Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snuggly Snuggie Shelf

Up at 5:30 AM they kept me company in the kitchen while I cooked this week's dinners. Matzo ball soup, broccoli and cheddar quiche, and baked ziti are done and in the fridge. This is the only way to avoid driving through, running in, or grab n' go dinner with our schedule. I woke early to cook because we really need to log some miles today. Our next half marathon is in 3 weeks! The dishwasher was loaded, the food was wrapped, and I had the Nikes laced up. One step outside and that was it. It's too darned cold for this tired body to get going. Standing still, without the sun I was shaking. Moving down the block in our walk/jog/shuffle created uncomfortable breezes. I should've taken a cue from the cats, snuggled close on a Snuggie on a shelf. It's fleece and slippers for me, until cast call this afternoon.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

More please?

No, not gruel. Oliver. More time. How is the weekend already half over?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Raise the Curtain

Strange, but I love being in a show. Tonight I'll arrive in a cold, dim rehearsal hall and transform myself from Middle School teacher to Dickens-Era villager. I'll lose the Nikes and shove my feet into tall, uncomfortable boots. Instead of jammies, I'll don form-fitting undergarments to lift and shape. I'll paste on some eyelashes, paint on a face, and pin down a wig that will make my head sweat and itch. Then I'll thunder around a dimly lit hallway and wait for my turn to stare into blinding lights. I'm crazy...for theater!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Division of Labor

At 11:13 this post is just under the wire, but the topic is too big for me to tackle in a tired post. Suffice it to say that I cannot walk past the post-cycle dishwasher, full of clean plates and cups, yearning for their places in the cabinet and that I clearly lack whatever chromosome it takes to notice that the trash can is overflowing, or that the dryer has just buzzed for the third and final time. Better to tackle this post another time, when surely I can treat it with the wit and gentle touch required for both expression of angst and preservation of marriage.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Early(ish) to Bed

Well it's 8:23, and I'm in bed. We're home from tapping. Tomorrow's clothes are ready to jump into, and yesterday's are bouncing around in the dryer.Our crock pot stew has been eaten, the leftovers are packaged in lunch-size portions, ready to go in their respective lunch bags in the morning. Cats are fed, dishwasher is loaded, and I'd like to retire for the evening. Just a bit of schoolwork, a blog post, and then happy Zzzzs. The next few days offer up daunting schedules, from school to lessons, to performances, without a stop at home. I'll kiss the kitties goodbye at 6:45 tomorrow morning and not be back until they demand some treats at 11:40 P.M. Friday will be much the same. So for tonight, I'm planning to enjoy an early evening.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The more things change...

Out the door before 7 AM, home for a bit from 4:30 to 6:00 and then back home after eleven. That's been the routine lately. Between rehearsals, school, piano, tap dance, voice, and preparing for the next half marathon, we're visitors in our own house. The permanent residents are not impressed by our busy lives. They expect the delivery of treats on schedule... that is, any time they want them.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ready, Willing, and Delicious

Chicken and rice today, chili tomorrow, beef stew for later in the week. I prep them at 6 AM and they are smoking hot when I get home, providing dinner for 3 and leftovers enough for lunch the following day. Thank you, crock pot.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ess, Bublelah. Ess!

Faint are my memories of my actual Bubbes. I did know three of them, technically. My great-grandmothers all passed when I was young. I do have faint memories of sitting at the table in the upstairs kitchen at a Bubbe's house in Brooklyn, potato latke in hand. Grandpa (actually he was my great-grandfather, but everyone called him grandpa) sat at the head of the table, hot tea in one glass, teeth in the other, and a pocket full of Hopjes coffee candies for the kids. Bubbe showered (pelted) us with rich, delicious foods and wouldn't take no for an answer.

