Thursday, March 31, 2011

SOL: famous in a small town

You know that song - "everybody dies famous in a small town"?

Well, it's certainly true about our dog. It's getting a little ridiculous. (I promise not to blog about the dog all the time. I do. But this is already #3 in a week. Uh-oh.)

Yesterday, I took Jazz for a walk by myself. A group of grade-school boys was playing basketball in a driveway. When they saw us, one of them yelled, "Hi, Jazz! Look guys, it's Jazz! Mr. Kohlman's dog." Now, I have walked that way many, many times and nobody's ever yelled hi to me.

Today, two fifth grade girls, who are not even in Brad's class, came by and asked to meet our dog. Really?!

And, one of our friends bought dog treats. She doesn't have a dog - these are for the times we walk Jazz by her house and stop in. Jazz will get a treat.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

SOL: in the doghouse

My dog is in the doghouse. Both literally and figuratively.

She's been doing pretty well hanging out in the backyard by herself. There haven't been any casualties that weren't our fault (for leaving chewable things within reach).

Yesterday, she learned to "stay." And today, she learned to destroy trees. 

I don't know what they did to her, but Jazz was determined to take out our trees. She chewed several branches off. I hate being mad at the dog, but this is not good.

So how do you keep a dog from chewing on things she shouldn't chew? She has a big bone and several toys. We're taking advice and suggestions.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

SOL: decorating

Although I'm currently in a phase of life where all clutter is frustrating to me and even books are eliminated (I finally came to the conclusion that the only reasons - for me - to keep a book are: a. I've loved it so much I want to read it over and over again, b. to save to share with someone else, or c. to show off that you read that book), I do dearly love this quotation that I ran across today.

"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." -Anna Quindlen

Monday, March 28, 2011

SOL: The Giver

We are officially on the home stretch - just eight more weeks (but who's counting?!). My seventh graders start reading The Giver tomorrow. I am so excited.

Today we did some pre-reading activities, one of which was the jot down a list of what their perfect society would be like - climate, money, jobs, daily activities, etc... They had some interesting answers.

Every swimming pool would be filled with chocolate pudding.
Money would grow on trees.
Everyone would have enough to eat.
It would always be 75 degrees and sunny.
There would be no natural disasters.

This is just a small sample, but it got me thinking... what would your utopia be like?!

(After we finish the novel, they will create their own utopias.)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

SOL: dog kit?!

A conversation between my grandpa and Brad today, about our new dog.

"Well, did you build her a house?"
"I put it together."
"Put it together?"
"Yeah. I got a kit at the pet store."
"Oh. What about the dog? Did you put her together from a kit, too?"

Melvin's a pretty funny guy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

SOL: enough?

Today I met my mom at JoAnn (the new, huge one in Wichita) to pick out fabric for a special project. I will be using a Turning Twenty quilt pattern - lots easier than my last quilt! I wish I could give you more details, but it's a special surprise for someone who may or may not read this blog - and I may have already given too much away.

Anyway... I spent enough to get a free, reusable shopping bag. I think I'd better finish this project before heading back.

Friday, March 25, 2011

SOL: check!

One of my goals for spring break was to finish the black and white quilt I started over a year and a half ago. I didn't really think I'd get it done (I haven't picked it up to quilt in a few months), but the other day I got on a roll and had to keep going.

I asked for a sewing machine for my birthday a few years ago, on a whim. Brad's cousin was pregnant, and I wanted to make a blanket. Since then, I've sewed a few pillow covers, a couple baby blankets, and this.

I've written this before, but I really believe that quilting is slowly becoming a lost art. Not many 20-somethings are doing it; it's not the most trendy hobby, but it's making a little bit of a comeback.

Part of the reason I quilt is because it's part of my heritage. My mom tells stories about how her grandma would come over and dig through Grandma Lu's sewing room trash, pulling out quarter-sized scraps, exclaiming, "I can't believe you were going to throw this away! I can use this!" She made quilts for all nine of her children and all her grandchildren (I don't remember how many). And, of course, her daughter (my Grandma Lu) makes amazing quilts, too. And, of course, her daughter (my mom) makes amazing quilts, too.

