Sunday, December 8, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

With a late Thanksgiving this year - Christmas holiday preparation must be done rapidly. This is NOT something I do well. I like to put the decorations up bit by bit. Also, I am finding that weekends are crammed with festivities and parties. Again, something I prefer to spread out over the course of several weeks.

Something I am enjoying (other than the beautiful snow today
is the new group on Facebook - Techformers. It is a group of educators who see the benefits of using technology to help our students become thinkers, reflectors, and creators.

Today's challenge was to use a word cloud generator to create a picture using the words to a favorite Christmas song. I usually use Wordle - it is quick and easy. The down side for me, as a 4th grade teacher, is that some of the wordles in the gallery are not school appropriate. So, I do not let my students use it independently. But today, while exploring some new word cloud generators, I discovered ABCya. It is also quick and easy to use, and it seems to be younger student friendly.

Here is the word cloud I made from one of my favorite Christmas songs.

Tomorrow during computer lab I will have the students select their favorite holiday song. I show them how to copy and paste into a word document and then upload to Then they will work on MS Paint to illustrate the song. 

Happy Holidays!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Let the Children Play

Today I took a walk with my dog Ahna. We lost her older sister last week, so we have been trying to give her a little more attention. What a glorious fall afternoon it was. It was warm, but not too hot. There was a very gentle breeze. The sun was shining through the autumn leaves and a few clouds in the sky hinted at the dreary days to come. I expected to see much activity. And, we did. Two men were cutting there grass. One an older man pushed the mower back and forth in even strips. the other, a much younger man, rode his mower while listening to something from his ear buds, seemingly oblivious to the world around him. Another man was trimming shrubs and cutting them up for garbage bags, while a fourth man determinedly push a spreader across his lawn, eager for spring to bring bright green grass. We smiled and waved as we passed our neighbors, but something was amiss.

We rounded the corner and kept going. Here a woman was taking advantage of the beautiful day to paint some furniture in her driveway. This was probably the last really nice weekend of fall we agreed. Further on a man was repairing his driveway. Heading for home we heard the sounds of a table saw intermingle with the lawn mowers and leaf vacuums. A neighbor was cutting wood for a home improvement project on his to do list.

We did see a lot of people and heard many sounds. However, I didn't hear or see any signs of children. There were no screams, shots, or laughter. No children playing tag or riding bicycles. No children at all.

Now my little town is a quaint, historic suburb that prides itself on being a great "family" town. We are not an active adult community. I know children live here. I saw them on Halloween, and I see them every morning waiting for the school bus. Drive by a soccer field and they are packed full with children.

Why were all the driveway basketball hoops silent with no balls, no foul shots, no accusations of fouls made or shots missed? Why did all the swings sit still except for a gentle push by a random breeze? Why were the elaborate backyard play structures empty, dead with no children's imagination to breathe life into them as castles, forts, and rocket ships? Where were all the children?

Were they all indoors with electronics? Were they at adult organized activities like soccer, scouts, or ta-kwan-do?

Our society grows and thrives based on the imaginations and dreams of its children. Children need free, unstructured time to discover their world, their NATURAL world, outside. They need to be told to go outside and play. Let them wonder at the leaves changing color. Let them skin their knees and realize how cool a scab is. Let them get in fights with each other and learn how to resolve petty arguments.

Parents, adults, please let our children play. For our future is the future they are imagining now.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sleep, Perchance to Dream

A week or so ago while in the car listening to the radio I heard an interesting question. "What is your favorite or best Christmas memory," the DJ's asked. People called in relating tales of puppies, bikes, and Santa sightings. I immediately thought of Christmases when my sons were young. The BB gun Christmas, hanging stockings, reading the Autobiography of Santa, and tree topping, just to name a few. But when I tried to remember something, anything specific from my own childhood I drew a blank. Where did we hang stockings? Did we hang stockings? Where was Christmas dinner? Did we sit on Santa's lap.

Certainly, I remembered things about Christmas. I knew we had one of those shiny aluminum trees with the rotating color wheels down the basement. I remembered photographs with piles and piles of presents. I know we baked cookies, or at least I think we did. But a specific, solid memory? Nothing! All those hours I am sure my parents spent shopping, wrapping, planning, and preparing. And what did I remember? Nothing!

