Thursday, April 30, 2009

FCAT Writing Results are In

--School Stuff: We received our FCAT Writing Scores today. In Florida, students only have to take the writing portion of the FCAT exam in 4th, 8th, and 10th grades. Since this is my 1st year teaching 8th grade (instead of 6th or 7th) and since this is the 1st year the county combined language arts and reading into "one" class, I was very concerned about my students. The students who are in my classes ALL scored a Level 1 on the FCAT last year. (1 being the lowest possible score on the FCAT grading scale.) The state mandates that students who "fail" the FCAT be placed into an intensive reading course the following school year.

I love teaching reading! I love the reading curriculum. I love helping students connect to literature. I love helping "hook" reluctant readers. I am also very fond of the Read180 reading program our district paid literally millions of $$ to Sch.olastic to implement in our county. Last year, reading teachers taught reading using the Read180 program. It was wonderful! Both my current school and the school I transferred from were in the top 5 schools in the county for students who showed reading level gains at the end of the year. (This is a HUGE deal, as I live in a large county which has 30 middle schools in it!)

This year several middle schools opted to have the students' reading teacher also act as their language arts teacher. The idea was that since our reading classes always have a 2 period "block," and the Read180 program is designed for 90 minutes each day, we could use the last 30 minutes of the 2nd period each day to teach language arts. I admit that when my principal discussed the idea with me last summer I was all for it.

Then the reality of the school year set in. Trying to teach writing skills to ALL LEVEL ONE readers in only 30 minutes a day seemed impossible. Being done with Read180 in exactly 90 minutes a day was also nearly impossible. If I needed to "re-teach" or have class discussions on reading topics, we would go over the 90 minutes allotted for reading. Thus all year I've felt off balance....if I devoted the time I felt my students needed for language arts, I knew they weren't getting the time they needed for reading. If I allotted enough time for reading, then language arts was left rushed. Seriously, who can teach a worthy language arts lesson in less than half an hour? To all low level readers/writers. What an absurd concept!

Anyway...I wasn't expecting good results. I know that myself and my 2 co-teachers (one with each "block" of Read180 students) gave it our all. However, I truly wondered if it was enough. Were the needs of our students met?

I almost cried when we got our FCAT Writes results this morning. Cried from joy! On a scale of 1 to 6 (1=low and 6=high), Florida requires students to have a 3.5 or higher on the writing exam to constitute a passing score. 64% of my students scored a 3.5 or higher! And there were NO level 1s! I can't believe it! I am thrilled by this! 96% of these same students received a 1 when they last took the writing exam in 4th grade. ALL of the students began the year as level 1 readers. Yet somehow with only our measly 30 minutes....we taught them to write. Hallelujah!

My two moments that truly did cause me to "well up":
1. One of my lowest level readers, S.W. scored a 4.0. I am SOOO very ecstatic by this. This particular student has a really rough home life. He began the year reading only 60 words per minute. I am thrilled that he has shown such growth!

2. I have a student who scored a 5.5. WOWSERS! There were only 3 "6" scores and 11 "5.5" scores in my entire school. And one of my level one kiddos did it. I AM SO PROUD!

A pleasant surprise----my 2 most non-productive students, AA (mentioned in my "April Books" post) and RL, both of whom have had a D or F in all of their classes all school year due to lack of participation and/or work produced---both scored a 3.5. Wow. I certainly don't credit myself, but I was thrilled that they passed the exam!

So now the yin and the yang....the trying to nudge reading for writing and vice versa feel as though they were all worth it. Let's just hope our FCAT reading scores are also good when we receive them at the end of the school year. But for now-----yippee!


Thanks SO much, kind readers, for your well wishes this week. I so appreciate your words of comfort. :)

My school meeting yesterday went better than I anticipated. Though I'm still frustrated that our department was docked points on the evaluation, at least we were able to vent and discuss things as a group.

The positives:
1. Our reading department bonded and is closer-knit because of our recent frustrations.
2. The principal and vice principal were able to witness first hand that some of the items we had points deducted for, we were NEVER informed about prior to yesterday's meeting. (This is a "positive," because they now know we didn't neglect to do things, rather we were not previously told the policy.)
3. My principal rocks! At the beginning of the meeting, he said he called us all together (himself, vice principal, myself, the other 3 reading teachers in my department, Ms. Cray --the district Sch.olastic Read180 rep, and Ms. Cambell--the district county-employed Read180 rep) so that we could communicate in person. He stated he doesn't like going back and forth behind people's backs, and wanted us to all communicate freely in person. I SOOO appreciate him for this. Some of my prior principals were the exact opposite of this----they'd much rather discuss things with the district reps and then come back and "scold" the reading department. I truly appreciate my principal for making things feel team oriented.
4. We were told that we are one of 4 middle schools in our county who has a team ready for the "next step" in Read180. Ms. Cray reviewed specific reports for us to use during "Checkpoints" in the Read180 curriculum.

The negatives:
1. None of the points from the Cluster visit evaluation are going to be altered. (So though my department and I still feel some things were unfair, the points remain as they are.)
2. Despite never asking to see Ms. J's data notebook, they are still not altering the points indicating that Ms. J lacked data.
3. Despite never asking my students or I where their Sourcebook/portfolios are, and despite the typed "Student Sourcebooks are kept here" sign hanging on my cabinet, they are still not altering the points for my students "lacking" portfolios.

I feel like the district is going against what they train their teachers to do. We are always told to give students rubrics and/or clear expectations for every assignment. We're told that it isn't fair to deduct points from students if they weren't exactly sure what was expected of them beforehand. Yet points were deducted from our department for UNCLEAR expectations. So, my anger is starting to subside...but it's still there, because I feel we've been treated unfairly.

