Saturday, December 26, 2009

Post Christmas Bliss

It's been a lovely holiday, and today I'm enjoying a day of nothingness. It's been quiet and perfect. We finally got some snow. 4-5 inches of the fluffiest snow I've ever seen fell last night and today, so it is a white Boxing Day rather than a white Christmas, but I'm not complaining... at least it's white!

We had school Monday and Tuesday. I had the read-through of the middle school play on Monday after school so the kids could get their scripts and work on their lines over break. My homework will be blocking the show, among other things. Wednesday was filled with errands, groceries, and general preparation for the festivities.

I cooked and cleaned during the day on Christmas Eve, and I got to the cemetery. I leave 3 carnations at my Grandpa & Grandma Sutherlins' graves. When I was little, Mom, Matt, & I always left 3 carnations for Grandpa. Mom also left a lit cigarette before she quit smoking, so Grandpa could have a smoke for Christmas. I don't feel obligated to continue that tradition because when Mom finally quit, Grandpa had to quit too. In that tradition, I always take my mom a Diet Coke for Christmas. I know that's what she'd like more than anything. I end the route with leaving a box of chocolate covered cherries on my Grandpa & Grandma Nelson's grave. We grandkids always gave Grandpa boxes and boxes of those things. Whenever I see them in the stores at Christmastime, I always think of him.

I had to be ready a little earlier this year because I had to see the Christmas Eve parade. It's always been a tradition in my family, but it was especially important this year because Santa had a very cute British accent. It gives "kissing Santa Claus" a whole new meaning! ;)

The Methodist Church didn't have a late service this year, for the first time in my memory, so I had some choices to make. The Methodist Church is where I always went to church with Mom, Matt, & Grandma on Christmas Eve. We'd get out of church around midnight, and it was always a beautiful time. I still wanted to go, even though the feeling is much different at the early service. I sat with Jason, Suzanne, Emma, Jack, & Jason's mom & stepdad. I'm so glad I went. The church was packed, and it wasn't the same, but that's the place where I feel close to my mom and grandma on Christmas. I needed to be there. It was fun singing all the carols because Suzanne sings soprano, and I sing alto. Emma stood between us, and we made beautiful music together!

A little while after I got home, Matt & Omara arrived from Coralville. Andrew came over, and we had pickled ham, shrimp, chili, brownie sheet cake, and sparkling cider. We visited and had a nice Christmas Eve.

On Christmas morning, I got up and made a breakfast pizza to take to Dad's. It's a recipe from a friend at church (thanks, Jacque!), and it's absolutely delicious. My family loves it.

Breakfast Pizza
1 can crescent rolls
1/2 lb. sausage, cooked (bacon or ham can also be used... we like bacon the best)
1/4 c. frozen hashbrowns (shredded seem to be the best)
1 c. shredded cheddar cheese
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. milk

Press crescent rolls in the bottom of an ungreased 9x13" pan. Layer sausage, hashbrowns, & cheese over crust. Add milk to beaten eggs and pour over the top. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Trust me... you'll love it!

We gathered up all the presents and headed out to Dad's. It was a great Christmas, being together and just enjoying each other's company. Matt and Omara totally surprised me and got me a Wii! I was so excited. It was such a great present. I love it so much. I've had fun playing it today, and I can't wait to get Wii Fit to go along with it. Alice made a fantastic lunch... stuffed pork loin, pasta with meatballs, a big salad, and red velvet cake for dessert.

On Christmas night, I went over to Andrew's, and we exchanged presents. As usual, he finds the perfect gifts for me! Then, we watched To Kill a Mockingbird. I'd read Andrew the book recently, and he'd never seen the movie. Gregory Peck is the best!

All in all, it was a stellar Christmas. I hope you and your families had the same. We have so many blessings in our lives. Family and friends are at the very top of the list.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Back in the Spirit

I'm back in happy land today. Andrew and I went to Iowa City and saw Invictus (AWESOME) and did a little shopping. Tonight I ushered for Deborah Raymond's concert at the Sondheim Center (AWESOME). I'm in a much better frame of mind... back in the holiday spirit. Here's one of my favorites. Nobody sings it like Judy did. Nobody. Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Even if It's Not What I Would Have Chosen for Myself

Contentment is being able to come to terms with where you are and what's going on in your life, even if it's not what you would have chosen for yourself. Nancy Twigg

A friend of mine on Facebook had this as her status today. Contentment. I'm not there today. This time of year isn't always easy. I really miss my mom and my grandma. Some days it feels like I'm hanging by a thread, and this is one of them. I need to come to terms with where I am and what's going on in my life.

I found out two things tonight in reading the Fairfield Ledger. Two pretty sucky things.

