Thursday, December 18, 2008

For the Love of Cupcakes...and Fourth Graders

I'm amateur at best, but decorating these little babies was so fun! I finally used my new decorating bag correctly. I'm learning how to use each different tip and I'll definately use a smaller one for the letters next time. It might not look like much, but I think ten year olds might like them. If nothing else, they'll be nice and messy! Hooray! (Note: I totally arranged the letters randomly and noticed there's a "KKK"...that will be fixed before tomorrow! And if you're wondering about the cursive "S" that was my first cupcake, I opted for the print letters after mangling that one!)

Tomorrow is our "Winter Celebration" and here's what ran through my mind at Tuesday's staff meeting:
Principal: I know that some of you are planning to have a Winter Celebration on Friday. Some of you thought I didn't know, but I do. Just make sure that every activity is connected to core content!
Me: Crap! She found out! Core Content...brain scans writing core content...Core Content...brain scans Science core content....Got It! We'll throw some red and green ice cubes in our Sprite, whip out the Science notebooks, and sketch the colors of the solid ice melting in the liquid drink every five minutes. Done and Done! A lame connection, but damn it, it's fourth grade Core Content. Take that! (We'll also be doing a lot of reading and writing during the party, but we have to review solids and liquids eventually, so we might as well start now.) While I was making cupcakes, Chud was making six trays of red and green ice cubes. Isn't he the best?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Ego Boost

My brother plays bluegrass music. And he's good. I'm not just being biased because I'm his sister. I know music, and he's good. He's been playing my Mom's guitar for years and now he's in this rockabilly band that is really great. He can write songs, he can sing and boy, can he play. Last year, he and his bluegrass buddies decided to get together and make a band called "The Annual Christmas Album Band." The idea is they all come together to make a Christmas album every year. Their CD last year was awesome. This year they gave the project a theme - "Christmas Rodeo." Their songs are well executed and the lyrics are hilarious!

Now that we live in Louisville, I was able to SING on Jordan's album! I went over to his house tonight to record "Rodeo Star of Bethlehem" a la Emmylou Harris. Jordan played guitar while I sang, then I went back over it and recorded the harmony. It was more fun than I've had in a long time and Jordan was pretty impressed. I can't wait until the CD's finished and I can force all my friends to listen to it. So those of you that know me well, get ready. You're going to hear it and you're going to LOVE it....or else!

Also, as if that wasn't fun enough, Jordan asked Chud to play drums for his band Friday night. Me on a CD and my husband in a band. I bet we're the coolest people you know, right?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Time's A Comin'!

Oh, here it is! We had the best weekend ever and I'm finally stoked about Christmas. It's my favorite time of year and if it were up to me, the radio would play Christmas music all ---- year ---- long.

Yesterday I went to Emily's jewelry party and let me tell you, the "Blingtini's" were fantastic! Her house was decked out in the stylish ways of Chirstmas that only Emily can capture and I bought three pieces, as if I didn't have enough already. Merry Christmas to me! Then we had dinner with Laura and Pete, who are always lovely company. Good times with good friends. It's days like that when I wish we were still in Lexington. I could have stayed at Emily's and played games all night long. *sigh*

Alas, we came back to Louisville last night and I had the best night's sleep I had in a long time. How do I know? I did more "stuff" today than I've done on a Sunday in a long time. In a nutshell, my day went like this: shower, church, start a pot roast, shopping shopping shopping shopping shopping (five stores total), wrapping wrapping wrapping wrapping wrapping wrapping (that's right, people, I did 90% of my shopping and wrapping in ONE DAY), eat pot roast, wash dishes, make chili for pot luck at school tomorrow...I did it ALL! And it feels GOOD. I even cleaned out my "christmas trunk" filled with gifts never given or gifts waiting to be re-gifted so I could take them all to school to give to my kids - that's how much junk I had in there. Ahhh. Success.

Next week we head north to Mom's house to celebrate the holidays with family and I can't WAIT! After we see everyone and hug everyone and laugh with everyone, Chud and I are heading to Charleston, South Carolina to celebrate our anniversary. Two years! And happier than ever, I might add.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Oh, The Things They Will Say!

I've been working with D all year on appropriate language and behavior. Thanks to our hard work, he has stopped hitting me, knocking things over, and cussing. He's been wildly successful lately, so you can imagine my surprise when he approached me today and said....

D: Mrs. Fasciotto, I need a new hooker.
Me: (audible gasp) D! We do NOT say that word in school.
D: But....I need HOOKER! (other kids laugh)
Me: (pulling him to the side) D, that may be the way some people talk at home, but we do not talk like that at school. (long pause) Wait. What are you talking about?
D: (clearly frustrated) Mrs. Fasciotto, I need me a new hooker! (as he shoves a paper clip in my face)

Holding back tears of laughter I look directly at him and say, "D, we call that a paper clip." I give him a new one, he goes back to his group, and they finish their science investigation.

I do love fourth graders.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Thank God for Little Girls

This has been the best and worst week of my teaching career. Yesterday I left school looking for the nearest WalMart that was hiring. That's right, people. I was ready to go work at WalMart. I almost called my prinicpal to say "I'm done. Find somebody else. I'm miserable and I don't deserve this." I was dreading going to my classroom today. I cried all the way there.

I have some very challenging students this year, in particular, some very troubling boys. Yesterday, two of them were back from a five day suspension after getting in a fist fight, and they brought their wrath down on all of us. Yesterday, my classroom was a place where no one learned a thing and no one wanted to be there. I was nagging, mean - just the most horrid teacher you've ever seen. By the end of the day, the only way I could fight back the tears was to yell and scream and shake - I even pulled a muscle in my neck because I was so tense. The sound that came out of my mouth was unlike any sound I've ever heard. If my principal had been there, I'd surely be without a job at the moment. It was the lowest I've ever sunk. Just terrible.

