Monday, December 31, 2012

My Last Post of the Year

In the last couple of years, I've done a year-end video; but this year, I'm not feeling the year-end video vibe. So, I'll just tell you: 2012 was a fine year on the blog.
  • It turned out, thanks to the Autumn Blogging Challenge, to be my most prolific year as a poster.
  • We also had an interesting baseball challenge that stretched me in cool ways.  I find I actually quite like those posts.  I tend to like my writing better when I'm forced by a frame or challenge to think beyond my first idea.
  • We were infested by vermin - bats, mice, squirrels, and then in a spectacularly disgusting finish - LICE.  This was very expensive and also revealed my unfortunate tendency to be cowardly.
  • Mac started coming to school with Shef and me.  Although he acted like was being a total non-participant in school, it turns out behaves like a real person when not in the presence of his parents.  It seems like he'll probably start Kindergarten next year.  I know you can hardly believe it.
  • We're hockey parents.  It's likely that I'll blog about this in 2013.
New Year's Resolutions?  I'll get to them.  I'll need to think about this. I'll probably announce them tomorrow.  Let's all make a collective resolution to keep the blogs going.  It would nice to become a famous blogger, but I've sort of given up on that ever happening. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Stars Were For Shining

The four of us are headed to Phoenix for a little sunshine and relaxation. And of course for a visit with my mom, who now lives there for a good portion of the year with Chuck, her superstar partner.

I've got another week off, so we figured Arizona would be a good place to spend it, considering the sun and the relaxation and the parent. I might take up golf while I'm there.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Baldwins

I'm now into watching Parenthood. People are always like, "WHY aren't you WATCHING Parenthood?!" I think it's because it's like totally my life station, and because I personally completely adore Peter Krause and Lauren Graham so much.

Well now I've completed season one, so I'm that much closer to becoming the person I always wanted to be. The person I'm meant to be.

This episode guest stars Billy Baldwin, so there's that.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Aftermath

Sitting here thinking of the next few days. My priorities are errands, school work, running, and violin practice. Of course, the kids and I are in it together, and we'll inevitably have some fun along the way. I think they'd appreciate it if I texted #1 babysitter Anneleise to see if she can Nerf with them while I do all the things I listed above. I'll probably do that in about a half hour.

In the meantime, Shef got Madlibs for Christmas. I've found he laughs especially hard when I use words like smelly, stupid, fart, butt, reek, etc. It's easy once you get the hang of it.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Break

I'm really looking forward to this break. I need a little respite from the grind over there at the Most Awesome School in the World.

At this moment, I'm having some coffee, scanning the internet, planning a workout, and gearing up for assembling and decorating the ginger city. You're crazy if you think pictures aren't forthcoming.

Friday, December 21, 2012

ABC #75: I Can't Believe This is Happening

I can't believe I am completing this challenge. It was so ambitious.

Look, I know some of my entries were short; but they were all done. And here I am at 75, right on time at the Winter Solstice. Because of this challenge, I had my most prolific blogging year ever.

Thank you blogging friends! Lee, Mary, Jessie - you guys are an inspiration.

ABC #74: Poor Timing

I'm not sure that the two weeks before winter break are the best time to read Night by Elie Wiesel with the 8th graders. It seems like too sad a send off. I remember when I was in 7th or 8th grade, we read A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in the weeks before break. Can't teach that here at my non-denominational school, however.

Night is critically important, but so so sad.

ABC #73: The Scab

I had a gross and fascinating scab on my elbow from my slip on the way to the garage.

Last night while I was sleeping, it fell off and I bled in several places on my bed. Gross! Also, then I found the scab under my pillow. Double Gross!

But also cool. I did inspect it before I threw it away.

ABC #72: Holiday Breakfast

It's two things today at school: 1) Holiday Breakfast for Middle School Adults; and 2) Pajama Day.

Now, I'm not a Pajama Day person. I can't maintain my dignity as a professional in pajamas. Plenty of people can, and more power to them! However, I have to wear clothes. A senior teacher, however, suggested that I wear my slippers. Slippers sounds like a pretty good idea actually. I'm strongly considering it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

ABC #71: Mascerated

Of course I like interesting vocabulary. I think I might especially like M words.





Reminds me of a song by Cookie Monster, actually. "MMMM,Marshmallow! MMMM, Meatball! MMMM, I love to MUNCH!"

ABC #70: Special-K

BFF Erin turned 36 today. On her birthday, her mom makes this utterly fantastic Special-K Bar layer cake. I'm not kidding. It. Rox.

So glad I got to go to her birthday party once again. Makes me wonder how many of her birthday celebrations I've attended. 20? More? We became friends when I was 11. I love that friendship so, so much.

ABC #69: The Secret Santas

Did a little Secret Santa exchange with some peeps at school. It was really fun, and my SS was extremely thoughtful. She donated Diet Cokes to the Coke Club in my name. She did my recess duty one time. She bought me new running socks. Basically, it was a dream come true.

I had a great time getting stuff for my giftee, Lynne, too. She's warm, friendly, smart, and a fantastic teacher. I really am so lucky in the colleague department, and Lynne is tops.

ABC #68: Gifts

Time for the holiday gifts to roll in. Let's go, students! Bring on the gifts! I used to give a gift-giving speech to my high school students ("You might think you're too old to give your teacher a gift, but you're totally not!"), but I can't do that in the middle school. The kids would actually think I was for real.

ABC #67: Teacher Stare

Does it surprise anyone to know that I'm not a very scary teacher? I'm generally extremely cheerful in the classroom. Although I'm organized and controlled (IMO), one of my students recently told me I am her least strict teacher.

Anyway, I made some boys stay after a class today for a talking-to.

"Listen," I finally said. "I'm sorry to be so harsh."

"Wait," said one fellow, "you're being harsh right now?"

Another stifled a giggle.

Still, I'm confident my message of seriousness came through. There won't be eye-rolling and under-the-breath comments after Winter Break.

ABC #66: Emergency

I have ten blogs to write in one day.

At this moment, I'm watching last night's Top Chef. One of my favorite past winners, Stephanie, is a judge. She's standing next to Padma. According to Dan, Padma looks awesome as usual.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

ABC #65: Chill

What happens after I run in the winter is sometimes I don't change my clothes right away. Then, I get really cold. However, I don't feel like changing right now. I feel like watching tv and trying to finish this ridiculous fall blogging challenge.

I am still cold.

ABC #64: Teaching Doesn't Pay

I read on a blog I like about THIS ARTICLE, which tells us that teaching is one of the careers that provides the worst return on your college degree.

No surprise there. I don't even make the median salary listed on that site. When I was an undergrad, my dad sent me a few newspaper clippings with headlines like, "English and Education Majors Don't Freaking Pay At ALL."

Still, teaching is what I'm good at and, even though there were a couple of years that were truly horrendous, it's what I like to do. I'm 12 years in, and I'm energized and inspired most days.

I have been shielding myself from most of the Sandy Hook coverage because it's just too sad. I tried to shield my kids from it, but inevitably, Shef heard about the tragedy from friends at school. I had given him a very vague overview of the event, a fact I reminded him of when he told me how upset he was about what he'd learned at lunch.

"Yeah," he said, "but you didn't tell me that 20 kids were SHOT."

True, I said. I didn't tell you that.

So. THIS WRITER really says what I feel about this event, as a mom and as a teacher.

ABC #63: The Home Stretch

It's official: everyone is done working at school. It's time for one big fat WINTER BREAK. I say fat because the holiday chocolate has started pouring in, and let me tell you, I'm indulging.

I also ran after school with my pal Paula, but as Jillian Michales told me: You can eat your way through any amount of exercise.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

ABC #62: Ding Dong

Shef's pet crayfish, Apollo, died today. First some of his legs started falling off last week, and now he's dead.

Thank God. That thing was really gross, and everyone was a little freaked out about him.

ABC #61: Freudian Slip

Gave an in-class writing prompt today to help kids reflect on their independent reading. The kids were sort of crabby about doing it. I got the feeling that some of them perhaps had not actually done their independent reading.


The kids started finishing, and one little guy came up to my desk.

"Here's my shit," he said. "Uh, I mean here's my SHEET."

"Did you just say shit?" I said.

"Uh, yeah," he said.

So funny.

ABC #60: Morning Meetings

I work in a Meetings School. This term was introduced to me by my friend Kate, whose husband teaches with me. When I first heard it, I was like, "Yeah, yeah. Don't we all?" But, in fact, my school takes meetings to a new level. I have, on average, six meetings per week.

On the one hand, it's totally: ENOUGH with the meetings already. But then on the other hand, we discuss really interesting and important stuff in most of the meetings. Here are some examples: positive racial identity development, how we teach the African-American story in grades Pre-K through 8, student staffings and interventions, gender stereotyping and norming, scope and sequence from Pre-K - 12, curriculum ideas and planning, reflecting on teaching and debriefing observations, and on and on.

What's the solution here?

Monday, December 17, 2012

ABC #59: A Deep Dark Hole

Here's a sad story: I've gotten myself way behind at work. I have a ton of stuff to accomplish. The quarter ends on Friday. Whatever shall I do? I'm going to have to buckle down.

