Slice of Life March 20th, 2013 #slice2013


My husband’s cousin posted this website earlier today, and it’s my new favorite.

Real tough guys don’t need guns,

they just need a positive, can-do attitude

Today’s slice of life is short and sweet.  I am incredibly proud of Chris.  Today he was up and out of bed, taking two walks around his floor at the hospital.  He wanted to see the view (he is on the top floor) and got to watch the helipad for a bit.  His positive attitude has amazed me, because I don’t think I would be able to do the same thing.  Plus, he is sitting in a hospital bed and still manages to make sure his parents and I  eat regularly and get everything done that we need to do.

So, in essence, today’s slice is really to say “thank you” to Chris, for being incredible.  And for being so positive through all of this.


Slice of Life March 19th, 2013 #slice2013


  I’ve spent the last week bursting into tears at random moments, culminating when I wept over Bailey eating my corned beef sandwich on Sunday.  Today was one of the hardest days of my life.  At 5am we left my in-laws’ house in South Jersey and drove to UPenn.  At 7:15am, Chris was taken into surgery. I’ve been a weepy, awful mess since last night.

The surgery went well, even better than expected.  He will be much better in the long run.  But wow.  And then he spent almost 10 hours in the recovery room, because his room wasn’t ready yet.  Talk about ridiculous!  But the nurse who was with him all day was great and Chris did an awesome job.  But there are no words for the ball of emotion that I am.

I have amazing friends and in-laws who took care of me all day.  I can’t thank my best friend Julie enough for driving own and spending most of the surgery sitting next to me, keeping me calm.  In 2002 she moved to Ithaca to attend Cornell, then to Massachusetts when she went to MIT for grad school.  Two weddings and a baby later, we are back in the same state as of two weeks ago.  Someone was looking out for me in that regard.  I’m not sure I would have made it through the morning without her there.

And also, a big thanks to the nurses who checked with me all day.  I so don’t do hospitals.  Needles make me faint and I get pale at the thought of an IV.  Three or four times today different nurses pulled me aside to make sure I was ok if I looked woozy.  They also made fun of me when I explained that I couldn’t watch them take blood or change the IV.  But I guess I would make fun of them if they cringed at the thought of dealing with high schoolers!  To each his own.

Most importantly, I am so proud of Chris, who has dealt with this for the last few months, dealt with my over-the-top weepiness at the drop of a hat, and came out of surgery smiling and joking.  He has a fabulous attitude and I am ridiculously proud to call him my husband.  One day down, only a few more days to go before he comes home.

We’ve reached the top of the mountain, and hopefully it is all downhill from here.

*PS- I am also grateful for awesome students, who took my absence in stride.  Especially my seniors, who won’t see me all week but followed the instructions in my googledoc to a tee.  They ran a backchat while analyzing a disaster movie and the conversation was fantastic.  They even managed to clean up and send me a copy before the end of the period. As I skimmed the transcript earlier today, I breathed a sigh of relief. One less thing to stress about!

Slice of Life March 18th, 2013 #slice2013


“Today’s Specials”

“Pastachio Pancakes with whipped cream and strawberries”

I couldn’t stop staring at the sign in our local diner.

“They spelled pistachio wrong on the specials menu,” I told Chris.

“Are we going to have to leave? Because they spelled it wrong?” he asked.

Ok, so maybe I have an obsession with establishments spelling words correctly.  But really, pastachios?  How can you


Diner (Photo credit: Jayjay P)

leave that up there for all the people in the restaurant to see?  And how is it possible that no one else who works at this diner noticed the issue?  It was the first special on the list!  And it was written in green (in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, perhaps?) so it stood out even more!

Normally, I don’t patronize restaurants where they can’t spell or use spellcheck on their menu.  Seriously.  I have a problem.

I did not leave the diner, as I wanted my eggs and pancakes, and Chris really wanted his Eggs Benedict with Corned Beef Hash.  But the sign haunted me through our entire meal.  I couldn’t look up without seeing it, staring at me.  I was tempted to go over and fix the spelling myself, but I decided that would be obnoxious.

And then, right as we were about to leave, a waitress walked over to the whiteboard and erased everything!  It was apparently time to switch from the breakfast specials to the lunch/dinner specials, so the offensive spelling disappeared.  Even better?  They stopped writing the updated specials about halfway through because it got busy, and I didn’t have to stare at anymore misspelled words.  :)

Slice of Life March 17th, 2013 #slice2013

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!