I like to make the occasional spin through the kitchen myself, but the schedule we've had lately has kept me away from cooking anything more interesting than a pack of ramen noodles or a fried egg. But tonight we were treated to a feast that would make a Bubbe proud. Matzo ball soup, brisket with gravy, fried kugel, a week's worth of calories. Each dish so rich and wonderful. My mother-in-law is a great cook, and she was obviously a great mother (I did marry her son, after all). What's even better is that she's become a great friend as we've gotten older. Delish.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Buzz, buzz, buzz

I do like being busy, and today was a good example. We started with a 6.25 mile run/walk. Our pace isn't what it used to be, but it's not exactly walking either. We like to call it the shuffle. Then we were off to a piano lesson, costume store, Target for our dressing room make-up supplies, and then about an hour of practicing our tap steps. Enough time for a shower and spruce-up before heading out to meet a good friend for dinner and a show at Theatre Jacksonville. Back home at the end of the busy day, and my book waits on the nightstand. Doubt I'll get through more than 3 pages before my eyes give out, but I wouldn't change a thing!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Teacher Workday

The grades are entered, the next couple of weeks plans are made. The classroom was tidied up and I am raring to go. Half a school year left. Today we had the time to collaborate as a grade level within the Language Arts department, and it was wonderful. We each contributed with our strengths and helped to build truly solid plans for all of our students. Having the time to collaborate with other teachers is essential and it is simply criminal that we are only allotted 1/40th of our working days to do that. The system is designed to be punitive rather than preventative, allowing teachers to sink or swim alone in that isolated box called their classroom. Usually the life raft exists in the form of their peers. What we can do together!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Han - sel Musical

Post-practicing, and at the end of a long day of school, the teen is channel/sofa surfing. Hansel can't stand us watching anything but him. I have to agree. He is much more amusing than anything on the 100+ cable channels.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's a life-long game

I love our busy days, though sometimes juggling is exhausting. It's 8:30, and I'm ready to retire for the evening, ignoring the laundry in the dryer, the ungraded late work students turned in today, the notes I should be learning in the Gilbert and Sullivan selections for chorale, and the repertoire I should be reviewing for an upcoming NATS vocal competition. Sometimes the body speaks louder than the mind, and I just can't will it to do any more. I am looking forward to another productive day tomorrow, but I think the clock beat me today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Not Sleeping Yet

Awake to run and out the door by 4:40. 5 miles, school, rehearsal. Home at 10:40. Why am I wide awake????

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ready, set, tap!

We were fitted for tap shoes tonight, the husband and I. Before we went to Chorale rehearsal we stopped in the dance store. Tomorrow night is a play practice, Wednesday night all three of us will tap, Thursday two voice lessons, and Friday another play rehearsal. In between we're jumping into a bunch of Gilbert and Sullivan. I love this crazy family!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In appreciation of appliances

With all of us here at the house, residents and visiting family, I am most definitely in appreciation of modern appliances. The dishwasher is getting a 2 - 3 times daily running. The washer, dryer, coffee pot, stove, toaster, microwave, and fridge are all serving us well. It's beyond my imagination, the life of the homemaker before these conveniences. If I had to scrub your clothing on a washboard you wouldn't be wearing something for 5 minutes and tossing it into the basket, teenage daughter. The dishes would be done on a rotating schedule, sharing the burden, though I imagine I'd be the one with my hands in the dishwater every day. I have a hard time getting help in emptying out the machine that does the washing and drying for us!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Better Together

Maybe only one or two times a year are we all gathered in the same place at the same time. Funny, though, it's like we haven't missed a day. The old familiar inside jokes are still funny, and we're right back to the sisterly antics. In a perfect world, they'd be my neighbors to the left and right. The world's not perfect, but my sisters are.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Big Mouth

I can't help it. When I feel strongly about something, and I have an opinion to express, I have to say it. So maybe I was a bit overzealous in front of a district muckety-muck at today's Professional Learning Community meeting. I believe strongly in teaching to mastery, even if I was told, "Why bother, they won't all master it." I believe strongly in workshopping a skill, providing a minilesson and then conferring with individual students to differentiate instruction, even if I was asked, "You mean you spend an entire 90 minute block period teaching one concept?" I guess it was easy for me to open the yap because I had no idea who I was talking to, but I don't regret a single word. Nice to know my co-teacher and colleagues weren't ducking and running. I could get used to this place.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lunch box

