Archive for March, 2009

My sister came to visit (!) & I bought a lot of books

March 26, 2009

I haven’t updated in awhile because I’ve been busy spending time with my sister. Last Saturday (March 21), my sister flew in from Toronto for a surprise trip that we orchastrated so she could see my mom starring in the play No Sex Please, We’re British. My dad knew that she was coming, but my mom had no idea. Sarah got in around 7:15, and David and I picked up her and her friend (who happened to be flying from Toronto to Boston on the same day) at the airport. We ate dinner in Davis Square at Spike’s Junkyard Dogs (they have tofu dogs too). Sarah slept over, but fell asleep on the futon shortly after we got home.

The next morning I made Swedish pancakes for breakfast and we all took a section of the Sunday New York Times (thanks Bruce & Randy!). We picked up grandpa around 12:30 and went to the Sunday matinee performance of my mom’s play, where we met my dad. After the show, Sarah, being who she is, was the last one out of the theater. It was nerve-wracking talking to my mom, who had absolutely no clue Sarah was there. Sarah walked out and I said something like, “Look who it is!” My mom started breathing heavily and frantically, with tears in her eyes. She was totally speechless and shocked.

Carol, Jeff, and Parker came over for dinner, and my dad made another great veggie lasagne. (Carol’s sister is my mom’s sister-in-law. Carol’s sister, Martha, is married to my mom’s brother, John. They live in the same town as my parents, and even though they aren’t technically family, they are.)

Jeff took a bunch of beautiful photos that night. This is Sarah and me in our parents' kitchen.

Jeff took a bunch of beautiful photos that night. This is Sarah and me in our parents' kitchen.

Another photo taken by Jeff. Me, my mom (her hair is a big poofball for the play), Sarah, and my dad.

Another photo taken by Jeff. Me, my mom (her hair is a big poofball for the play), Sarah, and my dad.

Another photo by Jeff. This one also has grandpa & David.

Another photo by Jeff. This one also has grandpa & David.

We’ve gotten together with my parents, grandfather, and sister every night this week. On Monday, after work, I picked up David and we headed to my parents’ for dinner. On Tuesday, mom, grandpa, and Sarah came to my school around 5, so I could give them a tour. David and my dad joined us for dinner at a vegetarian Indian restaurant near our apartment. Yesterday, we met halfway between us for dinner at a Mexican restaurant. I already miss Sarah, and it was really nice to see so much of my family and be fed and taken out to dinner, but I am totally exhausted. It feels good to finally have a night with nothing to do. (Of course, when a teacher says she has nothing to do, she doesn’t really mean she has nothing to do. There is always something to do.)

When my family came here for dinner on Tuesday, my mom brought a package I’d had delivered to their house. A couple of weeks ago, McSweeney’s (my favorite publishing company, owned by my favorite author, Dave Eggers) had a ridiculous book sale in their online store. I went a little crazy and ordered nine books and five issues of McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern that came out before I started subscribing. The total? A mere $62. Almost all of the books I ordered were $5, and a few were $1. They are now back to their normal prices of $20-something. I have no idea why this sale happened, but I am deliriously happy to have so many amazing books to read. Now I just have to find the time…

McSweeney's books are always so beautiful. I'm consistently impressed with their designs.

McSweeney's books are always so beautiful. I'm consistently impressed with their designs.

I bought (in no order, because I’m lazy):

I linked to these on Amazon, as opposed to the McSweeney’s site, because they have reviews you can read. Some of the cover designs are different from the ones I bought (some are paperback and I got all hardcover), so that’s why you don’t see them in the photo.

Tomorrow night I head to NH to help set up for Destination Imagination state finals. Saturday I’ll be at a tournament all day. I can’t wait.

Thank you, Grandma.

March 17, 2009

Dear Grandma,

I miss you every day. Now that the snow is melting and it’s warming up, the birds are chirping outside my window. I think about you and all the time we spent on the back porch watching birds, pointing out their colors and their fights at the feeder. It’s difficult not to cry when I think about you and all that I miss without you here. I want to put curlers in your hair again, to watch Wheel of Fortune with you, to share a box of chocolates. I want you to tell me one more time to put socks on my bare feet, or that if I stick out my tongue a bird will come and snip it off. We’ve all been a little bit lonelier since you’ve been gone. I’m crying right now, Grandma, because it’s so hard without you.

