Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year-End Programming, Fourth and Final Part.

This is it!  I'm going to recap my year of reading adult fiction, and it's my last list of 2014.  I read 28 books in this category.  Here are my favorites.  The best adult fiction books I read this year in alphabetical order by author.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo.  I didn't know anything about Mugabe's Zimbabwe.  I learned about it through the voice of Darling, the ten year-old narrator of this semi-autobiographical debut novel.  Darling simply and vividly describes daily life in Paradise, her post-independence slum, and then captures her ambivalence about emigrating to the United States as a teenager.  Bulawayo explores what's gained and what's lost.  Excellent.

We are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.  As is the case with two others on this top 5, I wrote about this title in my first 2014 recap on audio books.  I'll just add here that of all the books I've recommended to others this year, I think this was the most liked.  People have been texting me when they finish saying they loved it.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.  This novel of historical fiction spans the lives of two women - Sarah Grimke and Hetty "Handful" Grimke.  The latter is a slave given to Sarah on the occasion of her eleventh birthday.  I'd never heard of Sarah Grimke, but she is a real person, a leader in the abolitionist movement and active Quaker and suffragist.  Kidd alternates writing in the perspectives of Sarah and Handful, giving them each agency.  This is fantastic and sparked my curiosity on all kinds of historical topics.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.  This was a pick in my top audio books list.  More than anything else I read this year, this one inspired me as a writer.  I now follow Ng on Twitter.  I wish we could be pals.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.  I blurbed this is the audio books post.  At the end of the audio book, Ozeki talks about the differences between the paper version and the audio version and the benefits of producing each.  This might be one to read with my eyes AND my ears?  I've never tried that before.

Here are my next favorites:
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  • Sister by Rosamund Lupton
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
And here are the others, minus the two that I wouldn't recommend.  I don't really read things I don't like.  I think the following are all fab:
  • War Dances by Sherman Alexie
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
  • The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton
  • The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
  • Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
  • TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
  • The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina
  • The Accident by Chris Povone
  • Still Life With Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen
  • Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
  • Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Old School by Tobias Wolff
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My favorite Middle Grade/YA of 2015

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year-End Programming, Part 3

Today, I'm listing the best children's and young adult books I've read in 2014.

I'm going to say right up front that if you really want the best recommendations for children's and YA lit, you need to follow Judy.  Judy has enhanced my curriculum and my life with her book recs.  You too can have this benefit by following her on Twitter.  Just do it.  Most of the books on this list I've read because of her and my other elementary and YA enthusiast pals, Lee, Nance (who provides many of my early elementary recs, which I didn't include in my total this year), and mm.

Here we go!  The best children's and YA titles I've read this year.  I read 16 books in this category.  Here are top 5 in alpha order by author.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson.  This is a story about a high school kid, Hayley, who copes with her dad's debilitating and unpredictable PTSD.  She perseveres, her anger - at her dad and the others who have failed her - simmering. Her default defensiveness caused a heaviness in my chest.  The book is full of feeling and is ultimately hopeful.  It's for 8th graders and older.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose.  I covered this text yesterday in my list of favorite non-fiction.  It's truly excellent, and I think it can be enjoyed by readers aged 10 and up.  Maybe younger.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.  This book got a lot of hype, and as far as I can tell, it was well-deserved.  An outsider, Eleanor, is unconditionally befriended by a neighbor and schoolmate, Park.  An unlikely, perfect romance begins. This was raw, realistic, and heartbreaking.  I love Park, and I love Rowell.  I read two of her books this year (the other was Attachments), and they were both lovely and spot-on.  This one is for older middle-school kids, high school kids, and adults.

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan.  This, like Eleanor & Park, is another tear-jerker with a lovable outsider at the center.  Willow Chance is an odd, endearing first-person narrator who frankly describes her experience of grief and redemption.  Her obsessions with gardening and skin ailments personalize her genius. Other characters share the spotlight in 3rd-person chapters. It's really excellent. Target audience, I think, is 4th-7th grade, as well as adults.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.  I blurbed this yesterday in the list of my favorite non-fiction.  Double thumbs-up.  Many ages could enjoy all or part of this text.

Here are my next favorites:
  • The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle
  • Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
  • If I Know It's Coming by Nick Hupton
  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
And here are the others, all of which I'd recommend to students, depending on their interests:
  • The Last Shot: A Final Four Mystery by John Feinstein
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney
  • The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth
  • The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
  • Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando


It's that time again! Today we have popcorn in a pie plate, sort of like partridge in a pear tree.  The bonus aspect of this shoot is that I'm now eating popcorn for breakfast.  The dog is eating the kernels I drop.  It's a win-win-win scenario.  The third win is yours, obvi, because you get to see the poporn in the pie plate.  You're welcome.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Year-End Programming, Part 2

Yesterday I said I wasn't big on non-fiction, but it turns out I've actually read 15 books of non-fiction this year.

Here are the top 5  non-fiction books I read in 2014 in alphabetical order by author.

Hyberbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.  This memoir is highly creative, honest, and self-aware.  After I read it, I wanted to practice more creativity - to learn how to tell stories like Brosh. Luckily for everyone, you can read many of her stories at her website.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  I blurbed this yesterday in the audio books post.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose.  This is a fascinating historical account of Colvin's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, specifically the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Almost a year before Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat, Claudette Colvin did the same at age 15.  The movement's leaders didn't feel Colvin was the right face for the boycott, but her case - later argued in court - was fundamental to the progress of the cause.  I just loved this young adult biography.  Hoose interviewed Colvin extensively, and her own words appear throughout the text.

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison.  Each essay in this collection examines another facet of or opportunity for empathy.  In the beginning, Jamison discusses her job as a medical actor - one of those people who pretend to have certain illnesses so medical students can practice diagnostics.  Later, she describes her brother's fascination with ultra marathons.  The whole thing tunnels toward understanding human motivation for feeling and communicating pain.  I felt smart while I read this book.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.  You might have noticed that this book won the National Book Award.  It's a memoir in verse, and it's just gorgeous.  Each poem furthers Woodson's story of growing up and discovering her own power.  I need to read it again, and I probably will.

Here are my next favorites:
  • March: Book One by John Robert Lewis and Andrew Aydin
  • Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozah Dumas
  • The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds
  • Whole Novels for the Whole Class, Grades 5-12: A Student Centered Approach by Ariel Sacks
  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed

And here are the others that I liked:
  • Golf is Not a Game of Perfect by Bob Rotella
  • Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky
There were three that I wouldn't really recommend, so I'm just not going to list them here. That seems fair.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Year-End Programming, Part 1

For the last few days of 2014, I'm going to re-cap my year in reading.  As I've mentioned before, I loved my New Year's Resolution to read 52 books.  I loved it so much, I'm doing it again.  It's the best resolution I've ever had.

So far, I've read 57 books.  I include in this total the 20 books I've listened to.  In fact, some of the audio books - the details stay with me so clearly, even more brightly than the books I've read with my eyes.

For my first re-cap, I'm going to provide a list of the best audio books I've listened to this year.  The Top 5 with brief descriptions.  Here they are!  In alphabetical by author:

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.  Read by Orlagh Cassidy. The story is addictive.  Well-meaning parents raise their infant daughter and adopted chimpanzee daughter as twins.  Later, when the chimp is clearly not human (read: destructive, dangerous), they disappear her from their children's lives.  Fern is gone.  Everyone is very different going forward.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand.  Read by Edward Hermann.    Okay, I'm not a big non-fiction reader, but this book held me spellbound.  By now, everyone's heard of the story of Louie Zamperini, the Olympic runner-turned serviceman who survives a horrific plane crash, endless days at sea in a rubber life raft, and years in a Japanese POW camp.  Ed Hermann's warm narration in a voice I know so well from Gilmore Girls gave the story immediacy.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng.  Read by Cassandra Campbell.  This is an exquisite family drama that covers 45 years and excavates five perspectives, the perspectives of people who live together but lack fundamental understanding of each other.  It's sad and hopeful at the same time.  I also recognized Campbell's voice from another favorite audiobook - Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.  Read by the author.  I've never read anything like this.  Two stories intersect - the story of a teenaged Japanese girl and the story of the middle-aged woman who finds the former's diary on a beach in Canada.  Somehow, they actually affect one another across time and space - influencing each other by a kind of cosmic magic.  Mind-bending and reassuring.  Basically, fabulous.

The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. Read by Dennis Boutsikaris.  Of all the audiobooks I've listened to, I think this one was most positively impacted by the narrator.  His deadpan delivery of the darkly humorous, simple sentences added to the mixed sense incredulity and inevitability I experienced throughout this book.  One day, millions of people just disappear from earth.  There's so explanation, and they don't come back.  The book is the intersecting stories of some of the people left behind.  It's just really fascinating and good.

Okay!  That's the top 5.  I'm noticing that three of these were recommended to me by my pal, Lee.  Thanks, Lee, for positively impacting my year of reading.

Here are my next favorites:
  • We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
  • The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simon
  • Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
And here are the others, all of which I also liked:
  • Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  • Lost in a Good Book by Jasper Fforde
  • A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
  • The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
  • Labor Day by Joyce Maynard
  • The End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina
  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
  • The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio
  • The Accident by Chris Povone
  • The Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Saturday, December 27, 2014

WLD #20

This is my last post in the Wishes, Lies, and Dreams challenge of December 2014.  I'm ending with a wish, a lie, and a dream.

First, last night I had a dream about my friend Jordan.  I haven't seen her enough lately.  I called her first thing this morning.  It's a good thing I did because we had a lot to catch up on.  She's texting me later with three choices of times we can get together.  Thank goodness.

