Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Candy for the Brain

I've had a bad case of A.D.D. lately when it comes to reading. I shouldn't say lately, because I feel like I've been like this for years now. I've only had the attention span for magazines, if that. I'm ashamed to admit that I haven't finished the 6th and 7th Harry Potter books yet. TV (and I have to say, bad TV) has been my vice lately.

That was, until about 2 days ago, when I started the book, Twilight.

Mickey chose the book to read for her book club after my niece had raved about it. I knew it was something I wanted to read eventually, but didn't give it much thought as I picked up another magazine or flipped to a rerun of Gilmore Girls on TV. I ended up throwing the book in my cart on one of my pre-Christmas outings, and still didn't think about it until 2 days ago.

I was pretty skeptical about the book in the beginning. If you don't know anything about it, it involves a teenage girl and a vampire. (That's all I can really say without ruining it for you.) The teenage thing doesn't bother me, in fact I really like young-adult fiction, but the vampire thing I could do without. Boy, was I wrong.

The way I have been devouring this book the past two days proved that I couldn't do without it. I was up late last night reading and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. I haven't been this engrossed in a book since The Firm by John Grisham came out. I was in college, and while I abandoned every responsibility I had until I finished the book, Karen kept threatening to tell me the ending.

I think the appeal has something to do with a chase in the book. Something that has pulled me in when I read The DaVinci Code, and also most of the Harry Potter books I've sped through. Twilight also has that appeal (again, I won't say anything more).

So now what? You ask. Well, thankfully there are four books in the series. And wouldn't you know? Those sneaky Twilight marketing folks put a little excerpt from the next book in this one.

I'll be at Borders today if you're looking for me...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Into the Light

I've been paying attention to light lately. This winter has been unusually brutal already, so any signs that we may get out of it are welcome to me. About a week ago, when Stein commented that it was the first day of winter, I couldn't help but reply abruptly, "And the shortest day of the year, which means that the days are getting longer now." Even though it's only a few minutes more of light each day, I take stock in the hope that this brings. These days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and then some early signs of spring like a robin or a daffodil will also be folded into this hope.
While the days are getting shorter, we are all so busy getting ready for Thanksgiving and Christmas, that we don't have a lot of time to think about the darkness. But now that those holidays are over, the dark tends to sink in. This, mixed with the grey days of winter, really makes it seem dark. That's where I tend to grab onto any light that I see and cherish it. Even if that light is coming from the brightly lit Christmas tree, or candles around the house, or the fireplace, it doesn't matter.
This morning it was nice and sunny, so while I sat and wrote this post, I took notice of the different places around the house where the light came to play. The blue sky outside was especially nice to look at too. Thank you light, for giving us hope in the darkness of winter.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The In-Between

We're having a great break. I say we, because Stein was off Thursday and Friday too. The thing that I've enjoyed most during the Christmas season this year has been gathering with family and friends and then having quiet, relaxing moments with just the two of us. Having these in-between times has made the gatherings with family and friends more enjoyable. Nothing has felt rushed this week. I feel like we got to spend quality time catching up with some of our favorite people, and most importantly, catching up with each other.

There has been a lot of reading, watching TV, and napping during the in-between times. Last night we took in the twinkling lights downtown as we walked around and looked in shops along the way. We also tried a new restaurant we've been talking about for weeks, and were home just in time to assume our outstretched positions on the couch.

The weather has been cooperating nicely too. We had a White Christmas, thanks to the leftover snow from the snowstorm the week before. Yet, just as we were getting tired of talking about how cold it was, the temperatures warmed up. The snow is almost gone, and last night it actually felt balmy as we walked downtown. It's been a nice reprieve from the brutal temperatures we've been enduring for weeks now.

I feel lucky that I have a whole week off ahead of me. It feels decadent, actually. We're heading to Chicago mid-week, where I'm hoping that there will be moments of relaxation in-between the visiting with family and friends.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


You all know how I get. Give me a few days off, and I get all reflective and nostalgic. Well, here I am with days off behind me, being all reflective and nostalgic. Don't get me wrong - that's not the only thing I've been doing. I have fallen into my vacation sleep patterns, finished my Christmas book and started another book, and have thoroughly enjoyed getting reacquainted with my old friends on daytime TV. But in between the relaxing has been reflection. Oh, and the nostalgia? Well, that will have to wait for another post.

