Thursday, April 30, 2009

Berry Picking

With an old straw hat upon my head,
And my pants down to my shoes,
I set out to go berry picking,
With the pail I always use.

I know all the good places,
Black raspberries can be found.
And I don't ever worry,
About the snakes,
I'm sure are around.

As I hurry on from patch to patch,
The bugs encircle my head.
The thorns have gouged and scratched me,
And my fingers are all red

It's hot and dusty work,
Down my face are paths of sweat.
But I can't quit now,
for I haven't finished,
Filling my pail up yet!

The chiggers have found their way,
To my moist and tender waist.
They 're just another drawback,
Of picking that must be faced.

Now you may not believe it,
But nonetheless, it's true,
Picking black raspberries is,
My favorite thing to do!

Mary J. Stevens

Justin Berk at Eldersburg Elementary

Eldersburg Elementary School was the site of another celebrity visit. Justin Berk a weather man at Baltimore's abc channel 2 station. He appears on Good Morning Maryland. He broadcast a weather piece from the second grade suite. The kids were beyond thrilled. It was the culmination of their Science unit on weather.

He was very friendly and relaxed.

Here are some of the camera men prepping the equipment before they go live....

Here's Justin Berk with Mike Eisenklam our principal and my friend Ashly. Too bad you can't see the rockin' leopard pants Ashly was wearing for the meet and greet.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Blacksmith

My Grandpa had a blacksmith shop,
Where everyone who passed would stop,
And spend the time of day with him,
While he would work with iron and tin.

He started working as a lad,
In the shop owned by his dad.
He never learned to read or write,
For he worked, from morn 'till night.

He had talent and he could draw,
The neatest designs you ever saw,
Of parts for boats, and gates and things,
And he could pound out shoes and rings.

His son became a blacksmith too,
Back when folks had a horse or two.
My Grammy kept the books at night,
Sitting by the kerosene light.

When Grammy, the dinner bell would ring,
Across the road, his friends he'd bring.
And Grammy would set another place,
While Grandpa washed his hands and face.

I'm told he had a kindly way,
Tho' I never met him, I'm sad to say.
He was honest as the day is long,
And everyone says he could do no wrong.
How I wish I'd had the chance to know,
This man everyone admired so.

Mary J. Stevens

Ray Rice-Raven RB

Ray Rice, a running back for the Baltimore Ravens football team came to speak at our school today to celebrate the fact that our students and staff read 1,000,000 minutes.

He was wonderful! He was fabulous with the kids. He had a wonderful, inspiring story about working for your dream. The kids laughed and shrieked and just enjoyed the afternoon tremendously.

One of the parents was a big fan and was wearing Ray's number so I pushed her to get her picture taken with him. It came out great! Which frankly, is sort of a miracle because I took like forty photos and these three are the best (and only) ones fit to be seen.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cats Rule, Others Drool..

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In the Doctor's Office

While waiting for the doctor to see me, I played with my phone. With time to kill, I wished that I could download books onto my phone. Hmm, maybe I can and I just don't know it. I'll have to check into that. Anyway, since there's nothing interesting to photograph in a doctor's examining room, I just snapped my feet. That "Steel Her Heart" polish sure does look fine on my toes.

My doctor's visit went pretty well. My blood pressure is normal. My blood sugar is normal. My cholesterol and triglycerides are all good. Sadly, I'm anemic and my Vitamin D levels are still too low. I'll be eating iron rich foods and doubling up on my Vitamin D from now on. Oh yeah--I've got to start taking a iron supplement too. Yuck.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Sandal Weather = Pedicure Weather

It's officially spring for me when I wear sandals to work for the first time. The reason being, my school stays cold long after other buildings begin to warm up with the good weather. I rarely break out my summer clothes at school until August. Some people, hardy souls, have been wearing sandals and flip flops for weeks. I can't believe they haven't gotten frost-bitten toes. Our weekend of temperatures in the '90s did their work however. So today I wore sandals to work.

