Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday- What I will miss about Summer Vacation

It's officially back to school time for me and I will throughly miss my time at home.

1. Spending time with my DD-cuddling, playing, giggling!

2. Getting to wake my DD up every morning and having her look at up me from her crib and smile :)

3. Spending time with my fur baby Brooklyn.

4. Watching the "Today Show" every morning with a cup of coffee.

5. Not getting dressed for the day until I want to, or not at all- I LOVE comfy clothes.

6. Going for leisurely trips to the grocery store daily for fresh meal ideas.

7. Having time to do laundry, vacuum and clean the house.

8. Staying up late and not having to worry about being tired the next day because I could take a nap when my DD does.  

9. Eating whenever I want to- not just the allotted 15 minutes a day I get for lunch at school!

10. Having nothing to really worry about and enjoying life in the moment!

What does your list look like?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I'm Back!

It has been a while since I have blogged because I was vacationing in Northern California and then my PC bit the dust!  Almost two weeks later and I am a more experienced sightseer and a proud Mac owner (I am typing for the first time on my brand-new Mac Book Pro)!

I want to address my last post "The Scaredy List"- where I posted a list of everything that I worried about before leaving for my trip to Nor Cal in an attempt to calm my fears before leaving and prove to myself that I had nothing to worry about.  Boy, was I wrong!  This strategy did NOT work- the list became a list of preconceived notions.  Below I have copied the list and in red I have written what really happened.

*  Did I forget something?- the number one fear that runs through my mind constantly!
Oh yeah, I forgot to bring my WALLET with my ID and every other essential document to bring on a trip!  I realized that I did not have my wallet at the airport, about 30 min. before our flight was to take off, right before going through security.  My DH and poor DFIL had to take a $150 cab back to where my car was 45 min. away just to retrieve my wallet.  In the meantime, I tried to hold back my tears as we missed our flight, were charged $50 per person to change flights, and the baby started getting fussy because we should have been already in the air by the time I got my wallet back and we checked out bags.   

*  Am I or someone I am traveling with going to get sick from the flight?
This luckily did not happen.  I researched how to stay healthy when traveling and found that you can keep your  nasal passage moist and prevent germs from invading by using a nasal spray before and after flying.  I tried to drink a lot of water and took Ester C all week to boost my immune system.  

*  Is my 11 month old going to scream the whole flight?  Will I upset other people on the flight?  Are her poor little ears going to hurt when we take off and land?  Did I bring enough to entertain her- will I be able to entertain her?
Due to the fact that I caused our flying to be prolonged (because we missed our flight we had to fly from Hartford to Minnesota, then to LA , and then to San Francisco) my DD did have a hard time on the last flight we took.  She would cry really hard and really loud the last 15 min. of every flight and then pass out in my arms, only to be woken up again to change flights again.  

Surprisingly her ears did not seem to bother her.  We found the iPad was extremely useful in keeping my DD entertained.  We downloaded an app called "baby paint" where she could finger paint on the iPad screen.  We also downloaded a couple of episodes from Mickey Mouse Playhouse and OSO from the Disney Channel (I know that there are a lot of moms out there who would be appalled that a baby watches television, but on a 4 1/2 hour flight, you gotta do what you gotta do!).  

We brought an entire carry on bag (because a diaper bag does not count as a carry on) filled with toys, but she was most entertained by a pair of $2 headphones- she has a weird fascination with wires!    

*  I hope the weather will be good- bad weather or too hot/too cold weather.
Weather was perfect- Sunshine everyday :)

*  I miss my golden retriever already!
We missed her a lot- especially in Napa where dogs are welcome pretty much everywhere and we were constantly reminded of our fur baby.

*  Will the hotels be family friendly with cribs and non-smoking rooms?
Yes, perfect- if you ever travel to Monterey, Napa, or San Francisco, email me and I will let you know where to stay!

*  Will I have a good time?  Will my family have a good time?
We did have a good time and I will have my first "Wordless Wednesday" this week where you can see for yourself!    

*  Will this trip meet my expectations (which are always very high)?
This trip did meet my expectations.  I did not adjust as well as I had wanted to the time change and wish I wasn't as tired as I was.

