure doesn't sound like we're missing much! We will be attending my reunion this weekend and I'm excited to see everyone again. I'm tempted to wear some kind of sign, letting everyone know that I'm not as big of a nerd as I was way back when (notice that I didn't say that I wasn't a nerd!).

Thankfully, I'm not feeling too much pressure to invent the perfect life. Max and I have had some very fun adventures (and some misadventures which make for good stories) in the past ten years. But do you think it would be tacky to whip out a picture of Barney when everyone starts talking about their babies??

Father knows best

Way back a long time ago, when I was just a high school nerd looking into various colleges, my dad urged me to minor in Business (no matter what I chose as a major).

Little did he know that around that very same time, my best friend and I had a habit of going to the local coffee shop and dreaming about our futures. I went to an international boarding school in Germany and most of my friends were headed back to the States for college.... so my friend and I would Talk Big about our plans after high school. We were going to travel the world. We were going to join the peace corps. We were going to eat different foods, do amazing things, and immerse ourselves in other cultures.

"Can you imagine how boring it would be to, like, own a store and just live in one place forever?"

To a couple of kids who were used to country-hopping with their parents every few years, this was indeed the worst fate imaginable. So you can imagine my reaction to my father's suggestion about minoring in Business ("What? Why? Ewwww.")

Fast forward ten years into the future. Since going to college and starting my career, all I have wanted is to put down some roots somewhere. Suddenly owning a store and living in one place forever sounds very exotic. I'll still always have a thirst for traveling, but my priorities have definitely changed.

And dad's advice about Business? I maybe should have listened. Case in point. But I'll go ahead and blame my passion for teaching on that one :)

addicted to deleting

It's day 34 of summer and I have a whopping TWO PAGES of my novel written. Aren't you impressed? It's just that I've been super busy with my hours and hours of internet surfing, my card making, my lounging around in my pajamas in front of the TV...

Also, it turns out that writing a novel is more difficult than I thought it would be. I mean, just because I have a cast of characters written up, a sweet plot, and a suggested plot timeline doesn't mean that the words are just going to tumble out onto the page. I find it much easier to write a blog post. Writing a blog post is a lot more fun for me in number of different ways:

    1. I get to use ALL CAPITALS FOR EMPHASIS.
    2. I can be much more liberal in my use of exclamation points!!!! Not using them feels stifling!!
    3. It's published immediately, just as soon as I hit that magic button.
    4. People applaud my efforts by taking the time to comment.

    Max suggested that I write the novel as a series of blog posts, which was an interesting idea. I'm not sure if it would work for the particular story I want to tell. Has this been done before? The closest I can think of is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society which is written as a series of letters back and forth. Or maybe a "dear diary" type of book? I'll have to think about this.

    In the meantime, the local writer's club that I belong to meets again on Monday. If I don't squeeze out some more pages before then, I'll have to explain to everyone that my writing style is mostly just pressing the backspace key.

    a library is not a fruit

    Some random thoughts about the library:

    • Have you ever heard people call it a "li-berry"? I'm not sure if it's a regional thing, a cultural thing, or what. When Max went to a certain rinky-dink graduate school for a semester when we lived in California, their college library was in a portable. Max didn't think it deserved the extra "r" so he referred to it as the liberry. But most people who call it that don't seem to be doing so as a joke.

    • I don't understand why more people don't go to the library. It's like a bookstore where all the books are FREE (just as long as you bring them back, that is). And DVDs? FREE! And entertaining/educational children's programs? FREE! I'm sure if I had kids, I'd be living at the library.

    •  My local library had a book sale, and I picked up this book for my first graders next year:
     It's a must-have for teaching young children to make inferences and draw conclusions. Short text and beautiful pictures lead naturally to "why" questions. Here's my favorite page, with the text: "Never take a giraffe to the movies"
    I can't wait to see what hilarious discussions ensue from my kiddos next year!


    And...... we're back.

    It's great to be back. Never mind the ten pounds of cat litter to scoop, the 726 emails to sort through, or all the bags to unpack.... I'm too busy catching up with the Internet (oh, how I have missed you!). First off, let me just say how honored and excited I was to be featured over at The Blogger's Concierge while I was away! Yay for new friends!

    Okay, here are a few snapshots of our week in good ol' California (if you see an older Chinese lady in the pictures, that's my grandma!).

    First off, we ate: (once I stopped gagging from decapitating the shrimp, they were actually quite delicious!)

    Max and Matt brave the freezing water and the huge waves:
    Then we went to Disneyland:
    Matt and Rebekah were scared on all the rides:
    We went to an observatory next to the Hollywood hills:
    We took a free ride in this helium balloon and saw a great view of Orange County:
    We went to the beach again:
    We ate lots of ice cream:
    All in all, we had a great time... and I think I only gained about twenty pounds from all the food grandma wanted us to eat! If you want more pictures, you can always check out the ones Max thought were blog-worthy!
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