Tuesday, March 31, 2015

SOL Day 31: The Final Post of the Challenge

Well, I made it. I completed the challenge 100%. I wrote a post every day for 31 days. I was a bit disappointed that due to iPad difficulties, I didn't get my post from yesterday linked up before midnight. My night was completely packed from the time school was over until about 11:30. Then, by the time I finished my post and published it was 11:59. I could have made it, but my iPad was stubbornly reloading every time I arrived at the comment box on the Two Writing Teachers page. By the time it finally settled, it was too late. Regardless, I know that I completed the challenge of writing every day.

As I reflect on the experience, I think the most difficult thing was finding something to write about every single day. I have to admit that there were some days that nothing seemed important or relevant enough to write about. Other days, the first thing that popped into my mind was a complaint about something, from the drivers on the road to the barking dog in my neighborhood, but I didn't want to put that out there either.

The biggest takeaway for me was the way that the experience enabled me to put myself in my students' shoes and see how it feels to have to write something every single day. I can see why my first graders sometimes spend so much time on an illustration, or chatting with their friends, or going to the bathroom, or just wandering around during Writer's Workshop. When I was stuck for an idea, I found myself watching television or reading a book or playing a game on my phone. Anything to avoid opening up the Blogger app on my iPad or booting up my laptop.

Going forward, my goal is to make an effort to write more. I have the blog, why not put something out there. So, even though the official challenge is over, I think that I am going to join the Slice of Life Weekly Challenge and write a post once a week. I'm not sure yet what I will write about. I don't know if my blog's focus will be school-related, a recounting of family shenanigans, a combination of the two, or even something else entirely, just like my posts during this month's challenge. Whatever it is, I think that I will be a better writing teacher if I am living the life of a writer.

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for their coordination of this challenge and to my colleagues who inspire and encourage me every day.

Monday, March 30, 2015

SOL Day 30: Enthusiasm

Today was our first day back from Spring Break. I couldn't believe the enthusiasm that arrived in the form of my first graders. They were full of stories of how they spent their Spring Break, they jumped right back into our morning routine, and they were excited about the new supplies and small changes in our room.

I wish every Monday could be like today.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

SOL Day 29: A Fresh Start

Today was my final day of Spring Break. My oldest son was helping out at his uncle's tree farm, which happens to be very close to my school, so I decided this was the perfect excuse to head into school and get some work done. 

One of the things that always seems to rejuvenate our classroom, as well as the people in it, is rearranging the furniture. I think our current arrangement works really well, and I like to have my team to bounce ideas off of, so I settled for the next best thing: new supplies and new books.

I worked for a little bit getting new crayons, pencils, glue sticks, markers, and colored pencils into the supply tubs then I headed to the library. I stocked up on poetry books for our upcoming poetry study as well as some new arrivals on display. When I returned, I got them all settled into the bookshelf, ready for my little readers tomorrow. 

It's hard to believe that we only have nine more weeks of school left! I have a feeling that it will go by in a flash. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

SOL Day 28: Thankful

I was going through the notes on my phone today, trying to clear out some memory, and I came across this note. Last year, during the month of November, there was a thankfulness challenge going around on social media, particularly Facebook. The task was to write something you were thankful for each day during the month of November. I didn't commit to doing this because I knew how hard it would be to keep up with posting something every day (having already done one Slice of Life challenge). So, I decided to write my thoughts privately in a note in my phone and then if I wrote something every day, I would then write a blog post about it. 

Well, as I predicted, I didn't keep up with it, but I got pretty close. As I came across this note tonight, and was struggling with trying to find something to write about for today's slice, I thought now would be the time to publish my thoughts. 

I am thankful for:

1. My TINA girls. At the end of a rough week that we've all been through together, we make each other laugh. I know that in times of joy and in times of sadness, we are all there for each other.

2. A family that likes to have FUN together. Movie marathons, pumpkin smashing, fire pits are just the tip of the iceberg.

3. What a great cook my husband is.  He enjoys cooking for our family and each creation is delicious. Today alone, he made biscuits with sausage gravy for breakfast, baked apples, and a turkey dinner with all the fixings for dinner.

4. A husband who recognizes how stressful it is for me as I approach progress reports and conferences (on top of everything else I have to do) and says, "What can I do to help?"

5. Humor. There is so much in my daily life that stresses me out, causes me to feel like I'm not doing enough or not doing it right, that I just need a good laugh to release some of that balled up blah. A funny cartoon, a spoof or parody of a song or movie, a half hour sitcom, or just one of the family acting goofy is all it takes to remind me that I shouldn't be so serious all of the time.

6. Fast Food. Because when I've had a long, busy day and my husband has evening plans, I don't have to figure out what to make for dinner, I just have to decide which drive-thru to head to.

7. A roof over my head. As the weather turns cold, wet, and windy, I realize how fortunate I am to have a place to rest my head and call home. I may not own it, but it's a place for me to raise my family where they can be safe and healthy.

8. Having some really great families in my class. Their kids may drive me crazy sometimes, but they are a very supportive group of parents who seem to really appreciate what I do. 

9. Saturday mornings. I get to sleep in then go for a donut or bagel run and sit back to enjoy my pastry and coffee before heading out to do whatever is on my weekend to-do list.

