Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My favorite parts about Colorado...

Two months have gone by since I moved from New Jersey to Denver, Colorado-- two months since I picked up and moved 1,770 miles from home.  I still can't believe that I left my family, friends, job, and life in New Jersey--not to start over, but to start living my life out West. And I couldn't be happier living in the most beautiful place I've ever been, "colorful Colorado" as it has been so appropriately named. Colorado is most certainly colorful and breathtaking and unbelievable and fun and inspiring. Here are just a few things that I love about the place that's quickly becoming my new home:

I love the vast, open skies--the way they shine bright blue or burst with orange and yellow and indigo flames, the way the Rockies reflect their light in the distance, the way beams of light peek through the clouds so subtly, yet so boldly at the same time.

I love the way the sun reflects off the water, the way the swans sail through the water at Wash Park.

I love the bright flowers at the farmer's market on Pearl Street, how they draw me in every Sunday.

And how the sunflowers make a home on my window sill in mason jars, reminding me every day that the little things make me happiest.

I love the brightly painted houses-- turquoise and red and worn brick lining the streets, with couples holding hands on porch swings.

I love the bright green grass, and sitting in an open field tasting Colorado beers and laughing and smiling with friends, new and old.

I love the reflections on the buildings that line the Denver skyline, the way the mountains are always in the distance no matter where I drive. 

Mostly, I love living in a place that feels like home already, that's filled with beauty and lots of new adventures.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Slice of Life Tuesday--The Backpack Swap

At 3:07, the final bell buzzed and a frantic child ran through my classroom door.  "Ms. S. I took the wrong backpack!  I took Josh's by mistake!  We have the same exact backpack! I don't know what to do!"  Clearly devastated over the loss of his backpack, Michael and I decided to rummage through the sixth grade hallway and beyond in search of Josh and the missing backpack.  However, Josh was nowhere to be found, and neither was the backpack.

Since we were having little luck, Michael ran to the office to see if the backpack was returned by some chance; but he returned looking worried and was empty-handed.  Michael then began to look through every locker in the locker room, where his backpack last was, and every lost and found bin. After looking in all of the places that the backpack could be, Michael was convinced that the backpack had met a dark end.  I told him, however, that it had to be a just a simple mistake and that Josh must have his backpack since he had Josh's.  Michael continued to panic, though, worried that he'd be in trouble at home for losing his backpack.

"Absolutely everything is in that backpack!" he claimed, "Everything! And there's a math quiz tomorrow and social studies homework tonight! And a science quiz Thursday! Ughhh! What am I going to do?"

I explained to Michael that it wasn't the end of the world.  It was going to be okay.  It was just a backpack after all.  Even after explaining how I lose things on a daily basis, Michael didn't buy in.

"Well now people are spreading rumors that I stole Josh's backpack!"

"Okay Michael, let's calm down.  Why don't we see if we can get in contact with Josh."

But Michael couldn't.  He didn't have Josh's cell phone number.

Michael then ran back down to the office to see if the missing backpack had surfaced yet. Meanwhile, as I waited in my room, an announcement rang loudly over the loudspeaker.  "Josh, please report to the main office.  We have something of yours that you need." That made me smile a little because I find it both endearing and a little comical when sixth graders think it's the end of the world when things that clearly aren't the end of the world, such as losing a backpack, occur.

A few seconds later, our secretary called to ask me what to do about the panicked student who keeps going to the office every thirty seconds to see if his backpack is there.  I told her to send him up to me once more.

As I tried to calm down an exasperated Michael again (which I've learned can be a very challenging thing to do), I heard footsteps coming our way.  Josh appeared at our classroom door! A big, toothy smile appeared on Michael's face and he jumped for joy (literally), and then hugged Josh.

Josh explained that he grabbed the wrong backpack by mistake, and he went to Michael's mom's house first to see if he was there, and then went to his dad's house because Michael wasn't at his mom's, and finally decided to try his luck at school.

As I watched the boys giggling over the "backpack swap" and the relief on Michael's face, I couldn't help but be reminded about why middle school is the best age to teach.  My sixth graders are a mix of sweet and zany and dramatic and comical all in one--and they care so much about their missing backpacks and about helping out a friend--the best mix there could be!

I'm going to miss these two next year, but I won't forget this silly ordeal that turned out to be just fine!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Slice of Life Tuesday--Moving out West!

Today was a big day. I officially told my school that I won't be back next year.  I'm leaving New Jersey, the only place I've ever lived, and moving out West to Denver!  And although I can't wait for a new start and new adventures, and lots of beautiful scenery, I can't help but reflect on the things I'm leaving behind to make this big move...

I'm going to miss my family--my parents, little brother, grandparents, and yes, my dogs.  They've been a constant source of love and encouragement and support.  I wouldn't be able to get through a single day without them.  

I’m going to miss the town where I grew up—despite heart breaks and fights and scapes and falls and a general lack of things to do—yet the perfect place to grow up.

I’m going to miss my school—despite my gripes and frustrations and tears, there’s been lots of learning and laughter and friendship and kindness and love. It's the only place I've been a teacher and it feels strange to be starting over as a teacher in a new school.