1. The Methodist Church isn't having a late Christmas Eve service. Since my parents got divorced in 1979, I think I have missed this service once or twice in my life, both times when Grandma was sick and in the hospital. It just isn't Christmas to me without it. I know it sounds weird, but Mom and Grandma are there then. I feel them there. I feel my family around me. I need that so much for Christmas to be happy and not be a lonely pit of despair. I don't know what I'm going to do now. I could go to the early service, but honestly, it's a different feel. I don't know if I'll get to that place with 40 billion people there. I could also go to my own church, but it's not really Christmas to me. There's no music. There's no tradition. Christmas Eve is being with my mom. I never went to my dad's until Christmas Day. HER church is my Christmas Eve tradition. Sigh.

2. The school board has requested our first day of classes to be on August 18 of next year. That means my first day will probably be August 13. This is one freaking day after the State Fair starts. I won't get to go at all now, let alone hope for the good old days of Dad having the camper up there for the whole Fair. Tracy and I always go to the Fair. Sigh.

I just feel like my life isn't mine right now... like I'm watching it slip away... every dream and tradition and joy I've had for myself. Going, going, gone. I know it's the holidays. I always get emotional this time of year.

I have many blessings in my life, and I need to focus on those... even if it's not what I would have chosen for myself. Even if it's not what I would have chosen for myself. Even if it's not what I would have chosen for myself. Contentment. Coming to terms. Even if it's not what I would have chosen for myself.

OK. Pity Party over. Tomorrow is another day!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday Morning Smiles

This could possibly be the cutest thing I've ever seen. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Cannot Wait!

Last weekend, Andrew and I saw The Blind Side. It was sensational... a great movie. Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE the previews, and one of the previews that night was for a movie called Invictus. I was tearing up just watching the preview. It is going to be amazing. Morgan Freeman was meant to play Nelson Mandela. It looks so inspiring... I can't wait to see it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snow Days!

We're having our second snow day today. We probably could have at least started the day yesterday, but today is another story. The wind is crazy today, and even the main roads in Fairfield have some drifting. I can't imagine what it's like out in the country.

Last night when the snow was really coming down, Andrew and I walked around the square. It's just beautiful right now with all the lights and decorations covered in snow.

Yesterday, during Snow Day #1, Suzanne and I got the majority of our holiday baking and candy making done. We made peanut clusters, rolo treats (pretzels with a slightly melted rolo on top and m & m's pressed in), Whopper cookies (a new recipe... they were OK, but I probably won't make them again), spritz cookies, and about a million dipped pretzels. We like using the rod shaped pretzels. They look really nice and taste delicious. We felt like we accomplished a lot. Plus, since it wasn't too bad yet, the roads weren't treacherous out to Suzanne's house. Today, I don't know if I'd feel comfortable driving all the way out there.

I want to to work on Christmas cards today and get the rest of my decorations up. I also want to just snuggle in and watch some movies. I have a full weekend, so there definitely won't be much relaxing going on. I need to take advantage of these two days!

I'm especially grateful today for my nice warm house. I hope you all are staying warm and safe in this blizzard!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

My Ulcer, My Heart

Dear Fairfield Arts and Convention Center,

I have never been the same since you entered my life. I was greatly honored to serve on your board, even if it left me with an ulcer and the knowledge that I could never ever survive in the business world. I have been overwhelmed at your multitude of performances, especially Pasek & Paul's Edges, which touched me in a way that theatre hasn't touched me in years. I spent my first date with my dear Andrew at a piano concert within your space. I've joined my entire district faculty in staff development in your seats. I've passed out programs and seated hundreds of patrons in the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts. I have cheered my students' History Day projects in your meeting rooms. I have surveyed rocks and gems, been blessed by Mother Meara, examined quilts, and danced the night away within your walls. I have made lifetime friends under your roof. I've shared your stage with one of my stage idols, Liz Callaway. I've been overwhelmed by the love of performing in your spotlight.

I know it's a long, hard road. I know you battle hurt feelings, ignorance, debt, and growing pains. But I am very, very glad you're here.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Just One More Reason Why I Love my Harrison Ford...

Yep, it's another blog about how much I love my Kindle. So, my 6th graders recently finished their Moral Dilemma literature circle unit. One of the books they could choose was Al Capone Does my Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. Most of the kids chose it and really liked it (it has one of the greatest endings in young adult literature, in my opinion). Toward the end of the unit, one of my students told me they'd seen a sequel in a bookstore. I hadn't heard any buzz about a sequel, but when I looked online, sure enough, a sequel had just been released called Al Capone Shines my Shoes. I powered up my Kindle, and in the span of about 60 seconds, I owned the book, and had zapped it to my Kindle. Now, I'm reading it out loud to my classes, right from good old Harrison Ford.

