March 31, 2009

Domestic Diva

Mmmmm... you smell that?

The aromas drifting through the house are making me forget all about the dreary weather outside my window. It all started with some overly-ripe bananas that were sitting on the kitchen counter just screaming to be made into banana bread muffins. The recipe is simple and fast, so those were done in a jiffy.

And since I was already making a mess of the baking cabinet, I decided to flip through a recipe book to see what else I could make. As I searched, I remembered a jar of pumpkin pie filling I bought last fall that was still sitting in the pantry and decided to try a recipe for pumpkin pie dessert squares. I had to modify the recipe a bit (I had pumpkin pie filling rather than canned pumpkin), but I'm hoping they turn out as yummy as they sound. If the smell is any indication, I think this was a success!

This was my effort to be productive today as I enjoy spring break. Yes, I realize those papers will not grade themselves, but this is really so much more rewarding - at least in the short term.

**** Update****

The pumpkin pie dessert squares taste better than they smell. With a sweet, crunchy top and a moist, delicious center, this may be my new favorite treat! Here's a picture of the final product:

March 30, 2009

On Twitter

Are you on Twitter? Maybe you can help me understand its appeal because I simply don't see it. I don't understand the "purpose" of this site. I know what it does, but I don't understand why it does it.

Why is it necessary for us to know the whereabouts of everyone at all times? Isn't it a bit narcissistic of us to think that anyone cares that you are drinking your morning coffee, working out at the gym or anything else you may tweet about? Why do people feel compelled to share this type of information with the world?

I guess the Facebook status is similar for some people. I have friends who update their status with every breath they take - and often provide far too much information!!! I've seen couples have spats through their status messages, and I feel like a voyeur when these things pop up on my news feed (I promise I don't seek them out). Some things are just meant to be private!

If you tweet, please share why! I'm dying to hear a compelling reason not to hate that site.

Who's to Blame?

Brazilian President, Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva was recently quoted as telling Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister, that "white men with blue eyes" are the ones responsible for the global financial crisis. His comment reflects his frustration with policies that have a profound effect on economies that do not have much of a voice.

While his statement has some validity, I am a bit nervous as I read through the various reactions to this comment. Some are suggesting that this quote has the potential of opening a new can of worms in the clash of civilizations. Some feel that this will add fuel to the blazing fire in the East vs. West conflict.

I cannot help but be reminded that Hitler's rise came after a global depression. He, too, found a group to take the blame... and we all know what happened next. And just so we're clear, I am not suggesting that President Lula Da Silva is going down this road... I'm just making a comparison related to the danger in finger-pointing.

Words are powerful.

March 28, 2009

What's in Your Bag?

I love purses. I think they are the perfect accessory because they "fit" everyone (contrary to popular belief, this theory does not apply to shoes... at least not when you have wide feet and high arches) and come in an array of colors and styles.

A few years ago, my mom bought me my very own Coach purse, which I absolutely adore. A simple, black, leather Coach is a timeless accessory to any wardrobe. The problem is that I haven't used mine in quite some time because I simply carry too much stuff. Each time I think about switching back to my Coach, I tell myself there is simply no room for everything.

Which got me questioning if I actually need everything I carry. As I empty my purse, deciding what to keep and toss, I thought it might be interesting (and possibly embarrassing) to list its contents here...
  • wallet (loaded with far too many gift cards that I always forget to use) - Keep it!
  • car keys - Keep it!
  • school id & key - Keep it!
  • digital camera - Keep it!
  • camera battery charger - Lose it!
  • 4 chapsticks - Keep it! (It's an obsession, but I'll compromise and keep 2)
  • 2 lipgloss (one is clear and one is tinted... I like options) - Keep it!
  • lipstick (that I never use) - Lose it!
  • face powder (that I also never use) - Lose it!
  • pen - Keep it!
  • mascara (I think I've used this once) - Lose it!
  • mints - Keep it!
  • eyeglasses with case & cleaner (I never wear them) - Lose it!
  • Advil bottle - Keep it!
  • collapsible hairbrush & mirror - Lose it!
  • Tide-To-Go (this is essential) - Keep it!
  • thank you card - Lose it!
  • 2 checks - Keep it... but in the bank!
  • tanning lotion & eye goggles - Lose it!
I am convinced that carrying a larger purse results in my carrying more simply because I have the room. I am excited about losing some of these contents (particularly the bulky items) and downsizing to my beloved Coach for a while. :)

What about you? What's in your purse? Do you carry more than necessary too?

March 26, 2009

Olympic Day

Each year, my team puts together the "Olympic Games" where students compete in a battle of the minds. This year, we represented the winter Olympic games in speed skate spelling, math moguls, science snowboarding, giant slalom geography, and pop culture curling. Each teacher on our team drafts a team for the big day. Each team then creates a country name, history, national anthem, flag and motto to present at the opening ceremonies. Here's what my team came up with:

Team name: Lichthuania

History: Britney & Paris got into another brawl over who would get the nomination for worst supporting actress at the 2005 Razzie awards. When Paris won, the upset Britney decided to escape the U.S.A. to relieve some stress. Before her plane reached Moscow it broke down and Britney crash landed into an unknown country. Britney thought that they had landed in Lithuania but when she asked where she was all she got was, “licht”. When she asked if they took American dollars all she heard in reply was, “fuss”. She took out her laptop and typed in “licht-fuss” she found a teacher that was fun yet stern with her students. Britney decided that this person should be the leader of the new country of Lichthuania.

Anthem: I don't have the lyrics on my computer, but it was to the tune of "Circus" by Britney Spears (Are you seeing the theme here? My students love to mock my love of Britney.)

