Thursday, July 31, 2014

Positive Thinking Thursday {7-31-14}

It's Thursday, which means it's time for some positive thinking!
Join me at my teaching blog for this week's positive thought.  I hope you will link up and share your own.

Make today count!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Morning Song {SOL 7-29-14}

The early morning is my favorite time of day.  I love to get up early, around 5:00.  No one else is awake and I get to see the wonder of the sunrise and have some "me" time.
I like to use this time to sit and read or write and while my husband thinks I'm crazy for getting out of bed so early, I find that I get cranky if I miss this time from oversleeping.

We have a lot of Barn Swallows flying around our yard because we have a large pond with plenty of mosquitoes for them to snack on.  In the early morning, when the sun is rising, they love to sit on the edge of our roof and chat with each other.
Some days when I am reading, I will stop what I'm doing and listen to them.  There are times when they are all singing in unison and other times that they seem to be arguing with each other.  I often wonder what they are saying, but I like to think that they are singing to the sunrise or talking about what they will do that day.  Their downy chests puff and their tiny beaks vibrate in song.  The chirping can get so loud that it is distracting (especially to my husband who is sleeping on the other side of that door), but I love it.

Then just like that, the Barn Swallows fly away, off to share their song with someone else.  It is then that I realize the silence of the morning and am thankful that I get to experience this every day.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Celebrating Being a Tourist {7/26/14}

Thank you to Ruth Ayres for hosting this weekly celebration of every day life!
Our time with Cecile, our French exchange student, is coming to an end.  This was an especially busy week as we showed her around some of the great attractions near us.

On Monday and Tuesday, we went up to the Wisconsin Dells.  We stayed at a resort that had a water park and the girls LOVED it!  Cecile said there is nothing like it in France.  While there, we also took in a tour of the beautiful Dells landscape via the Ducks, half car/half boat.

On the way back, we stopped in our capital city, Madison, for a visit to the state house and the University of Wisconsin. Cecile loved the campus and said she would really like to come back and go to veterinary school at the UW. (I wish!)

Then on Wednesday, we went to Six Flags Great America for the day.  Cecile really loved this because amusement parks are so rare in France.

Then on Thursday, Jeremy took the girls to Chicago. While there, they went up to the Sky Deck on the Willis (Sears) Tower, visited Millennium Park and took pictures with the Bean, and had lunch at Ed Debevic's.  I don't have any pictures to share of this day because I was at home, trying to recuperate from all the fun we've had these past three weeks.  :)

Cecile leaves on Tuesday.  It will be so sad to see her go.  Not only has she taught our family a lot about other cultures, hosting her has required us to get out and visit the wonderful sights around us.  It's important to be a tourist in your own world every once in awhile.

Thank you for celebrating with me!


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Celebrating Exhaustion {7-19-14}

Life has been busy.

We are just ending the second of the three weeks that we will be hosting our French exchange student, Cecile.  I am loving every minute of it and feel very blessed that we are all having a wonderful experience.

Part of our job as a host family is to show Cecile American life and the sights around our part of the country.  It seems like almost every day, we have been busy, busy, busy doing something.

Last week, we all went to the Milwaukee Art Museum.  It was my first time there and while I really don't "get" art, it was neat to see some of the art work from some of the artists I know.
Yesterday, we went back to Milwaukee for Festa Italiana, a celebration of Italian food and heritage.
We also celebrated my daughter Kara's birthday.  We went out for dinner then stopped by the local park to take in the sunset.
This next week will be just as busy.  We have scheduled a trip to the Wisconsin Dells, Chicago, and Six Flags Great America. 


This is a lot for us.  We usually spend our summers doing yard work or hanging out around home.  Having Cecile with us has forced us to go exploring the world around us.  While it is exhausting, it also is exciting.  Sometimes in the busyness of everyday, we can forget the wonderful world that surrounds us if we just look for it.

Cecile is loving America!  She says "Everything is bigger in America", from the food you are served to the roads we drive on.  We are doing our best to keep her busy and show her American life.  No doubt, she will suffer her own form of exhaustion when she goes home.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Power of Language {SOL 7-15-14}

We sometimes take language for granted.

We forget how much we rely on language to communicate with others, to get what we want or need, to ask questions.

I open my mouth and words fall out and suddenly, I have made a connection with someone else.

We have a French student, Cecile, staying with us for three weeks. She is absolutely wonderful and I am continually impressed with how open-minded and willing she is to try new things.
Here is Cecile with my daughter Kara on her arrival day

Cecile is spending three weeks in the USA not only to visit the sights, but also to improve her English.  She actually knows four languages (French, English, Spanish and Arabic -- She'll be learning Chinese in the fall.) She wants to be a surgeon so she feels knowing many languages will be helpful to her.  Talk about impressive!

Cecile said she has had one year of English, but is frustrated that the class taught her what she calls "unnecessary English" -- words about scuba diving -- and less "necessary" words that she could use to communicate with an English speaking host family.  Despite this, her English is still impressive and is growing by the day.

Last week, Cecile and I spent most of the time together because my daughter had to finish out her week of working at the horse farm.  Cecile and I made polite conversation, talking about the differences in education, shopping and food between our countries.  As we spoke, I tried to use words that were the most basic I could think of to tell her what I wanted to say. It was exhausting for me and I can only guess how exhausting it was for her as a listener. I was no longer opening my mouth and letting words just fall out.