Next, a wish.  I wish Mac wasn't so into putting on eye black before playing the drums.  Who told him that eye black is an essential drumming accessory?  I found some greasy eye black on an expensive piece of furniture today.  It's time to put an end to the eye black trend. Eye black for baseball only!

Finally, a lie.  I begged my mom to let me take dance lessons as a child.  Finally, she relented, and I spent hours in studio learning jazz, tap, and ballet.  My favorite performance was a jazz number to "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5.  I had a solo and a skirt made of blue fringe.  The bodice had sequins affixed to my non-existent bust. It looked a little like this:

Friday, December 26, 2014

WLD #19

We'll we've done it.  Christmas is over.  We have one more gathering with Dan's brother John and his adorable fiancee tomorrow night.  We'll be doing another round of carols, and then we'll move on to year-end programming.

I'm now wishing for a miraculously clean and organized house.  Lucky for me, I got a helpful-looking book to assist with this task.  It's called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Once I sit down for a few hours and read this book, I'm sure the house will magically clean itself.  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

WLD #18

I got an electric guitar for Christmas, which is awesome because now I can jam with Mac.  He got a drum set, and I have my guitar. I also have my killer vocals on which to rely.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

WLD #17

You know what I wish?  I wish when I'd dragged myself to barre class this morning at 8am that I hadn't been working out face-to-face with one of my least favorite students of all time.  Also, I'm pretty sure her mother was there with her. That mother was one my least favorite mothers of all time.
There were three mothers in my old school district who really didn't want to face the overwhelming evidence that their children had cheated.

One of them told me that her child had too close a relationship with Jesus to have cheated.

To another one, I said, "This is a clear case of academic dishonesty, but if the message YOU want to send her is that this behavior is okay, then I'll give her the seven points back."  She wanted the seven points.  "But it seems like you're just doing this to appease me," she said.  "Yes," I confirmed.

The third one, the one I saw this morning, was so disrespectful at conferences that her ex-husband came back later to say he thought I did a really good job with her.  "I know how she is," he explained.  "I used to be married to her."

I'm overwhelming grateful that my own mother, whose birthday it is today, did not engage in this type of apologist behavior.  When we screwed up, we screwed up.  And that was it.  There was no yelling at teachers or asking for academic hearings over a B+.  Thanks, Mom.

Happy birthday!  We miss you!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


It's #TwinTuesday again.  This week we have soap and chardonnay.  Well, at least mine is chardonnay.  I'm not sure what type of wine Lee has.  No matter what, it's a pretty awesome combo.


Monday, December 22, 2014

WLD #16

Mac and I saw an awesome movie today with my sister Mary, and I wish you could all see it.  It's called Big Hero 6, and it's gotten fabulous reviews.

Mac and I recorded a review, and though I wish I could share it, he said I couldn't.

"Why do you do that for each movie?" he asked, when I queried once again about a review.

"I like to," I said.  "Do you want to say anything about the movie?"

"NO," he said definitively.  There you have it.  I have to respect his wishes.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

WLD #15

Shef's dream is to be a professional athlete.  A second choice is to "do politic."  He came up with that this morning while we watched West Wing and addressed Christmas cards.

Lucky for him, his Auntie Erin also does politic. I'm pretty sure she could hook him up.  I told him about the time she was a senate page when she was in high school.

"But now she's like Leo," I explained.  This is true, as until yesterday, Erin was the Chief of Staff for the Mayor of St. Paul.  And Leo McGarry, the fictional character on West Wing, is the Chief of Staff for the fake President Bartlett.

"Okay," said Shef, "but I want to be in the legislative branch, not the executive branch."

"That's fine," I said.  "Erin's got connections there, too.  She worked for three members of the legislative branch."

He looked at me like he didn't believe me, but it's totally true.  If you want to "do politic" in Minnesota, you probably know Erin.

Friday, December 19, 2014

WLD #14

This is a still from the Teacher Act at the Middle School Talent Show, scheduled for this afternoon.  This year, my amazing colleagues made a music video.  One of them re-wrote the lyrics to  hit single, one of them choreographed dance moves to the incessant chorus, and one of them planned, shot, and edited the video.  I think I might be able to post the video after school today.  I hope and dream that's the case.  I'm in it, as you can see here.

I also wish you could all come and experience how awesome my school is.  I never realized there could be a school like this where all the teachers are fun, silly, AND excellent at their work.  Right now, as an example, my teaching team is working with the science peeps.  Here's how it happened.  They said, "We want to teach about viruses.  Do you want to work with us on that?"  And guess what we said?  We said yes! And then we sat down to talk ideas!  Dream come true.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

WLD #13

I'm here to talk about a dream come true.  Back when I got full body psoriasis in March of this year as a result of a legendary facial infection, I never really expected it would go away.  It covered a large percentage of my body, itched, and was hideously ugly.

I've worked with a nice dermatologist who said he couldn't guarantee that it would ever go away, but he was sure that the treatment he prescribed had potential.  Sure enough, I got less monstrous over time and started once again to appear in public.

