Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Robert Frost and Boppy.

Here's a photo I took of Andrea in the National Gallery. No flash. Life with no flash is a beautiful life. At least when you hold still. Otherwise, life with no flush is just blurry. When I was talking about my BFF, I described her as "boppy." Tara asked for clarification, but boppy was hard to define. Let's see if it makes more sense in this context.

Some of my 8th graders need to be a little more boppy. In English, we're working on Robert Frost essays. We asked students to write about a time they took a "road less traveled." They're mostly writing about how they chose to not lie, cheat or steal. A couple of them were brave enough to talk about a tough issue like drugs and saying no. A couple of them were dumb enough to talk about a tough issue like alcohol and saying yes. Sigh. 8th graders.

And then I had two kids who said with 100% certainty that they just couldn't do it. "I can't. It's too hard." I don't know who taught them this phrase, but I would like to write them this letter.

Dear Adult,

The student you are working with is bright and talented in his own way. Please encourage him to try things. If he says, "I can't!" encourage him over and over again that he can. Don't do it for him. Learning helplessness is the worst thing that could happen to this kid, so help him help himself.

Miss Luhrs

Boppy. Resilient. Willing to try give it another go with a skip and a smile.

This story does have a happy ending. One of the students wrote a great big paragraph in the hallway because he couldn't focus in the classroom. Another stopped saying "I can't," long enough to write this gem.

One time I chose not to write a paper that everyone else wrote. As a result, I will probably get a B, D or F. I would make this choice again.

He wrote a few more paragraphs, but you get the idea. BOPPY. He handed it to me with a skip and a smile.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Starsky and Hutch.

Today I really missed my friend Clark.

Mr. McCracken and I taught together at Northwest for the past two years, and it was stinkin' fun. The kids were fascinated by who was taller. This is proof from Science City at Union Station that Clark is about an inch taller than me. Bonus: according to this ruler, I'm only 5'11". HA.

Clark played football at KU, and if there was a fight in the hallway, I would dive in to stop the kids while at the same time yelling, "Clark, CLARK!" as loud as I could. Because they really stopped when Mr. McCracken showed up.

This morning I was chatting with my team teacher Jill outside of her classroom when I turned around to see two students punching each other. And they meant it. I helped break it up and escorted one of the students to the office. Rachel didn't believe me that it happened, and the vice principal assured me that it was a very rare occurrence. "No matter," I said, "makes me feel at home."

At the same time, I missed Clark. We were Starsky and Hutch, keeping order in the halls. When we weren't fighting crime, we were fighting with each other. We argued every single day about instruction, football, discipline and who was the better teacher. But that constant bickering made us better teachers.

I really really love my new teachers that I team with, and I'm not just saying that because Jill reads my blog. They are kind, know me well already, interested in helping my uninteresting love life, and wearing matching outfits. Seriously. Zach and I matched on Monday and kids noticed. I'll call him before I wear that hunter green v-neck again.

I'll be home in November long enough to stop by and see Northwest. During my short visit, I hope Clark makes fun of my football team, calls me a quitter and argues with me about reading instruction. That would make me feel better.

The 80s Called.

They want their folder back.

Lauren V. and Lindsay sent a hilarious care package last week with this folder and one more for Rachel, both circa 1987. Cool graphics, huh?

Even better were the fun messages inside. So when I finish grading papers, there's something fun to look at: a reminder of all the things I love to do instead of grade papers.

There was also a giant pen.

Oh yeah. It was an exciting present in the mail.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Grandma Mary's Apple Crisp.

Today we're remembering Grandpa Gordon. We've been missing him for a year now, fall is settling down around us, and I can't wait till Thanksgiving with my family in Western Nebraska.

So I made apple crisp today. It's my grandma Mary's recipe, and it tastes like home. My mommy wrote the recipe out on a card for me in college, and it is my favorite fall dessert. I made a half recipe because there are only three of us living here and leftovers are dangerous. I've been known to eat apple crisp for breakfast, lunch and snacks. I'll include the recipe for the whole crisp in case you want it. Really, you probably need it.

I used honeycrisp apples, peeled and sliced them very thin, and tossed them with a little lemon juice so they wouldn't brown.

Next I mixed up the topping. It's so so yummy. I should eat it on my oatmeal.

Spread on top and bake till golden brown and your house smells like home. As I write this, it's already gone. It was that good.