After a much needed pep talk from a fellow teacher last night, I got to school nice and early today. I prepared lots of new behavior charts and systems, put in place some new rewards, changed a few procedures to make the day run more smoothly. But I was terrified of picking up my kids at 8:55. I wasn't sure I could look at them without crying. But I bucked up and showed up to the bus room with a smile plastered on my face. I forced myself to say good morning to every one of them, like I do every day, and I led them upstairs. As I was sitting at my desk, one of my little girls came up to me and said, "Mrs. F, I have a present for you!" Determined to change my attitude and have a good day, I smiled at her and said, "Oh goody! What is it?" instead of "Not now, you have work to do."

This little girl is one of those who does everything she can to impress her teacher. She shows up every day with finger curls in her hair, a smile on her face, and warmth in her heart. She makes a point to say nice things to everyone at her table before the day starts. She hugs all her friends at the end of the day. She's just the sweetest thing you've ever seen. She told me to close my eyes and hold out my hands. She placed something small and jingly in my palm. I kept my eyes closed and shook it next to my ear to guess what it could be. I opened my eyes to see a small, silver ring covered in green and red jingle bells. It fit perfectly on my index finger and it jingled whenever I moved my hand. I don't know why, but when I put it on, all of my troubles just melted away and I was reminded that kids are good. Kids are sweet. Kids are full of love and capable of real sentiment. With that tiny gift, my attitude and my heart did a total 180 degree turn from where I was before. I would go so far as to say, that pretty little girl saved my career.

Our day was still a challenge. I still have boys that would sooner scream obscenities at each other and run out of the room before talking about their feelings. I still have kids who can't handle working in groups and I still spent most of my morning dealing with misbehavior. But today I made a commitment to pay attention to those kids that are making the right choices. I was determined to give compliments instead of "constructive criticism" (because that would be nagging and pointless). I forced myself to smile and it worked. When you smile at kids, they smile back. My kids rocked it out this afternoon. I know it's a direct result of my decision to love them whether they liked it or not. By the end of the day, we were all smiling. And it warmed my heart.

I didn't know it at the time, but that little girl must have been the reason I went to school today.

Thanks, Shante!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Sunday Blues

We're back from a long weekend at home for Thanksgiving and it's rainy, cold and gross outside. We had such a wonderful time seeing all sides of the family, relaxing at Mom's house, eating good food and watching lots of uninterrupted sports. In a word, it was blissful.

However, now that we're home, we have laundry to do, lesson plans to write, dinner to figure out and I have to say, it just makes us both feel....blech. Sundays are always hard, and I don't think it's just for teachers. Gearing up for another week at a stressful job where you never get everything done that needs to get done is quite a hassle and it weighs heavy on our minds on Sunday nights. So much so that tonight...we surfed the internet for other jobs! Agh!

Don't get me wrong, we love teaching. But as we plan for the future and the possibility of children down the road, it's hard to imagine being a great teacher AND a great parent. I submit that it cannot be done. And rather than be a half-ass teacher and a half-ass parent, I'd rather find another job that is conducive to raising kids. One where I don't have to grade papers all night and organize lesson plans on Sundays. A 9 - 5er with no committees to be on or newsletters to write. Wouldn't that be nice?

Who am I kidding? Maybe Chud could be happy at a desk, but I certainly could not. If I'm not going to be a classroom teacher, I have to be involved in the world of education somehow. A writing specialist once told me that being a writing specialist in an elementary school allowed her to be a better mom. She didn't have a classroom to take care of, she didn't have to do all the extra things that classroom teachers have to do. So, I went searching for some sort of "specialist position" on the internet tonight, despite my adament cry of "I'll never leave the classroom!" Wouldn't you know...the Kentucky Department of Education is looking for an "Education Academic Program Consultant in Elementary WRITING." Gasp!! This person would work for the state, travel to school districts and help teachers teach WRITING. I meet all of the minimum requirements AND I even meet one of the "preferred" requirements - being a Writing Project Fellow. I basked in the glow of a state job without a classroom attached, until I realized that it would be just as much, if not more, work. Ah well. A girl can dream.

For the time being, Chud and I are going to drudge through these horrendous three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The weeks which are useless to a nine year old and might evoke mutany in a high school. We'll make it through the rest of the year, and the endless Sunday nights, until we find something better that makes us both a little happier. PhD program? Perhaps. Cushy State Job? Maybe. But for now we have to be content with out little corner of the teaching world - a sometimes thankless, always demanding, but never a dull moment job.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Peace Keeper

Who's that, hiding behind the front window curtain? Whose furry bum is peeking out from underneath?
Why, it's the shy but ever vigilant guard cat, Brown Audrey!

There she sits, day after day, watching over the goings-on of Mina Court, looking out for the girl in the blue car and they boy in the black car, making sure that everyone makes it home, safe and sound. Just enough face showing to keep an eye on things, but not enough for anyone to notice that she's there.
What a good kitty!

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Teacher's Confession

Please don't tell anyone, but I have a confession to make. I'm not a very good reader. It's true. I faked my way through most books in high school and college. It's easy if you know where to go. I abandon about 80% of the adult books I try to read. Perhaps it's because I'm a slow reader - trying to fully absorb every word before moving on to the next sentence. Perhaps it's because I have a short attention span - long, dramatic storylines with intricate symbolisms and social undertones bore the heck out of me! Most of the "must reads" that I inherit from friends (i.e. The Time Traveller's Wife and The Secret Life of Bees) just pile up on my bedside. I'm lucky to read more than a chapter or two before tossing them aside and picking up something else.

I do love Children's books, though. Recently I've rediscovered the amazing talent of Natalie Babbit in Tuck Everlasting. I always marvel at the craftiness of Cynthia Rylant and Eve Bunting in their numerous picture books. I've also fallen in love with Jerry Spinelli's Milkweed, which I firmly believe every adult should read. In fact, my list of kid's books that should be read by adults is quite extensive. But when I stand in front of the best-seller table at Barnes and Noble, I feel desperately inadequate.

