Showing posts from April, 2011

The Flip Side

Mostly I embrace change--see yesterday's post. I'm pretty good with it. Change happens. I get that.  But it doesn't always mean that I have to like it. My husband and I have been friends with the same couple for over 20 years. Those early years when we were all raising kids, we did it together. Really--our kids introduce them as their other parents and vice versa. The kids "ran away" to each other's houses. They knew they weren't going to get any sympathy from the other parents, but it was safe and they could talk. The kids went to church together, stayed overnight with each other, and, yes, fought with each other.  Poor Kelli, the only girl, had four older brothers. Sometimes, she needed every one of them. Raising kids together and being so close, the adults also did everything together, even after the kids were grown and gone.  We got together at least once a week all year long. The guys always cooked. We'd have a beer or wine and talk. You'd

Hey, Mister! Got Any Change?

photo © 2009 Brad Montgomery | more info (via: Wylio ) When you are through changing, you are through.  ~Bruce Barton I've changed many times as a teacher. Substitute, aide, part-time, full time, English, Reading.  Heck, my first year, I even taught two math classes (obviously, those who hired me did not know about my numerical deficiencies!). Last year, I taught classes in three different buildings. I've enjoyed every change I've made. I opened myself up to teaching and learning new things. The best change I have made is my move to the high school. I taught 7th graders for 15 years. First English, then Reading. I loved it. I love junior high kids. They are silly, compassionate, smart alecks, eager to learn, and too cool for school. They still "like" school, but mostly so they can see their friends. It was hard to leave them. Then came the day my principal asked me if I would be willing to teach a speech class at the high school. He wasn't sure what

Write, Its Good For You

The inspiration just hasn't been there the last few days. Maybe it was the excitement of the new grandchild; maybe it was being at the lake and just having too many things to do; maybe I just wasn't paying attention...although you'd think with the new baby and the lake I would have plenty to write about! photo © 2010 Kevin Dooley | more info (via: Wylio ) Part of this lack of inspiration is the gloomy, rainy weather we are having. Gray--just gray--that's all that seems to be around me!  I crave the sun, the warmth, the colors. Another lack of inspiration factor is school. Mentally tired, I need my summer. I would like to think about next school year, but the powers that be are slow on decision making process. I know I will be teaching speech next year--I'm the only one qualified. But what other classes will I have. If there is something new thrown at me, I sure would  like the summer to prepare! But, write I must. I tell my Creative Writing students to just

A First Time Excuse

With Casey on vacation for a week, the classroom was definitely quieter. Only the tap, tap, tapping sounds of computer keys were usually heard. Today she is back. Full of life and conversation at the beginning of class before she too settles in to the tap, tap, tapping.... She came into class late--I asked where she had been. The age old excuse, "In the bathroom." was her reply. But, Casey, never one to conform to the norm had an addition to her excuse... "I always hold it, you know, but I went to the doctor and he told me that if I don't empty my bladder and keep holding it that if four years or so I will have trouble going to the bathroom and that kind of scared me so now I am going all the time, my brother and his girlfriend were mad at me on the way home 'cause I kept having to stop and go to the bathroom..." Whew...welcome back Casey. I missed you.

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

This was supposed to be Thursday's post, until Baby H made his debut.   I love conversations with the grandkids, because you never know what they are going to say. Here's another one from K. She sits on her dad's lap Saturday night as he holds the baby, jabbering as usual. Dad:  "K, sometimes I think you talk just to hear yourself talk!" K ( indignant, as only a 6-year-old girl can be) : "No!" Thinks for a moment " Well, sometimes..." T on the other hand, is a typical 4-year-old boy. A bit mischievous, rowdy, often with a twinkle in his eye or a pout on his face if things don't go his way. We all went out to brunch and after we were done,  we stopped off at the hospital in town to say good-bye to our daughter-in-law before we left for home. As we left the hospital, T skipping ahead of us said, "Why is Kristen at the hospital?" His dad replied, "Because she works there." "Oh," says T. "

