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One Year Ago…

One year ago today, I decided to take my Molly for a walk.

We’d scarcely gotten down the road when an uncollared, skin-and-bones puppy ran up to us, friendly as could be.

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My neighbor stood outside and explained that he’d been allowing the puppy to sleep on his porch and had been feeding him, but that the puppy had not let anyone pet him.

I spoke a few words to the puppy and then proceeded to walk Molly around the neighborhood.

The little guy stuck with us and walked as if he were part of the family.

When I stopped, he stopped.  When I started up again, so did he.

The Mr. and Rooster came outside when we got home and admired the puppy’s markings.

He had tiger stripes, and being Auburn fans, we liked that.

The poor guy looked hungry, so we fixed him a bowl of food.

He gobbled it right down, along with a couple more bowls of food.

He also drank down a couple of bowls of water.

The evening promised to be cold, so we set up a pallet in the garage and turned on a light for him.

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We returned to the garage many times that night to check on him, and he looked up at us each time, wagged his tail, but stayed on the towel we’d set up for him.

In the morning, we fed him breakfast and took him to pee.   This was his first introduction to our other dogs.

Molly had already met him.

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Aubie and Pele were curious but accepted him immediately.

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To his credit, the puppy was docile and quickly rolled to his back…his act of submission.

We decided to take him to the vet to get him checked out.  He was healthy, but we’d found a tick, so the vet gave us a prescription for any kind of infection he might have and also administered one vaccine.

He was also checked for a microchip.  We figured someone, somewhere was missing him.  He didn’t have a chip though, so back home he went until the next day, when the local animal shelter would be open.

Our plan was to take him there, where a good home could be found for him.

We did, after all, already own three dogs.

Meanwhile, we’d begun allowing the puppy to stay inside.

He and Rooster quickly bonded, and we knew it would be difficult to tear them away from one another.

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The day after New Years, we loaded up the car and headed to the animal shelter.

It was closed, but a worker was there to feed the dogs.  He checked the puppy for a microchip but could not locate one.  He also explained that there was a dog fighting ring, and the dog had probably not performed well and was, thus, dropped off on the street.

The Mr., usually the tough one in the family, made an instant decision.

Honestly, I think he’d been waffling about what to do ever since he’d laid eyes on the little guy.

He gave the green light to keep the puppy, so we drove straight to the pet store and bought the puppy a collar and his own food bowl.

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He was officially ours.

We allowed Rooster to select the name, and we trucked ourselves back to the pet store and had “Gambit” etched on a name tag.

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Thus began our first year with our new puppy.

What a blessing this little guy has been.

To be sure, he’s wreaked havoc on the home.  The first day he was here by himself after we went back to work and Rooster went back to school, he tore up EVERYTHING in the living room, including a set of vertical blinds…

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One new crate later, and that problem was solved.

He has slept with one of us nearly every night that he’s been with us, and I must say that he is the BEST snuggler of all four dogs.

He wakes us up by laying his big head on our faces.

He has no regard for personal space.  Wherever you are, he thinks he should be as well.

He is smart, though, and eager to please.

It’s obvious that he was abused because he still shies away when he sees us wielding papers in our hands, despite our assurances that we’re not going to hit him.  We’ve never hit a dog.

He gives as much love as he gets, making our decision to keep him one of the most rewarding we’ve made in a while.

One year later, this little four-legged bundle of fur has brought nothing but love and joy to our family, and I can’t thank the Lord enough for putting us together.

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Sleeping Beauty

I should be using this time to get ahead on lesson plans.

I could be cleaning my house.

Instead, I find myself doing a lot of the following…

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Now that we’re home and settled in, I’ve found myself sleeping in late and only changing my clothes after showering late in the day.

I’ve also succumbed to nap attacks.

To my credit, I’ve been thinking about the first big lesson plan I have to write for my Reading Endorsement class. I have three biggies to write, and they are the culmination of the entire coursework I’ve been making my way through for my reading certification. The hardest part is coming up with an idea for phonemic awareness. How in the heck do you teach that to high schoolers? I’m confident that God will help me come up with an answer to this life-changing question, eh? LOL

My goal is to get, at minimum, one lesson plan finished. I’m going to go for two, leaving only one to complete after we start back at school.

Hence the sleep…my bit of escape from reality while allowing my brain to ruminate on the plans I need to write.

I’m seeing music somewhere in the lesson.

I’m also seeing more power naps during my final week of Christmas vacation.

