Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Journey of Reading

I'm continually amazed at the power of reading. I know that being a teacher puts me pretty close to the process, and being in a library puts me even closer. Learning to read is a magical time to me, not only because it opens doors that you never knew were there, but it seems to just click early on and kids seriously look like there's a light bulb above their head. I don't remember exactly when it clicked for me, but I know that I read anything I could get my hands on, trying to sound out words, and master the system.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been different glimpses of the reading process that I have seen. Since I was a reading major for my certification, I'm kind of a geek when it comes to looking for the signs of the reading process. (Remember, along with Mickey, you will find me at the annual reading conference in March.) First there were the kindergarten classes who were quick to tell me when they saw certain letters or short words in the books I was reading. You never realize just how many times words like "the" "and" and "no" are in books until ten 5 year-olds are shouting out, "I see 'the'! I see 'and'!" and interrupting your reading every ten seconds.

The writing process goes right along with this. I can see it mostly in the kindergarten and first grade classes when kids are trying to describe the pictures they draw. I'm sure that they're sick of the canned "Tell me about your picture" response I give when they show me a picture they just drew. (I made the mistake once of trying to guess what someone drew, only to be sternly corrected.) Now they want to write about what they're drawing, and save the corrections.

In the older grades, I see the process of turning reading around into learning. They transition from "learning to read" to "reading to learn". I see this in the computer lab as they navigate their way through various programs. I also see it as they prepare for the upcoming science fair.

Although I know a lot of the science and research behind the process, this doesn't matter when I see the wonder and awe on the faces of young readers. Reading is a journey. It is magical. It is inspiring. It is liberating.

I feel really lucky to be a small part of this important journey these kids are on.

Monday, January 26, 2009


It's funny how the weather makes you crave certain foods. In the summer, we wear less clothes, and want food to match - light salads, fresh produce, something simple quickly grilled on the barbecue. In the winter, we bundle up, and eat foods that match this heaviness - starchy potatoes or pastas, hot, hearty soups, or foods that roast or simmer for hours.

After staying close to home all weekend hunkering down, Stein and I craved winter foods. We pulled out a roast we had in the freezer, and Stein made this recipe last night:

We had some twice-baked potatoes with it. Oh, and a salad to lessen the guilt of the heavy foods. Today we had the leftovers and they were just as good. The sauce pulls it all together, and tastes pretty good with potatoes too.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Lazy Days

Single-digit temperatures. Snow on the ground. Icicles forming. Steam on the windows. Chilly air stinging skin.

All these ingredients are needed for one thing: sitting on the couch under a blanket. Watching TV. Reading (the second Twilight book). Napping.

I feel like a bear in hibernation.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Witnessing History

What a day. It was one of those that while it was happening, I kept telling myself, "Remember everything, Kelly. This is a day that will be talked about and remembered for a long, long time. Enjoy and take it all in, but also remember all of the details, all of the emotion."

I wasn't ready for the emotional part. I don't know why, but I wasn't. At the assembly this morning, I choked back tears so many times. I had a small part in the assembly, so I needed to be on my game. The emotions started when the student council got up on the stage and did a choral recitation of Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech. Some of the kids had solo parts. Who wouldn't be choked up when a little first grader was belting out her part like an experienced orator? There were also some classes that sang songs in tribute to Martin Luther King. Who wouldn't be choked up when a kindergarten class sang This Little Light of Mine? And in between the singing and speeches, three different parents came up to the microphone to tell why this day meant so much to them. Who wouldn't be choked up when one man talked about his Haitian father marrying his Michigan-born mother and living the dream? I don't know how you could be prepared for all of this, but honestly I felt a bit blind sighted by it.

I decided to watch the Inauguration ceremony with a friend of mine alone in the computer lab. Another teacher came and joined us. I could've watched it with any of the other teachers and students in their classrooms, but I chose to really give it my full attention. While we watched, we made a comment here and there, but for the most part, we sat in awe while the events unfolded in front of us. I thought about great moments in our nation's history. I thought about great people in our nation's history. Today had both of these things, and more. And we were there to witness in it. To take part in it.

About an hour after Obama's speech, I was in the computer lab with one of the kindergarten classes. They were engrossed in their PBS Kids, and I was working at one of the computers. One of the fourth graders came into the lab and shouted, "Mrs. Steinhauer! Did you watch Obama's speech?" When I nodded and smiled, he said, "That was great. I still remember it!"

We all will continue to talk about this day, continue to reflect. When you're a part of history, it's easy to do that.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

It is a BIG Deal

This week I had the fortune of reading a fabulous new picture book, Barack, to some of the classes. It was very fitting that I read this book, not only in anticipation of the Inauguration on Tuesday, but also for the part where they talk of Martin Luther King's influence on Barack. Barack grew up hearing the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and then put those words into action.

On Tuesday, we are having an assembly at school to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. In planning the assembly, we want to make the connection between this great man's work and dream and Barack Obama's journey to embody that dream. We found several ways that we're going to do this, including reading the mentioned excerpt from the book, and this You Tube video.

