Friday, February 22, 2008

Remembering the Roller Rink

So tonight some friends and I went to the ol' Champs roller rink. Actually, it's the new Champs roller rink and I haven't been roller skating in quite some time. Since I started teaching I've had the luxury of going with our school once a month, under the guise of "involved and caring teacher," but really I'm just there because I think roller skating might be one of my favorite activities in the world! I remember when I was really little, I'm talking maybe five or six, and I got my first pair of roller skates. They were white with pink wheels and I felt like the coolest kid in school. My brother got a pair too (but not pink) and we skated around the basement for HOURS.

When we were in grade school and middle school, we used to go to RECA roller rink once a month with our school. My brother is a year and a half younger than me, but he was always so much cooler than I ever was. RECA roller rink is where all the drama of pre-teen life unfolded like the pages of a soap opera script. Girls would cry, boys would cuss, ahhhh, those were the days. As I was skating around the rink tonight, gaping at all the prepubescent socialites, I remembered that my most embarassing moment happened at a roller rink and I'll never forget it.

I was chasing my brother's friend Robbie around all night. We were playing that really cool game where I stole his hat and he stole it back, then I stole it again and so on. Finally, my girlfriends and I were sitting along the side of the rink, holding out our hands, waiting for Robbie, my brother, and the gang of boys to skate by and show us some love. I had Robbie's hat on and as he came whizzing by, he snatched it right off my head and laughed. I would not stand for such an insult, so I jumped onto the rink and started chasing after Robbie as fast as my little skates could fly. Then, in an instant...I was on the ground and seeing stars.

I had no idea what just happened, but I opened my eyes and all the lights were on, the teenage workers in the yellow jackets were standing over me, there was no one else on the floor, and a long, white, PVC pole was propped against the railing. It occured to me that I just fell down during the all boys limbo skate! Not only did I fall down, but I was clothes-lined by the pole and knocked out for a couple seconds. I, of couse, did not know it was the all boys limbo skate and I was skating fast! When I came to, everyone was staring and the teenage workers in the yellow jackets asked me if I was okay, then they asked me what I was doing on the floor during the all boys limbo skate.

I told them I was trying to catch my brother (lie)...because our mom was coming to pick us up (lie) and he had to get his shoes on right away or she'd leave us there (lie again). No one bought it. My brother was horrified. Robbie was laughing. I've never been so humiliated in my life!

I've said before that it's impossible to embarass me. It's true. Nothing will ever be as bad as that day. I don't care if you strip me naked and parade me around the circus tent, nothing can be as humiliating as my thirteen year old self getting clothse-lined by the limbo pole during the all boys limbo skate. Nothing. And I'm glad.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

"Well what's the point in hatching chicken eggs if you can't eat them?" ~Scottie

Today was one of my favorite days in the classroom. Our chicken eggs arrived! I've been incubating chicken eggs in the classroom ever since my first year. The 4H program makes it absolutely fool-proof. They deliver the incubator, the eggs, and all the materials I need for a successful hatch, along with lesson plans and posters to help the kids understand exactly what's going on inside that little mysterious white shell. It takes 21 days for chicken eggs to hatch and when they do, buddy, lookout! The entire school gets excited and classes full of kids come marching through the classroom to watch the big event.

What I love most are all the wonderful questions kids have. The two most popular questions are: Can we keep them when they hatch? and Are we going to eat them? (They have better ones that that, but these are the funniest!) The answer to both, of course, is NO. According to 4H, the eggs come from a breeding farm that specializes in rare breeds of chickens and they get schools to do the hatching for them, then they put the adult chickens in shows (kind of like dog shows, except with chickens). I don't know if that's true, but it helps me keep my moral sense about me. I couldn't bear the thought of sending my kids' chickens to an eatery!

This year is extra exciting - we have someone else in the building who has done this before! To be honest, in the past I've been very scared and insecure about hatching chickens. It's a big deal and one year I had a half-hatched chicken that almost made me cry. I don't like opening the incubator or touching the eggs for fear of screwing up the hatch. Our PSA has done this before in a real, live, elemetary school science lab, and he knows how to CANDLE the eggs! That means he can hold them up to the light and show the kids the veins of the embryo growing on the inside, plus he can tell if they're fertilized or not. That is SO COOL! I can't wait to see how to do that.