ABC #58: Another Teachable Moment

Shef's poor unsuspecting music teacher showed him a video of some guys performing the Nutcracker ballet in class today.

Did Shef mention anything about the music or the dancing?

No he did not.

Did he mention anything about the costumes?


"Mom," he said, giggling. "The guys were wearing tights and you could, like, SEE know."

"Oh yeah," I said, laughing. "That's kind of how it is with tights."

"And there were some Russian guys, and theirs were HUGE!"

Super grateful for this opportunity to explain the vocabulary word, "codpiece."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

ABC #57: Weekend Homework

Check out Shef's tradition homework. He decided to make a video, and I helped:

ABC #56: Holiday Party

Had a lovely time at the holiday party last evening. We have a holiday party at my new job. I've never worked for a place with a holiday party before.

Dan's never that psyched about going to my work events. I don't understand why. Hanging out with me and my cool friends while we discuss the ins and outs of educating the youth of America is super fun. Obviously.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

ABC #55: Too Many of These

I have no idea what to say or do about the Connecticut school shooting. I woke up this morning thinking about the families. I can't really imagine just suddenly losing your child like that. A whole classroom of people just gone. How will that school recover? What will happen to those people who experienced this trauma?

One of the coping mechanisms I use for my anxiety is to push aside the disaster thoughts or scenarios that I tend to have by saying, "Maybe that will happen; maybe it won't." For some reason this kind of stops me from perseverating on long stories about death. My mantra seems weird, but it works for me - We could all die at any time. There's no point in wasting time fixating and being afraid.

But I never really logically expect the bad stuff to happen. Why does this stuff keep happening?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

ABC #54: I slipped on some ice

I did! On the way to the garage. Skinned my elbow. Hurts.

ABC #53: Plans

I will now go and practice my violin. I'm hoping to get a sticker on Bach's Gavotte in D Major on Saturday. Let's all cross our fingers.

Before I do that, actually, I'm going to put on my sweatpants.

ABC #52: The Probs

Okay, here's the problem: I have like 23 posts left to do in like seven days. Will I do it? Of course, I'm going to do it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

ABC #51: Okay, the Talk

Good news: I have something to say to that subcommittee tomorrow. I will now rehearse it a few times because that's my way. I actually talk out loud to myself. Is that weird? Does everyone do that? I always tell my students to do it, but most of the time they look at me like I'm insane.

Next, I'll figure out what to wear. Also, I need lesson plans for tomorrow.

Never a dull moment at this new school, I'm telling you. Never even a single one.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

ABC # 50: Uh Oh

Here's what's going on: In October, a cool guy that I work with (the director of Information Support Services) asked me if I would present to the 21st Century Learning committee. I said sure. December seemed a long way off. The ISS guy suggested I cobble together some stuff from other presentations I've done. Sure! Fun! Totally on that!

But now the talk is on Thursday, and so far all I have is a title. It's a fine title - maybe even slightly hip - but it's just a title. And lots of bosses will be at this meeting.

Something will have to be done.

Monday, December 10, 2012

ABC #49: Resinogenous

A couple of weeks ago, teacher pal Stacy and I were a pronouncers at our Spelltacular competition. That's what we call the Spelling Bee at our school. Anyway, the pronouncer job is a really tough one with a lot of pressure, so Stacy and I got together ahead of time to practice all the pronunciations and accompanying sentences.

We did not, however, practice reading the definitions. And that's what got me in big trouble at the Spelltacular.

Let me set the scene: we were in the final rounds of the competition, down to the final two spelltestants. Those two were all, "Can you pronounce it again?" "Can I have the definition?" "Can I get the language of origin?" and all of that nonsense.

So, anyway, I was pronouncing, and the word was resinogenous. First I said, "res-IN-ah-ges," but I immediately knew that was wrong.

"No," I said. "Just a minute." I turned and conferred with Stacy, and she got me back on the right track. It's resin-AH-gen-ous.

"Resinogenous," I said. "While hiking through the woods, Samantha enjoyed the fragrance of the resinogenous trees. Resinogenous."

"Can you say it again?" asked the speller.

"Resinogenous," I repeated, confidently.

"Can I have the language of origin?" asked the speller.

"This word is from a Greek-derived Latin element, plus a Greek-derived element plus an English combining form," I read. As if that would help him determine the spelling.

"And can I have the definition?" he asked, in the fateful moment.

You guys, I am not kidding. This is the definition of resinogenous listed in the spelling bee guide:

any of various hard brittle solid to soft semisolid amorphous fusible flammable substances that are usually transparent or translucent and yellowing to brown in color with a characteristic luster and that are formed especially in plant secretions.

You just go ahead and TRY to read that with a straight face at the middle school Spelltacular. I mean it, just TRY to. Obviously, it's impossible. Obviously, I laughed my head off at the podium in front of the entire middle school. Obviously, at least five people greeted me that evening at the faculty happy hour by my new name: "Resinogenous." One person called me "Giggles," instead.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

ABC #48: The Adrenaline

You can't really tell from the video that my hand was shaking so hard that it was tricky to play. I'm in a black skirt behind another adult violinist (a tall one) in gray pants. I smile at the camera at the end.


Bad news is I still have a rotten cold. Good news is NOTHING - not my cold, not the snowy weather, not my nerves - will keep me from my first adult violin recital this afternoon.

Yesterday, when I was polishing my part with my teacher, she told me two things. First, she said it's time to buy Suzuki Book 4. Second, she said I should be very proud of the work I've done on Corelli's Christmas Concerto Pastorale. I know it's a little bit ridiculous, but I totally AM proud of the work I've done on that piece!!

This afternoon, I'll post the video of the performance even if I screw up.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

ABC #46: The Other Brother

Played some indoor hockey with the children the other day. We used a plush soccer ball. When it was Shef's turn to play goalie, Mac pointed at him and warned, "Now don't go too hard on your little brother."

Kid knows how to work it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

ABC #45: Phlegm

Time for my December cold. The onset this time was sort of brutal with body aches and lightheadedness. Then, I had a sleepless night with a terrible sore throat and chunky phlegm.

Sorry for the gross-out, but the truth hurts to read sometimes.

Now it's just a normal cold, but I still feel run down. Thus, I'm headed to bed immediately. It seems like the right thing to do before my formal observation tomorrow. At my new school, we're constantly being formally observed.

ABC #44 : Pizza

We've had frozen pizza for dinner two nights in a row.

That's fine, right?

I mean, I also served frozen vegetables. I did defrost the vegetables before serving them.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

ABC #43: Sweet Silver Bells

Tree's up and warming in preparation for lighting. Country Christmas is streaming on the sound system. Santa Bear 2006 is perched on the love seat.

It's happening, peeps. I'm headed for holiday cheer once again.

ABC #42: Whoo Whoo

This is an adorable mug that I got as a gift from one of the families at school. Their son decided to switch schools, and this was my thank-you gift for being his teacher.

I've gotta say, I love thank-you gifts for being a teacher. Also, I think owls are so hot right now. That's true, right?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

ABC #41: It Doesn't Matter

I've gotten serious once again about my running. This had led me to sign up for the race I hate the most: The Winter Carnival Half Marathon. I think I've run it like 5 times, and I've hated it most every time.

It's on January 26th this year. It's always the last weekend of January or the first weekend of February. It's been every temperature from -20 to about 50 degrees fahrenheit. One time I hated it so much that I walked off the course at about the 8-mile mark, marched to a gas station, and begged Dan to come and pick me up.

Why do I do this race, despite the misery?

It's really the only thing to train for in the dead of winter here. Without a race to train for (I'm thinking PR!!), I sometimes just quit running. I guess I'd rather be miserable for a couple of hours in a few months than squander all of my fitness.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

ABC #40: More Data

I think Mac was recently in a growth spurt. On three occasions in the last couple of weeks, he fell asleep in the car on the way home from school (about 5:15) and remained asleep for the rest of the night.

After that, he woke up taller, and I put a bunch of 3T stuff in the Goodwill pile.

Tonight he fell asleep in the car on the way home (about 5:30), and woke up at 9:30. PM. So this might be a long night, right?

At this moment, he's eating Mac and Cheese and watching Phineas and Ferb. Nothing could possibly go wrong. I'm going to bed in five minutes. Right?!

Monday, November 26, 2012

ABC #39: The More Things Change

Mac's has a new sleep-avoidance tactic, and (SHOCKER!) It's super annoying.

"I think of bad things when I'm by myself!" he wails pathetically.

Since I too think of bad things when I'm by myself, I'm sort of sympathetic. But, then again, I'm like, "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD GO TO SLEEP."

I tried talking through his fears with him to allay his anxiety. "What kind of bad things?" I asked.

"Ghost-es and monsters. A hair-dryer monster." What do they do that's so scary? "They get me." That IS scary. Wow, you have a great imagination! But, do you know what? "What?" The monsters and ghosts aren't real. "Hmmmm," Mac says.

Then more wailing and not going to sleep for hours.

