Monthly Archives: January 2012

A beautiful day in Austin and a strange snack at home


As you can see from this snapshot I took while my kids were at recess, it was just lovely outside today.  Well, truth be told, this is a picture from Yosemite National Park. But! it really was that beautiful outside today!  It was sunny and 75 in the middle of winter. I’m sitting at home, enjoying the breeze coming through the open windows eating the strange concoction I cooked up after I got home.

So, when my mother-in-law (who writes a respectable blog, which can be seen here: wants to clean out her fridge, she throws everything into a pot and cooks it and it comes out looking like this

I decided to clean out the fridge and I ended up with onions cooked in sesame oil and broccoli. There is no need to take a photo. Just picture….onions cooked in sesame oil and broccoli. I can’t decide whether I would recommend it or not, but I’m eating it.  My great aunt tried many experimental cooking recipes. My grandmother once asked her what she did with the duds. My great aunt replied, “I ate them too.” So that’s what I’m doing. But I know I’d rather have “clean-out-the-fridge” pasta more.


19 Down, 18 To Go



I’ve reached the halfway point! Woohoo! No wonder I slept for, and I am not making this up, eleven and half hours last night!

In language arts, we continued to learn about fairy/folk/tall/traditional tales and demonstrated our knowledge by creating our own traditional tales through a writing buffet.  Students chose from a list of traditional beginnings to these stories, then chose a topic, and a traditional ending.   Then they wrote their story. Many of them came out quite well. During our writing part, we finished up our first-person narrative and then shared with each other on Friday.  Students put their book and a sheet of notebook paper on their desk. Then we all got up and danced to some music. When the music stopped, students had to find a desk (that was not theirs), read their friend’s book, and write a compliment on the notebook paper.  We did it over and over again, so by the end, students had a book with eight compliments written about it! Munchkins gave it 3/3; we’ll do it again.

In math, we are learned about comparing numbers. We started off with something very difficult: 1 more, 1 less, 10 more, 10 less.  About half the students were snoozing mid-way through the lesson because they were so bored, while the other half was completely bewildered at how all these calculations were being done so quickly. I now know who gets number patterns in my class. Eventually we were able to move on to <, >, =  and everyone was happy again.  There will be a test next Thursday, though, and half my munchkins will NOT be excited to review.

In social studies, we did very little since we were spending more than our fair share of time in math figuring out 1 more, 1 less, 10 more, 10 less. But eventually we got to learning about natural resources and students created pictures about natural resources found in Texas.

In science, we finished up our unit on rocks and their usefulness (thank goodness!). Earth science is the subject in which I am least familiar, so I mostly had to follow whatever the book told me about rocks. On Friday, they were introduced to our new topic: conservation of resources. That will be next week.

On the behavior front, I was having real struggles with a student. This student used to exhibit pretty aggressive and argumentative behaviors to everyone in the class (including me). However, in October we sort of hit a breakthrough and it’s been pretty good up til now. Due to a difficult change in family circumstances, I have seen the aggressive and argumentative behaviors come back. It felt like we were always getting into power struggles and I had no idea how to stop it. I knew that you shouldn’t engage in a power struggle, but I didn’t know how to avoid it. When the student refused to go to P.E., I couldn’t say, “OK, that’s fine” and walk away. I had to say, “No, you must come with us; I can’t leave you.” etc.

Thank goodness I saved my discipline book that gives strategies from about 25 perspectives for students causing issues. I turned to one of my favorite researchers who study “Hope for Challenging Youth.”  I got some great ideas for what to do, including how to instill dignity in my words and actions so that the student would not feel like he/she needed to exert power.  On Thursday when that student started banging a metal water bottle on the tile floor while there was a presentation going on, I asked the student to stop. The student slammed the water bottle on the floor harder. I asked the student to come see me. I knelt down so that I could be eye level and asked, “Are you sad about something or is something bothering you? You know how to respect people who are speaking, but you didn’t. That sounds like you might be sad” The student looked away, a tell-tale sign that a child is trying to hold back tears.  I told the student that if there was something that he/she needed to talk about, I would be happy to listen. The student went back to the carpet and sat quietly. ANDREA:1 POWER STRUGGLE:0

18 Down, 19 To Go



So, the big news is that science fair was this week, but I don’t want to dwell on that too much, so we’ll start with the things we learned Monday through Thursday

Language Arts-We practiced reading, writing, listening and speaking.

