Foster Parenting

Monday, March 31, 2014

Slice of Life #31 of 31

Thank you so much to The Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.  What a wonderful month it's been.

I always appreciate all the time and effort that goes into Slice of Life.  Hopefully, I'm back into the habit of writing every day.  I think one of the best parts of Slice of Life is the community that is built during the month of March.  Thank you for reading and commenting ~ it means a lot to me.  I'm looking forward to continuing on Tuesdays and we've now adopted Monday as our Slice of Life Day at school.  I'm glad that SOL has shown many of my students the joy in writing.  It's been a fun month of writing and sharing.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

#29 of 31 Slice of Life...Slice of Pie

Thank you so much to Two Writing Teachers for hosting The Slice of Life Challenge

When you wake up from your Saturday afternoon nap at 4:30 and then read just "one more chapter" from your Spring Break read, it's hard to have time to cook dinner.  That's how my husband and I ended up at Der Dutchman tonight.  And when you go to Der Dutchman, the big question is, "Do we get pie?"

Keith has not been eating carbs this week.  He could do that because I wasn't home to bake cookies.  So, he's been pretty successful.  I have no problem eating pie by myself, so there was no pressure for him to indulge.  However, when it comes to Der Dutchman pie, the man is weak.

As we looked over the multitude of choices, we debated over cream pies, fruit pies, no sugar added pies.  Coconut cream is often my choice because it was my grandma's favorite.  But, tonight, the sign advertising the new spring pies caught my interest.

"So, which pie do you think is the least unhealthy?" he asks me.
"Hmmm...maybe the strawberry," I responded.
"Right, it has fresh fruit."  I think he was grasping at straws here.  He REALLY wanted pie.  
"Exactly.  And," I reminded him, "if you don't eat the crust, it will save a lot of calories."  

So it was decided.  He would get the fresh strawberry (with whipped cream, of course) and I would get the rhubarb crumb pie.  I wanted to try something different and I've never had rhubarb pie before.  Remember, my OLW is discover.  I was out to discover some new pie.  

Our pies arrived, looking sinfully delicious.  I tentatively took a bite of the rhubarb pie.  I wasn't sure if I would like it or not, knowing how tart those long red stalks are. was delicious. Not one bit of tartness, which means it must have had A LOT of sugar to make it taste so good.  

As you can see, once we started, we forgot all about not eating the crust.

It was worth every single calorie.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

#27 of 31 Slice of Life Stuck

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Writing Challenge.

I'm stuck and I don't know what to write about.  I've been sitting here, ideas tumbling through my mind, and nothing strikes me as rich Slice material.

Should I write about sharing my sisters' and my photo for #throwbackthursday?  I have a lot of material here at my mom's house.  We've gotten quite a few comments, lots of LOLs,  and I'm pretty sure my sister's husband is in some hot water for a few of his FB comments. (Don't you love the hair?)

Or, as I started working on my National Board renewal, I realized how much the Columbus Area Writing Project has impacted my life both professionally and personally.  I could write about that.

Then there's the lake.  I drove to Cleveland today to visit my sister. I wanted to see Lake Erie frozen over.  My sister and I enjoyed ourselves as we spent some time there this afternoon.  I thought about writing a poem about growing up around the lake from swimming there as a little girl, strolling in the moonlight, slathering sunscreen on my babies, dreaming of the future.

Or, I could write about sitting in the car with my sister bawling our eyes out as we watched this video.  But I didn't really want to write a sad post tonight.

One more thought...Scooter's Dawg House was hopping tonight.  We like to go there after we've been to the lake.  The place exudes stories from their license plate-lined walls, long lines of hot dog enthusiasts, and the HUGE order of french fries that could feed the entire town of Mentor.  Scott, the owner,  greets each customer like they're old friends, and I bet some of them are.

Lots of nuggets, not sure where to go with them.  So, instead, I captured these fleeting thoughts, pulled them together, and voila ~ a Slice of Life post.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

#26 of 31 Slice of Life: Becoming the Happiest Girl in the World

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life challenge.

"Mom, if you have jeans that fit your butt, you will be the happiest girl in the world."  Those are the words my 19 year-old Annie told me the other day.  You see, she is a "Fittologist" at Old Navy.  She wears a special apron with her title emblazoned on the front, helping those wayward, unhappy females find the jeans that fit just right.

So, now I know that must be the reason for my general malaise.  It has nothing to do with OTES, data collection, over testing kids, selling my house, etc. etc. etc.  My problem is that my jeans are saggy.  They don't fit my butt just right.

