My classroom is not a quiet, orderly place.
Students are constantly moving, thinking, talking, reading and writing.
I do my best to help my students find success.

March 30, 2014

Spring Break finale SOLC #30

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I woke up this morning at 9:00 a.m. and thought to myself, "This is it.  The final day of spring break. Time to stress!"

Then I realized that I don't need to stress.  I need to relax more.  There are only 24 hours in a day, and (hopefully!) I always have tomorrow.  I need to prioritize.

Today's weather promised 50 degree temperatures!  Lindsey talked about bike riding, so we pulled the bikes from the shed and inflated the tires.  After a 4 mile ride (I asked for lots of stops!), I feel thoroughly exercised.  And exhausted.  And very sore!

Now it's 7:00 p.m.  I did accomplish some paperwork wrangling, room cleaning and more laundry. I really should open the school bag, but I need to practice for orchestra rehearsal tomorrow.  I'll set a timer and see how Dvorak and Brahms treat me.

Later, I'll get into pajamas, get comfy on the couch and then open my school bag.  I'll spend an hour just figuring out the week, and filing student work and assessments.  

I'm in no hurry to end break, but wow - it's been exhausting!  I'm ready to head back to school and see my students.  I wonder how their break has been.

March 29, 2014

Whoops! SOLC #29

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How is it that I managed to write slices 
from a itty bitty phone screen 
with limited WiFi 
from an RV in Disney, 
I get home 
and forget
about the SOLC?


Maybe it's because I got LOTS accomplished on Friday!
  • laundry washing and folding (5 loads)
  • grocery shopping (12 bags!)
  • spa maintaining
  • pinterest pinning
  • calendar filling
  • teenager feeding (brownies, s'mores)
  • movie watching
Whoops - I forgot to do two very important things:
  • blog writing
  • comment posting
Well... nobody is perfect!

Please forgive me!

March 27, 2014

What I'll Miss SOLC #27

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As the plane wiggled, shook and swooped its way into Chicago (breathing in 4s is a great strategy for staying calm!), I realized that our trip to Florida was a gift.  A gift of time spent with my traveling parents, a gift of seeing my daughter and friends march through Magic Kingdom, and a gift of being somewhere green and warm.

We returned to a rainy, cloudy Chicago day.  Nothing new for March.  There are still piles of snow here and there (70" of snow does not melt quickly).  We are happy to be back home.  I'll miss and not miss a few things.

I won't miss the MILLIONS of people at the Disney parks (pull your kids out of school, I'll forgive a few days to avoid spring break madness).  I won't miss the bugs that chewed up my legs.  I won't miss the stress of weaving between scooters and strollers.  I won't miss the sad part of my heart, wishing my husband was with us instead of working.  He truly needs a break!

I will miss the chirping of birds in the morning, the sweet taste of a Mickey ice cream bar, the thrill of the rides, the laughter, seeing band students enjoy themselves away from home, my dad's random conversations, my mom's hospitality, the green grass, the palm trees, and the warmth of the sun.

Now it's back to reality with only three days left of break.  Time to rest up before school starts on Monday!

Long day SOLC #26

Today was a long day. We started by pulling the RV out of our spot into the overflow lot at the campground.  This proved to be a lengthy process as parking spots were taken by cars.  This upset my dad?  He proceeded to rant about respect and entitlement.  I didn't blame him, yet I encouraged him to email the Disney resort and offer suggestions.

We then traveled via bus and boat back to Epcot for a lovely lunch in Italy.  We enjoyed wood-fired pasta a friendly service.

Later, we headed to the airport to catch an 8:15 pm flight, only to find that our flight had been delayed until 12:33 a.m.  This put me into a bit of a panic.  I called my frequent-traveler husband.  He sent me right to the ticket desk.

I was able to switch our flight to Thursday at noon.  The agent requested our bag to be returned.  She handed us vouchers for food and the airport hotel.  This was a pleasant surprise!  It's always great to have a calm ending to a hectic day.

March 25, 2014

Proud Band Mom SOLC #25

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Tonight I'm a very proud band mom.  Today I watched 150ish kids from our high school band march at the Magic Kingdom.  They held their instruments and heads high as they kicked off the afternoon parade.  People around me were excited for the kids, but not nearly as much as I was.

