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="">Rina Pitucci (Tilling 67)</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

mop photo credit: <a href="">Joybot</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Carpet cleaner photo credit: <a href="">williac</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">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.

Friday, March 28, 2014

SOL 28 of 31 -- Weight of Silence

In my growing up home
night was
       heavy     and     fragile.

A creak in the floor,
the swooshing heartbeat in my ear,
a whistle in my nose
nearly shattered the silence.

My throat swelled at the thought
of talking, singing, calling out.
I never, ever shouted at monsters to

Even though things lurked under the bed.
Things that would grab a dangling foot
if one should slip over the edge.
I never got out of bed once it was dark.

Except one time.
I gathered up the spring in my legs and
off the bed, far from the edge
landing like a cat--silently--
in the middle of my room.

I had to pass my parents' room to get to the bathroom.
I was sure that I could not pee silently
and that the toilet flushing
would send everyone in the house through the roof.
So I stopped at their bedroom door and tapped quietly.
I had to tell them that I'd be in the bathroom
I did not want to startle them awake.
I tapped
and tapped
and tapped.
I got tired, my knees got cold
so I sat on the floor, pulled my large yellow t-shirt over my knees
and kept tapping.

Finally my mom opened the door.
Yes, go to the bathroom, she said.
I did.
I flushed real fast and
covered my ears, expecting the house to collapse around me.

I tiptoed through the hallway, into my room;
launched myself back into bed from 3 feet away
dove under the covers
and breathed silently.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

SOL 27 of 31 -- Bedtime

There are many parts of motherhood that I love.  I love going to the zoo, having magic kisses that heal invisible wounds, taking the scooter or bike around the block, singing along to children's music and inventing new games that secretly teach things like counting by tens.

But my most favorite part of motherhood is story time and cuddles just before bed.  Before I even knew I wanted to have my own children, I dreamed about having a child sit on my lap, holding a book for us to share.  And from the moment we brought Clara home, I've cherished this activity at every nap time and night time.

We've gone through many favorite books.  I remember CAT by Matthew Van Fleet with it's movable and tactile parts. We paused so long on each page that I started memorizing the name and breed of each cat featured.  I've memorized the text in many books: Cows Can't Fly (David Milgrim), Goodnight Gorilla and 10 Minutes till Bedtime (Peggy Rathman), and the classic Dr. Seuss books Hop on Pop and Cat in the Hat.  Clara has memorized and reads Go, Dog. Go! (P.D. Eastman), Zoo Looking (Mem Fox) and Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown).  My heart has melted while snuggling up with Clara and Mama's Day (Linda Ashman and Jan Ormerod), or listening to Max read My Dad (Anthony Browne).

Clara's current favorite is the Frog and Toad series.  She likes to study the Table of Contents first and choose which chapter(s) to read.  We recently attended a school performance of the Frog and Toad musical, which prompted the purchase of the soundtrack that we listen to exclusively during every single car ride.

Tonight I read the chapter called Shiver from Frog and Toad; Max read Alone. Then Clara hugged Max goodnight and snuggled on my lap with the light out. She sucked her finger and twirled her hair.

"I had a great day with you, Mama," she sighed.  Wow, I marvel.  Today was full of errands, meetings and chores.  I am extremely grateful that she cooperated; the day was certainly easier than I had expected and now she says it was a "great day."

"It was a great day, wasn't it?" I whisper.  "I think you're fantastic."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SOL 26 of 31 -- Cottage Cheese & Crackers

Lately, I've been craving a snack at bedtime.  I start thinking about it as the evening winds down.  What will I have for a snack tonight?  What could I have that is dairy-free?  How about hummus?  Maybe peanuts and raisins.  Maybe I won't need a bedtime snack tonight.  If I can't think of a healthy snack that sounds good to eat, perhaps I'm not really hungry.

