sewing 101

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A few months ago I blogged about a book I read called the Creative Family. Its discussion on creativity and the importance of crafting made quite the impression. Her message of steering clear of focusing on one’s mistakes resonated with the perfectionist in me. When knitting, I am quickly discouraged by my project as soon as I make one mistake (which inevitably occurs as I am new to the hobby). Instead of harping on the snag and wanting to throw the item away before it is completed, she suggested understanding the beauty and character of those mistakes. She writes, “ The work of homemade is never perfect, and that’s the beauty of it.” As a DINK (double income no kids), I have a lot of free time in the summer.  This is not to make anyone jealous. I so very much want to have children but David and I have some financial goals we would like to reach before we expand our little family. So with this free time, I tend to be bored. As David can attest, I am not good at “relaxing.”  Relaxing is not in my vocabulary.  Yes, you can definitely find me lounging and nursing my post-school year hangover for the first two weeks of summer vacation.  But by week three, I am typically stranded in a sea of free time.  I want to try to avoid burning through money but I don’t want to be locked up in my house watching endless movies, so I find summer vacation to be bittersweet at times.  I love to read but after so many hours of this in a single day, I need something else.

That’s where crafting comes in. I was invited to a friend’s place on Tuesday to learn how to sew. Heather was beyond patient with me as she went over the Singer sewing machine set before us. I now know how to thread the needle, prepare the bobbin, and sew a “straight” line.  We practiced on a little draw-string purse made from some “scrap” materials. After this thirty minute entry into the world of sewing, Heather helped me pick out some beautiful material from JP Knit & Stitch and we started to plan out a fabulous tote bag project for the afternoon.  We paused for lunch at the new Clover in Brookline and by the time David was out of work, I had completed what I think is a pretty impressive tote bag.  I cannot sing Heather’s praises enough. She helped me get started, she encouraged me, and she and I joked the whole time about the bag being “perfect” and how we both struggle with the perfectionist’s curse/blessing.  Yet, the sad part of this is that while I left her house with the sewing machine and tote, she will be leaving on Sunday for Germany.  I am going to miss her and her husband, Robin, so very much.  In four years, they have become such dear friends. I am just so glad to have spent such a fun, challenging, and hilarious day with the two of them right before their departure. And, that tote will always been a great reminder of our lesson, friendship, and how I need to get my bum out to Germany to visit them ASAP!

professional development session 1

My school has been a fountain of professional development opportunities. Each year, I have been lucky to have the opportunity to attend one (but most often more than one conference). This summer, I will be attending three. My first session started this morning and it has been interesting. I signed up to learn more about the Flipped Classroom. I have played with this concept in my class and have found that it is a helpful tool for teachers though it is not a “silver bullet” in how every class should be run. It does add meaningful individualized learning opportunities when done well. Yet, when done poorly, it can come across as passive video watching. I like the idea of the flipped classroom because it creates an interesting way to break up the typical homework of reading in a history classroom and create an environment in which there can be more interaction and intention when student head home.

This session has been interesting although not groundbreaking. This was definitely an introduction level program and while it cemented my understanding of what the concept of a Flipped Classroom is, it did not share too many fresh insights, examples, or technologies. Nonetheless, I am pretty excited with a few new classroom technologies that I hope to play around with over the summer including: videonot.es, hapyak, and padlet.

The really great part of PD though is being able to be a student again.  I forget sometimes what it is like to be a student.  How long have I been sitting here?  When is the next break?  How could I spice this up? Oh man, do I sound like that too? These are all just a few of the questions flooding in and out as I participate in this session. I learn so much as a student about the content that is being shared in the course but, more importantly, from how the instructor instructs and how the learning is learned. Observation is key in these moments and I am soaking up an array of divergent and interesting ideas to sharpen my own classroom skills and whether that is with the Flipped Classroom model or not is still under construction.

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new addition

Yesterday was a very special day. Our family welcomed a new member at 1:15PM. It is amazing to know that my sister-in-law and brother-in-law had such a life changing, beautiful day. Thankfully from what we heard the labor and delivery went well and everyone is doing fine. Now July 11 cannot come fast enough for our visit. I know this is sappy and sentimental but life really is miraculous. One minute this little guy was swimming around in a dark womb and the next he is a viable individual ready to become a part of the world and a part of our family. I hope he has a fantastic journey. And, he couldn’t have arrived in a happier home.

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what i read, what i thought

-You can’t just make me different and then leave. Because I was fine before, Miles

-I go to seek a Great Perhaps,  Rabelais

-She loved mysteries so much, that she became one, Miles

-How will we ever get out of this labyrinth of suffering? Straight and Fast, Miles and Alaska

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After reading John Green’s The Fault in our Stars and being completely swept up in its beautiful tragedy, I decided to try out another of his books for my flights to and from Florida. Remembering a student’s recommendation this time, I selected Looking for Alaska. Immediately I was intrigued by the novel’s structure. Many people define their lives as before and after.  For example: life before cancer diagnosis and life after or life before horrendous car accident and life after. Clearly this novel’s structure suggested this from the beginning.  Each new section of the novel was counting down “100 days before,” “88 days before,”…..I found myself caught up in trying to figure out what exactly are we counting down to? For the longest time I was convinced it was the fall-out from the protagonists’ “school prank” but I was woefully inaccurate. On the other side of the “event” the novel counts again “30 days after,” “100 days after,”….

