Thursday, May 25, 2006

My Life Monday - Week 4

I'm doing this early because I am leaving town tomorrow and will be gone on Memorial Day. Please don't forget to add your link and add a comment if you complete today's MLM.

Week 4 - In Memory Of . . .

On this Memorial Day, there are three people I will be thinking of. The first two are my grandparents on my mom's side (my grandparents on my dad's side are still living). My grandpa passed away in 1986 when I was only 11. I don't remember tons about him, but he was a hard working, honest man. He was gentle and soft spoken. When my mom was a child, one of seven children, my grandpa was a dairy farmer. He owned acres of land in the Woods Cross, UT area. The government decided they wanted to put a freeway through his land and offered to buy his land. He didn't think the price was fair and he liked farming, so he turned down the offer. Well, the government condemned his farm so he would be forced to sell (apparently they can do that). He could no longer sell his milk, so he lost his source of income and had to sell the land for a pittance. My mom tells stories of being very poor. In spite of that, my grandpa rebuilt their lives. He built a spacious house (for the time) with 5 bedrooms, two baths, and two kitchens. He built it himself. He saved enough money to leave my grandma well taken care of until her death. He also left a mission fund that paid for one-third of each grandchild's mission. And there are 33 grandchildren in all! Because not all of us served missions, there is money left over in the fund. The remainder will be used to pay the first and last month of the missions ALL the great grandchildren may serve. That is a great legacy to leave behind. I hope I can be half the person he was.

My grandma died last year shortly before Mother's Day. She had spent the last few years of her life in a nursing home because of severe memory loss. I always remember how welcoming she was. She opened her house to everybody. When we were younger, she held huge Thanksgiving dinners at her house. All of her seven children, and their spouses, and all 33 grandchildren would gather in the huge family room downstairs for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a blast. The adults sat at one table and the kids sat at other small ones. I loved those times at her house. My grandma was a former school teacher and had old ditto's stored in her house. We would use those and play school on a regular basis. As a teenager, whenever I traveled from my hometown in Idaho to Salt Lake City for various things, she opened her house to me and my friends, letting us come as we pleased. I rarely remember her door being locked. She welcomed everybody with open arms. She had a strong testimony that never wavered.

The last person I will be thinking of today is my stepson Tyler. He was a beautiful, pure, ACTIVE boy who died too young. I didn't get the chance to know Tyler well. He died before my husband and I got engaged. But I love him and miss him as if I had known him well. He holds a very special place in my heart. Camden has Tyler's name as his middle name in honor of him. Tyler died in August of 1999, just 10 days after his 4th birthday. He drowned in a reservoir near here. Mark and I were in the temple when it happened. When we came out of the temple, Mark's ex brother in law was waiting to tell him what happened. Mark and I both have peace that it was Tyler's time to go. We (and Mark's ex wife) firmly believe if it hadn't happened that way, it would have happened another. We still miss him daily and especially on special days. We know he watches over us and our family. I have no doubt that he has met Camden, that he and Camden were friends before Cam came to earth. I know Tyler is Camden's guardian angel. Camden already has a laugh that was Tyler's laugh. We're sure Tyler taught it to Cam before Cam was born.

To my grandparents, O and J, and to Tyler - We love and miss you. And today, we remember you and honor you.

Please share with me your memories of loved ones you may be remembering and honoring today. Leave a link below when you have done this week's MLM. Whether early or late because of the holiday, share with us.

Next week's topic - Take a picture of something (not somebody) that represents part of who you are. Share that object and tell why it is significant to you.

It may take me some time to get back and check out your blogs, but I will be back! I'll will try to check in Tuesday!

It's the Final Countdown

Woohoo! It's the last day of school for me! Grades are done and on the computer. My room is mostly ready to go. Classes are enjoying their reading marathon (with more talking than reading right now, but that's ok). And me? I am ready! Seven hours left in the day and then I am free for the summer.

But you know what? The last day always makes me a little sad. I'm going to miss this group of kids. Sure, they've been annoying at times. And sure, their work ethic sometimes leaves a little to be desired. But when it is all said and done, most of them are good kids and I am going to miss them.

A college professor once said that she always cried on the last day of school when the students left. She said she knew it would be time for her to get out of teaching when she no longer cried. I took that to heart and use it as my measuring stick each year. And you know what, every year I shed a few tears when the students say goodbye. Even thinking about it today, I'm a little teary eyed. The year I no longer cry is the year I know I need to say goodbye to teaching.

I really love what I do. I enjoy the youth of today. There are many, many problems among our youth today. This world gets more and more wicked each day. But really? Deep down most of these kids are good at heart. There are many shining examples. And once the hormones wear off, they will really be awesome.

Oh, and on a special note, this is post 100 for my blog. Woot!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A few pictures that make me happy

This is what I have been working on for the past week. These are my students autobiographical writing portfolio's. Also the inspiration for MLM (they have to write about some of the same topics I have already given you or will be giving you). The best part about those? They are all graded! Students turned them in a week ago today and now I have them all done and entered in the computer. Yay for big project being done!

These are Camden's new books. I just got them this last week. There are 24 in all. The best part? They cost me nothing! My students place book orders, I get bonus points, and I used some of those points to get these books. I LOVE getting books for Cam. You can count on a new children's book thread here in a few weeks.