On a slightly unrelated note, I'm reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood right now for my own reading on Harrison Ford. I've always wanted to read it. I remember seeing the previews of the movie, and it seemed haunting and intriguing, all in one. I never watched the movie, but I've always meant to. I'm finally reading it, and I cannot put it down. It's not really my type of book either, but I'm hooked. Plus, I keep imagining Natasha Richardson's beautiful face, since she played the main character in the movie. It makes the story even more tragic. When I get done, I'm totally Netflixing the movie too.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I have so much to be thankful for this year. I have a job I love, a home, a great family (all across the country!), a loving boyfriend, my health, and many opportunities to do things I love to do. Life is good! Let's all count our blessings today... :)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Extreme Makeover, Dog Edition

Poor, neglected dog. Check out this need for a haircut! Avery and I recently played frisbee, and I knew it was getting bad when he turned and the frisbee hit him in the face because he couldn't see it! Luckily, we got him in today, and he's a whole new dog. Also, for once, she didn't put the freaking bow on his ear! HELLO?!?!?! HE'S A BOY! Boy poodles already have gender identity issues, and yet the dog groomer insists on putting the bow on his head like a sissy! Since it was a Thanksgiving bow today, and it was on his collar, I decided to let it stay until after T-Day. Avery will be all spiffed up for Turkey Day at his Grandpa's (yep, I said his grandpa... I'm well aware how ridiculous it looks, but I'm going with it).



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fun Give Away!

There are some really fun things that bloggers give away... look at this one!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hanging On

My show opens one week from Friday. Eek! This week has been crazy, and today was the perfect example. I started this morning with a meeting from 8:00 to 9:45. I went right to my second meeting during 1st hour, then I taught for the rest of the day. I worked after school until 5:30 or so. I ran home to grab dinner, check the mail, and let the dog out. I was at church for handbell practice at 6:30 and choir at 7:30. After that, I went to rehearsal for my show from 8:30 until about 10:15. I went and saw Andrew for a few minutes, and now I'm home, doing one last e-mail check before I grade some papers. I seriously need more hours in the day. I have a pretty wretched sore throat, so I'm keeping an eye on that. I have a 30 minute window on Friday morning that I could work in a doctor's appointment, if needed. Also, I need SLEEP!

Off the subject, please keep my friend Jeff and his family in your prayers. His dad is in the hospital ICU, and it's been a very bad day. Please send him some positive energy. I know his mom and sister could use some too, and of course, his dad. I'm thinking of you, Jeff. Hang in there! :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gray, Cold, Wet

Gray, cold, wet, rainy, gloomy, ugh. That's the weather today. I had to drive to my meeting in Ottumwa in it. I had to drive back home in it. I have to miss the meteor shower tonight because of it. I want to ignore it and snuggle in until it leaves. Boo to you, rain and clouds! :(

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Weekly Update

Weird and wild week. Last weekend was a little depressing with the Hawkeyes' loss, but it was a beautiful day to be out at Kinnick Stadium. At least there's no pressure this Saturday against Ohio State. Andrew & I are having a few people over for the game. We've been planning it for quite awhile. It will be fun, even if it will be a tough one to win.

Monday was the only normal day at school. This is conference week, so we have early dismissals on Tuesday and Thursday, with our normal late start on Wednesday. No school on Friday. I've had rehearsals after conferences and after church choir this week for the new show I'm doing called "A Don't Hug Me Christmas Carol." It will be a cute show, but we only have 2 1/2 weeks to rehearse, so it will be crazy! I definitely need to watch Fargo and work on my Minnesota/Norwegian accent. We'll be performing Thanksgiving weekend and then again two weeks later. It's nice to think that, even though it will be a stressful few weeks, that it will all be over in a month!

I'm really looking forward to sleeping late tomorrow, but then I need to get on the stick and work on lines. It's going to be a busy weekend full of rehearsals, so I need to start getting a grasp on the lines I'll be PERFORMING in just 2 weeks and 1 day. EEK! I shouldn't have written that. Now I'm panicking.

This is totally unrelated, but I saw this clip on Facebook and on my cousin Anne's blog in honor of Veteran's Day. Only a heart of stone could not be moved by this reunion. I'd never thought about pets of soldiers before. Maybe you haven't either until now. Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nap Dreams

