Friday, December 12, 2008

'Tis the Season

'Tis the Season...

Only one more week until winter break! I can't wait to have my yearly reflection time. Each year I like to stay up late after everyone has gone to bed. I turn on the Christmas tree lights, grab a cup of cocoa or tea and stare at the tree and let my thoughts wander over the past year...over family and friends far and near...over my is quiet "ME" time. I started doing this with our tree in high school and have continued the trend into adult hood. I usually spend at least 2 or 3 nights during the season reminiscing...

School: Whose idea was it to give Benchmark tests this week? Though grateful they didn't require us to give them the week before winter break, testing on the Thurs and Fri before the last school week of the year was still rough. My kiddos were very easily distracted. I do have to say that they behaved/tested much better than I expected. However the down time between testing sessions was rough.

Speaking of rough, I have a student who needs prayers/positive thoughts sent his way. He is going through a lot of heavy issues at home. He trusts and confides in me, which I think is great...and then I feel so heartbroken that he doesn't have support at home. I've been praying that his parents will wake up and realize what a great person he is. But mostly, I've been praying that he will realize his own self-worth. How I'd love to see him enter my classroom with his head up and hair brushed out of his eyes, instead of his un-confident demeanor. Poor baby!

Friends: This week I reconnected with an old friend. M-E was literally the first girlfriend I met in Florida. She trained me to take over her position at Child Guidance Center when I got my first post-college job (and she was leaving to go to another agency.) We've been in touch off and on through the years, even working at the same agency for a while when I was still doing social work. The last few years our contact has been mostly via email. This week we met for a girls-night-out dinner. It was great to reconnect and catch up. (M-E---if you're reading, thanks soooo much for being so candid and especially for sharing about your IVF issues!)

More School: We got new laptops at my school this past Wednesday! Hooray! I upgraded from a Lenovo R50 to a Lenovo R500. SOOOOO much faster, I am loving it! Also, the screen is about an inch larger, which is great. What I am super thankful for is that this program has enough capacity to hold the Read180 software on it. I can finally conference with my students and show them immediate scores instead of having to print out reports to discuss. Hooray!

Emma: Em finally sat on Santa's lap for the first time! She has been terrified and we've never had a Santa picture with her before. Sadly, this occurred on her class field trip to the mall, so DH and I didn't get to see it first hand. (Her class went on a field trip to the mall for a Santa visit, lunch, and a train ride.) She was SO proud of herself for being "brave" and posing for a picture this year. She said she told Santa that she wants "Barbies" for Christmas. Barbies have consistently been her gift preference when friends or family have asked her what is on her wish list. (DH did some Santa shopping this week and purchased some neat things including a "Barbie: My House Playset" which includes a bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom w/ laundry.)

DH: I just found out that DH is off the 23rd-25th. I'm glad he has more than just the 25th off, as he could use some "downtime." :)

I think that is all the latest...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Catching Up...

Hopefully when winter break starts in 2 weeks, I'll be able to catch up (and keep up!) with my blog.

Until then, some quick news....

AT&T has announced they'll be laying off 12,000 employees. Thus far, this does not effect DH or the center where he works here in Jacksonville. They were told that the 12,000 layoffs will occur throughout we are hoping the economy doesn't worsen so that jobs in Jax are not impacted.

My friend Stacye sent me a cute email link:

When you go to the site, you can click on a template to complete a quick letter FROM Santa. It even includes a small Santa "mailing stamp" you can print and stick on the envelope. I completed the template and printed it out at school, then stuck it in an envelope with a Santa "stamp." When Emma and I checked the mail after arriving home from school I was able to sneak the letter into the mail pile. Em was SOOO excited to receive a letter from Santa that mentioned, "Mrs. Claus and I have been watching and are very proud that you help feed Viggo, clean your room, and have green behavior days at school." Emma's jaw literally dropped and she said, "I can't believe it!" She was so tickled. It was great.

Best news of the week: I received e-mail confirmation from my teacher this afternoon that I successfully completed my Reading Endorsement Competency 6 class. HOORAY! This means that I am FINISHED with the 6 classes I need for reading, and can now add "Reading K-12" to my professional teaching certificate. Whew...3 years of work is finally done! I am ecstatic!

Other good news: My school is in the pilot program to start using an online gradebook system. Because most of our laptops are outdated, we had to turn in all of our teacher laptops yesterday. We'll be getting NEW laptops on Monday! (Still no word on if they'll be Macs or PCs....but I'll take a new anything compared to the old piece of junk I just turned in!) We'll start the gradebook program in January. Word on the street is that it will be a district requirement for all schools to use this program starting next August. I'm glad we'll have training and be used to the program ahead of time!

