Monday, March 31, 2014

SOLSC #31: I Break My Own Rule!

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
I told my students that they were NOT allowed to write a slice that ended with the words, "... and then I woke up."  I wanted their slices to be real, not made-up dreams.  Mid-month a student queried, "But what if I really had this particular dream?"  I think I surreptitiously told him he could write about it, but not to broadcast it.  Probably because of this prohibition to my students, I've had troubling dreams for more nights than I can count this month.

There was the nightmare with the out-of-control class!  Why do I still have this dream with retirement on the horizon?

There was the jumbled dream where I was a student with one of my current students, our teacher was my job-share teaching partner from over a dozen years ago, and we had a huge pile of meaningless work!

And finally, last night I was a student in a retired friend's class struggling through an exam over material that I had no recollection of ever having heard.  By the end of the dream, I realized that I had missed several days of class due to training a new person for our yearbook team (and I was actually on the yearbook staff in my own junior high days).

And now I'm wondering, "Does sleep deprivation lead to nightmares?"

We'll be celebrating today in Room 104 with slices of chocolate sheet cake!

And I'll close today (but see you again tomorrow!), with the new discovery that I made over the weekend.  When I clicked on the speech bubble in the upper far right corner of the Two Writing Teachers daily page, it led me to your responses to my comments.  I do love a serendipitous discovery!  (Regarding the query about The Poetry Box, I promise to get back to you this week.)

Sunday, March 30, 2014

SOLSC #30: Praying that those who mourn will be comforted

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
This has been a tough week in the Seattle area.  This is a slice that I avoided writing, but I finally decided today to write of the heaviness in my heart.  Each day we learn a bit more about the victims of the mudslide in Oso, and each day my heart breaks a bit more for the victims, and the families and loved ones left behind.  Our evening news was filled with stories of the rescue operation, until it became a recovery operation.  Yesterday we read of three generations of a family lost - mother, father, two kids, and grandparents who had recently moved nearby to be closer to their grandkids.  Today the newspaper had short bios of each of the identified victims.  I recall some of the stories - the young nurse who had purchased her dream home, the repairmen at her home to work on getting things operational for her, the woman on her way to work, the man who was rescued but lost his wife.  I pray for the rescue workers who have continued to work through this difficult week.  I pray for comfort for all who lost family and friends in this catastrophe.  I pray for the peace that passeth all understanding, especially for those whose lives have been forever changed.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

SOLSC #29: Bookending my Week with Blue Skies!

I "serve up a slice" at Two Writing Teachers
and celebrate with Ruth Ayres at
Celebrate this week!
Discover. Play. Build.

Moments of celebration this past week:

Cherry blossoms on a Sunday afternoon walk 
Student donates new stapler to our classroom
Staggered bloomings - the "ugly" tree has buds
Sharing slices for Kate's 50th birthday
District announces retirement party - I'm listed
Student's humorous slice about his "perfect" dog
Blissful moments when everyone is writing 
Afternoon sunshine at Slater Park

Friday, March 28, 2014

SOLSC # 28: Savoring the Light

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
month expands
for this challenge
to capture moments.
slice to
observe life
finding time to
notice beauty now.
gray sky
gives way to
sunshine, I pause,
slow down, and savor.

Sunshine at Slater Park
An Arun: a fifteen-line poem in three sets of five lines. Each set of five lines follows the same syllable structure: starting with one syllable and increasing by one (1/2/3/4/5 — 3x).
Explore this form with GirlGriot who introduced it to me.  See my inaugural attempt here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

SOLSC #27: With apologies to Robert Frost on the occasion of his birthday

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
I adore Robert Frost and today (March 26th) is his birthday!  

I love Susan Jeffers' illustrations for "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."  Who can resist the page where the farmer makes a snow angel?

I performed "After Apple Picking" for a college speech class.
I love the rhythm in these words:
"And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in."