Four months ago, Dr. F. determined that my body was 11% covered by psoriasis.  Two months ago, he said 8%.  Yesterday, while I paraded around in front of him in my underwear (a step I do not enjoy), he said I'm 1% covered with psoriasis and ready for maintenance treatment of once per week in the light booth.

Things are undeniably better than they were.  AND, here's the good part, I've followed through on my end of the bargain, which is to avoid total immunofailure by taking better care of myself and seeking balance.  I actually did that.  I exercise and relax and see some friends sometimes and hang out with my family, in addition to working. Dream, meet reality.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


To be honest, #TwinTuesday has become a highlight of my week.  It's met every expectation I have, and that's really something because I expected it to change my life.  I've become more creative.  I'm having more ideas.  After years of thinking about it, I started writing a book.  I have three pages, which is more than zero.

It's impossible to understate the power of #TwinTuesday.  I feel like weeping for joy because of it.  And I'm not even lying.

Monday, December 15, 2014

WLD #12

I faced some Sunday blues yesterday.  I'm feeling a little under the weather.  My face is a little blotchy from psoriasis.  The weather here is weird and gray.  I found myself wishing that winter break had already started.

Lucky for me, I know it'll be all the sweeter when it arrives on Friday.  Until then, I have some items to look forward to: I have another week to surprise my Secret Snowflake with neat little treats, I have a predetermined teaching schedule with lots of end-of-quarter activities, and there will be a talent show on Friday.

I went to bed early last night, and I woke up with renewed energy this morning.  I might make it through the day after all.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

WLD #11

In my younger days, I loved riding motorcycles.  Once, I bought a box of motorcycle parts and tried to assemble them in my garage.  I failed at this, but the process was worthwhile.  I learned patience, problem-solving, and my small motor skills really spiked.

Later, Dan convinced me that motorcycle riding was not conducive to parenting.  "Have you ever seen a baby on the back of a motorcycle?" he asked. 

I saw his point, but I did get in one last Rally of Real Steel.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

WLD #10

My favorite part of working at Starbucks was the crisp, green apron. I used to remove it promptly from the dryer, so that it had a fresh-pressed appearance. I also liked my clinky, plastic name tag, which I affixed in a professional manner.  A third favorite was processing gift cards.  Like, swiping them. People were always so happy to redeem gift cards.  Gleeful, sometimes.

Most of all, I enjoyed that Starbucks was clearly a daily highlight for some of my customers.  It was an honor and a privilege to be part of that.

Friday, December 12, 2014

WLD #9

I wish kids would stop leaving other kids out at recess.  We've talked to them about this behavior many times.  Look, we keep saying, recess is about INclusion, not EXclusion.  They nod their heads, but then they go to the gym at recess and won't let other kids on their teams.

Finally, we got tired of hearing about kids feeling sad about this particular soccer-based recess game called World Cup.  We decided to BAN this recess game and reinstate it as a club in the spring.

One of my little homies was upset about this choice.  "MS. W., he said, passing me in the hall, "They CANCELED World Cup for NO REASON."

"There was a reason," I said.

Deep sighing and head shaking ensued, but I stand by my decision.  We're on hiatus from this particular game, and that's final.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

WLD #8

I'm finished with my Christmas shopping.  It's all done and ordered and thoughtful and waiting for the celebration.  Whew!  What a relief.  I love it when I'm ahead of the game like this.  I'm all set to feel relaxed and happy at all of our gatherings because I'm entirely prepared and on top of it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014


It's a break in the Wishes, Lies, and Dreams programming to bring you #TwinTuesday.  I realize I could have done a bit better in the unexpected department today, as the Bambi ornament is pictured with the Fiddle Like the Dickens medley of Christmas carols.  Oops.  But, I bet you didn't expect me to have this Bambi ornament.  Except you, Mom, since you gave it to me.

Monday, December 8, 2014

WLD #7

Ok, I wish I made zero mistakes in yesterday's recital.  But, when I made a mistake, I followed the proper procedure.  I air-bowed until I got back on.  I didn't make any horrific sounds to sully the performance.  I didn't make too many mistakes.

Mac had a stellar performance, as well.  I'll share a vid of him later.  Let's be honest, that kid has mad skillz on violin.  Pretty soon, he's going to be like the rest of the 10-12-year old girls that make up my section (far right, hard to see) here. MM, your friend is next to me.  She nicely covered all of my mistakes, thank goodness.  That girl's got skillz, as well.  And none of those little pip squeaks made fun of me for being an adult in the middle school girls' section, at least not to my face.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

WLD #6

I go through phases of wanting to live in a tiny house.  Do you know about tiny houses?  Most are built on wheels, and they're about 200 square feet.  You can't have a lot of stuff if you live in a tiny house.  You can use solar and wind power to meet your power needs.  Your toilet can compost.