And so you know, my students didn't get cheated by me using some bonus points to get books for Cam. These are new books I got for my classroom library. I love books!

And one last not so happy picture . . .

These are the papers I have left to grade for the year - the every day assignments we do. I haven't been keeping up on these because I was working on their big projects (and blogging of course - a girl has priorities!). I hope to have these done and in the computer by this time tomorrow. And then I will be done with grading for the 2005-2006 school year!

Monday, May 22, 2006

My Life Monday - Week 3

Welcome to week three of "My Life Monday"! I can't wait to read about your name. Please don't forget to add your link and add a comment if you complete today's MLM.

Week 3 - My parents named me __________ because . . .

My name really is Rachelle. No alias for me on the net. I figure, if you really want to stalk me, go ahead. It will add some spice to my life. Just stay away from my son or I will go postal on your hiney. ;)

My parents originally wanted to name me Michelle. But I had a girl cousin born a few months before me and her parents named her that. My mom thought and thought of a new name for me. After awhile, she came up with Rachelle. She thought she was being creative and making up the name Rachelle. Not so. She found out at a doctor's office a few years after I was born that Rachelle is a real name because there was another girl with that name in the office. My mom got to talking to her mom and found out, Rachelle is a real name.

I like my name. It's not a name that very many people have. I'm not one of the millions of Jennifers from the 70's (do not take offense if your name is Jennifer). I think my name fits me for the most part (unless you are one of those people who thinks of Rachelle in the trailer trash way).

One of my biggest pet peeves, however, relates to my name. Specifically the pronunciation of my name. It's just like Michelle, but with an Ra at the beginning. Say it with me - Rah-shell. It's not Rachel, Rachael, or Raquel. And I have been called all those at one time or another. I hate when people say my name wrong. To me, it's not that much of a difference from Michelle, so why is it so hard to pronounce?

So do you want to hear the mean thing I do to people with my name? It's really mean. You want to hear it anyway? Ok, here goes . . . I judge a person's intelligence on whether they say my name right the first time they see it. If they call me Rachel, they are dumb. If they call me Rachelle, they are smart. I know you are all checking to see if you said it right in your head the first time you saw it. If you said it wrong in your head, I forgive you. ;)

It is great for telemarketers. If somebody calls my house asking for Rachel, I hang up on them. Because if you can't say my name when calling my house, you probably don't really know me. And usually that means a telemarketer.

So there you have my name. Not too exciting, but I do like it. I wouldn't change it, except maybe spell it the way it sounds to stop the stupid people from calling me the wrong thing.

And for next week's topic: Since it is
Memorial Day, the topic is "In memory of . . . ". I know Memorial Day is supposed to be for those who died in war and to honor Veterans, but maybe there is somebody else whose memory you want to honor on that day. Many people use Memorial Day to honor any special person in their lives who has passed on. We'll do kind of a loose interpretation of it. With it being a holiday weekend, you may not be around on Monday itself. Feel free to post early or late. I myself will be traveling to my Idaho hometown for my brother's wedding, so I will post either late Thursday or early Friday before I am cut off from internet access for four days (how shall I ever live?!?!).

Don't forget to leave your link below if you participate in today's MLM. And leave a comment too. It makes me feel special. :)

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Letter Game

There is a fun game going around out there. Somebody gives you a letter of the alphabet. Then you have to choose ten words that start with that letter and explain why you chose them. You can play along too if you want. Leave a comment asking for a letter and then I'll give you one.

I asked Mama D for a letter and she gave me "Y". She said she wanted to challenge me because I am a teacher. Well, I took that challenge and decided to challenge myself a little more - being an English teacher and all. So I give you my "Y" list - all verbs AND in alphabetical order AND I will try to relate them to my life in some way. Yeah, I'm a little obsessive. ;)

1. Yak - Something I am really good at. I can yak for hours with Mark, a good friend, my family. I can yak about almost anything.

2. Yammer - Similar to yak, but with more complaining. This is what some of my students are doing right now. They are yammering on and on about the new cell phone policy in our district which says they cannot have cell phone during school hours next year and how "It's not fair" or "I'll bring mine anyway." Gotta love teenagers.

3. Yank - Maybe I'll yank their chain and tell them ipods are banned too. That will get them really yammering.

4. Yawn - Did you just yawn reading that word? I did. Think about a nice slow yawn. Are you doing it now?

5. Yearn - I yearn for another baby. A little tiny one to cuddle and hold. I yearn for new baby smell and new baby yawns.

6. Yell - Ok, who hasn't yelled in their life? I will sometimes raise my voice, but I try not to really yell. But you know what? Sometimes it just makes things better when you do.

7. Yelp - What my dog does when I accidentally step on him. I don't do it very often, but sometimes he gets under foot. And then he yelps to let us know we got him. Poor little thing.

8. Yield - I hope my beautiful grape tomato plant yields some yummy tomatoes this summer. I just started growing it from seed a few weeks ago. It has glorious little sprouts coming up now. I can't wait till it yields its crop.

9. Yodel - Can you yodel? I can't. Ok, I probably really can, but why? It's really not that pretty of a sound. Maybe it's one of those art forms I just can't appreciate yet.