10. My newly formed friendship with my cousin-in-law. Some very interesting circumstances have brought us together and made us close in a way few women experience. I hope that we are able to continue this for many years to come.

11. For all the men and women who have served in the military, ensuring us the freedoms that we enjoy as Americans. Thank you for your bravery, your selflessness, and your sacrifices.

12. The opportunity to continue my education and grow as a professional. While it can be "just one more thing" to add to my plate at times, I know that I am lucky to work for a district that provides purposeful professional development for its teachers. I am also fortunate to be able to take graduate courses with almost no out-of-pocket expense to me.

13. My 3 boys. (Each one will get their own individual thankful post later.) They might make life a little more busy, a bit more complicated, and a lot more messy, but I wouldn't trade being their Mom for anything in the world.

14. A job that is not just a career, but a passion. There are a lot of things about my profession right now that are a challenge, but at the end of the day I feel like I have made a small difference and fulfilled a purpose. 

15. Friends. I don't have very many close friends, but there are a varied group of people I enjoy spending time with. I don't feel like I need to have an enormous group of friends, but I do enjoy going out for a drink, attending a home party of one kind or another, and have meaningful conversations with a variety of people.

16. My car. It's nothing fancy, it gets me from place to place, it keeps me cool in the summer, and warm in the winter. But, I know that there are people out there without a car, or they have 1 car for their household. I never have to worry how I'm going to get to work.

17. My education. I had the opportunity to go to a great university that was just the right size for me. It prepared me for my career and although I'm still paying for it, I know how lucky I am to have received this level of education.

18. My health. Even though my outward appearance and the scale say that I am obese, the reports from my doctor show that I am incredibly healthy. Neither I, nor any of my children, are people who get sick very often. 

19. Liam. My oldest son is smart, funny, and caring. We have a lot in common, especially our taste in music. He is a great big brother and takes care of his little brothers with love and kindness (and just a little bit of bossiness).

20. Ben. My middle son has a quirky personality. He is incredibly sweet, kind, and caring. He is sensitive and is in tune with others' moods, which makes him very empathetic. He loves to crack jokes and has a great sense of humor.

21. Nick. My youngest little man. He wants to be like his big brothers, but he has a personality all his own. He is spunky and sassy. He defends me to the ground whenever his dad or brothers are teasing me.

22. Kevin. My husband is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. He loves me like crazy and tells me so. He doesn't let me beat myself up and helps me know my own worth. He loves me inside and out, no matter what. He loves our family and does everything in his power to take care of us.

23. My family...my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephews. While I might not have what one would call a close relationship with any of them, I know that they would do anything for me. We don't have a lot in common, but at the bottom of it all, we are family.

24. My in-laws...the people on my husband's side of the family. They treat me like I'm more than just the wife of Kevin. I have a second set of parents, a sister, aunt and uncle, and cousins who have always made me feel like I don't need to add "in-law" at the end of their name. They are there for me and my kids whenever we need them.

25. Vacations. For the last three years, my husband and I have gone away for the weekend on a cruise for some "us time". We love going someplace sunny, with and without our kids. We are fortunate that both of our careers allow us time to get away and spend time together as a family. We haven't done it as much recently as in previous years, but we are going to make an effort before our children get too old to enjoy it.

Friday, March 27, 2015

SOL Day 27: Guilt-Free Break

This past week has been my Spring Break from school. My sons' break was the week before mine. I had a list of things that I wanted to do this week, but mostly I just wanted a chance to regroup and recuperate so that I can go into the last nine weeks refreshed and rejuvenated. 

At the top of my list was sleeping in. Considering the fact that I usually wake up at 5:00 am, sleeping until 8:00 was considered sleeping in. I had two movies that I wanted to see that were still in the theater. I wanted to spend some a couple of days getting back to the gym. I also wanted to read some books just for fun. I accomplished all of those things things this week. I also have a massage gift certificate I wanted to use, but I'm going to do that this weekend.

One thing I did not have at the top of my Spring Break to-do list was school work. I am going to tackle that this weekend, just like any other weekend. I have to go to the library and get books for my class, I have to plan out the topics I have to teach for the last nine weeks, and I have to refresh supplies in my room. 

When it comes down to it though, I am not going to feel the least bit guilty about spending time on myself during my break. I am not going to feel bad that I read romance novels on my iPad rather than a professional book. I am going to enjoy the memories of having lunch at a restaurant in the middle of the week with my husband. And I am going to remember the days that I was home to greet my boys when they got home from school...guilt-free.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

SOL Day 26: Everyday Moments

When you have kids, you get to experience some times of frustration, some craziness, and some moments that just can't be put into words. 

I have been incredibly fortunate to have been blessed with three amazing kids, all boys. I may sound like I'm bragging and I may sound a little partial, but my sons are really great kids. I glow with pride whenever someone gives me a compliment on how polite and well-mannered by boys are. But overall, they really are a joy to have as part of my life.

Tonight, one of those ordinary events made me realize what joy can be found in having a child. My husband, oldest son, and I discovered a new game in the Apple App Store called 94%. It's kind of like the questions in Family Feud. You are given a topic and have to come up with the answers that fit that topic. My husband was playing the game tonight and Nick, my 6-year-old was sitting next to him reading the questions and coming up with answers with him. He was having a great time, was feeling successful because he was actually coming up with answers, and he felt valued because his dad was letting him help find answers. 

