Monday, March 31, 2014

Be Afraid

If my students are any indication, this April Fool's Day is going to be eventful! Here, in their own words, is a sampling of their schemes and dreams, plots and plans, conniving and contriving:

April also means april fools day!! Which means sugar and salt switching, fake rat on the pillowing, ketchup for blood clinic pass getting (haha i wish) and much more.

This year I'm planning in doing something really sneaky. I might change the clock by an hour, or change something to something else I guess.

TOMORROW IS APRIL FOOLS DAY! My favorite "bring your family together" day of the year! I can already feel my evil-ness coming through.

When I go to bed tonight, I will tell my family to watch their back. April Fools Day will be so much fun.
1. Wake up my mom by shooting her with my nerf gun.
2. Wake up my sister by spraying her with an unknown substance.

Tomorrow is April Fool's day! I'm going to trick my parents and my brother, but not my baby brother and sister. They wouldn't get it. Anyway, our family has a "Prank Week" every year, so I have a document on google docs with all the pranks I use. It's going to be so much fun!

The Frozen Bubble Gum Trick:
Blow a bubble.
Freeze the bubble in the freezer.
Take the bubble out of freezer after 15-20 minutes.
Stick the bubble in your mouth.
Then, tell people you just blew the strongest most unpoppable bubble in the history of the world. This one is my favorite.

The only thing I know I'm going to do is prank someone. Hopefully it will turn out successfully and no one will get hurt

Good plan.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Solving for X

People are sometimes surprised to learn that math was my favorite class in school. While I love the romance of ideas that is the humanities, particularly the artistry of expression in literature, it was always the unequivocal absolute of mathematics that I enjoyed most. Math was easy for me, too, and perhaps that is why I spurned it in favor of what I perceived as more complex. It is for that reason that I understand completely why the vast majority of students turns first to math when it comes to homework. They, too, are drawn to its clear-cut expectations and right or wrong answers.

I always enjoy helping them after school or in TA when they need it. Although teaching strategies have changed, the answers are still the same. And when the daily math challenge is presented on the morning announcements, I can barely contain myself from shouting out the answer. "Come on guys! Math WOW with me!" I exclaimed just the other day, when my homeroom seemed completely indifferent to determining the volume of a cube.

The last couple of weeks I have been tutoring a friend of ours who has gone back to college to finish her degree. She's taking algebra, and the hours we have spent solving and graphing equations have been so much fun that I actually thank her at the end of the session.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

For the Best

There was a wait of an hour fifteen minutes at the restaurant where we hoped to have dinner after the movie tonight. We gave them our name and number and headed back outside into the quiet rain to consider our options. Right across the plaza was another place that we had never heard of and they didn't look too crowded at all.

It could have gone either way. The place was more of a tavern, with a huge bar, high wooden booths, lots of basketball-filled flat screens, and some thumping nineties tunes on the sound system. I ordered the usual Saturday night dinner from when I was a kid-- steak, french fries, and salad-- and washed it down with a cold pint of draft beer, and when the first place texted, I replied with a satisfied Thanks anyway.

Friday, March 28, 2014


There were five minutes left before lunch when a small group of students gathered around my desk. They were finished their work and excitedly looking at some of the writing challenge prizes that they might win next week. They were also examining the interesting doodads I have. They love my word a day calendar, my twenty year egg, my Zen wishes box.

I was paying a little less attention to them, perhaps than I should, caught up as I was, in monitoring and commenting on their classmates' fiction pieces in progress. I heard a roar of laughter and then a guilty giggle. "We took a selfie with your phone!" one student immediately confessed. "Sorry."

Yes, my phone, too, had been sitting on my desk, and no, it wasn't locked.

My first reaction was to be annoyed, very annoyed. "Give me that!" I demanded. They handed me the phone. I looked at the screen.

How could anyone stay mad at that? What an epic portrait of exuberance!

Also-- how did that even happen without my noticing?

