Back aches and Legends

About five years ago, Chuck slipped on an icy sidewalk and chipped his elbow. He sent me a picture. Cute, eh?

Two weekends ago, he put his back out while doing our taxes. Yes, taxes. He had to shred a few documents, but the shredder was full, so he pulled out the tray to empty it into the recycling bin. As he did that, he must have twisted awkwardly. Ow! He managed to finish the taxes with the help of a heating pad and ibuprofen.

Two weeks later, he is struggling to clear major amounts of snow from the driveway and sidewalks. He’s not in pain anymore, but he is stiff. I worry about him re-injuring his Tax Break, er Back, while he’s handling the heavy, wet snow.

Chuck’s Tax-related Backache is already legend. The Blizzard of April 2018 may become legend on its own.

Flu memories – let’s not create any new ones

Yesterday Chuck came home from work feeling ill. I was fairly certain it wasn’t influenza, but can I ever be 100% sure? Sometimes. Not always. It wasn’t so long ago that I posted this.

I was searching and sorting and purging a pile of papers and I found this, a predecessor to Monday’s post. It’s on a scrap of yellow legal pad, so it probably rose from the ashes of a school staff meeting or staff development. This piece wasn’t for the CDC. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wrote it pre-blog. To make it current, it would need almost no changes.

You know the flu has taken over when:

  • Chicken soup and cinnamon toast make a meal.
  • The phone rings and the teenager doesn’t move.
  • The blind family member identifies people by their coughs rather than their voices.
  • The dishwasher is full of glasses and bowls because no one is eating real meals.
  • Each sick person carries around his/her own box of tissue.
  • Suddenly the supply of Tylenol and ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet looks woefully under stocked.

The above list was written with a sense of – well, something close to gallows humor, if I remember correctly. Since that year, all of us have stayed up to date on flu shots. Get your own flu vaccine, people. It’s not too late.

The entire family has been vaccinated. This year’s vaccine may only be 10% – 30% effective, but at least it’s something. As for Chuck, he felt much better today and went back to work. That’s a relief to all of us!

All Things Potter

You might be a Harry Potter fanatic if:

  1. You mutter Alohamora as you turn a key.
  2. You think Lumos as you flick a light switch.
  3. Your Harry Potter collection will never get swapped or donated to a Little Free Library.
  4. You get irritated when the family wants supper because you don’t want to stop reading.
  5. You’re nervous leaving the house without a wand. After all, there’s a war on!
  6. You find yourself quoting Albus Dumbledore at the strangest times. “Nitwit. Oddment. Blubber. Tweak.”
  7. You watch the movie The Patriot and wonder when Lucius Malfoy dyed his hair black.
  8. You go to cash a check and wonder why no one else notices that the goblins have the day off at the bank.
  9. You try to find 4 Privet Drive and 12 Grimmauld Place on Mapquest.
  10. The waiter looks at you strangely when you order “elf-made wine”.

It’s bitter cold outside – below zero wind chills, day after day. I might as well stay indoors, curl up in a blanket, and watch the Harry Potter marathon on FreeForm. It’s fascinating to look over  the details – the foreshadowing, the creation of this amazing parallel world, J.K. Rowling’s craft as a writer. So despite the cold, I’ll stay warm and cozy. As my idol Albus Dumbledore once said, “…now, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

This is an encore from a summer day several years ago as Amigo and I read the final book in the series: The Deathly Hallows. It is truly fascinating to reread and rewatch the Harry Potter series. I still wonder if I’m more like Professor MacGonagall or Professor Sprout. 

Christmas Trees in Packerland

No one fumbles around with the tree in a Green Bay Packer fan household. Diminutive though they may be, these little delights are like prize jewels of the family ornament collection. This roly-poly guy is a jingle bell decked out in Green and Gold and a football uniform.

These two came from a student (oh, she knew me well). They look fragile, but they aren’t. You won’t see them on injured reserve. Tiny and shiny, the crystal snowmen are small enough to fit in a teacup, but they’re prettier near a string of lights that can reflect on their glory.


 They may not be in the playoffs this year, but our tree still shouts “Go, Pack, Go!”

The Fairies Return with Thanksgiving!

Have you wondered what happened to the Fabled Fairies of Thanksgiving? They made an appearance several years ago, along with a Butterball turkey. We’ve been having Thanksgiving over the river and through the woods at Grandma’s apartment for a while, but it’s our turn again. We organized who will bring which dish with a google doc to keep track, and now it’s time to get it all together. It’s time for the Fabled Fairies of Thanksgiving to come out of hiding and help us again!

 Thanksgiving Dinner? No problem! I’ll call in the fairies. They’ll do everything.

The laundry fairy washes, dries, and presses the table linens, including the cloth napkins. If she’s feeling generous, the sheets and towels might get folded, too.
The turkey fairy will practice her specialty and make sure the bird is cooked and carved just in time for dinner. White meat and dark, it’ll all be moist and savory and leave just enough leftovers for sandwiches and a turkey noodle soup.
The baker fairy will take care of pies, pumpkin and otherwise. He’s an expert on flaky crust, selected spices, and the perfect portion of whipped cream. Don’t let that Simple Simon guy get in the way; the kitchen’s too small for anyone who begs to taste the wares.
The brownie — the cunning little house elf — will clean the home thoroughly, put the leaf in the big table, and get the extra chairs out of the basement.
I wouldn’t dream of neglecting the wine fairy: the sommelier so tiny she only recommends, never lifts, a bottle. Her taste is impeccable. Now if we could stop her before she over-imbibes and falls asleep on top of the piano…
Did I mention the decorator fairy? She’ll fix the fireplace mantel with something tasteful and seasonal before she makes sure the couch and rocker are properly arranged for the annual holiday gladiator contests known as NFL football.
The ambiance fairy keeps the wood fire crackling in the fireplace, the aromas wafting deliciously through the home, and the family discussions neutral and apolitical.
The kitchen fairies: really, there must be a whole crew of these talented sprites. One to do the shopping early and avoid the crowds, another to make sure the cranberries are perfect (and local, of course), and a magical maestro with the potato masher. Then we’ll need a feisty fairy, one with attitude — yes, you, Tinkerbell, you can make the coffees.