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Still Christmas-ing

I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite ready to quit indulging in a bit of Christmas fun.

Thankfully, I haven’t had to thanks to the generosity of family, who gave me gift cards!

The first card I redeemed was for Amazon.

My wish list is long. As a reading teacher, I’m forever reading book reviews and adding titles to my list.

The first thing I added to my cart, though, was NOT a book but a DVD.

One of my favorite songs is Amazing Grace / My Chains are Gone by Chris Tomlin. Long before I heard him play this song live during a concert at a local beach, I fell in love with the video…

I wondered what movie clips were used in the video. Fortunately, so did other people, and someone answered the question in the video’s comments section.

Thus, the movie Amazing Grace was added to my wish list.

As a history buff, I am psyched, as the movie details the attempt by William Wilberforce, a Briton, to do something about England’s slave trade.

The movie got nearly all stars possible on Amazon, so it’s gotta be good, right?

I did manage to order a couple of books…Unwind, by Neal Shusterman, and Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry.

My friend, Barb, told me about Unwind after she found out one of my students was looking for a “different” sort of book. The book is about a time in the future when parents can choose to have their children unwound if they aren’t quite up to snuff…for any reason. The story details the saga of three young friends. One of them eventually becomes unwound. I can’t wait to read the book, but more importantly, I cannot wait to see what my student thinks of it. I will probably ask him to do some sort of extra activity that will showcase the book to the class.

The other book, Gathering Blue, sparked my interest after I read the book The Giver last summer. That book touched my heart and left me with many unanswered questions, just as the author intended. I was thrilled to discover that she continued the series, and I plan to purchase the next two books eventually.

With those three items bought, the gift card was officially spent.

I turned to my second gift card…an iTunes card.

I fully intend to save most of it for apps, but I couldn’t resist buying the following song. I love the musical arrangement and the way the singers phrase out the song. It’s just one of those songs that sticks with you.

Although I personally don’t give a lot of gift cards as presents, I will say that I sure do enjoy receiving and spending them!!!!

Putting Children Last?

I rarely speak about politics on this blog.

Although I consider myself a person of conviction, I do not think of myself as one who is gifted with the ability to debate a topic logically.

That is because I think with my heart and not always with my head.

However, after reading an Associated News story about Putin’s support for a law forbidding American adoption of Russian orphans, I felt that I had to write.

As I read the article, I became dismayed when I discovered that this law has namely come about as a reaction against decisions that American political leaders have made that have angered their Russian counterparts.

Thus, Russian authorities are seeking to halt the large number of American adoptions that are nearing completion. The new law will also forbid future adoptions of Russian children by Americans.

Mind you…these adoptions will result in many Russian children leaving the care of the Russian state.

Can someone please explain to me how in the world this makes sense?

Are Putin and all of his misguided supporters so hell-bent on political revenge that they would sacrifice the well being of their country’s defenseless citizens just to make a statement to the rest of the world?

My feeble brain cannot see the logic in this.

As a teacher of under-resourced children, I understand the impact that one loving person can make on a life.

I’ve witnessed the change that one person can make in a young, underfed and unloved little being’s life.

To deny a child the right to a better life is criminal.

It speaks of an unselfishness that goes beyond political rhetoric.

Such a decision brings back memories of years spent in a Cold War; however, the constituents who will suffer the most are those who are unable to speak for themselves…innocents who never did a single thing to deserve a punishment such as this.

Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood some “givens” in life…one of which is that hurting innocent children is the biggest taboo one person can inflict on another.

I thought that children were the force that united people…strangers even.

I’m either the world’s most naive or the most foolish person around for holding such beliefs.

My heart hurts for the children who long for parents to love them…for siblings to play with…for individual attention that speaks of genuine interest in their well being.

My heart rages against the unfairness that exists in the world…the kind of unfairness that has nothing to do with natural disasters that are beyond a person’s control but the man made firestorms that seek out fodder that will keep them on their destructive paths…destruction that has no regard for human lives.

What a shame to live in this kind of world where such selfishness exists.

There’s Always One

Every Christmas, there’s always one…

One person who gets sick, that is.

With ten people in our family celebrating together each year, someone always gets sick.

Guess whose turn it was this year?

Yep.

You’ve got it.

That person was ME.

I started feeling icky on Saturday, while we were in Alabama visiting the Mr’s grandmother.

I started sniffing and sneezing.

