baby girl brag book

I recently made this paper bag album for a colleague.  I so enjoy making these little brag books. The color scheme – pink, green, and yellow – ridiculously cute.  Ribbons and buttons are two of my favorite cuteness tools.

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Dear Social Engineers:

websterDear social engineers:  Dear manipulative members of society and micromanaging social climbers:

According to Merriam-Webster, social engineering is simply “the practice of making laws or using other methods to influence public opinion and solve social problems or improve social conditions.  [Also,] management of human beings in accordance with their place and function in society:  applied social science. Simplified even further by Urban Dictionary.com – “the attempt to control social behavior”.   And finally, on a digital security website we have “the art of manipulating people so they give up confidential information…exploiting your natural inclination to trust”.  But, my personal favorite: “the art and science of human manipulation”.  WOW.Puppet-On-A-String

I wonder how this very volatile phrase has morphed and has been trivialized to mean controlled and purposeful manipulation of a child’s life by a parent, as he or she tries to improve his or her own social status through the life, friends, and activities of the child.

While I appreciate that the human condition lends itself towards selfish behavior, wrapping others up in one’s own twisted reality of an imaginary hierarchical realm really depletes my life force.  Fake friendships and phony smiles – simply exhausting.  Please exclude me because I choose to be excluded, not because I have succumbed to the inane attempts to make me feel lesser.  And while I understand the parental right to protect one’s child from hurtful relationships and detrimental environments, I will never reconcile the vicarious living that occurs through the lives of children by their parents as anything but sad.  Furthermore, I do understand that society has classes and that in every scenario there is a pecking order.  However, it seems the reality of the order, often disputed or unclear, remains abstract and truly unimportant when considering other human beings.  As I teach in my classroom, I will continue to see individuals and not members of cliques.  I will continue to exhaust myself to make the invisible child visible to all.

social engineeringSo please back up and look at the big picture.  Please stop “managing human beings in accordance with” YOUR idea of THEIR place and function in YOUR life.  If you want to bring about improved social conditions for everyone, your child included, simply treat the world and individuals in it as though they all matter.  Please stop trying to micro-managing the lives of others and get one of your own.  You will be a much happier person.  Thank you.

Sincerely,

Everyone.

 

 

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Slushie to the face!

Wow – what a way to end a brutal 10 work hour day.  Tonight after a day of teaching, an afternoon of coaching, and an evening of parenting teenagers – my other half seemed to be having some philosophical questions as to the purpose, and perhaps futility, of parenting and vented them my way:  “What does it matter?  They are just going to do whatever they want when they get out on their own.  None of this matters – they are who they are.”  That was the gist.

My insides kind of imploded as I tried to understand the harsh feelings I was having in reaction to his comments.  Don’t get me wrong.  I, too, go to this dark place sometimes – wondering about the futility of it all…trying to train teach teenagers/children how to be responsible, productive citizens.  How to teach them to be kind, generous, honest, and humble (and how to write an outline).  I want them to learn how to take care of themselves without being selfish and I do my my very best to lead by example.   But today I sort of needed  a rock to lean on  when I got home, and instead, I got a slushie in the face.  All day today I stood in the library with high school students telling me that there were no books…that is a post for another day.

Now, I try to raise my students with all the love and patience I give my own children, but, of course, with the added dimension of trying to teach research skills and strategies – and boy do I fall short sometimes.

So – my husband did not say that I am worthless.  Not those words.  He is not responsible for my reaction to and interpretation of his words.  And when I told him what I was hearing…that my whole life has been dedicated to teaching and raising children on the premise that they can be nurtured and molded and he is telling me that it is all for nothing (ie I am worthless)…well… he felt badly and immediately stopped speaking,  gave me a hug, and told me he loved me.  He tried with all his might to fill the love bucket he had just accidentally kicked over.  he started laughing and went downstairs to bed. Ugh! Gracie!*

All people are the products of nature and nurture.  The two are forever entwined.  Some personalities clearly reside in nature and some abound with learned behaviors.  Some bad and some good.  If I did not believe in the effects of nurture I could not teach, nor would I have children.  However – I also believe that most kids people are average – and that is okay.  I do not need to raise the valedictorian, or the sport superstar, or the trophy winning whatever.  You don’t need to be the next President, you don’t need to make a million dollars, and you don’t need to be famous to live. Have aspirations – but be grounded.