The best news however----the county has heard us loud and clear. Other schools who combined language arts and Read180 are struggling just as much as we are. The district ladies told us yesterday that the district will NOT ALLOW Read180 and Language Arts to be combined next year. YIPPEE! Planning over in 2 minutes....sorry for the long ranting session. At least it's over. :)

April Books

Irish Rebel by Nora Roberts 4 out of 5. My friend MaryAnn introduced me to Nora Roberts a few years ago. Since then, I've read a few Roberts' books each year. They are quick reads, get right to the action, and always have a happy romantic ending. In other words---perfect beach reads, which is why I often read them during school breaks. Irish Rebel was my spring break read this year. I enjoyed this book about a woman whose family owns a horse breeding ranch and her love affair with one of her father's hired horse trainers.

The Film Club by David Gilmour. 5 out of 5. I relished this true-story memoir about a man who allowed his son to drop out of high school at age 15, under the condition that the son view 3 movies a week (of the father's choosing) and discuss the films with the father. The book expresses the father's feelings as he watches his son grow into adulthood. I enjoyed his descriptions of how their film discussions led to conversations about real-life issues. Wonderful story depicting lows and highs in a father-son relationship.
The teacher in me was especially drawn to this book. Though I teach, I don't believe that school is for everyone. For example, I have an 8th grade student, A.A. who is in 8th grade for the 2nd time this year. He is earning Ds or Fs in all of his classes and will fail 8th grade AGAIN this school year. A.A. turns 16 next month and has bragged to his friends about how he'll be able to drive himself to school before the end of the year. While I don't want A.A. to dropout, our school is obviously not doing justice for his education. I wish there were more "alternative" type programs for our students. Sadly, here in Jacksonville, unless a student earns high grades and is accepted into a magnet program, the only "alternative" setting is a school for behavior-issue students. Thus there isn't a "match" to meet A.A.'s educational needs. The son, Jesse, in Gilmour's book reminded me a lot of A.A. and other students I've had who lack motivation. I found Gilmour's "Film Club" solution to his son's poor academic performance, to be an interesting change from the norm. :)

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. 5 out of 5. I finally found another teen-lit series! Yea! I am a fan of finding series to read...I love the "rush" I feel going from one book to another until the resolution in the final novel. This is a book about a teenage girl, Clary, who learns after her mother is kidnapped, that her mother has been lying to her her whole life. It includes demons, vampires, werewolves, and witches/warlocks all of whom live in New York City. I loved the plot which revolves around Clary learning things about herself (for example, she has the ability to see supernatural beings who are usually invisible to humans) as she pursues a quest to reunite with her mother. In addition, Clary must decide if she will work collaboratively with the "Shadowhunters" or not. Nice sexual tension between Clary and 2 male characters. I don't want to give more away....but I've started book 2 already!

Sighs...can't believe I only read 3 books. I can't wait for summer. :)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


26--- Days of school left for students

28---# of school days until summer (Teachers have 2 post-planning days after students are out.)

60ish---# of days until I visit OB to take the "next steps" in my trying-to-get-pregnant-again journey. (After my miscarriage in January, I was told to "come back in 6 months if you're not pregnant, and we'll look into things from there...") AF started today...and sadly I'm not optimistic about having a BFP in June or July.

70ish---# of days until I'll see my extended family again. We're not sure the exact dates yet. However, DH, Em and I will be taking a road trip to Ohio to see my parents, younger sis, and some Ohio friends.

93---Days until my Girl Power reunion weekend with my college gal-pals

1---Day left until the meeting with my reading department, principal, vice principal, and district reps. Yikes. (Click here if you're interested in more details.)

2009 is flying by...

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Show and Tell--Mall Sign

Today we went to the mall. While Em was playing in the play yard, I figured out the perfect thing for Show and Tell---the sign below is posted in the play yard. Cracks me up every time I see it.

I think the sign is funny, but I also like the disclaimer at the bottom:
"Puppies and espresso will not actually be given. Please monitor your child."

It always makes me wonder if someone ever actually tried to cash in and try to get a puppy and/or espresso.

I took a photo of the sign today on my cell phone. But then found a clearer photo of the same sign I apparently took last year...I don't remember photographing the sign before. But since it makes me smile, I wasn't surprised I had already photoed it.

Check out Mel's Show and Tell to see what everyone else is showing off this week. :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Conversations at the Zoo

We live 10 minutes from the Jacksonville Zoo. We've been "zoo members" since the year I was pregnant with Em. We've enjoyed many an outing at the zoo. Especially the past few post-stroller years. (Much more fun now that Em can walk and run and see the animals up close instead of having her in the stroller for much of the visit.) Em gets really excited about looking at the animals. (Of course the nice play yard and water park are major fun features for her as well.)

Today DH had to work. Em and I went to the Zoo for the day. We had some very interesting conversations. How I love spending time with my girl!

Some Zoo Emmaisms:
--"Look at that monkey! He's just sitting there chillin' "
(ROFL...we have no idea where she learned the word "chillin," as DH and I don't use this word, I guess she picked it up at school.)

--As we were throwing away our lunch garbage, Em walked over to a family with a baby. She looked at the mother holding the baby and said, "I like her dress!" (Little did she know how this tugged at my heartstrings.)

