Tuesday, April 22, 2014

SOL - When It's My Turn

When it’s my turn,
sit beside me in candlelight
in a quiet rocking chair.

Hold my hand
whether it be cold or sweaty or shaky.
Squeeze it once in a while
(even if you are a stranger)
just so I can be sure I’m not alone.

                                                        Welcome fresh flowers, warm bread, baked apple pie;
                                      expel the stale air.

Let there be peace in flowing water, wind chimes, singing bowls
and occasional whispers of reassurance.

Sprinkle glitter fairy dust over my blankets
and wish me a safe flight.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ldcross/2164848567/">Denise Cross Photography</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Monday, April 14, 2014

SOL--The Car Show Parade

It was the last day of a three-day conference in Phoenix.  The final sessions ran at least thirty minutes over and I was in desperate need of a real meal; the snacks that had held me over until dinner during the past two days were finally unappealing.  I met up with my team mates and we headed to our minivan.  It would be a ten minute ride back to our hotel where we’d have a working dinner together. 

As my teammates and I were driving along Central Blvd, Karen said, “Huh. It looks like people are getting ready for a parade.”  Sure enough, we noticed the sidewalks were lined with people setting up their folding chairs. 

“It might be a car show,” I suggest. “Look at all the cars in the lots behind them.”  Old cars, sports cars, classic cars had their doors open, hoods up. 

Traffic slowed down.  “What do you want to do for dinner?” Terri asked.
“Let’s order take-out from Fez again,” Katie suggested.

Then we noticed an old car in front of us.  And an old car behind us.  In fact, there were old cars all around our light blue Chevy minivan. 

“I think we are in the parade!” I exclaimed and slapped Karen’s knee.  The five of us women laughed and practiced our princess waves.

Finally we made it to our hotel room, freshened up and called Fez for take-out.  We decided on take-out to avoid the $5 delivery fee and decided to drive there because Katie was ordering ice cream for dessert.  Walking would have felt fantastic after sitting in the convention center all day, but it would have certainly melted the ice cream in the 80+ degrees outside.

Terri and I ventured out to find Fez.  We relied on her phone’s GPS to get us there.  We were both exhausted, overwhelmed and very hungry.  Immediately, we realized we had turned the wrong way out of the parking garage.  That was our first U-turn.  Once we got to the main street, Fez was only 0.2 miles away and not too hard to find. 

After picking up the dinner and driving a few minutes, Terri said, “I think we missed our turn.”
“Yeah,” I agreed. “it feels like we’ve gone too far.”  But I’m holding the phone with the directions on it and it is telling me to continue on. 
“When do we turn?” Terri asked.
“Left on Osborn,” I said. And then we notice the traffic.  “Maybe it just feels like we’ve gone too far because we’re going so slowly.”

“Oh no! We’re in the parade again!” Terri said.  She grabbed her cell phone to reset the GPS directions.  Surely it wasn’t giving us accurate directions.  “Yup, we’ve gone too far,” she confirms.  She handed the phone back to me.  I can see that we went  ONE MILE too far.  There’s a classic car in front of us, an old sports car behind us and people on the sidewalk waving to us.  One car in the next lane has its doors open and they angle way up like wings. 

We finally made a U-turn but remained at 5 mph in the parade loop. By the time we got back to the hotel, we’d been gone for 35 minutes!  Thirty five minutes for what should have been a 0.4-mile trip.  

The ice cream was melted.  We should have just walked!

Red car photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/7552532@N07/4194457898/">ATOMIC Hot Links</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

SOL - Sub Plans

I’ll never forget how difficult it was to leave my first sub plans.  During my first year of teaching, I arrived at school at 6am most days to figure out how I would spend my time with my class.  I felt totally incompetent and unprepared!  How in the world could I figure out IN ADVANCE what SOMEONE else might do with my class for SEVEN HOURS?!  Obviously, I taught in a district that did not have mandated curriculum.  Oh, how I longed to have a teacher’s manual and a class set of textbooks.  Maybe even a movie!  No, I was in a poor rural district and all the resources I had I either made or found in the one file cabinet in my room.  In the long run, that was a blessing: I learned to write my own engaging curriculum.  But that first year was certainly long.