I want my kids to know love, family, and hope.  I want them to know joy and have faith.  I want them to experience life and not fear it – even the bad parts.  I want them to find success – however it is defined.  If they do these things then, really, they will be anything but average.  As a parent, as a teacher – I can give them these things – show them how to find these things for themselves.  Maybe along the way I can teach them to read, write, and make an argument.  I have worth.  Indeed, I have worth.

*Gracie is the name that I gave my marriage years ago.  After having kids and realizing how much work motherhood is and what having a solid marriage requires, I decided to treat my marriage like one of my kids.  I try to give it just as much attention as the other kids demand.  It is easy to loose your spouse in the family,  put date nights off, and fail to connect as you push through raising those little cherubs.  By giving it a name – Gracie – it helps me to remember to treat my marriage with patience and love.  Tonight, Gracie is in a time out!

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***Update: My husband totally redeemed himself the next morning.  As I explained to him the day ahead included attending a softball game to watch my students play I followed it up with “I know, I know I could just say no”.  To which he replied as he made the bed, without missing a beat, and with nothing but compassion, love, and understanding in his voice, “no you can’t, that’s why you are a such a great teacher”.  What I heard:  What you do matters.

Stonehenge and Day 13, 2015

20160215_154016.jpgDay 13 of a 14 day trip – one of the best and the busiest. I visited this site in June of 2015 with a student tour from EF Tours (Education First) .  I love using this touring company to lead student tours.  Anyway – this stop, one of the last on the tour, far surpassed expectations.  A bucket list item for years and years, Stonehenge and the surrounding area truly boggles the mind.    As you can see from my SMASH BOOK page we did quite a lot on this last day on tour.  In fact, because we had ditched the middle school group that had been traveling with us – it may have just been the best day on the tour!  I have difficulty in declaring this because I loved every country we visited on this tour (Ireland, Scotland, Whales, England).

 

DSC_0493 (2) I know the photo of Stonehenge does not look any more remarkable than any other photo you may see on the internet, but when I am able to take it myself something amazing happens.  Visualization becomes more reality based.  I firmly believe in putting the camera down and living in the moment.  I encourage travelers to encounter the environment and experience the wonders without looking through the lens (or phone).  Still, as an avid photographer, when I look around DSC_0460 (2)sometimes all I see is “the shot”.  Like this one of the teenager and the horse head at Stonehenge.  Why not?

The slide show contains photos of cathedral and smash book.

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We started our day in Salisbury with the Cathedral and the a viewing of the Magna Carta.   Displays of honor and remembrance of local veterans from WWI and WW II fill the halls and alcoves of the cathedral.  Also, a display on a wall  (in honor of the language of change) amazed us as the illuminated words and letters seemingly moved to avoid our touch – only to form new words.  I profess that words are power daily in my classroom.  So, to see this presentation and read first-hand about the Magna Carta felt somewhat cathartic and validating – just plain cool.  Amazingly, there was no security surrounding this precious document – not like our own Declaration of Independence.  It merely rests under glass in the center of an unguarded room in a small tent protecting it from harsh lighting.  It is all very unassuming.

The day’s journey across the English countryside revealed the fields of poppies to me for the first time.  So beautiful – and again – unassuming.DSC_0489 (3)

 

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We took the Underground to the fictional home of the fictional character and found a real store…221B Baker Street.  The statue of Sherlock stands nearby.

Next – we traveled a bit more to satisfy the dream of one of my travelers…visit Abbey Road.  My son and I – and the rest of the group – did our very best at trying to recreate the famous Beatles cover as we crossed this very busy street.  Our tour director, Steve, told us how annoyed the locals get at the tourists in this spot.  I try 1557269_10152980260361918_2424869840105685698_overy hard to be respectful of these types of things, but the heart wants what the heart wants.  The white building in the background was then and is still now a music studio.  We rode our first double-decker bus back to the hotel for the night.  Quite a full day.

 

If you would like to climb to the top of Mt. Vesuvius in Italy or tour the ruins at Pompeii I would for you to take a look around!

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Decoupage Collection – Pretty in Pink

One of the things I love about crafting – the beautiful paper.  Paper can reflect my mood almost as wonderfully as words, music, and photos.  Expressive decorative paper brings me joy.