I know I'm only mom to one of the sousaphone players (we jokingly call Lindsey "Susie" as she is the only Sousa-girl).  Since I've helped outfit so many of the kids in their band wear and gotten to know these great kids, they all have a place in my heart.

Many parents didn't come to Disney to see their kids play for many reasons.  I'm lucky that I had the time, opportunity and accommodations (thanks, Mom and Dad for your RV hospitality!) to come.  Today I cheered loudly for all the  kids, whether they had family here or not.  We are a band family, and I will miss all the fun next year.

Today I am a proud mom!


March 24, 2014

Clamshell rides SOLC #24

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Today was Epcot day! We focused on the Future World side. We only visited Germany in the World Showcase for dinner.

Yesterday I wrote about rides that make you cringe. Today we called "Clamshell Day."  I am pretty chicken when it comes to rides.  Today's rides were all calm, like the Nemo and Friends ride where you ride slowly in a pink clamshell with a buddy, watching all the fish find Nemo.

Ahhhh - that's my mind of ride!

We also went on Soarin' - a "hangliding" experience over California and Mission: Space.  Since I was the first to the line in my pack, I chose the green line for a less intense journey (read : no spinning).

Do I feel like a guppy? Sort of, but we still had a fun day, even if our day was filled with clamshell rides!

March 23, 2014

Power of Suggestion SOLC #23

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My parents, Allison and I visited Universal Studios today in Orlando.  We headed straight to Hogwarts Castle at the Harry Potter attraction.  Before we even considered a pint of butterbeer (I only recommend having it if you have a sweet tooth!), we got in line for the Harry Potter experience ride.

There are HUGE warning signs next to every ride at the park.  The signs let you know if there will be dark, fog, and if you should be riding or not, depending on any medical conditions.  I never asked the ride attendants about the HP ride.  We knew we wouldn't miss it.

As we secured ourselves in our individual compartments, I realized that this ride might be more than I wanted to handle.  They caution anyone with motion sickness to skip this ride.  I have anxiety about many things, but I can usually handle movement on rides because I close my eyes.  (It's a strategy.)  My eyes were probably closed for 80% of the ride.  When the ride ended, I stared at my parents in awe as we talked about the experience.

"What do you mean, you didn't close your eyes at all?" Allison asked them.

Neither of my parents had any issue with the motion on the screen and with their bodies... at least that they admit.  Allison was scared by the dementors and spiders, so that's when she shut her eyes tight.

I'm not sure what my issue is with movement, airplane rides, and car rides with my husband.  I've been accused by a few family members (Mom) that I have a control issue.  That is, I want to be the one in control of the situation.  I wonder if that's the case, or if I let my mind go too far with suggestion.

In another experience in the park, we were told (as we waited in a dim, warm closed-in space with hundreds of people) that anyone suffering from claustrophobia might not be a good candidate to stay in line.  Of course, there's no clear exit.  I started to sweat.  I didn't know what to expect.  I knew I needed to leave, but I decided to stick it out.  The experience was in three huge rooms with lots of air, but lots of darkness.  No biggie for me.

I wonder why I feel more anxious and cautious the older I get.  I may have to figure this out!

March 22, 2014

Happiest place on Earth SOLC #22

We've arrived! Allison and I flew from Chicago to Orlando this morning. The morning had quite a bit of stress as we couldn't find Alli's state ID and I haven't seen an airport in quite awhile.

The flight was mostly uneventful (I used some anxiety breathing strategies!) and we arrived in sunny Orlando this afternoon.

We are camping with my parents in an RV. They are excited to have us, and I'm happy to be their guests. Now we are relaxing under the awning and making plans for the next four days

I think Disney is the happiest place on Earth when you are here with family!

March 21, 2014

Is the box here? SOLC #21

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I manage the Scholastic book orders for two 5th grade classrooms.  The teachers share the points, and I'm happy to help.

Last week I handed out book orders with a plea to return the forms quickly.  Our spring break begins at 2:30 p.m. today.  After collecting from a few stragglers, I placed the order last weekend.

I love 5th graders, but they are still working on the skill of delayed gratification.  The morning after the first student handed me his book order form he asked if I had the books.  I explained that I would be ordering the books altogether, and it usually took at least five days to receive the books once I ordered them.  He understood.

