Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It still hits

Sometimes, though maybe not as strongly in the past. Maybe it's the holidays. Maybe it's because he'd be the age of my students.
Mostly, it's probably because I don't want to forget about him. I want him to stay close to my memory. I want to be abl eot share his memory with my own family some day.
He would be 11 now. What would he want for Christmas? Books, a phone, or a baseball glove, or possibly a fishing pole? It's hard not knowing.

Love you and miss you still Dakota, my precious nephew.

Christmases Past

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What's a Coming?

My last day as a TEACHER, at least in the traditional sense. I am ready to move on, but I also feel these ropes holding me back. I know it's what I need to do, but sometimes question if its what I want to do. I'm excited by the opportunity before me, yet wondering how to hold on to those little moments of today.

I'm torn, but I know my kids will be fine. Will I?

A Repeat?

I made the soup below again tonight. It's very cold and windy, and I started thinking about this soup around 3:00 today. It is the perfect thing for a cold wintry night!
I did add about 3/4 cup cooked chicken and served it over brown rice. It makes it much heartier and filling, though is just as good without.

I have cooked more lately. I am also preparing for the holidays.

I have make the Mixed Nut Spiced Toffee several times this season--it's always a hit. I use whatever nuts I have on hand, or sometimes not at all. I think I will make some to take to work next week.

Sunday, I made these Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies. Well, I didn't make the filling yet. I doubled the recipe and just made the cookie part and they are in the freezer. I remembered that the cookies were fairly large (IMO), so I made some of them smaller. I think I'll have about 42 sandwiches when I am done. I have thought about these cookies often since the last (and only) time I've made them. I hope they are as good as I remember!

I made these Peppermint Meltaways for Thanksgiving. I think I must like peppermint more than the rest of my family. I want to experiment some by adding some cocoa to these.

I am still deciding what else to make. I think this year I will go with more tried and true. I just don't have the energy to try much new.
On that note, I think it's time to have some Chai-Spice Snickerdoodles. YUM. It seems like I tend to like the things that are a little bit "different". All-spice in toffee? White pepper in cookies? You get the picture. Seriously though--these cookies are amazing.

I also think I will try the Maple Spice Walnut Cookies again. I liked them the first time, but was talking while preparing them and didn't add all the flour needed (darn ADD). If you love maple, you'll love these! Plus they are a cooking light recipe.

I may also make the Gingerbread Truffles that I made a few years ago. However, when looking up that recipe, I saw this one for Caramel-Dark Chocolate Truffles with Fleur de Sel. So maybe I WILL try something new.

I think that sounds like enough for one person (to make, not to eat!) for one year, don't you?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Peanut Soup

ETA: A Review is below the recipe.

What is it about soup? Why does it just call my name? Is it because I'm lazy and prefer one pot meals? Is it my ultimate comfort food? Or is it because it's usually economical, freezes well, and is easy (again)?
At any rate, I came across this on the CLBB today and it's on my to try list, though I need coconut milk and cilantro. I think I should make a run to the asian grocery on southside to stock up on coconut milk and some asian condiments.

Peanut Soup, Senegalese-Style
Vegetable Soups, by Deborah Madison

1 to 2 tablespoons roasted peanut oil
1 large onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro stems
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne or hot red pepper flakes, to taste
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2/3 cup peanut butter, preferably organic and unsweetened
1 cup coconut milk, or more to taste
Sea salt
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Lime wedges

1. Heat the oil in a soup pot, then add the onion, garlic, and cilantro stems. Give a stir, then cook over high heat for a few minutes to warm the onion. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the onion has softened somewhat, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the cayenne and curry powder.

2. Add 3 cups water and the tomatoes. Stir well and bring to a boil. Drop in the peanut butter and simmer until the onions are soft and the peanut butter has dissolved, about 15 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk. Season the soup with salt.

3. Just before serving, add the chopped cilantro. Serve with a dollop of yogurt in each bowl and a wedge of lime on the side.