Today I napped while Andrew went into work. I sometimes have weird dreams when I sleep in the middle of the day, but this one was awesome. I dreamt that the door going into Andrew's formal living room (dubbed the Adult Room when his kids were little) led to a little theater. It was a great space with a rounded stage like at Spayde, but it was much smaller. It had a few rows of seats, no more than 25 or so. It was deep and had 4 doors around the back leading offstage... wish I would have checked those out in my dream! I was painting the stage a dark charcoal gray, but it wasn't level, and the paint wasn't covering like I wanted it to. I started picking away at one of the bumps, and the paint started peeling off. I realized it was going to be much easier to peel away the layers than to add another one on top. As I peeled away big sections of paint, I could tell by what was underneath what shows had been done. There were even (for some weird, odd, dreamy reason) actual production posters in each layer. I remember thinking, "Cool! My Fair Lady!" as I ripped away this poster and a layer of Pepto pink paint. Underneath it all was a beautifully worn wooden floor, rubbed smooth by thousands of feet in thousands of previous shows. I remember thinking that I couldn't wait to have a party there or to make the theater a cool new room of Andrew's house. Wouldn't that be awesome... to have your house attached to a small, old little theater? I love dreams.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall, 2009 pictures

Gay, Heather, Duane, Jeff, Tom, Andrew, & me... Cheesecake Factory, the night before we saw Wicked

Andrew's first Hawkeye game

the gorgeous tree across the street from my house

The same gorgeous tree 3 days later... I hope they never rake... the ground is as pretty as the tree was!

the surprise I had waiting outside Andrew's door when he got home from New Jersey on Sunday night

Monday, October 26, 2009

What's Bugging Andy?

My favorite part of Sunday night is WHO's Soundoff on Channel 13. This was such a great weekend to be a football fan in the state of Iowa. Soundoff was full of football love last night. The highlight for me was "What's Bugging Andy?" Oh man, I was DYING watching it. This is the first Soundoff Andrew has ever seen, and I think he's hooked. Take a look... (Frank, you're going to LOVE this!)

I honestly think I'm as happy about the Cyclone win as the Hawkeye win. If you didn't see the ISU coach's locker room talk to his players, you have to watch it. I tear up every time I see it. This speech alone is enough to make me start rooting for the Clones... until they play my Hawkeyes, of course! ;) Skip right to 1:05 for the good stuff.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

8 & 0!!!!!!

I seriously almost threw up during the Hawkeye game last night. The feeling was so similar to when we saw "The Catch" at the Capital One Bowl a few years ago. Last night, it was Marvin McNutt who saved the game for us. The Hawkeyes have an 8 & 0 record for the first time in school history. It was beeeeeeeeeautiful! Go right to 7:43 if you just want to see the last amazing play. GO HAWKS!!!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Go State!

Yes, you heard it correctly. I'm cheering for Iowa State. This weekend, they're up against my most loathed team in college football... the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Come on, Cyclones... pound those Huskers into the mud!!!!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Weekly Update

I'm slowly making it back to the land of the living. I'm no longer feeling the effects of H1N1, but it's left behind a secondary bronchitis infection as a little souvenir. At least that can be treated with antibiotic, so I'm not complaining. Too much.

It's been a crazy busy week, trying to get caught up from missing four days of school last week. The end of the quarter is next week, and parent/teacher conferences will be the week after that.

Andrew is becoming a true Hawkeye fan. I think I've created a monster! A good monster though... it's so fun to be able to watch football together. I didn't really think my Brit would get into the game so much!

This Saturday is All-State audition day. I'm helping out with auditions. It takes a lot of volunteers to make the day go smoothly. It's a little warped, but I LOVE helping. It just takes me back to my high school days and how hard I worked getting ready for All-State. So many memories of both trauma and triumph for this little drama queen.

All my GOAL classes are finishing up with their literature circles and are either presenting or working on literature circle projects. Some of them are really outstanding. I love it when the kids take an assignment and go above and beyond what I expected. From there, the 6th graders will be starting Mock Trial, the 7th graders will be dissecting owl pellets, and the 8th graders will be reading the play Anne Frank out loud in class. My language arts kids are ready to move on to the "Voice" trait of writing. They'll be writing stories from the point of view of an inanimate object. I love this assignment. They write their story in the form of a letter to middle school students about correct use. So, I always get some pretty creative letters from lockers, desks, backpacks, volleyballs, and a few objects that I never would have predicted. Very entertaining!

I'm going to turn in early tonight. My body is craving those 12 hour nights of sleep that it had last week. That's probably part of the bronchitis issue. For that reason, I'm going to pass on the traditional Fairfield Friday night at the Trojan football game. My lungs will thank me, I'm sure.

Even though it's not quite Friday, I'm already thinking TGIF!!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

My Marvel Episode

My episode is finally available on iTunes! I got to be the voice of Ms. Marvel in Episode 5 of Marvel's new online Spider-Woman comic. You can hear one of my lines in this clip. You can also go to iTunes and watch all the episodes. You'll hear several different Fairfield voices, including my Andrew's Lieutenant Wang in Episode 3. We had a BALL making this, and I have to say, I love being a comic book character... they're HOT! ;) Hope you can watch and check them all out!

H1N1 Diary

So, what have you all been doing for the last few days? Whatever it is, I bet it's more enjoyable than my last few days have been.