This is so predictable.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

ABC #38: On the Last Day

Big News: Our family has once again found Jesus. We attended church for the third time in four weeks this morning. Right now our skills are a little rusty; however Mac did volunteer to help with the offering. Also, he nodded and smiled at the minister while he explained the message about Jesus turning the notion of "king" upside down.

As we were leaving, Minister Jeff let us know how much he appreciated Mac, Man of God. "He was giving me a lot of good feedback there," he said. "He was like, 'Yeah! I'm with you!'"

And we're with YOU, Jesus! We won't let you down!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

ABC #37: Supplemental

A month or so ago, I visited my chiropractor. She's a super nice woman with a deep and abiding passion for natural health. She's the type of person you're tempted to lie to because she'll say, "What do you typically eat for breakfast?" and you just know that "Fruit Loops" is the wrong answer.

Anyway, I went to see her because I had an enduring headache and dizziness that began after my day at the Waterpark of America. And also because I had a slight pain in my right hip while running.

After she was finished with me, my headache was gone and I also was on a new regimen of supplements - a probiotic with 14 billion live cultures and a super multivitamin called Detox Phase 1 and 2. Two phases together in one capsule. To be honest, it didn't seem like I had much of a choice in purchasing these. She just ordered me to.

"People who say they're headachey are just toxic," she declared.

So, I skeptically swallowed the pills, and was surprised by the results. Honestly, I'm feeling generally more healthful. My stomach is settled. I've had very few headaches that require medication. I feel energetic for working out, and I'm sleeping well.

The bottom line? I recommend probiotics and a super multivitamin. I'm also supposed be taking drops of this Vitamin D liquid, but it tastes terrible. I'm sure my chiro won't appreciate that excuse, so I'll probably lie about it, to be honest.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

ABC #36: Frozen and Can't Breathe

A couple of posts ago, I said I was dreading the 5k I'd signed up for, but I'd be glad I did it after the fact.

Guess what? I was right! I"m glad I did it. Also, and this is kind of cool, I was 2nd place for women. It was a small race, but still. I tried my hardest and beat all of the other women (maybe 150?) except one.

There's no way I could cover a 5k at this moment, however, because my stomach is so full I'm pretty sure it could rupture. I took some TUMS, but they didn't even touch the discomfort.

ABC #35: The Shefster

Attention Everyone: Big News! Shef is blogging again! He's determined to post 75 times by December 21st per the rules of the Autumn Blogging Challenge.

You should CHECK IT OUT and please comment.

I feel compelled to tell you that he actually does know about punctuation, even though you can't tell from the blog. Also, he has a disgusting pet crayfish named Apollo. Thanks, Third Grade Science Curriculum! Way to get us a new pet!

ABC #34: Gratitude

I gave my first ever Thanksgiving speech to the students on Tuesday, and I think I'm going to make it an annual thing.

"STOP!" I shrieked as they made for the door. "The bell hasn't rung, and I need to give my Thanksgiving Speech!" At that point, I had not made any plans for such a speech.

"Look," I said when they were calm. "I'm thankful for you. I love my job because I get to hang out with you guys every day. It's pretty much the best thing I could ask for. I want to thank you for being a part of my life."

The kids were sort of surprised and confused. They looked at me with wide eyes like, "Is she for real?!" I think I even said, "I'M SERIOUS!"

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

ABC #33: Gobble Wobble

I signed up for a 5k for tomorrow morning. It's probably a good idea, but at the moment I'm kind of dreading it. The dread is a familiar sensation: it descends before pretty much every sporting event I do. The most pronounced incidents have been the extended sobbing in advance of the Ragnar Relay of 2010 and the moments before beginning the swim legs in each of my triathlons. Swimming with lots of people in open water kind of freaks me out. The dread makes me wonder why I ever do these things, except that I like TO HAVE DONE them. After the fact.

Anyway, tomorrow's 5k will be totally fine; but right now it seems like, do I really want to drive over there and run as hard as I can for a baseline 5k time? Like I said, I probably do. It only just seems like I don't.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ABC #32: Start With The Attention Getter

I am so happy and relaxed because I'm starting on a five-day holiday weekend. YES! To get things started, Dan picked up delicious food from Namaste, our local Indian and Nepali restaurant.

Next, I'm going to practice my violin. I only have two-and-a-half weeks to master the second violin part of Corelli's Christmas Concerto Pastorale. My teacher tells me I'll be performing with a bunch of children and three other adult violins. There will be video of this performance, and it will be posted on this blog.

Monday, November 19, 2012

ABC Post #31

Here's a photo from NCTE. Why do I look so ridiculous? I feel like I look ridiculous in pretty much every photo ever taken.

Also, here's a photo of Mac in his hockey gear. I'm sorry, but this is really adorable:

ABC Post #30

A couple of people asked to see our Prezi. Thanks for asking, friends! Here it is:

ABC Post #29

Here's what my NCTE talk was about: It was about how participating in a blended learning environment (one that's part face-to-face and part online) encourages and might contribute to the development of so-called non-cognitive factors like academic perseverance, often described as grit or self-control.

I was excited about the non-cognitive factor (this is a bad name for important things like integrity, responsibility, and perseverance that contribute to academic success) connection because non-cognitive factors are really hot right now. In fact, I basically heard two talks on them that were stuffed with interested people.

As usual, I have a reading list a mile long as a result of this conference.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

ABC Post #28

The topic of this post is the friends. One reason I love conferences is that I get to geek out with some really great pals. This year, Rachel presented with me. She's a genius, and I love her so much. One thing that's so fabulous about her is that she has an easy and appealing presentation style that I find to be reassuring. Besides doing the talk with her, I walked by her side and rubbed her arm a bit. I used see her every flipping day, and now I don't get to. This is a hardship, for sure, and one I will have to endure.

I also had a great time with Jim, who kindly purchased me a giant slushy beverage at the conclusion of my presentation. Way to swoop in and make the day, JIM.

Judy was a third friend that I heartily enjoyed. I tried to convince Judy that because we share a last name, we're probably related. "Really?" she said. "It's a pretty common name..." Okay, so I was exercising some wishful thinking.

Always fab to see Lee, of course. My admiration for her is well-documented on this very website.

Finally, Pronto also came along and tried marginally to limit his disparaging remarks about English-teacher fashion sense. Thanks for exercising the self control, Dan! My professional peeps and I really appreciate your generosity.

ABC Post #27

The topic of this post is the conference. Here's the scoop: I had a great conference. One of the best. I heard some big-name smarties, gathered some useful classroom strategies and resources, learned about Cosmopolitanism from Lee (she gave a great talk, obvi), and presented to my largest audience ever despite having the worst time slot ever.

I'm just really psyched about all of it. Go throngs of English teachers! Go forth and prosper!

OMG Autumn Blogging Challenge Post #26

I'm in really big trouble because I'm just not sure that I can write 50 posts between now and December 21. Apparently I really should have gotten on the challenge train earlier because this is ridiculous.

Here's what I'm going to do: Today I'm only covering one topic per post. The topic of this post is Holy Crapola, I'm Not Sure I Can Finish the Blogging Challenge Whatever Will I Do?!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Eight Ball

I'm here in Vegas hanging with some fantastic peeps - Lee, Judy, and of course Pronto.

I realized when I met the fab gals at the Shark Reef (on the way, I'm pretty sure I saw some famous Latin music stars in town for the Latin Grammys) that I should probably be participating in the 75 posts by December 21st blog challenge. I just sort of ignored that challenge because it seemed impossible. Now, it's even more impossible, but I feel like I should try to do it.

I think I have... 50 posts to go.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Water Flowing Underground

About to leave for NCTE. Making some changes to the findings section of our talk. Not the findings themselves, just the organization. Anyway, just dealing with that and trying to pack when some plumbing problems presented themselves. Spent some time mopping water and trying to fix the plumbing.

Despite our careful following of directions, we managed to break more plumbing implements. So, then water just streams out everywhere all over the kitchen.

No problem. I remained calm. I mopped up. Dan bailed the backed-up water out of the sink. He called the plumber and begged his mom to come over tomorrow to let him or her in. We packed. I left my sub plans. I'm about to have a great time at NCTE.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Snape Killed Dumbledore

It took me more than a month, but I finally finished J.K. Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy.

I admired the novel, but I found it to be utterly depressing. And, I'm pretty sure it's not just me - I'm pretty sure the story is super sad and not very hopeful. That's what stymied my progress.

Still, I'm glad to have read this book; and I'm glad to have shown my great appreciation for J.K. by purchasing it. I'd be happy to pass it along to anyone else who wants to know about it.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Talk

Good news: The NCTE talk is 90% finished. I think it's pretty good. Of course, our session is pretty much during happy hour on next Saturday evening, so probably no one will come. Even if no one does come, however, Rachel and I will still give our talk. Maybe I'll sneak Dan into the conference and subject him to it. I'm sure he wants to know how Blended English contributes to the development of non-cognitive factors and reshapes students' conceptions of time and space.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Accept. Adapt. Move Forward.

Moving along here in the world's longest week. Barack pulled through and won the election. Also, two dumb amendments went down in Minnesota. It's still illegal for gay people to get married here; however, we don't have language of hate in our state constitution.