Since I was leaving for Spring Break, I decided that what I needed to make my trip to Brimfield ever so perfect, was a new pair of jeans.  I was going on Spring Break, didn't I deserve to be happy while I was there basking in the snow covered hills along Route 43?   What I needed was a new pair of jeans.

My personal fittologist and I headed out for the mall Sunday afternoon.  I knew there was nothing to worry about.  I had an expert with me.  No more "mom jeans" for me.  I was going for the gold.

I tried on jeans.
I sat on the bench so Annie could check for a "gap."
I tried on more jeans.
Annie brought back a different pair to try on.
Curvy fit
Straight fit
Boot cut
Slimming in the tummy
Who knew there were so many different kind of jeans to try on?
Annie's idea of a joke...

Well, 4 stores and 20 pairs of jeans later, my weary shopping partner and I found what we both deemed to be the perfect jeans.  They fit my butt, there is no gap, and they feel good when I put them on.  Unfortunately, I don't look like that young, slim, 20 year-old I used to be.  I still look like a mom.  But my jeans don't bag!

This morning, I put on my new jeans and I have to say that I do feel pretty happy.  I don't know if it's really because they fit my butt well.  I think it has more to do with the memories of shopping with Annie.

The lesson here?   If you are feeling a general sense of sadness, check out your jeans.  What you really might need is a new pair that fits your butt just right.  Ask Annie.

I am in love with Pharrell Williams' "Happy."  I'm especially in love with this version.  Hope it brings you a little happiness.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

#25 of 31 Slice of Life: All Because of a Spaghetti Dinner

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.  Visit their site to read more slices.

My Uncle Jack and I established a new tradition 3 years ago.  I was staying with him during Spring Break, just a few weeks after my Aunt Cathi had passed away.  He told me that he wanted to take me out for spaghetti at the Italian Club, Carovillese.  He and my aunt used to go there.  Well, I am never one to pass up homemade spaghetti and meatballs.  I wrote about our time together as a Slice of Life story and got a comment from Amy Rudd at The "Rudd"er, a fellow slicer.  Apparently, she and her family go there too.  Now, I had never met Amy, but all of a sudden, we had a connection.  Uncle Jack and I have gone to Carovillese every Tuesday of my Spring Break since then.  Sometimes we eat there, sometimes I pick it up and bring it back to the house.

Well, today's Tuesday, so you can guess what I had for dinner.  Yep, spaghetti and meatballs made by very sweet Italian men and women who spend the day rolling meatballs and stirring spaghetti sauce.  It's the real thing and it's delicious!!

The other bonus?  I got to meet with Amy over coffee at Panera.  We first met last summer.  When I knew I would be in Kent for Spring Break this year, I asked her if she wanted to get together.  Even though we've only met once before, when we get together, we can talk forever.  We had a wonderful visit this afternoon (as we watched the sunny sky turn to a snowy sky) talking about our families, our jobs, and books we were reading.  

As I was leaving Panera, I drove to Carovillese's, thinking about Amy and serendipity.  If I hadn't written that post, and she hadn't read it and commented on it, we might not have ever met each other.  I, for one, am so glad that I have a friend all because we share a connection through our blogs and our love of Tuesday spaghetti dinners.

Monday, March 24, 2014

#24 of 31 Slice of Life Slowing Down the Busyness

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.  Visit their site to read more slices.

Not much adventure here in Brimfield...I spent the day doing some reading to get me ready for my writing.  I don't want to jump into this work thing too quickly.  On top of that, if I got my work done too soon, I'd lose my "Queen of Procrastination" title.  I got in a nap and then went out looking for a place to walk.  

I started out for the Mogadore Reservior, looking for a link up to the Buckeye Trail. After driving some twisty back roads, and turning around a few times, I came upon a chained up entrance to the park.  Darn!  Plan A wasn't going to work.  On to Plan B.

I headed over to Kent State's stadium to check out the trail there.  It winds all the way to campus ~ a nice 1.8 mile walk one way.  It didn't exist when I went to school there.  And even though it was only 30 degrees outside, the shining sun made it a wonderful walk.  Lots of memories came flooding back as I walked the trail.  It's hard to believe it was 30 years ago.  
The walk was just what I needed to slow my mind down and clear my head.  I walked back to the car, promising myself that I'd write for 2 hours tonight.  

Guess what?  It didn't happen.  That's the nice thing about being on Spring Break.  I don't have to follow a schedule.  I got back to my mom and dad's, ate dinner, put on my pajamas, and snuggled into bed, ready to write my SOL.  