Wednesday - Friday, October 7-9
After the ITAG conference, it was business as usual at school. I had a sore throat, but nothing unusual, especially for the first week with the furnace on at home. A sore throat is nothing I get worked up about. We had amazing amounts of kids gone from school though. On Thursday, I think we had 93 gone, and on Friday, we had 118 gone. I was hand-sanitizing every two seconds and trying to be very careful. A lot of good that did me...

Saturday, October 10
Convinced I just had a little cold, I was not going to let it stand in the way of me and the Michigan game. Heather and I had a great day tailgating with the Hawkeye Mornin' Crew. I was bundled up like crazy, and I stayed pretty warm. I had a little cough and my sore throat, but things were fine until about halfway through the first quarter of the game. I started getting achy all through my back and arms. It was so crowded in the stands, I thought I was going to lose it a couple of times. I don't have claustrophobia, but I definitely got a taste of it Saturday night. I had to sit a few times when everyone was standing, but it was a great game, and I was so glad to see it.

Sunday, October 11
I went to church. My cough was now bone-rattling. I tried to be careful about coughing into a kleenex at all times, but I felt pretty crappy by this point. I took my temperature quite compulsively throughout the day, and I was not running a fever at all. OK. It's a cold. A bad cold. By afternoon, I decided to stay home and rest, so I called for a sub for Monday. I worked 2 1/2 hours on my lesson plans and getting everything ready so it would go smoothly without me on Monday. Andrew came over and, with the help of my neighbor Dave, got the low branches trimmed off my trees to go for curbside brush pickup this week. I tried to nap, but I was just coughing too hard, so I was glad I'd called for a sub. I knew I wouldn't be very rested on Monday. Nyquil and I finally got to sleep around midnight.

Monday, October 12
I woke up to a fever of about 100. I called the doctor's office to see if I needed to come in. They made me an appointment for 11:15. I felt like I'd been hit by a truck by this point. When I went in, my fever was still almost 100, even after ibuprofin. I tested positive for Influenza A. Since there are no seasonal strands of flu in southeast Iowa at this time, everyone who tests positive for Influenza A has H1N1. They told me to go straight home. I couldn't even go to the drugstore to pick up my prescription. Andrew picked it up for me. I drugged up and tried to rest. By 5:00, I had hit the low point. I started coughing up blood. Now, if that has never happened to you (it had definitely never happened to me), let me say that if you want to be freaked out beyond belief, start coughing up blood. I called Andrew and said I was going to the emergency room. He said he'd feel better if he drove me there. We went and put masks on and waited. I had a chest x-ray, and everything looked OK. They actually weren't too concerned. I was still freaking out. They just think things are so irritated... throat, nasal passages, etc... from coughing that I coughed up some blood. Hm. Well, OK. If you're not concerned that I'm hacking up blood, I guess I won't be either. Andrew brought me some supper, but I couldn't taste a darned thing. On a positive note, all the adrenaline actually cleared out my nasal passages for the first time in several days. I went home and went to bed. I slept for 12 hours straight.

Tuesday, October 13
Second day home. I ran a fever all day. I kept taking the Tamiflu ($86 copay, by the way) and drinking lots of fluids. The feeling by then was like being run over by a steamroller in a lava pit and then coughing uncontrollably all the while. Andrew brought me supper. Mulligatawny soup and naan were the first things I could taste, at least for a minute or two. I did mask up and sanitize up and go into school for an hour that night to keep my kids rolling at school. An hour of work. That's all. I seriously thought I'd pass out before I made it home. I am so weak! I slept another 12 hours in a row when I went to bed for the night.

Wednesday, October 14
Home again. At least my fever broke this morning. If I can keep fever-free for 24 hours with no advil, ibuprofin, etc., I can go back to school. I'm hoping to be back Friday. Andrew brought me lunch. He'd made chicken stew and homemade bread. I could taste everything, and it was WONDERFUL. It tasted like Heaven. I couldn't eat very much, but I was definitely hungry. I called and canceled choir for tonight. My voice still is a gravel pit, and I'm weaker than a newborn baby, but I'm determined to get back to school Friday. Now I just have to find someone to take volleyball tickets for me tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully someone will take pity on this poor sick soul. I need to go into school tonight after everyone has cleared out and grade a few papers so the sub will have them to hand back. Hopefully I won't need to stay as long as last night. I don't think I've ever missed more than two days because of illness before, let alone FOUR! The sad thing is that I can't even read or do anything useful. I can basically just sit in a catatonic state in front of the TV or the computer, if I can even sit up at all.

My words of advice... avoid H1N1!!! It's NOT a barrel of laughs!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Web Site Story

Oh, this made me giggle... enjoy!