10:oo PM and I just arrived from the airport. First unpack, then hurry up and relax. Tomorrow's lunch is in my bag. They're overpriced and full of preservatives, but they're always in the freezer. If purchasing a lunch from the school cafe is the alternative... I'll take my plastic-coated cuisine.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Professional Development Center in Chester, PA has all the high tech tools. Wow, these would really be helpful for classroom use. Whiteboards, flat-panel screens and projected images of a presentation, wifi, surround sound, cushy chairs. I like when teachers are respected and given nice digs for their professional development days, but it would be nice for kids to have some amenities too. How many classrooms have this set up? I've seen too many crumbling classrooms, worn and weary, inadequately heated in winter and overheated in summer. I've seen situations where kids were expected to ignore rodents or holes in the wall, sitting in the hard plastic chairs their parents might've found colorful and new, but now are cracked and sun-bleached. I remember teaching second grade in my "portable" classroom, wary of the one spot on the floor where the only thing between indoors and out was the threadbare carpet. A classroom without a phone for emergencies, without a shelf or a closet. Interesting, the priorities...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The voices in my head...

I remember the days before the "Navigatrix." Clutching my highlighted MapQuest printout, squinting to see it by the light of the dashboard, driving into the night in unfamiliar turf. Ending up on a detour, closed road, or the wrong side of the tracks. My days of traipsing about pre-GPS were not pretty. How I love my in-phone GPS. No extra gadget to carry, no wires or accessories needed. The Navigatrix not only helps me to arrive at airport, hotel, and school safely, she allows me to search for the nearest Starbucks, Hospital, or movie listings. She has been my guide from Maine to Honolulu, and I can't imagine ever traveling without her.

Monday, January 11, 2010

My Snuggie Bunny

Enough of this weather, I say. I'm not able to shake the chill, wearing several layers of sweaters and sweatpants under several layers of blankets when going to bed at night. The master bedroom in our house is the coldest in the winter and the warmest in the summer, being at the end of the ventilation, so lately I've been chattering and complaining. Usually the first to bed, I complain until the crew joins me. My girl doesn't usually start her night in our bed, but when it's this cold, she understands the mathematics involved in 2 times body heat under the blankets. Even with her and my husband-the-radiator I couldn't shake the chill last night, so I finally caved. We stopped and bought Snuggies this morning. It is a great invention to wrap up my cold teen during a chilly car ride to school, but when I put mine on in the afternoon I found I was tripping and dragging. It's only meant for sitting still, and that's something I rarely do when home. It's practice, laundry, fuss in the kitchen, run here and there. I'm glad we have no steps in the house. If I tried a staircase in that thing I'd likely be found at the bottom in a crumpled but warm pile. So it occurred to me. The freaking thing is less practical than a bathrobe. A simple, fleece bathrobe would "snug" and it would allow me to move too. I'm such a sucker for advertising.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Home (for a little while), Sweet Home

Every time I return to Jax I am impressed by the view. From a couple of thousand feet up the winding waterways look like crazy Hot Wheels tracks, tripping over one another in a race to the ocean. The vast green welcome mat of the longleaf pine, blending to a sandy white to an endless indigo. The sky is bluer here, and more vast. Okay, it's no utopia. I am a realist. But I've visited most every corner of the continental 48, and few places compare. Of course, the people outshine the landscape, from those waiting for me at home, to the friends we've met through teaching, chorale, and our growing theater family.
Sometimes, when we travel, people will ask where I'm from, unable to place the accent. If' I'm traveling with the family, the husband will say Jacksonville, but quickly follows it with the native New Yorker title he is so proud to wear. I'm proud of that too, but I usually just say Jacksonville. It's my home.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bayou v. Brooklyn

They laugh loudly and they grieve losses with brass instruments. Now that the Christmas eating is over, they're headway into the seasonal king cake. Year-round there's the etouffe, crawfish, gumbo, and boudin, and the chicory Community coffee. New York Jews and Cajun folk may come from very different places, but we live our lives similarly, savoring every last drop. One workshop participant today spelled it out for me. See, if we don't feel like walking somewhere in New York we can jump on the subway for a quick trip. Back home, she said, if they didn't feel like walking they jumped into their boat and zipped up the bayou. A culture that believes flavorful, full-volume living, that believes that their way of life is the best there is. I can relate to that.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Neither here nor there