More than 35 years ago, I asked Harry, a Chinese artist friend in Hong Kong, to create a painting for a favorite Frost poem, "The Road Not Taken."   When we moved to Houston, I left the painting behind at my BFF's house in Tulsa.  I always stop by to visit it on my Oklahoma visits.  I'm glad it's there.  On a recent visit, my BFF's son and I shared Frost poems all evening.  Something about the painting led him to Robert Frost.  I can't remember if I had a copy of the poem to share with the artist, or if I just described a bit of it to him.  No matter that Harry didn't paint a yellow wood,
"...the two roads diverged in a wood...And that has made all the difference."

Thanks, Christopher, for sending this picture of the painting.

Today a student shared "The Pasture" with me.  The invitation, "You come too," made me think about each of you, my friends at Two Writing Teachers.  So, with apologies to Robert Frost, I share my version of "The Pasture."

              The Challenge

I head upstairs to write the nightly post;
Each daily slice extracts a bit of time
(Sometimes I even want the words to rhyme)
It shouldn’t take too long. – You come too. 

I pause to savor words from blogger friends
Who join this month of madness.  We’re insane
I know I’ll  find some words that will sustain.
It shouldn’t take too long. – You come too. 

                                           - Ramona

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SOLSC #26: Honoring my dad with a dozen memories (thanks, Kate)!

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
In honor of Kate DiCamillo's 50th birthday on March 25, I shared the list of 10 things about Opal's mom from Because of Winn Dixie with my students.  Then I shared a blogger's post of 10 things about her grandad.  I  encouraged my students to compile their own list of things about a person who matters to them.

My dad died almost 34 years ago, but compiling this list brought back wonderful memories:

1.  My dad loved Popular Mechanics magazines and often completed projects from the magazines.  He built our game cabinet, a great little dustpan that didn't require bending over, and our wooden Santa with a blinking nose for the front porch.

2.  My dad loved folksy sayings like "Cute as a speckled pup under a red wagon," "Sharp as a tack and twice as flat headed," and my all-time favorite, "If I had a swing like that, I'd paint it red and put it in my back yard."

3.  My dad loved to drive FAST through mud puddles.

4.  My dad was a morning person, and I inherited my early bird gene from him.

5.  My dad loved to read my geography and history textbooks.  I often had to beg him to give them back so I could do my homework.

6.  My dad was one of sixteen children.  His favorite family event was the annual family reunion at Platt National Park in Sulphur, Oklahoma.  He loved being one of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave.

7.  My dad took care of us during snowy weather.  He once walked several miles so he could drive my mom home from work after a snowstorm.  When I first started teaching, he would drop by my school on snowy days to scrape the windshield and warm up my car before I got out of school.

8.  My dad loved to learn.  He came from a rural farming family and only attended school through the sixth grade, but he loved to read the encyclopedias that he purchased (one volume at a time) at the grocery store.

9.  My dad was proud of his '56 Chevy and the engine he rebuilt with a little help from a friend.  I was appalled when our other car broke down, and he drove me to my freshman year of college in it during the early 70s.  It hadn’t quite reached classic status yet.  It was just Dad’s old clunker!

10.  My dad asked us to call "his office" (the downtown barber shop) if we needed to find him after he retired (no cell phones or pagers yet).

11.  My dad loved springtime and gardening season.  He loved his Troy-Bilt rototiller and the slogan he used to advertise his business:   "Have tiller will travel!"

12.  My dad had a “man cave” before it became vogue.  His favorite spot was the shed he built for himself filled with his tools, and outfitted with a wood burning stove and projects to while away the time.

