Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Promise

I promise I will catch up soon.  It has been a long couple of days!!

In the meantime, I have a request.  If you are the praying type, will you please pray for my students?  A few of them are going through things that are far too heavy for eighth graders to be dealing with... or for anyone to be dealing with, for that matter.  It's been a rough few days, and I want more than anything for them to come out of all this strong and shiny.

I probably care about these kids more than I should, but I can't help it.  The day I stop thinking about these kids day and night is the day I should find myself a new profession.  I just hope they know how much I want for them to be happy, well-adjusted people.  If these people report back to me in the future about their successes, I will be over the moon.  My students will impact this world in one way or another, so I fight every day for them to make the right choices and to overcome everything that is thrown at them.  It seems to be a lot these days.  Yet, I never have any doubt about whether or not this battle is worth fighting. 

I think it was time for bed a few hours ago, so my soapbox will have to be put away for another one of these rainy days we've been having. 

God bless, and thanks for thinking of my kids.  It really does take a village.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Days 127 and 128- United Way Tornado Relief and Easter Weekend

United Way Tornado Relief Fund

What started out as some thunderstorms in the area over the past few days turned into something much worse.  The greater St. Louis area was ravaged by a series of tornadoes that brought golf ball sized hail with them and left behind a trail of destruction.  Our airport was shut down because of shattered windows and massive damage to terminals and runways alike.  Tom and I were shocked to see the footage on the news of the devastation surrounding us. 

We had some bad storms at our house.  However, it was not nearly as serious as what we were seeing.  In fact, we had joked around about it all.  I laughed at Tom and said, "The weatherman told us to stay inside and seek cover.  What you heard was, 'Go outside to see how awesome the storm is.'"  We were lucky. 

People here got hit, and they got hit hard.  A lot of this happened just miles away from us.  Again, we absolutely could not believe the images we were seeing.  Other than a big swamp in our backyard and the constant rain (seriously, it has been happening for a week straight), we have been unaffected.  We're in the middle of all of it, but we have been so blessed.

It's crazy to see storms like these happen at all.  It really makes you believe that there is something bigger, doesn't it?  What is even more incredible is that not a single person... not one person... was killed.  It's an Easter miracle!  This does not mean, however, that everyone is fine.  That's why I made my donation for this weekend to the United Way of STL Tornado Relief Fund.  I hope that others will follow suit to help my community recover and pick up the pieces.

******
Speaking of the rain...

Our activities this weekend were somewhat limited.  Because there was constantly some kind of warning crawling along the bottom of the tv screen (no joke), we didn't leave the house a whole lot.  We did have a lovely, relaxing weekend, however. 

A few highlights...

Our church was PACKED this morning.  I feel about Easter/Christmas church the way Tom feels about January gym attendance.  Where did all of these people come from?  I only wish that we would continue to pack in like sardines year round.  There's something so incredibly powerful about a full church singing a hymn.  It was really nice.  I hope that everyone comes back next week.

Easter


    We made my family's traditional Easter punch.  Unfortunately, no one spiked it.  There's always next year...

I'm not a big fan of deviled eggs anymore, but they make my Poopi happy.  I like to make him his happy.


We made baked brie for the first time, and it was delicious!  When an attempt at a bow failed, we tried for a heart on top.  Yeah...


Please disregard my cooking side ponytail and the sink full of dishes.  Instead, definitely direct your attention to the glazed ham, the green onion cheddar muffins, the spinach salad with berries and candied walnuts, the sun-dried tomato whipped mashed potatoes, and the country carrots with bacon.  These are much fancier than everything I've got going on.


Check out my ham and his ham.  What a fabulous combination! 

Happy Easter!

Thank you, Easter weekend, you made my day.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 126- Locks of Love and Rainy Day Off

I've always thought that I would donate hair to Locks of Love at some point.  However, I can't get myself to grow it long enough in the humid STL summers, and I have jumped back on the highlighting train.  That's another no-no.  I've always thought that I would run a marathon at some point in my life too, so maybe I'll focus on that one instead.  Then again, maybe growing my hair out extra long doesn't seem that bad after all...

I can still make a contribution to Locks for Loves in a different way, and that's what I did today.  I had written about the wonder of a good bobby-pinned updo last year, so today seemed like a good day to donate to this hair charity that I've been meaning to contribute to for a long time.

http://www.locksoflove.org/

WHAT IS LOCKS OF LOVE?

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. We meet a unique need for children by using donated hair to create the highest quality hair prosthetics. Most of the children helped by Locks of Love have lost their hair due to a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure. The prostheses we provide help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.

Mission Statement

Our mission is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children. The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need.

******

I looooove me a good thunderstorm every now and then.  I also love days off.  Do you even need to ask if I enjoyed my rainy day off?

How do I love thee, rainy day off?  Let me count the ways.

