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.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

The Skin

Hanging at the coffee shop this afternoon.  I had to take an afternoon off because I had a dermatology appointment.  I had this weird little thing on my eye lid that I wanted removed.  The dermo was happy to accommodate.  As she was applying the liquid nitrogen, she said, "These things have the annoying habit of always growing back!"  I kind of wish she had told me that before she started using the nitrogen, but at that point, what was I really going to do?  My eye lid actually feels a gazillion times lighter now. It's like magic.

While I was there, I asked the Dermo to look at some weird rough patches of skin that are on my body.  She said that these patches are nothing to worry about and then she told me their name. I shuddered as she talked about aging bodies and the weird things that happen to them. I was visually shaking and making a weird face when she reassured me with,  "This is nothing, Some people's entire backs are covered with this stuff."  I've decided not to think about that for now.  I'll google it later.

The appointment was fairly brief so I've had the afternoon to work on my maths class, write an email to my mom and doodle around in my notebook.  I've been listening to a gal at the next table talk about astrology for the last hour.  "Do you feel like you're naive?  It says here you're naive.  Do you think you're sincere?  It says here you're sincere."  She just told her friends, "I have to go now.  Someone at church is giving a talk about drugs tonight. I want to go there to learn how I can help out the people who are hooked on drugs."  I really admire this woman and I'm also glad that she's moved on to her next activity.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The Steamboat School

I read quite a few books during our African American Read In yesterday.  Steamboat School was one of my favorites.  Here's the story.  In Missouri in the 1840's a law was passed that African American people---slave or free----could not go to school.  So Reverend John Berry Meachum was forced to shut down his school.  He later opened a Floating Freedom School on a steamboat that floated on the Mississippi.  Because guess what?  Missouri doesn't own the Mississippi.  Awesome book.  You should read it if you want to.  Another favorite was My Pen by Christopher Myers. Top Notch.

Monday, February 05, 2018

The Knee

"Have you ever had someone take a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance?"

"No, I haven't," I told the Thirdlander.

"What would you think if someone did that?" he asked.

"I think it would be fine.  What do you think?"

"I think it would be fine too."

"You know our president doesn't agree with us."

He looked seriously right at me and said, "He's not here."

I wonder if there's going to be some knee taking some time soon during the Pledge?  Stay tuned my friends.

Sunday, February 04, 2018


My son Quinn Sternberg and Charlie Ballantine at The Back Door #Unrelated Photo

     Thursday was World Read Aloud Day 2018.  Our awesome librarian, Judith, AKA @JudyBookLady, arranged for several authors to Skype with classrooms.  The Thirdlanders were lucky to get to talk with Emma Otheguy, the author of Marti's Song for Freedom. After we read this fabulous book (published by Lee and Low) the Thirdlanders worked with partners to generate questions and important ideas that they wanted to talk more about.

        They also generated a list of connections to their own lives.  Students have had relatives that fought in war and some of them have "warred" with people they know.  Other connections included:  the desire for independence, being homesick, being a writer, visiting New York City.  I especially liked one Thirdlander's connection with Jose Marti, "I also want to change the world some day."  We spent some time on Writer's Wednesday writing about our connections in our notebooks.

Whenever we read a book for our History Trail, we make bumper stickers about the book's message or ideas.  After Ms. Otheguy read her book to us on Thursday morning via Skype, we read our bumper stickers to her.  It was powerful to hear the Thirdlanders calling out their bumpers loudly and proudly---Fight with Song Not War, Be an Eagle Not a Snake and Independence for All People---to the actual author of the book.  I'm so happy that the Thirdlanders were able to have this amazing experience.  I can't thank @JudyBookLady enough for arranging this for us.  #LIBRARIANSROCK

The Astronauts

 From a Lynda Barry book, I've used the idea to have the Thirdlanders draw self portraits on occasion.  Draw yourself as Batman, a monst...