Saturday, December 31, 2011

Goodbye, 2011

It's been a great Christmas break so far. I enjoyed the actual holiday with my family. Andrew and I celebrated that night. I spent all day Thursday with Tracy in Des Moines. I got to see my Hawkeyes play in a bowl game, and even though they lost, it was fun to see our team play one more time. I've done some schoolwork, and I've worked on getting play practice ready to start with the kids this week.

But the best part of the break happened on Christmas Eve. I played Mrs. Claus to Andrew's Santa in the annual Fairfield Christmas Eve parade. My friend Gay made me the PERFECT outfit. I loved it so much, I tried to think of a way I could get by wearing it to 11:00 church after the festivities were over. :) I have watched this parade most every year of my life, and I never dreamed I'd be a part of it. We had a ball. It ended with meeting a huge line of kids on the square and watching the Christmas magic happen for them.

For me, however, the winning moment was after the parade was all over. Andrew & I were escorted to the long-term care facility and to the hospital. It wasn't super comfortable for me, but I can always play a character. And every second of me pushing through the awkwardness was worth it, because we made these people's nights. It was about 8:00 on Christmas Eve, and the facilities were quiet. Really no visitors at that time of night. Just a lot of lonely people without their families on Christmas Eve. To see their smiles when they met us... well, I'm tearing up just thinking about it. I know my mom was smiling down on me as I greeted those lovely people and brought them a little cheer on the night before Christmas. THAT was my Christmas moment, and it brought me more love and joy than I ever could have imagined.

We just watched the ball drop in New York. 2012 is less than a 1/2 hour away. I'm reminded of all the blessings that have happened this year. I'm full of hope and optimism about the year to come. I'm filled with love. Happy New Year, everyone. May all the best find you.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Secret Santa

We've only had two days, but I'm loving my Secret Santa already. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got the naughty Cornhusker (ICK) things in my mailbox Thursday morning. But by Thursday afternoon when the Hawkeye stuff made it to my box, I knew this Secret Santa is a keeper. Can't wait to see what this week will bring!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Finally... SNOW!!! It's barely enough to cover the ground, but it was so beautiful walking in it this morning. Totally worth the wait! :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Gratitude #30

November 30: Finally, to wrap things up, I'm grateful for blogging. It keeps me writing, and that's important for my "practice what I preach" philosophy of teaching. I love being in this network of bloggers, and I'm thankful for the amazing technology that is part of my life.

I'm also grateful for being grateful. ;) This month of gratitude has been very good for me. It has helped me focus on the positive in my life!

The Continuing of the End

The continuing saga of The Beginning of the End, Part II...

The beads have begun to fall... :(

Cool Crochet Tool

Just read about the Sharp Crochet Hook on Maybe Matilda's blog... check it out here. I've always wondered how people get cute crocheted edges on regular fabrics. I'm going to have to try this! Maybe I'll be able to, because Maybe Matilda is having a giveaway of one of those babies. I hope I win!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

November Gratitude #29

November 29: I had a blue day today. And before I wrote this, I had a pity party thinking about how NOT thankful I am today. Pity Party, table for 1, please. But I thought about it. I know I shouldn't HAVE to think so hard about it, but I guess it's just one of those days. When I thought about it, I came up with 2 things:

1. My students. About 10 of them came in after school tonight to brainstorm ideas for starting a middle school book club. They were FIRED up. About books. It made me fired up. There's nothing as contagious as that. We teachers feed off of it.

2. My Tracy. Today, when I was upset, I private messaged her on Facebook. All she said was "I am so sorry... :( I love you..." Those few words gave me what I needed to not melt down at school in front of the kids. It gave me strength to go a little further.

She's not my best friend for nothing, folks.

Monday, November 28, 2011

November Gratitude #27 & #28

November 27: It might sound weird, but I'm grateful that I'm an Iowa girl. Some things I love about Iowa:

* my Hawkeyes
* the Iowa State Fair
* having all 4 seasons and loving each one for its own reasons
* the genuine, down-to-earth people
* the bullheadedness that Iowans have that seems say, "We'll do what we think is right, and everyone else can suck it."
* all of my friends could get married here if they so chose
* that most places in the U.S. don't know what a gem we have here
* culture, good food, caring neighbors, simple values... Iowa is a mix of everything good!

November 28: Today I'm grateful for Puska. Andrew's 19 year old cat, Puska, died in his sleep last night, and I'm going to miss him something fierce. As a dog person, I didn't expect that a cat would get under my skin like Puska did. We called him a cog because he was a cat with many dog qualities. I'll never forget how he liked to sit on my lap and how he would come out and greet me with loud meows every time I pulled into Andrew's driveway. He was a very special cat, and he'll be missed. Pets really make life better, don't they?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

November Gratitude #26

November 26: It's my baby brother's birthday today. He's 37 years old. Today I'm grateful for him. I don't see him as often as I'd like, but he'll always be my little brother.

When our parents divorced, he was my constant. Wherever we were, whichever parent we were with, we had each other, and we were together. I was always his mother hen when we were with my dad.

My mom told me I was never jealous of Matt when he came home from the hospital. I was 2 1/2, and I thought they brought him home just for me. He was MY baby.

It was hard for me when Matt went to live with my dad. I can remember being sad one day, and my mom asked me what was wrong. "I miss Matt," I said, and we both cried. We missed him terribly.

I love how I can make him roll his eyes and make him laugh all in the same breath. I love all our memories. He's my only real sibling.

I love you, Matt. Happy birthday, baby brother!

Friday, November 25, 2011

November Gratitude #25

November 25: Today I'm grateful:

* that I don't live in western Iowa anymore to be around lots of Nebraska fans

* that I get to see our town Christmas lighting ceremony on the square tonight

* that I got a lot of crocheting done this afternoon

* that it's a 4-day weekend

* that the only Black Friday shopping I did was buying some bras online

Thursday, November 24, 2011

November Gratitude #24

November 24: Today I'm grateful for the wonderful Thanksgiving Day I had. My brother Matt and his fiancee Omara came down to my dad's. There were 8 of us for dinner... Dad, Alice, Alice's cousin Mary Fran and her husband Tony, Matt, Omara, Andrew, and myself. It was a beautiful day filled with wonderful food. My stepmom's stuffing is a wonder of the world. Since Matt's birthday is Saturday, I baked him a brownie sheet cake like my mom & grandma used to make. He was happy. It was just a lovely time with love and laughter. I'm blessed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

November Gratitude #23

November 23: Right now, I'm grateful that my week is over! A full day of meetings has worn me out. I'm looking forward to a couple of days of rest and relaxation before I get to cleaning and schoolwork!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November Gratitude #22

November 22: Today I'm grateful for traditions. The holidays are full of them. I'm ready for my stepmom's stuffing on Thursday. I'm ready to make holiday goodies with my friend Suzanne (the miles between us CANNOT keep us from this annual event). I'm ready to decorate my house with my mom's Christmas decorations. I love this time of year. It makes me miss my loved ones so acutely, but I also feel, in a way, like I'm keeping them alive in me by doing all the things we did together.

Today, my pecan halves from the Tri-T fundraiser came in. I'll be using them to make my Aunt Rita's pecans. She was a spunky southern lady, and I'll remember her fondly as I make and eat these delicious treats!

Aunt Rita's Pecans

1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
2 T. orange juice
1 c. pecan halves

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 15 x 10" pan, and also a sheet of foil or wax paper. In medium bowl, combine sugar and orange juice. Blend well. Add pecans. Toss to coat. Spread on prepared pan. Bake for 10-13 minutes or until bubbly and dark golden brown, stirring occasionally. Immediately spread on prepared foil/was paper. Cool. Break apart.