Thinking it was strange that I couldn't think of one memory I started asking others to share one of their Christmas memories. A friend shared a memory of getting a puppy. One Christmas her father brought home a crazy little puppy. I asked my two sons and their girlfriends. One son remembered they year they got a pinball machine. The first "big" down-the-basement surprise present. The other son remembered putting the star/angel on top of the tree.
I didn't feel any better. Other people remembered Christmas stories. Why didn't I? Well, apparently I do have at least one memory. I woke up this morning thinking of a dream I had last night about getting my first pair of earrings. Only it wasn't a dream; it was a memory. In my sleep, while I dreamed, a memory I swore did not exist came to me.

It was 6th grade. We live in a big old house in Lansdowne. I loved that house and my room. My room had the world's best ever closet. Not only was it a walk-in it also had a light and a bench. It was the perfect place to hide  from four younger siblings and a dysfunctional family. I was 12 years old with responsibilities way beyond my years. I wanted to escape, to an aunt living in London, really, to anywhere. That closet was my escape portal in so many ways.

Anyway, see what happens when memories appear? That Christmas I received this pair of 14K gold stud earrings. They had to be 14K gold as a first  pair of earrings. When I opened this box I suddenly felt grown up. I was finally allowed to get my ears pierced. And before high school! A big deal for me back in the day.

Do you have any particular Christmas memories? So sleep, perchance to dream ....

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year

This post is an explanation of my 365 challenge for 2103.

For those of you who know me, you know that I have made some major life changes the past two years. Both 2011 and 2012 I did not have any specific "resolutions" other than to do better. Mainly to do better at taking care of myself. I feel that I have met and in some areas exceeded those goals. So it is with trepidation  and fear of failure that I consider specific goals for 2013.

So many people say that goals must be SMART...specific, measurable, attainable,realistic and timely. Specifics help us to focus our efforts and clearly define what we are going to do. I have given this a great deal of thought over the past few days. Do I want to be specific? If I set specific goals and I do not attain them, am I then failing?

After much thought I came to the realization that being safe never led to great achievements. I tell my students that Man's grasp should exceed his reach - that's what heaven is for and that if they reach for the moon, they will wind up among the stars. It is time to start listening to my teacher encouragement and go for it!

So, what are my goals. I came up with a few quickly without much thought. But as I said before, this whole exercise has been one of thought. My previous 6+ years of Jesuit education kept whispering, and at times, shouting in my brain, "Mind, body, and spirit!" St. Ignatius of Loyola placed strong emphasis on educating the mind, body and spirit  to better be able to contribute to society. In looking up these ideals I was taken to St. Louis University, Madrid, Spain where I studied for a year - the coincidence made me feel I was somehow on the right track.

Body or physical goals were the easiest of all for me. I have three smart goals for 2013:
  • ride a 100 miles on a bicycle. It doesn't matter where or how flat, or hilly. 
  • Complete an Olympic Triathlon - twice the distance of the Sprints I did last year
  • Complete a triathlon with an ocean swim    
I shared these goals with a wonderfully realistic and encouraging friend who suggested I add a marathon to my goals. In the spirit of pushing myself, why not?!

Mind and spirit resolutions are so much harder for me to think of. I decided to tackle mind first. I keep my mind challenged, but I have gotten lax about learning new things. I have been hyperfocused on the physical and need to remember my mind. I want to, no strike that, in 2013 I will:
  • write a little every day, here on my blog, or in my journal
  • read more literature, both old and new
  • find a way to discuss scholarly topics- reading, writing, history
Finally I was left with spirit. Not being a religious person, I not surprisingly found this difficult. I decided that spiritual can also mean taking care of my spirit as well as others' spirits. I want to bring more joy into my life and the lives of others. To that end, I really had to think about what gives me joy. I love hearing from friends near and far,  hearing a child laugh, being outside, being with my family. So, in 2013 I will:
  • purposefully find ways to contact friends and spend time with them
  • listen to children and hear them
  • spend time outside every day
Truly, this blog is a selfish endeavor. Some of you may have stopped reading a while ago, some may still be reading. I know that I write for myself. However, if my writing or activities inspire you to care for your mind, body, or spirit, so much the better.  If you care to encourage me on my journey this year, please know how much I appreciate each and every one your words. If I can help you on your journey, please do not ever hesitate to ask. For although we all must conclude this earthly journey on our own, we travel together until then.

 This is a picture of gorgeous butternut squash right before being roasted for soup. I chose this picture today to illustrate my goals for 2013 - doing new things, taking chances, appreciating this world. I had never chopped and roasted butternut squash. With a little help from Youtube, a semisharp knife, and a why not attitude I made some pretty good soup. Who wants some?