Thursday, January 31, 2008


The other day Lydia asked me "What does 'hurl' mean?". Without missing a beat, I replied, "Barf.". She wrinkled up her nose at me- apparently she already knew the meaning and was just testing me. "No it doesn't! It means 'throw'!"
How pathetic is that? The first definition that comes to mind is straight out of Wayne's World. My second grader is more sophisticated than I am.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Biggest Loser

In November, the lovely Dolce presented us with the Japanese Literature Challege. Up for a challenge, intrigued by many of the titles, I did not, in fact even come close to completing. I hang my head in cyber shame.

But, if I were to read 3 of the titles, these would be my choices:

"Toru Okada, perhaps a modern Japanese Everyman, tried to find meanings in bizarre yet everyday events. The novel interlaces references to the present with alternative realities, including memories of an aged WWII soldier."

"The first person narrator is a sort of Holden Caulfield in his irreverent view of Japanese High School and society in 1969. A humorous and self-deprecating view of a seventeen year old boy's world."

"In this series of autobiographical and reflective essays, Mori reflects on her experiences in Japan and in the American Midwest. Her topics range from family to school to language and a woman's place."

In April, my book club will choose books for the next year. I think I'll pick one of these. I still intend to read them, it just didn't happen within the time of the challenge. It did broaden my horizons and give me the chance to talk books with one of my really cool, really smart students who had read something by Murakami. We discovered that there is more than one Murakami. I think we actually impressed each other. And that's something, isn't it?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Meme that Ate St. Louis

A meme I've stolen from Tense Teacher. I'm sure you'll all find my answers to be titillating (heh heh, I just said "titillating") and fascinating.

1. Are you taller than your best friend?
I'm taller than no one. I'm so short that I can't reach stuff at the store and rather than suffer the humiliation of having perfect strangers reach up and get the things I'm after, I do without.

2. Do you have a favorite type of pen?
I really like this big Pentel pen, but it has a tendency to leak. I mostly use free pharmaceutical pens my husband used to hoard get at his old job.

3. Look at your planner; what are were your plans for January 15th?
Tuesday is our free day, usually. Let's see, on that evening, I met some of my girlfriends for dinner- we all used to teach together and now are all at different buildings.
4. What color are your toenails usually?
In the winter, I give them a break, so they are au naturel, but in the summer, I like bright reds, pinks and oranges.
5. What was the last thing you highlighted?
My hair, although it's really colored more than high-lighted.
Oh, the marker? Probably something in my gradebook.

6. What color are the curtains in your bedroom?
I just have a valance hanging - matches the bedspread- big red poppies on a white background with green leaves.

7. What color are the seats in your car?
Greyish charcoal, I guess. I don't pay much attention.

8. Have you ever had a black and white cat?
Yes, the cat I had when I was a kid. He was mean, but for some reason we liked him and he lived to be 15. I love black and white kitties.

9. What is the last thing you put a stamp on?
Invitations to Claire's slumber party.

10. Do you know anyone who lives in Japan?
No, but I know of several people who have.

11. Why did you withdraw cash from the ATM the last time?
Money for Trivia Night (fundraiser for church) and beer to drink at said trivia night.

12. Last baby you held?
My friend's son, born in October. He was just about 10 days old. I still get those little pangs.....

13. Can you spell well?
Quite, but watch, I'm sure that after having declared that, I'm sure to have a misspelling or two in this post.

14. Do you like cinnamon toothpaste?
Yes! I love it. I do not like the citrus and definitely no peroxide/baking soda for me.

15. How fast have you driven in a car before?
I suppose almost 90, but only for passing purposes. I mostly drive with my kids these days, so I don't like to put their lives in danger any more so than necessary.

16. Pick one: Miami Hurricanes or Florida Gators?
Could care less. Don't even know which sport we're talking about here. Where I come from it's Packers or Bears? (Bears); Cubs or Sox -or Cardinals (Cubs).

17. Last time you went to Six Flags?
I went to Adventureland in Des Moines this summer with my cousins and their kids- a big group of us. I've never been to Six Flags. The last time I went to Adventureland as a participant was when I was about 20- my friend Debbie and I went on all these rides that either went back and forth or around and around and we got kinda sick.

18. Do you have any wallpaper in your house?
Yes, though not by choice. I peeled off all the blue floral paper in our bedroom- very easily- only took about 20 minutes. There is wallpapery wallpaper in our dining room, and I'm sure that if we were to remove it, huge chunks of wall would come off with it. Same thing in our den- there is rice paper/textured paper that has been painted over. We'll probably just paint over it. Then there's the kitchen that sports very ugly Waverly wallpaper in forest green and burgundy- a floral above and an ugly, coordinating stripe below a chair rail. AND the fugliest border that is along the baseboard all up our staircase and into the hall.