AND, they promised it would never happen again.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Romance

"It just makes me so sad," a friend of mine said yesterday. She had just finished a story about her sister who had confided that she was no longer in love with her husband; she wasn't really unhappy, and she had no plans to leave, she simply accepted that the passion was gone.

Certainly relationships change over time, and of course it can be worrisome. Just this evening Heidi came downstairs in the outfit she plans to wear to school tomorrow. "How does this look?" she asked. 

I glanced up from the cutting board. "Great!" I assured her.

"What would you think if you didn't know me?" she asked. It is a question I have answered many times before.

"Well, the blue in your sweater really makes your eyes pop," I answered, "so I would think, who is that with those pretty blue eyes and that great smile?"

"What would you do to get me?" she said.

I didn't hesitate. "I would find you the perfect dog, cook you all the vegan food you wanted, make fresh juice every morning, and pack your lunch every day," I replied.

She hugged me. "That would do it!" 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Auotbiography of a Student

When she wakes up in the morning, she is excited to go to class, mainly because she will spend the day with her friends. Lunch and the other breaks are definitely her favorite part of the day. In class, she is alert when she knows she might be called on and could probably answer a few questions correctly, and she participates good-naturedly in the group activities, but she is somewhat distracted by what she has to do once she leaves for the afternoon. To be honest? Next week most of the content covered will be a hazy memory.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Does it Bite?

I heard a fascinating piece on the radio this morning about using statistics to help find missing aircrafts. Of course it was part of the flight 340 coverage, but the specific case they cited was the 2009 Air France plane that disappeared in the South Atlantic. It seems that using Bayes' Theorem, a statistical model that can compute a likely outcome when there are many competing variables (like where a missing plane might be), can be helpful.

Coincidentally, I also read an article today about a company that plans to use the data gleaned by tracking kids' responses to computer programs to develop a complete educational profile and action plan for every student. Education happens to be today the most data-mineable industry by far,” says their CEO in this video. "Every single thing in education is correlated to something else."

No doubt, they, too plan to use some iteration of Bayes' ideas to develop their automated response to students' needs. To many, that approach may sound ideal, but Arnold Barnett, a statistician at MIT, included this disclaimer in the radio piece this morning, "Bayes Theorem can't find the plane, period. It can, at best, change the odds."

And in fact, when they applied the theorem to the Air France flight five years ago, they "eliminated huge swaths of ocean floor because nobody heard a signal from the plane's black boxes. But it turned out, against the odds, both of the black boxes were damaged." It took two years to find that plane.

In the words of Colleen Keller, the mathematician working on that case, "Sometimes the probabilities will turn around and bite you."

Look out kids!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Heaven Forbid

"How come the fourth quarter is so much longer than all the others?" a student asked me today when I mentioned that we would be officially three-quarters of the way through our school year in less than a week.

"It's not," I explained, "but we do have spring break in a few weeks, and that adds a little time."

"Really?" She looked at me quizzically. "Isn't it, like, four months?"

"No!" the whole class cried.

"It's not four full months, " I told her as her peers practically writhed in agony at the very thought. "We have just a week in March, then April, May, and part of June."

"Oh," she shrugged, "I thought we went to July."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Daughters of Triton

I recently read that, in what seems to be a trend these days, Sofia Coppola will direct a live-action version of The Little Mermaid. It is rumored to be closer to the original Hans Christian Anderson story, and so much darker than the 1989 Disney cartoon. A screen writer is quoted as saying, it is so beautiful and exquisite and painful, so we absolutely have to have the original ending.

Twenty odd years ago I found myself on a spacious front porch in suburbia with my brother, sister, and our cousin, Sandy. All the outdoor furniture had been pushed aside and a fisher-price cassette player stood at attention on the top step, as we did too. Sandy's 7-year-old daughter, Jennifer, was about to perform an interpretive roller skate routine to the soundtrack of The Little Mermaid.

It was a very expressive performance, and once I got the giggles out, it kind of made me consider the movie in a new light. Personally, I did not find the story of Ariel very moving, but it was plain that Jennifer felt differently. If that resonance was representative of her generation, I'm sure the new, grown-up, movie will be a big hit.

