Thursday, March 22, 2018
Last night was my older daughter's spring orchestra concert. Our high school district is made up of two schools. Each school has its own orchestra, but they also have a combined orchestra that rehearses on Wednesday evenings. All orchestra students, sophomores through seniors, are required to be in the combined orchestra. It's a big commitment.
But worth it.
The concert started with three concertos, each featuring a different soloist. Following the intermission we heard a percussion ensemble, two pieces from the entire orchestra. Even though Molly only played in the two pieces, I soaked in the entire experience.
I thought about how lucky we are. Molly is lucky to have attended elementary and high school districts that value the fine and performing arts. She is lucky to have access to amazing teachers who work hard to help the kids reach their full potential. I am lucky to be able to watch my daughters (and current and former students) find outlets for their creativity and passion for music.
So this is the long way of saying that I missed my slice yesterday. By the time we got home from the concert, I was lost in my own head and completely forgot about writing.
It's okay. It was worth it.
Tuesday, March 20, 2018
According to my calendar, today is the vernal equinox - the first day of spring.
According to the weather report, it is still winter. The high temperature today was in the thirties, and the wind was definitely cold and wintry. When I walked the half block to my polling place at 6:20 this morning, I was bundled up in my recess parka and my favorite scarf.
The forecast for the rest of this week isn't really much better: 37 tomorrow, 45 Thursday, 40 on Friday. There's even an possibility of snow on Saturday. Boo.
This is the point of winter where I get really frustrated. The sun is shining brighter and the days are longer, but it's just too darn cold to do anything outside. Or.. it will be warmish and lovely one day and frigid and gray the next.
Spring is definitely capricious. Yet it remains my favorite season, because once it fully arrives, the world bursts into blooms and green reigns supreme. It's warm enough to go without a coat, yet not hot enough to require air conditioning. I'm inspired to get outside into my yard to clear my beds or to wander through the Chicago Botanic Gardens for hours.
So here I wait, bundled under blankets, holding out on taking the parka to the cleaners.
But I know spring will be worth the wait.
Monday, March 19, 2018
It seems a side-effect of my busy weekend is the start of a chest cold. I felt to coming on last night, coughing with a rattly feeling just below my throat.
Spring break starts at 3:30 pm on Friday, and I have plans! I do not have time to catch a nasty cold. Besides, a four-schools-in-four-states-in-four-days road trip will be supremely unfun if I am sneezy and coughing.
So for the rest of this week, I'll push vitamin C, stay hydrated, and get as much rest as I can. I'll keep my fingers crossed that I'm not really getting a cold, that it's just a minor inconvenience.
And I'll cough into my elbow so the rest of my family doesn't fall victim.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
It's Sunday evening, and instead of grading papers or getting ready for a new school week, I am crashed on my couch reading.
I am completely exhausted.
This weekend was a whirlwind. Starting Thursday afternoon when I went to the grocery store to prepare for my weekend guests, I was either preparing food, cleaning my kitchen, attending a performance, or talking with friends and family.
I am not complaining. All of the effort was completely worth it. I loved sharing my weekend with friends and family who gathered together to see the play and then celebrate after. I love having my house full of people - loud with talk and laughter.
But when I'm completely honest, the introvert side of me was happy to have time today to read. I finished The Great Alone (finally). I made myself keep reading, even thought I was incredibly nervous about the plot. I re-read A Long Walk to Water and then I read The Wild Robot Escapes. I needed this time to get lost in some books and recharge my batteries.
So no... my grading didn't get finished, but I'll just use my prep time tomorrow to take care of that. And the laundry isn't finished. And I didn't get to the grocery store.
But I wouldn't have it any other way.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
I've spent much of my weekend in our junior high gym watching my daughter play Sarah Brown in Guys & Dolls, Jr. It was a great performance... one of the best musicals the school has put in since my OTHER daughter played Genie in Aladdin, Jr. three years ago.
I love watching my daughters perform, to be fully engaged in doing something they love. They both dance and play musical instruments. They are both involved in theater in one way or another.
This weekend, though, was eye-opening for me in that I had no idea how good Abby would be in this role. I don't often get to hear her sing. Most of the time, she sings in her room with her door closed while she plays her ukelele. To see this side of her talent was absolutely amazing.
I'm so proud of my girl and the other cast members. I'm thankful for the teachers who put in hours and hours of work to make sure the kids were able to shine. And I'm thankful to be a parent and teacher in a school district that understands the importance of the fine and performing arts.