These all started at unfinished wood.  The pink with white flowers makes me smile every time.

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home

According to Merriam-Webster: home (noun)

  1. one’s place of residence
  2. the social unit formed by a family living together
  3. a familiar or usual setting :  congenial environment; also :  the focus of one’s domestic attentionDSCN2051
  4. a place of origin
  5. an establishment providing residence and care for people with special needs
  6. the objective in various games

Home 1. Piedmont, South Carolina;  Home 2. With my mother, so I may never find it again.  With my children – so it comes and goes as they do.  With my husband, till death parts us; Home 3. Beavercreek, Ohio – my familiar setting;  Home 4. Mishawaka, Indiana – from whence I hail; Home 5. all of the above – we all care for one another and each of us has special needs; Home 6. Home = base; a safe haven and hopefully, you can always go home again.  Ghosts in the graveyard, flashlight tag…all memories of home base.


The heartfelt, real meaning of home…sitting by the fire, watching tv with the kids.  Cooking dinner in the kitchen with the kids setting the table and telling me about their day.  Washing their clothes, watching the onesies turn into ripped jeans and sweatshirts.  Tucking them in at night, even as teenagers.  Going over the best and the worst of the day at the dinner table.  20160214_130831.jpgKissing my husband goodbye every morning and hello every afternoon.  Laughing with them all as we recall funny memories.  Merely looking at my hands and seeing the hands of my mother and my daughter. Bickering children in the backseat of the car (I used to call my two youngest the Bickersons).  Tears as best friends move away.  Cuddling, hugs and kisses.  Going to bed every night next to the man I love.  These are home to me.

Recently I found myself far from my current address while my family remained.  I experienced great nostalgia as I returned to the hometown of my childhood and adolescence.  Strong memories of my parents and my older brothers flooded my head, exploding into feelings that ran the gamut of emotions.  Mostly, the ultimate sense of comfort and knowing – knowing that I was loved, knowing that regardless of our dysfunction – love was iimg_3077.jpgn our home.  During a moment of sadness, however, I longed for so many things from my youth, mostly my mom.  The click-clack sound of my mother’s high heals out on the driveway as she left for work each morning, the warmth and comfort of her embrace, the smell of her Design perfume, the sound of her goofy Woody Woodpecker-like laugh, her sense of humor, and her model of undying loyalty.  As my sorrowful memories began to make me feel alone in the world my youngest daughter sent to me the image to the left with the message “I took this for you because I know you like the sunset with the black trees”.  HOME.

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Memory Keeper Box

Great for special occasions and trips!

When I had my Etsy Shop (Miss Elaineous)  I sold many memory boxes…they were so fun to make!  I used an unfinished wooden box from Michael’s Crafts to start.  I would decoupage the outside and the inside – leaving the inside side walls of box and lid bare and natural.  Inside, I would put an embellished journal and an original paper bag photo album every time.  Other items were usually jars of some sort to hold trinkets or souvenirs of some sort.  This one was for a honeymoon couple.  The jar pictured was for sand from the beach.

I wish I still had time to work on projects like this.  I loved working on that shop and its contents.  Maybe some day I will return to it.

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Successfully Setting Expectations for Group Travel

Group travel can be stressful when you are the one in charge of everyone having an enjoyable and positive experience – while staying in the group and remaining safe.  Most unhappiness in our lives comes from unmet expectations.  Sometimes that is because we did not know what to expect and we were left to our own limited experiences to set the level of expectation.  This is disastrous for group travel.  I do my very best to make expectations very clear before students and parents even enroll.  However, they need to hear them again and again – I promise.

I have three departure meetings for every trip.  These meetings serve several purposes.  First, the travelers begin to get comfortable with one another.  After all, it is going to be close quarters for about two weeks.  Second, the parents not traveling can begin to feel a little more comfortable about sending their student abroad – in their eyes alone.  Third, these meetings allow foparents late busr repetitive statements about the rules and consequences.  Fourth, multiple events still need to be decided upon as far as optional excursions, extensions and the like. They need to know they have a voice and are part of the decision making.  Fifth and final, all of the nuances of student group educational travel need to be addressed. (Like, early is on time, and on time is late.)

The two photos used in this post are of students and parents waiting outside of a Paris hotel for a bus that is over an hour late.  Preparing them ahead of time for such a possibility (of things sometimes go wrong) kept their attitudes positive and we all found a way to entertain ourselves while we waited.

