Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Berry Picking

Went berry picking today at Pappy's with Mom and Collin and I got to thinking about how people are a lot like strawberries--more on that later though. Posted a few pictures to flickr if you want to see more of the beautious berries!

Now, I'm wondering if I have the guts to tackle making jam. Do you? Make jam that is? Someone once told me that "freezer jam" is easy to make. I have no idea what freezer jam is, but I went ahead and bought a package of Sure Jell and some mason jars today thinking it might be a fun cooking adventure. Of course, it's all fun and games until someone gets botulism and throws up, right? Just kidding, I'll boil the jars!

In fact that might be a fun project to do while Collin and I wait for friends to arrive. My girlfriend Kristin and her kids are driving down from Tallahassee. We're going to have a good old-fashioned game night with the kids (complete with basket of prizes from the dollar bins at Michael's)! Then fire up the fire pit, sit outside under the stars and make smores as we ring in the New Year! I have spent more time with old friends and family this school vacation than I have in a long time and I have to say it sure feels good. What about you? How are you ringing in the New Year?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Wishes

Christmas is wish time isn't it? I'm wishing you peace this holiday season--peace and the still contentment that comes with it. Isn't this a gorgeous snowflake? My friend Jennifer has them hanging from the German chandelier she has over her dining room table. When she had kids over for a cookie decorating party, I couldn't resist snapping a few shots of the chandelier. I love how her chandelier defines her home--she and Hector got it as a wedding gift from her parents. They'd lived in Germany and this was a piece of that growing up that she and Hector could take into their lives together. When Jenn moved this past summer she told me that no matter where they live or where they move, the chandelier is the first thing to get unpacked and hung up. I just love that and I love sparkle of the tear drop crystals in the afternoon sun. Those sparkles are what laughter and love is made of--the sounds of kids laughing and playing--grandparents visiting and feasts cooking. Our holidays have sparkled just like that this year--thought I'd post a few of the pictures.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Circuitous Morning

This morning I came across this video that twitter friend, Alec Couros posted, Fifty, People, One Question: Where would you like to wake up in the morning? Reminding me of the Your 3 Words piece, this video captures peoples' dreams and something of their essence in the way it was shot--the videographer must have a great lens.

Fifty People, One Question: Brooklyn from Crush & Lovely on Vimeo.

The video led me courosa's twitter page which led me to headmutha's which led me to Mothers Fighting for Others (MFFO). I love early morning discoveries like this one. From an innocuous video I take a circuitous route and find an organization of Mom's working to change the world--made my day and made think about how I'm using my time. Collin and I will be heading out to buy underwear this morning to send off to the MFFO's Underwear for Africa project. All we have to do is send unopened underwear to:

MFFO Underwear For Africa
27943 Seco Canyon RD #533
Santa Clarita, CA 91350

I'm ever mindful of getting Collin involved in service. He is too young to volunteer with me at Give Kids the World, but I think he's getting to be old enough to understand the needs of the world. Underwear is certainly something he understands. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Dancing

Couldn't resist posting the Larke Family elf dance. Though I just mailed my Christmas cards and I haven't finished my shopping, I found time to play around today--it's good to be on school vacation!

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Project 4 Awesome

Project 4 Awesome is the brain child of Hank and John Green. John Green being the award winning young adult novelist--author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines and his latest, set in Winter Park, Paper Towns. Hank Green being the Eco Geek and my former student. I didn't put the two together until I read the acknowledgments at the end of Paper Towns. When Lee, Christine and I were at the ALAN reception at NCTE, I took a picture of John for Lee. She mentioned he was from Winter Park and asked if I'd taught him. I couldn't imagine forgetting a student, much less one that became a writer I look forward to reading, so I just said I hadn't taught him and kept on going.

Then I finished Paper Towns and when I read John's thank you to Hank, I had a light bulb moment. I could see Hank's writing in my homemade yearbook from my last year at WPHS. I texted my friend, Lee, John Green fan that she is. She texted me back. The back and forth continued. I found the yearbook the next day in my classroom and indeed, it was Hank. The Hank I remembered from my senior gifted English class; I was a 5th year teacher when I had him. I was the age he is now. I am such a different teacher now and of course, the first thought I had was had I done him justice?