At this point, I'm not hungry at all.  I still feel entirely full from dinner.  I feed the cats, finish the dishes in the sink, look over my schedule for tomorrow, shower, and sit down to write.  In the back of my mind, I start visualizing cottage cheese and crackers.  My mouth waters ever so slightly, but I can ignore it while I write.

About the time I'm done writing, my stomach wakes up.  Yeah, I think I'm hungry.  Cottage cheese and crackers is the only thing that I want to eat. Not baby carrots--too crunchy.  Not a banana--too sweet.  I only want cottage cheese and crackers.

I remember that it was my mother's parents who introduced me to this snack about thirty years ago.  Whenever we got together with them (which was maybe once/year), we had cottage cheese, Saltine crackers and tomato juice at 5:00--exactly one hour before dinner.  It was our hors d'oeuvres.  At our house, we ate it in our family room, in front of the TV while watching 3-2-1-Contact on PBS.  Or,  at their house in Florida, we ate it  at their dining room table while gazing out the front window at their quiet, sunny neighborhood.

Now, as an adult, after the house has quieted for the night, you can find me standing at the kitchen counter eating cottage cheese and Triscuits.  No need to dirty any serving spoons or dishes.  Just eat directly from the container. I'm sure to eat only a few crackers and quickly put the lid on the cottage cheese.  I've got to save it for my daughter, who often eats this for one snack-meal each day.  Sometimes, though, I take the lid off again and eat just one more cracker.  And sometimes just one more.

Finally satisfied, I can head upstairs to bed, my day complete.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SOL 25 of 31 -- Commitment

                     Loyal                     Fickle
                     Dedicated              False
                     Devoted                Irresponsible
                     Reliable                 Wavering
                     Enthusiastic           Shaky
                     Supportive             Doubtful
                     Fast                       Skeptical
                     Adherence             Misgiving
                     Commitment          Disillusion
                     Promised                Broken heart

Did you know? "Commitment" is currently in the top 1% of lookups and is the 254th most popular word on says that "commitment" is a "fast mover: this word increased significantly in lookups over the past seven days."

A few other Top Words in the last 7 days:

Monday, March 24, 2014

SOL 24 of 31 -- Kurt

I had the honor of eating dinner with Kurt this weekend. He is a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, friend of my grandparents-in-law and in love with my 3-year-old daughter.  His eyes sparkle, his being glows with vitality. 

His step has a spring to it and he moves easily with clear intention.  He takes care of my grandparents—who are just 3 years older—like a parent taking care of a young child.  He pushed Ruth’s wheelchair to every meal following her recent heart surgery.  He waits on them at the dinner table, bringing them each a plate of salad from the salad bar.  He’s the first one up from the table when dinner is done, hastily gathering everyone’s walkers. 

He sat across the table from my daughter and beamed at her through the entire meal.  She frequently smiled at him and gave him a thumbs-up.  At that, Kurt clapped his hands together in front of his heart, shook his head and chuckled.  He was smitten with Clara.  When there was a possibility that my daughter might have dropped one of her many trinkets on the floor from the dinner table, he was the first one over at her side—then down on his knees—checking the floor. 

“What are we going to do about brunch tomorrow?” Ruth asked. 
“Should we meet at 12:00?” Kurt replied.
“I’m not sure that I want to eat here,” Ruth clarified.  She looked at me and said, “The eggs here are just so…so…taste-less.” 

“Ah, then how about pizza?” Kurt offered.

Both Ruth and Burt lit up.  Oh, yes, they would love to have pizza.  It became obvious that Ruth had been hoping for such an offer since the moment she asked about brunch. 

“I know of a place just down the road,” he said. Kurt drives his own car—a large Lincoln Town Car—and he takes Ruth and Burt out often. 

I spent the remainder of the meal getting to know Kurt better.  I learned that he still travels and will be gone most of April to New York and Florida.  He swims a half-hour every day and walks outdoors every day. 

I also learned that he was born in Germany near the Polish border in the early 1920’s.  He moved to several different German towns during his childhood, ending up in Berlin.  He remembers school in Berlin. 

