Category Archives: ramblings

Teaching Tuesday: Parkland

I have more thoughts and feelings about the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida than I am currently able or willing to express. I’ve spent way more time over the last few days engaging in debates with people who haven’t set foot in a school room since they themselves were in school about the “answers” to the problem of gun violence in schools. I don’t want to turn this post into a rehash of those debates.

For the moment, I will only address one, which was from a gentleman who declared that we really need to stop blowing this out of proportion as there have not really been 18 school shootings in 2018. In his opinion, if the firing of a gun was not during school hours and did not result in death, it should not really be called a school shooting. In his opinion there have really only been three school shootings this year. He then went on to say that we needed to stop making a big deal out of school shootings because kids shouldn’t be having panic attacks about going to school, especially since students were more likely to be attacked by a shark than to be involved in a school shooting.*

I side with Everytown for Gun Safety when they define a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds, as documented by the press and, when necessary, confirmed through further inquiries with law enforcement or school officials.”

The reason I use this same definition is because any time a gun goes off in a school, whether it is with the intent to directly harm students or teachers, an accident which happens because someone brought a gun illegally to school or an accidental discharge from a gun carried by school personnel, there is the potential for real harm to come to students. Whether that harm is physically from a stray bullet hitting a student–like in the case Castro Middle School in LA where a student brought a gun to school which accidentally went off and injured four people–or emotional from a child hearing gun shots in their school and worrying that someone is trying to shoot up their school, the potential for damage is still there and it is still great.

So while there have only been 7 intentional shootings at school during school hours–five of which resulted in injuries or deaths–there have been 10 additional shootings on campuses across this country, four of which resulted in injuries or deaths. According to many, these 10 shootings, which resulted in three deaths and four injuries should not be classified as school shootings because they didn’t take place during regular school hours with the express intent of causing injury. Of course, since four of those 10 shootings took place on college campuses, it’s harder to identify “school hours.” After all, students are on those campuses 24/7 and just because no one was injured doesn’t mean no one could have been injured.

People who are arguing against the label of 18 school shootings seem to want to downplay the reality of guns in schools because in some cases no physical harm was done and even in the cases when harm was done, it was often only to one person and often just an injury, not a death.

As a teacher, I find this idea appalling. The idea that anyone wants to downplay the mental of physical damage done by guns on our campuses is disgusting. Just because miraculously no one was hurt in some of these shootings that have gone on this year, does not mean we turn a blind eye and pretend they didn’t happen. Nor should we only count mass tragedies like what happened at Parkland as a school shooting.

The reality is that we have too many guns being brought onto our campuses. Each gun brought into our buildings, regardless of the intention of the person who brings it in, has the potential to do both physical and emotional damage to our kids. Rather than make semantic arguments about what constitutes a “school shooting,” we need to be addressing the bigger picture and making sure that our students and our teachers are safe.

*I did the research on this and according to National Geographic, the US reports about 19 shark attacks per year and has one fatality once every two years. This is an average for the last several years, but even so, so far there have been 23 people killed by shooters on school campuses this year and we haven’t even completed 60 days yet, so his logic is ridiculous.

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Chocolate Monday: Cookie dough brownies

cookie dough browniesI’m baaaaaaaccccccccccccccckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk!

Thanks to the concussion I sustained in my recent car accident (not my fault, I was rear-ended while stopped), I had to take a bit of a hiatus from my blog. I tried to maintain my blog at first, but it turns out when my doctor tells me to limit my screen time, I should do a better job of listening.

I thought I was doing better. My headaches had mostly subsided, I no longer had to nap in the middle of every day and I wasn’t having as many strange emotional outbursts. I was on the mend, so I figured I’d better get caught up on all that grading I’d been neglecting.

Silly me! My headaches rushed back, I was exhausted and my emotions…CRAZY!

So, I did my best to cut out any screen I could, but now that I’m finally starting to feel mostly normal (only like two headaches last week), I’m gonna try this whole blogging thing again.

For my first chocolate blog back, I want to talk about a Pinterest recipe I tried out last week. I had to bake something to reward a few of my students for their reading achievements. I love baking and over the years I’ve built up quite a reputation at my school for my mad skillz in the kitchen. Sometimes I create my own recipes and sometimes I cheat a bit and use other people’s recipes. Not that it matters to my students (or my family). They love it either way.

I love Pinterest. I’m the person who saves all those amazing recipes and then actually makes them. I mean, not all of them. I have dozens of recipes on each of my different food boards (side dishes, main dishes, cookies/bars, desserts, breakfast, crock pot, appetizers, sandwiches, soups, popsicle/ice cream and candy) that I have not yet gotten around to try, but I make something off of Pinterest at least once a week. Usually 3 or 4 times.

