Thursday, December 31, 2009

Surprise and Wonder

I was getting all ready to make my bah humbug post this morning. I had it all formulated in my head, ready to stumble downstairs, turn on the computer and start typing. In fact, yesterday, I posted "Actually am excited to kiss 2009 goodbye" as my status on Facebook. (2009 has been a tough year for us. Some stuff I have shared with you on this blog, and some stuff has been too personal to share. But suffice to say, 2009 will not be missed.)

I did the stumbling down the stairs, and the turning on of the computer, but I didn't type. I started reading all of the blogs I normally read, in the order that I normally read them (yes, I am that anal retentive). In the meantime, I called Stein and left a message at his office to see what we were going to do for New Years Eve tonight.

We had haphazardly invited friends over, very last minute, for a get-together. Stein and I have never been New Year's Eve fans. We prefer to just hang out with friends, have some champagne, and give each other a midnight kiss when the ball drops. So when I invited people over, I just told everyone it would be casual, that we may make breakfast, or paella, or chili. Yeah, we had no clue what we were going to do, and still don't. But by the non-responses we've received, it may be Stein and I, the couch, and some take-out. Fine with me.

I was wavering back and forth between being excited that we didn't get any responses, to being a bit grumbly about the whole thing. I wanted to see friends, wanted to kiss 2009 goodbye, and ring in the New Year with hopes for good health, happiness, and new beginnings.

When Stein called me back, we talked briefly about the possibilities for food tonight and tomorrow, made a short shopping list, and then moved on to other things. "The gym was closed this morning," he said. Sometimes he says this even if the gym isn't closed as an excuse to get out of his early morning workout, so I thought he was joking. He went on to tell me that it opened later this morning because it was New Year's Eve. "So what did you do?" I asked. "Well," he went on, "It's perfect snow outside, perfect for packing. So I went over and made a snowman for Eric and Mia. I'm waiting for them to get up and call me about it."

I have to say, dear reader(s), that my heart melted a little, or grew ten sizes as the Grinch's heart did. My bah humbug post went right out the window.

Who thinks of doing this at 6-something in the morning? To give the kids a surprise when they open the shades, to show them that someone thought of them, to get excited at their response. And that ladies and gentlemen, is reason #532 why I married that man.

Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. May it be filled with good health, happiness, love, laughter, and surprise and wonder. I know that it's going to be a good year. It's starting out just fine already.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Savoring Sleep

I have to admit, I love to sleep. I come from a family of sleepers, and we treasure our sleep. As I've said before, when I was a little girl, my parents never had to tell me when to go to bed. I would tell them. Often times, I would go and get ready for bed, and yell downstairs, "Okay, I'm in bed! You can tuck me in now!" Sometimes when someone would come up to tuck me in, I would already be asleep. I still have a pretty strict bedtime that I follow, especially on school nights. And on those nights, I am asleep within a short amount of time.

I know I'm lucky. I don't have much trouble falling asleep or sleeping through the night. There has to be something monumental rattling around in my brain to keep me up at night. But fortunately this rarely happens. I can probably count the number of times I've been up at night by thinking back to huge or stressful moments in my life. And I typically don't have trouble sleeping in different places. All those years of countless hotels I stayed in, most of them with hard mattresses, polyester sheets and rock hard pillows, didn't affect my sleep. I slept like a road warrior baby.

Being on vacation has been wonderful for my sleep. Even if I stay up later than my usual bedtime, I have the luxury of sleeping in to make up the time. I have to admit, though, even though I have visions of sleeping in like a hormonal high schooler, I am up every morning at about the time my alarm would normally go off. Lately I've been getting up and doing things to prepare for the upcoming holiday, or actually getting my butt to the gym.

I hate to admit it, but I think I may be a morning person. I guess I always have been, but have been reluctant to admit it. The grass is always greener, I suppose, but I have some sort of late-night envy for those people who can stay up late, getting things done in a manic sort of way. I've tried, really I have, but without the right amount of sleep, I'm like a 3-year old who desperately needs a nap.

Luckily for me this break, I can take a nap if I need it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Light in the Darkness

Yesterday, on the shortest day of the year, we went to Greenfield Village to see the Holiday Nights that they have there. I wrote about it last year here, when we went with our friends to experience it. This year, it was just Stein and me, and we also added a dinner at the tavern there.

Being there a second time made me notice different things. Last year, it was bitterly cold, so we went from bonfire to bonfire to try to warm up. We also went into a lot more of the houses to keep warm. This year, the temp wasn't too brutal, which allowed us to pick and choose where we wandered and what we saw. We stopped to get some hot cocoa to sip as we walked, and then saw some glass blowers making glass candy canes in their workshop. At one point, they turned off the overhead lights, so all the light that we saw was the blazing fires in their ovens, and the hot molten glass being twisted into candy canes. We also took a ride in a Ford "buggy" (a custom made "station wagon" made with a Ford motor and chassis) along streets lit with gas lanterns.

This year I also took notice of the light. Being the shortest day of the year, of course it was pitch black outside when we arrived. Yet, the gas lanterns, bonfires on every corner, and baskets of little fires near the houses were all glowing.

In the middle of dinner at the Eagle Tavern, Stein said, "Are there any lights in here besides the candles on the table?" I looked around and was amazed. The huge room with 20-30 tables of 8 - 10 people was only lit by 2 huge hurricane vases on each table which held a single tapered candle. The room was not brightly lit, but it didn't need to be. We could see what we were eating and could read the menu that had all of the food listed (butternut squash soup, pork and apple pie, beef, chicken, and ginger cake). It had such a warm, cozy feeling.

At the end of dinner, we wandered to the town square where the fireworks were to take place. Before the fireworks started, all of the people dressed in period costumes trudged across a field holding lanterns and ringing bells. They gathered at the town hall and started singing Christmas carols just as the fireworks started. Even if this light, like the bonfires or the candles at dinner, was man made, it was more light in the darkness.

More light. A reminder for us on the longest, darkest night, there is always light somewhere, created by us or nature. May your days be filled with light, made by you, by others, or nature.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Staying In and Taking in the Sights

Today I had to bring my car into the dealer, so I am without a car for most of the day. The feeling of being stranded quickly escaped me after I sat down with some peanut butter toast and some hot cocoa while I chatted with Mickey on the phone. I am now wrapped up in my favorite blanket in my favorite position on the couch.

The house has been decorated for a while now, and this weekend we actually had some time to slow down and enjoy it while getting into the spirit. Here are some pictures so you can enjoy it and get into the spirit too:


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Memories from Music

The one thing that helps me get into the spirit of the season is listening to Christmas music. I never rush the season so I listen to holiday tunes after Thanksgiving. There are a handful of Christmas CDs that have stayed with me through the years, and find a place in my car's CD player every year. Sure, there have been new ones that have made the collection bigger, but these five or six CDs are the ones I listen to over and over. Every time I listen to them, I not only sing along with the songs, but I have so many memories connected with them as well.
Here they are, in no particular order:
John Denver and the Muppets A Christmas Together

This was one of the first Christmas records I owned. I remember my sister Andy gave me this record (yes, those black vinyl discs that turned round and round while a needle sat on it) along with Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas album. I replaced the John Denver album with a CD sometime in college, and I have had it ever since. I can't go through a Christmas season without listening to this CD, because it's this music that gets me in the spirit. It's a fun collection of favorites, and some lesser known tunes. John Denver's solo songs are some of my favorites.


White Christmas by Bing Crosby

I remember listening to this record as a kid, staring at Bing on the dusty record cover. For some reason, Silver Bells with it's "City Sidewalks, Busy Sidewalks" line reminds me of a field trip

I took when I was in first grade. We walked through the snow up to Lincoln Square, which wasn't far from our school. We looked at all of the stores that lined the streets, and then came back to school and drew huge murals of what we saw. What seems like such a simple field trip is still such a vivid memory for me.

The other songs that I love on this CD are It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (which reminds me of the way my mom would sing this every year as we would decorate the house) and Mele Kalikimaka (which reminds me of Hawaii, of course).

