SOL Day 18

There were a lot of tears on TV today and a lot of yelling occurring in my house.  March Madness is complete madness this year!  Here’s what one region of my bracket looks like:

Screen Shot 2018-03-18 at 11.12.24 PM

That’s a complete disaster.  I’m rooting for the underdogs from here on out!  Well, in this bracket, at least!

I spent most of my day watching March Madness games while cooking for the week.  I made a few freezer meals for later in the week, including a lemon sesame chicken noodle soup that looks and sounds delicious.  I also made cupcakes to bring to school tomorrow, two more loaves of Irish soda bread, and a Guinness beef stew for tonight’s dinner.  As a result, I did at least 3 loads of dishes in the dishwasher, used up all the butter in the house, and almost emptied the whole bag of flour. I think I spent about 4 hours cooking, but I know it will be worth it later in the week when I don’t have to rush around after school.

I didn’t spend the whole day cooking, though.  My SAT class was canceled this morning, so I was able to sleep in a little.  I spent some time in the backyard with the dogs, prepared their frozen Kongs for the week, and then headed out to run errands.  I was able to get my food shopping done, pick up some dog food on sale, and make some returns at Nordstrom and Old Navy and I still had time to cook!  Sundays usually fly by because I teach for 2-3 hours in the morning, so it was nice to have those hours back for today.  I’m sure I won’t be seeing the same thing when I get my paycheck, though!


SOL Day 17

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I wish I could have made it back to HTHS for the musical, but it’s been a very busy day around here. I thought I was going to make it, but we had a lot of St. Patrick’s Day celebrating to do!

This afternoon we tried a new-to-us Irish pub in Matawan and had some delicious Irish food. As Chris pointed out, the Irish aren’t known for colorful food.

Luckily, Irish food is delicious. I had bangers and mash, which I first tried in Ireland, and Chris had fish and chips. I was tempted to try the Irish soda bread pudding for dessert, but we were both ridiculously full after eating the huge lunch portions. I also remembered the giant an of Irish soda bread sitting on my counter at home (and the second loaf I’ll be making tomorrow).

After lunch, I dropped Chris off at home and turned around to go to my parents. I had to drop off the St. Paddy’s Day bandannas Chris made for my parents’ dogs, so I brought Dublin and Navan with me. We ended up walking the four dogs together then let them play in the backyard for about an hour.

I was hoping that would exhaust them, as they ran like banshees and even Dublin played! Well they weren’t tired, but they did manage to roll in some wild animal’s poop. So gross. That meant they both needed baths when we finally got home. Not something I planned on and not a fast process.

After their baths it was too late to make it to the play, so we joined our friends for a walk at Turkey Swamp Park. Can I just say I love how long the sun is up now? It didn’t get dark until about 7:30! We were able to do another 1.5 miles, for a total of 6.5 miles today.

After that walk they were finally tired. I grabbed two Dairy Queen Oreo mint blizzards on the way home and surprised Chris with them. We enjoyed our ice cream for dinner; Chris spent the rest of the evening working and I finally sat down to watch basketball. My bracket is slowly busting, but man we’re some of today’s games great!

SOL Day 16


Ten good things that happened this week:

  1. I wrote 36 pages.  Yes, 36.  They are pretty much word vomit at this point, but I’ll take it!
  2. It’s March Madness!  Yesterday, one of my bracket’s was fantastic.  Today, that bracket tanked and yesterday’s eh bracket jumped ahead. I’m currently 22/28 in my best bracket. The upsets don’t help me, but I love them anyway.
  3. I went out to dinner with my favorite teaching friends today.  During our sushi date we were treated to a bagpipe and tin whistle performance by a local Irish organization.  It was a little out of place in Fusha, an Asian restaurant, but it was awesome.
  4. My Irish soda bread is in the oven.  It’s taking longer to cook than I thought it would, but it will be perfect for breakfast tomorrow. I prefer moist soda bread and this one is like cake.
  5. Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day!
  6. I’m almost caught up on grading.  I’m enjoying it while it lasts, because on Monday my 9th graders will turn in their op-eds and I’ll be drowning once again.
  7. Because I’m almost caught up on grading, I should have time to read this weekend.  I’ve got a huge pile of books to get through and I’m looking forward to getting through one or two.
  8. The dogs went to doggie daycare today. so they are nice and tired.  This means they will be cool with relaxing for a good amount of time tomorrow.
  9. I found a cool new place to go hiking.  Hopefully, we will get over there sometime during the upcoming weekends to try it out.  There’s a suspension bridge!
  10. It’s the weekend!!


SOL Day 15

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…..

No, not Christmas.  Not spring break.  Not summer vacation.  No, no, no.  It’s March Madness!  These next four days are my favorite sports days of the entire year.  12+ hours of basketball each day, crazy upsets, buzzer-beaters, and Cinderellas are all I will be talking about for the next few days.

I’ll also be yelling at my TV a lot.  I started the yelling right after school when the URI game went into overtime.  Thankfully, URI pulled it out in the end.  Then I was screaming with excitement when Loyola-Chicago pulled off the upset because I fell in love with Sr. Jean, the team chaplain, after reading this article.  Seriously, how can you not love Loyola-Chicago after reading that article?

My bracket(s) started out pretty solid.  I went 8/8 in the first games in one bracket.  But, as usual, the late games are killing me.  What happened, Arizona?  Decided to look past Buffalo, huh?  That’s a slight bracket buster for me!  But in all honestly, while I’d love to have a perfect bracket I’m much happier seeing crazy upsets happen.  College basketball is awesome!

I’ve got to get some sleep, which means I’ll miss the end of the last couple of games.  But no worries- I’ll be back at it tomorrow!