It was just an ordinary night at home, but it reminded me just how great it is to be a mom.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

SOL Day 25: Cookout

One of our favorite activities in the Spring, Summer, and into the Fall is grilling out. We don't have one of those fancy gas grills. We use a charcoal grill. There's just something about the taste of meat grilled over charcoal that just makes it taste better.

Tonight, we decided that we would make our bratwurst on the grill rather than just boiling them in sauerkraut like we always do. Of course, they start out in the sauerkraut but then we move to the grill for the final touch. It ended up being a really nice day in spite of the thunderstorm on the middle of the night, so grilling out seemed logical.

Whenever we grill out, I make potato packets to go along with the meat. It's just a rectangle of aluminum foil containing potatoes, onion, butter, and spices wrapped up and cooked on the grill. Everybody loves this way of doing potatoes. Of course, we followed it up with toasted marshmallows. 

Unfortunately, it may be a while before it is nice enough to grill out again, but the memories of this time will hopefully sustain me. That, and the pictures I snapped to share with this post. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

SOL Day 24: Baby in the House

My youngest "baby" is almost seven years old. So, it's been a while since we've had a baby in the house. I loved the baby stage. So sweet and cuddly. But really, I've loved all the stages my children have gone through. 

Now that we are well out of the baby years, I'm happy to be done with it. There are a lot of great things about having little ones in the house, but it's also nice to have moved into that next stage of life with our family. There are so many things we can do and freedoms we can enjoy with older kids. I never have to find a babysitter if I have an after school meeting and my husband needs to leave before I get home. If I want to run to the gym for a couple of hours and he's not home, I can leave the boys at home. If we want to go out to dinner or a movie, no need to find a babysitter. 

Every now and then it's nice to be taken back to the baby stage for a few hours. My husband's cousin has a ten-month-old little boy who is so cute. My husband babysits him one or two days a week. It's nice to play with him and snuggle with him when I see him, but then send him home and get back to the more independent way of life. 

Today, I got to be the one to take care of him since I'm on Spring Break. He had a cold so he was extra cuddly today. It was nice to be taken back to the stage when you feel so needed by someone. It's like taking a vacation and saying, "It's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there." It was great to have some baby time, but I'm glad I don't have one anymore.

Monday, March 23, 2015

SOL Day 23: Spring in Ohio

The calendar says
Spring is here. 
March 20th is the official first of Spring.

Mother Nature teased us
With a warm day
Over the weekend.
But today,
She wagged her finger
At our hopefulness.

She sent snow
To blanket the ground
And remind us
That Winters in Ohio
Like to hold on
As long as they can.

A message was sent
To all who shed their winter clothes:
Don't get ahead of yourselves.
Spring will be along
But not quite yet. 

A warm day
And daffodil leaves
Popping up through the ground
Give us a glimpse
And a promise
Of Spring.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

SOL Day 22: Spring Break is Here!

Tomorrow officially begins my Spring Break. I guess you could say it technically started at 3:15 on Friday when my last student walked out the door. But, this weekend felt just like any other weekend spent at home with the family. It won't really feel like vacation until tomorrow morning when I don't wake up to an alarm and I know it is a Monday.

While many of my friends and colleagues are spending their week, or at least part of it, in warmer climates or at the very least out of the city of Columbus, I will be staying right here at home. Part of that is due to the fact that my kids had Spring Break last week (they attend a different district from the one in which I teach) and they will be in school this week. Also, I had my getaway to a sunny location in February when my husband and I took a weekend cruise to the Bahamas.

So, this week will not be spent working on my tan, racing to catch a flight, spending long hours in the car, unpacking and packing a suitcase, or deciding which local cuisine to sample for dinner. I do, however, have very important plans for the week. I have a couple of movies that I've been wanting to see that are still playing in the theater. I have a gift certificate for a massage that my husband gave me for Christmas. I will be sleeping in and staying in my pajamas as long as I can (or at least relaxing after getting my kids off to the bus). There are a few mindless romance novels waiting for me on my iPad. I will go to the gym and work out for as long as I want to. I will also spend some time on school work; outlining my topics for the rest of the year and making a trip to the library to re-stock my classroom book shelves for the next few weeks.

I have learned that Spring Break, or any break from work for that matter, isn't about going to some exotic location or checking something off your bucket list. It's about recharging your own batteries. It's about taking time for yourself and whatever it is that you do to make you feel like you are raring and ready to go no matter what comes your way. I shudder to say it, but when I return from Spring Break, I only have 9 weeks left in the school year. I'm hoping that my colleagues don't read this post and then throw rotten tomatoes at me the next time I see them. Sorry ladies, someone had to do the math.

For now, I am going to just sit back, relax, and enjoy my week away from reality.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

SOL Day 21: Playing

Today was a beautiful spring-like day here in central Ohio. The sky was blue, the air was warmer than it has been for some time. While running errands this afternoon I no longer had to wear my heavy winter coat and I was driving with my window down. I'm not a big fan of winter to begin with, but this winter has seemed extra cold, extra long, and extra dreary. I am so ready for Spring. I could probably write a post every single day about it. But, lucky for my readers I realize that something like that would get old pretty fast, so I will refrain.

