Monday, March 31, 2014

SOL Day 31: Reflections on the SOL Challenge

Here it is, the final day of the month-long Slice of Life writing challenge. Thanks to the fantastic team at Two Writing Teachers for this terrific event. I thought I would finish out the challenge by reflecting on my experience this month.

This was the first time that I participated in the SOL challenge. Thanks to Cathy Mere and Deb Frazier, my colleagues and friends. Not only did they encourage me to participate, they also supported me by reading and commenting on my posts and giving me ideas for posts when I got stuck.

I also appreciate all the fellow slicers who stopped by my humble little blog and commented on my posts. It was great to build my PLN and make connections with fellow teachers and parents. I really feel blessed to be included in such a great community. We really do understand and support each other.

When I started this challenge, I knew that I could write for a purpose, but I never really considered myself a writer. Through the challenge, I feel like I gained confidence as a writer. I've always found it difficult to teach writing because I didn't identify with the writing process. Now, I feel like I can be a better writing teacher to my students.

This was the first time I attempted to write poetry. During the challenge I wrote two poems. I didn't know if I did it right, but what I realized was there is no right or wrong. I enjoyed the challenge of conveying my thoughts in such a minimalistic way.

I also encouraged my students to participate in the Classroom SOL challenge. I was surprised by some of my students who chose to participate. I didn't have just the students who were the best writers participating, I also had students who struggled with writing who were enthusiastic about it. I was pleased to see them stepping outside of their comfort zone.

The majority of my posts were written at home and my 12-year-old son and I had numerous conversations about the challenge. As we were talking one day, he decided that he wanted to start a blog and participate. When I told him that the month-long challenge was over, he asked about other challenges that he might be able to join. I'm hoping that he decides to join a challenge and continue to hone his skills as a writer.

Overall, I really enjoyed this month of writing and discovery. I don't know how many people read what I wrote, but that's not what is important. Yes, people want to know that someone is out there, interested in what they have to say. But, I learned that when you are a writer, you do it first for yourself. So, even though this challenge is officially over, I am going to continue writing. I hope to see you all for SOL 2015.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

SOL 30: Marathons

Throughout the Slice of Life Story Challenge this month, I have written a lot of posts about my family. After all, my family is the center of my universe. Being on Spring Break for the last nine days hasn't hurt the chances that a post will be about them.

This weekend, my family had the latest in a series of marathons. I'm not talking the type of marathon that involves running shoes and long distances. We have movie marathons. My husband and my two oldest sons spend Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in our basement "screening room" watching movies on a theme. I spend the time making snacks or running a "concession stand" while catching up on work or watching movies. This weekend I finished watching the show "Veronica Mars" while they were having their marathon of X-Men movies.

My husband goes all out for these marathons. He creates a program, designs a logo that I iron onto t-shirts for everyone, he makes "swag bags" full of goodies and prizes on the theme, and decorates our downstairs rec room. He loves creating a lineup of movies and making "trailer blocks" of all kinds of cartoons and movie trailers.  The boys love it too. It's a chance for them to spend all weekend just goofing on movies and hanging out with their dad. Plus, they have what seems like a never-ending supply of snacks and soda.

Over the last two years or so we have had a marathon of all the James Bond movies, the Superman sequels, Star Trek movies, Predator and Alien movies, movies for which the composer John Williams wrote the scores (Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc.), 24-hour Sci Fi and Horror, Harry Potter movies, Monsterthon (classic monster movies), Planet of the Apes, Turkey Day (a bunch of cheesy movies we watched on Thanksgiving weekend), the StuporBowl (more bad movies we watched over Super Bowl weekend). We usually schedule these over holidays or extended weekends.

This is just another example of how we have found a way to have fun and make memories with our family without spending a lot of money.

Liam being "sorted" during the Harry Potter marathon. 

The items in the "swag bag" for the Superman marathon.

Me and the family during the Star Trek marathon.

The decorations in the basement where we have our "screening room" for the marathons.

Some of the snacks setup for the marathons.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

SOL Day 29: The Choices We Make

Every day of our lives, we have to make choices. Some are easy, some are hard. Some are big, some are small. But, when it comes down to it, they are our choices. Unfortunately, there are people out there who think that they have a right to evaluate our choices and judge them as right or wrong.

When my husband and I got married, we made decisions about how we wanted to live our life together. When we became pregnant with our first child, we had some really big decisions to make. I was a full-time teacher and he had just left his corporate job to be a freelance writer and independent filmmaker. We made the decision that I would continue to work, and he would stay home with our child.

This meant making certain sacrifices. We weren't going to be able to take big vacations anymore. We would have to drive our cars into the ground. We wouldn't have new furniture in a big house. We knew that there were going to be lean times, but we decided that it was the best choice for us. We wanted our son to have at least one parent home with him and not send him to a daycare or sitter.

The work situation we chose to go with meant that while I was at work, my husband was at home with our kids. When I got home from work, I was "on duty" while he did his work. This meant that he was essentially working third shift. Our kids didn't have traditional bedtimes. Nobody ever seemed to understand that my husband slept late in the day, not because he was lazy, but because that was his nighttime after putting in an eight-hour work day in the middle of the night. We didn't feel that it mattered for the kids until it was time for them to go to school, and it didn't.

Our choices also meant that we rent a house rather than owning one. With the way the economy and housing markets are, this is probably one of the best choices we have made. We have seen friends spend months with their house on the market, stuck where they are at. They may have had to take less than they were asking just to unload their old house. Or, they sell their house and have to live with their parents until they save enough money to put a down payment on a house. One friend spent Thanksgiving Day dealing with a sewage backup. At our house, if something breaks, we just call the landlord.

So, I don't live in a big house that I own. I don't get to take yearly vacations to Disney. I drive a 2003 Saturn and my husband drives a 1998 Taurus. But, these are choices we made so that our kids would always have a parent at home with them. These are the sacrifices we made so that our boys can go to summer camp at their dad's old camp. If we want to take a big trip with our kids, I set up a savings account that we pay into every paycheck until we have enough. If we want to take a getaway for just the two of us, we budget for it.

People may make judgments about the choices we have made, but I don't really care what they think. We have three very intelligent, well-adjusted sons who know that we love them more than anything in the world and that we are willing to make sacrifices for them. These are the choices I've made, and I don't regret a single one.

Friday, March 28, 2014

SOL Day 28: The Caped Defender

Most days, you will find all three of my sons (ages 12, 10, and 5) occupied with some sort of technology. They are either playing Minecraft on their computers, watching movies or television shows on DVDs or through Netflix, playing games on their iPods, or listening to music. This is especially the case recently because of the extremely long, cold winter we have had here in Ohio. It's hard to get them outside to play when the average temperature doesn't get above 35 degrees for more than a couple of days (or hours) at a time.

I think that there is value in a child of the 21st century being able to navigate their way through today's technology. We hear about it all the time in staff meetings and through professional development. My kids can swipe their way through an iPad like nobody's business. However, I think that we also need to be fostering their creativity and imagination in as many ways possible. For my five-year-old, that takes the form of imaginative play.