Now I have a few tricks to making sub plans less cumbersome for my classroom, but for the first time I am leaving my preschooler behind as I attend a 3-day conference.  I am faced with leaving sub plans for home.  One student: my preschooler.  Two cats, one aging. 

I’ve been resisting the urge to write detailed plans for both my husband and my parents.  But I finally caved.  I sent an email to my parents with information about the brushing teeth routine, the bath routine and a plea to feed her vegetables.  I’ve written a list for my husband of items to be sure to pack in Clara’s overnight bag as well as a note to remind him to feed and water the cats.

The difference between this absence and my first missed day of teaching is that I won’t be so nervous once I’ve left.  Of course I’ll think about Clara and Max and the cats and my parents and I might even call, but I won’t be sitting in conference sessions with a pounding heart, looking at my watch every 15 minutes and reviewing what, exactly, they all are doing at that very moment.  Thankfully, I have learned to enjoy my time away!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

SOL - To the Mountains

Leave at 9:00? Maybe 10:00?
Clara wants peanut butter and jelly for breakfast
And an apple.
   Her biggest breakfast ever.

Pack toothbrush.
Which shoes?
Check the weather report
    check email while I'm there.
    "I want to send a message to Grandma Jill!"
     Set Clara up on email.

Take a shower, dry my hair.
      "Let me do it!" Clara demands.
           Sit on the floor, let her dry my hair. 
           It takes twice as long and looks twice as bad.
Pack the comb, the brush and Clara's alarm clock.

Grab a grocery bag and stuff with
     bananas, apples, cucumber, popcorn...
     what else might Clara eat?
Clara wants to eat popcorn now. Give her the bowl.
Wash the dishes, take out the trash.

Load the bags in the car
      (so glad I packed last night!)
Throw in the Sorel snow boots and extra thick socks.
I haven't eaten breakfast yet.  Am I hungry?
Make a smoothie to go.

Daffodils in the yard,
   might be gone soon with the predicted snow.
   Let's get a photo of Clara in the flowers!
Where's the camera?
Is the battery charged?
Where's the bluetooth? Is it charged?
I better grab the checkbook, put toys in the car...

"I want to draw on that!" Clara saw the art book
    Give her the book. She sits in her car seat
as if that's the only place to be artistic.
    NO, she doesn't want to see the daffodils.

Fill the water bottles, swallow my vitamins,
blend the smoothie, start the dishwasher.

On the road at 10:00.
"Let's listen to Frog & Toad," Clara suggests.
OK, only until Starbucks.

Driving into grey clouds
looking for snow to start falling on us.
On the look out for deer,
Spot big horn sheep grazing.
Children's museum this afternoon
Sledding tomorrow morning
Skiing the next day;
it's going to be great!

"Did you bring Clara's winter coat?"

Email photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/scobleizer/4632633277/">Robert Scoble</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Fruit photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryanec/484603274/">[Crewe]</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Daffodils photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/hindrik/7060857657/">Hindrik S</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

mountains photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/blmiers2/6125779338/">blmiers2</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Monday, March 31, 2014

SOL 31 (!) of 31 - Story Time

I've written about how bedtime with my daughter has always been my favorite part of motherhood.  I can not think of a better way to end the day than to melt into a story together, turn off the lights and share about our day in whispers.

But since I wrote about it, I've been thinking about story time with my first and second graders.  I haven't had story time with students since my daughter was born, but that was always my favorite part of teaching and it is where I developed my story telling skills.

 Story time always started the night before, when I chose the read aloud.  I looked for a book that made me smile, laugh out loud, cry, or feel nostalgic.  If it connected to a unit of study in the classroom, so much the better.  I love stories with words that feel good on my lips or trip up my tongue.  I love stories in which not all of it is told in the text; a good study of the illustrations enhances the understanding.

Some of my favorite authors are Robert Munsch, Jan Brett, Patricia Polacco, Mem Fox, and Tomie DePaola because they are experts at using my favorite features.

I loved the magic spell that could be released with the start of a good book.  I played with my facial expressions, volume of my voice, timing of sharing the illustrations, inflections, gesticulations...I rehearsed these each time I read the story until I had my audience mesmerized.  When my group of 25+ seven-year-olds had stopped fidgeting, started gasping at the surprising parts and laughing at the silly parts, I knew I was in my zone.  I was not merely reading a story; I was acting.