Mary Luhrs Recipe for Apple Crisp
3 cups apples, peeled and sliced
lemon juice
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup oatmeal
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
5 tablespoons butter

Slice apples and layer in a 9 x 9 baking dish. Combine dry ingredients, and then use a fork to smash the butter throughout the mixture. Spread on top of the apples. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes at 350 degrees or until top is browned and apples are tender.

Then eat it with people you love because apple crisp is about fall and family.

Art Lessons with Andy.

I love to go to art museums and galleries with Andy. With her background in art history and current job in NYC, she's a brilliant teacher and enthusiast who makes art fun. She helped me fall in love with the Met instead of wander aimlessly. I saved my first visit to the National Gallery in DC until she came to visit because I knew I would appreciate it so much more.

For example, today I became an enthusiast of 15th- to 16th-Century Netherlandish paintings. I also have a wealth of information about drawings that I could share if you came to visit.

The National Gallery is a beautiful building on the mall. It was quiet and peaceful on Sunday afternoon, and even the busiest galleries were still navigable. I laughed as we walked in because I overheard an 8-year-old say to his father, "Dad, there are NO kids here!" Poor guy, all the other kids were elsewhere on the National Mall.

My mom did a great job taking us to art museums when were little. She worked very hard to teach us to love the arts. We were spoiled with her dedication to finding museums and performances in KC. Now, I'm surrounded by so many neat and wonderful things. I have to remember to seek them out.

And art lessons with Andy certainly keep me fresh.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Looking Good Doing It.

My sister made an accurate point about my blog post from yesterday. I described Andrea and myself as looking good without sharing any photos of the two of us from our weekend adventures.

And I'm usually so good about including photos.

It's hard to decide if your best friends grow up. When Rachel cut her hair short, it didn't seem any different to me. That's how I knew her at the beginning of our friendship. Andrea is still so adorably boppy about life that it's hard to tell if we've really grown up.

And then I remember that Rachel has a kid, and Andrea works across the street from 30 Rock in NYC, and I realize we really have grown up. And we do look good doing this grown-up thing.

Mmmm. Well, most of the time.

And because I love to take pictures of the food I eat to inspire you to visit, here's brunch from Saturday at Tunnicliff's Tavern in Eastern Market. This is quite possibly the best french toast I have ever had in the whole wide world. It was really good french toast.

Going to brunch is definitely a grown-up thing to do.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

BFF from NYC in DC and VA.

Andrea and I told stories at dinner tonight of the ridiculous adventures that were the first 13 years of our friendship. We laughed and so did Sol. We thought we were really awesome and good at everything. In retrospect, we might have been just plain ridiculous.

But the grown up version of these two BFFs are awesome. We are pretty big deals out here on the East Coast, Andrea in New York and me in DC.

I write this knowing that still we may be just plain ridiculous. But we look dang good doing it.

Andrea rode the Chinatown bus from NYC for a mere $9 on Friday afternoon. Free Wi-Fi the whole way! After I picked her up, we headed to Georgetown for dinner and some shopping. I took her to the Tacklebox because everybody should eat there.

Andy did a better job picking out food but was kind enough to share. I ate fried catfish for the first time. Would you believe it tastes like other fried food? Delicious.

We ate healthy Fro-Yo dessert instead of my normal cupcakes. The frozen yogurt is not the TCBY of my childhood but tart, plain frozen yogurt. Apparently in the summer of 2008, DC was swept by a frozen yogurt war so we had plenty of options in Georgetown to pick from last night.

Finally, we finished off the night with a monuments at night tour. I saved us $60 and gave it myself. I know my trivia, and I'm kind of a big deal.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Teacher Shoes.

Tonight was back-to-school night. I wore high heels for the first time this year. Usually I wear them on the first day of school, but both of my co-teachers are shorter than me. I am pretty sure Jill wouldn't mind. But I didn't know about my male counterpart. I wanted him to feel like we were on equal footing.

But I brought the heels out tonight. I purchased them when Lauren and Mom were visiting Labor Day, and everyday they asked about their debut. Begging, pleading, glowing on the top shelf of my reorganized closet.

They are just so so pretty.

Back-to-school night was great. We saw parents for ten minutes in our classrooms before they moved on to other classes. It was a fun format to get to know some of the faces that match the students.

But there were a couple of disasters.

1. I made Rice Krispie Treats with store-brand rice krispies. They tasted okay, but the consistency was all wrong thanks to the generic cereal and low fat butter. I really need my old roommate Erica back to make them for me. She always did it better than me.