I am hoping that anyone who wants to get married in MN can legally do that very soon, especially since we have a democratic majority in both the state senate and the house, as well as a a democratic governor. It's the first time since 1988 that this has happened. Go, Dems! Let's get some things done!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gut Check

Election night. Last night I was talking a big game about going to bed early tonight. The results will be the same whether or not I stay up late to watch them.

Now, I'm nervously shoving pizza down my throat and preparing for the long haul.

Hey, Election Gods! Please let this go our way!

Monday, November 5, 2012

4 More Minutes

"Like a Prayer" live with the full-on gospel choir made my 1:30am bedtime mostly worth it.

I also loved "Open Your Heart," "Vogue," and the "Express Yourself"/"Born This Way" mash-up.

The rest of it was a little weird. But it was Madonna.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Walking On Air

Got a call from the Assistant to the Head of School at home tonight. And guess what? It's my day to be observed by the Head of School tomorrow. She'll be watching a lesson primarily about run-on sentences.

On Halloween.

With seventh graders.

Immediately after lunch.

I texted some colleagues about this situation. One suggested I wear an inappropriate costume to accentuate the experience. Maybe a spandex Wonder Woman number. Another suggested I dress as Captain Behavior Management.

Here's my plan: I'm going to remind Shef not to pop into my class on his way to lunch. He likes to do that. Sometimes he does a little Gangnam style.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Race Report

I did a 10-mile race yesterday. It's part of the work-life balance plan I mentioned earlier. I take violin lessons and I exercise 4 days per week. Technically, I'm also writing my NCTE talk. Naturally, at this moment, I'm blogging instead.

Anyway, I didn't really have any intention of signing up for the Monster Dash, except that my friend Sheila convinced me. "It's all downhill," she said.

"How is that possible?" I asked.

She explained the course.

As you can see, it actually is almost entirely downhill. So okay.

My longest run in advance was 7 miles, so I decided to be conservative. Except then my friend Molly told me I wasn't giving enough credence to the downhills, and I should really go out faster.

Hmmm. I decided to try to go with the pace group that was running 8-minute miles. As it turned out, that felt fine, even though the pacers were actually shaving 2-5 seconds off the pace per mile. "We're just building a little cushion," they explained sensibly.

At 8 miles, I decided to "put the hammer down," as I say to myself during races (isn't that ridiculous?!), and I picked up the pace for the final downhill 2. I finished in 1:18:20,gave my cool skull-and-bat medal to Mac when I got home, and folded laundry for the rest of the day.

Did I work on my talk? No, I did not. NCTE: today's the day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Put Your Troubles Down

We read Of Mice and Men in 7th grade. It's a tough and heavy book for the sevies, what with the murder, the racism, the sexism, and the intellectual disabilities.

I read the first chapter aloud yesterday, and they thought it was really funny to hear me utter the words, "goddamn," "hell," "bastard," "son-of-a-bitch," and "Jesus Christ" over and over again.

Today I had to prep them for the even more troubling language - the n-word - which first appears on page 16. So, what I did was I had us list the "bad" words from yesterday, and I wrote them on the board. Then, we were going to discuss what was different about the "r-word" and the "n-word" and the other swears.

When I was in the middle of this, my boss came in for a walk-through.


What to do? I just kept teaching, obviously. He seemed really interested in our discussion of bastards. The kids looked at him nervously. He said don't worry, he was just writing the words down.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Work-Life Balance

It's been a good school year, so far. I have a new work plan wherein I stay at work until 5pm in the evening. This used to be impossible because I had to run all around town picking up the children. Now, as previously mentioned, we all go to the same school. When 5:00 rolls around, I just walk over to extended day, which is free for kids of teachers.

Then, what I try to do is work hardly at all at home after working frenetically from 7:45-5:00.

It pretty much works. I work at LOT less at home. Basically, I still have to put in a couple of hours on the weekends; but otherwise, I keep it to the work site. Of course, it helps that I taught the same classes last year, and I at least have a draft to work from.

Here's what it doesn't work for: writing my NCTE talk. Blah. I'm going to have to do that at home.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kids Are So Awesome

Last year, I had a Friday Ten Initiative. I gave $10 to a different organization each Friday. It was cool, and I liked it a lot.

I recently found out that a gal in my neighborhood had a very similar idea, but made it about a million times more awesome. Emily is the 17 year-old sister of our babysitter, Anneleise. Her website, Emily's Faves, donates money each month to one of 10 organizations. She selected the organizations using well-articulated criteria you can see on her website.

Then, each month, she puts 4 organizations up for voting. You donate as much as you want - one vote equals one dollar. Then, at the end of the month, all the money goes to the non-profit with the most votes.

So, basically it's like Friday Ten, but your Friday Ten becomes like a Monthly Five Hundred. That's about how much she donates each time.

Cool, right?

Also, she has a website made with Wix, which I haven't heard of, but I enjoyed navigating. Maybe good for student projects? Check it out!

Guard Your Dreams and Visions

I have been listening to an audio book on the treadmill these last weeks called Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen.

It's by Christopher McDougall, and I can only say that it's enthralling. Maybe I think that because I've been running on and off for 23 years, but other people might like it, too. It's about lots of things - the birth of Nike, evolutionary biology, native people in the Copper Canyons of Mexico, plantar fascitis, vegetarianism, and ultramarathons, and some other stuff.

I have run some marathons, but I have never thought it would be fun (or even cool) to do an ultra. This book made me think about it a little bit. It's not like I'm signed up for one or anything. I still think it's pretty crazy.

But, when Liz texted me and offered me the last spot on her ultra Ragnar team, I thought it was something like fate.

"Do you want to run an ultra Ragnar?" she wrote.

"Absolutely not. That's insane." I texted back.

But then about 40 texts later, I wrote, "Let's be real: I'm in for Ragnar 2013."

Let's be real again: this is probably not fate and just a colossal mistake.

Oh well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Never Thought I Would Feel So Free

Here's where we're at:

We have conferences tomorrow. We teachers spent the day getting ready by swapping information with each other, so we can now comment on the whole middle schoolers.

I went to my own kids' conferences today. The biggest surprise was that despite crying and clinging to me every morning at drop off, Mac is actually having a super year. The teacher even showed me a slideshow of him looking happy on multiple days and in multiple activities.

His goals are to spend a little less time with his bestie, Gabi. Otherwise, he's doing fine.

I'm sort of shocked.

Shef? Well, he's having a fab year. He wrote in his pre-conference reflection that he feels calm and happy at school. I love that. Way to go, Shef.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Everybody, Yeah

I don't give that many tests because, to be honest, I think tests are sort of lame. I did, however, give a test of sorts on the first unit of 7th grade English. We were reviewing literary terms and using them to analyze some short stories.


Anyway, I gave a test to see if anyone had learned anything.

One of the reasons I am annoyed with tests is that I have to give them back. And then when I do that, the kids ask really idiotic questions about how they can get more points on the test. Also, I hate points.

So, one kid felt like he needed some more so-called "points." "Here," he said gesturing to number 3 or something, "I wrote external, but I meant internal. So, could I have another point?"


"But you wrote the wrong answer," I said.

"But," he persisted, "I miswrote."

"No," I said. "You cannot have another point."

"Also, here," he said, "I wrote Jim, but I meant Ben."

"Again," I said, trying to maintain an appropriate neutral tone, "that's wrong."

"But I MEANT Ben," he said.


I'm going to try to never give a test again.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Soreness

I pushed it pretty hard in the race yesterday. It was my first race since May of 2010. There were a lot of hills. I ran faster than I planned to.

All of that means, all of the muscles in my entire body - legs, of course, but also obliques, back, somehow even my FOREARMS are sore from the effort.

I am so sore that I awoke in the night from the soreness. I'm probably going to have to walk a bit today to get things moving, or tomorrow I'll be completely immobilized.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

An Autumn Jog

Today's the day for the 10k. I tried to talk to my pal Paula about a time goal, but she reminded me it was wicked hilly and we should try to just finish.

Good advice, Paula. Way to keep me grounded.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

You're the Million Reasons Why

Here's the news: The eighth graders have started acting like eighth graders. Couple of kids skipped a couple of things. Couple of kids weren't where they were supposed to be. Couple of teachers start stopping me in the hall, asking, "Hey is So-and-So in your advisory?" It's not usually good if people start stopping you asking you that.

There are conferences next week. Couple of parents might be sort of annoyed about the situations. Let's hope the parents direct their annoyance at the proper peeps.

That would be the kids.

Not the well-meaning and super vigilant and responsive advisor.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Swag, Swag, Swag

One of my favorite things about fall every year is the new television shows. I mean, let's be real. School is fine, and all, but the TELEVISION.

Dan and I are watching some new stuff. Shows like Revolution and Elementary. I'm also looking forward to the DVDs of last year's seasons of my faves like Modern Family and Big Bang Theory. I'm also into some Netflix stuff like Parenthood.