I keep thinking back to the last day of school. I had the fifth graders in the morning, which normally goes really smoothly. These are the kids I had last year while student teaching, and also some of them were in my summer school class. So, we have a history, and we respect each other. Everything was going along swimmingly, in fact, Mr. Crumpled Paper (remember him?) even finished his math on the computer which I wasn't anticipating. Then we moved into the library.

One of the kids who is kind of an outsider spent most of his time trying to hide from me while he stirred up trouble around the library. I just ignored him, as this is his M.O., and it only eggs him on if you pay attention to him. At one point, I heard what sounded like cracking wood. I looked up and he was throwing crayons at an empty bookshelf. When I confronted him and asked for the crayons, he ended up leaving the library and standing out in the hall. To make a long story short, the Principal saw him in the hall, brought him back in the class, and we all had a talk together. As the class left, I said to the Principal, "Wow, I really haven't seen behavior in him like that since last year." She said, "Well, I just found out this morning that they are having a rough time at home. They're not even living in their house right now. We have to remember that some kids are not looking forward to the break. In fact, they're dreading it."

Wow. That hit me like a ton of bricks. I heard this last year from Linda, but forgot about it in the midst of the holiday bustle. I assumed all kids were like me - ready for a break. Ready to watch TV 24/7. Ready to read books (well, that's my fantasy for all kids...). But never would I think that kids are dreading being home for a break. That is so foreign to me, and so disconcerting.

I don't want to be Debbie Downer on Christmas Eve. But as you spread Christmas cheer to those around you, be sure to take some time to think about those people who are having a tough go right now. The Christmas season unfortunately brings out unhappiness for some people. You may know someone personally, or you may be that person who needs the positive thoughts. Whatever the case, send some positive thoughts to those people who need them most right now. I am thankful to be surrounded by family and friends who support me if I do ever need them.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village

Last year, sometime in November, Stein called to see if we could get tickets to the Holiday Nights at Greenfield Village. The woman on the other end of the line laughed. "We've been sold out for months!" She explained. Wow, it really must be something special, we thought. This year, we were smart. We called sometime at the beginning of October to get tickets. We went this past Saturday with Doug and Susan and their son Ben. And yes, it was something special, for sure.

If you're not familiar with Greenfield Village, you can read about it here. Each time I go there, I am impressed with the foresight and generosity that Henry Ford had in acquiring and moving so many historic homes to one place. It's amazing to me to be able to go inside of places like Thomas Edison's grandparents' home, or Noah Webster's home, George Washington Carver's home, or the Firestone Farm. And in each of these homes (there are many others, too) there are people who are dressed in period costume, and are willing to tell you all you want to know about the place or the historic period.

For the Holiday Nights, all of these homes are open, but are decorated according to the historic period, complete with a display of all the holiday foods. On the streets, there are pedestrians walking and wishing Merry Christmas to everyone they encounter. On almost every street corner, there are groups of people singing Christmas carols. Model T Fords cruise the streets, as do horse-drawn carriages. And there are a lot of booths set up along the way with food for sale.

A blazing fire at one spot had a spit of beef where you could have some of it sliced onto a bun for a sandwich. A roaring fire at another spot had a huge kettle that held Butternut Squash soup. There were chestnuts roasting (on an open fire!), and hot cocoa to sip while we walked. The other thing that kept us warm, besides the hand and toe warmers we had in our shoes and mittens, were the huge bonfires set up at various spots around. Some had benches where you could sit around the fire, others were in decorated steel drums. These really helped in the 20 degree weather!

One of the best parts was the finale. We knew there were going to be fireworks, so we positioned ourselves in the place where we could watch. Before they started, all of the people in period costumes trudged through the snow in the field in the middle of the town holding lanterns on long poles. Women in long dresses and coats didn't seem to mind that their clothes were dragging in the snow. Once they were all in a line across one end of the field, they walked toward the crowd, where they eventually stood on the steps of the "Town Hall". There they started a Christmas sing along. The fireworks started shortly after. Stein and I decided to watch the rest of the fireworks as we walked back to the car. What a fun night! We'll definitely go back next year. Here are some pictures:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Trying to Forget the Cold

Man, is it cold outside. The wind blowing through the sieves that we call windows is a constant reminder that the temperature is in the single digits with a windchill below zero. So let's take a look inside the house, okay? Where warm lights and bright colors of red and green take our minds off the frigid weather. "It's Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas" around here. And good thing - it's only three days away!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Man Loves to Shovel

Seriously. Anytime snow falls, Stein enjoys, really enjoys shoveling our sidewalk and driveway. When I took this picture yesterday, he was clearing the snow left by the snow plow. He even ventured across the street to our neighbor's house to help her clear her driveway and sidewalk. One day last year, this neighbor said to me with a perplexed look on her face, "He really likes to shovel, doesn't he?"