I’m going to miss my classroom--the biggest classroom I've ever been in, the one where I've  spent more time than any place else in the past two years; the place that's almost become a home away from home; the  place where there has been a lot of giggles and smiles and bright colors and mistakes and success.

I’m going to miss my friend just down the hall—our fourth period coffees and rantings and friendship; and her wisdom and generosity and joy for teaching—my reminder that if there's even just one teacher as inspiring as her, I'll never leave this profession. 

I’m going to miss that feeling of comfort and safety and companionship.  I'm going to miss the people who have changed my life in so many ways.

But I'm craving mountains and big skies and adventures out West. Today, I'll feeling a combination of excitement and fear and a little bit of sadness all jumbled up in one.  

However, I can't help but feel at ease and ready for the new things to come, though I'll never forget the people and places that I'm leaving behind.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Slice of Life Tuesday--Detention

Oh how warm weather, the end of testing, and summer just on the horizon can transform a classroom.

Needless to say, the past few days have been a struggle in my class.  My kids are craving summer--they're tired, burnt out, and long for lazy summer days, vacations, and NO SCHOOL! There are still six weeks left of the school year and so much more to learn though! But try and explain that to a group of rambunctious--yet fantastic--12 year olds!

As I try to muster my way through the finish line on June 21, my students are dragging behind.  They've been overly chatty and cranky and silly and sometimes rude, and that was especially true today in room 204 during 6th, 7th, and 8th period.  Hence, today's "detention"!

This was how our first "detention" of the year went, which lasted a total of 5 minutes, if that:

I scramble to detention in room 204. I almost forgot to show up--woops!

My sixth graders arrive--some giggling, some serious, some stressed, some out of it--as many sixth graders can be at all times--and many complaining and whining that they just don't have time for detention. And the first student to arrive is the one who is always the last to arrive to class--interesting, I think.  So you can make it somewhere on time! I knew it!

Some students scramble to my desk with things to discuss:

"I have a track meet that starts at 3:30 and it takes me at least 25 minutes to change!" (seriously 25 minutes to change and lace up your sneakers!?) 

" I have a lacrosse game that I can't be late to !" 

"My mom needs to take me somewhere soon!" Sigh. Ughh!!

Boo-hoo, maybe you should've thought about that every time you turned around to talk to your friend while I was teaching--I think to myself.  Then I guiltily remember I'm a respectable teacher and I shouldn't be thinking things like that, but hey, I just can't help it after today.

I signal my students to take a seat and wait for everyone to get here.  They're antsy, I can tell. They're genuinely worried about being late to practice, to their meets, to meet Mom. I start to feel bad. The final stragglers stumble in.

3:09- 3:11: 
I ask my kids to tell me why they think that we're here for detention.  Silence.  I stare at the clock.  Then a few hands.  One students says, "Well there are certain people in this class--not saying any names-- that were being rude and wouldn't stop talking--not me though!" I explain that it wasn't just a few select kids, but in fact, a large majority of our class.  I explain that we've got over a month left of school and we want to end it on a great note--not with detentions and frustrated students and certainly not cranky teachers who are normally cheery and smiling.

Another student explains that sometimes they can't help talking because "once one person starts, it spreads like a wildfire in block!" Hah, that's a good way of putting it--and he used a simile--so that makes me smile.  These kids somehow manage to always win me over.

I ask ,"What can we do to make our classroom run more smoothly? What can I do to help?" We brainstorm some ideas.

I remind them, "We still have 6 weeks of school and we've got so much more to learn, so let's try to do our best together! I've got some things to work on myself.  Last time  I see you for detention? Deal? Promise we'll all, myself included, try a little harder tomorrow?"

Harmoniously they shout, "okay" and bolt out the door so fast I can barely make out a goodbye.

So, I'm hopeful that tomorrow will be a better day--for teachers and students alike--when my students try to be better behaved, and their teacher a little more patient and understanding, and certainly less cranky.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #31

Wow--what a month this has been!  It seems like it was just yesterday that I was debating about whether or not to participate in the Slice of Life Challenge.  I'm so happy that I took it on!

This month...
  • I learned a lot.  I learned a lot about the type of person that I am, about the things I love and value in my life, and about what writing means to me.

  • I pushed myself to write every day--31 days to be exact--the most I probably have ever done consecutively. Even when I was tired, cranky, feeling lazy, or had come down with a serious case of writer's block, I pushed through!

  • I read so many amazing slices from all of you.  Your stories and writing inspired me, every day.

  • I looked forward to coming home from work and slicing.  It was actually a really relaxing way to unwind after a long day. And I started to really think about all of the things that happened during the day--the funny, interesting, sad, and happy moments.

  • I started to appreciate the little things, the little moments in my life.  I found that the little things can be significant, they can be powerful.

  • I became even more excited about teaching writing and about writing myself.

  • I remembered why I became a teacher in the first place and realized how lucky I am to be a part of a community of such truly amazing people.

