Friday, January 3, 2014

January Currently

We didn't get the amount of snow our neighbors to the north are getting yesterday and today, but we did get enough icy precip to delay school by two hours (thus far--kinda keeping fingers crossed for a full cancel, with this wind. I just want to be inside and bundled!). So right now I'm working on borrowed time, washing a load of clothes and doing this month's Currently from Farley at Oh'Boy 4th Grade.

Then I'll be rearranging my lesson plans to suit the new schedule. Funsies!

Listening: obviously, to the sound of my washing machine attacking the clothes. Also to the blower on our woodstove quietly warming the room, and most importantly, to the sound of silence. Several of my students commented on the noise level yesterday...I think we all forgot not only how to behave in school (WOW, let me tell you!), but also how quickly the volume builds when everyone is chatting. I really enjoyed the periods of silence over break...and this one this morning is just perfect! :)

Loving: We were all a bit put out by coming back on the Thursday after New Year's instead of the following Monday...but there's something to be said for easing back into the swing of things before winter assessments assail us next week. Yay for an "early" weekend!

Thinking: I normally set resolutions just because it's me--I'm a goal setter-upper and never completer. It's just how I'm hardwired. I love the glossy planners, the crisp, empty calendar pages, the gorgeous spines of binders ready to use. And that's how they set. Unused. I'm horrible, I know. So this year I really would like to commit to better organization and planning--I just need to write it down in this planner over here...

Wanting: I brought home a ton of paperwork at the start of break. It is still sitting here, waiting to be graded, recorded, and handed back. Yes, I am that teacher who sends a sheaf of papers home after some scarcity. Sorry! See "Thinking" for more on that. ;) So my want would be a true desk fairy (we have one in our grade, but she hasn't visited since the last harrowing time when tears ensued. Sorry, DF has exacting standards. DF also doesn't have enough Dum-dums and can't locate her notes right now. Leave a message at the tone...). Can you see a theme with my currently this month?

Needing: We had relatives in over the break (more in a minute), but they brought with them a heinous, chest-clumping, cough-forcing, painful cold. I have been feeling achey all over with a scratchy throat the last few I just feel under the weather and in generalized pain. I need something to recharge my batteries and kick this nonsense to the curb before it really gets a head of steam.

Memory/Tradition: It's hard to pick a best memory, because this really did feel like one of the best Christmases ever. It was also the first New Year's when my kids got to stay up and watch the ball drop, so it was just a great time over all. My choice memory from this break is definitely having my brother and sister-in-law in from Texas with their kids. My brother spent most of the year in Afghanistan and returned this fall. It was wonderful to have him back safe and sound, and see my SIL feeling whole again after a difficult deployment. I also got to baby my little not-quite-one-year-old niece, and the kids got to play with their cousins (thankfully they have a girl my daughter's age and a son just a couple years younger than they play well together, when they're not ganging up on each other).  Definitely a good memory, with staying up talking late into the night, waking to the sound of little guys teasing each other, and a pajama day spent in a Percy Jackson marathon. It was nice to reclaim my quiet house at the end, but I was so sad to see them go.

So there's my wordy January Currently. If you'd like to play along, check out Farley's version and the rules here: January Currently

Have a wonderful Friday!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

On the Bookshelf

A friend of mine shared this book challenge, and if you know me, you know I love nothing more than books--or memes. The problem was that I wanted to share why these books came to mind. If you're a reader, maybe you'd like to take a trip down memory lane with me and jog some of your own memories as well...
The challenge was to come up with ten books that have "stayed with you." Doesn't matter what reason, it could have been because they were that bad, that good, that formative, or that traumatic. I tended toward ones that were more formative or that I liked. For traumatic, I should have added Alex Haley's Roots. Not material for a fourth grader, looking back.

Here was the list as it came to me, trying mightily not to go to my Goodreads account or my bookshelves (not that they'd be any help, given that fully half of my collection is still in boxes in my living room floor!):

1. Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson.

I read this for a book review in fourth grade, and absolutely fell in love with it. The sibling rivalry in the story really resonated with me, as I was dealing with those pre-pre-teen emotional rollercoasters and a bratty little brother at home. Books were my outlet, and all my angsty-ness seemed to go right along with Sara Louise's. This was also where I discovered the carol "I Wonder as I Wander," so there's that in its favor.