Television. I just love it. I always have. It's what keeps me going.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Don't Need No Credit Card

Mac's doing all kind of cool stuff in his Reggio Emilia-inspired Pre-K. Basically, they do stuff that the kids want to do, and from my perspective, the teachers do a super job of, like, enhancing and encouraging them to expand on their inclinations.

One such inclination was "discovering" and sketching a dead bird that flapped into their window and dropped dead outside.

"It was a nice object to draw," their teacher explained, "because it wasn't moving." Later the class buried it, which I guess was preferable to the teacher flicking it into the woods or something like that.

Last weekend, when Mac and I saw another dead bird on the boulevard, he said, "Wait a minute! Let me discover it!" Then, he crouched down and stared at it for awhile, pointing out the feathers and such. "Okay," he said, and we walked on.

The same thing happened with a little dead baby mouse he and the neighbor kid located. In that case, however, the neighbor dad flicked the rodent into the street after their kids rode their bikes down the block. I was really glad he flicked it. I mean, there's no way I'm going to spend my days burying road kill, no matter what Reggio says.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cause They Hear We Got Swagger

Just another miserable night of not going to bed around here. I feel like I'm a pretty passable parent all-around, but I am absolutely completely awful at bedtime and nighttime. Also mornings. Let's throw those in there, too.

I thought things might be different this autumn because Mac turned four. When Shef turned four, he started sleeping. He was motivated by the money we started paying him for doing so. Turns out, Mac isn't motivated by money. He loses it and throws it around. Then he decides he doesn't want to buy anything. WHY?! What about the STUFF?!

Still, I thought things might be different also because he started school. But guess what? They let him nap there. His teacher said he is "the hardest kid they've ever had to wake up." You're telling me. "Really!" she remarked. "We pick him up out of his cot and plop him down, and he falls over and stays asleep." His friends tell me at extended day that they just run all around him with the lights on and stuff while he lies there.

So, I'm pretty sure the napping isn't helping the bedtime. Also not helping the bedtime is the natural night owl rhythm. Also not helping is the ridiculous amount of stubbornness and manipulation.

Next on the solution list: melatonin. Can you give that to four year-olds? I'm totally asking the pediatrician. If not melatonin, how about some kind of legal kiddy sedative? Nutritional healing? I'm totally looking this up.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Imagine Me and You

Another beautiful fall day here. Taught a lesson about Express Lane Editing, a brilliant idea I read about in a book by Jeff Anderson. You put a box on your page with a list of items to check out - 10 items or less. My items were about using apostrophes correctly. Then, you put your fixes on your "Receipt." Receipt makes you feel hella accomplished.

"What happens if you don't have any items on your receipt?" a kid asked.


Bottom line is, we can all find errors in our work. Let's just be honest with ourselves.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Spring is Here

On a most beautiful Autumn weekend (it was this last weekend), my brother Devin got married! We went to tons of super fun family events, beginning with the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. I don't know who took this great photo of Mac and my sister, Mary. Probably Mac.

We were having a rocking good time. Then, we got all gussied up and went to the wedding. Just before we left, Mac took this great photo of me and Shef:

At the ceremony the boys excelled as ring bearers. They went up the aisle and back down again. Mac persevered on the return trip even when one of the flower girls shoved him back because she felt he was encroaching on her space. She's a rule-follower, obviously. Mac was just muscling through the job.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

We Were All Born Superstars

There's an Autumn challenge afoot, so I'm happy to report that I did indeed go outside today and enjoy some primo Autumn weather.

I actually went for a run after school with a fab colleague. A highlight of this particular training run was encountering the entirety of the middle school boys' cross country team. Hi, guys!

For some reason, I signed up for two races with this gal: a 10k on the 14th of October and a 10 miler on the 27th. So, we'll likely be enjoying more autumnal experiences before the snow falls.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Burning Like a Silver Flame

Went to Back-to-School-Night and found Mac's project displayed on the wall. Here's his family portrait:

And here's his artist's statement:

Here's my question: Why am I zero? Why have I not been born? What about the combined 44 hours I spent in labor?!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

People Driving All Fast

This is the boys walking into school together.


I can't even tell you how happy it makes me to go to school with them. I drop them off and pick them up. Shef sticks his head in and waves at me on the way to lunch. My 8th grade advisory will be the buddy class for Mac's Pre-K.

Right now they think it's cool, so I'm milking it for all it's worth.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hooptie Hooptie Hoop

Just finished a morning run and on my way upstairs to comb out my hair. Let's hope this is the last comb-out, shall we? It takes for flipping ever. I have to do everyone's hair at some point today - front-to-back, back-to-front, left-to-right, and right-to-left with a nit comb.

We now own four of those. One for each of us, boiled between uses.

After all that, we're planning on opening up the rest of the house. The lice should be dead by now. They need a human host, or else they die in 48 hours. We gave them 96 just to be safe.

My next stop today will be to one of the salons that carries lice-repelling spray. Each of us will be dosed in that before returning to school. If we get the lice right back again, I'll probably freak out pretty hard-core. I handled this outbreak with humor and a smile. If there's a next outbreak, I think I'll handle it with a full-blown temper tantrum.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

You Won't Stop

Tonight was curriculum night. You gotta be good on curriculum night. That's why I arranged a couple of hours to prepare after school.

And then.

AND THEN, Brenda from the Lower School called to tell me that Mac has lice. "This is the call you don't want to get," she said.

Immediately, I knew we all had lice. I mean, this is a family that sleeps together 85% of the time. I had her call Shef down from 3rd grade, confirmed our cases and drove straight to the lice removal center. Yes, that's a real place.

While the nice lady was killing my colony for a hefty price, I demanded to know on a scale of 1-10 how bad my infestation was. A seven, she said. She thought I might be Patient Zero.

But then she saw Shef's head. Shef's Patient Zero, as it turns out. He wins for the most lice.

But does it matter? No, it doesn't. The reality is we all had lice. Also, I missed the start of curriculum night because I was waiting for my outfit to be in the dryer on high for 40 minutes and also washing my hair two times to remove the treatment junk.

That's a picture of some lice residue Stacy the Lice Lady scraped out of my hair. Just FYI. Also, I'll be waking early to comb the kids out before we go back to school. And, most of our house is quarantined.

Good times!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Whatchu Want?!

I recently re-read some previous blog entries. Specifically, the ones I've written each September since the inception of this blog in 2005. Sometimes I do that, read back through that month's posts through history, just to review life a bit. The kids like it because there are usually funny stories about them at different ages.

Anyway, based on that research, I can say that I'm having a pretty good, calm start of school.Still, I've lost my keys. I drove home, came inside, and lost them. Or Pronto ate them. All 15 or 20. That's actually a possibility.

Also, Mac still refuses to discuss school most of the time. He says he doesn't do anything and doesn't have any pals, but the newsletters from the teacher show him doing tons of stuff and include transcripts of his interactions with pals. He played a leading role in designing a haunted house with silky scarves, for instance. He's also written about six books, all titled MOM. I'd be super flattered, except for that the only words he actually knows how to write really well are MOM and MAC.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Little in the Middle

Got back from overnight camp with the 8th graders. Fun times on the high ropes, but exhausting. Also enlightening. For instance, learned about Fart Baseball. Bet you've never heard of it.

I heard of it when our group's ropes facilitator let one rip while we were working the Tree Leap. That's the thing where you climb up like 25 feet in the air on this tree, stand on a disk at the top, and jump off. I did it to prove my bravery and trust to my 8th graders.

Anyway, the guy just passes some loud gas. We all look at him like WHA?! He says, "Oh, I forgot we weren't just playing Fart Baseball."

Fart Baseball goes like this: each fart you produce that's either audible or smellable counts as a base. 1st fart is 1st base. You try to do four (HOMERUN!) before anyone can break in with their own audible and/or smellable fart.

Super, right? Think 8th grade boys liked that? Think I didn't hear random calls of "2nd base!" and "3rd base!" as the boys were ascending the climbing wall on Friday?

Yeah. Happy weekend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kiss Me and Cry for Me

So, Pronto bites. That's the biggest problem. Basically, we've managed to get a dog that doesn't like to cuddle, can't be left alone in a room, goes ballistic at the sight of other dogs, and terrorizes the children. He doesn't draw blood, but... BUT, they're super afraid of him because he nips all the time. Sometimes he tears their clothes and makes bruises.

On Friday night, my brother Kevin babysat. When we got home, he was restraining Pronto. "This dog is THE WORST," he proclaimed.

On Saturday, our friend Tom commiserated with us when the topic of Pronto came up. We had hidden the dog in the attic, so he wouldn't eat Tom's kids. "I've just never met a dog that you can't pet," he said.

It's true that this is not a pet I imagined having. I got the dog to be a companion to the CHILDREN! I got the dog to sit in my lap while I watched tv. I did not get a dog because I wanted a spaz running loose on the property who would break large wooden structures.

A neighbor told me today that Pronto had managed to hurtle his head through the fence while they walked by with their nice, squishy lap dog.

"Yeah," I said. "Dan went out and nailed it back together."

"Oh good," the neighbor said. "That dog is a fierce protector."

