Sunday, May 27, 2012

Strawberry Fields Forever

Memorial Day Weekend--The unofficial start of summer.  The strawberries are ripe and ready for pickin'.

We bring our own baskets to Butler's Orchard in Maryland.  The canopied shuttle takes us to the strawberry fields.  

We're on our way!

Jack looking for perfect strawberries.
Look what I found!
Lots of ripe ones over here.
One in the basket, two in my mouth.
See, I didn't eat all of them!
Overflowing baskets
Ready to bake shortcake!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

If You Can Read This, Thank A Teacher

Did you hear about the guy who donated a building to honor his third grade teacher?

I just read an article in The Washington Post about Chris Shumway's incredible $800,000 gift to establish the Candace Leyton Innovation Learning Lab because his teacher changed his life.

Just what did this amazing teacher teach her third graders that they remember 30 years later?  I'm sure she must have taught them how to multiply and spell.  Former students didn't comment on the curriculum they learned, however. They talked about the character they developed.  What stuck with them was how to be a problem solver and a risk taker.  They remember Candace Leyton as a woman who brought creativity and a love of learning to the classroom.  They remember her inspiration to develop skills as critical thinkers and innovators.  They remember her as human--funny and tough at the same time.  They remember the creative ways she made the curriculum relevant to her students' lives.  They remember that she paid attention to each of them.  One student was quoted saying, "She expected nothing but the best of efforts from everybody."

I know Chris Shumway isn't the only person who has fond memories of a special teacher.  For me, it was my second grade teacher Miss Littman.  Miss Littman, who encouraged my love of reading and introduced me to the worlds of authors like Beverly Cleary, Carolyn Haywood and Scott Corbett.  Miss Littman, who encouraged my love of creative projects, stories, and poems.  When I dressed as a witch for Halloween, Miss Littman colored one of my teeth black with a grease pencil to complete the effect.  When I decided to wear my favorite Ronald McDonald dress on picture day, Miss Littman said I looked just perfect.  

Once, around Christmas, Miss Littman told us her favorite carol was "Joy to the World" because her name was in the song.  I went home and listened to the song over and over again, straining my ears for the lyric that included "Miss Littman."  The next day I came in exasperated.  She laughed and told me her name was Joy Littman.  I even remember Miss Littman's dog Meesha, a Husky who came to visit the classroom occasionally.

Miss Littman became Mrs. Murray and soon had two children of her own.   Eventually we lost touch.  Every once in a while, I try to see if I can find her name on Facebook.  I don't have a spare $800,000 to donate in her honor, but I sure would love to tell her that she made a difference in my life.  In fact, she is one of the reasons I decided to become a teacher myself.

In September I will return to the classroom full time.  I've just accepted a position to teach third grade at my school.  I'm both nervous and excited.   Yes, I will teach them how to multiply and how to spell.   I hope what they remember will be so much more.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy Mother's Day-Take Two

Last Sunday I spent the entire day reading on the couch with my feet propped up.  Now, remembering that last Sunday was Mother's Day, you may come to the conclusion that my children gave me the much appreciated gift of a day off.  Unfortunately, this was not the case.

I did receive wonderful gifts from both Jack and Katherine.  Jack gave me a copper bracelet that he made in Shop class.  He hammered, shaped and stamped it all by himself--it either says MOM or WOW depending on which way you look at it.  Katherine gave me a beautiful poem and coupons for future plans together.

I opened all my gifts while lying supine with a heating pad pressed against my lower back.  It hurt to walk.  It hurt to stand.  It hurt to bend.  "We'll leave you alone so you can get some rest," Paul said.  And so they did.
So there I was by myself on the couch and feeling pretty low.  I don't actually like to lie around doing nothing.  I don't find it the least bit relaxing.  What I really wanted to do was go for a run!  I even missed Jack's baseball game because the thought of sitting on the hard metal bleachers for two hours made me cry. 
Last week was rough.  I borrowed a back brace from a friend and started popping ibuprofen like they were tic-tacs.  No exercise.  No lifting.   By Friday I was finally starting to feel better.

Yesterday I made it to Jack's baseball game to watch him start as pitcher.  He pitched 3 innings and only had one earned run.  I wish I had remembered to take his picture but I get so nervous watching him pitch that I forgot.  Then Katherine and I ran a 5K together this morning for Girls On The Run.  She ran a steady pace the entire time!  For most people, Mother's Day was officially last weekend.  Watching my kids persevere and succeed  made me so proud, I decided to get up off the couch and celebrate being a Mother again this weekend.  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Hearts

"To relax, my mom likes to take a four hour nap every day."

