Category Archives: country

Letter No. 8

It’s Sunday morning and it’s quiet for now. I enjoy the weekend mornings because I can sleep a little later than I normally do during the week and there isn’t the urgency to get up, move, and be someplace. Though sometimes that isn’t always the case.

I let the group walk ahead…..

Last weekend I took a bird walk and had to be out of the house by 7:30 AM Saturday morning. It was an organized bird walk with a trained naturalist at the Morton Arboretum. I signed up in August when I was excited about learning about birds. I still am excited about learning more about birds but the time to learn and watch birds is fleeting with school back in session. The bird walk, added a bit of urgency to last Saturday morning’s get up and go, but it was worth the time. I enjoyed the walk with a group of folks walking the paths and trails and seeing things I don’t normally see. It helped me model the science homework I assign my students daily – be curious and full of wonder. I shared last weekend’s adventures with them last Monday when they asked how my weekend was – a few were interested and pressed for more questions and others were the typical 8th grader. I shared that my newfound curiosity was inspired by a book I had started to read – Where the Poppies Grow by British author John Lewis-Stempel. I discovered the book while reading post on Margaret’s blog, From Pyrenees to Pennines in April. I make the headway with my students anyway I can and I am still reading the book.

This weekend is a little different. O and her marching band have a band competition, but she didn’t need to be at school early Saturday morning as she has in the past couple of weekends. This week’s competition was across town and her band won top honors in its class. So far, this marching season, they’ve had three competitions and I’ve seen them all. Next week they are on the road and we will be, too.

The weather turned for the weekend and there is a fall-ish chill in the air. The skies are clear and it is cool. Yesterday at the band competition the stands faced the afternoon sun and it was in our eyes, but when the sun dipped beneath the horizon it cooled down and there was a definite nip in the air. My body is not quite use to the cooler air, but by November and December my body will be ready for the cold which lies ahead. 

It’s that time of the year when keeping up the blog is a challenge. School is taking time and other activities – parenting, being husband, and taking care of the home and myself take precedence over writing a blog post. This past summer, I didn’t write as frequently as I had in previous summers. But, I had many things going on with a new knee and my son leaving for marine boot camp. In place of blogging, I’ve been writing him letters. So far, I am up to No. 8. I penned it yesterday morning and I’ll pen another this afternoon or evening.

Friday Night’s Lights – the sky was orange (our colors) before the game, but turned red (their colors) to finish the sunset – the Tigers came up short 41-20 but it was never close.
Continue reading Letter No. 8

Day 72 – the last one

It’s the last day of summer break, tomorrow is the first day of a new school year. It will be twentieth year as a teacher and it will be my 45th year spent in a classroom as either as a student or a teacher.

This morning, Ivy and I enjoyed one final morning of summer freedom together. I sipped coffee and she guarded the bird feeder from the pesky squirrels. The squirrels chirped at her from high in the tree but Ivy stood her ground.

a Monarch and a zinnia

Yesterday, I took time to visit my classroom and help with the schedule and locker distribution. It was nice to see so many excited faces and help students with locker jams or even simply help with a locker combination. Yes, even 8th graders forget how to work a combination lock. Most locker issues were jammed lockers or the wrong locker combination was given to the student – that happens. This will be my 18th year at this school and the lockers are 18 too which explains why there are jams. 17 years of use can wear on locker.

The past week has been a whirlwind of sorts. We’ve been back from the lake for a couple of weeks but it has been busy at home with W, my son, who’s been preparing for Marine Corps Boot Camp. He reported this past Sunday.

The reporting and shipping out process is complicated. W reported to the recruiter’s office and then was transported to the hotel where he would spend Sunday night before being taken to the processing center before shipping out Monday. Once he had checked into the hotel, he was free until 8:30. We had time for dinner with some time left over.

But, where to go?

Continue reading Day 72 – the last one

Day 31 – Flying the Flag

Yesterday was the Fourth of July. Independence Day. We spent our day as we usually do – parade, lake, dinner, then fireworks.

My wife reminded me to fly the flag the evening before, but I didn’t put the flag up until the yesterday morning.