When I was growing up, we didn't have iPods, laptops, or interactive games (unless you count PacMan on my Atari, which I don't.) We left the house in the morning, rode our bikes to our friends' houses, made up secret identities for each other and acted out entire scenarios of meeting handsome princes and riding off into the sunset. I was gone for hours and didn't come home until the old-fashioned dinner bell at my grandmother's house rang.  I remember one summer I spent hours at my friend Maria's house. We laced up our roller skates, cued up Lionel Richie's "Dancing on the Ceiling" and choreographed and entire skating routine to that song.

Today, I saw evidence that the art of imaginative play is not lost to my kindergartner. We had gotten Nick a superhero cape and mask set for Christmas this year (because he was always asking to have a baby blanket tied around his neck like a cape.) Last night, he asked me if I knew where his cape was. Oddly enough, I knew exactly where it was. Next thing I knew, he was asking for his mask. After an extensive search through the toy tubs, I found that too. I got him outfitted and off he went into his room to play.

Nick, aka The Caped Defender
Suddenly, as I'm sitting on the couch catching up on my shows on the DVR, out comes Nick "whooshing" his way across the room and shouting, "Rocket shoes, go! The Caped Defender...away!" Here is the conversation that followed:

     Me: Who are you supposed to be?
     Nick: I'm the Caped Defender!
     Me: Who do you defend?
     Nick: I defend people that are in trouble. And I fight evil.
     Me: Do you have any super powers?
     Nick: Of course. (He says in a very exasperated tone.)
     Me: Well, what are they?
     Nick: I use my laser eyes to cut through glass. I use super                        strength to pull stuff that are really heavy.
     Me: Anything else?
     Nick: Oh yeah. I have a confuse ray.
     Me: What is a confuse ray?
     Nick: I confuse someone if they are bad, then I cut them in half                 with my laser eyes.

That kid keeps me amused, that's for sure. A little while later, I told him that I needed to go to the grocery store for something. He asked if he could come along. I said of course he could. He then asked if he could come as the Caped Defender, because I might need help lifting something heavy, and with his super strength, he would be a big help.

I know he won't be this age for long. I have two other "big boys" as proof that they grow up. So, I'm going to enjoy his active imagination and adorable speech as long as I can.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

SOL Day 27: The Food Tour of Northwest Ohio

In yesterday's post, I wrote about my family's love of travel. Unfortunately, we don't have the means to do a lot of travel these days. After all, I am a teacher (and make a teacher's salary) and my husband is a film critic and freelance writer (which comes with an inconsistent salary.) If we want to take big trips, we have to save for it. So, we have gotten pretty creative over the last several years in order to get away.

During the summer we do "Staycations" rather than vacations. Now, these aren't the staycations that you might think of. They aren't just an excuse to sit around in our pajamas and do nothing all day. We actually plan things for every day of our staycation. We modeled this after a stay we had at a timeshare in Hilton Head. Every day, they posted a schedule of organized activities. We thought that was a great idea, so when we do our staycations, we post a schedule that includes a craft or activity (such as a family game), the menu for dinner, a movie, etc. We also throw in a visit to an amusement park, or the zoo, or the pool.

For Spring Break three years ago, we decided to do an overnight trip to Toledo. We live in Columbus, OH so Toledo, OH is about three hours away. It also happens to be about thirty minutes north of where my husband and I went to college, at Bowling Green State University. We thought that Toledo was as good a short-drive destination as any, so we headed there for our overnight stay. As we were driving north, we first came upon Mom Wilson's Country Sausage, a little roadside country store that had homemade meats and cheeses. We stopped in and got some delicious summer sausage and sliced cheeses. It was a nice little stop that gave us a delicious road trip snack.

Continuing north, we eventually came to another roadside stop in the form of Coon's Candies. This is another country store, but this time has homemade candies. Their specialty is many different flavors of fudge. They have lots of other kinds of candies as well as country knick-knacks, the the fudge is the real draw. After selecting about 8 different flavors of fudge, we were on our way. I also have to mention that, included in our bag of fudge, the owner included several plastic knives for the convenience of cutting and distributing fudge during the drive.

Our next stop was BGSU where we stopped to show our boys where we met. We drove around campus and showed them our dorm and various classroom buildings. We even parked and walked around campus, where we came upon the university seal. This seal is at the juncture of many different paths near the student union. It is said that if a couple stands on the seal and kisses, they will be together forever. Yep, you guessed it. Way back in the early 1990's we did just that. Those of us who meet at BGSU and marry have the distinction of being called "Falcon Flames" (as our mascot is the falcon.)

Once we walked around campus a little more, we headed to our favorite pizza place, Campus Pollyeyes. Here they serve the best breadsticks. It was a tradition when I was in college that, on moving in day, my roommate and I would order Pollyeyes breadsticks. However, they have improved upon them since we were there. They now have stuffed breadsticks. They will put any pizza toppings inside the breadsticks before baking. They are AMAZING!!!

After leaving BG, we continued north to our final destination of Toledo. One of the things we don't do on our travels, which helps to save us money, is book a hotel room ahead of time. We get those hotel coupon books at a gas station or rest area and just stop somewhere listed in the book and see if we can get a room. Once we left Bowling Green, we just started looking for a place. Once we locate a place and get settled in, we relax a bit until dinner time when we head to another favorite from college, Tony Packo's.

If you've never heard of Tony Packo's, it's an ethnic restaurant that specializes in Hungarian cooking. They here. Whenever a famous person eats there, they sign a hot dog bun which is then encased in plastic and mounted on the wall as a display. They have hundreds of these signed buns all over the restaurant. They have really great hot dogs, cabbage rolls, fried pickles, chili cheese fries, and much more. If you ever watched the television M*A*S*H, Jamie Farr (who is from Toledo) mentioned Tony Packo's which led to several more mentions, including the series finale. You can read more about Tony Packo's and the M*A*S*H connection

As you can see, there was a bit of a pattern to our trip. It all came back to food. So, we dubbed this the "Food Tour of Northwest Ohio." One thing we Carrs enjoy is our food! Now, if we aren't able to take a "real" trip somewhere, we embark on another installment of this journey. (These are pictures from this year's trip. Although we went to BG, we didn't make it on to campus this time.) You might not think that a road trip to Toledo, OH is very exciting and you'd be right. But, it does give us something our family needs, time together. For one thing, the boys love staying in a hotel. They enjoy spending time in the pool, staying up late watching TV in their beds, and the continental breakfast that most hotels offer with the price of the room. Our oldest, especially, enjoys sitting in the back of the car with his headphones on, just listening to music. He doesn't even mind the cramped quarters in the back with his brothers.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SOL Day 26: A New Era in Family Travel

My family loves to travel. Our first family trip occurred when our oldest son was two and our second son was only six weeks old. We had bought a timeshare in Las Vegas before we had any kids and never used it. We finally wondered why we were paying a mortgage and maintenance fees on a "vacation home" we never used. So, we packed up the boys and the car and drove to Las Vegas to spend a week in our timeshare. That trip began our love affair with family road trips.