When I finished reading the book to the classes, I tried to explain to the faces looking up at me that Tuesday's Inauguration is a big deal. I tried to explain that this will be a very historic day. I tried to explain the positive ramifications that this great event will have on their future. I think the 5th graders could kind of get the gist. The 1st graders, though, may take a while to understand. (In fact, some of them still think that Martin Luther King, Jr. is either Obama's dad or brother.)

Today I flipped through some channels and found the Inaugural Celebration. There on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King, Jr. eloquently delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, were some of our country's greatest performers. They performed patriotic songs, spoke of poignant moments in our country's history, and came together to celebrate the hope that this man named Barack embodies. When is the last time that you saw great musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Sheryl Crowe, U2, Beyonce, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Josh Groban, celebrities like Tom Hanks, George Lucas, Tiger Woods, George Lopez, and others all together to celebrate one man, one hope? There have been some occasions and some Inaugurations that have had celebrations, but nothing like this.

This. This is a BIG deal.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Four-Day Weekend

Sandy, you were right. The same arctic system that kept your kids home from school yesterday traveled across the lake and is keeping me snuggled under a blanket on my couch today.

I can't tell you if I have ever hoped for colder temperatures. Or faster wind speeds. Until this week. I told you how I was stalking weather websites this week trying to find one that would tell me what I needed. I needed the windchill to be 20-25 degrees below zero. What sick person would wish for that?

That sick person is me.

Last night I had a bit of insomnia for no reason. I typically sleep like a baby every night, and peel myself out of my down cocoon every morning. But last night, about 2:00 in the morning, I found myself watching really bad late night TV. And the Weather Channel. Finally, at about 4:00 am, I began to feel sleepy. One last glimpse at the Weather Channel locked in all hopes for a cold day. The windchill registered at 29 below zero.

The phone call at 5:20 was a godsend. All I said when I answered the phone was, "Yay". After making my phone call to the next person on the list, I crawled back into my cocoon. This butterfly was not ready to get out yet.

So again, the world is my oyster today. I have a lot of things that I can get done around the house, along with a lot of reading, napping, and sipping hot cocoa. Another luxury for which I am truly grateful.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

It's Cold

Yep. It's cold. "Colder than a [fill in the blank]." The dashboard read 6 degrees this morning when I went to school. They're predicting wind chills in the negative teens and possibly twenties tonight and tomorrow. And it keeps snowing. All of the snow on the ground has been covered with another layer of fine snow that just covers up all the dents and divots that were there. And it's all crunchy when you walk on it. In fact, everything is crunchy. Everyone is feeling the need to hunker down. I can't tell you how many times I heard "I just want to go home and read a book with a cup of hot cocoa under a blanket" today. And as is the case each time we have extreme weather, it's all we talk about.

In addition to the weather talk, teachers continue to hope for snow days. Yet, as is the case this week, we're hoping for "cold days". Days when it is not safe for kids to be standing at the bus stop. Days when the wind chill is below zero.

I was told earlier this week that the schools will close when the wind chill is twenty degrees below zero. So like every other hopeful teacher, I have been stalking every weather website in the hopes that they will tell me that the windchill will dip down. Low. When I finally found a wind chill watch alert on one of the websites, my prayers were answered. The watch almost guaranteed a wind chill of 20 below. In fact, it hinted at 25 below. Perfect, I thought. 25 below would just lock it in.

As it turns out, not quite.

I told our secretary of my awesome find on the internet, and her face didn't light up like I thought it would. She then relayed some terrible news to me. Apparently the principal got an email that was a reminder of when they close schools for cold weather. The pin in my glorious snow day bubble stated this: the windchill has to be 25 below zero in order to close schools.

Sigh. I think I need to flush a few more ice cubes down the toilet.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Tortilla Strips

(Sorry for the bad picture)

I made Paula Deen's Taco Soup yesterday. I think it's more like a chili than a soup, but I digress... It's a really easy recipe, which I think I have blogged about before. You basically brown ground beef (or ground turkey in my case) with onions, and then put that in the crock pot with a bunch of canned items. It's really easy to put together, makes a lot for many days of leftovers, and is really tasty. I love recipes like that.

In the recipe, Paula suggests you use corn chips to accompany the soup. We don't usually have corn chips on hand, but I remembered that we had some corn tortillas leftover from the enchiladas Stein made a while back. So, I used them to make my own corn chips, or in my case, tortilla strips. So easy, and such a nice addition to the soup.

Just cut up some corn tortillas in strips and fry them in oil. I used some canola oil, and kind of flash fried them so they weren't too greasy. Once done, I sprinkled them with salt, and they were good to go. Or eat.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Digging Out

In case you didn't know, it snowed a lot here this weekend. I kept saying to Stein, "If this storm came one day earlier, we would have a snow day." Apparently someone didn't do the appropriate pre-snow day rituals on the right day. You may not know, but around here, the kids take hoping for a snow day pretty seriously. Some wear their pajamas inside out, some do little dances like rain dances, some flush ice cubes down the toilet (my brother-in-law said the night before our last snow day, our nephew Eric furiously flushed ice cube after ice cube down the toilet).