The next three weeks are going to be so exciting. It's the closest I'll get to having any babies anytime soon (to Scottie's dismay) and it's just the shot in the arm my kids need to get through these grueling test-driven weeks. Hooray for fourth grade!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ahhh, Fourth Graders

I walked into my classroom this morning feeling a little flustered. It's been a rocky week because I didn't have time to really organize all of my copies and lessons like I usually do. The plans are made, but I haven't reviewed them well enough to actually teach them, and I feel like I've been flying by the seat of my pants. Each day gets worse and if you ask me, this week has been completely useless as far as instruction is concerned. Sure, my kids are learning, but not like they should be, according to "state standards." So I was not expecting this to be a great day, and I've really been working for the weekend.

Leave it to a fourth grader to put my entire life in perspective.

My favorite time of day is read-aloud. I love to gather all of my kids on the carpet, quiet everyone down, and really savor the words created by great authors together. My kids are really good at finding what we call "wondrous words" in our read-alouds. They sit there, hanging on every word, and after each chapter, their hands shoot up in the air and they let me know what the author did that they just absolutely loved. It's truly a precious time for me and lately I haven't been able to squeeze it in. So today, I decided before the kids even walked in the room, that no matter what, I would do read-aloud today - if for nothing else than my own sanity.

Currently we're reading a book called "Out of the Dust." It's an excellent book about a little girl's life during the Great Depression. Today, instead of just talking about the words and phrases and crafts in the book, the kids became very concerned about...banks. They had so many questions! What is a savings account, exactly? My mom has a debit card, what is that? How do checks work? We had a great conversation that extended into bills and loans. One kid asked "When do I have to start worrying about that stuff?" I told him not to worry about it until the bills in the mail have his name on them.

I tried to explain, by using my own life situation, that big things, like houses and cars, cost more than most people have at one time, so they have to borrow money from the bank. I explained that my husband and I are currently renting an apartment, but someday we'd like to buy a house. Then, as most fourth graders will, they started a vibrant discussion about what kind of house I should buy ("Daija has a HUGE house, buy one like hers!") and where I should buy a house ("You should buy my neighbor's house, it's for sale!")

Scottie sat up staight and tall, shot his hand in the air and stared at me with his pleading eyes. "Yes, Scottie."
"I have two things..." he said.
"Okay, go ahead."
"Well, my grandparents bought part of a farm. They just bought the land and then later they hired people to build a house on it. They don't have a mortgage, I don't think. Maybe you should do that."
"Thanks, Scottie, I'll keep that in mind."
"And also....when do you think you might be having a baby?"
"Uhhh....I have no idea!"
"Well, I was just wondering, because nothing exciting ever happens to me during the school year."

There I sat, in my cozy rocking chair, surrounded by twenty kids who thought Scottie was making a perfectly good point, while I tried so hard not to laugh hysterically. It was the perfect note on which to end my day and I left my classroom loving my job. I guess that's what fourth graders are for!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Basic French

As I was avoiding my enormous pile of graduate school work this morning, I came across this link on Melanie Mauer's blog. I've seen lots of stores and shops that claim to have French products, but most of them are super pretentious and annoyingly sophisticated or they're kitchy and not authentic. This site blew my mind, being one of the only sites I've seen that fit neatly in the middle of that spectrum.

The first gasp out of my mouth occurred when I clicked on the housewares section and the first item up was the Cachou Reglisse. My husband, an authentic Frenchman, craves these breathmints (although I don't see how black licorice freshens breath, these tiny monsters make me gag!) and whenever he goes to France he stuffs his pockets with the little yellow tins and savors them when we get back home. His Dad sends him some every once in a while and you'd think it was Christmas morning! I'm so glad I have a place to go where I can buy them for him!

The Petit Pocket Bunnies are another favorite find. On my first trip to France when I was 15, I stayed with a family who had four kids. The youngest, Clement, had a few of these knitted animals around the house and you could tell that most of them were hand-me-downs from the older sisters. Kids can love the heck out of these for quite some time! I was so excited to see them on the site!