I didn't accomplish everything that I wanted to, but that's ok.  I've been working on not being so busy.  I'm getting better and better at it and I'm discovering lots of beautiful places along the way.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

#23 of 31 Slice of Life...Moms Always Know

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.  Visit their site to read more slices and leave a comment or two.

I thought tonight's post was going to be something entirely different (which means I know what I'll be writing about for tomorrow's post.)  I arrived at my parents' house just a bit ago.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, they are on their way to Florida, where it is MUCH warmer.  I asked them if I could hole away at their house for 5 or 6 days so that I could get some writing done.  I knew if I stayed home, I'd worry about home stuff.  So here I am.

As I made the 2 1/2 hour drive, it occurred to me that I don't think I've ever been by myself for a week.  That tells you what a sheltered life I've lived.  I'm looking forward to being on my own time schedule and answering only to myself.  Plans are loose for hanging out with my cousins and sister, Tuesday night is spaghetti night with Uncle Jack, and other than that, my time is mine.  I'm not only going to get my writing done, but I'm going to explore and discover (my OLW) some new things around here.  My alma mater, Kent State, is right down the road, and I'm pretty sure it's changed in the last 30 years (yikes, I'm old).  Plus all the discovery will give me fodder for future posts this week.

But that's not the point of tonight's post.  I walked in to the most pleasant surprise.  I knew Mom would have the fridge stocked, because, basically, it always is.  She still hasn't gotten used to the fact that it's only her and Dad, even though we've all been out of the house for many, many years.  Her house is always spotless, so she's ready for company at the drop of a hat.  What I didn't expect was this pile of treasures sitting on the kitchen table.

Mom knows I've been especially stressed lately.  So, she left me this little care package, just as if I were at a real Bed and Breakfast.  Here's what I got:

Welcome to Arvin's Bed and Breakfast

  • A new tea mug and a box of herbal teas (I drink a lot of tea)
  • Some wine coolers (I only like wine that tastes like Kool-Aid)
  • A Groupon for an hour massage (I can't wait to use that)
  • Some sticky notes and a highlighter (I guess that's for the work I'm going to do)
  • Nice smelling bath stuff and a pouffy sponge (More pampering)
Since my kids are all grown up, I know that it's difficult to watch your children struggle.  Band-aids and kisses no longer solve the problems like they used to.  I guess moms of 51 year-old women still worry about their children too.  Mom knew that I needed a little pampering right now, and she knew just what I would love.  She took the time to gather all of these things for me even though she was busy getting ready for her own trip.  So, I'm going to enjoy these treats this week, get lots of work done, and take some time for me.  Thanks Mom!!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

#22 of 31 Slice of Life Cabin Memories

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.

I've been meandering down memory lane.  You see, my husband and I rented a cabin along a lake in southeastern Ohio this weekend.  We're celebrating our 29th anniversary.  As we opened the door and stepped in, I was immediately transported back to my childhood and young adult years, when going to my grandparents' cabin meant fun with the cousins, special time with my grandparents, and a special hideaway when I was older.  This two cabins look nothing alike, but they both have that "cabiny" smell.  And that's what takes me back.

My early morning view today.

Early mornings at the cabin were special.  I'd be lured awake by the sound and aroma of coffee percolating.  That ping-pop-blurp told me that Grandma and Pop were awake.  I'd slip out of my sleeping bag, carefully crawl over a myriad of cousins who were sleeping in the loft with me, and quietly make my way down the ladder to the main floor.  If I was lucky, I'd get a few minutes of having my grandparents all to myself.  

I knew exactly where to find them.  They'd be sitting on the swing that overlooked the Grand River. Their hands would be intertwined as they sat in peaceful silence.  Steam drifted from their coffee cups ~ Pop's mug always the yellow one.  Powdered sugar doughnuts sat patiently on the picnic table, waiting to be devoured by  any one of the grandchildren sleeping inside.  Crows cawed, woodpeckers rat-a-tat-tatted, and songbirds tweeted overhead.  The swing, anchored to two huge trees, creaked back and forth, back and forth, as Grandma and Pop gently pushed it with their feet. As the sun climbed from the horizon, its light peeked through the canopy above, casting a soft glow over  two people I  loved more than anything in the world.

Seeing no one else out there with them, I'd tiptoe over to the picnic table, grab a doughnut, and climb in between them.  I'd snuggle into Grandma's soft, billowy embrace.  She'd be wearing one of her bright flowered housecoats, while Pop would be dressed in his black pants, white short-sleeved shirt with a pen already in the pocket protector.  Me, I was in my glory.  White powder covered my fingers and clung to my lips as I joined the morning ritual on the swing.  

