Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fairfield Visit!

Just spent a LOVELY (but SHORT!) weekend in my dear hometown of Fairfield, Iowa. Duane and I drove down Friday night after work. We FINALLY got to Tena's (after being BLOWN down the interstate with GALE FORCE WINDS) around 10:30. It was SO GOOD to see Tena again!

She was JUST up for a visit about a month ago, and I could TOTALLY get used to this "once a month" thing"!! We stayed up until about 1:00 Saturday morning catching up.

Saturday, we started the day with a trip to Revelations for coffee. If you are EVER in Fairfield, you MUST go to is THE place for java.

We took a tour of the GLORIOUS Sondheim Center, shopped the square (briefly!), and then took Tena home to get ready for her show (GODSPELL...more on that in a few paragraphs!).

After dropping Tena at her place, Duane and I went to the antique mall on the square, went to the Chocolate Cafe (another MUST stop on the square), then went BACK to Revelations for lunch. We had the Santa Fe Chicken pizza, and if you GO to Revelations, you MUST have it...barbecued chicken, roasted red peppers, chili oil...AWESOME!

After lunch, we went to the "Books are Fun/Reader's Digest" "outlet store". I found a FABULOUS cake cookbook for TEN BUCKS, and can't wait to try EACH AND EVERY RECIPE IN IT, then went to the theater to see the show.

What can I say?! "Godspell" isn't one of my favorite shows, but it was REALLY, REALLY good! OF COURSE, Duane and I spent MOST of our time watching Tena...she is ABSOLUTELY mezmerizing to watch...such talent...such charisma...such a consumate FIREBALL of FABULOUSNESS!!!!
If you go to the show (which you REALLY should if you're ANYWHERE near Fairfield next weekend), check out her "poking of the 'rich man' in hell" (the Lazarus scene), and focus on HER when the whole "interpreting for the deaf" scene unfolds...HILARIOUS! Her solo is a TOTAL'll wish she could go on singing it FOREVER!!!

Really great show, really talented cast, and the Sondheim Center is an AMAZING facility. GO SEE THE SHOW! I also got to see some DEAR friends before and after the show...Jane R., Laurie W., Mosie, Terry and Sarah C., Jean D., Martha F. (my junior high vocal music teacher, and one of the three teachers that I credit for my love, and joy in singing and musical theater).

After "Godspell", we hooked up with Tena and went back to Revelations AGAIN, so that Tena could eat, then went out to see Jason and Suzanne K. What a great couple, and their kids, Emma and Jack, are adorable. We didn't get to stay long, but a summer barbecue was promised upon our return, and we are SO collecting on that promise...especially since their pool will be up and functional as well :-)

Duane and I could only stay for a brief time, as we had plans to get together with DEAR FRIEND Carol J.

We toured her LOVELY new home (and I SOMEHOW volunteered to help strip wallpaper this summer...what was I thinking??!!), and then had dinner at Vivo, which is where Regina's USED to be. It was a nice enough meal, but I SO MISS Regina's. Tena and I spent MANY happy meals (and THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS!!) there, and a HUGE hole has been left in the dining venues of Fairfield through it's closing...sigh...

After dinner we drove around for a little while, then went to the high school to see Scott S's directing of "Little Shop of Horrors". I have to say that I was a little jealous. I did "Little Shop" in Washington about 10 years ago (!!??), and it's one of my FAVORITE roles. What can I say about this high school production, except that it was FABULOUS! Jon E. and Emily P. (both of which attended my storytimes and summer reading programs at the library when they were, like, five or six years old!!) were AMAZING!

I was SO proud of them (even though I had NOTHING to do with their AMAZING talents!). I felt REALLY old...Jon and Emily were the leads, and SEVERAL others in the cast were also storytime/summer reading program was a HOOT to see them!

I also got to see LOTS of theater friends and "family" who were also sitting in the audience for the was TOTAL "old home" night, and I LOVED it! I had a chance to chat with Scott briefly, saw Trish, and Diana, and Judy B-S, and Ray and Laurie, and Judith, and Tim and DeAnn, and LeAnn and Jim, and Roger and Diane, and Joanne, and...the list goes on and on and on and on. What a GREAT bunch of people! I miss them A LOT!! They are an AMAZINGLY wonderful, TREASURED gift from my time in Fairfield.