I realize that living in a tiny house doesn't make a lot of sense for a family of four.  Most of the people I've found online who live the tiny lifestyle are young couples.  But, I haven't given up on this dream.  Maybe I could have a little tiny studio where I'll write my books that I'll be writing next year.  Maybe when we retire, I can convince Dan that we should live in a small house for maximum togetherness.  Maybe I'll DVR a tv show I read about called Tiny House Nation and we can plan for our minimalist life in the Rocky Mountains.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

WLD #5

I love having conversations with white people who don't recognize white privilege or believe in systemic racism.

I really love hearing about how more black Americans are in prison because blacks are more "inherently criminal" and violent.

I especially love hearing about how if I really want to understand America's racial utopia, I should leave the "white ghetto" on Minnesota and visit Texas, where black people take personal responsibility for their actions.  After all, no unarmed black people would be getting shot by police if they were in church and/or volunteering for charities.

This is what's happening on Facebook these days.  I'm trying to stay in the game.  And, I'm shocked by the overtly racist messages people are willing to post.  I have lied about my enjoyment of these conversations.  But, I keep getting into them.

Friday, December 5, 2014

WLD #4

That's right, friends.  I've earned two of three stickers on the Bach Double, on which I've been working since August.  It's a dream come true.

I have been working on this piece and working on it and working on it.  I've been listening to it and listening to it.  I felt I could never get it.  I tried telling my teacher that I couldn't do it, but she said, try harder.

The piece is so tricky that kids (and, ahem, adult beginners) can earn 3 stickers, rather than the usual 1.  We can get one sticker for playing it with the music, while our teacher plays the 1st violin part.  We can get a second sticker for playing it from memory while our teacher plays the same part.  The third sticker comes from playing it in concert, which I will do on Sunday.  Oh Mylanta.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

WLD #3

The other day, Shef casually asked, "Do we have plans to repaint the upstairs hallway before we move?"

"Why?" I replied, narrowing my eyes.

"Oh," he says, "I just noticed some marks on the wall up there."

The boys have been playing knee hockey in the long hallway.  I've been pleased about this because it keeps them busy while playing together without electronics; and it takes a long time for the crying, shrieking, and blaming to start.

"Well," I said, "we might repaint it, I guess."

And I dropped it.

Later, I discovered the cluster of black marks pictured above. The next time they said they decided to play knee hockey, I said, "Hey, no more marks on the wall."

"What marks?" they said, feigning cluelessness.

"The ones you made on the wall while playing knee hockey," I said.

"We didn't make any marks."  Shrugging.  Innocence.

"Come up here and look at them," I said, marching them upstairs.

"Where?" they said.

"HERE," I said, pointing to the hockey marks.

"Oh," they said.  "We didn't know we made those."

"Right," I said.  "NO MORE MARKS."

They exchanged a glance.  "We'll play Goalie Wars then!"

"Fine," I said, leaving them to it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

WLD #2

Yesterday, I actually had to pull poop out of Skip's butt.  Why can't Skip just expel his own feces?  I wish this were a lie, but it isn't.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


I'm pretty sure you've never thought of glasses and an onion.

Boom goes the dynamite.

Monday, December 1, 2014

WLD #1

There's a new challenge afoot.  It's called Wishes, Lies, and Dreams after a book by Kenneth Koch that I'll now have to read.  It's happening during the month of December.

Last year's New Year's Resolution - the one where I determined I would read at least 52 books in 2014 - has gotten me thinking about writing.  I'd like to write more.  I wish I could do that.

Since I'm goal-oriented, wishes and dreams usually trigger plans and commitments.  I just took a break from writing this post to visit The Loft Literary Center webpage.

Why not taking a writing class if you want to write?  It seems like a good idea.  Sometimes my problem-solver, do-er, producer mentality serves me well, but other times I wish I could just have fleeting ideas and not follow up with hours of internet research.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Worksite

I'm sitting here in my classroom.  I finished my work for tomorrow, Praise the Lord.  We can all come back to school now that my lesson on apostrophes is planned.  This is 3rd lesson of the year on apostrophes because it turns out that sixers need infinite practice with these pesky marks of punctuation.

People, take stock of your possessives and contractions, your plurals and singulars.  Get it straight.  Be a good role model for the youth in my class. Or else.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

I Took a Vacation

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast.  I've been to a hockey game, some practices, and I'm going to more.  It got to 38 degrees today, and I took a walk outside. Mac and I saw a movie called Penguins of Madagascar.  I've decided to transcribe a conversation about it here, a la Lee and Peter's independent movie review.  Except our movie was the opposite of independent, pretty much.

Me: So what did you think of Penguins of Madagascar?
Mac: It was cool.
Me: Who was your favorite character?
Mac: Dave the Octopus.
Me: Why did you like him?
Mac: Because he was funny.
Me: I was really glad when they turned the penguins cute again at the end.
Mac: [Silence]
Me: Weren't you?
Mac: Uh huh.
Me: How much did you like the movie?
Mac: 5 stars.
Me: Anything else you want to add?
Mac: There was a little cute thing.  It kind of looked like a chickmunk.
Me: Do you think people should go see it?
Mac: Mmm Hmm!
Me: Did you like it better or worse than Monsters University?
Mac: It was worse.
Me: Did you like it better or worse than Free Birds?
Mac: Better.