Some people might think we were crazy or claim that they could never handle it, but we loved it. Before having our third son, we took road trips to Alaska, the Florida Keys, California, Texas, and everywhere in between. We even took a week-long cruise (which they still say is the best vacation we've ever taken.) In fact, our two oldest sons have been to 41 states and 4 countries. Unfortunately, by the time our third son was born, gas prices had skyrocketed and taking road trips was much more expensive. We have taken a couple of trips with him, including a trip to Texas to visit friends, a wedding in Florida, and two trips to Hilton Head.

We have a system and have found ways to travel cheaply. We've even toyed with the idea of writing a book on the subject. Because of the aforementioned gas prices, we have only taken short trips fairly close to home. For the last three years, Spring Break has consisted of an overnight trip to our college town and the next big city, where we could visit some favorite restaurants and stay in a hotel. 

On this year's trip, we came to the realization that we are entering into a new phase of family travel. One room with two double or queen beds is just not enough, with a child who is as big as an adult, and another who is fast on his way to that size, not to mention two parents and a five-year old. So, on this year's trip, we got two double rooms with a connecting door. Mom and two kids in one, and Dad and one kid in the other. This is going to make traveling with the whole family a little more expensive, but a little more comfortable than crowding us all in one room.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SOL Day 25: Come Home, Spring!

 I struggled to find something to write about, but kept coming back to the flash blizzard we had this afternoon. I know I live in Ohio, and a lingering winter is par for the course, but enough is enough. I'm on Spring Break and I would like the weather to cooperate, if only for a little bit. I felt pretty good about the poem I wrote yesterday, so I thought I'd give it another go today.

Come Home, Spring!

Trees full of buds
flowers in bloom
driving with the windows down
a light jacket is good enough.

Taking my run outside
keeping my rollerblades
and workout clothes
in my trunk.

Dinner on the grill
playing frisbee in the yard
a fire in the fire pit
when it gets dark.

The snow that fell
on March 25th
is not Spring to me
but winter overstaying her welcome.

Time to pack away the shovels
and winter coats
and snow boots
for good.

It's time for sandals
short sleeved shirts
mowing grass after work
and kids playing outside.

Wake up Spring!
It's time to make your appearance.
We are more than ready
to welcome you home.

©Carolyn Carr

Monday, March 24, 2014

SOL Day 24: First Official Day of Spring Break

This is my very first attempt at writing a poem. 

Spring Break starts
with an alarm set for 8
going into school
with no kids to greet me.

Spent a full day cleaning
and rearranging
shaking things up
to start the downward slope
to summer.

Setting out new supplies
to greet my kiddos on Monday
new pencils, crayons, and colored pencils
even new markers too.

A full work day later
I'm headed to the library
to exchange old books for new
another surprise
greeting my first grade friends.

After dinner with the family
at the Japanese steakhouse
a hot shower washes away
all the hard work of the day.

A glass of wine and a book
helps me unwind
before it's time to head to bed
with no alarm set for tomorrow.

I will be sleeping in
as long as the kids let me
before starting my day
and letting Spring Break
truly begin.

©Carolyn Carr

Sunday, March 23, 2014

SOL Day 23: Me Day

Every once in a while, I get to have a day (or at least a few hours) all to myself. I call this "Me" day.  I am fully encouraged in this by my husband, who takes point on keeping the boys entertained while I am gone. Today was a long-awaited "Me" day. 

Sometimes I choose a date to be "Me" day because I've been stressed out at work, or I've been sick, or just in need of a pick-me-up.  Usually "me" days coincide with the release of a movie that I want to see. Although my husband is a film critic and gets to see movies before they are released in the theaters, I rarely go see them with him because I want to watch and enjoy the movie without his critical eye, and discussions following the movie, clouding my opinion of it. 

I have been anxiously awaiting the release of "Divergent," the movie made from the book by Veronica Roth. It is a trilogy and I have read the first book at least 4 times. I just finished re-reading it yesterday so that I was ready for a book-to-movie comparison with the story fresh in my mind. So, "me" day started with a 10:20 am screening of "Divergent."

Next up was lunch. The great thing about a "me" day is that you can get anything you want for lunch. I usually pick a place that nobody else in my family likes, or is too expensive to take the whole family. Today I chose to go to Piada. I had a salad, a Piada stick, and a Diet Pepsi. I enjoyed my lunch while checking Facebook and reading a book on my phone. 

Finally, the last item on the "me" day agenda was a pedicure. I haven't had my toes done since before I went on my cruise in February. It's so relaxing to soak my feet, have my nails trimmed, a nice leg massage, and finally new polish. I tend to go back-and-forth in color extremes when I get pedicures. Last time, I got a bright pink polish because it was very Spring-like and I was feeling down from all the snow. Today, I got an extreme opposite color. I got a shimmery black. Not sure why, it just kind of struck me.

Some people have a hard time doing things by themselves. I used to be that way, too. But when my best friend moved away, I lost my movie buddy. The rest of my friends are busy with their own things. Besides, now that I've hit the big 4-0, I've learned to be okay with doing things by myself. I get to pick the movie, I get to pick the lunch place, and I can sit back and relax and be pampered in the pedicure chair. What would you do on a "me" day?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

SOL Day 22: Indecision

I have a really hard time making decisions. One of the hardest decisions for me to make is what to have for dinner. My husband and I go around and around,
                    Him: "So, what do you want to do about dinner?"
                    Me: "I don't care. What do you want?"

I don't know why this is so difficult, but I would be totally happy if I just showed up after school and dinner was ready to go without any input or thought from me whatsoever.

I think the heart of the problem is that I really don't care what we eat. I can find something I like pretty much anywhere we go, and I like pretty much everything my husband cooks (since he is the one who cooks the meals.) The weekends are the worst because he doesn't want to cook on the weekends. This leaves either me cooking, and I have a very narrow repertoire, or us getting takeout.

Today was a perfect example. We slept late because of an event we had last night that kept us up very late. We woke up and it was time for lunch. Not only did we have to decide what we were going to have for lunch, but that decision was going to be determined by what we were going to have for dinner. Ahhhh!!! Two food-related decisions at once. I thought my head was going to explode. Eventually we decided on Wendy's for lunch, and a frozen lasagna with garlic bread for dinner.

I think this is one of the reasons why I have difficulty losing weight. I can't decide what I should eat, so I end up making bad choices. I need someone to write a detailed meal plan for me. I've always said I would be so much better off if I just had a personal chef to make and serve my meals for me. I'll just tell him what I don't like (liver and onions, no thank you) and my food just shows up on the table. I would totally love that. Until then, the question of what is for dinner will continue to agonize me every day.

Friday, March 21, 2014

SOL Day 21: Laughter is the Best Medicine

Being a teacher is the best job I could ever hope to do. I've wanted to be a teacher since I was in the first grade. Now, I am a first grade teacher. I won't lie, it's not always rainbows and lollipops. Most of the time I really enjoy what I do, but sometimes it can be incredibly frustrating. Just mention to a teacher OTES, IEPs, Common Core, or Standardized Testing and you can see the tension seep into every pore of their body. I try not to get too stressed out about it all, but when you are a teacher, you feel a certain sense of responsibility to not only your career, but also to your students.

