Thursday, June 30, 2011

Flower Junkie

I have confession to make. I am a flowering plant junkie in the summer. I hate to see them die at the store, and I can't seem to leave them there. I look at the shriveled up leaves and wilting flowers and think to myself, "I could save that.  Just a little water and fresh dirt, a bigger pot, and it will take off again." And, if they are marked down, all is lost.

Many times, I don't even have a place to plant it. And God knows, my poor husband spends hours watering everything when I am gone. This year, a few of them haven't done so well. They are looking pretty sad, as a matter of fact. But still, I have been on a "binge" this week. I've been to the store twice and come home with plants.

The first day I was suckered in by the "50% off bedding plants" sign in front of the greenhouse. These plants really look pretty healthy. They are from the greenhouse, after all. A few in the ground, a couple of pots. I was good.

But the next day I went to the variety store on the edge of town. Again, 50% off. And these plants were so sad. Root bound, brown edged leaves, wilting.  But the flowers looked pretty healthy. "Just a little water and fresh dirt, a bigger pot, and it will take off again".  I came home with a couple more.

I have to stop. I won't be home next week and the temperature the next couple of days will be in the 90's.  NOT a good time to put flowers in.  I won't be able to get them off to the start I know they need in my yard.

But, if I happen to drive by a 50% off sign....





Today's wise words from Spilling Ink:  "If you idly wait for inspiration, your ideas will dry up."

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wise Words

"Dare to write the imperfect page."

I've been reading a lot of writing blogs and writing texts this week. My favorite right now is Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook   by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter. I love this book. It really is written for kids who love to write, but I am finding it great for myself also (by the way, the web site/blog is pretty awesome too!)

As I am reading this morning and wondering what to blog about, I come across these words,

"Dare to write the imperfect page."

Hmm. How did they know that I agonize over each and every paragraph, sentence, word, comma, period...How did they know that I have unpublished drafts, heck, UNWRITTEN drafts, that I just don't think are worthy? Worthy of what?  My friends?  They don't judge. My blogging friends? They really don't judge.  Myself? There's the problem.

I judge.

"Dare to write the imperfect page."

Maybe I need to reword the quote

Dare to be imperfect.

There. Let those be my words to live by for awhile...





Tuesday, June 28, 2011

One Short Year

Chloe went into be spayed on Monday. It was a lonely day.






In one short year
You grabbed ahold of our hearts
And did not let go.
How did we exist when you weren't here?


Without you here

I don't need to
Hide my flip flops so you don't chew them up.
I don't need to
Keep the peanut butter and chocolate
Off the counter
So you can't eat them.

Without you here

I can leave the bathroom door open.
I don't have to worry about
What's in the garbage.

Without you here

I can go to the store without
You wanting to go too.
I can eat in the living room without
You pouting and wanting some.

Without you here
there is

No whining to play.
No head in my lap.
No puppy dog eyes.

Without you here
Who will welcome us home
With wagging butt and
Jumps of Joy?

How did we exist without you?

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Brave New World?

Ruth Ayers has inspired me. A few years ago, before the other five grandkids arrived,  I started a children's book for my granddaughter, Kaylee. It has sat on my laptop all this time. I open it up once in awhile, play with it a little and then close it up. In my recent Web 2.0 class, I worked on some different ways to illustrate it, but, again, closed it up.

I've been following Ruth's new blog, Ruth Ayers Writes. Today's post dealt with fear. Specifically, a character's fear, but this easily transfers to my own. What am I afraid of?  That the story won't be any good?  Rejection?  Being laughed at?

So today, I start a new writer's notebook and dust off the story--plus a couple of others that have been running around in my brain.  And I will write...

Will I share?  Only time will tell.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Only in Iowa

White cow with dark spots grazing on a hillphoto © 2008 Horia Varlan | more info (via: Wylio)
Life at the lake is always interesting. You never know what you are going to see and yesterday was no exception!

I headed into town to pick up a few things, music blaring and my mind going over the list of things I needed to remember, bag of dirt, chicken for lunch, mail a bill...  As I rounded the last curve I noticed two cows walking down the road ahead of me. I wondered what they needed from town! I slowed down and to my right I noticed a couple more loping down a path toward the highway. I stopped the car and watched 12-15 more walk out onto the highway!

