Friday, March 30, 2012

Blue Jeans and a Good Hair Day

Some days, that's all it takes. Those little things every day that makes us smile, or sometimes, just make the day a little more bearable. The mornings where I begrudgingly drag myself out of bed, and tiptoe across the icy cold bathroom floor after a quick shower, only to take a sigh of relief when I remember it's Friday. I throw on my favorite pair of jeans and instantly feel ready to face the day. Or the simple fact that some days, a good hair day is all it takes to make you feel like a million bucks. It's the simple pleasures and everyday comforts of this life that are perhaps most important, yet often the most neglected. 

Inspired by Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project, I know there is pleasure to be found in writing what makes one happy - even if it's just one sentence (or photo) a day. Thus, starts a Friday ritual of mine - to document the good in every day, through words and pictures. 

"5 years. 365 days. 1825 happy moments captured."

Friday: Jim's Legendary Cheese Steaks on South Street in Philly.  A great welcome to a new city! 

Saturday: Walking through the Historic District and admiring the colors of the city, the food at Ready Terminal, and my new navy and tangerine wellies from Aldo :)

Sunday: A memorable, emotional presentation, followed by Midtown Restaurant and Tom, aka, Uncle Junior from Sopranos 

Monday: Goodbye Philly, hello Tallahassee. A Skype date with Cruz and Beau, followed by a complimentary comfort food dinner at my hotel. This place knows how to take care of its people!

Tuesday: A day to myself sandwiched between two national conferences = quiet time in a hotel room, the most amazing book I can't stop thinking about, and a couple hours to stick my toes in the hotel pool in the bright, Florida sun. 

Wednesday: Another successful presentation with a wonderful group of colleagues on Florida State's sunny campus!

Thursday:  The look on my boy's face through the car window as I made my way out of the airport.  SO good to see my boys.  Cruz's eyes got browner in a week's time!  He seemed happy to see me and loved the little Delta airplane I brought him from the Atlanta Airport.  There's no place like home!

Friday:  THE HUNGER GAMES with Beau!  Bring on buttery popcorn, a cozy theater, and Gale and Peeta ;)

Happy Weekending!


A Book Review

“It seemed like forever ago, like we’d had this brief but still infinite forever. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.” 

As I sit here on this plane, attempting to choke back tears for fear I will look terrible when I greet my husband and son after being away from them an entire week, I sit here amazed at the power of words. And perhaps more importantly, the power and ability some people have to put our stories into such words that breathe life into our otherwise incessant lives. Stories that change us and make us think --- stories that reveal so much beauty that you feel it’s a sin that there are people in this world that will never take or get the time to read them. In this moment, on this plane, as I sit here shivering from the cold air vents blowing air at my toes, I am so thankful I was one of the lucky ones to read John Green’s newest book, The Fault is in our Stars. 

This book is a lot of things. It’s heart-gutting and raw, it’s cancer and death, but most of all it’s life. The way to live and let go, die and hold on. The book takes us through the lives of two teenagers, Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, two star-crossed lovers who find more depth in their cancer-stricken lives than most search for their whole lives. Their stories, and the writing of the insanely talented John Green is absolutely poetic – every line is meaningful. John Green is no Nicolas Sparks, one who seeks to glorify and romanticize the horrors of illness, while also not one to push the limits and cross the lines like many of his other realistic fiction counterparts. No, John Green’s book is on a level of its own – calling me to crawl into similar memories of being a teenager, being in love, and having my heart ripped in two by tragedy. 

I have learned so much from this book. I’ve learned there’s few things more important than how we raise our children, and that sometimes, the ‘greatest joys are found in our greatest pains.’ I’ve learned to appreciate the love I found in my own Augustus and the privilege it is to get to wake up and love him every day I’m afforded on this earth. I’ve learned that Heaven or what Augustus calls ‘the greater ‘something’ exists not just after death, but all around us, “an elegant universe in ceaseless motion, teeming with ruined ruins and screaming children.” 

And most importantly, I’ve learned that our purpose on this earth isn’t to make mistakes or even do something big. “The real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention.” 

The Fault is in our Stars is a book worth noticing. Get ready to be sucked in – I promise. 