10. Yoke - Are you evenly yoked with your spouse? I think Mark and I are evenly yoked. We carry that cart pretty well, being yoked together.

So there you go! Do you want to participate? Leave me a comment asking for a letter and I will give you one. And if you want a bit of a challenge, like all one part of speech or something, request and your wish shall be granted.

Don't forget "My Life Monday" for next week!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mr. Sun - We need to talk

Dear Mr. Sun,

Is it all right if I call you that - Mr. Sun? I'm not sure if you are male or female, so I took a guess. Maybe I should be politically correct and say "To whom it may concern in the sun-o-sphere". We'll just run with Mr. unless you tell me otherwise.

Now that we got that all sorted out, can we talk about the heat? I realize your job is to heat the world and I appreciate it. You do wonderful things with those rays. But don't you think you are laying it on a bit thick right now? My poor little home is reaching temperatures of 80 degrees inside. And that's just the main level. Upstairs, where we sleep, it's much hotter. And I haven't even cooked indoors the past few nights. Can you imagine how hot it would get if I did?

Remember Mark - the big tall guy? He thinks he is melting if it gets over 72 inside. Once it hits 75, it's all over for him. He's not doing so well at night right now. And Camden? The poor kid is having the hardest time sleeping. He's just too hot. I'm kind of not sleeping so well myself with the heat and the two of them.

I realize we haven't put up our air conditioning units yet so it's partly our fault. We plan to rectify that situation tonight. But even the weather man says you are a little extreme right now. He says you're not usually this warm this early in the season.

I really like how you provide warmth and all that. And your lovely rays help my flowers grow. So I'm not asking you to disappear or go away or anything like that. But if you could kick it down a notch, I would be most appreciative.

Your ever loving friend,


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Summer Plans

Summer is quickly approaching. Yay! *imagine a fat woman now doing cartwheels. Wait! Banish that image from your head - don't want to give anybody nightmares.* I only have 7.5 school days left after today; then my summer fun quickly begins. I am looking forward to unlimited Camden time, plus extra time with Mark. I'm looking forward to summer projects and vacations. I'm looking forward to long hours spent reading, staying up late, and pursuing new interests. As I think about my summer and all I want (and have) to do, I realize it's going to fly by!

We jump start the summer with my youngest brother's wedding next weekend. We'll be traveling to my hometown in Idaho for a few days of wedded bliss and festivities. I get to miss the last day of school and travel several hours with a 1 year old. Now that should be fun. Anybody have good toddler travel tips for me? We haven't taken a trip of this magnitude since Thanksgiving time.

The following weekend, we pick my stepson Kolby up at the airport for his summer visit. He'll be with us for 6 weeks. I'm looking forward to having him and Camden bond some more. There is a 13 year age difference between the two, but Kolby is a GREAT older brother and I can pretty much bet Camden will worship him by the time he leaves. Kolby doesn't know it yet, but he's going to have a small shadow following him around most of the summer.

Kolby's first week here I have get to attend a three day conference. According to No Child Left Behind, I am not highly qualified to teach English since I only minored in it. So I get to take classes to become qualified enough to teach what I have been teaching for the past eight years.

At the end of June we'll travel back to my Idaho hometown for a weeks vacation. We're also going to celebrate our anniversary early. We'll be leaving Camden with my parents for a few nights while we have some fun. *GULP* I've never left Camden overnight before and I'm not sure how I'll handle being away. My mom will do an AWESOME job with him, but still, he's my baby!

In the middle of July Kolby will fly back home. And then I will attend another week long class in my quest to be qualified to teach what I have been teaching the last eight years. Mark will also start a summer class in July.

In addition to classes and travel, I want to repaint my upstairs bathroom and cabinets, as well as paint all the doors in our house. I also want to learn digital scrapbooking. If you're into digiscrap, give me your best programs, websites, hints, tips, etc to get a beginner started.

Writing that all down, my summer doesn't sound so relaxing after all. But I'll be busy mostly because I want to be busy. I get to do what I want to (except for the few classes). Summer break - one of the big perks to being a teacher. Something has to got to make up for the pay. ;)

What are your summer plans? What do you want to do and accomplish over your summer? Share with me!

Monday, May 15, 2006

My Life Monday - Week 2

Welcome to week two of "My Life Monday"! I can't wait to read how you met your spouse and got together. Please don't forget to add your link and add a comment if you complete today's MLM.

Week 2 - The Story of My Spouse

I moved to my current town in 1998 after graduating college. I got my first teaching job in redneck ville and that facilitated a move. My job out here came to pass in an unusual way (I'll have to tell that story sometime). This was not where I was planning on living and I was very nervous about the move. One day while driving in my car, I asked the Lord why I was moving to redneck town. I felt strongly that I would meet my husband in this town and that made the move easier.

After living here about six months, I had made a few friends, but wasn't dating. Most of the guys were younger than me and very much rednecks and cowboys. There is nothing wrong with men like that, but they are totally not for me. I was beginning to think I was wrong about my earlier impression about why I moved to this town. But then I met Mark.

