Sunday, August 31, 2008



I worked out some more details for the ELA Lab Carnival (this is for you, jenamoured!)...

The carnival will have 4 booths - each booth is a game and language arts review.  Students are divided into 4 groups and given about 5 minutes at each booth to play and review.  For example, at the coin toss booth, students will play the game and review the parts of speech during the 5 minute rotation, then move on to the next booth, and so on.  When all the groups have moved through all the booths, I will ask questions about parts of speech, literary elements, etc. and students who answer correctly win prizes (bookmarks, candy, etc.).

Each booth will have signs, directions, review information, etc.  I'm planning to run the carnival for 2 days/lessons - each day/lesson covers different language art topics and some new games. So I have more set up work to do on Tuesday.  Wednesday is Day 1 of the school year!

mamma mia

... came to town for a short visit, so Niagara Falls was on our agenda yesterday.  Our last visit to this great natural wonder was probably in 2005, and my 7 year old daughter does not remember it at all. Top pic is our Maid of the Mist boat ride, with the American Falls and Bridal Veil behind us (mom on left). Bottom pic is nighttime view of lights on the American Falls, our view from little Luna Island, on the US side.  (View of falls on Canadian side is much better, but we didn't cross the border this time.)

Friday, August 29, 2008

most excellent autumn

... knocks at the door!  Behold its excellence...
  • TV season premieres, such as Grey's Anatomy on 9/25 or (insert your personal favorite)
  • sports, such as hockey, football (college and professional), or (insert your personal favorite)
  • cooler temperatures, leading to
  • autumn foliage, and also
  • change in clothing - hurray for jeans, sweaters, ballerina flats, or (insert your personal favorite)
  • fun holidays, such as Halloween
  • (other personal favorites?)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

marathon fun

Quick summary of the last 5 days, evidence of marathon fun:

Saturday - our 7 year old's soccer game in morning, then Martin's Fantasy Island (amusement park - that's my kid in the middle of the Beanstalk ride in first pic - it's her favorite ride, can you tell? - next to our friends)

Sunday - Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts - in particular, we attended the performance of the Mary Ramsey Trio, with our friend Craig as guitarist (right), Mary (center) who was the original lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs, and Dr. Mark the chiropractor as guitarist (left), my first night of hives

Monday - visit to daughter's school to meet new 2nd grade teacher, shopping, pediatric dentist visit to extract infected baby tooth, another soccer game in which daughter played less than usual due to tooth extraction, my 2nd night of hives

Tuesday - the Buffalo Zoo in morning/early afternoon (lovely weather, picnic on grass, giraffe feeding, greeted former student who now works at zoo), dinner and movie (Mamma Mia!) in evening with friends, my third night of hives

Wednesday (today) - picked up school supply kit from PTA at daughter's school (pre-ordered and paid in June, eliminated store shopping, for better or worse), the Erie County Botanical Gardens in morning/early afternoon (pic of the lovely outdoor children's garden above) with picnic in outdoor shaded garden area, NO hives

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

summer vacation is not too long

I clearly recall making the contrary statement last year in this post.  So I was curious to see if I would feel the same this sumer, and the answer is really... no.  Perhaps my family circumstances are more challenging and keep me plenty busy and plenty stimulated, contrary to my sentiments in late July 2007.  I don't know the exact reason for this change of heart, but I sure LOVE these 2 months.

I think I'm stressed.  The main clue is (warning - potentially TMI - too much info - revealed in this paragraph) that I've been breaking out in serious hives the third night in a row.  It only starts from about 8pm and lasts into the early morning hours.  (Yes, note the time of this post.)  I take a Benadryl or 2, then go to sleep, and the hives are mostly gone in the morning.  I've racked my brains, thinking of potential allergens - a new shampoo or detergent or whatever? - and coming up only with the impending start of the school year.  The truth is - I'm not ready for school.  I haven't written actual lesson plans, just general lesson topics for the first 10 weeks.  I'm not finished preparing for my hopefully-spectacular Back-to-school Carnival (warning - simplification of original plans may be in order).  7 days left till the first day of school.