I think that's all you need to know about Penguins of Madagascar, actually. My mom, husband, and older son got to see Mockingjay, which they seemed to enjoy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Favorite Kind of Pants are Corduroys

It's the day before Thanksgiving, and our family will engage in some serious preparations.  One of our traditions is a visit to the TJ Maxx Home Store where we select an item of holiday kitsch to display at our gathering on Thursday.

You can see our favorite purchase - the ceramic chicken - if you scroll down to last week's #TwinTuesday.

I also need to purchase holiday outfits for my wonderful sons and construction paper for our paper chain of gratitude.  I'm looking forward to some QT with my fab niece and nephew.  I'm grateful for those two peeps, one of whom is pictured above.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Today, LH and I  have Cranberry and QTip.  A mixmatch of textures.  Something to think about.

I'm also thinking again about Ferguson.  I wish there were some way to alleviate the suffering and correct the centuries of injustice that have led to this moment.  I'm not sure what else to do except stay the course and keep doing my small things one at a time with other people who want things to do be different.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Been Around the World, Don't Speak the Language

My car has been in a sorry state. In that, it's messy.  In September, I drove a young friend who called it "repulsive."

The kids are always apologizing to their friends when they get in.  They apologize, but they don't take responsibility. Which they should because it's all their crap that's causing at least 60% of the problem.  The other 40% is a result of a life-long condition I've had concerning messy cars.

Anyway, things really came to head last night when I was driving some peeps home from a theatrical experience.  In order to accommodate four adult passengers, I had to frantically swat debris from Mac's seat while Adriana looked on and commented, "It's nice to know that someone like you has a flaw."

That was kind of a nice thing to say, but on the whole, the miniature van is embarrassing.

So, I got up this morning and I cleaned the car.  I can now ride with pride. I still need to use some upholstery cleaner on Mac's seat, but on the whole, it's far less humiliating.

This should last at least five days.  We'll see.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Visit

My mom is flying in today from Arizona.  That last time she flew in from a warmer locale to visit, I got a hideous facial infection and had to spend most of the time in the hospital.

This time, I'm feeling good and ready to party.  We have a play on the agenda, as well as some hockey games, Grand Friends' day at school, a Thanksgiving feast, and probably some other fun stuff.

Let the good times roll.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

It's Thursday. It's Serial.

I have to admit that right now I'm not giving the blog my full attention.  Instead, I'm listening to Serial on my headphones while Mac watches some infernal show with singing frogs, and Shef sulks on the couch.  Because of the show with the frogs.

To be fair, the frogs are really terrible.  You should see Shef's face right now.  The two of them are huddled up on the couch and Shef looks absolutely disgusted.  Even Mac doesn't seem to really be enjoying it.  I think he's watching it because it's HIS TURN to pick, and he can't admit he picked something completely stupid.  The show also has talking letters of the alphabet.

Shef just interrupted me to audibly complain about the vapid dialogue.

"Mac," I said, "you could let Shef pick now."

He made a sound that I feel like meant NOOOOOO.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Goofy Goober

Per my resolution to enjoy winter and fight crabiness, I went for a run outside with my friend Paula yesterday.  I wore lots of clothes, and guess what?  I wasn't even cold.  It was quite pleasant.  So far, so winning at winter.

Unfortunately, crabiness creeped in over night, and I'm feeling some crank coming on.  Life will be better for me, my colleagues, and my students if I find a way to banish it. One cause is that on Tuesday nights, we have vocabulary homework that the kids do online.  Inevitably, I get five emails from kids who, for whatever reason, cannot complete this online vocabulary assignment.  EVERY WEEK.  Sometimes their parents also write to say, my child tried really hard to get this done and wasn't able to!  Everyone is clearly annoyed.

I'm about ready to go back to pencil and paper vocabulary assignments with no drag-and-drop and online etymological dictionary.  Let's just do some good old fashioned word work already.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


It's that time again.  This week, Lee and I are giving you Ceramic Fowl with DVD.  Here, I feel my chicken is really striving to be like The Incredibles.  It's his dream, I'm pretty sure.

And, today I'm going running outside in the algid temperatures, most likely.  And I'm not even going to complain about it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

She was a Bad Egg

I've made a decision, and it's major.

I'm embracing winter this year.

Last year, I spent every day complaining bitterly about winter and being depressed and miserable.  It does suck here in the winter, but there's no gain in pointing it out all the time.

So, this year, I'm going to enjoy it!  I'm going to bundle up and go walking!  I'm going to put on my gore-tex-enhanced running shoes and lope around the lake!  I'm taking the kids to the sledding hill!  I'm asking for snowshoes for Christmas!  Whee!

