Monday, November 29, 2010


A confession:
I read the first Harry Potter book but never bothered with the rest. On a related note, I've only seen the first two movies in the series and doubt I'll see any others.

I'm sure this makes me some sort of weirdo, but I'm okay with that. I just don't "do" serial reading. That's not to say I don't enjoy reading books by the same author. I've read several books by John Steinbeck and Barbara Kingsolver. I love Roald Dahl and Kate DiCamillo. I spent two weeks at the beach one summer and finished five books by John Grisham--although after the fifth one I decided I didn't need to read anymore Grisham books.

No offense to J. K. Rowling--it's just that I found out all I cared to know about Harry and Co. in the first book.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

New Shoes

I traded in my running shoes for a newer model on Tuesday night. The decision came after a run that had me focusing more on every twinge and ache I felt than the scenery that I was passing through. Years ago a friend told me that she buys a new pair of running shoes whenever she starts feeling pains that she hasn't felt before. I thought of that conversation as I ran earlier this week wondering what was going on with my shins.

I put in a mile and a half and headed home for my wallet and car keys.

New shoes always feel great, but new running shoes feel better than great. As soon as I slid my right foot into my new pair of Mizunos I felt comfort. The mesh outside hugged my foot like an old friend. A walk around the store introduced me to a bounce in the sole that I hadn't felt in quite awhile. I exhaled a sigh of relief.

My old shoes went in the box; I paid and glided out the door with a smile on my face.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sneaky Turnips

I've never trusted turnips. They always had a sneaky way of ending up in my mashed potatoes when I was a kid. Obviously, they didn't get there by themselves...Mom did it. She likes turnips. Who else but a turnip-lover would dare mess with a perfect portion of mashed potatoes?

I watched carefully as my sister made the mashed potatoes last night. She added butter, milk and sour cream. There wasn't a turnip in sight.

My mother made turnips this afternoon-- she knew better than to mess with the already-perfect mashed spuds. The turnips sat in their own little bowl at the end of the buffet table. A few people ate them and enjoyed them. I stayed way, far away.

My brother-in-law's brother stopped by as we finished up our dinner and was offered a turnip. (By my mother, of course.)

"I don't like 'em." he said. "I never liked it when they ended up in the mashed potatoes."


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


It was with absolute ease that I made my way north this morning. I hit...not a speck of traffic.
For that I am thankful.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Driving North

Hats off to the two-day workweek. It began today with a sleepy Monday and finishes up tomorrow at 2:50 pm with the rush to pack up and get out of town before everybody else.

Fortunately, I only need to drive about 90 miles north. Unfortunately, a good part of the trip is traveled along the dreaded I-95. I was born in Baltimore some years ago and have never lived more than about 100 miles from my birthplace. You could say I'm pretty familiar with the ins and outs of the Baltimore/DC area. Sometimes I like the traffic for the off-route exploration opportunities it provides. Meeting up with a mass of brake lights and stopped cars sends me into explorer mode. I look for the next exit and wind my way around whatever roads I find in a quest to continue in the northerly direction, on a route that is absent of as many other drivers as possible.

If I'm lucky I'll find a new shortcut and a few photo opportunities.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


We decided to send home a letter to the parents of each of the kids who were having homework problems. The letter was a heads up to parents that the team was concerned about the poor work habits of their child. It also offered suggestions for improvement. There was a tear-off portion at the bottom that was to be returned to me with a parent signature.

Twenty-five letters went out on Wednesday. Only a handful came back with signatures on Thursday. I wasn't too surprised. Sixth graders don't always consider the consequences of their actions. They live in the moment, and for many of them those moments have not included doing homework. They may have been less than honest with their parents about how well they were keeping up with their schoolwork. Delivering the letter was bound to mean trouble for some.

Two students, maybe three, decided to forge their parent's signature. I'm sure they never considered how obvious the forgery was. They were in survival mode-if their parents never got the letter they could live another day without getting yelled at, punished or lectured. Whatever the reason, I'm sure that since parents have been informed of the homework problem and the forgery there are two students who are living different moments than planned this weekend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Meeting Edward

I have just today met a wonderful little character by the name of Edward Tulane. Our meeting was brief, as I have only read the first chapter of the book that I believe narrates a miraculous journey of his. I hope it is a miraculous journey because from what I know so far he's in need of some sort of miracle.

You see...he's a small china rabbit. I smiled when I started reading his story. I was reminded of another rabbit tale that I've always enjoyed--the story of Elwood P. Dowd and his rabbit-friend, Harvey.