We met in a totally cliche way. He was the friend of a friend. We were at an LDS Institute activity one night in March of 1999 when my friend J introduced me to Mark. Right away I was taken by his gigantic-ness - his height of 6'8" tall and his Goliath spirit. We started talking that night and I found out he was divorced with two children. He was older than me and actually cultured - not into redneck stuff in any way! I was gun shy because of some previous dating experiences, so all I really wanted was a friend. I figured I would take the time to get to know him better and see what, if anything, happened.

We formed a Family Home Evening group with a bunch of other singles and started hanging out on a regular basis. Within a week I was totally hooked on Mark. We had so much in common. We could almost complete each other's sentences right away. We became instant best friends. In meeting Mark, my spirit recognized him. I knew that somehow I had known him before. And meeting again was like we had never been apart. I remember the first time I hugged him. In all the guys I had dated before, I always felt something was missing in the hug. It was like I needed something bigger to hug. And when I hugged Mark for that first time, my spirit sighed and said, "This is the size you've been looking for."

We talked and hung out together almost every night. Within a month, we started a relationship. Mark actually kissed me before he ever asked me out (I tease him about that all the time). We started dating, but Mark was very gun shy. He had been through an awful divorce and was afraid of being hurt again. Because of that, he broke it off with me several times, only to start our relationship again. I knew he loved me and I loved him, but he had too many demons to pursue a relationship with his full being. Finally, in June of 1999, Mark came to me and broke my heart for what we both thought would be the final time. He told me he had prayed about it and felt that we were not supposed to be together. I knew that I could not change his mind and that if we were meant to be together, the Lord would have to change his mind.

We remained best friends. We still hung out on a regular basis. I kept falling more and more in love. We both dated other people a bit, but nothing could replace Mark in my heart. I knew that somehow I needed to let him go and move on, especially if he felt it wasn't right. I took all of my feelings and put them in what I called my Mark box. I put all my feelings, hopes, and dreams and locked them in that mental box. There they would stay. I would continue to be his friend, be happy for him if he found somebody else, and move on with my own life.

But life or fate or heavenly powers had a way of bringing us together again and again. One beautiful day in early August, Mark and I went hiking with other friends. It was a wonderful, fun filled day. We went to the temple as a group that evening to top off our perfect day. When we came out of the temple that night, a man was waiting in a car for Mark. I found out later it was his ex brother-in-law. He told Mark that his youngest son, Tyler, had drowned earlier that evening. I will never forget watching that giant man collapse into a puddle of tears in that dark parking lot. (Tyler's death is another blog all together, so I will save the full story for a later date.) I knew I would do anything to help Mark through this difficult time. I made sure he ate, and got to work, and did anything else I could to help him through this tragedy. This was just one experience that brought us closer. A few months after Tyler's death, I went through a difficult time and Mark was there for me.

Even with all that, Mark still felt we weren't meant to be together. In spite of his feelings we weren't meant to get married, we continued to grow closer and become even better friends. I still felt like we were supposed to be together, but never mentioned it to Mark. I knew the Lord would have to smack him over the head to get Mark to change his mind. And you know what? That's exactly what the Lord did. He gave Mark a grand-mal seizure in November of 1999. The doctors could never find a reason for his seizure and he has never had one since. I feel the Lord was sending a clear message to Mark. As a result of his seizure, Mark couldn't drive for 6 months. He had to go to doctor appointments out in Salt Lake, so I volunteered to take him.

On our way out to his appointments, we engineered a way for me to get into his appointments with him. We figured they wouldn't let us in if I was just a friend, so we decided to pretend we were engaged. We even made up a wedding date - July 4th. So all day long as we went from doctor to doctor, we told them we were engaged and I was able to go to all his appointments with him. After all the appointments, we decided to take our joke a little bit further. We went to Anniversary Inn and looked at rooms for our supposed upcoming honeymoon. We found a room we loved and looked into its availability for July 4th of the coming summer.

Driving home that night, my heart was hurting again. We had spent the whole day pretending to be engaged and I loved every second of it. I only wished it was real! I had opened my Mark box and let all those bottled up feelings have free reign for that one day. But I knew that I would have to put them away for good this time and wondered how I could possibly do it. I told Mark that we needed to let each other go for good. We could remain friends, but had to let go of the love. I told him I had been praying for months now to be able to let him go, that if it wasn't meant to be, the feelings would be taken away. He agreed with me that we needed to let this go once and for all.

When we got back to his place that night, we knelt to say a prayer together. Mark prayed that we could let our feelings for each other go and let each other go. Much of what occurred that night is too sacred to share, but after the prayer, Mark told me he knew we were meant to be together. He had a strong impression during the prayer telling him I was "the one." I was kind of in shock and disbelief and afraid to open my heart. I was afraid he would tell me this just to break it off again later, so I wanted us both to be sure. Mark told me that night that he was sure, but it took me a little longer. After a few days of pondering and praying, I knew again he was the one. When I told him that, he dropped to the floor in my kitchen and proposed. We literally went from best friends to engaged overnight without ever dating again. We were married 8 months later on July 7th, 2000 (we got married as close to July 4th as we could).

If you want to read Mark's version, check out this post.

So that's the story of us - how we met and got together. I love Mark more than ever. He is the best father and the best husband. I'm grateful he is in my life. He and Cam are truly my greatest blessings.