19. Closest thing to you that is yellow?
Silk carnation pen I got for Mother's Day. It's in a tiny, handpainted flowerpot filled with dried beans so I can "plant" the pen.

20. Last person who gave you a business card?
I have no idea. Maybe my husband when he changed jobs- new phone number.

21. Who was the last person you wrote a check or money order to?
The girls' school library. They have a Birthday Book program to help them with the cost of new books, the kids can bring in $10 and then pick out a new book from a shelf and be the first person to check it out. They also get a sticker placed on the inside cover with their name and birthdate.

22. Closest framed picture to you?
Several photos of family- Mr. T and I at an office Christmas party, his grandma's h.s. graduation picture, Lydia wearing a diaper next to a Happy New Year hat- she was supposed to be Baby New Year.

23. Last time you had someone cook for you?
A couple of weeks ago we went to my mom's for dinner- she made roast beef.

24. Have you ever felt you weren’t good enough?
Have I ever!

25. How many emails do you get in your inbox daily (excluding spam)?
At work? Probably 20. Home? Maybe 7.

26. Last time you received flowers?
A woman in my book club brought everyone a cute potted primrose at our Jan. meeting.

27. What’s one thing you live for?
My family.

28. Do you play air guitar?
No, but I love to sing.

29. Has anyone ever proposed to you?
Proposed what? Marriage? Yes. Twice, but the second time was complete with bended knee and teary eyed onlookers around the Christmas tree.

30. Do you take anything in your coffee?
Cream, no sugar.

31. Do you have any Willow Tree figurines?
Yes, it was a gift. I'm pretty lukewarm on them, but I do like the sappy sentiments that come with them.

32. How many books have you read in the last year?
I don't know- I should keep track, though. Maybe 25?

33. Last person you spoke to from high school?
My SIL's good friend graduated with me- we played trivia together Sat. night.

34. Last time you used hand sanitizer?
Noon. I know the hype is that it's no good, that hand washing is better, but the sanitizer is still better than nothing. I have a quart of it in my classroom and encourage its frequent use.

35. Would you like to learn to play the drums?
Would I like to learn? Not really. Would I like to be able to play? Yes.

36. What color are the blinds in your living room?
I don't really have blinds- just shades that need to be replaced.

37. Have you ever developed your own film?

38. Last thing you read in the newspaper?
Some dumb editorial. I don't know why I torture myself.

39. What was the last pageant or play you attended?
Our school’s variety show.

40. What is the last place you bought pizza from?
Papa Murphy's (take and bake)

41. Have you ever worn a crown?
Not so much.

42. What is the last thing you stapled?
Who cares? Our Xerox machine staples automatically, so I don't do as much stapling.

43. Did you ever drink clear Pepsi?
I am really more loyal to Coke, but the sheer novelty of the clear Pepsi begged it to be tried.

44. Are you ticklish?
Oh, hell yes.

45. Last time you saw fireworks?
After a baseball game, I think.

46. Last time you had a Krispy Kreme doughnut?
Can't remember, and now it'll be a while, because our local franchise up and closed last week.

47. Who is the last person that left you a message, and you actually returned it?
My mom, I think, calling about what time to babysit.

48. Last time you parked under a carport?
Before our friends moved in 2001 they had a nifty little carport. Here in the north, they are not very common.

49. Do you have a black dog?
Who wrote these? No, I have 2 cats.

50. Can you give one reason why David Caruso is allowed to keep acting?
Is he that redhead that was on NYPD Blue? I suppose it's his ass?

51. Are you an aunt or uncle?
(aunt only by marriage, but my cousin's kids call me Auntie.)

52. Who has the most gorgeous eyes that you know of?
My daughter Claire has really pretty blue eyes- almost violet.

53. Last time you saw a semi truck?
I'm sure I saw one on the way to school today. They aren't on my radar, since I see them so much.

54. Do you remember Ugly Kid Joe?

55. Do you have a little black dress?


Monday, January 28, 2008

State of the Union

Well, according to our president, NCLB is a bipartisan effort, a good law and is quite successful. Math scores? On the rise- the highest in years. Reading scores are also on the rise.
Boy, am I relieved!
I want to know just where is he getting this information? Oh, I know he's got people gathering it FOR him- it's the nature of his job, but still? What test scores are we manipulating here, anyway? I'm also upset by his universal assumption that if kids' test scores are low, it must be because their teachers are crap. Crap! What would happen if parents and students were also held accountable for test scores?
I have horrible thoughts of all these schools teaching to the tests- their students in little communist China uniforms, reciting math facts, their schools' mottos: "Arbeit Macht Frei". Work harder, get those test scores up, then we'll be free! We'll have no soul and no dignity and definitely no creativity, but dammit, we'll be free!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Snapshot

Since I've committed to blogging EVERY SINGLE DAY in 2008, I'd like to open up the floor to you, my faithful/intermittent/reluctant readers and offer up some audience participation. What are some things that you, my readers, would like to see a picture of? If the request is reasonable, I will post next Sunday, or maybe over a series of Sundays.
Whaddaya wanna see?