Of course, that meant I had to do a hasty pedicure so my toes were fit to be seen. My heels need some serious work, but I counted on my longish pants to hide those sins. Polish-wise, I usually wear L'Oreal's Las Vegas shade on my toes for most of the summer. It's a good all-around pinky-coral-pearlized color. After looking at it all day though, I decided I needed something new and cutting edge. So at Walmart tonight, I perused the nail polish selection. To my dismay the fast drying polishes are out of favor. I wonder if it's all the formaldehyde? I was immediately struck by Revlon's Steel Her Heart shade. It's a dark metallic gray color. I waffled for a minute or so but finally went for it. Who cares how old I am! It looks great on my toes. Every now and then all that time and energy I put into reading InStyle magazine pays off for me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Flip Flops

It's been in the 80's here this weekend which means it is time to break out the flips flops. I adore wearing sandals and I have several pairs. I'm a fan of Birkenstocks and I have a great pair of Clark sandals that have a tennis shoe bottom with a sandal top. (Great for sightseeing in.) But my favorite schlep around footwear is a flip flop. And my favorite kind of flip flop is by Teva. They have a really comfortable and cute strappy flip flop made with a soft fabric strap which comes in a multitude of colors. I highly recommend them. I got mine at DSW, but soon found myself ordering them online. Teva has great customer service too.

Swine Flu

I understand that the swine flu has become a public health emergency. This causes me some concern because I am an anxious-ness prone person. Also, Judy read the book The Great Influenza about the flu pandemic of the early 20th century which killed millions. It was, frankly, depressing because although health care has improved enormously since then, a new strain of flu does have the potential to cause great grief around the world. At least that is what she told me, although I wish she hadn't. But there you go. Can't unring the bell, so to speak. So, here's praying that we all stay healthy. Wash those hands folks. Dry skin be darned.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dancing Daffodils

I was sitting at a stoplight where the median was planted with daffodils today. As each car blew past hurrying to their destination, the daffodils danced. They wiggled and jiggled and swayed. It looked like quite a party. I wished for a camera to capture the sight. Wordsworth said it best...

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Movie Weekend

Judy and I have been wanting to get the Donny Osmond version of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on dvd as faithful readers will know. We, if you remember, have it on video but our VCR went caput. Anyway, we went to Best Buy (on our way to Five Guys for lunch) on Saturday to see if the megastore had it. (Walmart didn't, duh.) To my shock--no Joseph at Best Buy.

Hmm, what to do, what to do....Amazon? Sure, that's the solution, right? Just order it online. I need K-cups coffee anyway. (Yeah, I order my coffee from Amazon--wanna make something of it?) But...wait, maybe they have a VCR/DVD combo here at Best Buy. I looked for one at Walmart with no luck. Are they still making 'em? What if they aren't? I still have videos..lots of videos. Okay--yeah..let's check that out. Not only did they have one--it was dvd recordable. Gotta have that. I can now put all my home movies on dvd for family. All the videos of my mother telling her life story into the camera can now be shared out! They'll be so grateful, I know. So that's how we ended up with a VCR/DVD recorder combo. I thought it was a great solution, but Plan B definitely cost way more than just buying a new Joseph on dvd.

Once we had the new machine hooked up, something I did with some verbal assistance from the injured (Judy), we had to try it out. Judy is usually our go-to girl for this kind of technology installment so I was somewhat challenged to learn a new skill set. First we watched our video of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream with Donny Osmond as Joseph. We had to test the vcr part of the machine, see. Then we had to test the dvd part of the machine--so that's when we watched Narnia: Prince Caspian.

Overall, Prince Caspian was good--but there sure were a lot of battle scenes. We had to give the ff button a bit of a work out. I was also surprised the movie started with a woman screaming while giving birth--seemed an inappropriate start to a kid's movie. Judy and I also kept saying--is that in the book? because the whole Peter leads an attack on Lord Miraz' castle didn't ring any bells. Meanwhile, Caspian was a cutey--but what was up with the Spanish accents for all the Telmarines?

With the screening of Prince Caspian and Bolt (over spring Break), I can brag that we have now watched a total of TWO movies of relatively recent release in the last few...six-ish months. What can I say, we're real movie hounds in my house.

Love in the animal kingdom

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Three Times a Lady

In the summer of '78 I spent a lot of time driving around in the middle of the night. I worked the closing shift at McDonald's and my pals and I would socialize after hours. My then crush had a dark green Triumph Spitfire and this was my favorite song. In Terre Haute kids drove up and down Wabash Avenue for entertainment. Maybe they do it still but I'm too old to know or care. But this song takes me back.