2. Summer of My German Soldier, Bette Greene.

I read this book during 7th or 8th grade, when we were having a cross-curricular unit on the Holocaust. We read the Dairy of Anne Frank and Number the Stars, but this was the book that I remember best. I think it was because it made me squirm at how much Patty seemed to want Anton to like her, even though it was obvious he was too old and not interested. Then again, that's what I remember. Maybe I should reread the book next time Banned Books Week comes around.

3. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, Eric Kimmel.

This book goes back to when I was in second grade. I have loved it ever since, and was thrilled to share it with my own children. It has a Shalom Aleichem feel to it, and the illustrations are wonderful. Hershel's face when he finally sees the King of the Goblins in true form is just perfect. The humor of the book is worth the read, too. Absolutely love it.

4. Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys, Slater Brown.

When I was in sixth grade, I was in awe of our school library. I had loved to haunt the elementary library whenever I could, but the middle school--oh, the middle school library, where I could visit every single morning before school! I was enchanted. Then I discovered the biography room, where a row of old, worn biographies of figures like the founding fathers sat, just waiting to be discovered! For some reason I particularly liked Ethan much so that I was going to name our first child after him, if she had been a boy. Thankfully, she wasn't, because Ethan was the number one name in the country at the time. Going with the flow just isn't my style. But I still remember these books, and that I thought Ethan Allen was a wonderful guy. This book is probably why I remember Fort Ticonderoga!

5. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.

I first read this in late elementary school, but it wasn't until rereading it in high school that I really understood what was going on. The night scene where Boo saves the kids was terribly confusing to me, along with the fire. It wasn't until another reread as an adult with the One Book, One Community drive (I now own two copies of the with the current cover, #3 in the above image, and one with a 1960s/70s cover, #9 in the above image), that I really grasped what was going on and the undercurrents running through the book. I have loved Atticus Finch ever since, perfect man or no. It's amazing how books change as we grow, isn't it?


6. The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien.

I didn't read The Hobbit until I was an adult, which is apparently odd for most geek/nerd types. What can I say, the cover didn't appeal to me when I was younger, and I had no geek/nerd mentors to guide me on my way. (I also have not read Hitchhiker's Guide, geek friends, so we'll pause while you gasp and gather yourselves...


Ok, so it took two readings before I could really appreciate The Hobbit. This is shocking, I know, but Tolkien is an acquired taste, I think. Hobbit seems to be his most palatable work, because I am still slogging through Two Towers (by slogging, I mean that it is unread and I intend to finish it in my lifetime. I've read plenty in between as it languishes in my Goodreads "currently" queue). That said, the kids and I read through Hobbit together as a nightly read-aloud, and I loved it even more the third time around. We now celebrate Hobbit Second Breakfast yearly in September. Also, my new house makes me feel like a hobbit, with its 9 foot ceilings and high cabinets I require chairs to reach. Quite the switch from our cozy little hobbit hole, but that's another blog post.

7. The Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling.

I know, I know, all people of a certain age have read this series. University courses have been created about it, college Quidditch teams have been formed, and that doesn't even include the movie fans (read the book before the movie, nah-nah-nah-nah, nah!).Yes, I devolve into my younger self when I read children's books. I'm sorry. Maybe that's why I love to teach--so I can keep in touch with my younger side.

Although I was a bit older when I began the series, so I can't say I grew up with Harry, something about the books really hit that "great read, great thoughts" chord. Some disagree, and I'll be the first to say that Sorcerer's Stone, while great children's reading, is not high on my picks for "great literature." On the other hand, it is wonderful story-telling, and the fullness of Harry's world is amazing to me, down to the sickles and knuts. I love the Latin and Greek origins of so much of Rowling's mythology, and what can I say...I'm a geek. It has to be on the list.


8. The Scarlet Pimpernel, Emmusca Orczy.

This was a high school read, 9th grade, in fact. We even watched the movie version after reading the book. I think I may have been the only person to read ahead of our class readings (this was in the day of every person reading a section, Round-Robin style, so that we could all daydream or sleep until we heard the person in front of us perk up and begin to read). I read ahead enough that I decided to reread it before we were done with the movie. I'm not sure why I liked it so well, but it's up there with A Tale of Two Cities in my "books about the French Revolution that I simply adore for reasons unknown to man."