  1. I slept in.  This was aided by the lack of alarm clock and the soft tapping of raindrops on my window.  The nasty hail pelting didn't start until much later.
  2. I made homemade Beach Bar-style tomato soup and enjoyed it with my husband.
  3. General was a bit standoffish today.  However, we did get in some good petting time.
  4. I got to watch a "Say Yes to the Dress" marathon.  Yes!  Yes!  Yes!
  5. We could watch the storm swirl around from inside.  I did this from under my blanket on the couch.  While watching this, the cutest thing ever, on repeat.  Charlie Wilson "You Are"  Fabulous.
  6. Tom and I made it to Red Lobster for our last meatless Friday of the year.  Drawn butter... mmmm.
  7. I kicked Tom's butt at cards.  I suppose a nicer way to say that would be, "I enjoyed spending time playing games with my adorable husband."  However, I was not brought up that way.  I won.  I rule.
  8. I planned out our Easter dinner menu.  Even though it will just be the two of us, the meal will surely be delicious and the company enjoyable.
  9. I didn't have to do my hair or pick out an outfit.  Most of my day (all, even when we went in public) was spent looking comfortably unkempt.
  10. I'm sure there are a million other things, but I'd like to get back to enjoying my rainy day off.  Use your imagination.  If in what you imagine I am once again playing a game, please note that I am most certainly winning.
Thank you, rainy day off, you made my day.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 125- A (Hopefully) Meaningful Letter and Miss Helper

I wrote about a sweet girl last year who said some sweet things that really touched my heart.  She was a student of mine in my student teaching and one of my favorite kids (hypothetically, I mean... of course I don't have favorites... ahem).  She was funny and kind and personable and all kinds of wonderful.  Furthermore, she actually asked for help when she needed it.  She worked her tail off and would come to see me in Ac Lab or on her own time to make sure that she understood what she was learning.  She actually cared enough to seek me out and to let me teach her.  I learned so much and gained so much from having her in my classroom.  

I hope this doesn't come off the wrong way, and I hope it has become very clear that I am not full of myself.  That being said, my donation is a bit different today.  I've kept in touch with this student on and off throughout the year.  My donation today is a simple letter, but I hope that this gesture is meaningful.  I want this student to know that I still think about her and care about her and hope she's doing well.  I really do.

One of the strange things about my profession is that I spend more time with these kids than I do with my own family throughout the year, but then they are somewhat abruptly not mine anymore.  I'll say my sappy goodbyes and do my slidewshow with them at the end of the year, and then I'll never see some of them ever again.  All of the hours I spend thinking about them and getting to know them and working with them and figuring them out and finally really understanding how they work... then they leave, and that's it.  

This letter is a donation of sorts because I have all kinds of things fighting their way up and down my list of priorities asking for my time.  Taking the time to continue my relationship with a student and to let her know that she is still important to me will hopefully be a meaningful "donation".

Does that make sense?  I hope so.  It's easy sometimes to pick a charity, post a link, and punch in my credit card number.  However, on days like today where nothing is really jumping out at me, I think focusing my time and energy on something might be just as important.

Do you have a (hopefully) meaningful little letter of your own you might write?   


******
Another teacher gave up her plan time today to come into my classroom.  She was interested in what I was doing with the kids, and she wanted to check it out.  That alone was exciting to me.  She jumped right into the mix, and it was amazing to have another teacher giving the kids feedback and individual attention.

As if this wasn't lovely enough, Miss Helper gave me a bunch of little ego boosts along the way.  She complimented me on the differentiation happening in my room (a real education buzzword!).  She complimented me by having fun while playing with my kids and helping with their activities.  She complimented me by coming up at the end of the hour and excitedly telling me about the ideas she had been brainstorming where we could work together and get our kids working together next year.

It's always nice to be recognized and appreciated, and it was something I really needed at the end of this long, crazy, weirdly scheduled two weeks.

Thank you, Miss Helper, you made my day.

P.S. How about that RENT-inspired Michael Scott tribute on "The Office" tonight?  Amazing!  Is it weird that I'll probably cry next week during his last episode?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Day 124- Education Through Music and BBQ Chicken Pizza

Today marks the one year anniversary of the epic GLEE Madonna episode.  This has inspired me to get out the soundtrack I bought again and play it tomorrow.  I'm sure that it will be on repeat for the next few days... or weeks.  It's only right that I honor this important anniversary by making a donation to a charity that the Glee cast supports. 

http://www.etmonline.org/

Here's what they're all about:

At ETM, we believe that every child deserves a well-rounded education: one that includes music. Unfortunately, many schools, especially those serving children in low-income communities, provide no music instruction or rely solely on short-term programs that do not serve every student. ETM created a comprehensive program that incorporates music into the education of every child, including those with special needs.

ETM forms long-term partnerships with inner-city elementary and middle schools that lack the resources to develop school-wide music programs. We ensure high-quality instruction by hiring qualified music teachers, providing ongoing training, and performing regular program assessments. We encourage classroom teachers and music teachers to collaborate so that music can reinforce learning and development in all areas. And we help schools embrace music as a core subject by involving all members of the school community.





******
Okay, okay.  I know it's a little ridiculous to have two food posts in a row, but I just can't help myself.  We have been trying all kinds of new recipes lately.  We're eating well! 

Tonight I attempted to make my own BBQ chicken pizza.  I loooove the version they have at California Pizza Kitchen, and I was hoping that this one would turn out to be equally delicious.  Was it?  See for yourself.


We liked it.  It's always a happy night in this household when we can join the clean plate club. :)

Thank you, BBQ chicken pizza, you made my day.

Day 123- Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis and Tom's Guacamole

http://www.acceleratedcure.org/

I was delighted to soothe my aching muscles last year after a long weekend of hauling mulch and soil and fountains and trees and whatever else those HD customers asked me to.

My donation today was to an organization that helps people with MS, a disease that causes far worse aches and pains than I could ever imagine.

"Our mission is to cure Multiple Sclerosis


We will not be content with simply finding ways to slow the disease or treat symptoms. Curing means preventing the disability caused by MS, permanently stopping the progress of MS, and repairing the damage already caused in patients with MS.


