My Friend Tippy

A few years ago, we had a tiny little friend who would come visit us every night on our front porch.  [NO - this was not the tiny little friend who visited INSIDE our house - that's a different story!!] This was a baby opossum, and he would climb and wiggle his way into my cat’s food bowl to eat some of her dry leftover cat food. While I never seemed to snap a picture of him (I know, shocker!), hearing the sound of the bowl tipping on the porch would cause us to come running to the windows.  “Tippy” (and probably his identical relatives) visited us many times over the years. We were smitten. In fact, every time we witnessed an opossum who had met his untimely death on the side of the road, we hoped against hope it wasn’t Our Tippy.

Our 19 year old kitty died about two years ago, and during that time we’ve had no visits from Tippy or his progeny.  No cat bowl = no Tippy, it seems.  Sigh.  That was, until a few days ago.

Remember, we are living in the State of Mayhem since our house flooded in December. At times, I will put things on the back deck (including the huge trash bag) during the day to make space to work.  This particular night, I was heading to the deck to bring it in, when I noticed some movement outside….

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Awwwwww…..  It was Tippy!  He was here to visit!  I ran to grab my camera, turned on the floodlights and plopped myself down on the floor in front of the sliding glass door.  Tippy and I had a wonderful visit… I reminisced about all those noisy nights on the front porch, while he tried incessantly to break into our steel-reinforced Hefty bag.  {Note to self: It seems that Contractor’s bags are impervious to opossum teeth!} 

After what seemed to be too short of a visit, Tippy came right over to the window to say goodbye to me.  The look in his eye seemed to say so much….  “I promise I’ll be safe out on the roads.”  “When are you getting a new cat, for crying out loud??”  “How about going back to using the old trash bags….” or perhaps….. “Nice bunny pajamas, Suzy!”

But really, it was his smile that left an impression on me – and perhaps it will on you, too.  It reminded me that smiles make everyone feel better.

Tippy smileSo, as I stood up and went back to life in Mayhem, I silently thanked Tippy for his smiley visit. It was long overdue.

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What are some of your encounters with creatures from The Great Outdoors?  Be sure to share them by leaving a comment – and if you have time, read the story about our surprise living room visitor HERE.

 

Fly Higher, See Farther…

Room 204 students have been focused on eagles lately.

“The bird that flies highest, sees farthest.” – Richard Bach

We recently read a story entitled Fly, Eagle, Fly by Christopher Gregorowski.  We often chat about the benefits of activating our prior knowledge before we dive into a reading.  With so many great eagle resources available, we really dove deep!  Because students were so interested in the conversation, I thought I’d post about some of the photos, videos and websites we shared.

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My family and I were lucky enough to see many eagles during our trip to Alaska this summer:

These were taken in Ketchikan, where the adults and juveniles perched all along the jetty, hoping to catch their next meal:

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We moved on to Juneau, where we were treated to  feeding frenzy at the end of our full-day fishing and photo safari.  Talk about fireworks on the Fourth of July!!

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Here is a video as we watched dozens of eagles swoop in to eat chicken. Yum!

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This last one was taken at the end of our trip at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood, Alaska.

Adonis is a gunshot victim found near a remote village in Alaska. His wing required full amputation, and he has lived at AWCC since 1995.

Adonis is a gunshot victim found near a remote village in Alaska. His wing required full amputation, and he has lived at AWCC since 1995.

I also shared the following site with students – but we cannot stream it at school (it uses too much bandwidth). Perhaps you’ll have time to check it out at home….  In Decorah, IA, there are a pair of American Bald Eagles who have made their home alongside a trout farm.  There are webcams trained on the nest, and they broadcast 24/7 for viewers to observe the comings of goings of the Mom & Dad eagle, as well as their eaglets.  This year, there are three eggs laid, and though the cold weather has threatened the viability of two eggs, it appears as if the 3rd egg will hatch in a few weeks.  Stay tuned – it’s pretty cool!!!

If you have any eagle wisdom to share, be sure to leave us a comment! We’re super excited to learn more. :)

 

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” – J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Sunshine for Homework

Recently I was tagged by both Beth Holland (@brholland) and Drew Frank (@ugafrank) in a blogger challenge.  I loved reading their posts, as it’s always fun to see what similarities we share across the World Wide Web. Thanks for including me!!!

Sunshine-Award

Drew:Homework Club & Eleven Challenge

Beth: I’ve Been Sunshined!

