Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Reflection



Couldn't resist.

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2008 has been busy, educational, enlightening, germ-filled, history-making... all around a memorable year. While IM'ing with Alice yesterday afternoon, I shared that while I'm not an advocate for adding more hours to the day, I am feeling a bit frustrated that I'm missing out on doing all of the things I'd like to be enjoying. Prioritize, organize, sort, toss, de-clutter, sacrifice...they all work in emergency situations, and I've found them helpful during times in my life when I've felt overwhelmed, without direction, treading water. Shake it up, clean it out, start fresh- all those things many people resolve to do at least once a year. But spending time with my family, teaching kindergartners, crafting, reading, blogging, exploring, keeping up on letter writing/correspondence and enjoying "down time" are all important to me. While I don't ever put aside family or my job, I absolutely feel loss when I push one or more of the other pleasures to the side for a weekend, a month, or a semester. I'm not falling behind, I'm just not getting to do what I want to do. It's my selfishness coming out- or many things simply do matter to me.

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Thoughts floating around in my mind for the next year:

~ Listening to political pundits and spin doctors diagnose, mis-diagnose, blow smoke, and generally keep the American public on some terrifying rollercoaster ride once our new President takes office is not something to which I'm looking forward. As an individual, he didn't get us into this mess folks, he's been hired to help get us out of it. And it won't be easy, and it won't be fun, and it won't be quick, so:



(find other colors of this poster at sfgirlbybay's ETSY shop)

~ NCLB continues to have me worried, especially when state/formal assessments for pre-schoolers and beginning kindergartners are being considered, adopted, and inflicted upon young children. It's not that we as teachers don't assess- we do, constantly. I've shared what I'm noticing and what I check for when I meet my students for the first time, and I assess students daily using academic and social/behavioral rubrics throughout the school year. I assess in order to know what each child's strengths, needs, and prior schema are in order to adjust my teaching style so that I can provide an effective and enjoyable kindergarten experience for each of my Stars. I do NOT rate them on a scale from 1-10, with the goal of having each and every student a perfectly matched 10 by the end of the year. One child's handwriting may still appear wobbly while another's is almost freakishly calligraphic. Several students may be comprehending literacy materials several grades above their level, while many classmates will still be building their sounding out and sight word recognition skills in preparation for their future light bulb moment in the first grade.

NCLB doesn't help the varied needs of our diverse student populations- it looks to punish diversity itself. We are not clones, biologically, emotionally, physically, socio-economically or mentally, yet we are all capable of accomplishing in our lives. Forcing students to learn how to pass a single test (because if they do, then gee, that means we've solved society's ills, made everyone equal, and can finally compete in the world market, right?) robs them of the time they need to learn what may be their most important life skill of all: how to find the information they need. Go ahead and teach the basics. Add a bunch extra too, and encourage students to ask questions and to go out and experience the world. Keep them interested- and teach them how to find the answers to what they want and need to know. Guide them as they continue to think, learn and explore for themselves, no matter how much it frightens marketing gurus, religious zealots, and other predators.*

* (Yes, I group them together. If it bothers you, never fear: I'm just a kindergarten teacher.)

~ Dear Husband is likely to deploy for the second time in three years. We've bought December 2009's Christmas cards, and have already signed them and tucked them away. Pre-deployment preparations start early...really early. We'll begin stockpiling flat rate mailing boxes soon too. Hooah!

~ Is anyone willing to share not-so-obvious yet completely-necessary tips with this beginning gardener? Remember, I'm in Oz, have a yard that enjoys a lot of sun during the summer, and like many families enduring our nation's financial fiasco, want to grow our own veggies to see us through. We also have roaming deer in these parts- my guess is they too, will try to enjoy our (hopeful) bounty. Ideas?