I'm so thankful for everyone who participated in the March Challenge.  I'm thankful because I got to be a part of a wonderful group of supportive and encouraging teachers--of creative and reflective writers.  Your kind comments put a smile on my face every day, and I felt uplifted from reading your remarkable writing.

Thank you for a great month! 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #30

My students are doing such an amazing job writing their slice of life stories. So far, I've read some excellent slices--and the comments, especially have been great--very positive and encouraging.   I think that the commenting is probably their favorite part of slice of life.

I just had to share one of my student's slices today because it blew me away:

The Great Fall

It was a normal Saturday up at saddle ridge riding center. The big bare trees around the barn and pens were whistling in the wind. Frosty air bit our noses and toes. (leather boots aren't as warm as they look!) Horses were walking around in their stalls, people were petting their soft noses, and thankfully, it wasn't wet. As my family's car rolled up to the barn, I had high hopes. I hadn't even touched a horse in a few months because we had been away for ski weekends and was hoping for a good riding lesson that would make me look foreword to the next one. 

Soon, we met with my teacher, Barbra. She gave us a big smile and took us and the horse that I would be riding today, Toby, up to the ring. He was big and the color of a flame in the sunlight. He always looked sad, staring at you with his big black and brown horse eyes like he was thinking 'give me a carrot please!" I mounted his tall back and Barbra told me to walk around. After a few minutes of that, I put my feet into my stirrups and at her command, started to trot in half seat. Half seat, for those who don't know, is a position on the horse when your feet are in the stirrups and your hand is holding the horse's mane. It's sort of like the position jockeys do for racing. 

Anyway, I was trotting in half seat which isn't a really stable position on the horse, when Toby, the horse fell. I don't mean he wound up on his back, but he stumbled onto his front knees and I, as you might have guessed, fell off. One moment, I saw Toby on his knees. Then I blinked. Then, I was falling. Then I blinked again. Then finally, I was on the ground, and Toby was standing over me. 

For one terrifying moment, I was afraid that I was going to be stepped on. That was probably the reason why I got up so fast. Barbra came rushing over to me.

"Are you OK?" She asked.

I nodded. She looked at my eyes.

"Can you wiggle every thing? Do you remember where you are?"
I nodded.
"Good!" she said." That was a pretty crazy fall! I would actually call it one of the few ones that was actually Toby's fault and not yours!"
I looked over at Toby to make sure he was OK and fortunately saw him looking at me expectantly as if to say can we do that again?
"That was lucky on both of our accounts!" I thought.

B. That was a great story.  I could really picture Toby falling to his knees and you falling behind him.  I also liked the way you used dialogue in the story.  I hope you don't have another fall with Toby.

E. I loved how you told us what Toby was and who was Barbra.  Great job on your slice of life!!!!!

Ms. S.: Zoe, this was a great slice of life! I really liked how you described what the horse looked like-- "the color of a flame"--wow! I got such a strong image in my mind of Toby. He must be a beautiful horse.

W. This was a great slice of life, i especially like your remarkable description, like how you described when Toby fell and how he was right above you. I could actually visualize what was happening. Excellent story!!!! :) :)

Z. Wow that sounds so scary!! I'm happy your'e OK.  You had me in suspense!!!

My students are awesome. And there are so many more great slices coming in by the day! Even my kids who have been struggling all year posted some really great slices--full of details and their thoughts and emotions.  I'm a happy teacher on this beautiful Saturday morning!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #29

I love to cook. I think if I hadn't become a teacher, I might have gone to culinary school.  My love for cooking probably came from my mother who is an excellent cook.  Family parties and holidays have always been centered around lots and lots of good, homemade food--always made, with love, by my mother.

As a kid, I was always in the kitchen with my mom--either sitting and watching her cook or making my way in there myself to try, usually only resulting in an utter mess in the kitchen.  Those moments are some of my favorite memories I have with my mother.

Just like my mother, I never measure anything and I can't follow recipes. I just taste and add and add some more until it comes out just how I like it.  Not that that method has always worked for me, but I'm learning.  Baking, on the other hand, I have no patience for.  Too much measuring and following recipes precisely and making sure not to forget about how many more minutes are left before everything has to come out of the oven.  I've burned more chocolate cookies and cupcakes than I can count at this point, and I've pretty much given up.  I just stick to cooking.

Anyway, here's what I made for dinner and my recipe (minus any precise measurements because I just don't have any).  I guess I'll call it Pasta a'la Rachel: 

  • Saute onions and lots of garlic in a little olive oil.  
  • Add dashes of red pepper flakes, oregano, garlic salt, and fresh black pepper.  
  • Add a generous amount of dry white wine and let the wine cook down a bit. 
  • Then, add chicken broth and a few spoonfuls of tomato paste.  Let this cook for some time.
  • Next, add clams, scallops, and shrimp. Taste along the way to adjust for seasoning.
  • Add the sauce and seafood over any type of pasta that you like. I used linguine.

Finish it off with a little bit of parsley (so it looks nice) and a little Parmesan cheese (or a lot if you really like it like me).  After adding a little of this and a little of that and tasting along the way, here's what the final product should look like...

Oh! and  of course, don't forget to finish it off with a healthy glass of your favorite white wine.