While the names of this challenge differ from the Homework Club, Sunshine Award, The Eleven Challenge to the PLN Blogging Challenge – they are all designed for bloggers to get to know each other better and connect in new ways.  This post will be a combination of the Sunshine Award, Homework Club and Eleven Challenge.  Here are the rules:

  • Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
  • List 11 bloggers. They should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love!
  • Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. (You cannot nominate the blogger who nominated you.)

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. 11 is my favorite number.  I make a wish every day at 11:11 when I see it on the clock.  For years and years and years (and years!), I wished for a horse.  Seems that wish was granted to my sister, so I’m now on to Plan B for Wishes.
  2. You could not pay me any amount of money to go back to high school, to relinquish my camera, or to live too far from the ocean.
  3. I love to travel – the whole experience -> planning, airports, flying, hotels, seeing new places – I miss being a travel agent but still find opportunities to go Hither and Yon.
  4. I love to read. I love to read so much, I’ll avoid my responsibilities, my family, and my bedtime. I have set time limits for myself to stay out of trouble, which I stink at. Anyone have any good book recommendations?? ;P
  5. I have a beach museum in my classroom with vials of sand from all over the world. Some are collected by the Brooks family, and some are collected by my present and former students and my friends and colleagues.
  6. I stink at crossword puzzles, word searches, Sudoku, Scrabble and Monopoly. I love Pictionary and I can beat anyone at Bop It… but nobody plays those anymore.
  7. I’ve been a Girl Scout since I was 8 and am a Gold Award recipient.  The Eagle Scout award in Boy Scouts is the equivalent to the Gold Award in Girl Scouts.
  8. When I was a senior in HS, I didn’t think I was smart enough to go to college. Seeing everyone leave that fall was horribly difficult. I wish I could have seen the future and known one day I’d be an honors student graduating with a 4.0 GPA from both college and graduate school.
  9. When I was 16, I was in the Miss Massachusetts Teen USA pageant. The experience was invaluable as I gained confidence and came out of my oh-so-shy shell.
  10. My anxiety permeates nearly everything I do in life and has gotten worse as I have gotten older. Fortunately, I have become braver as I’ve aged, so I think it all balances out.  I have come to learn that sharing my story helps myself and others accept the realities of anxiety and share management strategies. I know I’m not alone.
  11. My students inspire me—and not in a cliche way. Trying to find the best way to meet their needs drives me to distraction. I become so completely attached to who they are and what they require and I spend 180 days trying to support them as whole children. Every September, the cycle begins anew, and I am re-energized with a new batch of learners!

Answer Beth & Drew’s questions…

(I chose 11 out of their combined 22)

 

Best Day Ever:
The Best Day Ever…. Oh gosh, such possibilities! The morning would be rainy, so after getting up early and quietly getting some work done on the computer, I’d head out to breakfast with my family. The skies would clear while we were there, and so we’d decide to head to the beach for lunch. While we were at the beach, there would a perfect amount of time to relax, swim, walk and kayak before heading home. My house would be immaculate because I cleaned the day before (ha ha). We’d have people over for a BBQ and a campfire.  Every photo from that day would come out so perfect and in the end it would feel as if there were more than 24 hours in the day.  I love days like that.

How do you caffeinate?

I drink coffee every day – usually Dunkin’ Donuts but I also enjoy Starbucks, HoneyDew and MaryLou’s – all of which have different flavors I like.  About twice a year I give up caffeine, but it always sneaks back into my life. I only have one cup a day (but sometimes that’s a large cup!).

What is one thing you couldn’t live without?

I know there are standard answers for this question – my family, my friends, etc… Those, for me, are a given. But, they are not “things”, per se.  So, that being said, I’d have a hard time giving up my camera and my computer. Please don’t make me choose which one.

If you could go to have attended any concert anytime in history, what would it have been?

I’ve been lucky to attend dozens and dozens of concerts since I was a teenager. I am unlucky in that those endless performances damaged my ears and left me with Tinnitus.  There is one concert I missed, so I sent my parents instead. I would love to go back in time and attend that Garth Brooks concert at Gillette Stadium with them. :)

What’s the best topping combination to put on a pizza?

Garlic, ricotta and fresh tomatoes.

Who was your favorite teacher in school?