November Gratitude #21

November 21: Yesterday I was thankful for my dog. It's dark early now, and coming home in the dark, to a dark house... well, it can be depressing sometimes. But the best thing ever is coming home to that cute little silver ball of fur who is always glad to see me. Avery is such a good dog. :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November Gratitude 19 & 20

November 19: Yesterday I was grateful for having enough. I thought of all the people in this world who are hungry, homeless, or alone. I was happy for having enough of what I need. It's a very peaceful feeling when you realize that even when times are tough, or even if you don't have everything you want, you DO have enough.

November 20: I'm grateful for memories. As I looked at the change in my hand this morning at church (Every Sunday, our youth collect change for Kids Against Hunger. Our church has supported this organization for a couple of years now, and it's been wonderful.), I saw a quarter from the year 2ooo. I clearly remembered a morning at our duplex in Iowa City (so it had to be 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade for me) where Matt and I were figuring out how old we'd be in the year 2000. My mom got one of her famous yellow legal pads, and we did the math together. 28?!?! I'd be 28 in the year 2000??? It seemed so impossible and far away. My mom never lived to see the year 2000, but thank goodness I have memories like this to keep her close.

Friday, November 18, 2011

November Gratitude #18

November 18: Today I'm grateful that I found my calling. I just had my post-observation conference with my principal, and some of the things she wrote brought tears to my eyes. It's nice that someone else can see my philosophy of education coming through in the actions of my students. Here is my favorite part of what she said: "... students display respect and are encouraged to succeed. It is evident that the teacher has high expectations for students in the work and discussion they have, but it is also clear that teacher sets up her expectations for the students to succeed." If I had to write my philosophy of education, it would be so darned similar to this!

Since I'm tooting my own horn a little in this post, I'll just keep going. It's American Education Week, and every student and teacher in the district writes to an adult who has influenced their education. I got 2 letters from current students, but yesterday, a flood of 5 came in from the high school. I cried like a baby as I read them. It's pretty powerful stuff, knowing that you've had a personal impact on someone's life. Here are some of the comments:

"I wanted to thank you for helping make my middle school experience a good one."

"I wanted to thank you for being the best teacher I ever had in middle school." "P.S. Read any good books on Kindle lately?" I love that my students STILL want to talk books with me!

"You inspired me to love drama and not be afraid of speaking my mind."

"I wanted to thank you for always challenging me and pushing me..."

"I wanted to thank you for showing me that life is worth something. You gave me motivation to keep trying, to keep going." Wow. I'm crying again just typing it.

I am so blessed by the kids (and people who care about kids) who walk through my door every day. I know some people struggle all their lives to be able to do what they love. I'll never be wealthy, but I'm rich beyond measure.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Beginning of the End, Part II

Remember this post? I was reminded of it when I looked at my wrist today. My green beaded bracelet hasn't left my wrist since the day Andrew bought it for me at the Covered Market in Oxford. It's been a constant reminder of our fantastic trip to the U.K. this summer. But, it's not looking too fresh these days. I'm a-frayed it's not long for this world.

November Gratitude #17

November 17: Today I'm grateful that my formal observation is done... WOO HOO! It went well, I thought. We'll see what the big boss thought when I have my post-observation conference. I've already watched the video, and it's funny... I didn't even notice at the time that a student was incessantly tapping his pencil. During the video, though, it was driving me freaking crazy!!! Weird what you can ignore while teaching. Guess it pays to not sweat the small stuff in the moment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

November Gratitude #16

November 16: Today I'm grateful...

I am grateful, but I'm not having a great day. I lost my patience today at school. I hate it when I do that. I have a certain class this year that I just haven't meshed with yet. It's frustrating for all of us. And today, I lost it.

So, I guess my gratitude today has to do with admitting when I'm wrong. I'm not very good at that. I hate being wrong. I got a grip and apologized to the student who took the brunt of the "losing it." We had a talk about her behavior (in a calmer and quieter way), and I apologized.

I don't like losing my patience, but I'm grateful that I can admit when I went too far. Tomorrow will be a better day!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

November Gratitude #15

November 15: Today I'm grateful for perspective. I've had a week of feeling pretty low, and yesterday, a friend reminded me that, compared to so many others, I'm pretty lucky. When I'm feeling lonely, I need to remember that there are people in the world who are truly alone. I am not. When I'm sad, I need to remember all the blessings in my life. I've known sadness, but I have much, much love. Many others don't. Perspective is a good thing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

November Gratitude #14

November 14: Today I'm grateful for my inspirations. I had many great teachers, but my 2 favorites were Gloria Countryman (2nd grade) and Idella Spann (8th grade Honors English). I know they both shaped the teacher that I am today. They were tough but fun, and they challenged me to be the best I could be. I'm eternally grateful to them both, and I still want to be just like them!

More teachers who greatly impacted my life include:

Donald Whyte
Lee Spann
L'louise Bowman
Steve Brockway
Dave Tobias
Barbara Johnson
John Gibson
Susan Morgan
Jan Rawley

You each made a lasting impression on my life, and therefore, the lives of many other students as well. Since you all shaped the teacher that I've become, you're touching a whole new generation of students. Thank you!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

November Gratitude #13

November 13: I'm grateful for a cozy couch, a flat screen TV, a warm fireplace, 2 former Hawkeyes in an NFL football game, and a boyfriend to snuggle.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November Gratitude #11 & #12

November 11: I'm grateful for fall and the beautiful days it's brought. The leaves have been beautiful, and the temps have been pretty close to perfect. I know it won't last forever, but I have enjoyed every second of it.

November 12: I'm grateful for my health. I've been trying to take better care of myself this fall (although the eating at today's tailgate would say something different). I'm grateful that I'm healthy, and I want to get my weight down so I STAY healthy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

November Gratitude #10

November 10: Today I'm grateful for books! My students are in the middle of literature circles, and it's my favorite time of the year. I love seeing them discuss books with each other. My own book club meets tomorrow, and I look forward to it every month. We're discussing Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. I have a bit to finish it, but I'm enjoying it a lot. He definitely doesn't mince words. Get it? Mince? Hee hee. If you're interested in what else my book club is reading, our book lists are down the very bottom of this page.

My Kindle, Harrison Ford, has completely changed my reading habits. I read so much more now, and I take advantage of every spare moment of opportunity to read. I wonder if there is a way to cash in on my love of reading... is anyone out there willing to pay a girl for reading her life away? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Thought not.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November Gratitude #9

November 9: Today, I'm grateful for my Andrew. I never knew that a person could feel so much like home for me. I never knew I could be as open and as honestly myself as I am with him. I never knew that I could find someone so caring, dependable, loving, and wise. He makes every day worth living. He loves me for who I am, and he just wants me to be happy. Who could ask for anything more?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

November Gratitude #8

November 8: Today I'm grateful for my job. Tuesdays are our library day for GOAL classes, and it's such a joy to see my students excited about books and to sit and read next to them. I worked hard today to have my work done so I could really sit with them and read together. I think it's important for them to see that I'm a reader. I love when they booktalk the books they love for the other students. I got many good suggestions today too!

It was also a Drama Club day. So far, and it's only the first meeting of November, I've had 47 kids come to Drama Club. I think we're on course for a record-setting year. I had 36 kids there tonight, and it was loud and crazy (my throat is killing me from trying to talk over them), but it was so much fun. For so many kids, Drama Club is a place where they can fit in. I love that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November Gratitude #7

November 7: Today I'm grateful for the only night this week that I don't have to be anywhere. It's going to be a busy week, and I'm going to cherish this free evening... after I get papers graded, of course. ;)

I'm also grateful for the rare bursts of industriousness (is that a word?) that hit me. Yesterday, I raked and bagged 14 bags of leaves, I finally got my garage clean enough to park in (first time in the 10 years that I've owned my home), and I got every scrap of laundry folded. Tonight in my free time, I should attack other parts of the house, but there's no need to go completely insane, is there?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

November Gratitude #6

November 6: I'm grateful for this strange and wonderful feeling of being rested. It's amazing what an extra hour of sleep will do for a person. I thought something was wrong for a minute or two when I first woke up this morning. Then, after careful analysis, I realized that I felt rested after a great night's sleep. I didn't recognize the feeling... very happy to "fall back" this morning!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

November Gratitude #5

November 5: I'm grateful for all things Hawkeye:

*Great fall days at Kinnick Stadium
*Time with the Mornin' Crew and my Hugunin family
*The fact that my boyfriend has become a rabid Hawkeye fan
*Today's win over Michigan
*Being in Iowa City to eat Japanese food after the game
*Memories of my mom yelling "All Right!" as she listened to the Hawkeye football game on the radio... I'd quietly go around and close the windows so the neighbors didn't think she was crazy
*My Hawkeye sweater that struck up a conversation with Mr. Hills, the nicest person at DeForest Elementary during the worst year of my school life.