As quickly as possible

Speed and effectiveness of finding a cure are much more important than other outcomes such as growth, wealth creation, and publicity (for the organization or any individuals involved with it).

By concentrating on finding the causes of MS

The logical route to a cure will come from determining the causes of MS."

******
Neither one of us in this house liked guacamole.  Well, we thought we didn't.  It turns out that we do.  Both of us.  Since we are both new lovers of the mushy green stuff, Tom decided to make his own from scratch to go with some fajitas I was cooking.  It required all kinds of chopping and ingredients and all kinds of hassle for him.  He just kept saying, "This better be good!"

It was.

Soooo good.  I meant to get a picture of him with his masterpiece, but we were too busy stuffing our faces with it for me to remember this step.  Let it just be known that it was absolutely delicious, and Tom has learned a new trick.

Thank you, Tom's guacamole, you made my day.





Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 122- Water=Hope and THE Picture

Since I wrote about the ACMs last year, I thought this year I'd donate to a charity that one of my favorite country stars supports.  Braid Paisley won the ACM for best male vocalist, so I investigated where his own funds go.  It turns out that he's a major supporter of the Water=Hope campaign.  This means that I am now a minor supporter of this campaign.  Here's what they do:

A small drop can have a huge ripple. Clean water = healthier life. Healthier lives = productive communities.  Water = hope. It's as simple as that.

Access to clean water combats extreme poverty, global disease, economic instability, and political stability. In keeping with the mission of HTHH, clean water is a currency for peace around the world.

Your donation will go to building wells, providing water purification systems, and addressing sanitation issues both in the United States and around the world.

http://bradpaisley.musiccitynetworks.com/index.htm?id=18930
http://www.hopethroughhealinghands.org/home

******

I enjoy students with character.  It's great if they're smart and even better if they're instantly respectful, but I can work on both of those things.  What I can't do is give a kid personality.  When a student comes into my room with his or her own little unique thing going on, that pleases me.

One student fits this bill so well that I've already written about her silliness.  She continues to add to the funny on a daily basis.  She gave me a picture recently, THE picture, that pushed her from hilariously wonderful into full-fledged pure awesome.  I wish I could post it, but clearly that would not be appropriate.  I'm not sure that any description will do it justice.  She had it taken during the second session of pictures here a month or two ago.  These pictures are not included in the yearbook (those were taken at the beginning of the year).  Rather, these photos are another opportunity for parents to spend money and to add another photo to the wallet that others will pretend to look at and ooooh and ahhhh over. 

This particular student purposefully took the goofiest picture she could.  Her hair has clearly been shaken, her glasses are off kilter, one of her eyes is closed... it's just all kinds of ha ha.  She showed me the proof when she got them back, and I laughed so hard my stomach hurt.  The amazing thing is that she actually got her parents to order these pictures, and she gave me one last week.  I love it.

I was having a moment of frustration yesterday... but then I saw it... THE picture.  I started cracking up right then and there and got over it.  Simple as that.

Thank you, THE picture, you made my day.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Day 121- StoryCorps and Palm Sunday

I was growing up in a very important way around this time last year.  I had a large project due to complete as part of my teaching certification.  I had to create a monster portfolio to basically tell the story of what my beliefs about education are and what I had done so far in the classroom.  I was actually responsible and spent a great deal of time putting it together.  For once, I did not save something until the last minute, and I took the time to do it right.  I bragged about my own productivity.  I'm getting a whole lot better about that and about managing my time.

It meant a lot to me to be able to tell my story through that portfolio.  It means a lot to me to be able to use this blog as an outlet and to tell my story in a different kind of way, a way where maybe people I don't come into contact with every day can "listen" to my story.  This all lead me to the discovery of an awesome charity that is definitely deserving of my donation today.

I've always believed that if you listen long enough to people, you'll end up seeing their hearts.  Everyone has a story to tell, and most people seem to be just looking for someone who will listen.  Because I have not learned how to politely excuse myself from conversations, or maybe just because I feel bad if I do, I often find myself on the listening end of these conversations.  This runs in my family.  I once stood in the pet aisle of a store for twenty minutes listening to stories about a woman's cat.  Tom excused himself, got all of our shopping done, and came back to drag me away.  He asked me why I didn't just peel myself away, and I wondered the same thing myself.  I think what it boils down to is that if someone needs to talk so much that they will corner me in an aisle at a store, then I might as well listen.  It all goes back to that idea of everyone having a story.

That's the idea that StoryCorps revolves around.  Here's what they do:

StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition and on our Listen pages.

We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, strengthen and build the connections between people, teach the value of listening, and weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that every life matters. At the same time, we will create an invaluable archive of American voices and wisdom for future generations.

In the coming years we will build StoryCorps into an enduring institution that will touch the lives of every American family.

"Every voice matters," they say.  I agree!

http://storycorps.org/

******
I often hear criticisms of Catholicism that focus on the rituals and traditions as bad things.  I understand that it all may seem a bit odd to someone who did not grow up in the religion.  However, it's what I know.  I like it for many of the reasons that others think it's weird. 

Palm Sunday meant spending an extra thirty minutes at church this morning, which was okay with me.  I enjoyed reading the Passion of the Lord.  It was like having a little church play with multiple characters and lines.  When we walked in, we got our palms, and this gave Tom something to keep his hands busy for the rest of mass.  He wove his into a little cross, and I'm going to put it on our bookshelf.  No joke.  I enjoyed the sign of peace, as I always do.  I wish we could do this in our real lives more.  I often thing about giving that a try outside of church.  The little girls who often sit in front of us were adorable as ever.  They were even wearing little cowboy boots this morning.  How cute is that?  The lady in front of us sang in an amusing yet good kind of way.  It was just an all-around lovely service.