I can't wait to read your stories! Post when you have yours done and I will check it out. And for week 3, your topic is: My parents named me __________ because . . . Tell us about your name. Do you like it or dislike it? Would you name yourself something else? Does your name fit you? Share all your thoughts and feelings on your name. If you prefer to keep your name anonymous, be creative. I think names are fascinating to learn about!

The auto link below is only for MLM.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Meme's Galore

Another school week is over which means I only have 9.5 days of school left. Yay! And I feel the love, peeps, I feel it! My stat counter went over 5,000 hits this week. Of course, 4,892 of those were me checking my blog to see if anybody had commented yet (anybody else check their blog obsessively for comments?), but thank you for checking out this humble work of mine. I love having readers and commenters and YOU! Yes you - the one reading right now - thanks for stopping by. It means much to me (mainly because I am an attention hog seeking validation).

I tweaked my blog name a bit this week because I noticed A LOT of blogs have the word "ramblings" in the title. And it doesn't seem to fit so much anymore. So now I am just Teacher-Mom going mad. Like? Dislike? Give me your feedback - comments, suggestions, or offers of free money and gifts.

Ok, now on to the real post of the day! I've been tagged. First by
Stephanie and then by Maine Mom. *use your best announcer voice* And now, for your reading pleasure, I bring you - Rachelle a la meme!

The 4 Tag

Four jobs I've had:
1. Little Caesars crew leader
2. Day laborer for a cement company - I'll have to blog about that sometime
3. Jewelry Sales Associate at Walmart
4. Teacher!

Four movies I watch over and over:
Not big on watching movies over and over, so this doesn't really apply.

Four places I have lived: I've only lived in three places in my 30 years of life
1. Birth place
2. Hometown
3. Current city village redneck town

Four TV shows I love to watch:
1. American Idol
2. Almost anything Discovery Health Channel
3. CSI
4. E.R.

Four places I have been on vacation: I've led a very boring life
1. Disneyland
2. Portland
3. Seattle
4. Yellowstone

Four Places I'd Love to Go to On Vacation:
1. Italy
2. Brazil
3. Hawaii
4. Spain

Four websites I visit often:
1. Many, many blogs
2. Babycenter
4. Ebay!!!!!

Four favorite foods:
1. Raspberries
2. Chicken Cordon bleu (made from scratch by dh - baked, not fried)
3. Raspberry swirl cheesecake
4. Garlic bread

Four Places I would like to be right now:
1. Home with my boys
2. Hawaii
3. My hometown
4. Italy

Two for Togetherness Tag

2 things you compliment your husband on while in his presence:
1. What a good dad he is to Cam and how much I love watching him be a dad.
2. How hot he is!

2 compliments you make about your spouse to your friends about your spouse:
1. How well he is doing in college
2. What an awesome man he is in every respect.

2 traits you married him/her for:
1. His strong spirit
2. His commitment to me, family, and the gospel

2 Days you cherished the most with your husband being together:
1. Our wedding day
2. Cam's birth

2 Material things you could give your husband if you just inherited a fortune:
1. His dream home complete with a library stuffed with books and squashy chairs, a gourmet kitchen, and a home theater (and yes, he would want a gourmet kitchen).
2. More children

2 things you would miss the most if she/he left for two weeks:
1. Laying next to him in bed
2. All the help he offers me with the house and Camden

2 thoughts that crossed your mind when you first met/saw your spouse:
1. Wow, he is really big! (he's 6'8" tall!)
2. What a strong spirit he emanates.

2 favorite dates:
1. Homemade dinners at his house - cooked by him
2. Hiking in the mountains

2 funny odd things you love:
1. His embarrassment over anything potty or sex related said in public by me, his ever embarrassing wife.
2. How we say the same thing at the same time.

2 two places you have lived with your spouse:
1. 1st apartment in redneck land
2. Our condo in redneck land

2 favorite Vacations: We haven't vacationed much
1. Our honeymoon
2. Visits to anyplace that is not here

Those were fun to complete! I now tag:

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My favorite Young Adult books

Teaching junior high students, I am always looking for good books to recommend to readers their age. As I tell my students, you can never have too many books. I've been reading a lot of adolescent books lately, as well as many book reports, and have had time to reflect on my favorite books for young adults. I previously shared my favorite children's books with you, so today I bring you (drum roll) Mrs. D's freaking awesome book list for punk kids teenagers.

Disclaimer: Some of the books contain swear words or other material that may be questionable to some readers. I encourage parents to preview books before sharing them with their young adults.

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

I dislike science fiction or fantasy in any way, shape, or form. This book is one of the few exceptions. Ender is a young boy, specifically created for a genius mind. Aliens have attacked the Earth and Ender is the boy chosen to save the earth. He thinks he is just playing video games, but instead he is saving the planet. The characters are believable, the plot is captivating, and it's an all around good read. There are several more books in the Ender's series. For a good study in point of view, Ender's Shadow tell
s the same story from another boy's point of view. There are some swear words and adult references in this book.

Holes by Louis Sachar

If you've seen the movie, the book is so much better (as books usually are). Stanley Yelnats ends up at Camp Green Luck because of a misunderstanding and family bad luck. Through his experience at camp, he manages to change his life and the bad luck that plagues his family. This is a fun, easy read. Many of my students who don't like to read like this story. There is very little questionable material (if any) in this book.