Bon app├ętit!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #28

Dear Mr. Christopher Paul Curtis,

I am writing to inform you that something most miraculous occurred over the past few weeks in my class--all thanks to you.

You have changed the lives of a group of students (and I'm sure many more) in my class.  In fact, you have transformed four rambunctious, eleven-year old boys into readers--a seemingly impossible feat I myself have struggled with all year.  After try and try and try, I just couldn't find the right book that could magically make these boys want to read--I mean, really want to read.

And then, I assigned them Bud, Not Buddy and everything changed.

You gave them a character they loved--Bud, and a story they couldn't stop reading.  You surprised them, made them laugh, and gave them so many wonderful ideas to bring to their lively book club discussions. You gave them their "favorite book ever"!

You even made this group fight a bit over who would read The Mighty Miss MaloneThe Watsons Go to Birmingham, and Elijah of Buxton first from our classroom library. They even had to make a list of who was reading what and when it had be finished by, so they could swap books--because they are that serious about your writing!

Your book was the greatest gift my students, and I, their teacher, could ever receive.  I can't thank you enough.  What would we do without authors like you in this world?

Yours eternally grateful,
Ms. S.

P.S. expect another letter soon from four enthusiastic boys from room A-204!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #27

Spring, are you here? We think you have finally arrived--it was warm, breezy, 
and sunny today, and we couldn't help but notice.  It was all the talk around here...

We're ready. We've been waiting and waiting  for our buds, 
the color of flames, to spread and grow. We long for being planted in the front yards 
of aged, brick homes, along worn pathways, and crumbling stone walls...

We don't want to get too excited, though--not just yet.  We thought you were finally here the other 
day, but then it grew frosty and cold--and we ended up feeling disappointed and sad...

 But we're hopeful, Spring, because you showed  up today, and we were happy and 
we smiled.  Our colors grew brighter with the warm, beautiful weather. Our souls felt restored.

Please, do your best tomorrow, Spring.  We hope you come back to visit.  
We'd love for you to stay for awhile...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #26

A list of some random/cute/interesting/funny things that I observed today in 6th grade:

  • One student (during quiet, independent reading time) screams: "Ahhhhh, I just got to the surprise part in my book! I've been waiting a whole 136 pages for this!!!! " And then proceeds to tell his entire book club group what happened--not a happy group, to say the least.
  • One group in my social studies class brought poster lights (which I didn't even know existed) to put on their Industrial Revolution poster--and we had to turn off all the lights to see the poster flashing and ohhhh and ahhhhh at how cool it was. It was necessary.
  • I overheard two girls discussing what they wanted to write their slices about, with smiles on their faces.
  • My afternoon block begged me to let them take the social studies test tomorrow, instead of Thursday, because they felt super ready--and I told them they were going to rock their test!
  • A sweet 6th grader, whom I don't even have in class, said good morning to me and held the door for me and asked if I needed help carrying all of my bags.
  • It was crazy hat, hair, everything day--and I teach sixth grade, enough said.
  • I graded several feature articles--and one student wrote all about pickles, yes, pickles, and it was best topic I could imagine!
  • I watched my class working together so well today--like we're all friends, like we're a big family.
  • I walked down the 6th grade hallway and was rammed into by about 5 kids--because in 6th grade, we have no concept of where we're walking/if we're going to walk into anyone--we just walk as if we don't have a care in the world.
  • I was told by a student that my missing hall pass was lodged in a toilet in the boys' bathroom--and then he proceeded to ask if I wanted it back--umm, no thanks!
  • During writing workshop, one of strugglers said, "This essay writing is actually getting easier" and it made me smile.
  • Kids crowded around my desk to hear a silly story I was telling another student after the bell rang--instead of taking a four minute break to socialize with their friends--and they love those four minutes.
  • One of my students said, "Thank you, Ms. S!" and another, "Have a nice day, Ms. S!" after leaving class--and they do this every single day.

What a great, and always interesting, day in sixth grade. :)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #25

Slice of Life has officially been launched in our classroom today!  My kids seemed really excited about it, too.  I actually think this may have been the first time that my sixth graders haven't complained about a homework assignment--that says a lot in itself. Excited about homework--my class--not in million years! Maybe they're having a change of heart.

But the best part of this already has been that the student in my class that dreads writing--really dreads it--one of most reluctant writers, posted the first slice! How cool is that?!

So, I've been sitting with my computer up since after school waiting to see if my kids would post any slices today.  After looking at the first few, I realize that some of their slices are going to need some work for sure.  We'll have to go over again tomorrow in class what makes a good slice and I'll have to show them some more examples.  But I think this is going to build an excitement for writing overall in my class, and I can't wait to see how my students are going to grow as writers the rest of year because of slicing!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #24

I've decided that I'm going to start Slice of Life in my writing workshop class tomorrow!  I'm currently working on creating a blog for my class. We have a blogger section on our class website, so it's going to be great for this! I'm so excited for my kids to get started, and I can't wait to read what they're going to write.  I think I'm even more excited about them commenting on each other's posts.  I know my students are going to love that.