Straight from the classroom to the airport, there was some prime people watching time for me with my 3 hour layover in Atlanta. I've been out of airports for about 5 weeks, probably the longest stretch this close to sea level in the last eight years. I'd forgotten to appreciate the wonder/hassle of flying. Every walk of humanity passed me in the Hartsfield airport from the well-to do families with thousand dollar strollers and kids wrapped in J. Crew head to toe, and a bleached-out sixty-something woman, clad in mismatched sweats, using a Walmart bag as her carry-on luggage. The wonder of covering a couple of hundred miles in the time it takes my sixth graders to write an essay - that isn't lost on me, even as I approach the million miler status. I'd forgotten to appreciate the hassle of unpacking a couple of thousand dollars of electronics while undressing and submitting myself to scrutiny, and I'd forgotten to appreciate the hassle of spending two hours in a seat that might barely contain one of those essay-writing sixth graders. Out of the classroom and into the air, chasing the mighty greenback and doing all I can to secure our future. Next year may or may not offer me a classroom to do my bidding, so I guess I'll restock my sealed ziptop bag of 3 or fewer ounce sized liquid and gel grooming products.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gettin' my groove back...

Eight years out of the classroom can be a long time, but didn't really step out of the loop pedagogically. In fact, some of my presentations the last few years have been on the most trendy educational topics such as Differentiated Instruction and Response to Intervention. My chops were in reasonably good shape when I unexpectedly landed back in a classroom in October, but I still felt a bit rusty. My lessons felt shallow and ineffective, rushed and meaningless to the kids. I fretted over this considerably. Was I fraudulently doling out advice to teachers, just spinning tales like a stereotypical consultant? When I reentered the classroom I promised myself not to be the martyr, the super-teacher, the rebel, or the overachiever. I swore that below the radar was exactly where I wanted to be. And I still do. But in my desire to lay low I thought I'd march to the tempo and tune of the "learning calendar." This cyclical, shallow, fragmented, one-size-fits all prescription for best practices is anything but. I'm not interested in rebel, martyr, or overachiever, but I need to do what I know is right. With the collaboration of my co-teacher and the blessings of my administrator I've been striking out with lessons I planned myself. I have been teaching them thoroughly and I taking all the time that the kids need to do it, and I've been seeing results. The kids are smiling and feeling more successes, and for feels good to think that maybe I've still got it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Like Herding Cats

It's the subject without a specific product, the content area that is critical to all others, the skill without which we could not learn from recorded history, take in bible verse, or reproduce recipes from generations ago. It's fundamental to everything we do, yet it is perhaps the most difficult to teach.

Reading happens mostly inside your head. I could ask you to write about your reading, or I could ask you to tell me about your reading, but any determination of your skill as a reader is tainted by your ability to represent that information in written or spoken form. Do I really know if you are drawing pictures in your mind? Or if you were wondering what the author was speaking? Connecting the words to your prior experiences, other texts or the world at large? Are you actively questioning while you read, and making predictions for the coming paragraphs? I can ask you to do any of these things as an exercise, an opportunity to explore some possible strategies to comprehension, but how often do we accomplished readers really do these things while we read?

I love to read, and my relationship with whatever book I'm enjoying is intimate and personal. I wouldn't have wanted to stop reading to represent my visualization or to apply sticky notes when I read Roots in three days flat (when I was 11). I didn't need to do any of those classroom strategies to comprehend the story. I was swept away by the hope and horror in that family's narrative.

So, how best to teach this subject? A question that reaches across the ages. No matter what bill of goods is sold by any textbook publisher, curriculum developer, or know-it-all-but-I've-never-even-taught consultant, this isn't something you really can easily teach once we've gotten past the B goes /b/ level. It can and should be cultivated, nurtured, encouraged, modeled, and observed, but sometimes I worry that all we try to do to teach it may have the exact opposite affect.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Y am I up this early???

Getting out of bed is the hardest part, but there are far fewer excuses available at 4:30 in the morning. At the end of the day the I'm-tired-I-have-to-cook-clean-launder-grade-plan-rehearse excuse is too easy to come by. The only other thing I would be doing is sleeping, and how much of a difference would one hour of sleep really make?

The cold weather plan is the YMCA, a ten minute drive from the house. Ten there, ten back, thirty on some torturous cardiovascular machine, and another ab-blasting ten balancing one ball under my back and another, heavier one above my head. On warmer mornings I much prefer the five mile morning trail to coffee and back.