Weekly Update

* The flu has hit the middle school with a vengeance. We had 90-some gone yesterday, and 110 out today. I think our total enrollment is around 400, so you can imagine how the halls look. It's so hard to teach when so many are gone. Makeup work to send home, late assignments to grade, lessons to adjust because you don't have enough people, the ever-widening gap between those who have been here and are caught up and those who have missed a week of school, mid-terms to figure over the weekend when I don't have assignments in that I wanted to grade... AAAAHHHHH! Let's just say that I'm glad it's Friday. ;)

* I had to turn the furnace on this week. It struggled at first, and my entertaining plumber friend, Steve, had to come over and smack it around a little. I need a few more years out of it. I can't be thinking about replacing a roof and a furnace all in the same year!

* I went to the ITAG (Iowa Talented & Gifted) state conference on Monday and Tuesday with my colleague, Ann. I heard many wonderful speakers, and I had a lot of nagging questions answered about state regulations and codes for gifted education. It's always a great conference, and Ann and I had a lot of time to powwow about upcoming tasks and challenges. Those challenges are going to be made even more challenging with the recent wonderful (ha) news from Governor Culver. He says he won't "raise taxes on hard-working Iowans," but these cuts could mean layoffs for hundreds of state employees. It makes me think this will be another year of pink slips in our district. Great.

* On a happier note, can you say cupcake shake at Burger King? It's not Cold Stone Creamery's Cake 'n Shake, but it's pretty darned good. I think a few of those will make dealing with life a lot easier in the next few months. ;)

* Andrew went to his first Iowa game last weekend. We had a ball, and I was really excited for him to meet my Hugunin family.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone... I know I will!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Honeycrisp Time

Here's another reason that fall is my favorite time of year... Honeycrisp apples! I enjoy apples, and I'm a usual fan of the Jonagold, Pink Lady, or occasional Braeburn. But, fall in the midwest means Honeycrisps. They're more expensive, and they're worth every single cent. Lately, I'm eating at least one a day. Crisp, juicy, both tart and sweet... they are total apple heaven!

Friday, October 2, 2009

That's What It's All About

I say it quite a lot. I love my job. I seriously do. Maybe not every little nitpicky detail every single hour of the day, but I love coming to school and being with my students. That said, there are some days that are considerably better than others... you know, those days where things just click? I had one of those days on Thursday.

My GOAL kids are expected to read every day for their independent reading contract. They have GOAL instead of a regular reading class, so I'm pretty rigid about this requirement. I don't want their reading scores to slip because they're in my class. Every three weeks, they complete a self-evaluation on how that contract is going. Toward the end of the evaluation, there's a question that reads, "Miss Nelson can help me improve my grade in GOAL by..." Now most of the time, these answers are varied and individual. I comment on them or talk to the students or make a mental note of the suggestion. Many times they're blank or say something like "N/A," or "nothing, thanks."

Looking over the self-evaluations for the first three weeks of school, I noticed a trend in the answers to that question. Many students wanted help finding good books to read. I usually write "see me during library day, and I'll help you out," but rarely do they remember or do it. Many of my students are voracious readers, and they go through a lot of books. I also have some students who are great readers, but they just don't like to read (yes, it happens to the smart kids too). I decided to do something about it.

Along with our super teacher librarian, Dee Ann, I decided to incorporate booktalks into our normal library time. I decided to booktalk 5 books per week, just to get the kids thinking of books and authors that they might not have considered. I was in the library that morning choosing some books, and I thought that I probably should keep some kind of record about which books I'd talked about so I didn't repeat any. I was making a spreadsheet in the library, when Dee Ann said that she could really see this information on a blog, accessible to all kids, not just GOAL kids. Good idea!

I started my day, and the thought of a wiki came into my mind more and more. My 7th and 8th graders have used wikis in the past, and I liked the idea of them being able to contribute to it. It would still be accessible to other kids, but only GOAL students would be able to edit.

Another brainstorm hit that it should be organized by book title, a big wiki list of book titles. Some of them would be put on by Dee Ann and myself. Others would be put on by the students. And, we all could edit and comment on each others' posts if we had read the same books!

I gave the first booktalks during 2nd hour. The kids loved it! Even if they weren't interested in reading every book for themselves, they really listened and loved hearing about new books and authors. Then, I opened it up to them. In every class throughout the day, students had books of their own to tell the class about. Plus, booktalks by peers always mean more at this age than booktalks by teachers!

Last night, I thought of the best part of all. Every year, as professional development, we have to create a unit using Backward Design. I think this would be a great unit for Dee Ann and I to develop together using this format. I love it when I can kill two birds with one stone!

This whole thing might not seem like a big deal, but it was just a great day for me. I love when I can take a problem and really make a change in my practice to make it better. That's what it's all about! :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blessings for Today

* Love that fall weather!