Friday, November 4, 2011

November Gratitude #4

November 4: I'm grateful for my dear friend Suzanne and our wonderful, naughty stolen lunch on a Friday. I wish it could be EVERY Friday!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November Gratitude #3

November 3: I'm grateful for friends who go above and beyond the call of duty. So many gifts that can never be repaid. I'll do my best to be worthy, and I hope I can be there for you whenever YOU need it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Month of Gratitude #'s 1 & 2

Many people on Facebook are participating in the Month of Gratitude for November. I thought I'd flip it over here to my blog and do the same thing.

November 1: I'm grateful for my family. My cousin Mark is down from Alaska, and Andrew & I got together with him last night at George's. Jimmy, my dad, and my stepmom were also there. I'm grateful to be close to my extended cousins.

November 2: I'm grateful that conferences went well the first night. I had an excellent turnout, and it's always great meeting my kids' parents. I had a couple of parents that I really NEEDED to talk to, and one of them showed up last night. I hope the other one comes Thursday night!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fun Haters, or I Hate the Man

Dear Mr. Brown,

Remember during the 1990 Abraham Lincoln High School graduation when you took my can of silly string from under my chair while I was up getting my diploma? Remember how you smugly sat on the bench across from me as my entire class, all 287 (well... 286 because I wasn't a part of it) of them, sprayed their cans of silly string gleefully into the air to celebrate our special day? You raised your eyebrows at me as if to say, "What are you going to do about it?" I hope that made you feel all big and important, denying one person (a pretty good kid who was never a troublemaker in school) her fun moment. Can you tell that I'm still bitter? It's a little lame, but I really feel like you ruined my graduation. You. A teacher. You ruined my night. Jerk.

I hope you're retired,

I seriously hate it when adults smash young people's dreams to feel good about themselves. I was reminded of this hatred today when I learned that the Fairfield tradition of taking huge signs with names on them to the All-State Music Festival is being crushed. First, I should be positive and say that 11 kids from Fairfield made All-State yesterday. And, one more has a chance to make it in piano; his recall is on Wednesday in Ames. That is AWESOME!!! I'm so proud of them and of everyone who tried out. It's hard and emotional, and it takes a ton of commitment.

Anyway, every year, Fairfield kids spend hours making these awesome signs, one sign for every kid who made it. They hold them up in the crowd to show their pride and support. Well, someone thinks these signs are distracting and inappropriate. So now, without even a discussion for how they might be used in a different, more acceptable way, the tradition is over. Done. Finished.

Fun haters.

I know that sometimes when you're in authority, it's easy to be a fun hater. There is work to be done, and there is a time and a place for everything. But can we please have a little perspective and maybe focus that fun hating energy into keeping kids in school or saving the environment or getting crime off the streets? There is so little celebration from kids' peers for the arts. Is it really necessary to destroy what little there is?

If I've ever crushed your fun, I'm sorry. I hope you'll come and talk to me about it, and maybe we can find an alternate solution that will get the job done and bring you joy at the same time.

And for the record, as a teacher now myself, if I was holding that single student's can of silly string while 286 other kids sprayed theirs, I would hand hers back.

Friday, October 21, 2011

22 Things I've Never Done

One of the blogs I get a kick out of is MomJovi. I actually started following her when I somehow came across a post about how obsessed her little daughter is with The Sound of Music. I've been hooked ever since. Today, her post had a little reader challenge along with it. It stems from another blog post from I blog I don't follow currently, but it looks really fun. It's called Mama's Losin' It, and here is the post with the challenge. I think I'll play along and link it back.

22 Things I've Never Done

I'm 39 years old, and here are some things I've never done:

1. I've never been to Hawaii.
2. I've never installed new smoke detectors in my house even though I bought some a long time ago.
3. I've never been able to ride my bike with no hands on the handlebars.
4. I've never had my house all clean at one time since I bought it.
5. I've never parasailed.
6. I've never made my own Thanksgiving dinner.
7. I've never had a brand new car.
8. I've never put up window treatments in my own house until this year, even though I bought it in 2001.
9. I've never danced on a bar.
10. I've never been sorry I became a teacher, even with how hard the job has become.
11. I've never really believed in Hell.
12. I've never been to a continent other than North America and Europe.
13. I've never been ashamed of my age.
14. I've never seen Modern Family.
15. I've never been a registered Republican.
16. I've never been on spinny or pendulous rides since I got sicker than sick on the Galleon at Adventureland.
19. I've never enjoyed singing karaoke.
20. I've never eaten liver.
21. I've never had a tattoo.
22. I've never stopped missing my mom... not even for one day.

Weekly Update

I started this week going to the Iowa Talented & Gifted Association's state conference in Des Moines. It's always so good and a major information overload. I was in Des Moines for Monday and Tuesday, and it messed with my head for the rest of the week. I'm glad it's finally Friday because maybe now, I'll know what day it is! I always room with my colleague, Ann, and it's a great time for us to powwow. It was also fun because the Iowa Technology in Education Conference was the same time, so several of us Fairfielders were in Des Moines. We all met with the Kurths for dinner at Red Robin on Monday. Plus, I finally got to go to Trader Joe's in Des Moines! Woo hoo!!! Iowa has had a Trader Joe's for almost a year, and this was my first visit. Shameful. My new Trader Joe's obsessions are freeze dried blueberries (they're like healthy crunchberries!) and dark chocolate nibs (one calorie apiece and a really cute tin!). OK... back to the conference...

The conference theme this year was creativity. I heard such good speakers on this topic including the amazing Dr. Sally Reis (if had all the money in the world, I'd go to UConn to do my Master's Degree with her and her husband Joe Renzulli... oh, for $100,000 dollars or so... sigh...) and artist/businessman/education advocate David Williamson. Creativity is NOT a buzzword in education right now, and it's a shame. I really feel that we're not preparing our kids to be competitive in the global economy. They don't think outside of the box, and they're not problem-solvers. They're becoming great test-takers though. :P

Last night, Andrew and I went to look at flooring. He's helping me make some changes in my house. It needs updating, and I'd like to refinance eventually. I'm very good at procrastinating these changes, and Andrew has been pushing me to get it done. I need pushed in this area. A lot. And, in case anyone was wondering, it is NOT possible to eat healthfully at Sirloin Stockade. What were we thinking???

This week, I've been playing catch-up. It's been frantic, and I'm behind, but the conference is always worth it. Tomorrow, it's Homecoming at the University of Iowa, so the Hawkeye Mornin' Crew will be there in full force. The tailgate theme is Walking Tacos. Mmm!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekly Update

I had a crazy work week this week. On Wednesday, I took 25 kids to the Class Act Comics conference at the University of Iowa. It was a great experience, and the kids got to meet published authors. Here's the link to my school blog for more details.

Thursday, I had a doctor's appointment in Iowa City, and Andrew went with me. My reward for the day followed, and it was Una Don at Oyama. Oh, how I love that eel! I enjoy it anywhere, but Oyama really has the best, in my opinion.
Andrew & I agreed that we enjoy the miso at Shokai better though, and I think the edamame is better there too.
Lucky for us, Shokai is in Fairfield! Now, we just have to patronize it enough to keep it in business! LOL

On Friday night, Andrew & I went to see the latest Shakespeare Ensemble show, Shaw's Caesar and Cleopatra. It was very enjoyable, and it made me miss being on stage with Steve White. We had such a blast bantering in Lion in Winter.