After a trip to the grocery store and the library, I came home to find my youngest son waiting for me. He suddenly asked me if we could go outside and play together. I told him that I thought it was a great idea. In fact, I had been thinking as I was driving home that it would be a great day to pull out his bike and give it a go. He's always been hesitant to try riding a bike, but he was game. Unfortunately, the bicycle's tires must have a slow leak because they didn't stay inflated very long and he was getting frustrated. Luckily, he had a scooter and he pulled that out and had a blast.

I'm looking forward to all that Spring and Summer have to offer.

Nick rides up and down the street on his scooter.

Having a go on the swing in the front of the house.

Friday, March 20, 2015

SOL Day 20: Long Week - Short Post

This has been an incredibly long week. It started with some major crankiness, an emerging head cold, and just a general bad mood. With the help of a couple of good night's sleep and some alone time it gradually got better. My school kiddos were bouncing off the walls, whether it was from finally getting outdoor recess after weeks and weeks of being cooped up inside or the upcoming Spring Break. My own children were home all week on their Spring Break, as they attend school in a different district from the one in which I teach. It was hard knowing that they were home, sleeping in, watching television all day and starting their movie marathon without me. That we would not be taking any small trips like we usually do on Spromg Break, even if it is only overnight. 

Well, the week is finally over. It is Friday and the weekend is here. Better than that though, it is now my Spring Break. It's pizza and movies tonight, continuing the Avengers movies marathon throughout the weekend with the family, and then a week off school. A week that does not include setting an alarm, making lesson plans, or dressing in work clothes. I have a few plans for the week which will include a couple of movies in an actual theater, a massage, and maybe even a special lunch date with my own first grader. Hopefully, this week will go much, much slower than last week.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

SOL Day 19: Digital Playground - Lifting a Line From Literature

On Day 10 of the Slice of Life Challenge, I wrote about being part of a digital makers community. We are meeting every other week to explore some new ways of digitally representing our ideas. As we come together with a project "assignment", we share a variety of apps and programs that are new to some or old favorites to others. Our little group is led by Cathy Mere (Merely Day by Day) and Julie Johnson (Raising Readers and Writers) who are both teachers in my district. My own goal is to move beyond what is familiar to me and try to learn something new.

Our first task was to choose and share our One Little Word for the year. I chose "Family" and you can read about that and view my digital make on my post "One Little Word".  I had previously used the trailer feature in iMovie and chose to get a little more experience with that in sharing my OLW.

The second maker task was to show what our "Maker's Space" is. I wrote about that on Day 10 of the SOL challenge with a post titled, "My Maker Space". To share my space, I chose to use the Pic Collage app, which I downloaded on my iPad.

Today's task was "Lift a Line From Literature", in which we were to find a quote and then once again choose a way to share it. First, I chose the line "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be." from Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. I love this book. I read it to each of my three boys when they were small. As many parents will tell you, it's nearly impossible to make it through a reading of this book without tearing up. In fact, when we read Robert Munsch books in my first grade classroom, I won't read this one aloud because I know that I can't make it through a reading without crying.

 I decided to "app smash" a familiar and an unfamiliar app to create my make. I first used Pic Collage once again to alter and enhance my photograph and put it on a solid color background. After saving the image on my iPad's camera roll, I imported the image into an app I discovered called PhotoPOP! where I added the text. When I was done, the final project was saved as an image to my camera roll.

I am really liking the different things that I can do with Pic Collage. While it was neat to play with another new app, the thing I didn't like about PhotoPOP! is that once you finish and save a project, you can't go back and work on it anymore. I'm pretty proud of my finished project, which is a picture of me with my youngest son when he was four years old, with the quote below it. If you've never done something like this, I recommend taking on the challenge.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

SOL Day 18: Movie Marathons

One of the things that my family does for fun is have movie marathons. We select a theme or series of movies and then over the course of a few days, my husband and older two boys watch the movies. My youngest son doesn't really get into the movies like the older boys do. He just likes getting the goodie bags and then he does his own thing. My husband goes all out in preparation for a marathon. He finds short films and cartoons that somehow connect to the feature, compiles a group of movie trailers related to the theme, makes gift bags, designs programs and t-shirts.

My role is to provide concessions. For some films, I make food that fits the theme of the movies and for others I set up a kind of concession stand. For instance, when we did a Superman movie marathon, I made personal pizzas in the shape of Superman's shield. When I do a concession stand, I make popcorn, hot pretzels, hot dogs, and a variety of candies and snacks.

You might think that the boys get the better end of the deal, but while they are watching their movies in our basement entertainment room, I get to watch whatever I want upstairs. Our marathons generally go anywhere from 3-5 days, depending on what series we're watching. This week while the boys are on Spring Break, they will be doing a marathon of all the movies that are part of the "Avengers" series. We started tonight and will continue throughout the days and nights through Sunday.

Here we are in our basement entertainment room, wearing our t-shirts for the Avengers marathon

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

SOL Day 17: Are Leprechauns the New Elf on a Shelf?

Today is St. Patrick's Day. A day of green clothes, green beer, corned beef and cabbage, and mint Oreos. On St. Patty's Day, everyone is Irish. 

When you work with children, St. Patrick's Day takes on a whole new meaning. You are likely to get pinched if your green is not readily visible. Or if your shade of green is not green enough (apparently, to the 6-year-old eye, my turquoise shirt looked more blue than green today). This then prompted a discussion that it is not okay to pinch anyone, no matter what day it is on the calendar. 

