Honored #sol14

I’m still on cloud nine and it’s late so this will be short and sweet.

Today I spent my Saturday at the New Jersey Council of Teachers of English annual conference at Montclair University. I heard author Jeff Hirsch speak, I met great colleagues from across the state, and I got to hang out with Chris and Michelle (my amazing colleague).

Why was Chris at an English teacher conference?

Because this happened:

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Thanks to a nomination by Michelle I was named the NJCTE English Language Arts Teacher of the Year. Michelle gave a beautiful speech that included a letter from one of my seniors and I could barely keep it together.

I feel silly accepting an award like this because so many people make me the teacher I am today: my colleagues, my students, Chris, my family, my friends, my PLN, and so many others. So I share this award with all of them

Thank you. ;

Reminiscing #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hTonight I chaperoned the school semiformal.  It was a little bittersweet for me, as it was the last non-prom dance for my seniors.  But it was adorable because everyone was dressed up and we even had a few promprosals (one of which I was able to participate in).

But the best part of tonight was when the student DJs played Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie”.  Immediately I was transported back to college.  Without hesitation I pulled out my phone and sent a text to my college girlfriends.

love you girls and miss you!  the dj at the school dance just played shakira’s “hips don’t lie” and it made me think of you! *szeretlek*

I wasn’t expecting a response as it was 9pm on a Friday night. We are spread up and down the East coast now and some of us have babies, new jobs, new friends, and other things that keep us occupied on a Friday night.  But almost immediately I got a response.

ahhh!  I’m having flashbacks!

And before I could respond, another text came in:

Hahah! Just leaving the gym and “slave 4 u” and “toxic” both came on my ipod!

We proceeded to reminisce for a few minutes via text and it was great to share those memories.  Music has played such a huge role in my life and certain songs always bring me back to different moments in my life.  Those three songs we talked about tonight transported me back to Douglass College circa 2001-2003.   I love that we can reach out to each other thanks to technology.  While we may not see each other as often as we did when we shared a dorm, we can still get in touch with the pressing of a few buttons.  Those girls are still my best friends and I don’t know what I would do without them.

Now if only we could find some time to hang out!

Not-so-free Italian Ice #sol14

I’ve spent the past four days dreaming of my free Rita’s Italian Ice on the first day of spring.  It’s a tradition for Rita’s to offer free ices on the first day of spring and I’ve been going since college.  When I was at Douglass my girlfriends and I piled into a car for the short drive down Ryder’s Lane.  We’d wait on the line and shoot the breeze, enjoying the beautiful weather.  Then we’d sit at the picnic tables overlooking Ryders Lane and eat our Italian ice, sampling the flavors everyone got.

After that, Chris and I used to go after he got out of work.  We’d head to the closest Rita’s when he lived in his apartment after graduation and there was rarely a line.  It was glorious!

Then when I started working in Manalapan my friends and I would head to Rita’s immediately after school on the first day of spring.  We’d wait on line, usually behind some of our current or former students, and we’d eat our ices in the parking lot.  We’d decompress from the day at school and start counting down the days until summer vacation.

Now we all work at different schools.  Chris and I are on opposite sides of the state during the day and while there is a Rita’s near his office there isn’t one within 15 miles of my school.  Chris sent me a picture of the Key Lime Italian ice he enjoyed during his lunch and I waited patiently to get mine after school.  What flavor would I get?  Lemon? Mango?  Maybe pay a dollar for the dollop of soft serve on top?

I came home from school and took the dogs for a quick walk.  Then I got them into the car, figuring the outing would be good for them, and headed to the nearest Rita’s.  The parking lot was a bit of mess but from my vantage point the line didn’t look bad.  I’d probably have to wait a few minutes but I had time.

Then I walked around the other side of the building and saw the real line.  It looked something like this:

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It had to be an hour long.  And I didn’t have the patience for that.  Neither did the dogs that I had foolishly brought with me for the supposedly short trip.

I went home sad and still craving Italian ice.  Dinner came and went and couldn’t stop thinking about the water ice I missed out on.  I’d been waiting for it all week.

That’s when I decided I was going to get that water ice and I wasn’t going to wait on any lines.  Chris and I hopped in the car and made our way to Ralph’s Italian Ice, a local staple that I prefer over Rita’s.  Sure, it cost me $3 for my chocolate mousse creme ice but that was a lot cheaper than my time!

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Dublin is in the background, hoping he can have my Italian ice. I don’t think so, buddy!

Saying Goodbye #sol14

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hMy brain is shot, so this will be a short slice of life.

In between the myriad of things I have to do this week, I also wrote a goodbye letter to my seniors.  It will be published in the yearbook so it’s due tonight.

It’s the hardest piece I’ve ever written.

This is “my” class.  I started teaching at HTHS when they arrived as freshmen.  When I signed on as the Class of 2014 advisor it seemed like 2014 was light years away.  Suddenly, it’s here.

The kids are in the middle of planning prom and graduation.  Some of them have senioritis.  There are days when I can’t wait for graduation.  But those days are few and far between.

Who will quote Mean Girls with me next year?  Who will send me frantic emails about baked goods in the middle of the night?  Who will make me laugh?  These seniors are amazing and I can’t imagine the school without them.  But I’m so proud of them and I know they are going to accomplish great things in the years to come.  I just wish it didn’t mean saying goodbye to them.

 

My name is Sarah and I’m a Caffeine Addict #sol14

 

 

 

 

Some days, I feel like I need caffeine in order to survive.  I spent years eschewing coffee because I only saw my grandmother drinking it black.  It smelled bitter and looked unappetizing.  But in the last year or so, I’ve picked up a habit of drinking frappucinos.  I refer to them as milkshakes with caffeine because they aren’t “real” coffee, but they do the trick.