On Saturday, I got to sleep late, and then Andrew & I had a little Hawkeye party in his living room. It would have been nice to have a better outcome, but we still had fun watching it... as much fun as a Hawkeye fan can have when they're not playing very well. :P After that, we watched the Nebraska/Ohio State game. I was hoping the Cornhuskers would get creamed to make me feel better from the Iowa loss. No such luck. I really can't stand them.

Today, after church, Andrew and I drove to the Amana Colonies to have lunch with my Alaska family who are in town for my Uncle Bob's 55th dental class reunion at the University Iowa. I ate terrible things and enjoyed every minute of it. Back on the wagon tomorrow. I finished the night working at school, and I'm ready to start another week.

October is beautiful in Iowa. It's a little warm for my taste, but Iowa in October should be experienced by everyone. Glorious!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Life Lessons

Yes, I'm an Apple fan. But, that's not why I love this speech. I think Steve Jobs was an innovator and a visionary. He was also a man who learned from his past and wasn't afraid to take chances with his future. I shared this speech with my students today. Great life lessons. Rest in peace, Steve Jobs.

Monday, October 3, 2011

When Two Tauri Collide

I am a Taurus. Andrew is a Taurus. Normally, this is not an issue, but occasionally, our stubborn streaks show. Sometimes, he's right (how to change the outgoing message on his voicemail), and sometimes, I'm right (which building in Chicago is the John Hancock building... I won BIG with that one). But until there's proof, neither one of us ever gives in.

This weekend, Andrew & I went to Mankato, MN, to see our darling, talented Stephen Crisp in his very last show at Minnesota State University. It was a beautiful production of Rent. I love that show so much, and he was wonderful in it.

On the way home (the drives were GORGEOUS, btw... I adore this time of year), Andrew kept commenting on how bad the corn looked, that it was so short, etc. This is not the first time he's said something like this. I just know from being on my dad's farm that the height of corn is very deceiving, especially from the road. Andrew was convinced that the corn was way shorter than him. So I finally said, "Do you want to pull over and see?" I wasn't ticked or snooty... I just knew the corn was pretty darned tall. There was a little lane close by, and we pulled in. I hopped out and stood by the corn, and Andrew's mouth gaped open. It really is a crazy illusion. Then he wanted to stand by it too, and I snapped this pic. I love him so. I just wish I actually would have bet him like I did last fall in Chicago. Darn. Missed opportunities.

Andrew of the Corn

It was a short trip to Mankato, but I'm so glad we went to see Stephen's last show. We were able to have dinner before the show with him at Fridays, and then we went out after the show to grab some wings at Tav on the Ave. Delicious. They had cider on tap, so Andrew was a happy boy.

my "little bro" after his show at Tav on the Ave

isn't this a great pic of Andrew & me :)

On Sunday morning, we all had breakfast, and then Andrew & I hit the road. Fun, quick weekend.

And, yes, I did look up to verify what the plural of "Taurus" is.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Crocheting Projects

I follow several crafty blogs online, and I recently wondered why I don't ever post any of my own projects... hmmm... ? So, here's a little taste of the crafty side of me.

When I was in 6th grade, the thing I wanted most for Christmas was for my grandma to teach me how to crochet. When I opened my present from her, inside the box were 2 skeins of yarn, a simple "how to" book for reminders when I left her house, and a crochet hook. One of my favorite pictures of us is on Christmas Eve that year. I'm sitting in her chair with her, and her arms are around me, guiding my moves as she taught me how to crochet.

I've taken breaks from crocheting, but I really picked it up again when my best friend Tracy was pregnant with her first baby. Olivia's "blue bee" (or is it "blue b"... hmm... I guess I've never spelled it out before) is her favorite, though now the poor thing is literally a pile of knotted string. Olivia's in second grade now, but here's a picture of what it looked like when it was new and in one piece:

When Olivia's little sister Elora was born 4 years ago, I started her present. I was determined to make it a little stronger to hold up longer than blue bee had. It was stronger, all right. It basically turned into a crocheted suit of armor, and it only took 4 years for me to complete! I finished it this summer when I was offstage during Time Out of Rhyme... I had put the poor thing aside so many times, I was worried she wasn't going to get it until she graduated! Luckily, it's done, so here's a picture of the finished product:
I'm finishing up my cowl this week for the Crochet-along, so stay tuned for pictures of that too!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Tracy's Birthday Weekend

Andrew and I hit the road Saturday morning, heading for Council Bluffs. We listened to the Hawkeye game and enjoyed the beautiful fall day. Our destination was Tracy's house, and our purpose was to attend her 40th birthday party.

Now Tracy is not one who likes to call a lot of attention to herself, but when confronted with the question of how she wanted to celebrate her birthday, she thought of the perfect thing. She wanted all her dearest friends around her so they could get to know one another. Beautiful idea, yes?

After an afternoon of visiting and enjoying the kids, we grown-ups went to the Kitchen Emporium and Wine Shop in Council Bluffs. There were 16 of us, and we had a great time. We laughed, we ate, we drank, we talked, and we laughed some more. It was a great party. We started with a meat and cheese platter, and then we all ordered from the menu. Lacie and I split and shared... she ordered the Hawaii 5-0, and I ordered the Roasted Veggie Focaccia sandwich. They were both deeeeelicious! The evening ended with a chocolate/raspberry/layered/dreamcake. WOW!

It was so fun having Andrew there with me and introducing him to my friends and Tracy's family. At the end of the night, my face hurt from smiling so much. What a wonderful problem to have!

On Sunday, we had a nice breakfast and enjoyed Tracy, Steve, and the girls. When Tracy left for work, I drove Andrew around Council Bluffs, showing him all the places that were pivotal to making me who I am. It's weird that I went to his home in England before he went to my home in Iowa. I had to have him taste Christy Creme, of course! The flavor for Sunday was lemon, and it was perfect. We ended our jaunt by going up to Lewis and Clark Monument... the best view in the area. We stopped back by the library to hug Tracy one more time, and then we hit the road. It was a quick trip, but a lovely one. I loved celebrating my best friend, in exactly the way she'd dreamed up. It was perfect!

hugging my best friend after a rousing rendition of "Happy birthday"

so many laughs

our table... Charity (taking the pic), Tony, Max, Lacie, me, Andrew

my love and me

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Little Laugh for Today

Andrew is a big fan of Bizarro comics, and he had this one posted on his Facebook the other day. It seriously tickled my funny bone. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Featured on Another Blog

Andrew's Holly had a fun night not long ago teaching one of Andrew's coworkers, Darin, and her boyfriend Jack how to make Okonomiyaki. I had fun eating the results! Today we were featured on Darin's blog. Click here for the highlights!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hawks Win!

What a game! What a day! Most of this game was just pure ugly, but when the Hawkeye Mornin' Crew puts on its rally caps, enemy beware! Greatest Hawkeye comeback in history!

Friday, September 16, 2011

She Knows Me Too Well

Look who made Mrs. Kaska's Daily "Pun"ishment today! My 8th graders couldn't wait to tell me. I had to go down and take a picture. It sometimes pays to be a Drama Queen! :)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Out of My Box

Calling parents of students has never been my forte. I, in fact, dread it. I think it's been on my self-improvement goal list every year since I've been teaching. Today I had to call home for a third tardy. It was the first phone call of the year, but it wasn't a big deal. I know the family, and it was an easy conversation. Then for kicks, I did something I have rarely (if ever... I can't recall right now) done before. I went through my roster and made 2 other phone calls home, but for positive reasons.

Phone call #1 was about a cool project a student had done today. The mom was glad to hear from me, and it turns out she had a question about an assignment anyway, so it was a very productive phone call.