In case this post degenerates into another teacher back-to-school whine-fest, I happily inform you that I'm groovin' to the soundtrack of the most fabulous summer movie on the planet Earth - Mamma Mia!!  (Second exclamation point is mine.)  I just saw the movie with two friends, and we laughed so hard that I doubted if I could drive home safely.  But I did.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

that lovin' feelin'

Classroom set-up this morning!  (Not official work time, but just because I can't wait till last minute.)  2 and a half hours later, I got that lovin' feelin', that peaceful, happy, I'm-supposed-to-be-here feeling.  It's not fancy or even complete (missing some fake plants and flowers, nature posters), but in the quiet bright (sky) light, it's a dream coming true.

I brought my 7 year old ("I wanna be a teacher when I grow up") daughter along to help.  She set up the books on the bookshelf, set up and tested the carnival games, and drew a picture for me to post next to my desk.

Yep, carnival games.  I've been warned that the first week of school is a scheduling nightmare for this course "ELA Lab".  Students come and go, partly because they convince their parents that they don't need, much less want, remediation.  I've also been told that 6th and 7th graders may sit quietly those first days, but the 8th graders ooze "don't wanna be here" attitude out of their ears from the get-go.  SO.

I'm running a "Back to School Carnival", with literacy themes, such as the Literary Genres Ball Toss, Figurative Language Cup Toss, Character Trait Ping Pong, Origami Imagery.  Students earn tickets when they play games to trade for prizes (candy, pencils, bookmarks, etc.).  And, of course, students will just LOVE coming to ELA Lab!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

the inevitable

My latest theory about why I'm writing/blogging so much in August is procrastination.  I know in my heart and soul that it's time to produce, not just consume and vegetate.  I designate Monday as the start of writing lessons. Honest.

Yesterday I received federal jury duty summons to start serving September 3, aka first day of school.  PANIC!  I'm very interested to serve jury duty, but on the first day of school?!  And federal jury duty could last weeks and even months! Then I called the information number this morning and learned I could ask for postponement, which is ideal for me.  (No, I didn't see the fine print about postponement, probably due to the panic obstructing my vision.)  So that's what I'm doing, and keep my fingers crossed.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

summer writing

...makes me happy!  I've enjoyed PerJoWriMo and hope to continue.  Blogging has been the other major writing activity, and it truly has been fun and rewarding.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

summer reading update #2

I gave up reading books in July.  Sort of like Lent, except not, because I was lazy.

August brought me back, a lot, starting with Breaking Dawn (fans or foes must check out Occupation: Girl blog's biting analysis, book by book, chapter by chapter of BD), and followed by The Host (very much enjoyed, regardless of youknowwhat ending).  Amber from book club picked The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time, and I started reading it in the bookstore Tuesday, VERY engaging.

Battle of the Books reading homework begs for attention.  So far, I've read Al Capone Does My Shirts (fantastic historical fiction set in Depression-era Alcatraz) and most of Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie (realistic fiction about 8th grade boy coping with family illness, hopeless girl crush, passion for music/drums, and general middle school drama from a boy's POV).

The photo shows my daughter's stone creation on the beach about 10 days ago.  I read ... fortress.

crunch time

We checked out the zoo action today with friends and caught young tiger twins Thyme and Warner (born last winter, can't even tell they're "babies", guess who's the corporate sponsor) chasing each other.  (Sorry pics are so fuzzy.  I forgot the digital camera at home.  The iPhone 2 megapixel, no-zoom camera feature is lame-O.  If you click on top image, you may see enlarged pic of tigers in action.)  Middle pic shows a pair snowy white (except for black head/neck) swans!  Last pic - speaks for itself.  A - what else? - storm ended the outing, and we walked 15 minutes in the pouring rain back to the car, completely drenched and content.

Our schedule is packed to the gills from now until school starts, as we try to squeeze in every last picnic, movie, dinner, playdate, and so on.  Exhausting and a bit manic.

Tomorrow, library picnic to wrap-up Story Time summer reading program, then visit a teacher friend, her young son, and new baby boy.