Comfort Reads

Non-readers don't know about and dilettante readers don't understand the idea of comfort reading. This is an activity hardcore readers participant in when they want to feel better or are really busy and stressed and don't have the energy to invest in reading new books. New books can be a risk. There is no guarantee that you will like your newest read--particularly if it is an unknown author. You don't know if you'll get a good emotional payoff at the end of it as you would with a known book. A comfort read is a book you have already read that you love. It could also be a book by an author that you read because their books have a reliable familiarity about them. You know the emotional payoff is what you want. You are going to have your feel good moment at the end. That's why 'real' readers re-read well-loved books.

I'm coming off of an intense period of reading new books, mostly in the paranormal romance genre. I've also been pretty busy lately taking care of Judy and the house (because of her shoulder injury) and this weekend I just wasn't in the mood nor did I have the energy to delve into new new books. So I pulled out my Miles Vorkosigan books by Lois McMaster Bujold and re-read selected bits of Memory, A Civil Campaign, and Diplomatic Immunity. After I finished those, I started re-reads of some of my favorite Joan Wolf's like The Deception, The Gamble, and The Pretenders.

I think I'm ready to start another new new book now and I've pulled out a Mojo Sheepshanks book by Linda Lael Miller, Deadly Gamble. I'm trying to be more disciplined in my reading and a person who buys as many new books as I do really has to be dedicated about reading the new stuff rather than just re-reading old favorites. It's tricky though when I own thousands of books and many of them are my favorites. Hopefully Mojo will be as good as reported to me by Judy and Monica and the two books in the series will end up on my re-read list.

For those who can't imagine this re-reading of a book you've already read I offer up three ideas. First, it's a biological fact that books which end happily (like romances or mysteries) cause the release of endorphins in the brain which can become addictive. Seriously. Secondly, people frequently watch the same movie over and over again without thinking it odd. Judy and I get sucked into Apollo 13 every single time we see it on tv. "Houston, we have a problem." We also can't pass by Fifth Element. Thirdly, I think you can also compare comfort reads to listening to well-loved music over and over--especially music from your youth. Those songs from your teen years that instantly propel you back into that feeling you had on a special date or the first time you were kissed or at the prom dancing a slow dance. I never hear the Commodores, Three Times A Lady without a feeling of intense nostalgia for the summer of '78 and driving through the night in a dark green Triumph Spitfire with the top down. I spent hours as a teen listening to the Carpenters and when I hear Rainy Days and Mondays I am transported to a living room in Terre Haute where I sat in front of the stereo speaker.

Gosh, all this nostalgic talk has made me want to re-read another comfort read. Mojo will have to wait.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Judy and I are really into Joseph right now because we have become addicted to a show on BBC America, called "Any Dream Will Do". It is about the search for a new leading man for the production on the West End in London. (The Brit's version of Broadway.) I went wild when I realized that John Barrowman who plays Capt. Jack Harkness on Torchwood (also on BBC America) is one of the judges in the show. It turns out the show is at least a year old and we already know who wins but that suits us down to the ground because we are the kind of people who read the end of the book first to make sure we like how it ends.

Anyway--long ago we saw a version of Joseph at the Assembly Hall in Champaign. We subsequently bought a video version starring Donny Osmond. We'd like to watch it again but--as you know. VCRs are going the way of the eight track tape and ours bit the dust a while back. We can't decide if we should replace it or not. Once Judy's shoulder gets better we'll head for Best Buy and see if we can find a dvd of the show starring Donny. In the meantime, here's a Youtube video of Donny in the teeny tiny loincloth he wears while in jail as Joseph. He sings pretty nicely too.

It's kinda amazing really

I mean, how did a bald, short man become a sex symbol? How did he manage to make the recorder the instrument for hot guys to play? It's amazing....

Whaddaya do?

It's cold. It's wet. The rain is a steady and annoying presence. Whaddaya do? I guess you just gotta jam.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Saga of Judy

Well, we are down to the last day of vacation and finally Judy's doctor's appointment arrived. She was home forty minutes later--setting what had to be a record for speed at our doctor's office--with a prescription for a muscle relaxant, and heavy-duty Ibuprofen. She has been referred to an ortho doctor and will need an MRI to determine exactly what is wrong with her neck/shoulder, arm/thumb. The possibilities seem to be either a torn muscle/tendon or an entrapped nerve. I vote for the nerve because of the thumb-numbness on the other hand she feels like the muscle has torn away from the bone so I guess that's why she needs an MRI. The PA also told her to wear a sling, which gave me the opportunity to say "I told you so" because, well, I told her so--several days ago. She wore it for five minutes and decided that was it.