* The arrangement of "Great is Thy Faithfulness" that my church choir is singing... it's seriously beautiful.

* Lit Circles! I love this unit with my GOAL kids. 6th grade is doing Moral Dilemma, 7th grade is doing Culture Clash, and 8th grade is doing the Holocaust. I love hearing their discussions... one of the best parts of my job!

* WICKED! I finally got to see it this weekend in Des Moines. Freaking AWESOME! Plus, the weekend was just a ball. Andrew & I drove up on Saturday, had sushi, met friends (Jeff, Duane, Heather, Tom, & Gay) for dinner at Cheesecake Factory, stayed at the Savery, had banana pancakes for breakfast, and then saw Wicked. Can you get any better than that?

* Oh, yes you can get better than that... can you say GO HAWKS???? Beating Penn State? Are you kidding me? What a great game! Andrew's going to his first Hawkeye game on Saturday... I hope the Hugunin boys take it easy on him!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The President's Speech to Students

I'll never forget how my friend Jason was shocked that I was interested at all in hearing George W. Bush speak at the Iowa State Fair a few years ago. I didn't get the opportunity, but I think it would have been great. Even though I couldn't have disagreed more with the policies and philosophies of our last President, that doesn't change the respect I have for the office. I would take any chance to hear any President speak. I guess that's why the uproar over President Obama's speech to students today saddens me so much. It seems like some people only respect the office of President of the United States when the person they want is in that office. Parents are worried their children are going to be brainwashed by listening to the speech today. I'm worried about them being brainwashed too... if they're NOT allowed to listen to the speech. The idea of the President addressing the nation's students is not a new one. I read where Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush did the same things during their administrations. Since I can't remember a thing about these particular addresses, I don't feel I was brainwashed at all. ;)

The text of today's speech is public. Read it first if you're hesitant. And, if your kids didn't get to see the speech today at school, show it to them at home.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Goodbye, Old Friend

No more butterflies in the sky... Reading Rainbow is ending. Click here for a nice NPR article on the show's end.

I first started watching Reading Rainbow when I student taught for Mary Jo Salem-Lochner's 2nd grade class at Whittier Elementary in Sioux City, IA. She showed Reading Rainbow every week. I fell in love with the show. Like the NPR article says, it wasn't about HOW to read, it was about WHY to read. I continued Mary Jo's tradition, and I showed Reading Rainbow every week to my kindergarten classes at the Fort Worth Hebrew Day School in Fort Worth, TX. Even after I left the world of elementary school, I'd still pause whenever I surfed past the show on PBS. LeVar Burton was completely in his element. He was great on this show. I'll miss Reading Rainbow, and so will tons of other people, kids and adults alike. But you don't have to take my word for it. ;)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yep, I'm Procrastinating

OK. I'm at school, and I should be working on getting my classroom in order. Instead, I'm going to blog to cool myself down a little, metaphorically speaking. I spent about 6-7 hours on Friday hanging posters, meticulously rolling hundreds of loops of masking tape. It's not the most fun job, but it's fun to see the room come together. The first roll I used was from last year's supplies. I still had one left. I noticed it was pretty crappy. It kept sticking together, and sometimes it would stick in the center. So, instead of getting a 2 inch strip of tape, I'd have 2 thin, ripped 2 inch pieces of tape... not good for making tape rolls. I had a tape ball the size of my fist on the desk by the end of the roll. A big waste. Tape brand: School Smart (with the A in smart written in red like "A+"... annoying)

I opened a new roll from this year's school supplies. I had complained too soon. This roll definitely didn't stick to itself. In fact, it was nearly impossible to even make a tape ring because the tape absolutely would not stick to itself at all. Mysteriously, it would stick to the backs of my laminated posters, so I hoped for the best. Tape brand: School Smart, still with the annoying "A+." I'd give it a D at best. Evidently, they changed their formula when teachers griped about it being too sticky. Now it doesn't stick to much at all.

Now, I am not skimpy with my masking tape. I COVER the backs of the posters, because, well, I've learned the hard way. So, imagine my frustration when I come in today and HALF MY POSTERS ARE ON THE FREAKING FLOOR!!!!!!!!!!! Ugh. I whipped out my wad of blue ticky-tack stuff and put band-aid on the situation. But, there is no way I'm in any mood to retape every one of those posters. Not going to happen.