I finally deposited the money today. It’s more than I’ve ever had in my whole life. I promise I’ll do big, beautiful, and important things with it, Grandma. I know you always loved receiving my thank you notes in the mail, and I always loved writing them. I know this isn’t one of my better ones, but I hope you know how much your gift means to me. Thank you, Grandma.

I love you!

xoxoxox

Emily

P.S. I did NOT cheat at Monopoly!

Advisory birthdays

March 16, 2009

This past Friday, my advisory (a group of eight students who I meet with twice a week–for one hour on Wednesdays, and for lunch on Fridays–in order to support & get to know each other) had a birthday party. It wasn’t anyone’s birthday, but we came up with the idea of celebrating everyone’s birthday (whenever they are) on the same day. We each drew a name and got that person a birthday present. One of my advisees brought in an ice cream cake for us.

I love that it says Happy Birthdays!

I was worried at the beginning of the year that it was such an eclectic group and it would be difficult to get them to trust & like each other, but it’s such a fun group. They really seem to enjoy being together.

I CAN BREATHE!

March 16, 2009

I posted my grades! I feel like I can breathe for the first time since February break. There is already work piling up for third trimester, but it feels so good to be done with trimester two projects, essays, report card narratives, and grades! I have been so overwhelmed and stressed, and have worked until around 9 o’clock almost every night these past two weeks. It is so nice to now be able to have a moment of stillness.

To all of you who have called or emailed me in the last two weeks, I will get back to you! I am terribly sorry for the delay & all of my terrible excuses.

Veggie pizza

March 15, 2009

Tonight, David and I made veggie pizza for dinner.

Jalapenos on David's half, none on mine!

Jalapenos on David's half, none on mine!

It feels a little ridiculous to post the recipe since it seems pretty self-evident, but here it is:

Ingredients

  • Pizza dough (we were lazy and used whole wheat dough that I bought at Trader Joe’s)
  • Broccoli
  • Onion
  • Garlic (several cloves, diced)
  • Roasted peppers
  • Jalapenos
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese (1 8oz package, we buy fat free or reduced fat)
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Marinara sauce (approximately 1/2 jar)

I don’t have measurements for a lot of these ingredients… we just chopped and put the pizza together until it looked good.

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2) Roll out pizza dough. I use a pizza stone, but you can use a regular baking sheet too.

3) Spread marinara sauce onto crust.

4) Spinkle shredded mozzarella cheese evenly over pizza.

5) Add veggies and fresh mozzarella.

6) Cook pizza for 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the crust isn’t mushy.

Destination Imagination & my birthday & other updates

March 11, 2009

David headed off to the Netherlands for a business trip last Tuesday (March 3) and got home on Monday (March 9). When I came home on Tuesday, I found a small note (filled with love!) from him in one of my plant’s pots. I then discovered them all around the apartment. The one I found the night before he got back was kind of gross. He put it in a jar of my hand cream…it was soggy. I was so busy while he was gone, and am still very overwhelmed with how much work I have, that it wasn’t too lonely. I didn’t quite have time to realize how much I missed him until he got back.

Saturday (March 7) was my first DI meet of the season, and it was also my birthday. When I arrived at the tournament, another DI board member gave me a flashing pin that said in big letters, “It’s my birthday!” I was a Head Appraiser (Regional Challenge Master) and in charge of a team of amazing appraisers, many who I knew from past years. I really couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate my birthday. I can’t explain how much I love the people who volunteer for this program–they are a wacky, fun, passionate, kid-loving, creative bunch.

I’ve never felt more popular; all day kids (and adults!) were running up to me and singing or wishing me a happy birthday. There was a team of first graders who I was talking to before they performed. One young boy politely asked, “Why does your pin say ‘It’s my birthday!’? I said, “Because it’s my birthday!” Their eyes bulged, as if this was totally shocking news, and then they became very excited. Another elementary school team asked me how old I was turning. When I told them I was 24, a boy who was probably around eight years old, and was wearing jeans and a white teacher, and had his hair gelled for their performance, exclaimed, “You don’t look ANYWHERE near that old!!” I told him that I get that a lot.