Creaking swing
Steaming coffee
Chirping birds
Flowing river
Powdered sugar doughnuts

Embraced in love

My grandparents' cabin as it looks today.  It's no longer in our family.

Friday, March 21, 2014

#21 of 31 Slice of Life Getting Back to My Dream

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting the March Slice of Life Challenge.  

Over Oriental Chicken Salad, I decided that I want to go back to school.  It's been in the back of my mind for quite awhile.  I had told myself that this was one dream that wasn't going to come to fruition.  I put it on hold last summer.  Too much going on at home and then add my regular job to the mix.  Too much.  I'm learning that I have to stop doing "too much."  But today, the dream poked at me, nudged me, whispered to me..."It's time."

I had lunch with my friend Melissa.  She had done research in my classroom when she was working on her doctorate.  She's the one who encouraged me to start in the first place.  As she talked about the work she's doing now, I felt the excitement begin to build.  I miss those conversations that I used to have with her and others in my classes.  

While we talked about teacher talk and how it affects instruction, my husband tuned us out and escaped through his phone.  He scrolled through his news, mapped the trip the were about to take, and checked his Facebook feed.  I, on the other hand, asked questions, and prodded Melissa for more information.  I was feeling it deep in my gut...I needed to get back.  I want to soak up this knowledge that is for me and  my growth.  It has nothing to do with teacher evaluations, standards, and state testing.  All of those things have drained me of the joy of teaching this year.  I want the joy back.  I need the joy back.  

As I hugged Melissa good-bye, I whispered to her, "I've got to come back."  She hugged me, laughed, and said, "When? You know it's what you want."

I sighed when we left Panera, feeling hopeful and looking forward to something for a change.  It's been awhile since I've looked forward to something.  

"You miss it, don't you, Julie?" my husband said to me.  "You could have stayed there all day.  You belong in that world."

Yes I do.  I'm going back!  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

#20 of 31 Slice of Life I've Got That Vacation Feeling

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

My lesson plans are ready for tomorrow.  I feel like the world has been lifted off my shoulders.  Spring Break is here.   I have friends who are going off to England, Florida, and other warm places.  Me?  I'm heading north to my parents' house while they travel to south to visit my sister.  I'm so looking forward to this time.  I love my family, but sometimes it's nice to have some alone time.  So what will I do?
  • Sleep in
  • Stay in my pajamas all day if I want to
  • Read
  • Write
  • Write some more
  • and more
  • Take long walks ( I love Cuyahoga Valley National Park)
  • Raid my mom's fridge (which is a Slice of Life in and of itself)
  • Hang out with my cousins
  • Visit aunts and uncles (hoping Uncle Jack wants to go out for spaghetti)
  • Breathe deeply over and over again
  • Relish the peace and quiet
I don't need to go anywhere fancy.  I am a simple girl and I'm going to enjoy my very simple vacation.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

#19 of 31 Slice of Life Miss Fickell and the WWE

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Dear friends, I have another story about C.  You'll remember her from the Bull Riding Rap.  She just keeps popping up.  :)

We've been working on some mini-research projects so that we could use the information to learn how to use Educreations.  As is always the case in my classroom, the kids could choose any topic that was of interest to them.  We had the typical fourth grade ideas...basset hounds, Legos, Minecraft, rabbits, rip tides, football players etc.  When I asked C. what her topic was going to be, she wasn't sure.  She thought and thought and thought and then said, "I know! I want to find out how the WWE started."  

Hmmm....that was an interesting idea.  I'm thinking to myself, "What harm could there be in WWE?  After all, my husband's grandmother was a huge fan when she was alive."  I gave her the go ahead and she was able to find the information that she wanted.

Fast forward to today.  Today was the day that we learned how to use Educreations (it's very easy by the way).  The kids had their writing and directions and blank storyboard paper.  The media specialist and the intervention teacher and I were all ready to go.  One thing...the intervention teacher had an assessment day.  Miss Fickell, substitute extraordinaire, would be taking her place.  Miss Fickell is in our building almost every day and subs quite a bit for me.  I let her know ahead of time that we would be working on these mini research projects and she would be in charge of a small group of kids.  It was no problem.

I divided my class into 3 groups and inadvertently put C in my group (so I could supervise her) and Miss Fickell's group.  I called the names for Miss Fickell's group, forgot that C was in my group too, and sent 8 children, including C, upstairs with Miss Fickell.  Eight more students went with the media specialist and 9 stayed down with me.  The room was a quiet hum as the boys and girls worked to divide their stories up, find and save pictures and then create their screencasts.  I was moving around between students, enjoying the productivity of it all.  It couldn't have gone any better.