People have told us to get a snow blower. But we really don't have a lot to shovel, and Stein loves to do it. Our neighbors have a company that comes out and clears their driveway and sidewalk. One day while Stein was shoveling our driveway, they came to clear the neighbors'. The guy yelled out the window, "You could have us do that for you!" in an effort to get our business. Stein just yelled back, "And take this away from me?!"

When we had our snow day the other day, I decided to shovel the driveway so Stein could put his car there when he got home. Our little driveway took me two hours to clear! Stein called that afternoon and asked what I'd been up to. "Shoveling!" I said with enthusiasm only he could have. "Why?!" he asked. "Don't worry, I left the sidewalk for you." I knew he would do it immediately when he got home. And he did.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thanks, Amy!

Amy tagged me on this game, so here it is...

The object of the picture tag is to:
1) Choose the 4th folder where you store your pictures on your computer
2) Select the 4th picture in the folder
3) Explain the picture
4) Tag 4 people to do the same

NO CHEATING! (cropping, editing, etc!)

This picture was taken last year during student teaching. In fact, looking at this picture, I realized I don't think I ever blogged about this project. The project involved the 4th graders interviewing the residents of a nearby retirement home about their lives. They were also interviewing the seniors about the foods that they liked when they were younger. The woman in charge of the project is a songwriter and performer, so she took the stories and recipes and wrote songs that were then performed by the 4th graders. It was such a great project, and it touched the 4th graders more than I thought. The seniors just loved having the kids there. It planted a seed in my brain that someday when I have my own classroom, we will be involved with the local seniors in some way. You can obviously see in the picture that the 3 girls are listening to the senior talk, and one of them is holding up the tape recorder to save her story.

Thanks, Amy! This was fun. Since I only have one friend who blogs and reads my blog, I tag Karen.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Weatherman Was Right

The phone rang at 5:20 am. I must have been sleeping through the first two rings, because by the time I got to the phone on the fourth ring, the answer machine picked up. "Hello? Hello?" I tried to sound like I was awake. I don't think it worked as my voice squeaked. "Kelly, it's Sally, we have a snow day, go back to sleep, and enjoy your break." I stood there in the dark, punched my fist in the air and whispered, "Yes!" out loud. Stein started shouting from the bedroom, "Come on! It's not that bad out there!" I went downstairs to call the next person on the list, and then promptly came back to bed. Stein was getting up to work out, and I climbed back into the cocoon of down, still warm. At first I had trouble falling back asleep, but that didn't last long.

So now I'm up, and ready to enjoy the snow day. There may be some laundry that gets done, or not. I may walk to the grocery store, or not. There are some books to be read, or not. I may watch some movies, or Christmas shows, or not. I know that there will be several cups of hot cocoa made, after some trips outside to shovel.

Today the world of my house is my oyster. And like I said before, what a great beginning to the holiday break.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Resident Weatherman

In addition to counting down days until the weekend or next break, teachers like to dream about snow days. Oh, and it's a big fantasy, let me tell you. It's better than snow days as a kid, I think. Because now I have a house to wander, unlimited food to eat, and no one to argue about what shows I will watch. All. Day. Long.

Lucky for the teachers at my school, one of our colleagues is a weatherman. He hasn't been formally trained and I don't know where he gets his information, but he's always spot on (so I guess you could say he's the anti-weatherman). He regularly sends out emails about upcoming storm systems and the likelihood of a snow day. In fact, we had a storm come through last night and while most of us fantasized about a snow day today, we never got it. The resident weatherman said in his email that it wasn't a huge storm and there would be a less than 10% chance that we get a snow day. Yesterday I heard more than a few people say, "He's ALWAYS right. He just knows."

In the same 10% chance email, he talked about another storm system coming through Thursday night and Friday morning that had a great chance of turning into a snow day. He wrote a second email today about the same storm system, adding that he was going to send a note home to tell his parents he was changing the class party to Thursday. He's that sure. It's supposed to be a nasty storm that brings freezing rain, sleet, and snow. Just the right mix for a day spent at home and kick off the holiday break.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

Amy posted this to her blog, and I thought it was a fun thing to do. I did follow the directions exactly, although at times I really wanted to change the answer. Keep in mind my crazy mix of music on my iPod - kids' music, Christmas music, 80's, Sinatra, John Denver, and everything in between. A lot of the answers cracked me up...