I began to slowly follow them as they traveled. Several times the lead cow started down into the ditch and I hoped I might get around them. Then I noticed a big truck coming down the road in the other lane. Well, this should be interesting I thought. Wonder what they will do now?  The cows were definitely taking up most of the highway, so the truck pulled over a bit onto the shoulder and slowly drove around them. This, however, spooked the herd, so they turned around and began stampeding back the way they came---right at me!

Now, I drive a little Pontiac Vibe.  Not exactly a cow proof vehicle if one of them ran into me! So, I stopped the car again, tapped my horn once as one of them got closer to me and just watched as one by one they all ran around me, following the truck.

I don't know what happened to them after that. I saw someone pull into the farm lane that I had passed before the I saw the cows, so I hope they were rounded up!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

PB and J

Peanut Butter
Peanut Butter and Jelly
The world's most perfect food combination

Smooth and creamy
When spread on warm toast
When washed down with hot, black coffee
Perfection

A pool of melted butter
Swirls into the peanut butter
Which gently holds the jelly on top.

Paired with hot chocolate
The perfect Sunday night supper
Soothing

Made by Grandma
A grandkid pleaser
Satisfaction

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just Read

"One third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.
Forty two percent of college graduates never read another book after college.
Eighty percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year."  Jenkins Group


Our classroom library


Yesterday I posted that quote and a link to a blog post entitled "Time to Get Angry About Reading" on my Facebook page. It sparked a lot of response--mostly surprise by adult friends that people aren't reading ( I seem to surround myself with people who do read). But a former student posted that he probably won't read after his Freshman HONORS program because there are too many other things for him to do. Whatever reading he will do will be interesting things he finds on the internet.  YIKES!

But I know what I think is the cause of the problem. We teach reading to death. We kill whatever spark there is in a student by analyzing and comparing and talking and writing and lit circling and assigning... we take the joy out of reading.  I HATED that as a student. Teachers had terrible taste in what books students should read.  Teachers were slow to embrace Young Adult literature.Teachers thought if it was old, it must be good.  I rebelled. I read the Cliff Notes and whatever I could find on the public library's shelves.

I LOVED the public library. Especially after we moved to the other side of town and the BIG library was within walking distance of our house--important when you had a mom who didn't drive.  I loved the smell of dust and old stories as I walked through the front door. I loved climbing the stairs to the fiction section and losing myself in the stacks.  I loved that no one told me what to read. I could spend hours there.

I made friends with Scarlett and Francie Nolan. Jane Eyre and Scout.  Jo March and Rebecca.  And hundreds more.  My parents were readers and they didn't tell me I wasn't old enough for a book, they just let me read what I wanted.  And today, I am a reader--but I still hate to be told what to read (which is why I sometimes struggle with our book club books).

So, when given the freedom, I teach that way.  I rebell against the teaching of class novels and lit circles.  I encourage students to pick out their own books. I tell non-readers that I will find them at least one book that they will look back on and say, "Yea, that book didn't suck."  And then I do...

You see, I am a teacher who reads. I read adult books. I read young adult books. I read reviews of books. I talk about the books I am reading. I listen to kids talk about books they like.  I pass them on.

Roomie and I have close to 1000 books in our classroom library. Some the school bought for our second chance reading class, but MANY are ours. And we share... Teachers and students alike come to our room to check out books. Many are kept over the summer because they didn't get finished. We hear "Find me a book I will like" many times throughout the school year. And, we do.

We talk to them and ask them things like, "What do you like to do outside of school?" and "What was the last good book you read?"  I have sent them to sites to find new books. We give them LOTS of choices to look through. We make our book shelves user friendly.

So how do you get people to read? You let them read what they want. I know, you HAVE to teach the novel. But are you teaching the literary parts of the novel or are you teaching that particular novel? All novels have the same parts--let the kids choose what novel. Give students time to read without having to do anything with the book.

In these days of high stakes testing, it is easy to make the excuse that we have to get all our curriculum in. But I believe if we let students read what they want, they will read. And, they will surprise us.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Grouchy Dwarf

I have a pouty dog this morning.  You see, I won't let her wake up the kids to play.  It's 6:30am.  I don't want the grandkids up yet--truth be told, I don't want Chloe up yet. I don't want to be up yet! But, up we are.