Fast forward to 45 minutes later.  Miss Fickell walked into my room, her face flushed, holding a school iPad.  I turned to her with a big smile and greeted her.  Blowing a few wisps of hair out of her eyes, she handed me the iPad and said, "What do I do with this?"

This image, which filled the screen on the iPad, was what C wanted for the first slide of her presentation about the WWE.  My eyes immediately zoomed in on the amount of skin showing.  The rest of her slides were not much different.  Each was of a wrestler, half-clothed  and well-oiled.  

Oh boy!  I didn't think half-clothed wrestlers was really appropriate for a fourth grade presentation.  I really don't censor my kids' work, but this one made me a little leery.

"They're all like this," Miss Fickell said to me with desperation in her voice.  "She's pretty adamant that these are the pictures she wants."  (C knows her mind.)

I did a quick image search for WWE and yep, pretty much all of photos were of half naked men and scantily clad women posturing as wrestlers do.

After scanning our choices, we found a few that would fit C's need for images of famous wrestlers and my need for the wrestlers to have all of their clothes on.  

Miss Fickell went back upstairs to give C the half-naked people in the screen cast.  

Miss Fickell definitely earned her sub pay and a bit more today.  That's one of the reasons I love working with her.  She goes with the flow and always comes back!

Here is her presentation using Educreations.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Slice #18 of 31 Finding My Way Back

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.

I grew up in the Catholic church ~ Catholic school through 8th grade, Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation.  My faith is deep.  My participation in church for the last several years has been lax to say the least.  There are many reasons I haven't gone, most of them are not very good ones.  I'm finding my way back though.  

I went on Sunday to hear my dear friend Joyce sing Spirit Fall Down. Her rich voice, backed by the choir,  flowed like honey, mesmerizing the congregants and awakening something in me that I thought I had lost.  Tears streamed down my face.  The tumultuous thoughts running through my mind calmed, I melted into the pew, and gave in to the song. I didn't care who saw me.  I was back. 

The lyrics brought forth this train of thought...

Spirit Fall Down

We're all gathered here. In your presence Lord.
With our arms open wide 
With lifted hands and with open hearts 
We want you to be our guide!

 I'm tired and broken.

Oh Lord, we need your spirit, 
Your holy spirit, right now. 
Oh Lord, we need your spirit, 
To be a witness, for you 

I need you.

We won't do nothing, until you come, dear Lord
Lord we are so unworthy to even call on your name
So please please, please, please Lord hear our prayer!
And don't let our comin... be in vain! 

Guide me, change me.

Oh Lord, we need your spirit, 
Your holy spirit, right now. 
Oh Lord, give us, your Holy spirit,
To be a witness, for you 

I don't want to take this journey alone anymore.

Spirit, spirit, 
Fall fresh on me. 

Fill me, lead me, lift me up.

Fall down, 
Fall down, 
Fall fresh on me. Yeah!
I need you Lord.
Fall fresh on me

Strengthen me.  

Spirit, Spirit, of the living God hallelujah
I can't make it without You I need You
So I can walk right, so I can talk right spirit
Holy spirit, fall fresh on me

Bring me peace.

Holy spirit, holy spirit
I need you to abide in me
In everything I do, in everything I say Lord
I need you in my home
And even when I'm riding down
The dangerous highways I need You I need You

Take my hand.

Fall down, fall down
Fall fresh on me
Fall down, hallelujah, fall down
I need You Lord everyday
Spirit, spirit, I can't make it without You Lord
Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me
I don't want my running to be in vain
I don't want my living to be in vain
I need You Lord, to lead me

I am yours.

~Luther Barnes

I left church feeling grounded and whole.  I think Joyce knew what I needed.  I don't think she knew the impact her singing would have on me.  Please watch the video below to hear this beautiful song.  I only wish I had a version of what I heard on Sunday.  It was what my soul needed.  

Monday, March 17, 2014

#17 of 31

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.

It's a quick post tonight because I still need to place my order for classroom supplies for next year.  I've only known about it for a month and it's due tomorrow.  Ahh...I am the queen of procrastination and I never learn.

Molly, my oldest arrived home this afternoon.  She is our car girl.  Whenever we have family get togethers, she does not sit with the women and chit chat.  No, she can be found downstairs with the men, talking about cars with her grandfather and uncles.