Jennifer is a successful consultant these days, having earned her MBA from Wharton a couple of years ago, but you better believe that doesn't stop us from teasing her about the goofy stuff she did when she was a kid. That little skate show, so beautiful and exquisite and painful, is right at the top of the list.

'Cause that's what cousins are for.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sunrise, Sunset

We took advantage of the springtime temperatures today to go for a walk. The National Mall and Tidal Basin were packed with like-minded folks, so on a whim I headed over to Haines Point, even though I hadn't been there in years.

IS this the pathway that I walked on?
Is this the place I rode my bike?

It was easy enough to find parking over near the NPS headquarters, although a golf ball from the public course across the way landed just a few yards from our car as we pulled in. We walked a short way over to the one-way road that horseshoes around the point and then crossed to the water.

I don't remember growing older.
When did it?

There was a clear high tide line in the grass leading down to the sidewalk that leads along the river. Obviously the point had been flooded over the winter. The cement of the walk way was in terrible condition. Huge gaps revealed the rebar and yawning holes beneath. Even so, there were quite a few other people strolling and fishing.

When did it get to be so broken?
When was it ever such a hike?

As we picked our way along the uneven trail, I was anxious to get to the end of the point, even though I knew The Awakening was long gone. Despite the beautiful weather and cheerful company, it started to seem like we would never get there. Finally we spied a playground and picnic area with lots of families enjoying the first real evening of spring. There the path turned back toward town, and we followed it back to our car as the sun sank lower in the western sky to our lefts.

Sunrise, sunset
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days

Friday, March 21, 2014

Like a Room without a Roof

Fantastic word today that Josh was accepted into the Corcoran School of Art with a pretty nice scholarship.

He and his parents will work out a separate financial aid package, but it looks like this prestigious, private school will probably end up being a better deal for his college education than the state school just down the road.

Everyone who cares about Josh is pretty tickled by the news; the congratulatory texts and emails and facebook posts have been flying all day.

I have to confess, though, that when I read his text this morning, it was definitely a bit of a paradigm shift:

accepted into the Corcoran with a $32k scholarship looks like im living with you guys!

But I quickly recovered and texted him back:

Yay! Congratulations!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mm Mm Mm

It was impossible to recover my right-before-lunch class for the last ten minutes after one student made a very lewd gesture. Although I asked him to step out into the hall to discuss that particular choice, and despite the fact that they had a pretty engaging activity (if I do say so myself), all anyone wanted to talk about was what did he do!? and what did it mean!?

Some students tried to shrug it off and play it cool. "What?" said one boy. "There's nothing bad about that. It just means one girl likes another girl." Although I appreciated his open mind, I informed him that he was misinformed, and tried again to move on.

I was still a little grumpy a few minutes later when three of my female colleagues joined me for lunch, but at least I had a good story. We rolled our eyes and giggled as I told the entire tale, ending with that other student's remark. "I guess he was sort of on the right track," I shrugged.

"Hey now!" said one of the other teachers, "No need to be so limited! No need at all."

Oh my! My jaw dropped, and I can not remember the last time I blushed so hot and so red, but the four of us almost fell out of our chairs laughing.

Which is probably why we are middle school teachers.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


One of the first things I learned when I started teaching is that fair and equal are not synonyms. Perhaps Dr. Richard Curwin, co-author of Discipline with Dignity and contributor to EduTopia, can explain:

Students are not the same. They have different motivations for their choices, different needs, different causes for misbehavior and different goals.

No one would go to a doctor who treats all headaches the same, since the cause for one may be allergies and the other a tumor. Identical treatment for two students who don't do homework for different reasons -- one who has to help at the family business after school, and one who watches too much television -- is no different than that crazy doctor with the single cure for all headaches.

These days, though, there is a hard push toward standardization of everything school-related. Not only are teachers and administrators encouraged, or even required, to treat every student the same in regard to discipline and achievement, but we are also being herded into systems that require considerable homogenization of our teaching practice.