~ The movie wasn't as good as the book, which has me a bit worried that seeing any future film installment made of the Twilight series will also be disappointing (come on make up specialists, the vampires are supposed to look ethereally beautiful, not cakey and plastered), but I read all four this year (Dear Daughter is finishing the third and hopes to finish the fourth before the end of January), and enjoyed them enough to hop on the marketing bandwagon to purchase a Twilight pendant. No, no, no, not from Hot Topic or some other teeny-bopper mall shop... I found mine on eBay, and followed the seller's link over to her ETSY shop: OliviaMoon.



The front...



...and back:



Photography, books, jewelry, exploring, typography, crafting, teaching, ranting, family, friends, blogging, kindergarten fun... so many things to carry over into 2009! Goodbye 2008, hello NEW YEAR!

Just Listen...

...my sincerest wish being that we all enjoy a safe, healthy and peaceful New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Eskimos in Oz

No, Eskimos are not indigenous to Oz (though Arapeho, Kansa, Comanche, Kiowa, Osage and Pawnee are, with many other Native Americans moved to the area in compliance with treaties, with still others forcibly relocated to the heartland), but since my students were curious about my cultural heritage as we learned about family, traditions and celebrations in November and December, I thought they'd enjoy making their own Eskimo characters for a January hallway display: "We'll frolic and play, the Eskimo way, walking in a winter wonderland..."



My students learned about parkas, mukluks, mittens, and fur ruffs, then colored their own characters, decorating the parka's qupaks (fancy trim or embellishments), and gluing cotton balls around the coat hood. I left the trees up from December's display as background, and added white streamer runs of "snow" upon which the Eskimos could play:







Aarigaa! Good job, Super Stars!

*****

Monday, December 29, 2008

January Classroom Decor

I kept the winter trees from December up as "background" for the bulletin boards, as well as the snowy tree borders. Oversized tissue paper snowflakes keep the snowmen and decorated paper mittens my students made before winter break company, and add to the winter feel:



(The start of our winter word wall in the calendar/story time area)



(Calendar)



(Snowmen on the math wall- our math units for this month include Numbers 1-12, pairs, and counting past 50, so appropriate math poems, number words, and match up pair games will be utilized...)





(Decorated paper mittens and snowy trees hang above students' desks...)



(A cheery winter flag...)

Here's who'll greet us every day this month:



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Check back tomorrow for my hallway bulletin board!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunny Sparkly Sunday



The yard...



Driving to KC...



Some seriously sunny, sparkly trees!

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~Scrabble furniture, shared by Haute Nature...

~Scribbit's Purple Cow recipe...

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Keep your fingers crossed that I'm able to get back to the classroom tomorrow for some quick preparations for second semester!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Seems Like a Good Day to Stay Home

Apologies, no photos of the classroom's January decor today...and this is why:



...after the rain and hail storms last night, we woke up to icy trees, icy fences, icy vehicles, and very icy roads. Seems like a good day to stay home!



I guess we won't be grilling tonight either:



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The sounds of vehicles sliding back and forth as they attempt to drive through the neighborhood are echoing into the house- talk about *acoustics!*

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I'll spend much of today straightening up my crafting nook, trying to brighten up the area a bit before the urge to make valentines hits me. I love how Christmas Red morphs right into Valentine Red!

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If you're staying or stuck at home:

~ why not bake Smitten Kitchen's Gramercy Tavern's Gingerbread Cake...

~ sign up for Cartolina Cards' newest card giveaway before Monday (December 29)...

~ make a cute Wall-E sandwich that your kiddos will enjoy (many thanks to Anna the Red for sharing this cute idea and many others at her site- who knew playing with food could be so much fun?)...

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Winter Song/January Classroom Ideas



(by Sara Bareilles)

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Christmas Day was peaceful, and spent at home. Movies with the family, turkey dinner, content kids and a cat happy to have *her* spot under the tree returned to her...it was all good. Today is another quiet morning, though our "White Christmas" will probably be brown by the end of the day since we're supposed to get into the low 60's. Mud. Not exactly hot chocolate and wool socks weather.