Other favorites include:
These willow baskets...

and these Rattan bags, although I bet I could find some similar housewares at Target!
One more item that made me gasp, though - these little wollen slippers!
Sylvain has a pair exaclty like these in a different color and they are so old and tattered. When we went to visit his family for Christmas, they had his old pair at the house (that they wouldn't let him take home to the States) and a brand new pair for me (which also had to stay there)! In France, you have to take off your shoes at the door and everyone has their own pair of house shoes to put on when they get home. The lining is super soft, and since all the floors are hardwood or tile, these little gems make your feet all snuggly and warm when you're at home. Unfortunately, this site only has slippers for children, but if they ever have them for adults, you can bet we're buying them!
So, thank you Melanie Mauer, for linking me to a store that makes me feel like I'm in France! I showed Sylvain the site this morning and he was rather impressed, which says a lot, because he usually turns his nose up at things like this. Silly Frenchman.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Perfect Snow Day

It's as if a higher power knew that I needed an extra day to get things done. Usually I welcome snow days because they're a little treat, a day off, a time to sit on the couch and stay warm. Yesterday I prayed for a snow day because I needed the time to get caught up. And I'm so glad!

This weekend, Sylvain and I had big plans. We had a room reserved at the Hendrick's Beal House in Madison, IN, courtesy of the in-laws.

It was the most beautiful Bed and Breakfast I've EVER seen and we put off all work and school related activities so we could spend some quality time together on the weekend before Valentine's Day. We arrived Saturday afternoon and spent some time with Brigitte and Mike, who live in Madison. We enjoyed the parlor piano with wine and cheese at the B&B before going out to dinner at the Key West Shrimp House. After dinner we went straight back to the room for a That's right folks, we watched the UofL game while we snuggled and I loved every second of it! I fell asleep so early and I woke up so late, it was almost sinful how much sleep we got this weekend. Aaahhhh.

On Sunday we originally wanted to go hiking at Clifty Falls, but guess what? It was FREEZING outside. So, we just drove through the park, got out at the lookout spot for a whopping five minutes until we couldn't feel our ears anymore, then hopped back in the car and headed back to town. We stopped at the visitor center to find out if there was anything else to do in town, preferrably something inside and warm. Wouldn't you know, Madison has three beautiful wineries that offer tastings on Sundays! We toured all three of them and left with four bottles of wonderful Indiana wine. At the Lanthier Winery we enjoyed some red wine and chocolates. Next we visited the Thomas Family Winery which is a cozy little place with good music and good cheese. Finally we drove out of town to see the Madison Vineyards before heading back home to Kentucky. We tried to see one more, the Smith-Berry Winery in Kentucky (as in Wendell Berry, the KY poet - I think I was secretly hoping to meet him there), but alas, they were closed.

We took our time driving home, taking all of the rural routes and backroads. Sylvain took me to this quaint little restaraunt in Smithfield called "Our Best." The cornbread was amazing and since we were having so much fun, I bought a Christmas ornament! I usually reserve that kind of purchase for big vacations, but this weekend really felt like a vacation, so I thought it was more than appropriate.

When we got home, we weren't quite ready to come back to the real world, so we rented one of the best movies I've ever seen: Paris Je T'aime. Maybe it's because my husband is French, maybe it's because it was the weekend before Valentine's Day, or maybe it was because we just spent the most wonderful weekend together, but on Sunday night, when we fell asleep, I'd never felt so lucky. It was truly a wonderful feeling!

Then came Monday morning.

Sylvain left at 5:30 in the morning and by the time I got to school I missed him. Then I saw the pile of work I left on my desk, made a list of all the things I had to do before our grade level meeting at 9:30, my class Monday night, my class Tuesday night, and the end of the week. I had a mild panic attack while I prioritized all of those things and took a deep breath while I accepted the fact that a wonderful weekend meant that I wasn't going to be able to get everything done, and that was OKAY.

Then came a snow day.

A little voice said, "There you go, Rach. A whole extra day to get yourself caught up. Enjoy!" And I did. Everything's done, and I even have time to post on my blog!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What's a Hippie?