--As we waited in line for the train, there was a baby in a stroller with her mom and older brother waiting in line next to us. Em played peek-a-book and smiley-silly-face-making with the baby the whole time we waited for the train. Em said, "She likes me! See how she keeps smiling at me?" When we got on the train, Em scooted to the end seat. She then folded her hands, looked up at the sky and said, "Please God put a baby in Mommy's tummy." I hugged her close as I fought back tears...from your mouth to God's ears, my little one.

--On a lighter note: A conversation as we were walking around the zoo...
Emma: "Mommy, what does 'whoopie' mean?"
Me: (Thinking---holy crap, what TV show did she watch with sex that I don't know about?)
(Faking calmness): "Um, what do you mean? Who says "whoopie?"
Em: The mom on the Brady Bunch. In the one about the wedding when she gets excited, she says, "WHOOPIE!"
Me: (Cracking up and VERY relieved) "OH! Sometimes people say "whoopie" when they're excited. It's like saying "Yea!""

What a day!

Friday, April 24, 2009

"That Kid"

As a teacher, I know what it is like to have "that kid" in my class. The student who I have a slight sigh of relief for...on the days that he is absent.

Yesterday when I picked up my daughter from school, there was a note attached to her daily file saying that she and her "best friend" hurt one another's feelings. Apparently, my Em was being bossy and wanted to play in the "Home Living Center." She demanded that her friend Camille play with her. However, Camille did not want to play in the Home Living center. Em had to sit in the "Thinking Chair" for a few minutes after having a meltdown when Camille didn't follow her requests. (Ode to 4 year old drama!)

The teacher has spoken to DH and I a few times in the past few weeks about Em being "bossy." Sighs... I really hope she isn't turning into "that kid." DH and I believe she is bored. Em is the oldest in her class. She missed the age cut-off for the school year by 17 days. (Cutoff for grade levels is a birthday before August 30th, and Em's bday is Sept 17th.) Thus, Em turned 4 after they'd been in school less than a month. There are still classmates in her classroom who have not turned 4 yet...meanwhile, Em is now closer to 5 than 4.

Yesterday I spoke with the teacher regarding Em's behavior. I said that I understand that Emma's bossiness is not acceptable. I explained we've been working with her at home...but we don't really have a bossiness problem here, since Em only child. (Drat those blasted baby longings. I never would've expected them in the middle of a teacher conference!)

I reminded the teacher that Emma loves arts and crafts. I explained that Em has been excited about learning to write. (For example, Em recently asked me to write "OPEN" and "CLOSED" on a piece of paper. She then copied the words onto multiple sheets of paper and went around the house sticking the papers to all the doors and windows, labeling whether they were "open" or "closed.") I suggested that if Em acts bossy, the teacher encourage her to draw or trace letters, as a diversion from Camille. The teacher seemed agreeable to this and stated she had many letter-tracing activities she'd make copies of to have in the classroom today.

When I picked Em up today, her teacher had already left and Em was in the "pick up" room. Em had a "green day" indicated in her folder. When I asked her if Ms. Stephanie had any new art or writing projects today, she said NO. I later worded the question differently and asked Em if she wrote any "letters" at school today. Em again responded NO.

Em did tell me that she and Camille had "a good day" and that they "played together some of the day, but not all day."

I will try to meet with her teacher for a "bossiness" update next week. I don't want my little sweetie to turn into "that kid." Ugh!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

ICLW: It's ICLW (international comment leaving week.) I love this time of the month! You can register on Mel's Blog if you're interesting in participating next month. This is my 2nd time participating...what a wonderful way to meet fellow bloggers.

I'm following suit and cutting/pasting an A to Z about me below, as I've seen many ICLW blog writings doing the A-Z as an intro this month. Since I didn't have many readers back in March, I'm re-sharing my entry from back then below.

Welcome, dear commenters. Happy ICLW one and all. :)

Me: A to Z

A: Attached or Single? Happily attached to DH for 10 1/2 years now. :)

B: Best Friend? DH. He is my pal and confidant. I love that we still make each other laugh after all these years.

C: Cake or Pie? Hmmm....probably cake. Yellow cake with chocolate icing is my favorite.

D: Day of Choice? Saturday. No school. Family time.

E: Essential Item? I guess my computer. Between blogging, chronicling photos, research, and creating lesson plans for school I love my laptop!

F: Favorite Color? Green

G: Gummy Bears or Gummy Worms? Aren't they the same thing, just different sizes? Guess I'll pick bears.

H: Hometown? Born and raised in Ohio. However, after 10+ years in Jacksonville, FL it's "home" too.

J: January or July? Definitely July. LOVE having summers to spend with Emma. Also, I have many fond July 4th memories spent with my family during both childhood and adulthood.

K: Kids? My sweet Emma...whom I am longing to have a sibling for one day.

L: Life isn't complete without? Family

M: Marriage Date? September 5, 1998

N: Number of brothers and sisters? 1 older sister, Michelle and 1 younger sister, Laurel. Both are wonderful, strong, and independent women whom I admire very much.

O: Oranges or apples? Apples. We had apple trees in the backyard of the house I grew up in. Mom's apple crisp each autumn...yummy!

P: Phobias? Heights. I am fine in airplanes or in tall buildings. However, when out in the open, or somewhere I feel like I might fall out, I freak. (My most recent incident was a few years ago in the St. Augustine Lighthouse with my Dad, sister, and DH. We climbed all the way to the top and the railing was only waist-high. Freaked me out!) Also, I run and scream when bees or wasps are around because I'm allergic.

