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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Last Post for the Slice of Life

For the last 31 days, I've been challenging myself to write everyday on my blog. I first heard of this "Slice of Life challenge" on a teacher on-line newsletter that I get. I thought it was a great idea for my students- to write everyday in a journal for the month of March, and I would do it too.

It was a challenge for sure, but there was always a load of writing topics.

For the month of March, so many things happened to me. Sometimes I feel like I would be a good candidate for a reality show, because every single day, something eventful happens.

This month I wrote about:

  • My continued battles with migraines. This month, I went to an allergist, got an MRI (everything was normal), was put on a drug called Topamax, was taken off Topamax for the side effects, and as I type my last post, today is my first day not on Topamax in nearly 3 weeks. Earlier today, I read that the side effects of NOT being on it, after being on it, are seizures and the continued side effects. So I'm hoping to feel back to normal soon. Whatever that is. The side effects were way worse than my migraines, if you can imagine that...
  • My kids were sick this month, I was sick a lot this month with my headaches. So there was a lot of guilt this month for not being in my classroom and having substitute teachers.
  • After denying to myself that I am stressed, I think I may be admitting that I am, and maybe that's why I am getting my headaches. I feel like change might be on the horizon; we will see. I always want to be the happy, bubbly person, but sometimes it's not always roses, even if you try your hardest to smell those roses. Writing this month actually made me realize this. With my husband working many long hours, and myself working, it's been a juggling act since September. And the changes that I've had since moving back to New York have been somewhat difficult. I am trying so hard to get through these changes with grace and being grateful for what I do have, but it is hard. I was taking life day at a time. Now, I need to look in the future, and I think that's when my headaches started. Reality sunk in, that life isn't going as smoothly as it should for me. There's a reason why things happen: Why we had to move to Europe, why we moved back, why I couldn't teach at my old school and I'm at a new school, and there's supposed to be a reason why I'm having a difficult transition with all of it now- maybe it's to push me into another direction...I need to look at it as an opportunity, not as anything else. I guess time will tell. But through all of this, I refuse to let my spirit be broken, and others influence my happiness. I am wise enough to know that only I can be in charge of that.
  • I still reflect on my life overseas, and miss Europe. It's been 8 months since I've moved back to the U.S. I miss everything our family was then. I miss the carefree, adventurous me. I miss city living. I miss life being exciting. I miss learning about cultures and being amazed at simple things I saw outside my window. I struggle with boredom now. I miss the exciting me from Europe.
  • My kids and my husband mean the world to me. This month even more. I'm so proud of everything my kids do. Riley continues to amaze me with his kindness and Maggie with her creativeness. I feel very lucky to be the person I am. When I sit at this computer, especially this month, and put words and thoughts and write about my kids, the feelings are so overwhelming. I feel so blessed. These 2 kids of mine mean everything, and so does my husband. Without him, I wouldn't be half the woman I am today. And I mean that.
  • My kindergarten students mean a lot to me too. I really miss them on those days when I have to call in sick. I have a WONDERFUL class this year, and I've grown attached to these kids.
  • I enjoyed participating in the "Slices of Life," and having my audience be teachers. We are really one. I read many blogs throughout this month, and felt the same celebrations and frustrations as all of you.
  • I was surprised that I didn't write about my dog...I think he was always my "backup" writing topic, but I never needed it. So much happened this month-
  • This is a great idea, with a great community of writers. My students enjoyed it, too. I always looked forward to it. Friday nights were the hardest nights to write though.

I look forward to blogging with you all on Tuesdays. :)

Friday, March 30, 2012

Renovation Day 2

Today is Day 2 of the renovation that is taking place in our living room. Our 1906 Victorian house has had several renovations in the 8 years we have lived here.

This newest one is a very very minor one.

We are just repainting, and replacing the baseboards and trying to fix/paint/keep the frame and molding going around the windows. Our house does have a certain charm, and the molding around the top of the windows is something we want to just paint and fix up.

My husband is very handy. Through the years, we have seen so many projects that Tim has done all by himself. But for the last couple of years, with a new demanding job, Tim just doesn't have the time.

What is really funny about this whole story, is that he really wanted to have the time. Back in September, we had talked about replacing the living room furniture- the 2 couches. We actually were hoping to bring something back from Europe when we living there last year, but everything was super modern, and didn't fit with our old Victorian house. So, we gave away our furniture, didn't buy anything new, and my husband said that with the loss of the couches, he would make time to fix up the trim and window frames.

Well, here we are, last days in March, and no furniture.

Finally, last week, he called a handy man. It's not because of lack of knowledge. It's lack of time. Sometimes you have to pay for what takes time.

So, as I'm writing this, all of the rest of the furniture is crammed into our parlor (we call it the parlor because it's this cute little room off of the living room), and the parlor has a desk with this computer on it. I literally can't move. All around me, is "stuff" moved from the living room, so the handy man can paint and fix his things. I was hoping that the work would be finished by this weekend, since he told Tim it would take 2 days, but after 2 days, he still has at least 2 more to go.

We did order a new couch, and 2 side chairs, that remind me of Paris. Very simple and chic, yet not that fancy and chic. For some reason, I'm all into Paris-related interior design.

This weekend my house is a mess. The big picture of house renovations are hard to see when you're caught in the moment of all the clutter and craziness!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Slice of Life with My K kids

This month, I have challenged my kids to do the Slice of Life, just like we all are. Even though they are in kindergarten, I thought they were perfectly capable of writing about their days. I went out and bought them all their own black marble composition notebooks, and wrote inside, little directions, so their parents would know what a "slice" was. I gave writing ideas, such as, "Did something happen at school that made you happy?" "Did you see something interesting on the bus ride to school?" "Did your brother or sister make you happy or sad?"