Phone call #2 taught me a lesson. Don't ask for the parents before introducing myself. The dad thought I was a telemarketer and told me that he and his wife weren't home. I asked to leave a message, and as I was introducing myself, he introduced himself back! :) His child had shown a lot of kindness to my new-to-FMS students today who were having some challenges logging on to Google Docs to type their essays. This student volunteered to help while I was answering other questions, and I really appreciated it. The dad seemed really pleased that I called, once he found out I wasn't trying to sell him something. Ha!

I need to do more of that. I feel good, and I think the parents feel good too. Maybe I'll go out of my box a little more often this year.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Full Weekend

Jeff came down from Minnesota this weekend, and we had a wonderful time. Friday night we went to Vivo for dinner (How could they take the asparagus/goat cheese/prosciutto/balsamic appetizer off the menu without consulting me first????), and then we chatted with Andrew for a good long while (and when I say "we chatted," I mean that the 2 of them talked about BBC television shows, and I yawned and played Tetris and surfed the net and occasionally gave a polite smile or nod... LOL).

Saturday Jeff & I were up & ready to do some serious damage in Fairfield. We started with coffee at Revelations, and then we hit the square. Thymely Solutions was having a birthday sale, and they had 20% off the entire store. It was absolute chaos, and we waited in line to check out for over half an hour, but it was worth it. We walked around the square (it was SUCH a beautiful day), and then we headed back to Revelations for lunch. From there, we went to Wal-Mart for yarn for my crochet-along, to Goodwill, to Everybody's, and to the MUM bookstore. The low point of the morning was when a guy behind the counter actually thought I was Jeff's mother. Yes, you read that correctly... Jeff's MOTHER! Upon leaving the store, I asked Jeff to just get in the car and run me over to put me out of my misery.

Do I look like his mother?????

The Hawkeye game was a heart attack that ended badly. Thank goodness I was with Jeff and didn't waste 4 hours of my life watching it. I just ended up watching the end of the 4th quarter and the 3 overtimes. Oh well, what can you do? Back to the drawing board, Coach Ferentz!

For dinner, we met up with Andrew and Holly and ate at Top of the Rock. I had a delicious filet mignon, and I felt quite virtuous, replacing my potatoes with steamed broccoli. Guess I ruined the virtue by having a glass of wine, but it evens out, right?

the whole gang at Top of the Rock

After dinner, we went to hear the Beautifully Broken give their hometown concert at the Sondheim Center. These are Fairfield girls who have left home to make it in life and in the music industry. 2 are former students, and 1 has joined me on stage several times. It was a great concert, and we were so proud of them!

Jeff & I ate at George's for breakfast, and then he headed on his way. I love it when Jeff visits Fairfield, and I was sad to see him go. The visit was too short! Avery was sad too. He just sat in the doorway watching him pack that morning... he didn't even want to play. Come again soon, Jeff!!!

I had bells at church, and then Andrew and I went to Ottumwa for some shopping. He needed new clothes because he's dropped 20 pounds, and his clothes are dropping off of him. I've only lost 10. It's so unfair that boys lose weight so easily. :P I'm proud of us though... we're totally trying, and it's so much easier to do together.

We had swordfish steaks for supper, and I made sesame spinach. I'm sort of obsessed with this recipe right now. I've tweaked it a little, but this link shows the basic idea. It's SO good! Andrew is making his Kenny Nelson-inspired roasted turkey tonight, and I'm making my mouth water just thinking about it!

Last night, I thought a lot about 9/11. I watched some of the coverage on TV, and it's sobering to feel those feelings again. Whenever I see video of that plane going into the second tower, it makes my stomach clench. In watching the coverage last night, I heard two things that I'd never considered before: 1. The passengers on Flight 93 knew they were going to die when they burst into the cockpit. It's one thing to be heroic when you think there is a chance for a happy ending, but they knew what was happening with the other planes and sites. I think they went into their mission knowing they were going to die. That is bravery beyond measure. 2. The "pile" at ground zero was basically dust. All those offices with all those desks, phones, chairs, equipment... dust. The firefighters said when they realized that, they knew they weren't going to find lots of survivors like they'd initially hoped.

Today I talked with some of my classes about the anniversary. My students were four years old and under, and most have no memory of the day. I teared up when I talked about the fear I felt that day... that I'd been scared before, but never scared for my whole country. I talked about how I didn't sleep right for weeks because I felt if I turned off the TV, I would miss something. What a terrible time.

The memorial looks beautiful. Once the museum opens, I want to make a pilgrimage. I want to stand on that ground and remember those people. We can never forget that day.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The White Trash of Crafty

So, I'm all signed up and ready to go with the crochet-along on Maybe Matilda's site. There are over 100 people signed up, ready to crochet along together. Many of them have listed their websites & blogs, so I clicked on a few. Big mistake. It is very intimidatingly clear that I'm the poor white trash in-law of this super woman group. Holy Cow! These women sew, can, garden, knit, crochet, craft, and cook... while nursing their babies in one arm and feeding their toddlers organic grape juice they've stomped themselves with the other. I, on the other hand, don't have a single curtain up in my house, would rather throw a dish away than be forced to wash it, and haven't seen the entire floor of my garage since I moved into my house (although I can currently see HALF now, and that's a world of improvement... I WILL park in my garage this winter!). How do these women do it? Do they have jobs? Do they have husbands? Do they sleep? Do they plan on continuing to wickedly toy with us before they take us back to their cyborg colony, 12 galaxies over?

It's enough to give a girl a complex. Sheesh.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Crocheting Along with Maybe Matilda

I'm crocheting along!

There certainly is a blog for everything, and I recently found this blog called Maybe Matilda... tons of crocheting! I'm going to crochet along with her & her readers for this project. It's such a fun idea! I'm not really a cowl person (at ALL), but maybe I'll end up loving it... who knows? Otherwise, it will be a good Christmas present. Beware, friends & family! LOL

Anyway, I can't wait to get started. Stay tuned for updates!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Okonomiyaki and Other Hmmm's

Andrew's Holly is off on an adventure for a few days, but before she left, she made us a week's supply of Okonomiyaki, Osaka style. Oh my stars, it is delicious. She has made us Hiroshima style in the past, but that's harder to make ahead of time. My quest today was to find out how many freaking Weight Watcher points there are in Okonomiyaki. I found so many different recipes, it was unbelievable. The conclusion I came to is this: every culture has a few dishes that are "garbage" dishes, where you can throw in a little of whatever you have on hand. Filipino cuisine has pancit, which is one of my favorites. In high school, my friend Ricco's mom Alita would make us pancit and Filipino eggrolls, and we thought we were in Heaven!

What do you think is the American equivalent of this "garbage" dish? I was thinking omelettes, but those aren't really American. Maybe the sandwich? Hm. Something to ponder.

And in case you were wondering (humor me, and pretend like you care), I think the point value for the version I ate is 9.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

First Hawkeye Game of the Season

It was great to be back with the Mornin' Crew this morning. We rolled in a little after 7:00, and it was a little piece of tailgating heaven. Rain was in the forecast, and it threatened all morning, but we managed to only have a few sprinkles out at the Hawkeye Commuter Lot.

On the way to the game, the rain started. We (most of us) broke out the ponchos, ready to tough out the weather. I can say that, hands down, this was the single rainiest game I've ever been to. We had a small break for about 45 minutes or so, but the crowd at Kinnick was a sea of ponchos and water-logged fans.

The team looked good. There are still kinks to work out, and everyone was devastated by the injury of true freshman running back Mika'il McCall. He looked great out there, and now he's done for the season. But a lot of good things happened on the field, and the Hawks came away with the win.

The rain was something else. It got so bad that the hood blew and eventually ripped clear off my poncho. My whole poncho was blowing around like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. I rescued the hood and just tied it on like a bonnet (classy, eh?), and by that time, we (the few of us Mornin' Crew faithful who stuck it out) were just laughing hysterically. The ponchos were completely useless at that time, and we were soaked completely through. They called a rain delay (no one ever remembers that happening at Kinnick every before), and that's when we decided to leave.