I also ran into my buddy Mandie H. She asked me to sing at her wedding next October! I'm a little out of practice, but said yes...and am looking forward to it. I'm a little nervous...she and her fiance live in Branson, MO, and write and record songs. Not sure WHO will be at the wedding, but I'm SURE there will be "music people"...ack! I don't remember what she said about the location, but either the wedding AND the reception are at the Sondheim Center, or the reception will be held there...either way, I'll get to be in that WONDERFUL space again soon!

After the show, we dropped Carol off at her FABULOUS new house, and went back to Tena's. She had left a text message (yes...I've joined the 2000's, and have learned how to use this AMAZING feature of my cell phone. It's WAY addictive, and I like it A LOT!!!), that Gay C. was having a "wine and spaghetti" after party for some of the cast, and invited us to join them. We were TIRED, but went, and were glad that we did.

Gay is one of those people that you can just INSTANTLY pick up with where you left off the last time you saw her. She's an AMAZING human being, and a very dear person. It was AWESOME to chat with her, and, as always, she was gracious and welcoming and her usual AMAZINGLY wonderful self...even while she was FRANTICALLY cooking spaghetti and sauce for a hungry army of actors!

After Gay's, we went back to Tena's, and AGAIN, Tena and I stayed up until 1:00 Sunday morning chatting and catching up! Duane conked BOTH NIGHTS around 11:30, but Tena and I just had TOO MUCH to talk about! I'm afraid we kept him up with our BOISTEROUS conversation...I think we BOTH may be in bed tonight by 8:00!

This morning, we got up, got around, and went to the "Silver Bullet" (I have NO IDEA what the place is actually called...Fairfield Family Diner, or something like that...). We had a nice PROTEIN RICH breakfast, then hit the road for the TEDIOUSLY long trip back up here.

Luckily, Duane suggested that we should stop in Pella to see the tulips, since the Tulip Festival is NEXT weekend. There were MANY that were just about to open, but we managed to find a few beds that had already bloomed...GORGEOUS. Below, are pictures of Duane and me "enjoying the sights".

We also stopped in Story City at the antique mall (I didn't find anything, but Duane found a couple of lunchboxes for his collection), and had a late lunch at Carlos O'Kelleys in Mason City.

It was a REALLY action packed, quick weekend, with LOTS of driving at each end of the journey, but SO worth it! I hadn't been to Fairfield since last June, and we were WAY overdue for a visit!

I'm looking forward to spending MORE time there this summer...when things don't have to be quite so rushed (but the weather will be so UNBEARABLY hot and sticky that we won't be able to rush ANYWAY!).

AWESOME trip! I hope YOUR weekend was full of fun, friends, and AMAZING adventures too!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What??!! THIS is how different my job is this year...

EVERY year, since I started working at my school EIGHT years ago, I have meticulously counted down the days until the end of the school year, after returning from spring break. It's been my ritual to write the countdown in my lesson plan book with a big "1", circled, and followed by lots of exclamation points on that final day with students. As the day drew nearer, my level of joy increased exponentially. The countdown helped me get through the year.

I was sitting in the teacher's lunch room on Thursday, and someone made the comment that there were only 41 school days left until summer break. I ALMOST dropped my sandwich...I hadn't even THOUGHT about the countdown at all...and spring break was in early March!!

I was COMPLETELY flabbergasted! Seriously, the "countdown" was ALL that kept me going UNTIL THIS YEAR.

Several things could explain this...

number 1...I switched from the spiral bound lesson plan book to the calendar in Outlook on my computer, and don't have the paper lesson plans in front of me anymore on which I wrote that countdown, (and which came in WAY handy last week when I had the flu, and needed to figure out what I needed to reschedule when I called in for a sub for the next day. How AWESOME to bring up my calendar from home and switch over to my e-mail to send notes to the teachers I needed to reschedule!),

number 2...I've been so busy redesigning my media lessons, getting the building ready for our IB authorization visit in May as part of the WOW group, prepping for the Microsoft Publisher Workshop Kris and I are teaching this week, and all of the other stuff that I've got going on right now that I haven't had time to think about the "countdown",


It's been crazy, and awesome, and exhausting, and wonderful, and a TON of work, but SO worth it. I haven't felt "empowered" in my job for eight years...which has been difficult. When I lived in Fairfield, and was doing the whole "children's librarian" thing at the public library, it was SO rewarding, and SO fun, and I really felt like I was making a difference "literacy-wise" with those toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary age students. It was amazingly rewarding.

