Saturday, March 31, 2012

I did it!

Day 31 of 31 at TWT!  Yay!
I did it!  I wrote on my blog every day for the whole month of March!  Since I posted some goals for the challenge on the first day, I thought I'd revisit them today and see how I did.

Goal #1 was to "make myself make time for blogging, even when I think I don't have any!"  The challenge definitely helped me do this!  I wrote in the afternoon, in the evening, and I even posted one early morning before a day trip!  I abandoned the desktop and found that using my laptop made me more eager to write because I could blog from the couch, from the bed, and even from the back patio! While I'm really glad to be able to take a day or two off now, I'm hoping the habit I've developed this month will encourage me to make time more often for blogging.

#2 was to "build stronger relationships with my Tuesday-slice friends".  I definitely did this as well!  No matter what, I tried to always read my favorite Tuesday slicers' posts, even if I didn't have time to read any others.  It was so much fun to exchange comments with them every day instead of just once a week.

In #3, I wanted to "meet new friends". I was able to do this, but not as much as I was hoping.  Just writing every day, reading my Tuesday friends' posts, and responding to people who left me comments didn't leave much time to explore as many new blogs as I had hoped.  I did develop a couple of new back-and-forth commenting relationships with new people though, and I did read various other new blogs as well.  (I wish now that I would have kept track of how many new blogs I read -- I'll have to try that next year!)

Goal #4 was to "share more glimpses of what's happening in my classroom".  While I did this a little bit, I feel I mostly sliced about my life outside of school.  Spring Break happening during the challenge was definitely a big reason for this, as I had lots of fun things to write about!  However, I didn't write much about school.  I'm hoping to start writing more about school after the challenge now that I've developed the habit of blogging more often!

#5 was to "become a better commenter by striving to give more specific compliments more often".  This was something I really focused on each time I read someone's blog, and I think I was able to do in almost every comment I left.  (I hope you enjoyed them!)

In #6, I wanted to "learn to write shorter posts".  Even though you wouldn't know it from this post (or many of my recent posts...), time constraints on some days did help me do this.  I got better at making "just a quick post" and I also split some of my larger ideas into multiple posts.

In #7, I thought I would "write about a wider variety of topics".  This definitely happened!  One fun part of the challenge was getting writing ideas from other slicers.  I still have a long list of writing topics I collected that I didn't even get to write about yet.  I also played with different formats, like "six word stories", and I even wrote a couple of poems -- something I hadn't done in a long time, other than the one I wrote on my blog at the end of last summer!

Goal #8 was to "develop a lasting habit of blogging more often".  This remains to be seen... although as I already said, I think I will blog more often now that I'm used to making time for it!

And finally, I was hoping to "be enthusiastic about writing every day!"  For the most part, this was true.  There were a few days (mostly this week) that I was getting reeeaaallllllyyy tired of "having to blog again...", but even then, as soon as I started writing, I was hooked again!  And of course, all the kind and encouraging comments continued to drive me to write!

Thanks to everyone who was read and wrote with me through this "month of Tuesdays", and congratulations on surviving the challenge!  :-)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Es muy difícil

Day 30 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!

(A note to my fellow "slicers": Every Friday is Spanish Friday!  Please use Google Translate if you don't know Spanish.  Hopefully you can get the gist!)

El lunes en la clase de ESL, jugamos al juego "Dos Verdades y Una Mentira" con las actividades que hicimos durante las vacaciones de primavera. (En el juego, cada jugador dice tres datos personales -- dos que son ciertos y uno que es falso.  Los otros jugadores tienen que adivinar cuál es la mentira.)  Yo dije:

1. Escribí en mi blog cada día.
2. Fui a Arizona para visitar a mis primos.
3. Miré la pelicula The Lorax.

(¿Pueden adivinar la mentira Uds.?)

¡La mayoría de los estudiantes adivinaron que la primera frase fue la mentira!  (como yo esperaba...)  El otro maestro les preguntó por qué, y un chico del 6o grado nos dijo: -- Porque es muy difícil. --

-- Sí, es muy difícil escribir cada día. -- le aseguré.  -- ¡Pero sí lo hice, y lo he hecho por todo el mes! -- Y les expliqué del reto "Slice of Life" y de cómo yo había escrito cada día en mi blog durante todo el mes hasta ese día (el 26).  Se quedaron muy impresionados. (¡y al otro maestro también!)

Hoy casi no creo que es el 30 y lo he hecho -- ¡solamente falta un día!  Me siento muy orgullosa... ¡y bastante cansada también!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Los profesores aquí

Day 29 of 31 at TWT!
Today is the third and final snapshot in my mini-series of posts about A., my most special student ever.  Earlier this week, I shared her background storythe first snapshot, and the second snapshot.

After I found out that A. was undocumented, I worried about her constantly.  (Sometimes I still worry, and it's been several years!)  When she was absent (which was rare), I immediately started to panic: what if she... or her mom... or both had been deported?  But the next day always brought a sigh of relief: her bright smile was there to greet me again.  Every day is probably a gift to her and her mom...

I later found out (accidentally) that A. hadn't told anyone else she was here illegally.  She had told me so casually that it hadn't occurred to me that she hadn't also told the bilingual aide and the other ESL teacher!  I knew we had a close relationship, but I didn't realize until that moment how absolutely she trusted me.

But today's story isn't about A.'s struggles like the other two snapshots were.  At least, not completely.  Today's story is ultimately a happy one because of what it says about teachers in my district.

One day in first period, A. and I started talking about the other schools she had been to.  I learned that she had bounced around even more than I had thought:
                from the first school she attended in our district
                          to a different school in the large urban district bordering our town
 back to the first school she attended in our district
                                              until she finally wound up at School #3 with me.

When I asked her if she liked this school and what she thought of the other schools, she gave me the greatest compliment a student can give a school: "Los profesores aquí se preocupan por los estudiantes." (Teachers here care about the students.")  She then went on to explain that when she was at the school in the large urban district, the teachers didn't pay any attention to her.  She just sat all day, drowning in English, with nobody to help her.  How awful.  Maybe they didn't know what to do with her.  Maybe there weren't enough bilingual aides.  Not a favorable review of the large urban district.  But in our district, she felt a difference.  That's probably why her mom worked so hard to try to move back here...

She felt like we cared.  And we did.  So much that I was truly devastated when the last day of school came, knowing that she'd move onto high school and I'd probably never see her again.  I've been sad to part with other students before and since, but the hole they leave in my heart is basically refilled by new students who are just as fun, energetic, special, and kind.

A. left a different kind of impact though: a whole new story to carry with me. I carry her story of hardship and hope, and it makes me a better teacher and a better person.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Eso fue muy feo

Day 28 of 31 at TWT!
Today is the second snapshot in my mini-series of posts about A., my most special student ever.  Earlier this week, I shared the background story and the first snapshot.