I have had about 10 out of 18 students writing in their notebooks on a daily basis. I have enjoyed reading their writing, and responding to their writing everyday. I've learned that Isabella's grandpa is sick and in the hospital. I've learned that Ashley has really enjoyed learning about ladybugs this month. I've learned that Tyler likes playing with a boy in his neighborhood. I've learned that Neveah looks up to me- she writes she loves me a lot, which is very sweet. Wladu writes a lot about his dad and how his dad builds things in his garage. Aidan was worried about me one day when I was sick and not in school, which was also sweet. Noelle wrote about how she was sad when we ran out of time and she didn't do calendar that day, which proves that kids love structure and when it's their turn to be calendar. (I felt bad).

I asked the kids today if they will still continue writing in their special Slice of Life Notebooks, even in April, and several said they would. Tomorrow, is the last day of our challenge. Those who have written at least 25 entries will go home tomorrow with a bunch of pens, and a raffle will be drawn for a big bucket of sparkling pens. They are very excited about this.

Tomorrow at school, I will Xerox my favorite student Slices and post tomorrow. I am so glad to have been a participant in this!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Important Day for My Son

Today my son woke up and got dressed. When he came downstairs, he had on his Ralph Lauren sweater that I bought him that he promised that he would wear 2 times a month. He actually told me that in the check out line.
I remember the conversation:

Me: If I buy this, will you wear it?
Son: Yes.
Me: You will?
Son: Yeah I will. I might wear it like 2 times a month.

Well, here we are, nearly the end of the winter, and I think he wore that sweater once. To his credit, it WAS a mild winter.

But when I saw him this morning wearing his sweater, I knew today was a special day for him. Last week, he wrote an essay on why he should be picked to eat lunch with the author, Dan Greenburg, who was visiting his school today. The "contest" was opened to the students in grades 3-5 that are on Student Council. 8 students were chosen and Riley was one of them.

Riley was very honored to be the few chosen. He is an author himself. He has maintained his own blog since 2nd grade, written in a journal since 1st grade, and published his own neighborhood newspaper this year as a 4th grader. Meeting a "real life" author was important to him, I could tell, by just looking at him and seeing him all dressed up.

He had written a list of questions to ask Mr. Greenburg. When I asked him what his favorite part of his presentation was afterschool today, he said, "Everything." Typical 9-year old answer. Either it's "Nothing," or "Everything." He liked how Mr. Greenburg's wife was at the school-wide presentation, and later on, at the intimate luncheon. I asked what Mr. Greenburg had for lunch, and Riley said he had had a salad. Riley said that he got to sit on one side of Mr. Greenburg while his wife sat on the other. He was very proud of that.

I got very little answers from my quiet son about his day, but I hope that his luncheon with a famous author will give him lots to write about in his journal, blog and maybe an article in his newspaper.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Things I Am I Grateful for

Since yesterday's slice was a negative piece, today's piece I'm reflecting on my day and all the things that brighten my day:

1. I am grateful for my husband this morning, who organized the kids' lunches for me this morning in the refrigerator.

2. I am grateful that the pants that I laid out fit me, and I liked all the clothes I had on. Sometimes, I don't always like what I have on.

3. I am grateful that my kids woke up easily this morning, and that they didn't fight. I know I'm lucky, and I have good kids. I am also grateful that no one was sick! There's a lot of sickness in both my kids' classrooms!

4. I am grateful that when I arrived at school and visited my school's librarian, she was able to squeeze me into her schedule for a research project with my class. Then, I went to see my friend Kelly, and she gave me a really nice pep talk. Then I walked to my classroom and got ready for my day.

5. I am grateful that I have 18 great kindergarten kids. I really do. In 17 years of teaching, this might be one of my favorite groups of kids. I am very grateful for this bunch of kids.

6. I am grateful when one of my students runs down the halls and hugs me. She comes from a rough home life, and I know that school is a structured time for her. She smiles up at me every morning. I am grateful for her smiles every morning. I know I make a difference. This is the one student who really needs me this year.

7. As my morning continues, I am grateful for the author who is visiting our school. He visits our K and 1st graders for 1 hour this morning, and before I know it, it is lunch.

8. I am grateful to spend time at lunch with Randi and Becky, my good friends who understand me.

9. I am grateful for a quick Go Math lesson in the afternoon. Usually our Go Math lessons take 1 hour, but the chapter 9 lessons on Geometry are about 30 minutes. I find I can spend more time with our Wonder table this afternoon, since one of our students brought in a bird's nest.

10. During my break when the kids are at Art, I spend the whole break talking to my friend Keira, who teaches 1st grade. I often wonder if I should switch grades next year to 1st so I could teach with Keira, but I really love kindergarten, but it's something that I'm thinking about, along with a million other things right now.

11. Afterschool, I am grateful for my talk with Karen. She is another good teacher that I teach with.

12. I am grateful for an hour of alone time afterschool, after I drop off my kids at their German class. I sit in the car for 30 minutes and just meditate, with my heated seat on. I find it just relaxing. Then I walk to a natural food store.

13. I am grateful for my husband for letting me rest tonight. I came home with the kids at 7, and I'm tired. He's doing work around the house, right now, as I'm typing.

14. I'm grateful that my kids are reading their books in bed, as I'm typing. I will walk up the stairs and say good night soon.

15. I am grateful that I have been a teacher for the last 17 years. Because even if I decide to stop being a teacher and pursue something else, I will always be grateful for the experiences teaching has brought me. It has allowed me to be the mom I am; I could never be the mom I am without being the teacher I am.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Late Night Girlfriend Phonecall

My best friend Julie and I always call each other really late at night and we talk like high school girls, because we can talk for hours. Sometimes rambling on with giggles about Vinnie from the Jersey Shore and other times, serious conversations about our kids and jobs.

This late night phone calling ritual was recently broken because I've been taking my migraine prescription medicine, topomax, and one of its side effects is drowsiness. So, I've been going right to bed after putting my kids to bed, at 8:30. So with my new early bedtime, I haven't been connecting with my friend.