Harry Connick, Jr. When My Heart Finds Christmas

This CD always brings memories of decorating both (yes, we had two) trees at my Mom and Rich's house. We would play this cassette and sing along while we decorated. I also remember a few years later at one of the Christmas parties that Chris and I had, our friend Brad couldn't get enough of the song It Must've Been 'Ol Santa Claus. He parked himself in front of one of the speakers in front of the stereo and sang along with the song over and over again.
A Charlie Brown Christmas

I don't have any specific memories that come up when I listen to this music, other than watching the show growing up and now when Eric and Mia come over to decorate the tree. This is probably my favorite Christmas CD.

May your season be filled with music and memories!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What Did I Say About Enjoying The Season?

Yeah, ignore that. It has happened. I am desperately trying to get into the spirit of the season, trying to slow down and enjoy the lights, and music and giving, and everything else that goes along with the season. On my way to and from Mickey's this past weekend, I listened to a Christmas book on CD. But I even felt distracted by that.

I don't know what it is. It may have something to do with all of the expectations that I've put on myself. Decorating the house, making and giving gifts, getting together with friends. It's all stuff I think should be getting done, rather than things that need to be done. I do believe that 2 weeks off will help alleviate this feeling tremendously. It will give me time to actually get stuff done.

As I was in my car not listening to the book on CD, I was thinking about past Christmas mornings and what some of my favorite gifts were. While I can only think of a few, what really comes to mind are Christmas traditions and memories I have.

So the next few blog posts (I'm not going to promise dates for these posts) will be about holiday memories. Things that remain with me, and help me to remember the spirit of the season. That's what I need right now.

And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. -Dr. Seuss

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Scenes

These past few weeks have been filled with some Christmas activities. Parties, decorations, and baking. Here are a few pictures:

Trimming the Tree
This is an annual tradition of ours that has evolved over the years. Eric and Mia help us put on the ornaments. The finishing touch is the angel, which is a bit tricky on a tall tree.

Polar Express Day
At Mickey's school, they have Polar Express Day in the 2nd grade. The kids are told to come to school with their pj's on, but they didn't know why. (All the teachers also wore pj's, so I did too!)When the kids got to school, there was a Polar Express ticket on their desks. They still didn't really know what was going on. Then the principal, dressed like a conductor, bounded into the room, and shouted, "All aboard!" It was great to see the looks on their faces. The conductor punched their tickets and then all the classes went to the cafeteria where donuts and hot cocoa were waiting. When they got back to the classroom, there was a bell in every desk. It was a great day!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mama Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Watch Wrestling

I don't mind wrestling. I do think that it's sort of a silly sport, but I won't get into that now. I also think that the stuff that surrounds the sport is equally silly. But I also won't get into that now.

For a while, while I had that 5th grade long term sub gig, I occasionally watched wrestling to be able to have conversations with my students. It seemed that half the class was into wrestling. (Did I write about this once before? I'm having a case of deja-vu.) Anyway, the kids in my class LOVED wrestling. At recess the next day they attempted to show the latest moves they saw the night before. They also wore t-shirts, printed out pictures from the internet, and talked incessantly about wrestling. I became familiar with all of the wrestler's names, and all of the days and times that wrestling was shown on TV. I even had some kids absent the day after a wrestling event was held in Detroit. It was way past their bedtimes by the time the event ended. Alright, I guess I can understand this one-time thing. Special occasion?

But bedtimes are bedtimes, and I'm a true believer that bedtimes should be followed every night if possible. (This is coming from a girl who put herself to bed each night without being asked, but kids do need their sleep.)

Yesterday I was helping two kids with their writing (Final drafts! Amen!) and one of them started complaining that he felt sick. I asked the usual questions: "Do you feel like you're going to throw up?" "Does your head hurt?" and also felt his forehead for a fever. Nothing seemed to be wrong. He did manage to tell me that he was up the night before for his favorite show which started at 9:00 and lasted 2 hours. When I asked him what the show was, he said, "Wrestling." He is 8 years old. I'm sure that he needs to get up by 7:30 am at the latest. I know you can do the math, but he only slept 7-8 hours! Of course he didn't feel well. He ended up going home shortly after I was with him.

Today when he was well rested after an afternoon of sleeping yesterday, he told me that his dad went on the wrestling website and downloaded one of the wrestler's theme songs as a ring tone on his cell phone. His teacher also told me that he will be missing a couple days in March when he and his dad fly to Arizona to see a wrestling event.

Wait. What? Here is a student who is reading at a low level. Here is a child who has a hard time concentrating on his writing, or math, or reading, because he is too tired. Do you see a connection here? It doesn't take a teacher to know what's good or bad for a child's learning. So much of it starts at home. There are such things as DVRs, or VCRs to tape shows and watch at another time. There are such things as bedtimes to follow. And there are such things as books which should be read instead of staying up late and watching wrestling.

Okay, I'm off my soap box now. Ahem.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks

I went for a short walk this morning, and while it sleeted a little and I caught glimpses of matted piles of wet leaves, I couldn't help but think of Hawaii. Strange, I know, but let me explain. Stein and I have been lucky to have been in Hawaii three times, and two of those three times have been around and on Thanksgiving.

The first time we were there, we were part of a group that had won the trip as part of a sales incentive. The people who organized the event thought that we should have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving. The whole event just seemed weird. We walked through the open hallways of the hotel lined with palm trees until we reached a banquet hall.

We could've been at anyone's wedding in this room, it was so generic. We were each served a plate full of turkey, stuffing, and potatoes drizzled with gravy. We didn't have to pass platters around the table, we didn't have to stand in line fighting for one of the two turkey legs available. The conversation was friendly and cordial, but it definitely didn't feel like Thanksgiving.

The next time we were in Hawaii for Thanksgiving, we decided to throw tradition out the window and go to Mama's Fishhouse for dinner. Friends had raved about it. It was perfect. When we got there, we navigated our way through a pathway marked with tiki lights to get to the little tiki-hut restaurant. The inside of the restaurant has a tiki theme, but not cheesy. The best part is the menu. Each fish that is listed has a description of the place and the fisherman/woman who caught the fish. Talk about buying local!

I would love to be in Hawaii right now. I wouldn't be in sweat pants and a sweatshirt sitting under a fleece blanket. But I also wouldn't be surrounded by family like I will be later today. For a brief time this afternoon, Hawaii will come in second. Talk to me tomorrow, though. It will probably be in first again.

Happy Thanksgiving, wherever you are! Enjoy those around you. Cherish the moment. Give thanks for all you have.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Making Treats


My friend Linda have been planning what we're going to make for Christmas gifts this year. I'm not a really crafty person, but I can make food to give away. Just another thing which I blame my mom - she always baked goodies to give to the teachers and helpers at school. Now I'm doing the same, with some of the same recipes.


Mickey and I usually make sugared pecans to give away at Christmas time. Whenever I make this recipe and smell the cinnamon and pecans roasting, it makes me remember going to Georgia Nut Co. with my mom to buy the pecans needed for the recipe. We would be there sometime after school, when we would usually run our errands. The place would be packed and we always had to take a number and wait our turn. My mom would order the pecans and the person would pack our order in a plastic bag with a funky paisley design and a yarn drawstring handle.


In addition to the pecans, Mickey and I also make short bread. It's a really easy recipe, and makes the most delicious short bread. Not to mention the amount of butter that goes into it. Oh mama.


This year Linda and I decided to try some candy. We did a test run of this recipe last weekend. Before we did this, I was really intimidated by the candy thermometer. I thought that if I didn't watch it like a hawk, that I would end up with blobs of candy stuck to my stove and ceiling for years. Maybe it was Willy Wonka who scared me about candy going awry. Who knows. But the result? A success! The recipe calls for this candy to be served with ice cream, and I think that would be really good.


We're going to keep experimenting with recipes. It's kind of fun to step out of my comfort zone. As long as I don't step away from the thermometer.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Year Later

A year ago right now, Stein and I were preparing to have my side of the family here for Thanksgiving. We actually had the table set, the turkey was thawing in the fridge, and lists for everything were made.