Today is my favorite holiday.  It may even beat out Christmas, in my book.  This year we had a very low-key St. Patrick’s Day, complete with Bailey eating my corned beef as I was making sandwiches, but I did spend some time going through my photos from our last trip to Ireland.

In 2011 my father finally made it to Ireland.  We’ve spent years tracing our family tree though and other websites.  Chris and I went to Ireland before we got married, but we had only been to Dublin.  My father flew our entire family out there this time around, renting an amazing house in County Meath.

Abhain Lodge

Abhain Lodge

If you are ever looking for a place to stay in Ireland, Tony and Wendy, who own Abhain Lodge, are fabulous.  We still stay in touch today!



While in Ireland, we spent time in Navan, Dublin, and all over the coast.  Chris and I spent a day driving along the Irish Sea, and I happily dipped my toes into the cold water. I grew up minutes from the Atlantic Ocean.  I’ve been swimming in the Caribbean.  But I had not stepped in the same waters that my ancestors sailed so many centuries ago.  It was cold, but thrilling.


But the most amazing part of our trip fell into place only a few days before we flew to Ireland.  For years, my father and I researched my great-grandmother’s history.  We knew she fled to the US as a teenager, after her mother died and her father remarried.  She did not have much contact with her many brothers and sisters back in Ireland and rarely spoke about them.  We did not have much to go on, so about 5 years ago we posted a message on an forum for her surname.  We received a few responses, but no solid leads.

About two weeks before we left to visit Ireland, my father called me to say he had just received a notification that we had a response to a message and he wanted to know what I had posted.  I racked my brain and all I could come up with was the question we had posed years earlier.  Thinking it must be a mistake, we logged in to check.  And there it was: a message from a man who said his father has a half-sister whose story matched my great-grandmother’s.  It seemed too good to be true, but we emailed him via private message and waited.

All of it matched.  A little digging, a few conversations, and it was clear that my great-grandmother was his father’s half-sister.  The next think I knew, my great-uncle Ronnie was asking to meet with us when we arrived in Ireland.  We set up the date and time and agreed to pick him up at the train station in Dublin and then he would take us on a tour of Kildare, where my great-grandmother grew up.


Some of my family and my long-lost great-uncle

It was an amazing journey.  We learned that Ronnie and my great-grandmother were very close, and that she had even named him! (After a famous movie star at the time).  She later went on to name her son Ronnie, too.  She was a teenager when he was born, after her mother died and her father remarried.  About a year later, she boarded a ship to the US and never returned.  Ronnie had heard she lived somewhere near NYC, but was never able to track her down.  He went on to become a successful businessman and even traveled to NY a few times, visiting his siblings and relatives in the area.  But he never saw Hannah again and did not think he would hear about her again.  Then his son happened to see our post online.


The entire journey was amazing, but meeting up with my great-uncle was life-changing.  We exchanged stories and photos, telling him about my great-grandmother while he led us around Sallins, Naas, and Kildare.  We visited graveyards and the family home, and even managed to get inside the house where he and my great-grandmother grew up.  He told us stories we had never heard and we even learned that we are related to Michael Collins.

St. Patrick’s Day has always been important to me, but even more so now that we have learned more about our Irish heritage and I have stood where my ancestors stood.





Slice of Life March 16th, 2013 #slice2013


My morning started with the sound of the vacuum downstairs as I got dressed for our walk with the dogs.  I thought it was odd that Chris was vacuuming, but I figured that the dogs must have knocked something down.  I just crossed my fingers that he wasn’t cleaning up a present from the cat.

When I got downstairs there was no sign of the vacuum, but Chris was smiling sheepishly as he stood with the dogs.

“There was a situation, but I took care of it, ” he said.

“What kind of situation?  Was one of them sick? Or did they eat something?” My mind began to race with possibilities.

“Just a situation.  It’s taken care of.  Don’t worry.”

I was not having any of that.  In the event that they did eat something they were not supposed to, I needed to know what happened. “No way,” I said.  “Tell me what happened.”

Chris glanced at Bailey, who was sitting at his side, gazing at him adoringly. “Well, I took Bailey out to the bathroom and …”

“She had a leash on, right?”  I could tell by his face that she had not been wearing her leash.