Friday, March 16, 2018
It's 10pm on a Friday night. Usually by now I'm in bed, reading or playing Candy Crush. Tonight, I'm sitting on my sofa with my two girls and my sister. Molly and Abby are entertaining their aunt with funny photos and memes. Everyone is happy and laughing.
I'm laughing, too, from the side, watching these girls (because my little sister will always be a girl to me) who all mean so much to me, I love that Molly and Abby have a relationship with their aunt, that they text and send each other snaps.
So instead of writing more tonight, I'm going to put my computer away and join the laughter and merriment, at least for another 15 minutes.
Because after all, it is past my bedtime.
Thursday, March 15, 2018
I'm committed to writing a slice daily this month... determined to successfully complete this challenge, so here I am, sitting down to dash off a quick thought about my day.
It was long.
It felt like it should be Friday.
And then I sat at watched my baby take the stage as Sarah Brown in Guys & Dolls, Jr. tonight, and the time seemed to fly. I don't know when I've been so proud of my girl. She killed it, if I do say myself.
I'm seeing it again tomorrow and Saturday, and I promise there WILL be pictures! Stay tuned.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
If you visited this spot yesterday, you saw that I was driving the struggle bus in a major way. I am happy to report that today was 100% better than Tuesday!
I'm not sure what made the difference... I still had to drop Abby off at school before I headed to Greenbriar. Maybe it was the sun shining that helped start my day in a positive mood.
Or maybe it was just me, decided that I control the weather in my head. I could choose to be annoyed and grumpy and out of sorts, or I could decide to find the positive in the world around me.
Here are some things that made me happy today:
- I felt rested when I woke up this morning. I made myself turn out my light before 11:00 last night, and I slept straight through to my alarm. This doesn't always happen.
- Dan made coffee before I came down for breakfast. He's been doing this for several months now, and I really appreciate that there's one less thing to do before I head out the door.
- I enjoyed lunch with my colleagues - lots of great conversations happen around that lunch table!
- I heard that Abby did a super job during the first performance of Guys & Dolls, Jr. this afternoon. The first performance is always during the school day for the district's fifth graders, so I didn't get to go.
- I'm going to have a house full of people this weekend, all here because they are coming to see Abby perform. I love having my extended family around.
And since I am going to have a house full of people, I'd better make that grocery list!
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
I am annoyed with the world right now. It seems like this whole day, one thing after another just got under my skin and irritated me. The only time I wasn't feeling like I was about to bite someone's head off was while I was in my classroom with my students.
From the annoyance of the people in the junior high car line who are too important to wait their turn and almost hit kids as they blow past the other waiting parents to the lady who felt it was really, really critical to be talking on her phone as she drove hell-bent through said parking lot, to the crazy snow that blanketed my car this afternoon, the annoyances just kept adding up.
I'm even annoyed by that really good book I'm reading.
Usually, dinner with my family can make this kind of mood go away, but Molly and Abby were both out of sorts tonight as well. Only Dan seemed remotely jovial, which did help.
At least tomorrow is a new day.
Monday, March 12, 2018
Yesterday I started reading The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I am fairly certain I have read all of Hannah's books, usually within weeks of them coming out. I love the way she writes, how she weaves her stories and develops her characters. Each time a new title drops, I worry that it can't possibly be as good as the one that came before. I needn't worry.
I'm not going to talk about the plot of The Great Alone, because 1) I haven't finished it and 2) I don't want to spoil the thrill of reading this book for anyone. But I really, really want to talk about it. SO let me know if you've read it!
I noticed something as I moved through my school day and then cooked dinner. I find myself going back into the story, thinking about Leni, the main character, and her troubled, damaged parents. I know something bad is going to happen to one of the central characters soon - the tension is building and it's about to burst - but I don't know which character is going to be hurt. I THINK I have some idea of what's going to set the character who I'm fairly certain will be the bad guy off, but I may be wrong.
I love this about really good books. The story takes me over, and I keep thinking about the plot and characters. I question, predict, and question some more. I worry about the characters as if they are real people and I want to know they will be ok, even though I know not all of them will be. I picture myself there among them, a watcher in their stories, the fly on the wall.
Not every book does this to me. But when it happens, I love it.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Oh, Sunday night. The weekend draws to a close and I begin preparing for the week ahead. In a house with two teenage girls, our weeks are rarely quiet. This week promises to be incredibly busy.