I cannot remember any of my teachers after grade 6.  But, I can clearly remember all of my elementary teachers and I loved them all.  The magic of Facebook has allowed me to connect with so many of my former teachers, and I treasure those connections. I still get that excited feeling when they send me messages or like my posts.  They were a special group of educators and they all influenced my teaching in unique ways.

Favorite twitter chat?

The ones I remember to show up for.  I love #edchat, #satchat and #edchatma but my timing is poor and I miss them more than I intend to.

Best place you ever vacationed?

I used to be a travel agent, so I’ve luckily traveled to a bunch of awesome places. I’m a huge Disney fan, and could easily say that’s my Greatest Place On Earth – but Disney was outdone by our recent trip to Alaska.  It was breathtaking.

If you could go out for dinner with anyone throughout history, who would it be?

I’ve done a huge amount of research into our family history, and I think it would be awesome to have a big old-fashioned family reunion with all the ancestors in our Tree.  Perhaps they’d be able to help me dig back farther than the Mayflower?

Favorite television shows?

I am a Reality TV junkie – I love shows like The Amazing Race, Survivor, etc.. I also love cooking shows and anything on HGTV.  Our DVR has a recording schedule that is just craziness.

Goal for 2014:

Easiest question – my goal is to have my house back to normal by the last day of school.  We had a significant leak early in December, and had to move out. Though we should be able to move back in soon, it will be months before our home is back to normal.

Nominate 11 bloggers to participate in this challenge:

Charity Preston    http://www.theorganizedclassroomblog.com/

Sarah Lewis  http://mrssarahlewis.wordpress.com/

Dan Callahan   http://remixteaching.com/

Nancy Carroll  http://teachingiselementary.blogspot.com/

Shawn Avery   http://mravery.edublogs.org/

Samantha Morra    http://samanthamorra.com/

Rachel Friedrich    http://subhubonline.blogspot.com/

Nate Everett    http://engineofsouls.com/

Sarah Brooks   http://saralynn24.tumblr.com/

Mark Molloy   http://www.mytowntutors.com/

Michelle Perron    http://missperronsecondgradestars.blogspot.com/

 

My 11 Earth-Shattering, Life-Altering Questions…..

1.  What’s your favorite number? Why?

2.  Best gift you have ever received?

3.  Snow days – Awesome??…… or not so much?? Support your stance.

4. Finding balance in life is tricky. Any advice to share?

5.  How do you feel about surprises?

6.  Best elementary school memory?

7.  Design the perfect dinner menu:

8. What responsibility would you love to give up forever?

9. How many United States have you stepped foot in?

10.  How many hours per day do you spend on a computer/mobile device?

11.  What advice would you like to give to my 3rd grade students?

 

That’s it! Whew!! These posts take a long time – or am I just a turtle blogger?  Happy New Year, Webbie Friends!!

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Go Figure! Math Challenges for Families

I just arrived home from school after an 11-hour day of meetings, school and online trainings. I was excited to see the arrival of my Tech & Learning Magazine – one of my faves!! Yaay!  So, here I am, sitting on my couch, reading my magazine with my laptop as I always do nowadays.  Funny, after years and years of just sitting down – my magazine and I – my magazine-reading-behavior has changed.

 

techlearningNow, when I sit and read a magazine, I keep my laptop beside me.  I am always amazed at the creative ideas and resources found between the pages of my favorite magazines, and I love to share them! Now, instead of ripping out pages and trying to remember to copy and share the ideas later on, I just share them online instantly.

Tonight, I’m sharing one with my 204 families!!  Tech & Learning always has a News & Trends page, which includes the Top 10 Web Stories from their website.  One of the ten items caught my eye as something I think my students will enjoy with their families!!

 

Figure This! is a website designed for families to participate in math challenges together.  Whether the topics are on measurement, time or distance, there are real-world problems for families to read, discuss and figure out together.  They are SUPER FUN!!  Because these problems are designed for middle-school students, I know some of you may find them to be challenging. However, spending time talking about complicated math problems as a family can help everyone think about how we go about solving problems….  Keep in mind the message I give my students every day – it is NEVER about the answer, it is ALWAYS about the thinking process!!  Click the pic below and check it out – and let me know what you think!!

 

figure this

A Year Anew

I love the newness of back-to-school. Each new school year brings about opportunities to try things differently, to start an adventure of sorts. I’ve been prepping at home and at school in order to be ready…

I went to Mullen-Hall to get started on putting Room 204 back together.  I’ll show you the “before” pics, now, and will hopefully have some decent “after” pics, soon!

