Friday, January 30, 2015

And All the Kicks

This is an example of what happens when I try to create precious family memories.  "Here boys!" I might say for example. "Check out the majesty of Lake Superior!  Let's traverse the lift bridge!"

I've always got at least one kid who acts as if nothing could make him sadder than standing on the world's largest freshwater sandbar.

You just can't please everyone, I learned.  Some people just want to see the pool at the hotel.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Dan's reasonably supportive of my fiction writing project, but he keeps asking when I'm going to introduce the hero of the story, a guy he's named Stan Best.

"I'm not really sure that Stan is going to be included in the scope of this story," I keep telling him.  "I'm pretty sure Alice is going to be single at the conclusion of the arc I'm contemplating."

"But," Dan protests, "you could just write Stan in as a little vignette.  Like Alice is thinking to herself about the ideal husband, and she magically imagines Stan Best."

"Hmmm," I say.

"Clive Cussler writes himself into all of his books," Stan - I mean Dan - continues.

"He DOES?  How?"  Dan has read like seventy or eighty Clive Cussler adventure novels.

"The main characters meet a little man who helps them on their journey."

"And the man is named Clive Cussler?"

"Yes! And he describes his beard and everything."

While I hear and acknowledge Dan's desire to be represented in my writing as Stan Best, I just can't promise that's going to happen.  And we'll leave it there.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


We're back around to #TwinTuesday.  Today, LH and I have scissors and an ice cube.  This pairing came about after Lee asked me, "Do you have Thor?"  Like, an action figure of the Avenger.  

I don't have Thor, but I do have ice.  And, there you have it.

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Silence So Sudden

We're back from wild hockey weekend.  On Saturday, after routing their first opponents 11-0, Shef's team won their second game in sudden death overtime.  The moms were dying with anxiety.  At one point, I had to walk around because the tension was too great for sitting still.

At the conclusion of the game, when one of our kids tipped in the winning goal, the mom next to me pumped both her fists and said, "Yes! I'm SO into youth hockey!"

That was pretty much the quote of the weekend.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


#NovelSnip is a tiny piece of my fiction writing project.  This week, it's the conclusion of Alice's highway walking incident.  I skipped a little dialogue from the middle when she first gets into the police car.  I'm not sure about that part, and I don't have time to edit right this moment at our hockey tournament, where I've gotten far less done than I planned. Anyway, here's #NovelSnip:

Alice was sure that there would be an investigation.  Perhaps charges of neglect.  Awkward questions.  An uncovering of a situation that Alice and Ethan knew wasn’t quite right.

“But, I didn’t practice,” Alice admitted, slumping down, steeling against the scenario she imagined.  “This is the exit,” she said, pointing.  “I knew how to get home,” she muttered, turning her face to the window.  It was as if to say, “It wasn’t that dangerous.  It was my fault.”

The officer, though, seemed uninterested in the details of her particular situation. His questions, after some head-shaking over Alice’s trek on the overpass, veered toward bland and neutral.  “Where do you go to school?” “What grade are you in?”   She sat wide-eyed in the car, which pulled benignly into the driveway of her well-kept suburban home.  Alice expected the man to cut the ignition and lumber out after her,  walk her to the door, ring the bell, and discover something about her father - the thing that Alice knew, but that other people didn’t, or alternatively pretended not to notice.

But, the officer merely turned his head to her, his belly still pointed casually toward the steering wheel.  His right hand resting nonchalantly on the center console.  “Take care,” he said.

“Thanks,” Alice mumbled, clicking open the passenger door and stepping out onto her asphalt driveway.  She stumbled numbly past the garage, not daring to look back at the car, arms tingling with what felt like a near miss and also a missed opportunity.

It's #NovelSnip!  Next week has a  jump to a time five years later, back to that trip to Florida Alice started a couple of weeks ago.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Just a Poker Face

Heads up: We're at a hockey tournament.  Mac thinks it's a full on vacation, as we're staying at a Holiday Inn Express with TWO POOLS.

It is nice to be away.  I've got some school work to do in between the games, but I'm confident that I'll be able to get it done. Meanwhile, Shef's like, "Give me the key; I'm going to Tommy's room."


Friday, January 23, 2015

The Sun in Your Eyes

This is a video made by one of my colleagues about the Humanities sustainable development project, which resulted in the cardboard art installation I've been talking about.  I used Gawker to take time-lapse video of some of the steps, which I think is cool. But, I think the video-maker is truly awesome.