There are days when you know that you have made the right career choice. Sometimes all it takes is a hug, or a successful lesson, or a positive email from a parent. I had a lot of little moments that made my day today one of those days that you feel like it's all going to be alright. One of my more challenging students, when faced with the possibility of being the "Mystery Helper" and earning a special treat for the class, rose to the challenge and had the best day in weeks. And that was without even knowing for sure that he was the Mystery Helper (which he turned out to be.) I had a positive and successful IAT meeting this morning. One of my little girls gave me the longest hug at the end of the day and said, "I don't want to go home. I won't get to see you for a whole week!" (today was the start of our Spring Break.) I reassured her that she could write me a personal note on our Kidblog and we could be "penpals" over Spring Break and she left with a huge smile on her face.

Then, at the very end of the day...I mean the bell had rung and everyone else had left, one of my little girls had a difficult moment. It just completely broke my heart. If it hadn't been for the support of my team, I probably would have closed my door and sat in my chair and cried. I felt so sad for her and so helpless. 

By now, you are probably wondering about the title of my post, "Laughter is the Best Medicine." Be patient, I had to give you the setup first. (This is really a two-part story.)

A short time later, I was in my room working on my classroom supply order (which was due at 4:30, by the way) when my teammate Marie came into my room to work on hers as well. We were at side-by-side computers entering similar items. I finished mine and realized that I came in 8 cents under budget. Woo hoo! At this point Marie, who is always up for a challenge, says to me, "I bet I can get closer." Now, you have to know that the company we are ordering from gives a great discount. When we enter our order online, you see immediately what you order amount is minus the discount. We add an item, refresh, check out our new total, add more items, and repeat. So, Marie says to me, "If I get closer, you have to go get your nails done with me!" Who knew she was so competitive? I accepted her challenge. I mean, really, closer than 8 cents?

Here's where the laughter comes in. She is adding and deleting items to try to get as close as she can to my total. At one point, she realizes that she only entered the quantity of 1 when it should have been 24. I think we spent 5 minutes laughing over that one alone. Eventually, she hit refresh and she beat my total! Unfortunately, she spent so much time perfecting her order, it got too late for me to go to the nail salon with her. She left with the promise that when it was time to get her nails done again, I would go with her. 

This is what is great about my friends and teammates. I had been pretty down when the day ended, but she really helped me to pull out of it with a little bit of silliness. I'm not going to be able to forget about what happened with my student, but a little bit of laughter made it a little easier to remember the positive.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

SOL Day 20: A Post About Nothing

I've been thinking all day about what I might write my post about. Yesterday was an incredibly long day from start to finish. Even after getting home from my blood donation experience I had a couple of more stressful things to deal. I can pretty much say that I was cranky for most of the day today. As hard as a I tried to find something that I could write about, the only things that settled in my brain involved me complaining about something. And that's not the kind of post I want to write.

So, I decided that this post was going to be about the difficulty we sometimes have in trying to find something to write about. There are just some days when nothing much really happens. Or, you are so busy living your life that your day goes by, it's time for bed, and you wonder how you got there. It's like when you drive the same route every day that you feel like you've sometimes gone on autopilot. I often find myself arriving at work and not remembering a minute of my drive. Kind of scary on a 20-minute drive.

And then there are times when there is an over-abundance of things to write about,  you can't choose just one. Next week is my Spring Break and I'm planning on a lot of sleeping in, catching up on some pleasure reading, and finally getting around to watching those Oscar-nominated movies. There may be days when other things happen that beg to be written about. I might have a day when I am motivated to try my hand at poetry (I'm not making any promises here.) And there might be a day when I write about something one of my kids, who will also be on Spring Break, did. We'll just have to wait and see, I guess.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SOL Day 19: Giving Blood

This evening, my school hosted a Red Cross blood drive. I wanted to make an appointment, but I wasn't able to schedule before they filled up, so I decided to just walk in. When I arrived, there were quite a few people in front of me.

After waiting for almost an hour, I was finally taken for my questioning process. When the representative discovered my blood type, she asked if I would be willing to be a "double red" donor. What that means is that they draw my blood through a machine that separates the red blood cells from the platelets and hemoglobin, then collects the red blood cells and returns the platelets and hemoglobin. The blood, being separated during collection, is able to be distributed to hospitals quicker than whole blood that is collected.

The bruises on my arm from the first
 attempt to insert the needle.
I thought that, since I was already there, and the process would only take about 20 minutes longer, I might as well do it. I could help twice as many people even faster. And since I have one of the rarer blood types, it was in even more demand.

Unfortunately, it wasn't as simple as I would have liked. When the phlebotomist attempted to insert the needle into my arm, it went in wrong and basically collapsed my vein. She was incredibly apologetic, but it was just one of those things that happens. But, since I was already there and had already gone through the process, I decided to let them try the other arm. After everything was re-set and re-labeled, a different phlebotomist came to give it a try. Success! I barely felt a thing (and I HATE needles!)

It took a lot longer than I thought it would, but in the end I knew it was worth the time and trouble. At the beginning, I had posted on FaceBook that I was waiting to give blood. A friend of mine who has had two kidney transplants replied, "Having received a few blood transfusions myself, I thank you for what you are doing! You are about to change someone's life!"

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SOL Day 18: Inspiration for a Post

Tonight after school I was talking to another teacher my building. Her daughter, who is a first grader in another classroom, was also there. We were talking about the Slice of Life Writing Challenge. I was saying how I was really enjoying doing it more than I thought I would. The first grader also has been doing the challenge with her classroom teacher. The mom/teacher praised her daughter for having written a post every single day of the challenge. We started talking about how challenging it was sometimes to come up with a topic for our posts.

Our conversation moved on to other things at that point. One of which was the fact that the whole family had ice-skating lessons coming up. I told her that I hadn't skated since college. She then said to me, "Maybe that's what you could write your post about tonight." So Maggie, this post is for you.

When I was growing up, we had a rollerskating rink in our town. It was a very popular birthday party spot and weekend gathering place when we were in middle school and high school. However, I had never really been ice-skating before. When I went to college, the skating rink where they had hockey games was across from my dorm. They would hold open skate times and my roommate and I would sometimes go skating. I was never very good at it. I always had a hard time staying on the single blade and dealing with the pock marks in the ice. For some reason, I was much better at rollerblading. I still am. As a result, I can't remember the last time I was actually on ice skates. (Although, "The Cutting Edge" is one of my all-time favorite movies!)

I think it's kind of neat that this little girl is going with her entire family for ice-skating lessons. I'm not much of a cold-weather sport kind of gal, but maybe someday soon I'll take my kids ice skating. After all, there is an ice skating rink not too far from where we live.  So thanks, Maggie. For not only the great idea for a post, but also the idea for a great family activity.