It was just a regular day; I had helped A. in first and second period, and then she begged me to come to art as well.  As we walked to art, we chatted in Spanish, and A. brought up her future plans.  She shared that she really wanted to go to college, and I assured her that she would do great in college, given how hard-working and studious she was.  Shrugging, she said she didn't know if she'd be able to go.  Probably money?  I started talking about scholarships when she interrupted me:

"Porque yo soy ilegal."  She said it so nonchalantly, as if she was saying "because I have black hair" or "because I'm wearing a blue shirt."  Outwardly, I didn't miss a beat.  "I know there are some colleges in California that accept illegal immigrants..." I read that somewhere, where did I read that?  "And I think President Obama is working to make it easier in more states..." I don't know much about this, I'm going to have to find out more...

Inside, my heart was pounding and my head was spinning.  What did she have to go through to get here?  Was she stuffed in the false bed of a truck or the trunk of a car or something even worse?  Did she have to hike through the desert?  Did she do it with family or friends or alone?  Despite all the "wonders" bouncing around in my head, I didn't want to make a big deal about it if she didn't.

A few days later, the subject came up again in first period.  Dying of curiosity, I decided to ask how she got here. She looked down. "Uf... Eso fue muy feo." ("Ooh... that was very ugly.")  I didn't press it.

But through our conversations over the next several weeks, she shared bits and pieces of memories that helped me patch together a rough picture of her life:
                 When she got to the U.S., a kind lady
                 took her and a friend to McDonald's,
                 where they stuffed themselves because
                 they were "very weak, pale, and skinny"
                 from the journey. (Must have been really
                 rough and must have taken a long time...)
                                                           Her parents, who were separated, (and
                                                           used to yell at each other a lot when they
                                                           all lived together in Mexico) were
                                                           already here in the U.S. for some time.
                                                           (Mom here, Dad in Colorado.) (How long
                                                           has it been since she saw her dad?)
                While she lived in Mexico and her parents
                 were here, she and her little sister lived with
                 their grandmother, who "mistreated" them.
                 (Mistreated? How?  I didn't want to ask.)
                                                           Her little sister still lived (at the time)
                                                           in Mexico with the grandmother.
                                                           (How awful to be separated from 
                                                           your parents and then from your sister...
                                                           Was the sister still being mistreated?)
                  Her mom had a new boyfriend here, from
                  Colombia, and they lived (at the time) with him.
                  (Is he a U.S. citizen?  How did they get an 
                   apartment? Is their legal status part of why
                   they've had to move so many times recently?)
                                                           Her mom worked in housekeeping
                                                           at a local hotel. (What if she's deported
                                                           some day while A.'s here at school?)
                 After hopefully going to college in the U.S.,
                 A.'s dream was to move back home to Mexico,
                 where she'd then be able to get an excellent job
                  because of knowing English.
                 (I wish all the people who claim illegal immigrants
                 want to steal our jobs could hear this...)
                                                           A few months ago, several girls attacked
                                                           A. while she was walking home.  She
                                                           had to fight back, and although she told
                                                           her mom, they knew they couldn't call
                                                           the police for fear of being deported.
                                                           (I can't imagine feeling like you can't 
                                                            call for help...)

All that, and she was only in 8th grade.  All that, and she came to school every day with a smile on her face, eager to work hard and learn while surrounded by a language she didn't know.  Now I knew the source of her determination: she had a clearer plan for her future than most students her age, and she knew that doing well in school was the path to achieving her goals. At her age, I was riding bikes and playing with friends and breezing through school without a care in the world except getting some boy to like me...

Now I didn't just care about her.  I admired her.  She wasn't just a wonderful student.  She was an amazing person.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hay muchos racistas aquí

Day 27 of 31 at TWT!
Yesterday, I gave you a preview of A., the student I'm highlighting as my "magical teaching moment" for 30 Goals.  Today, I want to share the first of several snapshots to show you what a truly special student she was.  These moments are not academic, but are conversations that deepened our relationship and helped me grow as a teacher and as a person.

It's the beginning of first period and A. and I are chatting about school and life, still getting to know each other.  Suddenly, she makes a comment that shoots straight to my heart:
"Hay muchos racistas aquí."
"Really?  I don't know about that..." I try to reassure her and myself. (I really didn't know what to say!) "What makes you feel that way?"

Lots of racists here? The town where I teach is my hometown and I love it.  I've lived there since I was two and I'm so proud to have gone there K-12.  We have high-achieving schools and a beautiful, wonderful community.  If I had to characterize our students and their families, I'd say they are kind, caring, and polite, while somewhat entitled in certain parts of town.  Maybe she misunderstood someone...

But she goes on and I realize that she hasn't encountered the same side of people that I know.  She describes how she got into a fight (and got suspended for 3 days!) in the school she came from (also part of our district, just on the other side of town).  A fight? Cheery, studious A.?  Some girls kept yelling at her in the hallway to go back to Mexico.  "I just couldn't help my self, the rage just boiled up in me..." she explains.   I know that many of these kids' opinions are formed by what they hear at home, what they see on T.V., what their friends say and do.  I know that teenage girls are mean sometimes.  But it really hits me hard to think of students in our town saying that to someone.

She keeps going.  She tells me how some girls at her table in art class insult Mexicans.  "I don't know everything they're saying, but I know they are talking about me and I know they are saying bad things about Mexico." I guess there's more than one reason she always wants me to come to art. I know there's a chance she's being paranoid, but I also know that sometimes, you can understand perfectly that someone is making fun of you, without hearing a word they say.  I'll have to talk to the art teacher...

So I let her know I understand how awful that must feel, but I also explain that those kids shouldn't represent our town or all Americans to her, that there are lots of good people who are kind to everyone.  "I know," she says, and grins, with what I'll come to think of as her trademark phrase: "Usted es buena gente." ("You are a good person.") I love when she says that, but it also makes me sad.  It shows that she's met plenty of people who aren't.

Several weeks later, the racism topic makes a sad return.  It's Spirit Week, and Friday is Jersey Day.  At first, A. is really excited about wearing her Mexico soccer jersey.  I feed her excitement, explaining how much fun it will be to see what teams everyone is proud of!  Midweek, she starts to waffle.  "There are so many racists here. I shouldn't wear it."  I try to encourage her that she shouldn't feel the need to hide who she is.  She should show her pride in her country and it could be a way to teach the other students.  Now that they know her, they might be curious about Mexico and want to ask her questions.  Maybe other students who like soccer might want to be friends with her!  She shrugs, obviously not so sure.

On Friday morning, I race down to first period, hoping to be greeted by some red, white, and green.  But A.'s just wearing a regular shirt.  "You should've worn your jersey!" I playfully scold.  "No, I didn't want to..."  Except I know that's not true.  I remember how excited she was on Monday, before the fear crept in.  I feel a lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach.  Hatred and fear have overcome hope and pride... for now.