In other news, Mac announced yesterday that he did indeed have writer's workshop, and that he's writing a realistic fiction story.

"What's it about?" I asked.

"Jack loses a tooth."

"Cool," I said.  "Is that the title?"

"Yeah, but the first chapter is called Loop-de-Loop because I drew a roller coaster.  So Jack loses a tooth at the Mall of America," he continued. He went on to describe the plot in a hilariously professional way.  I can't quite re-create it here because I can't remember the many twists and turns involved in this significant dental event for Jack.  Another pal was there, and Mac incorporated theme-park elements throughout.

"How did you get this idea?" I asked.

"We had to have ideas," he said.

"But how did you come up with it?"

"If I didn't have an idea, I would have to push-ups."

"Really?!" I laughed, once again in awe of the genius that is Mac's teacher, Ms. J.

"Yes," he said.  "If you don't have an idea, you have to do push-ups."

My students are excellent idea generators this year. Now I know I can attribute this to what might be a full lower school practice of requiring push-ups until one thinks of an idea.  Let's just get the writing started.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Shef's reading a series now called The 39 Clues.  It's a mystery adventure type thing, and it keeps us turning the pages. When he finished the first book and procured the second, I noticed it had a different author.  Turns out there are like eleven different well-known children's authors who write books in the series.  It starts with Rick Riordan.

How does that work, do you think?  Do the people at Scholastic decide the story arc, and then just tell the individual book author what happens in his/her section of the story?  I met an author once who worked like this on a couple of things.  It seemed kind of fun to me.  Maybe that's what the authors think, too?

This leads me to a reading update.  I'm up to 3 books of 52 Books Plus in 2015.  The best so far?  And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini.  Believe it or not, this was my first Khaled Hosseini book.  The guy is a genius who speaks multiple languages and writes like a dream.  I'm a fan.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


It's that time again.  Today, we have bouncy ball and food storage container.  I also included a lamp I really like.  

I'm fired up and ready today, partly because I'm going to wear my new dress from Stitch Fix.  It has a bird print.  Although I don't really like birds,  I like bird PRINT.  It's an important distinction.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Book of Greek Antiquities

It's time for one of Mac's movie reviews.  It seems that Mac and I have become movie buddies.  I think the reason is that no one else will go to movies with me.  In fact, once I had to return a ticket for Shef because I assumed he'd want to see a movie with me, and he didn't.  He preferred to do nothing by himself than see a movie with me. 


Anyhow, here's Mac's review of Paddington:

Me: Mac, what did you think of Paddington?

Mac: Good.

Me: Was it better or worse than Big Hero 6?

Mac: Better.

Me: Wow!  Was it better or worse than Monsters University?

Mac: Better!

Me: I think I agree!  Paddington was really, really good.  But, was it better or worse than Free Birds?

Mac: Way, way, way better.  

Me: Yeah, Free Birds was terrible.

Mac: It was also sad because that old turkey died.

Me: You're right.  I forgot about that part.

Bottom line: Paddington is quite delightful.  Highly clever and enjoyable.  Way, way, way better than Free Birds.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


#NovelSnip is just a teeny tiny bit of my fiction writing project.  Today's snip is a continuation of the scene two weeks ago when Alice gets kicked out of the car as punishment for not practicing her instrument.

After fifteen or twenty minutes of determined striding, she reached the on-ramp to the stretch of highway over the Mississippi - maybe a three quarters of a mile - that would lead her to her neighborhood. Alice wasn’t sure of the rules regarding highways.  Was there a sidewalk on the bridge?  She couldn't remember one. There was a sign on the right side of the ramp that said “No pedestrians.”  But this was the way home.  She didn’t know about any alternate routes.

At the top of the ramp, she tried to walk with one foot in front of the other on the white concrete that bordered the asphalt, without letting even a fraction of her shoe touch the black.  She smashed her right calf against the steel cable that lined the road.  Alice had been right - there was no sidewalk over the bridge, only a chest-high guardrail. She turned her head toward the water below, shutting out the traffic that blasted past, a foot beyond her left shoulder. Tempted to run, she willed her legs not to - to stay connected to the steel cable.  When she’d made it halfway, her eyes re-focused on the grassy bank that spread out toward the river next to the exit she'd take to safety, a police cruiser abruptly pulled up beside her.  She looked tentatively at the door, and then grabbed the handle and pulled it open.