- Tomorrow I have to remember to buy tickets to the Glenbrook High Schools spring production of The Little Mermaid. This year, since the show is at North this year, Molly will work on set construction and will be on the crew for the performances. We'll go at least one night. I also have to remember to buy tickets to the Northbrook Junior High performances of Guys & Dolls, Jr. Abby is one of the leads, so Dan and I will see all three shows. Molly and other family will join us on Saturday. That's a lot of Guys and their Dolls.
- Tuesday I have to remember to register molly for summer school. She still has to get her consumer ed credit, and she'd rather take it in summer school than give up an elective for it during her senior year. Molly and I will also go to yoga class on Tuesday night.
- Wednesday I am taking the evening for myself. I plan to do absolutely nothing after I cook dinner, and I will not feel guilty about it!
- Thursday I will go to Costco after school to get stocked up for my sister Lindsey and her husband's visit for the weekend. She has specifically requested crepes for breakfast, so I have to make sure I have plenty of eggs and fruit! We will also go to the opening night of Guys & Dolls.
- Friday Lindsey and Thomas will arrive. Hopefully Molly's room will be clean and I'll be able to change the sheets on her bed after school. Dan and I will see Guys & Dolls. Again. :-)
- Saturday Family will convene for the closing show and afterward we'll gather at the house for drinks and dinner and laughs and fun.
Holy cow! That makes me tired just writing it all out. But it will be worth every minute of busy-ness.
Saturday, March 10, 2018
Tonight, Daniel and I finally made use of his Valentine's Day gift to me. He got me the gift of a Sur La Table cooking class for two, and we decided to use it to take a class on Asian dumplings. As you know if you read my blog, I cook and bake quite a bit, so I love to learn new techniques and recipes.
When we got to the store for our class, we realized that we were the only ones signed up. It was awesome to have Chef Tom (who was a load of fun by the way) and the kitchen all to ourselves for the two hour class. Some of the things Chef Tom went over were things I already knew how to do (basic knife skills, making a yeast dough for the steamed bun dumplings) but were things Dan were not as comfortable with. It gave him a chance to practice chopping, mincing, and kneading while I stepped to the side to watch.
The best part of the class (besides tasting the dumplings of course!) was talking as we cooked. It was a low-key class that we truly enjoyed, and I learned that the two types of dumplings we made were actually really easy; things I could easily do on my own in my own kitchen.
Here's what we cooked:
Vietnamese Mushroom and Chestnut Buns
These were my favorite of the three dishes. I really liked the texture of the steamed dough and the flavor of the filling.
Korean Pork and Cabbage Butter Dumplings
These were good, but we forgot to season the filling before we filled the dumplings. We should have added a bit of salt. Also, there was WAY too much butter in the recipe.
Chinese Long Beans with Chile and Garlic
The supplier for my local Sur La Table couldn't get the long beans, so we used regular green beans. Honestly, I would probably only get regular green beans at my local grocery anyway, so I was fine with that. This was a really tasty dish.
So will I make these recipes again? I'm pretty sure I will. I will probably look for a different filling for steamed buns, since my kids aren't into mushrooms. But now that I know the technique, I can really do anything.
Next I'd like to learn to make macaron!
Friday, March 9, 2018
My Friday nights are generally unexciting. After dinner, I pull my currently-being-used cookbooks from my dining room bookshelf and settle in to do some meal planning. I choose five or six meals for the following week and then make my grocery list. I've never been one of those people who figures out in advance what day we'll eat which meal. Instead, I find that if I have a list of possibilities and all of the ingredients to make those dishes, I can stay organized and resist the urge to order out.
Most of the meals I make are healthy... high in protein and veg, lower in carbs and fats. I've been on a health kick for a little over a year now, and I love the way it makes me feel. But as you can tell from the cookbook on the top of the stack, I do indulge in dessert on weekends. I love a good cake, especially if it has chocolate in it somewhere.
I actually like these low-key Friday evenings reading cookbooks, looking for new recipes to prepare for my family. We enjoy our old favorites, but I get tired of cooking these things all the time.
I also just really love reading cookbooks. I especially like ones with lots of photos of the finished dishes; even really complicated ones that I would never actually cook out of! It's kind of nutty, really. Who else does this? Is this a thing?
Happy weekend, everyone.