My old yearbook led me to looking him up online. Lee had mentioned the Vlogbrothers, so I looked them up and found Project for Awesome. What a thing he and John have created in Project for Awesome. What a team and a coming together--it truly is getting the fish to swim in the same direction, if just for a moment. Powerful. For one day, their Nerdfighters and other followers, rate, favorite and comment like crazy on videos posted about charities. They comment tirelessly in order to take over YouTube's most discussed list. Finding Hank Internet famous and doing swimmingly made me want to participate in his Project Awesome. I shared the story with my current students and we decided to pull together our pictures from volunteering at Give Kids the World. We pulled the video and sound together and posted it to YouTube.

The brothers took turns live on pointing the people to videos. Comments swarmed. Literally, a few of the videos I participated in would move from 100 or so comments to 4,000 in less than an hour. It reminded me of how Crichton wrote about flock and swarm behavior in Prey. Amazing. In the process I looked Hank up on Skype. Sure enough, found him.

Project for Awesome took over the most discussed list on YouTube at 9:06-- quite a phenomena. I learned a lot today. Definitely a pink stone day. That and I got to skype chat with Hank--pink stone all the way. Strong work, Hank and John, strong work.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Snapshots from NCTE

If I were a better blogger, I would have captured my thinking during NCTE. I did, but it's trapped in my journal or stuck in bits and pieces in my twitter stream. I've been processing. Mulling things over. I haven't wanted to rush to write this time.

I didn't, however, want to let another week go by without posting pictures. Pictures of friends and the sites we saw in between and after the daily sessions.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My First Turkey & Mom's Altered Book

My First Turkey

I cooked my first turkey for about 25 senior hikers. The group of seniors were on a walking tour of the Continental Divide and they’d requested a full fledged, American Thanksgiving dinner once they arrived back at the ranch. They were from London.
Working as a wrangler and all-purpose ranch hand, I was 25 and from Florida. I’d never cooked a turkey in my life, much less one for more than 25 folks. The grocery store was 2 hours away—down the mountain in Creede. I made a list and B.K. went to gather the goods. I figured I’d make turkey, green bean casserole, scalloped potatoes, yeast rolls and a green salad. Sound good?

On the day of the great turkey feast, I found myself in the kitchen with Michelle, the rancher’s 16 year-old niece, also a wrangler, who worked with me. She was peeling potatoes while I tried to figure out how to light the gas ovens. The ranch kitchen, recently remodeled, housed 3 gas refrigerators and two gas stoves. I needed to light the pilot light on the stoves in order to get the ovens heating.

Click. Click. Click. My lighter just wasn’t doing the job. I could faintly hear the blue, whoosh of the gas, so I new that there was fuel to light, I just couldn’t get it to light. Click. Click. “Let me try it,” Michelle interrupted. Click. Click. Nothing. Next to the fireplace in the lodge, we kept long stem matches. Probably as long as my forearm, I figured I could light a match and then stick it right into that old hissing pilot light.

The gas had been going for a while.

I lit the match. “Lee Ann, maybe…”

Whoooosh! A ball of fire shot out of the oven and hit me in the face. It was gone just as quickly as it appeared –I wasn’t hurt, but I was quite surprised.

“Well, it’s lit now,” I declared turning to face Michelle.

“Are you … oh my gosh,” she dissolved into laughter.

“What? What?”

“Your eyebrows!”

The big woosh had taken care of all of my facial hair and a good part of my bangs. No eyebrows, no eye lashes and as a matter of fact, I didn’t have to worry about my mustache for weeks.

Needless to say, the turkey came out fine.

Thanksgiving through Collin's Eyes

How many Thanksgivings? How many turkeys? How many loaves of dilly bread? How many scrabble games? How much laughter? How much love? During hard times in college I used to tell myself "just hang on until Thanksgiving...if you can just hang on" and I would and then I would go home. Mom's love would save me every time. Those days were long ago, but the power of my Mom continues. She cooked this year and Collin and I enjoyed Thanksgiving hanging out at Meme and Papa's. Collin picked up my camera at one point in the evening and took a bunch of pictures (enough to fill the memory card!). These are the best of his pictures--I couldn't help but think of the 7-year-old perspective as I watched them put together.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Give Kids the World