I'm a lucky person to have had his influence in my life.  Even though my husband and children never met him, I've kept his memory alive through the frequent stories I share with them of my wonderful daddy.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

SOLSC #25: Flying High with Medal Meanderings

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
We created a Share the Newbery Love board in February.  In order to invite more participation, we visited all the sixth grade LA classrooms this past week to share the cumulative list of Newbery Medal and Honor titles  I loved hearing the book discussions as students huddled over iPads and struggled to pick a favorite title.  Here's our Newbery Love board slathered with shamrocks. 
Pink and green - the perfect color scheme for spring!
As I circulated among students and peered over shoulders at the lists, I discovered an old Newbery Honor title from 1935, The Pageant of Chinese History by Elizabeth Seeger. We're studying China right now, so I thought it would be fun to share this book with my students.  I dashed to the technology that both peeves (bar codes on the front cover) and exhilarates to see if the title is available.  Yes! 
A peek inside this front cover reveals
a few black and white illustrations
and 497 pages of text.
It arrived with the old stamped date due sheets inside the front cover.  Checkouts of this book began in 1983 and continued with two to four checkouts per year until Dec. 1992. Then the record of checkouts jumped to once in 1994, once in 1995 and once in 2002. Under the date due slips is a glued card that shows a checkout to Mercer Island on Jan. 16, 1970.  When I was a kid I loved looking down the list of names to see if someone I knew had previously read the book I was holding in my hands.  

Share a favorite Newbery Medal or Newbery Honor title in your comments today, and we'll add your choice to our board (kites this time)!  

Monday, March 24, 2014

SOLSC #24: Savoring Saturday

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
I drove by my building on Saturday to see if anyone was there.  I have my own tale of horror about going in the building and setting off the alarm (but that's a slice for another day). Secretly, I hoped no one would be there because we just finished grades for 2nd trimester, and all of us deserved a weekend away.  My notes for Sunday's slice were at school, the novel that we're currently reading was there, and I wanted to pick up Tupelo's Landing (sequel to Three Times Lucky).  Can you tell that I left without careful thought on Friday?  I was so excited to have finished posting grades that I danced out the door with just two sets of papers (still ungraded) and left my usual baskets behind.

When I pulled up in front of school, I celebrated that there were no cars there!  Way to go colleagues!  However, there was a visitor on the front lawn.  One that managed to disrupt my classes more than once this past week.  There was even a warning in the morning announcements to avoid disturbing this particular visitor and his lady friend.  Apparently, mother and father may be nesting in the vicinity.

I stealthily opened the car door and made my way to the front lawn to snap some photos. I haven't had much time to slow down and savor (my OLW for 2014) since we began slicing this month.  With a few minutes to spare and no one else near, I looked forward to capturing a picture or two.
Here's the guy (without his lady friend) who's been distracting my classes.
He and I did an interesting dance.  
Each time I stepped forward, he would step back.  
We played a game of hide and seek as he briefly hid behind the tree.  
I can still see you!
I forced myself to stand still, and he came a bit closer.  
Okay, not quite this close, so I cropped the photo.
Isn't he gorgeous?
Finally as I moved in for a closer shot, he startled me by taking flight! 
I captured those wings in movement just before he soared over the building.
Sorry it's blurry, but that's him to the right of the window!
Up, up, and away!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

SOLSC #23: A package on the porch!

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
It's not unusual to spot a package on the porch when I arrive home from school.  Shopping is not my husband's thing, so purchasing something over the internet with front door delivery is his favorite way to shop.  As I pull into the driveway,  I spot a small white package tied with a bow by the front door.  It is not the usual Amazon box.  Oh yum, maybe someone dropped some cookies by.  I take care of several chores before heading to the front door to retrieve the package.  When I untie the ribbon and open the box, I discover these delightful buttons from a dear friend who knows my passion.  I can't wait to wear them to school!

Which button is your favorite? 
Asked to name my top 5 personal passions - 
I list (heart) books, family, friends, chocolate, and sleep.
When retirement arrives, I may have to
wear this pin often, will work for books.
Even though I'd rather be reading,
Eat, Sleep, Read retains two of my top five passions.  
I (thumbs up, like) books so they hold
A prominent place in my classroom.
Read the book first, so that you will 
Never judge a book by its movie.
I'm constantly plagued by the
Too many books, so little time syndrome.
The solution is simple and straightforward,
Keep Calm and Read On!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

SOLSC #22: A week bookended by bread and babies!