This is why I teach: to build a better future.  A future where A. wouldn't think twice about proudly wearing her Mexico jersey to school... even if it wasn't Jersey Day!

Monday, March 26, 2012

30 Goals 2: My Magical Teaching Moment

Day 26 of 31 at TWT!
One of my favorite things about School #3 is that I get to spend part of my day helping teach ELLs.  This year, I'm co-teaching a mixed-grade "welcome center" class for some of the newest ELLs, who have been in the U.S. one year or less.  I absolutely love this opportunity to work with these sweet, motivated students and hone my TESOL skills while learning from an experienced teacher.  Unfortunately for me, all these students are Japanese this year, so my Spanish doesn't help!

My first year in this position, there was a Spanish-speaking student who had arrived at School #3 just before I did.  I was excited to use my Spanish to help her, but I couldn't have imagined the ways she would change me.  Out of the thousands of students I've had, she is the one I think of the most often, the one that I wonder and worry and hope about frequently.

When I read that Goal #2 of the 30 Goals Challenge was to describe a magical teaching moment, I knew I had to write about her. But we had so many "magical teaching moments" that I didn't know where to start.  I kept putting it off because I knew that it would take several posts to capture who she is and how we learned from each other that spring.  Now that I'm at School #3, walking the hallways that we'd walk together, I know it's time to tell her story.

I'm going to call her "A".  That's not even her real initial, but I want to protect her completely.  So, "A" for "anónima", but also for "amable", "audaz", "agradable", "admirable"... and so much more.

Originally, I was going to help with an ELL study center that spring for one period.  A. had just arrived at School #3 after short stints at several other schools in the area; she had been in the U.S. for about 6 months.  Due to bouncing between schools and a complete lack of prior experience with English, she was basically a complete newcomer.  Imagine being plopped into a foreign country with no knowledge of the language and trying to learn 8th-grade-level math, science, and social studies while also learning the language.  Oh and while you're doing that, your family has to move several times in the first six months, causing you to change schools at least three times.

Sadly, the Spanish bilingual aide only came to School #3 three days a week, and of course he had to help other students too!  To help keep A. afloat, I started going to her first period class (reading) during my planning period on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Right away, we hit it off as we chatted a little in Spanish about our lives.  I gently helped her through simple picture books, using lots of Spanish to check and develop her comprehension.  We laughed together when I couldn't think of a word in Spanish and had to resort to circumlocution and sometimes terrible pantomiming and drawing.  We giggled together when she'd make a pronunciation error while reading aloud and I'd show her the difference.

Tuesdays and Thursdays became every day.  Two periods straight of chatting and reading and laughing and learning, since we'd go directly from 1st period to the ELL study center I was originally supposed to help with.  My planning period was now gone; reduced to the random 20-minute break I had between study center and lunch.  I didn't care.  A. was bright, hard-working, enthusiastic, and fun to teach.

Then one day at the end of study center, A. turned to me with puppy-dog eyes.
    "Will you come with me to art?"
    Art?  What could she need me for in art?  "Do you really need help?"
    "Oh yes, the teacher is explaining some project and I don't understand it at all."

So I went to art.  It was more complicated than I thought.  Moreover, I discovered that the teacher didn't really know what to do with the ELLs or how to explain things to them.  I stayed for the 20 random free minutes I had left in my day, explaining the project to A. and two other ELLs before running off to scarf down my lunch.  But I loved it.

Goodbye planning time.  Hello life-changing teaching experience...

That was just the beginning.  Tune in the next few days for a peek at the real "magical teaching moments" that A. gave me.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Floor burns

Day 25 of 31 at TWT!
"Me and Aaron Craft had the same problem: floor burns!" Daddy quips.  In anticipation of last night's Elite Eight game against Syracuse, we're rehashing Thursday night's Sweet Sixteen game over dinner.

Now, I know what you're thinking: How did my dad manage to get floor burns on his knees while merely watching our scrappy starting point guard leap, dive, and slide after loose balls?  Obviously, you've never watched an Ohio State football or basketball game at my parents' house.  I promise you've never seen anything like it.

Stage 1: At the beginning of the game, the house is fairly normal. Well, normal considering what it will be like later.  Daddy is hunched forward on the couch (he will never stay there) in open-mouthed anticipation.  The announcers' commentary is punctuated by my mom's pounding footsteps as she paces around the kitchen, incessantly muttering "I can't watch, I can't watch!"  Daddy grabs the remote and turns up the volume a few clicks, scooting forward several inches to the edge of the couch.

Stage 2: As soon as the game gets going, THUD!  Daddy whomps himself down from the couch onto the floor.  Initially, he'll sit against the couch, wedging my mom's "Big Red Pillow" behind his back.  That lasts until the first big play, when he'll flop forward on his stomach, swinging the Big Red Pillow forward so he can prop his elbows up on it.  Another big play?  His powerful runner's legs propel him closer to the tv like a sprawled-out frog until he's only a foot away from the screen.  (Thus, the floor burns on his knees!)  While this is going on, Mommy alternately runs into the room, sits on Daddy's vacated spot on the couch, buries her head in her hands, springs up and storms away to pace again.

State 3: You can't even begin to imagine what happens if OSU scores a touchdown, recovers a fumble or interception, dunks the ball, blocks a shot, etc.   Have you seen those sports bar commercials where the team scores and all the guys (Why are they always men? Haven't these people met my mom?) jump up, raise their arms, and start wildly high-fiving each other?  That's tame compared to my parents.  Daddy pounds the floor with his feet, rolls onto his back and rocks around in a ball, then leaps up and pumps his arms up and down while recapping the play for my mom in decibel levels that would require most people to get out their earplugs.  (As if she didn't see it, which isn't true! Through all the pacing and stomping and head-burying, she's either watching the tv in the family room with us or the one in the bedroom upstairs, which she's turned on just for the purpose of being able to storm up there.)  Mommy screams "WOOOOOO!", gallops into the room, and does a little dance.  Then they start the high-fiving and hugging.

Stage 4: At halftime, Daddy (who loves food as much as he loves his Buckeyes) gleefully prances into the kitchen to whip out whatever secret snack he's gotten for the game: a special dessert, nacho cheese dip, etc.  He proudly chants the name of the dish, interspersed with "woo-woo-woo!", as he puts it into some sort of Ohio State or football/basketball-shaped serving dish.  Even if it's 11:00 p.m. and we're not hungry, we all have to enthusiastically eat the special surprise while assuring him of how delicious it is.

Stage 5: Throughout the second half of the game, repeat stages 2-3.  If something bad happens to OSU, just envision Stage 3 but in utter despair: about the same jumping and stomping, but with angry/sad noises instead of joyous ones.  If it's a close game (like last night's intense battle against Syracuse!), the dancing and writhing and shouting have now reached the point that an alien observer would assume my parents were caught in the midst of some horrible torment. 

