Sunday, August 31, 2008

Back to School

This might be news to a few people, but I have decided to go back to school. It isn't for anything glamorous or life changing. I am going to get my Reading Specialist certificate so that I can one day be a reading teacher. This won't be for several years, but I know that I like to have lots of different doors open to me. In my professional life, I have taught three different grades. I have taught the same group of children for two years in a row. I have taught in public schools and a private school.

I received my class syllabus by email tonight and realized that I will be spending every waking minute reading young adult and children's books this semester. I am not exaggerating when I say that I will be reading at least 20 young adult novels. Twenty books is not a big deal, but I was also the student who got through junior high without ever EVER reading an assigned book. I know that sounds crazy, but I was just really good at absorbing information from class discussions. It wasn't that I was not reading during those years. I just wanted to read what I wanted to read.

So, now, I am going to be reading a lot of young adult literature again. I decided that since this is grad school again, I cannot resort to my 14 year old behavior of 'fakin' it till I make it' in class. I read my first book Star Girl by Jerry Spinelli. I picked it up at 9 PM and finished it in two hours. If you know me, I like any junior high love story especially if there is a quirky girl and a smitten boy in it.

I am going to try to take advantage of the required reading and use it as a time machine back to my own junior high and high school days.

Friday, August 29, 2008

History Being Made on Both Fronts

John McCain chose Sarah Palin, the year and a half Governor of Alaska, as his vice-presidential running mate. Lots of political pundits are trying to interpret the purpose and strategy behind John McCain's choice.

Well, most of the pundits are stating the obvious. He is trying to win the women who may be disgruntled with Hillary Rodham Clinton's loss. As a woman, I feel the need to comment on his choice. I am going to be all over the place, but that is how my brain is reacting to this choice.

I am thrilled that another woman is at the front of a major political party. I look forward to even more women making the scene in our political parties. That being said...McCain is either completely delusional or 100% out of touch...I am going with out of touch on this issue and so many more. He can't possibly believe that simply choosing a female running mate will bring women to vote for him.

If that is his motivation, it is insulting to women. Women care about issues more than just gender. I don't care if she is a mom, a wife, a worker, a woman. She stands on the opposite end of every issue that I care about.

She is enthusiastic. I like that. However, I fear that pundits and media will be hard on Joe Biden because he will smoke her on every issue and they will play the gender card.

Along with this, I think it is irresponsible to choose ANYONE who has had a year and a half in executive government to be second in line of a 72 year old President who has battled cancer four times.

Lastly, I don't want to see any pundits, politicians, and journalists going easy on this hockey mom who looks like she could be your next door neighbor, your right-wing-gun-lovin'-hatin' on gays and choice neighbor. We all know that no one should be given a pass because she is a novice in the game. No one has taken it easy on Hillary Clinton. The pundits are saying that if Palin simply gets through her debate with Joe Biden, she will win.

THAT IS NOT RIGHT. She should have to stand, defend, and explain with depth and passion to win a debate. Just because she is inexperienced in comparison to Biden, doesn't mean she should get a pass. As a woman, I want all women treated as equals and that includes in politics.

Peach Time

Berry season is nearing a finish and peach season is here! There was no better way to spend an afternoon than peach picking with my good friend Amy who was visiting from Brooklyn. Not only did we get to pick our own locally grown peaches, but a hayride took us to our peach trees. Thank goodness, we had an old curmudgeon hayride driver too.

Now, I gave some peaches to Amy to take back to Brooklyn, but I am still left with a lot of peaches. We made a peach cobbler last night for dessert and a golden peach pie this afternoon. I am open to more peach ideas.

Amy indulged my new interest in food photography and took a few photos of the peach cobbler process.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Can't Get Enough

I am on Day Three of my complete addiction to the Democratic National Convention.

And I am so emotional. The little videos about Teddy Kennedy, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton has brought more than one tear to my eye.

Today, when Barack Obama was the first African-American nominated by the Democratic party, I was close to overwhelmed along with those delegates who were so besides themselves.

Last night, Hillary was amazing. She is amazing. It didn't surprise me when she reminded all of us why we are fighting the good fight to bring change to the White House and to our country. I am looking so forward to the message that Bill Clinton will bring tonight. And...I hope Biden will bring the heat to Bush, Cheney, and McCain.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Legos Are Still Fun

We spend a lot of Saturdays working on the yard or some other project around the house. However, today, we went to the American Swedish Museum to check out The Art of the Brick created by Nathan Sawaya. Each piece is created with Lego.