And now the big thing is for "leprechauns" to come make a mess and cause mischief. I've known a few teachers in the past who have messed up their classroom and left clues pointing to a leprechaun culprit, put it was mentioned all over the place today. Can anyone say "Elf on the Shelf"? I can't stand that particular tradition and frankly can't see how it serves any purpose. I mean, for a month the parents have to remember to move it around and stage messes for the children to be amused by each morning. And the point is that the elf will report back to Santa about he kids' behavior? This makes no sense to me.

But, I digress. Today one of my little girls starts in with, "Mrs. Carr, I have an idea. Let's lay a trap for the leprechaun." I nipped that in the bud with, "Nope. That's not something that we need to do here in first grade." Perhaps ten or fifteen years ago before the high-stakes testing and ongoing criticism of how we are spending our teaching days, making sure that everything has an educational purpose, but not today. We still have fun, but it's a different kind of fun. At least, I hope so.

Monday, March 16, 2015

SOL Day 16: Cranky

I am cranky today. I have been cranky since I woke up. I have been cranky throughout the day. I am home and still cranky. I often tell my sons that when something is bothering you, write it down. Just the act of getting it out will help you feel better. Maybe not totally, but it can take the edge off. So, today's post is for nobody but me. I'm posting it here on the SOLSC site, so obviously you are welcome to read it. Laugh if  you'd like. Nod your head in agreement. Call me a big whiney you-know-what. Here's the list of contributing factors to my crankiness:

  • I overslept my alarm and did not make it to the gym.
  • My head is stuffy because I am getting a cold, which will eventually lead to a sinus infection.
  • I had to wake up and go to work while the rest of my family is home because my kids are on Spring Break this week and I am not.
  • People were either driving too slow or ridiculously fast all the way to school.
  • It's Monday, so of course my first graders forgot all about our morning routine over the weekend. 
  • I am constantly blowing my nose because of the previously mentioned cold, which makes my nose hurt, my lips chapped, and gives me a headache.
  • That one little angel who has to have his nose in everybody else's business but NOT his own for the 1,748th time today.
  • Starting a new "healthy eating" plan and my lunch is not nearly enough to satisfy my appetite.
  • Ibuprofen has not kicked in, so the headache is pounding.
  • A book talk after school about chapters which I forgot to read over the weekend, so now I feel like a big dummy because I have nothing to contribute to the conversation, which in turn means...
  • I feel like I have no idea what is going on in my classroom.
  • A well-meaning colleague who has to answer a question I posed to someone else, even though it had nothing to do with her.
  • Another colleague who points out that I did the same thing last week. 
  • Sneezing and blowing my nose like crazy leads to more sore nose, headache, and chapped lips.
  • I renewed my library books online only to discover that there is 1 book that will not renew, so I have to make a stop by the library on the way home.
  • Even though almost all of the snow has finally melted, the grass is not green. It's brown. That's such an incredibly depressing sight.
  • People were either driving too slow or ridiculously fast all the way home.
  • My husband, seeing that I feel awful, insists that I eat my dinner then take Nyquil and head straight to bed (this doesn't make me cranky, I'm grateful for it actually). But this means that I can't catch up on my shows on the DVR while he is off at a movie (which does make me cranky).
  • There is a stink bug trapped between the window and the screen, reminding me that this annoyance will soon be out in full force.

So, that's about it. All the things that made me cranky today. I am now going to publish, post, and comment then I'm off to bed. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

SOL Day 15: The Gross Tasks of a Parent

Sometimes parents have to handle really gross tasks. There's no getting around it because WE are the adults. We can't pass the buck to anyone else; the buck stops with us. Today, I had to deal with one of those gross tasks. 

Yesterday, my husband took our two oldest sons, ages 13 and 11, to a 24-hour science fiction movie marathon. He has been going to them since he was in high school and has now started taking our boys. They love the whole experience and it's a great bonding time for the three of them.

It's inevitable that they don't eat and drink in the most healthful way when they are at the marathon. Pizza, subs, candy, soda are what is available with not a vegetable in sight. They offer a great deal of bottomless soda and bottomless coffee. A great deal if you are trying to stay up watching movies all night. 

(It's at this point that I wonder how many of you see where this story is heading.)

So, they get home from the marathon around 1:00 this afternoon. A great time was had by all. My 13-year-old (Liam) decided that he was going to go for the unlimited refills of coffee to help him stay awake. He had been drinking coffee occasionally for a little while (I guess it's one of those teenager things that gained steam when we started getting a Starbucks on every corner). At this point, the 11-year-old (Ben) decided that it was a good time for him to try coffee too. <sigh> 

On their way home, my husband called and let me know they were on their way. He said that Ben wanted to go to some video game tournament that was being held at the library near his school. So, rather than taking a nap as is the routine after a marathon, I got in the car and took Liam and Ben to the library. However, as we were almost at the library, Ben's poor decision of drinking coffee and eating junk all night made itself known, all over the back seat of my car. Needless to say, we turned right around and headed back home and I now faced the task of cleaning my car. At least it was a beautiful day for it. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

SOL Day 14: Mommy and Nick Date

Whenever my husband and two oldest sons go away for the day, my youngest son and I have what we call a "Mommy and Nick Date." We spend a couple of hours running errands, going to dinner, and then we'll do something that Nick wants to do. He loves our specials days together.