To further explain the feelings here, let me describe my weekend. Friday night was nice. Andrew and I had dinner at a local Fairfield establishment which will remain nameless (I do love this place, and I'm hoping the following was a one-time event). We had a very nice evening. My stomach was feeling a little weird, so I took a couple of Tums before I went to bed. *** graphic description alert... if you have a weak stomach, skip ahead *** At about 1:00 in the morning, I woke up to massive, gut-wrenching, gripping, burning stomach pain. No doubt about it, I was going to hurl. I made it to the bathroom and threw up about 5 times. Every single thing I'd eaten at supper came up and out. I puked so hard I had tears and snot streaming, and I (totally embarrassing) even wet my pants. I'm not ashamed to say it. That's how hard I retched. I prayed for death as I rested my head against the cool porcelain of the toilet bowl. I finally managed to stop throwing up and brushed my teeth and got a drink of water. I slept fitfully. When I woke up in the morning, I ached so badly, I felt like I'd been run over by a steamroller. It hurt to sit, to breathe, to think. I had to cancel my pedicure with Suzanne, which seriously ticked me off. I lay in bed pretty much all day and couldn't eat a thing except a little lime jello water at noon. By Saturday night, I did manage to keep down a little supper at Gay's, but I was not much for company. I slept on the couch after supper while Gay, Tom, Heather, Alicia, Kevin, & Andrew played cards. I should have been working in my classroom Saturday, but that's hard to do when you need to be horizontal.

Today, I feel like a new person. Much better. Andrew made me pancakes this morning, and they tasted delicious. Now I'm at school, trying to get a lot done. Let's just say that I didn't need the whole tape/poster fiasco on top of my pukester weekend.

On a good note, in my achy horizontalness, I did finish Julie & Julia, and it was a seriously entertaining read. I love Love LOVED it. Julie Powell writes in a voice very similar to my own. I loved it in an entirely different way than I loved the movie. They are two completely different pieces. You have to love them on their own, and you can't compare them.

Now, I'm listening to Spring Awakening (very good soundtrack when you're feeling rebellious and cranky about crappy masking tape and a bout with food poisoning), and I'm going to attack this classroom with a vengeance. Charge!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Land of the Midnight Sun

I'm finally posting about my Alaska trip! It's not every detail, but the pics below show some of the wonderful highlights.

I started writing every detail of the trip, and honestly, it made me sad. It made me miss all of my Alaska cousins! So, here's the shortened version. Pics and memories of a fantastic Alaska adventure...

Sleeping Lady on the night I arrived in Alaska

Lauren, Jonas, Ahnna, Kathy, & friend

Sherri and the big birthday boy, Jonas

Out for coffee... Ahnna & Jonas

Shopping in downtown Anchorage... I was worried this might be the only moose I'd see!

With Kathy, shopping in downtown Anchorage...

Jon & me before my first ride in a float plane...

The view of the Spit from Jon's plane... the tide was out, and everything was bright & glittery.

Flying over Eagle Glacier

A little closer to Eagle Glacier...

I love this picture. We got down pretty close to the glacier. These chasms are huge, even though they look small. A person would seriously be a dot on them!

Uncle Bob & Aunt Darlene

Lovely dinner with the fam... (starting left & going clockwise around the table) Heath, William, Jon, Kathy, Aunt Darlene, Uncle Bob, Sherri

Me with Captain Cook

While William was at Civil Air Patrol, I drank in the scenery...

I think I could have stood and looked at this view for hours!

On the way to Seward... driving the route I had flown with Jon just days before. It was hazy like this all throughout the trip, but it gave the scenery this mystical, magical feeling. Gorgeous!

On the way to Seward... the water in the rivers & streams is this beautiful bright greenish blue from the glaciers. The picture hardly captures the color. It's beautiful!

On the way to Seward...

The drive to Seward...

The view from the Marine Life Center in Seward. Breathtaking... I could have stood there all day!

Sea Otters playing in the water

Exit Glacier

Kathy & Tena at Exit Glacier

Exit Glacier & Me

This sums it up. My whole trip was pure joy. I could hardly contain it in my body!

Jumping for JOY at Exit Glacier

Having fun hiking back from Exit Glacier. Ahnna & Tiny Tena!

Kathy & Tiny Ahnna!

Hiking back from Exit Glacier

Hiking back from Exit Glacier

Driving back from Exit Glacier

The drive back from Seward was stunning. This must have been about 11:30 or so at night. Everything was shades of blue gray with a peachy horizon. I took this by sticking my arm out the window as we were speeding along... that's the antenna of the truck in the middle.

After seeing two sets of moose mamas & babies, I was satisfied... then, along comes a big bull, just walking along the side of the road!

I couldn't believe my eyes... it was coming right toward us!

Close enough to touch as it walked by the vehicle!

Sunset in Anchorage. This must have been about midnight or so... the sun dips under for a few hours, but it never gets totally dark.

Ahnna & I coming in from an awesome canoe adventure. The loons swam so close to us... one even swam right under the front of the canoe. It was so amazing... it took my breath away!

Tena, Kathy, Ahnna, & William after canoeing at Otter Lake

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