Today a presentation on the merits of common formative assessment was made to our staff by some of our colleagues as part of a school-wide book study. It was a well-intentioned overview of chapter 2, and one of the powerpoint slides offered a couple of definitions of the word "common."

One was, collective, communal, and the other was familiar, popular, general.

All very warm and fuzzy, but as an English teacher I know that's only part of the story. I was struck by the definitions they left out:

ordinary, average, unexceptional

not to mention

uncouth, vulgar, coarse, unrefined, unsophisticated

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March Madness

Perhaps you've heard? Warren Buffet is offering a billion dollars to anyone who picks a perfect bracket for this year's NCAA tournament. (Don't worry-- those two 16th seed play-in spots are not included.) Even so, the odds, they say, are 1 in 128 billion.

If you are so inclined, you can do a little research to find out just how slim your chances are (the same as flipping heads 37 times in a row, for example), but I have another question. What would you do with a billion bucks? Or, if you take it in a lump sum, 500 million bucks, minus 39.6%? That seems practically unspendable to me, but perhaps my tastes are too simple?

I confess that I did enter the contest... fingers crossed I'll be able to answer that last question myself.

Anything is possible

until Thursday.

Monday, March 17, 2014


My dad was neither a good eater nor an accomplished cook, but he did have a few culinary specialties. On Saturday morning he would fry bacon and cut up oranges into eighths for us to eat while we watched cartoons. Later, when he took us grocery shopping for the week, store brand sodas were 10 for a dollar so each of us got to choose three and he picked the tenth. (It was always cream soda or root beer.)

We drank the sodas on nights when my mom was out at one of her meetings or another. Then, my dad would make popcorn on the stove and serve it with plenty of salt and butter in the biggest bowl we had. He set it in the middle of the three of us on the floor in front of the TV, and we would crunch and munch and wash it down with ice cold soda straight from the can. When the popcorn was gone, the unpopped kernels languished in a little puddle of butter and salt at the bottom of the bowl until it was wiped away one little fingerful at a time.

I took advantage of that one more unexpected snow day we had today to pop some corn over the fire. When it was done, I poured it in my big bowl, a twin to the one my dad used, and sat down on the floor in front of the fire to crunch and munch and enjoy the warmth, both of the fire and of the memory of those long ago evenings.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Silver Palate

Finding a table for a party of six at 7:30 on a Saturday night can be tricky in these parts. Most of the places we checked had at least a 90 minute wait, but then for some reason I recalled a review I had read a few years back about a Burmese restaurant in the area. The description of the menu, 200+ dishes that would take you on a gastronomic tour of Myanmar, had stuck with me, and I'd been meaning to try it for some time.

When I called, I could hear the clamor and clank of a busy Saturday service over the phone, but they told me that they could probably seat us in 30 minutes, so off we went. A few minutes later we found ourselves in front of a storefront in a strip mall. The sign either didn't work, or was turned off, but we pushed in through the standard plate glass door and waited for a six top to open.

I'm lucky to live in such a diverse area with so many ethnic restaurants to choose from. As kind of a foody, though, it's been a while since I have experienced anything completely unfamiliar as far as cuisine is concerned. That all changed when I took a look at the menu as I waited.

Myanmar is bordered by Thailand and Malaysia to the south, Laos and China to the East, and India and Bangladesh to the North. Consider, for a moment, the intersection of all those cuisines. Can't do it? Neither could I. Add to that my lack of experience with anything Burmese (except the python and Aung San Suu Kyi) and you might have an idea of how clueless I felt approaching the menu.

The six of us blundered through, though, and we had food that ranged from the sublime to something my brother politely spit into his napkin. It was both interesting and frustrating, and on the way home, Heidi asked me if I'd ever eat there again. "No way!" I told her and went on to explain my disappointment.

Later, though, I took a second look at the review I'd read so long ago. They had said that some dishes were uneven, and they had also provided a primer for the inexperienced. Two of the dishes we liked, ginger salad and chicken coconut soup, were on that list, but there were several others that we had not tried.