That's #NovelSnip!  Why not?!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Status Report

Work: I'm slightly swamped, but feeling pumped about having finished report card comments.  As you may know from listening to Teach Times Two, the sixth graders started new lit circle books this week Also, we've gotten some positive responses about the sustainable development art installation.  One tough critic said, "It looks a lot better than I thought it would."

Violin: I passed my review of Suzuki Book Four.  "Do all of the adult students in your studio have to memorize the whole book?" I asked my teacher, quizzically.  I've been suspicious about this.  Sure enough, she hemmed and hawed in a way that indicated that her expectations do indeed vary by student.  She did not, however, waive the requirement that I, myself, play from memory.

Fashion: After KonMari-ing my clothes, I discovered that it's been awhile since I've updated my wardrobe.  I signed up for this thing called Stitch Fix. You fill out this style questionaire, and then a stylist sends you five things in the mail that fall within your designated price range.  They also send a pre-paid envelope to return anything you don't want. It's cool.  I made a Pinterest board of things I like, and they looked at it and sent me stuff that matched.  Thrilling.

Old Journal Reading: Tomorrow is #NovelSnip.  Sometimes when I work on the project, I glance at old journals from my late teens.  It's painful.  Today, I read like seven sentences and then had to stop because I was so disgusted by my former self.  I don't recommend keeping or reading old journals unless you someday plan to write a fictional character based on your former, irritating self.  Even then, it's wise to think twice.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Here it Comes

We use a great little video about empathy with the sixth graders.  Here it is.  You don't have to watch it, but you might want to.

We mention this video a lot during the year, especially when kids are having a hard time seeing something from multiple perspectives.

"Can you get down in the hole with Francisco?" I'll say, prompting them to really explore something from that character's perspective.  

We also always laugh about the line, "Rarely, if ever, does an empathic response  begin with 'At least.'"  Like, "Susie's is failing out of school."  "Well, at least Allison is an A student."

So yesterday, my face was all burny and blotchy from the light booth, which is my psoriasis treatment.  It looked horrible, and I was having a blah day anyway.  During my prep, I messaged Robin: "And my face looks like it's going to fall off."

"I'm sorry," she said.  

And then, "At least you have a face."

I laughed so hard.  At least there's that.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Suit and Tie

I've been dragging like crazy this week.  We're writing report card comments, interviewing candidates for teaching positions, zooming in toward a yearbook deadline, starting a new curricular unit on human rights...

I've been dropping like it's hot at 9pm each night, and I can't believe it's not yet Friday.  I could say more, but it would probably be about the status of my psoriasis.  So, we'll end here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

On the Lowly Jimsonweed

The transition back from project land has been tough for some of the students.  They've had a week of roaming free, researching, talking, painting, designing, and then doing specific jobs related to the installation pictured above, and now I need them to settle in for some typical lessons.  

Not that the typical lesson is anything less than scintillating, but...  Yesterday, I found myself leading them through group stretches and asking them to breathe deeply.

"WHY?!" one snarky individual exclaimed.

It was totally obvious WHY, so I just kept my eyes closed and kept stretching.

In other really exciting news, Lee and I have a podcast for you today.  If you're a teacher, you might want to listen to the podcast.  If you're not a teacher, but you like reading and thinking about teaching, you will probably want to listen to the podcast.  Basically why NOT listen to the podcast? You can download it or stream it according to your preference.  We might do it again sometime.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


It's that time again.  Today we have a small wooden object and some sugar.  It's intense.

I wear this wooden earring all the time.  I wore it yesterday, in fact.  It's the mark of a sisterhood. At my last job, I was one of a few "Sister Wives," some close colleagues who had each other's backs.  Like the ladies in Big Love, we didn't rely on outside forces to determine our bond.  Unlike the ladies in Big Love, we didn't share a husband.  Obvi.

But in any case, these women are stellar, and once we bought matching earrings as a symbol of our work together.  This wooden object is one of those earrings.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Flyer Than a Parakeet

A week ago, I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I organized my clothes, books, and half of my papers.  The central principle of the book is that you hold each of your belongings and ask yourself, "Does this spark joy?"  If not, you thank the item for the role it's played in your life and respectfully say good bye.