Meghan---sorry, no extra time (and not exactly sure how!) to do your "tag" this time. I'll look into it during break. I'm sooo behind on reading/commenting on other blogs, I'm going to use time to do that instead. :)

Only 10 school days left until winter break...

Thanksgiving Feast at Emma's School

Em and Daddy with the hats Emma made

With her teacher Miss Stephanie

Smiling for a pic with Grandma and Grandpa

Acting silly with Auntie Laurel (Using hands to act like the wattles on a turkey)

Like mother, like daughter

Eating with her classmates

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Grandpa helps Em learn to steer a tractor

Tractor Girl

My parents and Laurel arrived around 6 a.m. the day before Thanksgiving. (After driving ALL night to be with us. Thank you, family!) Em slept through their arrival. DH and I gave hugs and then we all went to sleep for a few short hours before "morning." Em was thrilled that Auntie Laurel escorted her and Daddy to school.

After dropping Em at school, DH and Lal got bagels and doughnuts for the adults to eat while we were hanging out before going to Em's school luncheon. At 11:30, we all attended the "Thanksgiving Feast" at Em's school. (Continuing the LaFrance family's inability to arrive ON TIME anywhere when more than 2 of us are together, we arrived late and missed the blessing...oops.) The potluck meal was fine. It was nice to see Em interacting with her teachers and other kiddos. I think my parents and sis enjoyed seeing her school environment. My Mom seemed to really like meeting Em's teachers.

We took Em home with us after lunch. We all hung out at the house the rest of the day. Em was able to have some outside time with my Dad. My parents brought us an AWESOME peddle-tractor that both my sisters and I used when we were young. The tractor also went to my cousins Barette and Brandon in Wisconsin for a while. And now it's here in Florida. A 3 state 2 1/2 generation toy. (Why 2 1/2 ? Because the age range from my older sister to cousins to Em is a 30+ year gap!) Kinda neat! I have fond memories of riding the tractor up and down the sidewalk at the house I grew up in. It's awesome seeing Em enjoy the tractor too.

That night we all went to MyGym for Em's Weds night class. She and Adrian were 2 of only 3 kids who were present for the class. Thus, they had lots of individual attention. My parents would clap when Em completed her balancing or gymnastic activities appropriately---too cute. And of course Em loved showing off for them. Afterwards, we all ate dinner at the St. John's Seafood restaurant located in the same strip mall as the gym. Then went home to have some hangout time before bed.

The next day we all went to my in-laws house. The house was lovely! Cindy always decorates SO nicely...some of her holiday decor looks like it is right out of a magazine. Amie & Burke were able to join us. It was a nice day of hanging out and WAAAAAY yummy food. Craig's turkey was divine, the side dishes were great and he made 3 homemade pies this year---wow! It was a nice day, I think relaxing for everyone...and I hope C&C didn't stress too much about having everyone over. My favorite Emmaism of the day, was when we pulled into C&C's driveway. Amie & Burke had parked behind Craig's car so that we'd have room to park my Dad's van on the driveway. Emma said, "It sure was nice of Amie and Burke to hang up their car there so we'd have room!" Who needs to park when you can just "hang up" your car?

Friday was a hanging out at home day. Poor DH felt sick most of Thanksgiving and all through my family's visit. (He thinks he either had a stomach virus or food poisoning from some dip at the Seafood restaurant...ugh!) Bless his heart, DH still made an amazing pot of chili which we had for dinner that night. I was able to get ALL of our Christmas decor up---the tree, the decorations, the outside lights, etc. Hooray! (Otherwise, I likely would've waited until winter break.) My Dad generously took Em to the park and Ft. Caroline for 3 1/2 hours while I prepared the house. (Thanks, Grandpa!) When they returned she enjoyed helping to put ornaments on the tree.

Laurel read, read, read the "Twilight" book by Stephanie Meyer that DH and I had already finished, so that the book would be finished before we all saw the movie together. (I recently read all 4 books in the Twilight saga and LOVE them, so had asked her if she'd like to read the book and see the movie with us during her visit to FL.) Friday night my parents babysat Em while DH, Lal and I saw the "Twilight" film. I enjoyed it. I would see it again. However, the book is sooooo much better!

Saturday, DH had to work. Em and I took my parents and Lal to the Jacksonville Zoo. (A tradition that started when Em was really young---now she expects that if Grandma and Grandpa are here, we WILL be going to the zoo together at some point.) The weather was gorgeous---in the high 60s. It was a really nice day! That night we ate dinner at Moe's and then drove around looking at Christmas lights. We had a little bit of hangout time at home before bed. My Mom and sister met my expectation----I laughed so hard that I cried---this usually happens at least once whenever my sisters and I are able to visit. This time it was because we were giggling about Christmas limericks... :)

Sunday morning, the Ohioans left promptly at 6 a.m. We woke up a lethargic Em to give tearful hugs good-bye. Then she, DH, and I went back to bed for a few hours while my Ohio family drove 12+ hours to return safely to their homes that night.