Well, only a short slice for tonight--I have lots to do for tomorrow at school.  I'll post about how it's going soon, I'm sure.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #23

This morning I had to get my hair done. It needed to be cut and colored so badly.  I generally avoid getting anything done to my hair, until it absolutely has to be done. For some reason, getting my hair done stresses me out. I think it's probably because I've seen and had some pretty scary outcomes from drastic dye jobs and hair cuts.

There was a time when I was blonde and a time when my hair was almost black--my hair's been pretty much most shades of the rainbow--minus blue and purple and green.  It's been short and very long and somewhere in between.  

And I've even dabbled in being a "hair stylist" myself.  I remember one time when we were on a family vacation, I attempted to dye my sister's pretty light brown hair to blonde and it did not go so well.  Her hair turned pretty much as orange as a carrot. Not a pretty sight.  Lauren was in tears, her prom was two weeks away--of course, and we had to make an emergency appointment at a local salon to fix the havoc I had wreaked on her head.  Three hours and 200 dollars later, she emerged with a slightly lighter, fried head of orange hair--now about the color of orange sherbet

So you can see why my level of stress rises as I enter a hair salon.  And I know this is not normal--most people enjoying getting their hair cut--it's relaxing they say.  But I'm not fooled by that guise.

As I was driving to the salon today I realized that these were the reasons why I don't enjoy getting my hair done:

  1. Scary things can happen when you dye your hair--I've seen and experienced them firsthand
  2. I usually never know what I want to get done
  3. When I think I might have an idea about what I want to get done, I'm never sure if it'll look okay on me and my hair stylist never seems to know either
  4. My hair usually doesn't come out as I expected/hoped, and I never leave the salon looking like a model and/or celebrity, which I always think will happen when I walk into the salon
  5. The lights in salons can be deceiving--everyone's hair looks shiny and beautiful and the perfect color--until you walk outside in the sunlight and it looks totally different

Anyway, I tried to go in there today with a open mind.  Maybe I'd try a new 'do, I thought.  But then I remembered how my sister's hair had turned out that time and thought I should probably just stick to something simple--and I did and I'm happy with it.  Yes, it pretty much looks exactly the same as before, but a few inches shorter.  But nothing drastic occurred and my head feels lighter and I feel happier, so I guess it was a success, after all.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #22

One of my goals this year was to incorporate more projects into my social studies class.  So with almost every unit we've done, I've tried to develop some sort of project.  I think its really important that kids get opportunities to work as a team, problem solve, and just be creative.  Not to mention, a project seems like it's just what my kids need.  My students are starting to "check out", and I think they need a little bit of a break in a way.  A project is well-needed right about now in our class.

Right now, we're studying the Industrial Revolution and have learned about lots of important inventions and inventors. For this project, the students are working with a partner to further research an invention from the Industrial Revolution--the one that they think is the best. Then, they're going to create a poster advertising their invention.

To get the kids hyped up about the project, I told them that they had just been "hired" by a prestigious advertising firm and their "job" was to work as a team to create and design a poster that would convince the public to buy their  invention.  Any time my students have to get into character or are given a "job" for a discussion or project in social studies, they'll all about it! They get excited about some of the silliest things. That's what's so great about sixth graders! 

We were off to the library today to research our inventions! And my kids did such a great job!  We had a successful day in social studies researching and gathering information and working together and giggling and learning a lot while having fun. I'm excited for Monday to see their projects start to come together!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #21

Tonight I've decided to tackle grading the papers that I've been putting off for some time now.  They have to get back to the kids. I have to get them off my mind, too.

But for some reason, I feel like my pile of papers is only growing by the minute, not shrinking like I'd hoped.  So much of what I'm grading is writing intensive, and it seems like it's never ending reading and commenting and responding.  It just takes me forever.

I have a stack of feature articles to finish, reading journals to grade, personal essays to look through...and other assignments coming in at the end of the week to be graded too...no!!

Even though grading can sometimes make me grouchy, I usually stumble across something a student wrote that's really sweet and makes me smile or something ridiculous that makes me laugh.

I love the comments in their reading journals like, "I love the book I'm reading right now!! You should read it too! Thanks for reading my letter. I hope you enjoyed it reading because I sure enjoyed writing it!"  These types of comments make me smile and also make me realize that my sixth graders are slick--they know just what to say to win their teacher over! :)

And then you find some very important notes that are wedged in between a reading entry or two, clearly written during class, like this...

which actually make me laugh.  Figuring out who is going to your sleepover and what games you're going to play is way more important than anything we're learning right now--well, at least to a sixth grader.

Well, I'm off to power through my grading and find even more interesting things that are hidden among the piles.  I'm sure I'll have a laugh or two tonight, at least!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #20

My day:

Woke up too early to finish school work
Book clubs in language arts--lots of discussing and noise and smiles--a happy, productive class
Vented at lunch with friends from work
Came home... and walked the dog
Cozied up in my pajamas...feeling exhausted
Made dinner
Plopped on the couch and closed my eyes--only for 10 minutes, I told myself
Fell asleep...
Woke up at 12:07--oh no! Didn't write my slice but I promised myself I wouldn't miss a day!