Thank you, Palm Sunday, you made my day. 

Day 120- Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and Chick-fil-A

I wrote about a joyful boy jumping off the bus and bounding home.  His joy was infectious and made my day. 

I donated to a different type of transportation today.  The ITDP "works in cities around the world to bring about transportation solutions that are environmentally sustainable and socially equitable. ITDP primarily focuses on work in the following program areas: public transport, cycling & walking, traffic reduction, sustainable urban development, and climate & transport policy. ITDP is at the forefront of efforts to reduce carbon emissions, protect the environment, enhance social equity, and improve the quality of urban life."

In short, I think the ITDP wants everyone to enjoy riding the bus as much as little guy last year.  I want to help :).

 http://www.itdp.org/

******

I had my first ever Chick-fil-A sandwich today.  One just opened up down the road right next to my old Home Depot store, and we couldn't wait to drive it.  After driving by on meatless Friday and looking longingly at the new restaurant, we resolved to go today.

Let's just say this... now I see what all the fuss is about.  That stuff is like fair food, but it's excellent fair food.  The lemonade... the waffle fries... the chicken sandwiches... mmmm...

Thank you, Chick-fil-A, you made my day.


 

Day 119- BMS Kids and Steph's Sectional

BMS Kids

Their t-shirts have been ordered :).

******

My friend Stephanie just moved into her new house last weekend, and I got to see it for the first time.  I am so happy for her and for the steps she is taking to move forward in her life.  I have a feeling the next few years are going to be really exciting for her.

What was exciting for me (you know, beyond all that happily ever after for my friend stuff) was her brand new sectional.  She told us about it at lunch after she bought it, and I had been excited to try it out ever since.  After having spent a few hours lounging on it (finally!), I can see where the excitement came from.  I may just have to invite myself over there for a few more Friday night loungings.

Thank you, Steph's sectional, you made my day. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 118- BMS Kids and 2nd Hour

It's all about the kids again.  Yesterday's donation plus the breakfast donation I have made to the kids testing in my room all week were a whole lot more than my regular sum.  We've snacked on apples, granola bars, and juice boxes for the past three days.  It's amazing how much the attitude of a kid who needs to eat can change once he or she is given something to munch on! 

Are you involved in your local schools?  What might you be able to bring to the table (literally and figuratively)?

******
I adore my second hour.

They are fun and cute and smart.  I know that I can always expect them to buy into whatever we're doing.  There's always someone raising a hand and someone sharing an insight and someone doing something goofy that I know I should be mad about but can't help but laughing at anyway.  I started a mental list, which we plan on turning into a real list, that I share with my second hour often.  I told them that it's called "Things I Never Thought I'd Have to Say as a Teacher."  Maybe I'll share it on here sometime once we create a hard copy.  In any case,  my second hour students pride themselves on the fact that they make the list more than anyone else.

I've always said that I'd much rather have a class with crazy personalities than one that sits quietly staring at me with that open-mouthed blank look that makes me uncomfortable.  There is no shortage of personality with these little lovelies.  There are a million examples I could share about what a unique, hilarious, fabulous bunch they are, but

a. I want to be careful to protect the privacy of my kids and don't want to say too much, and
b. I'm falling asleep sitting up.

I'll end with this.  True to form, this class has completely gotten into the whole boot camp thing.  I am pleased to say that they might just be as amused by me as I am by them.  When I walked into my classroom this morning, they all stood up and saluted me simultaneously.   

I heart those kids.  I'm going to miss them.

Thank you, second hour, you made my day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day 117- BMS Kids and HT

I'm hesistant to write about this.  Today's donation was personal, and I would have made it anonymously if I could have.  I don't ever want to give the impression that the only reason I make these donations is to talk about how I'm making donations.  One of the main ideas behind this project was to hopefully inspire others to donate and to give them ideas about all kinds of different organizations.  I'm not sure that I've been successful with that at all. 

The other main purpose behind my daily donations is similar to what started this whole blog in the first place.  Last year I was hoping that by looking for things to be thankful for each and every day, I would start to be more thankful in general.  I learned how to practice gratitude, and I now look for the little moments each day that make my life beautiful.  I hoped that by focusing on giving, I would become a more charitable person and that I would begin to look for giving opportunities on a daily basis as well.  I have been much more successful at this objective.

An opportunity presented itself this week, and I took it.   It's as simple as that.  A bunch of our kids did not have the means to pay for their end-of-the-year activities and things.  It would break my heart to see them not get their little t-shirts and get to participate in their eighth grade rites of passage.  I made a donation today, and the list has been reduced.  I think the rest can easily be taken care of now.

Have you been presented with any opportunities to give lately?  Are you taking them?

******

I, the queen of pep talks, need my own pep talks from time to time.  HT is my queen of pep talks.  She is the champion of hype and wisdom.  She's a strong woman who stands up for herself and has a lot of experience in education.  She's also a phenomenal teacher.  These things most certainly lead to great advice.  There are days when I just need to go into her room, ramble for a while, and then listen to her tell me what's up.  I needed this today, and she delivered the way she always does.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know HT outside of school this year too.  As smart and talented as she is, girlfriend also knows how to have a good time.  She can do every country line dance that has ever been created... and she does them all in her blinged out jeans.  She knows where to find the best chicken nachos and how to wiggle her way into specials even when they're technically over.  She also makes great snacks.  Could there be a more important quality?

