Friday, July 20, 2018

The Clickiness

So today I got on a plane and flew to Austin, Texas.  First thing I did when I got here was check into my pleasant hotel.  Then I went to get my badge.  Then I went back to my room to keep practicing my talk.  This talk's been giving me grief, but it's not really the talk's fault. I just keep getting distracted by stuff.

My mood brightened when I discovered a little shop in the lobby where you can buy sandwiches and bottles of WINE!  Once I feel like I'm 100% ready for tomorrow, I'll relax and watch TV and enjoy the fruit of the vine.

My room overlooks a beautiful outdoor pool.  I'm tempted to make my way down there, but every single person, save one,  is part of a cool in crowd group, also known as a clique. There's one guy who is not mingling but he's talking on his phone while he stands in four feet of water. I feel sorry for him.  It's best for me to stay up here and practice the talk again.  Then I'll catch up on The Bachelorette and imagine how great it's going to feel tomorrow night when the talk is over.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Annoyances

I'm sitting in a coffee shop, surrounded by men and women chatting.  Several have  sweet lilting voices that are getting on my last nerve.  I wish they would go away. Zip it, people.

Tomorrow I go to Austin.  I don't feel ready for the ILA Conference and as usual I've turned the talk into a ridiculous chore that still isn't quite done.  Surprise, surprise.

On the good side of things, our trip to Oregon was fantastic.  We ate at amazing restaurants, visited beautiful parks, hiked to  stunning waterfalls, stared at sea lions and sea stars along the coast.  

We talked about things that annoy us at our jobs and 20 Something led us in a goal setting session. In short, #VisitOregon

Sunday, July 08, 2018

The Editor Mindset

Toward the end of the month, I'm going to Austin to talk about Back and Forth at the ILA Conference.  I'm working on the talk and as usual, I'm getting down to the wire.  I got brave last summer and asked Katie Wood Ray to present with me.  KATIE WOOD RAY, people! As you undoubtedly know, she's a famous writing workshop guru who has written many amazing books for writing teachers.  She's also an editor at Heinemann.  So I thought it would be great to have a real editor sharing thoughts on the editor mindset as I share ideas from my editor mindset work with the Thirdlander authors of Popcorn Press.  I'm still surprised that Katie said she would do this.  How nice is that?

I need to get this power point done so I can send it her way before I leave tomorrow for Portland.  I'm pretty sure I can do it.  I keep getting stuck because I can't stop looking up new information about editors on the internet.  This Harper Collins site, "Inside the Archives" has great letters to Ursula Nordstrom, my favorite editor of all.  It's so addicting.  I can't stop reading letters from Arnold Lobel and E.B. White and John Donovan. I'm having fun working on this talk.  I'm not sure too many people will love the editor mindset as much as I do, but as you know, I myself find it completely fascinating.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

The Quiet

Our good friend Kathala died last week.  This week we attended a visitation and a funeral. We went to the cemetery and we mingled with the flood of people who came to say goodbye.   There were tears aplenty.  There will be more to come. They come at surprising times.  The house is quiet now.

Almost every Friday afternoon for over ten years, I've had a date with Kathala and Sandra and Judith.   We'll still get together, but it won't be the same and we all know it.  We met at her house a lot of the time.  We talked nonstop for hours and hours and laughed and cried on repeat. She would never let us leave until everything was discussed in great detail.  Whenever anyone said anything about weirdness of the week, Kathala would pause in surprise and then say, "You know what?" and we would laugh hysterically in response.

Then she'd dive into her thoughts about why this weird thing happened or why it shouldn't have happened or why it keeps happening.  And today I'm just wishing I could hear her say, "You know what?" a bunch more times.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Hotel

 Husbandman and I are staying at a pleasant hotel called Graduate Minneapolis.  In the room, there are artifacts representing people who are from this fine city.  We have a large oil painting of Loni Anderson and a jacket (framed behind glass) that once belonged to Herb Brooks.

I'm familiar with Loni Anderson, though I never knew she was from the Land of Lakes.  Loni Anderson has spoken out against cigarette smoking because both her parents died of emphysema.  I support Loni Anderson's work on this important health issue.

I had never heard of Herb Brooks before, so Husbandman filled me in on some of his big accomplishments.  I've spent some time learning about him on the internets.  If I have to look at his jacket upon waking up each morning, I should know a bit about the man.  It's just common sense.

Herb inspired many ice hockey players to do their best and to play with heart.  He told people to be "uncommon" because common people go nowhere.  He also said that "Legs feed the wolf."  Not sure what that means, but I'm ready to ponder this potentially inspirational idea throughout my day.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Acknowledgements

Lisa Jewell wrote this acknowledgement of her editors and their "brave and clear minded" work on revision suggestions for her book,  Then She Was Gone.  KC sent me this photo.  It's a good addition to my collection of authors' grateful writing about how editors make significant impact on their stories.  If you find one of these, please send it my way.  Thanks, friends.