You're supposed to keep talking to your possessions ("Thank you, boots, for keeping me warm on my journey today"), but this really bugs Dan; and he reflexively shouts things like, "KC, stop it! You're creeping me out!"  Luckily, KonMari says that you can talk to your possessions silently in your head, too.

I've had a ton of success with KonMari, but she doesn't specifically discuss how to clean and de-clutter your kitchen.  It might be because no one has ever held up a cheese grater and announced in the affirmative that it truly "sparks joy."

Lucky for me, my friend Melanie posted a 14-day organizational challenge on Facebook, so I spent 5 hours this weekend organizing my kitchen.  I've had more exciting times, but the lazy susans do look swell.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

It's #NovelSnip

Sunday's feature is #NovelSnip, a tiny snippet of the novel I'm working on. That makes me laugh. "Novel I'm working on." Hahahahahaha.

It's #NovelSnip:

She and Evelyn had decided it was something she “should” do.  Should was common in Alice and Evelyn’s lexicon.  We should sit at the table and do some reading.  We should take Ethan to a movie.  We should try to eat more vegetables.  And you should, Alice, visit your father.

She’d stepped off the plane in Florida, feeling the ambient heat and breathing deeply as she traversed the jetway. At the end of the tunnel, she glimpsed Frank, mustached with a coarse gray toupee. Next to him stood Dorothy, his mother, her lips pinched and her eyes searching. 

Alice twisted her lips into a smile, and Dorothy matched her.

That's #NovelSnip this week.  More next Sunday.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Straight Lines

Knock on wood, as there haven't been any disasters in the development project, as yet.  Today we'll be slicking polymer on completed cardboard squares.  The ones above are not complete, as they're missing social, political, economic, and environmental facts about water in Bolivia.  Then, we have to string squares on fishing line, pound nails into a high-mounted two-by-four, hang the strings, and cross our fingers that the kids who were in charge of measuring out the placement of the stencils for the background painting did a good job.

Nothing could possibly go wrong.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


I meant to start a new feature on Sunday, and then I forgot because it was back-to-school.  So, I'm starting today and then will put #NovelSnip back on Sundays where it belongs.  The gist is this: my New Year's Resolution is to work on writing this year.  Like, writing a book.  Of fiction.  Finishing or publishing the book is not part of the resolution.  It's just the WRITING that we're working on, and I'm starting small.  Yesterday, I wrote three sentences, and I thought that was satisfactory.

So, #NovelSnip will keep me honest.  It's a little snippet of the story, which at the moment has no arc whatsoever.  So here you go:

After weeks of refusing to play the violin and lying about practice, he pulled over one afternoon, several miles from their home, and ordered her out of the sedan.  She stepped out, stood on the sidewalk next to a municipal golf course, and watched his car speed down the street.   

She stood on the warm pavement stunned for a moment. Then, chin up, she turned toward the receding car and marched after it.  Alice knew how to get home, although she felt conspicuous on her own at nine years old, heat and fear rising in waves from her stomach.  Still, Alice rolled her shoulder blades down her back and walked briskly, staring straight ahead.  Each time she felt distracted or overwhelmed, she gave her head a small shake and clenched her back teeth.  

It's #NovelSnip.  Why not?! 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Parent Brag

I came home from running an errand last night to find Shef ready to send a letter to our U.S. Representative Keith Ellison about his opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline.  What an odd leisure activity, I thought to myself.  Although, as I'm writing this blog at 6am and on Monday night I spent two hours watching the worst show on television, I'm not one to throw stones.

So anyway, we heard a story about the pipeline on the radio on the way home, and then Dan found an article to augment Shef's understanding.  And then he googled Keith and found a way to email him.  Luckily, his fab teacher has been teaching him about persuasive writing.  So, here's what he said.

Dear Representative Ellison,

My Name is Shef W. and I am 10 years old. I live in Minneapolis MN. I'm sending you this e-mail because I don't agree with the proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline through the country. One of the reasons why I don't agree with this proposal is that, if this pipeline is made there will be much more pollution. If there is more pollution the world will not be a better place. Also, it will make it harder for living things like plants and animals to stay healthy. Another reason why this pipeline shouldn't be built is that it's pretty much the dirtiest kind of oil extracted from tar sands. Also, we have shown that we can't clean the oil up. So if that oil spills then it would be very bad. Plus, the current Keystone XL pipeline has leaked multiple times in its first year of operation. So why build another? In conclusion, we should not build the oil pipeline.