Oh all right! I'll go back.

What kind of a foodie would I be anyway to dismiss an entire cuisine after one try?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Spice of Life

I can honestly say that I don't mind 60 degree weather one day and a possible snowstorm the next.

Bring it!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wearin o' the Green

Was it just last year that St. Patrick's day was on a Sunday and April Fools a teacher work day? Talk about luck of the Irish-- in middle school, those have got to be two of the silliest days on the calendar, and missing them both in a single year? Brilliant!

This year, though? We're up da spout, lads, and St. Paddy's day is Monday. In an effort to prevent as much pinchin' as possible, I've loaded up on green pipe cleaners and beads, so that anyone who wants to court a little luck can fashion themselves a wee emerald charm.

If not? I recommend this little blessing:

May your neighbors respect you,
Trouble neglect you,
The angels protect you,
And heaven accept you.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


It was windy when I left school this evening. The 50 mph gusts that had our light poles swaying earlier in the day had given way to calmer, but more sustained wind. As I crossed the parking lot, my eye caught a flash of buff and auburn against the blustery blue sky to my right.

It was hawk. At first I thought perhaps it was on the hunt, the way it powered its mighty wings into the wind, and then let go to soar like a glider on the upgusts. I watched it for a while, curious about its quarry, wondering what possible meal could be scurrying across the windblown asphalt.

The longer I looked though, the clearer it became that this hawk?

Just catching air, dude!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It Takes Two

My students are pairing up for a collaborative writing project over the next couple of weeks, so today I had them "interview" prospective partners and then submit their requests to me, along with a rationale as to why this particular duo would be a good match-up. Before they go to work, each proposal has to be approved by me.

Most kids pick their friends, which is hardly surprising; I know what I do when put in a similar situation. Still, I like to know what they're thinking when they consider the endeavor ahead; it can be very enlightening, and in some cases it helps me to explain why I haven't approved a certain partnership.

Today I laughed out loud when I read the following explanation:

I know he's a slacker, but he's got a BIG imagination!

That about sums it up-- seems like that student knows the risks and advantages, too.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

State of Mind

Perhaps I spoke too soon when I proclaimed a near truce in my decades-long battle with Daylight Savings Time...

(Actually its real name is Daylight Saving Time, or even more accurately, Daylight-saving Time; for a full discussion on this topic, click here.)

Anyhoo, even if I feel like my own personal transition to the abominable time change has been relatively painless this year, over the past couple of days there has been compelling evidence otherwise.

Exhibit 1: My own sister's comment on this very blog: I believe it is the karmic balance effect. It is killing me!

Exhibit 2: No fewer than 15 students have mentioned oversleeping or being verrrry tired in school in the last two days. Some kids can barely pick their heads up off the desks until third period!

Exhibit 3: From the mouths, or rather the keyboards, of children, here's what one of my students posted today:

Now, we have to get up an hour earlier, so I'm not 100% sure about school, and the teacher's state of mind. They're now probably not getting the right amount of sleep every night, what with staying up grading papers all night. 

He's right! What was I thinking? DST-- you still suck!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Not the Dinner I Planned

"How are you doing?" a colleague asked me after school today.

"Oh, fine," I told her.

"That's good!" she said, but then added "Really?"

"Well, you know," I shrugged and gestured to my empty classroom and sighed.

She knew what I meant. "We have an expression in our family," she said and told me the story of a time when a dear friend of theirs had a business meeting near where her in-laws lived.

They generously offered to put him up, and he brought her son and his along for a couple days. As it happened, the three were delayed getting on the road, and then one thing led to another, so by the time they arrived, it was quite late and her mother-in-law was standing at the door, arms crossed. "We're finally here!" the friend exclaimed.

"Well," said her mother-in-law, "it's not the dinner I planned."

But it was the dinner she served.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Going Gentle into that Good Night

Maybe all the time off we've had lately has left me well-rested, or maybe my fighting spirit has been dulled by all the slings and arrows and outrageous indignities of education reform, or maybe it's something else, but Daylight Savings Time?

