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! :)
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