P.S. If you don't believe me, check the reviews yourself.  578 reviews on Amazon and not ONE below a three-star.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Philly Love

I am over halfway through my trip down the eastern side of the Atlantic, and am relishing the quietness this morning and anxious to re-enter the blogging world.  It's weird how this blog has taken over a piece of my identity - that if I'm not recording and reflecting and writing, I start to feel like a piece of me is missing, like a part of me will forget the very experiences I'm living and cause a black hole in this small piece of my life.  A little drastic, I know, but evidence of the importance this little hobby has become.

Today, I spend a day in Florida awaiting the rest of my party.  I flew from Philly, to Atlanta, and down to Tallahassee by myself yesterday, the first time I've ever traveled by air solo.  I did it, and the independence I felt was reassuring and invigorating .  Now, I sit in a beautiful suite overlooking an outdoor pool in sunny Tallahassee.  A room to myself, a complimentary snack bar 24 hours a day, and six dreamy pillows just for me.  But, with all the excitement and escape the last five days have brought to my life, my reality is back home, sitting on the floor of the bathroom during bath night, rocking with a blankie and Elmo before bed, and endless, available snuggles from my blonde baby boy.  
Last night, I had a Skype date with Beau and Cruz while Cruz soaked in the tub.  He acted as if everything was completely normal, as if the three of us were crammed in the bathroom like every other night, demanding tricks from Cruz and repeatedly asking him to 'sit down before you slip and fall.'  He still flashed me his devilish grin through the screen, stood up and exposed his birthday suit, and stared straight into my eyes until I finally coerced him to sit.  And when it was time to go, he blew me a kiss goodbye before bed.  Although not the same as snuggling and smelling the top of his head, enough to get me through 'til Thursday.  I ache for them and anxiously await seeing their smiling faces at the airport.
It didn't take me long to fall in love with Philly and am convinced the Cedar Valley could replicate the street-side food carts, fresh produce markets, and endless supply of Philly Cheese Steaks that the city has to offer.  It's exciting to live in the city for a few days, with literally hundreds of food choices at your fingertips and Anthropologie literally across the street.  The people, the busy, and the culture is so exciting, but also exhausting!  By Monday afternoon, I was ready for some Midwest hospitality, although so far, Tallahassee and its palm trees have filled the void quite nicely :)

Top Ten Reasons Philly Fits its Brotherly Love Status...
1.  The history.  To American historians, this is as ancient as it gets.  The cobblestone, brick, and history that lies in and around Independence Hall is fascinating.  We saw Ben Franklin's grave site, the basement of the first White House, and the place where the foundation of our country was formed and signed.  I admired the beauty, the charm, and the color, and felt proud to walk the same streets as our forefathers.

2.  The Philly Cheese Steak.  I could get used to this.  From Jim's on South Street, where I learned exactly what it means to order 'wit whiz,' to the numerous street-side vendors and their delicious smells wafting through the streets, Philly knows how to make a sandwich!  They're proud, too, and could all answer the magic question, Where's the best cheese steak? in a matter of seconds.  I had three cheese steaks in four days, and must say, my sandwich at the Wrap Shack was the best :)

3.  The shopping.  After missing our first flight due to fog, and having to spend three hours 'killing time' at the Mall of America on Friday, I figured the surprise shopping was done.  But when I discovered that our very hotel was connected to a mall, not to mention Philly's most exclusive shopping district just a block from our hotel, I knew my baggage was in trouble!  I got to wander through the racks at Zara, browsed through a number of children's boutiques, and could have spent hours in an old church renovated into an Anthropologie. 

4.  The flowers.  Philly was in bloom, and the colors of Spring were everywhere.  The brick and brightly colored shutters made for the perfect backdrop to the life springing up all over the city.  At one point, while standing near Independence Hall, there were more people taking pictures of this amazing cherry blossom tree than taking pictures of the building itself!  Oh, the wonders of the natural world!

5.  Midtown Restaurant.  We discovered this gem on our way back to the hotel after our presentation, and spent some time discovering the ins and outs of Philly from Uncle Junior himself.  Yes, Tom, or who I like to think of as 'June,' looked EXACTLY like Uncle Junior from The Sopranos.  When I told him of the resemblance, he sort of brushed it off, however, when I asked what he did before he 'retired,' he shot me this grin and said, 'lots of stuff.'  I'm convinced it was him and I think he knew I was on to him.  I wish now I would have asked him if Tony really died in the restaurant during the season finale.  I guess we'll never know...