So last night, the first time in 2 weeks I wasn't tired, I called Julie at 10:45 and talked to her until 2 Am. Good old girlfriend talk. We talked about the stresses of both being teachers, we talked about our daughters' first communions, or first communions that look like beauty pageants and how we both vowed that we wouldn't go overboard for the religious day, and I guess a bunch of other things since we talked for a couple hours! What else did we even talk about? Funny stories about her family...My work vs. stay at home mom decision/conflict and then lots of laughter.

We made lunch plans for today at our favorite lunch restaurant- You would think we would had run out of things to talk about, but never us. Three of the four kids came, minus the husbands, so the kids seemed to always have a hand in the conversation, as kids do when they come along. But we were both tired, and we didn't realize a late night of talking could be as harmful as a hangover! I guess when you're over 40 with kids, a late night talking on the phone until 2AM is as bad as being out on the town! But without the hassles of loud music, annoying men trying to buy you drinks, huge crowds, getting a parking spot, and paying a cover charge.

Whether it's a night out, sneaking into a night club to see her favorite TV personality (Yes, we just recently did that) or sitting on the couch talking about life's dilemmas, Julie is just a good person, and I'm so lucky to have her as a friend; at all hours of the day.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Lazy Day

Today, I rewarded myself with lots of rest, reading and a trip to Target.

My favorite part of the day today was running into a college friend outside the Target parking lot, buying my Slice of Life little gifts for my kindergarten students inside Target, and while walking outside Target, my son telling me thank you for buying him something. I love that we have taught our 2 kids to thank us for buying them things, and not to take us for granted. It such an important life lesson to teach kids today.

Day 24 of my slice of life was short and sweet, kind of like how my day was like today...

Friday, March 23, 2012

So happy it's Friday

It's Friday and I'm happy. After a long, long week at school with lots of politics and grumpy stuff going on, I was happy to take advantage of walking with my husband (who is never home before 8PM from work) and our 2 kids, to our village's downtown from our house to dinner. I had a big fat strawberry margaretta with my dinner, and now at almost 9 PM, I'm really tired, so I'm heading to bed.

I don't know about you guys, but on Friday nights, I'm ready for bed at 4 PM. It's like my body is ready to collapse, knowing that I don't have work to do for the next day, and I can relax. I'm so glad it's Saturday tomorrow!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Gluten-Free Pasta

Today, I searched frantically in my bare cabinets for something to eat, after coming home late after my daughter's Zumba class (yes, my 7-year old daughter has a Zumba class, yet I don't). While my hands were groping in the cabinet, my hand felt a pasta package. I pulled it out, because pasta was what I was looking for.

I was pleasantly surprised to find it was an pasta from Italy that we bought when we visited last year when we lived in Europe. I have Celiac Disease, so I need to be on a Gluten-free diet. While traveling around Northern Italy and Tuscany, we bought lots of gluten free pasta to bring home with us to Germany. I knew Italy would have the best gluten-free pasta in the world...When we moved back to the States, we shipped what we didn't eat back with us to the States. Seeing the pasta package today, brought back so many memories. I thought we had eaten it all! Part of me wanted to save the pasta. But I knew it was silly to save it; I looked at the expiration and I only had a couple months to eat it.

While I was boiling the water, my daughter was going for a bike ride. I yelled down the driveway, "Don't be too long. I'm making the pasta we got in Italy." My son started laughing. "You just yelled that because you just want all the neighbors to know that we went to Italy." It was pretty funny.

I'm laughing because I'm finally eating pasta that I like!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Skin Care Products

What kind of skin care products do you use?

Sometimes on weekend mornings, I'll watch those Cindy Crawford commercials, where she's selling her skin care line, where the secret of youth is from a melon in the south of France. And then there's the Joan London skin care line- I remember when she did Good Morning America and I thought she was so beautiful. She still looks the same after all these years.

So many anti-aging lines, and I find myself getting suckered into watching these info-commercials. It seems to be my weekend morning ritual, as I prolong my weekend cleaning and motherly duties. These commercials and the Brazilian Butt ones!

My friend, who just decided to be an Arbonne representative, let me borrow and be a "tester" to the "7 step system" to one of Arbonne skin care lines, with hopes that I will buy some of the products and give her some feedback as well. Before this week, I've only been really a 2 step girl; with cleanser and moisturizer in the morning, and then at night, cleanser and night cream. Now with 7 steps- there were things I didn't even know what they were even for: toner, serum, eye stuff.. I had to read the directions each day to make sure I was doing the steps in order.

After doing Arbonne for a week, I didn't really see a big difference in my skin and I felt bad for my friend because I really wanted to buy some stuff from her. I liked the night cream, so I think I'll buy that, but overall, no big differences.

I currently use an Oil of Olay moisturizer and my L'Occitane products. But, I have a ton of sun damage and age spots that these moisturizers haven't been able to conquer. I'm wondering if there's a magic cure or melon somewhere in the world for this?? Or maybe I'm just a simple 2-step girl?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Orthodontist Bills Begins

My kids had their 6-month cleaning at the dentist today. For a long time, when my dentist makes his appearance at the end of my kids' cleanings for their evaluations, he always makes the recommendation that they visit a orthodontist. The first time was when they were were 6 and 4. At the time, I was like, "REALLY?" I thought it was a joke, and I dismissed it.

Two years ago, when they were 7 and 5, again, they were recommended to visit an orthodontist and I looked at my kids and could count on my one hand how many teeth they both had lost. I didn't understand why they needed ortho work.

Then, we moved to Germany for a year. I didn't have to see my dentist for one whole year.

Six months ago, when I returned from Germany, I somehow escaped the lecture. Maybe they were consumed with my European travel stories and forgot to tell me again that there were numerous orthodontists awaiting my phone call.

So today, it's been 6 months since our summer cleaning. And I did get the lecture. But this time, it was only for Maggie. Somehow, the dentist told me that Riley's teeth are fine and he outgrew whatever problem they once had. Hmm. Outgrew. Maybe because he's still growing. He's a growing 9-year old!