Part of the reason I quilt is because I love to contemplate how the fabric and pattern will come together in the end to form a beautiful piece of art. I remember going to choose fabric for our quilt... I had chosen the pattern and had a vision. I pulled out bright red, yellow, orange, green, blue, and purple prints, carefully stacking them in one spot to complete the picture in my head. Mom and Grandma asked me about 20 times as we stood in line, "Are you sure?" I think it turned out pretty well (see background of picture below)... Grandma told me later that she really wasn't sure about it when we bought the fabric, but as it came together she could see how beautiful my "vision" was. One of my favorite parts of making a quilt is choosing the pattern and fabric.

Part of the reason I quilt is because of the sense of accomplishment. It just feels good to finish one, to see the finished product. I know I have a lot of practice before I'm an amazing quilter, but I feel good about finishing my first pieced and hand-quilted quilt.

Now I need to plan tomorrow's trip to JoAnn to get started on my next project...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

SOL: Jasmine

Jasmine, Jazz, came home today - about an hour ago. We're pretty excited to have her around. She's a good dog so far. She doesn't bark. She plays. She's very curious but smart and obedient. It took her a little while to leave the back door when we came inside for the first time, but now she's checking out the yard on her own.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SOL: no explanation necessary

Sometimes I feel like a broken record. But the truth of the matter is simply this:
“A budget that sacrifices our commitment to education would be a budget that’s sacrificing our country’s future.” 
-President Obama
We need these kids; someday, they will be making important decisions, running for office, caring for us as we age, protecting us, teaching the future.

In the midst of difficult financial times, my hope is that we all come to see how important education is.

Sooner, rather than later... because later it might be too late.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

SOL: nothing

Today marks post #26 for the month - I've had a few extras on particularly thoughtful days.

But I have to admit that the slice of life challenge is my only reason for posting today. Not much is happening here today: the dog adoption was yesterday, the plumber comes tomorrow (frozen pipe in the basement - ugh), the dog comes home Thursday...

My spring break has been idyllic so far. I sleep in, do what I want when I want to (for the most part). The wind is keeping me from yard work and window washing, but I don't mind. This afternoon, as boring as it will seem, I am going to work on my paper. I might get around to cleaning off the bookshelves (have I mentioned lately that I love purging?!), and I will be wishing that it were time to plant some veggies in my garden. Tomorrow, the plumber will come so we can water the grass seed - just in time to make the yard muddy for the dog (more about her another day). Friday will slip into Saturday and then it will be time to return to my students for the final quarter of the school year, where it seems we all just hold on for dear life.

Monday, March 21, 2011

SOL: madness

This is just about one of my favorite times of year. Spring break plus March Madness...

We are fortunate this year. Wichita is hosting first and second round women's games in the new Intrust Bank Arena. Months ago we planned to grab some tickets, but we lucked out in our procrastination - the mom of one of Brad's student's brought some by on Saturday.

So yesterday afternoon and evening we sat in our free seats and enjoyed some great games. I love basically all college basketball, but I had forgotten how much I love watching women play, especially in person.

The shoes screech across the court, the ball steadily bounces on the hardwood... The coach's face turns red. Calls are argued or cheered. The ball swishes through the hoop, bangs off the backboard. But there's something intangibly different about these games.

(Disclaimer: I love men's college basketball, too. And there will be some generalizations in the coming words. But sometimes it just seems like to the game is too... tainted.)

Maybe it comes from knowing that these teenagers (they were teens when they made the choice of what school to play for, after all) came to play, for four years. There is no Josh Selby or Jared Sullinger - "one and done" players. These young women will invest four years. No one we watched is sitting on the bench, worried about their draft pick or how many millions their contract will guarantee. ESPN doesn't run many stories of women sitting on the bench for alleged (or proven) NCAA recruiting violations. It is rare when women's teams are fined or lose national championships.

Maybe someday women will "catch up." (I do hope not.) Maybe someday men will "clean up." (I do hope so.)

But for now, I'm going to enjoy the breath of fresh air that yesterday's games were to me. They are simply playing basketball for love of the game, which is really the only real reason to play.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

SOL: 25 things

I saw something like this on my second cousin's blog - she wrote 34 things about herself on her 34th birthday (yes, I know my second cousins. I'm Mennonite, after all). It's not my 25th birthday anymore, but here's my fun little list of things you probably didn't know about me (or maybe you did, because we're just that close)...