Q: Quotes? "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." --Eleanor Roosevelt

R: Reasons to smile? Emma, warm sunny days, smelling cookies baking, when DH cracks me up, finishing a good book

S: Season of choice? Spring. Love the warm air, newly budding flowers, the "smell" of spring. (Though autumn is a close second!)

T: Tag 5 people? Not sure how long this has been going around, so I'll choose not to "tag" anyone, but to invite any readers to participate if they'd like.

U: Unknown fact about me? I've been in 43 of the 50 U.S. states.

V: Vegetable? Does this mean what veggie is my favorite? If so, I'll go with green beans. Yum!

W: Worst Habit? Sometimes I have too much self-doubt.

X: X-Ray or Ultrasound? Interesting question. I'd have to say ultrasound. I associate x-rays with broken bones and pain, but ultrasounds with pregnancy and joy.

Y: Your favorite food? Mexican! Yummy!

Z: Zodiac sign? Aries

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Random Stuff

Some random things I've been experiencing lately...

New Friend: On Monday afternoon, as I entered the cafeteria/teacher's lounge at my school, a substitute asked me, "Are you Alana?" I'm new to my school this year...and very few people here with the exception of my reading department and the 2 co-teachers I work with, call me, "Alana." I was trying to figure out who had told the substitute about me. Imagine my surprise when I learned she was my new friend, Katie from Double the Blessings. My first time meeting a blog friend in real life. We were able to talk and eat lunch together. COOL! :)

School Stuff: Things at school are calming down a little. I'm still having some anxiety regarding next week's meeting with district reps. Fortunately, much of my anger has subsided. I met with my principal this morning and discussed the phone call I had with Ms. Cray with him. (See 4/17/09 post, if interested in the nitty-gritty phone call details.) He was very supportive. He stated that his first year as a principal, he was "upset" with some of the district visit commentary. However, he now looks at the visitor's feedback as only a "snapshot." He said he knows that they don't see in only 10-15 minutes what our classrooms are "really like" the majority of the time. He chuckled when I told him Ms. Cray said my vocabulary-related crossword puzzles were "unacceptable." He even asked me to bring the crossword subject up when Ms. Cray is here so that we can discuss it as a team. Yea! I feel so fortunate to have such a supportive principal. And though there are still some aspects I dislike at my new school, he is a BIG reason to stay here next year.

A school funny: One of my students today is wearing a t-shirt that reads, "I'm NOT trying to be difficult (it comes naturally.)" For some reason this was really funny to me. :)

Girl Power: It's a go. Several of my college girlfriends and I will be having "Girl Power 11." Our 11th post-graduation reunion. This year we'll be spending 4 days in NYC. We purchased plane tickets this week. I am SOOOOO looking forward to bonding with the gals again. (All but 2 of us still live in Ohio and are able to see each other a few times a year. Since I'm in Florida, the reunion is often the only time I get to see many of my girlfriends in person each year.) Yea!

DH: I have to say a big SHOUT OUT to my sweet DH. Our dryer broke this week. He spent much of his day off yesterday at the laundromat doing 7 loads of laundry. And researching to figure out what type of dryer we want to buy for a replacement. He is wonderful!

My planning period is nearly over, so I must go.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Show and Tell--A Girl and Her Dog

A Girl and Her Dog...

Our dog Viggo ("Vee-go") is 6 years old. He is a nearly100-pound mutt. When we take him on walks, many times people cross the street to avoid passing us on the sidewalk, because he is large and intimidating. Little do they know he is so very tenderhearted and sweet.

We got Viggo when he was just a pup. Knowing we wanted to one day have children, we would tug on his ears and tail, and snatch his food while he was eating. Don't get me wrong---NOT in a painful, abusive way...but training him for the element of surprise that kids often incite. 2 years later Emma came along. Her first night home, I was rocking her in her room. Viggo came in and was sniffing her---checking out the new baby. When he began licking the top of her head, Em turned her head, LATCHED onto his tongue and began sucking. EWWW! They've been the best of pals ever since.

This pic taken nearly a year ago is one of my favorites.

I took the pic below a few nights ago. I was doing school work on the laptop in my bedroom. Em came in and asked me to "tuck her in" for the 100th time that night. I told her to go back to bed and I'd check on her soon. Instead of complying with my request, she lay down on the floor in my room. Soon after, Viggo joined her. She fell asleep on one of Viggo's legs, then he put his other front leg around her for a full cuddle...of course I had to get the camera! :)

To see what everyone else brought for Show & Tell this week, visit Mel's Blog.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Alana and the Terrible, Horrible , No Good, Very Bad Day

UGH! Have you ever read the book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst? It's children's book about a boy who ---you guessed it---has a really, really awful day. He gets gum in his hair, has to eat food he dislikes, his teacher doesn't like his art project, etc. I had one of those days today...

School Stuff: Yesterday was a big day at my school. We had a "cluster" visit in which district reps from each subject department visited our school. County reading reps went into all 4 of our school's reading classrooms. I'm very frustrated because they docked points in a lot of areas, rather than seeking clarification from myself or the other reading teachers. Of course, we didn't find out about this until today...too little too late.

Today I had a training that was interesting and informative. After the training, I stopped at my school to speak to the principal about how yesterday's cluster visit went. He said that it was the "worst reading report" he has received in the 5 years that he has been principal. He stated that myself and one other teacher were noted to be OFF MODEL. Meaning we weren't following the Read180 program protocol. WHAT?!?! I can't "vouch" for the other teacher, but I was doing everything by-the-book. The only exception is when the Internet server froze, so my students could no longer use the Read180 software. Then those students were using Microsoft Word to type their language arts poetry. But, since the servers crashed while the reps were in my room a rep asked a few students to click on both the program and Internet Explorer. Once she noted that the Internet was not working she seemed to be okay with their "alternative assignment." ARGH.