Friday, I may just take a breather.  Chill out at home, catch up with the slow cooker, washer and dryer, the Olympics, magazines, and some books.

Saturday is my daughter's first soccer game, after which we rush to catch the gifting portion of a bridal shower, then on to the cottage for the rest of the weekend.  Should I even mention next week, when I attempt to meet up with 2 groups of teachers (to work and socialize), set up my classroom...?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


My very first blog award!  YAY ME!  Many thanks to Ms Teacher :)

I hereby pass along the torch to the following bloggers who brighten my blogging days, may they continue to inspire with words and pictures (and pass this award on to their favorite blogs)...

Monday, August 11, 2008


About 2 years ago, I started asking my mom about the possibility of our attending the Beijing 2008 Olympics as a family.  After all, we are due for a family visit to China to see relatives, including my father, aunts, uncles, and cousins on that side of the family, all of whom live in Hubei province.  Mom said, "Sure!"  Well, I was really hoping she would say, "Sure, and I'll make the arrangements!"  So in our typical wishful thinking way, no one did anything about it, and here we are watching the festivities at home, just like most of you.

Friday morning, I thanked our proximity to Canada and those terrific folks at CBC and watched the opening ceremony LIVE.  Ha!  (I had to leave the house around 11:30 to pay the Time Warner cable bill, and I watched the last few torch relays and the final torch lighting in the cable store on the large flat screen HD TV!  Ha, again!)

My 7 year old daughter watched the first hour "show" part of the ceremony with me, and we had some good conversations about our Chinese heritage and history, i.e. inventions, art, music, etc. (This web site has many amazing photos of the ceremony.)  I admit that the National Stadium aka Bird's Nest is growing on me, but I still can't stand the National Aquatics Center aka Bubble Building.

My warm and fuzzy feelings were short-lived.  The next day, I was shocked by the horrific news of 2 Americans attacked by a Chinese man at a popular tourist location.  News of war between Georgia and Russia are disturbing, even as I confess ignorance about what's really happening there.  What's left to do in our little corner of the world but wish and hope and pray for peace?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

family story (corps)

Outside the downtown central Buffalo and Erie County Library, this StoryCorps MobileBooth parks until August 23, listening and preserving personal histories, including ours.  (Here's the schedule of tours, in case you're interested in a location near you.)  (Many thanks to local sponsor WBFO!  Here are some local stories.)

I mentioned in previous post that participating in StoryCorps was a dream, and I never took any affirmative action to realize this dream until I read a library announcement that the MobileBooth was in town.  When I signed up for an interview slot, my first thought was to interview Dave about his father who was ill with cancer last year and passed away in February.  Certainly, there are countless other potential interview subjects and topics, but I intended this to be a gift to Dave and to ourselves.

The telling of a story is as much about the storyteller as it is about the subject.  Woven into the story of Dave's father Gerry were stories about ourselves.  The nature of our stated topic was emotional and intense, but I didn't expect my voice to crack almost immediately!  And Dave said afterwards that he didn't think he did a good job, although I told him that I wholeheartedly disagreed on that point.  (Georgia just sat and listened until she was bored, then she read her book.)  So despite our personal feelings of wanting to do more and better, I think we tried our best to tell the essence of a family story in 40 minutes.


First, we're all smiles at the Erie County Fair, waiting for the Vanessa Hudgens concert to begin, 4th row seats.  Then clouds and lightning and thunder and rain followed, and disappointment reigned.  During our dejected and rainy 20 minute walk back to the car, we decided this was a summer adventure.

Friday, August 8, 2008

breaking dawn analysis with SPOILERS

Overall, Breaking Dawn was a huge disappointment in many, many ways.  I'll give you the good news first, then the bad and ugly...

the Good
1) Jacob's narrative - part 2 of the book was told entirely from Jacob's point of view.  Not only did this narrative entertain me the reader and further develop his character, it was the perfect means for Meyer to deliver a story line that she knew many readers would find hard to digest.  At the end of part 1, when the unusual growth of the fetus was clear to the reader, I started gagging...  no wait, that's for the next part of this post.  So I appreciated learning the gory details of Bella's pregnancy through Jacob's horrified eyes.  And I laughed at each of the chapter titles that clearly reflected Jacob's personality and thoughts.