When I interviewed for my current position, having just completed grad school, and having just had two years of "you need to teach collaboratively, and be a resource to be used by the teachers " methodology, I spent most of MY portion of the time talking about collaborative teaching, and my philosophy of why it was a good thing. (I say "my portion" because I was interviewed with another candidate, by a team of about TEN staff members...I'd never gone through that type of interview before, and, after a few rounds of questions, learned that it was better to let the "other guy" rush in and answer the question, then follow up on what he said and IMPROVE his answer...except for a couple of the questions that I took the lead on...since I knew I'd have a better answer).

I asked SEVERAL TIMES if there were opportunities to collaborate with the grade level classrooms. I was assured that there were TONS of opportunities, and then, after accepting the position, found out that my first job would be to define collaboration...their idea of what it was, and my idea were a little different.

Collaboration is NOT talking in the halls between is NOT sharing ideas in the lunchroom with no "co-teaching" opportunity to make it work, it is NOT working on "lesson ideas" after school with a colleague. These are CERTAINLY "elements" of collaboration, but I needed to get the whole "co-writing/teaching/assessing" concept across. I was told, when I accepted the position, that this was a possibility, but that I'd have to do things as they'd been done (seemingly since the dark ages!) until the opportunity arose to make the desired changes.

When I realized that I would be a prep provider, along with art, p.e., and music...and would basically be "babysitting" kindergarten through 6th grade students so that their teachers could have that mandatory one hour of "non-student contact time", and would be teaching outdated, boring library skills, in isolation...NOT attached to anything they were actually learning in the classroom, for GOD KNOWS how long, my "job worth" plummeted. I became the person who just showed up for work, taught what I was required to teach, and then went home...which was SO not what I was used to feeling. I was depressed, I was discouraged, and I SERIOUSLY thought I'd made one of the biggest mistakes OF MY LIFE by moving here and accepting this position! this is me, so OF COURSE, I tried to add some fun, and zing to the lessons, and rewrote a bunch of the stuff that was left for me to make it more interesting, but I was STILL faced with the fact that I was a glorified babysitter, and that the lessons were still being taught "in isolation" and weren't linked to anything in the classroom curriculum at ANY of the grade levels. Library prep was so "important", in fact, that I didn't even give grades for what was done in "library class" (not that I'm complaining about not having to give grades to 700 students (!), but how worthless is a position when you aren't even assessing students on what they learn when they're with you!?).

Luckily, our principal was very open to discussing my "vision" for the position, and how collaborative it could really be. With a combination of his openness...and willingness to change my job description, my "broken record" discussions with him about what I wanted to job to be, and the implementation of International Baccaulearate (see website for a description of what it, and LOTS AND LOTS OF TIME to make the changes, it has FINALLY become the job that I've always wanted it to be.

Wow...this was just going to be an "I forgot to start the countdown!" entry, but it got a little "bigger" than that! Enough for today...ramble, ramble, ramble...! I hope that YOU are doing something that you love!!! If not...stick with it, and maybe YOUR job will change to better suit what you want it to may have to tell people what that is, and keep telling them, and work for it, and push for it to happen (as I did...for SEVEN years!), but DO it! Shouldn't ALL OF THAT TIME we "put in" at work be worthwhile and "make a difference"??!!

Here's hoping that YOU'VE forgotten your "countdown" too!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Decoupage is lame...

...but I LOVE it! How lame am I? Sigh...

Don't know WHO got me back into this throwback to the 70' sister, a friend...Rachel Ray??? I found some AWESOME unpainted wooden frames at Michael's, and did an entire series of "people frames" for my family at Christmas.

Here's the one I did for my sister Robin.

My dad.

My niece Abigail.

My friend Amy.

I also did this "Christmas" frame to put up in my apartment.

Here's the "floppy red hat box" that I decoupaged after a weekend visit to my aunt and uncles house at Sun Valley Lake in Iowa.


Here's my "sexy" frame, from pictures I found on the internet!

This is the frame that I decoupaged for my friend Pat, who's a Ty Pennington fanatic.

Last, but not least, here's the frame that I decoupaged for the "Tater Tot Taste Off" that I organized at my school in February.

What OTHER "cool" hobby should I start? Macrame? Tie dye? I know...I could buy a wood burning set!!! (!)...