Stage 6: As the game clock winds to 0:00, the room either dissolves into utter chaos or silent disappointment.  Last night was the epitome of chaotic spectacle: Mommy dove onto the floor to hug Daddy as they flailed their arms and legs, screaming "FINAL FOUR! FINAL FOUR!"  The news cameras filming the team's celebration would have gotten better footage in our family room. 

"This is why we can't go to a sports bar to watch the game!" Mom laughs.  I wouldn't want to.  My parents' house is so much more fun!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

We saved so much...

Day 24 of 31 at TWT!
Instead of his usual "Hi, honey!" upon opening the door, Husband makes a half-startled, half-surprised, very cute little noise.

From around the corner in the other room, I burst out laughing, imagining the look on his face. 

I know what he's standing in front of, and I suppose it is a pretty funny sight to be greeted with upon entering the house.

Instead of an open staircase, there's:

a full plastic shopping bag                            another full plastic shopping bag

             an empty cardboard shipping box                 a paper shopping bag

      an open shoebox with bright new tennis
                shoes half-spilling out    

all scattered and sprawling across where the stairs are presumably buried...

"Let me guess... you saved so much money!" he jokes, with a wink in his voice.  That's the joke he's adopted from my dad about when my mom and I go shopping.
I run around the corner, giggling gleefully.  "Oh yes! Look how much we saved!  And the shoes we ordered earlier this week came too!"

I love shopping with my mom!

Friday, March 23, 2012

España en mi corazón

Day 23 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
(A note to my fellow "slicers": Every Friday is Spanish Friday!  Please use Google Translate if you don't know Spanish.  Hopefully you can get the gist!)

 Mientras yo vivía en Madrid, se murió el Papa Juan Pablo II.  Durante la semana después, se decoraron las calles de la ciudad con unos carteles con su imagen y algunas de sus citas famosas.  Una de estas me impresionó mucho: sus palabras después de una visita a España.  -- Adios España... te llevo en mi corazón. --

Madrid, desde la Plaza Mayor, 2005
Cuando yo regresé a los Estados Unidos, llevé a estas palabras conmigo.  Porque yo también llevo a España dentro del corazón.  Este país hermoso, histórico, y tranquilo me ha cautivado por siempre.  A veces, sueño de las tardes relajantes bajo el sol, las calles estrechas y onduladas, las piedras que quieren contar cientos de años de historia.  Sueño de churros y chocolate, limón granizado en la Plaza Mayor, jamón serrano, queso manchego, Fanta Naranja (¡porque allí hay de otros sabores!) y helado Magnum en la calle.  Sueño de Velázquez, El Greco, Goya, y la Guernica de Picasso.  Imagino a los Reyes Católicos, los moros, y Don Quijote.

Y claro, sueño de vivir otra vez en español: mi lengua bella, sonora y querida. (¡aunque es mi segunda!)

el paisaje de Castilla-León, desde el Álcazar de Segovia, 2005
Hace tres días, hice los planes para nuestra vacación del verano.  ¡Vamos a España!  Ya tenemos los vuelos, el hotel, y un itenerario (impreciso, por ahora).

Marido no ha viajado fuera de los Estados Unidos nunca.  Mientras yo vivía en Madrid (éramos novios en aquel entonces), nos escribimos cartas casi cada día.  (Tenemos un montón de cartas de amor de esos cuatros meses, pero es otro cuento...)  Le echaba de menos tanto, pero también quería que yo pudiera compartir toda la belleza de este país con él.  Ahora, por fin, ¡la veremos juntos!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Choosing Sunshine

Day 22 of 31 at TWT!
Today was one of those days when it felt, for just a bit, like my house was trying to crush me.  Really, can someone please get me some more hours in the day?  (Please?  My birthday's coming up in May!)  Ironically, I tend to feel stress the most on days like this, when I have "absolutely nothing to do".

The problem with days where I "nothing to do" is that I'm supposed to use them to catch up on all the things I don't do on the busy days.  After all, that's what I tell myself on the busy days: "I'll get to it over break" or "That'll be my project for the summer".  I walk past the pile of laundry that's trying to eat the bedroom, ignore the holiday decorations still out from I'm-ashamed-to-admit-which-holiday, navigate expertly through the obstacle course of school-related items that covers the extra bedroom, ignore the endless box of photos that haven't been labeled or put in albums for years, and collapse on the couch instead of going to the gym. 

These promises I make to myself would be fine, if I kept them.  But when breaks (and "free" weekends) come, they have this incredibly annoying habit of filling up rather quickly.  I go shopping with my mom, I read, I write, I go outside, we travel, I relax and breathe... All of a sudden, it's almost time to go back to school and I've only accomplished about one and two halves of the things I was supposed to do!

And so I freak out.  I do a load of laundry.  I clean the kitchen.  I dive into the holiday decorations and get about half of them back into the boxes.  I finish the vacation plans. (The only task for this break that I started on the first day!)  I feel productive until I look around and see everything I still didn't do:

The laundry is still on the verge of eating the bedroom, there are holiday decorations that remain, the school items are now threatening to spill out of the extra room into the rest of the house, and the photos haven't been touched.  In fact, the photos that are still on the computer are still waiting to be printed so they can collect dust in the already-overflowing box.  And the layer of fat on my stomach persists, because, guess what? I certainly did not go the gym every day.  Or even nearly every day.  Or any day.  (Maybe I will go tomorrow?)

I freak out more.  Why am I still drowning in things to do?

But the sun is shining out on the patio again.  A little squirrel under the bird feeder invites me outside, as if he's saying "This weather isn't going to last!"  I need to blog.  I need to read other slices.  I need to take a deep breath of flowery air and relax.

I decide that those things are important too.  And I'm glad I didn't spend my whole break getting things done.  (This summer, I'll get all caught up...)  Then it wouldn't have been a break.  And I definitely needed a break: a real sun-shiny, family-filled, walks-to-the-park, lounging-on-the-patio break.

So I'm choosing the sun and the squirrel and the flowery air.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Summertime in the Spring

Day 21 of 31 at TWT!
Usually, my mom and I go to Phoenix over Spring Break to visit my cousins.  This year, we didn't go.  While I'd love to see my cousins, I have to say I'm a little glad we didn't go... just because of the weather!  Most years, when we go, we welcome the chance to bust out our short sleeves and feel the sun on our faces after a long, cold, Ohio winter.  (Which, some years, has yet to show any signs of thawing in March!)  Instead, this year, Phoenix is currently having high temps in the 60's while we are walking around in shorts!  That's right, shorts.  In Ohio.  In March.

So, today's post is brought to you... from my backyard!  (Thank goodness for wi-fi!)