The theme for food this week with the Mornin' Crew was sliders. I was skeptical, but it turned out to be inspired. Sliders are small, so you can sample quite a few. Andrew and I brought barbecue pork & coleslaw sliders (inspired by this recipe). We also ate potsticker sliders with Asian slaw, pizza sliders, pulled creamed chicken sliders with bacon, chicken breast wrapped in bacon sliders, and I think there were others too that I didn't even get to try. There were even dessert sliders... yellow cupcakes split in half to form the "bun" with a round brownie in the middle. They were decorated with frosting to look like different condiments. SO CUTE! I also, for the first time, had two bites of something I've always wanted to try... the Krispy Kreme slider. This is a burger with a Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut as the bun. I could have eaten ten of them. It was the perfect combination of savory and sweet. Delicious. Unfortunately, I'm currently on Weight Watchers, and I've lost 9 pounds in two weeks, so I didn't go too crazy. I did eat more than I should have, but I was very restrained compared to how I've tailgated in the past.

After filling our bellies, Heather, Andrew, & I put our water-logged selves in the van and headed home. Not ideal conditions, but still a great first weekend of Iowa Football at Historic Kinnick Stadium!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A New Understanding

Now I can understand everything my boyfriend says. I have found the perfect translation site: The Septic's Companion: A British Slang Dictionary with Audio Pronunciations. Andrew and I had fun last night looking at all the different terms. I had heard a lot of them before, but now when I hear them, I can look them up and see what they really mean instead of nodding and smiling politely. Plus, it's just an entertaining site. Can't beat that!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Settlers of Catan

I like to keep up on board games, but I'd never heard of Settlers of Catan until recently. It's FUN!!! Andrew, Holly, and I have played twice this week, and I'm getting addicted. It's great because, unlike a lot of games, the board changes every time. Every game is new. There is skill involved, but there is a lot of luck too. Sometimes the dice have a lot to do with the game. You can build settlements and cities, you can barter for resources, you can claim ports... it's a blast. I feel there has to be a curriculum connection somewhere. I need to run it past the social studies teachers and see what they think. I think the GOAL kids would love it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Current Obsession

For some reason, I am currently addicted to Ching Dow's Moo Shu Vegetables. I think I could eat them for every single meal. Forever.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Whole LOTTA Cans & Bottles

I had a lot of cans & bottles in my garage... actually about 10 years worth. Today Andrew & I took them to the can redemption center in Mount Pleasant. That's the closest place, as far as I can tell in my research. Here in Iowa, we pay an extra nickel deposit on every can & bottle, but... the state is making it harder and harder to redeem those cans & bottles. Most places don't take very many at a time, and they have to be sorted, put into flats, and counted ahead of time. So (I know it shocks those of you who know me that I would actually procrastinate... HA), I put it off.

We had to just recycle the water bottles because the redemption center doesn't take those, but they did take $33.10 worth of my recycling today. That's 662 cans & bottles, for those of you who are counting. I'd guess I had at least 800 in my garage with the water bottles & the ones I just put in my recycling bin in Phase I of garage cleaning 2011.

It was work to get it done, but the $33.10 paid for our gas over there and for lunch at Little Mexico on the Mount Pleasant square, which was delightful, by the way. And, to channel my inner Kenny Nelson, I'd never just throw $33.10 out into the road, so I guess it was worth the effort. The guy at the redemption center even gave us some official bags, so I can sort now, and the next time, it will be much easier. It kind of makes me want to start drinking Diet Mountain Dew again. Who am I kidding? I want to start drinking Diet Mountain Dew every single day of my life. Stupid ulcer that can't handle stupid caffeine. Not drinking pop is seriously going to diminish the can intake in the garage. And that's probably a good thing.

My overall feeling, though, is that it's time to get rid of the 5-cent deposit/refund in Iowa. When they started the refund, there was no curbside recycling and a lot more litter. Times have changed! It's much easier now to just put the cans in the recycling bin instead of saving them and trying to get someone to take them. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Day One: Check

Great first day of school. It was hotter than Hades, but at least my room is downstairs. I can't complain. I taught upstairs for 9 years, so I remember it well, and I feel for the teachers up there. The first day is always crazy, but I seem to have really good kids. My language arts class is totally full... not even a spare desk for me to sit in the circle with the kids. That's probably going to be my biggest challenge. It was great to see my GOAL kids again and to get to know my new 6th grade GOAL students. I think we'll have a lot of fun.

I already feel like I'm behind, so I guess things are back to normal!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


I'm fragile today... overwhelmed and on the verge of tears most of the day. Lots of crappy news this afternoon, and even more tonight. In between, I had some nice moments of lunch with friends and a picnic with the Fairfield Middle School staff. I even got my baby fix at the picnic. Yet, I'm still fragile.

Ever just want to run away? I get that feeling sometimes, and I have it tonight. I just want to go far. Far. I won't run though. Tomorrow's the first day of school, and I love the first day of school. I love labeling the folders and checking out the textbooks and all that good stuff. Tomorrow will be a good day.

But tonight, I'm fragile.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Poor Puppy

I had a very emotional week this week with my poor little puppy, Avery. He just really didn't seem himself after I got back from the Fair. He was lethargic, he didn't want to eat or drink, and the worst sign was that he didn't want to play! If you've met Avery, you know he could play fetch with his toys 23 hours a day, just taking an hour break for eating, peeing, and napping. I knew something was really wrong. Avery's ears and tail were down, and he was just looking at me with the saddest pleading expression. Wednesday, I took him to the vet. His white count was very low, and he was running a fever. The vet decided to do an x-ray the next day. A "density" was discovered in the area of his pancreas. My vet said it could be an acute infection that had so far not responded to antibiotics (he'd been on them for 24 hours at this point), or... !!! Let's just say that if it were pancreatic cancer, that diagnosis is just as bad in the dog world as in the human world.

Thursday, he was no better. They gave him IV nutrition and antibiotics. I took him home because I couldn't bear the thought of him spending the night there. I was facing some scary decisions. I had some options of going to Cedar Rapids and trying an ultrasound and more extensive testing. Not fun.

Friday morning, my vet came in on his day off and gave Avery more IV antibiotic and fluids. He also fed him some critical care canned dog food which was the first food Avery had really eaten since Sunday. I went to work preparing for the worst...

Friday afternoon, I picked Avery up from the vet, and he had his ears up, and his tail was wagging. He jumped excitedly when he saw me... a spark of life!!! My vet and I decided to watch him over the weekend to see how he does before we make any more decisions. On Friday night, he brought his toy for Andrew and me to throw. Hallelujah! The weekend has shown steady improvement. He's been eating (even a little dry dog food in addition to the canned), drinking, and playing. He's still pretty tired, but he has his old happy expression back. I am guardedly optimistic that it was just a pancreatic infection, and it's getting under control. Thank you, Dr. Wiegert, for being the best vet ever and helping Avery (and me) through this scary time. We may not be out of the woods yet, but I'm just so glad he's feeling better!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

'Twas the Week Before School...

It's that time of year... I've been working in my classroom (not long enough, not getting enough done, starting to panic... everything is normal). We haven't been able to get in the building all summer because of asbestos removal, but I was able to pick up my keys last Friday. I've been in twice since then, and I had some student helpers today, so I got more accomplished. I have a new principal, and our district has a new superintendent. I feel excited about this school year. I'm starting the year with a unit on comics. It's a new unit, and I got some great curriculum ideas in a class I took this summer at University of Iowa. My 6th grade class is larger than normal, but I actually have a planning period this year, so I'm excited! I won't know what to do with myself!