I’ve had this recipe for cookie dough brownies saved on my cookies/bars board for quite some time. Last weekend was the perfect time to make them. I wanted something to really wow my students and these looked like they’d do the trick.

And boy did they! When I handed them out to the readers who’d reached their goal, they were ecstatic. More importantly, the rest of my students perked up and asked how many books they had to finish to get one. After I handed them out and my students raved about them, I saw a renewed enthusiasm for silent reading.

Although they took a little extra time and created double the dishes since I had to make brownie batter and cookie dough, they were worth it. The recipe calls for dark chocolate chips, but I knew the Penzy’s Dutch process cocoa powder I was using was going to be a bit stronger than the garden variety Hershey’s, and I don’t really like dark chocolate much, so I opted for semi-sweet chocolate chips, which I hoped would help keep these morsels from being too sweet. I think they did.

The brownies themselves are quite tasty. They aren’t overly dense, but they make a substantial bottom for the treat. They were moist and cooked to perfection. I don’t like when my brownies get crunchy. I am a center brownie girl. I usually dish out the edge brownies to my family members and students and save the amazingly delicious center ones for myself!  Thankfully even the edge brownies in this batch didn’t get crunchy.

The cookie dough topping was sweet and tasted pretty much like the delicious cookie batter I whip up for my regular chocolate chip cookies, but without the danger of raw eggs that I’ll admit I risk every time I make cookies.

Combined they are rich. I can only eat one and cannot imagine two in the same day, much less at the same sitting. My husband says he likes them, but that they are too rich for him–he’d rather have a brownie and a cookie than the two combined. Of course, he prefers his candy in the Skittle or gummy form, so I’m not sure his opinion counts for much in this case.

If you like to bake, I highly suggest giving these a try. They are a real crowd pleaser.

Overall:

Taste: 9/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 9/10 (pretty cheap to make)

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Free Reading Friday: Inherit Midnight

Inherit MidnightYet another Rosie nominee is checked off my list! Only 3 more to go…so I’ll finish the 2107-2018 list off in just enough time for the 2018-2019 list to be revealed. That’s only slightly disheartening as it means: more books!

I really enjoyed Inherit Midnight by Kate Kae Myers. Granted, I thought the love story was a bit too immediately perfect and even the main character of Avery seemed a bit one-dimensional at times, but it was still a fun book to read and I think teenagers will especially enjoy this YA mystery novel.

The story centers around Avery, the black sheep of the family who has spent her entire life being spurned by her very wealthy, very haughty extended family for being the product of her father’s affair with the nanny. Since her mother died in childbirth and her father is an alcoholic, she is raised by her slightly cold grandmother who has unrealistic expectations of both family honor and duty. She does not allow Avery any freedom and when Avery sneaks out to go to a perfectly innocent party with her friends, she is shipped off to a truly horrible boarding school.

However, the story does not center around her misadventures at boarding school, but her grandmother’s inheritance contest. Her grandmother, who no one has seen lately, has taken ill. In an attempt to find the most worthy heir, she sets up a contest, which she is constantly monitoring, that everyone who wants to be the heir must compete in. The rules are strict and the contests all center around knowing the family’s long and prestigious ancestry, something Avery’s grandmother has been trying to instill in her family members her entire life. It seems that only Avery paid much attention though.

As Avery agrees to compete in the competition not for the money, but to find out more about her past. With the help of Riley, the 19-year-old son of her grandmother’s lawyer, Avery is whisked away on adventures across the globe in a race to solve puzzles and survive her family members, because someone is sending her threatening notes and texts.

Although it is a bit predictable, I found myself wanting to find out how Avery was going to solve each task and which of her family members would be eliminated after each task. Conveniently, Avery’s grandmother, who is very stuffy and obsessed with her prestigious family is also a big fan of reality TV. So Avery’s journey is part Survivor and part Amazing Race.

For anyone who likes a mystery, especially one geared at a YA audience, this is a great book.

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Wildcard Wednesday: cleaning my children’s rooms

My kids hate to clean their rooms. I get it. I hated to clean my room when I was their age too. I actually worry just a bit about any kid who really loves to clean their room. Or anything really. Being a kid is all about being messy, right?

I’m the first to admit I am not exactly an amazing house keeper. I work 50-60 hours each week, commute 1.5-2 hours to and from work each day, and have a family to take care of. Oh, and I still don’t really like to clean. My house isn’t really dirty, it’s just cluttered and on most days needs a good dusting. It’s in no way dangerous or hazardous though. It’s well-loved and well-lived in.

In light of my failings in the cleaning up department, I try to be forgiving of my kids’ rooms. But a few times a year we reach a tipping point that I just cannot leave alone. Last weekend my daughter’s room hit that very dangerous precipice.