Today, the "big boys" headed off to their annual 24-hour movie marathon and Nick and I were left at home. Time for another Mommy and Nick date. First, he wanted to play outside. Since we've been stuck inside for so long, and our outside toys were in pretty bad shape, we headed to the store and got a frisbee and a whiffle bat and ball. Next stop was the park where we played with the frisbee and bat and ball for a while. 

Nick came home yesterday with a certificate for a free cup of frozen yogurt at Menchie's for a reading reward, so we headed there next. This was his first time there and he really enjoyed picking his yogurt flavors and toppings. 

After we finished our yummy frozen yogurt, we headed to Target to pick up a couple of things. It wasn't a terribly exciting trip, and nothing was purchased for him, but it was enjoyable for him just the same.

Now, it was time for dinner. One of Nick's favorite places to go on our dates is Steak 'n Shake. It was quite busy, and it took a while to get our food, but he kept occupied by the activities on the kids' menu and the cardboard model car I put together for him. 

Finally, it was time to head home. We got home, changed into our pajamas and put in "Finding Nemo" to watch before bed. 

The best comment of the night was when Nick said, "This was the best day ever!" I know these days will get fewer and fewer as he gets older, so I will enjoy them while I've got them.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

SOL Day 11: Inspiration, or Lack Thereof

Today, one of my kiddos (who is participating in the Classroom Slice of Life) grabbed an iPad and logged into Kidblog. I looked over at him a short time later and he appeared to just be sitting there, not writing anything. I asked him how he was doing and he said that he was having a hard time deciding what he wanted to write about today. He then said to me, "Mrs. Carr, is it okay if I look at some other blogs and steal some ideas for what to write about?" I told him that it was a great idea to look at other blogs for ideas and that it wasn't "stealing" unless he copied their words. I told him he should make sure to leave some comments while he was looking for ideas. He was pleased by this response.

A short time later I returned to him and asked how it was going. He said that he still couldn't think of anything to write. I told him that sometimes we just didn't get an inspiration to write and that's okay. Maybe he'll think of something tonight or tomorrow. I know just how he felt. There's nothing that really inspired me today either.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

SOL 10: My Maker Space

I am fortunate to work with some amazing people. Smart, creative, tech-savvy people who are generous with their time and talents. I am also fortunate to work in a district that gives those teachers the ability to host and participate in valuable professional development.

I recently joined a group of teachers coming together to explore the possibilities of digital creativity. Hosted every other week in person, as well as in the digital forum of Google+, Cathy Mere (Merely Day By Day) and Julie Johnson (Raising Readers and Writers) are bringing teachers together from several districts in Central Ohio (and around the world!) to use a variety of digital tools to express our creativity.

The first time we met, we chose what our One Little Word (OLW) for 2015 would be and created a way to digitally share our word. I wrote a post about my OLW - Family just before the SOL challenge began. You can read about it and view the trailer I made with the iMovie app on my iPad here.

The second time we met, our task was to share our "Maker Space"; the place where we get creative. For me, I have a room in my house where I have a large space created for the purpose of scrapbooking. It is my personal space where I can sew, write lesson plans, write, and create other crafting projects. This is actually half of my bedroom, which is in the basement. It has all of my supplies, lesson planning resources, a place to relax, and a television with a DVD player. It's like my own personal refuge. I chose to share my Maker Space by creating an image in the Pic Collage app on my iPad.

What is your maker space? How do you get creative in your space?

Monday, March 9, 2015

SOL 9: Wrong Side of the Bed

This morning, I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. I was grumpy, my chronic back pain was in full force, I had a headache, and I couldn't even get up with enough time to shower. On the weekends, my family tends to stay up late watching movies, television, or playing games. It can get pretty bad on a regular weekend, but give us an extended weekend or longer (like Winter Break or Spring Break) and we are complete rubbish when it comes time to go back to school.Although it was a regular weekend, this weekend had the lost hour due to Daylight Savings time thrown in. Last night we went to bed really late. My husband and I were up late talking about the upcoming sale of our house (as was the subject of a previous SOL).

When I woke up this morning I knew it was going to be a rough start from the grit in my eyes. I just could not get them to stay open. I quickly dressed, made sure the older boys were up and getting ready, then I headed out the door. I'm not a coffee drinker in the morning, I am a Diet Coke drinker. I made sure that I had time to run through McDonald's drive-thru (arguably the BEST fountain Diet Coke on the planet!) on my way to school.

I dreaded the rest of the day because I was afraid that my crankiness would carry through and affect my day with my students. I was pleasantly surprised when everyone came in ready to work. The lights were off, the colorful floor lamps were on, the classical music was wafting through the classroom. As students set to work, they told me about their weekend, asked about mine (yes, these are first graders), and carried about their work without too much distraction. I found myself emerging from my cloud of grump and thought that I might just make it through my day. I was extra grateful when I realized that I had no meetings to go to after school, I could just straighten up the room and get it set out for tomorrow.