By 7:00, T is up...the grouchy one. And always the first kid to get up at the lake. I make him lay down for awhile longer, but soon, he comes out asking for breakfast.  And thus begins the morning conversations that I love.

One of T's favorite things to do is look at all the pictures sitting out of last summer. Lately, he has noticed that he looks grouchy in all the pictures we have of him at the lake. It's not that I don't try to get pictures of him smiling, but last summer, he hated having his picture taken, so he is definitely in a snit in most of them. 

For example. here is one taken at his uncle's wedding. T points this one out a lot. I don't even remember what was making him grouchy, but I couldn't resist taking the picture.  You can tell just from his arms that he is one mad kid.  Even now, he is sitting on my lap and pointing to the picture and saying, "There's me pouty. I always did that when I was little."

Then, there is this one from the family reunion. He isn't really grouchy in this one, but he does have a weird expression on his face.  Maybe the sun, maybe he's trying to smile and just can't get it out.

Tony does smile a lot now. But last summer, he made those fake smiles that kids make when someone says, "Smile."  I took lots of crazy pictures with that forced smile. I think it's why I started taking the grouchy ones...at least the facial expression was real!

Then, of course, there are the ones of him purposely making grouchy faces. WIth those, there is always the hint of a smile ready to emerge.

So, this morning we are talking about pictures. "Hey, there's lots of pictures of me now. There's me grouchy, there's me smiling, grouchy, grouchy."

"Gramma, where's a picture of me and grandpa and daddy?"

"Well, I don't have one of those. Should I take one?"

"Yep."

"How about today, I take one of you and grandpa golfing. Would that be good?"

"Yep. And no grouchies on the golf course. Right?"

"Right, T. No grouchies..."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

New Roles for Teachers and Students

My Web 2.0 class has been discussing how technology has been changing the way we teach. It is fostering great discussions.  I have felt for a long time that the teacher’s role in the classroom should be to get out of the way. Although that is easier said than done. The first time students went to another student for help with poetry, I thought to myself, "What am I? Chopped Liver?"  And I am a teacher who loves independent learners. I believe teachers should be a guide in students’ learning path, not the driving force. Teachers should be someone to help them navigate their way through problems. Most importantly, teachers should allow students to fail at times.  The greatest inventions came from failure.  Many of our students only look at how many they get right, not how they arrived at the solution. I know in my own learning, those things I learned on my own (making web sites, for example) I felt a great deal of pride and satisfaction in, even if everything wasn’t perfect.

Obviously, a teacher has to manage their classroom and keep control of situations. It doesn’t mean that the teacher does all the work and the students sit back and listen. Students need to be active learners and that means that the teacher needs to step back and let learning happen. Having student mentors or experts in the classroom can be a valuable resource. I have found that pointing out those students who can teach the others something enhances what the students learn. If I teach it, they continually ask questions and want me to solve their problems. If students are teaching and a problem arises, the students take ownership of the solution. Soon, there will be several students all working to figure out the answer. And then, they don’t just tell each other what to do, they show the others. And that, is real learning!


On a side note, I "taught" my class about blogging today. Really, I showed them the Edublogs teacher challenge that got me started. I really stressed working through each challenge and practicing throughout the summer. This way, they will be more comfortable  teaching their students about blogging come fall. What advice would you give these new bloggers?

Monday, June 13, 2011

I Cannot Write Today...

Ta - Da List, May 18photo © 2010 Julie Jordan Scott | more info (via: Wylio)


I cannot write today,
Chloe is begging and begging to play.
The cat won't eat,
My husband didn't sleep,
I cannot write today.

My pen exploded,
the internet's down,
there's laundry to do and
flowers to water.
I cannot write today.

There's a fly in the room,
It's raining outside,
I really need to vacuum
And dust bunnies are taking over.
I cannot write today.

No one reads it anyways,
and I have nothing important to say.
Who wants to read about
a silly fluffy dog
or the grandkids latest conversation.
I cannot write today.

But here's the real excuse--
I have too much to say.
Too many jumbled thoughts
Trying to escape through my fingers.
I need to let them slip
One
By
One
Onto my paper.

I need to write today.

Web 2.0 Day 1

I'm taking a Web 2.0 class this week. Eight hours a day for four days. After one day, it's kicking my butt. My mind is spinning like a top, and I love it.  Really, when I signed up to take the class, I thought it might be a "throw-away" class. You know, the ones you take that are incredibly easy, don't require much brain power, but get you those credits to renew your license.  I should have known better, though, considering who is teaching the class!