So, Dan's calling the rescue tomorrow to tell them Pronto needs a family that doesn't have kids. I think it's the right call. Shef and Mac agree, which is really saying something. Deep down, we all really like Pronto and wanted him to work out.

"I want a dog to sleep in my room," Mac said. That would be nice. When I tried to have Pronto sleep in my room, I woke up to find him eating my bras.

I feel like a failure, and frankly, I'm not sure what to say to potential adopters. Pronto doesn't have many good traits. It's true that he is extremely handsome and a good exercise partner. As long as you exercise in a place where you're not likely to see many other dogs.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Feelin' Like P. Diddy

Mac's first couple of days were highly successful. By highly successful, I mean he went to school and seems to have cooperated and completed activities. On the first day, he wrote a book with beautiful pictures and words like "MOM," "MAC," and "MACIMAC," which we think is Mackie-Mac.

I tried to interview him this morning about the first couple of days, and this is what I got:

After Dan listened to it, he nodded sagely. Like, this is totally what we'd expect to get when interviewing Mac. Kid only performs when he feels like it, yo.

This is in contrast to Shef, who performs all the time, over-the-top. Four years ago, I interviewed the first born about HIS first couple of days in the same class. Look at him go:

Untitled from Savvy Mom on Vimeo.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Stop. Hatin's Bad.

Went to a fabulous wedding tonight. One of my colleagues. The couple wrote their own vows. Halfway through hers the bride said, "I forgot the rest, so I'm just going to make it up." I loved that so much.

Later, I tore up the dance floor with several girl pals. My spouse and the other men chose not to join us in our the wild limb flailing.

On the way home we talked about what a bummer it is that Pronto is such a bad dog. I think something actually has to be done.

Because he's really a bad dog.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Birds Fly

Finally we arrive at the day I've been dreaming of: the day that Mac, Shef, and I all go to school at the same place. No longer will I have to drive all over creation to pick them up by five o'clock.

I'm skipping my morning meeting to walk Mac to the classroom, mostly because he slept through his orientation. Like, he was snoring in my arms. When he woke up a half hour later, I walked back and showed him his cubbie. He said he didn't like it.


I'll keep you posted on how this goes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I Like Skinny Jeans

Started school today. Taught all of my classes. Taught them all afternoon in a row with advisory and no bathroom break. Tried new management techniques. Got so tired, I can't speak.

But, I said I would blog, and I'm blogging.

Let the record show.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Boom Goes the Dynamite

Opening day tomorrow. I'm super pumped. There were lots of students around today getting oriented, setting up their lockers, and welcoming new kids. Bring it on, kids!

When I got home I was pretty annoyed because there was a LARGE BILL from the pest management peeps. Do you know how many squirrels they removed from our attic?

EIGHT! Eight squirrels! It costs a fair bit to trap and euthanize a squirrel. It costs the same to relocate the squirrels, but I haven't noticed any particular shortage of that mangy vermin.

The good news is, all the squirrels have been caught according to the monitoring system. The screens are up and the bat door is installed. We should be bat free here in a short while. Just in time to kill the mice under the sink.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

You Never Had Much Game

Count down to the first day with students: t-minus 1.5 days. I feel mostly ready. I've got some new procedures this year, and I'm pretty psyched about busting them out. Probably no one will recognize my room because it will be so "calm and consistently productive."

That's the exact phrase I used in my syllabus. Can't lose.

I'm a little worried that the students won't like the new bell work procedure, couch procedure, quieting procedure, and homework log procedure; but I'm committing to giving these routines a good, solid try.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Never Ever Ever Ever

Today brought a series of minor misfortunes and a good finish.

First, we left in plenty of time to get to the 12:50 showing of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, but it turned out the highway was closed and the detours were messed up and it was raining and I drove around for an hour within a 7 mile radius of my house.

We arrived at the mall 15 minutes after the movie started and Shef was panicked that he'd missed a REALLY FUNNY PART.

So, I decided we would just hang out for two hours and watch the next one.

Then, we went in a photo booth to get our pictures taken and it broke after taking one of our dollars.

Then, I put the kids on some dumb merry-go-round, put in money (!), and it didn't go round.

By this time, we were all frustrated. Lucky for us, we found an arcade, then the food court, then this dumb mall train that charges and arm and a leg for a tour by JC Penney, then I bought the eye shadow my beauty consultant recommended for filling in my eyebrows.

Finally, the movie started and we watched it. V. Funny. We love that Wimpy Kid and his fam.

Now, we're watching iCarly on Netflix in the master bedroom.

The End.

p.s. I bought Chia Seed and Flax Seed Oil. This will probably be life changing.

Got Lost in the Game

The Pronto Pup has a super power. It's barking the most annoying piercing bark you could ever imagine in your life.

But here's the thing about the pup, regardless of his undesirable traits: he's my pup.

My mom asks me sometimes, "Are you sure Pronto is going to work out?"

And, I'm like, I'm not getting rid of MY DOG. That's how much I love him.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Identity Crisis

The other day, Mac sighed and asked to please tell him about the time I adopted him again.

"But you're not adopted," I said.

He looked at me curiously.

"Well, you know," I said. "I birthed you. Like, you grew in my tummy."

"Oh yeah!" he said.

It was like he totally remembered it. It was like it was the best time ever.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I Said I Would Blog Every Day

And that's what I'm doing, okay?

Today was our long day of nuts and bolts meetings. Stuff like recess duty, attendance taking, and scheduling meetings.

I have reached a point of saturation. It's time to plan the lessons and welcome the children.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wonder in Most Everything I See

This year, I moved up a floor to a new classroom with a wonderful set of windows and lots of space. Basically, I'm pumped. I had to clean out a bunch of cabinets and organize some stuff, but it was totally worth it.

Today a teacher pal walked in and told me it was all great except I clearly had to move my bookshelves.

"This spot is screaming for the bookshelves," he told me sensibly, pointing at a spot across the room from the current location of the shelves. I had to admit he's right, but at this point, I just can't move the shelves. As it is, my pal strained his own back and was limping around because he moved his classroom furniture by himself instead of asking for help, and yet he said, "I'll help you move them. I bought a dolly."

"How about I put in a maintenance request?" I suggested.

"Well," he said, "then they'll make you pack up the books, but I think we could just hoist..."

Obviously I had to stop him right there. There will be no hoisting of the shelves.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Punch It, Myrtle

Awhile ago, I wrote about the bat problem we're experiencing. Since that first bat - the one that Dan valiantly battled - we've had two more. In the living quarters. It's been hellish.

Wildlife Management has been working on this. Here's the problem, I mean besides the bats: we also have squirrels and mice. And, we can't deal with the bat problem until the squirrels stop inhabiting the attic space. So far we've trapped five squirrels, but there's still at least one more.

"Would you like the squirrels relocated or euthanized?" Scott the Wildlife Manager asked.

"Are you kidding, Scott?" I said. "Kill the suckers."

Today, he couldn't bait and reset the traps because guess what? We also have wasps.

This is getting a little bit ridiculous.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Little Respect

Okay, so tomorrow's the first day. It's meetings all morning. And some kind of scavenger hunt. It will probably be fun. Then, I'm going to work in my classroom. Finish some bulletin boards and make some plans. Probs catch up with some colleagues. That kind of thing.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

See a Weeping Willow

Things have gotten ridiculous. It's time to just blog every day for awhile. This is a blog, after all. Someone is supposed to write on it. Since I'm the only one with the password, I guess it has to be me.

So, I waterskied today. First and last time of the summer. At the cabin with all of Dan's family.

Shef also waterskied. He's working on dropping a ski. He did it today and stayed upright on one for many seconds.

Of course, I can already drop a ski, but it's true that I'm 34 and he's only 8.

Mac hasn't tried skiing yet, but we did take a kayak.

Mac also told me that he wished my sister in-law, Sarah, was his mom instead of me. What a load of crap. Thanks a lot kid. I mean, I'm sure she'd do a good job of it and all, but still. Love the one you're with!

Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm Dying Just To Make You See

This last weekend I finished my summer at Camp Foley. It rocked. And, I brought Shef up with me for one last weekend hurrah. Together, we stayed in one of the buildings they save for adult support staff. There's a helpful sign by the toilet in that building reminding visitors that "The Septic System cannot accept tampons and other sanitary products." I didn't really think about about it. I mean, I've seen signs like that tons of times. But, apparently Shef hasn't.

On the first afternoon, I took a pit stop and found a gross unflushed toilet.

"Shef," I said later, "why didn't you flush the toilet?"

"Mom!" he said, exasperated. "I READ the sign! I wasn't sure it accepted toilet PAPER!"

I laughed. He laughed. And then he said, "Oh, by the way, what's a tampon anyway?"

Camp is all about youth development, you know. And education. So, once again I want to thank camp for this excellent opportunity to talk to my child, this time about menstruation.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

No Escape From Reality

People, it's August 7th. I report to work in 13 days. Lucky for me, most of the readers of this blog are education professionals; otherwise, I'd get the reaction I got from Dan that one time when I told him there were "ONLY three and-a-half weeks left of summer."