Each day this week, I have been stopped and asked about the books by each of the seven students who ordered.  Each time I explained what I knew based on emails from Scholastic:  the order was placed, the order was shipped, the order was in transit.

Have I been annoyed?  Of course not!  They can't contain their excitement for NEW BOOKS!  I'm excited to get the box, and not one of the books inside is for me!  This enthusiasm for reading fills my heart!

Today we hope that the UPS truck will arrive before our 2:30 dismissal.  I asked the office staff if they can call me when the box arrives.  I do plan to stay after school until the box arrives.  I may even make deliveries to students' homes.  They need these books for spring break!

Happy reading to all! 
(Please cross your fingers for us!!!)

UPDATE:  At 1:30 p.m. the book box was delivered!  The kids were very excited to see me come to their classrooms with my arms full of books.  Happy spring break reading to all!

March 20, 2014

Calendar confusion SOLC #20

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You don't realize what elementary students don't understand about the calendar until you try to explain spring break.  Between my classroom and a few other resource rooms, these were the reactions to the announcement that we would not be in school next week.

1st Graders:
"Do we get to wear shorts?"
"Will it be hot next week?"

2nd Graders
"Will I be in 3rd grade when we come back?"
"When is my birthday?"

4th/5th Graders
"Nine days without homework!"
"It's not a vacation if I'm not going anywhere."

The hardest reaction to hear were four simple words, "I will miss you."  My heart aches for the kids who look forward to school because it's the most predictable and calm part of their day.  Students know the grownups at school care about them.  We are a sea of friendly faces, even if students make poor choices.

I'll miss their shining faces for a week, but I'm glad for the chance to recharge my enthusiasm for the remainder of the school year.

March 19, 2014

New team, new sport SOLC #19

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My daughters are having two different experiences as the lacrosse season revs up.

New Team
Lindsey (senior) is playing at the varsity level for the 3rd year.  Her team has a few return players and many new players who moved up from JV.  They are missing 8 girls who graduated last year. Lindsey's learning a new position, moving from defense (stay near the goal) to defensive wing and offense (run the whole field). Lindsey is figuring out the strengths of her new teammates, and how she can fit her strengths with theirs to get the win.

New Sport
Allison (sophomore) is playing lacrosse for the first time.  She has played catch with Lindsey in the backyard, but this year she decided to go out for the team.  Being involved in a high school sport is a completely different experience than participating on her poms team.  She's now at practice or a game six days each week compared to her two or three days of practice and a football or basketball game.  Allison is easily coached, and she is learning that after the game she doesn't have to ask the coach for specific pointers.  She is still trying to figure out what to bring to practice and how to get there on time.

Mom is Hanging in There
I'm trying to keep my sanity as I send one off to her practice in one car, then shuttle the non-driver when she needs to be there.  Sometimes they can ride together, but youngest struggles with time management (her leaf does not fall far from my tree!) and she has been left behind.  Dinner has become one of three options:  frozen Lean Cuisine, pick up something on your way, or crockpot meals (I search Pinterest daily!).  If all else fails, both girls have loads of snacks in their bags.  Yesterday I watched both girls play in 45 degree weather with 20 mile per hour winds.  My lacrosse bag now has two blankets, hat, mittens and extra socks!

I'm excited that both girls are playing.  They will both find joy in being part of a team effort, even if they are completely exhausted by Saturday afternoon.  Now I'm off to cheer on the teams!

March 18, 2014

Reading room slogan SOLC #18

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Yesterday left me drained, but my 5th grade group provided some inspiration.  I am grateful to have this group!

B walked in and grabbed a piece of paper.   "You need a slogan!" she exclaimed.

"Sounds good to me!" I replied.

B thought for a minute, tried out some rhyming words, and thought some more.

This is what she wrote:


I wonder what other slogans, writing and poetry we will see from B in the future.  She is truly a wordsmith!

Have an excellent day!

March 17, 2014

Waving the white flag SOLC #17

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Never in one day
have I seen
more people
over the age of 10

 I tried to
fill buckets
stay calm
carry on
it was 
very hard.

I am thankful
for 2nd graders
who think leprechauns 
"throw up rainbows"
"slide under doors"
to play tricks.

I'm so proud
of my 
5th graders
who learned
from their peers
in class
how to work politely
in partners
thanks to their
classroom teacher.