I prefer cooler temperatures. It could be the Eskimo in me, or perhaps I've got a thyroid/peri-menopausal chapter starting early in my life, but cold is good. Not the type of chill that shocks you, gives you the shivers, and makes your bones ache~ but rather the cold that turns your nose and cheeks pink, that braces you for the day, and that makes you want to greet people with a hug.

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Brown or not, the classroom is ready for January themes: winter, snow, counting past 50 (the 1ooth Day of School usually falls sometime in February), Kansas Day, Martin Luther King Jr., and this year, Inauguration Day. I'll post photos of the room for you over the weekend, but if you're looking for decor deals as you're out shopping today, or just want to cut out construction paper items, think mittens, snowflakes, and snowmen...silver sparkle, sleds, and hot chocolate if you want to add extra details!

Mitten wreath kit, on sale at Oriental Trading:



Here's a "first step" snowflake pattern for young children, and another...

Enchanted Learning shares instructions for making a paper plate snowman...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring

Birthday Goodies

First, my colleagues treat me to a BANNER cake at work:



Then, Dear Husband tracks down THE Kim Caldwell crafting tote of my dreams:



The gorgeous fabric, lace, and silk flower are such a treat!



What you might not be able to tell is that each different pattern of fabric marks a new pocket on the outside, with large compartments and additional pockets on the inside:



I know, it's hard to tell, but inside those pockets? MORE pockets!



I can't wait to fill it up!

Visit Artistic Bliss if you'd like one of these for yourself~

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Remember the necklace I wanted:



No, no, it didn't arrive in a box next to my birthday dinner, but Dear Husband gifted me with a brooch earlier:



Isn't she pretty?



It's **GOOD** to be 39!

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Having a birthday so close to Christmas means December is one of my favorite months of the year! The baking, the giving, the smiles, the carols, the snow and twinkle lights~ it's magical every year. Happy Holidays to you and your families!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Birthday (to me!)



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It's been a wonderful birthday- errands were finished early this morning, the last of the family Christmas preparations are done- Dear Daughter is decorating sugar cookies and I've got Mexican Wedding Cakes baking!

As for my birthday wish list- a beautiful cameo has come to live at my house, as has a scrapbooking/crafting tote from Kim Caldwell at Artistic Bliss! Photos tomorrow when there will hopefully be better light- until then, you can see *MY* tote on her home page!

I am a lucky girl!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Something Tells Me...

...that my students and their parents ~*know*~ me:



A gift tin full of cookie-makings...



...and multiple batches of coffee, Starbucks goodies, Pampered Chef items, hot chocolate mix, sparkly ornaments, and my magic-teaching-vitamins: peanut m-n-m's. Also received (but the photos turned out blurry) nummy smelling candles and bath treats~

Yep, my Stars and their parents see *everything*!

Merry Christmas Super Stars and Super Star parents- thank you for making me feel so special!

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Need some holiday inspiration or just want to look at pretties that other bloggers have shared? Take a peek:

~ A Storybook Life shares the most beautiful cupcakes (could you ever really bite into these without feeling guilty?)...

~ The Pioneer Woman Cooks fruit and crumbled left over chocolate chip cookies- should there ever *be* left over cookies in my house (um, never), this is the recipe I would try. Those of you with better self control than me, give it a try and let me know how it turns out...

~ Check out Motley Mutton and the Gangly Goat's felt animal necklaces (VERY CUTE!) at Etsy...

~ Saucy's bake sale goodies at Bloggedy Blog Blog just might convince me to pull out the ol' parchment paper one more time this month...

~ Should you ever want a strawberries and cream colored Christmas, head over to Everyday Beauty's Pretty Little Christmas for ideas...

~ Heather Bailey shares a flower pinwheel pattern over at Hello My Name is Heather- check out the poinsettia!

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Tomorrow is my 39th birthday and I am THRILLED! Wonderful husband and kids- *check*. Terrific family and friends- *check*. Awesome students and colleagues- *check*. Roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, and food in our bellies- *check*. Hope, optimism, healthy bouts of laughter, with some quiet time for myself thrown in- *check*. Master's Degree... uh...

Guess it's time to start the New Year's Resolutions.