Speaking of which the protagonists are a dynamic group of misfits who are cooped up in their teenage angst at some prep school in the middle of nowhere. Here they flirt and experiment with life but most often this comes in the form of drug abuses (primarily alcohol and cigarettes), pranking the more wealthy members of the prep community, and testing the waters of sexuality. Much of these dilemmas were real and believable. Pudge (Miles), the Colonel, and Alaska drive the story forward and then turn it in on itself. Pudge is a likable tall, thin, and young Junior who is a bit bookish and not popular. He moves to a boarding school where he meets his roommate the Colonel, a short and pugnacious young man who grapples with his self worth and the meaning of poverty in funny and, at times, sentimental ways. And then there is Alaska. Alaska is the pulse of the novel which is erratic.  The girl who Pudge is consumed by, the girl who is mysterious, sexy, sad, and tragically destined to be the “star” of the fulcrum event of the novel.

At the end of the novel, I found myself googling another title by John Green and then asked myself why?  Why read yet another John Green novel? According to New York Girl for the Guardian, “There is no doubt that John Green is a good writer, and this is why so many people like his novels. He writes what teens want to read, and what he writes is well written. Looking for Alaska does deserve the awards that it’s won, as it deals with some very prevalent topics from young adults, such as self discovery and loss. It is definitely a book which delves into what teenage life is all about, young love and the stupid things you do to impress someone.” And, perhaps because I work with this population everyday and because in the end I am not THAT far away demographically from them these books still remain exciting. Or, perhaps, it is just because they are very well written. Either way, John Green and Looking for Alaska is a book that should be added to one’s summer reading list.

post 2. the great wall.

Where post 1: The Great Wall explained the overall start of this project, this is going to be a rant. I promise in the future posts about the wall to do my best to just “go with it” and find the humor in it all.

He texted around 10AM with another excuse for this tardiness.  This time it was a broken cement mixer that was delaying his start. Up until this point I have kept my cool wanting to avoid being labeled an “irrational b*tch.” I texted back with a little sass,  “well you knew you were going to need one so I hope you figure out the best solution so that you can be here by noon =).”  David would go on to tell me that the smiley face was a bit unnecessary.  But, I just truly feel taken advantage of here by this guy and this was my first foray into sass with him.

At 1:00PM, he finally arrives and I decide to head back to him to say good afternoon. That is when I get hit with a level of condescension that surprised me. He starts by completely gendering me, “Well, I know that you are worried and it is quite clear that you suffer from anxiety but listen I am here and I am going to work. I would appreciate it if you didn’t nag me on the phone.” WHOA! First of all, my friend, you have taken a good chunk of our life-savings for this retaining wall and provided nothing in return and the rest of it is due to you upon completion.  My “anxiety” that you speak of is it not that at all, but rather my mere desire to see follow through on a job I am paying you for. Then, he gives me the sob story.  He tells me about his new divorce/separation, his broken arm (still no sign of a cast), his sitting in traffic to and from our house, his broken truck, his need to pay for camp for his son, the heat, the hard labor, his long doctor’s appointment, etc. etc. etc. While this may be true and then very sad, I cannot help but think there is a story for every day’s delay. I want to tell him I would never imagine going to work and telling my department head I was unable to come to class on time day after day and week after week because of my personal woes. You just don’t do that. Instead, I say “listen, I don’t ever want to have to raise my voice or be mean about this job, I just want to see you committed to the project as you claimed you would be on the contract and in your numerous promises.” He looks at me and says, “Yea, you wouldn’t want to get mean with me, kiddo. Trust me on that one.”  At this point I am furious.  Is it because I am a woman and young that you don’t respect my concerns about the direction (or lack thereof) of this project and that you seem okay with trying to intimidate me? I refuse to be turned into a nasty person over this. Instead, I smiled and said, “Well it won’t come to that because of course you will be here now every day as per the contract in order to ensure your future payments.”

Then I calmly walked into the house and stepped right into a puddle of dog pee. HaHaHaHaHa yup!

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ormond & orlando

The perk of being a school teacher = summer vacation!

No sooner did the school year come to a conclusion then I hopped onto a flight to Florida to spend a long weekend visiting with my family in Florida. After a long, tiring, eventful, amazing, challenging, and exciting school year, I was able to decompress on the beach for three days. Ah….such luxury.

We spent most of our time lapping up the sun. It was so much fun watching Avery and Smith experience a number of firsts.  First time in a swimming pool, first time on the beach, and for Avery first time splashing in the waves.  On the first day, she would not even walk on the wet sand as clearly trusting such a thing was scary.  But, by the last day of our vacation, we could not keep her out of the ocean.  She let the waves crash over her legs, sat in a little wading pool, and played and played in the sun. It was precious. Mr. Smith enjoyed himself too and fearlessly floated (with assistance) in the “big” pool.

On the last day as we piled 8 people (including 2 carseats) into a rental minivan on our way back to the Orlando airport we got a crazy idea. Why not postpone our return one day more and spend an afternoon at Epcot! After a few phone calls to our various airlines, we did just that.  While it was brutally hot at a humid 93F, we had a great time. The kids went on all of the rides although the Nemo ride was the favorite and we ate and danced in the German Biergarten. A truly excellent way to kick off summer 2013!