I finally made this and WOW! Possibly a new favorite? It made 6 generous servings.
The only changes I made were to use Low-Fat Coconut Milk, and only half an onion. I also used more curry powder.
This was a soup that tasted better by the bite. I think it'll be even better left over for lunch tomorrow. I am freezing the rest--this will be perfect on a cold wet day!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Tales From the Trenches

I *heart* my kids. They continue to make me smile, to make me glad for my job, to make me sad to know I'll soon be moving on. They make me laugh, they frustrate me, they inspire me.

Last week, one of my students had a rough end to the day. She hit another student (loud tears ensued), she calmed down, I walked her to the bus area, turned my back for just a minute to talk to a parent, and then she went after another student (not mine) who is in a wheelchair and defenseless. She got her pretty good 2x. I intervened once I realized what was going on. She sat on the ground and then went after me! I still have 4 scabs on my hand and 2 on each leg (I was wearing a skirt) to show for it! She calmed down, a parent had to come get her because we couldn't put her on the bus with the way she was acting. This was 3 days ago.

This morning, she arrived at school and immediately apologized. We started working and she then saw I was wearing slacks and said, "Oh, I'm glad you are wearing pants today. Remember how I scratched you last time?" Ummm, yes I do! I asked if she wanted to see where, and of course she did. However, she didn't really notice because her thoughts were interrupted with, "Oh, those boots are really cute." Giggle. It really just cracked me up that her thoughts seemed to be, "Thank goodness you wore pants in case I have a bad day again--that way I won't scratch your legs again."

Later today, another student went to the bathroom, came back, and was very serious. She asked me if I had any baby wipes. Of course, I don't. She said she had to poop, and it was (Held hands out far). I said, "Big?" She agreed, "Yes, it was big and I don't think I got it all. I want baby wipes so I can get clean."
We decided to go to the nurse to see if she had anything we could use, but she didn't. Deep breath. I asked her if she needed me to help clean her, and of course she said yes. (I changed diapers the first 3 years I taught--2 of those were for middle schoolers. Some were girls. Some had reached puberty. So, while not pleasant, this is something I can do). We went into a faculty bathroom. I put the gloves on. She looked at me and said, "Drop them?" I said, "Yes, drop them." Let me tell you--those are not words I ever thought I'd hear in my teaching career! She then said, "I'm sorry to have to make you help me with this." Awwww, so sweet. After all of that, her bottom was clean as clean can be! Now THAT confused her. Whew, crisis averted.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Cranberry-Chipotle Fruit Compote

With Thanksgiving fast approaching (how in the heck did it get to be NOVEMBER already?), I've been mentally preparing a menu, or at least the part of the menu I will be making. I came across this recipe on the CLBB and it piqued my interest. Sweet and spicy, utilizing fresh cranberries, and versatile--I HAD to try it. So, I made a half recipe today to take to a friend's house to watch the OU/Texas A&M game.
So far, I have only licked the spoon (and I DIDN'T double dip), but I think I will like this! I am serving it with cream cheese and organic blue corn tortilla chips. I hope I have none left to bring home, because I know me--I would eat it with a spoon!

Cranberry-Chipotle Fruit Compote (link to Epicurious).

The only sub I made was to omit the dried peaches and use double the amount of dried apricots.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Coming Soon

I recently found an old web page of *MINE* circa 2001-02 or so. I had many recipes from my supper club on it, including a tried and true one for baklava! I'm going to post them here more for my reference than anything.
Baklava, bieroks, Tom Ka Ghi soup, sauerbraten, and more.

How did I find it? I googled a recipe I was looking for. One of the hits was for an angelfire site. I ignored this, as it didn't seem like a reputable source (unlike,, etc.) After not finding what I wanted in other links, I clicked on the angelfire link and realized it was MY page I had just shunned! Shame on me.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


"I know you're really pissed at me."

OK, that quote along doesn't say much. But if you heard her tone, saw the look on her face, you'd have wanted to laugh as well!