What a difference a year makes.

This year we won't be hosting anyone. We will be making potatoes and green bean casserole and bringing it over to Stein's sister's house. After all of the traveling back and forth to Chicago and hosting parties and people here, I couldn't be happier. I am so looking forward to having the time off, relaxing and getting some things done around the house.

We're lucky to have Wednesday and Friday off in addition to the holiday, so I'm looking forward to a mini-vacation of sorts. We don't have any set plans other than Thanksgiving, so I'm looking forward to doing whatever, whenever.

I'm hoping that I can keep it simple and enjoy the moment. I always try to go into the rush of the holiday season with a relaxed attitude. I hate getting to the other side of the season feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and disappointed.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful time spent together, wherever you are.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Writing

I had a great day today at school. It was one of those days that as a teacher, you see glimpses of progress or light bulbs going off, or kids thanking you for your help. I had a little bit of all of these things, so it was a great day indeed.

I had been struggling for a while on how to teach writing. Sure, there is a myriad of techniques out there which aim at different aspects of writing. There is no silver bullet, like everything in learning, but it's writing that stumps me the most. It's not cut and dry like a math problem. There aren't any set dates like in history.

As with any subject I teach, I struggle to remember just when and how I learned something. It's nearly impossible. Not because I'm old and don't have a great memory (ahem), but because I don't think that any one instance in time set the knowledge in my brain. I'm positive that most things built on each other and my knowledge of anything is a compilation of experience, practice, and good teaching. And the thing about when I learned to write? It was all grammar. I could diagram the heck out of a sentence. I could tell you all about nouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives (thank you, Schoolhouse Rock).

Now writing isn't taught like that. First, the content matters. Writing is more authentic. Prompts are rarely given, and kids are free to choose their topic. They may be working on a certain genre like persuasion or personal narratives, but they may choose what they want to write about. Mechanics become secondary. While I agree that kids need choices in their writing and there's more investment if it's something personal, I think that the mechanics are being neglected. (I think this may be another post. I'll stop about the mechanics now.)

Yet, being the person I am, I want a way that I can reach the students who I work with. I want to give them the tools they need to write well, and enjoy writing like I do. I struggle sometimes when I am listening to them tell me a story and I just want to write it down for them. I want to get it on paper. I want to expand on their ideas. I cringe when I hear, "I don't know what to write about." After giving 50 suggestions of topics, I want them to start writing immediately. Usually I'm lucky if I get their name at the top of their paper.

But today, in two separate classes, I had kids who were writing. And enjoying it. Kids who sat next to me and discussed their writing with me. I heard things like, "Does this sound interesting, or what can I add here?" or "I know I need to write more, so hold on and let me finish this." Kids who normally sat there biting their erasers off of their pencils while staring at the ceiling, actually had their heads bent down over their paper. They were re-reading their work and editing. I suddenly had one of those clouds-parting, sun-shining, angels-singing moments. It was heavenly. I even heard thank yous. My day was complete.

It's days like these that keep teachers going. I have a feeling I will be going for a while. At least until next week.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Reflections

Every year about this time I tend to do some reflecting. It starts around my birthday and carries me into the new year. I reflect on the year past, think about the year ahead, and make a mental inventory about people in my life. I get sentimental in these months, and it's not unusual for me to be daydreaming about birthdays back in the day, or that Christmas when I jumped up and down when I got the Adidas sweatsuit I wanted. You know, the one with the logo on the jacket and the pants? Oh yeah, it was a big deal.

This past week as I was celebrating my birthday, I have been thinking about birthdays past. But first I have to give Stein a lot credit for always making my birthday fun. You see, he stretches it into a birthday month for me, with gifts (of all different shapes and sizes) for me throughout that time. I am spoiled, I know. But you know how much of a gift person I am, right? Giving or getting, it doesn't matter. I love it.

So back to birthdays past. One of my favorite memories was when I was probably 5 years old, through the time I was probably 9. I would be woken up by The Beatles Birthday Song, with Mickey dancing in my room and singing along. She would grab my hand, pull me out of bed, and before you knew it, both of us would be dancing and jumping around my room singing to the Beatles. That was how I would start my day, with parts of the song like, "yes we're going to a party, party" going through my head for the rest of the day. I think about that every year on my birthday. What a fun memory.

This year I not only celebrated with friends throughout the week, I actually got to share birthday cake with all of my siblings this past weekend. I can't tell you the last time we were all together on my birthday. Seriously, it may have been my 16th birthday, I don't know. Being the youngest of five kids pretty much guarantees by the time you hit 16, the following years will have people scattered all over the place and unable to get together at the same time. So this year was special. Stein of course was on top of it and brought a cake along with us to Chicago. It was a little surreal to be standing there listening to my siblings and nieces and nephews singing happy birthday to me. I loved it.

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is already next week and Christmas is a month after that. This year I will be once again trying to slow down, take in the season in a simple way, and be thankful for the friends and family who will be with me. A time to reflect and a time to make new memories which will someday be reflections.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Before I Forget

There are a few recipes that we've made in the last few weeks that have been good enough to share. I feel like there are others that we've made, but the days have been blending together in a big here-one-day-gone-the-next-house-guest blur.

This recipe has kind of a funny story. I actually read the reviews for it before I started cooking. I read that some people substituted chili sauce for the salsa. One reviewer said that they used Asian chili sauce. So when I ran out of salsa, as I was doubling the recipe, I took out our bottle of Sriacha chili sauce (the one with the rooster on it) and used it. I didn't really think of the heat factor. In my mind, I was equating the chili sauce with the salsa. Hmmm. I should've thought back to all the times we eat our pizza or eggs with chili sauce - you only need a little. And I mean, a little. Like one dip and your mouth is on fire.

So when Stein and I sat down to eat that night, we went through an entire Brita pitcher of water, more rice than we needed, and slathered on some sour cream toward the end. The flavor was fantastic. But just a warning - if you use chili sauce, a little dab'll do ya.

The next recipes we made this past weekend when we had our house guests. It's perfect because you can make them the night before and once they're baked in the morning, you can easily have these out for people to help themselves. It worked out great. People were fed, we didn't have to spend time in the kitchen, and the clean-up was easy. We even had leftovers the next 2 days which came in handy when neither one of us wanted to cook. This first one we made without meat for the non-meat eaters in the group; the second one we left as is.

As our travels die down and we're home more, I'm sure there will be many other recipes. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Friends Meeting Friends

This weekend Sandy and Ryan came in from Wisconsin to visit us. They picked up Chris in Chicago on the way, so our house was full of friends and laughter the whole weekend.

On Saturday, we hosted friends at our house before the U of M game. It was interesting to me while we tailgated at our house, then went to game, came back to our house after, and went out for dinner later, how all of our friends got along so well. Stein and I were the first degree of separation so to speak. Our friends were from different times and places in our lives, yet had no problem making conversation and inevitably laughing. There were friends who Stein grew up with, college friends of mine, some family, friends we've known since moving to Ann Arbor, and friends we've made in the last 2 years (hi, Amy!).

I was never nervous that someone would be left out of the conversation, or that I would have to keep checking in to see if everyone was having fun. I know I've said it before, but what I love about being with any of our friends is the laughter. There are so many memories, old and new, that we just pick up from the last time and continue to laugh about. Mixed in with this laughter is time spent catching up on recent events, struggles, and life stuff. The bonds tighten, and we look forward to the next time we'll be together.

I cherish the friends we have. The friends who knew us then, and know us now, and love to laugh.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Here and There

So I bet you're tired of looking at that picture of the bagel and tea, eh? Yeah, I know I've been neglecting the blog in the past weeks and months. I've been trying to get back to normal, but I'm not so sure I know what normal is anymore.

We've been busy, and have been either out of town or hosting guests for the past, oh, 4 or 5 weekends. Don't get me wrong, it's all been great catching up with people here and there, but then suddenly you get to a point, right about Wednesday night, when you can't figure out where you are, where you need to be, and if you have clean underwear to wear in the morning. You know, all that life stuff catches up and all you can think about is packing or unpacking a bag.