Having endured a routine like this for three-plus years, I guess I should see some remarkable results. My dress size is still well into the two digits, and other numbers and measurements shall not be uttered, much less published electronically. This isn't part of a resolution or a gimmick. I just genuinely feel better if I get the old sack of bones moving every day. My step is lighter, my head is clearer, and my mood is better. So Y not?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Brrrring back Summer

In order to go for a walk we have to wear puffy jackets, ear muffs, gloves and scarves. Yuck! My girl is adorable in this getup, looking like an authentic ski bunny, but she didn't always take to these layers. She's not really a native Floridian, but she was merely 18 months old when we made the move south. As a toddler she threw fits when we kept replacing the socks she pulled off, and at around age 4, during a winter New York visit, I remember her laughing hysterically at the notion of an undershirt. Yes, we wore these. Under our Shirts. And sometimes we wore long underwear or kept flannel pajamas on under our jeans. Living up north and attending college even further up north, I feel like I've done my time. Four or five nights with a hard freeze in Florida? We're not equipped for this. My long underwear is long discarded, and I have only a scant few sweaters in my repertoire. The jacket seems like a good idea in the 28 degree early morning, but it's just a burden in the 50 something midday sun. Frosty air and a zero percent chance of a snow day? Hardly worth the hassle.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The best of the best

In life, we are sometimes blessed to have a friend like this. A friend who can smooth the bumps in life. A friend with whom we don't need to pretend to be anyone but who we really are, who knows what we're thinking before we say anything, and who knows just what we need to hear, even if we didn't know we needed to hear it. That's the way it is for my girl and KF, her bestie. When our world nearly came crashing to an end in May, she called KF from the hospital, and they were there, almost as soon as she closed her phone. K was there, along with her mom and her husband, and they stayed well past visiting hours...waiting with us for the miracle that gave husband and daddy back to us. K and I walked the halls and found distractions. Her mom and husband sat with me in a dim waiting room, steadfast in their determination to see E back to vitality, daring anything but the best outcome for him. Friends like this.

KF is practically a member of our family. She's the kind of friend who doesn't need to ask where things are in the kitchen cabinets, at home in our home. We always keep K favorites on hand. This girl lives with the motto that everything tastes better covered with ranch and washed down with diet coke. We've shared many tables together, from her discovery of the joys of lox, to her first Jewish deli in New York City, to a Maggiano's feast, her love of food and conversation is a great addition to every meal. She has traveled with us, from younger day Disney trips to last summer's New York excursion, sharing the tiny space of a hotel room for four. She laughs at our family's inside jokes, yet always treats the adults with well-mannered respect.

Today as my daughter felt her heart break a little with the pain of being so far from her boyfriend, she held fast to her K. Somewhere between the loud harmonizing, silly monkey faces, text messages, late-night giggling, and diet coke they comfort each other. Someday they will stand up for one another as they graduate, complete college, marry, and begin lives and families of their own. I can begin to imagine the young women they may become. And I'll bet anything they'll be there for one another, smoothing the bumps in life.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My resolutions, more or less

"A New Year's Resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other..."

1. More home-cooked, less restaurant
2. More exercising, less excuses
3. More outdoors, less indoors
4. More being, less doing
5. More engaging, less worrying
6. More play, less serious
7. More writing, less procrastinating
8. More understanding, less judging
9. More self-appreciation, less self-deprecation
10.More now, less woulda' coulda'

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, Old Us.

Our quiet celebration at home involved a Glee marathon, followed by a Rockin' New Years Eve including equally horrifying views of Dick Clark's condition and JLo's unitard. Libation consisted 1 glass of champagne, a couple of hot wings.

Mr. Dental Braggart, the husband, cracked a tooth during the snacking... blaming it on the bone in a hot wing, but I actually witnessed the dental event while he munched a puffy Cheez Doodle.

12:30 was plenty late for me, but when I retired to bed, the body rebelled. Stomach drama ensued all night, and I spent the first hours of '10 in the corner of our master bathroom, close to the porcelain depository.

We are both eating impaired heading into today's celebration, a 4 birthday/New Year gab-and-gobble with our dear friends the J's and the B's at the unsuspecting Maggiano's. But without his tooth or my digestive system, it is unlikely we will meet our potential. This is like going to the world series with A-Rod and Jeter on the questionable list! Either way, I am looking forward to beginning the year with laughter and friendship. We are so lucky to have friends who are funny, smart, and sincere.

As to another New Year's tradition, I resolve to make some resolutions soon.