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Just like Ender's Game is the exception to my science fiction dislike, the Harry Potter books are one of my only exceptions to my fantasy dislike. When I picked up the first Harry Potter book, I expected to hate it, just like I do most fantasy. I only read it because another teacher told me I should. This one captivated me from the start. I have eagerly anticipated each book and have even stood in line at midnight to receive the newest edition. If you have seen the movies, but never read the books, you are missing out. The books are light years better.

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech.

I. Love. This. Book. It is one of my favorites of all time. Sal's mother has disappeared and she is on a journey to find her. There are several stories layered into one. We have Sal's journey to find her mother, stories of her life, and stories of her friend Phoebe. The reader is left guessing at what has happened until the end, when all the stories interweave and make complete sense. This book has little, if any, questionable material in it. I highly recommend it for teenage girls.

The Giver by Lois Lowry.

This is another book I just adore. I recommend it to all genders and all ages. Jonah lives in a utopian society. He becomes the Receiver of Memories in this society. Jonah bears the responsibility of remembering all the ills of society so he can prevent them from occurring again. Jonah questions his life and society, and ultimately whether a utopia is a good thing. The ending leaves you thinking. The whole book is thought provoking and well written. There are some disturbing deaths in this book (euthanasia of infants).

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

By the same author as The Giver, this books is just as well written and thought provoking. Unlike the utopian society in the previous book, this society is very rudimentary. In her society, the weak are cast aside. Kira is a cripple and when her mother dies, she fears for her future. But she is taken to the Council of Guardians because of her extraordinary weaving skills. There she is surrounded by many mysteries and secrets, which she seeks to discover. I recommend reading both this and The Giver together. It makes a great compare and contrast. This book has very little, if any, questionable material.

I am the Cheese by Robert Cormier

I read this book because it was recommended as a good book for young adults. I was immediately captivated by the story and could not put the book down. The plot can be complex and confusing, so the reader needs to pay careful attention. Adam is a boy who is in some sort of institution. Something has happened in his past that he can't quite remember. He is interviewed and helped to remember while in this institution. He also takes a bike ride which helps him remember and discover his past. This book keeps you thinking and guessing until the end. It has some references to violence, but nothing graphic.

I had planned on including more books, but am running out of time. Yikes! I'll do some more next week.

Now it's your turn. Share with me a young adult book you love. You never know, it may already be on my list for next week. And then you'll feel all smart and special because you chose the same book I did. ;)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Holiday Expectations

I admit it. I have "issues" with holidays. Not big holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Halloween, but all the other small holidays that seem to require a gift - like Valentine's Day, Father's Day, and Mother's Day. With Mother's Day rapidly approaching, these issues once again surface.

Don't get me wrong, I think it is good to have a day to celebrate love, or a day to celebrate your mother, or celebrate being a mother. We all want to be appreciated and these holidays give us a chance to be showered with love and attention for a few hours. But I hate the gift giving expectations that come along with those days.

The gifts advertised during these times are always the same. For a woman your choices are flowers, candy, jewelry, or girly pampering stuff. For a man, you can choose a tie, wallet, electronic equipment, or a barbequer of some sort. None of these items are things I really want to either get as a gift (except flowers on occasion) or give as a gift. I don't want Mark to buy me a gift just because society says he should. And I especially don't want any of the advertised gifts for this holiday. Flowers? I like to get those "just because", not because it is expected on a certain day. And they die quickly. Candy? That will make me fat (although there is a great little sweet shop out here). Jewelry? I wear very little and so that's not a great choice. Girly pampering stuff? I have very sensitive skin and can't use most of it, especially not bath beads or bubble bath.

So what do I want on these holidays? All I want for Mother's Day is time with Camden and Mark, maybe a nice dinner, and a chance for a nap. If really pressed for what I would want as a gift, it would be things like new clothes or a new cell phone. But I'll get those eventually anyway, so it doesn't matter if I get it for Mother's Day or not. I look forward to the days when Camden makes me cute little things or chooses out a small gift, but until that point, I don't really want presents because society says I should get one on this holiday.

Worse than trying to think of a gift for myself is trying to think of one for my mother. She is at that stage in life that anything she wants, she buys. And she says she doesn't want more knickknacks or clutter around her house, so any gift that would contribute to that is out. I've been wracking my brain for a gift for her for days for now and am still drawing a blank. Mother's Day is just a few days away and I don't have a clue what to get my mother. I may go with the old stand by - a gift card of some sort.

Am I the only one who feels this way? Do you look forward to these holidays? What do you want in terms of receiving a gift? What are you giving to your mother as a gift? Share with me your feelings. Maybe you'll be the one to help me get over my holiday issues.

Monday, May 08, 2006

My Life Monday - Week 1

Ok, we're kicking off the first "My Life Monday!" I am very excited to read your life stories! Please put your site in the linky thing below if you complete the MLM.
Lolly made these lovely MLM logo's for us to use. Feel free to copy one or both to use on your site.