Having made my confession, I would also like you to know that every once in a blue moon I stumble upon an adult book that I can't put down. The first one was The Awakening which will always be my all-time favorite word feast. There have been others, on occasion. At the moment, I find myself sitting home on a Friday night, husband asleep on the couch, third glass of wine in hand, praying for the clock to slow down so I can keep reading my book without being completely exhausted tomorrow. It's an unlikely book for me to love. I've tried reading this author before and found him very uninteresting. However, tonight I am glued to the pages of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. It's strange and it's slow - it took me a few weeks to really get into it. But I just started the "Third Book" and I have to tell you, I'm completely enthralled with his style of writing. I know I'm in the middle of a good book when I picture the author at their desk, spewing out words onto paper or screen, ideas swirling around their head. I find myself in awe of his talent. How does he know all of this history? How does he put the pieces of this story together out of thin air? What an amazing writer he must be. I would love to sit down and talk to him sometime!

Now that my reading confession is off my chest, I can finally sift through the reasons why I like this book and not others. I must be attracted to his particular writing style. As much as I struggle with the concept of "reading" and being "well-read" and "smart," the one thing I do love more than anything in this world is writing. That must be why I'm blogging right now instead of reading the next chapter.

I overhead a teacher say to one of MY students yesterday, as she grabbed a book from their hands and started reading the back cover, "Oh! Do you like this book? I love books. I'm a HUGE reader. I read everything. You'll have to tell me how it is. I'll probably read it soon anyway." I thought, are you kidding?? No one's buying that crap! I don't read much, but I do know that you can't read EVERYTHING. Don't patronize my kids. They're smarter than you.

I'd like to think that my kids are like me (a lofty and conceited thought, I know). But they're not going to read crap they don't like. I'll let them abandon book after book after book as long as they finally come to rest on one, good, solid, decent piece of writing that they LOVE. And then, after they read it, maybe they can picture themselves doing something like it and opening a notebook (or a blog) and writing something. Isn't that what good readers do?

p.s. make that a FOURTH glass of wine at hand - it's Friday. I'm a nerd.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Good Day

Well, I can't get through tonight without blogging a bit about last night and today. I stayed up late to watch the election results and, like 52% of Americans, I was deeply moved and satisfied with the outcome! I remember when Obama gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. I'd never heard of him before, but I immediately fell in love with him, which I've never done with a politician before. He has a way of moving me. Chud bought me his book "The Audacity of Hope" for Christmas, and after the first couple chapters, I thought, "Hmm. He might be on to something here."

Through the primaries I held out hope that we might, we just very well might nominate an intelligent, hard working, community organizing black man for president. Wouldn't that just be a thrill!

Then, last night, I clutched the pillows on the couch and had flashbacks of John Kerry's election when I was so SURE he would win and then he didn't. I didn't want to get my hopes up, even though everyone was saying he was a sure shot. I waited for the numbers. At 11:00, when it was "called" by the media, I could hardly contain myself.

I know lots of republicans and I immediately thought of them. I don't care what party you belong to, I don't think anyone could help but feel proud and special as we watched the coverage last night. And I'd like to take a minute to say that I thought John McCain's speech was one of the most gracious, eloquent and beautiful speeches I've ever heard. I completely changed my mind about him last night. He does put country first. Good for him.

We talked about the election in my classroom last week. Nine year olds have quite an interesting perspecitve on the whole thing. They instinctively knew that voting for Obama because he's black is not exactly right. But they also knew that Obama promised change for them and their families. They knew that he went to law school, that he worked to change the South side of Chicago, and that he is smart, well-spoken and hopeful.

I think what I love most about this election is the implications for my students. I have a classroom full of African American boys, some of which have no fathers. These boys look up to football players and rap stars. To them, life if about making money, getting on top, being famous. And now they have a president to look up to. I know that being president is about as likely as being a football player, but Obama shows them that anything is possible. That you can have GOOD CHARACTER. You can be a lawyer, a doctor, a businessman, an organizer...a president. They now see that they can be anything. I'm so hopeful for them.

When we had our morning meeting today, I almost cried. I pictured my boys (and girls) as grown ups, as young men and women, as citizens. They are dying to be old enough to vote. They are interested in Obama and what he can do. The hope in their eyes just melted my heart and I can't wait to see what the future holds for all of them. Today their future looked a little bit brighter. A door has been opened. The possibilities are endless.

Good bless America!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Apple Pie = Home

Chud and I had a wonderful weekend. We hosted our very first get-together at the new house and it was a splendid success. We're so grateful to everyone who stopped by. The weather was beautiful, the food was delish, and family, friends and neighbors were mingling like crazy. It was a wonderful weekend.

I have to say, there was one moment this weekend when I felt particularly nostalgic. All week long we worked on the yard, planned the grocery list, cleaned the house, etc. just so that I could wake up Saturday morning and make a couple of pies. I've been craving pumpkin pie since the leaves started turning, and I can't make the first pie of the year without making an apple pie as well. Why? Because that's the pie Mom makes, and it wouldn't be fall without one. I don't know what I looked forward to more: making the pies or having the party! For me, apple pie is the definition of fall, and as soon as the pie hits the oven, my senses take over and I get teary-eyed thinking about Mom's kitchen. For me, Apple Pie = Home.

Let me give you a little background. My Mom, Joyce, is one of six kids. All of them have their particular talents, but my Mom is "the pie-maker." Every holiday or gathering would not be complete without her apple pie. I remember, when I was little, everyone would make such a fuss over Mom's pies - especially the homemade crusts. Apparently they're pretty hard to do. Growing up, it seemed like every weekend from mid-October to late December was filled with pie making extravaganzas in Mom's kitchen. She had flour flying everywhere, and once she lined the pie pans, the leftover dough was used to make crackers for me and my brother. Pies were just a normal part of our weekend life, and I'm ashamed to say, I didn't really care much about how they were made. Mom tried to teach me, but I had bigger and better things to worry about; like who I was dating, where I was going to college, and what I was going to wear for the weekend.