2) speed reading - a book that compels me to read 8 hours straight and stay up till 4am must possess some inherent value in my overall reading experience, regardless of my opinion of the content

3) maternal instinct - the point at which I was ready to put down the book and try to sleep at 2am even though I was not finished reading was maybe somewhere in part 3 where Bella picks up the narrative after her transformation.  In the dark, eyes closed, I could only think bizarre and horrific scenarios of trying to protect my child from wildly unlikely dangers in our everyday life. I will attribute some of this insomnia mania to my natural neurotic tendencies, but I will also share the blame with Bella's intense and protective maternal instincts since before her child was conceived.  So the evocation of that strong emotion belongs, for me, in the Good pile.

the Bad and Ugly
1) NOT young adult literature - students at our middle school seemed to share my interest in the Twilight series last year, so I have always assessed the "YA lit. value" of these books and stories.  I had doubts starting with Twilight about the value of young teens reading Bella's love and lust for Edward, and I always told my students that they need parental supervision and involvement in the reading of these books.  But the sexual content of Breaking Dawn truly pushes itself out of the realm of YA lit.  IMPO - in my professional opinion.  I still believe that reading choices are very individual and, for children and young adults, should involve parents and guardians.

2) Bella - I truly believed for a long time that there was some purpose to her clutziness, as in she was beyond human from the start, because I couldn't understand why else Meyer emphasized this flaw over and over and over...  I kept looking for clues in her parentage.  Then I added in Bella's mind resistance (to block out Edward, Aro, the twins, etc.), and hoped Meyer would deliver some explanation that covered both mysteries.  BD explained the latter but ignored the former.  So Bella's clutziness was just a plot device, not true characterization???  THEN, super clutzy human transformed into super controlled vampire?!

3) hybrid baby - Problem A was semantics because all I could think about was hybrid cars. Problem B was the logic of vampires having NO bodily fluids (except venom?) yet being able to reproduce.  Problem C was ICK, ICK, ICK, that fast growing baby!  Again, plot device to speed up the story?!  Problem D returned to semantics because Renesme is an awful name.

I'll wrap it up, because complainers are annoying, by affirming my enjoyment of the first three books and anticipation of the movie and Midnight Sun.  I'm reading The Host upon recommendation of friend Heather, and I'm enjoying it greatly!  Stay tuned...

Monday, August 4, 2008

breaking dawn

Starting it wasn't an urgency, but once I started, there's no stopping until I finished, which took about 8 hours.  I slept about 4 hours last night/this morning, so some good coffee should help me through this low key day.

I have mixed feelings and reactions.  There's no good way to discuss the book without spoilers, plus I need time to process my reactions, so I can wait.  My friend Heather convinced me to read The Host, and that will tie me over until the next Stephenie Meyer fix, i.e. Twilight movie.  Speaking of movie, I saw the CBS Sunday Morning interview with Myer, and I confess that my reaction to the actor who played Edward in the movie clips is much better than my reaction to the actor's image in the promotional posters.  When he said (to the actress who played Bella) in a wry, ironic, rueful, and sexy way, I wish you hadn't said that, I recognized Edward.

(Almost) needless to say, I look forward to Midnight Sun.

PS - yes, I saved a copy of this blog as a PDF file on my computer, after resetting the format to show ALL posts on one page, then I returned to my regular 10 posts per page format after saving.  This is the best "backup" method within my capabilities right now.  I realize this does not save comments :(

Saturday, August 2, 2008

close call!

Hurray!  I'm back and unblocked!  What a surprise blockage that was.  Um, Tricia and I may be the only ones who noticed during the day (?) long block by Blogger, but I sure panicked.  What would you do if you logged in and read... (and I paraphrase) *this blog is blocked possibly due to spam and may be deleted in 20 days unless you click here for review* ...  SERIOUSLY?!?!

I have not yet received any notification to explain...

For months I've had the intention to save my blog content...  so I really should not procrastinate any longer, after tomorrow, maybe definitely!