“I got the last train out in 1939,” he told me.  He had to leave his parents behind and never saw them again.  He ended up in Israel and joined the army.  He fought the Germans across Europe from Italy to Holland.  After the war, he was reunited with a cousin of his in Ireland who had also fled Germany. 

He said that he didn’t have time in his life to think about his past until he retired.  He was always busy working at least 2 jobs.  Now, he thinks about it.  He shared his story with me with clear eyes; my eyes collected pools of tears.  He eagerly wanted to share some scrapbooks of photos with me, as well as a video of an interview he gave once.  There was not time for that sharing this time.  But I look forward to seeing Kurt again soon and learning even more about him.

Lincoln Town Car photo credit: <a href="">Ruud Onos</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href

Sunday, March 23, 2014

SOL 23 of 31 -- Family Time at the Mall

I remember a few years ago, my colleagues complained that the children of teachers were some of the hardest kids to have in class.  Since I hadn't experienced a teacher's child in my class, I just listened.  They felt that generally the children of teachers were not well-behaved and the teacher-parents believed their children were perfect. The teacher-parents also generally believed their child's abilities were much better than they actually were.  

Now, sitting at the mall, considering Owen, I'm thinking, "That child needs his parents to be teachers!"  Granted, not all teachers would know how to help this child.  And, I understand that it can be much more difficult to handle tough situations when it is your own child.  

But are the children of teachers generally more difficult to have in class?  I ponder what it will be like in a year or two when my daughter is in school.  She comes from an entire family of teachers: both parents, two grammies and an aunt.  Of course we all think she is academically advanced. Are we somehow setting her up to be a challenge for her future teachers?  

She definitely negotiates and questions.  She is definitely independent and stubborn.  But she is also eager to please and most certainly a rules-follower.  I've observed her in the few classes she's had so far.  At dance, she's always doing exactly what the teacher says to do and often insists that the other kids follow the directions also (we're working on how she can do this without being bossy!).  She's patient.  She's interested.  She doesn't hesitate to ask her teacher, "What are we going to do next?" or "Can we use the pom-poms today?"  

I hope that having dealt with a variety of parents throughout our teaching careers, we won't be intimidating or difficult for Clara's teachers.  I hope that we can team with her teachers and community to make school a joy for everyone of us. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

SOL 22 of 31 -- Family Time at the Mall

It's 9:00 Saturday morning. The stores in the mall don't open for another hour, but families with small children are having a good time at the indoor play area.  It's a mellow group this morning, with nearly all the children under four years of age.  

Clara begins climbing around, running back to us every few minutes to offer a hug or a thumbs up.  "I want to be friends with that girl!" she tells us, pointing to someone half her age.  "You could ask her if she wants to be your friend."  Clara pauses for just a moment and then heads directly to the little girl, who is standing with her mom and dad.  "Do you want to be my friend?" Clara asks. She attempts to play with the girl, but the girl is just not interested.  Eventually, Clara settles into a game of hide-and-seek with a couple of kids twice her age.  I'm so proud of her for being outgoing.  I don't think I've ever gone up to strangers to ask if they'd be my friend or if I could play with them.  Isn't it amazing that a shy, introverted parent like me could be raising an outgoing, extroverted child?  

With Clara settled into a game with other kids, I'm free to watch the people around me.  I love to watch parents play with their children. It seems rare that parents are actually engaged with their children at play areas; I often find them focused on their phones. This morning, though, I don't see phones out. Some parents are playing chase, most are assisting with climbing and jumping, some are visiting with friends.

Suddenly, the mom sitting next to me darts across the play area and swoops up her 1-year-old who is crying.  The way she leapt up was alarming.  I scan the child for blood. None.  Another mom joins the crying child.  I infer that her son pushed or kicked the 1-year-old.  The offender is obviously in trouble. His mom swats at him and sends him to the bench.  After several minutes, the offending boy comes back with his mom and says, "Owen sorry." He is thanked for his apology. "Own sorry," he repeats two or three more times.  

