Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Passenger Side Garbage Bags

Every time I went anywhere with my mom and had to ride on the passenger's side, I sneered as I sat down and saw the plastic grocery bag hanging from the column shifter.  It was always in my way.  Always touching my leg and it was often full of ashes, toothpicks with the hooks on one end, and kleenex.  I hated the thing and was very verbal about my hatred. I would be dramatic and complain that it was taking up way too much space, that my feet couldn't even fit on that side of the car.

In the Corsica and the Beretta, it hung from the shift, but when my mom got the Malibu, i couldn't believe what i saw.  The Malibu actually had a little hook on MY side of the car that was made to be a garbage hook.  I remember being so irritated.  How could they encourage my mother in this fashion?  It was like the car makers were giving my mom permission to hang her plastic Kroger bag there, as if she needed permission.  Ugh.  The nerve!

I write this because as I was driving home today, with the kids in the back of my car in their seats, I glanced down and saw the pocket in the door filled with my breakfast bar wrappers.  A thought came to my mind that made a smile spread slowly across my face- I wish i had a plastic grocery bag for all this trash.  At first, I tried to push the thoughts away as soon as i realized what i was thinking, and then i just decided to embrace it.  Why not?  I had often complained of all the napping my mom did, too and I have learned to embrace that.  So why would this be any different?  She had a good idea and it was time to admit it.  Although, instead of filling my trash with ashes, I am going to fill it with healthy protein bars that are 6 points on weight watchers. 

Now I just have to check to see if my car has a handy little hook from which to hang a plastic grocery bag.

Love you mom!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Art of Teaching

This school year has been especially challenging.  Education is definitely changing as the government gets involved more and more.  It is sad really.  I feel like the nine months I spend with the kids is no longer memorable for them.  We are just jamming things down their throat, assessing more than teaching, and pulling them in so many separate directions. 

What happened to themes, units, and integrating.  I no longer create.  Instead, I am basically handed a script that i must follow.   I have to teach things in a specific order with a specific time frame and use common activities and common assessments. 

By Friday of this week, I just felt so squashed, my enthusiasm gone.  The focus along the way has been taken from the students.  Now it is all about collecting data, assessing constantly, paper trails, and covering everything quickly instead of covering a few things well.  Don't misunderstand me- collecting data and assessing are essential to be an effective teacher.  I get that, but when it gets in the way of actually teaching and creating lessons, it is a problem.

I know cutting with scissors, developing imaginations, and learning to play appropriately cannot and will never be tested on some high stakes test, but that is important stuff.  I have never seen a group of third graders who cut worse than the ones I have now.  And although that may not seem like a big deal, it is.  That shows me that we no longer have time to create art, to have fun.

I have been teaching for a little less than 10 years, and I am shocked at how much has changed since then.  No Child Left Behind has not helped.  Some kids just aren't going to be at grade level reading and that is okay!  They may be really good at other things.  What is wrong with that?  Now we are being audited by the state, and we are required to write the common core standard next to each of our lessons in our plan book.  How is that helping me be a better teacher?  How is that doing any good for the students.  Do you know how long it took me to do that?  I had to look them all up and my lessons hit multiple strands.  Instead, I could have been giving effective, timely feedback on my students' writing.

Just let me do my job!  Let me teach my students!  Let them have a memorable year where they created something cool, learned a ton, and had fun. 

I am not sure why people go into teaching these days.  It has changed so much.  What other job do you make less than when you started.  What other job do yo earn a master's degree by taking classes that you have to pay for and then hardly make any money.  I didn't go into teaching for the money.  I went into it because I love kids.  I love creating things and organizing things.  I love getting kids excited about reading and learning new things.  I love making them laugh and showing them that it is okay to make mistakes.  I love helping them discover their strengths and their weaknesses.  I love my job- teaching kids. . . I just hate all the other crap that comes with it- the crap that doesn't help me be a better teacher or help the kids learn better.  The crap that is coming from the state.

Saturday, December 01, 2012


 Jaelynne & Camryn helped me hang stockings today.
 Camryn's tree.
 Our tree

 A new skating rink for the village.  Kohl's cash made it free!
 Jaely was so excited that it was finally December today.  Too bad we are getting bad thunderstorms and rain right now instead of white, fluffy snow.
The Bed & Breakfast has a little visitor.   have fun moving Mr. Potato Head around the village.
 My Granna's Swedish Angel.
 My mom made this and it was always hanging in our living room by the front door.  Now i have it.  It's beard is yellowed and it smells like nicotine, but Jaely and I love it.
 Another decoration from my mom's house.  We have a different Christmas picture hanging from the doorknobs of our bedrooms.
 Gail got us this early in our marriage.  I love it!

 I love our berry and eucalyptus wreath on our front door.

I still have to do the outdoor lights, but we got a lot done today.  Decorating with a 2 year old and a four year old was much more difficult than just decorating with a 2 year old.  Camryn wanted to do everything that Jaely was doing. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012


When I recall my past Thanksgivings, I realize just how much time has passed by the people who are no longer present around the table or who are new additions. . . some new traditions and old ones missed.