Monday, June 25, 2018


Saturday's CPR training went well.  Come to find out, I didn't need the first aid part of the class, so I got to leave early.  I know how to do CPR and I also know how to use an AED.  AED stands for Automated External Defibrillator.

I'm now obsessed with locating the AEDs in all facilities.  At the airport yesterday, I pointed out the AED to Husbandman.  "If I need to start doing CPR on someone around here, I'm going to need you to run over here, open up this box and pull out this AED.  Bring it to me at once. Also, call 911."  Husbandman's response didn't inspire confidence, but I'm sure he'll do the right thing when the time comes.

I know where the AED is here in the hotel.  Unfortunately, it's downstairs in the lobby which is going to be a hassle if someone up here on the sixth floor needs CPR.  Sidenote:  Husbandman and I are spending some days in Minneapolis.  Fun times indeed.  Just spent 3 hours straight talking to KC and we didn't even get through 30% of the stuff on our talk about list.

Anyway, I was considering buying my own AED because what if the one at a location is out of batteries or is damaged in some way?  Also, I may want to carry around a small disposable razor because if I'm doing CPR on a hairy chested person, I'm going to have to remove that hair quickly so the AED nodes can adhere to the skin and administer the shock efficiently.  Come to find out, an AED costs about 1,400 dollars.  So I'm holding off on buying my own at this point in time.  In the meantime, I'm constantly keeping my eyes peeled for the AED nearest me and I strongly suggest you do the same. If you're nervous about using an AED, don't be.  Once you turn it on, the machine tells you what to do one step at a time.

Saturday, June 23, 2018


So, today is my day for a 5 hour CPR class.  My teaching license has expired and I must revive it if I want to continue educating our nation's youth, which I do. Part of being professionally developed is knowing how to save lives, so I accept that I must now leave my coffee cup and head to the YMCA.   And yet, I wonder why it takes 5 hours to teach CPR?   A few squeezes to the diaphragm.  A few pounds to the chest.  I could probably get this done in 30 to 50 minutes.

I actually saved 20Something's life once, using my CPR skills.  She was choking on an apple.  Maybe if I mention that to the instructor today, she'll realize that she can proceed at a faster pace.

I am sad to be losing 5 hours of my weekend to CPR training, but I'm also excited to hone my life saving skills.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Club
I hosted the book club last night.  We discussed Woman in the Window, a fast paced thriller with some good surprises.  If you want to read that book, you should.  The author was an editor.  He has since quit his editing job and is now just a plain old writer.  I wonder what it was like for him to work with an editor to revise.

I picked the book this month, so I was a little nervous that we wouldn't have a ton of talk around it, but as usual, we did.  This book club of mine really talks about books, which is quite nice.  I've been in book clubs that didn't like to discuss books too much and that got on my last nerve.

Mitzker's in Croatia and Slovenia and she is taking some awesome photographs.  Check out her blog over here.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Obituary

 "He had a rough start in life, but was able to overcome all of that."

When I read this line in Mr. F.'s obituary this morning, I felt frustrated as all get out.  Geez Louise, don't tease.  Tell me more about this rough start.  Tell me more about the overcoming.  Don't leave me hanging.  

I'm slowly getting over it.  Mr. F.'s family probably wants to focus on the good times.  I can learn from Mr. F. that rough starts can be overcome and life can be happy and good.  End of story.

May you rest in peace, Mr. F.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Stress

I went to Georgia and to Florida last week.  My parents are doing well thanks for asking.  We did a lot of fun activities together and then on the last day of our visit, my parents suffered simultaneous falls.  They went down together, staring into my eyes as I reached out for them, both sailing slowly backward like flat Stanleys, smacking down on the pavement outside their front steps.  It was scary and sad and infuriating.  I wanted everything to be perfect for my whole trip.  Upshot is this --- Mom's elbow is a mess.  Dad may have broken a rib. As for me, frankly I am traumatized. Mom and Dad, you've got to do better.  I can't handle the stress of your constant falling.  I love you both a lot.  Please knock it off with the balance issues.

Monday, June 04, 2018

The Skin

Husbandman and I like to see birds in the wild, but we don't like to wake up early on our precious weekends. We tenaciously venture out around noon, even though birds are usually long gone.  Birds hang out during sunrise and then they make themselves scarce.  Birds don't have time to fool around. That being said, we did see a few birds down Goose Pond way on Sunday afternoon.  We saw some terns flying around and some cattle egret in a field.  We also saw this toad.  How do I know it's a toad, you ask?  Toads have rough skin.  Frogs have smooth skin. This toad was comfortable hanging out in the open mid afternoon.  I'm thinking of starting a toad watching club.