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I love our classroom, and can’t wait until it is filled with students!!

One thing I’ve never really blogged about is our classroom Beach Museum.  For years,  I have been collecting sand from beaches all over the world. What has made my collection more special is the fact that students often bring back sand from places I’ve never visited!  After many years of keeping sand in jars around the room, I realized that the display needed to change.  With the help of some fabulous volunteers, we transferred the sand into ornaments, and my mom (Miss Sally) took the time to hand write all the tags for me.  Each tag is 2-sided, and tells where the sand is from, the name of the beach, the date and who collected it.  Right now I have 36 ornaments, but am already realizing I will need to re-think space. I have some sand from Alaska that will need a home!!

A few of the 36 sand ornaments in our classroom.

A few of the 36 sand ornaments in our classroom.

It is amazing how sand differs in texture and color depending on where it came from!

It is amazing how sand differs in texture and color depending on where it came from!

I arrived home from school to find this on my front porch, waiting for me:

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Yaay!!!! It is my new MacBook Pro!!  I really wanted to order it this past spring, but forced myself to wait until the new school year.  This will be my fourth Mac computer since I bought my first one in 1997.

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With a few adapters and an App Store gift card, I’m ready to roll it into the classroom!

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This is the first time that I’ve bought a new computer BEFORE the old one died.  What a treat, being able to move over all of my data from one computer to the other and have everything ready to use in the new one.  Carson is hoping he can use my old laptop  to play Minecraft!

As for me, I have been thinking about how much technology has changed in the last 4 years since buying my old MacBook.  Mobile devices are everywhere, and there are so many creative ways to use technology in the classroom. So, even though on the surface, my new MacBook Pro (whom I have named Mabel) seems very similar to my old one, I know there are many new opportunities for me to put it into service as a learning device.

Oh, one last random picture (make that 3)  – I was able to catch a gorgeous sunset while I was in Provincetown over the weekend.  As summer draws to a close, I am very much looking forward to what’s ahead…

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Pilgrim Monument

Pilgrim Monument

School Shopping!

It’s that time of year where I load up my shopping cart with classroom supplies.  This morning held a lot of promise – mostly because:

A.  It is going to rain and I won’t miss a beautiful day.

B. I was spiffy and was at the store by 7:15am.

So, here it is – my big pile of fun for Room 204:

school supplies

I’m not sure if you can clearly see everything in the pile, so I thought I’d share….

There are certain items I buy every year, because I believe it helps keep my students organized:

~ 20 Poly pocket 3-prong folders for School~>Home~>School~>Home, etc…

~ 20 Pencil cases to go in the folder

~ 100 Sheet protectors to go in the folders

~ 100 Shipping labels to stick on the sheet protectors.

~ 1 Package of black card stock to create labels for our cubbies

There are certain items I buy every year, because we end up running low on school-provided and donated supplies sometime around April.  I buy them in August because they cost so much more in April:

~ 24 Boxes of Crayola crayons (24 count)

~ 2 Packs of pencils – Ticonderoga and another cedar type to try out (cheap pencils don’t sharpen well at ALL!)

~ 10 Boxes Crayola skinny markers.  Kids seem to like the skinny ones, and I like the quality of the Crayola ones.

~ 16 Boxes CraZart colored pencils

~ 8 Big erasers

~ 4 Packs pencil-top erasers

~ 2 Stacks of neon index cards

~ 3 Packs of super sticky sticky 3M notes

~ 16 Elmer’s Glue Sticks

~ 40 Bic pens – 20 black and 20 blue

There are certain items I bought for the first time this year, because I think it will help with organizing the classroom:

~ 2 Rolling bins (3 drawers each) which will be used to hold math manipulatives.  I am bound and determined to use manipulatives more this year after attending my math trainings. If math materials are organized in 6 identical drawers, then each table of students can grab a ready-to-go drawer full of them!

~ 1 Plastic crate. My dad built beautiful rolling book cases for the classroom last spring. This summer, I have him creating a podium/lectern I have designed for student presentations.  There will be storage shelves inside of it, one of which will hold the plastic crate.

~ Binder, planner, notebook and dividers to create a new Teacher Planner for myself. I’d like to have all of my pertinent information in one (cute & colorful) place this year.