My mom loved Thanksgiving.  She loved having all of her kids gathered together.  I remember coming home from college and being so excited.  As TJ came into the picture, he too had a place in our traditions.  One distinct one I remember is he and my mom making apple pies in the kitchen.  My mom wearing her blue robe, laughing and TJ obediently following her orders.  Jered would help a ton on the actual Thanksgiving Day (which, at my mom's was always the Friday after).  He made the best mashed potatoes (now my husband makes the best mashed potatoes).  We always had broccoli and cheese (later this turned into Diana's garlic steamed broccoli), sauteed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, Turkey, stuffing, labored over gravy, and some other stuff.  It was all made in my harvest gold and avocado green kitchen on appliances of the same colors.  The pies would sit in the white china cabinets, the table cloth would be on the table with the napkins in their rolls.  My mom was real excited when she purchased a thermal gravy boat.

Then, as TJ and I began dating and then marriage, we increased the number of places we had to be.  We needed to go to my aunt's to them and my dad, then to TJ's house (where he eventually took over cooking much of the meal), and then to my mom's on Black Friday.  Instead of shopping, I was helping my mom with the preparations.  After my mom passed, we did Thanksgiving at TJ's parents and then went to my aunt's for desert.

Then Camryn was born.  That set up some new traditions.  We didn't want to travel across the state with a three week old baby, so my side of our family said they would be more than happy to come to us and to bring much of the food.  My brother, Jered, helped TJ a ton that year.  Jason made homemade giant pretzels and we have tried deep-fried turky, grilled turkey and, of course, oven turkey.  The grilled one wins hands down every year.  Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike always bring delicious bread and sea foam salad.  Now that Camryn is older, my family still prefers to travel to here.  Jason and Whitney have made it an annual thing to fly in at Thanksgiving.  Aunt Carol and Uncle Mike drive across the state.  Dad drives south.  Now that Jered has a girl friend, we are seeing less of him, which is understandable.  It is difficult to juggle family visits.  With this new tradition, we greatly miss the Ellis side of our family.  I often wish we all lived closer to one another.  It would allow us to cram more visits with different people in.

The night before Thanksgiving, Jaely and Camryn get a bath and get to use their bath crayons.  Jaely wrote Mama, Papa, and Camryn on the tub.

 Soon they may not be able to take baths together.  Both are getting so big!

 Jaely couldn't wait until people showed up for Thanksgiving.  At preschool the previous day she was telling her teacher that her Uncle Jason Robot Uncle was coming from Florida ( really from California).  Last year, Jason was talking like a Robot.  Jaely loved it and hated it, until she said "Robot, go get me some more milk please."  We all laughed, and it stuck.  Jaely gave Jason a special Robot ornament for his tree this year.

Grandpa was the first to arrive.  It was perfect timing.  The girls were getting antsy and we had some stuff to get done that is easier to get done when the girls have some new entertainment.
 Jaely, with Grandpa's help, made a crib and acted like a baby.

 Jason and Aunt Whitney came with gifts.  I got the cutest little owl measuring cup set.  Absolutely adorable!  Jae and Cam got matching Owl aprons.  Jaely has worn it everyday since she opened it.  They also got an awesome coloring book and book.

 Camryn liked her apron. . . at first!
TJ and I were too busy to carry Camy around, so she went over to grandpa and put her arms up and said "up, please!"  So cute.  Grandpa was thrilled. . . even if he did catch her cold.
 The girls wanted to play dress up.

 Then the giant magnifying glass came out.  I love that our girls like to get fancy and then look at bugs under a magnifying glass.  What a great combination!

 Jaely asked Jason to make a fort.  He could tell we had done this many times when Jaely ran away and came back with clamps and chip clips.

 Coloring in her new book with Aunt Whitney
 Time to feast!

 Thanks to the sexy cook- the food was delicious!
 The next day we awoke to it snowing.  In our pajamas, we got our winter gear on and headed out to see if we could catch some snowflakes on our tongues.  We were successful!

 The slide was super slippery!  So much fun!
 Camryn isn't afraid of anything.
 Hey cutie!

 Showing off her new apron.
The next day, Jaely immediately began asking when people were coming over.  We tried to keep them entertained.  I think the 50th time she asked me, I handed her my phone and told her to call uncle jason!  Until their arrival, we built lots of things with blocks.
 Jaely was very proud of what her and TJ built.
 When they arrived, they did not have Jered and Wendi with them.  I was bummed.  I miss my oldest brother too and didn't get to see him at all.  Jaely took advantage of a napping Camryn to play some games with her aunt and uncle.  TJ won both times and Jaely cried because she didn't.  That was the first time anything like that has happened.

 We pretended to be in preschool. Jaely was the teacher.  That was interesting.  Then, Jaely put on a show of the grandest kind in Christmas tights and a sun dress!

Thank you Uncle Jason and Aunt Whitney for traveling so far away.  It was wonderful to hang out with you!

Some thoughts and memories make me sad and kind of melancholy.    There are people I miss greatly because they are either gone or eating somewhere else, but it is cool to see how families change and new traditions are started.  Jaely knows Thanksgiving as the holiday when family comes over, especially her Uncle Jason and Aunt Whitney.  Who knows, maybe there will be another addition to our family next year.