Originally uploaded by spillarke
Great "Christmas" Thursday volunteering at Give Kids the World with students. Give Kids the World is a place where "kids rule!" Founded by Henri Landwirth, Holocaust survivor, Give Kids the World is a vacation resort for children battling life threatening conditions. Families, through the Make a Wish and other foundations that serve children with life threatening illnesses, stay at the Village for a week. The week is filled with theme parks and happy memory making. Thursday evening is Christmas in the Village. It is my favorite day/evening to serve. Though I usually do face painting, yesterday I marched in the Christmas parade with my students. Twenty five angels strong, it was quite a Wonderland parade! Simply fantastic.

Now here's my plug... if you are looking for a place to give this holiday season, I would encourage you to look into Give Kids the World. The Village runs on volunteers, filling over 1,000 shifts a week. They can use your time, your talent and yes, even your treasure. To donate directly visit their website.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Camera Finds!

Camera Finds!
Originally uploaded by spillarke
Enjoyed Sunday at Renniger's with Erin. What fun we had poking around the antiques! Erin found a great old globe and a wrought iron bird cage. I want to go back, like today! I found these two cameras--I love the accordion camera. It was and still could be were I to find film a postcard camera. This coming weekend is the Antique Extravaganza... should I go?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Collin and I have been reading about presidents this week. Grace for President and So You Want to Be President? are our favorites. These lines from latter moved me tonight:

"Every President was different form every other and yet no woman has been President. No person of color has been President. No person who wasn't a Protest or a Roman Catholic has been President. But if you care enough, anything is possible."
If you care enough, anything is possible.

This morning we got up early and went to the neighborhood polling place. I thought that if we got in line early, we'd be set. We arrived around 6:10 a.m. and were maybe 125 people from the front. I'm glad we went early because by 6:30 there were probably 300 people behind us in line. It took us about 90 minutes. We voted! I penciled in my hope, my contribution to history. My prayers are with the candidates and all of those that care enough to participate in our democracy.
Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat, but it's something you do. You participate.
Abbie Hoffman

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Line's Up Here, Boys

The Line's Up Here, Boys
Originally uploaded by spillarke
Collin's first football game, a winner. Actually the game was tied at the end, but if they're having fun everyone's winning. Collin is on a team with several boys we know. Here's a clip of he and Robert lined up a little too far back!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Birthday Fezzes

Collin, Dan
Originally uploaded by spillarke
I will never forget the afternoon my parents and I spent trying to figure out how to make a fez. One afternoon Collin and I were playing on the floor with his plush Sassy stacking cups. I loved the bold colors and geometric designs and thought something like, Hmmm, this would make a cool birthday fez. Once I said it out loud, my Dad was on it. he sat down at the kitchen table with an old newspaper and started trying to figure out a pattern for a fez. Mom and I joined him and we cut and wrapped and taped and laughed. We figured it out and I went immediately to Michael's and bought supplies. We soon had a dozen fezzes in a variety of colors and themes. I love them--they are fun to wear and fun to make. When my girlfriend, Beth's daughter turned 1, I was surprised (and delighted) when she asked me to make Hope birthday fezzes. Her daughter, Hope, enjoyed all things fuffy and soft (feather boas and velvet trims) and so for her first birthday she got some totally tricked out birthday fezzes.

Guess what?

People are selling party hats on Esty. Birthday hats! Perusing the web this morning, I came across a cool blog, Sweet Mady's Paper and was taken in by the birthday finds posting. This just makes me think more and more about the whimsy shop I want to open on Etsy... we'll see.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Want to Play?

I'm not much of a gamer. My rounds of Pac-Man in a neighborhood Pizza Hut probably would never qualify me as a top scorer, but I used to enjoy it. I have almost no idea how to work the controls on Collin's PlayStation; truth be told some of the graphics are too fast for me. I think they might even give me a headache. So, I don't play videogames much. Through my twitter network, I happened upon Jumbli last week. (I love learning from my PLN!)
Have you played it yet? It's like scrabble, but with floating letters that look like lotto balls. You create a word and text it to the Jumbli number, 87884. Once it receives your word it remakes it on the screen. Eventually, you "go live" and the words you send in flash on the Jumbli billboard in Times Square. Collin and I played over the weekend. Okay, I kept saying I would let him text the word, but I never actually handed over the phone. Sheesh, let me try it was what I was thinking. Next time I'll do a better job of sharing. It's a fun game and one that I could see using in class for word play. Of course then we'd have to acknowledge that our cell phones can be tools for learning, right?