I finished the first chapter feeling sorry for Edward. The poor little rabbit has a wonderful young friend, Abilene, talking to him, tucking him into bed and saying goodnight, yet he can say nothing in return. "He said nothing because, of course, he could not speak." There are times in my life when I wish I couldn't speak, but there are far more times when I'm glad I have a voice.

Even worse are Edward's eyes. They are painted on and therefore always open. How dull it must be to lay awake all night. The ennui that he experiences must be more than most can bear.

I'm hopeful things will change very soon.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I took her phone during 6th period. I'd sent her into the team room to find the paper she was missing and finish the overdue work. When I checked in 15 minutes later she was sitting at the table with a closed binder and her cell phone in her hand. The missing work was nowhere to be found.

Sixth graders love to send text messages. The fact that it's against school rules doesn't seem to deter them. So, I confiscated the phone and told her to check in at the end of the day. At that point I wasn't sure if I would turn it in to the office or not, I felt a bit of research was in order.

She told me the phone was only out because she was checking the time. My research showed me that was probably true. But then I noted she had sent a text message to her mom at 10:45-during lunch. That was against school rules.

The text message was to her mom. "Mom, I got two C's on book sheets today. I'm kinda sad."

Torn as to what path to take I asked a colleague for advice. It was decided that the turning the phone into the office, and having her parents retrieve it, was the best course of action. I let her know when she came to see me at the end of the day.

Knowing that parents are often waiting for a phone call at the end of the day I let her make the call to her mom to let her know what had happened.

With voice quivering she relayed the information to her mom.

"Mom, I messed up today. When I texted you about the C's I shouldn't have. The teacher is taking my'll have to come and pick it up at the office."

I sat at my desk grading papers-- her mother's voice was clear.

"Honey, that's okay. I'll come by and get it in an hour or so. Are you feeling okay about the C's? It's all right sweetie, really it is. Please don't worry about all this."

She's a girl I can't quite figure out...identified as gifted but her writing doesn't show it. Just yesterday another teacher commented on the messy work that she turns in. I see her as someone whose brain is in constant motion, unfortunately it works at such a high speed that everything she knows doesn't always end up on paper.

We walked out together and talked about those two C's that she was disappointed with. She let me know about the OT services she received in elementary school to help with fine motor skills. We chatted about the possibility of typing up her next book sheets. It sounded like a good option.

She walked out the door to go home. I walked to the office with the phone in my hand, regretting my decision to turn it in.

Monday, November 15, 2010


Monday team meetings are set aside for time with the grade level counselor. Together we discuss student concerns and come up with a plan that will, hopefully, allow any student having difficulties to get back on track. Problems can range from behavioral to academic, including chronic tardiness or other attendance problems. Today's discussion centered on the students who have consistently failed to complete homework on time. Names were brought up one at a time allowing all the teachers to weigh in. Some children were only having homework issues in one class; unfortunately a greater number of students were having homework issues across the board.

There were about 25 names. That's a quarter of the total number of students on the team.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Off Route

I've spent a fair amount of time driving up and down Rt. 4 in Southern Maryland. For the 4 years I was in college it was the middle leg of the trip home or back to school. It also provided miles of beautiful scenery. The road's gentle curves and dips always made for a pleasant driving experience--the farmlands scattered throughout the area only added to the picturesque route.

Today I was happy to have the opportunity to take that road once more. I left DC about 11:00 this morning to join some friends for a weekend on the bay. The ride was familiar and lovely as usual. The trees were sporting their brightest colors against a cloud-less blue sky. The one thing different about today's drive down Rt. 4 was that I didn't follow it all the way to Solomon's. Just south of Broome's Island I took a left and headed for the small town of Port Republic. What a treat. Within two minutes of turning off I was surprised to see the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. Who knew? Yeah, I guess I should have known, but it's easy to forget what can be found off the path that's been beaten down over time.

I won't forget, I'll remember to come this way again soon and follow the path less traveled in my past.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Recipe for the Week

How a Friday feels like a Monday, but is fortunately followed by a feel of Friday once again...
1. Begin with three days of the school week. (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday work best.)
2. Add in one Federal Holiday. (In this case Veteran's Day.)
3. Stay up too late watching your favorite football team lose in the last 3o seconds of the game.
4. Toss and turn throughout the night.
5. Return to work feeling like the week just began.
6. Try your best to teach students who are also suffering from the usual "Monday Blues."
7. Work until 4:30.
8. Smile, it's really Friday.
9. Say hello to a proper two-day weekend.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Check Engine

When presented with a car repair issue my first response is ignorance. Of course, that doesn't help with something like a flat tire or a dead battery--those issues need immediate response. If the car is unable to run then the problem must be solved. What I'm talking about is that strange noise one may hear, or that little light that is illuminated on the dashboard. I had one of those lights show itself on Saturday. It was the dreaded, "check engine" light.