The most important discussion I have with them is about the contagious attitudes of the group.  You can either choose to sit and nit pick every little thing, or you can find the beauty of everything around you, embrace the experience, and remain positive so that everyone can enjoy the trip.  Of course – I then point out that this a great way to live life, as well.   We had a choice – stand around and complain to one another about the wait – or make fun, unforgettable memories.

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Simply, love the child.

So, as District Teacher of the Year (DTOY) I was given several opportunities to address all the teachers in the district.  This particular occasion was the summer institute – the 2 first days of summer for the kids.  Every year these are optional staff development days immediately following the end of the school year.  Well, the second one is optional, and the first is required.  On one hand, the training provided can allow us to prepare for the following year with the new information/strategies/tech – whatever.  On the other hand, by the time the day comes the burnout rages through the crowd and enthusiasm remains elusive.  The purpose of this speech rests somewhere between inspiration, motivation, and exasperation.  With the 1:1 technology implementation at the end of its first year, teachers are ready for a break.  However, the theme of the event is transformation – not just using the tech in the classroom, but transforming the way we teach.  As you can imagine, the audience ranges from the technology proficient to the technology resistant to the straight up technology noncompliant.  After a year of mishaps, frustrations, network issues…and I am to bring them all together and motivate them to take the next step, now, on June 5th.  (deep sigh)

Our superintendent went about 20 minutes long – I was immediately told to cut mine short, the tech did not work right away for the next presentation (the technology department), several others spoke briefly.  It is unusual to have the DTOY speak at this event – so it was unexpected.  I was the last one on the stage, just when the whole group thought they were out of there.

Here is what I said:

Simply, love the child.

Good morning. So, today is about transformation. Wow, that can be a scary word because that means change. And what do we know about change? I know change can be downright horrifying. It can be exciting.  I know that sometimes trying to change the behaviors of others is like talking to a brick wall, right? We have all had those experiences.

But change from within – It takes effort. It takes risk. It takes perseverance. Change takes knowledge and learning, right? Well then – we’ve got this. Because I just describe the traits of every hard-working, life-long learning, stubborn teacher in this auditorium. We’ve got this – one step at time.

As you go through the next two days, feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, inspired, confused, enlightened, exhausted, satisfied, hopeful, and just plain tired…..just remember the reason you are here, the reason we are all here – and no I am not talking about your contractual obligation – I am talking about the child. We are here today and every day because we love the child. Now, I say child and not children because I want you to get a picture of one special child in your mind. That one child that you want to help or that you may have already helped. Take a moment to think about that one child you want so badly to reach – no matter how tired you are, no matter what new initiatives or new standards are thrown your way, no matter what extra duties you get at work or extra chores you get at home, no matter what the time or the date is – this child always stands out in your mind. This child may even haunt you.  Maybe you had him in class this year or maybe you are already anticipating him for next year. Perhaps you taught this child years ago – but he still haunts you. Keep that child in your mind as you go through the next 2 days and gain your motivation to transform and learn from him. One step at time.

You know, it takes a lot of energy and commitment to transform these little cherubs into productive citizens – from pre K to senior year – and to get them across that stage every year. And I am moved to tears every single year at graduation. High school teachers in the district are required to go to graduation. We may grumble about this that or the other about this requirement, but when it comes right down to it – that is the prize – seeing that child walk across that stage – I wouldn’t trade that for anything. It is a shame that every teacher, at every feeder school  does not get the opportunity to participate in graduation the way we do at the high school – to see that child cross the finish line. Now I am not recommending a change in policy – I am just trying to make a point. Each and every educator in this room had a hand in all of those success stories that I have had the privilege to witness and celebrate every year. So let me take a moment and say thank you. Thank you to all of you for giving me a better future. Thank you to all of you for transforming the child, that child in your mind, into a high school graduate and a productive member of our community – one step at a time.

So, over the next 2 days simply look within for your inspiration to change, to transform with this technology. You are all already able to inspire that transformation and change in the child. I believe the same power, the same energy will get you through these next two days and into the technology proficient classrooms of tomorrow – one step at a time. And if that can’t get you going, then just remember to simply love the child, as I know you do, and you will continue to accomplish great things.  Thank you and have a great day.

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