Now I'm watching Owen.  He appears to be 4 or 5 years old, though his speech sounded like a 2 year old.  He is not engaged with any other children; just runs around the play equipment, nudging any child he happens by.  An elbow here, a little kick there...Eventually, his mom yells "Owen!" across the play area. His dad marches over to him and pulls him back to the bench. I'm glad that the parents are watching him, but sad that they aren't teaching him how to behave. When he is allowed to play again, he runs past four kids without touching them.  I want to run over and congratulate him! What Owen needs is an adult "shadow" to model playing.  Someone to show him how to talk to other kids.  Someone to keep him engaged in an activity so he doesn't have the opportunity to hurt someone else.  Most of all, he needs tons of positive attention.  

Tune in for PART 3 tomorrow...

Friday, March 21, 2014

SOL 21 of 31 -- This Week

Things I’ve learned this week:

-How the Romans got water to flow uphill.

-There is a named generation between my daughter and me. Does that mean I should be closer to grandmotherhood than new motherhood? 

 2000/2001-Present - New Silent Generation or Generation Z
1980-2000 - Millennials or Generation Y

1965-1979 - Generation X

1946-1964 - Baby Boom
1925-1945 - Silent Generation

1900-1924 - G.I. Generation

-The difference between a Bow & Arrow and a Crossbow.

-Paul Ryan is waging war on poverty and he’s made some disparaging remarks. One was at the Conservative Political Action Conference when he said that the parents of kids who brought brown bagged lunch to school cared more about them than those who participated in the school lunch program. My initial reaction when I heard this comment was from my inner child of 30 years ago: Better taken care of—really?! I thought their parents cared about making them “cool!”

-There is something called a Squatty Potty
Will this help my preschooler learn to poop in the toilet? For $25, I’m tempted to find out.

-The 300’s section of the library is called Social Sciences.  Wow, I’ve been a Social Sciences teacher for three years now and have only relied on the 900’s.  I have a new favorite place in the library!

-Keeping chickens in my backyard might scare the squirrels away. Although, chickens might also eat my vegetable garden and upset my neighbors. Hmmm…

-Publishers might not accept material that has already been posted on a blog. But they want their writers to have followers.  So, if you want to get published, have a blog but don’t post things you might want published.

Paul Ryan photo credit: <a href="">DonkeyHotey</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

chickens photo credit: <a href="">UGArdener</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

aqueduct photo credit: <a href="">Roberto AI</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Thursday, March 20, 2014

SOL 20 of 31 -- A Dragon Day

I saw red today.
Teeth grinding,
brows furrowed, RED.
Deep breaths would not go in.

It's not like I didn't have fair warning:
My preschooler declared Operation No
first thing this morning.

She ripped the strap off my purse.
She screamed and refused
to try on the pants I wanted to buy for her,
yanked my arm, kicked my leg
while I visited with friends at lunch,
would NOT let Dad do bedtime.

I saw red today.
The kind of fist-clenching, toes-curling RED.

Nothing was easy.
I'm tired of demands,
tired of reminding about manners.
Unwilling to play SCHOOL or CINDERELLA

I felt red today,
that sort of fire-breathing dragon red.

Dragon in the sand photo credit: <a href="">Bill Gracey</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

artsy dragon photo credit: <a href="">rumpleteaser</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Embroidered dragon photo credit: <a href="">merwing✿little dear</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SOL 19 of 31 -- Why Blogging?

I am a private person.
I am a perfectionist.
An introvert, thinker, observer.
Why open my writer's notebook to the world?
Why invite everyone to see my imperfect work?
Writing is fun and easy; blogging is unnatural.
Still after 19 days, it feels brand new.
It exhausts me to live each day constructing a new post.

So why do I do it?
I enjoy this writing community.
I am loyal to my commitments.
If I'm ever going to publish anything, I've got to break out of my shell!
I trust that I'll learn something from this experience by the end of the month.