My principal was very calm and pleasant, and not at all accusatory. He listened to my concerns and informed me that he requested a meeting on Weds 4/29 with all the reading teachers, himself, the vice principal, and the district/cluster reps so we can all talk in person. Though he said, "Don't worry about it, we'll get it all sorted out," I still feel disappointed.

My next step was calling Ms. Cray, one of the district reps who observed in my classroom. (We've known each other for a few years and she has called me before for help with resources, ideas, etc.) She told me that I was "off model" because I only had 2 rotation groups in my room. I reminded her that my "silent reading group" of students were working across the hall with my co-teacher, which has been our routine since 1st quarter. Despite the fact that 1st quarter Ms. Cray and her co-worker told me this was a "great idea" and "how wonderful" that my school had space for the silent reading students to be separated from the other students, she said it was "questionable." WHAT?!?! She said that because they were only there for a "snapshot" visit, it wasn't obvious that I still had 3 groups (a Read180 mandate) that were facilitated within my class. When I reminded her that just before she and the district people left my room, the co-teacher and 6 students returned to the classroom---she said that she remembers seeing the co-teacher, but did not realize any students were with her! ARE YOU FREAKIN' KIDDING ME? My classroom jumped from 16 to 23 people and you DIDN'T NOTICE??? She told me we'll have to work it out at the 4/29 meeting with the principal because it "didn't appear" that I had 3 rotation groups. I am FURIOUS. If they would have asked me or any of the students in the room where the silent reading group was, any of us could have told them. Instead they assumed I was just skipping silent reading all together. That alone burns my bridge...but the fact that 6 months ago she was praising my idea at having a separate, quiet reading area...which she somehow mysteriously forgot entirely about. I DON'T GET IT!!

Ms. Cray also informed me that another teacher's student's were caught listening to music during their Read180 software rotation. One teacher had word searches in her classroom. She was upset that my students had 3 crossword puzzles in their portfolios. Even when I explained they've only had one crossword per quarter and ALL the words were vocabulary directly from the Read180 text, she still said it was unacceptable because it wasn't Read180 material. I told her (truthfully, I might add) that the crosswords were all given near the end of the quarter when my students had substitute teachers. She stated I need to find new sub materials, and crosswords are unacceptable. Though upset by this news, I could normally take it with a grain of salt. However, shouldn't I at least be informed of this BEFORE losing points in the school evaluation? I'm a rule follower. If I'd been told not to use crosswords (even definition/vocabulary related ones) I would not have used them, but it seems very unfair to be docked points for something I didn't even realize was the wrong thing to do. Ms. Cray continued telling me issues they had in all of the reading classrooms---"none" of us had student work stored, etc. When I explained that my student portfolios are in a cabinet that is labeled with a "STUDENT SOURCEBOOKS ARE STORED IN THIS CABINET" sign, she stated she must've looked in the wrong location. So again----how am I losing points for what YOU MISSED or didn't ask about? UGH!

The clincher was the end of the phone call Ms. Cray said, "I don't want you to lose sleep over it, but there is cause for concern." Ummm, yes, asshat, there is cause for concern. You didn't give my department a fair chance!

I am hoping: 1. I am not blamed for things that are out of my control (because I'm the reading department head.) 2. Everything is sorted out at the meeting. (Please God, let the teachers and I have the opportunity to explain ourselves...I hate that we weren't given the chance to do so yesterday!) And I am stressed and irritated that my department and I received all negative feedback. Seriously? How are our students showing reading level gains and growth if we're doing such a shitty worldclass horrible job? I don't get it.

Home Stuff: DH got his new work schedule this afternoon---he'll be working 10:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. Ick. This was his prior schedule that we were so grateful to have end, as it really puts a damper on Emma's schedule. DH doesn't get home until 7:30ish, so we don't eat dinner until 7:45ish (or later.) This means Em's bedtime is closer to 9 than I'd like...because as you can imagine by the time my4 year old girl actually falls asleep, it is usually at least 30 minutes after she's gone to bed. Big ick.

Miscarriage Stuff: To create the perfect end to my day, there was a hospital bill in the mail when I got home from work. Total coast of my January ER visit for miscarriage $75.00. Sighs.

On a brighter note---Super DH: DH's birthday was yesterday. Happy bday, mi amore! I soooo appreciate you and the wonderful contributions you make to our lives together. One awesome thing about our relationship---we started when Em was just a baby---we take turns for bedtime. Every-other-night it is my "turn" to help Em with PJs, teeth brushing, bath, stories, and bed. Anyway....tonight is DH's "turn." I think I'm gonna take a candlelight bubble bath tonight when they start bedtime...I sure need it after my day.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Adventures with a Traffic Cop

Oops...I don't have any pics of Em in her pretty Easter dress. Doh! I totally forgot to take more formal Easter pictures yesterday. The pics below show Emma's tumbled-out-of-bed-and went-on-an-Easter-egg-scavenger-hunt look.

She loved searching for eggs, opening them and finding goodies. I think she was surprisingly more excited by the hair barrettes and necklaces the Easter Bunny brought, than by the candy.

A close second to watching Em's joy at finding eggs during the egghunt, was listening to her tell my in-laws about our "adventure" on the way to her MyGym class last week. I'm paraphrasing, the was a little bit embarrassing beauty.

Em: Guess what happened on the way to MyGym?

Mother-in-law: What?

Em (VERY excited): Mommy got pulled over by a police officer!