I never sneeze unless I’m getting a cold.

I thought it was something in her house.

We traveled to the Mr’s parents’ house that evening, and I only began to feel worse.

I slept horribly that night, experienced extreme joint pain, and hovered between sleep and wakefulness all night.  Every time I woke to semi-consciousness, I spoke out the word “inference,” and visions of my students floated in front of my eyes.

No, I wasn’t delirious, but I was seriously not feeling well.

I had to suck it up though because I had to go visit my mom.

I took Airborne like crazy, along with Excedrin Migraine and Sudafed Cold and Sinus.

Yeah.  It was probably not the best thing to do, but I was trying to treat pain and cold symptoms.

I got through the day with a lot of Kleenex.

Christmas Eve, my joint pain was gone, but the cold I was suffering from was nasty.

Still, I participated in last minute shopping adventures.

I had to sit out the food preparation and cleanup though.  I didn’t want my germy hands to touch anyone else’s dishes or food.

That evening, I began to suffer another issue…extreme stomach ailments, which I will not describe except to say that the hours from 8pm to 12am were longgggg, and I read 3/4 of a book that a student had loaned me.  Oh, and my feet managed to go numb during various bouts of stomach ailment flareups.

I was miserable and in tears throughout the night because being sick is not something I do very well.

I gingerly got into bed that night and did manage to catch a few hours sleep.

Although the cold wasn’t gone, I woke up feeling a little better on Christmas morning and enjoyed a day of Christmas fun with my family.

We came home Christmas night, had our own Christmas opening party with the kids, and settled in for a long, storm-filled night with the puppies, who’d been well taken care of by a young man Chicky graduated high school with and is my go-to guy for dog sitting.

Today, we hit the road for Best Buy to do some exchanging.  Before we left, I took more medicine because I still wasn’t feeling well…stomach issues along with symptoms from the cold.

Unfortunately, all of the medicines did not hit my stomach well, and things were bad for a few minutes until everything passed through my stomach.

Lord have mercy!

He did, and I am back to only suffering from a runny nose and cough.

All in all, I had a great Christmas but am glad that my turn at being sick is over.

Not that I would wish for someone else to be sick, but since there’s always one, next year, it’s someone else’s turn!

Just sayin’!

RIP Sweet Thor

Christmas seasons, for some reason, are tough on our itsy bitsy pets.

Yesterday, we said goodbye to Chicky’s dwarf hamster, Thor.

He was precious…so sweet and affectionate.

I pray that the Lord has a special place in heaven for beloved pets that have given much love and joy to their owners.

The Slow Transition to Christmas Break

How long does it take a teacher to transition into vacation mode?

Take a look at the Facebook update I just posted…

Dear Family, I just spent ten minutes putting the DVDs in proper alphabetical order. I have no excuse for myself other than to say that enough time obviously hasn’t passed for me to get out of Teacher-With-a-Classroom-Library mode. Let’s pray that a transformation happens quickly or else I’ll be rearranging your dresser drawers.

You may want to offer up a prayer for my family.  They’re going to need every ounce of patience they can muster until I either complete the transformation or hunker down in my bed for the next two weeks in hibernation mode.

By the way, Chicky put up our small tree for me.  It has lights but no ornaments.  Nobody in the family seems bothered one little bit.

Go us.

We’re really into the Christmas spirit, eh?

As I said.

Pray.

😀

Natural Consequences

Dear Class,

Today, when you walked in, I had a little surprise for you.

In case you’re not aware of what happened, please allow me to refresh your memories.

Yesterday, you thought you had the right to disrupt class.

You continued to talk, despite numerous attempts on my part to quiet the chatter.

Did I yell?

Nope.

Did I threaten?

Of course not.

Did I create a plan?

You bet.

That plan came to fruition when you walked into class today, and I announced that we would be having a test.

You balked.

You complained.

You said, “You didn’t tell us we were having a test!”

Oh, but you see, I had warned you.

I had cautioned that you were acting as if you understood how to make inferences.

My words went unheeded.

Thus, I enacted a plan that would teach you that your choices have consequences.

While you sat, in shock, I presented you with very difficult reading passages that included twenty-four comprehensive questions.

It was not an easy exam.

I calmly explained that your previous day’s behavior had led me to believe that you were fully confident in your ability to answer inference questions, so I would be administering the summative assessment I had planned on giving when I was finished teaching the unit.

Then, you got down to work.