  1. When I use a laptop without a wireless mouse, I use both hands - right moves the mouse, left clicks.
  2. I secretly want to be an American Picker. (Well, obviously not so secretly anymore.) I just think it's so cool to find old stuff and see value in it.
  3. My favorite TV show (after the current/temporary March Madness) is Parenthood. I watch way too much TV, though.
  4. I love Girl Scout cookies... but I despise Thin Mints.
  5. I sometimes still use touch points when doing calculator-free math.
  6. The first classic I ever read was Wuthering Heights. It's still my favorite.
  7. I don't like surprises when I know they are coming (as in, I like to know what I'm getting for Christmas) because I'm afraid I won't have an appropriate reaction and will disappoint the gift giver.
  8. I do like random-for-no-particular-reason surprises that I don't know are coming but suddenly appear.
  9. I love making lists - and crossing things off lists. Sometimes I write things on my list that I've already done just so I can cross more off.
  10. I think the world would be a better place if we all used the same format for citations. (It obviously should be MLA, but I would settle for just about anything universal.)
  11. I wish I had the patience to become an amazing quilter like my Grandma Lu.
  12. When I was little, I had two of every piece of clothing in two colors, thanks to my sisters.
  13. Yellow is my favorite color. I convinced my mom to let me paint my bedroom bright yellow in middle school; I still love that room. It's happy. I told Brad we could have a "Jayhawk" bathroom (don't worry, it won't have actual Jayhawks all over the place - just the colors and maybe some photos of the campus) simply because I knew it was the only way I'd get to paint a room yellow. 
  14. I would rather be hot than cold. I hate being cold. I am a wimp.
  15. Coaching track energizes me. I love the different kind of interactions with kids.
  16. I love blogs. I could get lost, clicking from one to another, reading the words of people I don't know in real life. (Hey, that's how I found Jody's blog!)
  17. My dream of being a writer is always at the back of my mind. But I'm not actually working on it.
  18. I really like post-its. 
  19. I don't really read "grown-up" books much anymore. Young adult novels are just SO GOOD these days.
  20. I love quotations, like this one... "Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or a duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift." -Kate DiCamillo
  21. It's been tough for me to think of 25 interesting things about myself. I've been working on this list all week.
  22. I buy running shoes with one of three main colors: pink, yellow, or black.
  23. I buy all my clothes at Maurice's, Target, or Dick's Sporting Goods. That's pretty much it.
  24. As a child, I spent the majority of my time doing one of two things: playing Barbies or reading.
  25. I frequently go through my house looking for things to get rid of - purging. There is a big stack of boxes in my basement. Only once in two years have I actually taken something out of the box and put it back in its spot (my dresser).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

SOL: flashback

Not quite a year ago (on the 21st), I posted this:

School resumes tomorrow. The past week has been a refuge, a place in time for me to forget the uncertainties and the stress, from all facets of my life, that surround and overwhelm me right now. I originally wrote this on 4/4/08, when I struggled to find the "perfect ending" to my first real job search (edited it today). I thought I had. Time will tell.

(p.s. just so you know. putting what i write - that which reveals a "private" part of me - out there in the great big world makes me feel really vulnerable. i feel like i should be a much better writer than this. that's why i don't do this poetry post thing very often.)

Simple tasks fall by the wayside
as I wait
to hear any news
(good or bad).

I pause in moments of
gathering doom
and tears
(of frustration, anger, hurt, confusion)
slip silently down my face.

I hold my breath in moments
of unbearable hope
and dream
(of the perfect endings).

But still I wait.

This year, I am not waiting. I'm fairly confident that, this time around, my job is safe. (Of course, who can ever say for certain what the future holds?) 
This week of spring break will still be a refuge, a relief from the stresses of balancing two buildings and maintaining relationships and learning a new grade level and 11-hour days. It will be a week without work (I made sure of that before I left yesterday). It will be a week of doing almost only what I want, investing time in people I care about, sleeping late, completing projects, purging, relaxing. 
Oh, spring break, welcome. I've been waiting. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

SOL: 100%

Today, my last student finished the last part of the state reading assessment. For the first time in my teaching career, 100% of my sixth and seventh graders passed - they met standards, exceeded standards, or were exemplary.

I have mixed feelings. I am proud, that they used their good test-taking strategies, that they learned this year, that I taught them something.