Here, Tim is looking at a piece that is made completely of Lego including the brown frame and white canvas. It isn't the first time that we've seen Lego made into amazing creations, but this is the first time that we've seen it displayed as an art instillation.

Joe Biden is a Great Choice!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Midwestern Recipe: Blueberry Pie

I really wanted to take an appealing picture of the yummy blueberry pie that I baked this afternoon, but it was a bit juicy and I lost all control over the pie. I will still share the photo and the recipe.

I called Tim to tell him to NOT EAT THE PIE until I returned from an appointment that I had this evening because I wanted to take a picture. The minute that I entered the house, Tim said, "Take a picture of the pie." He didn't even say hello, but I forgive him because the man loves pies.

I bought this enormous box of blueberries at Trader Joe's today and they needed to baked into a pie. I have a few leftover for blueberry pancakes on Saturday. Chilled blueberry soup will also be made on Saturday in honor of our visit to the American Swedish Museum here in Philadelphia. Did you know that Philly had the earliest Swedish immigrants and that chilled blueberry soup is a popular summer treat that's equally welcome as an appetizer or dessert in Sweden? We are going to the museum to check out a Lego exhibit, but we'll take in the other permanent exhibits too.

Okay, the pie. I use the Better Homes and Garden's red plaid cookbook for this recipe. It is the cookbook that everyone should have because it has every basic recipe in it. I like any cookbook that keeps it simple. I have seen it in the bargain bin at Borders. Pick it up if you don't have it already.

2/3 to 3/4
cup sugar
tablespoons all-purpose flour
cups blueberries
tablespoons lemon juice
Sugar (optional)

In a large mixing bowl combine the 2/3 to 3/4 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons flour. Stir in berries and lemon peel. Gently toss berries until coated. Transfer berry mixture to the pastry-lined pie plate. Cover with rolled-pie crust and flute the edges.

If desired, brush pastry top with a little milk and sprinkle with additional sugar.

To prevent overbrowning, cover edge of pie with foil. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 25 minutes. Remove foil. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes more or until top is golden. Cool on wire rack.

I Couldn't Have Said It Better, Jack

If you have been reading this blog for awhile, it isn't a secret where I stand politically. The earliest election that I cared about was 1984 when I was eight years old and rooting for Walter Mondale. It isn't normal for an eight year old to care about primaries and polls. However, I come from a long line of farmers, blue collar workers, veterans who would spend any family get together discussing past, present, and future political leaders and the issues that mattered to us.

I feel passionately about many issues, yet Jack Cafferty at CNN wrote a commentary that said it best. Because this is my blog and I can share whatever I want to share, I am choosing to share this article. And remember, it is a commentary.

"NEW YORK (CNN) -- Russia invades Georgia and President Bush goes on vacation. Our president has spent one-third of his entire two terms in office either at Camp David, Maryland, or at Crawford, Texas, on vacation.

His time away from the Oval Office included the month leading up to 9/11, when there were signs Osama bin Laden was planning to attack America, and the time Hurricane Katrina destroyed the city of New Orleans.

Sen. John McCain takes weekends off and limits his campaign events to one a day. He made an exception for the religious forum on Saturday at Saddleback Church in Southern California.

I think he made a big mistake. When he was invited last spring to attend a discussion of the role of faith in his life with Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, at Messiah College in Pennsylvania, McCain didn't bother to show up. Now I know why.

It occurs to me that John McCain is as intellectually shallow as our current president. When asked what his Christian faith means to him, his answer was a one-liner. "It means I'm saved and forgiven." Great scholars have wrestled with the meaning of faith for centuries. McCain then retold a story we've all heard a hundred times about a guard in Vietnam drawing a cross in the sand.

Asked about his greatest moral failure, he cited his first marriage, which ended in divorce. While saying it was his greatest moral failing, he offered nothing in the way of explanation. Why not?

Throughout the evening, McCain chose to recite portions of his stump speech as answers to the questions he was being asked. Why? He has lived 71 years. Surely he has some thoughts on what it all means that go beyond canned answers culled from the same speech he delivers every day.

He was asked "if evil exists." His response was to repeat for the umpteenth time that Osama bin Laden is a bad man and he will pursue him to "the gates of hell." That was it.

He was asked to define rich. After trying to dodge the question -- his wife is worth a reported $100 million -- he finally said he thought an income of $5 million was rich.

One after another, McCain's answers were shallow, simplistic, and trite. He showed the same intellectual curiosity that George Bush has -- virtually none.