Saturday, June 02, 2018

The Cards

We're learning to play euchre. John and Patricia are teaching us.  From this day forward, I'm going to keep a deck of cards in my purse just in case anyone might want to sit and play some euchre.  We're heading to a graduation party for a fantastic kid in a bit.  I'm thinking this fantastic kid or some of her fellow graduates might like to sit down and play some euchre.  Let's get EUCHRE SUMMER started, my friends.  

Friday, June 01, 2018

The Jokes

We went to hear Margaret Cho. I have a lot of respect for Margaret Cho. She has been in comedy for 35 years and as you probably know, I just finished up my 34th year of teaching America's youth.  In short, Margaret and I have devoted our lives to our respective fields.   I also think she's on the good side of political issues, in that she agrees with my point of view much of the time.  Despite our strong bond, Margaret and I just could not get on the same page last night.  Her jokes didn't interest me and I found many to be annoying.  Out of respect, I gave Margaret a heartfelt ovation, but we just weren't in sync and quite honestly, I place most of the blame on Margaret.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Notebooks

I read on twitter that yesterday was National Notebook Day.  I was pretty excited, though the Thirdlanders were a bit tentative about the greatness of the holiday.  One 3rdlander said, "I wish it could be NO BOOK DAY."

Very funny, Chum.

We paired up to look through our notebooks and reflect on the glories of our school year.  They loved looking back on the first day of school.  "Look what I wrote!" a Thirdlander said, laughing.  To my mind the entry didn't look that different from his typical written performance, but he was quite struck by how much he had changed. Others kept running over to me with "Remember when we did...." and "Look at this monster I drew in October..." It was all good fun and I should probably remember to do more notebook reflecting as school years draw nigh.  I told a Thirdlander next to me as we were wrapping it up, "I just love my notebook."
He smugly replied, "Who doesn't?  It holds all our most precious memories."

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Hand

A Thirdlander has a weird red mark on her hand from playing on the monkey bars.  Yesterday she picked at it all day long, trying to rip her skin open.  I tried every strategy in the book to get her to stop but she wouldn't.  She finally split it open, got some care in the office, and then removed the bandaid so she could continue to pick at it.  I know she's going to pick at it all day today so I'm going to try to ignore it.  Because paying attention to it didn't work out. 

So, I'm not looking forward to work today. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Cheers

Today's Mother's Day.  2 days ago was my dad's 89th birthday.  My parents are a lot of fun.  We're thinking about taking a trip down to Florida this summer.  Hit the beach.  Swim with the manatees. Paraglide. Head out to the strawberry farms to pick the strawberries and make some strawberry shortcake.  I'm not kidding.  These people are up for anything.  They're totally nuts.  

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Board

Every May, I am responsible for putting up a massively large bulletin board in our section of the building. I'm always late putting up this bulletin board. This year, I put up the board on Friday after school.  Kids will get to enjoy it for the remaining 11 days of the 2017-2018 school year.

We've been studying Bloomington history.  The Thirdlanders made posters about outdoor sites in our town that kids can enjoy during the summer.  They had to focus on areas of our town that were public and free and that connected to our study of important Bloomington resources.

I had a cool Fifthster cut out big letters for the words GET OUTSIDE! for the top of the bulletin board.  As I was up on a ladder stapling the words on Friday afternoon, I decided to be more concise.  I just stapled the words GET OUT! across the top.  It's more in line with my feelings right now.  And I think everyone will get a kick out of it.  I myself think it's hilarious.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

The Tinies

Photo Credit:  W VdS
 Because it's Voting Day, I have the day off.  After the important accomplishment of participating in our democracy by voting, I got back to work on the following goals:

  • Back and Forth editor suggestions for stories written by the Thirdlanders
  • Revise an article I'm cowriting with Mitzker and Zawan 
  • Publish an enticing and creative blog entry

As I previously explained in an earlier blog post, I'm not feeling super energized right now.  Luckily, and perhaps miraculously, today's newspaper included a great piece about combatting low motivation.

Basically, there are three steps. First take some time off for yourself.  I did this last night by going to bed early and watching three hours of Teen Mom 2.  Next, divide tasks into tiny increments and chip away little by little.  I'm doing this by setting my timer for 5 minutes at a time and rotating through my three goals. I've completed editing 1.5 stories, revised 4 pages of the article and might just finish this blog entry.  The final bit of advice was, "Connect with others."  I ignored this piece of advice.  I wouldn't have gotten anything at all done if I had connected with others.  Sure I sent off the occasional text or two, but mostly I just whittled away at my tasks.

The problem with my motivation is that everything takes a long time to do, but in the end, you just do what you can.  Do your best and forget the rest.