Once I finally went to college, there weren't many people making apple pies in the dorms. I came home on the weekends with my arms full of laundry, but as soon as I walked in the door, I would drop my basket to the floor and take in a big whiff of Mom's apple pie sitting on the counter. Mmmmm....home. She continued to insist that I learn how to make one, but I was too busy. I had papers to write and beer to drink and semesters abroad to plan. No time for pie.

After I got married, Mom found the exact same 1980 copyright version of her Betty Crocker Cookbook at a yard sale. This was the one with HER crust recipe and she was so excited to find it that she bought it and gave it to me...just in case I ever wanted to try to make a pie. "Thanks," I said, and I stuck it on a shelf.

Last year I found myself craving an apple pie. I knew my first attempt wouldn't be nearly as good as Mom's and I didn't want it to be, because "Mom's Apple Pie" took years of practice to make, but I figured I might as well get started. Don't you know, that pie was pretty good! I took it to school and everyone ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the homemade crust and I started thinking..."Mom might be on to something here."

Well, this weekend was the biggest "Aha" moment for me. As I was tossing the cold water into the flour and salt, I was imagining myself as a tiny little girl, sitting in the kitchen, watching my Mom do the same thing. I started wondering if my Mom watched her Mom do that when she was little, and so on and so on. Then I started putting the pie together and fluting the edges (that's the really hard and impressive part) and I realized that it wasn't that hard at all, because I had seen HER do it so many times before. It was like my hands already knew what to do, just from watching her. It really was amazingly satisfying.

When I put the apple pie in the oven, I started cleaning up the kitchen and finally got a good whiff of the cinnamon and apple goodness coming from the oven. My whole body felt warmer, happier, cozier....just loved. I felt loved. I felt my Mother's love in her 1980's Betty Crocker recipe, I felt my grandmother's love in her six child house; I know it sounds crazy, but I felt like all the women before me finally took a minute to stop and think, "Wow, Rachael's grown up, and she can finally make a pie."

The only test was the party - and folks loved the pies. Pete ate two pieces of the apple pie and I got lots of compliments! All night long I thought about all the traditions my Mom tried to start. She would give me jewelry and say "I hope you give this to your daughter someday; I want it to be an heirloom." She even spent months on a special quilt just for me to give to my kids. She tries so hard to find things to "pass on," but the best thing you could pass on to a kid is something you teach them without even knowing. If it weren't for her, I couldn't begin to make a pie. I'm the worst cook in the world, but since I SAW her do it, I could picture myself doing it, and when I see myself doing it, I picture they way she used to do it, and suddenly - it all makes sense. I don't know why I never wanted to make pies before. I guess it's all a part of growing up and being a Mom and saying to yourself, "This is the way things are done." And when you have a party, you make a pie.

I'm sure I'll try to teach my daughter how to make pies and I'm sure she'll tell me it's silly and she doesn't want to learn. But when she finally gets the gumption to make her own first pie all by herself, I'll be there to reminder her that pies are what we do. Fasciottos and Neltners, we know how to make pies. It won't fix the economy or whisk us off to exotic places, but it makes where ever we are feel like home and that's why we do it.

Apple Pie = Home.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We Were Not "Right for the Fight Today!"

Well, thanks to a lovely lady at my school, Chud and I had four UK Football tickets dropped into our laps on Thursday afternoon. We called Michael and Emily and were not surprised at all when they agreed to go with us. We woke up bright and early this morning to head on over to Lexington, and hence, our UK Football adventures began.

Michael had some free tickets to the Buffallo Trace Burbon tent, so that was our first stop (at 11:00 in the morning). We enjoyed some bourbon before heading to Emily's cousin's tailgating spot in the parking lot. Then we made our way to our seats, and let me tell you, walking in to that stadium was SO exciting! Everyone was cheering, the field looked great, the band was fufilling their pepping duties and all was right with the world.

The first three quarters of the game were very exciting - we were winning, and the sun was shining. Then, in the fourth quarter, our boys suddenly decided that they didn't want to THROW the ball correctly or even CATCH the ball that was improperly thrown. (If you haven't figured it out, I don't know much about football - but I know you have to throw it and catch it to win, and that, our team did not do.)

Regardless of a disspointing loss, we still had a great time!

And if anyone out there ever needs to unload some UK football tickets - you know who to come to. We'll take those off your hands anytime!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Homeowner Heaven Part II

I cannot believe how much we got done today. Mom and Jay came down to help us paint. That was the goal: go to Lowe's, pick out a color, come home and paint the hell out of our front room, dining room and hallway. Yesterday, Chud and I moved the furniture and put painter's tape along all of the baseboards, doorways and windows, just to get ready. So when they arrived this morning, all we had to do was PAINT.

However, since we moved in, both of us have been wanting to tear up the carpet and redo the hardwood floors. This is tricky business. Best case scenario: pull up the carpet to find beautiful hardwood floors underneath that just need a good sanding and waxing. Worst case scenario: pull up the carpet to find hideous floors that would require a professional to come and redo, or that would require a professional to install new carpet.

While we were painting I tried to explain to my mother that beautiful hardwood floors were my goal, but if I had to settle for new carpet, I'd be happy to do that too, because I HATE the carpet that was already on the floor. No, we cannot afford new carpet, and our housewarming party is a few weeks away, but I would make it work. Mom and I went back and forth, back and forth, back and forth about the whole thing until finally I just shouted "Forget it!" and decided to leave the carpet where it was and deal with it later......then I spilled a gallon of paint.