Meanwhile, the first ortho she called didn't have any appointments available until May. Ohhhh, no----that is SO not going to be how long we wait. I don't want to do all the laundry, cleaning, cooking and dishes forever! I feel so nostalgic for Illinois right now. Back Champaign we could have gotten to an ortho guy and into an MRI chamber within days. I miss Christie and Carle. It was so quick and easy and....easy. Here everything is spread out and you have to make all your appointments yourself and it's just a pain. At least the ball is finally rolling.

Judy went to see an ortho guy today. Shoulder strain is the diagnosis. HUH? She is in extreme pain--how can it be just shoulder strain? I don't know--but her doctor was in the Baltimore Magazine Best Doctor's issue so I'm inclined to think he knows what he's doing. She has been given a course of steroids and a script for therapy. The steriods should relieve the nerve irritation and pain. Recovery time is four-six weeks.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

SECAC Awards

Tuesday April 7th, my team and I spent the evening at the Carroll County Special Education Citizen's Advisory Council First Annual Recognition and Appreciation Awards. Our team was honored to be nominated by a parent for recognition. It was a great evening spent with friends and co-workers listening to inspirational letters written by parents. I love what I do and I find it rewarding all on its own. It feels good, though, to hear that you are making a difference.

Here's Teresa Gostomski our team leader, and upper elementary resource teacher with her husband Tony.

Carolyn Whittington, our School Psychologist

Carolyn DiStefano, Carolyn DeMay, and Monica Kerr. As you can tell, we're well-supplied with Carolyns. Carolyn DiStefano is our Instructional Assistant, Carolyn DeMay is the lower elementary resource teacher, and Monica Kerr is my right-hand. I literally do not ever want to contemplate doing my job without her.

Mike Eisenklam, Principal Extraordinaire of Eldersburg Elementary School.

Cindy Knies, Barb Cohen, and Theresa French--Third and First Grade Teachers

Trish Galanakis, our Consulting Teacher

Jackie Powell, our former Principal--now Principal of Hampstead Elementary School.

Cindy Bell, our former Assistant Principal--now Principal of Winfield Elementary School.

Neener Neener Neener

Spring Break

Well, I'm on day three of my mini-Spring Break. It started with a bang on Wednesday evening when Saba came over for our weekly dinner. We've been on a thin-sliced chicken breasts and salad kick lately. During and after dinner we watch "The Real Housewives of New York City" together. We are on Team Bethenny btw. That Kelly chick is crazy and an inexplicably weird dresser.

On Thursday I slept in a little and discovered that Judy had actually gotten up before me. Quelle Horreur! Turns out the pain in her neck/shoulder/arm/thumb is quite severe and she is having trouble sleeping in her bed so she came out to the couch and slept a while. I am now taking care of her pretty steadily. Thankfully, she did finally make a doctor's appointment for Monday afternoon so hopefully two more days before she receives better pain killers than Tylenol.

Friday was more of the same. We did leave the house for lunch at Five Guys. Today things were finally back to normal because when I got up, Judy was still in bed. I was able to have my morning coffee and internet time without listening to her crunch cereal. (She also turns the tv on which I hate.) We headed out for lunch (I don't cook lunch) and hit the grocery store. We'll be having the traditional ham for Easter dinner.

In my spare time from cooking and waiting on Judy, I have been reading. I'm about to pass 19,000 pages for the year. I just finished the last Nalini Singh book in the Psy-Changeling series. It was excellent. As previously stated, I enjoy any book with psychic elements and people who can change into animals--especially in the cat family. I had two cats for nineteen years after all. I'm rather attached to that type of pet. I'm also done with the Vampire books by Lara Adrian. I believe both authors have another book in their series coming out in the summer. Sigh. I switched over to modern Cowboy books by Linda Lael Miller as you may recall and finished The Creeds of Montana. I was all set to start on the McKittricks but Judy has managed to lose them somewhere in my house. I've got A LOT of books around here. I've looked but I'm stumped as to where they could be. I considered that we might have loaned them to Karen or Jeri Lynn--that's a bit of a long shot. So what to read next....hmm....I've got some Susan Mallery books waiting or Mary Balogh's latest...Wait and see.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Springtime Treats

Judy and I got a fun package in the mail today from QVC. Mrs. Prindables Springtime Collection. Candy apples, candied pretzels and popcorn. Too bad it came the day our spring break started--now we have to wait until next Tuesday to share with our co-workers. I can't guarantee what'll be left by then...heh heh...