Baby H

We have now made it to the birth of 4 of the 6 grandkids  (would have made it to all of them if we had known them at the time!). Life has been a whirlwind since Wednesday and I can't even begin to describe the happenings.  I still tear up as I write this. Grandbaby #6, Baby H, made his arrival yesterday a little before 4 in the afternoon. Three weeks early, but healthy in every way. The look of pride on our oldest son's face as he showed off his son will be forever etched in my memory. And we have his beautiful wife to thank for that. Before they married last summer they sat us down and told us that, because of physical issues, there were not going to be more grandchildren, from them at least. A and B, the twins, would be it.  My son was fine with that (see He Learned From the Best ) and so we were fine with that. We loved the twins from the moment they came into our lives. A few months later, a phone call. Happy news, there would be a baby after all. Not an easy pregn

The Sweet Breezes of Spring

Spring has finally arrived in northeast Iowa. The trees dance in the gentle breezes of this April Day. Sunshine warms the earth and urges the flowers and grass to reach to the heavens.  The buds on the trees seem ready to burst open at any minute. The promise of summer hangs in the air.

It's All About the Chocolate

photo © 2005 inajeep | more info (via: Wylio ) The wind whips through our hair as we carry miscellaneous items to the new trailer.  But we don't mind. We're at the lake! Our walks around the resort are always good times for K and I to visit. I love finding out what is on her mind. K: I'm going to miss Grandma Pat this summer  (that's my mom, who's trailer we bought) Me:  Me too, but she'll come up and visit, so you will get to see her. K: I remember she always had chocolate for me when I had a craving (yes, at six she really used the word craving. Last summer Grandma Pat explained chocolate cravings to her). Me: Does this mean I should have chocolate at the trailer? K: Uh the bowl that Grandma Pat had. Traditions...some you just don't break!

The Robins Have Nothing on Us

For those of you who asked, "the slowest man in the world" was home ahead of me on Friday and ready to load and get going.  It was raining so hard and the forecast was so ugly, that had it not been our son's weekend off from work, we probably would have skipped the weekend altogether! As it was, we stayed at their house instead of the trailer---MUCH warmer! The old piece of weather folklore that says it must snow three times on the robins before it's officially spring also holds true to the Sandbar crew--at least the souls hearty enough to venture there before Memorial Day. It snowed several times over the weekend and, wowza!, was it cold with 30+mph winds on Saturday. But nothing deterred us from the move.. We bought my mother's trailer last fall when she decided she was selling. It's bigger, it's directly across from the beach and, for K and T,  the swings are within sight of Grandma and Grandpa's new trailer. We spent Saturday afternoon hauli


photo © 2009 Robbert van der Steeg | more info (via: Wylio ) It officially started last night at 9:27 as I headed into bed. "So, you'll be home about a quarter 'til?" "Yep." Just like every other Friday from mid-April to mid-October. Lake time. The minute hand on the clock will creep ever so slowly  towards the final bell.  I will count the minutes left at the end of each period. But finally, school will be over and I can finally go home. And of course, I will have to wait for my husband, who really is the slowest man alive. The minute hand on my clock at home will come to a complete stop while waiting for him to get home from work. There will be the interminable explanations about why he is late and all I want to say is, "GET THE CAR LOADED! IT'S LAKE TIME!"

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Taking a break from the lake reflections for National Poem in Your Pocket Day.  I love poetry, but I always hated to teach it. And kids hated to "learn" it.  Then I changed how I "taught" it.  Anyway, here's my favorite poem to use to introduce the unit: INTRODUCTION TO POETRY by Billy Collins I ask then to take a poem and hold it up to the light like a color slide or press an ear against its hive. I say drop a mouse into a poem and watch him probe his way out, or walk inside a poem's room  and feel the walls for a light switch. I want them to waterski across the surface of a poem waving the author's name on the shore. But all they want to do is tie the poem to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it. They begin beating it with a hose to find out what it really means.

Passing on the "Spirit of the Lake"

One of the happiest reasons we have for our lake place is the grandkids.   But for my youngest son's children, it really is a place they have grown up at. K was about 4 1/2 months and T was a newborn when they started coming to the lake. K is a true lake kid. Last year, on one of the coldest weekends of the spring, she came out with her dad. Now you would think this little girly girl would want to stay inside where it was warm and cozy and play with her Polly Pockets. And she would...for awhile. But then she would look up at me with great big brown puppy dog eyes and say, "Gramma, let's go for  walk."  So we'd bundle up and off we'd go. Sometimes the others would join us, sometimes not. The bench on the dock was her favorite destination. Every walk ended up there, us sitting on the bench, the wind whipping around us (even the birds found it hard to fly), waves splashing, and she loved every minute of it. T is becoming his own version of a Sandbar kid an