This is the final weekend for A Time Out of Rhyme. It's been a good run, and I'm really glad I did it. Mother Goose is a fun part to play, but it's not too stressful. I'm only on for the first two scenes and again at the very end. I have a lot of down time... so much that I've been crocheting a ton. I actually finished Elora's baby blanket. She turns 4 in September. Better late than never, right? :)
Here's a picture of the set, unlit & without media, but you get the idea... you can also see Tom's (Captain Hook's) feet in the glare of the stage left book)... picture hog. ;)

I start school on Friday, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone. I'll miss sitting with Suzanne though. It's a tradition! She was hired in Fairfield the same year I was, so I've never had a school year without her until now. Boo hoo. I miss my friend!

This was a random post, but my focus has been divided. This is probably not a good thing at the beginning of the school year... oops!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Iowa State Fair

I can hardly describe how much I love the Iowa State Fair. I have so many happy memories on those fairgrounds. Tracy & I met in Altoona and spent the night at Jason & Suzanne's. It was nice to see the whole Kurth family. We went to the Fair for a couple of hours on Sunday night. We saw the fireworks and people watched. I had my first lemonade and a pork chop on a stick. But, the event of the evening was trying the new Fair "treat," fried butter on a stick. Tracy & I split it, and I think even half of that thing was 2 bites too many. It's half a stick of butter on a stick, dipped in honey, dipped in cinnamon batter, deep fried, and drizzled with icing. It tasted like a cinnamon roll-flavored pancake soaked in melted butter. It didn't taste bad, but it's definitely not something I'd eat again. It's always fun to try the new Fair food though!

Tracy and I love the Skylift, and we rode it twice. There's no better view of the Fair, and there was a beautiful breeze.

Lemonade is my very favorite thing at the Fair, and here is the traditional picture of me drinking a cherry lemonade. There is only one stand that makes these (that I know of). I always have to go there!

It was such a nice day that not many people were hanging out in the Varied Industries building. We walked right through. Since it's the 100th birthday of the Butter Cow, there were lots of fun things around the Fair to celebrate. Here's a Butter Cow made completely of canned goods!

Tracy & I used the photobooths in the Varied Industries Building, and it was a time warp right back to Midlands Mall in Council Bluffs. We had a ball, as you can tell from the pics.

Some other highlights were: the best corn dog ever, sampling Iowa beers, watching grape stomping (they never called our names... boo), everything in the Cultural Building (love the big sand castle & the tie dye the most), listening to the 34th Army Band from Fairfield, apple cider slush, seeing the amazing draft horses, and drinking more lemonades. I can't wait until next year... our State Fair is the BEST state fair!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Being a Grown-Up Sucks

I haven't written in ages! I set the goal for myself that I would post anything new until I had documented my entire U.K. trip. Hm. I just can't seem to take the 5 hours it would take to type that stuff. I still want to do it, but I can't just not write until then!

Yesterday, I had a grown-up lady kind of day. Skip this paragraph if you're squeamish. Pap smear, blood draw, and my first ever mammogram. Um... OW!!!!!!!! And, I mean... OW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This might be TMI, but no female should ever have to see her breast like that. Seriously. The only upside to it was I thought I was just making an appointment, but since they could get me in right then, I didn't have time to freak out about it. It was also convenient because it was in the same building as my ob/gyn. I had a new ob/gyn yesterday. I really liked her, but she is 12. At least she looked 12. A 12-year-old Barbie lookalike. Luckily, she's a 12-year-old Barbie lookalike who really knows her stuff. She made me feel very comfortable.

I treated myself to lunch after that ordeal at Noodles & Company. Fun place. I also had a Cake & Shake from Coldstone Creamery. I was NAUGHTY! But it was mmm mmm good!

OK. Enough grown-up lady stuff. Sorry about that. I've been rehearsing for a show called Time Out of Rhyme which opens Friday. I'm playing Mother Goose. It's a fun, small part with a lot of down time. I'm finally finishing Elora's baby blanket. Good thing, since she's turning 4 in September! I really love crocheting. I wish I had an hour or two every day in my real life where I could sit down and do it.

School starts next Friday for me. We haven't been able to get into our classrooms at all because of asbestos removal. It's kind of nice, because I have no reason to feel guilty. Usually during this time of year, I'm feeling like I need to be at school all the time, and I hardly enjoy the last couple of weeks.

My very last hurrah of the summer will be a day at the State Fair with Tracy... YEE HAW!!!! Lemonade, here I come!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Last Week of School

I hate the end of school. Really, I do. I always look forward to summer, and I have some amazing adventures planned. But, the last day of school is sad. I have to say goodbye to my 8th graders, and once they leave, even if they come back to visit, it's never the same. It can't be the same. They have to grow up and move on. But I don't like it. I'm always left feeling sad and empty, and then on top of it all, I have to clean. Days of cleaning to get my room ready for summer. Ick.

Wednesday's the last day. Boo.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Weekly Update

Crazy week. CRAZY week! And we're headed into a CRAZY WEEK! I guess that's what you get with the end of the school year. Last Tuesday, I took the 7th grade GOAL kids to Hannibal, MO. We had a beautiful day. We went to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum and Mark Twain Cave. We took an hour tour on the Hannibal Trolley, and we did some geocaching. My GOAL kids have officially found two geocaches now and have their Illinois and Missouri badges.

When the bus got back to Fairfield Tuesday evening, I packed and headed over to Council Bluffs. Karl's funeral was beautiful and sad. It was especially hard seeing his wife lead his three kids by the hands down the aisle. I got to see many old friends from high school that I hadn't seen in ages. It was nice to reconnect. Several of us went out to eat lunch together. We laughed, shared memories, and raised a glass to our dear friend. The visit with Tracy was way too short, but luckily, I plan to head back over this summer. I hit the road again that afternoon to come home.

Friday was the 7th grade assignment journal trip to the mall in Coralville. It was a nice day, and I made the last of my purchases (I hope) for our upcoming trip. Yesterday, I went to 2 graduation parties and to the cemeteries. Now, I'm trying to catch up on some rest to battle this last week. It's going to be another crazy one.

I hope wherever you are, you're enjoying your friends and family this Memorial Day weekend. Take a moment to remember loved ones you've lost and those heroes who gave their lives fighting for our country.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Goodbye, Friend

Karl & I, March 2009: Mini reunion at Barley's

Karl & I, April 1988: New Design Show Choir in Hollywood, CA

Today, my friend Karl lost his 4-year battle with brain cancer. He was 41 years old. He leaves behind an extraordinarily strong and faithful wife, Jennifer, and 3 children: Luke, Rachel, and Anna. I think they're 8, 6, & 4. I'm glad he's not suffering any longer. I'm relieved that he is at peace. I do believe he's in a better place, but I also do believe that it's effing unfair. My heart is breaking for his family and for his dear parents, Vern and Martha. I love them so. Some things about Karl that I'll always remember:

* I was so surprised when I was a sophomore and Karl, who was a senior, noticed me. It was really the first time anyone had noticed me that way. He gave me an envelope with two smaller envelopes inside. The smallest one had a key inside and said something like, "This is the key to your heart. Maybe it's the key to friendship, or maybe something more." I was a smitten kitten after that. Who wouldn't be? I still have those envelopes.

* Karl took me on my first real date and to my first prom. I know he always just thought of me as a good friend, but he was my first love.

* Karl was also my first broken heart. I remember sobbing facedown on the couch with my mom rubbing my back. I thought I'd never be happy again. I thought I'd never love anyone else ever again.

* Teepeeing was never more fun that at Karl's house. He lived (and his parents still live) in this big old beautiful house with tons of huge trees and with two lions at the front steps. During my sophomore year, poor Karl's house got nailed more than anyone's I knew. One particularly beautiful job by Lisa, Tracy, Kim, and me included forking the yard and putting sunglasses on the lions. Vern told my mom that he just sent Martha out every morning to roll all the toilet paper up so it wouldn't go to waste.

* Because of Karl ticking me off one night, I started flirting with his good friend Curt (not one of my finer teenage moments). Curt and I dated over 2 years after that. I'll never forget that Karl's sister Karen told her baby son, "Just think, maybe someday YOU can date Tena too!" Ouch. I deserved that.