But this time I probably am taking the dentist more seriously. Now that Maggie is 7 years old, and she's lost 8 teeth, you can tell that there's not a whole lot of room for her adult teeth. They are coming in fine and they are not crooked or anything, but there's not a whole lot of room in there.

My husband just came home from work and I just told him about today's news. Before prom dresses, college loans and weddings, there's braces and orthodontist bills.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Rules of White Pants....What rules????

Last March on a beautiful warm sunny day, my German friend Mona, was wearing white pants. I complimented her on her white pants and told her how in the States, Americans don't wear white pants until after Memorial Day, an American holiday at the end of May. (Last March, I was an expat living in Germany). We were always telling each other facts and little tidbits about each others' cultures- she told me way more about German culture than I did about American culture, but I was trying to do my part with the white pants.

"Why?" she asked. "Why do you wait until May to wear white pants?"

"I don't know. It's like one of those unwritten fashion rules. And then we can only wear white pants until Labor Day, which is an American holiday in the beginning of September. And I don't know why we stop in September." I shrugged my shoulders.

She looked kind of confused. She looked up at me and laughed and I knew she thought that was the strangest set of rules she ever heard of. I had to agree with her- it does seem kind of weird that as a society we follow these white pant rules.

So, in upstate New York, it was a mid 70 degree sunny day today, and I took my white pants out of my summer wardrobe. And I wore them to work today, in honor of my dear friend Mona. Thanks to my European influences, and my "unwritten rules"- because if they're not written, I don't need to obey them.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pet Peeves

A list of my Pet Peeves
1. People who don't smile. This was probably my biggest transition when living in East Germany last year, because hardly anyone smiles there.

2. I hate rude people.

3. I can't stand ignorant people.

4. I can't stand people who yell at kids.

5. I hate mosquitoes. The reason I am writing this blog is because we were swatting them today while we went and got ice cream on this beautiful spring day!

6. Negative people. I run run run from them. I surround myself only with positive people. ALL THE TIME.

7. When my husband drives and takes a sip from his coffee while taking a sharp turn. He scares the hell out of me. It looks like he's not paying attention, and why does he have to take a sip while going around the turns?

8. When my house is a mess. I can't stand clutter. It makes me go crazy.

9. People who lie. An old principal of mine once lied, and it hurt so bad. Yup, good ole tenure...

10. Christmas shopping parking lots. I hate them so much!!!!! I did most of my shopping on-line this year.

11. I can't stand bugs. Any type of bug. If I find a bug in my house, I really freak out. If we camp, and a spider or bug gets in our tent, I can't sleep. My husband HATES this about me. THIS may be his pet peeve about ME. Right honey? And the sad thing is our 9-year old son has inherited this trait from me. "If you weren't such a spaz, Riley wouldn't be! He's learning it from you!"

12. When people throw their cigarette butts out of their cars or on the ground. We saw this all the time in Europe last year. In the city we lived in, a crew of workers every morning was hired to pick them all up on the sidewalks!

Those pesty mosquitoes today got me thinking about my other pet peeves. I'll probably go to bed and think of more, but what are your pet peeves?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Proud of My Children

Yesterday, my 4th grade son and 2nd grade daughter came home with their report cards. They are both really smart kids. My son might be gifted, and my daughter is pretty smart too. I am humble when I say this, because when I was in school, I had challenges learning. Up to fourth grade, I was in special education classes. My third grade teacher told my mom that I would most likely never attend college. My mom was very vocal to my elementary classroom teachers, and I'm sure she had the reputation of being "That Mom," but to her credit, she had to be. My fourth grade teacher told my mom that I was borderline mentally retarded.

Thank God I had a good mom. My mom knew and believed in my potential. She took me out of the public schools, and enrolled me in a small Catholic school. I repeated 4th grade, and to everyone's surprise and maybe relief, I was an A and B+ student.

I am very sensitive to the fact when kids can't learn- because I can relate. That was me. I know that all kids can learn and that's why I am so passionate.

For the longest time, I kept my secret of "failing 4th grade" a secret. Years after being married to my husband, he called me stupid. I don't even remember what led to him calling me that, but I'm sure it was a joke. But I started crying. And I told him my secret of how I was once indeed stupid.

I have never been the kind of student where things come easily. But my two kids learn so easily, sometimes I am in awe. I can't even believe that these two kids came from me.

Our kids got to pick out a restaurant for dinner, and while we were eating out Moe's, we talked to them about the importance of having good grades and how proud we are of them. Just as important as their high grades were their high behavior and work habit grades.

I'm so proud and grateful for so many things in my life. My kids are right up there on the list. So proud tonight. But everyday, I'm proud of their everyday accomplishments. I am lucky and blessed to be the mother of these two children. They are my world.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Difficult Parent Conferences

Today our school district had a half-day, so we could meet with parents for parent-teacher conferences. We had three days in the Fall, in which we met with ALL the parents. Today's conferences were tough, since we met with only the parents whose kids we have concerns about.

I had five conferences today. One mom cried, two moms were frustrated, and a mom and dad were utterly confused.

I teach kindergarten. And in today's conferences, my concerns with these five students fall on the fact that they are not yet reading. Yes, not reading. They can not decode simple 3-letter words.

One of my students has made wonderful progress. He never went to preschool. During my conference with mom in the Fall, I was telling Mom how he wasn't able to write his name, how he was only able to identify one or two letters, and he was very distracted and couldn't sit at our meeting area. Today, I applauded Mom at his progress. He can now write his first and last name, knows all of his uppercase and 24 lowercase letters, and all of the sounds. He is able to follow routines, and is a diligent worker. But, he is not able to fluently decode 3-letter words, and scored in the red on our DIBELS test.

The other four students- the same kind of stories.