~ There were also some Disney Silly Bands on sale – I was able to get 48 of them for $2.00.  I’m still not sure how I’ll use them, but I’ll figure that out!

.The cashier had LOTS of questions for me as I was checking out this morning. She wanted to know if I was a teacher, and if I was using my own money to purchase these supplies.  She wanted to know if the school provides materials for the classroom, and if the students bring in supplies as well.  The answers to all of her questions were “YES”.  It takes many materials to make it from September to June in a classroom full of hard-working kids. I feel it is important for everyone to pitch in to make it all happen.  I appreciate the support I receive from my school and my families, and feel that the supplies I purchase are always put to good use.  Chatting with her was the best part of my morning!

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.So….. using your best math estimation skills, what do you think the grand total was for my shopping cart full of school supplies??

 

 

Being Brave

“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.” (~Rogers)

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About 3 weeks ago, I was asked to give an Ignite presentation at the ASCD Leaders To Leaders conference held in Virginia this past week.  I had heard of Ignite presentations, but I spent time Googling more details on the format.  Ignite presentations are short, fast-paced talks on topics the speaker is passionate about.  The speaker chooses 20 slides, which advance automatically every 15 seconds to create a 5 minute presentation. There are Ignite talks ranging from those on Legos to Muppetology; and from rollerskating to raising kids.  The topics are as varied as the presenters and the theme makes it all fun.  So, was I up for the challenge?

Visit the Ignite website to learn more!

Visit the Ignite website to learn more!

Between the time I was asked and the date of the presentation – I had an awfully full calendar… teaching teachers, hosting visitors, and vacationing in Alaska.  I would have very little time to prepare before leaving for Virginia.  Could I do this?  Um. Maybe. I sat down with the nearest paper to write down my ideas – a pizza box. By the time I was done, I had enough ideas that I felt I could work with, so…..

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I wrote back to ASCD and told them I’d be happy to give it a shot, and told them my topic would be “Making Meaning as an Educational Leader.”  Gulp.

Now came the preparation.  Finding great copyright-free images to use in presentations can be tricky – so I decided I would use all my own.  I have nearly 20,000 photos in my iPhoto library,  and figured there would be plenty to choose from. I needed to start thinking metaphorically, so my images would match my ideas.  A path can represent a journey, a bird’s-eye view can represent a bigger perspective, a blurry image can represent how we need to focus on what is important.   Choosing the images was a lot of fun, and the hardest part was narrowing down the number of slides to 20!

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Once I combined my slides, with my pizza-box notes, I had to create a script.  I was committed to memorizing my speech, so my script had to sound like my speaking voice, not my writing voice. Each slide had to have enough text to fill 15 seconds, but leave enough room for me to mess up.  I also could not script too little for each slide, because I tend to talk too fast when I present (I get very nervous!!).

Once I had down my timing, I recorded my slideshow and speech on my computer, and then put it in my iPod.  I listened to myself say that speech over and over and over again, until I could say it from memory myself.

SimplySuzy Ignite Recording

The recording I listened to over and over and over and over again…. (this is not a live link, just a picture, haha)

With only hours to go, I felt I was prepared and ready.

Until I woke up that morning.  Hellooooo, Anxiety!

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Ever since I was young, my nerves have always tried to get the better of me.  My heart pounds, my hands shake, my breath leaves me.  I try to relax; deep breathing, music, exercise, distraction, eating….  I still have not found what calms me down to the point I feel under control.  So, over the years I have come to accept the anxiety as part of who I am and try to use it to my benefit.  When I am anxious, I am louder (a good thing for presentations!).  When I am anxious, I am more animated (again, a good thing!).  When I am anxious, I talk faster – my audience has to stay engaged to keep up! When I am anxious, I am bound and determined to prove to myself that good or bad, I can do this.

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My friend Meg at ASCD told me that for every presenter, there are three performances – the one you planned, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.  She is absolutely right.  My planned speech, which I practiced dozens and dozens of times, was blown off course at times.  The speech I gave was filled with more excitement than any of my run-throughs. Finally, the speech I wish I gave would have had me talking a bit slower, so you could hear just how funny I am.  HEE!

I imagine this won’t be my last Ignite speech. I would like to try one for Open House, and perhaps for some of my teacher professional development sessions.  I’d love for my students to give it a shot, too! Perhaps I could make one to convince my teenagers to do more chores around the house. The possibilities are endless.