I am disappointed, that this is what my job is, that the climax of our time together is an 80-question, multiple choice test, that I feel my worth as a teacher depends - at least in part - on these results. 

Is what I taught them what they need to know? I teach several things that I never learned - and yet I managed to graduate with an English degree. I teach them to use their striker to eliminate answer choices, to highlight key words... I teach them how to identify similes and metaphors, to find the climax, to unveil the author's position and how its supported, the definitions of their prefixes and suffixes.

But do I teach them logical thinking? how to decipher similes and metaphors? how to pick apart the definitions of words, based on the prefixes and suffixes - without four answer choices? why the climax is important? to interact with stories? to monitor their comprehension? how to judge the author's support of his or her position? to see how wonderful reading really is? how to think for themselves? how to respect each other?

I struggle. I want to be a great teacher. I have so far to go. I am already working on what to do differently next year... because that is what teachers do. Yes, I want them to pass their state assessment, to know what the state of Kansas says they should know. But I also want them to be able to become great thinkers, great people, great decision-makers - like so many teachers (both in school and in my personal life) have done for me. I hope I can manage to be a small part of who they become.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

SOL: Thursday

Here I am. Spring Break starts tomorrow, and I don't think I've deserved a spring break quite so much as this one. It's been a rough year. I  have a long list, but everything on it is something I want to do or get done. I'm looking forward to crossing things off!

Also, I don't understand St. Patrick's Day. I mean, I don't know about you, but random people pinching me is kind of an invasion of my personal space. Seriously. There's probably a lot of history behind the holiday that I just don't know.

I posted twice yesterday but apparently didn't manage to link up on twowritingteachers. So check those out - way more exciting than what I have to say today... which is... nothing.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

don't forget... don't forget...

Just because I don't want to forget this moment today...

One of my students told me yesterday that he struggled with the first part of his assessment. I did my best to encourage him, but there's not much for me to do at this point.

Today, I worried about him. I probably hovered a little too much as he carefully read the passage and selected answers. I walked by his spot in the lab a few too many times.

But then I saw something that warmed my heart. He asked for a piece of scratch paper; I glanced at the screen to see that he was on a question about climax. I brought him one and walked away. A while later, I passed his computer again...

He had sketched out a plot diagram, the climax laid out first, merging into a gentle upward slope of rising action, turning sharply at the climax, easing downward with the falling action to the resolution.

I smiled. And walked away.

SOL: good news

I got good news today in the form of an e-mail from one of my principals...

Good news! The Budget Advisory Committee's recommendation at the conclusion of the evening last night was to propose cuts to the BOE that would not impact staffing unless the cuts that end up being made by the politicians go beyond Brownback's proposed cuts, which is possible but not real likely. Even if further cuts are enacted at the state level, the goal would be to take care of our staffing cuts through attrition as much as possible.
Another good news item - the committee felt overwhelmingly that supplementals/extra duty contracts should not be cut further, since those reductions have been so drastic already.
This will go to BOE in April, and they will make the final decisions.
I have been worried. After what happened last year (first this, then this), Governor Brownback's proposals had me on edge. Nothing is final quite yet, but now I can relax and enjoy the part of the year that comes after state assessments (which my sixth graders finish tomorrow - fingers crossed!).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

SOL: day in numbers

My day in numbers

24 students who finished part 1 of their 6th grade reading assessment
3 hours at parent-teacher conferences
2 dogs selected as top choices in our search (by me alone, not necessarily with Brad)
2 parents who came to visit with me
5 pages of a paper edited/revised (still not sure I'm fulfilling the assignment)
10 slices read
1 dead Ethernet cord at work
15 days blogged this month!
1/2 a king-sized Twix consumed
0 papers graded
45 minutes of track practice
1 faculty meeting attended
11 hours door to door
2 meals from Arby's picked up on the way home
1 day I'm glad is done

Monday, March 14, 2011

SOL: Unwind

This weekend I read the book Unwind by Neal Shusterman. I cannot tell you how amazing it is. If you like The Giver or The Hunger Games, it's a must-read.

Unwind is set in the future, after the second civil war, which was fought over reproductive rights. The conclusion is simple: life is untouchable from conception to the age of 13. But from 13-18, parents or guardians can choose to "unwind" their child - every part of them is donated, meaning that they are still technically alive, just not in one piece.