I "serve up a slice" at Two Writing Teachers
and celebrate with Ruth Ayres at
Celebrate this week!
Discover. Play. Build.

Moments to celebrate in a busy week:

Freshly baked bread on my doorstep
Texts like this from my BFF since 7th grade, 
"U r such a SPAZ!" 
A call from my walking buddy, 
"Are you still alive?"
2nd trimester grades are DONE!
Administrators who tell me to go home 
A baby shower for two babies

Friday, March 21, 2014

SOLSC #21: What I Give Up for Slicing

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
It's the time of year when my friends are giving up things for Lent.  I realize that I give up a few things in order to slice daily in March.  At the top of the list is sleep, followed by a few stolen moments to read for pleasure right before I fall asleep.  By the time I've sliced and left a few comments, I crash into bed with no energy whatsoever to read, even for a few minutes.  My plan is to slice at night for the next day's post (west coast slicers are feeling the pinch of this year's  9 p.m. deadline ), but then life intervenes.  Last night I worked on grades until everything started blurring.   So now it's Friday evening, and I must compose this post with the exhaustion that arrived at 3:48 this afternoon when I posted my last grades and comments for second trimester.

But I digress from my purpose - to share what I give up for slicing.  Newspapers are my final sacrifice laid on the slicing altar.  I know, most of you gave up newspapers years ago, but I still love a bit of time with the paper each day.  My husband reads the news on his i-Pad, so the papers are just for me.  It's not unusual for me to get behind a bit, even without slicing.  However, this week, I hadn't even stopped to take the paper out of the plastic sleeve.  I dropped each day's news on the front rug and planned a great picture of the newspaper pile to accompany this slice.  When I went downstairs this morning, I discovered that my pile of papers was gone.  Yesterday was trash day, and I'm sure my husband thought he was being helpful (not) when he put them in the recycling.  He knows I love to read the newspaper even if it's old.  However, one part of me is glad, if only he hadn't gotten rid of Sunday's paper.  There are some parts of it that I read religiously (travel, NYT magazine, book review), but not this week.  I think I better head downstairs now to stash Friday's paper in a safe place (no time to read it before an evening commitment)!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

SOLSC #20: Tangling with a mop

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
When sixth period arrives, there's a palpable energy in the air that is usually not here this close to the end of the day.  I stop by the office to chat, but everyone is busy.  I wait to speak to a counselor about a student, but she is knee deep in registration for next year.  And then I remember that tonight is Gator for a Night, our first transition event for next year's incoming sixth graders.  I don't have a specific assignment, so I sneak back to my room hoping to diminish the pile of papers still needing attention.  After meeting with a student, I guiltily return to the office with an offer to help.  MaryJo assures me that everything is under control. Returning to my room, I notice tables covered in gator green with balloons merrily waving in the breeze.

I grab a mop and head for the hallway.  "Mopping the floor" is my code word for anytime I get sidetracked instead of facing a pressing obligation.  My college roommates knew that if I was mopping the floor, it was a sure thing that I was avoiding writing a paper or studying for a big exam. Well today, the mop is a stack of shamrocks and a bulletin board that can certainly wait for morning.  I putter for a few minutes, adding the latest Newbery titles to the board before facing down my monster.  If I indulge in this mopping adventure, the next thing I'll be doing is cleaning off my desk.  So I muster my resolve, shove that mop back into the bucket, grab my basket of papers, and march out of the building!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