The class is a nice mix of grade levels, abilities, ages, experience teaching and reasons for taking the class ("I need the credit so I can renew my license for the last time" received applause!). It is full of ideas and resources needed to teach students in the 21st century. And full of questions. And full of problems. Some questions and problems we won't be able to solve, but they make for great discussions.

A question/problem posed by an elementary teacher today was how do we justify using these tools when we are in danger of being a school in need of assistance? Shouldn't we focus on teaching reading skills, writing skills, and test taking skills? Admittedly, this teacher does not use a lot of technology in her classroom. By her own admission, she is old school, and it is hard for her to visualize how to use these tools in her room other than "games" for those who finish early.

This is where the varied levels of experience comes in handy--another teacher showed her projects created by third graders in her district. All those "testing" skills, yet students applied them to what they were learning instead of learning them in isolation. And isn't that the point of teaching 21st century skills?

I, however, see too many possibilities and that's why my mind is on overload. My main goal is to create a paperless Creative Writing class. Can I do it?  I have the tools (check out dropbox.com), but can I give up the paper and pen that has traditionally gone with being a writing teacher--or will this be another step on my way to becoming a teacher of writers?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gramma

Hear that?

No? You don't hear anything?

It's silence.

No more,
Gramma, I'm hungry.
Gramma, can I have some cereal?

Gramma, can we go to the swings? and
Gramma, can we play on the beach?"
Echo
In the summer breeze.

Reflections of
Six little heads with
Great big smiles
Appear in the waves
lapping onto shore.

Gramma...
What?
I love you.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lake Life, Chloe Style

Life is tough for a lake dog.  There is a lot to accomplish every day--sometimes, 24  hours just isn't enough time in the day! The day starts as soon as the sun really begins shining through the bedroom window. Usually about 6:00AM.  First job of the day is to be the alarm clock, since no such thing exists at the lake.  Really, sleep in??? You're wasting the best part of the day. Once she is up, it's time to go outside. She says it is to go to the bathroom, but it is really the perfect time to finish digging that hole in the front yard.  Someone keeps filling the hole in, so it is a never-ending job.

Once we have had our coffee and written the blog post, it is time for our walk. Really, I think she would read forever if I didn't make her go every day. Geez!  There is always a lot of things happening on these walks. I have to be very watchful and protective in this unfamiliar territory. I stick very close to her because you never know what might jump out from the bushes and attack!

When we get back from our walk, I get a big drink and then she puts down that bowl of disgusting dog food. Even though she tries to make it a little more palatable by adding a few pieces of Pupperoni, it really doesn't help.  And who in their right mind would eat that stuff with all the delectable delights waiting for me around the resort. I'll wait for the short walks around the place as she goes and visits friends. If I play it right, there are lots of treats coming my way and I won't have to eat the dog food. And if there aren't treats coming my way, there is always the tasty toad jerky that I find in the road!

The grandkids are coming this week. That's always fun. They love me lots, so I gets plenty of petting and hugs. Plus, those kids aren't very watchful of their food. If I can't eat cookies or hotdogs out of their hands, there's always the crumbs on the floor. Yum! They also bring my friends Zoe and Bella, so I have someone to play with and dig holes with.

I take a morning nap to make up for rising so early. Why can't she read then?  But she is always up and moving while I try to sleep. It can be really irritating.  Later, we walk around the resort and see what everyone's doing. The renters in the cabins LOVE me and we always stop so they can pet me and tell me how cute I am. Sometimes, though, the renters bring their own dogs along. I'd like to get to know some of them--especially the handsome male ones, but they bark at me so much, I just leave.

Usually she leaves me in the afternoon. Takes some big bag with her and it seems like she is gone forever.  I hate it when she does that. I don't know why I can't go along and play. I'd be good. And, besides, everyone loves a cute dog. I'm sure no one would mind if I was there. Some days, when it is really hot, she stays home. On these days we go swimming in the afternoon. I love playing in the water. I can never catch the waves, but I keep trying. My favorite thing to do when I get out of the water is to roll in the sand. It feels sosooooo good as it scratches my back. I don't know why, but she always makes me get back in the water after I do that. I love it when we come back to the trailer and she rubs me down with the towel. And the best thing is, I get to sit in front of the fan to finish drying off!