Lake of the Spirit

The Dakota Sioux called it "Minnewaukon" or "Lake of the Spirit . ."   People say it heals the body--I say, it heals the soul.   Spirit Lake is a place I have always gone to "soothe my soul".  As a teenager and young adult, when my world wasn't what I wanted it to be, the lake was the place I wanted to be to heal.  Everywhere I go, there are memories of who I used to be. On the road into town I drive past the little park where my grandparents took us camping and I caught my first fish. The houses of old friends greet me when I get there. And no matter where I am in the lakes area, memories of my dad are there. Every year Dad took my sisters and I on vacation for two weeks and we always went to the same little family owned resort.  We always left town early on Sunday, even though we couldn't check into the cottage until afternoon. My sisters and I always had our swimsuit on under our clothes so we could jump in the lake as soon as we got there.

How My Love Affair Reignited..

The last weekend of July, 2000 found my husband, our youngest son and myself traveling to the northwest corner of the state for a long weekend of camping with our long-time friends. This was a place I had many happy memories of as a kid.  One day, the guys decided to take the kids golfing, so Brenda and I took a road trip around the lake. We drove in and out of every little dirt road we saw, until we came to Sandbar Beach Resort. As we drove through the resort, the first thing we saw was two trailers, side by side with FOR SALE signs in the windows. Brenda and I joked about buying them. We drove down the road. There were cozy cottages, a great little store and a beautiful beach.  The guys laughed when we told them about the trailers for sale and this idyllic  place. My husband Greg said he knew we would come back with something to buy. We convinced them they at least needed to see the place. So that's what we did the very next day. As we stopped in front of the trailers to loo


It's getting closer...I can feel it in my bones...  I am readying lesson plans a few weeks in advance. Wii Golf is becoming my favorite form of entertainment. I am throwing extra groceries in the cart: An extra can of coffee, seasonings I know I have in the cupboard at home, a bottle of shampoo, an extra deodorant. Why? It's lake time!  Next Friday we will head west and FINALLY open our lake trailer! I have difficulty putting into words just what the lake has meant to me. My dad took my sisters and I there every summer on vacation--plus there were lots of weekend visits to friends who lived there.  My grandfather bought a little trailer there for a couple of summers when my oldest son was just two. And now, my husband and I have our own trailer on the's become a place of soul-soothing, family get togethers and friends. So forgive my indulgence this week as I write about lake memories....

Pajama Day

photo © 2011 Gareth Williams | more info (via: Wylio ) Imagine yourself at the kitchen table, in your pajamas. Imagine one person you’d allow to see you that way, and write in the voice you’d use to that friend. — Sandra Cisneros This is today's quote on Two Writing Teachers and I  laughed out loud as I read it. My lake friends  know that there is nothing I like better in the summer than a pajama day! I declare them periodically throughout the summer. Those are the days I just like to do nothing, and I am pretty good at nothing! Sunday mornings often find me walking to the south end of the resort (in my pjs) to enjoy a visit with our friend Robin. I usually find her in her pjs, sipping coffee on her deck. The two of us sit many Sunday  mornings just visiting about nothing and watching what little activity is taking place on her end of the resort. Conversations about books, golf, wondering what the "poor" people are doing, and yesterday's activities come up and are

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

photo © 2008 Cornelia Kopp | more info (via: Wylio ) In my attempt to get out of this funk, I posted this topic on The Day Way for my creative writing students to comment on. "You've got 25 words~NO more, NO less~ to create an impression of joy.  Create it!" "Loud, fast, sing-a-long songs On a warm, sunny day, With grandkid giggles in the background. Hugs and Kisses and Puppy dog eyes. Pure, unadulterated contentment." Check out their comments.