Anyways, here goes – enjoy it a few times, it’s only 5 minutes!

Missing Alaska

It has been a week, but I am still missing all that our Alaska vacation represented…  Time with family, less tech, beautiful scenery, and so much to learn…   I thought I’d share some of the highlights here because it was just that awesome!

We flew from Boston to Vancouver, Canada… On our flight, we were able to see Mount Rainier, a stratovolcano which rises over 14,000 feet in altitude. We first thought we were seeing a cloud outside the aircraft! The city of Vancouver is fun to visit on Canada Day! It is like Independence Day here in the US, and EVERYONE was happy and wearing red.  I couldn’t get over the size of the maple leaves – no wonder they are a symbol for Canada.  We were able to view many totems during our trip, and I snapped many photos of them….

The city of Vancouver is so beautiful.

The city of Vancouver is so beautiful.

We traveled through the Inner Passage on our way from Vancouver, Canada to Alaska.  The sun does not set until 10:00 at night, so the beautiful light at the end of the day lasts a little longer…  The passage reminded me a little of the Cape Cod Canal, but so more stunning! There are almost no beaches in this area – the mountains plummet right down into the water another 1,000 feet or so.  No sticking my beach chair in the sand, here!

inner passageWe spent a day in Ketchikan, where the houses are perched high on the steep hillsides. The stairs going up to those houses are actually “streets” where folks get mail delivery, rubbish removal, etc…  There are eagles everywhere in Alaska if you keep your eyes peeled to find them!

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After visiting the town of Ketchikan, we had a beautiful trip to Juneau.  We kept busy in Juneau, and one of the sights we were able to see were hundreds of commercial fisherman catching salmon.  Yum!!

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Half of our day in Juneau was spent on a photo safari, where we headed out looking for wildlife. We were able to see a pod of 8 Humpback whales bubble net fishing. They all work together to corral the fish into one area, and then blow bubbles to force them towards the surface in one big swarm. Then the whales communicate under water (we could hear them on a microphone) and come to the surface all at once, eating the fish.

whale collageWe also saw a family of Orca whales (killer whales) with a mom and two calves, as well as some sea lions and a BUNCH of American Bald Eagles.

wildlifeThe second half of our day on the water was spent salmon fishing, though I was still able to snap some beautiful photos. We caught 8 salmon between the 4 of us, and had them all shipped home so we can eat them on Cape Cod!

fishingSkagway was our next stop – with a gold panning lesson and many stories about the Gold Rush back in 1898.  The trail formed by hundreds and hundreds of gold miners was a reminder of just how many risked their lives in the pursuit of fortune.  Unfortunately, most did not come close to striking it rich.  We rode a train up the pass that the gold rushers hiked and saw some incredible views and a momma bear with her cub!!

gold rushI spent the entire time on the back of the train car, so that my photos would come out clearer. It was chilly out there, and Carson thought it was a little scary!

trainThe next two days were at sea, where we were able to see glaciers up close.  Some are white and blue, and drop ice into the bay (a process called calving).  Other glaciers, like the black one on the right below, are filled with the debris they pick up as they advance and recede, carving out valleys and mountains.  Some of the icebergs we saw were bigger than my minivan!!!  The color of the water in Alaska surprised me, I had no idea it would be such a beautiful shade of blue.

icebergsAs we wrapped up the last days of our vacation, we visited the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, where we were able to see many wild animals who were being cared for due to injuries.

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Our “grand finale” on this trip was a flightseeing expedition on a float plane. We were able to view mountains, valleys, the oceans and inlets, wildlife, and many, many glaciers. The views took my breath away, and I was thankful for having my camera.flightseersWe were at about 3,000 feet in elevation, and were able to see sights from perspectives we never would have otherwise.  The glaciers were so interesting to see from above, and we were able to see the mud flats of Cook Inlet so much more clearly from above.  Harvard and Yale glaciers were ones I was hoping to see on this trip, so I am glad the pilot flew us past these immense rivers of ice, which seem almost as tall as the mountains they are carving.

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Time spent on this trip was an incredible gift, and one I will remember for always.  Hopefully someday I will return to Alaska and find ways to explore other parts of this beautiful state.

The New England Home for Little Centipedes

It seems that centipedes love visiting Room 204!  Last year, Caitlin found one playing in our sink. We had another one scurry across the floor during ELA this morning, which sent me running for our Critter Cage.  We spent the morning observing him while we got back to work on our reading.  Later, students were able to vote on a name, and they came up with Poison Money.  Poison because I had told them that centipedes can sting, and Money for the CENT in CENTipede.  Clever kids!