Not too bad this year.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Constellations of Crows

Sometimes I imagine I hear them even when the sky is empty.

They must have many places to roost, because the crows who gather in these gray and blue winter evenings are neither daily, nor even weekly, visitors to the tall trees right across the way. When they do assemble, though, hundreds of birds band the branches, and it's thrilling to watch the woods fill up with crows. Arriving boisterously in small mobs, each influx disrupts those who have come before, and black clouds rise and resettle raucously until night finally falls, and the congregation stills.

Friday, March 7, 2014

In Praise of March

As I've mentioned before, March brings the annual Slice of Life Challenge. A month-long blogging challenge originally sponsored by Two Writing Teachers starting in 2008, it is not only the reason I post every day, but it has also inspired the writing challenge my students are participating in right now. AND, for the fifth year in a row, the other three members of my writing group have braved the contest as well, pledging to write regularly throughout the month.

Reading what they have to say is like unwrapping a little present every day. Our lives are so busy and we are too often preoccupied with details both large and small that prevent us from genuinely connecting. Just a paragraph or two shines enough light to span the time and distance between us. 

Write on.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I saw a former student at the grocery store yesterday; he was working as a bagger. He greeted me heartily and asked if I was still at the same school.

"Yep," I assured him.

"You must see my mom all the time then!"

I was stumped. "Who's your mom?" I asked.

"The cafeteria lady!" he told me. "She's been there for a few  years."

I don't really get down to the cafeteria very much at all, and I sheepishly reminded him that my room was tucked away in a corner where I don't often see many people.

He smiled agreeably, but an awkward silence fell as the cashier finished ringing up my order. "Did your mom enjoy her days off because of the snow?" I asked brightly, in an attempt to end the conversation on a happy note.

"Not really," he said. "If she doesn't work, she doesn't get paid, and she needs the money."

I nodded sympathetically, wished him well, and pushed my cart full of groceries toward my car. I don't think I'll ever look at snow days quite the same way again.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Haircuts

It was the worst of haircuts.

I decided to make good use of my time off yesterday and get a quick haircut. While I am a bit picky about my hair, I've found that in general it is very forgiving. Most cuts look fine, and I can usually go a couple months before it is really really time for a trim. This was one of those occasions-- the static electricity that is so common in winter had only exacerbated my fly aways and split ends. So off I went to a budget salon not too far from my home.

When I entered, they were not very busy, but they still made me sit for a few moments and wait. After a little while, one of the stylists huffed up to the counter. "What does she want?" she asked the cashier, as if I weren't three feet away. "Cut and blow dry? I guess I can do that while she's processing." She jerked her head at a woman with foil in her hair reading a magazine.

I did not have a good feeling when she called me by name and beckoned me to her chair. I told her I wanted a similar cut to what I had, and that it had been a few months since my last trim. "Do you want go for the supreme moisturizing package?" she asked. "Since your hair is processed."

"My hair isn't processed," I said with irritation.

"Oh. I didn't think you were a natural blond," she shrugged.

I should have bailed then, but 20 minutes later I left with a weird greasy haircut, practically in tears. I know I should have demanded my "smile back guarantee", but looking in the mirror, all I wanted to do was flee.

It's not like I haven't had an unsettling experience at the salon before-- I know you get what you pay for-- but as I've said, my hair is much more forgiving than I am. In the past, I might go home and wash my hair and dry it myself, and leave it at that, but this time, the travesty seemed insurmountable, so much so, that I drove to another place and presented my abominable locks to them.

It was the best of haircuts.

The hair care professional there was much more amenable-- she talked to me a good five minutes and showed me pictures on a flip chart to be sure she understood what I wanted.