What I am thankful for this year...
--A fence! LOVE having backyard access for Em and Viggo
--A husband who cooks even when he's feeling lousy
--A family who traveled far and wide to be with us for the holiday
--In-laws who welcomed my family into their home
--Finishing my reading endorsement Comp 6 class! I finished the "Video Reflection" paper on Sunday and submitted it this week. As long as there are not any corrections (which I do not anticipate) then I am done and can officially add "Reading K-12" to my teaching certificate in January!!
--A little girl who is SO excited about the season. Loves her nativity playset. Loves the idea of Santa. Loves giving presents and surprises to others.
--Emmaism: Emma: "Mommy, do you know what I'm thankful for?"
Me: "What sweetie?"
Emma: "You!" Awwww. I love my little sweetie.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Sick Day

I stayed home from school today. I have been congested, have a sore throat and just feel BLECK. I took Em to her preschool/daycare, and then I came home. I watched Obama's acceptance speech (I had fallen asleep before it earlier in the week.) How moving! I love that he was gracious, yet humble. Not gloating and victorious as some prior president-elects...just very matter-of-fact. Along with supporting many of Obama's platforms, I also think it is wonderful that the U.S. will finally have a minority president. That people who lived through Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights movement will have an African American president within their lifetime. I agree with Obama, it is time for change!

After watching Obama's speech, I slept and slept. So much for sipping tea and watching sappy movies, like I thought I would do when I scheduled the day off. I crashed hard. Guess my body needed the rest. Last weekend, we took Em to Urgent Care because she had been coughing and running a slight fever. She's been on antibiotics all week. Yesterday, I felt it coming on. I called my pharmacy and had my antibiotic Rx from last spring refilled. Hoping that by taking today off, I'll have "kicked it" before school on Monday. I just didn't have the energy to deal with my students today.

Last week I finally got the check from the insurance company of the man who wrecked into my car back in September. (Were there enough prepositions in that sentence? I'm tired!) Next Tuesday when school is closed for Veteran's Day, I'll drop my car off at the repair shop, and will get a rental car (paid for by his insurance) for use while my car is in the shop. Hassle of the season: they had to cancel the initial check because they erroneously mailed it to me at the address of my co-worker who was a passenger in my car at the time of the accident. Sighs. That is why it has taken so long for me to obtain the repair $$. I am hoping that the body shop will be able to repair it for the price of the check (approx $650)...and in 3 days or less. Otherwise, Tuesday will be spent making phone calls for more $$ and more rental car days. Ugh.

2 quick Halloween memories before I forget: 1. DH was able to make it this year! The past few years, he has gotten home after we were finished trick-or-treating. Due to Jacksonville always having trick-or-treat on actual Halloween, we always had to go early so Em could be in bed for school the next morning. This year with Halloween on a Friday (and with Em being a little older,) we went trick-or-treating a little bit later. Aaron caught up with us before we were even half way around the block. It was nice family bonding. We both enjoyed watching Em, who was adamant about ringing the doorbells by herself. There were a few houses with creepy Halloween decor that Em would "sneak" by declaring, "I'm not scared!" It was cute. 2. Em was tickled that in the "Wizard of Oz" books, Dorothy and her friends wear glasses in order to view the Emerald City. She thought it was neat to dress up as a character who wears glasses. :)

Oh! And a Halloween when I picked Em up at school, her teacher had photos of the students in their Halloween attire. There are only 4 girls in Em's class. As you know, Em was Dorothy. ALL 3 of the other girls were dressed as Princess Aurora (Sleeping Beauty.) Too funny! Em told me "they were all Aurora" when I asked her last week, but I thought she was exaggerating, or couldn't remember. (Btw---Em was Aurora last year. Maybe they are all wannabes? JOKE!)

Quick shout-outs:

--To Auntie Michelle: for sending Em a really cute, cuddly stuffed lion as a belated birthday gift. Em named the lion Furry. She loves him. She took the lion for their weekly "Sharing Day this past Wednesday." On Sharing Day, kids bring a toy from home and let the other students take turns playing with it all day. Furry was a hit. :)

--To Auntie Meghan--Happy belated B-day (Oct 7th.)

--To Auntie Laurel---Happy belated B-day (Nov 6th.)