The final life preserver was thrown to me by a parent shortly before the tardy bell rang. Every day her student has fresh baked chocolate chip cookies from McDonald's as part of her lunch. I joke with her, "Well, if you are going to go through McDonald's every day for cookies, the least you could do is bring me a Diet Coke!" She gives a little laugh and carries on with her cookies. Today, on this day of all days, she did. I look up and there is R, and her mom is walking into the classroom with a Diet Coke for me. With that little extra boost, I knew I could make it through my day.

P.S. When I got home, I chatted with my husband for a few minutes then took a 2-hour nap before dinner. It was glorious.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

SOL Day 8: A Taste of the Bahamas

Almost a month ago, my husband and I took a weekend cruise to the Bahamas. This is the third time we have taken this particular trip. We realized a few years ago that it was important for us to get time away as a couple, no matter how much we love being parents to our three wonderful boys. So, we came upon this cruise on Royal Caribbean cruise line, drove (yes, drove) to Florida over Valentine's weekend, and enjoyed a weekend in the sun of the Bahamas while our hometown was suffering from and Arctic freeze and digging out from under several inches of snow. It doesn't seem like a very long time, but in the middle of winter, a few days away sustains me until Ohio thaws out and Spring arrives.

One of the ports that we visit on this cruise is Nassau. While we were in Nassau, we spent a couple of hours just walking around and shopping. One of our favorite stops while shopping is the Tortuga Rum Cake store. They have a variety of flavors infused with Tortuga Gold Rum. Our favorites are Chocolate and Pineapple. Last year, we got a sample pack and kept them around for almost a year. This year, we decided that we would eat them quickly and not let them just sit around. So, tonight I sliced up the Pineapple Rum Cake and dished it out to everyone. It was nice to have a taste of the Bahamas and remember how nice it was to be on vacation and spend time together.

By the way, if you can't swing by Nassau but are curious about the Tortuga Rum Cakes, you can order them online and have them shipped to you. http://www.tortugarums.com

Pineapple flavored Tortuga Rum Cake from Nassau, Bahamas.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

SOL 7: Girls' Night Out

Tonight I had one of those rare opportunities. Something that comes along once in a blue moon when you have the responsibilities of work, a family, and a home to take care of. I got to have a Girls' Night Out.

My sister-in-law Kelly texted me the other day asking if one of my boys would want to go to a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game with her. She and her husband share season tickets with some family members and her husband was unable to go to this game. Since my two oldest boys have gone to a hockey game with her before, she thought of them when she needed a date to the game.

However, I knew that choosing between the boys would be tough. They would both want to go. The last line of her text said, "Or of course you can go instead." I started thinking, "Why don't I go?" I'm not exactly a sports fan, but I don't mind attending a sporting event every once in a while. Besides, this wasn't really about the game, it was more about the opportunity to have a night out. When I told her that I thought that I might go with her, she jumped right on it and thought it would be a great idea.

We arranged to go to dinner first, so she picked me up and we ate at a local Mexican restaurant I like. We drove down to the Arena District and attempted to find parking. This was harder said than done because, not only was there a hockey game in that area of town, but Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Arnold Sports Festival" is taking place this weekend in the Columbus downtown area. We eventually found parking and headed to the arena. We found our seats and they were great! Unfortunately, they ended up losing 4-0, but it was an enjoyable evening nevertheless. Another great Girls' Night Out!

My sister-in-law Kelly and me.

We had great seats! We were in the 4th row just behind the goal.

Friday, March 6, 2015

SOL Day 6: Family Movie Night

When our kids were younger we had regular family movie nights. We would pick a movie to show our kids that were favorites of mine and my husband's growing up. As the kids started going to school and getting busier, the family movie nights came less and less often until they eventually stopped.

A couple of months ago, my oldest son started asking us to resurrect family movie nights. With our youngest being 6 years old, he can finally sit through and enjoy a feature-length film. It was determined that Family Movie Night would take place on Friday nights, a perfect way to kick off our weekend. So on Friday I come home from work, pick up some pizza, then sit down to enjoy a good family movie together.

We started by showing the movie "The Boxtrolls", then "Guardians of the Galaxy", followed by "Rise of the Guardians", next we watched all six movies in the "Star Wars" series, then came "Big Hero 6". Tonight was "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". Since my husband is a film critic, we really have no shortage of kid-friendly movies to watch.

I know that as my kids get older they will want to spend less and less time with us. So for now I will enjoy the fact they are asking to spend time together as a family.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

SOL Day 5: It's a Small World

I had a hard time deciding what I was going to write about tonight. I had two topics in mind and just needed to choose one.

Tonight was my oldest son's choir concert. This particular concert was a combined concert with his choir 7th and 8th graders and the choirs of the high school he will go to next year. This concert was held in the high school auditorium (much better acoustics than the middle school gymnasium).

Before I get to the meat of my story, hence the origins of the title of my post, you need to know that I do not currently live in the town in which I grew up. When I got married, I moved to my husband's home town. We live about an hour south of my hometown. My hometown, Mansfield OH, is on the small city scale and many residents move on to bigger towns if and when they finish college. In this case, Columbus, OH. Now, back to my small world story.