I guess this strategy was a good idea because although it seemed like all of my worst fears were coming true at the start of this trip, when reflecting in red here, I really didn't have anything to worry about.  I just need to make sure that I have my wallet with me at all times and I try to get as much sleep as possible to fully enjoy traveling! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Scaredy List: "I'm leaving on a jet plane..."

I am an extreme worrier and can be somewhat of a pessimist.  I have a bad habit of thinking of all the things that could go wrong when trying something outside of the norm.  Early tomorrow morning I am getting on a plane with my DH, my 11th month old DD and my DH's parents to Northern California.  I decided to create something called a "scaredy list" to get my worries out of my head.  I am planning on addressing this list when I get back to prove to myself that I had nothing to be scared or worried about.  I'm hoping this strategy will help me to become less of a worrier and more of a free spirit!
Okay, so here is my list:

*  Did I forget something?- the number one fear that runs through my mind constantly!
*  Am I or someone I am traveling with going to get sick from the flight?
*  Is my 11 month old going to scream the whole flight?  Will I upset other people on the flight?  Are her poor little ears going to hurt when we take off and land?  Did I bring enough to entertain her- will I be able to entertain her?
*  I hope the weather will be good- bad weather or too hot/too cold weather.
*  I miss my golden retriever already!
*  Will the hotels be family friendly with cribs and non-smoking rooms?
*  Will I have a good time?  Will my family have a good time? 
*  Will this trip meet my expectations (which are always very high)?

What sorts of fears, thoughts and/or questions run through your mind when you travel? 

Again, I am planning on coming back to this post to prove that I was being a worrier for no good reason!  Wish me luck...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The $84 Chinese Takeout Debacle

Friday nights are for getting together with friends and relaxing after a long work week.  This past Friday night my husband, daughter and I went to another couple’s house for swimming and Chinese takeout.  When it came time to order the Chinese I had to feed my daughter dinner and the boys decided to just go by themselves to the Chinese restaurant to order and wait for our meals with a couple of beers at the bar.  I pretty much will eat anything so I left the meal decisions up to them.  An hour later, and my friend and I are sitting around playing with my daughter and her dog when we realize that our husbands have been gone for a very long time.  As soon as we came to the conclusion that they were probably getting in trouble they walked in the door and boy, did they get in trouble when my loose lipped husband loudly said that they had spent a whopping $84 on the food.  He walked over to me and insisted that I feel how heavy the bags of food were, laughing hysterically the whole time.  I went with it, thinking that it was a joke and how could two grown men spend almost $90 on Chinese food for four people? 

The seriousness of this spending hit me when I looked at the spread of food that they arranged in front of me.  I later learned that when the food was ready at the restaurant and the guys were paying for it, they had commented on how it seemed like a lot of food for four people and the cashier looked at them in astonishment saying that the food was probably not too much for six people, but for four people, that was A LOT of food.  What were they thinking?  Especially since the other couple doesn’t eat left-over Chinese food!

I ended up filling up my plate twice that night; totally destroying my weight watchers plan because I felt the need to eat my moneys worth.  We also took home two bags filled with leftovers and have since eaten Chinese for breakfast, lunch and dinner and STILL have some left.

LESSON LEARNED:  Do not allow someone to do the ordering for you- when it comes to your money, make sure it is being spent wisely!     

This is what was leftover when we sat down for lunch the next day (ariel view)! 

I did not feel too well after lunch!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Wonders of the Kindle E-Reader

Last Fall I received a Kindle for my birthday.  I was never against using an e-reader over print text, but I definitely preferred reading printed text over text on the computer (my eyes cannot tolerate more than 15 minutes of reading on the computer and I usually try to print out text from the computer to read it in its printed version).  I also learned about the 20-20-20 strategy when reading on the computer- it entails to stop every 20 minutes from reading on the computer and look away for at least 20 seconds, 20 feet away from where you are.  With this being said, I was completely surprised at how fast I took a liking to reading on the Kindle.

As it became more and more enjoyable to read on the Kindle, I began to see how the Kindle could be used in the classroom.  And then, the Kindle Project was born- with the nudging from a fast friend I made who was subbing as a paraprofessional in my school, I jumped into what would be a year long journey to gain support from other educators, administrators and donors to get Kindles in the classroom.  Below is an overview of my project- maybe I can inspire other educators to support their use in the classroom, or at least persuade readers who are reluctant to join the 21st century and buy a Kindle.