And I wasn't. I told her I was not mad at her, but wasn't happy with the way she was acting.
For the record, this is an 11 year old girl w/ intellectual disabilities. She's been a pill the last two days. Things only got worse today about 15 minutes later. It was interesting to say the least. Thank goodness tomorrow is a new day!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Random? Yeah, That's Me.

Cooking just isn't what it used to be to me. Anymore, it's "I have to eat to function. What can I throw together to at least pretend to enjoy?"
Budget, time, blah-ness (I know, that's not a word), effort...I just don't have it.
Unless I make soup. Soup I can get motivated for. It's usually cheap. The big bonus is it stocks my freezer, allowing me to grab something on the way out the door for my lunch. With an apple, a piece of cheese, and/or celery sticks, it's a balanced meal!

The other exception is when I'm craving something specific. Like tonight. I think it's the cold weather. I am craving Indian food. Not wanting to splurge on the $10 buffet, I came home and assessed my pantry.

Here is what I did (am doing--it's still cooking).
2 small sweet potatoes (one was sprouting--pretty purple leaves. It was time), 1 yellow squash, a 1 inch piece of diced ginger, 4 cloves of garlic, 1/4 cup sliced onion, 1 cup green lentils (Yields about 3 cups cooked), a handful of carrots, 3 cups homemade chicken stock (from my freezer).

Sauteed onion, garlic, and 1/2 the ginger and 1/2 jalapenos in a bit of olive oil until my eyes watered.
Added sweet potatoes, cooked for 2 minutes. Added a lot of curry powder, salt, pepper. Added enough broth to coat pan. Stirred. Added remaining jalapenos and ginger. Sneezed.
Added one can of coconut milk.

Meanwhile, cooked 1 cup lentils in 2.5 cups of chicken stock. I had to add a bit more water before they got tender.

I added them to the other ingredients simmering away, along with the squash. It cooked until the squash was tender, and then I ladled it into a bowl. I served it with a piece of whole wheat pita bread and a dollop of low fat plain yogurt.

Yum. Had I been stuffy, this definitely would have cleared me up! Better yet, I have leftovers.

Wow, I can still cook, and can improvise half decently. Who knows if this would pass muster in an Indian cook's kitchen, but it works for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Soup

As mentioned last week, I made the Meatball Soup (Sopa de Albóndigas) and wow. Just wow. I can't wait to have this when there it is 30 degrees outside and I am cuddled under a blanket on the couch.

Meatball Soup (Sopa de Albóndigas)
6 servings (serving size: 1 2/3 cups)

* 2 teaspoons coriander seeds (I used 2 1/2)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds (I used ground--it was all I had)
* 4 whole cloves (I used 6)
* 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick, broken
* 1/2 cup uncooked long-grain white rice (I used medium grain brown)
* 2 tablespoons grated fresh onion
* 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
* 1 pound ground round (I had ground buffalo--much leaner, but worked out fine)
* 1 large egg white
* 1 garlic clove, minced (I used 4)
* Cooking spray
* 3 cups chopped green cabbage
* 2 cups chopped onion (I only had one small onion, so it was more like 3/4 cup)
* 1 cup sliced carrot
* 1/2 cup chopped celery
* 1 tablespoon chili powder
* 1 1/2 tablespoons drained chopped chipotle chile in adobo sauce (I used 2)
* 2 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth (I used 4 cups broth)
* 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped (such as Muir Glen) (I used a 28 oz can of muir glen diced)
* 1 1/2 cups cubed peeled baking potato


Cook the coriander seeds and the cumin seeds in a large Dutch oven over medium heat 1 minute or until toasted and fragrant. Place the toasted spices, cloves, and cinnamon in a spice or coffee grinder; process until finely ground.

Combine 2 teaspoons cinnamon mixture, rice, grated onion, 1/2 teaspoon salt, beef, egg white, and garlic in a large bowl; set remaining cinnamon mixture aside. Shape beef mixture into 24 (1-inch) meatballs.