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~ A Little Blog of Art features art/illustrations by Emma Block- my favorites so far are her holiday watercolors featuring ice skaters (along with some cute banners and ornaments), which you can find here...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Times Have Changed, Right?

It couldn't possibly be that I'm turning into an "old fogey-" because technically I'm decades away from that- but c'mon, offer up some reassurance here...

Now that school is on break, Dear Daughter wants to take a day to go shopping with one of her friends. Not a problem~ first we figure out a day or two when the Pre-Schooler can spend his time at day care (the Terrible Three's are not something to be trifled with in a mobbed mall setting), then ask the girl's family which shopping date would work best, exchange phone numbers, find out what time the girl has to be back home, and plan the pick up time, lunch arrangements, and frankly, get on the road.

The times being what they are, Dear Daughter texted her friend for the info. Monday is fine. Yep, phone numbers have been exchanged, and I'll meet Mom face to face when I pick up Teenager #2...at eleven o'clock, because no one in her family gets up before then. Um, excuse me? So I asked for clarification, and read over Dear Daughter's shoulder as she texted some more, and received her response: "Yeah, I don't get up before eleven, so that's when your Mom can pick me up."

Uh, sweetie, the proper response would be something like "Well, since your mom is driving, I can be ready at whatever time she needs me to be."

Someone tell me I'm right. ~*Please.*~



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I experienced yet another moment of clarity yesterday while holiday shopping: I now "get" how men can't stand malls.

Because I went to Cabela's.

Alone.

Willingly.

Cluelessly.

It is *the* Mall-for-Men and apparently many of their please-let-him-go-hunting wives.

Dead animals, mounted trophies...no, they don't bother me. And the wildlife displays were remarkable- educational even. But the sheer number of camouflage-clad people packed amongst the three hundred different duck calls, pine cone bedding ensembles, oars, fishing poles, hunting scents, and trout ornaments was truly astonishing, in a frightening way.

Don't get your mossy oak hunting gear in a twist- Dear Husband loves to hunt, as do many friends and family. It's just not *my* thing, unless you need me to track down the ever-elusive Noritake Occupied Japan china pattern, or the perfect shade of red ballgown for your military holiday formal.



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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Royal Icing Recipe (INEDIBLE!)

Apologies! I shared our graham cracker "gingerbread" houses with you but ~forgot~ to share the royal icing recipe!

Several of you have asked me for it, so here it goes!
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Royal Icing Recipe *inedible!*

This recipe yields a very small amount of frosting- so consider making a multiple batch. Three times the amount works well for TWO children.



3 egg whites at room temperature

¾ tsp cream of tartar (in spice/baking aisle at grocery store)

1 pound (about 3 and ¾ cups) confectioner’s (“powdered”) sugar



Combine ingredients in bowl and beat on high speed for ten minutes or until VERY fluffy~ if the icing seems runny, add a bit more powdered sugar and mix, mix, mix some more. Store in airtight container *at room temperature*. Do NOT refrigerate, and remember, DO NOT EAT.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Graham Cracker "Gingerbread" Houses

Our class party was today, so some "creative construction" was in order. We used these



and these



with multiple servings of



and GOBS of ("frosting glue")



~ all donated by our wonderful classroom parents! I brought extra supplies home and let Dear Daughter and the Pre-Schooler create their own "gingerbread" houses:









Holiday crafts are ~*fun*~!

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One of our terrific classroom moms made these:



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If tonight's freezing rain doesn't cause school to be canceled tomorrow, my students will be making pipe cleaner and bead ornaments (along with some January classroom decor before winter vacation): See a photo at Transcraftinental...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I've Been "Snow Busy!"



I've taken some time for me, myself, and I downstairs in my crafting nook this week~

Mom said "red:"





... while G.G. gets green:



Dear Sister gets a large red/blue/khaki plaid (that didn't photograph well, of course!) along with banners for my nephews and niece...

...and here's the preschooler helping me show you the wreath on our front door:



What a helper he is!