Where are John McCain's writings exploring the vexing moral issues of our time? Where are his position papers setting forth his careful consideration of foreign policy, the welfare state, education, America's moral responsibility in the world, etc., etc., etc.?

John McCain graduated 894th in a class of 899 at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. His father and grandfather were four star admirals in the Navy. Some have suggested that might have played a role in McCain being admitted. His academic record was awful. And it shows over and over again whenever McCain is called upon to think on his feet.

He no longer allows reporters unfettered access to him aboard the "Straight Talk Express" for a reason. He simply makes too many mistakes. Unless he's reciting talking points or reading from notes or a TelePrompTer, John McCain is lost. He can drop bon mots at a bowling alley or diner -- short glib responses that get a chuckle, but beyond that McCain gets in over his head very quickly.

I am sick and tired of the president of the United States embarrassing me. The world we live in is too complex to entrust it to someone else whose idea of intellectual curiosity and grasp of foreign policy issues is to tell us he can look into Vladimir Putin's eyes and see into his soul.

George Bush's record as a student, military man, businessman and leader of the free world is one of constant failure. And the part that troubles me most is he seems content with himself.

He will leave office with the country $10 trillion in debt, fighting two wars, our international reputation in shambles, our government cloaked in secrecy and suspicion that his entire presidency has been a litany of broken laws and promises, our citizens' faith in our own country ripped to shreds. Yet Bush goes bumbling along, grinning and spewing moronic one-liners, as though nobody understands what a colossal failure he has been.

I fear to the depth of my being that John McCain is just like him."

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Furniture Frenzy

The one word that I would use to describe today's trip to IKEA would be FRANTIC. I was calmly walking through the neatly fabricated rooms in the monster store, IKEA, when I noticed the frenzy in the eyes of other shoppers.

Either they left their brains in the car or they were entranced by the easy-to-assemble furniture, but most people were flitting around without any concern for other shoppers. I should have known better for going on a Saturday on a weekend when many college students were moving to the area.

It is difficult to describe the frantic behaviors. All I know is that I was left wanting the peace and quiet that my car offered after this experience. Next time, I will go on a Wednesday morning.

Back in the Swing of Things

It has taken some getting used to our normal lives back in Philly. We both jumped into our work routines because school looms on the horizon for us. I probably write this every year, but I just love the first weeks of school.

Don't get me wrong. I like my job all year long, but the buzz and flutter of the weeks before the children come are filled with preparation and organization. Creating a warm and welcoming environment where we can all be together for 180 days. I have my rituals each year. I may not always do them in the same order, but they must be done.

Organize the cubby room.
This year, it was a mess. So, with the help of some to-go boxes from a friend who enjoys Chinese take out and some labels, it is a cubby room that even the most finicky person could tolerate. Because that is the kindergartners' space, it gets trashed pretty regularly, but I am hoping that a little preparation before their arrival will help.

Trip to the Teacher Store
I like to buy the same things each year. New library pockets for a cute check in poster. New stickers for rewards. Mr. Sketch-it smelly markers for poster making. However, this year, I could not resist some jumbo foam dice. Part of being a kindergarten teacher is keeping things novel and new. The dice will help with that.
Bulletin Boards
I do not do elaborate bulletin boards because I like to use them for the children's work. I do replace the faded paper with new paper. Now, they are empty waiting for five year old creations.

I am rereading The First Six Weeks of School, but I have a few other books that I am interested in for the fall. I hope to get through one more before the big day.

I have a very long to-do list, but I have three weeks to do it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

My Midwestern Adventure - By the Numbers

The number of weeks we have been away from our home in Philadelphia to see friends and family in the midwest.

The number of states that we drove through during our trip to and from the midwest.
Our favorite new state is West Virginia. We had not driven through the central part of West Virginia until this summer. It was incredibly beautiful and recommend a drive through West Virginia to anyone.

The variety of brats that were being sold at the North Dakota meat shop where my mom buys her grillin' goods.

The number of toddlers and pre-schoolers that we enjoyed during our travels. Tim became known among the pre-school boys to be the guy who can build great Lego and fix Transformers.

I love that I pay $4.50 for a matinee in the midwest! I went to Mamma Mia with my mom and my sister-in-law in the midwest. When the girl behind the counter told me the title, I had to ask if she was sure!

The number of years that my parents have been married! We helped them celebrate their anniversary with a celebration with family and friends.

The number of Barack Obama pins that I purchased from this sweet elderly lady in Grand Forks who gives all of the money to the democratic headquarters in town. After I bought a pin, she showed me her garden.