In my last full-time teaching position, the read-alouds were part of the mandated curriculum.  They were fine stories.  We read and re-read them just as the teacher manual said to.  We even memorized a few.  But by the spring of that year, I realized that I was not having any fun.  And neither were my students.  I decided to bring in some of my favorite texts and, maybe at the expense of "required" material," share them with my kids.  It got most of us back on track.  At least it made my heart happy enough to finish the school year.

My hope for Clara is that she has teachers who have favorite books and love reading.  I hope that her teachers are able and willing to bring their passions to the classroom.  And I hope that I get to continue having story time with her every night for many more years to come.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

SOL 30 of 31 -- Spring Cleaning

I guess you could call it spring cleaning.  Really, it was the time to do all the cleaning that should have been done regularly throughout the winter but wasn't.  I always mean to mop the floors every couple of weeks but actually I just hand wash the visible spots and sweep often.  But this time, there was a developing odor.  I think the animals had begun taking over the house (and by animals I mean anyone under the age of 7 and/or male).

This cleaning became Operation Odor Elimination.  It started with emptying the athletic bag, cleaning out the lunch boxes, clearing out the refrigerator, taking out the trash and opening all the windows.  It continued with vacuuming and mopping.  And this wasn't just regular mopping. It was a suds cycle using generous amounts of  Pine-Sol followed by two rinse cycles.

Then I noticed the kitchen cabinets.  They are painted white--a very poor choice for a kitchen if you actually use it. Wearing rubber gloves, I scrubbed them with Chlorox wipes and 409.  Now I was on a roll: I moved on to wiping the baseboards and washing the windows. While I worked, Max cleaned out the cat liter boxes.

Now, if I notice an odor tonight after I return home, I might get out the carpet cleaner.   Then I'll be burning incense and refilling my Plug-Ins.

Rubber gloves photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/tilling-67/9061253129/">Rina Pitucci (Tilling 67)</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">cc</a>

mop photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/joybot/6310522216/">Joybot</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Carpet cleaner photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/williac/1255534528/">williac</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>

Saturday, March 29, 2014

SOL 29 of 31 -- Kurt

Kurt joined my grandparents and me for dinner again this evening.  This time I heard stories about his wife.

After World War II, Kurt returned to Israel.  He met a beautiful woman and they started dating.  This woman's mother never left the house except to walk to the grocery store.  She never rode the bus, never went out socializing.  Kurt was working as a bus driver; all the drivers were part owners of the company.  He had a small apartment and was trying to save money.  After dating for two years, he heard a knock on his apartment door one evening. He thought it was his girlfriend.

"Come in," he called.  No one came in.  He heard the knock again and answered the door.  It was his girlfriend's mother!  "What's wrong?" he asked.

"It's been two years," she said. "It is time now." There was his girlfriend's mother, the one who never left the house, telling Kurt to marry her daughter.  Kurt hadn't even been thinking of marriage.

A few days later Kurt was with his girlfriend and he told her that the mother had visited.  She was angry that her mother had been to his apartment and rushed away.  When he saw her next, she told him that she hadn't spoken to her mother since.

"You haven't spoken to your mother?!" Kurt asked incredulously.  He drove her back to her house and said, "You go talk to your mother right now!"  The women talked and not long after, Kurt married his girlfriend.

Soon after they were married, Kurt received a letter from his cousin who had moved to New York.  The letter said that now was a good time for Germans to immigrate to America.  Kurt and his wife decided to go.  They moved into a tiny apartment on the twelfth floor in New York but did not stay for long.  They decided to return to Israel. On their last day in America, Kurt got a green card.  As soon as Kurt saw the ship, he said, "I think we're making a terrible mistake."  But his wife said, "Our luggage is already on the ship!"  So they went back to Israel.  Kurt was able to return to his bus driving job because he was part owner of the company.  They stayed for a year and a half before returning to America for good.  It was good he had gotten a green card because, he said, he would not have been allowed back in the U.S. without it.

Kurt and his wife were married for 63 years.  She died of Parkinson's disease last June, just a couple of weeks after they moved to Colorado from Florida.  "I don't know if she ever knew we were here [in CO]," Kurt said.