Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A "Wasit" Weekend

Geese family visiting the resort.

Memorial weekend at the lake is a time for family.  Everyone here had family at one time or another over the weekend.  Saturday started a little cool and cloudy, but it didn't stop us from enjoying the weekend.

Rock throwing

The grandkids never want to be inside, even the littlest one. Max is 17 months and really just finding his words.  So whatever we did, wherever we went, "Wasit?" Like his older brother and sister, one of his favorite things to do is throw rocks in the lake (it really should be filled by now).  

First swim of the season.

The older two, of course, wanted to swim. We held them off as long as we could, but when the sun came out, they went in.  At first, they were the only two swimming, but it wasn't long before most of the kids were in the water with them, while the adults in beach chairs on shore and shivered just thinking about swimming.  This grandma just smiled as they splashed about--you see, it doesn't seem that long ago it was me swimming in the lake on Memorial weekend. It was tradition--no matter the weather.

Tony and Grandpa

Sunday was HOT.  So the kids swam most of the morning, but we did find a little time on Sunday for golf. We took all three kids--even little Max, who was just thrilled to get to ride in the golf cart and be outside.

Kisses for Chloe
Chloe enjoyed the weekend too. I thought she was going to shake her tail off when our youngest son and his family showed up Saturday morning. She was so excited to see he and the kids. And the kids love her, so all was right in Chloe's universe. It's pretty funny watching Max with her. Chloe is taller than he is, but so gentle with him. Well, sometimes she forgets herself and Max will get knocked down, but Max just giggles and gets up and goes to her again.

Chloe's a pretty good sport too, at these family gatherings.  I'm not sure how she really feels about wearing the Barry Manilow shirt, but she posed for the picture anyway.

My favorite parts of the weekend were not the big things, however. They were the quiet moments spent with the grandkids, one on one. Finding out favorite books, talking about kindergarten, naming everything in the cabin.  Moments not shown in photographs, but "heartshots"  to remember and cherish.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Expressions of Love

Yesterday was the last day of school. This morning I woke up to a snowstorm.....of toilet paper. I'd been TP'd.  (I don't know how or where this tradition started, but I know it's been going on forever.  Kids did it when I was in high school.)

The scene made me chuckle as I put Chloe outside.  It took me back to my 50th birthday.

My birthday fell on a Saturday that year. It was also the day of state speech contest, so I spent the day with my speech kids. I brought cupcakes and celebrated with my students.

When I got home at about 7, a party was in place. My husband and sons had planned a small surprise party for me. It was great. Friends and family, lots of fun,

Now, some of those friends and family smoked. So, there was usually someone outside having a cigarette.  My friend came in after one of those cigarette breaks. "Deb, I caught some kids trying to TP your house. A car pulled up, a couple of kids got out and started throwing rolls of toilet paper at the crab apple tree. I think I scared them away."

Sure enough, we looked out the window and TP was flying from the front tree. We thought that would be the end of it. But, no.

Later the same friend is outside on the back deck. Same car. Same kids. Same result.

They've been caught twice now. Surely, they are done.


Later I'm standing on the back deck with her and the car pulls up. A student gets out and starts walking through my backyard. Now, you have to know that my birthday is in mid-March. In northeast Iowa, that generally means there is snow on the ground. Lots of snow.

As he tramps through the snow, my friend and I are laughing that they are going to get caught again!  I yelled out, "Really. Three times you've been caught. Aren't you done yet?"

"Yea. I'm just looking for my cell phone. I lost it the last time."

I roared.  Karma, as they say, is a bitch.  I went and got a flashlight so he could see in the yard and find his phone.

Several of my speech kids decided to help me celebrate my 50th birthday.  Expressions of love. But they gave me more than that. This is the funniest TP'ing story I know. And I tell it all the time.  That school year, I told everyone about how they got caught three times. We gave them a special award at the speech banquet.  The student who drove "the getaway car", was revealed at the banquet.  It was the most fun I had in a long time.

So this morning when I saw the toilet paper flying, I thought of it as an expression of love. I'm pretty sure I know who did it. My only regret is that school is over.  I could get some mileage out of this!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Christmas Week

So, maybe I am overdoing the end of the year posts, but I'm like a little kid the week before Christmas.

I'm being really, really good.