I wave
the white flag

I will try
stay calm
carry on.

March 16, 2014

Sugar Bush SOLC #16

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Today my nephews, brother, sister-in-law, oldest daughter and I visited our local nature center to celebrate maple syrup!  YUM!

Our park district personnel (and helpers) reenact a pioneer sugar camp.  Pancakes and sausage covered in real maple syrup under a tent.  Youngest daughter volunteered to pour coffee and hot cocoa.

Today was a freezing, blustery day with a lot of sunshine (which didn't help).  I had brought my girls many times when they were younger, but today was my brother's family's first time.

My nephews taste-tested store-bought versus tree-tapped syrup.  They were proud that they picked the "right one" (tree-tapped).  The boys were impressed that it takes 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup.

The boys watched carefully and listened intently as a volunteer whittled and cored a piece of sumac into a spire just like the pioneers would do to tap a tree.  Danny, the oldest, showed off his vocabulary by explaining to me that the native Americans used a hatchet to cut a "V" in a tree to collect the sap.

All of us moved quickly through the stations.  We then made the brisk walk back to my place, 1.5 miles in total.  I kept apologizing to my brother, nursing a sore hip, for the long walk, but he claimed not to mind.  We made sure he had the spot in front of the fireplace when we returned.

I'm happy to share our nature center with my nephews.  My girls have enjoyed programs there for years, but now it's time for the boys to take their turn.  I wish they lived closer than an hour away.

It was so cold, the sap was frozen!

Lindsey and Troy

Mike and Danny
(I told them to show how cold they were!) 
Pioneer display (love his hat!)

March 15, 2014

Front seat driver SOLC #15

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Today Little Sister/Student Driver, Allison, wanted to drive the 2.4 miles to my husband's office.  Big Sister/Licensed for 18 Months, Lindsey, made a face.  "I'm not getting in the car with her," stated Lindsey, as she got in the passenger seat.

"She was a willing and quiet passenger as you learned to drive," I told Lindsey as I handed Allison the keys to the car and slid into the backseat.

"Humpf," sighed Lindsey.

"Let's go!" I sang.

Allison adjusted her seat, the side mirrors and the rearview mirror.  Lindsey had to make a comment for each adjustment.

"Can't we just go?  The mirror is fine!  Start the car already!"

Allison kept quiet. She didn't turn enough for Lindsey's liking as she backed out of the driveway.

"Move it back.  Let's go.  Ugh.   You stopped too fast."

I kept quiet in the back, sipping my coffee.

"Do I turn left?" Allison asked.

"Are you kidding?" Lindsey asked.

"Head to Dad's office.  Remember where to go?" I asked.

At mile one, I slid the window open to try and get some warm-ish air in the car.

"See?  Your driving is making Mom carsick!" Lindsey exclaimed.

"I'm fine!" I sang from the back.  "The car smells musty.  I'm trying to get fresh air."

"Humpf," replied Lindsey.

As we pulled in the parking lot after our 4-minute ride, Lindsey launched out of the car before Allison had it in park.

"Did I really drive that badly?" asked Allison.

"Nope," I answered.  "But now you're prepared for your driving test.  The DMV employees aren't nearly as surly as your sister today!"

March 14, 2014

Great kid, strong mom SOLC #14

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Lauren sent a text message inviting many of us to a St. Baldrick's event tomorrow.  "Finding a cure for that monster called children's cancer" read the tag line. Lauren knows.  Her 13 year old son fought a great fight with cancer nearly four years ago.

Jeffrey was a great kid:  athletic, friendly, kind, happy-go-lucky.  In 3rd grade, he was most often seen in my front door window on weekend mornings, peeking in to see if the girls were awake.  They played in the snow in winter, raced bikes in fall, and set up backyard campsites in the summer.  He moved on to hanging out with the neighborhood guys in 5th grade, but the years before that, he was a fixture at our house.

"I know they are girls, but they are my best friends," he once told his mom.

Jeffrey was home and in the hospital, fighting a great battle, during 6th grade.  The girls tried their best to stop by, drop off books, say hi.  It was hard - you wanted to visit, but you weren't sure what was a good time.  Lauren always welcomed them with a big smile and open arms.  She made the visits easy for everyone.  Jeffrey had a great demeanor and would talk about anything.  You didn't have to be afraid of saying the wrong thing.