Why do you do it?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SOL 18 of 31 -- Remembering Grandma

In August my family got to visit my grandma in New York.

She and I were never more than acquaintances, we spoke politely on the phone a few times each year, mostly about the weather or my latest activities. She sent birthday, Christmas and Easter cards, usually with a one dollar bill inside. And this was typical for my extended family.  I saw my other grandparents about once every other year.  I saw my aunts and uncles maybe half a dozen times in all my life.

Now I see my daughter growing up with SIX grandparents in the Denver area who see her regularly, 2 great-grandparents who live just down the street and an aunt and uncle not far away that we see a few times each year.  Wow! There are always plenty of doting adults at all our family gatherings!  As a child, I had always wished for that kind of family--big family.

So it's been as an adult that I have seen and felt the joy of family.  When Max, Clara and I were heading east this summer, I made it a priority to go a little out of our way to visit my Grandma.  She was 93.

Grandma had prayed for me to get pregnant.  She cried when we announced our pregnancy.  This level of emotion shocked me coming from someone who barely knew me.  As Clara got old enough to talk on the phone, she talked to "Great Nana" almost every week during her time with my parents.  The extent of their "conversations" was usually a song like The Itsy Bitsy Spider, but Clara "knew" Great Nana and Grandma was extremely touched.  She only said to me (the few times we spoke) that she wished she could just "give that girl a hug."

And that's what we did.  We arrived at her house on Long Island mid-morning on August 8. Grandma cried when we arrived and gave us all hugs--but especially Clara.  We spent three hours with her in her house.  We ate pizza (NY pizza!) and then continued on our journey to Maine.  After 3 hours, she was noticeably exhausted.  She didn't really want us to leave but she had no more energy for us to stay.

Clara brought one of her paintings for Great Nana.
Here she is telling Great Nana about it--it contains characters
from the Wizard of Oz.

Three months later, just 2 weeks after her 94th birthday, she passed away.  I am eternally grateful that she got to meet Clara.  I think her soul and Clara's had a cosmic connection and that belief makes me happy, it brings me strength.  Even small, distant families can have some strong ties.

Antoinette, Susan and Clara
August 8, 2014

Monday, March 17, 2014

SOL 17 of 31 -- Cataract Surgery

The checker at the grocery store was squinting at my bell peppers.  Another clerk leaned over his arm and squinted, too, as he smoothed out the plastic produce bag over it.  "Umm..." she said, "Four....Six....eight....eight.  Yes. It's 4688!"

My checker looked up at me and said, "I had cataracts removed and I still can't see!"

"Oh? How long ago did you have the surgery?"  I asked, thinking of how my grandma had expected to see clearly immediately following the surgery but instead it took a few days.

"I had it done by Dr. Ball--you know, over at the Aurora Medical Center's south campus--"

"Oh." I know the Aurora Medical Center, I do not know of this doctor.

"Yeah, it's real easy these days. I think the whole thing took about 1 hour."

"Uh-huh." Yup, my mom has had the surgery in the last year or so, my grandma more recently. I start bagging the groceries. The checker finishes with scanning my coupons and I swipe my card.  As he hands me my receipt he folds it up and says, "You've got a lot of messages here at the bottom, but nothing too important.  Good luck with your surgery! I'm sure you'll like it!"

My surgery?  Indeed, my left contact is blurry today and the post-nasal drip happening in the back of my throat is also plugging up my right ear occasionally. I may feel old, but do I look cataract-old?! I just pass right over his comment.

"I'm going to park this cart right here while I collect my daughter from the Easter aisle," I say as I swing my purse over my shoulder.  My preschooler had spent the last eight minutes swinging on the patio swing in the middle of the holiday aisle.  I hope that it will be many, many years before I'm having cataract surgery!

bell peppers photo credit: <a href="">Computer Science Geek</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Sunday, March 16, 2014

SOL 16 of 31 -- Save the Scones?