Monday, March 17, 2014

SOL Day 17: Vertical Learning/Learner's Choice

As you may know by now, I teach first grade. Before I was a first grade teacher, I was a reading specialist. However, first grade is the only grade I have taught in a classroom. I've always thought I was destined for older kids though. I think they would get my sense of humor a whole lot better than 6-year-olds. I think I would have a lot more patience for fourth or fifth graders. But, I'm part of a fantastic team and don't really want to leave them for the unknown world of Intermediate grades.

Recently, a couple of my colleagues came up with an idea that allows me the best of both worlds.   We are encouraged in our district to think in an innovative way. To think "outside the box" if you will. The plan they came up with definitely fits the bill. They called it "vertical learning." In this vertical learning model, a teacher would decide on a topic of study. I think of it as a workshop. Students from all different grade levels would have the opportunity to sign up for their class. Only the students of the teachers who have decided to teach a class would be able to participate. In theory, you could have students from first through fifth grade in the same class. The teachers would connect their class to the curriculum areas that weave through all the grade levels.

I decided, with a little prodding from my principal, that I would give it a shot. But, what could I teach? Some of the topics were: Egg Drop Challenge, Lego Cars, Cooking Fun, School Newspaper, Song Writing, Travel Brochures, and Amazing Structures. What could I do that would be as fun and catchy, yet interesting to me and connect to the curriculum? I have always enjoyed scrapbooking so I thought about what I could do that incorporated scrapbooking. Then I realized that scrapbooking is all about telling your personal story. All grade levels spend time on teaching Personal Narrative. Now I was getting excited! And because I was participating, my students get to participate. They get to work with older kids and really challenge their thinking with some of these activities. We are calling it "Learner's Choice" and they were so excited to get to choose.

I hit a hurdle when I realized that the time slated for this activity was right when my kids were in specials. However, that was easily taken care of by switching with a teacher who wasn't participating and had the same special as me, yet at a different time. We were off and running. I let the teachers organizing the event know that I was in. They held sign-ups and I got a whopping 8 students who wanted to participate. At least it wasn't zero!

Today was our first of two meetings. I have two first-graders and six third-graders. It was so interesting to see how far their writing had come in just two years! They really seemed to enjoy it and understand the purpose of our lesson. On Wednesday we will have our second meeting and they will get to choose colorful paper, use funky scissors, and put their stories together. I'm really looking forward to seeing where they go. I also can't wait to hear the stories from my students as they come back with their own innovative experiences.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

SOL Day 16: Love My DVR

There's nothing better than spending a Sunday afternoon curled up on the couch doing something mindless. I know there are those of you out there who are all productive on their weekends. Cleaning the house, doing laundry, writing lesson plans, pre-cooking meals and freezing them for the week. I like to spend my Sundays relaxing. Sometimes that means watching movies, sometimes it's reading a book, sometimes it's sleeping late and then taking a nap a few hours later. Today, it was catching up on the shows I have recorded on my DVR.

With a husband who is a film critic, we often get television shows that he has to watch and review. Because they all arrive at the same time, the best way to get them watched without going crazy is to watch them as they are aired. So, not only do we record shows that we want to watch, we also record things that we have to watch. 

What I have discovered is that the best thing about having a DVR is the ability to skip the commercials. Not only do I get to avoid being sold on some new miracle product, but I also get to avoid seeing previews of terrible television shows and movies. An added bonus is that it also takes less time to watch the shows when I don't watch the commercials. 

I honestly don't know how people watch television without the aid of a DVR. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

SOL Day 15: A Great Day for the Park

My husband and two oldest sons are at a 24-hour Science Fiction Movie Marathon this weekend. That means that my 5-year-old and I get to spend some one-on-one time together. We headed to the library together then we went to the park. He had a great time swinging and playing on the slides. He even made a new friend. He is so friendly and outgoing. Everywhere we go, he says, "Hi! What's your name?" The best part of the whole day was as we were leaving, he said to me, "Thanks for thinking of this great idea. I just love playing at the park on a beautiful day!"

I know I tend to get busy and stressed out over all the things I take on or am committed to, but I need to make sure that I carve out more time to take my little boy to the park. Before I know it, he's going to be as big as his brothers and the days of going to the park and swinging on the swings together will be a distant memory.

Friday, March 14, 2014

SOL Day 14: Humor in Teaching

There are just some days when you are a teacher that you have to decide to laugh or you just might cry and never stop. Today wasn't one of those days. However, I was able to have some laughs with my teacher friends today to help us blow off some steam and stress that comes along with this time of year. The time we spent just relaxing after work reminded me of some funny things I pinned on Pinterest. I thought I would share them as my Slice of Life for today. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. I know quite a few hit very close to home for me.

I like to end my Curriculum Night presentation with this gem.

This actually happened today! Twice over!!

Who hasn't been here?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

SOL Day 13: The Alphabet Soup of Education

As any teacher will tell you, Education is a constant navigation of any number of acronyms, abbreviations, and initiatives. The Alphabet Soup of Education will make even the most seasoned
teacher's head spin. Thanks to a couple of those handy dandy acronyms, I spent the day today with a couple of more acronyms, doing assessments. So, here's a rundown of some of the acronyms I have become familiar with over the course of the last several years as a teacher. Some of them you, as teachers, will be familiar with. Some are unique to my state and some are only familiar to those in my district.

OTES: Ohio Teacher Evaluation System
SLO: Student Learning Outcome (or Objective, I'm not really sure.)
IEP: Individual Education Plan
IAT: Intervention Assistance Team
IPDP: Individual Professional Development Plan
LPDC: Local Professional Development Committee
HEA: Hilliard Education Association
OEA: Ohio Education Association
NEA: National Education Association
ODE: Ohio Department of Education
PD: Professional Development
SMART Goal: Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Timely
F&P: Fountas and Pinnell
DMA: Developmental Math Assessment
DSA: Developmental Spelling Assessment
OAA: Ohio Achievement Assessment
OGT: Ohio Graduation Test
ADD: Attention Deficit Disorder
ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ELL: English Language Learners
AYP: Adequate Yearly Progress
HQT: Highly Qualified Teacher
LD: Learning Disabled
LEP: Limited English Proficiency
ELA: English Language Arts
NCLB: No Child Left Behind
PTO: Parent Teacher Organization
SACC: School-Age Child Care
SLP: Speech Language Pathologist
STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

I'm sure there are many more that I have missed or forgotten about. But, as I said previously, the amount of acronyms just makes my head spin. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SOL Day 12: Thanksgiving in March

My family loves Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, creamed peas and cranberry jelly. But we don't wait for November anymore. I'll tell you why.

A few years ago, my mother-in-law decided that it was too difficult to make a turkey for the entire family. At the time we would have about 16 people for dinner, so the bird had to be pretty large. Now, my MIL has very little upper body/arm strength so I can understand why it would be difficult for her to lift the turkey in and out of the oven. So, that year, she decided she would make Cornish game hens

instead. What a disaster! Not only did they not taste very good, but they were way too much work! From that point on, two things happened.