SOLSC #19: 10 Things Today

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
1.  I carried my i-pad around school today and bored anyone who would watch with a vimeo posted to Facebook by daughter-in-law's sister of a spring break trip to DC.
The background music is something I've heard, but can't name.  Seeing
my son performing with his wife, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law
made me happy all day!
2.  I learned at lunch that the song is "Happy" by Pharrell.
When my kids grew up and left home, I lost my
connection to pop culture.  
3.  I discovered after school that the vimeo Amy created
was inspired by Pharrell's music video.
4.  I climbed upstairs tonight chanting, "I think I can, I think I can,"  as I recall my public commitment to write in the p.m. so I can post in the a.m.
5.  I  graded one set of papers, posted grades, and needed to grade another set.
6.  I took a break to peruse and comment on a few slices. I discovered a connection
to Firecracker Moment's post, "you can...if you think you can."
I believe our trains are chugging away on the same track.
7.  I remembered the slice I planned to do tonight, but decide
to save it for another day when I'll have more crafting time.
8.  I stumbled onto Cathy's post with the music video of Farrell's song.
(I'm partial to the one son and family made!)
9.  I finished grading another set of papers and posted those grades.
10.  I write this post in the p.m., so that I'm ready to post in the a.m.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

SOLSC 18: Frenetic Finds Fierce!

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
Frenetic, my own March Madness

Furious, got off schedule

Frantic, almost 9 pm (midnight east coast time)

Fabulous, hitting that post button in the am

Firm, back to writing in the pm (for the next morning)

Fantastic, meandering through the slices

Fierce, my commitment to March SOLSC

Monday, March 17, 2014

SOLSC #17: A Muddled and Marvelous Monday

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.

Today was a muddled Monday.  I forgot that we were scheduled for the computer lab to register for 7th grade during first period.  When the counselor stopped by to remind me shortly before school started, I quickly revamped my plans for the day.

The counselor appeared at our door again at 11:35.  I was totally surprised because I had searched for her email (who knew that she sent it over 3 weeks ago?) and convinced myself that surely she wouldn't have us register during our split 4th period, but during 5th period.  Uh oh, that's exactly what she did.  But we did not have enough time at 11:35, (already ten minutes late), so we marched ourselves to Lab 307 immediately after lunch so that my afternoon block of students could register for 7th grade.  Thank goodness for understanding colleagues.  I'll be sure to share cookie bars with our counselor the next time I bake!

In the middle of slicing about this muddling Monday, I remembered the marvelous beginning to this day.  My day began with music and joy as a former student from Ireland (switched to another team early in the year) stopped by to play Irish tunes on her accordion.  In one of our get acquainted activities early in the year, I learned about this talent.  Since I still have her twin brother on our team, I've asked frequently when she would play her accordion for me.  Today to celebrate St. Patrick's Day we had a mini concert before school with two of her current teachers, myself, and one of our principals.  One the songs she played was a soldier's march.  I could sense the excitement of those young men marching off to war and the melancholy of their mothers in this plaintive tune.

During 5th period, we quickly fit in our slice of life before heading next door to Ms. Moore's room to share book conversations and invite her students to add their favorite Newbery title to our Share the Newbery Love board.  We're adding shamrocks to the valentines that we put there and hoping to get the participation of all 6th grade Language Arts classes by the end of this week.  Just taking a moment to slice reminded me of the marvelous moments that occurred in the middle of my muddling Monday as I try to beat the midnight, east coast deadline.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

SOLSC #16: Serendipity on the Beach

    Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
   sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
Some of my happiest moments occur on the beach - my first glimpse of the ocean more than 40 years ago as a college student visiting Oregon, our first family reunion in Galveston, sharing the beach with deer on Cannon Beach, and now a discovery during our annual book club retreat on Whidbey Island.  I threw out this teaser in last Monday's post . . . "Lucky to have more ideas than days to slice, I can't wait to share what we discovered on the beach when we slowed our pace to watch."