Thursday, March 8, 2018
Thursday is not my favorite day of the week. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because on Thursday I am thisclose to the weekend, but not there yet. Maybe it's because my kids and I go the whole afternoon with no specials or other breaks. Maybe it's just because by the time Thursday afternoon rolls around I'm just tired.
This Thursday, though, I managed to work up the energy to join several colleagues along with a few from a neighboring elementary school to spend time together socializing and playing Whirlyball. For those of you who don't know, Whirlyball kind of like lacrosse played in bumper cars. I spent an enjoyable two hours chatting with colleagues I don't always get to see during the school day because our classrooms are nowhere near each other or we miss each other at lunch.
When I first got home from school, I was regretting signing up for this social outing. I just wasn't feeling it, and all I wanted to do was put on my jammies and cozy up with a book for the evening. It didn't take long, however, for me to be glad I went.
Laughter. Drinks. Good conversation. What else could I want on a Thursday afternoon?
Wednesday, March 7, 2018
It's 10pm, and I'm just now sitting down to write. Between the Parents Association meeting at the high school and then Abby needing to use my homework to make a video about interrobangs, I am starting late.
I'm at a loss for ideas tonight, so I'm making a list of things that are making me happy right now.
- The March Book Madness the third grade is doing right now. We're using the picture book bracket from Tony Keefer and Scott Jones, and the kids are so excited. It's ridiculously fun.
- My kids. They are growing into such interesting people. We have the best, most random conversations around the dinner table. They're hilarious to boot.
- My guy. He's always there for me... no matter what I need.
- Kirbee (my dog). I love it when he crawls up behind my head and serves as the perfect neck roll. He's so warm; it's like a living hot water bottle.
- Hard boiled eggs. Eggs now count as a zero point food for Weight Watchers. They are my new go-to after school snack. Much better than a handfull of Thin Mints (which despite the name do not make you thin).
- My heated throw. Dan got this for me for Christmas, and I must say it is super nice on these cold evenings to curl up and relax under this blanket.
- My new car. Back in September we traded in the family minivan for a Honda CR-V. I love having a smaller vehicle.
- Laughter. I'm lucky to work with people who enjoy talking and laughing together at lunch. That 40 minutes in the middle of my work day perks me up no matter what's going on.
- Yoga pants. For real. As soon as I get home from school I change into yoga pants and a tee. I'm far more comfy, and hey... this way I don't have to change before I work out at 5:15AM!
- This Is Us. Well... this show makes me cry almost every week, but it draws me in and keeps me captivated.
- This list. It's hard to stay focused on the positive when so much of the news is horrible. By focusing on the good things, I can take care of myself... always important!
So... what's making you happy right now?
Tuesday, March 6, 2018
For the past year or so, I've been working on health - eating better, moving more. Most of the time, my main form of exercise has been walking, either on the treadmill or outside when the weather is good.
Lately, though, I've been wanting to do something more, something that will increase my strength and improve my flexibility. I decided to go back to yoga. Keep in mind, I haven't practiced in about six or seven years, so my memory of poses is sketchy at best. But I did remember how calm and centered I felt after each session. So I found a beginner class at the Y.
And then I didn't go.
I put off going to that Tuesday evening beginner yoga class for weeks and weeks. It was always something - the weather, parent/teacher conferences, something good on TV. Finally, I decided I'd ask Molly if she'd like to take a class with me. And she said yes!
Tonight was our first yoga class. Given that she is 16 and a dancer, she is far more flexible than I am. But she stayed there next to me, giving me reassuring smiles and encouraging me to keep going.
I'm going to be seven kinds of sore tomorrow, but I must say.... I'm looking forward to next Tuesday's class.
Monday, March 5, 2018
I was raised in a family that believes feeding the people you love is the way to show your love. As a result, I cook the same way. I cook for my family pretty much every night. I bake for their birthdays and the holidays. I believe if I don't have leftovers, then someone left my table hungry, and that simply will not do.
For the past year or so, I have been making a concerted effort to eat healthier foods. I eat A LOT of fruits and veg. Chicken. Fish. Beans. Lentils.
I have pretty much given up bread.
Over the past year of my healthy eating journey, I have also been posting pictures of my healthy (and sometimes my not-so-healthy splurge meals) on Instagram. I'm not sure why I started doing this. Maybe it's another way to share my love of cooking and my new-found appreciation for pretty, healthy food with others. Maybe it's for the likes. Who knows?