Week 1 topic - My Most Memorable Childhood Experience
(or how I got my own bedroom)

Growing up, I lived in a two story, 5 bedroom house with my parents, my three brothers, and my one sister. We lived in an ordinary house in an ordinary residential neighborhood. My sister and I shared a bedroom in the basement. It was a nice, big bedroom decorated in a lovely Strawberry Shortcake theme - red carpet, Strawberry Shortcake curtains, etc (It's still decorated that same way today!). My older brother shared a room next to us. The rest of the basement was a big open family room. In the front area were the TV and couches. The middle consisted of the the fireplace and bathroom. The back consisted of our bedrooms. It was a wide open area which made for lots of fun and mischief. Upstairs were three bedrooms, plus the rest of your basic house stuff. My parents had their bedroom upstairs, as well as my two brothers who shared a room. The remaining small room was my mom's sewing/junk room. I tell you all this so you can hopefully picture the scene.

On a stormy fall day in 1984, my sister and I were downstairs in our room cleaning. I was nine and she was seven. Our three brothers were out in the family room watching TV. My mom was upstairs canning fruit and my dad was at work. My sister and I were folding clothes into our respective drawers when all of a sudden there was a thunderous crash. A noise similar to a million firecrackers going off at once deafened our ears for a brief moment. I glanced immediately out to the family room near the fire place, where the noise seemed to have emanated from. As I did this, the family room turned an eerie shade of brilliant blue. A massive fireball of red, orange, and yellow appeared in mid-air in front of the fireplace, rolled once through the room, and disappeared as quickly as it appeared.

My sister and I looked at each other, shrugged, and went back to folding clothes. Yes, we had just heard a booming noise, the room had turned blue, and a fireball had just rolled through our family room, but we went right back to cleaning. I was sure my three brothers had done something stupid which had caused this whole experience, so I just waited for my mom to start yelling at them. Sure enough, we quickly heard my mother's voice drifting down the stairs. But it wasn't to yell at my brothers as I had expected. She was yelling for us to get out of the house.

We all rushed outside where my mom met us. Once there, she told us our house had been struck by lightning. We sat in our car waiting for the firemen to arrive. Once they came, they went through our house quickly and assessed the damage. After they gave the all clear, we went back into the house to observe the damage for ourselves.

The damage was actually minimal. The lightning had traveled through our chimney pipe. Our chimney pipe went through a closet in the upstairs, where my brother's metal baseball bats were also stored. The lightning used the metal bats as a conduct to an electrical outlet. It traveled through outlet to my mom's sewing machine, which it had blown apart. It also burnt a hole in the carpet beneath the sewing machine stand. Downstairs, we discovered the fire place had been moved six inches off its foundation, which is why we heard the loud noise and saw our cool fireball. The firemen told my mom if anybody had been standing near the fireplace, they would have been hurt and if they had been touching the fireplace, they probably would have been killed. We were all very grateful that we were all safe.

Because of the damage in the sewing room to both the machine and the carpet, my parents decided to repaint and redo the sewing room. But they didn't want to put in all that work only to make it another sewing/junk room, so they said it could be my bedroom. I got to help pick out paint colors, carpet colors, bedding, and all sorts of other fun things. Sure it was the smallest room in the house, but it was all mine. I moved in as soon as it was completed, leaving my sister in the basement Strawberry Shortcake redness.

There was no real explanation as to why lightning chose our house. Our house wasn't any taller than other houses. The explanation the fire department gave us is that we were using a lot of electricity and that may have attracted the lightning bolt. For a few years afterwards, my mom would freak out when it would thunder and lightning. She would make us turn out all the lights and sit on the couches with our feet off the ground.

This is probably my favorite story to tell people - how our house got struck by lightning and how I got my own bedroom as a result.

Ok, now I get to read your stories! Post when you have yours done and I will check it out. And for week 2, your topic - The Story of my Spouse - how we met and got together.

The auto link below is only for MLM.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Week in Review

1. Hazy, very hazy today. I had one of my fun stomach pain nights last night and was up from 1:30 to 3 am waiting for my beloved Percocet to kick in. Whoever invented that deserves a medal. The only bad thing is although it makes me very tired and groggy, I don't sleep deep after taking it, so everything wakes me all night long. I thought about getting a sub today so I could stay home and sleep, but getting a substitute at the last minute on a Friday with just a few weeks left in school is like milking a rock. Not happening.

2. This is my new favorite thing. I love it! We just started signing with Cam and he is already trying to do the sign for dog. We don't allow much TV in our house for many reasons, but made an exception for these videos. Camden gets so excited by them! Yesterday I went to turn on the video. He kept crawling over to the TV and bouncing up and down until it came on. And then he sat transfixed, alternating between watching the video and then watching me do the same sign. Mark and I are also enjoying learning signs as well.

3. I am looking forward to My Life Monday! I hope many of you are ready to participate. As a reminder, the topic for this coming Monday is "My most memorable experience." This can be a good or bad experience. It may be a series of experiences. Have fun with it!

I am making a list of ideas for MLM, so if you have any topics you would like to see covered, please email me. I have several for the younger years, but need more ideas for our lives now. If you are not sure how to email me, click on profile and under that you will see a section that says "email". Just click on that and you can send me whatever you want, especially any extra money you have lying around. ;)

Also, does anybody want to make a cool graphic to go with MLM? I was thinking a little logo like they have for "Works for Me Wednesday" or for "Thirteen Thursday." I'm really good with many things internet, but clueless when it comes to that sort of stuff. If you are can make some sort of logo and are willing to, you would be my new hero. I would even erect a small shrine in your honor (except for that whole "Don't worship false God's" thing).