6.  Reading Terminal Market.  This is a must-see if you're ever in Philly.  An old train station turned into a market, filled with foods and goods from all over the world.  This place was a photographer's dream, although a little overwhelming for a novice.  The four of us spread out and each found something delicious, then sampled each others' in the dining area.  While my pizza and Josh's Italian sausage were good, Jim wins with his jambalaya, fried macaroni, and amazingly sweet corn bread. 

7.  The smells of the numerous street-side vendors and the lines that formed behind each during the noon hour screamed big city and made my waistband thankful for Cedar Falls!  I don't know how these people do it!

8.  The Philly Convention Center.  This was the home of our conference and a truly magnificent place.  I think it took up four city blocks, to which the conference took up most.  I was thankful for the opportunity to network with educators from across the globe, and for the opportunity to share the story of Price Lab with our audience.  The response from our story and the news of our closing made for quite the hook during our presentation, and the reaction and faces of those in our audience was one I won't forget. 

9.  The architecture.  From the magnificent City Hall to the Art Museum, better known as, the Rocky Steps, the character of the setting we were in was awesome.

10.  An ASCD Exhibit Hall that took two hours just to walk through.  Conversations with Promethean and Scholastic, our school on ASCD's Interactive Map, and our pictures on the cover of Ed. Leadership!  Teacher freebies, new ideas, and many, many laughs with colleagues and friends.

That's it!  Philly was good to us, and I'm thankful for the amazing experience.  Gearing up for one final presentation tomorrow and a flight back to my boys next later this week.  In the meantime, I may check out that pool while I wait for my colleagues to arrive :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Blue Jeans & A Good Hair Day

Some days, that's all it takes. Those little things every day that makes us smile, or sometimes, just make the day a little more bearable. The mornings where I begrudgingly drag myself out of bed, and tiptoe across the icy cold bathroom floor after a quick shower, only to take a sigh of relief when I remember it's Friday. I throw on my favorite pair of jeans and instantly feel ready to face the day. Or the simple fact that some days, a good hair day is all it takes to make you feel like a million bucks. It's the simple pleasures and everyday comforts of this life that are perhaps most important, yet often the most neglected. 

Inspired by Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project, I know there is pleasure to be found in writing what makes one happy - even if it's just one sentence (or photo) a day. Thus, starts a Friday ritual of mine - to document the good in every day, through words and pictures.

"5 years. 365 days. 1825 happy moments captured."

Saturday: watching Cruz play at our friends' little boy's birthday party.  It was a perfect excuse to soak up the out-of-season warmth and reunite with friends, hold their babies, and get Cruz acquainted with some new friends.  He was so good, so caught up in trying out all the new toys around him, that I sometimes forgot he was there!  It amazes me how adaptive kids are - Cruz had no idea who all the people were, yet, he took food from them, let them snuggle with him, and held his own with the 'big' kids.  And, he's proving to be a summer boy - he ate an entire grilled brat, sans bun!

Sunday: delving into a pan of homemade lasagna!  The perfect meal to end our week at home and much to my surprise, Cruz ate an entire helping.  He's a big fan.  

Monday: fresh wild flowers from a friend brought the beauty of Spring Break right into the beginning of my work week. 

Tuesday: Asian Glazed Pork Tenderloin on the Big Green Egg.  A Thai chili sauce with honey and peanut butter, paired with steamed veggies and mashed potatoes.  Recipe coming soon...

Wednesday: a really great discussion on a really great piece of literature with a really great group of 10th graders.

Thursday:  snuggling and dancing with Cruz and Beau in the living room to 'Freshman' by the Verve Pipe (an oldie, but goodie, rekindled by Pandora during dinner).  Blowing bubbles in a mug of soapy water and teaching Cruz the 'Motorboat' song simply because I was convinced his giggle was enough to get me through the week ahead.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Watch this TO THE END!

Two years ago, Price Lab was honored with ASCD's first ever Vision in Action Award.  ASCD is an educational leadership organization dedicated to advancing best practices and policies for the success of each learner.  It serves over 150,000 members from 145 different countries and provides key educational research and publications such as Ed. Leadership.  