Math-We practiced our math skills

Science-We learned about the natural world.

Social Studies- We learned about our interactions with the natural world.

Ok, now that we got through that, we can talk about science fair.

I sent out science fair information packets with the kids at the beginning of December. My thought was: this will give the kids a chance to complete the assignment over winter break.  In my letter I stressed, using bold, italic and underline that this project was optional. Since parents have to do so much of the project at this stage of development, I didn’t want to hand the parents an assignment.  It had to be a choice that the parents made. Then, in my weekly newsletter, I reminded parents of the date of the project and mentioned that it was optional, but that I would give extra credit to those students who chose to participate.

A week before the fair, I asked students who was planning to participate and they all raised their hands. I thought, Great, half of these kids are in complete denial. Oh well.

The day before the science fair, I asked students who was planning to participate in the science fair. about 2/3 of them raised their hand. I asked each one of them what their project was about and had they made a poster. Most of them indicated that they had but a few said that they were going to do it that night.  I thought, Great, most of the unprepared kids realize that their not doing a project, but I still have a few who are in complete denial. Oh well.

The day of the science fair, I got two emails from parents saying that they were told about science fair, and they couldn’t do it, but could it be done for Monday? I replied, that they shouldnt’ worry about science fair, it was an optional assignment. That’s what you get for not reading my newsletters…

1/2 the kids brought in a project. Just as I expected. They presented it and all did very well speaking to the judges. I was so proud of my munchkins!

We had a pretty normal rest of the day until it was time for the awards show.  Each participant in the science fair got a certificate of participation in the classroom, but the awards show would hand out ribbons to the winners. When first grade’s time came, two students were handed ribbons.  Everyone clapped for them, but the non-winners seemed kind of stunned that they weren’t getting anything.

At the end, the winners stayed behind to get pictures taken and the rest of the class went back. By the time that we got into the classroom, there were four distinct, and equal-sized groups of people:

  1. Students who participated in the fair and were fine.
  2. Students who participated in the fair and were crying.
  3. Students who did not participate in the fair and were fine.
  4. Students who did not participate in the fair and were crying.

It was a pitiful sight. I brought them all together and told them that it was OK to be disappointed; it was OK to cry. But that I was just as proud of the projects that didn’t win, as the ones that did.  Then they started talking:

“I hate the judges!”

“I don’t like this school! I liked my old school where we had fun!”

“It’s all my parents fault! They told me I had to do a project that I didn’t want to do and made me stay up until ten o’clock memorizing!”

“My parents made me stay up until four o’clock in the morning!”

“My parents made me stay up until six o’clock in the morning!”


Then I asked one of the kids who didn’t participate why she was crying:

“I told my mom that we had to do science fair tonight but she said I had to go to bed!”

We picked up our backpacks (Thankfully, I had them pack up before the awards ceremony or we would have never gotten out of there) and all walked outside. I watched the kids coming down, crying.

For half of them; the half that tried a project and didn’t win, I wanted to cry with them. For half of them; the half that didn’t bring a project, I kind of wanted to laugh.  The drama of first grade science fair…


And that was the topic of conversation on everybody’s lips: The first grade tear train; complete with kids who didn’t compete and were crying and those that did compete, and weren’t crying.





Livening up the Republican Debate


So, Monday night was the South Carolina Republican debate.  Jackson and I prepared for this debate by eating healthy food: 7 grains with a vegetable broth gravy and some vegetables.  Why did we need to eat healthy for the debate? Well, it’s because we played a drinking eating game.

We made banana and Nutella crepes and sat down to watch.  When a candidate said something that was just totally false or lame or despicable, we’d say, “THAT’S CREPE!!” and eat a bite of crepe.

Jack posing with his crepe and Mr. 15% Tax Rate: Mitt Romney

We limited ourselves to one crepe each since I didn’t want to write about us gaining 16 pounds. We ate our first bite of crepe before the debate even started and we were done with our crepes less than thirty minutes after the debate started. It was actually exciting to wait for someone to do/say something bone-headed.