It was a beautiful summer day. I got to ride in the boat and watch my daughter enjoy tubing. My daughter towed me to and from the boat on her tube. But, no water for me, other than a shower until I get the green light in a couple of weeks to swim and get in the lake.  I’ll have to wait until later in the summer when my incision is fully healed.

the flag flying on the boat as Olivia follows behind on the tube

The day was a wonderful day to remember Thomas Jefferson’s words; Continue reading Day 31 – Flying the Flag

Memorial Day 2017

It is Memorial Day and I am reminded of the sacrifice of America’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines.

poppies

I had planned to write a fitting post to commemorate the occasion, but words failed me.

Yesterday we watched the Indy 500 (on television) and I remembered the many trips to Indy and back with my father-in-law, then watching him march in the town Memorial Day parade the following day. I remembered the drive to Aisne-Marne American Cemetery with my dad in May ’97, attending the Memorial Day ceremony at Suresnes American Cemetery in Paris in May of ’97. I remember the trip back to France in 2010 with my brothers, step-mother, and my dad’s cremains.

I searched for words to put together and failed, seeking inspiration I opened and e-mail from the American Battle Monument Commission and found the two videos below.

Today is also the anniversary of my first post: Day 1 – What am I doing? I still wonder what I am doing and there are a lot of words between then and now. I am still humbled by the sacrifice of America’s men and women in arms.

The peonies opened up in yesterday’s sunshine and today promises to be another glorious day, weather fitting for a parade and Memorial Day ceremony. It’s gonna be a great day, so I’d better jump up, jump in, and seize the day. Making the Days Count, one day at a time, it’s all that I can do.

What’s on your plate for Memorial Day?

The Circus

I teach 8th grade and sometimes I feel like I am the ringleader in a circus.

“There’s a sucker born every minute.” P. T. Barnum

In January, when the I first heard the news that the Ringing Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus would be ceasing operations in May, I did a quick search to find out where the circus would be before it ended it’s 146-year run. I discovered it was in Cincinnati, Ohio – a short five-hour drive away. 317 miles, give or take. I did a quick search of tickets and found they were available. I mentioned it to B and we remembered the summer we met and when went to the circus with a large group. We laughed about the memory and then, I forgot about it and the idea shifted to the bottom of the pile.

Last weekend the memory came back and Monday night and I sent O a short text, ‘Circus?’ and another six minutes later, Circus?’ No response.

The next morning, I mentioned the circus before I left for school and left it that. No response.

Wednesday I got my reply in a text, ‘I will go with you to the circus.’ Continue reading The Circus

UNITY: Rights and Responsibilities

Election Day, it’s finally here. This year, I am off. The schools in my school district are closed, but not all school districts are closed for election day, it depends on the school district. It’s a local issue.

My students wrapped up their study of the U.S. Constitution last Friday. They believe the Constitution is behind them, but they are in for a surprise – knowing and applying the Constitution never goes away.

I was awakened this morning before my alarm sounded and I got up, I should have stayed in bed, but didn’t. I am not sure what woke me in the first place, but what kept me up was a thought I couldn’t keep out of my mind. Last week, as I was discussing the Constitution with my students, I needed to cover their rights, duties, and responsibilities as citizens of the United States of America.

ivoted

The duties mentioned in our textbook are:

  • Obey the law
  • Pay taxes
  • Defend the nation
  • Serve in court
  • Attend school

I went further to remind my students that though attending school was a duty, being in school and being more than ‘present’ was their responsibility, not only to themselves, but to our country. It meant being engaged in their learning. Continue reading UNITY: Rights and Responsibilities

We the people

It’s Constitution Day, again. This year it falls on a Saturday, so I won’t be celebrating with my students until Monday. In the meantime, I am reminded of the importance to share and celebrate today, even if I only catch the end of Saturday and post late in the evening.

one of the many buckeyes we rescued today at the softball field....
one of the many buckeyes we rescued today at the softball field….

Saturday is always a busy day, even if it is Saturday. The past several years we’ve spent our Friday nights watching a high school football game, but W, my football playing son, graduated from high school in May and is no longer on the team. So we don’t have to be at all of the games. We’ll still root for the Tigers, but we won’t catch all of the games. Besides, O, my softball playing daughter, had a softball game Friday night and we rooted her and her team on to a win.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” Preamble to the Constitution.