I tossed Mom a rag to wipe some paint off a baseboard and by doing so, knocked over a jar of paint sitting on a piece of funrniture. It didn't just fall to the floor, either. It fell and spread paint ALL across the living room floor: one big splotch in the middle with many small streams radiating from its center. We both started screaming, Chud and Jay ran inside from the yard, and we all looked at each other as if to say, "Well, shit. Now we HAVE to tear up the carpet." Chud was chuckling inside because he wanted nothing more than to tear it up and he didn't want to say "I told you so." Mom and I went outside to clean off the paint supplies while Jay and Chud started the massive tear-up job. I couldn't bear to watch. Before I knew it, Chud came running around the corner of the house and said, "Rach, you have to come see this."

I ran inside and looked down the hallway. Don't you know, the hardwood floors were in PERFECT condition. A few staples here and there, but the holes are undetectable. It was better than "best case scenario." No sanding, no buffing, no NOTHING needed to be done. We worked for a couple of hours and got all of the carpet up, moved the furniture around to tear up the liners along the wall, pulled out all of the staples with pliers, and now we're sitting at home with beautiful hardwood floors all throughout our house. Phew!! Mom swears that God was telling me something when he made me knock over that jar of paint and I believe her. If it weren't for that, we'd still have ugly brown carpet and we'd be calling contractors for estimates on flooring in the spring. How lucky!!

So, by dinner time, we had new paint on the walls and new floors under our feet. It looks like a completely different house. I can't wait for all of you to see it!

Homeowner Heaven

Painter's Tape..................$10
Shower head.....................$18
2 Pumpkins......................$11
Queen sized sheets..............$40

Spending and entire day with my amazing husband-----PRICELESS!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Who is "Joe Six Pack" and Who Exactly Lives on "Main Street"

Did anyone else watch the vice presidential debate? Let me just say, I'm voting for Obama, I think he's going to turn this country around and cure what ails us. I've made fun of Sara Palin ever since she was elected and I still think she's political play-dough for the republicans. However, I have to say, the McCain campaign prepped her well. She was freaking ON tonight and it made me so MAD!! I don't agree with anything she said, but they way she said it, with the references to "soccer games" and "hockey moms" and "darn its" and "you betchas," and the "hey, can I call you Joe?" I thought, damn it! She's winning over tons of people right now! However, whenever she was asked a question, she CHANGED the topic to something else! Sure, she looked at the camera, but she didn't give me any evidence as to how McCain is different from the current administration.

It doesn't matter, though. I've been on board with Obama for the last two years. Joe Biden wasn't amazing, he didn't have any cute quips and he didn't wink at the camera, but he literally outlined (with his "number one....number two" way of speaking) all of the ways that McCain is a poisonous detriment to our country and all of the ways Obama is a beacon of hope, to borrow a Palin term.

I know that no matter who gets elected, my everyday life won't change very much. But I'm so invested in the democratic party at the moment and I'm starting to feel that worrisome pang in my heart. That feeling of..."Oh my god, what are we going to do if Obama isn't our President?"

So, with that note, I encourage anyone to WATCH the debates, to TALK to your friends and family, to READ the newspapers, and to VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE in our next election. I'm finally interested in politics. I'm doing it for my family, I'm doing it for my friends, and I'm doing it for my students and my future children who will someday run this country. For heaven's sake, let's not screw it up even more, people. Our kids will have enough to worry about.

As for Joe Six Pack, I find that reference offensive. As for the Wall St. versus Main Street reference, I still haven't quite figured out if Main Street means "America" or if there really is some Main Street in New York that is useful in measuring the effects of this economic crisis. Any information or advice you might have on the subject would be helpful!

Monday, September 29, 2008

They Did it Again!

Okay, so we're super busy moving into a house and out of an apartment, but we did have time to watch this clip before bed last night. I LOVE it, and I promise to write more about our big move when it's all over, which I hope will be soon.

Tina Fey is the perfect Sara Palin. My favorite line: "We're gonna promote freedom, usher in democratic values and ideals, and fight those terror-lovin' terrorists."

If you want to see a clip from the original Palin/Couric interview, go here. Although, it might make you want to cry when you hear it, so if you're enjoying that "ha ha, Tina Fey's so funny" feeling, then you might not want to ruin it with real politics.

Monday, September 15, 2008


If you missed this on SNL....WATCH IT NOW!! Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are my heroes. My favorite line - "Please, ask this one about dinosaurs." I didn't even notice until the third time I watched it that Poehler is ridiculously prego! Doesn't matter - she's still crazy funny. Enjoy!

our sTREEt

There was quite a wind storm yesterday, and 90% of Louisville was left without power. We were fortunate enough to have electricity, although we did lose our cable and internet service for 24 hours. If you ask me, you might as well have taken our electricity too, because 24 hours without cable or internet left us with no connection to the world other than AM radio. We were totally cut off and it was not fun. But we're back on board today and we had plenty of time to start packing up the apartment because we were OFF SCHOOL!! And we're off tomorrow, too! Here are some pictures of our street yesterday - trees everywhere, power lines down, such a mess!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Babies on the Brain!

(Two posts in one day? What's going on?)

Okay, I'm just going to come out and say it. I can't stop thinking about babies! I'm obsessed with the Swistle Baby Name blog (thanks, Meredith) and now that we have a house in the near future, the next looming question is....when will we have our own little pooper?? Here are my current dilemmas:

1. I want our baby to be born at the end of the school year (late April or early May) so that my maternity leave will back up to a summer so I have at least three months home with the precious one before going back to work. That's a tall order and I know that orchestrating a due date is next to impossible.
2. I want my Mom to move to Louisville so she is within screaming distance when I need help. Not gonna happen.
3. I like to drink. HUGE problem.
4. I can't stop this nagging feeling..."What if this is our last fall/winter/spring/summer as a family of two?" I LOVE spending time with my husband. I LOVE wasting time on Sundays and taking my time getting work done. I just finished grad school and want some freaking down I ready for a little pooper who requires 200% of my attention?
5. Every time I see a baby in real life, my body screams, "Why don't you have one of those?!" It's getting harder and harder to ignore.
6. Did I mention how much I love to drink? I can't watch a football game without at least two large beers (and some homemade chili...yummmmmm); I can't read a good book without a few glasses of wine, and I can barely make it through a work week without fantasizing about which bar we'll go to on Friday night! That's horrible, I know, but it's the truth.
7. I want to have a baby on the same day as Laura. Then I won't feel so alone and fat all the time.