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Sleepover Recap

Well, I survived the slumber party. Very little drama and very little snark. Only one girl (out of 5) went home early- had a stomach ache. Her mom kind of predicted it. I think this girl had her self psyched up about it and ended up making herself sick.
For the most part, my kids have pretty nice friends, but I will say that 2 of the guests last night about drove me to drink. Well, not "about"; Mr. T and I enjoyed a nice bottle of Black Opal Shiraz- on sale for $5.99, woo-hoo!

One girl kept asking "What are we going to do next? What are we going to do next?????" and did things like STAND on my furniture. I have a little Victorian chair in my dining room- it was my great aunt's. It's really just for show- she was standing talking to me and put her foot on it like she was going to stand up on it - good thing she didn't . She was argumentative and snotty. She ran around and screamed and then asked if we could turn off the fireplace because she was hot. They were doing a craft downstairs and I was upstairs hiding from them and drinking a glass of wine on the computer . I was trying to be hands off and let them be. She came upstairs to announce that she was done... She was definitely high, high maintenance.

The other girl kept talking babytalk-*shudder*. She also has this really, really, really annoying voice, which she was very comfortable using. Loudly. I forced back the urge to offer her a bag of Shut the Hell Up.

So now I'm a member of "the club". I learned that they really just want to hang out together- no need to plan a lot of activities. They didn't eat as much as I'd planned for . And, my tolerance for gratuitous screaming? Very low.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Random Act of Bravery

I was going to do a big long post about the students' variety show at school last night, but I am in the midst of my first slumber party - on the other side, anyway. I will just tell one small bit of it.

Last year at the beginning of the year "welcome back" meeting, our principal explained to us that we would be getting a new student, a freshmman, who had a genetic disorder that left him without any hair. In spite of our school's "no hat" policy, this kid would have a special pass to wear a hat all the time. (We do the same for kids who've had chemo. I'm happy to say there haven't been too many of them.) So, he came last year- and he's the coolest kid- really smart but kinda edgy. He plays in the school band- electric guitar in the jazz band as well as in a rock band with his friends. In last year's variety show, the rock band played and afterwards, he and the other members of the band actually scored some groupies.

Last night, I braved the below zero temperatures and bundled up my daughters and went to the variety show, which was amazing. Such incredible talent these kids have, and they don't even realize it. The show choir performed, the different bands played (jazz, stage, symphonic, wind ensemble...) I was looking at my program during one of the songs and looked up and was trying to see if there were any of my students up there. I saw a kid with glasses and a shiny, bald head. It took me a minute to realize that it was this kid. My eyes filled up with tears- not because I feel sorry for him because he has no hair, but because he felt comfortable enough to appear in front of an auditorium full of people without his trusty hat. What a brave thing for a 15 year old boy to do.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Can I just post really quickly tonight and tell you all that the actual temperature when I left the house to go to school this morning was -15. Fahrenheit. Yes, really. We were just hoping for it to get above 0 today.
Monday it's supposed to get up to 37. It's going to feel mad hot. I will bet you money I will have students in flip flops.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

H.P. to the L.McG.

For 2 years running, my girls made their Valentines for their classroom Valentines parties. One year they had one of those foam kits that made dogs and cats and they were on a stick like a little puppet. Very cute. Very tedious. Very messy. Not very creative. So last year, I bought pink and red paper, doilies and stickers for them to "create" Valentines. Cute. Tedious. Messy. Sort of creative. I decided the making of the Valentines for the entire class was bullshit, so I bought them on clearance after Feb. 14. I got a box of Harry Potter and a box of Lizzy McGuire. I just recently unearthed them and was all stressed out about who was going to choose which kind. I very seriously confronted my daughters. "Well, here's the deal. We've got one box of Harry and one box of Lizzy. Who wants what?" I steeled myself against their response, anticipating "I WANT LIZZY!!"
What I got instead was them looking at each other, then at me like I was crazy (or cray-cray as my students like to say) and they said, "We just figured we'd split them. We'd give the boys the Harry Potter ones and the girls Lizzy McGuire."
Well, I'll be damned. Why didn't I think of that? Probably because I'm over thirty and jaded.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Teacher Talk Tuesday

True Confession: I got kinda snippy with the secretary in the main office today. Bottom line is that I chose to use our old, reliable, sooo much better grading program as opposed to the awkward, horrible, unreliable piece of crap grading program we are supposed to use so that parents can check up on their kid every waking hour of the day.I had originally intended to use both programs and double post everything. Then it was December and , well, yeah. I didn't get things posted on the crappy program, but I did get my semester grades posted last Friday. A parent called and wanted to see alllllll her son's grades (he got an A, what does she want???). I said I'd email her the other report (same info. different format). The secretary got very By the Book with me and said "Well! I was told that everyone is supposed to use this program." Who cares. I said that I was told the same thing, but.... oh well.