Our first sighting!
With St. Patrick's Day on the horizon it's time to share our lucky discovery!  Anne and I were returning ahead of three other friends.  They walked fast, while we strolled.  I was worried about the waning light, so we turned around and headed down the beach toward the cabin.  Suddenly, I spied movement ahead of us as something emerged from the driftwood.  I stopped Anne, pointed, and said, "Porcupine,"  I'm not sure why that idea popped into my head (do we even have porcupines in Washington?), but it was a critter on four legs and we had discovered a porcupine gnawing the steps to the cabin in Colorado many years ago.  I thought we had best keep our distance, just in case.  So we stopped, watched, and savored this moment.  

We were too far away to know exactly what it was, but raccoon was the next thought that popped into my head.  We shared our urban habitat with raccoons in Houston, so why not a raccoon on the beach?  As we continued to watch and stealthily moved a bit closer, we discovered that this animal was dragging a log.  Soon a walker caught up to us and joined us to spy on this wildlife.  I snapped pictures with my phone, but our lone walker had a fancy camera with a zoom lens.

Jennifer (in a green jacket) walking toward us.
Before long, Jennifer appeared on the beach coming from the direction of the cabin.  We used our best sign language to convince her to stop walking and watch this critter with us.  We were afraid that if we shouted, this animal would bolt back into the driftwood.  Soon, we were joined by the three fast walkers.  In addition to dragging the log, the animal also stopped to gnaw on it periodically.  As it finally abandoned the log and waddled toward the water, a unique tail confirmed our suspicions.  

Our friend with the zoom lens said that in twenty years of living here, he had never before seen this animal on the beach!  I just wish I had given him my email, so he could have shared his photos with us.  You'll just have to accept my word that the fuzzy critter in these photos was indeed a beaver!  
A beaver in salt water?
No photos as it waddled for the beach because I had passed
my phone to Anne so she could give directions to our last
group of friends searching for the cabin.  

Saturday, March 15, 2014

SOLSC #15: Surrendering to Joy!

I "serve up a slice" at Two Writing Teachers
and celebrate with Ruth Ayres at
Celebrate this week!
Discover. Play. Build.

Weather - Consecutive days of sunshine and spring-like weather
1/2 Day on Friday! - A head start on end of trimester grading with the gift of a half day without students

A white flag slice -  Sometimes I just give in.  It was near the end of second period.  Someone was whistling.  I admire whistlers, mostly because it's a skill that I've never acquired.  So I give my students permission to whistle on the count of three.  Our room sounds like an aviary.  I grab my phone, wander around to each table group, and record their cheerful tweets.  I'm not sure how I would have explained our activity to an administrator, but it was a joyful interlude.  

Technology - Our cherry tree on Friday 
Photo snapped from inside our classroom!
Joe edited photo to eliminate light reflections.

Friday, March 14, 2014

SOLSC #14: My Tower of Books

Today I join my fellow bloggers in
"serving up a slice" to the March SOLSC
sponsored by Two Writing Teachers.
When I read Elsie's post yesterday about books, it made me long for a cozy bookstore and a long afternoon.  However, I don't really need to go to the bookstore to find my next read because I surround myself with unread books.  One swivel of my desk chair brings this tower of ten books into view that I have yet to read.  I just finished Flora and Ulysses, and I'm almost finished with the audio book of PS Be Eleven, so it's decision time.

I spend a few moments pondering the tower of books and deciding what to read next. You'll recognize some newer titles and many older ones that my students are appalled that I haven't read.  It's a toss-up between Apothecary and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life.

I think about my next audio book and remember that I have Matilda read by Kate Winslett in the car.  And that's when I remember The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing (sequel to Three Times Lucky) which is on the floorboard in the back seat, just picked up from the library's hold shelf this week. How can I resist spending time again with Mo and Dale?

And then I remember a title that leaps to the top of the tower, Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner.  It appeared on my desk recently with this sticky note:  "Thank you for letting me borrow this amazing book.  It's my all time favorite now.  I appreciate you picking out books I may like."  How can I resist an endorsement like that?

What titles have made it to the summit of your WTR (want to read) pile or what do you think I should read from my tower?