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Okay, so closets are not the bane of my existence, but they certainly could be described as a surly sticking point. I'm too busy to organize closets. Who isn't? I would always rather do something else! Cluttered and jumbled, many of the closets in our house probably function as dust bunny habitats. A few weeks ago, Rick and I reorganized the master closet. I painted; he added shelves. It came out well and it's so nice to go in there in the morning and actually find clothes that fit me. I even have a step stool--definitely recommended for the vertically challenged.

Today I decided to tackle the office/studio closet. I filled 3 contractor grade garbage bags with stuff. Junk I hadn't used or looked at in who knows how long. My motto today? Just pitch it! Thought I'd take a picture and share, since the doors are off you can really see all the cleeeaan space! I don't think I've seen the floor in that closet for three yearsCollin and I keep a word wall on the doors, but the sticky notes were falling off, so I painted the doors with magnetic paint. They will be ready to rehang tomorrow perhaps.

The guest room closet is next.Beware, it's pretty ugly! My goal? Clear the floor!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spiritual Things

This past week was at the St. Luke's womens' retreat in St. August, we talked about "living intentionally" and shared a few favorite verses.

I have a few verses marked in my Bible, but I haven't committed to any. I do have a favorite hymn from my childhood--from Sundays spent in Catholic Mass, the refrain goes something like this: "Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest." It's a reminder to me, that things will work out and that someone has always gone before me--that I am never alone. As a woman I fight that--the following along kind of thing. I want to be in control. I want to make my own plan. I want to be in charge or demanding like the speaker in this poem...

Rick Armstrong shared this clip with us at the womens' retreat. Rather striking I thought.


(click the picture to see the details; it's pencil)

My son has been making voting posters--unprompted posters mind you. We do watch the morning news each day, but Rick and I don't talk much politics with or in front of Collin. The other day I was working on something before school when he came into my office/studio and said "Look Mom I made a 'don't vote for McCain' poster!" In typical Collin style, he featured a stick man mid page with scribble-scrabble messy hair. Above the figure he wrote: "Don't vote for McCain!" (spelled mecain) Then he noted that McCain would raise taxes by many, many dollars (he kept upping the amount actually as we talked about it, erasing and rewriting). He got into the sling thing by writing "Not nice. So mean. So very mean." and such in the left margin and pointing arrows at the stick McCain. When I asked him why he didn't like McCain he said he didn't think he was very nice because he wants to keep the war going and we have to pay for his health insurance. I tried to reasoning him into more specfics but we got hung up on health insurance. Definitely a hearty issue. Seven year old wisdom for sure, but it certainly sounds like he's been listening to someone or something.

Collin's voting posters (he's since made one promoting Obama) reminded me of friend Kelly's post featuring the Don't Vote video from YouTube--thought I'd include it here in case you missed it.

her blog last week: Don't Vote. Don't miss it--it's one to get you thinking.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Cock Fight

Our two roosters got into it the other day in the coop, so I had to let one loose. now Old Salty is hanging out in the yard with Clovis. Poor Clovis was nearly hen pecked bald-headed. Sometimes it seems like the chickens are showing me a thing or two about relationships. Wish I were a faster learner.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Just Delightful

I love being an honorary "Ellis sister." I have a brother, but no "real" sisters. I met Kristin Ellis at Eckerd's Drug Store. I was in the 11th grade. A senior, she'd started working at Eckerds before I did--she seemed glamourous. We've been friends since. Kristin has two sisters whom I adore. They are such fun women that every time I see them I wonder why I haven't seen them sooner?!

Last weekend Rick, Collin and I had dinner with Stacy, Erin and her family. Erin's husband, Jeff, is the fireman whose station we toured last December.