There were grumbles, and some of you tried to pretend that you weren’t going to take the test.

I even heard one of you quietly say that you were going to “Christmas tree” the exam.

I had a plan, though.

See, I’m an overachiever who doesn’t leave many details to chance.

On the exam, I wrote the words “Explain your answer” on every question that referenced main idea or inference.

I also cautioned that failing to do so would result in the additional loss of points.

As you gave in and realized that yes, you really had to take the test, I heard some of you quietly say things like, “I can’t figure this out,” or “I don’t know the answer.”  I even heard someone say, “I don’t know how to explain the answer.”

I gently advised you to do your best before I walked away.

This is something we adults like to call “tough love.”

The test took most of the blocked time we were in class.

You left angry.

That’s okay.  I think I might have been if I’d been in your place.

But here’s the thing.

I wouldn’t have been.

Do you want to know why?

It’s because I always appreciated my teachers.

I understood the importance of taking my education seriously.

I loved to learn, even when I struggled.

I also knew that there would be consequences for my actions.

As I reviewed the results from your exam, my suspicions were confirmed.

You did not, in fact, know what you were doing.

Lo and behold, you actually NEED me and the instruction I’m painstakingly putting together.

I think that when you find out how you did, you might actually find yourselves agreeing with me.

Heck.  You might already be feeling that way…might have been ever since you laid your eyes on those questions.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that my class is the most important one you’ll take while you’re at Podunk High School.

I’m teaching you strategies that will help you comprehend ANYTHING you’ll have to read from this point forward.

Word of advice:  STOP goofing off and START paying attention.

Have a heart-to-heart with your friends in class who are not focused.

You are in this together, and if your scores go down, the blame will rest on ALL of you.

I want to assure you that I won’t allow your behavior to discourage me.

I’ll walk into class each day with a hopeful heart because I KNOW what you’re capable of.

Our unit on Main Idea taught me that.

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas break, and that you come back to school refreshed from the rest and fun you’ll be partaking of.

Bring a good attitude when you come back and know that we’ll be continuing our unit on inference.

You’ll have an opportunity to fix those horrible grades you just earned.

I’m kind that way.

Be thankful that you have a teacher who cares enough to provide you with the opportunity to experience natural consequences in a very tangible way.

Stay strong and POSITIVE!

Love,

Mrs. AuburnChick

Dear Fred Jones

Dear Fred Jones,

I am one of the lucky (cough) educators who is sitting through your 12-week course on how to manage my classroom.

I’d heard “interesting” comments about your videos…how long-winded you are, etc.

I have to admit that I entered the first training session with a bad attitude.

Oh, who am I kidding.  I am not usually thrilled to be there most weeks.

See, I’d rather be home, relaxing for ten minutes, before sitting down to spend three or four more hours tweaking my lesson plans.

As a third-year teacher, the work load is still very overwhelming at times.

BUT, with that said, I must balance out this post with the positives.

See, I am a reflective teacher who is quick to apply lessons I learn to my own classroom.

I stood, amazed, as I watched my most difficult class succumb to my charms as I used tips from that first training week.

My class began to straighten up.

I wondered if it was a coincidence, but the same thing happened the next week!

And the week after!

So, I have become a fan.

Not of the Thursday afternoon sessions in a portable that makes me nauseous (I have a lot more empathy for my own students now).

I have become a fan of your ways…

Because the tips from last week proved especially helpful yesterday during an especially difficult class session.

With Christmas Break soon upon us, my students think they should be able to party.

My message is different.

We work.

Thus, we are butting heads.

I reached my boiling point around 1:40pm yesterday.

I took a page from your book and inhaled deeply.

I loosened my jaw muscles.

I put a blank stare on my face.

And I waited, in silence.

My kids began to quiet down.

They grew fidgety as their nervousness increased.

There’s something about a teacher who suddenly grows silent.

I think they saw the wheels in my head turning.

I calmly had them put their folders away quietly and according to procedures.

Then, I read aloud to them for fifteen minutes.

We’d wasted over thirty minutes because they couldn’t control their mouths.

But still, I was calm.

Oh yes, to be sure, I was plotting.

This class seemed to think it was ready for an inferencing test.

They seemed to think they didn’t need my instruction.

Well, they are going to have to put their money where their mouths are and, basically, discover that they do, in fact, need my explicit instruction.

The term “pop quiz” never sounded so sweet.

To be sure, I probably won’t count it as a grade.