Heat pan over medium heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add cabbage, chopped onion, carrot, and celery to pan; cook 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining cinnamon mixture, chili powder, and chipotle; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Add meatballs; cover and cook 15 minutes. Add potato; cook, uncovered, over medium heat 20 minutes or until potato is tender.

My notes:
I have learned that I need to up the spice called for in most recipes, hence the additions above. I wouldn't change it!
I had 30 meatballs, and I thought they were generously sized.
It was spicy--my nose ran. I consider that a good thing!
Maybe a bit busy for a weeknight supper, but it made a TON. The recipe said 6 servings. I got 8, and would have had 10 if I had enough freezer bowls, and I felt like they were very hefty servings beacuse it is all so filling!
I did add extra water at the end because it was too thick for my tastes. The flavors still shown through.

This is definitely one I'll add to my regular rotation--though for me, that's maybe 2x a winter as it fills up my freezer!

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Old Favorite

Though it's not really cold yet, the weather is turning gloomy and overcast.
I didn't have any inspiration for dinner tonight--just too tired from a busy crazy weekend.
I turned to my pantry and realized I had all I needed to make an old favorite--
Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup from Cooking Light 2005. I've made this many times over the years and it never disappoints. It's simple, hits the spot, is great left over, and used ingredients I almost always have on hand.

Ahhhh. Comfort food. I love fall.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Magic of a Penny

This is book fair week. Our wonderful librarian has ties to a certain Book Fairy, who bestows $6 book passes to unsuspecting students school wide. Of course, teachers were able to give the librarian suggestions as to who might need the pick-me-up of a free book or two!

I have a student who has been complaining about never getting to get books and oh, how much he wants one. I sent notes home, but he didn't bring any money. So, I enlisted the Book Fairy. I was a little bit late as she hadn't visited him before our book fair visit yesterday. He found books he liked, but was so sad. Our librarian gave him a "lucky penny" and said just maybe, he'd receive the luck of the Book Fairy. Little did she know what she made the rest of my day like.

We discussed how long it takes luck to happen--1 day, 2 days, 3 days, etc. He asked me if luck meant his mom giving him money for the book fair. He decided to wear his good luck penny in his shoe. We were walking down the hall to the computer lab, having one of our many discussions about luck. He stopped suddenly and said, "Now wait a minute. Oh no. I don't really believe in magic!" I explained that luck and magic are not the same thing. Eventually, he quit talking about luck.

This morning during announcements, guess whose name was called? He was in his homeroom, so I didn't get to witness it, but I heard that he was beside himself with excitement. He then took his shoe off and showed everyone his lucky penny. He got his book this afternoon and was just happy as could be.

The Magic of Good Luck Penny. Would he have been as excited if he hadn't connected the thought of getting Book Fairied with luck? Was it the luck that was magical, or just the free book? I wonder.

Monday, October 06, 2008

My Next Soup

Which will probably be after the OU/TX game. I should say my next "New" soup, as I'm sure I'll have some old standy-bys on the menu.
I just keep going back to look at this one.

Meatball Soup (Sopa de Albóndigas)

Anyhow else want to try it first and give me the heads up?

Can You Handle More?

About how my kids melt my heart? They do. They really really do.

Today during 1st period, we were doing math. Like most "typical" kids, my kids are not fond of math. One of them finished an addition sheet I gave him (2 digit no regrouping) and got them all correct with no prompting. During the first week of school, he couldn't add 8+5 and it took him all hour to miss 3 similar problems. Today he finished a sheet with 100% accuracy, and then did more! Of course, now I have to try something else for his portfolio for that standard because he did too well for the first "official" trial for it to count (and my opinions on this I'll save for an entirely different post). Anyhow, once he saw he got 100%, he said he was finished. Ummm, no. There is time on the clock--you are NOT finished for the period. There is always more work to be done. I pulled out a sheet, and he said, "No thank you." Again, "Yes, thank you. You will do THESE problems (I circled the ones he was to do) and then if I say you are done, you are done. Do you understand?" His reply? "I'm sorry teacher. Yes teacher." He then sat down, did what I asked him, showed me, and apologized at least 2 more times for "talking to me that way". My TA whispered to me, "I LOVE our class so much. Last year...." What was unsaid? Last year, I likely would have been met with any of the following:

"You can't tell me what to do. You're not my momma."
"Stupid bitch."
"You're the worse teacher ever. I wish you never would have come here."
"I don't care what you want me to do," followed by pandemonium that might include throwing books, cussing up a storm, tipping chairs, etc.
Silence and refusal to comply
Getting up and leaving the room

This is exactly why I prefer to teach students with intellectual disabilities vs. students with emotional disturbances. Now, students with ID do tend to have behavioral problems, but it's nothing I am unable to handle. Students with ED? I am so not equipped for--patience, understanding, training, and so forth. It's not anything I feel like any education or experiences I have had prepared me for--and I knew this going into it, but didn't really have a say so. And when you mix these two populations of students? It's a double whammy.

I'm so thankful that if this year is my last time in the classroom, it is with the group I have now. They are precious. They warm my heart. They inspire me. They make me glad I became a teacher.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


I love soup. It calls to me. I don't know if it's because to me, it's the quintessential comfort food, or the ease of throwing everything into a pot and having a meal. :) Though I do make soup during the summer on occasion, I make it A LOT during the fall and winter. The crisp morning air starts my day off with me craving soup!
I came across the "Your Daily Soup" area of the Cooking Light website. They will have a new soup recipe every day of October. Today's soup was a simple Cheddar Soup.
You start with celery and carrots plus a surprise ingredient--a green apply (I used Granny Smith). Cook until tender, add broth and a diced baking potato and simmer until potato is tender. Puree-which is why I have an immersion blender, and then stir in 2 cups of shredded cheddar and a t. of Worcestershire. Simple, good, and perfect for a cool fall evening.
I did goof, of course. I was hungry and not patient. I should have let it cook a bit longer (though did cook longer than the 15 minutes suggested in the recipe) so the potatoes would be more tender. As it is, this soup tastes good but doesn't have a pleasant mouth feel. Cook's error, but it's not so bad that I won't finish the pot off over the weekend. Next time, I'll just make sure I cook it a little longer.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Always an adventure

Today was a field trip day. My class joined with another to go up to a camp for special needs youth and adults for a field day. I was sad that 2 of my kids were sick and missed it, along with one student from the other class. We still managed to have a fun day. I really think this was the first time some of these students had ever been out "in the country"! They thoroughly enjoyed it.
We played games, had a picnic lunch, took a hike through the woods, and then went paddle boating.
Some quips and quotes from the day:
I drove one of the vans, and our speech pathologist rode with me. As we got onto the interstate, she said, "I'm sure glad I'm not driving. I'd be a nervous wreck." From right behind us, K quips "I'm sure glad you're not driving either!"

M was singing from the back of the van, "We're going to the country, the country, the country, we're going to the country...."

M said to B on as we passed a farm pond, "Hey. When we grow up, let's go fishing there."

"That was the most fun I've ever had!"

"Let's hunt for bears in these woods."

I think this was the first time on a boat for many of our kids--priceless memories!

Two of the students from the other class decided I was their buddy today. They walked with me, held on to me, and oh yeah--one of them tried to kiss me right before he got onto his bus. He got within inches (he had come from behind me), and pulled back, and he turned and ran to his bus.
Middle schoolers. Hormonal middle schoolers. Hormonal middle schoolers with intellectual disabilities. Never a dull moment!

Finally, I end this with a picture. No, not of our group. I took this from the back of a paddle boat, sitting in between 2 kids who were starting to try to stand up as we were about to dock.
I just thought it was cool looking.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

They Melt My Heart


My students, my kids. They are precious. The things the say, the things they do, the way they help each other out and are proud of doing the right thing. Sure, they have their quirks (who doesn't?). Some of them throw tantrums--actually it's just the girls. Hormones maybe? I love these kids with all of my heart-and will miss them so when I move on to the new job, likely in January.