On a different note, since our school is hopping on the High Schools That Work bandwagon, I will be attending the national conference in Nashville this summer- July 9-12. Anyone else going to be there? We could ditch the sessions and go hang out hook up and grab lunch or coffee or something.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tomorrow, I begin Anew

The school where I teach is on the type of block schedule where one quarter (we call it a "term") is equivalent to a semester on a traditional schedule. This means that tomorrow, I will get all new students and will teach Spanish 1 and 2 instead of 3 and 4 as I did in the fall. I am busily preparing my day, including revising my parent letter/policy sheet that I give out at the beginning of each class. I am struck by the things that bug me. Every teacher has things that bug them and others that roll off their backs.
Here are some things (student behaviors)that aren't huge and I'm not proud that they do, but that bug me anyway:

1. Yawning really loudly during instruction. Very rude.

2. Students who incessantly taptaptaptaptaptaptap on their desks.

3. Students who put their notebook, workbook, reams of paper inside their textbook, thus s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g the binding of our already-decrepit-books. Reminds me of that old folktale "The Mitten", where all the animals take shelter in this one, lone mitten.

4. Doing homework in a rush at the start of class, when it's due, instead of taking the time to do it at home, where they can process the material.

5. Tests or other work handed in done in anything other than black or blue pen or pencil.

6. Kids not putting their first AND last names on their papers.

7. Thinking they are getting away with texting in class. Here, I once again turn into this man.

8. Make up work in general. I want to forge ahead, and yet, I must constantly go backwards.

Here are some things that bother others, but I don't care so much about:

1. Scooting into class as the bell rings.

2. Students asking to use the restroom. Classes are 90 minutes long, the bathrooms only have 3 stalls, we have a big building - 7 minutes of passing time is sometimes just enough to push through crowded hallways. Sometimes, they gotta go.

3. Chatter. I've developed a tolerance for this during work time in class.

4. Not having proper headings.

5. The pencil sharpener. (Really. I know someone who had theirs removed from the classroom altogether and requires the students to bring their own little twisty sharpeners.)

What teacher things bug you the most?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ahhhh! That's more like it!

As promised, here are the "Aftas" of our bathroom ordeal. If you care to see what it used to look like, click here. The "durings", as posted last week, are here.

This is the view from the hall. Notice there is an actual color on the wall and the "vanity, toilet, vanity" configuration has been remedied.

We got rid of the medicine cabinet and thus lost some storage space. No problem, a trip to IKEA will fix that in a jiffy. Do you see the lovely hook next to the tub? And the ceramic tile? Such an improvement over the painted over paneling that was there before.

This is the view from the tub. You can see our double vanity and our black and white hexagonal tile. You can kind of make out my glittery "lava lamp" night light- groovy.

An electrician helped rid us of those awful, rusty sconces that weren't even in one piece anymore. There were 4 total, 2 flanked equally ugly mirrors above the vanities. We replaced them with this:

There you have it. It was very much worth bathing in hell the basement for several months.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Saturday Soapbox

I've mentioned before that I'm a Brownie leader. In fact, this is the 5th year that I've been involved with Girl Scouts in any kind of a leadership capacity. I am all for organizations that promote "girl power". I like that GSA wants girls to be independent thinkers, socially conscious responsible citizens.
Are you sensing a big but here? Not a big butt, but a but? Because it's here, my friends. It's here.
It's about the cookies. The cookies themselves are tasty and practically sell themselves, and, unlike Boyscout popcorn, they are relatively inexpensive. A person can get by with spending only $3.50. It's the sale of the cookies that I have a problem with. There is this HUGE emphasis placed on the selling of the cookies and I just don't feel right about having the girls get out there and pimp product for an organization. I've even heard other leaders talk about the girls not meeting their quota. Wha....? I know that fundraising is inherent to participating in a not-for-profit organization, but I am bothered by it anyway.
At the end of the school year, my co-leader and I will pass the torch to whoever wants it, and I fear that no one does. I am incredibly burnt out on the leadership and organizational aspects of being the actual leader. I'll come to any and all meetings and will help out in whatever capacity, but I don't want the burden of being the one in charge any longer.
That being said, have you ordered your obligatory box of Thin Mints this year? Only one more week and the sale is officially over....

Friday, January 18, 2008

In my Inbox:

I got this in a "group email". Lots of them are of the "forward this to 6 people and your dreams will come true" or "I found hypodermic needles in the ball pit" variety. But this one actually touched me, so I am going to share it with you.
This is for everyone who has a child with special needs, or teaches one of those children or knows one of them. So, pretty much, this is for all of us:


Emily Perl Kingsley.

c1987 by Emily Perl Kingsley. All rights reserved

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Thirteen Signs That You Might Be My Asshole Co-Worker:

1. I catch you at the copier/printer reading what I printed despite that it has a "privacy" cover over it with my name clearly printed at the top.