  • I graded one class of study guides and Romeo and Juliet tests FRIDAY NIGHT (I never do homework on a Friday night!)
  • I graded the other class's study guides and tests Sunday night.
  • I graded Speeches.
  • The above two took FOUR hours Sunday night.
  • I stayed after school until 5:30 last night and graded all the Creative Writing portfolios. 
  • I graded the speeches that were presented Monday and the late turn ins of study guides when I got home last night.
Students are done today at 12:15.

I am done Wednesday at 3:00 (at least I hope I have everything done by then).

By Thursday afternoon, I hope to be at the lake.  

My husband is very busy this week.  He's an offset pressman (prints newspapers). Their deadline is for Memorial Day is early, so he thinks it may be late on Friday before he can leave. If it's too late, he doesn't want to leave until Saturday morning.

I told him I am leaving without him. He can drive himself.  

He agreed.  Really. He said he doesn't blame me (Of course, he has gone two different weekends without me when I couldn't go). 

I love my husband.  He really does understand the need I have to get to the lake at the end of the school year.

I can't wait until my biggest decision of the day is what book to read.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Teacher's Wish

I first posted this poem back in January. But today is graduation day, so I wanted to share it again. I think all teachers feel as I do and hope they have given their students everything they need as they make their way in the world.  So, for all graduates, but mostly for the Crestwood High School Class of 2012, here's my wish.

Wings To The World

I hope to give you wings
to soar above the world
spreading your message 
of passion, enthusiasm,
and love.

I hope to give you wings
to fly through the world
finding those who validate you
support your dreams.

I hope to give you wings
you may sail through the 
troubled times you experience 
rise above them.

I hope to give you wings
you may flit and float and flutter
without worrying what the fun-haters think.

I hope to give you wings.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Explosion in Room 25

We've all had a class like this. The one where a Ritalin salt lick would be a good thing. This is my fourth hour class.  And today, with only three days left of school, it is hard to contain them, yet alone, engage them...

The bell rings. They slide into seats, beg for the bathroom, talk a little smack with each other.

"Hey. What did you do in English?"
"Mrs. Day, can I go to the bathroom, PLEASE?"
"Where's Pitz? Is he skippin' again?"
"I'm here. I don't skip"
"Sam, are you first today?"
"Hey, Mrs. Day. I think Sam's ready to go."

He stands at my podium--actually, he is draped over it. All arms, legs, and mouth. I swear, the boy never stops moving or talking. There is an easy fluidity to his movements.

"Yea, Mrs. Day. I'm ready."
"Give me a second. I'm taking attendance."

We begin.  There are five "graduation" speeches scheduled in this class today. Each one should be five to seven minutes long. This is the semester final. I give my traditional speech about paying attention, not laying heads on their desks, keeping their eyes open, being respectful in general.  And they do. They are not bad kids and they really try to sit quietly and listen.

Sam is the first presenter and the rest of the class listens attentively. We always do--you never know what Sam will come up with. As usual, his delivery style in conversational and easy. If he'd practice, he could be outstanding. But that would take a little work outside of class, something he isn't willing to do for speech.  He's rather farm.

The next four speeches drone on.  Some fast, some slow. Some well done, some not so much.

As I listen and grade, I also watch the rest of the class.

Feet tap.
Leg bounce.
Fingers drum.
Between each, there is a frantic chatter, like they may never get to talk again.

All quietly. But you can feel the energy building.

11:25. The last speech ends. I take a breath. Paper clip the grade sheets together. And mentally prepare myself for the last minutes of class.

"OK. We aren't going to try and fit another speech in. You may sit and visit quietly until the bell rings."

11:26. Four boys explode out of their desks.  Really. Explode.

And land at the door. They disappear to the alcove outside my room.

"Back in here!" I yell in my best teacher voice.

"Come on, Mrs. Day. I wanna sit in the comfy chair."


All the while they move into the room, but crowd the doorway. If I don't do something, they'll be back in the hallway, and the rest of the class is up and moving now too.

It's 11:28. 4 minutes.

A sword fight begins with my yardstick. One smacks the other. The yardstick changes hands. I grab it.

"Go ahead, Mrs. Day. Smack me."

I just laugh. I position myself in front of the door handle.