Currently awake at 12:18--this will have to do for today's slice. Tomorrow's slice will hopefully be more exciting and written a lot earlier.

Back to bed...zzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #19

Though I generally avoid malls nowadays, today, I had to stop by the mall and make a return.  After taking about twenty minutes to park and walking past crowds and crowds of people, I made my way to one of the few stores that I really love--Anthropologie.  

Everything in this store is so, so beautiful--from the floor to the ceiling--I mean everything.   Yes, the clothes are pretty outrageously priced--but the interesting window displays, bright home decor, and clothes that hang like artwork on the walls make it feel like a visit to an art museum.  There are so many interesting pieces to look at...and wish I could buy.

I could wander around this store for hours just looking in every corner, admiring all of the beautiful things.  Stopping here today made me not so secretly wish that I could win the lottery or marry rich just so that I could afford everything in the store!  

Until then, I'm going to have to settle on shopping in the sale section and admiring the artistry and creativity without buying it. Or perhaps it's time to get a second job working there!  

Monday, March 18, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #18

It's only two days away until the first day of spring--probably my favorite season of the year.  But where are the birds chirping, flowers blooming, and warm, sunny days? They've currently been replaced with snow in New Jersey.  

I thought Puxsutawney Phil had forecasted an early spring! What is taking so long? Why more snow?

Since I'm clearly longing for spring and sick of this snow business, I Googled  "how many times has Punxsutawney Phil been right?".  Yes, I really did Google this.  I stumbled upon some interesting results...

According to http://www.groundhog.org/groundhog-day/groundhog-news/about-groundhog-day/--Phil's predictions have been accurate 100% of the time.  I find, however, it a little hard to believe anything from a website that promotes a groundhog club and groundhog souvenirs including groundhog cookie cutters, groundhog  travel mugs, Groundhog Brew Coffee (Phil's Blend), and groundhog day hot sauce.  Clearly, I've spent a good deal of time on this website.

Continuing my research in hopes of a more accurate source, I found that according to http://earthsky.org/earth/groundhog-day-2013-how-accurate-is-punxsutawney-phil, Punxsutawney Phil has only been correct approximately 39% of the time. Just as I expected.  I had my hopes up for weeks, only to be let down by old Phil.

Even though my favorite parts of spring may not arrive just yet, I am going to try and enjoy the snow nonetheless.  It's actually a pretty beautiful sight outside right now.  The roads are lined with a dusting of fluffy snow.  No one has driven down my street all night, so it's a pretty undisturbed, peaceful sight.

If we're in for a little more wintry weather, I may be okay with that...only if it brings us a delayed opening tomorrow morning! I could use a few extra hours of sleep.

Until then, I'm still awaiting spring! And still holding a grudge against Phil!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #17

I'm calling it quits for the night. A day spent lesson planning, reading, and studying has left me tired and ready to relax for the rest of the night.  I'm ready to unwind, cozy up on the couch, catch up on some T.V., and scoff down a large bowl of pistachio ice cream--yumm.

What I didn't finish today can always wait until tomorrow...and I'm perfectly okay with that tonight.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #16

I love bookstores.  They make me happy.  Especially the children's section, which is always the brightest, cheeriest spot to be in the whole place.  I don't know what it is about the kid's section--maybe it's the colorful book covers or cozy nooks where you can read or the laughter and smiles of children running around with their new books.

Today I spent my afternoon at a local Barnes and Noble, checking out the collection of children's books.  After grabbing a stack of books to look through, I sat on the stage in the kid's corner and read for a bit.  It was really nice--and relaxing.  As I read, I observed the scenes unfolding in front of me...happy children rummaging through books, parents curled up with their kids on the floor sharing a good book, and the wonder and joy on children's faces as they became so wrapped up in the story they were reading.

It was a wonderful way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #15

My desk is a total disaster! Papers and books and nick-knacks pile high-- piles grow larger and larger by the minute! I rarely am even able to see the desk itself! At this point, I've learned to navigate through the mess-- oh it's under that pile over there, on top of that stack of papers, wedged in between there somewhere. It's a sad story, but true. I've just become so used to it.

My desk is at the point of no return. No amount of organizing, cleaning, or straightening up will help. I valiantly attempt to tackle this nightmare every day, but it only lasts for so long.

By the next day it will only look like this again...

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #14

Day 14- Almost halfway through a month of slicing.  16 more posts. My brain's feeling a bit fried today and I'm having some serious writer's block.  But I can do this!  Thank goodness for the list of 31 topics to write about from Two Writing Teachers.  It's come in very handy today.

Here's a list of things I'm feeling thankful for:

Thankful for...