2. You bad-mouth several other teachers, proclaiming that they are not up to par. You also spend an inordinate amount of time telling your students how "unprepared" they are, insinuating that the rest of us have done a shit job of teaching.

3. Your A term class of 26 is whittled down to 11 for B term. Not just once, but every. single. year.

4. You look remarkably like this man.

5. You swiped a co worker's quiz that contained an error that could have just been a typo and took it with you to a state conference to show everyone what you have to deal with.

6. You threw a hissy fit several years running because you didn't get to teach the classes you wanted. You only wanted to focus on the "upper levels".

7. You take every opportunity to toot your own horn.

8. You hid 50 textbooks in your classroom, claiming that you didn't know where they were when another colleague needed them, then played dumb about it.

9. You don't attend department meetings, then ask everyone in the department what's going on.

10. When you do attend inservices or other meetings we are all required to attend and you don't want to be there, you pretend that have diarrhea, announcing it to anyone who accidentally makes eye contact with you.

11. You have pissed off enough parents that they refuse to have their children subjected to your insanely rigid classroom expectations.

12. You are slowly killing our program because kids really don't want to have you for a teacher, opting to stop at Spanish 1 or 2.

13. You are only capable of or you very arrogantly choose to teach to the top 5% of students, leaving everyone else in the dust.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Political Compass

Your political compass
Economic Left/Right: -4.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.54

This is where I landed after answering a series of questions over here. For those who know me, anyone surprised?
Try it!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Teacher Talk Tuesday

So, we will be a High School That Works next year. It was just announced last week. We could go to Nashville this summer if we want to learn more about it at the national conference. We've been assured that all of our PLC work will not be for naught, that it will just be repackaged under a different name.
The thing that I hate about all of this is that we have shelves full of binders that contain reams of handouts outlining all kinds of cure-alls for what ails our schools. What ails our schools is societal. We can't fix it all. I hate that we are going to some "canned" program that won't necessarily be administered the way in which it was intended. This year we've had a lot of changes that have sucked time away from us. We've been forced to use a different grading program that allows parents access to their kids' grades, which is fine, but the program is horrible. We've been given a 30 minute duty (mostly hall monitoring) during our prep, which isn't so horrible because we are on block scheduling, so our prep is 90 minutes. We can correct papers during that time, but gathering up our gear to get there is a pain. We've got new office staff- in the main office and guidance. The women they replaced retired, and let me tell you, they don't make secretaries like they used to. Those women were amazing- I can't help but wonder if they would have been born at a different time, would they have gone to college, worked in a different field- one other than being a secretary for the public schools and earning $12/hour? We also have a new Athletic Director, Activities Director, both are "Assistant Principals" and earn an admistrator's salary. One is all of about 28 years old. We also have a new Associate Principal. I never knew there was a difference between "assistant" and "associate", but at my school, I guess there is.
Other changes- they want us to work toward having common assessments and basically being on the same page on the same day. We have "literacy initiatives" that are pretty much what we all do any way, but we have to write up little forms that prove we are doing them. Luckily we have a principal who knows this is bullshit, so he lets us jump through the hoop without much intervention from him. Oh, and they are doing a major construction project as well.
Is it June yet?


Monday, January 14, 2008

Blog like a wannabe Rockstar

Suria-"Get Forgiven, Then Permission"

I got this meme from Professor J. You know how if you take the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on it generates your stripper name? Well, this is kind of like that. Only different. Here, you get to design the cover of your imaginary band's album.

To design the cover of your band's album, use these links:

1. The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover. You then take the pic and add your band name and the album title to it, then post your pic.

I sort of paraphrased the quote and since the first band name would have been "Anthony Dickerson", I did a do-over of step 1. "Suria" is a much better band name.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Baño Update- Sunday Snapshot

I posted a bit about this last year. I never did post rubble or "after pics"- it became embarrassing how long it took.

If you clicked on the link, which I ALWAYS do, as I'm a compulsive clicker, you saw:

1. The fugly taupe colored walls that were actually painted-over paper.
2. The equally fugly sconces that were missing a few teeth.
3. The messed-up logic that would prompt a person to place a large vanity on either side of the toilet.
4. A rusty "heater" instead of the usual exhaust fan over the tub.

You probably did not see the ugly vinyl floor, the hideous medicine cabinets that they PAINTED AROUND, the ugly vinyl "tub surround".

Every morning, I'd take a shower and mentally remodel the bathroom. I'd lament the fact that it would take way, way more than a couple of coats of paint and new towels and that it would cost lotsa money. (Because "lotsa" is a very sophisticated financial term.) We happened to come into some estate money and decided to use some of it to redo the bathroom. We got names of plumbers, tile guys, electricians. Some of the work, Mr. T was able to do himself- like the demolition. He was also able to install a new window and fix the holes in the walls with his weight in joint compound. And he painted.