By 8:00 this morning, I was making scones with my 3 1/2 year old daughter for a Grinnell College alumni potluck brunch across town.  We cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender, we poured buttermilk into the middle of the mixture and lightly stirred until the mixture was moist.  Clara helped form dough into shapes of worms and hearts while I formed a "pizza" and cut it into slices.  Once the slices were on the baking sheets, we "painted" them with buttermilk and popped them into the oven.

And that's when things started to go awry. Almost immediately, they smelled like they were burning.  I checked on them and they looked fine.  Then smoke started coming out of the oven.  I looked inside again and still the scones looked fine.  I guess we dribbled too much buttermilk on the baking sheets and it was the buttermilk that was burning.  A few minutes later, there was more smoke.  Again, the scones did not look burned but the house was getting foggy.

"Look at all this steam!" Clara exclaimed. I rushed to open all the windows and doors and turned on the ceiling fan despite the fact that it was below freezing outside.  The last thing I needed was for my sound-sensitive daughter and my sleeping husband to be surprised by the smoke alarm.

After 15 minutes, I could tell that the scones were done cooking and immediately removed them from the oven.  Ack! -- the bottom of each scone was scorched and now firmly cemented to the baking sheet.    
Well, I'll let them cool and see if I can do anything with them, I thought.

It took a knife to pry them off the sheet. Still, the majority of each scone looked perfect.  And the nibbles I tasted were delicious.

They look good, huh?

I used a steak knife to scrape the charcoal off the bottom.  This required an artistic touch because my scones were dry and crumbly.  No longer did I have nice pizza-slice scones, but irregular chunks.  As I carved and scraped, I wondered about how many other things in life I had tried to repair.  I'm sure there are lots of things, especially in the classroom, but I couldn't think of anything specific while holding those scones.  I will continue to ponder this and maybe create another post about it.

Here's some of the carbon I scraped off.

My scones are done! 

And then the baking sheets: are they ruined?  I scraped and soaked them.  I worked up a sweat trying to clean them.  They will always have the black spots on them, but I think I got them clean enough.

But still there's doubt and embarrassment in the back of my mind. What if they disintegrate into tiny crumbs during the car ride?  What if no one eats them once they've discovered a bit too much carbon? Should I stop at the store and buy something else to take to the brunch?!

Here is the photo from the recipe. Mine look almost as good...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

SOL 15 of 31 -- Irish Dancing & Hair

4 girls in "team" dresses, wearing soft shoes
This evening we had dinner with the great grandparents.  It turned out that immediately following dinner was an Irish dancing performance in the front lobby/lounge.  Eight girls, ages 9-17, entertained an audience of 80- and 90-year-olds plus us and our 3 1/2 year old.  The music was loud, the girls were extremely primped, happy and energetic.  They danced a couple of songs in their soft shoes, and then did several dances in hard shoes.  Their feet banged on the wooden floor along with the beat of the fiddle music, their legs were synchronized with each other.  At first I was astonished at how they could remember the choreography: all the music sounded pretty much the same to me, yet they all knew when to cross the floor diagonally, or kick a leg up high in front of them, or jump around a partner.

But then I was astonished at their hair.  Yes, they all had great hair.  The four most advanced dancers were at a level of competition in which they were allowed to wear "solo" dresses--which means their dresses were custom made to help them catch the judge's eye in competitions.  Not only were their dresses incredibly bright and decorated, their make-up and hair were quite remarkable.  The girls in solo dresses all wore wigs that were huge clusters of tight ringlets that bounced up and down as the girls hopped and jumped around the stage.

The girl in the middle is wearing a "team" dress; the two on the outsides are wearing "solo" dresses and wigs.