Grand Funk--not Railroad

I can't seem to shake it, this funk I am in. I didn't even blog yesterday because I couldn't think of anything cheerful/uplifting/soul-satisfying to write about.  I tried to write about getting ready for the lake and even that didn't cheer me up.  What is going on?  Really, I am usually a very upbeat person... I'm sitting here staring at the walls trying to think of things that would make me cheerful, but all I can think of are the things that are putting me in this funk.  This is bad. Usually, I can put things away in a little compartment in my brain that I save for the disappointing, the anger inducing, the ridiculous., especially those things that I can't do anything about.  But not today. Today I want to pull them all out of their slumber.... Today I want to dwell on them. Roast them over a fire. Have screaming matches with them. Reduce them to a pile of dirt.  Today I want to reduce the powerful to whimpering puppies while I show them how it is suppo

Quotes and Jumbled Thoughts

photo © 2011 Humor Blog | more info (via: Wylio ) My mind is a jumble and it's jumbled with thoughts about education. My post yesterday focused on my Second Chance Reading class and my boredom with it.  My roomie and I discussed it this morning--we're just not sure it is the most effective way to help struggling readers. BUT, we agree something needs to be done.  I'm trying to remember a quote I had posted in my room at one time--to paraphrase, "I can't think of anything I do 180 days a year that I don't do well at..."  Think about that.  If adults aren't good at something, they quit. No one forces them to keep at it. If it's something they have to do, they are mentored--One on one. Roomie wrote a post about this very thing.  Many students don't function well in large group situations. She does a lot of one on one tutoring since she began teaching Spanish.  Does it always work--nope. Depends on how much the student puts into it. But doesn

Bored With Reading

I teach reading. Notice I don't say I am a reading teacher. Nor do I say I teach literature. I teach a class called " Second Chance Reading ". The kids joke and ask if they don't "get out" of the class next year, will it be Third Chance Reading.  Designed to help "struggling" middle and high school readers, the course follows the same format every week. I am bored. The kids are bored. Although, at least half of them scored well enough on the ITEDs they won't have to take the class again next year.  I don't take any credit for that number. Most of these students simply took the test more seriously this year. I took the training and practiced all the techniques. I try to teach this class with fidelity. I follow the program. I test when I am supposed to. But I am bored. I had a nightmare last week that my schedule for next year was filled with just this class. I cried in my dream. I understand this class works and it needs to be taught

What to Do Now?

I'm a little lost this morning. With no challenge, I feel like I don't have anything to write about. And contest speech is over, so there are no rehearsals to prepare for.  It's fourth quarter and classes are moving along swimmingly--sometimes I don't think my students need me. So what's a teacher to do? photo © 2007 Esparta Palma | more info (via: Wylio ) I dream. I dream of a summer filled with hot days and sunny skies, Bad golf and cold beer, Suntan lotion, and "Grandma, can I go to the swings?" Warm summer nights listening to the waves singing me to sleep with their lullaby. Waking to the song of birds calling me to enjoy the day. "Grandma, can we go swimming?" Campfires that are to be enjoyed, not needed for warmth. Cookouts with friends that are food for the soul As well as the body. "Grandma, can I stay with you?" I dream.

Goat Dog

The second time Chloe ate chocolate, I didn't get too upset. When she eats most of the stuffing out of any stuffed animal she comes in contact with, I really don't worry. Ditto with garbage, cardboard, or socks. And lets not talk about the litter box. Chloe is a connoisseur of the inedible. But last night when we came home from our daughter-in-law's baby shower, we found she had reached a new level in the dog eating hierarchy.  Goat Dog! Getting into the garbage and strewing it around the kitchen is not a new trick.  It usually happens under one of two circumstances: 1) There is some kind of meat or food product in the garbage that she just can't ignore, or 2) Chloe is bored.  Yesterday was both. I can only imagine the frenzy that overtook her as she tore into the garbage, but what possessed her to grab the can of prescription cat food (the cat has been very ill--see Silent Cat ) off the counter and tear into it is beyond me.  She literally ripped open the can

Blogging is Contagious

For me, this journey started in January with an invite to the Edublogs Teacher Challenge.  "A blog," I thought. That might be the ticket. I needed something new to do, something creative, something fun. It's January after all. So, I went through all the challenges. In the process, I found Two Writing Teachers. Holy Cow!  I fell in love with the web site and the blog. Especially the blog. And Slice of Life Tuesdays--WOW. There were some great writers out there. The first week, I just read...and read...and read. The next week, I wrote a piece and linked it to the site.  Then I saw the post for the March challenge. Could I do it? I decided to give it a shot. What did I have to lose anyway? I had written in journals and things for years, but always ended up abandoning them. Would this be different?  I decided I needed a new blog, just for me. A place where I could write, just for me.  And with that thought,  Coffee With Chloe was born. That first post was scary.  Would