Father-in-law: She did? Was she doing something wrong?

Emma (In a Conspiratorial Mommy's Been Naughty Voice): Yes! She was turning where she wasn't supposed to be, so the police officer pulled her over.

Mother-in-law: Did she get a ticket?

Emma (Excited again): Nooo. He gived her another chance! She just got a warning.

Remind me not to tell Emma any secrets!

FYI---U-turns are legal in Florida. This took me a little while to acclimate to after moving here, as I was raised and learned to drive in Ohio. I've adapted pretty well, or so I thought. However, on the way to Em's gymnastics class, I was stopped at a red light behind another car. When the light turned green, I followed the other car around the median, and proceeded to the lane I needed to get on the highway. This was when the officer pulled me over and informed me that I had U-turned in a No-U-turn zone. Oops. The rest of Em's story was accurate...I only had a "warning." Whew!

Another Easter Emmaism----today she came running out of the bathroom, "Look! I think the Easter Bunny used up all of our toilet paper. Let me show you! This is all that's left," she then proceeded to show me the roll with a measly 2 squares of TP left on it. That darn Easter Bunny! Tee-hee!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Show and Tell--Birthday Letter

Show and Tell

Click to see what everyone else is bringing to Show & Tell this week.

As I didn't ask his permission, I hope he doesn't mind...

For this week's Show & Tell I have cut/pasted an email message my Dad sent me on my birthday. This year my birthday happened to fall on the Monday after spring break. (As you can imagine---any "Monday" after an extended break from school is a real pain in the butt treat for teachers, as we try to get our students back on track. Much of the day was spent reviewing "rituals and routines" with my 8th graders.)

I am sharing the message below because I am honored to have such a wonderful man in my life. I pray that DH and I are as "effective" and marvelous at parenting our sweet Emma as I truly feel my parents were for me.

What follows is my Dad's sweet message...

Subject: H B D 2 U

Date: 4/6/2009 12:33:24 P.M.

From: Dad

Dearest Alana,
As you return to the classroom, hopefully refreshed by your Spring Break, I know that you are looking
forward to that day, a couple of months from now, when you'll commence a break of a longer duration.

If today's students are anything like those of us of comparable age in the
late 1950's, I'm certain that
today was anything but routine. It was probably more like a come-down day, trading the warmth and
sunshine of the out doors for the for the closeness of the classroom. By the time you read this, that
portion of your day will, hopefully, be behind you.

I expect that your little Miss is somewhat excited regarding your "Big
Day," but that her enthusiasm
isn't the off-the-wall high she attains on September 17th.

As your Mother and I have an out of town meeting tonight, depending upon the time we return, we may
not be able to call before tomorrow. Rest assured that our thoughts are with you as you celebrate the 34th
anniversary of that wonderful day when we first gazed upon your pretty little face, noted that you had the
recommended number of fingers and toes, and had the pleasure of holding, cuddling, and kissing the
precious bundle of joy we'd been waiting so long for.

I hope that your evening is special, with an adoring daughter, on her best behavior, who fully cooperates
at bedtime.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY and much love,


Thursday, April 9, 2009

March Books

Copying my friend Mrs. Gamgee's idea...thought it would be a good idea to do mini reviews of the books I read.

March Books Read:

The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I'd give it a 4 out of 5. Unique plot with an interesting premise. I did find the first few chapters a little confusing and had to re-read them in order to determine who was "speaking" at first, Melanie or Wanderer. Not at all as romantic as The Twilight saga, but still an entertaining read.

All Around the Town by Mary Higgins Clark. 3 out of 5. One of my students discovered my Mary Higgins Clark collection, most of which were purchased when I myself was in middle school. Thought I'd re-read this one so I could discuss it with her. Enjoyed the suspenseful read. However, a 3 out of 5 because I thought some parts were predictable and hated that the synopsis on the back cover revealed a lot of the beginning portions of the story.

The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake 4 out of 5. Neat story about a teenager who becomes comfortable with herself. I will recommend this to my students. The story has connections to racism, hatred, and the importance of positive role models. I especially like the "moral" of the story, which is in order to be accepted by others, it is best to be accepting of yourself first.

Quentins by Maeve Binchy. 3 out of 5. I find that Ms. Binchy's books are quick reads. However, I also find that the more Binchy novels I read, the more similar they seem. This novel follows the life of an Irish woman as she struggles to find love and happiness. It correlates this quest with her working to make a documentary about a local restaurant called Quentins.

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass. 5 out of 5. Loved this teen lit novel about a boy who tries to find the meaning of life. Jeremy's father died when he was 8, and left a locked wooden box for him to open on his 13th birthday. Jeremy's journey to find the keys that unlock the box left by his father leaves him with acceptance and peace. I especially loved the ending when the contents of the box are revealed. I found the father's description of the box's contents very moving. (And couldn't help thinking as a mom, what would I want to leave behind in a similar scenario for my daughter?)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Break Days 4-End

Picture of the week... Shannon Rice and Emma at the Zoo. Both age 4 1/2

On a much lighter note than my "poor me" birthday post, let's recap the end of spring break...

Spring Break Day 4:
Em went to school. DH and I had a hang out day complete with lunch date and MAJOR housecleaning. (How do people with non-teaching full-time jobs keep their homes really clean? If it weren't for my school breaks to "deep clean," our house would be a disaster!) Not very romantic, but it was still nice to have some "alone time" with DH.