“We were just on the front lawn.  But then a lady walked by on the sidewalk….” he trailed off for a second.  I looked at Bailey, who was still sitting next Chris, smiling at him. “She ran after the lady.  It’s ok, though!  She didn’t really jump on her.  But I had to get her to come inside somehow.”

At this point, I still wasn’t sure how the vacuum figured into the story.  Bailey hates the vacuum, so he wasn’t luring her back to the house with it!

“So I grabbed a stick,” he continued.  “And she came right back.  But then I had to give her the stick.  And she brought it into the house.  Then Dublin stole it from her, then they played tug until it broke.  They both chewed part of the stick and it made a big mess.  But I cleaned it up!”.

He was so proud of himself for cleaning up the mess that I couldn’t even make a big deal about him breaking the rules and taking Bailey out without a leash.

Never a dull moment, even first thing in the morning!

Slice of Life March 15th, 2013 #slice2013


Tonight was my first agility class with the dogs.  We’ve done a bit of informal agility work in the past, but we’ve never done anything official.

If you aren’t sure what agility is, take a look at this quick video.

It’s been a long week and I’m exhausted.  I was dreading the class a little because it’s 25 minutes away and I was so tired. But at 5:30 I met up with my friends who are also in the class, took one of the puppies in my car with the Aussies (three Aussies in one Honda Civic…oh my!), and headed west.  When we got to the barn where class was being held, there was a bit of confusion and chaos, but everything soon got settled.

The class started with a lot of handouts (for the people, not the dogs!).  They went over the definitions and a lot of the technical terms in the sport of agility.  Then we started to work.  First, we worked on front and rear crosses, which I am terrible at.  The dogs did a great job, but I am ridiculously clumsy and almost tripped a million times.  But Bailey was complimented on her beautiful movement (and her speed).  Of course, Bailey started the activity by running “crazy-go-nuts” around the arena at first.  Always a bundle of energy!

I spent the night switching back and forth between both dogs, as we practiced crosses and targeting.  Dublin was awesome at targeting, which is when  the dog stops at the end of a ramp and pauses, waiting for a command, with the back paws on the contact and front paws on the ground.  Both dogs had their own strengths, which was so cool to see.

It was a great class and all three of us left tired.  It’s so cool to watch the dogs learning and taking in information, figuring out what I am asking them to do.  Plus, I got to spend an hour outside, working with them.  I can’t wait for the next class!

Slice of Life March 14th, 2013 #slice2013


Happy Pi Day!

Pi Day is a BIG.DEAL at my school.  We are a math and science school, so it’s like Christmas around here.  This year, my juniors (the class I advise), had March as their fundraising month.  They had the brilliant idea to take their normal “bake” sale item- soft pretzels- and wrap them into a Pi Day contest.

The result was a line of juniors being “pied” at lunch today.  Raffle tickets were sold, and for every 15 soft pretzels that were sold, a raffle ticket was pulled.  The winner got to throw a whipped cream pie at the junior who up at that time.  It was a huge hit!  All 150 pretzels sold (pretty impressive for a school of 280 kids!) and with 10 minutes left in lunch they had raised a lot of money to put towards prom.

It was messy, smelly, and a little chaotic, but it was also a lot of fun!  I laughed the entire time and managed to avoid getting whipped cream on me, too.  All in all, a very great day.  And I’m extraordinarily proud of my juniors, who have grown into the best class and never fail to make me laugh.  :)

Slice of Life March 12th, 2013 #slice2013


A Day in the Life…..

6am          Wake up, throw on sweats, head out to walk the dogs.

6:05am   Run into someone else walking dogs (no one else is this darn neighborhood follows any kidn of     schedule.  UGH).  Her dogs being barking, ours do the same, we quickly turn around.

 6:10am    Walk Dublin some more, until he goes to the bathroom.  He does not.  

6:20am     Get annoyed that I will be late and Dublin still has not gone to the bathroom.  Quickly get dressed, put books in the car, take Dublin out again.

6:30am     Dublin is finally done.  Back  inside, switch into school shoes.  Grab a drink and a granola bar, pick up newspaper

6:40am      Finally leave for school.  It starts pouring.

7:15am       Arrive at school.  Get soaked while walking across the parking lot.

7:20am       Read the NYTimes, talk to Jon about which article to use.  Debate 3-4 articles and possible writing ideas.  Finally settle on an op-ed an an awesome writing focus.

7:40am      Students arrive.  Morning announcements and attendance, late students arrive.  Everyone settles in to read the newspaper.