Seven Articles. Twenty-seven Amendments. 229 years and the framework is still valid. It still works. At the time, it was divisive. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay came together to collaborate on articles to influence the passage of the Constitution. These articles published anonymously are better known as the Federalist Papers and have been used by the Supreme Court justices to help decide many of the decisions they’ve handed down since the Constitution became the law of the land on June 21, 1788 when New Hampshire became the 9th of 13 states to ratify the Constitution. Virginia and New York, the two most populous states would become the 10th and 11th states to ratify the document before George Washington was elected our first president. North Carolina and Rhode Island would join the Union while Washington was in his first presidential term. By the time Washington made his farewell address in 1796, the Union would grow to 16 states with Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee joining the original 13 states.

But you don’t follow me to read Constitutional theory or even U.S. History, though it’s interesting. Just admit it, it’s okay. You click MtDc to find out what’s happening and read a little bit of positive in a world filled full of negativity. Continue reading We the people

Day 4: three days in

It’s officially the fourth day of my summer. It’s the last day of spring – if you’re a meteorologist, and I am headed back to school for the day.

the local VFW post carries the colors
the local VFW post presents the colors

The first three days of summer vacation – the weekend – flew past, as weekends tend to do, especially summer vacation weekends.

Saturday, W graduated and received his high school diploma.

Sunday all four of us, B, W, O, and I attended the Indy 500 – a family tradition on B’s side. It was our first race since 2012 and the 21st race I had seen. For W, it was # 9, O, – # 2, and for B – I don’t know the count but it is likely close to mine. B’s dad introduced the race to me when I moved to the Midwest in 1991. It was a good race and the winner went down to the wire – and ran out of fuel after the race was finished. It was a great day and we remembered B’s dad who, I am certain, was looking down on us and watching the race, too.

Monday was Memorial Day and O was in the parade. Actually, O is in the band that was in the parade, but that is a small distinction.

After the parade the kids – W and O went to the pool and B and I trimmed Ivy, then gave her a bath. She did not like the bath. It was clear by her howls, but she is clean and trimmed, for now. Continue reading Day 4: three days in

the face of determination

I am a week behind. Today’s post is inspired by last week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Face.

the doughboy's face says it all - determination
the doughboy’s face says it all – determination

Last Saturday I was at Cantigny, the former estate of Robert McCormick Chicago industrialist and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The estate is now open to the public and houses the First Division Museum, the McCormick Museum, and has many open gardens. McCormick was a colonel in the army during World War I and led troops in the First Division. After the war, he renamed his estate Cantigny after the town in northern France that his division had liberated in their first action. He served through the end of the war and returned to run the Chicago Tribune until his death in 1955.

I was at Cantigny for a professional development class, FDR’s “Forgotten Man” vs. Hoover’s “Rugged Individual.” The forum was offered through the Teaching American History organization. It was an amazing discussion and it gave me the energy for the final days of teaching American history to my eighth grade students. Last weekend there were nine days left in the school, now there are four days – two of which are celebration days and a final promotion event with awards and then, off to high school. Continue reading the face of determination

four more

It’s Saturday morning. The forecast is rain – by the time I finish writing it will be raining – and softball will be cancelled, again. O’s game Thursday was cancelled due to wet fields. It’s the same every year, April showers bring May flowers, and softball rainouts.

Last night, I stayed late at school and wrapped up the World War II unit. The WWII test is Monday and then we’ll find out just how much my students have actually learned about America’s involvement in the war. Since we returned from spring break it’s been more and more challenging to get their focus. Most of my students seem to be more focused on ‘four more’ and how many days are left than they are in making them count. It’s a ritual which plays out every year. It’s when I work the hardest.

truman_quote_WWII

April has been busy. We had our annual state testing the first two weeks right after break. After testing, we took a field trip to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. It was excellent and it helped many of our students understand the magnitude of the Holocaust. We study the Great Depression and World War II in social studies and they all read Night by Elie Wiesel in their English Language Arts classes. The last two weeks we’ve been learning about the war – I’ve used video clips from The War by Ken Burns and Band of Brothers to help, but the most significant clip I showed, was yesterday when I screened the video below. The Fallen of World War II from Neil Halloran on Vimeo.

It’s staggering to watch. Continue reading four more