Guess where she is tonight?  She's out in the garage helping her dad change the brake pads on his car.  I wouldn't know a brake pad if I saw one.  I'm so glad she has this connection with her dad.  It not only brings them closer, but she can fix about anything on a car that needs to be fixed.  It's pretty amazing.  She's a very versatile young woman!

Now, I'm off to order whatever it is that needs to be ordered.  I don't want to miss that deadline.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

#16 of 31 Slice of Life...The Mystery is Solved

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.
"So, Julie, how dark does it have to be before you turn your headlights on?"

That was what my dad said to me 35 years ago when he walked in the door one evening.  I remember the night so well.  I had just gotten my driver's license and it was the first time I was allowed to drive my sisters to town in the dark.  This was big for me.  Mom and Dad were going out and so the three of us girls decided to go out for pizza.  My mother reminded me of all the things mothers remind their children to do when they have this increased responsibility.  I was determined that I wouldn't let them down.

We made it to town safely, had our pizza, and then headed home.  I couldn't figure out why people kept pulling out in front of me.  I was getting irritated with all of the irresponsible drivers out there until I glanced down at the dashboard and realized that my lights weren't on.

"Don't tell Dad," I made my sisters promise.  We made it back before my parents got home. Whew, I had dodged a bullet.  I was pretty sure my secret was safe until my dad walked through the door and asked me the above question.

"Who told you?" I asked him.
"I'll never tell," he replied.
"Was it you?"
"No, it wasn't me.  Someone we know saw you."

And he never would tell me. Every once in awhile in my adult years, I'd ask him who saw me driving without my lights turned on and he would always say, "I'm not going to say."

Well, last night, the secret came out. We were eating dinner with Mom and Dad, sharing stories and laughing around the table.  Dad said to my husband, "I'll never forget..." and he started to tell the story.  Apparently, HE was the one who saw me.

He proceeded to tell Keith the story, seeing me driving around Bryan with no headlights, and then coming home and asking me how dark it had to be before I turned my lights on.

He thought it was hilarious.  Back then, I was pretty sure I was going to be grounded forever.  It seems he took it all in stride, knowing that I had learned my lesson and would make sure to not make that mistake again.  I saw a new side to my dad last night.  He was pretty strict with us when we were younger, never giving an inch.  I guess, that maybe, he did give an inch once and awhile.

And to be honest, (and I know it's silly), I'm glad to finally know who the mystery driver was.

Mom, Dad, and me last summer

Saturday, March 15, 2014

#15 of 31 Slice of Life...So Close, Yet So Far Away

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.  And thanks to Ruth Ayres for  sharing space to celebrate the good things in our week.

One of the best things about these communities is that the words of others always inspire me to stretch myself and be a better person.   Melanie Unger and Linda Baie both posted such positive blogs that I was reminded that in spite of added pressures at school and trying to sell our home, there are lots of good things happening in my life too.

I titled this post because of my daughters...Molly and Annie, and Sana.  (Yes, Sana, our exchange student from India will always be a daughter of my heart).

Last night, Annie got home from work a little after 10:00.  I was already hunkered down under the covers, ready to fall asleep when she plopped down into bed with me.  She bubbled over with excitement as she talked about getting ready for her trip to visit Molly in Pittsburgh.  The girls are going to see a play this weekend and then their brother (see, I did not forget my son, Zach) will join them for a spring break trip to the Smokey Mountains.  Within, a few minutes, Annie and Molly were on the phone together making last minute plans and making sure everything was set for today's trip.  My eyes drooped as I listened to Annie chatter away with her big sister.  As I fell asleep, my heart was smiling, knowing how lucky I was to have such great kids who wanted to be together and loved each other no matter what.

This morning, as I settled on the couch in the living room (I mentioned this room in my post last night as being the perfect place for long talks with my teenage kids), I got a FB message from Sana.  She was a little down in the dumps and needed to chat.  The irony was not lost on me that I was sitting in the exact spot I would be sitting with her if she were here at home with us.  Instead, she's in her room in India, so far away from me physically, but still right here with me in my heart.  I am forever grateful for technology that brings families closer together.

This was taken in Nov. 2010 in Florida while we were there for NCTE.
All 4 of the kids are close.  They are brothers and sisters to the core.  I am confident  that as they  move off into different directions in their lives, those ties will remain forever strong.

Finally, the weather forecast for next week gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, spring might arrive in Central Ohio.  It'd be nice if she'd stay and leave winter behind.