First, my husband offered to cook the turkey whenever it was his mother's turn. She and his aunt would take turns with the holidays. One did Thanksgiving and the other did Christmas. And he does an AMAZING job of it. I can't even begin to describe what he does, but the meat is so moist and tender it just makes my mouth water.

The second thing brings me to tonight's dinner. Around Thanksgiving when the turkeys go on sale, he will buy five or six of them and put them in the freezer. We have an extra fridge/freezer and a small upright freezer in our garage. Just enough room for them. Then, about every other month or so, my husband will make an entire turkey dinner with all the fixings. We make it a big deal and even pull out our wedding china.

So, even though we are no longer eating Cornish game hens for Thanksgiving dinner, we get the added bonus of Thanksgiving dinner the way WE like it several times a year.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SOL Day 11: Grilling

As a kind of continuation from yesterday's post about hurrying up spring, tonight I'm writing about the family favorite of grilling. My husband emailed me this afternoon suggesting that, while the temps are in the upper 50's (with temps in the 20's expected for tomorrow) we take advantage of this mild night and grill for dinner. I was all on board with that!

So, I stopped at the store on my way home and picked up the few things we needed. I got home and set right to prepping. The meat was hot dogs, but the sides are what made the meal. I make these fantastic potato packets to go along with just about anything we cook on the grill. Remember when I said I wasn't much of a cook? Well, this is one of those things that I make that is really good. Just cut up some potatoes and onions, divide them up onto sheets of aluminum foil, add some butter and seasonings, then fold it up into a pouch. I always double wrap to keep the potatoes from burning. So tasty!

Tonight, I added something new to our grilled feast. I cut up broccoli and cauliflower and also made foil packets of those. I sprinkled on some parmesan cheese and soy sauce. We usually do this in a big pot on the stove,
but decided to try it on the grill. It turned out great!

I know that the forecast says that spring is a ways off, but between the fire pit last night and the grilled dinner tonight, I may just make it to spring. Just don't take your time!

Monday, March 10, 2014

SOL Day 10: Hurrying up Spring

This weekend, we turned the clocks forward as part of Daylight Savings Time. This has always meant the start of all the signs of spring. The "official" first day of spring is only 10 days away. There's also consistently warmer temperatures, singing birds, buds on the trees, and of course Spring Break.

With the ridiculously cold winter we have had and all the snow that is constantly present, it hasn't seemed like spring will ever arrive. I'm more than ready to hang up my winter coat for good. Thankfully, my husband has come on board and is just as anxious for winter to say goodbye and for spring to arrive as I am.

Today, I arrived home to find that he had decided to hurry spring up just a little bit. He and the boys had built a fire in the fire pit. This is one of the staples of spring evenings at our house. We sat on the patio, enjoying the warmth of the fire, musing about what tasks need to be completed in the yard before the trees and bushes started to bloom. Come on spring, hurry up and get here!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

SOL Day 9: Baby Shower

I had the pleasure of attending my cousin-in-law's baby shower today. All of the family members provided a food item. My other cousin-in-law (the new mommy-to-be's sister) decided the theme would be "International" so every dish was supposed to be from a different country. I also offered to help by planning and executing a game. I did the game where you put a bunch of baby-related items on a tray, show them to the guests for a minute, then the guests write down as many items as they can remember.

Of course, the most fun was the opening of the gifts. I was the gift recorder, so I paid attention to everything. My cousin and I have recently gotten very close, and I'll explain why in a little bit, and whenever she opened something she was unfamiliar with, she would lean over to me and whisper, "You may have to show me what to do with this." or "I didn't even know that I should register for this." There were so many adorable outfits and and cute little toys. I can see how she and her husband got overwhelmed the first day they walked into Babies R Us and walked out after scanning 3 items.
They eventually went back, of course, but not until after a text from me reassuring her that she really didn't need half of the things all the books and registries say they need.

However, the true reason for my excitement over this event is due to the road traveled to get to this point. You see, my cousin and her husband had been trying to have a baby for about 4 years. They had a couple of pregnancies, but they ended in miscarriages. They had been seeing a fertility specialist for a while and undergoing treatments as well. I really had no idea they had gone through so much until just about a year ago when she called me and asked me to meet her for coffee.

You see, they had reached the point where they didn't think she would be able to conceive and carry their own child. She was meeting with me to ask me if I would consider being their surrogate. After a lot of soul searching and discussions with my husband, we decided that I would give it a go. It was an incredibly involved and emotional process involving lawyers, a fertility specialist, and lots and lots of medications.

They decided that we would both go through the process and double our chances of conceiving. Her hopes were that we would both become pregnant and they would end up with two babies. Eventually, we found out that I did not become pregnant, but she did. There were tears for both disappointment and joy.

Here is what I think about it all though. She was so stressed out over the process that she just couldn't relax. I think that my role was to take some of that pressure off of her so that she could do what needed to be done. That, and along the way we made time to get together, to support each other, and we bonded and built a friendship. She knows that she can lean on me, not only as a friend, but also as a fellow mother. Sometimes another women can give you the kind of support your husband just can't. That's what I am lucky enough to be for her. And even though I didn't actually end up carrying the baby, I feel like we will have a special bond anyway.

So, this wasn't just any ordinary baby shower. It was a celebration and culmination of an amazing journey. I can't wait to meet this precious little boy that I had a small part in bringing into the world.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

SOL Day 8: The Power of Customer Service

The quality of customer service can make or break a consumer's relationship with a company. Poor customer service, and you run the risk of losing a customer for life. Good customer service, and you may gain a loyal customer. And in this age of social media, a person's feelings towards a company based on their level of customer service can reach potentially thousands upon thousands of other consumers. How many times have you read a post on FaceBook or a tweet that starts with, "Don't ever give your business to company ABC!"?

Today, I had two separate experiences with positive customer service, both in the same place. I was doing some grocery shopping at Giant Eagle when I ended up in the produce section. I was trying to choose some broccoli, but it was all very rubbery, not firm as it should be. I was very displeased with the quality of the broccoli. I must have made a disgusted face when I turned, for there was an employee ready to stock some other vegetables, who said, "It doesn't look very good, does it?" When I explained, he said to me, "I'll go look in the back and see if we have anything better." And he did. He came back shortly with a box of broccoli and each one was firm and looked like it would be nice and crisp. How great was this level of customer service?

The second occurrence with positive customer service this trip was at the checkout. The cashier asked, as they always do, "Did you find everything okay?" There was one thing I hadn't been able to find, and when I told him what it was, he started suggesting places where I could find it. He even asked if I would like him to get someone to look for it for me, or to find out if they even had some in stock. Ordinarily, when I answer that I hadn't found everything I was looking for, the cashier just mumbles an apology or "we must be out" kind of excuse. This young man seemed truly willing to take the time to make sure that I got what I needed.

These incidents also remind me of a positive customer service experience I had last week at Raising Canes (a fast food chicken place, for those of you not familiar with it.) I had place my order for a large tray of chicken strips for my family's dinner. I was having a drink while waiting for it to be ready, when the manager calls me back to the counter. He hands me two coupons for a free meal before a word is spoken. He then says that somehow, they didn't put my chicken in when I ordered and it would be a couple of more minutes before my order was ready. He didn't wait for me to get upset that I had to wait and demand satisfaction. He was proactive and secured my goodwill before telling me there was a problem. I really appreciated that.