I gave her a chance to clean it up. I knew it was a mess. I knew she’d been “cleaning” by shoving toys under her bed and in her closet. She’s 7, so to her I don’t doubt that these quick and easy fixes probably even seemed like cleaning up. But I told her I was on to her and that I knew what she’d done. I spelled out very clearly what she needed to do in order to clean her room.

She went into her room and came back out about 8 minutes later. I knew there was no way her room was clean. I told her this, but she insisted it was. I told her to go back in and actually clean. She stomped her little seven year old foot, clearly very angry with me, said “fine!” and headed back to her room. Five minutes later she emerged and assured me it was really clean this time.

“Oh sweetie,” I thought. “Please do not think I am such a fool.”

I gave her one more chance, this time telling her that either she cleaned it the right way or I’d clean it my way. She was clearly over the massive effort she’d already put forth and told me to go ahead and clean it up.

So I grabbed a garbage bag and a rather large shipping box and headed back to her room. I started with the closet. About a year ago my husband and I bought both of our kids really great shelving units and plastic bins to help organize their rooms. When used properly, they are miraculous. However, one look at her closet and I knew they hadn’t been used even remotely properly for a long, long time. So I sat on the floor and started sorting. My version of sorting meant tossing an awful lot in either the trash bag or the donation box.

About 15 minutes into my effort, my daughter came in, saw what I was doing and started to cry about me “getting rid of her toys.” I reminded her that I’d given her the chance to do it the right way, but now I was doing it mine. She tried to back track and offer to clean, but I told her it was too late and that she better march herself right back out of her room and not come back in until I was finished.

An hour later I emerged from her room with both my garbage bag and shipping box full. I’d only managed to organize her closet, dresser and book shelf, but I was pretty darn happy with my progress. I called her into her room, showed her what I’d cleaned and told her that it better stay clean for a very long time. I also told her that next weekend I’d be finishing off her room, once again without her help.

I spent a little over an hour in her room today as well and am proud to say that after another garbage bag (only about half full this time) and a much smaller donation box later, her room is beautiful.

After I finished, I came out, looked right into my son’s eyes and told him that his room was my project for next weekend. He swallowed hard and looked more than a little dismayed. Can’t wait to see what I can get rid of in that room!

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Teaching Tuesday: Teaching with a concussion

Although I do have quite a few sick days built up, I try hard not to take them. Considering the time it takes to prep sub plans, answer questions students email and then grade work they did while I was gone (not to mention trying to sort out the sub notes), it’s often easier to just suck it up and go to school.

Turns out that is so much easier to do with a cold or sinus infection or something relatively small than it is with a concussion.

I got my concussion on a Sunday. Thankfully the next day we were off for MLK Day. On Tuesday we had a two hour delay due to weather, so I was able to go to the doctor and still make it to school on time. In hindsight though, that was not a good idea. Tuesday was a pretty miserable day for me. Even with the break from teaching I got by coming in two hours late, by the time I got to my lunch/prep period, I was completely wiped out and my head was throbbing. I ended up napping for about 25 minutes on the floor of my classroom behind my desk.

I took Wednesday off of work for an actual break. And I felt a bit better on Thursday when I returned. Once again, by the time my prep/lunch rolled around, I was on the floor behind my desk taking another nap. Friday was a repeat.

While I got a lot more rest on Saturday and Sunday, it was still not enough. I went to school on Monday and before I even thought about getting lunch, I turned my lights off and slept for 45 minutes. I had to set a timer to wake me because I knew if I didn’t I’d sleep so long kids would be banging on my door.

Tuesday I did not get my nap. Not because I didn’t need it, but because I decided to take Wednesday off of work to rest up, so I spent my prep getting all of my plans in order. I was so tried by the time I got home from school that I was in bed a little after 9.

Wednesday did NOT turn out to be a break for me. Due to some pretty nasty weather, we had an e-Learning day, so I had to revamp my sub plans so that kids could do everything at home. I also had to supervise my own children so they could do their work (and my 7 year old needs a lot of direction). Plus, I had to answer questions from my own students all day. I finally couldn’t do it any longer and took an hour and a half nap. Since my children were done with their school work, they were darlings and played quietly so I could rest.

Not only have my own kids been pretty helpful with my injury, so have my students. They’ve been kind and supportive and not at all demanding, which is great. They think it’s hysterical that I’ve been napping under my desk and have offered me blankets and Advil. I haven’t taken them up on either. When they see my yoga mat behind my desk after lunch, they ask how my nap was. “Not long enough,” is my standard reply.