Motto: "Boosting Brains One Child At A Time" (I give my students candy, called Brain Boosters, when they do something above and beyond in the classroom... they love this!)

Flag: See picture below - we were the mean, green team!

My team was awarded with an overall bronze medal (out of 4 teams), but we did win the gold in science (which students voted the hardest test of all). As teachers, it was great for us to give our students opportunities to shine in their different areas of strength. Everyone had a chance to "be on top" during this day of fun! Go Lichthuania!

March 13, 2009

Such Audacity

I am still stewing about a parent conference last night, and as I wait for today's parents to arrive, I feel the need to vent about what happened...

I've met this child's mom on several occasions. She is as nice as can be - very soft spoken, very understanding - she seems to be on the same page as her son's teachers as far as behavioral and academic expectations are concerned.

I cannot, however, say the same for the father, whom upon meeting myself and one of my teammates at the conferences instantly began belittling us, our policies and education as a whole. He is convinced that we are doing his son a disservice by requiring that he turn in assignments in a timely fashion and that he work to his ability. This man flat-out told us that his son is too smart for us and that we aren't challenging him enough. (This man's son is in the honors classes, but he certainly doesn't stand out among those groups - and that is exactly why we requested a conference. We want to see him use his potential! )

Certainly, though, "You wouldn't understand what the real world is like," he told us in his best condescending tone as he stared us down, "You don't know what it's like to write a 50 page thesis the day that it's due and still earn an A, but that's how smart my son is. And I know because I did it!" As you can imagine, the tension in the room could have been cut with a knife, but I'm not sure if it was worse between him and us or him and his wife.

It's true that three of the four people on my team are very young. It is also true that three of the four people on my team are women (this man's demeanor changed dramatically when our male teammate walked into the conference). But it is also true that three of the four of the people on my team have master's degrees and have worked in Corporate America. We, as a collective whole, have a very good understanding of how the real world works, and we happen to know that we are teaching our students lessons and habits that they will need in the future.

But how do you convince a twelve year-old that you get out of something what you put into it? How do you convince him that he is building habits today that are going to affect him in the future? And most importantly, how do you convince him of these things when his father is sending him crystal clear messages about how his teachers know nothing and that school is a waste of time?

March 10, 2009

Facebook Distress

I am house-sitting this week for my mentor while she is in Disney World with her grandson. It's not a bad gig - she has two well-behaved dogs that I have to feed and let outside a few times a day. I really can't complain about anything... except for the fact that she didn't know the password to get on her wirless internet, so I've been without my typical mindless entertainment for days.

Of course, I can still check my e-mail (and blogger) from school, but I can't get on Facebook because of the stupid firewall. Normally this wouldn't be much of a concern, but I feel terrible not being able to respond to the well-wishes of my friends and family for my birthday.

Is it extremely pathetic that I am going out of my way to go home after school today so I can respond to my Facebook friends in a timely fashion????

OK... I didn't really need to ask that. I know it is.... but I'm doing it anyway! Ha! Blame it on good manners! :)


If I had a little girl, the book I would read her each night before bed is Pinkalicious by Victoria and Elizabeth Kann. It is absolutely the most adorable book about a girl who eats so many pink cupcakes that her skin and hair actually turn pink (can you imagine how cute that would be?!)

I first came across this book while babysitting Hannah, the daughter of my co-worker Elaine, and was instantly in love. Pinkalicious is a girl after my own heart! Seriously... what's better than a cupcake? And a pink one at that!

Today is my birthday. It's only 9:00 AM and I am already overwhelmed at the number of e-mails, facebook comments, and text messages and voicemails from my friends and family. I feel so blessed to have so many wonderful, caring people in my life!

When I walked into my classroom this morning, I was tickled pink (pun intended) to find a goodie bag on my desk from my team. My co-worker, MariAnn, made sure that I was the "Birthday Princess" with one of those wiggly antennae headbands and birthday ribbons to pin to my jacket. She included a light-up "diamond" ring, candy, a bedazzled eye shadow "phone" and a Hannah Montana singing pen (she looked for Britney but none were available). Seriously... does she know me well or what?!

Best of all, Elaine surprised me with my very own Pinkalicious cupcakes. What a perfect treat to celebrate my day! I am SO looking forward to diving into those during our team meeting today!

So far, this has been a TERRIFIC birthday!

March 4, 2009

Giving Back

Each year, the seventh grade students participate in Volunteer Day. Basically, this is a time for organizations in the community to talk to students about volunteer opportunities during summer vacation. While student teaching, I found the day to be rather boring as various speakers addressed the students about ways they could help. Instead, I suggested that we spend that day actually doing something to make a difference!

I was lucky enough to be placed on a team this year that supported my idea, and with the help of one of my former moms, I arranged for us to take our students on a trip to Feed My Starving Children. If you're not familiar with them, you should be! It is an organization dedicated to supplying nutritionally complete meals to children in developing nations around the world.

I wish I could share with you the pictures of our students in their white hair nets working in the warehouse. They would show the huge grins on their faces as they scooped the rice, soy, veggies, vitamins and chicken flavoring into packages. They would show their silly dance moves as they grooved to the beats that echoed through the warehouse. They would show the sense of pride that was evident on our students' faces when they were told that they packaged enough meals to feed 90 children for an entire year! How amazing!

If you live in the Chicagoland or Twin Cities areas, I suggest you talk to your church, school, sports teams, clubs... any group of 10 or more about this opportunity! It is such an easy way to make a huge difference.