 Imagine a classroom where students can grow as readers without judgment from peers: a classroom where students are engaged in authentic learning.  Add a sustainable library with endless possibilities for students to read.  This classroom will exist with the assistance of Amazon’s Kindle Wireless Reading Device.  The Kindle is an electronic book (ebook) that all students should have access to, and is an invaluable resource for schools.  With currently 27,023 children and young adult texts available, the Kindle is every teacher’s dream.   

Using Kindles to Ignite Minds on Fire

picture property of amazon.com

Year after year, I have many students come into my classroom with reading abilities well below their grade levels.  Because of continued difficulty with reading and comprehension, these students become frustrated and turned off to reading.  They develop poor attitudes towards reading.  This mindset might seem irreversible by many, but in my professional opinion, children do not hate to read, they hate the associated failure.  This failure is the result of poor book selection that occurs when students try to read books above their independent reading levels in an effort to look like they are reading at the same levels as their peers. They want to avoid the embarrassment of feeling like they have been left behind.  Unfortunately, this causes the gap between the grade level standard and the student’s level of success to widen.  Authentic learning only happens when students have texts they can actually read and understand. 

Our task as teachers is to teach our students how to comprehend texts that are difficult for them ~ with greater depth of understanding. The Kindle allows students to mirror the reading comprehension strategies we model for them and because it is new technology, it is extremely engaging for them.  When reading in hardcopy, we model how to highlight important concepts or vocabulary. Now the Kindle allows for electronic highlighting which certainly supports 21st century learning.

I can take up to six Kindles and download texts within a certain band of difficulty (ex. guided reading levels R,S,T) and then place these designated Kindles in the hands of students at that reading level. These students will be able to enjoy reading on their current levels, work towards higher reading levels (and better comprehension) and no one knows at what levels others are reading. This evens the playing field for all students.

Not only can Kindles assist struggling readers, they can enrich and push all students towards higher levels of thinking. Writing about or responding to literature encourages dialogue.  While reading on the Kindle, students can make notes right on the device. This is a particularly important tool for students with handwriting legibility issues.  But more importantly, this feature creates discourse between the reader and his teacher, between the reader and his peers and even between the reader and the author.  It certainly aids the teacher because it serves as an assessment tool. When a teacher can go back and reread what a student wrote about being connected to a character, a conflict in the story or some particular detail, it opens the door for further opportunity to deepen understanding for the student/reader.
picture property of amazon.com
Working at the middle school level is difficult when it comes to tapping into students’ interests and motivating them to achieve.  For some students, the sight of a book turns them off to learning due to negative past experiences.  With the addition of Kindles in the classroom, I can use children’s fascination with technology to spur real interest in reading.  The Kindle allows reading to be personalized and differentiated for individual readers.  The Kindle uses e-ink technology that simulates print text to minimize eye strain.  Students can vary the font size, set the screen to show one page or two, access the built-in dictionary (which helps readers expand their vocabulary) affording each student the right to choice.

picture property of amazon.com

picture property of amazon.com

As a Kindle user myself, I have first-hand experience with the benefits of using it as a learning tool in the classroom.  Both economical and sustainable, the Kindle will help students read and succeed in the 21st century, as well as give them the most important gift for success in life and that is being life-long readers. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

My First Blog Post!

I have been behind the blog scene for a while now- learning about other peoples blogs by studying them; asking questions to blog owners; reading different types of blogs from vegan themed to cooking, to blogs devoted to motherhood; I have even entered (and won!) contests from various blogs.  I love to learn and read and talk about what I am learning and reading, but writing has always scared me. 

I have taught 8th grade reading for five years and have absolutely loved sharing my passion and strategies for reading with my students.  This upcoming school year I will be teaching 7th grade language arts which entail the instructing of both reading AND writing- YIKES!  I don't know what it is about writing, it has always been so laborious and frustrating for me.  Maybe it is that I feel like I have nothing to write about, which is as far from the truth as possible because I can talk to anyone about anything- I love to talk!  Getting my thoughts down without hitting the backspace bar and wiping it all out every two minutes is a problem.  

I wanted to start up this blog to become a more confident writer and to build a passion for writing like I do in the other aspects of my life.  I have so many great ideas and personal thoughts on food, being a mother for the first time, educating adolescents, my golden retriever "Brooklyn," - I could go on and on- that I really need to get over my writer's block and WRITE!