1. Put your iPOD on shuffle
2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
3. You must write that song name down no matter how silly it sounds!
4. Tag friends who might enjoy doing the game as well as the person you got the game from.

If someone says, "Is this okay" you say? Humongous Tree

What would best describe your personality? A Well Respected Man

What do you like in a guy/girl? Roll Me Away

What is your life's purpose? The Enchanted Valley/Farewell

What is your motto? Still Water

What do your friends think of you? Only Got One

What do you think about very often? When Smokey Sings

What is 2+2? Better Man

What do you think of your best friend? Better Than This

What do you think of the person you like? Breakdown

What is your life story? You Send Me

What do you want to be when you grow up? All Your Love

What do you think when you see the person you like? The Big Payback

What do your parents think of you? La Mariposa (The Butterfly)

What will you dance to at your wedding? Guinnevere

What will they play at your funeral? Alive

What is your hobby/interest? Code of Silence

What is your biggest secret? Sunglasses at Night

What do you think of your friends? Sunday Morning Coming Down

What's the worst thing that could happen? The Book I Read

How will you die? Not For All The Love in The World

What is the one thing you regret? The Weight

What makes you laugh? Annie's Other Song

What makes you cry? Evenflow

Will you ever get married? Uncomfortably Slow

What scares you the most? That's Right (You're Not From Texas)

Does anyone like you? Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

If you could go back in time, what would you change? Flake

What hurts right now? Big Lie Small World

What do you say in the morning when you first wake up? Nothing I Can Do

What will you post this as? Viva Las Vegas

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Sunset

This was my entertainment outside our kitchen window this afternoon. I was getting some things put away, and each time I looked up, the view was more beautiful than the minute before. I finally decided to grab my camera, in case I missed it. I'm glad I did. About a minute after these were taken, the sky was dark.

Thank you, Miss Sunshine, for showing your face now and then. Today was a glorious showing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Trying to Slow Down

I know I've written about this before, but today I was encountered once again with the concept. Mickey and I both wrote emails to each other yesterday, not knowing that the other person was sending one simultaneously that echoed the sentiments of the email. We are both feeling overwhelmed.

We both have been really busy with holiday obligations while simultaneously trying to slow down and take in the season. Both of these concepts seem to pull at the other like an angel and devil sitting on left and right shoulders. While we want to make the most of the fleeting season and experience all the traditions and glitter of it, we are also trying to slow down in an effort to truly savor it. I've realized that it's the latter idea that really makes me feel the spirit of the season.

For me in the past few years, my Christmas spirit seems to come and go throughout the season. This year is the same. I have been so busy going places and getting things done, that the spirit isn't even part of the picture. I've lost sight of what it is.

I remember not so long ago, that once I was in the spirit, I stayed in it. It usually came the day after Thanksgiving and ended somewhere around New Years. But now, it seems to change by the day. As you know, our tree is up, I'm listening to Christmas music whenever I'm in the car or near my iPod, we've watched most of the Christmas specials on TV, and most of my shopping is done.

Today I realized what I need to spark and keep that spirit. Time. I had the day off today and it made me realize that I need to stop, take a look around, and take in the season. I was out at a store mid-day, where I was able to casually look around without the stress of crowds or grouchy people. I was able to catch up on things at home, including putting more decorations up. And I was able to do something that I haven't been in the mood to do in a really long time. I started reading a book. It's a book of Christmas stories, so my motivation was fueled by the need to finish the book before Christmas.

It was just what the doctor (and Santa) ordered. I felt refreshed and in the spirit. It made me look forward to the holiday break coming up. Hopefully I won't just collapse in a heap from exhaustion and not enjoy the time. But mostly, today made me feel that Christmas spirit once again. I hope it lasts.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Remember the block party we went to this summer? The one where the police showed up? Well, at that party, Stein inadvertently agreed to host part of the progressive holiday party in our neighborhood. We figured everyone would've forgotten the agreement. We thought that people had enough to drink by the time the topic came up, that they surely wouldn't remember.

They remembered.

Today when I got home, among all the holiday catalogs in our mailbox, was a card with "Kelly and David" written on it. It also had our address on it, but didn't have a return address, a stamp, or a post mark. I almost felt like I was being subpoenaed. In a way, we were. Subpoenaed to host part of the party.