The ASCD Whole Child Award is designed to "recognize schools that have gone beyond a vision for educating the whole child to actions that result in learners who are knowledgeable, emotionally and physically healthy, civically active, artistically engaged, prepared for economic self-sufficiency, and ready for the world beyond formal schooling. This award acknowledges those schools that have changed the conversation about education from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement to one that promotes the development of the whole child: a child who is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged."

In January, a team from ASCD visited our school for two days to create a video of our school to feature at this year's annual conference.  The video was released yesterday, just a month after news of our closing.  The video showcases our school, its uniqueness, and its commitment to education.  

The video is the 'featured video' on ASCD's homepage.  If you care to take a peek, I promise it's worth all seven minutes :) 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

'So kiss me and smile for me...'

Well, Cruz Man, although you have no idea what's about to unfold, you are about to lose your mama for an entire week.  Yes, on Friday morning, at an early six a.m., this working mama is joining three of her colleagues to attend the ASCD National Conference in Philly.  We present on Sunday and fly out Monday afternoon.  And while four days, a new city, and a national presentation at one of the largest educational institutions in the world is amazing and totally doable, there's a slight catch.  Yes, instead of flying home on Monday afternoon, I will wave goodbye to my ASCD team, and catch a flight to Florida for another conference where I will meet a new group of colleagues. For one entire week, I will be on another side of the country, away from you and your dad.  And I'm not sure who it's going to be the hardest on...

While I'm very excited for the opportunity to present professionally, I've never left you this long, let alone left home this long.  And although I'm looking forward to putting on my big girl pants and trying this out on my own, another part of me is completely freaked about the entire thing.  Speaking at a national conference to a large audience, packing for a week for two completely different climates, getting from Philly to Florida alone, maneuvering my luggage, finding my way to my hotel, and eventually to the pool, leaves me wondering if I may be in over my head.  I don't have the slightest clue how to hail a cab... 

And then I think about you and your dad, baching it for a week without, let's be honest, the structure, in your lives --- the meal-planner and clothes-picker, the bag-packer and schedule-queen.  And while I have every confidence in the world that your amazing daddy will do just fine without me, a deeper part of me fears that you'll get along too well without me.  That you won't miss me or frankly even know that I'm gone.  I already dream about you picking me up at the airport next week, but worry that our reunion might leave you attached to your dad and me feeling completely heart broken.  You're only one, though, and I need to remember that we don't live in a movie screen.  However, thanks to modern day technology, we can still see each other through our computer screens, all week long.  We'll teach you Face Time, baby, and you can tell all about your day and get to mess with the computer we usually never let you have ;)

So, as I savor the rest of my time with you this week, I will go into the weekend with sweet moments of you.  I'm so thankful we had Spring Break week to play and bond and make fun little memories that will keep me strong in my travels.


Like moments when... brought me your clothes, one piece at a time, as daddy was in the bathroom getting you ready for your bath.  As you hand me your onesie, you give me an unexpected kiss, right on the lips, with sound effects and all.  Then, as you head back to the bathroom, with nothing but your diaper, you suddenly realize your kiss wasn't as good as it could have been, so you stop halfway, turn around, and plant another giant one on me. 'get us.' lay your head on my shoulder and make sure to tuck both arms in between our chests. play so cute at our neighbor's birthday party last weekend.  It is so fun watching you interact with other kids, wander around the people, and find just the right thing to keep you busy.  A water table filled with sand, a bowl filled with chips, and your very first Capri Sun.   

Caught ya! get jealous when I hold another baby.  Your brown eyes immediately lock with mine, your lip comes out, and you cry in abandonment.  It's adorable, but something that will have to pass if you are someday blessed with a brother or sister :)

...I catch you tucking in a baby doll at the church nursery last Sunday.  There in the middle of the room by yourself, making sure this little baby has a blanket and a bed to sleep in.  It looked so natural on you and regardless of what your dad says, I may have to buy you one for yourself ;)

I will miss you to pieces, next week, but look forward to our Skype dates and stories from what's sure to be a very eventful 'guys' week.'

Love you!


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