PS:  Here's a picture of Back and Forth because it looks so great with those sunflowers.  And also because I referred to the editor mindset in goal #1 above.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

The Risks


The Baltimore Orioles are flying through this week.  Mitzker took this great photograph.  She invited me over to have wine and cheese and watch the orioles from Baltimore flying about outside, but I told her I had work to do.  

 I do have work to do.  Quite a lot of work.  But come to find out, I'm just noodling away my day. Some would say that it's important to add to daily anxiety, tension and stress with procrastination and avoidance.  As Peter Levitt says, "The riskiest thing a writer can do is try to be safe." 

I'm pushing May 6 to the limit, seeing how risky life can get on this gorgeous Sunday.  Living on the edge, so to speak. Watching the sands of my day slip through the hourglass of folderol. 

Friday, May 04, 2018

The Cakes

It's carnival day.  I'm signed up for a shift at the cake walk. In all my born days, I've never won a cake at a cake walk. My older sister won cakes galore.  Every single year.  She'd wander around the Holy Rosary school carnival passing out cupcakes and slices of cakes to her pals.  Every single year. I personally thought she should bring the cakes home to share with the family, but my sister is and always has been an in the moment kind of gal. Regardless, it's always seemed strange to me that two people in the same family can have such different experiences at carnival cake walks. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Gate

I'm at the gate for my flight.  I'm taking a day off, which will be tomorrow.  I'm going to meet up with 20 Something in a city that's one mile high in terms of elevation.  I needed to get away from The Thirdlanders for a day.  They're really acting oddly.  In the middle of something that I find fascinating, a 3rdLander will inevitably yell out, "When's the last day of school again?"  I try not to take it personally, but it was starting to wear me down today.  I don't usually do the count down thing at school.  Some people think it's great that we have 22 days left.  To me, I think.... geez, that's a lot of days dealing with people who are acting like mental ward patients.

I think this day off will be just the ticket to get me through.  We have a lot going on still in Room 200.  We've got stories to publish.  This weekend, I'm not going to think about that.  It's all going to be fine.  20 Something says we're going to go nuts in the city that's one mile high.  I know what that looks like because I'm working in the nuthouse right now.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The Game

Western Tent Caterpillar     Photo Credit:  C. Butler

Fact: 3rd grade boys spend more time arguing than playing at recess. This isn't special to this year's group. It's a true fact about all groups of 3rd grade boys. It's a conundrum that will somehow be solved by the passing of time. I give it my best shot every year, on a daily basis, but there's rarely much improvement. Fortunately, the fourth grade boys just don't have the same kind of tension around their recess activity.  

Three third grade classes were out for recess on Thursday and the fighting began on the baseball field almost immediately.  I entered the fray and declared myself ump.  I know a good deal about baseball, which may surprise you. I was doing a bang up job with the umping and the game was moving along. A 3rdlander stood next to me and watched.  She kept asking me why I was making certain calls.  It was distracting, but I tried to talk to her and ump the game at the same time.  

"STRIKE!"  I yelled several times.  Every time, my sidekick would yell at me, "But he didn't even hit it!  He didn't even hit it."  When I would yell, "Four balls!  That's a walk!  Take your base!" she would holler, "He's running!  He's running! He's not walking!"

I finally stopped trying to explain the nuances of baseball and encouraged her to watch some games with her mom and dad. She needs to get up to speed with America's pastime.  The year's end is drawing nigh and there's only so much I'm going to be able to get done with these Thirdlanders.  Parents, the ball's in your stadium. 

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Proxy

20 Something went on a boat this week.  For days after her boat trip, she experienced a rocking disequilibrium, as if she were still on the boat.  She called me to discuss the situation.  I stayed surprisingly calm while insisting that she get to a doctor STAT. While she was struggling to get medical attention, I began a few days of intensive research which involved reading as well as interviewing a boating friend.

Come to find out, there's a syndrome called "Mal de Debarquement" that happens to people after a flight or a boat trip.  75% of professional sailors have experienced MdDS.  My boating friend had MdDS for 3 weeks after a cruise once.  Luckily, 20 Something only had the debilitating syndrome for 2.5 days. She's fine now.  I was so nervous that she was going to have Mal de Debarquement Syndrome for 2 or 3 years because that has been known to happen and honestly, we've been on a bit of an unlucky streak around here lately.   I assumed her condition indicated some type of inner ear infection, but that's not so.  What happens with MdDS is your brain adapts to the rollicking waves and can't re-adapt when you're back on land.  You would think brains could do better.  Our brains really let us down when it comes to MdDS.