--To my parents and Laurel---they'll be coming for Thanksgiving. Having their visit to look forward to is helping me truck through this quarter. (I can't wait until winter break---my reading endorsement class will be over, and the critical thinking class I'm teaching will be over too!)

--DH finally started running again. His knee is doing better. He has a new half marathon goal... I think it is in March?? I'll have to find out.

And an Emmaism before I go:
I asked Em what job she wants when she is a grown up. She enthusiastically responded, "A ticket taker at the movies!"

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Em, Adrian and the other kiddos were able to wear their Halloween costumes to their MyGym class this past Weds.

Am I cute, or what?

Em and Adrian climb on a ladder during "free play."

Em swings on the bar.

Adrian's turn.

Climbing a wall-ladder

"Will you hold my glasses while I flip around?"

Adrian's group during class rotation

Emma's group during class rotation. (Adrian's mom and I LOVED the Ninja Turtle costume next to Em. SO cute!)

View of the gym.

Emma was the line leader when the group rotated stations.

Em flips around the bar.

And holds herself up on top of the bar

Adrian's turn to flip.

Em on the rolling mat.

Adrian's turn

Adrian on the balance beam

Em's turn


On Halloween Em and her classmates wore costumes to school. They went trick-or-treating at the offices within their school building. It was a little chilly, so Em needed long sleeves and tights. I think the outfit was super! Thanks, Grandma and Grandpa! :)

Happy Halloween!

Our first try with jack-o-lantern stencils...

Ghost jack-o-lantern by DH and Em

Scary face jack-o-lantern by Em and I (her choice...I liked the friendlier faces better.)

Costume trial run

Costume check. How do you like the mini "Toto," a mini dog DH won a few months ago at work?

"The Wizard of Oz" is the first chapter book we ever read to Em. We read a chapter a night before bedtime earlier this year. Shortly after we finished the book, Em told my mom that she wanted to be Dorothy for Halloween. A few weeks later, Em received the CUTE CUTE CUTE Dorothy outfit as part of her birthday package from Grandma and Grandpa. Loved it! Happy autumn to all.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin Patch

We went to a Pumpkin Patch yesterday and selected 2 nice pumpkins. Yes, it's the week before Halloween, so things were somewhat picked over. However this is the first Saturday DH has had off in a while. It was a nice family outing. I missed the pumpkin patch we went to last year---complete with Hay Ride, corn maze, etc. But it is an hour drive, Emma has a bad cold, and DH and I didn't feel up to going back this year. So the "pumpkin patch" we went to was the front lawn of a church. Luckily, Em was excited about it...and that's what the outing meant for.

Em and I made a jack-o-lantern yesterday with one pumpkin, and she and Aaron will create one with the other pumpkin today. It was my first experience using jack-o-lantern stencils---I was pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to use. I was really pleased with the way our jack-o-lantern turned out. I am NOT artistic...and the stencils were easy to use and worked well. And by the way---the brand new stencil kits and pumpkin carving utensils were left in my classroom by the prior teacher. Hahahaha. My labor this summer cleaning her crap is paying off in free Halloween decor. :) I'll try to get pics tonight and post them one of these days...

Fall is finally here. We've had the A.C. off and windows open for a few weeks now, but it sure is grand to have nice crisp weather outside. I love this time of year! It's not COLD...I detest the cold. But it is cool enough for long sleeves/pants and no sweltering heat. Love the colored leaves. Love the smell of fireplaces. Love the Halloween and Thanksgiving decor. Love the cooking smells...Em and I made cinnamon muffins this morning and DH has chili cooking on the stove now. Yummy autumn aromas!

School is still the same...I'm unhappy with the Read180/ELA combination. I attended a committee meeting on Friday in which several teachers and I complained that 30 minutes/day of language arts is NOT adequate. Basically we were met with, "nothing can be done this year, but we're noting your demands so things can be different next school year." Not very promising seeing as we just finished 1st quarter. Sighs.

On a positive note---DH only worked a 1/2 day last Saturday. He and Em then went on an outing the rest of the day so I could work, work, work. I finished my 20+ page paper for my Comp 6 class! It's not due until December. This was a huge load off my shoulders. Now I just have to video tape my 5 lessons and write a "video reflection" for each one and then I will be done. My goal is to be finished before Thanksgiving...I'd like to be "free" during the 4-day weekend. God knows I need some down time!