Erin, Stacy and I sat on the back porch, sipped wine and shared. Like me, Erin's been thinking more about doing things that matter like spending time with people you love. She's even taking guitar lessons! How did we all get so distracted by work? How nice is it to just sit and talk? To just be-- it was delightful, I can tell you.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Surfing at the Mall

Yes, you can surf at the Mall in Orlando. Adrenalina, a store in the Florida Mall, has a wave rider. For $20 (and the cost of a towel if you forgot one) you can surf or boogie board! Rick and I surprised Collin one Sunday with a ride. Check out that smile!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Such a Chicken

I spent a little time exploring Second Life tonight. I visited ISTE Island, Literature Alive! and a few other spots in-world. I took a balloon tour. I jumped. I read billboards. I explored. I was showing a teacher friend with whom I'm staying for a conference Second Life and telling her about going to virtual workshops in-world. I wanted to find a place with people talking, so that she could get the full experience, but I didn't happen across any people. My friend went to bed, but I kept exploring, flitting here and there (literally teleporting is the command in Second Life) when I finally came across a group of people talking.

There were at least 3 voices, 2 men and a woman and they were talking about how you control the movements of your avatar. I thought, Yes! finally a conversation that I can learn something from! But where are the people? My mini-map in-world told me that they were next to me. Really, my "you are here" yellow dot was surround by the green life dots of other in-worlders, but where were they? I spun around. I looked up? I walked to what looked like the edge of a deck. I couldn't find them. Finally I flew. I like flying in Second Life because I can see more from the air. Once airborne, I realized I was above the people. They were inside a ground floor room that was open to the outside which was why I could hear them. I relaxed. I landed on the roof. I kept listening. In the middle of their conversation about camera controls, I heard one say,
"There's someone on the roof."

Someone on the roof I thought spinning around I looked as I felt my heart rate kick up a notch. I spun around looking. There wasn't anyone on the roof--well, anyone but me that is. I was on the roof. And of course I'd felt quite safe on the roof listening to this conversation. Suddently, another voice said, "we can aim our cameras and see up on the roof, then." And that was all it took. My heart sped up and I quickly escaped.

Click,click, I X'd out of the program and ran into the next room here (in real life) laughing about my close call. My close call as a Second Life wall flower. You'd think it would be easier to meet virtual people than it is real live, but it isn't. You'd think you could just strike up a conversation and say, "hello!" Not me. I am such a chicken!

And the cherry on top? When I go back in-world, I will reappear right where I was. Poof, she's there. Poof, she's gone. Let's just hope that when I do go back, I'll introduce myself, right?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


We have eggs! The Spice Chickens
  • Basil (a.k.a. Yoda),
  • Cinammon,
  • Nutmeg,
  • Honey,
  • Sugar, and
  • Old Salty
are finally laying. We are aiming for routine egg collection. It's like we're egg addicts or something, always checking the nesting box for any incoming eggs. We check in the morning after our walk, after school and in the evening time. My fear is we'll miss an egg or too and develop "egg stick" in the chicken tractor. You know with 90 + degree weather it can't be good for an egg to sit around all day waiting to be collected, can it?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

It's Nothing

We have a little mold where the water came in during Tropical Storm Fay. We think we can just cut out that portion of drywall, replace it and then redo that section of molding. That should . Honestly, it's nothing. Have you been folllowing what's happened in Haiti? Haiti's flooding as a result of recent storms has wiped out hundreds of families' homes and taken many lives. Here are a few images I culled from the web (linked back to original source)

What do we have to worry about really?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sync and Connect

Collin and I went to Cypress Creek's first football game this week at Disney's Wide World of Sports stadium. Cypress played a state ranked team from Colorado. Who knew that high school sports are now being turned into "premier high school sporting events"? A company brings teams to Disney to compete. This week it was Monarc high school from Colorado. While the teams were warming up (after a lightening delay), Collin spotted a cool cloud saying, "look at that cool cloud!" I wished I had my camera, but I was able to snap a shot with my cell. The picture doesn't do the cloud justice--it was literally lit up gold from behind and gorgeously outlined and glowing. I was tickled that Collin spotted it! I have just figured out how to pair my cell phone with my MacBook, so this picture, poor as it is, was taken with my cell phone.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blue Skies