When Jeffrey passed in October of 7th grade, Lauren was the rock at Jeffrey's wake.  It was near Halloween and candy was everywhere around the room.  "He doesn't have to do homework anymore," she exclaimed to my girls as they struggled to keep their emotions in check.  

Lauren continues to post inspirational messages on Jeffrey's facebook page.  She also shares her positive days and her awful days.  She knows that we are all here for her, but we have no idea what she is going through.  She truly supports the community more, I feel, than we support her.

Jeffrey is always on our mind and in our hearts.  I know he watches over my girls and always will.

March 13, 2014

Comic relief SOLC #13

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My husband, Jeff, returns every Thursday night from his out-of-state consulting gig.  He's usually very tired and crabby.  This week was longer than usual for him, and I think the lack of sleep has made him a bit punchy.  Today he's been making jokes, faces and he's been full of stories.

Jeff is known around the office as "comic relief."  No matter what company he is working for, he is always known as the guy who can break the tension.  At this client, he's found himself in search of other people to joke and lighten the mood with him.  So far, he's been in luck.  There are a few guys that can roll with the jokes (never off-color or personal), and there's been many who are the topic of some funny stories. 

"Buzzword Bingo" is a great game they play at meetings.  He and few other people will draw Bingo boards and fill them with the current "lingo" around the office.  It's usually a pretty quiet game (not many know to play) until someone on the conference call yells "BINGO!" and forgets the phone isn't on mute.

Jeff loves a good psychological experiment. In August, he and another Jeff, by coincidence, wore their green dress shirts on a Tuesday.  "It must be Green Shirt Tuesday!" exclaimed the other Jeff.

My husband took the idea and ran with it.  He told everyone on the project (115 people) that Tuesdays are green shirt day.  People looked at him like he was crazy.  It's March.  He ran the numbers this week and 30% comply.  Jeff believes that the leaders and/or the most secure people in the group are the ones wearing the green shirts on Tuesdays.  Everyone knows it's an unofficial big deal.  Some vehemently refuse.  Some went searching for green dress shirts in their size.  Others wear their green shirts on days other than Tuesday.  Very interesting!

It's never dull at the office or at home when Jeff's around!

March 12, 2014

Expectations SOLC #12

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After six days of state testing, I jumped back into my routine of teaching on Tuesday.  I picked up my first graders, and headed to my room.

A quick run down of my students:  One student has a new baby sister at home, and this child is past exhaustion.  Another has a very short attention span.  One will talk to anyone who will listen.  The fourth one stands and jumps if the lesson doesn't move fast enough.

The first day back was crazy.  I felt like I was herding cats.  I counted to five more than once.  We finally accomplished a few things, and I returned them to class.

Is it the kids' fault?  Nope.  It's all mine.

A quick run down of my students:  They are all eager to learn.  They all need structure.  They are all special little people who think coming to my room is the equivalent of a field trip to their favorite place.

On Wednesday, I cleared my head and started with expectations.  I put name tags on the table to mix up their seating.  I pulled out my color cards (green, yellow, orange, red) to remind them to stay on task and stay on green.  I put a big stack of positive behavior coupons right on the table.

When I raised my expectations and gave them a solid routine, these cherubs rose to the occasion.
We've had two great days.  

So much of teaching is setting routines, and setting up students to be successful.  

March 11, 2014

Mixed cereal SOLC #11

"Mom, is it okay if I mix two cereals together?" called Allison from the kitchen as she crafted a late night snack.  Tonight's concoction was Rice Krispies and Apple Jacks.
"Your dad's grandfather, Boppa, always mixed his cereal," I replied.
"Oh good, that's where I get it from,"  said Allison.

My youngest daughter is always trying to connect herself with members of our extended family.  She feels like a square peg in a round family (hmmm... I feel that way at school!) and she wants to attribute some of her characteristics to heredity.  She has a unique personality and a joy for life.  Her nickname is "All is on."

Unfortunately, her enthusiasm isn't appreciated by everyone.
"Why can't she be quiet and normal!?" growls her big sister.
Our big saying in the house is "Normal is a setting on the washing machine."
Big sister isn't buying that.

