Let the Cuteness Begin!

Tomorrow is the first day of school!

Of course, there's been tons of preparation leading up to the start of the new year, but there's always more to squeeze into the weekend before that first day.  Today I was getting everything finalized, making a few posters for the first day, printing nametags, and putting the finishing touches on my ridiculously detailed and lengthy first day plan.  The plan is for tomorrow to be organized, engaging, smooth, and exciting.  But it's also going to be just plain cute!

Throughout the year, I try to spend most of my energy making sure the work is rigorous, meaningful, differentiated, and interesting, but I must say--I just love me some adorable clip art.  There's just something about little tiny turtles (our class is the turtles!) crawling along the alphabet that absolutely cracks me up.

"Get it?" I'll want to ask every single child walking into the room tomorrow morning.  "They're turtles!  Climbing the cute, cartoony letters with their cute, cartoony legs!  And we're the turtles!"  I'll try to refrain, but will be very pleased if I get a couple of giggles out of that sign.  Oh, those little cartoony shells just get me.

A Newly Expanded Army of Ermas

Today's my official debut on the humor blog, An Army of Ermas!

Run by the wonderful Stacey Graham, the blog consists of a team of writers who post about everything from a daughter picking up and treasuring a "balloon" found on the ground to adventures in exercising to conversations with old people.

But, of course, it's most important that you check out my post today :)

Did I leave out any basic needs of field trips or family trips?

Correct Postage Required

To everyone who started back at school today--congratulations on finishing the first day!

My school doesn't start back until next week, but we've been in workshops for two weeks already!  Today we had time to set up our classrooms and let me tell you--I'm making as few changes as possible.  Sure, if there are some things that I think will help the learning process, I'll switch those around, but for the most part, the setup is a no-brainer.  I'm keeping what worked and just adding even more labels.  In an elementary school classroom, there is really no such thing as over-labeling.  Not only does the scissor box have a label, but the shelf spot where the scissor box goes--yep.  Also labeled.

I know that whole scissor box sounds fascinating, but today I unpacked and set up something even more terrific--if you can believe it.  My teacher mailbox.

Yes, this mailbox has had a rich and storied existence as receptacle for all manner of notes from students, and I thought it fitting to pay tribute to it as I prepare to usher in a new year of mail from students.

Students write to me when they just can't get along with their tablemates or when they're sad in an unspecified but genuine way.  They write to investigate rumors or to wish me a happy holiday (under duress).  I've gotten notes about sore posteriors, corrections of other kids' notes, and even a petition complete with illustration.

While the mailbox often serves as tattle-box, it can also be helpful as a place for a student to jot me a note that some replacement supply is needed, without interrupting class.  One year I particularly enjoyed Trina's memorandum-style note, documenting the precise time she requested a replacement folder.  However, it can be dangerous to mix mailbox requests with overall fourth grade venting.

One morning, the school day was unfolding in a particularly challenging way for fourth grade Becky.  I had told Becky to stop talking and get back to work one too many times for her liking, and a name-calling-related "time out" had resulted in heavy fuming rather than any plans to stop calling names.  Against this backdrop of generalized "teachers are unfair" ire, Becky suddenly found herself out of blank pages in her writing journal.  What to do when you're mad at your teacher but in desperate need of a new tablet?  I can only imagine her long, fume-filled walk over to my mailbox.

The mailbox, though, has seen its fair share of notes from the more positive fourth grade days.

Who knows what bounty the mailbox will bring this next year! 
Mailbox image: www.hardwarestore.com

But Wait!

Last night I rediscovered the entire concept of fashion.  It's true--I had forgotten that it even existed.

I was searching for something to wear to a fancy restaurant (with a temporary lower-priced Restaurant Week menu so us regular people could try it out) and was very disappointed with the selection on my hangers.  Because this summer's outings have been more the kind that required long stints in a bathing suit or flip flops passing as actual shoes, my field of clothing vision has shrunk.  The narrow range of options is pretty much: capris, tank tops, and stadium apparel--none of which seemed quite appropriate for last night's dinner.  The watermelon and feta salad on the menu, though, clearly demanded high fashion.  Even a summer sundress just wasn't going to cut it.

I had resigned myself to a mediocre skirt and top when a vague memory of some cocktail dresses at the far end of my closet entered my consciousness.  "There is more to clothing than t-shirts and jeans!" I thought as I made a mad dash for the closet with only a few minutes before we were supposed to leave.  Now fully free from summer wardrobe tunnel vision, I rediscovered the existence of high heels, rummaged through a jumbled pile of them and pulled out a sparkly pair.  "But wait!"  I shouted to my husband as I slipped the heels on.  "I am going to wear EARRINGS!"  I rummaged through, well--a jumbled pile of them and pulled out a sparkly pair.  "But wait!" I once again called.  "I am going to put on MAKEUP!"