This story follows three "unwinds," telling of their lives in survival mode. It sounds gruesome, but it is a truly mesmerizing commentary... Here are a couple of my favorite quotations.

"'What you did, Lev - it confused people. No one knows whether you're a monster or a hero.' / Lev thinks about that. 'Is there a third choice?'"

"By the time it turns into a war, the issue doesn't matter anymore, because now it's about one thing only: how much each side hates the other... And everyone was selecting their leaders not by their ability to lead but by where they stood on this single issue."

Sunday, March 13, 2011

SOL: We Sang

This morning in church, we sang:

There's a wideness in God's mercy, like the wideness of the sea. There's a kindness in God's justice, which is more than liberty.

But we make God's love too narrow by false limits of our own, and we magnify its strictness with a zeal God will not own.

For the love of God is broader than the measures of the mind, and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind.

I cannot say I have a favorite hymn, but these words speak to me every time. May we be mindful.

text from Hymnal: A Worship Book, #145

Saturday, March 12, 2011

SOL: Saturdays (again)

Warm, sunny Saturdays are for...

...sleeping in.
...getting a head start on the spring break to do list (cleaning the car, putting up a new garage door opener, washing all the glass doors). bathrooms.
...actually making the bed.
...March Madness.
...wondering if the USB ports on the computer are going to come back to life.
...homemade pizza (courtesy of Brad).
...KU vs. Texas in the Big 12 tourney final.
...writing a paper (ICK!).
...hanging out.
...looking at dogs online.

Friday, March 11, 2011

SOL: I said I wouldn't...

But I did.

I promised myself I wouldn't go to the fabric store until I finished my current project. I've been working on this black and white quilt for over a year (and a half)... But it was the grand opening of the new JoAnn. And it was my morning off.

So I went. I was anticipating some serious sales - hello? grand opening.

I was sorely disappointed. All I wanted were some fat quarters. Usually, this particular store sells them for $1.99... and they are almost always 30% off.

Not today.

They had one page of coupons - "make your own sale." But if I'm going to buy 20 fat quarters, I don't want to tear apart 20 coupons. You know?

I got rotary cutter blades for 50% off with a coupon. And I ended up with a few fat quarters (which are supposed to be on sale starting next week - really? why not today?) because I was afraid the pretty ones would be gone quickly.

I guess I'll just have to go back over spring break. Darn.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

SOL: 1,000 words

It is the start of a three-day weekend. A very much needed three-day weekend. I don't have much to say today, but I have a couple of pictures to share...


This greeted me when I walked in the door (the piano is pretty much straight in). I am so lucky. So, so lucky. (And kind of glad basketball season is over.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

a thought

We must work to honor the wishes of those we love - as well as we are able to for as long as we are able to.

In doing so, we honor them and ourselves.

SOL: school zone

These days, I'm heading home from school sometime between 5:10 and 5:30 because of track practice. Today, I was driving along behind another car. As we approached a school zone sign, it began to slooooow down.

I thought to myself, If the light's not flashing, it's not a school zone.

Students have fled for the day, their backpacks stuffed with smelly gym clothes and the homework they may or may not do. They have changed in the locker room for track or tennis practice, worked out, and waited for their parents out back. If the light's not flashing, it's not a school zone.

Teachers, fed up with glancing at the dingy white cinderblock walls that no number of colorful posters or exemplary student work samples can truly cover, have packed their bags. They have trudged out the door, weighed down by papers that may or may not be graded by the next day. They are home with their partners and children and pets, in their needs-to-be-cleaned-but-who-has-the-time houses. If the light's not flashing, it's not a school zone.

The building has emptied, cleared out but for the evening janitors dutifully emptying trash cans and wiping down white boards. The lights automatically switch off with no activity in the rooms. If the light's not flashing, it's not a school zone. 

If the light's not flashing, it's not a school zone.

Well, at least, you don't have to drive 20.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SOL: moving on

Sprawling ranch in a beautiful established neighborhood. Sellers are the original owners and have taken price in maintaining this home that was custom built with many extras. The house was built with pre-stressed concrete so the lower level is a storm shelter. Lots of storage space. All brick home features lots of windows to view the wooded lot with creek. The lower level has a large family room complete with wood burning fireplace and kitchenette, and view out windows to large decorative patio. Lower level also features 15.5x20 gym, 16x10 shop and garage. Upper level features screened in porch, main floor family room and 12x10 study. Located in one of the nicest lots in town. Close to schools, city park and city pool. Art Deco decor. Blueprint shows over 3000 sq ft on main floor. 