It is up to the person who has suffered with MdDS to determine if going on a boat again is worth the risk.  Obviously, I hope 20 Something decides to forego boats forever.  I've been somewhat stressed over the past few days and I'd prefer not to experience MdDS-by-Proxy ever again.  I suggest everyone stop going on boats because why invite trouble?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Doggedness

 The Thirdlanders are starting to storyboard their social narrative stories.  Most people who teach in a writing workshop would probably think I'm too directive and or suggestive  with these young writers.  One Thirdlander has had to restart two times in the last two days.  Another Thirdlander started ripping up her post its after I made some comments about her story idea being a bit same old same old. I try to be tactful, but I stay true to my editor identity. When writing fiction for our press, the Thirdlanders need to make sure their books are surprising and original and can get readers talking about social issues.

This morning, a friend came to me and asked me about a writer she's working with.  I taught this kiddo and he was a hard sell on social justice writing, but he ended up writing a bestseller about gender stereotyping.  This week, he is writing about atomic farts.  She said, "You would say no to that, right?"

"Yeah, I would. He can go home and write about atomic farts all he wants.  He can hammer out pages of atomic fart comments in his writer's notebook if that's his thing. But when he's working on a publishing project for the classroom press, he needs to develop a theme that highlights a social justice issue."  Worrying that I was coming off as overly strident, I added "I know. I'm bossy."

She said, "I don't think you're bossy.  I think you help kids produce some truly amazing writing." So that was nice.  Even though the editor mindset isn't for everyone, I'm loyal and true to the Back and Forth of classroom publishing.  We've got a lot to do in the next month.  Rolling up sleeves and getting the job done in Room 200.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Adventure

I listened to a podcast today about how everyone should have adventures.  The podcaster travels all over the world with her 3 children and her husband.  They each have one bag and they climb mountains and tour pyramids and jump off bridges into pools of migrating manta rays and surf down volcanos on top of molten lava.

If I could see this person in person, I'd be tempted to inadvertently elbow her in the rib cage. Then I'd apologize like it was a big accident.

I probably need to start planning an adventure soon.  Because that podcast really stuck in my craw.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Thirteenth

Yesterday we went outside with our iPads.  After talking about First Nations in Indiana, we went out to photograph the resources out there that we would use if we were living out there, in the playground wilderness.  Their photos were terrific.  There was some squabbling, but in the end, we all had a good time.

While we were outside, a friend's class was catching minnows in the creek, so we watched them for awhile.  Most of the minnows out there are called chubs.  They can get quite large.  They're going to free the chubs later.

This same friend's class found a wolf spider in their classroom earlier in the week.  They put it in a jar and named it Webby.  Their plan was to release it later in the week when the weather warmed up.  I offered Webby one of our crickets from Harriet's tank.  Friend Teacher popped it into the jar and Webby jumped on that cricket in a heartbeat, sucking out its inner organs like a pro.  Thankfully, my friend got a great photo of the meal in progress.

One Thirdlander who is normally quite cheerful was cranky when we got back to class.  He wanted to go to the health office because he said he was sick to his stomach.  After awhile he returned, still glum.  As I was reading to the class, he walked up with a post it that said, "Read at home" on one side.  I immediately turned it over to read the back.  It said, "My iPad cracked.  I dropped it outside.  I'm sorry.  It still works though."  I looked over at him and whispered, "It's fine.  Don't worry about that any more."  He perked up after that.  I wish kids would tell me stuff when they're freaking out. I can make many things better when it comes right down to it.

The power went off at 1:20, in the entire school yesterday afternoon.   A tree had fallen outside somewhere, cutting off our power.  I told the kids about Friday the 13th.  Some of them had never heard of the legend of unluckiness surrounding this day.  A Thirdlander asked,  "Is it all the Friday the thirteenths or just the ones in April?"

After we cleared that up,  I convinced the Thirdlanders that we could still get work done in a darkened room.  Our room is super dark because our windows face the atrium, and not the outside world, so this took some doing, but we all got to it and I didn't mind the lack of light so much. After some reading workshop, we decided to get out the knitting looms and just work on our knitting projects.  We talked about our weekend plans.  It got pretty loud with all the cross talk, but that's how it goes sometimes.

The weekend arrived at last, and off I drove to Irish Lion.  I sat outside with Sandra and we ate some Blarney Puff Balls.  Take that, Friday the 13th.  You tried to bring us down, and yet you failed.  Better luck next time. See you in July.

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Elk

I pulled the ELK medicine card this week.  It's a good one for teachers.  ELK medicine is all about stamina and setting your pace so that you can maintain energy over the distance.  On Tuesday afternoon at bus duty a student teacher asked me how I build up teaching stamina.

I was exhausted so I said, "You don't.  It's an exhausting job.  You'll be completely wiped out at the end of the day for the rest of your life."

She looked so crestfallen and her supervising teacher said, "Well, that may be a little extreme."

There's probably a good reason why I never work with student teachers.  Even so, I pulled it together the next day and thought about maintaining my energy throughout the day.  I worked on crocheting during morning meeting.  We had an extra recess.  When we transitioned from one activity to the next, I didn't let 15 Thirdlanders come up to tell me their random stories.  This last one is a hard one because it seems rude to cut people off when they have a story to tell, but enough is enough already.  We have a lot of time to chat during the day.