9. Outlander, Diana Gabaldon.

When I was in my early twenties, my best best friend in the whole wide world (BBFITWWW) was reading this series. We had always talked about our book interests, both being complete bibliophiles of one strand or another, but frequently our interests weren't quite in tune. She told me about what seemed at the time to be a bodice-ripper, and I tuned it out. I noticed that her shelf was beginning to be populated with some colorful bindings, but as soon as she told me it was part of the Outlander series, I was out. I'm not the romance/bodice-ripper type, especially when I had a little girl toddling around my ankles and getting into mischief as I visited with my BBFITWWW who was single and, in my mind, free as a bird.

Then, nearly 10 years later, another friend started raving to me about how I would love this series. Post-Twilight, I was up for anything. So I read Outlander.Oh, my word, I loved it! I still skimmed the bodice-rippy parts, but the story itself...time travel, knowing history as it's happening, the feeling of a married woman torn between building a new life or trying desperately to return to the old one...perhaps it's not great literature, but it's wonderful storytelling, and I fell in love with the characters. I can tell I love them when I want to throttle them for poor choices, and throttling definitely happens in these books.

And my BBFITWWW glared at me and asked why I hadn't just listened to her in the first place. We agreed it was because I am terribly hard-headed. She loves me anyway.

10. The Stars for A Light, Gilbert Morris.

No list would be complete without mentioning my teenage obsession with all Gilbert Morris books. I received the Cheney Duvall series one Christmas (probably after much begging and list submission on my part) because I was tired of waiting on the library to have my newest books available as they came out. Then I guarded the set with my life, hoarding it like the treasure I thought it was. I didn't even want to let my own mother borrow them, it was that bad.

Gilbert Morris includes religious messages in all his books, but the draw is following the families in his House of Winslow series (I made it through thirty-plus of what seems to be a forty-plus book series), or his other series. The Cheney Duvall and Cheney and Shiloh series were written with his daughter, Lynn, however, which gives them a different tone. Because they're not following a family line, but two particular people, they also don't give in to his normal formulaic approach. Again, not great literature, but certainly a series that was well-loved when I was younger. 


Do you have a favorite/most memorable books list? Comment below or blog and share the link with me, I'd love to hear about them!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy Five Years Blogging!

November 21st was the five-year anniversary of my blog here at The Reluctant Homefront.

Five years.

That seems like a lifetime ago, and yet just like the other day. We've been through so many different things over that, loss, change, growth. The original reason for starting this blog was so that my husband could keep in touch over his deployment, and because I wanted to try out a new way of journaling my life. It became much more, and then over time I slowly stopped blogging like I had. Blogging friends have also left their blogs, so the connectedness that was originally there is largely gone. I still try to keep up with blogs every now and then, but there is so much going on with school, the kids becoming involved in extracurricular activities--our daughter even developing a pre-teen social life at the middle school!

I'm not sure where this blog will go from here, but I wanted to say that I'm thankful for the last five years. Thankful for friendships, for a medium to express myself, for feedback, and for new thoughts to consider. I feel that I've grown in that time, and this blog is a valuable way to see that growth taking place.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Now it's the time to turn our thoughts toward the holiday season, with all its hustle, bustle, cares and joys. May you experience all the wonders of this season and few of the stresses.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Hardships and Policies

He was so careful picking his lunch today. It had to match his best friend's, all the way down to the color of the sherbet. They compared bananas before setting them on their trays. They got the same chocolate milks. They both ordered the peanut butter and jelly with a string cheese. They both got a mixed salad, and they both refused the ranch dressing. This was a change of pace from their usual puddle of creamy goodness. Then they dickered over the sherbet. There was only one green one left in a sea of orange. What to do?

The friend wanted green, and time won out. They didn't entirely match.

Then they didn't match at all.

His account was charged to the limit. He had received three charge slips last week, each with a strong warning that he would need to put money on his account. This time there was no warning. The carefully arranged tray, nearly but not entirely matching his best friend, was taken from him and slipped under the cafeteria worker's computer shelf.