Now Cecile spends most her her time with Kara and boy, has her English soared!  I was listening to the girls talk as they were washing and drying dishes.  Kara was saying things to her like "Get a new towel from the linen closet. That one is only somewhat dry" and "Dad is going to be late. He's stuck in a traffic jam." Kara doesn't take her words to the lowest common denominator with Cecile.  She says it like it is.  

Cecile soaked in these new words and they became part of her "necessary" vocabulary because these were words she was using to make a connection with another person. (As a matter of fact, on our way to the grocery store today, traffic was stopped because of construction and Cecile asked, "Are we in a traffic jam?")

Yes, language is a powerful thing. Our connections prove it.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Positive Thinking Thursday {7-10-14}

You're invited to a party!  I hope you will join me on my teaching blog, Mrs. Laffin's Laughings, for Positive Thinking Thursday today!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Move In Day {SOL 7-08-14}

Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for hosting this weekly Slice of Life.

Move In Day

The air inside the cabin was stale and heavy, yet cool as compared to the humid July day outside.  Surely, the light of day hadn't found its way inside since last summer when the final troop of boys left.  We opened the side door to let a cross breeze in and fresh air slowly pushed the old musty air out. 

The nine bunk beds lined up like soldiers along the side walls, their plastic mattresses yellowing and cracking from age. Soon they would be covered with air mattresses and sleeping bags and (hopefully) fitted sheets to protect the sleeping boys from their grimy surfaces.

This was move in day.

On Sunday, I dropped my son, Ryan, off at camp and unloaded his worldly belongings into the cabin where he will be spending the next four weeks working as a camp counselor for the Boy Scouts. He will share this space with five other boys.  I am sure that over the next five weeks they will become good friends, if not out of shared interests, then out of necessity.

To a mom (who doesn't like camping), this was no Holiday Inn.  The spider webs in the dusty corners confirmed this.

But to the six boys, this was heaven.

 They quickly set up their beds, plugged in the radio, and made this space into their shared home. Perhaps that is what holds the magic for the boys -- this is not home.  These boys are experiencing their first extended time away from the comforts of home, practicing for their life in the real world.

For this mom, this time will come too soon.

I kissed Ryan goodbye and headed out to my car. Alone. As I drove away, I couldn't help but remember what life was like to be 16.  So many possibilities, so much adventure.

Luckily, he'll be home for a visit this weekend and this mom will have her baby back, if only for a few days.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Celebrating Everyday Life {7-05-14}

Thank you, Ruth, for hosting this wonderful celebration of moments. 
 I love reading everyone's post and look forward to this party every week!

This week, I have been looking for celebrations in everyday life. Nothing major -- just things that I are helping me be more mindful of the wonderful life I have.

1.  I celebrate being together with my mom and Ryan at the Antioch 4th of July parade yesterday.  This has been our tradition for three years now.  

2. I celebrate going to that parade to watch my daughter, Kara, who was there with the horse facility where she rides and works.  This year, she got to ride a horse in the parade.  Usually, she just walks along, handing out flyers.  She was very excited to be able to ride this year and has been looking forward to this day for two years.  That is something to celebrate!
3. I celebrate participating in my first Twitter chat on Monday night, #talkmath, with Franki Sibberson and Colby Sharp.  Seriously, what fun!  I came away with some awesome ideas for teaching math workshop and found some new educators to add to my PLN.

4. I guess that means that I also celebrate Twitter.  I was a Twitter holdout until this summer.  I figured I didn't need it and found the whole thing kind of crazy. Boy, was I wrong!  (Celebrating the gift of reflection here!) Just from following other educators, I have learned amazing things that I never would have encountered on my own.  There is so much to be learned beyond my classroom door.  If you haven't given Twitter a try, I encourage you to do so.  You can follow me at @laffinteach if you'd like!

5. I celebrate the gift of time.  I just completed all of the "formal" PD I had scheduled for myself this summer (i.e. sitting in a classroom PD) and can now spend my time doing the PD I like best -- reading and connecting with others online.

Wishing you many celebrations this week!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Beauty of Summer {SOL 7-01-14}

I'm excited to be sharing my Slice of Life with Two Writing Teachers again this week.  Thank you to these lovely ladies for hosting this celebration of every day writing!
WRITE a slice of life story on your own blog.
SHARE a link to your post in the comments section.
GIVE comments to at least three other SOLSC bloggers.
We are just coming off a very long, cold winter.  Out here in the country where I live, the white blanket of snow stretched out for miles on end.  When the wind blew, the snow came to life. It whirled and twirled and tried to find a new place to rest.  (This place usually turned out to be the street where I had to drive over it.)
(Here is Rosie looking out the window this past winter. No signs of life to be found!)

There are two things I miss in the winter.

One is the light.  The shorter days of sunshine really get to me.

The other is color, especially the color of my flowers.

Behind my house, I have grown a perennial garden where I can enjoy it from my kitchen window.  After the snow thaws in the spring, tulips and daffodils push through the earth to announce that the season of hibernation has ended.  

I wait for these days.

After the tulips, the purple stalks of the Delphinium reach skyward.  They are visited through out the day by honeybees and hummingbirds who drink from their sweet bellybuttons.
Next come the sweet pink coneflowers, their brown pincushion centers and soft pink petals providing food for the yellow finches that flit around them all day long. These beauties arrive around the 4th of July and withstand the heat of summer without complaint.

Finally, around the end of July, the Black Eyed Susans bloom.  These blossoms last almost until fall, when my garden goes back to sleep for another season.

Today was one of those days when I had a few minutes to sit and take in my garden.  It is beautiful!

May you find a few moments to take in the beauty of life today!