Spring Break Day 5:
It FINALLY stopped raining after major thunderstorms for over 48 hours. Em and I went to the beach. Lovely weather. The water was too cold for swimming, but warm enough we could walk ankle-deep in the ocean. Had a great time. I forgot the camera----oops!

Spring Break Day 6 (Saturday):
Spent the day hanging out, finished some household cleaning, went grocery shopping, took Em to the park, etc. Waited for my 1st college roommate, Michelle, and her DH and their 2 children to arrive. They were stuck in construction traffic enroute from Ohio to Florida, so didn't arrive until nearly 10:30 p.m. The kiddos played and the adults stayed up talking and "catching up" until after midnight. Em loved having her first slumber party in sleeping bags with Michelle's daughter, Shannon.

Spring Break Day 7 (Sunday):
Woke up and had nice breakfast with Michelle and her family. Meal cooked by DH (He's awesome! Cooks better and WAAAAY more often than I do!) Then we all headed to the Jacksonville Zoo for the day. Had a great time...and some cute moments from the kiddos. Michelle's daughter Shannon is only 10 days older than my Emma. The 2 girls play wonderfully together!!

Regarding friendship, enroute to the zoo...
Emma: We're best friends now, not shy people!

Em and Shannon checking out a bird...

Em and Thomas climbing on the elephant statue.

Cute girls

Thomas and Shannon under the waterfall in the zoo waterpark.

Em poses for a pic

The girls shared a chair and towel after playing in the water. A funny during our "rest time." Instead of the standard "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit," Shannon said, "You get what you get, and you don't poke your eyes out." The girls thought this was hilarious. Gotta love 4 year old humor.

The girls performed a puppet show in the Zoo's Discovery Center.

Michelle and I. OU roomies for 2 years, but friends for life.

(Not sure why we both look reallllly red. I SWEAR we didn't have severe sunburns...just odd lighting, I guess.)

After the zoo, we returned to our house for a pizza dinner and some hangout time. Then the Rice family had to leave to continue their Florida vacation. Emma was crying and really sad, "I don't want our friends to leave!" We had a great time!

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my birthday. 34. I greet it with mixed emotions...on the one hand things with my job and family are going wonderfully and I'm grateful. On the other hand, the closer I get to 35, I begin to freak out about not having child #2 yet. Am I meant to only have 1 child? Should I give up on my dream of having a sibling for Emma? We'll find out the next step in our trying-to-get pregnant journey sometime this summer. (After my miscarriage in January, the doctor said to come back in 6 months if I wasn't pregnant again, and we could pursue testing for fertility issues from there.) (But, you can "hear" the lack of optimism in my tone, as I was off the pill for 3 YEARS before getting PG in January, so I'm not expecting any "quick" pregnancies with news in June/July.)

Sighs, my birthday wish this year is for peace of mind. Let me have a restful heart. If I'm only meant to have my sweet Emma, let me cherish every moment and move on. I can't imagine life without siblings. Especially my younger sister, whom is someone I'd fight tigers for. It is important to me that Emma experience this...if I am meant to give up this dream, I hope I "know" sooner than later.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Interview About Me

Thought this was a super idea, so I'm copying an interview I saw my friend Michelle had on Facebook. (By the way, I joined Facebook this weekend. Holy crap, what a time sucker!!)

21 Questions About Me: Interview between Emma and I:

1. What is something I always say to you?
Emma: You love me

2. What makes me happy?
Emma: Giving you hugs and kisses

3. What makes me sad?
Emma: When I don’t make good choices.

4. How do I make you laugh?
Emma: When you tickle me!

5. What do you think I was like when I was little?
Emma: I think you were a football girl, cuz' in the picture in your room, you’re holding a football.

6. How old am I?
Emma: (Shrugs shoulders)

7. How tall am I?
Emma: You’re a little bit shorter than Daddy.

8. What is my favorite thing to do?
Emma: Play with me!

9. What do I do when you're not around?
Emma: Sometimes you watch TV, type on the computer, or go to school.

10. If I become famous, what will it be for?
Emma: Cuz’ you’re a mommy. Everybody knows mommies.

11. What am I really good at?
Emma: You’re really good at fixing stuff…but Daddy’s better.

12. What am I not really good at?
Emma: You’re not really good at fixing knots.

13. What is my job?
Emma: Your job is at school, you know, to teach kids.

14. What is my favorite food?
Emma: green beans

15. What makes you proud of me?
Emma: When you come home and I’m sad and you make me feel better.

16. If I were a cartoon character, who would I be?
Emma: Belle

17. What do you and I do together?
Emma: Read or play on the computer like we’re doing now.

18. How are we the same?
Emma: We both have glasses, but you don’t wear yours a lot , and we have blonde hair.

(Note: I wear contact lenses.)

19. How are you and I different?
Emma: I don’t have pierced ears, but you do. And I don’t have eye-tacks, but you do.

(Note: eye-tacks = contact lenses.)

20. How do you know that I love you?
Emma: Cuz’ your heart loves everybody.

21. Where is my favorite place to go?
Emma: Disney World!

Kind of neat to hear mostly positive things about myself from my girl. :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Lemonade Award

I received my first blog award!

Mrs. Gamgee over at Hobbit-ish Thoughts and Ramblings honored me with the Lemonade Award which is given to bloggers in recognition of "great attitude or gratitude." Thanks, Mrs. Gamgee, I have enjoyed getting to know you the past few weeks. Your attitude and candidness are what keep me coming back to your blog! :)

I especially appreciate this award, because I try to stay positive and optimistic, but feel so much less "happy" and "upbeat" than I once was. Sometimes I wonder how DH has put up with me all these years...I'm definitely not as easygoing as I used to be. Sadly, the "real world" has gotten in the way of my younger more free-spirited days.