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Two touching books

I've mentioned before that I read a lot of literary fluff. But I do try to read at least one thought provoking book each month. In the past few weeks, I've been on a deep literature kick and wanted to share two nonfiction books that profoundly touched me.

The first is Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine. This book is written for the middle grades, approximately grades 4 to 9. A teacher friend loaned me this book to read and I am definitely adding to to my classroom library. It is the story of a young girl killed during the Holocaust and how her suitcase ended up in a Holocaust remembrance museum in Japan. It is a quick, easy read. You come to know Hana through the stories and pictures in the book. You also learn about the journey this museum in Japan took to find out about Hana and her life. It is very touching story of one little girl and a good overview of the Holocaust. Although I knew Hana would die during the course of the book, I came to know her. She was a beautiful young girl exposed to awful acts and the worst of man kind. The book is not detailed in terms of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust, but is good for middle grade readers who want to learn more.

The second book is Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza. This story is much too intense for a younger audience and is definitely meant for adults. It is the true story of Imaculee's survival during the 1993 Rwandan genocide. Imaculee's family was horribly slaughtered during this genocide, along with 1 million other Tutsi tribal members. Imaculee miraculously survived by hiding in a bathroom with seven other women in a pastor's house. More than just a story of the genocide, it is her story of faith and how she came to have a better relationship with God and forgive the killers. Although I am of a different faith than Imaculee, I was very moved by her story and her faith. She taught me important lessons of forgiveness and faith without fear.

I didn't intend to read two books related to separate holocausts when I started out. I picked up the second book on a whim while at the library this past weekend. I had watched the movie Hotel Rwanda a few months ago, and seeing a book on the same subject as that movie caused me to read it. I didn't expect how profoundly reading these two books on similar subjects in a short amount of time would affect me. I came away questioning human nature, but resolved even more to teach my son and any future children to love people of all races, religions, creeds, and nationalities.

Both of these atrocious holocausts happened because of hate. One would think the Holocaust and the killing of 6 millions Jewish people would be lesson enough. I would think it would teach people not to hate a group of people based on their skin color, their religion, their heritage, their life style, or anything else. But that is not the case. Less than 50 years later, another million people are killed in Africa for no other reason than the tribe they belong to. I am sickened and amazed at how quickly hatred can spread. I cannot comprehend how people can turn on another group of people and justify, whether to the public or in their own minds, the annihilation of a group of people. I do not understand how human kind can treat another person in such wicked ways. And I hope I can never comprehend or understand, because then I might be able to become like the people who commit such horrors.

What I can take from these books is knowledge. A knowledge of what hatred and prejudice can do when embraced and spread throughout a society. I hope that if ever faced with such pervasive hatred, I can stand up to it, not turn a blind eye and let it happen. Although I teach English, I actually majored in history. History is one of the best teacher's there is. I hope I can take these lessons from history and stand up for what is right. I hope I can raise Camden and any future children to love all of humankind, despite their differences. I hope that by having read these two books, I can become a better person, more filled with faith and a love for all of God's children.

Do you have a book that has touched you or taught you something important? Share it with me. I want to keep up with this deeper reading for awhile!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Show some love

Want to make a teacher's day? This week is National Teacher Appreciation week. If your child attends a school, whether it be preschool or high school, send their teacher a note of thanks. I promise that simple little act will make a teacher's day, especially in the upper grades where teachers are often forgotten. Some of my students showed me some love over the weekend.

As for "My life Monday", after some feedback, the topic I posted yesterday will be the topic to post this coming Monday. Then you can have a week to think about it and plan it. If you already did it, that's ok too. Or if you want to do it sometime during the week, feel free! Next Monday, if you haven't already posted, you can post your "My life Monday" on Monday and I'll put up a new topic then. If that works (or doesn't work) feel free to let me know! I think this will be fun and look forward to reading your life story (and sharing mine). Feel free to email me with any topics, questions, concerns, etc.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Weekend fun

Two fun things from my weekend.

First, I learned how fat I really am. My friend invited us over for breakfast Sunday morning. During breakfast, her oldest daughter (almost 5) said to me, "Why is your belly so big?" Ah, if only I could use the pregnant excuse. Instead I told her honestly, "Because I am fat." Nothing like the honesty of a child.

Second, I came out to this on my car Sunday morning. Some former students came and showed me some love. They were even nice enough to keep it on the car windows. It was fun and creative of them. Not as creative as the time some students stole all the political "Vote For _____" signs in the neighborhood and put them in my yard. Or the time that my front door frame was Saran wrapped and then shredded paper between the Saran wrap and the door so that when I opened it, all the paper fell in my house. But still, this is part of the fun of being a teacher.

I'm thrilled so many people want to do "About me". I think we can have some real fun for this. I think to begin with we'll alternate every other week with doing something more recent in our history and something from our childhood. If you have ideas for topics, please email me! How about calling it "My life Monday"? I'll post the topic on Monday, you do it some time during the week if you want, and then let me know you did it so I can add you to a list. I'll post that list somewhere on my blog.

For our first "My life Monday", your topic is: My most memorable childhood experience. Ready? Set? Go!