I played some Bob Dylan music in the background and put on the barred owl web cam.  At the end of the day on Wednesday, I revised my statement to Student Teacher and talked to her about how important it is to set a reasonable pace and allow yourself room to protect your energy.  "I feel pretty good today," I told her.  Her supervising teacher nodded in approval.

But then on Thursday, I was wiped out again.  So was Student Teacher.  We were almost leaning on the bus at bus duty.  So, it's one thing and then another.  Today I'm calling on ELK to help me go the distance.  Come on, ELK.  Give me some of your Friday medicine.

Saturday, April 07, 2018

The Inflammation

Yesterday a 3rdLander told me that tests are sometimes given more importance than they should be given.  I agreed with this clever kiddo wholeheartedly.

The 3rdlander continued, "My cousin picked at an inflamed pimple one time during a test in elementary school and then he couldn't get into the higher classes in junior high TWO YEARS LATER!"

I agreed that the whole situation was unfair and ridiculous. Let's put things into perspective, People.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

The Ninjas

We're in spirit week right now.  Today was class color day.  Everyone was supposed to wear the same color.  We had a vote a few days ago and BLACK won.

We were all dressed in black today and we looked awesome, just like ninjas.  Before school started, I  put the Mission Impossible theme song on so we could walk stealthily around the classroom and act like ninjas.  Creative Thirdlander gave me a badge that he made with the letters NB on it.  Ninja Boss.  I was really acting out the ninja part with verve as the music played because I love that song.

One Thirdlander found a way to perch himself under one of the tables. He looked very much like Tom Cruise in the Mission Impossible movie where he was hanging 6 inches above the floor in that room with the all the lasers going everywhere.

After others started trying to copy this move, I decided that maybe we should tone down the whole ninja thing and just move into morning meeting.  I felt badly for being kind of a buzzkill in the end, but   10 minutes of fun is better than none when you think about it. One more day of spirit week.  I will survive.

Sunday, April 01, 2018

The News

We read an article about the Little Rock 9 in Time for Kids recently.  2017 was the 60th anniversary of the brave heroism of 9 teens who integrated Central High in Arkansas.  After we read about the LR9 in the weekly news magazine, we read another article in a mainstream newspaper, designed for adult readers.  We also watched a few of their videos.  The Thirdlanders were pretty shocked to read, in the mainstream text, about the resegregation of public schools in the U.S.  We will look at some statistics about that.  We then tried out a simulation, where 3rdlanders took on the roles of assistant editors at the weekly news magazine planning a follow up article about the Little Rock 9.  One group of editors want to send some reporters to talk to the students at Central High, as well as the principal, to find out what Central High is like today.  Others want to include some maps of Little Rock, Arkansas, in the next piece.  Another group wants to include photographs of the statue commemorating the Little Rock 9.  Another wants to focus on Jefferson Thomas, a member of the Little Rock 9 who died in 2010. We all want to include some information about resegregation about our public schools in the follow up article, since this was a sad surprise for these readers.  PBS has some great graphs about resegregation and I will share some during math class this week.  
The simulation allowed the Thirdlanders to focus on the design of future articles as well as content.  Their conversations were lively and enthusiastic.  The Thirdlanders enjoy discussing current and historic news topics. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Catching Up

Friends,  Let's catch up.

Over spring break, I visited my parents.  My mom's not doing great.  She has a super bug infection and is getting some super bug antibiotics.  Center for Disease Control is somehow involved.  Not exactly sure how.  Please keep her in your thoughts. My dad's not feeling great either. So please think kindly on him as well. They're good folk and I love them so.

Then I went to New Orleans.  I met up with Husbandman, 20 Something and #1 Son.  Our time there was phenomenal.  Filled with music and great restaurants and talking and gorgeous live oak trees.  We heard #1 play music 4 different times.  I love the crazy character of New Orleans.  I know I have the tourist point of view, but man alive, I miss New Orleans so much.

Now I'm done with a week back with the Thirdlanders.  I had to finish up report cards and work with the Thirdlanders to publish their zines and get their portfolios in order.  We got the job done, but geez Louise, I was a little wiped out by week's end.

I ended the week just as I've ended the week for the past ten years or so, meeting with the fab 4:  Judith, Sandra, Kathala and yours truly.  No matter what, our gatherings are always fun and essential to my overall wellbeing.  Our time together never feels quite long enough.  Kathala's not feeling so great these days so if you are a praying kind of person, can you please keep her in your prayers?  If you are not, please think of her and her kinfolk with kindness and love.  It all counts.  It all matters.