There's been snow on the ground for a week.  We'll see how long I can make this last.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Strike That. Reverse It.

Remember Claire?  She was our nanny from the time Mac was born to the time he was three years old, and therefore obviously deserves a Nobel Prize of some sort.

Now Claire is just about eight months pregnant with her first child, and I got to go to her shower yesterday.  I have to say, I felt a little bit old attending a former babysitter's baby shower.  But on the other hand, it felt like a baton was passing.  Do you hear what I'm saying? Go, Claire, go!

I know it's hard to tell, but that tiny person on the right is just about EIGHT MONTHS pregnant.  One of the shower games required guests to take a piece of yarn and estimate how big around Claire's "belly" is.  I simply measured my own non-pregnant waist, and that was about right.  

I didn't allow this game to be played at my own baby shower because we would have needed many, many skeins of yarn to accomplish it.  And, I would have cried.

I didn't win the belly estimating game, but I did win another one, partly because Claire's mom (Hi, Anne!) let me cheat off of her just a tiny bit.  As a result, I got to munch delicious chocolate-covered cranberries on the way home.  Divine.

Friday, November 14, 2014

I'm Not That Into Vampire Fiction

I was really digging our writers' workshop yesterday.  Kids got to write a paragraph about one of our case studies this week (there were three); get out all their notes, articles, and artifacts; and practice writing different types of supporting details.  The vibe was sweet.  I played the "Deep Focus" playlist from Spotify that one of my students told me about, and we were just in it.  Working and writing and helping each other.

One kid, Juliet, was really rocking on her urban gardening paragraph.  She was writing about Havana's agricultural successes.  You can see she was using photos from Architectural Review, her paragraph rubric, and her notes about the components of sustainable development.

I'm pretty sure it was one of the best sixth grade writers' workshops I've had.  A+, sixth graders.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Scratch

Yesterday, Mac's teacher accidentally poked his eye.  This is an occupational hazard I hadn't thought of.  She was walking by him, swinging her arms normally as she walked, and caught him with her thumb nail.  His eyes were right at thumb level.

Of course since it's Mac, it was the Biggest Deal Ever and quite traumatic.  After an hour of his weeping over the scratch, I decided to try to get a consult from our resident ophthalmologist, Dan's mom, Jane.

On the phone, she was like, go straight to the eye clinic! But I was like, it's MAC.  He's not a reliable informant!  She agreed that we could just stop by her bathroom, which has near-ideal light for impromptu eye exams.

Turns out, it was barely a scratch.  Kid knows how to milk an incident.  We all know this.  But, Doc provided drops to make everything seem official.

"You were very brave," his grandparents told him.

I think we were all trying not to roll our un-scratched eyes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


Today we're going with chalk and Starburst. It's an unexpected combo, I think you'll agree.  Who ever thought of chalk and Starburst?  Now you have.

I can't think of anything else to say about this combo.  It's just a nice, "Huh," I think you'll agree.

I do want to share that when you get a dumpster in front of your house in order to throw away a bunch of your crap, people continually dig through it. And inexplicably take it.  Rusty, old, rotting stuff.  They take it!  I think there must be a network of dumpster divers.  They alert each other to the addition of new trash, and then they come under cover of night and snatch it.  It's weird, but I like it.  Feels sustainable.

Monday, November 10, 2014

I Have Another Public Service Announcement

I feel like I'm danger of making this whole thing a Thursday Creativity Share, but sometimes I just have to report on what I know.

Last week at school, my friend Chris basically accosted me in the hall. "Do you listen to Serial?" he queried.

I'd heard of Serial - it's a This American Life-produced podcast that tells one story over the course of a year.  But I hadn't listened to it.

"Darn it!" he said.  "I'm looking for someone to talk to about it.  The seventh episode comes out today, and I have to talk about it."  He was a little bit twitchy, so I could tell the situation was grave.

"I'll get right on it," I told him.

"I knew you would," he said.  "You'll probably do it."

"Oh, I will," I said.

And now I'm on the sixth episode.  It's fascinating.  It's getting rave reviews.  Basically, you should listen to Serial. Especially my mom will like it.  Mom, please start listening to Serial ASAP.  Download the iTunes Podcast app on your phone and then get it.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Public Service Announcement

You know how I'm a social studies teacher now?  I have a goal (of course) to increase my content knowledge in that domain.

As such, I read a current events magazine called The Week.  Have you heard of it?  I love it.  It excerpts all the columnists and summarizes all of the issues.  It's what we in the biz call a digest.  And one of my favorite things about The Week?  Every Friday, they publish the best photojournalism from the previous seven days.  The pics are amazing, and I love to show them to my students and discuss what's going on in the world.  Check these photos out, and then you might want to look at the photos from last week and the week before.  Really good stuff.

You're welcome.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Minority Report

#TwinTuesday Reject Pile

One of my most fabulous students isn't so sure about the validity of the claims about climate change.  She and her dad think that it's something people talk about to gain "political and economic power."  I gave her kudos for using two of our Humanities vocab words there.