80 degrees?!
Put on my comfy shorts
Slip on my pink sandals
Refill the bird feeder

Drag out the old, rickety chaise lounge
(the one with the paint
off the arms)

Grab my laptop and
s    t    r    e    t    c    h
out my bare legs,
            my          in        sunlight
wiggle        toes       the

Breathe in flowers and grass and warmth

Listen to birds chirping and
bugs buzzzzzzzing
and the neighbors mowing,
hammering, drilling...
bouncing balls, zooming cars.
Dogs bark cheerfully, their chains
jingling as they run in their yards.

A jet rummmmbles by through the blue sky.

A red flash;
a cardinal swoops into the pine tree.
The gentle breeze ruffles the grass.
A red-wing blackbird I can't see
calls to me from a distant branch.

A dainty white butterfly flutters across the yard.

Summertime in the spring
in my backyard.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Treats from across the world

Day 20 of 31 at TWT!
"Ooh, are those British?!" I gesture toward the packages of cookies laid out on the table.  Must be British from the packaging... they say "biscuits" instead of cookies!
P. grins. "Not exactly.  Do you know why I wasn't here last practice?"
"No... we weren't there either.  I was busy with school."  Australian then, maybe?
"Well, I was in South Africa!"  South Africa!!! Of all places in the world, I wouldn't have guessed that one!

As our alumni band post-practice pizza group chatters and laughs as usual, we all enjoy sampling three delicious kinds of South African cookies.  One box of shortbread (one of my favorites!), another of a light, crispy plain cookie, and the third of chocolate-coconut sandwich cookies.  All the way from South Africa!  We also got to peek at exotic safari animals on P.'s iPhone: a rhinoceros chomping away on some plants, zebras, lions, and birds I couldn't begin to identify!

I whisper to Husband that next time we go somewhere special, we'll have to bring back local cookies for the pizza group.  Such a fun way to experience a faraway place!

Monday, March 19, 2012

New City, Old Memories (Part 2)

Day 19 of 31 at TWT!
Yesterday, I was all excited to write about Saturday's trip to the NCAA tournament with my family.  Of course, as often happens when I write, I had too much to say.  In fact, I wrote a full-length post before I even started talking about the tournament!  So here's part 2, starting with our arrival to Pittsburgh:

10:30ish a.m.: After navigating our way around a sea of green hats, green shirts, and green costumes awaiting the St. Patrick's Day parade (thanks to the GPS!), we arrive at the arena and its parking garage.  While the rest of us rummage in the trunk, Daddy emerges from the car in his "net hat" (It's like a headband with an upside-down basketball net that covers his head, with "Ohio State" on the headband part!), which he's kept hidden in some pocket all morning.  (He loves goofy surprises.)  "You told me you lost that!" my mom screeches indignantly.  "I spent half an hour last night and then again this morning digging through all the closets for it!"  "Oh come on, you should've known better than to believe him!" I admonish her.  Daddy just guffaws.

Still laughing, we walk out of the parking garage.  "We'll have to see if we can find the restaurant where the Buckeye Bash is," Daddy smirks, waiting for us to realize it's right across the street!  Husband and I go in to get a table while my parents head off to the arena's will-call to pick up the tickets.

"Are you here part of the event?" the bouncer asks, noticing our instruments. "Umm, are we going to card the band members?" he mutters to a waitress.  Oh no, I didn't bring my I.D... Since I never drink alcohol, it never occurs to me that some bars want to check I.D. upon entry.  Well, here goes nothing... "I don't have an I.D." I tell him.  "Oh, are you not 21 yet?" he sputters, with an apologetic smile. "I'm 27! I just don't have an I.D. with me," I reply.  He grins like he's not quite sure he believes me and let us through.

11:15 a.m. "The band bus just pulled up outside!" my mom tells Husband and me.  We jump up from the table and run out to the street to warm up with the band.  Assistant Director hugs us, to laughs and smiles from the band members we still know.  Once we've provided entertainment for everyone in the street (otherwise known as "warming up"), we squeeze into the tiny bar and thread our way upstairs.  Our music thunders through the bar, hyping up the Buckeye fans and astonishing all the locals who were just out to eat for St. Patrick's Day!

Ready to play, to the delight of fans and the amusement of the locals!
12:00 p.m.: After performing, we throw our horns in the trunk and head off to the arena.  Once there, we meet up with Funny Uncle Mike, my aunt, and one of my mom's co-workers and his wife.  After walking 3/4 of the arena in search of a souvenir stand (They realllly didn't  have nearly enough!), we finally buy some T-shirts and then settle into our seats to watch the first game, Syracuse vs. Kansas St.

Check off another arena on my list!
2:45ish p.m.: Finally, our game is ready to begin!  We yell and scream and wave the free pom-poms we got at the Buckeye Bash.  The team proceeds to play as though they are half-asleep. At halftime, my mom's co-worker (just one section over from us) points out that there's practically a whole row of seats open right below them.  The four of us, plus my aunt and uncle, head over and we're all able to sit together for the second half!  Luckily, the team comes out of halftime somewhat more ready to play basketball and they manage to pull out a win.  The Bucks are headed to the Sweet 16!

5:00ish p.m.: In need of some dinner after screaming our heads off, all eight of us head back to the tiny bar from earlier, hoping that many people won't know about it.  We're right: they have a big table open that seems to be waiting just for us! As we walk in, the bouncer remembers us.  He quips, "I know, you're 27!" and grins at me. He compliments Daddy on the net hat.  Dinner is delicious and full of fun stories and boisterous laughter.

A yummy end to the day!!!
9:50 p.m. Although we're only about 45 minutes from home, Daddy realizes that we need gas, so we stop at a familiar exit.  "Let's go here..." Daddy grins, "because it's St. Patrick's Day and I need a Shamrock Shake!!!"  Only Daddy would manage to find a gas station with a McDonalds attached so we could have Shamrock Shakes at 10 p.m.  (Now, you have to understand two things: 1. Daddy LOVES food.  No really, he loves it more than anyone you've ever met.  2. My family is obsessed with these delicious mint shakes that McDonalds only offers at this time of year!)

10:30 p.m.: Our green porchlights are shining into the darkness once more as my parents drop us off, 16 hours after we left home!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

New City, Old Memories (Part 1)

Day 18 of 31 at TWT!
Yesterday, I left you all wondering why I was up so early.  Now that Husband has finally draaaaagggggggged me out of bed today (no, not just now...), I think I'll give you a play-by-play of yesterday's trip (good guess, Michelle!) as it happened:

6:30 a.m.: The doorbell rings and we pull open the door to reveal my mom practically hopping on the porch with excitement.  Her giddy smile is bathed in the green light from our porchlights, where our novelty bulbs are shining St. Patrick's Day cheer into the darkness.  "Oh boy, you brought your horns!" chirps Daddy as he pops open the trunk.