So, I was waiting to enter the auditorium with my two younger sons when a lady comes up to me and says, "You're from Mansfield, aren't you?" I recognized her immediately as the mother of my high school best friend. Apparently, she says that I haven't changed a bit in the 24 years since I last saw her (go me!), and I recognized her from her daughter's Facebook pictures. As it turns out, she was there to watch her granddaughter, who is a Freshman at my son's future high school,. What a small world!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

SOL Day 4: The Joys of Renting

Usually, I am more than happy with the fact that we rent our house. We rent a duplex that is on a quiet street, in a nice neighborhood, in a good school district. It's not a large house, but it has a large back yard, an attached garage, and a huge finished basement. We are close to highways, shopping, and restaurants. It's been nice to know that if something breaks, we just call the property manager and it's taken care of. In the event that we would decide to move, we don't have to deal with selling the property, we would just have to give our notice, pack up, and move on.

However, when I got home from school tonight, my husband let me know that he had received notification that the owners of our property decided to sell our house. We've been through this once before and it was really no big deal. It is stressful though. I hate that I have absolutely no control over this situation. We don't know how long it's going to take, what we are going to be asked to do in preparation, or what is going to happen when the sale goes through.

We are optimistic that, as happened the last time, the new owners will just decide that they want an investment property and roll us into the deal. They may increase our rent, but we are hopeful that is the worst that will happen. In the meantime, I get to have this stress in the back of my mind. Luckily, I have a husband that keeps me grounded in reality and will bring me down to earth and prevent my over-stressing about this.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

SOL Day 3: Progress Reports

Well, it's that time again: progress reports. I am anticipating this being a short post today, as our progress reports are due in by midnight tonight and I am only about halfway done with them. But who knows, if I get on a roll with a thought I might just get carried away.

This is my 16th year teaching and in that time, progress reports have changed quite a lot. I'm not talking about the basic idea of progress reports, but just look at the fact that the name itself has evolved. We used to call them "grade cards" but now they are "progress reports". This is fitting for my district in particular, as we do not give actual traditional grades in the elementary school. The progress report lists the standards for each subject area at our grade level for the entire year. Then, for each marking period, we assign a number to the students' mastery of that standard for that marking period. There is a grading "key" included on the progress report so that the parents know what the number means. I won't go into any more detail other than to say that I'm sure that there are more than a handful of parents who would love to have the good old A-F grading scale back on their child's progress reports.

Another change that has occurred since I began teaching is that our progress reports are not only
completed online, but they are also accessed by the parents online. There are exceptions in which a parent does not have internet access, but in 2015 this is rare. In that case the progress reports are printed out and a physical copy is sent home with the student. In my class, I don't have a single family requiring a printed out copy of their child's progress report.

The most welcome change to progress reports is that I no longer have to spend long hours in my classroom completing the progress reports. I can sit from the comfort of my living room with my laptop on my lap and enter students' grades. Also, thanks to technology, I don't have to lug bags and bags of student journals, tests, and projects home to use as a reference for marking their progress reports. Everything I need is either in Evernote or Penultimate on my iPad.

So, as I suspected this post ended up being a bit longer than I anticipated. As I only have 5 1/2 hours until midnight, I need to finish up, find my 3 posts to comment on for the SOL challenge, and then get cracking on those progress reports. They sure won't write themselves!

Monday, March 2, 2015

SOL Day 2: The Lost Lost Tooth

My youngest son is 6-year-old Nicholas. Nick is a first grader this year, which is fun because that's also the grade that I teach. Nick is kind of a late bloomer when it comes to losing his teeth, at least compared to his two older brothers. He didn't lose his first tooth until the fall of this year. The other two lost their first tooth at the age of 4 and 5, respectively. 

However, Nick has a quality all his own when it comes to this childhood milestone. When he loses a tooth, he literally loses the tooth. He has lost 3 teeth this year and has either swallowed or lost all 3 of them. Each time he was in the middle of doing something and suddenly realized that the tooth was no longer there. That kid must have little to no gum sensitivity. The tooth he lost last night was one of the top front teeth. How do you miss when that one comes out? 

So, tonight we will be writing a letter to the tooth fairy explaining what happened. Hopefully, she will be understanding and will leave him a little something anyway. 

6-year-old Nick shows off his missing tooth

Sunday, March 1, 2015

SOL Day 1: So Much Snow

This is the second year for my participation in the 30-Day Writing Challenge, Slice of Life, sponsored by Two Writing Teachers. I created a professional blog a few years ago but haven't really posted much. I participated in Slice of Life last year, but once that ended I didn't write a post again until last week when I wrote about my One Little Word. I'm hoping that this time around I might keep it going past the SOL challenge.

To me Slice of Life is all about what is in the forefront of our minds for a particular day or time period. Right now, the item commanding the most attention is the snow. I know that there are people out there who love the snow. They enjoy winter sports, they like building snowmen and going sledding, they look forward to the promise of school getting canceled due to snow. I am not one of those people. I can't stand the cold and only enjoy the snow when it falls on Christmas morning. I would be happy with one snowfall a year which then melts and disappears until the next Christmas. However, living in Ohio means many, many, many snowfalls and very cold temperatures. I dislike bundling up to go outside, I cringe when I have to drive through snow and ice, and the lack of sunshine is enough to make me want to hibernate until it is Spring. 

I'm hoping that now that it is March, we are seeing our last snowfalls. We have used up all of our calamity days at school and the students have gotten a terrible case of cabin fever. If you live in a climate that gets little or no snowfall, I envy you. To give you an idea of my current snow reality, here are a couple of pictures of the view from my living room right now.