In the card, the woman who brought the topic up at the summer block party, said, "They are planning a party for the 27th...yes it's last minute...but David had agreed to hosting part of it...was he still interested?"

When he came home from work and I told him about the card, he immediately said, "We can't. We're going to be out of town." We're really not going to be out of town. But maybe now we'll have to be.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tree and Trimming

We braved the elements and got our tree yesterday. It actually wasn't too bad out there. We all commented that it wasn't as bad as a couple years ago. Stein and I found our tree in record time, which helped too. Every year we get a tree, I say, "This is the best tree we ever got!" only to be followed by the next year when we get the best tree. Ever.

We always go to the tree farm with the same friends, so it has become a fun holiday tradition. It definitely kicks off the season for me, and gets me in the Christmas mood. I didn't get any pictures of the cutting-down process, because there were some furry friends who joined us this year. I was distracted, to say the least. Some of our friends brought their golden retriever, and other friends brought their new chocolate lab puppy. I couldn't get enough of that little puppy. I really wanted to pick him up and take a nibble of him, he's so cute. And chocolaty.
After the tree farm, we always go over to our friends' house to have chili and other goodies. The kids run around in the basement, while the adults catch up upstairs. The snow continued to fall throughout the evening, to the point where Stein had to help shovel the driveway that got pretty slick.
Then today we had Eric and Mia over to decorate the tree. That's another tradition we have. Stein and I contemplated today how many more years they will want to come over before it feels like an obligation. I'm hoping it goes right to the point of nostalgia for them so it never stops. I have just as much fun helping them find just the right spot on the tree. Inevitably, Stein and I need to do a little rearranging when they leave , since there are several favorite spots at just the right height that have a cluster of ornaments.

They also like playing with the Peanuts Christmas characters before we watch the cartoon.

I hope your holiday season is off to a festive start! Wishing you warm traditions, whatever or whomever they may involve.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

So it's snowing here today. Here is a picture I snapped this morning as the stuff was coming down. It's one of those fine snows, that comes down like flour thrown in the air and blows easily off rooftops.Oh, and it's cold. This week has been really cold. Cold as in reading 24 degrees on my dashboard in the morning on my way to school. Cold as in scrunching up my shoulders to help keep myself warm.

All I want to do is hunker down. All I want to do is eat hot comfort foods. There is some split pea soup made by Stein simmering on the stove right now. That's a good start. The only reason we have to leave the house today is to find and cut down our Christmas tree. I'm thinking this would be a great day to go to the closest tree lot and pick one out. But what's the fun in that? We're adventurous. We live on the edge. We're silly enough to brave wind and blowing snow to cut one down.

Hope you're having a warm weekend! Have some hot cocoa for me.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Elmer's Glue

Being back at school today felt like the first day of school. It seemed like the kids forgot what they were supposed to do in any given situation. I know that having three days off did this. It also didn't help that it snowed yesterday and was continuing this morning.

The same things happened in all three of the kindergarten classes I had this morning. Suddenly it was a great idea to just blurt out random things while I was trying to read a story to the class. Or start poking a neighbor just enough so said neighbor would scream out a "STOP!" that would disturb the story. Or ask to go to the bathroom setting off a sudden urge for everyone to go while the story was being read. Or just come up in the middle of the story and say, "Hug!" and wrap your arms around me. (Okay, that one caught me completely off guard and put a smile on my face).

I should've known that this would happen. I should've planned to get them re-acquainted with the rules in the library. I should've read a story and done an activity that went along with this theme. Oh no, that would be too easy. I planned something else instead.

I did an activity that involved Elmer's glue.

Most of the kids did great. Most of them heeded my warning of "Only put a dot or two on the place where you want to paste the paper." Most of them cut out the correct paper to be glued on the other paper. Most of them didn't turn their glue-soaked papers upside down onto the table to write their names on the other side.

The remaining few had me running from table to table trying to put out glue "fires". Somehow a "dot" of glue translated into some of their five-year-old minds as a quarter-sized "glob" of glue. Somehow it was a great idea to turn the paper over with glue globs and press it on the table. Somehow it was an even greater idea to start running around the library with scissors. (Why is it always so tempting to run around with scissors?)

I do have to say that the activity lasted a good 25 minutes, which is the longest that any of the kids has lasted so far this year. I did have a few "helpers" that I kept busy because they were the first ones done and were starting to get into trouble.

I did learn one thing in all of this. I think I may need to put in a supply request and ask for glue sticks.