Or I will, and I’ll allow them the opportunity to fix it as I teach the skill.

Either way, my classroom will be very quiet tomorrow as their brain cells sizzle in shock.

Meanwhile, I’ll be taking a page from your book, Mr. Jones, and monitor their progress with a relaxed air.

To be sure, Friday, it will be a bit crazy in school.

As for that class, instead of watching a fun movie that calls for inferencing, we’ll be doing the inferencing lesson they refused to allow me to teach yesterday.

So thank you, Mr. Jones, for your practical tips and advice.

Sincerely,

Mrs. AuburnChick

A Peaceful Hodgepodge

Well, I certainly did not mean to go so many days without blogging, but work happened, and I fell behind…on EVERYTHING!  I’ve got over 100 blog posts to read, so please forgive me if I haven’t visited or commented in a while.  One would think that with the holidays approaching, the lesson planning would get easier.

Nope.  That isn’t the case.  The kids are getting squirrely, so the best solution is to keep doing what we normally do…stick to a routine and most of all, keep them BUSY!  This requires tons of planning and thinking about alternative plans if they don’t respond well.

Whew!

Anyhoo, play along…visit Joyce’s blog to link up…and forgive this bad blogger.  I’ll be making the rounds and catching up during the break when I have time to sleep (praise the Lord) and catch my breath.

1.  How will you spend ‘the night before Christmas‘?

I’m not sure if we’ll attend church.  Sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t.  We typically chill out as a family.  Super Sis and her crew go to Grand Pooba and Coupon Queen’s house, and we play games.  Then, after our children go to bed and pretend to be asleep, we pretend we have things to do downstairs and assist Santa.  It’s a low-key kind of evening.

2.  What is one thing you are not?

Lately, I am not quite “together.”  I am behind on EVERYTHING.  I never did decorate.  I haven’t cleaned in a while, and I haven’t even scooped dog poop in over a week.  I am usually very organized, but I cannot seem to manage right now.  January is only going to be more difficult as the assignments for a Reading Endorsement class I’m taking get extra hard.  So, “together” would be something I’m not right now.  Ask me this question in six months, and the answer will be different!

3.  Fudge-are you a fan?  Your favorite flavor?

In my sweets-eating days, yes, I was a fan.  Regular old chocolate was my favorite.  These days, I don’t eat it.

4.  Did you attend any craft/vendor fairs in the month of December?  Do you prefer homemade goodies or the more professional stalls? Are you giving any homemade gifts this year?

I did not attend anything that wasn’t school-related in December.  I’m barely managing to give gifts period this year, so there will not be anything homemade.  As a knitter, I find this appalling.

5.  What’s your favorite type of holiday gathering?

Ugh.  I don’t do holiday gatherings very well.  This time of the year is extremely difficult for me.  I did not grow up around extended family, so large gatherings cause me much angst.  I am used to what we do as a family…Christmas present opening on Christmas morning.  I love my family dearly.  But parties and hobnobbing with others?  Hmmm…I’m just not what you would call a social butterfly (unless you put me in the midst of a crowd at a soccer or basketball game).

6.  We’re approaching a new year…what’s going to be different in 2013?

Wow.  This is a difficult question to answer.  The first half of the year will continue to be busy (aka “stressful”) as I finish the class I’m currently taking the end of January and begin an ESOL (instruction for teaching students who speak another language besides English at home) class.  In June, right after school ends, I will be attending another Smart Board training, and then I’ll actually get to be a trainer at a big conference we’re having in town.  It’s the same conference I attended last summer, but I’ll be getting paid to teach.  I’d do it for free, though, because I love sharing my knowledge of technology with others.

I’d also like to take another ESOL class in the summer, along with my final Reading Endorsement class, which includes a practicum, which I’ll finish after the new school year begins.

Yeah.  I see much of the same craziness in 2013 as this past year.

Sigh.

I’m tired just thinking about it!

7.  Share a favorite scripture, quote, saying, or song lyric relating to peace.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

8.  My Random Thought

I haven’t said anything about the events in Connecticut.  Honestly, I’ve avoided as much of the news coverage as possible.  As a mother and an educator, it’s too much for my heart to comprehend.

I will say, though, that as I got ready to change the channel the other night…the night when The Voice was on, I paused and watched the opening song.

I was moved, as I’m sure every other viewer was.

I showed the video to my classes, and kids cried.

It was one of the most simple and beautiful tributes I’ve ever seen.

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