Teaching takes a lot of mental acuity and there is no moment when your brain can just sort of shut down and wander. I can honestly say I understand some of my students in a whole new way now. One of my AP kids just came in to talk to me because she too has a concussion. She apologized for not getting some work done and I told her not to sweat it. We’d figure it out as we went along. We commiserated over our pain.

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Chocolate Monday: Godiva Cups of Love

Godiva cups of loveMy last few Godiva experiences have not been stellar. However, years of dedicated love to them, and some damn fine chocolates along the way, are keeping me loyal. So, when I stopped in recently and saw their new Cups of Love chocolates, I knew I’d be giving them a try.

Since they are named for love, it’s no surprise that they are part of this year’s Valentine collection. They are cute to look at and since there are only four flavors, I bought one of each to try.

I’m a best for last kinda gal, so I decided to try the one that appealed the least to me first. Since dark chocolate is often my nemesis, I grabbed the Chocolate Cup of Love first. This one is a bit deceptive as it has a milk chocolate shell. I didn’t really read the description in the store, so it wasn’t until I got home and looked at the website that I realized it was going to be dark chocolate in the center. Considering Godiva’s (and the world’s) love for dark chocolate I knew at least one of them had to be pure darkness. Despite its very thin milk chocolate shell, this one is definitely a dark chocolate piece. It’s not overly bitter though, so I didn’t really mind it. The tiny, crispy cocoa bits on top give it a fun texture. While I wouldn’t want to eat more than this bite sized cup, I found it perfectly good and actually kind of enjoyed it.

My second piece was the Caramel-Cafe Cup of Love. Caramel is always one of my top sweet treats, but I detest coffee, so I was hoping the caramel would be enough to save this piece. The dark chocolate shell didn’t inspire confidence. It has a distinctly caramel coffee taste. On the rare occasions I am dying for caffeine and actually buy coffee drinks, they have to contain lots of sweet additives like chocolate, caramel and whipped cream. This piece reminded me quite a bit of the coffee drink I get once or twice a year at my favorite cafe. I actually rather liked it, which thrilled me.

I have not had a great run with Godiva’s pistachio flavored treats lately, but since it had no threat of coffee or dark chocolate in it, my next one was the Pistachio Chocolate Cup of Love. The white chocolate shell, even though it is thin, is initially pretty overwhelmingly sweet. The older I get, the more I don’t care much for the super sugary sweetness of white chocolate. The pistachio flavor was more reserved…a bit more of a hint than anything. The bite where I got the piece of the actual nut on top was the only one that rang true to the spirit of pistachio. This piece had a strange, slightly gritty texture to it that did not seem nutty. Gritty isn’t even the right word exactly. It felt like it was coating my mouth. The flavor was ok, but the after coating freaked me out a bit. In hindsight, I should have switched this one for the coffee caramel one.

My final piece was the Strawberry Cup of Love. I really had to swish my mouth out with water to get rid of the sweet coating before I could try it. I’m glad I saved this strawberry piece for last. To me it was the best piece. I like the more liquidy strawberry center. It was sweet without being too sweet. Honestly, my only real complaint is that I wish it had a bit more strawberry flavor and maybe a slightly tart hint. I love when strawberries are just a bit tart. I also love the combination of tart fruit and chocolate. This one was just mild and sweet.

The strawberry piece was the best of the bunch, but even it wasn’t anything to rave about. I definitely did not fall in love in love with this collection. It wasn’t as disappointing as some of the more recent collections, but I am starting to think I need to keep my love for the classics and forgo the newer chocolates.

Overall:

Taste: 6/10
Appearance: 8/10
Value: 6/10

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Free Reading Fridays: The Good Braider

The good braiderNovels in verse have become one of my latest joys. Before this year I’d only read a few of them and although I’d enjoyed them, I hadn’t thought too much about them.

However, in the last six months, I have read four of them and have thoroughly enjoyed each one. While my favorite of them was probably One by Sarah Crossan, they have all been beautiful and heartbreaking in their own rights.

My latest find, Farish’s The Good Braider, is definitely both lovely and heartbreaking. It amazes me the depth of character and plot Farish is able to accomplish when she strips away the extraneous adjectives and sentences and tells the story of Viola in poignant and striking verse. In many ways, the verse, which is stripped of the usual finery of a novel, is able to tell the story in an even more striking way. The harsh brutalities of Viola’s life in Southern Sudan as well as her flight to America are even more haunting and powerful because they make Viola seem stripped down and more vulnerable. The lack of flowery prose, makes the story seem more stark and naked, just as Viola is, both physically and emotionally throughout the story.

Farish weaves an excellent story through her lines of verse. Nothing is lost by the loss of sentences and paragraphs. If anything, Viola’s story is more powerful in verse.

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