I've been sick this past week, missing 1 1/2 days of school. One of my TAs was out sick Friday. I haven't felt great at week, and Friday decided to have a low key day with math games, manipulatives, sight word bingo, books online, etc. so as to maintain a distance from them (due to this massive sinus infection), and let them have a bit of a relaxed day. I am off last hour, and 2 of my kids were in another resource teacher's room, visiting with their elementary teacher. I was leaving early to go to the Dr. and stopped in to see how the visit was going. When I said good-bye, K looks at me, asks very seriously "Where are you going? Why?" and when I told her, she said in her most grown-up serious voice, "Sweetheart, goodbye. I really hope you get to feeling better."
I almost lost it. Precious.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cool Weather + the blahs==Chicken Soup

But not just any chicken soup. I was blog surfing this morning from the couch (where I've been most of the weekend) and came across this recipe from Joe's blog. It called out to me. Granted, I had to switch some things up due to what I had in the freezer, as I'm not going to the store today.
Here is what I ended up doing.

Chicken and Ham Wild Rice Soup (Adapted from Joe's adaptation from Land O'Lakes)

3 tablespoons butter
2 medium carrots, shredded
1 cup 1/2" sliced celery
1/4 cup diced onion (I used red onions--all I had)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup sherry
4 cups cooked wild rice (Mine was mixed with some brown rice)
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken
1 cup 1/2" cubed cooked ham
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, tossed with 1 T. flour
salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat - add carrots, celery and onion. Cook until softened, about 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in flour - cook 1 minute, stirring. Whisk in broth and sherry. Stir in rice, chicken and ham - season to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly heated through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in cheese, cook another few minutes until cheese it melted into soup.
Serve with crusty french bread.

Makes about 6 to 8 servings
This was good! Very filling, not too cheesy or heavy, and I'd imagine fairly healthy. The ham I had was already sliced--so it was too thin for my tastes. I might consider omitting it next time, and there will be a next time. I love the richness the sherry added. I've made wild rice & cheese soups that use beer, but I think I might like this combination a bit better.

Friday, September 19, 2008


I'm watching some news show--20/20 I think. It's talking about the stock market and how it's affected the rich. Someone was interviewed and was saying how someone he knows said giving up his private jet was one of the toughest things he'd ever had to deal with.
Just wow. Really? Material bullshit?

Dude, come spend a day in my world. Giving up shopping at department stores and buying red meat may humble you a bit. So sorry to hear you have it so rough. Expletive. Expletive (I just called him a name that starts with an F.).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What Books Have You Read?

I love to read. I have always read almost anything I can get my hands on. Lately, I am more quick easy reads that don't require much thought, but have been known to read more serious material.

While blog surfing, I stumbled across this Meme. I promptly "borrowed" it.

How many have you read??

Apparently, the National Endowment for the Arts believes that the average American has read only 6 of the books on the list below.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline (or mark in a different color) the books you LOVE
4) Reprint this list in your blog so we can try and track down these people who’ve read 6 and force books upon them.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible (I've read parts of it)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (I think I tried to read this once)
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (Don't like sci-fi/fantasy though)
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger (It's sitting on my night stand)
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (blah--no desire)
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden (one of my favorites)
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell (Read on my own in 6th grade and again in HS)
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving (I started this once; it belonged to my now ex-bf)
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (I think I read this as a kid)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon (It's about a boy with autism--very interesting)
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (sitting on my bookshelf)
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (one of my all-time favorites)
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Well what do you know? I have read more books than the average American- 24 books on this list, to be exact. It's sort of sad that that's only 24% of the list though!

This book reminded me of several that I've intended to read--hopefully I'll get my hands on them soon!
What about you? What books have you read? Does this list inspire you to read more?