This is a pay-it-forward type of award, where nominees are asked to nominate others.
Here's how it works:
1. Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post
2. Nominate blogs that show great attitude or gratitude
3. Link to your nominees within your post
4. Let the nominees know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog
5. Share the love and link to the person from whom you received your award.

My nominees:
1. Kristin at Dragondreamer's Lair (Whether it be about politics, infertility, or her family, Kristin expresses herself in a positive way. I appreciate the way she often links to articles or sources to support the things she writes about.)

2. OM at Overeducated Mommy (She inspires me. Though recovering from thyroid cancer and dealing with the death of her sweet Baby E, OM remains positive and optimistic throughout her blog posts.)

3. Becoming a Family of Four (We have a lot in common---degrees in social work, 4 year old daughters, longing to have at least one more child, born in the Midwest, etc. I love her writing because even when she is frustrated and/or doubting herself, Becoming still maintains a humorous and open writing style.)

4. Beautiful Mess at Life Induces Thoughts, Mostly Random (I'm new to her blog in the past month, thanks to ICLW. LOVE the way she comments on other blogs frequently. LOVE the way she has remained optimistic and wonderful despite hardships with her mother and difficult issues she is still coping with from her childhood.)

5. Marie at My Expected End (Woo-hoo for Florida teachers! Seriously though, I truly admire Marie's faith. Despite the death of her sweet baby girl, she remains a strong and steadfast Christian.)

Thanks again, Mrs. Gamgee! :)

Support Needed

My friend here in Jacksonville, MEB, and her DH have had a long journey with infertility. This morning MEB is having surgery. Without going into too much personal detail, MEB is hoping to have another round of IVF before the end of the year. Her surgery today has a 6 week recovery time, and could impact the next IVF cycle. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers, I really appreciate it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring Break Days 2-3

Spring Break Day 2: I kept Emma "home" from pre-school/daycare and we headed to St. Augustine for the day. For some reason, Em was especially excited when I read aloud the sign at the entrance to the city that said, "St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States." Cue 4-year-old, "WOW!"

We live about 30 minutes from St. Augustine and I've always enjoyed visiting a few times a year. They have many neat historical sites. Thanks to my parents, I LOVE visiting places like this. (We had many trips during my childhood to state parks, president's homes, museums, etc.) However, as my sister, Laurel reminded me---there are also many tourist gimmicks in St. Augustine which I've sadly tried over the years. (Wax museum anyone?)

DH and I have lived in Jacksonville for nearly 11 years now. There were 2 places in St. Augustine I've always wanted to visit, but still hadn't---the Alligator Farm and the Fountain of Youth. I figured the Alligator Farm was more age-appropriate for Emma, so that's where we went yesterday. (A nice "bonus," I found out once we got there that we received a 20% admission discount for being members of the Jacksonville Zoo. Sweet!)

Apparently the Alligator Farm is the only location in the world that houses ALL 18 types of crocodiles. (Who knew there were "18 types?" Interesting.)

My fav pic of the day.

An albino alligator who was found in Louisiana.

Not joking----I soooo loved this Giant Tortoise. He was SO cute!
Em: "MOM! He's looking right at you!"

My "friend" the tortoise on the right, said hello to his little friend.

Neat bridge/walkway platforms so that you could walk "over" dozens of alligators.
They also had machines selling gator food for $.25 The gators "jumped" and ate lots of the food we threw over the bridge, Em loved this.

Up close and personal with the gator. We learned 2 key factors to determining the difference between alligators and crocodiles: 1. Alligators have more rounded snouts, while crocodiles snouts are more pointy-shaped. 2. When their jaws are closed, you can only see the upper teeth of a gator. Crocs show some of both their upper and lower teeth.

Em thought it was hilarious that these crocs were resting with their mouths wide open. She watched them for a few minutes to see if they'd move or close their mouths...they never did.

Fingers in nostrils and Special Baby in the statue's mouth...truly all Emma's idea. Hehee.

Emma to Special Baby: "Is it dark and scary in there?"

A bunch of gators.

On the tortoise statue in the playground area.

"I'm gonna do it again with Special Baby, will you take our picture?"

It's been years since I was at the St. Augustine Lighthouse. Turns out it was 2 blocks away from the Gator Farm. We didn't pay to go in, but we did go to the Lighthouse Pier, and took some photos of the lighthouse. Em was enthralled by an artist who had his easel set up in the yard and was painting the lighthouse.

Of course Special Baby didn't want to miss the view.

Though the day was overcast, I still like this pic I took of the lighthouse.

We ended the day by going to a park, complete with carousel rides for $1. (I've driven by the carousel dozens of times, but had never stopped there before.) It was a lovely outing!

Day 3: Carpet cleaning man arrived around 9:30 a.m. Living room floor looks SOOO much better now! Rainy and thunderstorms all day. We headed to Ollie Koala's one of Em's favorite local joints (games and pizza similar to Chuck E Cheese.) Sadly, they were closed "for renovations." We ventured to lunch at a sub shop, to Emma's doctor to pickup copies of her med records for VPK next year, and then ended up going to Chuck E. Cheese for a few hours of games. Only $10 of tokens...Em was so excited.

Tomorrow, Em will go to school. DH is off work because he has to work this Saturday. We'll have a "date day" (Yea!) and some housecleaning time. My college roommate, her DH, and their 2 kids will be visiting and staying overnight this weekend on their way from Ohio to Disney. Looking forward to their visit. :)