Shef W.

Now, he's obsessively checking his email to see if Keith will write back.  I explained that it might take some time, but the checking continues.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


It's #TwinTuesday once again.  Today, LH and I have a printed bag and some stamps.  It's a truly unexpected combo, and that's the whole idea behind #TwinTuesday, in case you're just tuning in.  It's an unexpected combination.

In other news, I made it through the first day, and it was totally fine.  I was so happy to see the students, and they seemed pretty pleased to start working on this cool development research and art installation project we've got going.  I hope it turns out okay. It involves stencils, cardboard, paint, polymer, nails, fishing line, duct tape, and washers.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Free Like the Wind

I have an update on my adoption of the KonMari method of decluttering my life.  After one does clothes and books, one moves onto papers.  The KonMari rules state that devotees should gather all pieces of clutter that fit into a particular category and sort them at once. All at once and swiftly.

I did that with clothes and books, but with papers, I just couldn't get myself to empty the desk in my bedroom and sort the papers with the stuff that was in the filing cabinet.

Can we still focus on the positive? I've located all of the birth certificates and social security cards and filed them appropriately.  Shef and I also decided together that I could throw out his old report cards.  I don't see a long term purpose for keeping Shef's pre-k report cards.  

I did find this gem of a story that Mac dictated to a teacher in pre-k.  It's typical of his work at this time.
His Birthday. By Mac. 2/1/13
Once upon a time,  there was a boy and he couldn't wait until he had his birthday at Chuck-E-Cheese.  And his birthday was March 31st. His home was very big because it was a mansion. He had a pet bird named Billy.  Someone shot down his house.  - The End
I'm so proud.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Skates a-Flash

It's a hockey weekend here.

Last night, Shef's team beat their first tournament opponents by a margin of 9 goals.  That's a big margin in hockey, and we were all pleased.

Later today, The Storm will face the St. Paul Capitals in their second effort.  Meanwhile, I'll be with Mac at his Chill practice.  From there, we'll zip to the rink and check out the second half.  We'll probably say, "Go Storm!"

On Sunday, there will be two more hockey events - one practice for the Chill, one final tournament game for the Storm.

You might interpret this as complaining, but it's not complaining.  You know what I do?  I bring a book, fleece blanket, hat and mittens; and I pay intermittent attention during practices.  During games, I chat affably with the other moms while also watching.  It's perfectly pleasant in every way, and I also earn Mother of the Year credits.  I'm trying to stock up early in 2015.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Ghosts in the Eyes

You know Skip, right?  He's our dog?  

Well, besides being awesome, he's also pretty high strung.  When multiple visitors come to our house - or any kids that don't live here - he has to go to the attic in his crate, where he barks incessantly and feels terrible.  I know he feels terrible because he quivers and makes low noises and appears to be generally agitated.

Today, both of our human children have friends over.  I decided to get Skip a little gift to see if he'd be able to chill out.  It's called a Thunder Shirt.  Have you heard of them?  The guy at the pet store said it would "take him down a notch."  I put it on, and he stood exactly still, exactly as he is in this picture, for five minutes.

When the friends came over, he seemed agitated and barked while also standing still.  

So, I put him in the attic in his crate with the shirt on. He barked a lot up there.  I'm not sure the shirt has completely changed the anxiety situation.  I went up there and put his leash on him and walked him around the house.

"Look," I said, passing Mac's room.  "Mac and Alex are making a poster for their band."

"Hey," I soothed.  "Shef and George are playing a violent video game.  There's nothing to worry about."

Still, he's turning in circles and whining a little.  I'm not sure what else is to be done.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Cup O' Kindess

It's time for another year on the blog.  A highlight of last year was that I posted more than I ever have.  It turns out it's not that hard to post (almost) every day if you just do it.  So, that was a revelation I came to at the end of September.  I might as well keep it up in 2015, as I have for the last TEN years.

Last night, we had a few great pals over for dinner.  At one point in the evening, I said, "Okay, who has regrets or resolutions?"

No one answered, except Dan.  He said, "Stop being so weird."  It wasn't a resolution; it was a directive for me.

It's business as usual in our household, I think we can all agree.  Happy 2015!