Mom, you can send the fairies over to my house now that we’re hosting the annual family Thanksgiving dinner. Let them know that I’ll have their room ready and their favorite cookies baked. If they arrive on Sunday there should be enough time to get everything done.

Wait. What do you mean…they’re…not….real?

Shoes and Rabbits – Some things never change

Here’s an old post from one of many college dorm moves. We were grateful to own a reasonably big minivan for these occasions.

The pile begins.

The pile grows…

…and grows.

Can I bring my rabbit?

Sorry, no more room. It’s either the rabbit or your shoes.

(Just kidding! The rabbit stayed home.)

Now, back to the present day. La Petite lives in an apartment with rabbits AND shoes.

Shoes! Slippers! Boots!

She still manages to keep them in a relatively small space. There’s still room for the rabbits.

Last Week of School – encore

Years ago, when I was still teaching in a traditional classroom, the chalkboard provided all kinds of opportunities. My fourth graders loved to create their own drawings with this simple medium of chalk on chalkboard. This one went up on a muggy, drizzly day. The blurry writing in the middle states, “Rain, rain, go away!” Earlier in the day it said, “Rian, rian, go away!” until someone more astute took eraser in hand and played editor.

 Over the weekend, La Petite came with me while I cleaned up my classroom. This was the work of La Petite, age 21, art minor, in colored chalk. 

In truth, the wild bunnies eat my vegetables more than they do the flowers – with the exception of the coneflowers last year. The flowers in this picture lasted longer than the coneflowers did.

Note: the plethora of encores may be due to the fact that it’s the last week of school and any creativity of my own is getting poured into progress report comments. 

Another encore, on a counseling tone

from spring, 2013

My email has been overloaded with courses lately. I’m not sure why. Are the trainers and higher-educators getting desperate for business? I know few of us are taking extra courses or earning higher degrees now because we can’t afford it and because additional training and education no longer pays.

But reduced pay scales aside, this offer came through recently. There’s a lot of public attention to mental illnesses these days, so I actually read it instead of hitting delete.

Dealing with Metal Illness in the Classroom

I could have used this a few years ago, or a few years before that, or – the list goes on. Or could I? Let’s look more closely.

This course is designed for teachers, support staff and school counselors.

Okay, the focus is good. School counselors have been cut way back, though, due to the usual and customary budget constraints. When a student needs counseling, the teacher is the first and sometimes the last to handle it. If the student is lucky, his/her teacher will have had at least some counseling training. Next, please.

Participants will learn about the diagnostic characteristics of the various types of mood disorders and the other types of mental health disorders that mimic the symptoms of each.

Now they’ve lost me. Teachers can’t and don’t diagnose illness, whether physical or mental. We may recognize head lice and flu, and we might be the ones monitoring behavior that suggests attention deficit disorder, but we do not diagnose. Training us in “diagnostic characteristics” isn’t the right direction at all.

If we teachers are to help students with possible mental illnesses, we need to have opportunities to refer these students for real diagnosis and treatment. We need to have the connections with medical professionals, and we need permission to contact them. We need administrators who take our concerns seriously, and we need time – yes, time – to meet with and call parents so we can work as a team. We need school psychologists who take our concerns seriously, school social workers who do more than push papers, and most of all, administrators who care about our safety and well-being.

We need coworkers and support staff that will work with us. We need the public to respect our knowledge, our experience, and our observations.

Most of all, we need this because the students, the ones who need help, need us.

 This is an encore from 2013. All, for better or worse, is still very true. Public trends are leading toward the need for more services in schools, but budgets don’t match the need. Until then, we teachers will still be the front line for those kids who need help.

Cleaning the Classroom – Encore

I attended a graduation party for a former student, a girl I’d taught in fourth grade. She had just graduated from high school (my alma mater, no less), and was preparing to head off to college. I reminisced on the way home. 

One year my fourth grade class decorated the chalkboard with flowers during the last few weeks of school. I liked it so much that this year, I assigned them the task. We were gearing up for a field trip to see a play based on the book Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. I helped prepare them for the story by reading about urban gardens, learning about plants, planting their own tomato plants in little pots made from toilet paper rolls, and more. One day I presented them with several shades and lengths of green construction paper, told them these were their stems, and challenged them to create flowers using our bin of paper scraps.

They outdid themselves.

The flowers were lovely, each as original as its creator. My young students (ages 9-10) decided to write their names on the board to claim their work. They wrote and drew and made more flowers, and I was glad to say Yes to saving their work from the cleaning staff. I knew Di, the cleaner who keeps my room spotless, would love the classroom flower garden as much as I did and would be glad to leave it untouched by rag or vinegar cleaning spray.


When a student moved the week before school let out, she made sure to pick her flower from the board. On the last full day of school, plucking the flowers was a high priority for the young paper gardeners. By then the chalk was getting dusty, but the paper work was as unique as ever. High art? Nope. Just right? Absolutely.