"So this is what it must be like to have fancy places to attend," I thought.

Or maybe my excitement last night of picking out a non-boring outfit for a change was more like what the kids go through on class picture day.  What with the gelled hair and clip-on ties, the pouffy dresses and new hair beads, many kids definitely arrive at the top of their game.  "But wait!" I can picture them calling as dad hollers that it's time to go.  "I am going to wear a SPORTCOAT!"

For teaching at a school with a dress code, I realize that I've actually got a fair amount of posts about fashion.  It's a well-established fact that elementary school pajama day brings out the appreciation for clothing.  "But wait!" comes a voice from upstairs as mom waits at the door.  "I am going to wear FLUFFY SLIPPERS!"

Yes, no matter your age, everyone gets at least a little excited about playing dress-up now and then.
Image: www.hipsterchic.com -- And no, I don't own those :)

I'm Going to Do More!

  When I got back from Midwest adventures last week, I found a letter from my student, Makayla.  She drew herself at the beach and listed off several things she has done this summer--beach, Six Flags, moon bounce.  To close out her list of summer fun, she added, "And I'm going to do more!"  Such optimism for the summer fun that still lies ahead.  Who knows what the remaining days of summer could bring?  Pool?  Movies?  Mini golf?  Maybe even catching a turtle.

  I, on the other hand, am not going to "do more" in the summer fun department.  Yes, work has started back up again for teachers, and we'll be at it for another two weeks still while the kids dream up plans for their last hurrah.

  For those of you out there still on summer break--go forth!  Do more! 
Image: www.neopets.com

And My Lie Is...

The brilliant feature of the game "Two Truths and a Lie" is that it gives you permission to blatantly make stuff up.  All things are possible.  You can paint yourself as an expert in baseball scorekeeping and experience the thrill of living the lie--even if only for a brief moment.  Ha!  That baseball one was true!  (Or at least true-ish--"expert" is a bit strong, but I can spot a third inning F-7 and pencil it in appropriately.)

Though the premise is quite simple, when playing with children it's often necessary to break down the game with some helpful Dos and Don'ts.
  • DO think of two things about you that are true.
  • DO think of one thing that is a lie.
  • DO make the lie seem like it could possibly be true.
  • DON'T always put the lie last.
Perhaps I neglected to cover all bases, however, last year when playing a round with my class.  Cesar spouted off two statements as all of the other kids furrowed their brows in careful consideration of the likelihood of each.

He continued, "And my lie is...."

I have since added a fifth helpful tip to the Dos and Don'ts of "Two Truths and a Lie."

And now....my lie is revealed!
  • True!  I am here to tell you that the Angola Prison Rodeo definitely earns its nickname as "The Wildest Show in the South."
  • Yup!  That was me, head lolling back, hooked up to an IV, in a nut-induced, Bourbon Street evening of fun.
  • Sure enough!  Just need to hit Hawaii, Nevada, Kansas, and Oregon to complete the set.
  • Affirmative!  Drove all night to snag some diamonds.  Found none, but did stop along the way at Bill Clinton's boyhood home.
  • Uh huh!  Stewardesses, readdressed, bedwetter....right hand completely free for other tasks such as recording that sixth inning home run.
  • Indeed!  I saved the day!  And didn't realize that bag in the back seat was so heavy or his shoulder so removable. 
And my lie is...
  • Nope!  Didn't meet Duff.  That was actually borrowed from the life of my friend Elaine, but I enjoyed pretending it was me.  And there went my brief moment. 
Image: www.angolarodeo.com

The Seven Envelopes, Please

Sherri at Old Tweener has recently given me an award!  And by "recently" I mean just yesterday in terms of the pace of lazy summer vacations, but actually a couple of weeks ago in real life.  Yikes!  In between getting the award and now passing it along, there have been many pressing issues that have kept me from awarding sooner.  S'mores.  Swimming in the lake.  Napping.  Yes, I've had quite the demanding schedule on vacation, but I'm now pleased to pass on the award!

Old TweenerStep 1: Thank the person who gave you the award.  Sherri, my favorite Old Tweener, is always funny in her descriptions of buying shorts and of her secret magazine drawer.  Plus, she's brave enough to wear a raccoon mascot suit and endure the tail-pulling of pre-teen boys.  Does anyone have an award for that?  If so--send it Sherri's way.

Step 2: Put off further steps until the following have been achieved: Finish reading book.  Get about 35% of the way through Saturday Times crossword puzzle.  Play multiple rounds of Bananagrams.