I could go on and on, but it all boils down to this.  I'm glad that we are trusting the future of our kids to HT, and I'm oh so thankful to call her my friend.  This one's for you, HT! :)



Thank you, HT, you made my day.     

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Day 116- Teammates for Kids and Boot Camp

This day marks a very important anniversary.  I have now been totally, completely, head over heels in love with Trisha Yearwood for a year.  Over the past year, I have sampled numerous recipes from her cookbook and added every single thing I've tried into our rotation.  Trisha has impeccable taste.  Girlfriend knows what she's doing in the kitchen.  It's hard to believe that we've only known one another for a year.  Yet, at the same time, it seems as if our first chicken piccata together was just yesterday (this may be partly due to the fact that we did make this on Sunday).

Trisha doesn't have any charities listed on her website, but Garth has one of his own.  You know... Garth Brooks (her husband and the recipient of her cooking).  I made my donation today to Garth's charity to show my adoration for his talented wife.

http://www.teammatesforkids.com/

"The purpose of the foundation is to contribute financial resources to selected nonprofit organizations that effectively serve and benefit children with an emphasis on health, education, and inner-city services. "

******

If you haven't heard from me in a couple of days, don't take it personally.  I've been wrapped up in creating a boot camp.  It started as a small idea.  I said to myself, "Self, your students have come a long way and learned so much.  What can you teach during MAP testing?  Ahhh... I know!  These kids need a grammar boot camp."  Yes, I talk to myself.  Yes, even when I'm talking to myself I ramble and may take slightly longer than needed to get to the point. 

Did you noticed I said it started as a small idea?  Once I was set on this boot camp idea, it spiraled out of control.  I have trouble doing things halfway.  On our first day of basic training today, my little boot camp idea had turned into a full on THING.  Since I had to cover all of my content related posters for testing, I figured I might as well cover them with camo.  Since I will have my classes in a crazy schedule for the next two weeks while we're testing, and since I have students who span a wide range of ability levels, I figured I might as well make multiple stations with multiple levels.  Since I was already invested in the whole thing this far, I "might as well"ed my way into all kinds of other things... complex spreadsheets and team rankings, grammar cadences, military clip art, a multimedia PowerPoint, a drill sergeant oufit... bigger, bigger, bigger, bigger...

I just can't help myself sometimes.  All the time.

I was worried that after all of this work I had put in, the kids would roll their eyes and be too cool for it all.  My other concern was that they would think that I was off my rocker.  While I may have convinced a few that I am crazy, the buy in today was better than I could have imagined.  They loved it.  A few of them even went out of their way to tell me this as they left class.  I believe they have reinforced my behaviors and there will be many more themed units in my future planned down to each and every ridiculous little detail.

I'm okay with that.  The kids are excited to learn grammar and to earn their military rankings and to compete with their companies and... I won't bore you with all of the details (unless you want me to, in which case I'll talk your ear off about my masterpiece for hours).  For now, I'll leave you with a small sample of my large issue with not knowing when to stop myself.  Please disregard the boring seating arrangement (dang testing rules).


Can I still ask the kids to call me "Sir, yes sir!" after this whole thing is over?  I'm enjoying that more than I realized I would.


Thank you, boot camp, you made my day.

Day 115- WaterAid America and Teacher's Husband

Last year I was singing the praises of iced tea and heralding it as thee supreme refreshing summer beverage.  Today I have also enjoyed my daily lunch Mountain Dew, copious amounts of water, and my first glass of Oberweiss lemonade of the season.  This is a blessing.

My donation today has been made to WaterAid America.  Having constant access to safe, fresh water is something that many of us, myself included, take for granted.  I have enjoyed liquid refreshment in just about every form today.  Other people go days, weeks, months, and even lifetimes without this privilege, but WaterAid is working to make access to this most basic of needs a reality for many people.  Here's what they have to say in the "What We Do" section of their website:

WaterAid enables the world's poorest people to gain access to safe water and sanitation. Together with improved hygiene, these basic human rights underpin health, education and livelihoods, forming the first essential step in overcoming poverty.

We work with local partners, who understand local issues, and provide them with the skills and support to help communities set up and manage practical and sustainable projects that meet their real needs.

We also work locally and internationally to change policy and practice and ensure that water, hygiene and sanitation's vital role in reducing poverty is recognized.

http://www.wateraidamerica.org/

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Welcome to "You Know You're a Teacher's Husband When..."  Past episodes have included such items as

"... you go to a school play or sporting event in which you know none of the participants." AND
"... you know what PLCs and IEPs are, and you can't wait for the MAP to be over."

Today's List

You know you're a teacher's husband when...

... you get roped into spending an hour after work helping to cover posters to prepare for standardized testing.  And helping to make spreadsheets.  And helping to move and straighten and clean and...
... you eat dinner at 8 to work around your wife's 14 hr. day... or was it 16 hours and 9?  Depends on the day, but you're fine either way.  You're flexible...
... and then you become a sounding board for ideas after dinner.
... you open your wallet for juice boxes, apples, and granola bars that you will never eat yourself.
... you are known by the 13-16-year-old population of your community as "Mrs. Ferri's husband".
... you have placed an order with Argus.
... you know how many Chlorox wipes it takes to clean thirty desks.