I've spent quite a bit of time today getting organized for the upcoming week.  Should be a good one.  We're having a publishing party tomorrow because our zines are done.  They truly are fabulous.  I'm proud as punch.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Flotsam and Jetsam

Tonight I texted #1 Son to ask him what he was up to.  I do that fairly regularly because I'm always curious about what he's doing.  He said he was going to some sit-ins.  You may think he's going to some protests, but come to find out, sit-ins for #1 means that he's sitting in with some bands.  FYI:  He'll be playing three gigs when we're visiting him in New Orleans next week. Woohoo.

Today a Thirdlander told me she wanted to research gender non-conformity for one of her zine pieces.  We've talked quite a lot about gender non-conformity this year, and the Thirdlanders love to use this term.  Whenever they can throw it into the conversation they do.  This gal wanted to search online for articles, but I said that I would have to help her with that.  She said, "But I'm going to use the safe search!"  I don't know.  I just decided she should wait.  Am I part of the problem????  I'm going to have to ask @JudyBookLady, most amazing librarian on the planet, for some suggestions for cool things to read.  She'll point us in the right direction.

I think I told you already that we've been talking about T****s reduction of some National Monuments.  We read and wrote about Bear's Ears National Monument in particular.  So last week I finally joined the #ditchThehomework movement.  Okay, I give one weekly math worksheet, but other than that, kids do their own thing for 30 minutes Monday through Thursday.  So far, no parent has complained.  Awesome.  Today a Thirdlander told me that he had some extra time this week, so he decided to make a clay model of Bears Ears National Monument.  He's bringing it in tomorrow.  He said, "It's actually quite realistic.  I looked at a lot of photos and used different shades of red clay."  I think that's hilarious.

Today we wrapped up our Power of Song unit.  After we read about the Landphilharmonic Orchestra, we used our kazoos to play We Shall Overcome together.  We sang the verses too.  They really sounded terrific and I'm glad the kazoos are going home.  The Thirdlanders have loved this unit.  Today one said, "Can you find a video of Pete Seeger singing 'Solidarity Forever?'" I said that I would look for one, and asked him how he knew about the song.  He said, "After we learned about Pete Seeger, I went to the public library with my mom and checked out six Pete Seeger albums."

Things are always happening in Thirdland.

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Flu

Husbandman has the flu.

Today he had a temperature of 103.9.

That probably seems high, but the world record for fevers is 115 degrees.  Some guy in Atlanta.  1980.

Sorry to tell you this, Husbandman.  You are far from breaking the record for fevers.  Come on, Mister.  Go for the GOLD!

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Traits

I've been losing my mind a bit lately.  When things get tough, I basically go a tad insane.  I should probably not be advertising that on this here blog, but that's how it is right now.  I write this stuff, you three read it.  Case closed.

I'm not always that great at dealing with situations that are out of my control.  I'm basically horrible at helping others.  I have other decent qualities, but helping others...I probably get a solid B or B minus in that domain.  It's not anyone's job to give me little helpful tasks to perform. I should be able to step up to the plate and come through without specific instructions.  If I've ever seemed not super helpful when you needed me, know that I'm working on it.

 Maybe there's other stuff to do besides helping.  Loving. Lurking. Lying in wait.  I'm good at stuff that starts with L.  Which makes sense because my name starts with L.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Leaving

Rudy the Toy Destroyer
 Born in 1929 and 1930, my parents have lived a good long while.  These last couple of years have been tough on them.  Their activities and abilities and connections keep dwindling down little by little, bit by bit.

Both my parents failed retirement and kept working after their real jobs ended, working out of the home until about five or six years ago. My mom volunteered in a hospice for elderly monks.  My dad worked at a sunglasses factory.

My dad used to like 3 things:  coffee, cigars and books.  He can't drink too much coffee any more because of acid reflux.  He (thankfully) gave up cigars about 20 years ago, and his macular degeneration has eliminated reading. He's always been an extremely social being and he misses his siblings and his co-workers.  My mom was constantly moving---cooking, cleaning, helping whoever in the world needed help, getting ready for the next get together.  Both my parents have always been avid readers.  My mom's had several small strokes and her vision is now messed up so reading is out. She now struggles with speech and balance.  She falls often.

My parents stay basically happy though.  Not deliriously happy, not chipmunk chipper, but basically happy, I think.  Definitely more upbeat than I would be in their place.  Glad to see me when I visit.  Sad to see me when I go. Always grateful to my siblings who live nearby and help them day and night.  It's hard to leave my parents.  I wish we lived closer.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Airport

I'm at the airport.  Heading down to the south to visit my family of origin.