One huge thing that has helped me in the past week is that I finished working the after school program. It was a seven-week program where I worked with fifth graders at the school where I was for the past two years. The concept in itself was not bad, but my new school is clear across town from the other one. So everyday, I would leave the house at 8:00, and get home somewhere around 6:30. It may not sound like a long day to some of you, but believe me, I couldn't do anything at the end of the day except eat dinner and watch TV. Underwear can be turned inside-out, right?! To tell you the relief I feel since the program ended is indescribable. I now go to the gym right after school on my way home, and I am still home an hour or more earlier than before.

Oh, and I don't think I've told you all that my current job has turned into a 5-day-a-week gig. The schedule is such that we need to be there 5 days a week, which is perfectly fine with me. No stalking the sub system, no wondering where I'll be everyday, no dealing with kids who are taking advantage of having a sub.

I hope that with the increased time I can write more here. I do feel a void when I can't write on a regular basis. I'm not going to promise anything, but I'm hoping it will be more often. We'll see.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Fall

The air is crisp and cool. The sunlight lingers when it's around, and then is abruptly gone at the end of the day. One minute I'm coming home from school in daylight, the next minute I look out the window and it's pitch black outside. It's fall.

I know I've written about my favorite cool-weather drink, chai tea latte, and my favorite fall breakfast food, pumpkin bagels. But put them together, and oh mama, it's perfection. A little spicy and warm. It just feels cozy.

Stein brought a dozen of the bagels home a couple weeks ago, and the rationing has begun. I only allow myself one to two bagels per week in order to ensure that they're not gone in a short time. I always have one on Friday, and then usually one on Saturday or Sunday. Yes, I'm somewhat of a routine freak. But I think you already knew that.

I was talking to Mickey the other day and we were discussing pumpkin stuff. We're both big fans of all things pumpkin. I could eat a pumpkin shoe if there ever was one. (I'm sure it would look cute too.) Later this week Stein and I will be carving pumpkins and roasting pumpkin seeds. Can't wait.

Happy Fall to you!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Hat


I don't know if I have ever wrote a piece about Stein's love of Michigan football. Well, in a nutshell, suffice it to say that the man is a rabid fan.

If you have ever been to Michigan Stadium, then you probably know that the stadium, even though it seats over 100,000 people, is a pretty quiet stadium. Some contribute this quiet to the shape of the stadium itself that allows noise to go straight up into the sky, some contribute this quiet to the many elderly fans who are sometimes woken up from their naps by a touchdown or a row mate who may need a hot dog. Or woken up by a random outburst of "AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH!" by Stein. I learned early on that you don't talk when you are sitting with Stein at a Michigan game. Like at all. Unless it's halftime - maybe. And the aforementioned outburst is the only thing that breaks this silence. I welcome it for some comedic relief, and for breaking the tension temporarily.

So with this work of being at a Michigan game, it's not surprising that there is a sort of uniform involved. The key component to this uniform? The hat. I don't say "a hat" because the article "a" doesn't convey the importance of this particular hat. It's the same style hat that Bo Schembechler wore for his successful years of coaching Michigan football.

Photo courtesy of espn.com

There's kind of a ritual surrounding the hat. Every morning before a U of M game, Stein sets out the hat, with his tickets inside of the hat. This ensures that he won't forget either one. The hat stays off until it's time to walk from the tailgate to the game. Then it gets put on, until the game is over, or until we get home. It occasionally leaves his head while we're in the stadium. Of course it's removed for the National Anthem, and sometimes when an outburst is needed. This is usually followed by a run of his fingers through his hair to keep from saying something inappropriate around our young nephews.

I have to say that I do enjoy the tradition and pomp and circumstance that goes with U of M football. It's something we never had at Marquette, because we don't have a varsity football team. The tailgating, the marching band, the striped helmets, the legacy of great players and coaches. And, the hat.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Intercepting Notes

The other day I subbed in a third grade classroom at a school I had never been to before. Not more than 20 minutes into teaching the math lesson, I saw one little girl writing something on a small piece of paper. Whenever I see this happen, I don't make a big deal out of it, I just ask for the piece of paper. This usually embarrasses the note writer enough to make an impact. Sure enough, when I asked for it, her eyes got as big as saucers and her face turned bright red. I just put the note in my pocket.

When I read it later, I had to laugh. It was about me! Although I don't know what the rest of the note would've said because I caught her in mid-sentence. It said, "What does the teacher". So I started thinking about what she was going to end the note with. What does the teacher have on her face? What does the teacher want us to do? I don't know.

What do you think?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lasagna!



It's chilly outside. I won't go into my monologue of hate about cold weather and the inevitable winter season. Not right now, anyway.

Chris and I exchanged emails the other day about how this is perfect sleeping weather. It is. Perfect for snuggling under a blanket, drinking hot drinks, and pulling out sweaters and sweatshirts. It's time to come inside. Time to slow down.

With the change of the seasons and weather, we change our cooking and eating habits too. I made some pot roast in the crock pot the other day, and last weekend I made this lasagna. It uses ground turkey, and I also used whole wheat noodles. Although those 2 healthy ingredients are thrown out the window when you look at the cheese ingredient list: goat cheese, mozzarella, parmesan, and ricotta. I think the goat cheese adds a nice twist. We had the lasagna with some good crusty bread. The leftovers the following days were even better than the first day.

Slowing down, coming inside, and eating hot, comfort foods. It's fall.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Beggars Can't be Choosers

Guess what? I got a job! It's not in a classroom, but it's a steady job where I will be working with kids on a regular basis. It's part of the Title I program at another school in the district. I will be working with kindergarten and second grade students who need a little boost in reading, writing and math. I will work side-by-side with some of them in their classrooms, and will also have some small groups that I will pull out to work together.

It's funny how the whole thing worked out. I was subbing at the school where I will be working, and bumped into a woman who I had worked with while I was getting my certificate. After exchanging pleasantries for a few minutes, she came right out and asked me if I would like a job doing Title I work. I didn't hesitate and immediately said yes. After doing regular subbing for only a couple weeks this year, I was already over it. Not knowing where I will be each day, stalking the sub scheduling program online, and dealing with kids who take advantage of a sub is not my idea of fun. (A quick flashback to all of this made me possibly yell yes when I answered.)

I will start next Monday, and I will work 4 days a week. On the fifth day I will most likely sub, which I can handle. I think only subbing one day will keep me on my toes, and also allow me to pick and choose jobs.

While this isn't my ideal of being a classroom teacher, it's a job. It's not subbing. It's working with kids on a regular basis. I'm ready for this next adventure. Bring it on.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Love-Hate

Oh, fall. I have this love-hate relationship with you, in case you didn't know. I love your cool, crisp mornings and sunny, warm afternoons. I love being able to break out a few different things to wear, which gives me a break from my now-monotonous summer wardrobe. The apples, and pumpkins, college football and colorful leaves? Yummy, fun, and gorgeous. I even like the way the sunshine is different. Big blue skies, light that is soft and comforting. You're lulling me into a state of comfort, letting me know that's it's okay to come back inside. Your cool weather compels me to bake and make things in the crock pot. Things that take more time to prep and cook, unlike the quick, light meals that we made so often this summer.

But the hate part of this relationship is the anticipation of the season after you. Everyone knows I am not a fan. At all. I can continue to complain about this, including the bitter cold winds making my shoulders scrunch up and bulky clothes confining me. But I won't. At least not now. For now I will continue to enjoy what you are offering. Enjoy the moment. Because soon, those moments will be memories.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

9/11

Sorry for the lack of posts. School started last week, and I've been helping out with a kindergarten class at the school where I've been working for the past two years (2 years!). This past week in the classroom could be written as a whole series of blog posts including all of the funny things that the kids say or do. I have a lot of respect for kindergarten teachers. There is quite a difference between the upper elementary grades that I've worked with and kindergarten.

In addition to blogging about that, I also need to blog about the theme party we attended last weekend, and also my trip to Chicago this past weekend. But right now I want to stop and reflect on 9/11.