Step 3: List 7 things about yourself.  However, I'm making a little change here.  In tribute to one of my favorite classroom games, "Two Truths and a Lie," I'm going to add in an eighth list entry, and you have to figure out which one's the lie!
  • I have been to a prison rodeo.  As in a rodeo.  Inside a maximum security prison.
  • I was once carried off of Bourbon Street in New Orleans in an ambulance.  Contrary to the slanderous and ill-informed accusations of a random lady on the street yelling, "UNDERAGE DRINKING," it was walnut-allergy-related and not alcohol-related.  
  • I know how to keep score in baseball with all of the little codes for a fly ball to left field and everything.
  • I got to meet Duff from Ace of Cakes this summer at my husband's cousin's wedding.  I terribly wanted to have someone take a picture but tried to play it cool.
  • I have been to 46 of the 50 states, my most recent new state coming just yesterday with a trip to Fargo, North Dakota for lunch.
  • I once ditched work to drive through the night to a diamond mine in Arkansas where you can dig for your own diamonds.  
  • I really enjoy words that you can type with only one hand.  StewardessesHoi polloi!  (Plus that one's also fun to say.)
  • I once re-located my brother's dislocated arm while driving, though this heroic act is overshadowed in the retelling by the fact that it was kind of my fault that it got dislocated in the first place.
       So....can you tell which one is patently false?

Step 4: List 7 blogs to whom you'd like to pass the award.  Here are some particularly award-worthy blogs I've recently discovered or recently re-discovered.  They're definitely worth checking out!
  • Undergoing a slow and entertaining Death by Children, Chris outlines correct Wet Willy techniques and handy DIY step-by-step guides that include Top 10 Rules for Replacing a Glass Window Pane Broken by Your Starving 11 Year Old Son who Thought He Was Locked Out in the Dark
  • Vodkamom (and don't you want to check her out purely based on the name of the blog?) posts hilarious bits about her students and the crazy, bidet-related things they say.
  • Finslippy selflessly starts fever-induced arguments with baristas so that she can provide stories for us, the readers, and tells tales of lying awake while camping, wishing for a murder-proof tent.
  • Carolyn Online has conversations with her Blackberry and accidentally curses at strangers while running in the park.  Plus--she's generously shared her eight-year-old daughter's tips for handling "anger ishus" if you're feeling a little prone to uncontrolled rages.
  • Melissa at Adventuroo, outdoor adventurer and self-proclaimed tech geek, shares writing tips and aspires to catch fireflies and to watch a full movie without surfing the Internet.
  • Escape from the world of depressing real news and hop on over to The Zebra Rag.  Angie tackles all the news that's fit to....make up and exposes everything from zombie car crashes to the discovery of ancient Macs buried in ice.
  • From one blogger who posts about fingers up noses to another--Stef at Oops...There Goes My Mind blogs about the nose-picking that goes along with her job interpreting sign language on VRS (video relay service) calls and about her children finding all sorts of enticing and very pushable emergency buttons. 


  I’m on vacation this week in Minnesota —the land of 10,000 lakes, coffee shops that look more like ski lodges, and some darn entertaining accents.  I love listening to Minnesotans talk about picking up a case of rutbeer (a popular kind of paap).  They’ll load their paap into a baig and head to the parking ramp to pick up the car.  Perhaps this errand has brought us to the town of Maple Grove—otherwise known as Mapa Gro-ahv if I can try to capture the sound phonetically.  It’s a truly great “o” to roll around in your mouth.
  When I, on the other hand, talk about rewtbeer (a popular kind of soda) in a bayug going out to the parking garage, there’s no way anyone would mistake me for a Minnesotan.  And I was definitely never confused with a Louisiana native when teaching in the South.  It was often hard to understand the accent and phrases of South Louisiana, and many people I met didn’t really know what to make of my speech patterns.  “Excuse me,” a police officer once asked me as I sat at a diner with my dad, chatting away in our non-Boston Massachusetts-ese (i.e. normal pronunciation).  “We’ve got a bet going here –are you in telemarketing?” 
  When I started teaching in Louisiana, what I knew as a backpack containing some crayons and a mechanical pencil became a booksack with colors and a pencil-pen.  The air conditioning and lights could be “cut on” rather than “turned on” and a stapler morphed into a staple machine.  Southerners are always “fixin’ to” go somewhere or do something, or sometimes even just “fi’in to.”   At the grocery store, “fixin’ to put some cold drinks in the buggy” translated into non-Southern speak as being “about to put some soda in the shopping cart.”  Those carbonated sugary drinks in cans sure do come in a wide variety of names!

   What are the particularly funny (or supposedly “normal”) pronunciations or words where you live?
Image: http://statehouserock.com/minnesota/

We are NOT Joking Around, Here

This summer I have been getting lots of advice on the impending baby situation that will be happening this fall.   Highlights of this advi...