Thursday, September 11, 2008


OK, a political thread.
I've followed this year's election coverage more than I have in the past. I watched some of both national conventions. I was shocked at the McCain's VP choice and find it somewhat insulting that he seemed to pick her because...she has a uterus. It just appears that he picked her to try and get the female voters who wanted Clinton and are disappointed in Obama, never mind that their stance on many issues are miles and miles apart. The polls have made a swing towards McCain since her appointment (a rather large one), and it just makes me wonder--are those numbers different because Palin is in fact a she, or are people really paying attention to what the candidates stand for and making their choice based on that?

Another issue--I'm already sick of all the negativity surrounding both campaigns. I'm tired of hearing one party's candidates bash the others. And you mean we have 2 more months of this? I may just unplug my TV and be done with it. I really have no care or concern to listen to the negativity. Tell me what your stance is, what you stand for. Address the concerns that many Americans have--the war, the economy, the energy problem. Let us make our decision on who to vote for based on facts, not a bunch of harsh words thrown each way. Please?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Happy Birthday Sweet Boy!

September 11 would have been Dakota's 11th birthday. His last birthday alive was his 4th. Wow, so much time has passed.

It dawned on me last week that my students are just a wee bit older than Dakota would be if he were here. In fact, I had one turn 11 the weekend after school started. I catch myself working with them and wondering what he'd be like. I don't really think he'd be in a class like mine. I think he'd be the ham of whatever class he was in. I think his classmates would love him--and accept him and his differences because he had such a sweet spirit; who couldn't help but love him? I think he'd be walking, though probably with assistance. I think he'd be eating much more through his mouth vs. his g-tube. I think he'd need a muzzle sometimes to keep him from talking, as he was already a chatterbox. I know he'd still be the apple of my parents' eye, the center of their world.

I miss him still.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Camp E

This is a rerun (posted elsewhere) but I am too tired to drum up new material.

What a Week: A Recap of Camp E

Another week done….

This was my 7th (and possibly final, though I am already rethinking that decision) year to serve as a counselor at a very special camp for children whose lives have been affected by cancer. Many of them are now healthy, typical kids. Some of them still bear the scars of their treatments, which may include physical scars, amputations, facial deformities, bone aches, limps, weight gain from steroids, stunted growth, hearing loss, and so forth. Others are still in treatment and dealing with what this brings them—low blood counts, no hair, easy bruising, lethargy, and emotional strains. Others who have come to camp healthy in the past are now a shell of what we remember them as, as they are facing the dreaded relapse—which often times means an even more difficult battle than the ones they have already faced. Counselors also learn that for many of these kids, cancer isn't the worse thing they've had to face. Yet, through all of their hardships, these kids come to a camp in the country (one girl called it creepy because it was in the woods) and find time to laugh, make new friends, fit in, and hopefully learn to be a kid again. How blessed am I to get to experience this awesome week yet again!

My cabin was made up of 6&7 year old girls (plus one 8 yo), and what a rainbow of diversity we had! Hispanic, Indian, African American, Nepalese, Polish, Caucasian, all living together for a week. The girls were the sweetest, most helpful, easy going bunch I think I've had yet. We had a little girl who had a brain tumor and radiation as an infant. We had been told she would require a lot of hands on. Well, how wrong the information was. Yes, her walking was unsteady. Yes, she had a hearing aid and cochlear implant and glasses. Yes, she wore braces on her feet. But most importantly, yes she was very intent and headstrong and insisted on taking care of herself to the fullest extent possible. She even fell down a time or two as she rushed to hold the door open for fellow campers. What a joy her sweet helpful (and stubborn) spirit is. We had a 3rd time camper in our cabin, who at 8 years old, acts like a little adult. She is already talking about how she wants to be a counselor when she grows up. I don't doubt that she will be a very good one. She was such a mother hen to the other girls, and a huge help to her 6 counselors.

I love that camp enables these kids to fit in. I love that the kids I have seen over the years—not always in a cabin with—have blossomed into young adults. There is the camp graduate (age 15) who is small for his age, has some facial deformities from radiation, who always wore sunglasses and a ball cap and never looked up. Last year, he participated in a skit. This year he did more and he also showed up to camp w/o the baseball cap. I talked to him a bit one night and got a hug. Chances are, I'll never see him again but will always remember the progression he made over the years, and I have to think camp had a lot to do with that.