I wrote this post two years ago, and it still rings true. Each time I remember September 11th, the memories start flooding in: the blue sky, the sky the following days without planes flying overhead, the helpless feeling I had, the constant search for the answer to the question "why?". This year, I remembered all of this again, and all of the feelings came back to me.

One of the weirdest things to consider was when I was in the kindergarten class on Friday. The principal interrupted classes with an announcement for a moment of silence. She mentioned that many of the students may not remember what happened, or some of them were not born when this happened. The kindergartners were part of the latter group. Most of them were born in 2004 or 2005.

This group of students will only read about this occasion in their history books, or watch videos or movies about the subject. They will only be able to imagine what it felt like or how the world was changed because of it.

I don't have to imagine. I know how it changed our world. I will never forget.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Not a Sunset Picture

I forgot I had taken this picture while we were up north, and surprisingly, it isn't a sunset picture. This is the football field for Harbor Springs High School. Stein and I always try to catch glimpses of it from the road when we drive by, but you can't see much of it.

Since we were there on a Friday night, I decided to look up their schedule and see if they were playing. Sure enough, they were! It was pretty cool to see it in action, although a bit cold and rainy. We just stood behind the fence and watched the first half of the game. The stands are built into the hillside, and if you look past the field, you see Lake Michigan (Little Traverse Bay).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Books!

I actually read books this summer! Not as many as I would have liked to, but I read nonetheless. I tend to think of the Harry Potter and Twilight series books as two books each, so technically, you could say that I read five books this summer. There, that makes me feel a little better.

So I started out with the race to finish the sixth Harry Potter book, The Half-Blood Prince, before the movie came out. While I didn't finish it before the movie officially came out, I did finish it in time for us to see it at the theatre. We ended up seeing it at the IMAX theatre, which was very cool. While we were there, I remembered that I saw one of the Harry Potter movies with my Mom at the IMAX in Chicago. It does make for a very LOUD and enthralling experience. Now I need to read the seventh book. But as I told my Mom, I think I need to keep to smaller books for a while. The bigger ones have felt daunting to me lately.

I also started the third book Eclipse in the Twilight series (big books too!) a while back, but never really got into it and put it down for a while. When I picked it up again this summer, I did end up finishing it, but never really got into it. It wasn't a page-turner to me. It was interesting, but not like Twilight, where I couldn't put the book down. I will eventually read Breaking Dawn, the fourth book, but I'm really not in a hurry to do so.

I also read a book suggested by my friend Alissa. Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg is a really sweet story. Alissa knew I would like it because the story takes place in Chicago, and the author makes a lot of Chicago references. I really liked it. It was a pretty simple story, but had a few twists just to keep my interest. It was also a short read, so I felt a sense of accomplishment in a short period of time.
My mom gave me another suggestion for a book, so I requested that from the library. In the meantime, I have many others on our bookshelves that are waiting to be read. I'm so glad I'm finally getting back into reading. It feels so good to be lost in a book.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So We're Back

And we've been back for a while now. We got back on Saturday, and I'm feeling a bit depressed about it. I know, I know, in this economic climate many people can't afford to take vacations, so stop complaining, right? Okay, I will stop, but know that I'm not happy about it.

In a nutshell, the time away was wonderful. Just what the doctor ordered. We didn't have an agenda, so we just meandered, did whatever we felt like at the moment, and just relaxed. I should mention that the only thing that was scheduled the entire trip was when we wanted to go watch sunset. Around 8:20 each night, you would find us by the water, usually armed with some wine and the camera, watching the sunset.

The other day when I was helping my friend Amy in her classroom (hi Amy!) she asked how our trip was. I laughed when I told her that every picture on my camera was sunsets. So that's all the pictures you'll see in this post, sorry. I didn't take pictures of us, because really, most of them would be Stein in a chair reading, or me in a chair drinking sangria, or the two of us at a restaurant eating whitefish, or walking along the beach looking for Petoskey stones. Yeah, you know those pictures. I didn't take any of those because I didn't want you to be jealous. And also, because I just didn't feel like it.
We were able to see some new places and try some new restaurants, which was fun. Our friend Jim has a place on Elk Lake, and offered it to us for a few nights. While we were there, we ate at a great cajun restaurant, and another local restaurant that had a really cool interior, and great food too. It was nice to be in a different place, see different things, and just be.

We were also in Petoskey, where we seem to have more of a routine. We have our favorite restaurants, so we usually space them out so that we get to each one on different days. Some of the places are in Charlevoix and Harbor Springs, which are a distance away, so we try to only do so much driving on one day. We need time for sitting, after all.
The driving is just as fun as the sitting. Short trips through the small towns up north just make you slow down. The roadside stands with fruits and vegetables, sometimes unattended and on the honor system for paying. Some of the bigger stands have signs that have the available fruits and vegetables listed on them. While we were up there, cherries were just about done, and peaches and apples were aplenty. Also, tomatoes, corn, and peppers.
I said to Stein when we got back, "I'm sad to be done with vacation, but happy to be home." So true, but I would love to be back there. Right now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Our Bags Are Packed

By the time you read this, we'll be Up North. We are going on a much-needed vacation. Yes, I know we've been relaxing and enjoying the weather at home, but we need to get away. See different scenery. Without a schedule, without an agenda. It's been kind of a crazy summer, with all kinds of life stuff happening around us. It will be good to let go, and let be. Play a few games, eat, read a few magazines, drink, look at water, and be merry.

Have a great week!

P.S. Happy Anniversary Stein! Lucky number seven. I'm the lucky one. Cheers to many, many more!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

You Say Tom(A)to, I Say Tom(ah)to

Our tomatoes are going a bit crazy this year. This year we also grew some yellow tomatoes, which I really like. Very sweet, but in a tomato kind of way.

It's that time of the year, when people all over are scrambling to pick their tomatoes so they don't get rotten or they're not eaten by critters. You may be getting some from neighbors who simply can't keep up with the harvest in the backyard. Or maybe you have too many yourself and you're the one giving them away. Regardless, I'm in my glory. I tomatoes. Well, let me rephrase that. I love homegrown tomatoes. Ones that don't always look perfect next to those waxy ones at the grocery store. Ones that have character, with sweetness and juiciness to back up that character.

I like to slice into a tomato, sprinkle some salt onto the slice and eat it like that. But if I have to share, it's usually with a tomato salad. At this time of the year, we eat a lot of tomato salads around here. And salsas too. We like our salads with sliced tomatoes, basil, and some goat cheese sprinkled on top (this picture makes it look like powdered sugar - it was the end of the container). Add a couple glugs of olive oil swirled around the plate, some salt and pepper, and you're good to go.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

What's Black and White and "Red" All Over?

Well, the newspaper, of course, silly.

Unfortunately, our newspaper is gone. The Ann Arbor News closed its doors a couple weeks ago, and we already miss it. I know this is the way that a lot of newspapers are going, but I don't like it.

I remember starting out college in the journalism program, and listening to one professor tell us what the future of journalism was going to be like. In print journalism, everything would be on the computer, including the daily newspaper. Not to date myself, but back in my college days we didn't have the internet yet. Cell phones weren't even a thought. So when he said that everything would be on the computer, I wondered, how is all the information going to get to my computer? On a floppy disk? Would this floppy disk be delivered to houses everyday? But I mostly thought about reading the paper on a computer. Would it be on a computer similar to the computer in the crowded labs that I spent countless days in front of, writing the required paper for every class, and waiting in line to pick up my dot-matrix print-out? I couldn't imagine spending my "free time" as an adult reading things on the computer. It was enough torture during my college days.

To me, and apparently to other people who protested the closing of the newspaper here, the newspaper needs to be held, and smelled, and heard. Holding the thin sheets of newsprint, smelling the fresh ink on the pages, and hearing the crinkling of the pages is all part of the ritual for me. I grew up with this ritual, and I miss it when it's not part of my Sunday.