I found this online, a realtor's description of a house for sale. It's an amazing place, really. Custom built in the '60's. Cared for to this day by the original owner, who designed the pseudo-symmetrical floor plan. Set on acres on land in the middle of a small town, with a creek that runs through the manicured backyard. A number of weddings have been celebrated in the beautiful outdoor space. Several of the trees are perfect for climbing. There is a tree house in the "way back," across the bridge, next to the railroad tracks.

It's where my grandparents live.

My Grandpa Varden has long declared that "You can move me out of this house on a stretcher." It is a place near and dear to his heart, where he raised three children, welcomed their spouses, and got to know his nine grandchildren. He has taken great pride in maintaining the beauty of his home and generously sharing his space with others. But life (and maybe a little of Grandma) has gotten in the way of his stubbornness, and the house is officially on the market (though that doesn't mean the move is set to happen any specific time soon... and I have to admit I'm glad).

My Grandma and Grandpa Klaassen started the transition to "retirement living" (or whatever you want to call it) almost two years ago. They are happily settled now, and I am glad. These are good decisions, which, though difficult to make, are important for a new season in life.

I can't say that it's been easy to see these changes. So many of my childhood memories are tied up in place, the places I grew up, my grandparents' homes two of the most important. So much of who I am is connected to the 25 years I've had to get to know and feel the love and support of my grandmas and grandpas. I've spent a lot of time considering what it means for life to move on, ready or not.

I spent hours upon days upon weeks at my grandparents' houses growing up. We read together. We baked together. We went to the pool and watched fireworks on the lawn and set up water baseball and pulled weeds and played tennis and searched the freezer for ice cream and had tea parties and sat on the swing to talk and painted nails and grocery shopped and ate millions of meals around the table... The Christmas trees always stood in the same corners. The treats were always in the same drawer or cabinet. The bike rides and walks always took the same route. The ring-doorbell-don't-wait-for-answer-walk-right-in entry was the same every time.

But when you grow up, things change. You change, or grow. I haven't asked my mom if I can walk around the bend in the road to collect walnuts, or along the railroad tracks to search for big glass marbles, in years. And when your grandparents move, the smaller Christmas tree is discovered in a new corner; the treats find a new home. The bike rides and walks turn into long conversations on the love seat.

It is different. But that is life. It is still good. Truly. Just in a different way.

Monday, March 7, 2011

SOL: hard

Sometimes, like yesterday, the words come easily. I think through what I want to say and somehow it appears in my text box. Not magic, I know, but things definitely flow better on certain days.

Other times, it's so hard to know what to write. This challenge is definitely a struggle on week nights - after a full day of teaching and a couple hours of track practice, my brain is close to shutting down. This is all before starting on homework for my grad class, of course (but that's an entirely different story of frustration right now).

And yet, I sit to write. I could pull out a second long lost poem (which I'm definitely inspired to do after all the amazing affirmation in the comments on my last post) or make another list.

But today I want to tell you about the little things.

I have a student who, to state things simply, has not enjoyed anything we've done all year - in any class, not just mine. We are starting a mythology unit. They have to research a Greek god or goddess and give a speech. This student is so excited. Apparently I connected with a passion.

Our keyboarding teacher is wonderful. In a few weeks, she will be teaching my sixth grade students how to format a research paper, so I don't have to. All year long, she gives kids real-world assignments. In December they make holiday cards for their teachers. Their last assignment was to write a formal letter to a teacher - any teacher. I received several in my box today, welcome little surprises.

Not bad for a Monday.

Any suggestions? What do you want to hear from me? Burning questions I should answer? ;)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

SOL: Caught

Every once in a while, I try to take a purposeful break from blogging, for a day or a week or an indeterminate amount of time. Sometimes it's to focus on other things. Sometimes it's simply to get work done.

But mostly, it's because I get caught. I catch myself checking my blog "stats" to see how many people are reading. I catch myself wishing I had more followers... after all, "they" have 20, and I only have 11. I catch myself coveting more comments from readers.

So when I catch myself, I try to make myself take a break. (I don't always listen.) Because I don't blog for the attention (although I have to admit it's been a nice side effect). I don't blog so that others read me. I blog... well... okay. I never thought much about why I blog.