Allison is caring, noisy, grumpy, happy, playful, loyal and persistent, all rolled up into one person.  She's been labeled with many letters of the alphabet by teachers (especially in 3rd grade), but I refuse to let these labels define her.  I truly believe she is a right-brained kid being taught in a left-brained world.  Some of her former teachers taught to her strengths... music, lyrics, movement.  Most didn't.

As a sophomore, she's asked a lot what she'd like to do when she grows up. She has lots of ideas, but she knows she needs to figure out something practical to balance out the creative.

Recently she took a career quiz and the number one answer was "race car technician."  This is her new go-to answer when people inquire about her future plans.
"Oh," they say, "are you taking any auto shop classes?"
"Nope," she replies.  "My Papa Paul watches NASCAR.  I'll just work for one of those guys.  They are rich."

Yup.  Square peg with a sense of humor.  This sense of humor has helped her create some great relationships with teachers and friends, and I know she will rely on it in her future.

Mixed cereal.  It's just the tip of the iceberg that is Allison.

March 10, 2014

10 things to know about me SOLC #10

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10 things you should know about me

1.  I'm a procrastinator, but sometimes I surprise myself and do things on time or even early (it's rare)

2.  I never met a carbohydrate I didn't like.  Really.

3.  I really should be eating better, but it's hard.  I cannot cook.  I repeat, I cannot cook.

4.  I love to walk, ride my bike, and take yoga class.  I just don't exercise every day (I'll do it soon, see #1)

5.  I'm the outside person at our house - I take the garbage out, deal with the cars, pull the weeds.  My husband is the inside person. He can cook (see #3) up a storm!

6.  I love chocolate.  The darker the chocolate, the better!  Just leave the nuts out (you are what you eat!)

7.  I've played violin since 4th grade.  I joined a community orchestra when I turned 40, and it's a challenge (in a good way!)

8.  My birthday is September 8.  I'm a Virgo who is not organized.  I like to take care of everyone else.

9.  I hate to shop for clothes because I'm not good at creating outfits.  My favorite outfit is jeans, a hooded sweatshirt and thick socks.  My kids have threatened to put me on What Not to Wear.

10.  I have the best husband in the world (see #5), the most awesome daughters (watch this space for slices) fabulous co-workers (some even slice - Michelle and Lynn), and very fantastic friends.

Thanks for stopping by!

March 9, 2014

Spring Break Planning SOLC #9

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What day is today?  The 9th?  Already!!?

On past spring breaks, we've done college visits or just stayed home.  This year we are taking a trip that includes a plane ride, packing for much warmer weather, and finding care for the crazy parakeet.

We are going to Disney World!!

I have mixed feelings about going.  How is that possible, you ask?  It's the happiest place on earth!  Well, oldest daughter, Lindsey, is traveling to WDW with her high school band.  They will be spending 24 hours driving each way on a coach bus.  My parents are driving their RV down to Orlando.  Allison and I will be flying down to stay with my parents in the RV.

I have mixed feelings because my husband, Jeff, is the biggest Disney fan in the family, and he has to work.  There's a big presentation at his client.  I really wish he could go with us.

Will I make the most of our time in Orlando?  Yes! We plan to hop between Disney parks, visit the Harry Potter park at Universal, and soak up the warm sun. 

I appreciate that my parents have helped make this trip happen.  I'm thankful for an opportunity to have a full-out vacation this year. I'll just be missing Jeff.  He needs this vacation more than any of us!

March 8, 2014

Halftime of life? SOLC #8

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It's March 8th.  I'm officially 44-1/2 years old. Woo hoo!?!??

On the first Tonight Show, Will Smith talked to Jimmy Fallon about skydiving.  Will decided that at 45 years old, he is at halftime since he has a good chance of living until 90.  Will decided to skydive to kick off his "3rd quarter" of life in a strong way.

According to Will Smith, I will soon be entering my "3rd Quarter."  I started thinking of life expectancy and what I still want to do.  I have no plans of skydiving.  My brother jumped out of two perfectly good planes when he was younger.  I will continue to leave the crazy stuff to him!

I plan on living past 100.  Why?  I want to be here to see everything!  I have no plans of leaving, really!