Our little girl who I mentioned earlier brought with her a little stuffed animal. The animal was well known throughout camp by the week's end. We joked that if she was lost, camp would shut down and an all out search would go on. Fortunately, Pinky made it home, though she needed a bath. Anyhow, on the ropes course, we were unsure if little Miss Independent would participate. She got harnessed up and sat and watched her cabin mates go before her. One of the camp counselors who works summers there (a former camper himself) came up to her and said Pinky needed a harness as well. He proceeded to harness little Pinky up. Pinky went up the incline wall hooked onto a carabeener. She then went down the zip line with her owner. I really don't think that ride would have happened if Pinky would have stayed on the ground. We were all amazed and touched at the gesture shown by this young man.

Anyhow, another year has passed…camp was really great, though very hot. I enjoyed the time with my fellow counselors and the kids. I really don't think I'm ready to give this part of my life up; it's too rewarding, too fun, and a strong dose of perspective.

On another note, my first year at camp happened the week after Dakota died (more pictures here). I left for camp the day after his funeral. That first year is a blur—as it is for new counselors, but even more so for me. I had that heaviness over me. As the years have gone by, I always associate camp with Dakota. Just the timing…the healing. That first year I spent some early morning alone time at the chapel just thinking, reflecting. I managed to do that most years afterwards. Well, this year was the first time I didn't feel that connection. I realized on the last night that I hadn't thought of him all week. This at first made me sad, a bit guilty maybe. Then I realized that maybe for the first time I was completely "there" for my campers, without any personal issues lingering in the back of my mind. Anyhow. Camp truly is a healing place.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Maybe I'll try this again

So many thoughts, so little time. I've had a lot on my mind lately. I really want to try getting them down again, so we'll see if I make the time.

In my latest news, I won't be a classroom teacher much longer. Life is a changing. As soon as a replacement is found-you know that will be hard because hello, it's me, J/K, I will be moving on to the state department of education as a Special Education Coordinator. I'm excited about the opportunity, anxious, and sad. I love my kids this year--they are so much of why I came to this profession. Some of them are the age my nephew Dakota would be if he were alive. He would be 11 on Sept 11. It's hard to believe the time that has FLOWN by. Anyhow. My kids. Precious. Sweet. Lovable. Goofy. Entertaining. Where do I start? I have so many funny little stories that I need to get down so I don't forget them. They just really make me laugh and it does my heart good.

After last year--yeah, I didn't blog did I? That was a part of my quest to try and be positive as possible to make life a bit more bearable. It worked, because I am here and sane today. Anyhow, after last year--which I would describe as my worst year teaching and the only time I've ever questioned the decision to switch careers--the year is such a breath of fresh air. And now I will be leaving MY KIDS. Sigh. My reasoning? Financial. I think I am too old to do the 2 jobs thing, at least if my 2nd job was bartending like I had thought about earlier this year. I can't imagine the toll that would take on me, mentally and physically. Yes, I did it when I was in my early 20s, but I was in my early 20s! And it was rough then. Nothing like ending your dad with a liter of beer, a melatonin, and then 6 hours of sleep and 2 jobs and college classes. Yeah, I couldn't do it again. So anyhow, it's about money. I had decided that this would be my last year teaching in Oklahoma; I was either going to have to move back to TX (Yuck) or go back to the corporate world (Yuck). This job enables me to stay in OK (making what I would be making in TX as a teacher but 12 months vs. 10 months a year) but continue to work in the field of special education, which is truly where my heart lies. I won't be working with kids, but I will be working FOR kids, so I think I can live with that.

My anxiety lies with the things I've heard about how political things can be there. Really though, there are politics in any work place. Politics, cliques, favortism, etc. It's a part of life. I can handle that as that's nothing new to me. My philosophy is to just go in, do my job the best that I can, be nice/cordial, and let things play out as they will.

That's all I have in me now. I'll see if I can continue this and actually blog about entertaining stuff!