* Karl was my date at Curt's wedding rehearsal dinner and at Tracy's wedding. His dancing improved considerably over the years.

* Karl and I danced to Phil Collins' "Groovy Kind of Love" at my junior Homecoming, which he took me to one weekend he was home from college.

* Karl mooned everyone at my 16th birthday party.

* Karl came to visit me after I moved home to Fairfield from Texas. My dad taught him to waterski, and I remember he was there for Matt's going-away dinner before Matt went to the University of Iowa. I fixed steaks and my mom's garlic cheese bread.

* One Christmas when I was home from Texas, I went with my Dad to Des Moines so we could shop. I just knew, don't ask me how, that I would see Karl that day. He was at the mall.

* Karl had a weird little scooter, and he would pick me up and take me for a ride.

* Karl had a really big smile and a deep he he he laugh.

* Karl was an amazing trumpet player... first chair All-State.

* Karl sobbed like a baby when we blocked the Last Supper in our 1988 production of Godspell. We ALL sobbed like babies. I just remember that Karl was really moved, and that was, in turn, very moving to me.

* I remember a Shakespeare on the Green outing the summer of 1988 with Ricco, Sarah, Molly, and Tim. We hauled an entire picnic, complete with a watermelon, over there. I love the pictures of that night.

* Karl, Curt, and Curt's mom Jean drove over for my mom's funeral. One of my very favorite memories was after the visitation, one of the worst nights of my life. I really needed a drink, so Tracy and I went out to Kokomo's. We opened the door and saw Karl and Curt sitting at a table with a pitcher of beer and 4 glasses. I have no idea if those glasses were meant for us, but it was like Heaven sent them at that moment. I'd never been so glad to see anyone in my whole life.

Our lives grew apart as we grew up. Our friendship drifted apart as we became the people we were meant to become. But, so many memories from such a formative time in my life are tied to Karl. A tiny little piece of my heart died today too. I'll always happily remember Karl as a good friend. My prayers tonight are for his wife, his kids, and his parents and sister. I can't imagine what they're going through. It's so unfair for them.

You'll be missed, Karl. Rest in peace, friend.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Busy Spring

Wow. I haven't posted since my pathetic Suzanne post. A lot has happened since then. Here are some of the highlights:

* The 6th grade GOAL kids went to Nauvoo. It was a blast, and we had a beautiful day. They geocached for the first time, and it was so exciting when they found their first cache. I can't wait to geocache in Europe when I go this summer.

* I had my birthday! 39 years young. It was a low-key day which was a teeny bit depressing at the time, but Andrew gave me flowers and a very nice card. The best birthday present, however, is that he's putting a new roof on my house. It might not sound romantic to everyone, but let me tell you, I think it's awesome. I love him so.

* The 8th grade GOAL kids went on their overnight to Des Moines. We did a lot of cool things like the Des Moines Art Center, the State Historical Museum, a tour of Drake campus... but... the CoOlEsT thing was the Body Worlds exhibit at the Science Center of Iowa. Wowzaaaaaaaaa! I was in complete awe. I don't even have the words except to say that you must get to Des Moines to see this exhibit before it leaves. We also saw the Hubble IMAX movie which ranked a close second... best IMAX ever. Mind-boggling, in fact. The kids were good, we learned a lot, and we had a good time. What more can you ask?

* Avery needs his teeth cleaned again. $350 bucks. I know it's important, but HE'S A DOG. I have a hard time with this part of having a dog. Does anyone else think that's ridiculous, or am I the one being ridiculous?

* I got a very nice award. I was honored as the Business and Professional Women's School Employee of the Year. I went to a nice ceremony and received a certificate. There were several different categories of women honored, and I was proud to be there with them. Thank you, BPW! I know my dear Helen was smiling down on me. She just lived for BPW.

* I've been riding my bike to school a lot. I look like such a dork, but it's felt to good to be moving and not have to get in my car to go those tiny few blocks to school. As long as the weather is nice, my cute bike and lame-but-necessary bike helmet will be seen on the roads.

* Andrew's Holly is home from her year in Japan. I'm glad she made it safely. The world is her oyster right now. It will be interesting to see where she ends up and what she'll be doing.

* I'm headed to Emma's ball game in a bit. I'm going to pick her and Jack up and spend the evening with them while Suzanne is at rehearsal. I need to cherish times like this!

Whew! Guess that catches things up a bit. Now, everyone hum the Miss Gulch theme song and imagine the following image with a chubbier girl and a silver bike helmet instead of the hat. I'm ready to hop on and head home! :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Pity Party

I feel like I'm 10 again. And not in a good way.
I'm blue.
I'm sad.
I feel like the world is ending.
I know it's selfish and childish.
But I can't help it.
My everyday best friend is moving away.
And it's terrible.
And if that weren't bad enough,
She's taking her two kids with her.
I know I've been spoiled having her here so close.
And I know that Southeast Polk isn't that far.
It's just that there's no one like her.

Some of my favorite Suzanne memories:
* stalking Family Video for Sex & the City dvd's
* camping when Emma was a baby at Lake Lacey
* a variety of Christmas crafts and our yearly Christmas goodie factory
* Emma's baby shower
* taking Emma to see her new baby brother Jack
* helping Suzanne take the kids to have their pictures taken
* swimming with her in the summer in her pool
* laughing laughing laughing
* going w/ Suzanne & Heather to see Spring Awakening
* when Suzanne drove me to Iowa City so I could mail my National Boards box after I pulled an all-nighter
* being narrators in Joseph
* craft night!
* going w/ Jason & Suzanne up to Mankato to see Stephen in Miss Saigon
* surf and turf in her kitchen w/ lobsters Kevin brought from Rhode Island
* birthday parties for all of us for all ages
* having Jack tell me "dat for people" when I was buying my backpack... I said, "Jack, I'm people!" He said, "No, you're Tena."

I have too many memories, and it's making me sad to write about them. I'm happy about Jason's new job. It's a great opportunity for their family. I'm happy about them being closer to their families. But mostly, I'm sad and selfish. I'm going to miss my friend.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ben Folds

I don't go to many concerts. I'm just way more into musicals than actual music (bizarre, eh?), I guess. This summer, however, I'm going to two different concerts that I'm so freaking excited about. The first one is Michael Ball, which I've posted about before. But the second one is Ben Folds. My tickets just came in the mail this week. I love his voice, I love how he plays the piano, and I love his songs. I can hardly ever get through this one without bawling:

I first heard him on David Letterman singing his song "Brick." I immediately went and bought the Ben Folds 5 cd that it came from. I think my favorite song of his, though, is actually his cover of the Beatles' "Golden Slumbers." I just love his voice. It's so unique. I have no idea what's going on in this video, but just close your eyes and listen. :)

Good stuff. I can't wait to see him in concert!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Versatile Blogger

Thank you, Mandie (To Love a Rose), for nominating me for The Versatile Blogger Award! Fun!!!

These are the rules:

1. Winners grab the image above, and put it in your blog.
2. Link back to the person who gave it to you.
3. Tell 10 things about yourself.
4. Award 15 recently discovered bloggers.
5. Contact the bloggers you have awarded to let them know they have won.

So, here are the 10 things about me:

1. I hate raw tomatoes.
2. My miniature poodle, Avery, is the sweetest dog on the planet. He's always happy and loves to meet people. He also loves fetching his toys and could do it for 23 hours a day, leaving one hour of rest.
3. My best friend and I have known each other since 7th grade.
4. My first car was a red 1980 Volkswagon Rabbit.
5. My favorite pair of pants to wear to school are 12 years old. They are on their last legs. Ha.
6. I much prefer to be deluded and to think the best about people than to know the truth.
7. Cadbury Mini Eggs got me through the last 8 weeks.
8. My favorite beverage is a Shirley Temple.
9. I love to play the handbells.
10. This summer I get to see Michael Ball and Ben Folds in concert. I can't remember the last time I went to ONE concert, let alone two!

My Nominees:
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