The check engine light is the one that the car manual insists requires immediate, expensive attention. The manual states when that little rascal shows itself it's best to get it to the dealer right away.

I first noticed the light on Saturday. I noted it and mentioned it to a friend who was sitting in the passenger seat. She too knew her car manual rules.

"Everything I've heard says you need to take the car in as soon as possible."

"Yea," I smiled. "But look, if I put my hand right here on the steering wheel I can't even see it, so there's really no problem at all."

And so I ignored it. On Monday I filled up the tank, but decided to give the engine a little taste of the premium fuel. Maybe the more expensive fill up was the spinach my little engine needed.

Tonight I was driving home after dinner with friends. While waiting at a stoplight my hands fell off the steering wheel for a moment. I was happy to see the engine no longer needed checking. Problem solved.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

An Enchanting Afternoon

Now that the clocks have fallen back to where they belong I'm feeling as though autumn has truly arrived. I felt it on Sunday afternoon. I headed out around 4:00 for a long walk and was enchanted with the late day sun and then way it lit up the colorful treetops in the neighborhood. The yellow, red and orange oaks were simply stunning, framed in a perfect, deep blue sky.

On the ground level I smiled as I listened to the playful shrieks of children as they ran-- kicking up every fallen leaf in their way.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Got Spinach?

I don't eat enough fruits and vegetables. I know that and am trying to work on it. Cooking for one can be challenging. Should I really whip up a protein filled dinner with veggies on the side, or isn't just easier to have a bowl of Raisin Bran? I used to eat a lot of frozen meals but at some point I decided I can cook and I should try to do a bit more of it. I've been working on that with some sporadic success.

Friday night I plated up a nice piece of salmon with a side of spinach. It was delicious and healthy too. I woke up on Saturday feeling energetic and laced up my running shoes for a 3-mile jaunt. I didn't run the entire way but returned home feeling refreshed and healthy. Later in the day I went for a ten-mile bike ride along the canal.

This week I will eat lots more spinach.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Hip, Hip, Hooray...Here's to the Cardboard Box

So I did a bit more browsing of the Toy Hall of Fame inductees. Above all my favorite has to be the cardboard box, with the stick running a very close second.

Years ago, my best friend and I were sitting on my sister's patio watching the kids play in the backyard. There was my nephew, his cousin and my friend's young son dragging each other around in a large cardboard box.

"Don't ya love kids who can entertain themselves with a cardboard box?" She remarked.

Yup, I did...I still do.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

This Year's Winners

Who knew there was such a thing as the "Toy Hall of Fame?" I sure didn't. The local news ran a quick piece on the newly inductees for the year, they included playing cards and The Game of Life. It got me thinking about what other toys may have been honored with such a prize, what classic games are there that have withstood the passage of time and the introduction of computer generated fun?

Playing cards, of course. It's hard to believe it took this long to be inducted. I try to have a deck of cards in my purse at all times, especially when I'm traveling. They're perfect for unexpected layovers or traffic jams. What about Dominoes? I see them as a classic game, but to tell you the truth I've never been sure how to play. I played one game, Mexican Train, a few years back but don't remember how to play anymore.

When I think of classic games I think about my own childhood and the games we played. There was Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Checkers and Operation. As we got older my dad taught me how to play chess. Once I got to college we were all about Backgammon.

Of course there was also the Yo-Yo craze and the Frisbee. Do you think they made the list? See for yourself here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Round Two Begins

Today's teacher workday allowed me to sleep an extra hour. By contract, I should be in my classroom at 7:20, but there's something about a workday that allows for a little flexibility. I arrived at school at about 8:00 AM to a mostly empty parking lot.

Even with the extra slumber I moved through the day in a state of exhaustion. Perhaps it was the early morning chill that greeted me when I walked out the door. Maybe it was the culmination of a particularly tough start to the year, it's hard to say. No matter the reason I got a good deal of work done throughout the day and am ready to get started on the second quarter of the year.

I'll be in bed early.