"Mrs. Day, I think we're running short of air. I just need to open the door a little." Sam reaches around me and opens the door a crack.

"Mrs. Day, he's right. It's bad for all of us to be in this room with no fresh air."

"The window is open in the back, You're fine."

There's movement. Constant movement. Like those ant farms you could buy as a kid.  Always something moving somewhere. Slapping, moving, talking. They're everywhere.

11:32. Bell.

I survive.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Just Can't Help It

It's a beautiful day in northeast Iowa. Sun is shining. Birds are singing.

And I am "stuck" in the classroom.

I know. That sounds so negative.  I don't mean to be, but like the kids I teach, I am ready to be done.  I'm trying to make the last few days (5) as engaging as possible, but it's tough.  I hate the phrase "winding down" because it seems like that means we aren't doing anything.


Make no mistake, we are doing things---

  • We are putting together writing portfolios and and reflecting on the journey we have been on this semester
  • We are putting the finishing touches on "graduation" speeches to be delivered in the next few days
  • Act 5 of Romeo and Juliet awaits us.  


My view from the deck

I can't help think of summer and all I want to do:
  • Spend as much time as I can at the lake
  • READ The Maze Runner trilogy
  • Work on "flipping" creative writing--videos, powerpoints, handouts, etc so I can get off to a flying start in August
  • READ Wonderstruck
  • I need to review my curriculum for Drama since I will be teaching it again next year
  • READ The Future of Us
  • Create a new English 9 web site
  • READ Write Like This
  • Review activities in for my speech class. It needs an update
  • READ Beauty Queens
  • Golf a lot
  • READ Crank, Glass and Fallout
  • See a few concerts at the park
  • READ The Running Dream
  • Swim with the grandkids
  • READ whatever else I want
  • Enjoy myself and relax
The pile of books I'm working on taking home is quite large.  I don't know if I will get them all read, but I'm sure going to try!

And now, back to writing the Romeo and Juliet final test....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Today We Walk

Yesterday was our district's annual "Cadets for a Cause" Day. ( I wrote about it last year here). Every building in the district was there, plus the parochialIt was a beautiful day and there were lots of activities going on:

The high school kids went to activities like this rock climbing wall. There was kickball, dodgeball and paintball to keep them busy also.

And, of course, they walked in memory of those they knew with cancer or had lost to cancer.  As a journal topic in creative writing the day before, I asked my students who they were walking for on Wednesday.  Every student, but one, had someone in their life to walk for.  1 out of 40.

Some took some time out to dance to the music the DJ was playing.

There were lots of activities for the elementary and junior high students also. Many of our high school kids helped out at these activities.  There was soccer and bouncy houses and the ever popular train!

Of course, no school activity is complete without food!  In an effort to help our students learn healthy eating habits, there was a smoothy station, a "taste the rainbow" station with fruits and vegetables to try, a milk station, and bottled water and string cheese.

Once, the time for activities was over, all K-12 students gathered in the stands at the football stadium. We were joined, as always, by many members of the community.

Our speaker from the "Live Strong" organization had people in the bleachers stand up if they were survivors, then had people stand if they had someone in their family affected by cancer, and then if they knew someone with cancer or who had lost their battle with cancer.  By then, most were standing.  It's a powerful scene.

When he was done, one of our seniors, whose 23-year-old brother was just diagnosed with cancer at the end of March also spoke. She read his words from his Caring Bridge page.

The district's students raised over $7000 this year. The money was divided between our local cancer association and St. Jude's Children's Hospital.  A canned food drive was also held this last week.  The food bank was amazed when the food was delivered to them, and very thankful. Their coffers were getting low!

The culmination of this annual event has traditionally been a survivor walk, but this year, the survivors met on the football field and were given yellow balloons, which were later released.

And then, to lighten the mood, when the event was over, all K-12 students, and many teachers, gathered on the football field to do the Interlude (a dance made up by University of Northern Iowa students that has gone viral.  Look it up on YouTube!)  As I've said many times, we don't just teach reading and writing and math.  Sometimes, we teach compassion.....