Here he is!

Mystery Ride

“A Mystery Ride? For ME?” After years of planning Mystery Rides for my children, husband, family and friends, the day had finally come… Mr. Brooks had just announced to me that he was planning a Mystery Ride to celebrate my birthday.  I truly couldn’t believe my ears, and instantly my excited anticipation began to grow.

What is a Mystery Ride, you ask?  That’s a good question!! Mystery Rides have been part of our family fun since ten years ago when we tried to spring a surprise Disney Trip on our kids. We were in Boston when they confusedly demanded to know what we were up to. We took pity on them and excitedly announced we were going to Disney World!  Their reaction was less than happy, and in fact, one child (who shall not be named) dissolved into a puddle of tears, demanding to go home.  It was on this Pillar of Joy our Mystery Rides were founded.  Since then, we have been whisking each other off on surprise trips to Hither and Yon, with mixed results along the way.

The trip that launched a thousand Mystery Rides: Florida!

Through the years, our Mystery Rides have run the gamut:  from simple (Kite flying in Newport) to complex (an April vacation spent at Six Flags) and from unsuccessful (a hike on a hot day) to awesome (a historical trip to Boston).  All rides have the same common denominator – the Ride Recipient has no clue what the plan is.  Questions and guesses are encouraged and welcome, and are fired off at every turn of the steering wheel.  However, the answer is always the same.  No matter what we are asked, we always answer with:

“That’s a good question!”.

Here’s a peek at a few (oh, okay – a BUNCH) of our past trips:

A heated, historical hike. This one was a flop!

Hanging out with V.B. from Fox 25 News. He included the kids in his broadcast.

High atop the Custom House in Boston

Matfield Maple Farm, where we learned all about Maple Syrup!

Basketball Hall of Fame & Six Flags on this Ride!

A day in Newport, RI

Waterfire in Providence, RI

The Urban Art Bar in Boston

Ghost Tour with our favorite Freedom Trail Tour Guide, Jeremiah Poope

Another fabulous day in Boston. Quack, Quack!!

International Auto Show

5 Wits at Patriot Place

A Mystery Ride for 40 grown-ups!!

A van full of Mystery Riders :)

I bet by now you are wondering where Mr. Brooks brought me on my Mystery Ride, right??  That’s a good question! Unfortunately, due to all the storms we had this winter, my Mystery Ride was cancelled.  Twice.  It was nearly two months later before we were able to get rolling!  But, the day finally arrived, and we were off!  We headed down Cape, and after many incorrect guesses on my part, around noon we arrived at the Captain Freeman Inn in Brewster.

The Captain Freeman Inn, Brewster

The smile on my face began to broaden as we checked in and our host asked if we were here for the Cape Cod Culinary Cooking School. Cooking school?? Yaay!  Mr. Brooks finally filled me in.  We were here for a French cooking class, along with some other guests at the Inn.  We would be working in their commercial kitchen to prepare a meal with Chef Carol, and later on, we would be enjoy our creation for dinner.  I couldn’t wait to get started!

Putting the finishing touches on the fresh fruit tart.

All finished!! Would you like some?? YUM!

Salad Nicoise with fresh tuna. Delicious!

I have to say it was well worth the wait.  Innkeepers Donna and Byron have a beautiful inn, and provided such a memorable experience for all of their guests.  Arriving there was a wonderful surprise, and truly worthy of the Mystery Ride title!

I think Mystery Rides have become so ingrained in our family tradition because of the side effects…  For those of us planning a Mystery Ride, we have the opportunity to plan with the receiver in mind.  It is fun to surprise others and it makes for playful interaction.  As a recipient of a Mystery Ride, we learn patience, trust, flexibility and geography!!  Joy is in the anticipation, and with Mystery Rides, our anticipation is even higher than when we plan typical family outings.  I hope to keep planning Mystery Rides for years to come, and having one planned just for me was SO fun!!

Ride on,

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=TZiUczLosfE

After a recent assembly at school where students were given the chance to do a little Irish step dancing, I was telling them about a family friend who competes at the world level and is awesome. This video is an opportunity to share her talent, and to hopefully garner some votes for a talent contest she is in.  Feel free to watch and vote!!