So, while all of this decision making is up in the air, I just thought I might as well put it out there on the Internet. And I can tell you...Swistle is not helping. There are SO MANY cute names out there these days, it's almost like I have to have a baby just so I can name one. Ridiculous.

This is such a far cry from my thoughts two years ago. I actually wrote a piece for the Bluegrass Writing Project titled "15 Reasons Why I'll Never Get Pregnant," and they were graphic reasons!! The folks at my old school would laugh in my face if I told them I was seriously considering this baby thing. (I wanted to call in sick for the entire week preceding a fellow teacher's due date because I was afraid that if her water broke it would flood my classroom!) But now I'm kind of thinking, "Won't that be fun, to tell them all I'm pregnant? They will just DIE!"

Alas, like all other things in life, I have to be patient. Li'l pooper will come. He/she will have the perfect name and the perfect family. Things will work out and I don't have to control everything. Damn, that feels good!


I know it's been a while since I've blogged, but that's because absolutely nothing exciting has been going on around here....and it's kind of nice! Yes, we got the house and we're closing on the 26th. We're just sitting around waiting to move, cursing the people who live above us (I swear, it sounds like they're roller skating up there!) and thanking our lucky stars that we found the perfect house at the perfect time!

We've both been busy with school projects. I've agreed to coach the Academic Team at my school and I spend most of my evenings and weekends planning lessons for my amazing students. I could write a book about the dynamics of this classroom: I have perfectionists, class clowns, smartypants, and yes, even a couple of cussers. I still can't quite work out the culture of this school. It's generally positive, but sometimes I feel like I've been left alone to babysit a class full of kids with lots of pent up angers and frustrations. I can definately say this: behavior control comes before instruction in this place and it's very hard to deal with. I can't tell you how much instructional time I lose every day because I'm working out problems or dealing with misbehavior. However, I'm hoping that all the time I spend on behavior at the front end, will improve instructional time down the road. We'll see.

Other than that, we spend our weekends waiting for UK to play and hanging out with Jordan and other friends. Friday night we found a little restaraunt that totally reminds me of Oscar's in Lexington, so that was nice. We'll definately go there again. Next weekend we have to go to a wedding and I have some Writing Project Workshops on Saturday, the weekend after that is our only free one for a while, so I'm sure we'll spend it packing...hooray!!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Home Sweet Home!

Our home inspection went very well today and it looks like we'll be moving around the end of September/early October. We are SO excited! Here are some inside pics for those of you that haven't seen them yet. You do have to look past the wallpaper and decor choices of the sellers - but cut 'em a break, they've been there for fifty years. (Emily wants dibs on the bedroom with the rosary!)

Back bedroom.

Master bedroom - look at those floors!

Front bedroom.


front porch
living room and dining room, seen as you walk in the front door

living room and picture window! Hellloooo Christmas Tree!
That's my mom and our Realtor chattin' it up in the kitchen. Notice the tiny cabinet with a window full of matching wallpaper!

steps to the basement

Basement - Don't worry, they're leaving the light fixtures!

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Cutest Li'l House in the Whole Wide World!

Okay, don't get too excited yet, we're still waiting on our counter offer to their counter offer to be accepted, but we'll know by 5:00 tomorrow. I don't see why we wouldn't get it, though (knock on wood - hardwood floors, that is)! We went back to look at the house again tonight because in the midst of all this number crunching and counter offering and real estate agents and mortgage lenders, I decided that I just had to see it again before we took another step.

I lost sleep last night imagining the house in my head and thinking "How big were those bedrooms?" and "How much of that basement really was finished?" and, I kid you not, "I don't remember seeing any outlets in the bathroom, where will I plug in my hairdryer?" These are the things that kept me up until 1:00, even though I took my trusty old Tylenol PM around 10:00. Yes, it relaxes the body, but it does NOT slow down the mind! I laid comfortably in bed just wondering, and wondering and wondering.......

So, after twenty four hours of waiting and worrying and budgeting and worrying and asking questions and worrying, we finally decided that yes, we CAN afford this house; yes, it IS in a good neighborhood; and yes, we WILL be rediculously happy there - but I had to see it again just to be sure. I took my camera, and the batteries only lasted long enough to get these pictures of the outside, but as soon as we pulled in the driveway, I knew we had to have that house. It's just so darn CUTE. The rooms were plenty big, the basement was plenty finished and there were even outlets in the bathroom. All that worrying for nothing! Take a look and tell me you can't wait for our first backyard barbeque!

**Shreiks of Delight** And the inside's even cuter than the outside, if you disregard some horrible carpet and wallpaper choices on the part of the previous owners. Wish us luck and I'll let everyone know how it goes tomorrow.

Thank you Mom and Meredith for talking me down off of ledges, thank you Emily and Laura for getting excited with us! I can't wait for all of you to see it - once it's ours, of course. And thank you to my darling husband who is the ying to my yang when it comes to freaking out about things. If he had a dollar for every time he said, "It's going to be fine," he'd have at least ten dollars.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Next Step in Becoming a Real, Live Grown-Up!