Two recent Emmaisms:
10/13/08 While looking at one of DH's hockey jersey's "C-C-M. That spells hockey!" CCM Sports is the company who makes hockey jerseys. :)

10/22/08 At MyGym last week, the kiddos were asked what their favorite candy to get for trick-or-treating is. Emma responded, "Tic Tacs." LOL! I'm not sure what made her say this...but I know that my little chocolate lover would choose chocolate candy before TicTacs any day of the week.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Struggles and Shout-Outs

First---Some recent pics
Two weekends ago Em and I went to the Jacksonville Zoo. There is a rope ladder in the play yard that I'm guessing is about 8-10 feet high. Previously, I would not allow Em to climb higher than I can reach. This time I gave in, and allowed her to climb to the top. Which she did again, and again and of 5 times. I was SOOO paranoid about her falling. Em is a pretty good climber, but there were other kids who would come into the rope ladder and sway it back and forth while she was climbing...scary! It was one of those moments as a Mom where I knew it was important to give Em her independence...even though it hurt ME a little bit on the inside. :)

Just under the halfway point

At the top, climbing off the rope and onto the platform.

They have also added a new sandbox area with a tarp, so that it is completely shaded. Em had a blast. I'm going to have to speak to Santa...once our fence is installed (Nov. 20th is our install date!) I'm thinking a swingset and small sandbox would be nice backyard additions.

Last weekend Em and I picnicked at the Ft. Caroline/Timucuan Preserve site and then walked the nature trail.

View of a barge we saw across the river

Ft. Caorline

"Take a picture of me with the 4 sign, 'cause I'm 4."
(The nature trail had numbered signs throughout the trail from 1-20 or so.)
(By the way...Emma's expression in this peek-a-boo picture SO reminds me of my sister Laurel.)

Sign hugger

A stump on the nature trail.

Hut replica of the Timucuan homes.

Some recent struggles:

In sad news I learned that one of my former students was killed last week. He was shot in the face in a robbery attempt. Sadly, police found a gun in his belt/waistband as well. Thomas was 16. When I taught him 2 years ago he was frequently in trouble at school...and actually quite a jerk to most teachers (myself included.) He also bullied other students. We tried to have meetings with parents, but didn't feel support from the home. Well...maybe that's not fair. Mom attended the meetings and I do think she tried. This was truly a kid who did what he wanted when he wanted...with little regard for anyone else. Eventually, he left my old school due to being placed in an "alternative school" setting (school for students with multiple behavior offenses.) Thomas has been on my mind a lot this week. It is a conundrum that may never be answered: Did the "system" fail him? Or was he unwilling to partake in the services available to him? Still, I wouldn't wish his fate on anyone.

Along with my lesson-plans-are-time-consuming- struggles, I've also been learning about co-teaching. This is my first year with inclusion teachers working with me in my classroom. They are WONDERFUL! I have been grateful for their help and support. The inclusion teachers at my school travel with a particular class and are with the students all day, as the students are integrated into "regular" classes. Thus, at least 50% of both of my Read180/ELA classes are comprised of ESE students. The inclusion teachers enable me to have more differentiated instruction because I am able to divide the class into sub-groups to focus on specific learning skills. However, my difficulty is in orchestrating what occurs in my classroom. At times there are 4 adults in the room: myself, the inclusion instructor, an ESOL teacher to help my non-English speaking student, and a language arts teacher who was asked to help our class to ensure that our Read180/ELA kids are having similar lessons as non-reading-student ELA kids. Yikes! Everyone is kind and helpful, but it is sometimes a pain to determine who-does-what. When I used to teach ESE, I had a paraprofessional in my room 1 or 2 periods a day. But it has been years since I was the only adult in the room. So again, while my colleagues are great...there are times I wish I could run a solo or duet ship, instead of a quartet...not because I don't want the help...but because it takes a long time to figure out what everyone will be facilitating!

My prior school hours were 7:35 - 2:35. My new/current school hours are 9:15 - 4:15. Last year I would stay after school for 2-3 hours each day. It was wonderful because I would get lots of school work done. I did not allow myself to bring school-work home, except on rare occasions. Sighs! Though my schedule this year is much better for Emma (she is no longer cranky and crying in the a.m. Now she is wide awake and waving at the window when I leave,) it is SO hard for me to get work done. I have been getting to school early and staying a little late. But with Em's daycare schedule, I have to leave work by 5:30 at the latest. Thus the problem is time. The 3 hours a day after school last year outnumber the 1 hour before and 1 hour after school I am getting this year. I have had work to do at home nearly every weekend thus far this school year. YUCK!

On a positive note, some "Shout Outs" for people/things I've appreciated recently:

Emma received a Halloween card in the mail this week. It had 3 Disney princesses dressed up with glitter/sparkles on their dresses. Em rubbed her fingers across the glitter and said, "It doesn't just look beautiful, it feels beautiful too!" Thanks, Beckstrom family!

I received a snail-mail handmade thank you card from my friend, Shannon Kay. Thanks, Shan for the lovely card. And you're most welcome for the turtle. :) (Thanks, Lal for delivering it, as well!)