I suppose it started as one of those "if they can, I can." I did it just to do it. But it's more than that now. (I just realized this yesterday.)

I blog to be a writer. I have always dreamed of that - not just writing - being a writer. I wonder what it would be like to immerse myself in words all day long (maybe that's why I'm a language arts teacher?). I fantasize about novels or collections of short stories, even poetry, with my name on them. I long to write a regular column for people to read. I don't, and I don't think I ever will. But being a writer is more than getting published.

Being a writer means living with, embracing, taking on the challenge of words. (And oh, do I love words!) Being a writer means hours of work and practice and rewrites and finding accidental serendipity on a page. Being a writer means sharing life through words. Being a writer means carefully bending and shaping thoughts into coherence and sharing them. Being a writer means...

I know I have a long way to go on that front: I don't want to set myself up for rejection. My heart balks at the thought of criticism. I feel vulnerable. I am self-conscious. I doubt my abilities. I wonder if I can really do it.

Maybe I can. And maybe I can't. But here is my beginning.

Goodbye is a four-letter word
      (said in haste)
mixed with sorrowful tears.
And ending - the unsettling grand finale -
often succeeded by only a smattering of applause.

Goodbye is a beautiful word
       (said with care)
mixed with joyful tears.
A new beginning - the grand overture - 
followed by a standing ovation.

(originally written 6/21/05, edited 3/5/11)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

pita bread...

Hummus was on sale this week AND I had a coupon. Hmmm... I just needed to make some pita bread.

It turned out great. I just need to roll it a little thinner next time.

I didn't take pictures.

I got the recipe on's Greek Food section... I did not brown in before eating. I couldn't wait that long.

(Mostly this is here for me - to "record" the recipe so I can make it again.)

SOL: Saturdays

Saturdays are for (in no particular order)... shopping.
...watching college basketball., cleaning, cleaning.
...visiting friends (and their new baby who doesn't cry)!
...pondering what to write for the day's slice of life. (And wondering if making a list counts.)
...a first attempt at baking pita bread (still in progress).
...playing piano.
...sleeping in.
...dreaming about spring - and spring break (just a couple weeks away)!

Friday, March 4, 2011

SOL: Reclaiming

The past few weeks blur in my mind. Out of control. Overwhelming. Busy would be an understatement.

But starting this weekend, I am going to reclaim control. I am no longer a spectator; I am no longer flailing to keep my head above water; I am no longer lost in the woods with no breadcrumbs to follow.

Basketball is over. Track is still calm. My seventh grade students passed their state assessments.

So now I will read a book. I will attempt to make pita bread... or not. I will sleep in. I will play piano. I will stay on top of classwork. I will finish grading research papers. I will plan engaging lessons. I will clean my house. I will work out. I will put away the clean laundry. I will plan the menu and shop for groceries.

Well... I'll do something.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Brad is in the kitchen making popcorn.

"That sounds like a lot of popcorn," I commented when he poured it into the popper.

"Just in case."

"Just in case what?"

"Just in case someone comes by and wants popcorn."

Oh, well in that case....

Come on over; we'll have plenty.

SOL: I should

The familiar refrain runs through my mind as I step toward my desk.

I should grade research papers.

I monitor assessments. I read canned directions. I ask "did you review your answers?" then say, "you may end assessment."

I should grade research papers.

I plan a few days of a unit on The Giver. I divide chapters by days, or days by chapters - something like that. I run ideas for student-led discussion and projects through my mind.

I should grade research papers.

I clean up my desk. I sort through a random computer file, deleting documents I don't know why I have.

I should grade research papers.

Some day I should will grade those research papers.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

slice of life 3/2

I'm a day late, but I'm in.

Today a student (who was a reluctant reader at the beginning of the year) came up to me with her reading journal and said, "I have six [summaries]! My sister and I had a reading competition this weekend!"

That's why I teach.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

slice of life 3/1

Here's my first "slice of life" post, back-dated to March 1. (It's really the second.)

Basketball is officially over for another year. They tripled their win total from 2009-2010, which is an accomplishment - even if the new number is 6.

Track has officially begun. I'm excited but not quite ready to be oh so busy.

State assessments are starting. I'm oh so nervous.

It is March. And there are only a few more days until spring is officially here.