Photo by Tanya Riehle
See more of her amazing art work at

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Can't Never Did Anything

An ostrich. That's what he always reminded me of. A very tall man, he wore black framed glasses that always seemed to be at the end of his Jimmy Durante nose.  He was about as big around as a corn stalk, with the longest, skinniest legs I'd ever seen on human being. He could sit in a chair, cross the left leg over the right,  then tuck the left foot behind the right leg and have both feet FLAT on the floor.

Really. Try it. Then get back to me.

He scared the crap out of me the first time I had him for class. It seemed like he bellowed all the time. He didn't, but it seemed like it. He treated everyone the same, whether they were in plays or not. If you took a speech or drama class from him, then you better be ready to perform. And you better do your best. When he came up to me and asked me to try out for the school play, I was afraid to say no.

But I was also thrilled.

That was Mr. Gail Niceswanger (how'd you like that name as a high school teacher?)--my high school speech and drama coach. The greatest teacher I ever had.

During rehearsals, there was the ever present thermos of coffee at his feet, a pencil tucked behind his ear, and, if rehearsals were going all sorts of wrong, there was a cigarette in the corner of his mouth and a cloud of smoke circling his head.

Mr. Niceswanger never let you give anything less than your best. As a sophomore, out for my first play, I made the mistake of telling him I couldn't do something he'd asked of me.

"Porter," (he seldom called people by their first names), "Can't never did anything."


But I got it.  If you don't try things, you don't know if you can do them.  You have to at least try.

I worked harder for him than at any time in my life.  I like to think he smiles down on me when he sees me coaching speech and taking kids to All-State. I like to think he approves of the activities in my speech and (yea) drama classes (next year!).

I never thanked him for the confidence he gave me during my high school years. I believe if it wasn't for him, I would have given up, not graduated college, never became a teacher, even though it's all I ever wanted to do.

Sometimes, we teach kids more than reading and writing and math.

Sometimes, we give them wings.

So, thanks Mr. Niceswanger.  I wouldn't be here without you.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Chloe Speaks: The Weekend

 Day after day Mom and Dad leave, and I get left in the kitchen. No one home, nothing to play with (except once in awhile when they forget to put the garbage can in the bathroom and lock the door).  But I can always tell when we are going somewhere. The kitchen fills up with boxes and bags of stuff.  And now it's lake time, so we go ALL the time.

I heard them talking earlier last week about maybe not going to the lake 'cause it was supposed to rain and stuff. I'd rather stay home then too. It's boring at the lake when all we get to do is sit inside.  We don't get to go for walks and stuff and no one ever comes to visit.

Anyway, Friday comes and the boxes and bags are packed and ready to go. But it is yucky outside. Blah. It's going to be a terrible weekend, I think. But once, when I leaned over the front seat for a hug, Mom told me to be patient because I was going to get to see my BFF Bella!!!! I perked right up then.

But when we got to the cabin, no Bella!  I sniffed all over the place. I could smell her. She must have been here, but where was she now?  All night I waited, but she never came. I just moped around the rest of the night. I was really looking forward to playing with her.

The next morning, I really wanted to play. Mom and I went for a walk. I don't think she wanted to go very far. She told me we were only going to walk until I did my duty. I'll fool her,  I thought. I just won't go and we'll get to walk for a long time.  Mom's pretty smart though, and she caught on to that trick.

Once we got back to the cabin, I could tell something was up.  They looked like they were getting ready to go somewhere. Left alone again, I suppose.

But, no!  Wait. I get to go too!  We're going to see BELLA!

First we had some things to do.  They had to do some shopping, so I had to stay in the car, but I don't mind that really.  I get to watch all the people going by and once in awhile, someone stops and talks to me through the window.  I like when that happens--it makes the time go faster.

Finally, they tell me one more store.  They go in for a just a little bit and guess what!  When they came out, they had JOSH AND THE KIDS WITH THEM!  I wanted to get to them so bad, but no one would let me out of the car. And then, we had to go to another store and another (really, I don't think they know what one more store means!). The kids kept coming up to the window and talking to me, but I wanted to play.

Finally, they are done and we drive to Bella's house.  They let me out and hook me up. I try to play with the kids before Bella comes out, but I forget that sometimes, when I jump on them, it scares them a little or they fall down.  I've got to remember to stay off!

Finally, Bella comes out.  We are both so excited. We hug and talk at the same time. We race circles around each other and jump for joy.

I love lake time.

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