I have a lot of pre-travel anxiety, but once I get to the airport, I feel like I'm cosseted inside a comforting cocoon. Everything I need is here.  When I travel solo, I like to get to the airport 3 or 4 hours before my flight.  I take a walk, catch up on email, check out the book store, have a snack, perhaps enjoy a glass of wine. There's even a spa at this airport, but I haven't headed in there, though a chair massage would be just the ticket today.  I wonder why people don't go to the airport for their vacations.  It's super relaxing here.  Maybe they do and I just don't know about it.  I'll pitch the idea to Husbandman when I see him next.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Bachelor

Hometown dates this week.

One of the bachelorettes is very much into taxidermy.  She actually stuffed a rat tonight on her date with the Bachelor.  Here's my question.  Where did she get those dead rats?  Can you order taxidermy kits online?

She had a room full of taxidermies.  I happen to know first hand that taxidermies are expensive.  So now I'm wondering, also, where this gal is getting the money for this habit of hers?

So those are my two questions right now.  As Albert Einstein said, "The important thing is not to stop questioning."

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Homework

I'm on the verge of ditching the homework for the Thirdlanders, but I can't quite decide.  I know I'm not going to assign homework this week because I feel like everyone's on edge right now.  I keep reading articles about ditching homework.  People talk about their kids going crazy with frustration with the homework.  I don't remember homework being such a big deal at my house.  My kids just did it and we didn't talk about it much.  But this isn't true for a lot of families.  For some, homework is a veritable pain in the neck.

Some people do like their kids to have homework and our school does have a clear homework policy of ten minutes X grade level on weeknights, so I'm probably going to do what Harvey Daniels suggests and invite kids to work at home on reading, writing, or math on a math app.  Or should I still send the math worksheet home for people who don't have computer access?  I only send one a week.  I can't decide.  I'm in a quandary about this.  I don't think I over-assign homework. Friends whose kids I've taught have always told me they actually think my homework is creative and reasonable.  I keep going back and forth on this.  I think we'll just take a break this week and then I'll survey some trusted peeps.  Something's going to happen, one way or the other.  

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Biographies

We're reading picture book biographies in Room 200.  We're writing about a great person and we're also comparing the resources we've read about the person.  I started off reading 2 picture book biographies about a personal hero, Eleanor Roosevelt, to the Thirdlanders.  We created flow maps of her life using one book, then the other.  After the flow maps, we made a double bubble map, comparing the two texts.  One text by the incredible Barbara Cooney focused only on Eleanor's childhood and had zoomed way out illustrations.  Doreen Rappaport's text covered the whole range of Eleanor's life, had close up illustrations and included many inspiring Eleanor quotes throughout the book.  They both contained information about her family's wealth as well as their interest in philanthropy.

After the double bubble demonstration, I wrote a short piece about Eleanor, projecting the text on to our big screen.  I inserted a photo of her, from late in her life.  A Thirdlander said, "You look a lot like her."  And then others chimed in agreeing that I bear a strong resemblance to Eleanor Roosevelt.  At first I was a little bummed out, but then I said, "You know, I guess I do look a little like Eleanor. That's kind of cool because she was a great person and I truly admire her so much."

A Thirdlander said, "You're a great person too."  Another added, "I'd like to write my biography project about you!"  Others joined in, telling me of my greatness.

I said, "Well, you all crack me up, and you're very kind people." After that, it was back to writing time for the amazing Thirdlanders of Room 200. Looking forward to reading their pieces about some great people.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Force

On Friday I walked around with a Thirdlander at extra recess who is making original Valentines for each person in the class.  He told me, "Yours is all about Star Wars."  I've never expressed much interest in Star Wars, but I took this to be a compliment.  Then he went through each classmate and told me what he was doing to make each card unique.  As he talked, I thought, "That's pretty cool," and "I wonder if this activity is driving his parents crazy?" and "I hope his parents don't think that I suggested that he do this."

I remember when my kids were at home.  20Something frequently wanted to make her Valentines.  One year she made a Beatles All You Need Is Love theme which required a trip to the copying store for color copies.  I remember thinking it was kind of a hassle, but a cool idea overall. I bought my cards this year.  They have Snoopy on them, which is awesome but the even greater part is that they're STICKERS!!!!!

The thing I love about the Day o' Love is the passing out of the cards.  The Thirdlanders look over each one for the important meanings of each.  You'll hear them calling out across the room, "Thank you, JOE!" and "I love this, ANNA!"  "There's a level of sweetness that I can barely stand.  There are some awesome parents bringing some games in for our party. Also, I bought a lady bug craft for the Thirdlanders to make.  It's always touch and go with the craft part of the party.  Sometimes the Thirdlanders don't want to make the crafts I plan and I have to get fairly directive which can impinge on the loving atmosphere of the day.  In the end, the Day o' Love is sure to be a good time.  Husbandman's going out of town, so I may have to pick up a rose or two for myself.

The Clickiness

So today I got on a plane and flew to Austin, Texas.  First thing I did when I got here was check into my pleasant hotel.  Then I went to ...