At closing ceremonies, the tournament director had the entire crowd sing happy birthday to me. It was such a long day (my challenge had 18 teams!), but it flew by. I had almost forgotten how energizing tournaments can be. It’s absolutely amazing to see what kids are capable of creating on their own. I always feel so much gratitude that I get to be a part of this amazing community. I have met so many friends through this program.

After a recent DI appraiser training that I helped lead, I looked through some photos of my teams. I’ll just share one photo right now:

     This is my team member, Bob, inside our tree, with a monkey puppet we created. This was my junior year in high school.

This is my team member, Bob, inside our tree, with a monkey puppet we created. This was my junior year in high school.

Both my parents were at the tournament (my dad as a board member, my mom as an appraiser), but we celebrated my birthday on Sunday, at my grandfather’s. My dad made vegetable lasagna (I will get his recipe and feature it here soon, I hope) and we had a chocolate raspberry cake for dessert.

This is my cake. I literally spent about 10 minutes laughing before blowing out my candle. (Evidently there was a miscommunication about birthday candles.)

Grandpa and me!

I am so touched by all of the cards & emails & nice things people have sent me for my birthday. Thank you! I am truly lucky.

Exhibition Night

March 11, 2009

Last Friday, from 6-9pm, was exhibition night at school. We have exhibition night once a trimester as a way for students to show off their work to the public. Students display at least one piece of work from one of their classes. There were music performances throughout the evening, food and artwork for sale, robot programming and rube goldberg demonstrations, student presentations, and a live DNA extraction demo! There is so much energy, pride, and an authentic sense of accomplishment.

This is part of a superheroes project students did in art class. The red is painted on the wall!

This is part of a superheroes project students did in art class. The red is painted on the wall!

This is also part of the art students' installment on superheroes.

This is also part of the art students' installment on superheroes.

    A 9th grader's painting as part of the art unit on the elements & principles of design. This originiated as a still life drawing, which was then distorted on the computer, and eventually turned into a painting.

A 9th grader's painting as part of the art unit on the elements & principles of design. This originiated as a still life drawing, which was then distorted on the computer, and eventually turned into a painting.

I know this photo is a bit blurry... It's another 9th grader's elements & principles of design project.

I know this photo is a bit blurry... It's another 9th grader's elements & principles of design project.

A 10th grader's self-portrait for art class. Not pictured is the lengthy artist's statement, which is equally impressive!

This is the hallway where pizza, t-shirts, and art were sold and the DNA extractions took place. In this picture, you can sort of see the superheroes' tools hanging from the ceiling.

This is the hallway where pizza, t-shirts, and art were sold and the DNA extractions took place. In this picture, you can sort of see the superheroes' tools hanging from the ceiling.

Live DNA extractions! Students were in lab coats!

This is my 10th grade student's As I Lay Dying project. It represents the character Addie Bundren, her hatred of words, and her relationship with the other characters in the book. In addition to an artistic piece, students also wrote an artist's statement and essay.

This is another student's As I Lay Dying project. You can't see the whole piece because I zoomed in.

This is another student's As I Lay Dying project. You can't see the whole piece because I zoomed in.

Another impressive As I Lay Dying project!

Part of a 10th grade student's Industrial Revolution project for history class.

This is the room where history projects were on display. I teach two classes in here.

Art students actually created this last trimester, but I love it so much I wanted to include it. It's a geometric art piece in one of the math rooms.

Art students actually created this last trimester, but I love it so much I wanted to include it. It's a geometric art piece in one of the math rooms.

Looking at all these photos, you might think that I teach at a school for the arts. While we have a fabulous art program (and teacher!), our charter does not put any more emphasis on the arts than, say, math. I think that part of it is that we are at a project-based school, so there is a lot of emphasis placed on demonstrating knowledge and learning through projects, presentations, and writing.

We have so many talented kids!!

beautiful student writing

March 3, 2009

I am reading students’ papers right now. Here are two lines from one student’s piece:

“I suppose death can be beautiful; you may not see it at first, but there is an art to slipping away into the unknown where only memory can fish you back up.”