I think right now I am finding Kindergarten to be a different kind of place for our young learners. Is developmentally appropriate even a word anymore in education? What about play? What about social skills?

I feel like the 90 year old kindergarten teacher, who doesn't want to change with the times. I want kindergarten to be fun with art projects, units of inquiry, thematic units- all of that. Instead, our district has changed so much. We adapted a reading program... (I really miss Guided Reading) We have a math program (Go Math) which consists of lots of pencil and paper work (4 sheets a day to be precise), and I'm having a hard time changing with the times.

Today at my conferences, I had to tell my parents that their children need to be readers by the end of the year, and if they are not, then they do not meet end of the year benchmarks. I wanted to kick myself under the table for saying that, because that's not what my philosophy is...

I did tell each parent where each of their students started the year off at, and look at their progress (because each of these kids has made so much).

I'm just having a difficult night tonight. I'm not liking the direction education is going; not even in Kindergarten.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

When Maggie Was Born

This morning when I was at work, I was talking to some teachers before our classes came whirling through our hallways. One of the teachers is very pregnant with her second child, and her due date is at the end of this month. As I was listening to her talk this morning, and how relaxed she seemed, I couldn't help remember the feelings I had when I was in labor with Maggie, my 2nd child.
Maggie was estimated to be a 12 pound baby, so I was scheduled to have a C-section with her. I went into labor 3 days before my scheduled C-section. We called the doctor, and she told us to come to the hospital to avoid the unneccesary labor- we were going to have this baby tonight, and still have the C-section. Instead of having the baby on Monday the 16th, our daughter Maggie would be born on Friday the 13th!
We made arrangments for our two-year old son to be picked up by my mom. I was, all of a sudden, stricken with a sense of loss, as I said goodbye to Riley. Would I ever love another child the same that I love Riley? How can you love two children the same? After Riley left with my mom, I found myself sitting on a chair and not wanting to go to the hospital. (My husband took a picture of this moment because he thought it was comical-which I'll post- because now I think it's funny)- I was afraid to have another baby. Afraid to love another baby. What if I couldn't love another baby? My husband, who is good at reasoning with me when I'm crazy, got me off that chair, lugged my suitcase into the car and drove us to the hospital.
Maggie was born at 11:45 PM on Friday the 13th, even after trying to convince the hospital staff to wait until after midnight.
My friend who is having her 2nd baby later this month laughed at my story. She is clearly more ready to have her 2nd than I was.
I have to say, that after the first second I met my daughter Maggie, I loved her as much as Riley! All that worrying for nothing.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Revising conferences in K

Today in my Kindergarten classroom, I had the kids get in pairs and they revised a piece of their writing. I'm taking my class through the writing process. Last week, my students picked their favorite book they have written (We have been writing books for the past 2 or 3 weeks-)After picking their favorite pieces, they spent a day or two revising their pieces on their own. Then, I took their writing and typed it, and today, they took their typed pieces, and revised with a partner.

Before the partners got together, I modeled what a typical revising conference would look like. I modeled questions. I modeled "I'm wondering...." type questions. When I thought I gave enough modeling and practice, I paired the kids off, and let them go. I walked around the room and I was honestly amazed at what I was hearing. I stopped at Ashley and Isabella. Ashley wrote about a birthday party she went to. Ashley was reading her writing piece to Isabella, and Isabella was asking Ashley lots of questions like "Were you playing with Barbies at the party?" What did the cake taste like?" "What was in your treat bag?" After Ashley's revision, Ashley included many more details about the birthday party. I loved that she even included eating the P of the birthday cake! Then Isabella read her story to Ashley- it was a story about a princess trapped in a tower. After her revision conference, Isabella included more details about why she was trapped in the tower, more details about the prince who saved her, and she even wrote that the horse the prince was riding on was a girl horse.

I walked around more, and I couldn't believe how the kids were suddenly all writing more. I never in my 17 years of teaching saw such a drastic improvement of writing in one Writer's Workshop lesson. It was simply amazing to listen to the dialogue, the excitement that was in the air, all the writing that was being added to their typed rough drafts, and again THE DIALOGUE! I absolutely loved the questions they asked one another. And the mutual respect they were giving one another.

Most of the kids later told me while we we sharing that they wanted to add even MORE details to their writing, and they wanted to revise more. So, I plan on handing out their rough drafts again tomorrow to see what happens. After we edit, I plan on publishing their stories into one big book and having an Author's Celebration. Each family will bring home a book of all the kids' stories.

I'm finding that this year's students love to write, and it's been a real fun year for me to do Writer's Workshop. Fun day for me today!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I'm Just too tired tonight to write

I am just too tired today to write. I've been battling a headache for 2 months, and after an ER visit yesterday and getting an IV pain killer, I had the highest of hopes that the headaches would be ending. But I woke up today with another one. And I went to the trenches of my kindergarten classroom ALL day. I seriously don't know how I did it. All I know is that I have a great teaching assistant, a wonderful parent helper who came in today, and an ESL teacher who was pushing in today for about an hour. Everyone told me I should go home. But my thinking is, I seriously could call in sick every single day, since these started in January.

Now, I'm going to bed. I just can't think of anything but headaches, and that's what I seem to be writing all month with my Slice of Life. It's all I think about. Will I have a headache tomorrow? Will I ever be better? Will the topomax kick in? Do I have Lyme Disease (test was taken yesterday)?

I hate this. This hopelessness that I feel.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Worst of the Worst

My kindergarten students will always remember me as the teacher who taught in the dark and had headaches. My son and daughter will remember their mom as having to lay down a lot in a closed bedroom, complaining of headaches. But today was the worst of the worst.

I woke up in the middle of the night with a severe headache. It was so severe, I think the actual headache woke me up. I've been having ongoing headaches for almost 2 months, so I'm used to the pain, if you can actually be used to it. But this was a different pain, much more powerful.