This weekend we took care of our nephews, so we hunkered down at their house on Friday and Saturday. We did leave at one point to see Seven Pounds (if you're looking for a tear jerker, this is your movie) and then again today to drive to our house to shovel and then go out to breakfast.

So we've been digging out a little. And typical of days after a snowstorm around here, the sun is shining today. It's like it says to us, "It's okay, I'm still here." I need that. Because in the midst of the blowing, sleeting, and sliding, I lose all optimism.

This afternoon I found myself digging out a little in our basement too. Lately we have been using the basement as a dumping ground, and it's been weighing on us to get it organized. I didn't get the whole thing done, but I was able to consolidate a lot of things, and add to our pile of stuff to bring to Salvation Army. I even cleaned out a box that was the "last-minute-throw-in-the-box-remnants" box when we moved into our house. I hate to admit - we moved five years ago.

And now it's time to hunker down. It feels good to be home again after traveling last weekend and then being away for part of this weekend. I have plans to make a soup this afternoon, and buy the fixings for some more this week. Oh, and maybe flush a few ice cubes down the toilet.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sweet Home Chicago

The song Sweet Home Chicago makes me happy. It sums up how I feel about my hometown, and every time I hear it, I want to turn to the person next to me and ask them, "Baby don't you want to go?" My brother Rick and I danced to this song at my wedding. It was the last song of the night, unbeknownst to us until it ended and the DJ said goodnight. As we danced together, Rick twirled me around and my dress swayed and swished as I turned. A crowd of people gathered around to watch us dance. It's this memory that makes me love that song even more.

On New Year's Day, Linda, Chris and I took a cab over to Yaksie's, a bar that sits just across the street from Wrigley Field. (I've blogged about Yaksie's here before). Blocks away from that spot, traffic was already inching slowly along and crowds of people were walking south on Clark Street. We told the cabbie to let us out a couple blocks away because we knew that we could get there faster by foot. As we got out of the cab, I heard the song Sweet Home Chicago being played by a band near Wrigley Field. "Back to that same old place..." boomed back and forth against the buildings on Clark St. There was excitement in the air. The Winter Classic was going to start in about an hour.
We made our way into the bar to meet up with Stein, Shark, Steve and Brad. They were going to the game, and we were going to stay in the warmth and watch the game on TV. The three of us (Linda, Chris and I) had a great time, holding court at the bar. Our friends Patty, Erik and others came over and joined us. It was so fun to just hang out at our old stomping grounds, rehashing old stories and making new memories, laughing until tears formed in our eyes. So comfortable and fun.

While Stein and Shark were here:
We were here:
Hail, hail, the gang's all here:
Comfortable and fun must have been the theme of the weekend, because the rest of the time was just as great. New Year's Eve at Shark and Jane's was relaxing and fun. It was so good to see Ellie, who is 4 months old and full of coos and smiles. We had a delicious casual dinner, and lots of laughs. A cut-throat game of Jenga ensued. It didn't take me long to remember that I'm not very good at that game - sorry Linda and Shark!
We discovered a new restaurant on Friday night. Glenn's Diner is a small restaurant that is anything but a diner. They have a few diner specialties and serve breakfast all day, but there is so much more. Like delicious fish in interesting sauces, crab cakes, and mussels drowning in garlic, butter, and a little more garlic. Oh, and some garlic toast to sop up all the butter and garlic. Oh, mama. So where did we find ourselves on Saturday morning? Back at Glenn's Diner for crab cake Benedict, sausage and biscuits, and humongous bloody marys. Yum. Again.

Saturday afternoon we went over to my brother Bryan's house to celebrate Christmas. We all brought appetizers, so it was a casual gathering, perfect for catching up and extending the gluttony of the season. We had our usual grab bag so everyone walked out of there with a fun gift. It was great to be with everyone again, even though we were all together just weeks before for Thanksgiving. As Stein and I drove back to Ann Arbor later that day, I began to get depressed that our vacation was coming to an end. I think the last burst of friends and family did me in. I didn't want it to end.

We'll be back soon, I know. Baby, don't you want to go?

Sunday, January 4, 2009


While we were at Shark and Jane's for New Year's Eve, someone commented how there weren't a lot of lists that were shown the week before the holiday. As you know, there are lists of the best or worst of anything. This year, lists weren't that popular, I guess.

While in Chicago the past few days visiting with friends and soaking up the food and fun, I've been thinking back on a year that was full of much of the same good things. We are truly blessed, to be where we are and have the friends and family who support us. I'm not going to make any lists of the past year, rather, I'll post a couple pictures from each month in 2008, so I can reminisce one more time about a great year. Here's hoping 2009 will be just as great.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Just Popping In

To say that I'll be back to regular posts soon. We've been in Chicago the past few days and there has been little time for blogging. Too much time has been spent with friends catching up and eating some good food. I forgot how much I missed good bar food, late-night burrito stops, or thinking about where to eat breakfast the next day while eating a delicious dinner.

So I'll be back soon with stories and some pictures. In the meantime, I hope everyone is enjoying the quiet that comes after the holidays. May the New Year be full of many more quiet moments with family and friends.