7:30 a.m.: Husband and I finally settle into our books in the backseat, after an hour of excited chatter:

"Do you remember our first NCAA tournament trip when you were in first grade, to Rupp Arena?  Oh, you were sooo cute in your little cheerleading outfit!"

"Remember in Indianapolis in '99, when we almost couldn't hook up with Uncle Mike because the cell phone wasn't set up for roaming?  Now there's no such thing as roaming and we can just text him!" "Yeah, and then we followed the team to Knoxville the next weekend, and Grandma talked to Boban Savovic [one of OSU's players at the time] in Serbian after the game?"  "And then, of course, the Final Four!"  "Yeah, which apparently now never happened [it was taken away because of rule violations]... but we had so much fun!"

"And do you remember when we drove to Lexington and Uncle Mike was so excited it was like having a five-year-old in the car?"  "I vowed to never ride in the car with him again..."  "Yeah, and we had gone to the Pancake Breakfast that morning!  Good thing it was last week -- we had to leave too early to make it today!"

 "And of course last year in Cleveland was sooo cool because you guys got to play at the Buckeye Bash with the Athletic Band!"  "Yeah, that was so fun! And Assistant Director and the E-Row kids got such a big kick out of us alumni playing with them!"  "They're gonna crack up when we show up this year too!"

For several more hours, we continue driving through rolling Midwestern hills and patches of fog.  My dad, always the engineer, figures out that the car windows always steam up when we go from a valley to a hilltop, because of the temperature change from low to high ground in the humid air.  He also identifies a huge piece of machinery hauled by a truck that we pass: it's a connector piece for a mining machine, owned by a company that was a customer of my grandpa's company.  (Grandpa was a brilliant mechanical engineer who had at least eight patents for parts of draglines.)

9:30ish a.m. The cheery voice of the GPS tells us that we're approaching our exit.  We crest a hill to the sight of... a long line of cars completely stopped at the exit ramp.  "Oh no, is it really this backed up from the tunnel?" my mom moans.  We sit for a few minutes before realizing... this is weird.  We are not moving AT ALL.  Not even inching forward.  Completely stopped.  "What if there was a wreck in the tunnel?"  "No, I bet they'd be diverting people to a different route if it was closed for an accident, not having us all sit here..."

My dad, the engineer, figures it out.  He notices that we can see the bottom of our exit ramp off to the side below us, and there's a police car pulled sideways across it, blocking everyone.  "I bet there's a special convoy coming in from the airport!" he decides.  "Maybe Biden or the governor or someone has come in for the game, and we'll get to go once they go by!"  Sounds plausible and we have plenty of time, so we decide to try to wait it out.

We sit for about 15 minutes, and then suddenly the police car pulls out and the line of cars starts moving.  Daddy must have been right, and we are on our way again!  (We never did find out if someone famous was at the game, so who knows if that was the real reason.)

10:00ish a.m. "Ooh, I can't wait for you to see the view coming out of the tunnel!" My mom is seriously bouncing up and down in her seat.  "It's just so breathtaking!"  Neither Husband nor I has ever been to Pittsburgh, and Daddy hasn't been since he was a little kid.  Mom has been more recently and just keeps gushing about the view.

photo credit: brunkfordbraun via photopin cc
She's right.  We emerge from the Fort Pitt Tunnel to one of the most gorgeous city scenes in America.  To our left as we cross the bridge, we are treated to a clear view of Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, nestled between the wide river and a beautiful skyline of old warehouses and new skyscrapers.

Pittsburgh, the Buckeyes are here!

(This post is already too long, so please check back tomorrow to hear about our day in Pittsburgh rooting on the OSU men's basketball team!)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Up So Early

Day 17 of 31 at TWT!
I love playing with new writing formats, and this week I found a cool one from MommyK at Moore Family Fun! The idea of 6 word stories sounded perfect to try for a busy, on-the-go-without-the-internet day!  Simple and short, yet a challenge to say something powerful in a concise way!

I thought it would be fun to combine a bunch of related ones into a little poem.  So without further ado, here I go:

Alarm music slices through deep dreaming
ugh, cheery music doesn't really help
night still black outside my window
It's the first day of break...
Why am I up so early?

If you want to know the answer... check back tomorrow because I'm sure I will slice about it then!  :-)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mi papi, el ingeniero

Day 16 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
(A note to my fellow "slicers": Every Friday is Spanish Friday!  Please use Google Translate if you don't know Spanish.  Hopefully you can get the gist!)

Adoro a mi papi.

de pequeña, con Papi
Es simpático, responsable, chistoso y cariñoso (a su manera).  Puede resolver casi cualquier problema y siempre ve al mundo desde un punto de vista científica.  Yo siempre he sido una pequeña versión de él (pero con forma femenina). Tenemos la misma sonrisa ancha que nos arruga la cara hasta nuestros ojos son rendijas estrechas.  Somos alegres pero muy trabajadores, inteligentes con el aire de "profesor distraído".  Nos gustan las mismas cosas: el fútbol americano, la comida, las ciencias, el ejercicio al aire libre, y trabajar con las manos.  De pequeña, me encantaba ayudarle a él con el jardín y los proyectos de arreglar cosas de la casa.  Construímos juntos una terraza y mis pasamanos.

Hoy él vino a Escuela #3 (la escuela que yo asistí) como parte del Día de Profesiones para los estudiantes del octavo grado.  Yo estuve tan animada para ayudarle a preparar y organizar como él estuvo animado de estar conmigo en mi escuela.  Pasábamos la mañana juntos y yo aún pude asistir a una de sus presentaciones.  Siempre me interesa ver a Papi "profesional" -- es más serio y habla de una manera más digno.  Pero relata bien con los niños.  Ya admiro mucho a él por muchas razones, pero me parecía aún más admirable.

los muñecos, ¡en ropa vieja mía!
(listos para el torneo del baloncesto)
Es ingeniero mecánico y evalua (choca) los coches.  Les mostró un video emocionante de unos choques de coches y les explicó el proceso científico de evaluar la calidad de los coches.  (¡Su trabajo es tan interesante y divertido que yo quería ser ingeniera por cinco años y aún estudié la ingeniera por mi primer año de la universidad!)  Trajo con él dos muñecos para mostrar y los niños pudieron tocarlos y levantarlos.  (¡Son pesadísimos porque imitan a los cuerpos humanos!)  Había leído sobre los estudiantes de esta edad para crear su presentación especialmente para sus intereses.  Y por supuesto, les dijo que es mi papá -- risas y miradas de sorpresa.  Fue entusiasta, paciente, y simpático, como siempre.  (Y sólo usó unas pocas frases "ingeniericas", -- algo de que siempre se queja mi mamá.)

Adoro a mi papi.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Super Fun Embeddable Games!