Having a family that supports me
Friends that keep me sane
My cozy, oversized, red flannel pajamas
Good books--the ones that make me want to be right there in the story
Co-workers who support me when things aren't going so well
The bright yellows and oranges and reds of sunrises and sunsets
The ability to see and hear and touch and feel
Rainy days--because they can lead to rainbows
Laughter on a hard day
Almond and Sea Salt Dark chocolate
Barnes and Noble's childrens' corner
Lazy days
The kindness of strangers
Challenges--because they help me become a better person
Naps on days like today
Dakota and Ginger and Eleanor
The ability to travel and see new places, meet new people
Sunshine through the clouds
Genuine smiles
Good health

This puts things into perspective...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #13

After work today, I went with a friend to my favorite local coffee and pastry shop. As I walked through the door, I was greeted by the strong smells of espresso and buttery pastries in the air.  The smells reminded me of my favorite cafe in Rome that I used to go to when I lived abroad.  Every day, I would stop there and order a steaming cappuccino that always warmed my hands on my cold, wintry walk to school past the Colosseum and all of the beautiful sights in Rome.

Though this little place can't really compare to my Roman cafe, I still love it.  And today, I couldn't help but notice the happiness on the other customers' faces as they devoured their chocolate croissants, sweet and savory crepes, and coffee in the largest mugs I've ever seen.  It seemed like everyone in there was just plain happy.

As I went to the counter to order, I noticed the beautifully arranged pastries, brightly decorated cakes, and delectable-looking baguettes.  Even though I've been there many times before, I can never decide what to get--because everything just looks that good.  So I usually stop and stare and debate and then decide and then see something else that looks even more delicious and then seriously consider ordering one of everything and then finally decide on about five different treats.  

But today, I had a different strategy--I looked around the cafe to see what everyone else had ordered.  I thought that might make my decision easier.  I noticed a woman, smiling ear to ear, eating a crepe, sipping on a latte, and laughing with a friend.  Whatever she was having I wanted--it looked too good to pass up.  So, I asked and she began to rave about her strawberry and Nutella crepe.  After hearing that, I knew what to do.  I ordered the same...and a cappuccino. 

As I waited, I watched the crepe being made and marveled at how artfully it was being crafted--watched as the  gooey Nutella and bright, red strawberries were carefully spread onto the delicate crepe.  When it arrived at the table, I took a bite of it and big gulp of my cappuccino.  It couldn't have been more delicious.  Even though this wasn't Rome, I couldn't help but feel like all of the other customers there: happy--just plain happy. 

There's just something about that place...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #12

I'm not sure why, but even after taking a day off yesterday, I felt exhausted and drained and ready to crawl into pjs at 4:00 today when I got home--which is just what I did.

It's hard coming back to school and getting into the groove of things again after taking a day off.

But I guess a day off is usually not really a day off when you're a teacher. Yes I slept in, yes I relaxed a little, yes I finished the book I was reading, yes I wondered and worried about how out of hand my students could potentially be for my sub. And yes, I put off thinking about school and planning for most of the day.

And yes, at around 9:30 pm, I realized I had better get started on getting my things ready for school tomorrow. And yes, I absolutely could and should have started this earlier-- I had all day off, after all!

So after my day off...and then late night of planning, I think I ended up more tired than if I hadn't taken the day. But, nonetheless, I was happy to be back today. I missed my students yesterday!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #11

I was organizing and rummaging through old pictures today and came across this.  The third-grade version of myself wrote this about why my dad was the best...

I must have been pretty wise at the ripe old age of eight because this describes my dad to a T.

Because it's my dad's birthday today, here's my twenty-something year old version of why my dad's the best...

My dad is...
Always there, always listening, always caring, always encouraging,
Always watching, always cheering, always guiding, always teaching, 
Always selfless, always gentle, always patient, always proud,
Always the person I hope I can be just like, someday soon

Thanks Dad, for everything.  Happy birthday.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #10

My relaxing weekend away, in pictures...

Drove along roads lined with colorful row houses--
bright yellows and blues and weathered brick...

Stayed at an apartment full of charm, with pretty views 
and interesting pieces of art from travels around the world...

Marveled at the breathtaking views at Niagara Falls--
sounds of rushing water and clouds of mist in the air...

Tasted delicious wines at local wineries--
reds and whites, sweet and dry...

Stopped to feel the cool, billowing 
breeze on Seneca Lake...


A great weekend away, but always happy to be back home...

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #9

This morning we rose bright and early to visit Niagara Falls. It was really beautiful seeing the falls, especially this time of the year, because they were covered with mounds of perfect, fluffy-looking snow.

Niagara Falls was different than I imagined it would be--more touristy I guess, but pretty amazing nonetheless.

Even though I live in the state over, I had never been there before. Visiting Niagara made realize that there really are so many great places to see in the United States that I need to start exploring!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #8

My entire family is together today--my sister flew home from out west, my brother's back for the weekend from college. All of us siblings haven't been together like this in years.

It's a been a happy house today filled with sounds of laughter and joking and catching up. Even though each one of us is living in different places, in different stages in our lives, we seamlessly fall back into the way it was when we were younger. It's been really nice.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #7

Waiting until the last minute to pack for a trip is never a good idea--especially, if you're an "over-packer" like me.  Any time I go away, I put off packing until the night before.