Friday, March 14, 2014

#14 of 31 Slice of Life...Letter to the Future Owners of our Home

Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Back in October, when we first listed our house, our realtor (and friend) asked me to write a letter to the future owners of our house.  He wanted me to tell why our house is special.  As much as I love to write, I couldn't do it.  I was too sad.  Well, I got an email tonight, asking for the letter again.  I'm in a better place, so I sat down and shared my heart with the people who will buy our house.  It's a little long for a SOL, but I hope you'll indulge me.

Dear Future Owners,

I remember when we bought this land from the Jermans.  It was 5 acres of cornfields with not one tree on our lot.   The Jermans told us the first rule of living out here is that you always wave to anyone driving by.  People out here are friendly and watch out for each other.  It’s one of the things that we love about living here.

We have so many beautiful memories.  Our children were ages 10, 5 and 3 when we moved in.  Our home was filled with love from the start.  It was always a great gathering place for family and friends.  You will find that it’s quite inviting for the kids to run “the circle” from the family room to the living room to the dining room again and again.  It was a favorite when the cousins were visiting. 

Of course the kitchen was a favorite spot.  Our kids grew up cooking beside me. On any given day, the kitchen was filled with the aroma of chocolate chip cookies or some concoction that our son created.  He is the master of chopping and sautéing and seeing what comes out.  Mother’s Day breakfasts were created here ~ blueberry pancakes every year.  We’ve experimented with foods from other cultures.  One of my best memories is making a traditional Indian meal when we hosted a foreign exchange student from Pune, India.  As we sat down at the table, she suggested we eat with our fingers like she did “back home.”  We were a mess, but we laughed and had so much fun together. 

The sun shines brightly into the dining room in the morning.  To me, there is nothing better than getting up before anyone else and enjoying a cup of tea while watching the sunrise.  As you look at our house, you’ll notice that the dining room table is quite scarred.  Each scar and bit of glitter or paint holds a story.  We dyed Easter eggs here every year.  This was also the spot where we strung popcorn or made homemade Christmas ornaments for the tree.  We iced cookies hundreds of times, and gathered friends and family for dinners, holidays, First Communions, birthday parties, and graduations.  It’s also where we gathered every night for dinner and played the high/low game.  We were able to stay connected with our kids as we shared the highs and lows of our day. 

The living room is a quiet, cozy retreat, especially in the winter with the fireplace going.  It was the perfect place to snuggle on the couch and read stories when the kids were little.  It’s also a great place for building forts out of chairs and blankets and eating picnic lunches under cover.  We danced away in this room…the kids’ feet on top of ours as we swayed across the room.  As the kids got older, this became the place for quiet talks, hugs, and wiping away teenaged tears.  Next to the kitchen, it’s my favorite room in the house.

And then there’s outdoors.  It is so peaceful when sitting outside.  We love the porch.  It is inviting any time of the day.  It’s wonderful to start the day out there with a cup of tea or end the day with a glass of wine.  The same goes for the patio in the back.  We spent many evenings having dinner on the patio, listening to the birds and relaxing at the end of the day.  We planted every tree on the property.  Many of the trees began as seedlings from the ODNR sixteen years ago.  Other trees came from family members or friends.  My Girl Scout troop planted the garden bed by the pond.  They researched native Ohio plants and chose what should go out there.  I’ve since added other plants, but it started out as a small patch of wildflowers and native trees.  We created a little area in the pine grove just last summer because it reminded me of my grandparents’ cottage.  It’s a wonderful refuge, a place to get away and still be close by.  The scent of the pine trees will surround you as you nestle into an Adirondack chair.  I love to garden and dig in the dirt.  As you can tell, there are lots of places to do just that.  The yard invites meandering, as well as volleyball games, tag, bonfires, and making S’mores.

 There’s lots of room to grow and create your own dreams here.  We had sixteen beautiful years of raising our family and welcoming loved ones into our home.  It is our hope that another family will take our place and continue to live and laugh, and love here just as we did.

With warmest regards,
Julie Johnson

Thursday, March 13, 2014

#13 of 31 Slice of Life...It's Just Like Riding a Bike

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.

"Annie," I called as she walked in the door.  "Don't faint."
"Did you make dinner?" she asked.
She was so excited!

How sad is it that my Slice of Life is about making dinner?   If you read my post about the salmon, you'd understand.  Tuesday's Open House delayed the salmon one more night and I thought I might possibly be able to cook it last night.  Alas, I received a text from my husband at 2:30 yesterday afternoon saying that we had a request for potential buyers to look at our house at 6:30 that night.  No one wants to buy a house that smells like fish, so the salmon did not get cooked last night either.   Sadly, in order to avoid potential food poisoning, I decided that the salmon had to go.