Shout out to my friend Stacye, for researching and finding the location of a MyGym and class times for Em and Adrian to attend. They are both enjoying it very much. And Adrian's birthday party will be there next month. Should be a great time! :)

Shout out to my Mom---months ago she sent Emma rebus books. Em finally really grasps the concept and LOVES the books. I think they help her to feel that she is part of the book reading. She especially enjoys the Scooby-Doo Meets Big Foot rebus book. (Seeing as Scooby has been my favorite cartoon character for years, this book is right up my alley too!)

DH's Dad/Emma's Papa---THANK YOU! He has been babysitting Emma on the nights I have my class. In the past when he babysat Em, I would pick Em up from school/daycare and take her to his house. My new school schedule does not allow me to do this, so Papa has been picking her up AND babysitting AND feeding her dinner before DH or I pick her up. THANK YOU, PAPA!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Overbooked and Underpaid

Whew! I'm feeling overbooked...

...and underpaid, but such is the life of all teachers. :)

--I've started "Competency 6." The LAST course I need to obtain the Reading Endorsement on my Teaching Certificate. As the "finale" for the course, I have to: Create a "Case Study" of 3 students wherein I use reading assessments to determine their specific reading needs, and then create lesson plans to meet these needs. After developing these lesson plans, I have to video tape myself teaching 5 mini-lessons. ACK! The portfolio is due just before winter break.

--A funny: In my class today someone's pager started going off. I do not own a pager, so I started looking around annoyed at whatever classmate I have who was disrupting the class. Then I discovered that it was ME! I had the digital timer I use in my classroom in my pocket and it started going off. OOPS! Lol.

--I have 3 lesson plan preps this semester. I'm teaching reading, language arts and critical thinking (Steven Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.) It is SOOOO time consuming and tedious to create lesson plans for 3 classes each day. I can't wait until next semester when my 7Habits class is over and I"ll be down to only 2 preps.

--A duty that I was not required to do at my old school as department head, but that I am required to do at my current school is to teach the faculty a "reading strategy of the month" they can use in their own classrooms if they wish to. I have been taking the easy way out and using the same "reading strategy of the month" that the Florida Online Reading Professional Development website uses. It is less work, (no research on my part----the "rational" and execution of the strategy are both posted on their website) but part of me feels like it is a cop-out.

--I was drafted into being one of the teacher coaches for our schools' International Night. I am helping with a Reader's Theater presentation. And of course, the event will take place in December the same week my Comp 6 portfolio is due. Ugh! Did I mention I can't wait for next semester?

--I am also on a committee that will meet for the first time next week. We are going to discuss the pros/cons of the way our county has required Read180 teachers to also teach language arts this year. Most of us who are doing this feel "stuck" and that it isn't working. We have the lowest quartile level of readers in our schools yet only 30 minutes a day of language arts time. The idea behind it is that only 30 minutes is needed because language arts strategies are integrated within the reading curriculum. NOT working in my opinion. Yes, the language arts strategies are integrated...but 30 minutes is NOT enough time to focus purely on writing, grammar, sentence structure, story elements, etc. These are issues that we do discuss in reading but do not always have time to elaborate on. I am very frustrated. Last year my school was one of the top 6 schools in the county for reading gains. I think mixing Read180 with language arts is doing 2 things: 1. It is messing with the integrity of the Read180 program. By not having ample time to "introduce" and "wrap up" topics, (this time is now devoted to lang arts) it is difficult to monitor student understanding. 2. It is not providing ample times for students to learn needed skills in both reading and language arts. As mentioned at the beginning of the year, I am very concerned about my students not making gains on this year's FCAT test. I have wonderful books and online resources. But resources can't be squeezed in when there are only 30 minutes of language arts time. Okay....I'll get off my soapbox now.

--To my friends: I haven't forgotten you! I am just really overbooked right now. Tea with Anna, email with Mary-Ann, catch-up time with MaryEllen, etc. My class is 2 nights a week and Emma's is one...I'm just stressing. After next week the class part of my Comp 6 is over and we have the next 2 months to work on our portfolios... And to the single parents of the world, I applaud you! Though I have a really crowded schedule, at least I have supportive DH who is helpful and does half of the load (especially with Emma stuff) at home!

--Speaking of which, Emma had her 4 year old shots and check up this morning. She is "perfect" and healthy and doing well. DH took her to the appointment. Thank you, Daddy! She is 34 1/2 pounds and 35 inches tall. She had to get 4 shots---2 in each arm, and also a pricked finger for some type of blood test. Aaron said she was in a great mood, enjoying the checkup...and then it all was ruined at shot time. When they left, Em said, "Daddy, I never want to go there again!"