2. The shoes killed my feet. I shouldn't have broken them in at school. I have blisters. But they were so pretty.

Tomorrow I'll be be back to my normal kicks for school. I just got a new pair of treads for teaching, and they are so much better than my pretty heels.

Recycled "eco sneaks" made by Simple. It's my second pair of their shoes, and I love them because they are good for the earth and good for me.

And the laces are lavender. How could that not be good for you?

My Buddy Marshall (and Other TV Notes).

Well known fact: I watch a lot of TV. Whether or not it is too much TV is not open for debate right now. I don't think it is too much. I'm still a pretty successful person with time to work out, cook, teach and be a grad student. And sometimes I even sleep seven hours.

It's been a thrilling kickoff to the fall tv line-up. Some things had to be cut out of my calendar, including my favorite guilty pleasure America's Next Top Model. Oh well. This season all the models had to be less than 5'7" tall. Ha. Who needs them?

Here are a few of my shows that already started that you need to watch this fall.

How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). This show is a non-negotiable. I got hooked because Abbey and Rachel kept talking about it, and since then many of our other friends have also started faithfully watching. I also love it because Marshall, one of the main characters, is based on my friend Jon. Seriously. Marshall is a lawyer, a good husband, and on the season premier he wears a tuxedo. When I finally get around to becoming a professor, I am pretty sure Jon would consider a whip and fedora as good presents for my new career. Just like Marshall did for Professor Mosby.

Jon = Marshall. Marshall = Jon.

The Good Wife. I wasn't too sure when I saw all the teasers during the Emmys. I didn't know how they would have a whole show with the aftermath of a public official's affair. Ninety seconds into the show, I was ready to quit. Then three key words changed my perspective on the show. "Six months later..." And I was hooked. Julianna Marguiles is a lawyer and the show picked up quickly. A little Law & Order balanced with female empowerment fighting the glass ceiling and public perception. Yes please.

Glee. You probably already know this: watch Glee. Buy the music on itunes. Keep it alive. I need something to dance around to while I do the laundry and make my lunch. I danced a lot during last night's episode.

Bones. I watch a lot of crime shows, but this is one of my favorite. I don't love science, so I don't watch it for the high tech anthropology. I watch for Bones, Booth and Dr. Sweets. Season opener: Booth held Bones after she got stabbed and kissed her on the head. OMG. I've been waiting four seasons for that. He loves her.

There are more. I'm going to continue this thread later. Oh geez. I love TV.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Many Faces of Lauren.

Happy Birthday Little Sister!

My mom and I love to joke that my sister doesn't have a poker face. Nope, not in her repertoire. But she does have some other faces I really like.

Sometimes we get dressed up in pretty clothes and go to fun parties. In February, Lauren and I went to three balls together. She's a great dancer and a fun dinner date. She doesn't eat chocolate at these dinners, and sometimes I get double dessert. As a kid this was always good news for me. I got double Halloween candy, twice as many Easter eggs, but as a trade off I always had vanilla birthday cakes.

Sometimes we do really silly things everyday. Calling Mom at the exact same time. Laughing at the same someecards. And shopping shopping shopping. Lauren shops online as much as I do. That's marvelous.

This picture makes me smile because it is the grown up picture of Lauren as a little girl. Happy birthday little Lu!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recipe Requests.

I received a couple of requests for the two recipes I made for Sunday brunch. My only regret with these two recipes is that they smelled so good and we were so hungry that I forgot to take pictures of the beautiful dishes. Here they are...enjoy!

Baked French Toast (from Karen Norton)
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick of butter
2 T. corn syrup
Sliced cinnamon raisin bread or sliced cinnamon bread
1.5 cups milk
1 t. vanilla
8 eggs

Melt sugar, butter, and corn syrup until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a 9 x 13 pan.
Place 1" slices of cinnamon bread on top, or use two pieces on top of each other if you are using thin slices. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In a bowl mix milk, vanilla, and eggs. Pour over the bread and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

I made mine a little lighter by using light butter, light corn syrup, and a lot of egg white and regular egg substitute. I think it made the egg batter easy to coat the bread. It will look like a lot of egg mixture to pour on top, but it will bake up just fine. I also made mine with two types of bread, so the non-raisin fans would be happy too.

And no one complained about the flavor because I made it "lighter." One of my guests had thirds.

Green Chile Breakfast Pie (A modified version of Karen Norton's Green Chile Treat)
Frozen 9" pie crust
1 7-ounce cans chopped green chiles
1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 T minced dried onion
3 c. grated or shredded Swiss cheese
4 large eggs
1.5 c. hot milk
Spread chiles over pie crust - you probably won't use the entire can of chiles. But remember: mo chile = mo betta.