As kids, we would grab the money needed and run over to the man selling the papers in the vestibule of our church. We would always buy both The Chicago Tribune, as well as The Chicago Sun-Times. The comics were different in both papers, so it was a bonus for us kids. I never understood just what my mom and dad were reading about. I thought it looked so boring, all of those words crammed into columns with few pictures on the pages. But the comics were a different story - I could laugh at Charlie Brown's latest antics, and try to do the puzzles. (I never understood the detective comics like Brenda Starr, but they were cool to look at). My dad would sometimes read the comics to us, and use different voices for the characters. It was a different medium, but it was the idea of listening to the story that I loved (and still love).

Fast forward to after college, when I lived with Chris and we would have the Sunday paper delivered. On Sunday mornings, most often we would just step over the paper on our way out to breakfast with friends. And then once we got back, we would pick up the paper on our way back inside, split up the sections and read for a couple hours.

When I moved to Ann Arbor, we had the Ann Arbor News delivered. Although the paper wasn't as thick as the Tribune or Sun-Times and had a lot of AP articles rather than ones written by reporters here, I still enjoyed the comfortable ritual of reading it on Sundays.

Now the majority of the paper has been moved online (I guess my prof wasn't so crazy) and there is a paper that is delivered to our house twice a week. And that paper? It's like a neighborhood paper, with human-interest stories. If you want to know who was in the park this weekend flying kites while walking their dog, this paper is for you. How about the latest festival pictures? You got it. The sports section yesterday had an article about the Rec League's baseball program.

We don't even read it anymore. It has gone from our driveway to our recycling bin without being opened. There is always the Detroit Free Press, which we will probably subscribe to eventually. And there are always articles we can read online. I guess this will just add to my computer reading time. At least I can do that at home on the couch.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blueberry Muffins!

I have another post that has been swimming in my head and has been a draft for many days now. It will eventually get to the point I want it to be at, but for now it will sit.

In the meantime, I baked blueberry muffins! We had some blueberries from the farmer's market that needed to be used up soon. I had never made blueberry muffins before, but figured they would be pretty easy. They definitely were easy to make.

I used this recipe by Paula Deen. I figured, you can't go wrong with Paula Deen, the queen of sweet and buttery recipes. Yet, while I was waiting for the muffins to bake, I decided to look at the reviews that people submitted about the recipe. Every other one I read was a negative one. "These are the worst muffins we've ever tasted," wrote one reviewer. "We had to throw the whole batch out," wrote another one. I thought about all the time and ingredients that I had just wasted. And also thought about all the times I forgot to read the whole recipe through, or tried out a new recipe for the first time with company. Oy.

Yet, once one of them cooled down enough for me to taste it, I loved it! They're not a too-sweet muffin that would send you to the dentist immediately. They're perfect to have with coffee, or milk (in Stein's case). I'm not a big fan of those overly sweet muffins anyway. They remind me of those cellophane-wrapped ones you can buy at the nearest convenience store along with a lottery ticket. No, these ones remind me of summer. Short, but sweet, and even better shared with friends. (Awww).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Peer Pressured Into Back to School

I'm in denial right now. I've been turning my head from every back to school ad in the paper and all of the big displays at every store. I get like this every August. I try to hold onto summer so hard, because I hate the inevitable. You know, that season that starts with "W" and ends in "inter"? I don't need to remind you how much I love summer. And August always brings with it a blast of all things summer. The farmer's market is packed with produce. So much so, that I am once again overwhelmed. The days seem to linger, even though the sun is setting earlier and earlier every night.

But yet, September is knocking, like that grim reaper character. Luckily here in Michigan, there's a state law that schools can't start back until after Labor Day. I like that law. But I feel the back to school thing earlier because everyone around me (in other places) is feeling it already. Namely Mickey, who started back to school today for meetings. The kids come tomorrow. Already.

Because Mickey is back to school, I am feeling back to school. Mostly because during the summer, we talk on the phone nearly every day, for an hour on average. Once the school year starts, we usually talk on Saturdays, with an occasional weeknight. It's more scheduled, less summer like. I don't really like it.

So even though I have about 3 weeks until our school starts, I am still feeling like summer is ending. We do have our trip up north, which will be so fun, and will probably distract me from the inevitable. But in the meantime, I am feeling similar to how I did in high school. Back then, I didn't have a curfew (Stein thinks that is insane). But I think my mom was ingenious in doing so. She was giving us our freedom, yet probably knew that a.) we were good kids (most of us - ahem) and we wouldn't do anything crazy and b.) we would be out with friends who had curfews and we wouldn't stay out late if our friends weren't there.

Now that Mickey's back at school, I feel like I need to be back at school. Whoa, wait a minute, what am I talking about? Has this sudden blast of heat gone to my head? I mean, I feel like I need to squeeze out every last drop of summer in the next few weeks.

Pass the tomato salad, please.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy

After yesterday's post, I'm feeling a bit like Debbie Downer (say it with me, "Waah, waah"). So to make up for that post, here's what's making me happy lately:
  • This recipe, that rivals that Paula Deen one I posted a while back. We had it with some leftover steaks, and a tomato, basil and goat cheese salad (drizzled with olive oil). A great meal to use some of the goodies we got from the farmer's market. It was so good, and perfect with a glass of red wine. Oh, and savored while sitting outside, of course.
  • Speaking of sitting outside, I am loving the weather this summer. Everyday I hear people complaining about it. Stein and I keep asking ourselves, "What's not to like about this weather?" We have eaten dinner outside almost every single night this summer. We have gone on walks without breaking a sweat from hot temperatures or too much humidity. We have slept like babies with the cooler temperatures at night. And we have not used our air conditioning since sometime in June. (Now that I just said all of this, I'm sure it's going to change.)
  • Re-discovering the library for things for me, not for my students. Things like CDs (Broadway show tunes anyone?!), magazines (to feed my obsession without the cost), and DVDs (haven't borrowed one yet, but they're there!).
  • Reading. For pleasure. I finished the 6th Harry Potter, and now I'm reading the 3rd Twilight book. "Candy for the brain" as my mom calls books like those. I love them.
  • Feeling like a kid in summer, but as an adult. The luxury of sleeping in, staying in my pajamas, catching up on TV, going wherever, whenever I want. I am grateful to have this luxury, believe me.
  • Thinking and planning for our trip up north this month. I can't wait to be in a different place, exploring, eating and drinking our way through towns up there. Again, it's the anticipation that I love just as much as the trip itself.

What's making you happy? Enjoy it! Summer will be gone before we know it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Frustration

So it's that time again. Target is telling us, Bed Bath and Beyond had a huge sign in front of their store telling us, and even Yahoo's web page mast is telling us.

It's Back to School time.

I'm not ready. I just finished summer school last Thursday, and most annoyingly, I don't have a job for fall. Sure, I can sub like I did last year, but really? I want a real job. One in a real classroom that's mine, where everyday the kids come in, hang up their coats, sit down and we learn. We read, do a little math, I read to them, do a little science, well, you get the picture. I want that.

The job market in Michigan is like everywhere else in this country, only worse. And the job market for teachers? Let's just say it's even worse than that. This May, there were 5 openings in the Ann Arbor schools, and 2,000 people applied. 2,000 people! How do you even begin to set yourself aside from anyone else when there are that many people? Back in the day, it was who you knew. I am very familiar with this system, having grown up in Chicago. But unfortunately, the system is now so objective (barring a few equal-opportunity laws) that everyone has an "equal chance". Yep, as equal and as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.

I feel like I've paid my dues. There was that crazy fifth-grade long term sub job I had nearly a year and half ago, followed by a summer school gig, and then the long-term library and computer teacher stint. A repeat of my summer school gig this summer should only build my experience, right? Well, at least I think so. And all of my friends and family think so.

I'm beginning to think that my time spent in the business world has jaded my switch into the world of education. I look at education so many times as a business and think that many aspects could be better managed and made more efficient with some system changes. But that doesn't happen overnight. If you thought the government was the only place with red tape, loopholes, and general nonsense, think again. So when I don't get a job, or even an interview, yet I have a lot of experience and glowing reviews, I'm at a loss. In the business world, I would have that job, and would be considered for a promotion already.