“…there was a beauty in that too. How we had to just let go of it. How we could clearly see and feel the year ending, the song was winding down and getting to its last few lines, and we knew it was going to stop, that it was going to die, but we didn’t pause to mourn it, we just kept on.”

I am blown away every single day. I can’t get over that I get to be a part of this.

Orzo, roasted vegetables, & feta

March 3, 2009

David made this for us last night, with only a little help from me. We made this fairly frequently last year, but haven’t had it in a long time. It’s loosely based off of a recipe (which I lost long ago) that was given to me by a wonderful woman who I worked with at the town library when I was in high school.

Ingredients for grilled vegetables

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1 large onion
  • 1/4 olive oil (possibly a bit more)
  • Grated pepper (For this dish, we like to use lemon pepper from Trader Joe’s, but any pepper will do)

Other ingredients

  • 1 box of orzo
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 8-ounce block feta cheese (we get reduced fat)

Directions

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Peel the eggplant before cutting it into bite size cubes. Cut the other vegetables (zucchini, squash, green and red peppers, onion) into bite size pieces too.

3) Evenly distribute the veggies onto two cookie sheets. Toss veggies in 1/4 cup of oil, or until lightly covered. (We had to add an extra 1/8 cup of oil last night because there were so many veggies.) Grind pepper on top (we like a lot!) and toss.

3) Cook the vegetables for twenty minutes. Take the trays out and toss the veggies around. Put them back, switching which tray is on the bottom/top rack. Cook for another twenty minutes.

4) While the veggies are cooking for the final twenty minutes, start the orzo. Follow the directions on the box.

5) Cut the green onions into small (approximately 1/4″) pieces. Dice the garlic. Cut the feta into small, bite size pieces.

6) Juice the two lemons, add in 1/4 olive oil.

7) When the orzo is finished, drain it and mix with the roasted vegetables in a large bowl. Add the feta, green onion, and garlic. Pour the lemon juice and oil mixture on top, then stir. Add more ground pepper to taste.

*This recipe is easy to make vegan–just leave the feta out!

DI hat making, grading, & snow

March 2, 2009

On Friday night, I headed to Sam’s house, along with some other Destination Imagination alumni, for a hat making party.  In NH, and in a lot of other states, appraisers create wacky hats to wear to the tournaments. I am a head appraiser (regional challenge master) for ViDIo Lit Hits. The challenge requires teams to dramatically retell a piece of literature in the form of a live music video.

My hat isn’t finished yet, but here are some photos to give you an idea:

I made the hat out of wire, and it clips into my hair. The books are made out of construction paper and scrap paper. I hung the books from the wire with fishing line. The bookworm is made out of egg cartons, which I cut up and hot glued together.

I made the hat out of wire, and it clips into my hair. The books are made out of construction paper and scrap paper. I hung the books from the wire with fishing line; they swing whenever I move my head. The bookworm is made out of egg cartons, which I cut up and hot glued together.

Here's a close up of the bookworm.

Here is a close-up of the bookworm.

Here's a closeup of some of the books.

Here is a close-up of some of the books.

I was glad that I got to have some fun on Friday because Saturday was one long, long day of grading. I graded until almost 7pm… and I only finished one class’s essays. I had aimed to spend 10 minutes per essay, but they ended up taking 20-25 minutes each. I really need to work on giving less feedback, or finding more sustainable ways to give the same amount of feedback. In my frustration, I took a photo of everything I have to grade, except for the projects which are in the trunk of the car:

In the photo, it’s difficult to tell the depth of those piles, but I assure you that they are almost bottomless. I am overwhelmed!!

Today was a snow day. After having multiple days in the 50s last week, we were dumped with almost a foot of snow last night and today. I am so completely ready for spring. It’s almost 5pm and I have done very little grading today. (Instead I cleaned the kitchen, cooked us a nice lunch, sent e-mails, bought David and myself plane tickets to LA for April break!… it’s amazing how much I get done when there is grading to do.) Since I’ve been given this extra day, I think I should read these Night journals…