At the end of February, complete and total demolition. I mean to the point that when I opened the bathroom door and looked at our exposed pipes and 90 year old insulation falling out of the gaping hole in the wall, I almost hyper-ventilated.

Here 'tis in the beginning stages: (yes it's a movie, not because I wanted a movie, but because I sometimes overestimate my ability to use my own digital camera.)

And here's some more destruction:

A close-up of the drain and pipes for the new toilet, which was re-located:

We had to bathe in the basement shower, which is gross, since we don't have a finished basement in our home that was built in 1914. We said goodbye to the old bathroom in early March. Buy May we were able to bathe upstairs once again. We had a wonderful plumber who is not afraid of the challenge of working on an old house and has respect for the workmanship and is resigned to meeting a few "surprises" once the floor gets ripped up and everything's exposed. We had a great tile guy- moonlighting from his job with Big Corporate Carpet People. He tiled all around the tub and then also the floor, which we did in small, hexagonal black and white tile. Stay tuned for the "after" pics next Sunday Snapshot.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday Schmaltz Fest

We all need a bit of schmaltz. Here's a dose:

1. The music that I'm really into right now is a band called The Weepies. Give them a listen over here at their web site. Give their "how we met" spiel a read, also. It's so sappily romantic and sweet.

2. We went to see "Juno". LOVED it. I've recently read some editorials picking apart all of these pregnancy-themed movies (Juno, Bella, Waitress..). I thought it was a funny, sweet, intelligent movie. And my husband, who is the most wonderful, kind, sexy man alive, reached over to hold my hand at a very poignant part of the movie. I am so lucky.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Friday Forum

One of my students graciously gifted me with some movie passes at Christmas.
What to see? Any recommendations for a movie I can safely see with Mr. T? As in: NOT a chick flick? He's not completely into the action/adventure movies- he'll do a foreign film. Anything we should stay far, far away from?

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Thirteen Books I've Not Read, But Are Stacked Next to My Bed:


I have read the first 2 "Big Stone Gap" books and quite liked them. This particular book intrigues me because it takes place in Roseto, Pennsylvania. This is a real place- just adjacent to Bangor, where my father grew up.


The only thing I know about this book is that it appears to have J.K. Rowling's seal of approval on the front cover and that it's about a young British girl. The back cover reports that "it tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not-so-genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English castle. Here she strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. Her journals candidly chronicle the great changes that take place within the castle's walls, and her own first descent into love. By the time she pens her final entry, she has "captured the castle" - and the heart of the reader- in one of literature's most enchanting entertainments." Doesn't it sound delightful?


I read "Good in Bed" and liked it in spite of the snobby little angel on my shoulder who poo-pooed this book as schlocky Chick Lit. I'll knock her little winged ass into next Sunday next time.

Years ago I read "Snow Falling on Cedars", but regrettably remember very little about it. This is about a teenage girl who claims to see the Virgin Mary and the community's reaction to her claim.


I bought this one for a song after its being recommended to me. It sounds good, but a bit like "Fried Green Tomatoes". Those of you who've read it, am I right?


I TRIED to read this book a while ago and just couldn't do it. It was a selection for the All Iowa Reads movement one year. From what I gather, it is appreciated more by older people. I like its premise, which is a letter from an elderly father to his young son. But I found it to be wordy to the point of tedium.


You've heard of books being dog-earred? Well this book is cat-earred. Or toothed. Mushy wants us to get up at the ass crack of dawn and has learned that chibbling our books and photos and magazines will often cause us to spring out of bed. I, however, refuse to cave to such negative behavior and kick him out of the room until we are good and ready to get up. The book itself? I want to read it-esp. after "Snowflower and the Secret Fan"


I read "Ellen Foster" and absolutely loved it. I picked this up at the Goodwill for a whopping 88 cents. Looks good, although it seems as though the movie was panned. Anyone see it?


Passed on to me by dear friends of similar mindset. I love Craig Ferguson and his Scottish accent is yummy.


I know I read this in middle school, along with "The Member of the Wedding"- who could forget that "we of me" speech? It was on t.v. - broadcast as a stage play. It had some tomboy actress with a large jaw- she was really good. This book was another Goodwill bargain. I don't care if it has Oprah's stamp on the front. I know it's a good book regardless.


I read "Yo!" and "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" and have seen the movie "In the Time of Butterflies". Curious to see how this one is.


Recommended to me by a book club friend. I'd never heard of Kate Atkinson before.


Currently reading for my book club. I'm having trouble getting into it- too many names, it's not hooking me right away.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


We will be hosting our first slumber party in honor of my Claire's 10th birthday in a couple of weeks. I have limited it to 6 girls, Claire included. They will make their own pizzas for starters and I'm thinking of a craft for them to do. Anyone have any ideas? How about advice for the slumber party hostess mom, other than a nice bottle of syrah to get me through the evening?