I don’t drink frappucinos everyday.  Usually once a week or so, if I’m really tired.  It’s a nice treat and Starbucks sends me coupons so it’s not that expensive.  I figure I deserve the treat every so often.

But I do rely on them.  And they do cost money.

So I gave up drinking coffee for Lent.

No s’mores coffee from Wawa in the morning.  No mocha cookie crumble frappucinos to get me through the week.  No iced salted caramel lattes.

So far, it hasn’t been that bad.  I cheated last Sunday and had a grande mocha frap from Starbucks but that’s ok.  I subscribe to the belief that you are allowed to cheat on your Lenten focus on Sundays.  I went to Catholic school, so it’s totally legit.

But guys, this week is killing me.  I have a full week at work, two middle school enrichment classes on the other side of the county on Monday and Wednesday night, a dance to chaperone on Friday night, a conference in North Jersey on Saturday, and tutoring for three hours on Sunday.  It’s only Tuesday and I’m already exhausted.

All I can think about is this:

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I think I might crack.  I can’t imagine making it through the rest of the week without a good, healthy dose of caffeine.  Tea, soda, and other drinks just don’t do it for me.

I can feel the wall starting to crack already.  And it’s only Tuesday night…..

 

Slainte! #sol14

A few years ago, my entire family traveled to Ireland for a week during the summer.  That’s two adults, six kids ranging in age from preteen to adult, and one husband.  It was the first family vacation we had been on together in years and it was precipitated by some genealogy my dad I did.

I’ve always been fascinated by genealogy, and I must have inherited that fascination from my dad.  Since I was in high school we have spent hours scouring ancestry and genealogy websites looking for clues.  As any good Irishman knows, whenever you get to a certain point in Irish records you inevitably get told, “Sorry.  Those records and everything prior to them burned in a church fire”.  It’s the way of the Irish genealogy world.  But we soldiered on, looking for relatives in America and abroad.

For years we hit walls and dead ends.  My great-grandmother was a favorite subject of the searches because we knew she left behind a rather large family when she fled to America as a teenager.  But we never made any headway.

Until one fateful day when my dad called me.  “Check ancestry.com!  Go see the message we got!”

I was briefly confused as I tried to remember what I had posted that might garner a reply.  But a look at our history showed that we had just received a response to a message board posting that I had written almost 3 years earlier.  A message that hadn’t brought us any luck or information in those three years.  Suddenly, a new world opened up as I read the latest reply to a dormant thread.

Re  John Hickey  Born in Cork  Lived in Kildare    Hickey   Family History   Genealogy Message Board   Ancestry.com

 

The message left us stunned.  We did not know that my great-grandmother’s father had another child during his second marriage.  And we soon learned that Ronnie, my great-grandmother’s half-brother, was still living in Ireland!  We were planning a trip there and when the family found out they demanded that we make plans to meet.  We willingly did so.

A few months later, we were in Ireland.  We made plans to meet with my uncle Ronnie, who took the train cross country to see us.  We spent a day driving around the Irish countryside as he showed us where he and my great-grandmother grew up.  We visited the house they lived in, the town they grew up in, and the cemeteries where most of the family is buried.  It was an amazing day and one I will not forget.

Today, on St. Patrick’s Day, I wished my Irish cousins well via Facebook.  Thanks to the magic of the internet, I am now “friends” with family members who never left Ireland.  We chat and stay in touch with each other and share stories.  When I re-shared a photo from that trip to Ireland, my cousin commented and asked when we will be back.  Without ancestry.com and Facebook we would not have forged these connections (and may not have found each other!).

St. Patrick’s Day is a fun holiday but it’s also deeply rooted in my heritage.  I’m proud to be Irish (and Scottish!) and wear my claddaugh necklace with pride.  I own more green than more normal people and you can find Irish blessings and proverbs throughout my house.  But the close-knit family is what makes me truly Irish, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

My Sunday Funday Routine #sol14

Every Sunday I spend about 45 minutes preparing Kongs for the week ahead.

Yes, you read that right.  For those of you who don’t have dogs, Kongs are food toys that require dogs to work for their dinner and expend mental energy in order to eat.  As the owner of two smart and high-energy herding dogs, I feed all meals in puzzles.  But frozen Kongs are my lifesavers.  They go in the refrigerator on Sunday night and they get distributed throughout the week.  When I’m exhausted at 8pm and the dogs want to play?  Give them a Kong!  They are happy and settled and I get to relax without throwing a frisbee constantly.

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This was my counter earlier this afternoon.  It’s what my counter looks like on most Sunday nights.  The basket is a new purchase, but I needed somewhere to keep the Kongs once the dogs empty them.  Now I won’t have to search all over the house on Sunday night.  (Theoretically.  We’ll see how it works!).

The delicious frozen Kong recipe changes every week, but the basics stay the same.  I pour some kibble into the designated dog tupperware.  (No amount of washing will convince me to use it for any other purpose!).  I mix in some freeze-dried raw food, a few treats, and sometimes some canned food.  Pour in a little liquid and let sit until the kibble sucks up all the moisture.  (Who said I’d never care about osmosis again after high school science?).

Then, spend 20 minutes wrestling with the spoon and the Kongs to try and get them packed without making a huge mess.  While this is happening, be sure to avoid stepping on the dogs who are surely underfoot, convinced that they will get all of the dog food immediately, and that you definitely won’t be putting the Kongs in the freezer.

After filling the Kongs, freeze them for at least 24 hours and then enjoy.  Divvy them up throughout the week and enjoy some peace and quiet.

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