I do want my mind to be as sharp as it can be.  I purposefully play word games and complete crossword puzzles to keep my brain from becoming mushy.  I try to eat fruits, veggies and fiber-full cereal in an attempt to keep a my body healthy.  I have great intentions for exercising, and I go to yoga class sporadically.  (LOL)  I keep in touch with friends and watch comedies.

Will my plan work?  Gosh, I hope so.  My husband says I live like I'm running from something.  Maybe I'm running from illness and sadness.  I don't want either of them to get me.  I want to be the happy person, even when life puts hard things in my way.

I'm not making any plans to skydive or do anything crazy.  Don't worry.  I do admire Will Smith for his bravery, but I'll hang out here on the ground!

March 7, 2014

Frazzled Friday SOLC #7

Finally Friday.

I started the day meeting with our resource team to collaborate on report card progress notes for our students.  This is the first year of these progress notes, and they are still a work in progress.  Two of our team has been out of the building meeting potential principals.  We didn't mean to leave these until the last minute (report cards went out today!).  Really!

ISAT testing wrapped up today.  I tried my best to read a scripted science test to the fourth graders with great inflection to keep it interesting.  The kids started getting antsy halfway through the test.  H had stopped using her thinking bubble and started talking about random things.  We managed to finish up in a reasonable amount of time, and they skipped back to class.

Finally Friday.

Time to curl up on the couch under a blanket and relax.  It's been a long week!

March 6, 2014

Surprise! It snowed...again! SOLC #6

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Write every day in March!
Two Writing Teachers
When my alarm went off on Wednesday morning, I was already awake.  My body knows when the earth has changed its tilt, so I'm always ahead of the time changes.

The traffic guy called out from the radio, "We have a winter weather advisory in place.  I recommend getting out of the house early!"

I decided to get out of bed and start the day instead of pressing the snooze bar.  Oldest daugter was already up.  I shook my youngest daughter awake and told her to watch the clock.  I went outside to push 3" of snow off the cars and start the big truck. 

The snow was coming down in tiny pellets.  As soon as I shoveled a path around the cars, they started filling up again.

When I finally headed for school, I thought I was getting an early start at 8:00, but the cars were lined up on the main road in front of my house.  I tried heading the opposite direction, but I couldn't even turn on a side street.  I drove 30 minutes out of my way and then 20 minutes the right way.

There is nothing worse than suburban Chicago traffic when it snows.

We should know how to handle driving in this weather, but I think this morning took us by surprise.  I know I have stopped watching the weather reports.  They are too disheartening.  We usually don't have warm temperatures in March, but our season snow total is insane.  Even the snow-lovers like me are rebelling!

Here's some hope for temperatures above freezing, snow-free days, and a lot more sunshine.  (I'm thankful that we've had a pretty sunny winter!)  C'mon spring!

March 5, 2014

Ode to my washing machine SOLC #5

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Write every day in March!
Two Writing Teachers

I'm a huge fan of Jack Prelutsky's poetry.  One of his poems, Homework! Oh, Homework! popped into my head tonight as I ran my third load of laundry.  The rhythm of his poem inspired me to write about how much I love my washing machine.

Washer, oh, washer, 
I love you!  It's true!
Your spinning and cycling 
keep my jeans dark blue.
If all of my troubles 
could be scrubbed away,
I'd put them in you, washer, 
every single day!

Washer, oh, washer,
I love you!  You make
laundry a task I can easily take.
I fill up the soap,
I shove in the clothes, 
Lovely scents of detergent
fill up my nose!

Washer, oh, washer,
I love you!  Don't stop!
Keep filling with water
and bubbles that pop.
I can leave you alone
to work on your own.
Washer, oh, washer,
Without you, I'd groan!

Does anyone else adore one of their appliances?  :)

March 4, 2014

Thinking Bubble SOLC #4

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Write every day in March!
Two Writing Teachers

It's state testing week at our elementary school.  Aren't you jealous???  (UGH)

I'm hosting three 4th graders in my room as an accommodation.  I had each of them as a student at some point during the past 4 years, so it's a little reunion.  Everyone is comfortable with each other.

I told them at the beginning of the reading test that I would not be able to answer any questions or read any words for them.

"Rats!  I was counting on that!" exclaimed H, with a grin.  We used to work one-on-one in second grade.  She's got significant reading challenges, but she's got some great life strategies.

"Tell us again.  Will we get a grade on this test?" asked H.