So, what was the result of these examples of good customer service? I will continue to be a customer of Giant Eagle and Raising Canes. I am sharing my experiences with others, which has the possibility of creating goodwill toward these companies with all those who read what I have written. A little positivity goes a long way.

Friday, March 7, 2014

SOL Day 7: We Will All Be There Some Day

Every Friday, I stay late at school. I usually don't leave until at least 8:00. It's a chance for me to get the week wrapped up and get things prepped for the next week. I'm sure I'll write more about that in another post this month. For now, it's just a set-up for what comes next. On my way home, I call my mom.

My parents live about an hour north of me. It's not too far. Not too close. But, I really don't see much
of them. We are really busy with our kids things, work, and other obligations. They are nervous highway drivers, and almost never drive at night. To keep up with each other, I call my mom every Friday and chat on my 20-minute drive home.

My mom is the child care provider for my brother and his wife. They have four kids, three of which are under 4 years old. By the end of the week, she is exhausted. This is why we start having kids when we are young, right? She should be enjoying the occasional visits and spoiling of her grandkids. She is with mine, at least.

Most of our conversation is filled up with what I've been up to this week, what my kids are doing, and what my nieces and nephews are doing. Typical of a person in their sixties, talk will also get around to who has died, who has come home to visit their parents, or what is happening at church.

Tonight, my mom made me laugh so hard I though I would have to pull the car over. As we were chatting, she was heading upstairs after putting a load of laundry in the washing machine. She tells me to hold on just a second. I hear, "Jerry, did I leave my phone downstairs?" Soon followed by her laughter and, "Oh my god. I cannot believe I just did that. I was patting my pockets and looking all over for my phone and I realized that I am talking to you on it."

My mom is definitely kept young by the fact that she has to chase around after 3 preschoolers every day. But even she has her senior moments. As my friend Marie said when I told her this story, "We will all be there some day." Yes. Yes we will.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

SOL Day 6: Friends

From the time that we are small, there are few constants in our lives. Our families are one. Our friends are another. As we grow up, the people who are our friends may change, but having friends is
something we always desire. When I was younger, I always wanted to have friends. I had a few friends I would do things with, but usually only one really close "best" friend. I made friends through a variety of ways; school, neighborhood, church, girl scouts.

Prom 1991: That's me in green with my
 2 best friends (and our dates)
As I got older and busier, the makeup of my circle of friends changed. The girl who was my best friend through elementary school developed other interests and we drifted apart. Throughout middle school, I never really had someone I was close to. In high school, I had two really close friends, but for the most part hung out with a group of friends. It was at this point I started to get more serious about school and going to college, and they got more serious about boys. I was a little disheartened about friendships at the tail end of high school. My friends started dating and I never really did. So, while we would still hang out together, it would usually only happen within a large group or when their boyfriends were unavailable. This didn't make me feel very important and kind of jaded me on friendships                                                      for a while.

Me and my Freshman year roommate.
College was a chance to start over. I had roommates and friends who I hung out with, but for the most part my closest friend was my boyfriend (who eventually became my husband.) As I became an adult, I mostly had acquaintances. These were people from college, the gym, and work. Most of my time was spent with my husband and our families. I wasn't one of those women who had 10 bridesmaids in their wedding. I had 3, and one of them was my future sister-in-law. It's funny, because I've often looked back and realized that if I got married today, I wouldn't even have the same bridesmaids (except for her.)

Me and my best friend, Michelle.
Since becoming an adult, there's really only been one person I would consider my "best friend". We would scrapbook together, go to movies, work out, go to home parties (baskets, candles, etc.) together, go to the zoo or the park with our kids together. We were there when each others' children were born. We could call each other day or night if we needed to. Then, she and
her family moved out of state. At first, we would talk every other day. Then once a week. We visited them on a couple of vacations and they always make time to have dinner with us when they travel back home. Now, I can't remember the last time I actually spoke to her. New Year's Eve maybe? That makes me incredibly sad. I really miss her.

My friends and colleagues. I couldn't
make it through a day of teaching without them.

I have friends now, but nobody like that. There's nobody else who knows me like she does. I can now say that my husband is my best friend. I guess that's how it is supposed to be. But I miss having someone to do girlfriend things with. I'm fortunate to have co-workers with whom I also share a friendship, but outside of work we don't hang out with each other. I enjoy their company and I think they are wonderful women, it's just not the same.

My son Liam with two of his
friends from school.

The reason I decided on this as the topic of today's slice is because of my oldest son. I observed him with some of his friends at his choir concert tonight. Their heads together, giggling over a shared joke, making plans for a weekend get-together. I saw him with these friends, both boys and girls, and was so pleased to see him enjoying himself with his friends. I know that, coming into the teen years, he has some challenges ahead of him and I'm grateful that he has made such good friendships to support him through it. I was worried about this when he was in elementary school because he'd never really had close friends. He never invited anyone over to play, has never had a sleepover, and has been content to do his own thing. His younger brother is the same way. Maybe he just needed                                                      to find the right friends.

Me and my husband, Kevin.
My best friend.

I don't think I'll ever grow out of wanting to have friends. After all, I really want people to like me (although that's a topic for a different post!) But, I think at my age and stage in life, friends are taking a different role in my life, and that's okay.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

SOL Day 5: Cooking

I'm not a good cook. I don't enjoy cooking. There are a few basic dishes that I can make for dinner, but for the most part my expertise ranges from casseroles to hot dogs and macaroni and cheese; a child's idea of gourmet. I used to like to bake, but I'm pretty limited to cakes. The one thing I do like making is appetizers. If you told me I could make dinner out of just a bunch of appetizers every night, I'd be all set. I thrive on New Year's Eve when we have a family get-together at our house and I prepare a buffet of appetizers. Other than that, I'm pretty hopeless in the kitchen. I cringe whenever we have a potluck at school or there is a sign-up to provide meals for someone. Not because I don't want to help. I just don't want to inflict the pain of my cooking on them.

I am fortunate however, because I married a man who enjoys cooking. Kevin likes to experiment with cooking. He is not afraid to stray from a recipe. He's even been known to open the pantry, survey the contents, and create a fantastic meal from whatever he finds inside. He truly does like it. He isn't one to browse Pinterest looking for a great recipe, but he is familiar with some other recipe sites on the internet. (I, of course, have a huge board of recipes on Pinterest that I can only dream of preparing some day.) He cooks, I dish it up and then put away the leftovers. It's a great system.