8:15am      Students share responses/thinking and we have a great conversation about bullying vs. drama

8:25am      Jon reviews the Enlightenment

8:40am     Watch “To This Day”  , practice sketch notes, share examples, talk

8:52am      Next class arrives.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Include a few book talks to individuals/small groups during downtime.  

10:02am    Half the freshmen leave to take the National Latin Exam.  Everyone else works on Free Form Friday.  Talk about books w/ a few students (one went on a buying spree at the bookstore over the weekend!)

11:13am      Lunch!  Sort of.  Class council meeting about Pi Day activities.  Quick chat with book club student leader about tomorrow’s meeting.  This month’s book is Boy21! Finish up meetings.

12:00pm     Quick lunch, run off quiz for next period, get documentary ready.

1:00pm        Set up for my senior class.  Review ch. 5-7 of The Johnstown Flood, hand out quiz.  After quiz, watch Johnstown documentary and review engineering problems with the dam.  Review requirements for tech report due Thursday

2:20pm      Class ends.  Answer some questions for individual groups.  A few more book recommendations.  Talk to another student about Out of the Easy, which she just finished.

2:3opm      Check email to look for a response re: article submission.  Nothing yet!

3:15pm      Home.  Call health insurance to deal with billing.  Get that taken care of.  Walk dogs.

4:00pm     Drop off payment for Girl Scout cookies (I might have ordered too many boxes……is there such a thing?).  Take dogs for another quick walk at local playground.

4:30pm     Stop at food store to pick up dinner ingredients and tomatoes for tomorrow’s salad day

5:00pm     Start making chicken soup.  Watch coverage of the conclave.  Wish I could stay home all day to watch the smoke.  (Seriously.  I am fascinated.)

6:30pm      Finish dinner.  Feed dogs.  Call mom.  Eat dinner.  Watch Jeopardy.

7:30pm       Do some grading.  Work on plans.  Remind myself to write this slice of life post.  Read student slices.  Participate in a bit of #edchat.  Watch House Hunters.

9:00pm      Disappointment.  No new episode of New Girl tonight or The New Normal!  Boooo.  Back to grading.

10:00pm    Write slice of life!  Head upstairs to read before bed.  

Slice of Life March 11th, 2013 #slice2013


Dear Weather,

Thank you for the spring-like temperatures today.  We were able to get out and take a nice walk after school!! We all needed the break and I finally went without gloves and a winter parka. It was glorious.

Love, Sarah

Dear Daylight Savings Time,

I am not grateful for the loss of an hour.  I’m still confused about what time it is.  But thank you for staying light until almost 7pm.  Seeing the sun still shining at 6:50pm made it almost worth it to have to walk the dogs in the dark again at 6am.

Love, Sarah

Dear Guinness,

Why must you hack up a hairball on my newly cleaned and vacuumed rugs?  It’s like clockwork — house is clean, cat pukes.

Love, Sarah

Dear Self,

Please try to get back on a normal sleep schedule.  Seriously.

Love, You

Slice of Life March 10th, 2013 #slice2013


This was a weekend of beginnings and endings.  I started work on a new project that I am very excited about.  Spring is in the air and the days are longer.  The dogs and I got back into the groove, hiking 5 miles yesterday and another 2 today.  But it was also the end of our participation in a therapy dog study through Rutgers University.  For the past 6 weeks we have been spending one hour each Sunday with a nine-year-old girl.

The first week, she was a timid.  We spent the first two sessions working on getting her comfortable with Dublin.  She pet him, played with his toys, and fed him treats.  She even “walked” him around the block and around her house.  Then she settled in a bit, playing games with him and laughing at his tricks.  But this week, our final week, was the best visit of all.

Dublin and his friend played ball, taking turns rolling it back and forth.  She introduced Dublin to her father and then gave him a few toys, showing her dad how Dublin liked to play.  Finally, we went into her room.  She invited Dublin up on her bed and they curled up together, her petting him and putting her blankie over him, while Dublin fell asleep.  It was the sweetest thing!

We ended the visit with a little photo shoot, and both Dublin and his friend were all smiles.  I’m sad that the study is over but I am hopeful that the results will show that therapy dogs do make a difference for kids with autism.  I know that Dublin and I saw a huge difference in our six weeks of visiting.

Dublin on his last visit (face blurred for privacy)

Dublin on his last visit (face blurred for privacy)


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