Stepsister's Lament

My latest lyric quiz on Facebook was this song.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Fourth of July

This summer Judy and I will be busy hosting family for destination vacations. Karen and Allison will be coming right after my school lets out in mid-June. We already know that our focus will be all Lincoln, all the time. We've been reading Lincoln books since last summer and now we want to see some of the things we've read about. Happily, Ford's Theater is completely renovated and better than ever. We are also going to see the Lincoln Summer Cottage which opened up last summer. We had planned to go, then didn't and regretted it. No regrets this summer.

Jeri, Andrea, and Connor will be driving into town shortly thereafter. When Andrea visited a couple of years ago, Judy or I apparently promised that on her next visit we would book a hotel room in D.C. for the Fourth of July fireworks. I'm of a temperament that the only way I'd be willing to view the fireworks on the National Mall would be from the comfort of my own private space. Since Andrea reminded us of our promise, we actually bestirred ourselves to act. If you want a hotel room over Fourth of July you can't wait to the last minute. So--as of now, we are booked for a weekend in D.C. over the Fourth. Yippee. I'm looking forward to this even if we will be sharing space with an exuberant four year old.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


Reader Ramblings.

Ever since my friend Betsy told me that she doesn't like my book reviews (admittedly all those J.D. Robb's in a row was oppressive) I've been a little gun shy about posting more book reviews. I got kinda burnt out too. But really, I want, as all bloggers do, to give my readers what they want to read while at the same time expressing myself. What to do, what to do....

Ever since the book challenge started we've been on a huge reading kick at my house. We can barely get American Idol watched before the next A. I. is due to come on. The time pressure is killing us. Naturally, it doesn't help that all our favorite shows (Pushing Daisies, Eli Stone) got cancelled. T.V. is in a sad state. Judy and I aren't even watching the new Survivor or Amazing Race. We just need a break, I guess. So we're reading instead.

Once J. D. Robb's latest came out, Promises in Death. I got off the Eve Dallas marathon. It was a little weird at first--like not seeing a family member for a while after seeing them everyday. I'd been reading In Deaths steadily since Christmas--but I am now largely recovered from the effects. Whew. I was imagining murderers around every corner. I was getting almost too paranoid to go to the mall.

I went immediately into Sci Fi mode. Lois McMaster Bujold's latest and last? Sharing Knife book came out and I happily settled into to see how that series finished up. Then onto the Sharon Shinn Twelve Houses series. I even managed to get Judy interested in that series. (I've tried for years to convince her to read Shinn's Archangel. You'd think that a book with singing and music and sci fi people with angel wings would appeal but Judy's musical interests are rather thin for a former music educator.)

Once through the 'serious' sci fi, I hit my stacks of paranormal romance. Yep. It's just what it sounds like---romances with "paranormal" elements. I have a particular weakness for vampire stories, anything with ESP, and frankly, I'm fond of people who can turn into animals. I have no idea why. I don't analyze myself or the books, I just enjoy 'em.

I discovered a new author, Lara Adrian who is writing a series about Vampires who are really aliens stranded on earth. Cool. Reminds me of Lyndsey Sand's series about the Vampires who have nano-technology in their bloodstream that repairs all damage to their bodies thus requiring more blood, frequently. For the person who likes paranormal romance--this is your time in the romance industry. Cowboys and Regency/Historicals are still popular but fangs and claws are takin' over. For now, anyway. The tide will turn eventually and tastes will change. It's why I buy books in bulk after all--because they might stop publishing the stuff I like to read. Gotta have a stockpile for retirement.

As far as the book challenge is concerned--I've read almost 16,000 pages. I think I'm still in third place after Karen and Judy. Overall, I've read 47 books since New Year's Day. Not counting the re-reads of Blue Eyed Devil and Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas that I just read after finishing her latest book, Smooth-Talking Stranger. I'm an honest competitor and I didn't read them all the way through--I just re-read my favorite parts, so I can't count them in the challenge. Btw, if I were to write a review of Smooth-Talking Stranger, I would so give it a TEN! It was EXCELLENT.