Yesterday, I secured some childcare (can you say, "Glee Musical Theater Camp"?) and planned to seriously get down to business. This means the end of novel-reading for the summer.

But first, I wanted to say I read one of my favorite novels of all time last week: State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I think it's time to face the reality that Ann Patchett is one of my very favorite writers. That gal can really tell a good story.

Now, I'm reading a bunch of school books. My goals this year are related to classroom management and procedures. Right now I'm reading Teach Like a Champion. Some of the stuff in that book seems a little military extreme to me, but some of it seems okay. Some of it is good reminders. In any case, it can't hurt to read the book.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I'm fresh off a two-day training in Challenge-Based Learning. The workshop was wicked intense. Teams had to produce video in two hours this morning. Then, in an hour, we had to finalize plans for rolling out a school-wide CBL project.

We did some good thinking, and it was fantastic to clear out the summer cobwebs. I admit to a moment of panic when, at the start of the first day, we had to say our names, what we teach, and "our passions."

My passions?!

Do you know what I've been doing all summer?

Driving to swimming lessons, driving to tennis lessons, driving to violin lessons, organizing play dates, coaching preschool soccer, and working at camp to cover Shef's tuition.

Am I supposed to have, like, outside interests at this point?

It was a relief to find the other moms of young kids in the exact same position.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Tell a Friend

Here I am again at Camp Foley for my 4th of 5 stints. This time around, I brought Mac. Usually Mac refuses to be separated from me. He generally sits on me in public. At my violin lesson, he leans against my legs while I play.

Because of this trend, I was a little nervous about Mac's role as a day camper.

But, he surprised me! "I know I have to do things on my own," he told me this morning. And sure enough, he went to every activity - ski boat riding, archery, water games, fishing, and nature class - without crying. At lunch, he told me he wasn't going to sit with me. He'd be busy with an older girl camper. After dinner, he cried when I told him he wasn't invited to evening program.

You really rose to the occasion, Mac! Must be because you're "already four."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Quiet House

Shef's at camp now. He's been gone for almost a week. It's so weird! I always feel like I'm forgetting something.

Mac is here, thank goodness. And he's really HERE. Last night he fell asleep in his own bed, but then woke up having a nightmare about bats. Then, he slept right next to me, maintaining physical contact.

Today, the Wildlife Management guy is coming to inspect. I have a bad feeling that we have a bat's nest again. We had that in our old house. It costs a lot to eradicate a bat's nest, but I'm sorry - it's something you just have to do.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

May the Best Man Win

Dan fell asleep in Mac's room last night while putting the latter to bed. When I went up at 11, I found the little guy at the top of the stairs, 100% awake.

"Mac," I said, "you have to go back to bed."

"I CAN'T!" He told me, face smushed up, "DAD is ASLEEP in my BED!"

So, fine. It's a toddler bed. Not like there's really room for two.

Mac came to sleep with me in the big bed. I'm pretty sure I shut the door before we nodded off.

Later, when Dan wandered in at 4, I moved Mac to the middle and rolled over.

That's when all hell broke lose.

Dan made a sound and slammed the door. "There's a bat," he said.

Over the next 30 minutes, we peeked at it. Every time, we slammed the door after witnessing it flying down the hallway. We donned protective clothing and shoes. We argued about whether bat hunting is a suitable task for delicate females (that's right, friends, I'm not above evoking age-old stereotypes when flying rodents are on the scene). Finally, one of us stood watch while the other retrieved tennis rackets.

Then, Dan led the sneak attack down the hallway. I followed with my racket and my plastic shield (the top of a storage bin).

Friends! He got it on the first swing! We worked together to remove it, and he flung it victoriously in a construction dumpster outside!

All was well until this morning it occurred to me that we might die from rabies. Even though I've been exposed to bats millions of times, mind you, while working at Camp Foley. This particular time, I might die from rabies. I asked Facebook, and peeps told me it was indeed possible.

So, now we're waiting for the animal control guy to come over and pick up the bat and test it for rabies. If it's positive, we'll get shots or something.

Overall, I could have lived without this experience; however, we can all agree that Dan is incredibly brave and attractive. Dan is our masculine hero.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Three of Three

I read the last book of The Hunger Games. I had put this off for awhile because my students told me it sucked.

It turns out I disagreed with that assessment. I actually quite liked it.

This just goes to show you that you can't trust kids.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

One of the Real Grown Ups

I got a babysitter today. Her name is Maggie and the kids actually like her quite a lot.

However, Mac seemed to have forgotten that when Maggie arrived this morning. So, here's what he did: he locked himself in the bathroom, began sobbing, and also shouted, "I DON'T LIKE YOU! I DON"T LIKE YOU!"

I was a little embarrassed by this.

What I decided to do was to follow the advice I read in a parenting book. I stated my expectations: "You're going to have fun with Maggie!" and then I achieved separation as fast as possible.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

He's So Gone

Went over to the bus pick-up point and dropped Shef off for two weeks at camp. The same camp I work at. He's ridiculously excited, and he's also a little bit anxious. Like, he asked me about three times what would happen if he failed the swim test, even though he passed the swim test last year.

"You'll take it again tomorrow," I told him. "It'll be fine."

"But, Mom," he said, "that would really mess up my activity schedule."

Kid's got plans.

Last year, we were worried that Mac would be sad and lonely without Shef here at home, and it turns out that was not the case. It turns out, Mac loves to be an only child. He can't get enough of Shef being at camp. Adios, Shef! Smell you later!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

To the Right

I'm at camp again. This is the third of five trips up here for me. Last night while I was having my ice cream cone, a group of little girls walked by with their counselor. They were on the way to jump in the lake for a cool-off swim. They'd just been at the Grand Dance Festival, and they were belting out "What Makes You Beautiful" by One Direction.

That's the kind of thing I liked to do as a counselor. Walk and sing. But instead of One Direction, we'd be shouting tunes by The Backstreet Boys or the Spice Girls.

I'm on my way now to continue my job as office worker. One thing about being an office worker for the last three days of the session is that kids have no idea who you are. I ate dinner with a couple of girls from my seventh grade English class last night, and suddenly a guy on an adjoining bench yelled at me, "WHO ARE YOU?" He had a good sense of stranger danger.

My tasks have been less random this time, but still busy and fun. I hope I'm doing a good job. Everyone knows I love to be the best.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Little Brother

Last weekend, the kids and I went up north to spend some time with my family. We had a fantastic time boating, floating, swinging, and chilling. At the end of a long day, I asked Mac to pose for a photo for Dan. Here's what he did:

He's the master of the sad face, right? He's really good at that. It reflects a general feeling he's having lately. A feeling of indignation about being littler than Shef.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Let It Shine

Read two more books. One was my faculty summer reading book, Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude Steele. This is a fascinating summary and discussion of research about "stereotype threat," the idea that if you feel like you might confirm a negative stereotype about an identity group you belong to, you'll have a harder time succeeding at tasks. An example is this: highly educated women students in mathematics perform less well on a difficult math test than men in mathematics when told that they're taking a difficult math test that measures ability. When students take the same test, but are explicitly told that the test is about problem solving and that women do as well on the test as men, the women actually do as well or better than men.

There are a lot more examples. The book was hella interesting.

I also skimmed The Culture Clash: A Revolutionary New Way to Understanding the Relationship Between Humans and Domestic Dogs by Jean Donaldson. I learned some things about Pronto's brain and classical conditioning a la B.F. Skinner. I also learned that Pronto will require a lifetime of careful exercise, training, and attention. I really hope that pup is worth it.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Burning in My Heart

We survived the record 4th of July heat by spending about 4 hours in this pool. This is the kids swimming at dinner time. You might notice that Mac is in the deep end. Just chillin in his life jacket. He also jumped off the diving board a bunch of times. That kid is really growing up.

Cute, right? And most of the time they're good pals. Sometimes, however, they turn into bickersons. Makes me want to read another parenting book called Siblings Without Rivalry.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My Girl Is Hotter Than Your Girl

Read two more books.  One was The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which most middle school teachers and kids have already read.  I thought it was okay, but I wasn't all that wowed by it, to tell you the truth.  Maybe that makes me kind of a bad person?  I liked the art and all; it's just that I didn't love the story all that well.

The other was the follow up to the parenting book I mentioned a few days ago.  Instead of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen, this one is called How to Talk So Teens Will Listen, and Listen So Teens Will Talk.  It was an interesting review of the ideas presented in the previous book with some solid tips for positive communication for all.  Here's a takeaway that has me thinking my jobs as Mom and Teacher: "Punishment has no place in a loving relationship." 

Overall, I feel enriched by my summer reading.  I checked out some new books at the library.  One is called Culture Clash, and it's about getting your dog to not be completely insane.  Not that anyone here has an insane dog.  It's just a theoretical idea - the Crazy Dog identity, and what it means for humankind.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Other Duties As Assigned

I'm just back from my latest stint as a camp worker.  This time I did the weirdest mix of jobs ever, I think.  First, I did my regular jobs of proofreading and editing.  Later, I did my other regular job of coordinating and organizing awards.  Otherwise I did tasks ranging from emptying the garbage to organizing dining tables into whimsical shapes.