Even in college when I was going abroad for three months, I waited until the last minute to pack.  The night before I left, there were piles and piles and piles of clothes scattered throughout my room just waiting to be squeezed into my bag that seemed to be growing smaller by the minute. I tried every which way to fit all of those clothes in because they were all coming with me.  It would have been too overwhelming to just sort out the necessities.

I've pretty much mastered all the techniques for fitting an inordinate amount of stuff into a small bag--from  laying on top of the suitcase and zipping around the sides to folding every article of clothing meticulously so it saves the most space to using those space saving bags that do save space but leave your clothes completely wrinkled.

Tonight, I find myself facing the same dilemma.  I'm only going away for the weekend, but the options of what to bring seem endless and overwhelming. I have to be prepared for the unexpected, after all.

I probably should just look up the weather, grab a few sensible things, and be done.  But for some reason, I find myself unable to get past my over-packing syndrome. So, I think I'll just throw all of the piles of clothes I gathered  into my bag, zip it up with a struggle, and be done. I can figure it out when I get there!

Looking forward to getting away for the weekend...while carrying a very heavy bag along the way.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #6

Today in class we finished reading our read aloud, Nory Ryan’s Song.  When I first started reading the book, my kids didn’t seem like they were really enjoying the story all that much.  I even had a student come up to me and say, “This book is so not as good as Wonder.”  Wonder was our first read aloud and my kids absolutely loved it.

As we got further into the book, though, they came around.  They started to become invested in the characters and worried about what might happen to them.  And today, as I finished the last page and closed the book dramatically, all I heard was…Awwww, no!!! It’s over!! What! Are you kidding me?  Does Nory make it to Brooklyn? What about Patch!? And Anna? Arrghhhh!

Listening to their responses reminded me of this quote I read once that stuck with me:

“Finishing a good book is like leaving a good friend.”

It was true— finishing up our read aloud was sad, like we had lost a close friend that we’d gotten to know for some time now.  Maybe it had taken them a little longer to get into the book, but they did, and now they were really upset that it was over.

And then after school I was in our library and I saw one of my students.  I asked him what book he was getting and he said Maggie’s Door.  He had to find out what happened to Nory and Sean and Patch and Maggie and what their life was like in Brooklyn.  It was such a great way to end the day! J

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #5

Feeling slightly overwhelmed with all the things I have piling up, so I figured I’d make a list to sort it all out. 

My to-do list:
  • Type up my observation lesson plan
  • Walk the dogs
  • Start training for the triathlon I signed up for this summer—go for a run
  • Put together packets for book clubs
  • Grade a stack of tests
  • Relax and have a glass of wine
  • Start studying for another Praxis exam
  • Finish Delirium
  • Write letters back to my students in their reading journals
  • Figure out my life
  • Plan my weekend trip to the Finger Lakes
  • Write my slice
  • Book a flight to see my sister
  • Plan a summer trip to Italy
  • Watch the news, because I’m feeling uninformed
  • Call my best friend and catch up on life

Now, if only I could get it all done tonight. I better get started. Time to prioritize.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #4

One of my favorite parts of the day is my drive to work. Fifteen minutes of almost straight highway with nothing particularly special to look at. But there’s something about that quick, blissful drive that clears my mind.  For those few minutes, I’m in my own world. I get to roll down the windows, feel the cool air, and listen to a sweet song.

As I drove to work this morning, I smiled as one of my favorite country songs came on. There’s something about country music that always puts me in good mood. Listening to the lyrics made me wish I was driving along some back road and blasting the radio… maybe even in a beat-up, old pickup truck.


Even though I probably won’t be driving down a road like this anytime soon, I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s drive all the same.  Looking forward to hearing a new song to brighten up my morning.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Slice of Life March Challenge #3

Mornings and I— we've never really gotten along and I’m not sure if we ever will. 

6:00: My eyes reluctantly open and I look at the clock.  6 a.m. on a Sunday morning. No! I must be dreaming.  Close your eyes. Pretend this never happened. Go back to sleep!

6:15: Great, I can’t fall back asleep.  Let’s try this one more time.  Close your eyes and drift back to the pleasant dream you were having—the one where you had the most amazing day ever because you slept until 11 a.m. and awoke refreshed and ready to start your day.

6:30: Alright, this going back to sleep thing isn't working.  Grrr, I muster the strength to pull myself from the warmth of the cozy bed and groggily stumble down the stairs. My legs feel heavy and my eyes cloudy.  Should I just go and climb back into bed?

6:45: I make it the kitchen…finally.  First cup of coffee.  Yumm…blueberry coffee with lots of milk and sugar.  I could be a morning person if it means that I have an excuse to drink several cups of these before noon.

7:15: Second cup of coffee.  Still groggy. Is there even caffeine in this? Why isn't it working!?

8:00: Feeling a little more awake…and I mean a little. Alright, that’s it.  I’m going back to bed.  Wait, no, I can do this.

9:00: Okay, it’s been three hours since I woke up.  I’m feeling grouchy… still don’t want to talk to anyone. Should I have a third cup of coffee?

9:30: I need to do something productive.  I guess I’ll write my slice!

10:00: Finished my slice! I should reward myself for being so productive already.  I know exactly how…I think it’s time for a mid-morning nap!