What I wanted was a change. She cut my hair much shorter than it's been in quite a while, and I really like it. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Slice of Life Challenge FTW

Today (despite having a snow day) one of my students posted the following slice:

Yesterday, I went sledding after playing Madden 25 ultimate team. We went to Thomas Jefferson to go sledding. I had to push my dad down the hill, then I had to jump on to my dad's back. That did not work so well. Then we left early, because it was too cold! Then we went to Z-Burger. Yummy bacon cheeseburger with barbecue sauce. The burger tasted like someone sliced up heaven and let me eat it. I got lots of cold allegires on my back, arms, and legs. I couldn't sleep at all last night. By the way, I'm First!

To which I replied:

First again! My favorite line:
The burger tasted like someone sliced up heaven and let me eat it.
Nice writing!

To which he replied:

Figurative language FTW

Look at that! This little writing challenge is already working its magic.

(FTW? It means For The Win!)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Test of Time

"Was this nominated for any Oscars?" Josh asked.

We were spending a snowy afternoon watching The Sixth Sense. After spending three hours driving home from our awesome Oscar-party-at-the-beach through winter storm "Titan," and some more significant time on the phone trying to figure out if Josh's bus was running (those Greyhound folks are cagey when the weather turns... a crackling fire hot enough to pop corn and a movie seemed like a great idea.

Josh chose the flick. Years ago, when he and Treat were 8 or 9, and Riley was only a few years older, we spent a rainy August afternoon on Lake Erie baking cookies and watching movies. We had The Sixth Sense with us, along with some Star Wars and Pixar classics. "How about this one?" I asked.

I guess I was thinking about what a good movie it is and, of course, the epic twist, and perhaps my mouth was ahead of my brain. I back-pedaled. "It's kind of scary, though, we could watch something else."

"I saw part of it once," Josh chimed in. "It will make your eyes bleed!"

We ended up watching it, and although no one was scarred for life, I'm not sure any of us really enjoyed it, at least not fully. Today was a different story, though.

"I think it was nominated for a bunch," I said, skimming back across all those Oscar parties, then diving as deep as I could into the one 14 years ago. "Let's look it up."

It turns out that The Sixth Sense was shut out that year, despite nods for best supporting actor and actress, directing, original screenplay, and best picture. In many of the categories, including the top honors, it came up short to American Beauty. "What were they thinking?" I sighed.

A little while later, I wiped a tear as the credits rolled, and flipped to the onscreen guide for a suitable follow up. Believe it or not? American Beauty was playing. "Let's watch that," said Josh. 

"Really?" I shot him a skeptical look.

"Yeah!" he answered. "I heard it's better than The Sixth Sense!"

AND that lasted for maybe 10 minutes.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

So that big storm that's on its way? Sleet, ice, snow, stay off the roads and all that? Well it has hit at what some might say is an inconvenient time for us. We're supposed to pack up and go home tomorrow, but if the forecast holds, that might be impossible.

All day we've wrestled individually and collectively with this dilemma. Of course the responsible thing would have been to head home this afternoon to ensure that we would be safely there before the weather hits, but that plan would have made us miss the very thing we came down here for-- our Oscar party!

So, we've decided to hunker down here, bay side, and deal with the conditions that greet us when we rise in the morning. If we need stay an extra day? So be it. If we can get home? We will. School has already been canceled and we have plenty of firewood and food-- let the ceremony begin!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Let Evening Come

It wasn't long after the car was unpacked and our rooms chosen that we hit the beach. This year we decided to kick our Oscar Party up a notch and rent a place on the Chesapeake Bay just a couple of hours from home. The day had been sunny, but by the time we arrived it was growing late, and the light on the beach was almost as blue as the water.

This area is known for sea glass and fossils, and as much as I wanted to stretch my legs and walk briskly enough into the wind to warm away its chill, the long stretches of pristine sand and the piles of polished pebbles, broken shells, and other treasures were too tempting for me to simply stroll past. The dogs ran up and back at least ten times while I walked slowly, head bent, eyes scouring those caches deposited by the bay. 

I know better. Such a walk is never relaxing;  I can't shake the certainty that I'm missing something, and the truth is, I am missing something, something that sharpest eyes in the world wouldn't help me find.