"Teacher's husband" may not be as glamorous as "doctor's wife" or "billionaire", but this teacher's husband sure is appreciated!  Tom, thank you for being awesome.  Thanks for supporting me in my career and for always being willing to pitch in to help me create my ridiculous visions.  I literally couldn't do what I do without you.

Thank you, teacher's husband, you made my day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Day 114- Broadway Lullaby and Strawberry Cake

I went to see some of my students in a school play last year.  I must admit that I went solely for the purpose of supporting my kids, and I did not expect to get a lot out of the experience myself.  This doesn't happen all that often, but... I was wrong.  It was thoroughly entertaining, and I loved it.  It meant a lot to my students that I was there, so it meant a lot to me too.

 The donation I'll be making in connection to last year's post is to this year's play.  I'm at a different school with different kids, but this whole formula works in the same way.  I'll buy a couple of tickets to "Broadway Lullaby" go show my kids that I care about them and the things they're involved in.  I'll chat with them about how much I enjoy it afterwards, and we'll all feel good and happy.

The funny thing is that I almost feel as if I'm cheating.  Even though this is a "donation" of my time and money, I always seem to get as much out of it all as the kids do.  I don't think they have any idea how talented they are. 

What are you doing to support the kids in your area?  How do they know that you care? 

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Trisha Yearwood and I collaborated on a strawberry cake this evening.  I need to pad myself with that cake about as much as Trisha needs to pad her bank account with the money from her cookbook sales.  Even so, it was delicious, and I am not one bit sorry.  I'll be enjoying that cake alllll week long.  There are strawberries in it... that makes it better, right?



I didn't take a picture, but mine looks a lot like this... minus the fanciness.  Trisha is my food soulmate.

Thank you, strawberry cake, you made my day.

Day 113- Polish American Association and Spring Gel Clings

I met a wonderful Polish man last year who reminded me of my grandpa.  He made me feel as if my grandpa was speaking to me and sending me a message to make it to Poland someday.  I know I'll follow that advice one day, and I'm sure that it will feel as if he's with me again.  For now, I'm making a donation to the Polish American Association in honor of these two fantastic men.

The goal of this organization is to help the Polish American community.  They assist with language classes, vocational training, job development and classes, computer literacy classes, and much more.

http://www.polish.org/

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We were at Target today.  Have I mentioned how much I love Target?  I just ADORE that place.  We had a bunch of things to take care of, but I have an obligation to look at the dollar section every time I go in, so I had to stop there first.  Have I mentioned how much I love the dollar section at Target?

I got all excited when I saw a price tag for gel clings on the shelf.  I was so excited about this that I probably should have been embarrassed.  I wasn't.  I had previously found snowflake clings and Valentine's clings for my classroom window in the dollar section, but I hadn't been able to find anything to replace these once they went out of season.  When I realized that it was little notebooks and stickers instead of gel clings in the section where I found the sticker, I was devastated.  I was so devastated that I probably should have been embarrassed to be so affected.  I was a little bit.  Noticing how my face fell, Tom started pawing through sections next to me.  When he uncovered some spring gel clings, I squealed with joy.

I realize how silly this must all seem, but that's ok.  I can't wait to put these little butterfiles and flowers and other clings up on my window tomorrow.  It's the little things, isn't it?

Thank you, spring gel clings, you made my day.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 112- Binder Park Zoo and Trivia Night

Last year= folders and binders
This year= Binder Park Zoo

http://www.binderparkzoo.org/

"Binder Park Zoo is located outside of Battle Creek, Michigan, on 433 acres of natural forests and wetlands. In the past 33 years, we have grown to be one of the leading cultural attractions in the region. Binder Park Zoo was created on the model of an entrepreneurial self-supporting nonprofit organization, and is managed by a zoological society board of directors.


Mission


Binder Park Zoo’s mission is to nurture empathy, understanding, and conservation of nature."

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Instead of falling asleep on the couch while watching my stories this Friday night, Tom and I took a friend up on his offer to join a trivia night tonight.  People in this area loooooooove trivia nights!  I believe this may be my first official trivia night (you know, one that's not just Trivial Pursuit at home).  It's about time.  Perhaps this was one of the last steps to being an official resident here.

I can see why people around here really enjoy these nights.  Who doesn't like food, friends, and fun?  We enjoyed lots of good dips and lots of good laughs.  Our entrance fee went to a good cause and was almost like a second donation today, one that will help send teens on a mission trip to inner city Chicago.  The only downside was that we didn't win anything.  I reallllly like to win.  And we didn't win anything.  Nothing at all.  I suppose that just means we'll have to make it to another trivia night soon. :)

Thank you, trivia night, you made my day.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 111- Operation Write Home and Honey Bunches of Oats

Reading last year's post from this day made me realize that I need to make a good trip to Hallmark soon.  I think it's been like a month... maybe even more... GASP!

Reading last year's post also set me down a path to find a Hallmark-related charity for today's donation.  Find one I did!  It's a good one too. :)  Check out Operation Write Home.

http://www.operationwritehome.org/index.html

Our Mission:
Supporting our nation's armed forces by sending blank handmade greeting cards to write home on, as well as cards of gratitude to encourage them.

Who wouldn't want to donate, right?