I saw the wave as I shepherded the last few of my students through the line. The cafeteria worker said, "he charged $6.00. He gets the sandwich." His eyes were apologetic, but unmoved. It was policy.

I saw my student, my child, a piece of my heart for this year, watch with wide eyes as his tray was taken and a foil wrapper and milk carton were placed into his outstretched, empty hands. I turned to help another student with an issue and then followed him to his table where his best friend was waiting behind him. They both stood, my student staring blankly into his hands where his tray should be, his friend carefully watching him with sad eyes.

I slipped a hand around my student's shoulders and asked, "are you ok?" He ducked his head, finally out of his trance, and slipped onto the seat at the table. He muttered "yes." Then as I slipped onto the seat next to him, he ducked his head further onto his arms, and his lip trembled in the shadows. He slipped his head up to wipe his nose and a tear ran down his cheek as he sniffled. "I'm fine."

I offered to have him come eat lunch with me in the classroom, where I had a granola bar stashed and lollipops in a desk drawer. He elected to stay with his friends. A new coworker was flabbergasted and wanted to go to the principal over it, until I explained that it was cafeteria policy for the school system. Then she crossed her arms and huffed, "It's not right!"

It's not right. A student embarrassed and hurt because his account wasn't paid. A family with whatever issues they're facing, frustrated and angered that their child, entrusted to our daily care, was put in such a position. A teacher whose heart was breaking, wanting to step in and afraid to violate family boundaries or professional ones.

But it's policy. It was policy.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thankful Month

I haven't been blogging as often as I had hoped I would. I'm not really surprised by that, especially with as difficult as this first year's learning curve has been. I love my students, I love my job, but it is hard. They say you shouldn't make any big life decisions during the first year because it is that much of a transition--and yet my husband and I are trying to buy a house. This is still better than my coworker who graduated, started her new job, bought a house, and is getting married tomorrow--the only way she could make her life more stressful is to add a new baby to the mix! But she's doing an amazing job keeping things together. She's so organized, it amazes me. I joke that she's the Martha Stewart of teaching--her classroom is organized, labeled, and so cute at the same time. I dream of being that awesome when I grow up. ;)

On to seriousness, though...this has been a time of major transition. I graduated, got a long term sub position that led into this current role, and now the new house and student loans coming due. There's an enormous amount of information to juggle. While I do feel that I'm improving since that first six weeks that felt more like a prolonged hazing than the beginning of the school year, I can't say that I've completely gotten my feet under me. I'm still working at developing my teaching art while I'm also working at organizing and planning--and time management so that I can fit little things like reading and blogging back into my schedule.

You may have noticed that my summer reading challenge went unmet. I have two words of explanation: school started.

This seems to be the explanation for a lot of things...including why I'm not keeping up with my blogging or my friends around the blogosphere. I'm sorry for that...I hope everyone is well and I do look forward to catching up sooner or later. Maybe during this month of thankfulness?

So for the first day of the month: I'm thankful for my job, despite the attendant stressors and hard work that are involved. I'm doing something I love with little people I care about deeply. I can only hope it gets even better with time!

Friday, July 19, 2013

In Search of a Vision

I went into the school yesterday to work on my classroom. The smell of floor wax was thick in the air, and the halls were cluttered with stacked furniture. If you've read the Berenstain Bears story In the Dark, maybe you can remember what the furniture up in Mama and Papa Bear's attic looked like:  chairs stacked with a clock and a rug forming some horrible monster in the shadows. I agree with Sister, there's something a little sinister about stacked up furniture in the dark. I'd be a bit nervous to walk the halls in the dark, but mainly because I'd knock into something and hurt myself.

I picked up my keys and made it to my room without incident. Then I spent a lot of time gazing at stacked desks and kidney tables, wondering where on earth to start.

If you read teacher blogs or Pinterest, you'll know that you need a vision for your classroom, a direction for where you want to go, a theme to create an atmosphere of learning and community. I learned as much from a quick visit with my fellow first-year teacher and hall neighbor when she showed me her organized room yesterday. She said she had started like me (overwhelmed by the task, underwhelmed by what she had to work with), but at some point she achieved a vision, and now she has a reading center with a beribboned and fire-safetied chandelier in her dry-erase, colorfully organized heaven.