Holy Crap! Chud and I just put in an offer on this lovely gem of a house. It might be the scariest and most exciting thing I've ever done. This is way more nerve wracking than getting married!
Let me tell you all about our potential home sweet home:
-- It was built in 1956 and has had the same owners for 50 years. On our first visit, it was clear that they've kept the house in impeccable shape! I'm fairly certain they won't find anything huge or scary in the inspection.
--It has a beautiful front and back yard with a shed and some dogwood trees. If it were up to me, we'd have the biggest yard we could find, but Chud's main concern is cutting the grass, so this one is perfect. Not too big, not too small.
--It sits on a cul de sac where kids like to ride bikes. There's a street lamp in our front yard. There's a small porch on the front which I plan to put a fence around someday so it looks like a real porch - with a rocking chair. I have to have a rocking chair.
--3 bedrooms, one bathroom, and a finished basement with a shower stall in it. A great house for hosting out-of-town guests, like our family!
--new roof with gutter guards. I guess that's good but I don't know anything about gutters.
--the neighborhood is old, cute and quiet. It's still close to all the fun things going on in Louisville but it's far away from the city sounds. The elementary school nearby is not that great, but we don't have to send our kids there if we don't want to.
Overall, it's the perfect house for us! If all goes well we could be moving again in a month. Yipes!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another Summer Gone

The school year has started and I have to say, I love my new school! Don't get me wrong, it's VERY different from my old school, but the things they do here are great. I have some wonderful kids who are so anxious to learn, I almost feel like I'm doing them a disservice at this point in the year by wasting their time with procedures and routines. Every time we start a real lesson, they get so excited! Well, most of them do, anyway. I know it's just a honeymoon phase, but I love it. They pull out their notebooks and pencils and sit up straight in their desks and I can tell their thinking, "Look at me! I'm in fourth grade! Look how big and smart I am!"

I could go on and on about how different my new school is, but instead I'll just write about how great it is to be in Louisville. I went to bed Monday night, the night before the first day of school, and I was so content. Chud came to bed and I let out a sigh of relief when I realized that we're both going to get up at the same time tomorrow, we're both going to drive ten minutes to our schools (no commute!) and we're both going to come home when we're done (no graduate classes)! How nice is that? The last two nights we've been busy with beginning-of-the-year jobs that need to be done, but it's so nice to be able to talk to each other about school. I love being married to another teacher!

Here's to a great school year!

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Tonight was a totally appropriate night for some old-blog-reading relfection. I've been going through the Jefferson County "New Teacher Induction" all week long, and it's been a doozy! Lots of lectures, workshops, powerpoint presentations and whatnot, while many many teachers from all grade levels sit around and tell each other how much they hate the whole thing and how much they'd rather be in their classrooms. I learned a long time ago that complaining is toxic to an effective environment, and although I'm guilty of the occasionaly complaint or two, I truly believe that these other teachers did a lot more complaining than I've ever heard before...but by the end of the week we were all glad we went. It's nice to know that your county cares enough about you to give you food and information for a whole week prior to your starting your first teaching job.

So, tonight I was looking through my old posts and realized that this blog has been a great chronicle of my life as a teacher. I didn't intend for it to be that way, but that's the form my writing has taken.

And I'm so glad!

I read through some of my old posts - the ones about the hippie bus and the F word and the chicken hatching - and I realized right away, that this is the best job in the world. I hope this blog will serve as the vehicle for many, many more funny, insipiring stories of fourth grade students. I firmly believe that they can teach me so much more than I can teach them. I know that my kids next year (which I will meet next week!) will be so different from the kids I had last year, but I'm positive that these kids will have just as much, if not more, to offer than those kids from my old school. I can't wait to see their smiles, learn about their sense of humor, and help them through a ten year old's triumphs and troubles. I was born to be a teacher, and I'm so glad I get to go it AGAIN next school year!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Dainty: And I Thought Cornhole Was Weird!

Addendum: Only believe 70% of what my brother says. Here's what he said after reading this post: "I did some research and I was given bad information. The record holder is just some average guy. You can see him here.., our district represenative John Yarmuth won in 2006. Not as cool as record holder, but thats the skinny.George Hauck for president!"

Well, leave it to Jordan to find the weirdest events in Louisville. He called us at 6:30 and said, "There's some tournament in Germantown tonight. Apparently a long time ago, some poor people made up this game where they chopped off a chunk of a broomstick and tried to hit it as far as they could with the other end of the broomstick. There's supposed to be cheap beer and hot dogs." My response: We'll be there! Little did we know that this game, called "Dainty," was such a big deal. You have to be 45 or older to play, and they close down a whole street to do it. These folks stood at one end of the street, whacked the small stick as hard as they could so it jumped in the air, then smacked it sideways to see how far it would go. 142 people played, and last year's winner was the mayor of Louisville (who was not there when we showed up). Boy, was it a fun time!

And he was right about the cheap beer and food. Cans of beer were $1.50, you could get a bologna sandwich, bag of chips and a drink for $1.00, and (best of all) an enormous cotton candy was only 25 cents! All the kids running around were carrying cotton candy sticks that were almost half their size! It was amazing!

(I totally had parent permission to take this picture, thank you very much!)

Then, there was the band. After the competition (the World Championship Dainty Competition!) there was a good old fashioned polka band playing in the street!

Kids were dancing with balloons tied to their fists - strings that were six feet long! Folks were drinking and dancing and laughing - it was the most fun I've ever seen! Next year, I'm inviting all of my friends.

Here's our new favorite song, it's only 2 minutes long, so hang in there to hear these rocking lyrics!

Thanks, Jordo! That was super fun!

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Well, we've been in Louisville for two months as of next week and I still love it. However, summertime is a weird time for teachers and a teacher's summertime in a new town just adds to the weirdness. I had my first Professional Development sponsored by my new county this week and my stomach was in knots the entire time. I was prepared to be in a situation where I didn't know anyone, but I didn't anticipate going to a PD where I didn't even recognize anyone! In Fayette County I would usually recognize one of the presenters, or some teachers from another school, or some teachers I knew in college. I walked into a sea of strangers and for the first twenty minutes my heart was beating in a panic! Finally, someone from my new school spoke to me and asked if I was the new fourth grade teacher (essentially throwing me a verbal life raft). After I responded and we got to talking, it was no time at all before we were pleasantly aquainted and I finally felt comfortable. Phew! Now I just have to prepare for the week-long "New Teacher Induction" that lasts ALL WEEK next week. That's right, 8:30 - 4:30 EVERY DAY with all of the teachers who are new to the county. Yipes!