I somehow went back to sleep. When I woke up at 6 to my alarm, my blanket was wrapped around my head, in a mid-slumber attempt to get rid of the pain. I got up and took my Excedrin Migraine pill, and yet I was still in pain. Usually, that pill works.

I was a mess for the rest of the morning. I called my husband at work, and cried like a baby. Maybe more like yelped. I felt I had to go to work, since I had to call in sick 3 days last week to take care of my sick kids. I had to go, right?

Once at school, I was a total train wreck. When my teaching assistant came to the classroom, I told her I wasn't feeling good (which she has heard quite often with this almost 2-month headache), and I felt myself crying. The reading teacher saw me cry. My friend Kelly did. My whole Kindergarten team did. I was so out of sorts. I am usually the bubbly, happy one, so my crying was so out of character for me, and others around me knew I was in a lot of pain.

I ended up leaving school at 10:15, drove myself to Urgent Care, and the doctor there gave me an IV of a pain medication. I also have a new medication for my migraine- Topiramate, which I don't know how I feel. I also have an appointment at a Migraine Clinic in April.

I have mixed feelings about taking this new medication for my migraines. It has a slue of side effects.

I have no idea what is triggering my headaches, since I wake up with them. I had a MRI done 2 weeks ago, and it came back normal. At first, the MRI results came back as "maybe allergies, so take Claridin." But after today's Urgent Care visit, allergies have been ruled out, and now migraines are the sole culprit of my head pain. But, all the bad stuff was ruled out; brain tumors. I'm at a complete loss, putting myself at the mercy of medicine to make me better.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Tulips

Today was a gorgeous sunny day in Upstate New Y ork. After a morning of shopping, I couldn't wait to head home, so I could play with my garden, and the kids could play outdoors.

Because I was living in Germany last Spring, I wasn't able to get my garden ready. My friend who was living in our house, I think, didn't even want to touch anything in the yard, for fear she would mess things up. So when we returned from our one-year expat position, we returned last summer to our beloved 1906 house, with our overgrown garden. The garden was so overgrown, I couldn't even begin to tackle it.

Now that a new Spring has arrived, I'm excited to share the garden's responsiblities with my daughter. So today, I just raked the leaves. And after dragging the leaves to the curb, I went back to the garden and noticed my tulips were showing through the soil.

These tulips were one of my treasures that I brought back from Europe. On a trip to Amsterdam, we bought tulips there. Last Fall, I planted the tulips around the garden. I really have no idea what I'm doing, so we'll see what happens.

My garden is just a small plot of land in front of our covered porch. It's crammed with flowers sprouting up. Wild flowers, tulips, daffodils, and other plants and flowers I don't even know... I don't really have a plan when I garden, but that's the way I like it!

I bought blue tulips in Amsterdam just so I would know what tulips are the ones from Amsterdam, and which ones are the ones that come up every spring. These tulips are just another reminder of my year in Europe. Another one of my treasures.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

St. Baldrick's

Today was the day my 9-year old son got his head shaved.

For the last two months, my son has been raising money for St. Baldrick's, a charity that donates money to find cures for childhood cancer. He was having his head shaved in honor of his friend, Hannah. Hannah was diagnosed with leukemia in November 2010. She is one of the bravest people I have ever met.

My son raised $2,300, and he was the top fundraiser out of over 80 shavees today. People donated on my facebook page. He went door-to-door, asking for donations. He wrote a fundraiser proposal for his school's student council, and last Friday, his school raised almost $300 by having a Hat Day. The kids paid $1 to wear a hat to school. He has updated his blog (yes he has one) and produced his own movies, to get the word around about his fundraising goals. He original goal was $1,000. So he surpassed it, surprising all of us.

As he was getting his head shaved today, I suddenly became emotional. First, I thought about him, and how proud I was of him. Riley is one of the most giving and generous people I know, and he's a nine-year old boy. I felt so much love for him. I was inspired by him. I was amazed and in awe of him. Then, as I looked around the room, I looked at my friend, whose daughter is Hannah. Hannah was standing near to me, and I looked down at her several times, and bent down to tell her how special she was. Her little sister, Fiona, is in my kindergarten class this year, and she's pretty special too. She donated bone marrow to her sister, and is also a brave little girl. I felt my eyes fill with tears, but happy tears. My friend and her family have been through a lot this year. And their family has taught our family so many things. So many things.

It was a day filled with emotions: happiness, joy, and pure love.

The event today raised close to $40,000. One of my best friend's organizes the St. Baldrick's event each March. She lost a cousin to leukemia, and it's her mission to raise money for childhood cancer research. Many people in our community came together to join my friend. She's pretty amazing too.

Today, I take nothing for granted. I haven't for a long time. Hannah has taught me that.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Child #2 sick now...

Earlier this week, I had to take 2 days off because my daughter was sick. Today, my son woke up, having difficulty in swallowing, red and enlarged tonsils, and talking with a weird voice.

Called my favorite sub...but she was already working. Called the list of subs I love...all of them already working. So, I called "Subfinder" and they just will randomly call me a sub. I like to have substitutes that I know, since they know my class, and I have 2 children in my class with health concerns. It always worries me when I have to be out.

So, because I live only 3 miles from my school, I drove to school and dropped off sub plans. I was excited to do 3 projects with my class today, but decided to hold off on them until Monday. I selfishly want to do these activities with my students, and I wanted it taught in the right way. Sometimes when I leave sub plans for important lessons, I often am disappointed in how the lesson turned out and the evidence of the work the kids do. Since I was having a stranger substitute, I didn't want to leave a lot of complicated things.

My son is feeling better. I was worried he had Strep throat, since it is going around his 4th grade classroom. But the strep swap proved otherwise, and he is just fighting a virus. So hoping he'll be better soon. Tomorrow, he has a big day ahead of him, and I'll be writing about his big day tomorrow...