*Names have been changed!*

It was about 1:20 PM on a Tuesday afternoon. The students in Mrs. Lumberg's class were cleaning up their inside recess materials and were preparing to get ready for the day's independent reading block. Mrs. Lumberg called her small group to the reading table while the rest of the class chose their books and settled down to read. As she began the afternoon small group lesson, two curious boys approached her with a new and mysterious library book.
"Ummmaahhhh, Mrs. Lumberg?" said Wally, as he shoved a picture of a Pakistani refugee bus in her face, "Carl says this is a hippie bus because it's in Africa."
"Welllll," replied their teacher, wondering which "wrong" to address first, "First of all, it's not in Africa, it's in Pakistan. It says so right here in the caption. After we finish talking, you and Carl need to go look at an Atlas and, at the end of your reading time, you need to tell me where Pakistan is actually located." She paused to look inquisitively at Carl. "Now Carl, what is a hippie, exactly?" She loved playing the fool because she knew that when misconceptions like this arose, something funny was sure to follow.
"You know," said Carl with a shrug, "A long-haired guy who drives a painted bus."
"Nuh-uh!" Darren chimed in from the reading table, "Everyone knows a hippie is a vegetarian!"
"No!" shouted Charity, "I was a hippie for Halloween," she bragged. "A hippie is someone who wears clothes from the 80's and loves flowers."
Mrs. Lumberg let this new information settle in her brain for just a moment while the entire class roared with discussion, one kid shouting over the next, claiming that they really knew what a hippie was. Finally she proclaimed, "Alright, everyone! Let's try this. Everyone get a post-it and write down what you think a hippie is. You don't have to do it if you don't want to, but I'm very interested in hearing what you have to say."
Most kids enthusiatically leaped for the post-it bin and began to furiously write their response. Some disinterested youngsters began their independent reading. As students handed Mrs. Lumberg their thoughts, she read through them and held back tears of laughter:
"A hippie is someone who wears a bandanna and little circle glasses."
"A person who loves flowers and makes the peace sign."
"Someone from the oldies with long hair and bell bottoms."
And her personal favorite: "A freak who sings yodel lay he, yodel lay he, yodel lay he hooo!"

It was clear that the students needed a lesson on sterotypes, labels and decade recognition. Lucky for Mrs. Lumberg, she gets to teach these same kids again tomorrow!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Lazy Sunday

So, it's been a very lazy/restful/uneventful weekend except for a few exciting events. I got my hair cut Friday, and I mean CUT! I probably got almost a foot cut off of the back and it feels great! You all can tell me how much you love it next time you see me (he he). Since I had a new and exciting coif, I couldn't just go home and chill out like I do most Friday nights, so I met up with Emily, Lauren, Mike, Laura and Pete at Oscar's for half-price drinks while Sylvain mosied on downtown to hear Ben play at the Dame. Laura, Pete and I proceeded to DeSha's for an excellent dinner - I had the best salmon I've had in a long time - then to Winchell's for some karaoke. Laura and I sang our very best rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" which brought the house down, if I do say so myself. All in all, a pretty fun Friday.

Yesterday I had to be at Tates Creek High School at 8 in the morning because I volunteered to be a moderator for the Academic Challenge. My school had six teams there, and after I was done moderating the first round, my duties were over, so I decided to stick around and see how far our teams could get. Don't you know that we had one Primary team that went all the way! They won their division!! Hooray!! I was so proud of those kids and I was so honored to be a part of our school. What fun! Sylvain and I went to dinner at Rincon afterward because I was starving, dinner at 4:00, some light shopping at Target and JoBeth, home by 7 and in bed by 9:00!! Can you beleive that? What kind of girl goes to bed at 9:00 on a Saturday? A lame one, that's for sure.

Today has been filled with our usual Sunday activities. Sylvain went to the grocery, I vaccuumed and did the laundry, then we both settled in to get some school work done. I made all of my plans for next week, caught up on my grading, finished an assignment for my grad school class and now I'm getting ready to read some text books which might take the rest of my life to get through. Ah well, c'est la vie. We have no intention of watching the Super Bowl tonight since it's not UK football and I plan to be in bed nice and early yet again. Hope everyone else is doing well. Until next time...