Day 15 of 31 at TWT!
I've read about on several different blogs this year, including my favorite tech blog.  Usually, I love most of the tools Richard shares at Free Technology for Teachers.  However, when I first visited ClassTools, I was really disappointed in the amount of ads plastered all over everything (unless you get a premium membership).  So I decided it wasn't for me. 

However, this week I had some time to play and decided I really needed to add some new vocab games to my Moodle sites.  I was kind of tired of ProProfs games since I'd already created and embedded several word searches, crosswords, word scrambles, and hangman games for the kids to practice with.  They're cute, fun, and my students enjoy them, but I wanted to add something totally different.

So I opened up my Evernote and started scrolling through my "student resources" notes, looking for ones that were tagged "games".  I found (and finally had time to peruse) a link to games from the Spanish Techbook by Adventures with Technology.  After some playing around, I decided I'd try the embeddable arcade games at, because they are really fun and NOT covered in ads like most things on the site!

And I LOVE them!  One really neat feature is that once you enter the questions/answers, the kids can choose from 5 Flash-based activities: 4 games and 1 flashcard activity.  The games are a blast too -- I honestly enjoyed myself trying them out!  My favorite was"Word Shoot", and I know my husband would love "Manic Miner" (a retro-style platform game).  I love the fact that kids could choose the games they like best or play several games to practice with the same vocabulary in different ways! 

Want to see for yourself?  Here's the set of games I created for practicing numbers 1-30. (It's embedded; just click on the name of the game to try it out!)

So fun, right?  Plus, they're really easy to create -- just go to the Arcade Game Generator and enter your questions & answers in a box: 
screenshot of the game creator: so easy!
That one data set creates all 5 activities!  You can then click "Play!" to try them out, and click the little gear symbol to get the html embed code to put them on your site.  I put a password on all of mine because I didn't want the kids to be able to click "edit" and accidentally mess them up.

I just got them up on Moodle yesterday so I haven't heard from any students who have played them yet, but I think they will be a hit!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Here comes the sun...

Day 14 of 31 at Two Writing Teachers!
Here comes the sun

warm breezes wafting through the windows
short sleeves
silky light shirts

Here comes the sun

open moon roof, windows down
find a cheery song and
crank up the radio

Here comes the sun

spring air smooths the knots out of my back
time for track and field
and "Can we go outside today?"

Here comes the sun

milkshakes, ice cream, smoothies
bare toes wiggling
freedom is coming

Here comes the sun

All afternoon, I was planning on writing a poem about the GORGEOUS weather today. (And so I did!)  That was going to be my whole slice, until I was walking out of the building after school.  On the way out, I passed my current principal in the hallway, talking to the assistant principal. Waving, I said a cheery hello and planned to continue walking.  Instead, he took a step toward me, looked me straight in the eye, and said "We've had all the conversations here now.  We are good to go."

For a few seconds, I was confused.  He repeated, "We are good to go," with a slight nod of reassurance. Then it hit me and my face lit up.  "Oh!  Thank you!"

Translation of Mr. Kind-But-Gruff Burly Country Guy: my job is safe.  They had finished talking to everyone who was going to lose their jobs in the RIF and I wasn't one of those people. I don't know if he was telling that to everyone he saw, or if he just knew I was nervous. (I was pretty sure I would be ok, but I thought I might be close to the cutoff. Plus, my program is being cut, so I know I won't be doing this particular job next year.)  I'd like to think he knew I needed reassurance.  Even if he was just passing the word to everyone he saw, I'm glad he took the minute to do it.

Now the Beatles are cycling through my head:
"Here comes the sun / and I say: / It's alright..."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Yes Ma'am

Day 13 of 31 at TWT!
This trimester I have a student who constantly calls me "Ma'am".  She's the second student I've had who does this, and it cracks me up.  (Remember, I live in Ohio, not the South!)  Consider the following conversation from before class yesterday:

me: "Wow, you're early today!"
M: "Yes, ma'am, our teacher let us out early last period."
me: "Did you have a good weekend?"
M: "Yes ma'am, it was real nice."
me: "Me too.  Did you do anything super fun?"
M: "Oh yes ma'am!  We went to the outlet mall and had a cookout!"

and so on...

On one hand, I think it's awesome that her family has obviously taught her to be very respectful to any adult.  In addition to the "ma'am"-ing, her whole tone of voice and body posture change when she talks to me (vs. how she addresses other kids).  Not in a bad, uptight way, but just a show of respect.  It's like the American version of using "Usted"!  There are many kids who could certainly improve upon the way they treat others (no matter their age!), and this girl is a fantastic role model of respect.

On the other hand, it makes me feel OLD!  This "ma'am" sounds like somebody way older than me... You see, I've always looked really young for my age.  So young that people are constantly misjudging my age: (yes, these are all REAL examples!)

  • Wondering if I'm a new student...when I went for my first day of a 5-week in-service during my M.Ed. program. (It was a K-8 school!)
  • Asking if I'm old enough to use the exercise machines at the rec center... when I was home from college one summer. (The age limit was 13 and up!)
  • Guessing I was a student teacher... when I arrived at School #2 during my first year in this position.  (It was my 3rd year of teaching!)
This has played into my identity for so many years that I automatically think of myself as the young one in most groups.  I'm pretty sure I still look really young, since most strangers middle-aged or older (cashiers, waitresses, the custodians at all my schools, etc.) still address me as "Honey", "Hon", "Sweetie", etc.

However, it's as if young customer service people suddenly know that I'm a "grown-up" now!  Lately, high school / college-age kids in those types of jobs have started calling me "Ma'am" instead of "Miss".  The first time it happened I wanted to run to a mirror!  Do I look older all of a sudden?  Nope, don't think so... Maybe it's the clothes?  Is this only happening when I run errands in my teaching clothes?  Perhaps I should start a scientific experiment tallying when and where... 

It's not that it bothers me, but it just feels really funny!  Of course, I suppose it could be a good thing that the outside world is starting to finally recognize me as a "real adult" -- considering I've been one for 5 years now!

Monday, March 12, 2012

One Box of Cookies

Day 12 of 31 at TWT!
Lately I guess I've been tasting my memories.  Food certainly can be a great way to remember the past' savoring certain flavors and scents just sends me flying backwards through time.

Last week our Girl Scout cookies arrived. I'm so excited for weeks of melt-in-my-mouth chocolate, peanut butter, coconut-and-caramel, mint, lemon...Ohhhhhh yummmmmm!  The first box is almost gone already!

For me, the best part of Girl Scout cookies isn't even the taste, despite how gloriously delicious they are!  It's the memories.  The box designs, the names of my old favorites, the shape and color of the cookies...

The familiar names roll happily off my tongue: Samoas, Tagalongs, Thin Mints.  I can picture each kind of cookie and each style of box as I say them.  I also know their names just by looking at the box color!  Suddenly I'm a scrawny little girl with my blonde hair pulled into a side ponytail braid, reviewing orders and sorting boxes with Daddy.  He loads up his orange dolly and I proudly put on my Brownie sash over my all-pink outfit. I slip my little hand into his giant one, hopping and skipping beside him as we head out into the neighborhood with our deliveries.