But even the team girls, who wore their natural hair, all had these incredibly beautiful braided buns.  I realized that I could have never been an Irish dancer simply because I do not have the hair for it. No, even when my hair was long and I could pull it back into a braid, it would wrap into such a tiny bun that any hair decoration would cover it entirely. And my hair is so silky that I could rarely find a hair band to hold my bun or pony tail securely for very long.  I have extremely fine hair.  It's like I never got past the baby hair.  My hair stylists always tell me that my hair is thick (meaning: I have a lot of it) but it is very fine (meaning: each strand is thin).  I don't care about technical terms. I only care that I would have needed a wig the moment I started Irish dancing if I were ever going to look like I belonged there.

These 4 girls are wearing "team" dresses and "hard" shoes.   All of them have way more hair than I do!

Three Irish dancing girls photo credit: <a href="">AlphaTangoBravo / Adam Baker</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

4 Irish dancing girls photo credit: <a href="">wburris</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Irish dancing skirts photo credit: <a href="">ronnie44052</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Friday, March 14, 2014

SOL 14 of 31 -- Hands on Teaching & Learning

I teach three Social Science courses each quarter at The Logan School for Creative Learning.  We are almost done with the third quarter and my students are engrossed in major projects right now for three different courses: War, Almost History, and Ancient Inventions. When I reflect on all that I get to do with these 2nd-4th graders, I am energized and inspired.  Here is a photo-list of my day in the classroom:

Today with students, I...
...helped label a diagram of the WWII German Tiger Tank

...discussed the difference between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks

...advised on the design of a Russian Revolution protest poster

...evaluated presentations on the Space Race, the Wright Brothers and the Battleship Bismarck

...asked for help

...problem-solved how to make wheels of chariots and wheelbarrows actually roll

...sorted piles of junk that served as supplies for models of ancient inventions

...experimented with ways to make stairs for the Great Aztec Temple

...listened to many ideas and questions

In my quiet classroom, by myself, I...

...assessed student presentations on rubrics

...compared student self-assessments with mine

...sorted and cleaned junk again (this time I threw some away!)

...added questions to a cumulative history quiz that I've been creating based on the student presentations

...prepared attendance sheets for next quarter's classes

...finally ate lunch!

German tank photo credit: <a href="">sisaphus</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Russian Revolution photo credit: <a href="">Hossam el-Hamalawy حسام الحملاوي</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Wire cutters photo credit: <a href="">jamelah</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Aztec temple photo credit: <a href="">Dimitry B</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Wright brothers photo credit: <a href="">Euclid vanderKroew</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

moon landing photo credit: <a href="">luvi</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Thursday, March 13, 2014

SOL 13 of 31 -- I've been phished

My list of things to do was growing exponentially.
Clara was stirring from her nap, about to join me downstairs.
My stomach was becoming grumbly.

I was working as fast as I could.
A new email message arrived:
     "Your AppleID was used to download World War Z"
Now, Apple and itunes and icloud have baffled me for a good long while:
I never log in, I never view an account online,
I don't even know their homepage web address,
I just magically connect to the store (?) through the itunes on my desktop --
The only thing I know is that I did not download World War Z.
I clicked on the link.
The page I landed on was confusing.
Clara wanted me to play with her NOW.
I entered the info but kept looping back to the same page.
I could not find a place to change my password.
Play NOW, Mama!

After talking to Apple Support,
I realized my mistake:
it probably wasn't really Apple contacting me.

I am totally embarrassed.
I knew better than to click on a link in an email,
I knew better than to haphazardly give away a credit card number.
My hands shake, my face turns hot, my heart pounds.
Angry and embarrassed.

And now I've created a mountain from a molehill.
To undo all that,
the list of things to do has grown again.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SOL 12 of 31 -- Gun Giveaways?!

Kentucky Southern Baptists Draw Crowds With Gun Giveaways

I heard this on NPR Monday morning and I am STILL thinking about it.  I have always known that fear is powerful but somehow this story drove that point home to me like nothing else I’ve ever heard. 