BUT, I did get home in time to make dinner tonight~ pierogies, roasted broccoli and asparagus and  homemade sausage from the local butcher. Granted, the peirogies were Mrs. T's, but I still had to saute the onions and add the frozen potato and cheese stuffed pasta to the pan; so I think it counts as something.  I'm pretty sure my husband wondered who the woman was standing at the stove when he walked in the door.

My Facebook status for tonight (You can see that the salmon is still a conversation point):

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

#12 of 31 Slice of Life Open House

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for hosting Slice of Life Challenge.

I'm sitting at school getting some work done.  Matt Kearney is playing on my Pandora station, which makes this dreary afternoon a little more palatable.  I love being at school after everyone has gone home (or early before everyone comes in) because it gives me time to slow down and reflect.  

It's been a busy week.  I know, all weeks are busy, aren't they?  Spring gave us a little tease yesterday, only to be overshadowed by winter today.  Yesterday also gave us some time to celebrate all the great work going on in our upper grades.  We invited parents to an Open House to see the work their kids are doing.  The thing I LOVED most about last night was that it was all about the kids. They planned it, they created the activities, and then they showed off their hard work in the evening.  I sat back and watched the magic happen.  It was wonderful!

My students wanted parents to do a little work.  Our stations included:
  • Completing a poem from the Poetry Box Project
  • Writing a Slice of Life story
  • Adding to our Did You Know Thursday graffiti board (A Thursday tradition where we share interesting facts from the nonfiction we are reading)
  • Learning how to do division with an open array
  • Learning about the Revolutionary War and how it affected Ohio
  • Checking out our reading notebooks
  • Sharing our Google 20% projects

The kids were so very proud of themselves and the parents enjoyed seeing their children shine!

Monday, March 10, 2014

#10 of 31 Slice of Life..The Nut Doesn't Fall Far From the Tree

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers  for hosting the Slice of Life Challenge.  

When I was a young girl, we used to tease my grandma about the pound of ground beef she'd get out of the freezer in the morning.  Invariably, by noon, Pop would say, "You don't really want to cook tonight, do you?  Let's go out to eat."  She'd reply, "Are you sure?  I don't mind cooking."  And we could always count on him to say, "No, let's go out to eat."  The ground beef would promptly go back into the freezer.  My mom and aunts used to joke that the ground beef was 10 years just kept going in and out of the freezer and never got used.  

The last 2 days makes me think that maybe I'm a bit like my grandmother.  I took salmon out of the freezer yesterday morning.  It was Sunday. Surely, I'd have enough time to make dinner.  

5:30 last night I say to my husband:  Want to go for a walk?

7:00 (after our walk), my husband says to me:  Do you really want to go home and make salmon this late?  Let's run through Panera and grab a bite to eat.  

Me:  (Secretly very glad he suggested it):  Are you sure?  I can cook.

Husband:  No, it's late.  Let's just go out.

Me:  Oh, ok. (Happy dance inside)

This morning at 7:45 I say to my husband:  I'll be home right after school and make the salmon.  

Fast forward to this afternoon.  I had an IEP meeting that I forgot about.  Then I had some reports to look up and emails to return to parents.  I was finally ready to leave at 5:55 tonight.  I called home.

Me:  I'm just now leaving. 

Husband:  Is it too late to start salmon? I'm really hungry.  Want to have hot dogs?

Me:  No, I don't want hot dogs.  (I can hear Annie yell, Yuck! in the background.)

Husband:  Want to go out to eat?  Annie and I can meet you in 15 minutes.

Me:  OK!!  (And once again, a happy dance inside.)

So, the salmon is still in the fridge waiting to be cooked for dinner.  I have a feeling that Grandma is smiling down on me as she watches the routine replayed all these years later.  

Sunday, March 9, 2014

#9 of 31 Slice of Life Thank you

I am happy to be participating in Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life March Challenge.  I will be posting every day in March.  My students are also participating and you can read their slices on the Classroom Challenge page.

Today's post is inspired by many:  Cathy's post about time, Tricia Eaton about how we write,  Suparna Kudesia whose topics strike a deep chord within me, and the photo below.  Thank you for the inspiration.

I write wearing a mask.

Creating the facade
that all is right;
Entrenched in safe territories.
Inside, the facade cracks,
threatening to
leak out onto the page
into territories not so safe.

There is more to write.
Is this the place?
Is it time?
Is it worth the risk?

I will admit that I'm really afraid to push that orange "publish" button right now.  I've been contemplating creating a new space for some of the writing that I want to do that is not about my classroom.  I guess it's time to do some exploration.