So today- another day home. I did report cards and talked on the phone to 2 of my best friends who are stay-at-home moms while my son rested today. Still feeling guilty for having to leave my students, for a third day this week.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

30 days with a headache

I'm dragging today. After suffering for a headache for more than 30 days, and getting a MRI last week, it was determined that I have allergies. After taking Claritin for 5 days, I feel somewhat better, but I'm still getting headaches.

It's just hard when you teach kindergarten, and you have a headache all day. I feel grouchy; not my bubbly self.

I go to the allergist in a couple weeks, and I'm trying to figure out what I would be allergic to that would be causing me so much pain. My dog, who is 11? My 1906 house? My school, where in my wing, there's 10 open classrooms without walls, and only a handful of windows and fresh air?

I just wish I was feeling better. My headache is back, and I'm tired. I want to be healthy so bad right now. It 8:15PM and I'm heading to bed right now.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why do we feel guilty for calling in sick?

I knew I would wake up this morning, and not know what to do. My daughter, who was sent home from school sick yesterday, by bed time last night, was dancing and playing Wii. So when it was bedtime last night, I was clearly thinking she would be going to school today.

However, that didn't seem to be what happened. I woke her up an hour earlier than I usually do, just so I could evaluate her. She did look a little pale, and her eyes had that weird sick look to them. She told me her throat hurt, and she was tired. I went back and forth, with calling in sick. Should I? Shouldn't I? I wish days like today, I had a magic stick that would really tell me if my child was sick enough to stay home.

Well, I ended up staying home with Maggie. I've learned through the years that my own children have to be my priority over my kids at school. And I knew that if Maggie did go to school, I would be a nervous wreck, worrying about her.

So, it ended up being a good day after all. It was almost 60 degrees here in Upstate New York. Maggie and I sat on our porch most of the day. We did a lot of talking. She did my hair. She painted my nails. Yep, she could had gone to school.

When I picked up my son from school after his Student Council meeting, he threw himself into the seat and complained of a headache. Riley, unlike Maggie, NEVER complains. He told me his throat was hurting too. And a strep throat notice from the nurse was in his folder. So this isn't looking good for tomorrow.

My husband has already told me that he can stay home, if Riley is sick tomorrow. As I write this, Riley is getting ready for bed, so we'll see how he is doing.

Out of the 4 days we had school last week (snowday one day), I was in my classroom for 1 day ( 2 meetings and a personal day). This week, out of 3 days, I have been in my classroom for 1.5 days, since Maggie was sick. I am feeling guilty for abandoning my little kids at school.

Why is it that we always feel guilty when we need to call in sick?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Your daughter is in the nurse's office, and is sick..."

It's 1:15 PM in my busy kindergarten classroom. I'm in front of the class, going over all of our new literacy centers for the week. In the middle of going over the 2nd literacy station, we all hear Mrs. Millington on our PA system. "Mrs. Walz, can you pick up your wall phone." Thinking one of my students is getting picked up early, I walk quickly to the phone in my room.

"Hi Stacey. The nurse from your daughter's school just called, and you need to call her back."

Then it dawns on me that my daughter told me that she wasn't feeling well this morning. I sent her to school, since there wasn't a fever. And after a cup of hot chocolate, she was her ole self again. Then it hits me that I'm probably not a good mom for sending her to school.

I quietly tell my students that I need to call Maggie's school. Luckily for me, our ESL teacher is in my room helping out, so I let her take over, while I head to the phone. Once on the phone with the nurse and talking to Maggie, I know that I have to leave school to pick her up. My school office already knew about the nurse calling me, so I dart into the office to talk to my school secretary and in 2 minutes, she already has a substitute heading to my classroom. It is amazing how smoothly it all is going down. While writing a few sub plans for the remainder of the day and placing some notes in some folders, I tell my students that I will miss them and to be good. They are in the midst of doing centers, so many of them are so engaged, they don't see me leave.

Once at my daughter's school, I go to the nurse's office to sign her out. She doesn't have a fever, but she has some chills. Her face is kind of pale, and she is relieved to see me. We hold hands walking out of the building, and then I feel like a good mom again.

While Maggie was resting on the couch this afternoon, I decided to be Super Mom, and I made some baked goods for when my son walked home from school. And dinner was on the table at 5, which never happens.

It's now 5:30 PM, and my daughter is sleeping on the couch. I may need to think about doing sub plans for tomorrow...

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tears on Monday

Today, afterschool, I had a grade level meeting with all the kindergarten teachers in my district. The topic was on the Common Core, our five year old reading program that needs to be align with these standards, and the work we have in front of us. It seems daunting, this big task.

After the meeting, I ran to greet my old kindergarten team. How I missed their smiles,our conversations, our mutual love of teaching and sharing what we do each day...I just really miss being part of a happy team of teachers.

When I moved to Germany last year, I took a one-year leave. I was hoping to return back to my school when I returned back to the U.S, but it didn't work out. Because of seniority (I've only been in my district for 4 years) and other union and Human Resources issues, I wasn't able to return back. Instead, I was placed in another elementary school in my district, but still remaining at Kindergarten. It was sad and very painful, but I know things happen for a reason. I loved the school I was at: It's the school that my own two children attend, and it's two blocks from my house. It's nice when you can walk to work. And I worked with teachers that I respected and had fun with.

I really miss collaborating with my old Kindergarten teachers. At my new school, teachers are planning and teaching individually, and I feel like I'm still finding my way in my new school.

When I said goodbye to one of my old teammates today, I had tears in my eyes. We both miss each other, and we were even trying to brainstorm ways so we can teach again together. But the chances, now, are slim, since our district isn't anticipating many new openings, especially two at one grade level, in the same school.

Things happen for a reason. I'm still trying to figure out what that reason is...Maybe I'm needed more at my new school...Maybe my own two kids are better off going to a school, without their mom as a teacher... So I'm being positive with my change, but today, it was hard.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I Got a Good Man

To all my blog followers: All 7 of you :)
I'm participating in a challenge, where I have to write everyday, about a Slice of my Life. For the month of March, I plan on writing everyday. My students and I are doing this challenge!