A Baptist church in Paducah, Kentucky had a steak dinner and gun raffle.  Yes, there were 25 firearms donated to the church and up for grabs.   Proponents say that the opportunity of winning a gun brings people into the doors of the church and hear that the church has a message that’s relevant to their lives.  As the NPR reporter says, "Events like this are a surefire way to pack their pews!"

The NPR reporter interviewed a guest at the dinner named Tom Jackson:

Jackson: I do believe in God and I do believe in livin’ the way He wants....
I should have the right to defend myself and my family any way I see fit.

Interviewer: Didn’t Jesus say ‘turn the other cheek?’

Jackson: Well, yeah, I agree with that but you know, somebody kicks your door down and means to hurt your wife, your kids, how do you turn the other cheek to that?

Now Mr. Jackson did not say the guns were for recreational purposes. I could understand if he said he was an avid hunter.  But he spoke only of his need for defense.  So I got to wondering about the culture of Paducah, Kentucky.  I’ve driven though this city and didn’t feel threatened at all.  But I believe I only stopped at a Burger King.  Maybe there was more I hadn’t seen.  So I checked the crime rate:

In 2012, the crime rate was 315.6 (the U.S. average is 301.1). In my hometown of Aurora, CO it was 312.4.  I have never, ever imagined someone kicking down my door, let alone doing it with intent to hurt my family or me.  What makes Mr. Jackson believe this could happen to him? I am fairly up on the news and I can’t recall reports of this happening in the U.S.  I just do not understand the culture of fear.

The steak dinner was also offering camouflage and waterproof bibles, but unlike the firearms, they were not free.

The NPR news story (4:34):

Lone Oak First Baptist Church in Paducah photo from

Shotgun photo credit: <a href="">ILMO JOE</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SOL 11 of 31 - Moonsong Lullaby

One of the highlights about writing every day is the need to "mine" old journals for inspiration and topics.  I've enjoyed rereading the bits and pieces I've recorded over the past couple of years.  Here is a snippet of a conversation with my daughter from six months ago:

Clara: Did you take a shower?

Me: No, I’ll take my shower in the morning.

Clara: I take my bath when it’s dark…

Me: Yes, at night.

Clara: When the stars are out…
            and the moon…
            is singing a lullaby…

photo credit: <a href="">lorca56</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Monday, March 10, 2014

SOL 10 of 31 -- 10 Things Right Now

      Borrowing from Be Inspired two days ago, 
here is my list of The Ten Things On My Mind Right Now.

1.     Extended Family: My grandparents-in-law need extra help right now; grandma just got a pacemaker and after 4 days in the hospital, can’t walk much anymore. 

2.     Home Business: I’ve started a virtual franchise with Juice Plus and am struggling with setting my goals.  Do I want to turn this into a million dollar business? Probably not.  But how much less?  I like learning about business (totally different than teaching) but I am extremely uncomfortable and shy about selling. 

3.     School: I get to prepare curriculum for a new course I’ll be teaching in a couple of weeks: American Presidents Trivial Pursuit. 

4.     School: I also need to propose sixteen courses for next school year.  Some of them (maybe half?) could be ones I’ve taught before.  Anyone have ideas of interesting social science topics? 

5.     School: I have assessments to write for the end of this quarter.  Three courses: War, Almost History and Ancient Inventions.  A total of 34 students.

6.     Unfinished projects: I attended a family wedding in August 2013 and STILL have not sent the gift.  The gift is a large shadow box with photos and mementos of the wedding.  I need to print and add the photos; then get it shipped to Maine.

7.     Tutoring: It’s about time to write progress reports for my tutees. 

8.     Around the House: The weather has been warm and sunny for three days. The garden is calling to me!

9.     Immediate Family:  Husband is sick. He’s up at night coughing and coughing.  He’s stressed, exhausted and miserable.

10.   Immediate Family: How do I get a picky three-year-old to eat more vegetables? AND Did I really get through the time change without disrupting my preschooler’s schedule?  How can I duplicate that next time?  Why do even have time changes anyway?!