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I don't often have after dinner snacks these days.  This may be shocking to those who knew me in the days of yore, but it's true.  I just couldn't help myself tonight, though.  I made honey nut chicken strips for dinner last night, which involved coating some chicken in a combination of things that ended with crushed up Honey Bunches of Oats.  I may or may not have sampled a few along the way.  I may or may not have been thinking about dunking a bowl full of them in milk and shoveling them into my mouth ever since.



 
 
 
 
I indulged, and I enjoyed every second of it.
 
Thank you, Honey Bunches of Oats, you made my day.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Day 110- Candy and Bingo

There's no separation between my donation and gratitude today.  It's all part of one big happy family!

At this time last year, I was celebrating the very end of a LARGE stack of grading... research papers and projects and outlines and journals... it was a lot.  Today I started a week's worth of review before my kids start to take their standardized tests.  While I think the day to day moments and learning I witness in my classroom are the most valuable to my students, others use these standardized tests to measure both my worth and that of my kids.  Therefore, it is crucial that my kids do well.  I want everyone else to see what I see.

I'm trying to make this review as enjoyable as possible.  I want the students to feel confident and capable... we ain't afraid of no test!  Bingo was the big item on today's agenda.  Students filled out cards with the words from their study guides, and we went to town.  I spent way more than today's donation amount on edible Bingo pieces and prizes for our winners.  I found those little plastic eggs that open up and filled them with candy and stickers and all kinds of fun.  The kids surprised themselves with how much they knew and remembered, and I surprised them with prizes.

I know that lots of parents and teachers and coaches now operate by the philosophy that games are played for fun, and it's not important who wins.  This is not the case in my classroom.  I nurture and encourage all kids, but I am way too competitive myself to not make a big deal out of winning.  It was fun to see kids get serious about the game and to try their best to take a crack at one of those eggs.  It was fun to see kids who never get any kind of victory triumph in the games.  It was fun just to get to relax with my kids and have fun with some good old-fashioned Bingo.  I freaking love Bingo.

Thank you, Bingo, you made my day.

Day 109- buildOn and Voting

I won my NCAA basketball bracket last year and celebrated with a blog post (and some  totrash talking).  I didn't do any brackets this year because we were in Mexico when everything was announced.  As much as I love joining the fun and winning, I was definitely okay with the situation.

Since UConn won the tournament this year, I found a fabulous organization in Connecticut to make my donation to.  There's your connection.  The charity is called builOn, and here's what they do:

buildOn is a non-profit organization that empowers primarily urban U.S. high school students through in-class and intensive afterschool youth service programs. In addition to tremendous contributions of community service in their own cities and neighborhoods, buildOn youth actually build schools and bring literacy to children and adults in developing countries around the world. buildOn programs are designed to build confidence and real-world capabilities in American youth while also empowering communities world-wide in Africa, South America, and South East Asia to overcome the cycle of illiteracy, poverty and low expectations by opening the door to education.

http://buildon.org/Default.aspx

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I do not take for granted the women who struggled in order for me to live with the rights that I do.  One right in particular that I exercised today was my right to vote.  My profession is undergoing many changes right now and being presented with all kinds of challenges.  It was more crucial than ever to make my voice heard in our school board elections.

Every time I leave the voting "booth" (ours are more like tables with partitions), I can't help but to smile and give a little holler to all the women who made that experience possible for me.  Holler, ladies!

Thank you, voting, you made my day.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Day 108- Saint Louis Zoo and Posters from Poopi

Ok, I'm stretching today.  I'll admit that.  See if you can follow...

Outback saved our Easter dinner on this day last year by being open when I got out of work.  The Outback (like the real region in Australia) has a ton of animals.  The Saint Louis Zoo has a ton of animals as well.

http://www.stlzoo.org/

Um, yes.  I donated to the St. Louis Zoo today.  This connection may be weird and loose, but I don't think anyone being sent my money is complaining. :)

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I love getting catalogs because I point out all of the things I wish for to Tom and turn down corners on pages.  Even though these catalogs usually end up in the recycling bin with the corners still turned down and nothing to show for it, I feel as if I'm "shopping" when I obsess over the contents for a week or so anyway.

When I got home today, Tom gave me a box that had arrived in the mail.  I told him that I had not ordered anything, and he smiled.  The contents of the box were three posters I had turned down corners for recently.

I blogged about seeing this poster in another teacher's classroom last year and how much I liked it.  I own it now and can't wait to hang it in my room.


You know I adore this.  I hope my room feels this way on the inside!

I mean... c'mon, that's just funny!

On top of loving the posters, I love the fact that Tom went out of his way to do something so nice and thoughtful.  It turns out you actually can teach an old Tom new tricks.  I sure do like that Poopi.

Thank you, posters from Poopi, you made my day.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Day 107- Powerfully Good Words and Randomly Wonderful Sunday

It must be adverb day!  Everything's coming up -ly!

My "donation" today is just that... a donation that, when spoken about, requires quotation fingers.  I have to throw a curveball in there every now and then to keep things a little interesting.  While this one doesn't involve any kind of exchange of money, I'm hoping that simply trying to put things out there in the world might make a difference in its own way.

The past few weeks we've been talking about words in my classes.  We've gone over vocab strategies and affixes and root words and details and all kinds of other wordy things.  I gave my kids homework one night that was simply to use their words in a powerfully good way.  I didn't ask them to write anything down or have anyone sign anything to hold them accountable.  I simply asked them to try it.  Honor system.

Our warm-up the next day was for them to write about what they had done.  I asked them to share what they had said, how others reacted, and how they thought things might be different if we all chose our words more carefully.  I graded the weekly warm-ups today with glee because their answers just blew me away!