We took the Gnu out today for a ride in a local pond. Just up the street from our house is the Hal Scott Preserve. The boat ramp, actually just a dirt easement, was filled with water and the lake was high, but the new motor? Sweet. Sure beats paddling. Collin was a little on edge about alligators. See the little one in the picture above? His tail looks sort of like an abandoned tire (back right) ? One eye is just above the surface (bottom left). Collin loved finding the big snail and seeing minnows and fish. The clouds reflecting off of the lake caught my eye as did the many starlings swooping and skimming the surface -- eating bugs no doubt.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rain Rain Rain

Tropical Storm Fay is stalled out just 30 minutes or so from our house. The rain was constant last night, gusty winds and pelting rain battering the windows. I'm hoping our septic tank holds out...yeesh. So far so good, only the chickens are swamped, but they're still laying eggs! The white birds (Old Salty, Sugar and Honey) are just muddy, drooping with rain.

With so much rain and me teaching in a portable, I figured I'd don rain gear today. Don't worry I brought extra shoes. How do you like these galoshes *smile* ?

Monday, August 18, 2008

As the Rooster Crows

I was up early this morning in anticipation of the first day of school no doubt and what did I hear? Old Salty, our white rooster, crowing away. I'm a little nervous about how noisy he is. Honestly, I think he started crowing around 5 a.m. I'm wondering if my office light woke him up and got him started. Sometimes a little cock-a-doodle-do is nice, but I'm thinking that the neighbors might not appreciate Old Salty so early in the morning!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Amazing Cloud

I love clouds. I love light. I love sky. I love sunbeams. I saw this cloud driving home from school this week. It was so amazing, I had to pull over and show it to Collin and take a picture of it. Of course, for those who do photography, I'm using my regular old point and shoot digital elph here, but sill got a nice shot-- don't you I think. The light was just right. It was late afternoon, around the magical light time that an artist friend of mine calls God's light. The light behind this cloud really is glorious and Godly isn't it? The beams remind me that even in low moments or on the darkest of days, there's light.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Start Your Engines

Richard bought an engine for our Gnu (actually, I'm sure you spell gnu with some variation of Canoe, but the animal version of the word is more fun). When I got home from school on Monday, Richard's grin was in high-beam mode. He had The Mercury 500 in a chicken-feed tub full of water. Eager to show it off to me, he started it up and stood back smiling. The engine got me thinking about school (what doesn't get me thinking about school this week?). Gotta get my engine started!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Profile Widget

Came across this cool profile widget from Big Huge Labs for creating banners out of your flickr photos. I like to make my own banners in Photoshop, but this widget is so easy and quick!This is a banner made from photos of our recent Sanibel beach weekend. I also love that the banner is actually a link to my photostream. Neat.

spillarke. Get yours at

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I glanced at my site statistics this morning and noticed the counter at 1972. I'm not going to comment on what the visit numbers actually mean. That's probably a low number in terms of visits, but really, does it matter? Probably not. In the grand scheme of things definitely not. But still... I wish I got a few more comments or a bit more traffic. Realistically though this blog is not about comments or traffic. I write for myself because I actually enjoy writing. I write for my family and friends because it's one way we keep in touch. I'm not up there in terms of numbers thus the 1972. To me 1972 is a year.

It is the year I turned six, a golden year of neighborhoods (Darcey Drive) and best friends (Kathleen Sullivan) . It is the year I discovered the joy of learning. It is the year I had Mrs. Madigan for first grade and the first time I literally swooned over a teacher--she was indeed a Cinderella figure. During parent night she told me to show my Mom and Dad how I "worked" with readers during the school day. Don't I have the same hair cut? Lucky for me those collars went out of fashion though. I sure loved Mrs. Madigan and I'm sure even as I write this that she is one reason I fell quickly into love with school.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mountain Climbing

Collin went rock climbing with my Mom this week. She took him twice and the second time took some of his friends too. How cool is that? She even sent me pictures! Being a working mother is sometimes like climbing mountains. I do a lot of reaching out and holding on.

This week (and most of next) I'm out of town working--writing for Plugged-In to Reading. How lucky am I to have Mom do things with Collin? And cool things to boot. How lucky am I to have a safe and loving place for him to go when I need a hand? She is my tether, my safety harness; she holds me up, smiles and says "you can do it." My parents didn't have that when I was growing up. Many of the students I teach don't have that either.