"I think you're in the minority with that opinion," I said.  "Is your dad a scientist?"

He's not, as it turns out. But then I came to wonder about how many people share their views.  Turns out, according to Climate Change in the American Mind, a project of Yale University, 19% of Americans think that climate change is hooey.

And here, I just keep assuming everyone knows it's happening, as it's, according to the Yale project, "an established scientific fact."

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Like Roses and Clover

Ideally, Dan and I would enjoy a television show together in the evenings after the children go to bed.  The problem, though, is that Shef now goes to bed at nine.  O'CLOCK.  And by the time I'm finished reading to him, it's 9:15.  At that point, I can't reasonably be expected to stay awake for more than fifteen additional minutes.  If I try really, really hard, I might make it 30 minutes.

I'm trying to train Dan to enjoy partial shows, but he usually tries to get me to COMMIT to a whole forty or fifty minutes.

"Come on," he says, jostling me.  "Stay awake!  Don't close your eyes!"

It's not that I don't want to make that commitment and disappoint him; it's just that it's not really possible.  The eyelids are so heavy.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Mornings

Remember when I said the kids were ruining my mornings?  Well, they're still ruining my mornings.  Today, they got up at 5:15.

"I'm not getting you anything until 6:00," I said firmly, as they tromped down the stairs. "Watch TV."

As soon as the clock hit the zeroes, Mac requested pancakes.  "It's six!" he announced gleefully.

Maybe I can move my morning routine to the attic where there's a door that locks.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


It's a little unexpected, I think you'll agree.  Anthropomorphic vehicle with leaf.  A celebration of fall and of childhood fascinations with locomotion.  Just try and hold these two celebrations in your heart simultaneously as you enjoy our photos.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Competition

This just isn't good enough.

The time has come for the workplace Fitbit competition.  We got our workplace-provided Fitbits in the summer, but the challenge got delayed until November 1st.  I've been doing pretty well with the Fitbit, consistently finishing in the top 3 for steps with other registered co-workers.  I've enjoyed this.

Now, however, with two days down in the "official competition," I'm getting smoked by fourteen school employees! I'm averaging 16,396 steps per day, and I'm only in 15th place. My very active minutes rank FORTY-SECOND!  And I exercised both weekend days!

Even if I wanted to exhibit obsessive-compulsive behaviors and try to win this thing, I don't think it's physically possible.  The top two are averaging 35,000 steps per day, PLUS, and several hours of very active minutes.

I think I'm going to work on accepting my mediocrity. It'll be good for me.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sleep Tight

The weather is changing, and I've begun to feel cold.  Last winter, I got pretty desperate about the unending snow, ice, and misery.  I seriously tried to convince Dan to move.

After many conversations and presentations of evidence by me, he did finally concede that if I couldn't find a solution to my chronic, debilitating, and disfiguring skin condition (psoriasis, obvi), which happens to be aggravated by cold weather and lack of sunshine,  of which we have both in the Twin Cities metro area, we could consider moving.

I was glad he said that, but I could tell he didn't mean it.

So, since we live here, I've been spending time online looking for products and items of clothing that will help me endure yet another winter.  I try to embrace it (Snowshoes?  Gortex runners?), but really I want to cuddle up inside (Sweatpants? Turtlenecks?  Items made with down?).  My Christmas list consists of wool socks and non-bulky layers.  So super sexy.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Working on the Weekend

Another Saturday, another work engagement.  This morning, I'm doing an event for prospective students and their families.  At the event, my partner and I teach a mini-lesson to give people a taste of what it might be like to be in our class.  We do it four times for four different rotations of people.

This is important stuff, showing off the awesomeness of our school.  The school IS awesome, and we need fab kids and families to join us and keep the awesomeness coming.  But right now, I just want to go back to bed.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Phase One Complete

This year at school, I'm working on my leadership skills and style.  I try to do a good job of leading and facilitating, and then I write about what went well and what I think could have gone better.

October was my month to facilitate team meetings.  Today's the last one, thank the lord.  One problem I'm having is that my face betrays my every emotion, including aversion and incredulity.  It's not so wonderful to display these reactions when facilitating a meeting, I've learned.  Maybe what I need is pump-up music.  Perhaps a playlist including "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga.  I think it might do the trick.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Proximity

I pledged to read 52 books in 2014.  I'm almost there, and the proximity of the goal thrills me.  It's even possible that I'll surpass the goal, as I've logged 49 already. I'm anticipating the day when I can compose retrospective posts on the year with the best books of different types.

As goals go, this one wins.  I love having read all of these books.  The goal enriches my life and has no downside.

If you seek purpose in your life, may I suggest a goal of averaging a book a week.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


It's Bandaid and Halloween Decor today.  You can see me taking the photo in the reflection of the owl.  To some this may seem sloppy.  To me, it seems creepy, apropos of Halloween.  I might be a ghost appearing in the photo.