When she comes back from wherever she goes without me, it is time to sit outside. Sometimes it's just the two of us. Sometimes she takes me to a friend's house. I really don't care what we do, just as long as we are outside. There's always people around to pet me and play with me. And I can always start a new hole if I get bored.

Later, we head into the trailer and she lays on the couch and reads her darn book. I try to get her attention by throwing toys at her and jumping on top of her.  This usually works and she tosses the toys for awhile. Sometimes, though, she gives me a big bone to chew on. That's the best!  Later, I try to get her to go to bed at a decent time by jumping up on the bed and going to sleep, but she just ignores me. When she does finally come in the bedroom, she makes me get down!  Really! I don't understand why, because without Dad here there is plenty of room for me. Ah, well. The blanket she gives me is pretty comfy.

Well, that's the post for today. Another job crossed off my list. Let's see, hmmm, must be time for our walk. See you later.



Monday, June 6, 2011

Summer Morning

Sitting at supper with a group of friends last night, one turned to me and said, "So, Mrs. Day, what are you going to do tomorrow?" I didn't have an answer or a plan.

The possibilities of a summer day in June are endless. I sit here gazing at the lake, drinking coffee with Chloe at my feet and think, "What to do, what to do?"

I could finish organizing the closets and cupboards in the trailer--goodness knows I need to get that finished. I could blow up the water toys and see what holds air and what doesn't. Grandkids are coming this week, so it also needs to be done.

I could finish my book,
         do some laundry,
                walk Chloe,
                       go swimming,
                              golf

...or, I could sit here and stare at the lake.


I think I'll go get another cup of coffee.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Sweet Awakening

The light begins creeping through the window much too early most mornings. As I turn over, a puppy kiss and a cold wet nose poke me awake. Much too early on a summer morning at the lake. I pat the bed and up she jumps. It's really all Chloe wants--to be able to get in bed with me and sleep in comfort a little bit longer.  Thus, begins our day.

A half an hour or so later, we are up. Well, I try. First, I have to convince Chloe it is time to get up. She turns her head and looks at me--a questioning look in her eyes, "Are you sure?"

"Move, Chloe."

A thump of the tail...

"Chloe, down."  Oops, wrong command. She lays her head down and looks at me. "I'm already down" she seems to say.

"Chloe, off."  Right command, ignored by the fluff ball at my feet.

I give her a little push to the edge of the bed and she finally begins her scootch off the bed.  First the front paws, oh, so slowly. Then come the back paws, one at a time. Once down, she does the morning stretch and then heads for the door. But not before grabbing a toy to take with her. For some reason, now she thinks we are going to play!

Not yet, sweetie. First, we have to have coffee.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Month of May


Whew--May was a busy month!

1. Began the countdown to the end of the year!  WooHoo!
2. Cleaned out file cabinets and cupboards in my classroom--now if I could just get motivated to do it at home!
3. Moved into the new trailer at the lake.
4. Spent every weekend at the lake.
5. Golfed twice.
6. Fished--well, I helped.
7. Celebrated grandson's 4th birthday
8. Cancer Survivor/Memory walk at school
9. Won 1/9th of a $500 jackpot at the casino
10. Continued the school countdown
11. Listened to the hopes and dreams of sophomores in their "graduation" speeches.
12. Celebrated with those who got their jobs back.
13. Commiserated with those who didn't.
14. Cried when my principal resigned.
15. Ran the heater at the lake, then the air conditioner, then the heater again.
16. Went to oldest son's for dinner and time with grandkids.
17. Watched grandkids swim in the lake.
18. Had lots of "rocking grandbabies" time.
19. Urged several students to "get it done" in order to pass my class!
20. Continued the SLOW countdown to the end of the year.
21. Finally finished emptying the shed at the lake.
22. Watched sunsets from my swing at the lake.
23. Kept sophomore boys as under control as possible in late May.
24. Graduation
25. Let the housework pile up at home ( a bad habit at the end of the year).
26. Began taking home professional books that I want to revisit this summer.
27. Wrote 16 blog posts (16 1/2 really, I started this in May).
28. Took lots of pictures of , guess what?  The Grandkids!
29. Counted the classes left in the school year!
30. Done.