I often think about what life would be like were I not so supported and blessed by my parents , my husband, and my friends. Whenever I need or want to work, they are there to take time with Collin. They help me to do the work that I love. They encourage me and set me free to do it. I'm sure I don't tell them enough, but that's a big deal in my world. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Skyping with Christine

While working on the computer today, I got a Skype notice saying that Christine wanted to share contact data with me. I figured, heck if she wants my contact data, she must have just downloaded skype, I'm going to call her!

So I did. She didn't realize you could take pictures (screen shots) in skype. I did by using the Prnt Scrn button up near F12 on the keyboard and pasting the screen picture into Photoshop. I cropped the image so that just the skype window was showing and *walla* here we are!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

On the High Seas

I've been having a difficult time getting this video to post correctly. I posted it on flickr, but the ending didn't make it online; it got cut off. Not sure wherein the difficulty lies, but now I just want to get it right. So, I've compressed the file size. We'll see if that works.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Ahh....Art Day

Today is art day! Hooray! So what is art day? It's a day that I spend, almost exclusively, in my office/studio creating. Jennifer Gonzales comes over with her boys, Jack and Robert. We let the boys run wild while we paint, collage, scrap and chat. Two weeks ago I made bird and angel collages for all of the Plugged-In to Reading writers. I tore pages about learning and learning theory from an old psychology textbook and included border paper that mimicked standardized testing answer sheets and paired Wendy Ryan's angel images with various birds I had. While I worked away at them metaphors for the work we were about to do spun through my mind: Give your ideas wings. Let your ideas take flight. We are reading angels. Let your talent shine. Think beyond the test. Clich├ęd perhaps, but it brought me peace of mind and focus for the work ahead that week.

I'm not sure what I'll make today, but really it's not about the thing, the piece or the product. Art day is about being.

Every child is an artist. The problem is
how to remain an artist once we grow up.
~Pablo Picasso
Here's 1 of 6 more animal collage from today's art day creations:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Collin & Rick's Camping & Fishing Adventure

Collin and Rick adventured while I was away for work recently. Thought we'd put together a short video about it! We made the video yesterday, but Rick correct my fish names, so I had to put up the correct version. For some reason Blogger resisted the video re-posting, so I put it up on flickr.

What delighted me about making this video was that Collin did some of the audio by himself. I have been trying to show him how to record and edit using Audacity. Usually when we make a video together, I do most of the editing with him watching. I also question him and record his responses. Sometimes his voice is expressionless when we record that way. So, yesterday I explained expression and showed him (again) how to record/edit. Then I left the room. That was the magic ingredient. When I came back, he'd recorded a bit about fishing with his Dad and he was editing out the "ums" and quiet parts he told me. He got it! How awesome is that?

Kids and the Computer

I've been working on a Rick and Collin's vacation video this morning--trying to cut it down to a post-able size. While I'm doing that, Collin's been playing with Pixie. I love this picture he created, so I just had to post it. Plus it got me thinking about kids and computer use. My girlfriend, Kristin, in Tallahassee recently got a computer at home and she was saying the other day how her daughter is obsessed with Webkinz. I know from experience and from what little I've read about children and the Internet, that their first forays online are game oriented. It certainly has been with Collin. I have been trying to steer him away from gaming online lately and towards more creative or instructive sites (though gaming certainly is instructional or can be). He enjoys learning about keyboarding here and I've given him the Flip video camera to explore, but so far we haven't gotten to far with editing or compiling video. I loved that he wanted to draw on the computer this morning and created such a cool picture.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Portable Teacher

I've moved. Yes, I'm changing schools this year. Going from University High to Cypress Creek High School. Who knew I had collected so much stuff in my 10 years at University? The room looked so bare once we got everything on the truck. I'm looking forward to the change, but last night I had my first teaching dream. Something like, the students arrived and I hadn't unpacked and couldn't find a thing. I have a lot to unpack. We filled a 14 foot Uhaul! But it all fit into my new home: Portable 29.