I do like her, I really do, and her room is ah-maz-ing. You'd drool, too. Or cry. I wasn't sure which I wanted to do first.

This is starting to feel like the hunt for my philosophy of I lack the requisite teacher qualities that make defining myself, my classroom, my philosophy so difficult?

(If you are an observant or curious visitor,  you may have checked the "About Me" tab on my blog when it appeared.

Or you may have checked it just the other day.

Or  you may have checked it just now, since I mentioned it.

If you are one of those people {like me} who right-click-new-tabs everything so that you don't lose your spot, or you're planning on waiting to finish this post before going up there, let me save you the trouble:

As of a quarter to 7 on the eve of July 19, 2013...that's still under construction.)

I think it's telling that I can't write a quick definition of myself any more than I can quickly define how I view education and my place in it, or quickly develop a vision of what my classroom should do and be (and how it should look). I just don't know. I'm changeable. I'm a magpie for ideas and thoughts. I'm also indecisive sometimes. A lot of the time. Ok, most of the time.

And I have a class website to build, starting with an "About Me."

So here's who I am:
a woman who still almost believes in magic, especially the magic of books.
a mother who never feels like she quite has it all together, except for those crystalline moments I want to capture in a Mason jar and save forever.
a wife who is thrilled her husband is out of the military, but somehow manages to pop out deployment stories like it was just yesterday.
a teacher who is just getting started, feeling overwhelmed and underprepared despite those degrees, licenses, and all of Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers at my finger tips.

And just like that, a snap of the fingers and it's done. 

Now for that vision in my classroom...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hodgepodge Travels

It's that time again: Joyce's Wednesday Hodgepodge! Come check out the plethora of responses and add your own!

1. Picture postcards were first printed back in the mid-1800's and deltiology is the official name for postcard collecting. When did you last send a postcard?  Receive one? Do you save postcards sent to you? Do you collect and/or send postcards when you travel?

I can't remember the last time I sent a postcard. I guess when Adam was deployed, because I wanted him to have a bit of mail and a reminder of home. So that would be sometime in 2009. I last received one a couple months ago from my brother in Afghanistan.

I absolutely save postcards! I love to collect them, mainly because between my husband and my brother being in the military I can receive them from around the world. Since I'm not a traveler myself, this is my little piece of exotic places. :)

2. What treat do you most like to indulge in while on vacation?

S'mores! We always camp while on vacation with the rare exception being a trip to DC that we were given after the deployment. That was a very inexpensive trip by necessity, with mainly Starbucks and Subway for food, so I won't count that.

3. Are you good at hiding your feelings?

Not at all. My face shows everything I'm thinking, and I'm usually thinking about things that have nothing to do with what's going on at the time, which can be quite a problem in meetings!

4. Does your town/city/county still deliver telephone books to your home? Do you check the yellow pages when searching for a local business number or has the internet replaced the phone book in your home?

Amazingly enough, our phone company still does...and since we have competing cell phone companies, for several years we received a copy of the "yellow pages" from each. I haven't seen the underdog's submission for a while, though, so maybe they decided it wasn't worth the cost.

I never use the yellow pages or even the white's so much quicker and usually more reliable to check online.

5. Would you rather be first or last?

Neither, I much prefer being second or third. I like seeing someone else go first, so I know what to expect and can plan or adjust for it...but I also don't want to be the one everyone else is watching "wrap things up." That's just awkward.

6. July is National Park and Recreation Month (in America, but everyone can still play along)...where and when were you last in a park?  Did you participate in any recreational activities while you were there?

Does the Blue Ridge Parkway count? (I double checked. Answer: yes, it does! ) We were last up there on the Fourth, and it was beautiful:

We live very close to national forest, national, and state parks, so we tend to find hiking paths, scenic views, and camping. That's how we vacation, remember! :)

7.  What was one of your worst ideas?

I'd have to say buying this house. We were full of dreams and wanting our own place, but it would have been better to spend more time renting and saving up so that we could afford more than a money pit--especially when the market dropped within a couple of years of signing!

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I've been trying to keep up with Fat Mum Slim's July Photo A Day challenge, and I have to say, doing the same thing day in and day out is just not easy! This is why I'm terrible with remembering to take medicine on a schedule...


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