In other news - Chud and I called a Real Estate Agent this week and are looking at our very first house this afternoon! Yeah!! Originally we weren't going to make the call for a couple more months, but we saw an adorable house on-line one night and decided that we just had to get our hands on it. You must understand, I have many many house searches saved on-line and we look at new ones every few days together and dream about what it would be like to own one of them. But when we saw this one, a cute little gem in Germantown, we actually got our butts up off the couch and drove by it! In real life!! We walked around it and looked at it from all angles, even though there were people living there! I damn near knocked on their door to ask if we could see it, but we decided a Real Estate Agent is probably better at that sort of thing. So, I asked my brother for the guy who helped him last year and before we knew it, he had our appointment all set and ready to go. Wish us luck!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Dar al Islam - Part II

Okay, fine, I'm back. I totally meant to post more pictures and stories while I was there, but trust me - there was too much to do and too much to see, and I couldn't spend my spare minutes on the computer. However, now that I'm home, I can write all about my fabulous trip to Dar al Islam in New Mexico! You've already seen the beautiful campus where I spent 95% of my time going to lectures and working on projects. Here are some extra special pics of the surrounding landscape:

Views from Dar al Islam Campus:
Here are some pics of "Plaza Blanca," or The White Place made famous by Georgia O'Keefe. Turns out these beautiful volcanic tuft structures were ON Dar al Islam's property and I walked to them every morning!

(That's Lauren from Dallas in the last picture - she's the funniest person I've ever met.)

And, on our trip to Taos, we passed a beautiful Echo Ampitheater and just had to stop to check it out. Here are some pics of that beautiful gem:

I spent one day in Taos, which was wonderful, and another day (my birthday!) in Santa Fe where I went to the world's largest folk art festival. I bought all kinds of nifty souveniers from all over the world, including a great hat for Chud Muffin and a brass plate for myself.
Our second week was filled with more and more and more lectures, lots of enlightening information, and some great relationships on which to depend as we all crusade into this school year. I can honestly say that I have a much more sympathetic view of Muslims (or any deeply religious group of people, for that matter) and I plan to make my classroom a place where important discussions take place.
I'm going to do my best to recreate Dr. Shafi's closing remarks from our banquet Saturday night. Before you read it, keep in mind, he is a Muslim scholar and business man from Pakistan who has made a successful life for his beautiful family in New Mexico, where he began the Dar al Islam institute twenty years ago to combat prejudice and wage peace. Here's what he said:
"When I was a child, my mother taught me a prayer. Every night, before we went to bed, we said this prayer. After we asked God to bless our mother and father - and their mothers and fathers, and their mothers and fathers - the very next person we asked God to bless....was our teacher - and their teachers, and their teachers." This is where he got a bit choked up. "The reason we asked God to bless our teacher was because we expecting big things from them." Then he started to cry and said, "We expected our teachers to tell us....the truth." I started thinking about how hard it must have been to grow up as a Muslim in this country, and I also started to wonder how many of my students have ever prayed for me (not many, I'm sure). Then he continued, "We expected them to give us the answers, to be our guides - and to NOT make us the enemy." At this point I lost it. I thought of my two, adorable, Muslim students from the last couple of years - the Jaloudi brothers - who always have so much life and so much love in their eyes. I started to cry for their futures - for the "random" stops they will get at the airport, the stares and glares they'll receive while they go grocery shopping with their mother in her hijab, and the prejudice they'll encounter as they go through high school and college in our disturbingly conservative community. After Dr. Shafi's closing remarks, I said a prayer for the Jaloudi boys. I know they will be successful and I pray that their future teachers will recognize the amazing contributions they have to give, regardless of their father's inability to speak English and their mother's fear of Parent-Teacher conferences.
I'm so glad I went to this institute. Now I'm afraid of being the only one I know who thinks that a mosque is beautiful, that Muslim prayers are just as sacred as anyone else's, and that the things happening in our world are so much more political than religious. I'll never know what it's like to be a Muslim, but I'll do my best to make sure that ALL of my students are comfortable asking questions and learning the truth - whether it's in the curriculum or not. God bless teachers and God bless the students who listen to them!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Dar al Islam - Part 1

The Eastern Wall of the Mosque

Well, folks. Here I am. I've been in New Mexico for almost four days now. It's been an amazing experience intellectually, spiritually and even physically! I haven't felt this all-around healthy in a long time! I'll spare you all the amazing details I'm learning about Islam and just say this: I am well on my way to being an expert on the subject and would be happy to sit down and discuss any aspect of it with anyone when I get home. The purpose of this first blog, though, is just to give you all an idea of the beautiful place where I'm staying. We're on the Dar al Islam property, which is 1600 acres in Abiquiu, New Mexico. The original structure was built to be a Madressa, or school, so it contains classrooms, courtyards, dormintories and a Mosque. It does not serve as a school anymore but rather as a Non-Profit organization devoted to educating teachers and business people about the religion of Islam. As you can probably guess, the goal is to encourage a better understanding of Islam in order to promote peace and effective communication throughout the world. Okay, enough of the details, here are some pics:



My Bedroom

The hallway outside our bedroom door

Beautiful tile on the Library floor

Library Desk

Lunch in the Courtyard

On Monday night we went to visit Benyamin and Rabia, one of the original thirty families that started Dar al Islam. Now there are only three families living on the property. These two travel all over the Middle East and bring back wares to sell in their "yurt," a Mongolian-type hut where they also invite people in to listen to their stories. We heard some wonderful stories from Benyamin and I bought some artwork from them before we left.

Well, I'm off to another lecture, but I have lots more pictures to post. I might even be able to post some video if I can get my act together. I miss everyone terribly but I'm having a wonderful time. I'll be home on the 20th!