One person had the nerve to say to me, "So what are you going to do?" Like I would possibly go back to my job in the business world because I couldn't find a teaching job. Well, I left that job for a reason: to follow my passion, to go back to school to get my certificate, and to get a job. Even though all of those things haven't happened, I haven't lost my passion, and I still love to teach.

I will most likely be a sub again this fall, only this time it probably won't be a long-term sub position. I will be in the pool of people who stalk the computer each night, hoping that a teacher somewhere is sick, or faking sick, and needs a sub. I will be one of the people who gets phone calls at 6:00 am even though I already said I was "off" in the system, wanting to know if I could sub for a random person. Honestly, I'm not looking forward to that. My friend Matt told me that he loved subbing. "I always got great ideas when I subbed!" I'm going to sound bitter when I say this, but I have enough good ideas, and I'm ready to use them in a real classroom. Oh, and if I need more, I can search the internet.

Too many people have said to me, "Your time is going to come." Or, "There is a classroom just waiting for you." Well, that time is now. And that classroom is waiting for me to put up bulletin boards and arrange desks. Let's go. I'm ready.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Yep, Still Here

Just haven't had much to write about lately. School is still going well, and I can't believe we are a little more than halfway done. The days are flying by lately, and I think it's because I have a good combination of work and fun in each day. I could definitely deal with this all year!

I know a lot of people around here have been complaining about the weather, but honestly, I've been loving it. It's been great for sleeping, and it hasn't been unbearable in school (we don't have a/c there). It has also allowed Stein and me to sit outside almost every single night. I love that.

We've been eating light meals, or making things that could carry over for a couple meals. I don't want too much to do in my afternoons, okay?! But two recipes have stood out in the past two weeks that were really good, and also used some of the seasonal produce we find all around us now.

Grilled Pizza
This recipe was the one we used, because we had a lot of the ingredients on hand. I bought a pizza dough from Trader Joe's (and the marinated artichokes), so the prep time was really short. It was really good. We thought that the next time we make it, we may put grilled chicken on top as well. There were other recipes on foodtv.com for grilled pizza, so this may be the summer of grilled pizza. Stay tuned!

Potato and Green Bean Salad
Last week I went to the farmer's market and was overwhelmed by the abundance of produce. Remember how I said that summer's farmer's market brings this overwhelming feeling for me? It hit me right in the face that day. Swarms of people stood in lines to grab blueberries, blackberries, tomatoes, and almost every other fruit or vegetable you could think of. But the green beans. Oh, the green beans. And the potatoes. Why did I think potatoes were a fall thing? Regardless, I came home with a sack full of produce and immediately thought, what the heck am I going to do with this? I found this recipe, which worked out perfectly. Stein and I are still trying to decide if we like it better refrigerated or at room temperature. Either way, it's a nice light potato salad that's really easy to prepare.

Happy summer eating to you!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Friends and Fritatta

A couple weeks ago, I had my good friends Regina and Andrea over for coffee. (Well, they drank coffee, and I drank water.) I decided since they were coming over at breakfast time to make some breakfast foods for us to nibble. I decided on a fritatta, since Regina tries to stay away from gluten. I found this recipe to use as a guide, and added some fresh asparagus to it. Since I had most of the ingredients on hand or in the garden, it worked out well. I made a blueberry and strawberry salad to go with it, and Andrea brought some fruit and some baked goodies.

Whenever the three of us are together, the time just flies. So much so, that we eventually look at our watches and realize that 3 or more hours have gone by. We have known each other for three years now. We met in one of the classes I was taking. Regina was our teacher, and Andrea was one of my peers. We have been in touch since then, and our friendships have grown.

This day, we talked and talked, and moved around the yard to avoid the sun, for 5 hours! By the time they left my house, the three of us were sitting in a row along the side of the garage in the only piece of shade in the yard. I guess we should've known how late it was by the amount of times we moved around the yard. But the only thing we were paying attention to was each other. Catching up, telling stories, offering advice. Just what good friends do. What a great morning/afternoon it was.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Finding My Way Back

I started teaching summer school on Monday. It has been great for the most part. Today, which is the last day of the week, was a little shaky, but I think we were all ready to be done for the week. I really can't complain at all, because I have eight students in my class. Oh, and guess what? I teach with my friend Mandi. In the same room. Yes, we have eight kids, and two teachers. Talk about a dream. Talk about an excellent ratio for the kids. Talk about perfect for summer.

In the midst of all of the math, reading, and writing, I am finding my way back to teaching. Although I had the long-term sub gig this year in the media center, to me it wasn't exactly teaching. To me that was more like being a supervisor.

In a regular classroom, you see the same kids everyday. You learn about their families, learn what they love to do when they're not in school, learn about the books they love to read. In return, they learn a lot about you. They learn what buttons they can push to get a reaction and they learn when they have crossed a line.

I didn't have this "learning" in the regular classroom. I saw all of the kids in the school, which meant that maybe I would see each of them twice in a week. I didn't really get a feel for who they were as individuals, and they didn't get a feel for who I was, either. The director of the summer program put it well when he said, "You're a relationship person. You value the relationship with your students which motivates them to learn." I couldn't have said it better.

I'm so glad that I've found my way back this week. It feels right, and it's right where I should be.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

How Much is Enough?

You ever notice when you hear about something or read about it, it seems like every other article or news story you encounter is about the same thing?

I've been experiencing that lately with living simple. Or reducing abundance. Or reducing, recycling, reusing. You get the point. I know that this is the result of the economy, everyone is cutting back, taking stock, and looking around to see what's really necessary. I know in our house there are a lot of things that we could get rid of. Things that haven't been touched in years. Things like, why do we need 2 more plastic ice trays sitting in the basement when we already have four of them in rotation in the freezer?

I told you about my friend Lisa (of Lather, Rinse, and Repeat) who turned me on to the excess toys article? Well, lately she took it a step further. She locked up all of her kids' toys in a closet, except for a few favorite stuffed animals and art supplies. She did break down one day and take out the Lincoln Logs, but that's it. And you know what? The kids are fine. Doing art projects and going to the pool have become much more fun than the 500 pieces of plastic strewn across the floor.

So where am I going with this random post? Oh yeah, the picture. In that picture you will recognize the plastic tabs that come on bread products. I think any sane person would probably throw them out when the bread was done. But we (I) save them. Without the risk of being like my Great Aunt Ann, a product of the depression, who had a shoebox full of them when she died, we actually use them. Instead of putting things like frozen peas into another plastic bag, we just cinch the top of the current bag with a plastic tab. Or my oatmeal that comes in a plastic pouch can just be cinched as well instead of being put into another plastic container.

So have we hearkened back to the "olden days"? Has our society seen so much excess that now it is time to pull back the reins a bit? It obviously coincides with the economy, unemployment, etc. I don't know if all the articles and posts about conserving are encouraging me to do things like this. But it just feels good doing it. I know I am not saying anything new here, but: If something can be reduced, reused, or recycled, then why not? It just seems frivolous not to.

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's Summer

The other day I really had to concentrate hard to think about what day of the week it was. I had to back track through all of the days and activities to figure out if we were at Tuesday, or Wednesday, or possibly Thursday.

Summer is here.

Yes, I realize what a luxury it is to have part of my summer off. I am grateful for this time and have been enjoying it to the fullest. We went to two baseball games in two days this week. I have been sipping lemonade with meals or alone. We had to turn on the A/C for the first time this season when the heat and humidity were unbearable. I made pesto.

Ah, pesto. Something so easy and fresh, makes my mouth happy. I love that in less than a half hour, I can have fresh, straight form the garden pesto. I even forgot the garlic at one point in the process and took a taste. Even then, without one of the most important ingredients, it tasted good. I think I may have even said, "Mmmm" out loud to myself, I don't know. I added the garlic, took a taste and just nodded my head. Yes.

When Stein called later that day, we had our usual end of the conversation question. "What do you want for dinner tonight?" I already had the answer. Pasta with pesto. I was going to add some more ingredients, but I didn't know what at that point. Roasted red peppers? Artichokes? Tomatoes? Mushrooms? After consulting with Rich on some flavors, I decided to keep it simple: pasta with pesto and tomatoes. A caprese salad of sorts with pasta.