17 Down, 20 To Go


Three-day-weekend! Three-day-weekend! Three-day-weekend! I’m so ready for a thee-day-weekend, even though we just came off a vacation.  Not that my class is bad or anything. I just like sleeping for ten hours each night. My class is pretty good actually. We’ve been having fun and learning a lot:

In language arts, we’re continuing with our Grammar Minutes, grammar exercises that my kids LOVE (I know, I don’t understand it either). It’s mostly focused on what the parts of a sentence are. We are also talking about the essential elements of a story: characters, setting, problem, and solution.  The kids are doing really well with this activity. They’ll practice independently for the first time next week.  In writing, we’re working on a personal story. The kids are doing an awesome job writing a lot.

In math, we finished up number patterns after what seemed like eternity and a winter vacation.  We’re working on place value now (4 tens and 6 ones = 46. Some kids immediately see the patterns and think this is the easiest thing in the world ( “because 4 is in the tens place and 6 is in the ones place!”). And some kids have no clue what is going on. They guess answer like 23 or 81.  Hopefully these concepts will germinate in their brains over the long weekend and they’ll be ready for the next step on Tuesday.

In science, we’re learned about water sources and how water is useful. Pretty easy stuff. In social studies, we worked on physical characteristics of place and human characteristics of place. Also pretty easy stuff.  Oh well, sometimes things don’t have to be challenging.

And in case you don’t look at facebook, here is the quote of the week:

PK1: (showing me his 96 pack of crayons) I got these crayons for Christmas
PK2: I’m a Muslim. But you’re a Christian.
PK1: No, I’m a Muslim
PK2: But you said that you got crayons for Christmas
PK1: (hands on hips) Muslims use crayons too, you know!

I really hope no one can hear or see me…


I get home significantly before Jack does, which is good because after a full day at school, I just enjoy being able to sit down without worrying that anyone will come up to me with a smiling, bleeding mouth and prized tooth in hand. Jack wouldn’t ask me to help him with a lost tooth, but he might demand my attention in another way like asking me how my day was.


When I am alone, one of my favorite ways to unwind is to sing…loudly. And dance…dramatically.  Jack and I have our own place, but our condo is in a duplex form and we have two wonderful neighbors (who look remarkably like Truman Capote and Kathy Bates actually) with whom we would like to maintain a good relationship. And we certainly don’t want them to think that we’re annoying…or crazy.

That’s why I hope that they can’t hear my music or, heaven forbid, see me dancing like I’m trying work a piece of ice out of my clothes without using my hands.

You see, I have one move: the twist, that I adapt to any song from “It’s so nice to be with you” by Gallery to “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi.  I had no idea how to dance until I went on a party boat with my friends when I was a senior in high school.  I felt sort of self conscious not knowing how to dance, so when the first song came on, and I promise I’m not making this up, I just started copying one of the parent chaperones. And she was doing the twist.

Now, you might be asking, “Andrea, why didn’t you copy one of the many peers that were undoubtedly dancing on the boat?” That is a good question. And the answer is that I looked for the person having the most fun and it was the mom doing the twist.

And don’t tell me to ask Jack. He also has one move and I call it “the bobber.”

Here is a playlist to get you started:



(For this one you will also have to “throw your hands up in the air” sometimes in addition to twisting)

Jack’s Blog: I Heard it Through the Grapevine


Our back yard is very shady thanks to two very large trees. One is in our back yard and the other is just across the fence in the lot of the Baptist church.  Also across the fence is a very very big grapevine. It is about four inches in diameter at its base, goes up for a few inches and then travels parallel along the fence for about 20 feet and then extends up. Lots of the vine is so thick that it has bark on it and it’s strangling the trees shading our yard. During the summer we tried to pull it down from our tree, but its leaves were entangled in the leaves of our tree and it wouldn’t come down.

Now that it’s (sort of) winter, the leaves from the vine have fallen off. So yesterday we cut off a bunch of the vines which were on our tree and some of the vines on the church’s tree. After we cut the vines, we tried to pull them out of the tree, but lots of them were so entangled they wouldn’t come out. Andrea and I even hang on some of them. The vines are really ugly, so we probably need to get the vine completely removed at some point, but that will likely take a lot of work and a chain saw. It’s a really big vine.