Moms--can you imagine? When's the last time you had four uninterrupted hours to yourself to do anything, much less nap?

In kindergarten, Mother's Day is a big deal.  All week long the children composed and colored to create a book about their mothers--a labor of love.   Each page begins with a writing prompt such as, "My mom is special because..." The responses are sincere, funny, sweet and sometimes all of the above.  As another teacher commented, "They make my heart happy." 

We all know mothers labor selflessly every day and Mother's Day should be a chance to relax.  So we asked the kids how their moms would like to chill out for the day.  The responses were quite enlightening.

"To relax, my mom likes to change into comfy clothes and just lie on the couch."

"To relax, my mom likes to exercise and then do some yoga and then take a shower."

"To relax, my mom likes to play legos with me."

"To relax, my mom likes to go to the nail spa by herself.  She tells my dad it is his turn to play with me."

"To relax, my mom likes to take a nap after she cleans the kitchen."

"To relax, my mom likes to play games on the computer and have a drink."

"To relax, my mom likes to sit on the potty and read the newspaper."

I thought about how I'd answer the question about my own mother.  The past few years she's been an amazing caretaker to my grandmother who has dementia.  She now cares for the mother who once cared for her.  Mom is busy doing everything from laundry to bill paying, trouble shooting and advocating.  It has been difficult, especially on the days that Grandma no longer recognizes her only child.  Every time mom leaves the nursing home, even on the worst of days, Grandma tells her, "Watch crossing the street.  That's what my mother used to say to me."   Even though her mind is deteriorating, she still remembers her own mother's concern and love.

I believe that for my grandmother, "Watch crossing the street" equals "I love you."

Yes, even when you grow up, the job and joys of motherhood never end.  Every mom should have an opportunity to relax occasionally.  For my own mom?  I can imagine she'd want to enjoy a beautiful sunny day on the golf course with good friends.  Of course, shopping can be relaxing if you score the perfect bargain at T. J. Maxx.  Playing bridge and enjoying a cocktail on the deck? Definitely relaxing.  Same with a pedicure or a lively dinner conversation with her husband.  My mom also likes to be organized.  While it might sound counterintuitive, I think cleaning out a closet actually helps her feel relaxed and energized.  I know I feel relaxed and energized when she cleans out my closets!  She also likes to curl up on the couch with a good Harlan Coben mystery.

Mom, I love you.  So this Mother's Day, relax in whatever way makes your heart happy.   And watch crossing the street.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Pant" ry Inventory

Pantry Inventory
Ice Cream
Chocolate Bars
Honey Buns
Easter Candy
Chocolate Coins
Peanut M & Ms*

*secret stash-not kept in pantry but I included it to be honest.

I'm always quick to tell people that we don't keep junk food in the house.  "If I don't buy it, I won't eat it," I say proudly.  I am the first to admit that my will power can be lacking...especially when it comes to ice cream.  And the kids aren't any more disciplined.  That's why we limit our treats to special occasions. 

I try to be careful and prepare healthy lunches.  I cook a balanced dinner almost every night.  But somehow, despite my best efforts, our pantry is beginning to look more like a 7-11 than a Whole Foods.   It seems that life keeps giving us more special occasions.  Since when did dessert become something we eat twice a day instead of twice a week?

The cupcakes, donuts and ice cream are all leftover from Katherine's birthday.  Most people get a day--she got a whole week.  A family party, a celebration with friends, treats on the actual day for her class.  The Honey Buns and chocolate bars were freebies in a goody bag Paul got from a conference.  Who can resist the lure of free stuff?  I thought it was bad that we still had Easter Candy leftover from last month until I realized Katherine won the cake at the school's Fun Fair back in March.  We stuck it in the freezer and there it sits.  The chocolate coins were supposed to be a St. Patrick's day gift from a Leprechaun until I remembered that Jack gave up dessert for Lent and wouldn't be able to eat any.  That seemed like a mean trick for a Leprechaun so I stuck them in the coffee canister instead.   The Girl Scout cookies arrived back in February and who knows why we have pudding?  Maybe I should check the expiration date.  And, yes, I know how the Peanut M & M's got in the house.  I thought I needed a little something in case of emergencies since, as I said, we don't keep junk food in the house.

Meanwhile the numbers on my scale are climbing.  When I'm not busy eating the junk food I'm completely disgusted by it all.  I'd love to throw it all away but the frugal side of me thinks that would be wasteful.  Of course if I keep gaining weight, I'm going to have to inventory the pants in my closet that I can still button.

No time to exercise today as I'm busy preparing for a visit from Sissa and Big Pa.  Sounds like a special occasion to me--let's break out the cookies.  Thin mint, anyone?