I found myself on the other side of town later that day, so I popped into Zingerman's for a loaf of bread. Their bread of the month - Rustic Italian, caught my eye. That will be perfect with the pasta, I thought. And it was.

When Stein came home from work, I ripped off a hunk of that bread and slopped up some of the pesto. I brought it to him. One look at the bright green paste and he knew what it was. He popped it into his mouth and smiled.

Yes, it's summer.

Monday, June 22, 2009

If You Give a Mouse a Paintbrush

You may be familiar with the If You Give a Mouse book series, where the mouse is given something in the beginning, like a cookie, and then he needs a glass of milk, followed by a napkin to wipe the milk. You get the idea.

This weekend, we felt like the mice. Our kitchen ceiling had a leak at one point which we ignored for a while. A couple months ago, we decided to get the origin of the leak fixed and then have the kitchen ceiling patched as well. To save money we decided to paint the ceiling ourselves. Yet as we looked around the kitchen, we realized that there was some other painting that could be done as well.

When we moved into our house, we painted everything except the woodwork and trim. Those two things were still in decent condition, and we saved some time and money by ignoring them. Even when we were painting the kitchen cabinets white, we didn't care that the whites of the trim and ceiling didn't match the white of the cabinets.

Now they all match.

So, what started as a ceiling-painting project led into a kitchen painting (sans the walls) project. The cabinet doors were removed and repainted. The trim was given a new coat of paint, and the ceiling was done. It feels good to have it all done, but I really hate painting. I said to Stein when we were about a half hour into it, "I don't know how my grandpa did this for a living. I really don't like this." But eventually it got done.

Now if only some magical mice would show up (like those in Cinderella) and give us a new kitchen floor...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Possibilities

I'm sure that I have a post similar to this written last summer, or the summer before that. I don't know, I'm too lazy to check. But here we are in the beginnings of summer, and I'm feeling it once again.

The possibilities.

My time is unstructured and unscheduled. I can do whatever I want, wherever I want, without thinking about time. After being in the very structured and scheduled environment of school for nine months, this almost feels foreign to me.

But then I remember summers when I was younger, when this yearly occurrence wasn't so foreign. I became an expert of sorts at it, having an unstructured routine, if that was possible. I think back to those days, when my mom would go play tennis promptly at 9:00 every morning. Some days I would go to the park with her and play at the playground across the way, or play in the dirt just outside the fenced-in courts.

Other days I would choose to stay home, and be with my siblings. We were left to our own vices then, which consisted of any breakfast food topped with ice cream, and TV. My mom created the ice cream thing, I have to say. She came up with the ingenious idea of putting ice cream in-between 2 frozen waffles for a dessert after dinner. We just took it a step further by eating the breakfast foods (frozen waffles, leftover pancakes) for breakfast, but still incorporating the ice cream. Just call it invention. After all, it is the father of necessity, right? We needed to eat.

Oh, and the TV. It is amazing to me that I don't remember much fighting surrounding what we were going to watch. At least during the summer. We were all fans of sitcoms, so inevitably it would be something like The Jeffersons followed by Alice. One summer I distinctly remember being enthralled by the show, Please Don't Eat the Daisies. We all wanted to live in a huge house like theirs, along with their set of twins, Trevor and Tracy. We would top off our TV watching with a few game shows, if we had time.

We weren't couch potatoes all day. We would always get outside, find the neighborhood kids, and get into some trouble somewhere. I say trouble, but it was usually harmless. Breaking windows with hard-hit baseballs, cutting through neighbor's yards to get to our friends house. Again, the possibilities were endless. We didn't know what we were going to do each day, other than eat breakfast, lunch (maybe), and dinner. Freedom at its finest.

So for the next two weeks (I start summer school in 2 weeks) I'm going to embrace that eight-year-old girl and that feeling of having endless possibilities.

If only we had some waffles. And some ice cream.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Growing!

Remember these?Look at them now!
The adult version (we bought these just in case): Tomatoes (I may have gotten a little overzealous with the seeds - there are tons of tomato plants in this pot):The adult version we bought just in case (they are flowering already!):

Peppers:Cayenne Peppers (we bought this one too):

I know the science behind seeds and growing plants, but it never ceases to amaze me that this happens.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

School's Out

Actually, it's been out for about five days now, but I'm just now taking some time to write about it. We've been on the move since it got out. End-of-the-year party, a trip to Chicago, and some sunny days have been taking up my time.

It's raining today. A perfect excuse to get some things done inside the house. Maybe I'll get some things organized for summer school. Or maybe not. Maybe I'll read a book. Or maybe not. You see, that's the beauty of summer. The possibilities are endless.

But before the summer gets away from me, I want to tell you about the last day of school. Traditionally at my school on the last day, there is an assembly mid-morning, where some people are thanked and if people are leaving they are bid farewell. My principal made a comment to me one day that led me to think I would be getting something at the assembly. She wanted to make sure I would be there for the last day of school.

I had a feeling it would be similar to the assembly last year. Since I was the long-term sub for the fifth grade then, I was given a gift and everyone clapped as I stood up at the front with a couple other people who did similar things.

But this year, I was called up alone. My principal said a few words about what I did this year, the whole time the kids near me were turning around to look at me. My eyes started to well up, but I kept it together as I walked up to receive my gift:

A dozen beautiful pink roses! (I took this picture this morning, so they have opened up a lot.) The sentiment was touching, to say the least. As I stood up in front of the school, several kids from various classes came up to me to give me hugs and cards like this one:

It was at this point that I was really getting choked up. My principal asked if I would like to say a few words, but I declined. Really, who wants to listen to a weeping idiot in front of a microphone?!

The day felt bittersweet, actually. I still don't know my fate for next year, and the prospects are slim, but I know I won't be at the same school again. This was a great opportunity I had for a whole year. I got to know all of the kids in the school, because I saw them on a regular basis. I won't have that next year if I am a day-to-day sub.

I am certainly thankful for the opportunity that I was given. It was a great trip.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Enough to Remove My Writer's Block

I haven't been here, I know. I've had thoughts swirling around my head about the most random topics lately, but nothing has made its way from my brain to my hand. I wanted to write something about the Air France flight, but Karen and Amy did a darn good job channeling my thoughts in their blogs.

Today my dander is up, so to speak. I was driving home this afternoon with my thoughts somewhere in la la land when I heard NPR say something about "A shooting at the Holocaust Museum in DC. Suspect in critical condition. Guard fatally shot." I closed the window and turned up the radio.

I got home and pulled up the internet. There on Yahoo's home page was a picture of the museum with the latest on the story. The killer is a supremacist. He believes the Holocaust was a myth. He walked into the museum and took the life of a guard who was doing his job this morning.

I've been to that museum. I went there with Sara, Karen and Stein one summer when we tromped around the mall acting like tourists. (Well, Stein and I were tourists, Sara and Karen were the tour guides). As we stood in the long lines just to get tickets for a time slot later that day, I wondered how this museum would stand up to actually seeing a concentration camp firsthand.

Later that afternoon as I stood in front of the many chilling images on the walls there, I thought it definitely did it justice.

Today my thoughts instantly put me back in that museum. Although I don't remember every detail of that somber place, I do remember how it made me feel. There were so many questions that kept creeping up as I read each display about the history of the war, the morale of the people, and the man who orchestrated it all. "Why?" of course was my main question.

Today I find myself asking that same question. For exactly the same reason. Why did this person do this? What was his background or upbringing that made him think and act this way?

What this person doesn't want to believe is in the place where he committed this awful crime, there is a message that rings loud and clear. It's a message that the museum hopes will spread. The Holocaust did happen. Unfortunately the Holocaust happened because of people's beliefs similar to this man's. We need to remember the Holocaust, so it never happens again. And what this person doesn't realize, is because of his act of violence at this place, people's dander is up. From places around the world, people are awakened once again by the importance of remembering.

We remember.