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 11.54.15 PM

SOL Day 14

When I was in high school, I was annoyingly political.  I interned at our local Republican state senator’s office for a few years and loved being a part of the state political process.  I attended a JSA summer camp at Princeton and debated political issues all day with some of the smartest kids I’d ever met.  I also wrote way too many persuasive essays demanding that the voting age be lowered to 16.  My poor history and English teachers must have rolled their eyes every time I handed in another research paper or essay about lowering the voting age.

My interest in politics was selfish, though.  I enjoyed being involved, especially at the state level, and I made some great friends.  I couldn’t wait to vote and registered as soon as I was allowed to do so.  But today I witnessed teens engaging in democracy for much bigger and better reasons, and I couldn’t be prouder.

Many students at HTHS exercised their right to protest and walked out of school for 17 minutes beginning at 10am.  Those who did not wish to participate remained in the building and classes continued as scheduled.  The students who came to my class read the newspaper as usual and responded by writing a letter to the editor in response to an op-ed written by 3 NJ high school students.  We often read and respond to op-eds, but today the students learned about the requirements for letters and how to submit them.  Instead of analyzing the rhetoric, the students focused on crafting a response about their thoughts on the walkout and/or gun violence.  We talked about the CDC ban on gun research and about the importance of using our voices no matter what side of an issue we fall on.

I was able to get outside for a few minutes thanks to a generous coworker who watched my class while they worked on their responses.  The walkout was organized and planned by students, with little involvement from the school.  Student leaders met with the administration early one and informed them about the plan.  They reached out to the underclassmen via social media and worked with their classmates, the upperclassmen, very closely.  Some of the faculty helped with logistics (safety, attendance, etc), but nothing else.  For 17 minutes today, the adults stayed in the background and watched the students.  I was in awe of what they accomplished.

Over the course of the 17 minutes, all of the students honored and remembered the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas, a student read a poem she wrote in response to the shooting, and a few students spoke about the importance of getting involved with the issues in order to create meaningful longterm change.  There were some tears and hugs as they re-entered the building and went back to class.

I’ve never been more proud of my students than I was today.  Those who walked out and those who stayed inside all thought long and hard about their decisions.  They engaged with an issue that affects their lives and schools and decided how to respond.  Tonight many of my freshmen have written blog posts about the choice they made and why they made it.  They are discussing the issue in comments and supporting each other while thinking critically about lockdown drills, evacuation plans, and everything else that’s become routine during their years in school.

There’s been some pushback on social media when it comes to the walkout.  A lot of people think students should “walk up, not walk out”; they want kids and teens to be nicer to each other rather than participate in events like the walkout.  Honestly, this offends me.  First of all, these people assume that teachers don’t already spend a great deal of time focused on teaching students empathy and kindness.  These aren’t in our curriculum, but we cover it anyway, all day every day.  Honestly, our schools need to do more as institutions to focus on social-emotional learning.  But walking out today doesn’t mean these kids aren’t also focused on reaching out to other.

But can we please be rational about this?  The (mostly male) perpetrators of mass shootings have almost all been severely mentally ill.  It’s not a kid’s responsibility to deal with a classmate’s mental illness.  We teach students that they should always “choose kind”, but we can’t teach them to be counselors and psychiatrists.  If schools, hospitals, and law enforcement officers can’t do anything to recognize and stop school shooters, why do we think kids and teens should be able to do it? Why is their responsibility to take charge?

The students at my school who did walk out of class today knew exactly why they were standing in the freezing cold for 17 minutes today.  Their motives weren’t selfish- they want to protect their friends, family, and classmates.  They are taking charge of their lives and they will force change.  Some of the students who walked out today will be able to vote this year.  Almost all of them will be able to vote in 2020.  Adults have failed them in so many ways; they are taking the lead now.  The least we can do is sit back and allow them to exercise their rights.  Encourage them to read about the issues, engage in debate, and, of course, to be kind to one another.  But don’t tell them they are too young, too dumb, or too immature to force change or lead by example.

Whether they walked out today or not, every kid who took the time to make that decision was actively participating in democracy.  Isn’t that what we prepare them for in public school?




SOL Day 13

This is how the day started:

Just a few fluffy inches of snow. March is definitely coming in like a lion. But by the time I left school, all of the snow was gone.

I wanted to walk the dogs, but I did not want to go to the park because I knew it would be nothing but an endless mud puddle and I would end up with very muddy dogs. Thankfully, I remembered a park one town over had a paved path. It was crazy windy, but we got our walk in and they enjoyed some enrichment (aka climbing on the playground equipment and digging in the mulch). From snow to this in a few short hours:

I ended the day with two therapy dog tests (I’m an evaluator) and corned beef with mashed potatoes for dinner. Now I’m hoping to watch the season finale of This Is Us before going to bed in order to avoid being spoiled tomorrow. I’m so upset the season is over, but at least I know I won’t be crying every week for a few months!

SOL Day 12

Happy day! I think we should automatically get a delayed opening after the time change in the spring. Everyone was tired and crabby today, so tomorrow’s late arrival will be much appreciated. I hope everyone, staff and students alike, sleeps in a bit. I’ll be up at 5:15 to walk the dogs with Chris, but then I plan to go back to bed for a bit. Maybe I can gain back that hour I lost!

Not so appreciated? The power outages that will likely come with this, our third nor’easter in 10 days. We aren’t expected to get much, if any, snow, but the winds are already blowing out there. There’s a wintry mix falling from the sky, too.

I’m crossing my fingers that we keep our power. It went out briefly a few minutes ago, so Chris is putting the sump pump generator on standby. Why does the power insist on going out in the middle of the night? Cross your fingers for us, or we will have a long night ahead of us.