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Teacher Talk Tuesday

I've got to pace myself, so I am going to try to stick to my NaBloPoMo schedule on a few days of the week, Tuesday being one of them. So, welcome to the first edition of Teacher Talk Tuesday, 2008.

My district has 3 fairly large high schools (1200, 1600 and 2100 students). Even though many of you probably think of Iowa as being rural, which it is, I live in an urban area. Our minority population is about 35%, with African Americans being the largest minority, Latinos the second and Asians the smallest, although we do have a significant Vietnamese population. The percentage of students who receive either free or reduced lunch is about 40%.

2 of our schools do "High Schools that Work", which from what I've heard is really "Teachers Who do a LOT of Busy Work". I haven't heard much positive about it, surprise surprise since it seems to be typical "someone went to a workshop and bought into someone else's canned cure-all for all that ails the public schools".

Our school does PLCs (which I am very fond of calling Placs, because it irks those who are gung-ho and because it has the tooth guck connotation). They are really called Professional Learning Communities. We have hitched our wagon to this and have as our model a very large, very affluent suburban Chicago school. Each of us is to sign up for a PLC and meet periodically. Each PLC focuses on a different aspect of our school. Mine is 9th Grade Transition. Others are Standardized Tests, Privileges, School Climate, Differentiated Instruction... The idea is to create small, cohesive "communities" within the larger school population. We are doing something different from the other 2 schools, I guess, because we feel the PLCs are better than High Schools that work. I don't know enough about either of them to have a strong opinion either way.

For the record, I'm not opposed to change, nor am I opposed to the PLC ideal. What I don't like is having one packaged bunch of Edu-jargon being shoved down my throat and being brainwashed to believe that if I don't completely buy into it, I'm not a good teacher. I'm more from the buffet school of thought- take a little of this, a little of that, none of that, to create something that works for me and for the students I teach.

So, what do you all think? Anyone using High Schools (or Middle Schools) That Work? PLCs? Do they work? Talk to me.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Driving around in a funk. Literally.

Before anyone gets their undies in a wad about the title of this post, hear me out. To be sure, I abhor the misuse of "literally" (a la Hillary Clinton saying that people were "literally freezing to death" while waiting to enter their caucus sites.) But read on, and you will see that it is indeed a good use of "literally".
Let me explain:
We've had our usual January thaw here- 50 degrees today, complete with tornado watch. Last week, the high was like 3 degrees. Crazy.
Yes, I enjoy the warmer temps, although the leaves that we were not able to rake before the snow fell are now exposed. Oh, the shame! Also? my van has had wet boots and feet in it for the past month. It's been cold, the mats, etc. haven't really dried out, giving off the wonderful smell of ass sour washcloth. Yum. I am living that Seinfeld episode where Jerry leaves his car with the valet and when he comes back to get it, it has an unidentifiable funk. That's my car.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sunday Snapshots #1 in '08

Just barely a week before the caucus, we attended a John Edwards event. My husband is the Edwards supporter, I am for Obama. Both of us are more than ok with the other candidate. Here are some photos:

Here's John:

Daughter Kate:

Lovely wife Elizabeth, who stepped over 2 rows of chairs just to shake my girls' hands:

Me, Claire and Lydia posing in front of the bus:

And in case you care, here are a couple of photos of our caucus:


Saturday, January 05, 2008

Mr. T's Understudy (not THE Mr. T. MY Mr. T)

I was sitting at my appointed hall duty spot during my prep the other day when I saw one of the girls that went to Spain with me last summer. She was with 2 other friends. They all stopped to chat. I asked the obligatory "Where are you supposed to be?" since it was between classes. They said they were supposed to be in Lifeguarding, but no one brought their stuff, so their teacher said they didn't have to swim that day. Whatever. Just let your students roam the hall. That's fine.
Anyway, one of the girls says to me "My dad thinks you're cute. He saw your picture in my yearbook and now he wants to go out with you."

Well, I guess it's true. You ARE the age you teach.

Friday, January 04, 2008

A Letter to a Young Spanish Student

Dear Esteemed Students of Mine:

It is with great irritation that I write the following to you. It could be construed by some as a "laundry list" of bullshit that I am fed up with. I, on the other hand, prefer to think of it as a rant.

1. Accent marks? are not optional. You see them. They tell you where stress syllables fall. I have told you all time and time again that they are necessary. You lose points for not having them or having them incorrectly placed. For the love of God, get it right!

2. Please stop texting during my class. You're like ocd with it- it's become a compulsion that you need to overcome. Are you saying anything of importance? Like, "OMG i just got that kidney ive been waiting 4". Uh, no. Plus, you're not getting away with anything. I see your hand in your hoodie. I see the damn phone on your chair next to your skinny leg.