Poor baby!

--We just signed Emma up for her first "extra curricular" class. She is now enrolled for classes every Wednesday night at MyGym. Some of my gal pals this summer were raving about it. It is only $5/month more than the "PlayBall," "Kindermusik" and "Movement" classes they were offering weekly at her school. I like the facility and I like that she is involved in something with teachers and students that differ from her school. Em's friend Adrian is in the class too. It is nice because each class starts with everyone working together (my teacher term: "Whole Group.") They then break into 3 small groups and rotate around the gym. For example, last week they had: balance beam, trampoline, and rope ladder as the 3 areas all children go to. So while she and Adrian can play together for part of the class, the instructors also made the point of separating the 2 of them during the time the children were rotating. Meanwhile, Adrian's Mom Stacye and I can watch and have girltalk during the whole class. It's a win-win situation! And most importantly, Em loves it.

--I took a personal day on Monday to get caught up on lesson plans, grading, etc. Sighs. I accomplished a lot, but am still behind. Report cards are due next week. I MUST get my grading done.

--2 companies measured our yard for fence estimates this week. I don't know if she cut me a deal or not, but one of the "project managers" is the mother of one of Emma's classmates. Her rate was $500 less than the other estimate. BINGO! I call her back today. Hope they can install within the next 2 weeks and we will finally have a fence.

--Aaron twisted his knee. To the point that he went to doctor and had x-rays and received an rx for pain killers. Aaron is the typical male who rarely goes to the doctor...thus I know it must really be hurting him. He was told not to run for 2 weeks. This past weekend was the end of week 1. He tried to take a short walk and said it was killing him. Thus, his new goal of the 1/2 marathon at the end of November is now not going to happen. Poor guy! He is really going nuts not being able to run. I just hope he waits until his knee is healed properly so that he doesn't do permanent damage.

--Some quick Emmaisms:
9/24/08: Em came to me whiny and upset because she had broken the strap on her binoculars.
Me: "What could you do about that instead of whining?"
Em: "Ask for help from a Higglytown Hero!"

9/29/08 When asked to help clean up the living room:
"You're treating me like a servant!"

10/4/08 On helping me decorate the house with Halloween and autumn decor:
"This can be the centerpiece!" (Wow! Who says "centerpiece?" That is not a word I often use. Found out from Em she learned it from Ruby on the "Max & Ruby" TV show.)

10/6/08 Em has been putting princess stickers all over the place. We finally had a discussion about how she should ONLY put stickers on paper. We went a few days with a sticker-free (other than paper) house. DH then pointed out the Snow White "You did it!" sticker Em had stuck on top of the toilet lid. We left it there...found it humorous.

10/8/08 Random conversation while driving in the car...
Em: "How do fish get home from the store, anyways?"
Me: "In a bag with water so that they can swim until someone puts them in a fish tank at their house."
Em: "Or they cook them!"

10/9/08 To Aaron after reading fairytales before bed: "Have you ever lived in a house as big as a castle?"

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Cool Stuff

Rally Jacksonville

Here in Jacksonville there is a really wonderful program that tries to encourage kids to read. It's called "Rally Jacksonville." Part of this initiative includes a FREE set of 12 "Mayor Peyton's Book Club" books given to all kids who turn 4. How cool to excite pre-schoolers about reading and ensure that every pre-schooler in Jacksonville has access to books! Today while at the library we picked up Em's set of books. I was amazed at the freebies that were part of this project:

Cool stuff!

Tote bag, shelf box holding the set of 12 books, a set of alphabet flashcards, a parent guide, coloring book, "Shh I'm Reading " doorknob hanger, bookmark, "Leading with Reading" kid-sized T-shirt, and fleece blanket. WOW!

Here is an example of one of the books in the set.

The free blanket.

Having taught at a school where many of the middle school students reported that there were not any books in their home to read, I am delighted by the idea of trying to "hook" kids into books and reading at an early age.

Also, my former principal's mother authored the books. I've met the principal's daughter who is one of the main characters in the book series. Very neat!

The Dress

Tonight we went to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Casa de Salas. As we were walking
to the restaurant, Emma stopped to stare in the store window next door. Her mouth was literally hanging open when she said, "Wow! Mommy would look beautiful in that dress!" HILARIOUS! Even if I were 100 pounds lighter, I do not have the gumption to wear a dress like this. I am WAAAY to modest for this type of attire. Too too funny!

Why is this "cool stuff?" Because my sweet daughter thinks of me as "beautiful." I also appreciate that she doesn't yet understand that my large derriere would not fit into the dress.