S assured her.  "It's a state test.  You don't get a grade." He can get anxious, so I assured all three that the state wants to know what 4th graders know and what we need to teach them in 5th grade.

This afternoon, I gave them the math test with a reader's script.  Since I was reading each question, H thought talking was okay.

"I think I've got this one!" exclaimed H.
"Shhh!  It's a test!" whispered A. (He's the quietest of the group.)
"That one was easy for me!" said S.

I decided to introduce the "Thinking Bubble."  It's a genius idea from my friend, Amy, one of our second grade teachers:  "You know, H, this is still a test, even though I'm reading the questions.  You'll need to use your thinking bubble.  Don't just blurt out.  Keep your ideas in your head.  I'll give you time to talk and share when the test is over."

"I can do that," said H.  "Can you?" she asked S.
"Yeah," S replied.

We'll have to talk about the Thinking Bubble again tomorrow.  I know I need to be better about using my Thinking Bubble during meetings.  I'm not great at waiting my turn.  I'm glad I work with patient teachers and students.

March 3, 2014

Sunday night struggle SOLC #3

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Two Writing Teachers
Sunday night.  Dinner was a mess, but I went to the backup plan (hello...BBQ chicken bites!) so no one starved.  I tried a new "recipe" (read:  read a recipe, didn't measure anything) for baked macaroni and cheese.  It was fine.

The fire in the fireplace roars.   Four book order packets for three classes lay undone on the table.  Report cards loom in my head.  Paperwork screams from the Drawer of Doom.  Jeff left for his weekly trek to Wisconsin, Allison parked in front of the Oscars in pajamas, and Lindsey crashed on the couch.

What should I do first?

I should get the calendar all set for lacrosse season. It starts tomorrow for both girls.
I really should just finish report cards so they don't keep me awake too late.
I want to check in with a friend.
I'd rather play a few rounds of Candy Crush or Ruzzle.
I should open the Drawer of Doom.  
I'd rather go check out some Oscar gowns and ooh and ahh with Allison (the fashionista)
I need to wake up Lindsey.  Tomorrow morning will be tricky!

So many choices.
Sunday night is always a struggle.  There's too much to do and not enough motivation!

But guess what?  My Slice is finished for Monday!

March 2, 2014

Snowball effect SOLC #2

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Two Writing Teachers

My daughters were at Operation Snowball from 7:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. yesterday.  Oldest served as a facilitator, youngest was a participant.  The day was long, but definitely worth it.

The theme of Operation Snowball is to show teens the benefits of a drug-free life.  My daughters described it more as an inspirational day, reminding them to choose actions in life to make a difference.  The name Operation Snowball refers to the "snowball effect." 

Some of the teens are encouraged to attend by their counselors.  Other teens are excited about free food and fun activities. Everyone leaves with a new outlook about themselves and life.

Kids are moved to tears. They share their greatest fears.  They find out that they matter, they are important. New friends and connections are made.  They talk, sing, laugh, and play games until they are exhausted.

I couldn't be prouder of my daughters.  I think they gave more than they received, from listening to their accounts of the day.  I think they really know that no matter what path they choose in life, they will always strive to improve their community.

This week we face state testing, continued winter weather, and lots of stress at school.  I'm going to make a special effort to have and share a positive attitude.  It will be tough, but I know a little bit of happiness can go a long way!  This is the best kind of snowball!

March 1, 2014

Slice of Life Challenge Begins!! SOLC #1

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Write every day in March!
Two Writing Teachers
I can't believe it's March 1st... already!!!  Welcome all to the Slice of Life Challenge!

This is my third year slicing.  I try to slice year-round, but life and procrastination get in the way.  I usually can find something to write about if I'm not too hard on myself.

Writing for an audience can be tricky - you feel like your words will be wrong, misconstrued or jumbled, but that's okay.  Writing for an audience can be helpful!  Comments can make a big difference.

This year I raised my hand to be on the Welcome Wagon.  I hope I can be a helpful cheerleader for the newest members of the slicing community.  This is a great opportunity to write, read great posts and connect with others -- around the country and world.

So, here are some cheers for all of us:

Enjoy the month!
Keep writing!
Don't give up!
May technology be on your side!
Keep writing!
Share comments and ideas!
Don't give up!

You can do it!  Happy slicing everyone!