And of course, I can't eat a Thin Mint without laughing about Uncle Mike.  Known to my friends as "The Funny Uncle", he put me into innumerable giggle fits throughout my childhood.  (Ok, so he's just as silly now as he was then -- HE certainly hasn't grown up a bit!)  Every year, I'd ask for his Girl Scout cookie order, and every year, he'd tell me "1 box of Thin Mints".  A giggle fit would ensue, because Uncle Mike's "1 box" was really one case (TWELVE boxes)!  I got such a kick out of delivering his huuuuge "box" of cookies every year.  Plus, I knew Uncle Mike's order would put me well on the way to earning the next level of prize!  I honestly miss selling cookies just because I'd love to take his order again and have our special joke continue.

Instead, I'll just giggle the next time I bite into a Thin Mint.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Shopping with my mom

Day 11 of 31 at TWT!
When I was little, I definitely did NOT like shopping.  My mom and her mom would draaaaaag me through endless rows of shopping racks and changing rooms.  My feet got heavier and heeeeaaaavier as they perused shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, suits, shoes.. aaaaa!  I would anxiously peer around towering mannequins and piles of clothes, hoping to catch a glimpse of my quarry: one of those elusive chairs that department stores sprinkle around to satisfy exhausted husbands and children.

Moreover, it really wasn't any better when we were shopping for me instead of them. They'd pull out the ugliest, most embarrassing clothes in the store: "Do you like this?"  "Look, isn't this sweet?"  "Oh, you would look adorable in this!"  My mom now swears that this is an ongoing curse passed from mother to daughter: she always felt exactly the same way about things her mom would pull off the rack for her!

However, something gradually changed as I got into high school and college.  Perhaps it was just the fact that I now was interested in clothes (instead of toys).  Or maybe it was that my mom was now becoming more of a friend as I grew to an age where I could relate to her better.  Maybe a little bit was the fact that, once you start having to buy things with your own money, any chance to have your mom buy you something is welcome!  Whatever the reason, shopping suddenly became... fun!

Now that I'm a teacher (my mom was a teacher for many years and is now a principal), shopping with my mom is a special time.  I get new clothes to wear to work (I now understand that it's totally no fun to wear the same things week after week), and I get to talk to my mom about school and life.  Plus, it's a fun break from doing housework or schoolwork or feeling like I SHOULD be doing one or the other!

Today we've scheduled the whole afternoon for shopping at the local outdoor, mini-city-like mall across town -- a step up from the normal mall we usually go to.  Mom loves to spend money on me and we love to spend time together, so I'm looking forward to an afternoon of stories, laughter, and hopefully some new purchases! 

Even if my feet might still get a little heavy by the end of the day, it'll be worth it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A very green tradition

Day 10 of 31 at TWT!
Our town's slogan is "Irish is an Attitude".  You can't help but feel Irish here, whether you are or not!  Of course, this really comes out at two times of year: St. Patrick's Day and the first weekend of August, when we have what I'm pretty sure is the biggest Irish Festival in the country.

As long as I can remember, I've bounced out of bed on the Saturday nearest St. Patrick's Day to put on every green piece of clothing I own.  "Green syrup, green syrup!" I chirp to myself (much to Husband's annoyance).  It's time for the Pancake Breakfast! (Ironically, this year, although St. Patrick's Day is ON a Saturday, we had it a week early because next Saturday will be the first day of Spring Break.)

Childhood memories on a plate!
Even in high school, when I had to get ready to march in the parade, my parents and I would go down early to the Pancake Breakfast (held at the middle school I attended) so I didn't have to miss my pancakes with green syrup! It's a beloved family tradition that I look forward to every year.  I'm pretty sure the only year I missed it was the year I was studying abroad in Spain.

After the breakfast, there's a parade that includes all the high school bands, Irish dance troupes, local kids' groups, drum & bagpipe corps, and Irish wolfhounds. Of course, there's also all the usual parade elements: fire trucks bellowing their giant horns, kids scrambling for candy, silly clowns, politicians in fancy cars, horses, and even some big helium balloons.

My mom says that I was first in the parade when I was two, as part of a little gymnastics club.  In elementary school, my girl scout troop spent several years in a row bundled up in our snowsuits to waddle down the street, giggling the whole way.  Through my four years of high school, I proudly marched with my band in the midst of swirling snowflakes, every year!

Today it was so sunny I got a little sunburnt as I sat on the sidewalk.  Now, I'm the spectator and I always spot several of my students in the parade!

But those green pancakes were just as delicious as they have been for the past twenty-some years.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Una escuela amable

Day 9 of 31 at TWT!
(A note to my fellow "slicers": Every Friday is Spanish Friday!  Please use Google Translate if you don't know Spanish.  Husband uses it to read my Spanish Friday posts, and it does a fairly decent job.  Hopefully it'll do well enough that you can get the gist, since I don't have the time or energy to write this twice!)

(P.S. I loved that some of you translated your comments into Spanish last Friday!  ¡Qué divertido!)

Escuela #3 es una escuela divertida.  Si yo quisiera dibujarla, la dibujaría con un gran sol sonriente arriba del edificio.  Me encantan los maestros en esta escuela.  Son amables, simpáticos, trabajadores, y positivos.  Además, son muy unidos.  Es una comunidad especial que siempre me da una bienvenida amistosa.  Y estoy seguro que los alumnos se sienten el ambiente positivo también.

Hoy es viernes, por fin.  El martes, me sintió como si no fuera posible sobrevivir hasta el fin de semana.  Pero lo hice, y mi recompensa fue un viernes que demostró el carácter de Escuela #3.

Para empezar, los viernes por la mañana siempre hay un desayuno especial en Escuela #3.  (Y también en la Escuela #1, pero no en la Escuela #2.)  Cada semana, un grupo diferente de maestros traen alguna comida para todos.  Nos sentamos, hablamos, y relajamos juntos por unos momentos; ¡buena manera de empezar el día!  Siempre me siento menos el estrés después de un desayuno así.

Hoy fue aún más divertida, porque los maestros de 6o grado tuvimos una fiesta durante el almuerzo para el cumpleaños de una maestra.  Alguien trajo unas pizzas, otra persona una torta, y otra el helado.  Todos disfrutamos de esta comida especial, y me pareció una manera concreta de decir "Te nos importa" a la maestra con cumpleaños.

 Mientras me serví un poquito de helado, una maestra me abrazó y me susurró: -- Ahora sí que te alegras de estar en esta escuela, ¿verdad? -- Sí -- le sonreí.  Me encanta esta escuela, aunque no tengo aula.  Me encanta la gente aquí.