Now that our boys are getting older, he wants them to learn to cook too. We don't want them to grow up to be men who can only make frozen dinners, macaroni and cheese, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for themselves. He first started showing our oldest son how to cook. Liam was interested at first, but when his dad got a little too "instructive" for his tastes, he kind of bowed out. Now, our middle son has expressed an interest in learning to cook. I think Ben may stay with it a little longer than Liam did. For dinner tonight, Ben is helping his dad cook spaghetti. I will gladly handle some of the other tasks around the house and let the men do the cooking.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

SOL Day 4: My Classroom Slice of Life

When I decided to include my first grade class in the Classroom Slice of Life Challenge, I was really nervous about it. Since I had never done it before myself, I really didn't know what to expect from the experience. Therefore, it was difficult for me to know what to tell my students to expect from it.

I introduced the challenge to them last Friday at the very end of the day. Admittedly, it was poor planning on my part. I really only decided that I was going to participate while they were at Art, so by the time they got back and I started talking about it, it was almost time to go home. I really didn't do it justice. I gave them a basic outline of how it works and the expectations for participation then sent them home for the weekend.

Since the first day of the challenge was on Saturday, I wasn't expecting much. I was thrilled with the one student I had that wrote a post on his Kidblog on Saturday and Sunday. By the end of the weekend, I had resigned myself to the fact that this was going to be a failed experiment and I'd be better prepared next time. To my surprise, I had an additional eight students who had actually written posts in their Writer's Notebooks to be added to their blogs on Monday.

One of the components that we, myself and my two other participating first grade colleagues, Cathy Mere and Deb Frazier, decided to add to our classroom challenge was lunch once a week with the student writers. We decided we would meet with our classes during their lunch to talk about our writing and the challenge. Today was the first lunch meeting and I had 13 writers join me. We talked about our thoughts on the challenge so far and what has been the biggest challenge for them. I think of all the writing activities I have done with my students so far this year, and I have to say that this has been the most rewarding for me. To hear my kiddos talk like writers was amazing! They spoke of how challenging it was to come up with an idea to write about. How unsure they were that their writing would be something that someone else would want to read. Most of all, how excited they were to keep writing. L said, "I'm going to write every day for the rest of my life!" If only I could put into words how amazing this was to hear from this little friend.

I can't wait to see what the rest of the challenge brings.

Monday, March 3, 2014

SOL Day 3: The Hats I Wear

In the course of a day, I wear many hats. I am a wife, a mother, a teacher. I'm also a counselor, a nurse, a friend, a daughter, a sister. You get the idea. You are probably nodding your head thinking, "Yep, me too." It's those times when my hats overlap and both try to settle on my head at the same time that I'm reflecting on in today's Slice of Life post.

This afternoon, I found myself wearing both the mom and teacher hats simultaneously. I'm sure many of you have found yourselves faced with the same situation on a regular basis. My middle son Ben told me about a new incident with a boy in his class that he has been butting heads with recently. We had a discussion last week about this boy, in which I found out that Ben was not completely innocent in their conflict. It was really hard for me to not be the mom who just supports her kid 100%. But, being the teacher I am, I had to dig deeper to get to the heart of the story. This led me to the uncomfortable truth that he was partly to blame. It was really hard breaking that to him.

Today, he tells me of another incident in which the kid was verbally taunting him. I asked if he sought help from the teacher and he said that he did. When I asked what the result was, he said that the teacher said, "Just try to ignore him." Makes sense. It's what I often find myself telling my own students when they are being irritated by a classmate. "Did she say anything to the other student about leaving you alone?", I asked Ben. "No," was his response. The outrage of the mom in me towards the teacher who did nothing to hold the other child accountable warred with the teacher in me who wondered what she could have done if she didn't witness it. Of course, I know that as a teacher I would have at least talked with the other student to find out his side. And she very well may have done that without Ben being aware of it.

The thing that I find most challenging in my situation is that I am not only in a different school building from my children, but I'm in another district altogether. If we were in the same building, I could easily grab her at the end of the day and talk about what happened. I would probably know something about this other kid and his history of behavior. But, in this case, I'm just another parent. It really doesn't matter that I'm a teacher too. I want so badly to send an email to the teacher demanding to know what she is going to do about the situation. However, I have to think about being on the receiving end of that too. I think about my sensitive boy and how this is making him feel. I think about how hard it is to stand up for yourself yet not wanting to be labeled a "tattle tale" for it. 

For the most part, I think I'm really lucky to be able to wear both hats when it comes to helping my boys through schooling issues. Sometimes having the teacher perspective makes it just a little bit harder to be a mom.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

SOL Day 2: Procrastination

I am a procrastinator. There. I said it. I've known for quite some time that I am a master procrastinator. People tell me all the time how impressed they are with how organized I am. But, I'll let you in on a little secret. Many of my organizational systems were born out of the procrastination of a task I just did not feel like doing. I'm great at getting things set up, but when it comes to putting them into practice, something always seems to come up. Or needs tweaking.

I love my weekends. Live for them, in fact. I get so wrapped up in embracing the arrival of my weekend, I always put off doing any "real" work until later in the weekend. Before I know it, I have errands to run, shopping to do, time to spend with my kids, laundry to do, television shows to watch, napping to catch up on, and tweets and blog posts to read. This weekend, I received notification that the book I've been dying to read is finally available for me to download. I haven't been able to put it down, in spite of the fact that I only have until Tuesday to complete my progress reports. Inevitably, I will be in a panic, staying up well past reasonable hours, to finish before the deadline.

Unfortunately, my knowledge of this tendency does nothing to change the fact that I will probably always find something more interesting to do than what it is I need to do. I guess the most important thing is that things always get done, they just aren't without a little bit of stress and gnashing of teeth in the meantime. Of course, after procrastinating a little on FaceBook this weekend, I know I'm not alone in my habits. I do wish I could do something about it. Maybe tomorrow.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

30 Day Slice of Life Writing Challenge - Day 1

As often happens, I've been convinced to resurrect my blog and participate in another blogging challenge by my good friends and colleagues Cathy Mere from Reflect and Refine and Deb Frazier from Primary Perspective. They introduced me to the Slice of Life 30-Day Writing Challenge from Two Writing Teachers. So, for each day of March, I will be writing a post on my blog. I'm not sure what form this will take, but I'm accepting the challenge. Although this blog was established as a professional platform, so much of my life is made up of my role as a mother as well as a teacher, I know that more than a couple of posts will be slices of my personal life as well.

In addition to accepting this challenge for myself, I have also posed this challenge to my class of first graders.
They will have the option to write something in their Writer's Notebook, during Writer's Workshop, or on their Kidblog blogs. My hopes for this experience is to inspire my students to write for their own enjoyment as well as to be more comfortable in telling their own stories.

My Slice of Life - Day 1

For the last week or more, much of my time has been focused on the activities of my oldest son, Liam. This week, Liam had three nights of performances for his Middle School play. He was one of the narrators, was in all but 3 scenes, and was amazing! He really has a talent for performing. I was really impressed with his ability to memorize all of his lines and deliver them with great comedic timing and expression.

No sooner had he finished the final performance, than it was time for his first district Science Fair. He and his friend researched the best method for cooling cans of soda. Their presentation went well and they received an Excellent rating. In fact, they were only 3 points from receiving a Superior rating.

For my first Slice of Life, you get a glimpse into my pride as a mother.