Now I'm back to my usual jobs.  Should be a good, but wickedly hot, week.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Hey! So! Summer Reading!

Finished another book the other day, and it was pretty good: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and How to Listen So Kids Will Talk.

Yes, it's a parenting book originally published in 1980.  Yes, I'm convinced my mom read it when I was young.  You see, I recognize many of the "skills" in scenes from my youth, particularly the one about listening while saying "hmmm," "oh?" and "so."  And, Yes, I've tried some stuff from the book already and I really like it.  My favorite part was the section on helping kids get out of playing roles. 

For instance, Mac is kind of shy.  But that's a role that he might not like to play, so instead of saying, "He's shy," when we meet a new person and he won't say hello, I can say, "It's scary to meet new people sometimes, isn't it?"  That way I'm validating his feelings without pigeonholing him.  Yes!

I recommend it for parents and teachers!  Good stuff!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer Reading Status

I finished another book in my queue: Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass. The book was entertaining and I can see myself pulling it off the shelf in the library to recommend to some 7th and 8th grade readers. The biggest problem with the book is that the plot is super similar, sort of ridiculously rip-offily similar, to that of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Here are some similarities:
  • The setting of NYC
  • The fact that the male protagonist's father died young
  • The motifs of keys, locks, and quests
  • The adventures of each of the protagonists being engineered and controlled by their mothers
  • The large role of grandparents
  • The protagonists' fear of people and things - a fear that they each overcome through the course of the story
So anyway, all those similarities bugged me.  I did some research and discovered that Safran Foer's novel was published just shortly (months) before Mass', so the reality is that they likely wrote the whole darn things concurrently.  Bad luck! 

But good luck that they're meant for totally different audiences.  Extremely Loud is meant for adults who will bawl their eyes out during the reading of it.  Jeremy Fink is meant for middle schoolers who will be moved, but not devastated by this charming, mysterious story.

I'm going to keep reading.  That's the bottom line.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Remedial World

Does it surprise anyone to know that Pronto is the worst dog at Obedience Class? Here's what the pup requires: a divider with a tarp thrown over it so that he can't see and attack the other students.

Yesterday when Coach Lynn instructed the class to take their pets on a walk around the room, she warned everyone, "GIVE PRONTO HIS SPACE! He might lose his little puppy MIND!" And then, sure enough, he completely spazzed and she had to go to her car to get a special face leash called The Gentle Leader. The other dogs do not seem to require this intervention.

The good news? The Gentle Leader seems to be a game changer.

We're on our way to Best Pup in the Universe. We're getting closer every day.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Summer Reading Report

Hey, so I finished my first summer reading book, The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. I had super high expectations for this novel because I loved his Middlesex a lot. Good news: The Marriage Plot didn't disappoint!

There were three believable, sympathetic characters. There was a love triangle. There were interesting ideas about religion, class, commitment, and education. I feel enriched by reading this excellent novel.

For my next text, I'm reading a chapter from Visible Learning by John Hattie. My Professional Book Club is doing a jig saw of this book. So far, so good.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

First of Five

Here I am at Camp Foley. I just woke up here. In a short while, I'll be giving a seminar on how to do all the writing you need to do when you're a counselor. I'm going to try to make it tolerable for the audience. I planned to have prizes, but then I got distracted and drove right by Target without making a stop.

Lucky for me, this is Camp and my pal Alli has some extra prizes just lying around. She and another camp gal, Taylor, helped me come up with a few trivia questions for my "middler" break. They also helped me trouble shoot my community builder problem, which relied on me picking up some Laffy Taffys. We're going to use M & Ms instead. Not the best because the Taffys are individually wrapped.

But, I'm a teacher and I'm generally good at thinking on my feet. I can make the M & Ms work.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Two Things You Might Not Have Known

First: This dog is the spazziest of spazzes. He requires between one-and-a-half and two hours of structured exercise per day. Then, you have to apologize to just about every other dog walker, those who are in close proximity and sometimes shouting out to those a block away, for the complete and total fuss your spazzy dog is putting up.

Second: Dan is fast becoming a famous tweeter. While I'm very proud of him (he's gone from 60 followers to 363), sometimes I don't approve of his tweets. When this happens, Dan says I "don't understand humor." Whatever. I just like to be appropriate. Here are some tweets I do like:

To tell the truth, (and this may be selfish) I always hoped that if someone in my marriage would become an internet star, it would be me. However, I've come to realize it's better to have one internet star than none. Congratulations, Pronto Senior! Well done.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

It's My Birthday, Too

So, the Macster is 4 tomorrow. We just had his party, which was super fun. Dan and I got him a Hex Bug habitat, which seems to be a hit.

Grandparents purchased accessories for said habitat. Nana also brought squirtelers shaped like crayola crayons. All three cousins needed complete changes of outfit following the soaking. Tomorrow summer starts in earnest. Even though my spirit guides want to remind me that "life is not a series of final exams," I feel compelled to share with you my goals:
  • Read at least one book per week 
  • Provide book reviews on my blog
  • Exercise five times per week
  • Practice violin at least five times per week
  • Turn Pronto into the Best Dog in the Universe
  • Analyze data for NCTE talk
  • Have an amazing time with and without the kids
 That's all.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Beat the Band

Just back from a baseball game. Game was momentous for two reasons: First, Shef hit his first homer. Whoo, Shef! And, second, I brought Pronto the Pup. This was risky because Pronto has been kind of a DYCTA. That's a Dog You Can't Take Anywhere. Sometimes I even call him DD, which is short for Damn Dog.

But, after three weeks of socialization and training, he now can behave with people most of the time. If he's on the leash. And only most of the time.

However, Pronto doesn't understand about meeting other dogs. He goes crazy and pulls and jumps and barks. It's kind of embarrassing. But, I'm not giving up. The Canine Coach is coming to help us tomorrow. Obedience starts the following week. I have confidence in the Pup. He hasn't been with us too long and he's our Pup for life.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Gonna Write Some Comments

It's time again for narrative comments. You write a couple of hundred words on each kid. Reporting on this and that. I'm done with 48. I have 32 left to go. This is a very time-consuming process, and it can require quite a lot of finesse.

Kind of like the finesse that's required by Emily the Bachelorette to reject the guys one by one. At this moment, I'm taking a break from the comments to spend some QT with my fave show. It's really worth it. I have to keep my priorities in line during these trying times.

Friday, June 1, 2012

She Don't Know Oh Oh

A while back I agreed to be on a Marathon Relay team called the 4 Fools. I signed up for the shortest leg, which was 5.2 miles. I trained a bit and then I got swamped by work and also I got Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. I'm still feeling the after effects of that phenomenon, by the way. That's a full 8 days after I went back to work.

So basically, all I've done to prepare for the Marathon Relay, which is on Sunday, is reach my fighting weight via the pestilence. Also my leg became 6 miles instead of 5.2. This probably won't go too well, but I have to get out there and do it for the team. I'm going to do it slowly for the team. I'm going to try not to walk for the team.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Flying Away

I got all giddy this morning because it was the last class meeting before final exams. I am just so excited to NOT BE NEW next year. Things will be easier, for sure.

I shared my excitement with my stalwart mentor, Jen, who has been supportive and awesome since the day she was assigned to me last August.

"We HAVE to have a big old celebration to mark the end of this year," I told her. Something to celebrate the weekly meetings we had, the periodic freakouts she was privy to, the many formal and informal observations, the comment writing, and the portfolio creation and editing. I was thinking happy hour or a dinner out.

"Totally," she said.

And then she just scheduled a small party for me in her own backyard. A PARTY! FOR ME! AT HER HOUSE!

I think we can all agree that this goes above and beyond on the mentor duty scale.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Shady's Back

Weird green guys doing weird stuff outside the penalty box at hockey games is usually the kind of thing I totally know about.

I missed these dudes on the first pass, but now I'm pretty sure I'm going to be obsessed.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Plans

This weekend, we were all excited to sojourn in the miniature van to Oberlin, Ohio for my brother-in-law John's graduation fantasia.  John is a great guy with a lot of heart and perseverance and, of course, smarts, and I really wanted to see him grab that phat diploma.  I was even ready for the 28-hour car trip with the kids to do it.

However, as you know, last week we had the Great Hand, Foot, and Mouth Epidemic of 2012.  I became severely dehydrated and required intravenous fluids to hasten my recovery.  I also missed three days of work in the week before final exams.  Further, Shef was seriously ill.  Further, Dan was valiantly battling against illness, but the facts were plain: he was sick.

A wise pal of mine at school took one look at me on Friday morning and said, "This is extreme.  You can't go.  Bite the bullet and buy Dan a plane ticket, and you stay home with the kids."  I knew she was right.  She was totally right. That was it.

So, the boys and I are home.  Chillin with crazy Pronto. Grading papers. Watching Saved by the Bell. Scrubbing my bathroom top-to-bottom with bleach.

Dan's en route to Oberlin with his sister and our niece.  He will represent us heartily.

John, we love, miss, and admire you!  Par-tay at our place when you come home!