(On a sad note, our favorite waitress, Candy, told us she was glad that we ate there tonight, because it was her family's last night of business. Due to lack of income, they are closing the restaurant. Bummer!)

The Shriner's Circus

Last weekend we went to the Shriner's Circus. As we were approaching the ticket counter, the man ahead of us turned to ask us if we had already purchased tickets. When DH and I reported that we had not, he handed us 3 "complimentary passes." So we attended the circus for free!

It was low-key and not as elaborate as the Barnum & Bailey circus Em and I attended last year. However, it was great fun. I liked knowing that our souvenir and food purchases were contributing to a good cause (Shriner's burn unit needs). I wish I had a video recording of Emma watching a slapstick routine of a man "trying" to jump on a trampoline. He would take a running start and then run into the trampoline instead of climbing onto it, jump so high that he bounced off the trampoline, fall through the side of the trampoline, etc. It was a one-man 3-Stooges type act. Em was laughing out loud SO hard. DH and I were giggling more at her than at the trampoline act. A slapstick lover. Sighs. I think my daughter may have been blessed/cursed with my warped sense of humor. :)

After the circus, Em had her first ever pony ride.

She was SO tickled to be able to ride by herself. There were many babies and younger children whose parents had to walk beside them during the whole ride. Em said, I can hold on tight by myself, cause I'm 4!"

School Stuff

Yesterday after school, I met with one of my former co-workers. She is loaning me the Teacher's Edition and DVDs for a class I've been teaching this quarter and have NO materials (other than student workbooks) for. I'll get the materials back to her next week after I write lesson plans and worksheet ideas from the items she loaned me. I feel SO relieved knowing I no longer have to "wing it" when it comes to lesson planning. Yea!

A teacher at my school was arrested last weekend for DUI and having narcotics (allegedly cocaine) in his car. He was also one of our football coaches. This week at school has been rough, as he gave his resignation. My students have been upset at his leaving and disappointed in his arrest. In addition, our school has been all over the local news due to another teacher being suspended for 10 days due to comments he made to students about their attire. Sighs. The irony is this is an A-school and not usually in the news for negative reasons! I'm hoping that things will be more settled next week.

I think I had a "breakthrough" with one of my more difficult students, S.W. He is a football player and was especially upset about the aforementioned coach leaving. I had a 15 minute one-on-one conversation with S.W. about how I know he is going through a rough time, Teacher/Coach was really important to him, I'm proud of him for trying when I know he really struggles with reading, etc. He seemed surprised and pleased that I understand some of what he is going through. This is one of the students I've really been praying about...he comes from a home where he was abused and witnessed drug abuse (he is now living safely with his other parent.) Now if I can just find some common ground with my student R.L.

We had an in-school football game 2 weeks ago, during which time I volunteered my classroom as a "holding tank" for students who did not purchase tickets for the game. I only had 9 students in my room, so I was able to have 3 hours of work time while they played board games. I finally got the rest of the filing cabinet cleared out. Hooray! My classroom is officially 100% organized. I am SO pleased.

This week my principal, the district Read180 coordinator, district Scholastic coordinator, and district head of the Reading department all observed my classroom. I was thrilled when my principal forwarded me a copy of the "Sight Feedback Form" he received from the district regarding their visit. Notes included, "Both teachers observed were implementing program with fidelity and had a high level of student engagement..." also, "both teachers are organized and have a high regard for student success." YEA! Hooray for me (and Larry---the other reading teacher observed.) :)

Home Stuff

DH won't be running in the half marathon on Oct 4th. He was sick 2 weeks ago and on antibiotics for phlegm/chest congestion. This put his training schedule behind, as he didn't run/practice at all when he was feeling yucky. He has a new half marathon goal...I think it's at the end of November. I feel badly for him, but he seems to be taking yet another delay in his first major race with a someday-my-race-will-come kind of attitude.

A fence! A fence! A fence! Hooray! After living in our house for 6 years and having our dog for 5 1/2 years we are finally getting a fence. I am SO ecstatic about this. It will be great to be able to let Em play outside independently. It will be greater still to be able to let the dog potty independently---no more leash required. Em has already asked for a swingset for Christmas. I think it's a super idea. I am also going to get estimates to see how much it would cost to have a screen door(s) installed outside the french doors that open onto our deck. :)

Emmaisms of the week (9/23/08):
--On the clothing drive at her school for new clothing items to send to children in Haiti:
"We don't give them OUR underwear, we have to buy NEW underwear for the kids."

--Tonight while getting ready for bed:
Em: "I have a butt crack."
Mommy: "Who told you that?"
Em (turning around looking at bare butt): "When I turned around, I just saw it back there."