Soon, I'm going to launch a new teaching blog called Portable Teacher. I will be teaching in a portable next year and ideas are portable and I sort of like the idea of a Portable Teacher, ideas you can take along with you--so me and a few friends are going to get together online and start writing. It should be fun. I'm excited to get it started, but I have started the header art yet? Of course not, this evening when I had a few moments, I Stumbled instead and came across Mr. Picasso Head! Which was certainly more fun than moving and nearly as much fun as creating my own Jackson Pollock.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th

What is 4th of July to most Americans? Swimming, the beach, hamburgers , hotdogs, the heat and sizzle of fireworks. Surely, it is all of those, but so much more. I woke up this morning thinking about all of the men and women who serve in our military. Regardless on my "position" on the war, those folks, those soldiers are overseas working day in and day out often in hazardous conditions. That's lysoled language isn't it? It's difficult to write and think about the war in real terms, but really? What's happening? Americans are dying in the war with Iraq. Isn't it close to 5,000 Americans lost now? And for what? Ultimately, for us. For you and me and children and families. So that my students in class can have desks and textbooks and teachers. So that Collin can have a childhood and play outside. When I was growing up, I always thought that I could enlist if I needed to in order to pay for my own college education. To me that was an option, work for the government, enlist and go to college on the G.I. Bill. Of course we weren't at war then. I didn't do it, obviously, but I thought about it a lot as a junior in high school. Many of my own students plan on enlisting. Some have been taking ROTC courses in high school, some haven't. Today, I can't help but think of one of my softball players from a decade ago at Winter Park High: little Jean McCurry. Fabulous player, smart girl, dark irish with freckles across her nose. I remember how surprised I was to see her picture in the Sentinel with a paragraph about her serving overseas. She was one of those ROTC students I had. So, today, I'm sending up a prayer and a big thank you for Jean and all of my students who have gone on to serve our country. I think of you all more often than you know. Be safe and Godspeed home.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I Love the Bean

Just thought I'd post one of my favorite things about working on Sanibel: The Bean. It's a morning must especially with our writing camp schedule! I love their salt bagels. They make a mean cappuccino too. For the drive home Lee and I stopped there. She got a breakfast sandwich (complete with hash brown and fresh fruit) and I enjoyed their fresh-squeeze lemonade! Yum! It was just the thing to go with the ice cream cones we picked up at Pinnochios to enjoy as we left the island.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tag Galaxy: Sanibel

Alan Levine posted a Tag Galaxy picture collage about China on his blog which motivated me to check out the new-to-me web 2.0 app. You type in a tag and Tag Galaxy creates a visual, moving, 3-D galaxy of options for you to browse. Click on a planet in the galaxy (labeled with a category) to view that group of images. I almost didn't get to the pictures because I had so much fun playing around with the moving Galaxy. Once you click the planet 'o pictures, you can click each picture to see it full screen. It reminded me of Jeff Han's TED demonstration:
Jeff Han shows off a cheap, scalable multi-touch and pressure-sensitive computer screen interface that may spell the end of point-and-click.
I created a Tag Galaxy image of Sanibel where I'll be heading on Saturday to work on the next level of Janet Allen's Plugged-In to Reading. Of course, the work doesn't look like my Galaxy images, it looks more like the picture below, but still... the island is an amazing place to be.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Wordle Cloud

Wordle is a online application that makes word clouds. You know me and my word art, so this is just so cool. You can type in your own words and it will arrange them or if you use delicious , you can allow wordle to make a tag cloud out of your bookmarks. For those who've never heard of delicious, it's a social bookmarking tool. You post your "favorites" or bookmarks to your delicious page. Why? Because then they are not computer dependent; you can access them from any computer in the world that has an internet connection. Plus you can network in delicious. Once you add folks to your network, you have access to the bookmarks they are posting too! And they are are searchable, organizable, etc. Delicious, like so many Web 2.0 tools, comes with its own vocabulary. When you post a site (bookmark) to your Delicious page, you add tags to the bookmark.
Tags tell a reader/user what category or categories the bookmark falls into; for instance, if I were to bookmark my own blog, I might tag it personal-blogs or family-blogs or just blogs. You create your tag thus creating your own organizationl system for your bookmarks. Tags that have a lot of bookmarked entries are bigger and darker in color that tags containing fewer bookmarks, so you can see when you look at a tag cloud, bookmarking and interesting trends. Here's my Delicious tag cloud that I created in Wordle. Click it to see the large version at Wordle. Can you tell what my interests are lately?