When I woke up at 9 AM this morning (yes, my Good Man let me sleep in), he had cleaned our house. I was so relieved. My husband has a talent for putting piles of stuff away. Me, on the other hand, can't seem to put piles away. They just move from room to room. For example, the desk that this computer is on was a mess last night. This morning, all the piles were put away, the desk free of dust, and I'm afraid to make this area a mess, again, with my things.

When I went to bed last night, I thought about how it was time to clean our house and all the work I would have to do. When I came down the stairs this morning, and saw that my lovely husband was busy working, I sang that song in my head. Because to me, A Good Man is a man who can clean a house well. And is willing to help.

My man is good. I woke up at 9 AM, and didn't have to worry about all the messes. Maybe he did it for himself, because he didn't want to hear me dealing with it. Whatever his motive, I love this good man. Through good, bad, sickness and in health, and in clean and dirty.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Travel Sections

We are driving home from Plymouth, New Hampshire today, back to our home in Upstate New York. We decided to take our time coming home, and just stopping whenever we choose. It's a 4 hour drive, but because my sister is watching our kids tonight, we don't have to rush home.

We stop in Keene, New Hampshire on the way home, hoping to see a charming little village. It is cute, and we stop at the cutest shopping mall. Instead of a big concrete building with the normal stores, this mall looks like it was a factory, that they turned into a mall. And inside, are local stores, that sell local items. It's a large brick building, and inside walking around, everything is brick and old wood. It's just so charming.

We spent most of our time there, at a bookstore called The Toadstool Bookshop. I love bookstores that our independently owned. They offer charm, but also, a different selection of books, and their children's sections are filled with books I've never even seen before. I love it!

I find that whenever I walk into a book store, I'm always running to the Travel Section. Since my year living in Europe, I am intrigued with visiting places, even if it's just looking at pictures in travel books. I recently read a book about an expat family, who moves to France for four years, and I loved reading how another family experienced life in another culture. I'm currently reading another travel book: a book with many stories about traveling the world. Someday, I hope to write about my experiences, and I love reading about what others experienced.

I spent a lot of time looking at travel books, travel memoirs, and travel picture books. I looked through a coffee book of Paris, a travel book on Italy, and a memoir of a woman who moved to Paris for one year (I bought that one). I bought a travel magazine. If my husband didn't nudge me to another aisle, and then out the store, I would had been there for hours. I am consumed and obssessed with wanting to travel to exotic places, and back to Europe. I have been back in the United States for seven months, yet I still really miss my European life. Looking at pictures, reading about others' stories, makes me feel connected. Sometimes, I don't think anybody really understands the adjustments and difficulties I've been having. But when I visit a book store, I find myself looking at these books, and I know these authors and photographers fell in love with places too; the same places I did. Their stories and pictures need to be written and seen, and for a couple of minutes in the Travel Section, I can relate to all of the photographers and authors that visited these historical and intimate places. Because I share their passion too. I share their love of the experience of traveling, but most importantly, what I learned about life and myself when visiting these faraway lands. Sometimes I feel like the travel section knows what I am going through; missing the places I loved. I find my comfort and solace, and walk out the book store to explore another town: Keene, New Hampshire.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Lunch in Woodstock, Vermont

We are driving through picturique and quaint towns through Vermont today, on our drive to New Hampshire. We left our Upstate NY suburban life, dropped our 2 kids off at their school, took personal days off at our jobs, and we are driving 4.5 hours to New Hampshire. My husband really wanted to see his favorite blues singer sing live, and Taj Mahal (yes, that's his name) is playing tonight in this cute little village in New Hampshire. We are kid-free for at least one night, while my parents watch our two kids.

Our drive to New Hampshire was so relaxing. We drove through Vermont, one of my favorite places to take a drive to. The country roads, the mountains and farmhouses all lightly blanketed with the fluffy snow that we got yesterday. The country roads, like postcard photographs, with the trees lightly brushed with white. I love when snow looks pretty, right after a snowfall.

When we get to Woodstock, Vermont, it is just the quindessential New England town. With its little downtown, general stores, and people who are always smiling. My husband laughs at me, after we pick out a place for lunch. He comments on my attire for the day; I decided to wear a semi-rock show outfit. So not really fitting it with the locals who are wearing winter comfortable shoes and their fleeces. I have on an European inspired outfit, matched with my black knee-high boots.

We pick a restaurant called Bentley's, on the main drag of Woodstock. It's decore is Victorian charm, and I find myself getting comfy in my window seat. It's hard to look at my husband, and try to be romantic, when I want to turn around and take the town in.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Snow Day...

My husband woke me up this morning, to say goodbye, like he does every morning around 5 AM. In my sleepy stupor, I usually always mumble something like, "OK," or "Love you too," and I barely remember his leaving each morning. But this morning, when he said goodbye, I suddenly became alert and remembered that we were getting a winter storm. The night before, on Facebook, all my teacher friends were telling stories of ice cubes in the toilet, pajamas worn inside out, and most had snowdanced earlier. I had no idea before I became a teacher, that teachers are the ones who go crazy when there's a Snow Day, not the kids! I suddenly remembered that I could turn off my alarm clock, if my husband knew the answer.

"Do I have school?" I mumbled, with eyes half-closed.

"Nooooo, you're off," my husband answers back, not sounding very excited for me. "Drive safe," I yell back at him. I quickly turn off my alarm clock, and savor the morning where I don't have to rush, wake up my kids, and have a countdown to getting teeth brushed, shoes on, and books in backpacks. I fall back to sleep, and don't wake up until 7:00, to discover a winter wonderland outside my window. The silence of my house is even more wonderful!

There's nothing like an unexpected day off. The possibilities of catching up. Catching up on housework, schoolwork, soap operas, The Today Show, and having fun with my kids and making memories of snow, hot chocolate, and snow forts!