Want so see what I've been cooking? Take a peek!
|Dinner tonight: Chicken Tostada Salad|
|Shrimp with Tomatoes and Corn with Avocado Salad|
Let me know when you want to come over for dinner. I promise... you won't go away hungry.
Sunday, March 4, 2018
Last night, Dan's parents came over to spend some time with us. We haven't really been able to spend much time together since Christmas, so I was thrilled when they said they were available. Marty and Nancy are awesome people. They accepted me into their family whole-heartedly when Dan and I started dating when we were both attending Bradley University. Later, she told me that she knew I was the one he would marry as soon as she met me. :-)
I always enjoy the time we get to spend together. We talk about interesting things, we enjoy good food and drink, and they love being with the kids. Last night was no different.
Normally when they come over, I cook a meal. With the College Colloquium taking up most of my day yesterday, I knew I just didn't have it in me to cook a whole meal. Instead, I baked a cake for dessert and we went out for dinner to a little sushi place that has quickly become our favorite. There was much laughter around the table as Molly and Abby told tales about school and friends; they are entertaining children.
When we came back to the house, Molly decided her grandma needed to learn to use Instagram. I left to grab something from another room, and when I came back, I found this:
|How many Renches fit on my sofa? Even the dog is there!|
At first glance, it may seem like this should not be happening while the grandparents are visiting. But what you can't see is that Molly is teaching her grandma all about Instagram - getting her set up with an account, finding people to follow, and showing her how to post pictures. Her dad is letting us know when people accept Nan's follow requests. Abby and her grandfather are looking at memes and things. While it looks like each person is engrossed in his or her own device is in fact the opposite.
I loved sitting off to the side in my red chair, watching and listening as my girls laughed with their grandparents. We're so lucky they live close enough that we can just decide to get together on a random Saturday night.
These are the nights in which memories are made.
Saturday, March 3, 2018
Today my husband attended our high school's College Colloquium, a workshop for juniors and their parents. Our oldest daughter is just beginning her college search, and honestly, I am just not ready. Sitting in the workshop sessions today just reinforced how unready I feel for this whole process.
It's not so much that I'm not ready for her to strike out on her own (I'm not, but still). There's more to it. There is just so much about the college application process that I just don't know... I don't even know where to start.
And my girl feels the same. She doesn't really have a dream school in mind like many 16 year old kids. She doesn't really even know what she wants as a career. We're going into this process a bit blind, but with open minds.
I know I have to trust the process. We're lucky she attends a high school with top-notch counselors. We're lucky I have friends whose older children have gone through this process.
We'll go to visit schools. We'll read books. We'll help her find the right fit.
And then, we'll watch her fly.
Friday, March 2, 2018
Committing to writing daily for 31 days sounds like a really great idea in the month or two before I start. I can easily think of things I might write about, imagine the stories I might tell, look forward to the insights I'll discover.
Then March rolls around and I stare at this:
An empty page, waiting for my words to fill it. Waiting for the thoughts and feelings to escape my brain through clicks on my keyboard. Far too often, I see this image and my brain freezes. It's almost as if the ideas escape through my ears, lost in the ether, never to be found again.
As a teacher of writing, this is an important reminder. Writing is hard work. On-demand writing can be even harder, especially in a test-taking situation where you don't have control over the topic. In this space, at least I have choices. I can write about whatever strikes my fancy, and I can write for as long (or as little) as I want. And no one will be grading my performance.
It's good for teachers to put themselves in their students' shoes, to remember what it feels like to undertake a task that feels overwhelming at first, to struggle with an idea or a blank page. When we do this, we can examine our own processes for rising to the challenge. We can hold on to that feeling of frustration or struggle and perhaps approach our students who are feeling those same emotions with a bit more compassion or empathy than we might have before.
This once-blank page is filling up, and as I write the ideas begin to flow more quickly. Maybe, just maybe, if I opened another page, I could also write tomorrow's post as well.
Thursday, March 1, 2018
This year, I'm committing again. I'm setting my intention to open my writers' eyes and consider the world around me. When I do this, I see the world in a different way. I notice small things that I seem to pass by the rest of the year. I'm hoping the writing habit I'll form will stick.
So if you're willing, join me on this journey. I can promise I'll write about school, my family, my dog, the college search, and cooking. Hopefully, I'll surprise myself and find some new topics to write about along the way.