I am not so naive as to think that they all really did this assignment or that every single one of them was telling the truth.  I get that.  However, for every student who did not take this seriously, I truly think that there was a student who did.  Their answers were heartfelt and warm and fuzzy and full of powerfully good things.  They complimented, they were nice to their siblings, they said kind words to their parents... and so much more.

I couldn't help but be proud.  I simply planted the seed, and I got to sit back and enjoy an entire garden of flowers.  I take my position as a possible role model for my students very seriously, and this is exactly the kind of thing that I want them to remember about my class.  I made a small donation of an idea into my students' minds, and they paid it forward.  I hope that the ripples from this are still going today.

Your challenge, which you will most certainly want to accept, is to make a donation of your own powerfully good words to someone else today.  You'll feel as good about it as they will, and I'll be smiling here just thinking about it.

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I had an awesome predicament today.  I was trying to figure out how to pick just one of the many things that delighted me to the point of making my day today in order to write the blog.  I eventually realized that

a. this is not a problem at all and 
b. there is absolutely no reason to pick just one

If I want to write under the blanket title of "Randomly Wonderful Sunday" in order to include all the little things that make my world go round, then that's precisely what I will do.  Here goes...

  • I went to church and breakfast with my husband.  While this is a weekly occurence, I don't think of it as a routine. It is delightful each and every time it happens.    
  • I got a TON of grading done today.  This will greatly reduce my stress level this week.
  • The sun was shining all day long.  That should need no additional explanation.
  • Tom and I collaborated on tasty dinner of steaks, portabellas, salad, and zucchini bake (something scrumptious my mom taught me how to make way back when).  I'll get to enjoy this again tomorrow at lunch, and it will make me grin by reminding me of this great day.
  • At one point in the day, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye.  When I looked down, my little General man was snuggled up as close to me as he could get.  Warm and fuzzies.
  • I rediscovered two things that I ADORE today.  I watched "Love and Basketball," and love is absolutely right.  It's one of those movies where I find something else I love about it every time I see it.  I love the old classics as well.  Monica: I'll play you.  Quincy: For what?  Monica: Your heart.  Cheesy goosebumps.  I also listened to one of my favorite songs of all time on repeat for a little while.  "Everlong" by the Foo Fighters is a masterpiece and was treated as such in this household today. 
  • I wore a dress all day long.  This may seem ridiculous, but it makes me feel good about myself, so you can take that ridiculous off of me and put it somewhere else.  Hmph. :)
Amazingly enough, I feel as if I may even be forgetting something from this list.  An embarrassment of riches, it is!  I am so blessed.

Thank you, Randomly Wonderful Sunday, you made my day.

    Day 106- Give Kids the World and Panera Breakfast

    It's funny how these things line up sometimes.  I was thrilled for my parents last year because they were on their way to a much-deserved vacation.  One year later, it's the same old story.  As hard as they both work, I couldn't be happier that the two of them are off for another week of fun and relaxation.

    In honor of this, I poked around to try to find an organization that would help others who deserve vacations get them too.  I found one!

    http://www.givekidstheworld.org/

    Give Kids the World was my answer, and here's what they do:

    Give Kids The World is a non-profit organization that exists only to fulfill the wishes of all children with life-threatening illnesses and their families from around the world to experience a memorable, joyful, cost-free visit to the Central Florida attractions, and to enjoy the magic of Give Kids The World Village for as long as there is a need.

    100,000 children have had their dream come true at Give Kids The World. No child in need has ever been turned away – and no child ever will. Give Kids The World is a place where families find joy, laughter, serenity, and a lifetime of memories. Through the tireless support of our volunteers, employees and generous partners, we dedicate each and every day to these special families.

    ******

    Tom and I used to make fabulousssss breakfasts every Saturday morning.  It was a wonderful hangout time for us where we'd cook together and listen to music and silly dance and chat and have a lot of fun.  I wrote about this numerous times in numerous ways last year, and I'm thankful for each and every one of our lovely Saturday breakfasts. 

    Lately, we've been busy to the max and bad at planning.  We often wake up on Saturdays and open everything in the kitchen looking for breakfast ingredients that are just not there.  After about five minutes of this little routine, we realize that we'll have to go with Plan B.  To be honest, sometimes we just move directly to Plan B.

    Plan B= Panera Breakfast

    We have really learned to love our new Saturday routine... at least until we have time for the old one again.  We enjoy his and her breakfast sandwiches from Panera, along with overly expensive coffees from that place I said I'd never like next door.  At least I'm not addicted. :)

    Plan B hit the spot this morning and started off my day just right!

    Thank you, Panera breakfast, you made my day. 

    Day 105- Boy Scouts of America and Silly T-shirt Day

    http://www.scouting.org/

    Since I was thankful for holding class outdoors last year, I thought I'd donate to some kind of outdoor education today.  The Boy Scouts seem to fit this bill well!  I made my donation to our local troop, and I hope that it will help a scout earn a badge... or maybe it can help pay for a badge... I just like the whole badge thing :)

    ******

    Sometimes when I get a bit exasperated at work, I wonder "In what other career would someone have to deal with this kind of stuff?"

    Today, as I wore Tom's "Ice ice baby... too cold" t-shirt (with two bags of ice and a baby saying "too cold") for Silly T-Shirt Day, I thought the same thing.  Who else gets to do that?  I love our silly little dress up days. 

    Thank you, Silly T-Shirt Day, you made my day.