3. "tener divertido" does NOT mean "to have fun". You've been given a perfectly sound, although stem-changing, verb, "divertirse". Use it.

4. Apostrophe "s" does not exist in Spanish. Quit using it.

5. "su" does mean "her", but only as a possessive adjective. It is not an object pronoun, as in "I like her." I don't care WHAT your dictionary says.

6. How about conjugating a damn verb every once in a while?

7. Putting "el" and adding "o" to the end of a word, as in "el barfo, el wrongo, el booko" is not funny. (except for the el barfo one, that does make me laugh.) Please stop doing it.

8. You are in Spanish 3 and 4. Stop looking at me like a deer in the headlights when I speak to you all in Spanish. In SPANISH. That's what we're learnin' here, people.

9. When I tell you to use 7 different verbs for a project, I don't mean use them 7 different ways. "Don't eat too much candy" and "Eat a balanced diet" both use the same verb, to eat.

10. Please stop putting your lack of planning and over-scheduled life on my plate. I should not have to adjust MY expectations because you have to work, attend practice, babysit, go to youth group, etc.

11. When did it become acceptable to come to school in your jammies and slippers on days other than Pajama Day?

Here ends the rant. Thank you all for listening. Now, straighten up and fly right!

Mrs. T

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The results are in!

It is amazing the number of people who have traveled from across the country to help out a particular candidate here in Iowa. Even Rory Gilmore came with the Obama people to write about the campaign. Oops, I forgot. She's not a real person. Good thing, because I think the storyline had her placed in Eldridge, Iowa, which is predominantly Republican farmers.
I got roped into helping check people in at the caucuses tonight. We had 296 people show up. 166 people were for Obama, 67 for Edwards and 63 for Hillary. Our county had 48% in support of Obama, a 10% lead over the state's results. It was really cool to see all these people in our precinct- parents of former and current students, co-workers, people we attend church with, people we've known our entire lives, neighbors, my high school French teacher. C-Span televised the caucus in Des Moines - at the high school my mom graduated from. I don't know if any of you watched it, but it's kind of cool to see how it all works- especially how the 2 parties have much different procedures. It's all very exciting and I am very proud to have participated. I was glad to see Obama win with 38%. I remember first hearing of him when he ran for the Senate- we were at a Father's Day parade in Geneseo, IL and people were passing out his flyers. I was like "Obama? Who is that? And what's with his name?" Then I saw him speak at the Democratic National Convention on tv. Then I saw him speak in person- and not even as a presidential candidate- he was stumping for a man running for Congress in Iowa- Bruce Braley. Then, I was hooked. I am amazed and disgusted that in the year 2008 there are still apprehensions about having a black man as president. What the hell? Who thinks like that?

And don't even get me started on the Huckabee and his not believing in Evolution issue. It's like this commercial, only instead of chocolate and peanut butter, use the words "church" and "government". Keep the government out of church and keep church out of the government :

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Iowa Caucuses- Not a Mountain Range in Russia

Today marks the last day of break, which is ok because then we only have a short week to contend with. It makes going back a tad easier. It is frigidly cold here, that is, if you call a high of 12 degrees Fahrenheit frigidly cold. Which I do. It's supposed to be a balmy 46 this weekend, melting much of our snow. I prefer the snow, as it cleans everything up.

You may have been hearing a bit about the Iowa caucuses which are tomorrow. Trust me, those of us living here have heard more. Can you believe the candidates are still out there, making appearances? I could have seen Obama this morning, Biden will be here tomorrow at 1:30. We got calls all day long- recorded messages, volunteers, surveys. Our mailboxes have been inundated with slick flyers for both Republican and Democratic candidates. Mr. T and I plan on attending- Mr. T is a Precinct captain for John Edwards, so his role in it is a bit more important than mine, which is to show up and profess my support for Obama. It's all quite interesting. You have to declare a party- you can do so at the caucus, and you can change your party as well. I guess the caucus sites used to be in people's basements. They are now mostly in schools. You are then assigned a room where your precinct is meeting. I'm not sure how the Republicans do it, because there's is a slightly different process than the Democrats. The Dems start out by counting the total number of people present. Then everyone declares the candidate they are supporting. There has to be 15% representation in order for a candidate to be considered viable. So, if someone is for Kucinich, who probably won't be viable in our precint, then there is the opportunity for others to try and sway that person over to a different candidate's side. Then there is more counting. Then reporting. Then everyone shivers back into their cold cars and goes home and watches the results on C-Span. At least that's what we'll do, anyway.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Happy New Year to you all!

I am going to copy my old blog-pal, Mr. Teacher and host a New Year's Day Open House. I invite any and all of you to leave your name or "name", whatever, in the comments, where you are from and a tidbit about yourself. Not a morsel, not a nugget, but a tidbit.

P.S. How do you like that for a lame post? I am going to ease myself into this daily posting bit.