Mix flour, salt, pepper, onion and cheese. Beat eggs and milk. Combine and pour over chiles. I was modifying a recipe, and if you have extra egg, cheese and milk mixture you can leave them out. Don't overfill the pie crust.

Bake at 350 about 40 minutes or until browned and a knife comes out clean. Remove from oven and cut. Serve warm or cold. I also made this lighter by combining egg white substitute and egg egg substitute. It's easier and healthier.

These two recipes, plus fresh sliced fruit, will feed 7-8. Or five hungry folks like us.

Monday, September 21, 2009

You Won't Believe Me.

I've been saving this third post about middle school fashion at Key for last because it is my favorite. I have to pinch myself every day to make sure my move to Virginia didn't land me in an alternate universe. You probably won't even believe me when I tell you.

But middle school boys in Virginia wear skinny jeans.

Pause. Let that sink in. It might change your reality.

For example, while we were looking for themes in music, we listened to Avril Lavigne's song "Skater Boy." The artist sings about skaters with their baggy pants. And my students didn't know what she was talking about! Skaters here wear some of the very tightest skinny jeans.

My poor soul is a divided mess torn between wanting to hug these brave little boys and laugh at how ridiculous they look strutting from locker to locker. There are still a few trendless haps who wear their old baggy pants. But I say "Pull up your pants!" approximately 83 less times each day.

I'm about 110% sure that none of my guy friends could be convinced they should buy skinny jeans. I don't even think my BOTAR escort, Ryan - the king of all good genes/jeans, would wear them. We used to go to BOTAR rehearsal for his jeans. If Ryan won't wear them, I'm pretty sure most 20 somethings will stay clear. He's a trendsetter.

But while it lasts and what's it worth, that's the fashion news for middle school.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Doggie Dip.

Fall is starting to creep in around us, and one of the signs that summer is slipping away is the closing of the neighborhood pool. Thankfully they let doggies swim before they close everything up for the year. We took Belle and Copper up to the pool to let them check it out.

Belle loved it!

She's a natural swimmer. Rachel and I pushed her in the first time, and then she remembered how much she likes swimming. She would jump in or wade in using the stairs. Belle was always happier when there with other dogs paddling beside her.

In between laps in the pool, Belle ran laps around the pool. I think she might have a future as a triathlete. If only they made bicycles for dogs. Or had triathletes for dogs.

Copper didn't like it as much as Belle. But I'll let Rachel tell you about that. It probably evens out everything on the great cosmic see-saw. I'm not athletic, but my dog is. Rachel's super athletic, but her dog isn't.

It was even better because our friends Emily and Ryan were with us. They live in Maryland and came over for brunch before our adventure.

I was missing all the green chiles from Kenneth and Melinda's wedding so I made green chile and swiss egg pie and baked french toast. Ken's mom sent me both of the recipes, and they tasted just as good in Falls Church as they did in the mountains in New Mexico.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Sorry About That.

I might have been a little dramatic last night when I said the blog was broken.

Sorry about that.

It's not exactly broken, just some of the design got messed up. But I'm going to fix it and make it better than ever.

Also, did you know that the Wildcats are playing in a nationalized televised game? I can watch K-State play at UCLA in the Rose Bowl from house in Virginia. The game didn't kick off until 10:30 pm tonight, but it's still stinkin' cool.

Jon sent me this photo from the Rose Bowl tonight. Said there are lots of Cat fans there, including all my favorite guy friends.

Go State!

Friday, September 18, 2009


I broke my blog. I was trying to help a friend design a new one and I got confused on which blog I was fixing.

AND I'm really really tired. I have grad school tomorrow and...

a broken blog.

Forgive me until it is fixed. It's killing me. Slowly and steadily.

My blog! My precious blog!

Dog Bed.

My friend Kate sent me an email about dog rules recently. I modified slightly, but it has been true so far in my almost two years with Belle.


1. The dog is not allowed to sleep with the humans on the bed.

2. All right, the dog is allowed on the bed, but ONLY by invitation.

3. The dog can sleep on the bed whenever she wants, but NOT under the covers.

Belle used to be very good at putting herself to bed in her dog bed if she thought I stayed up too late working on school stuff. She still puts herself to bed, but on my bed. Whoops.

It's a lost cause. I like when Belle sleeps with me. She is warm and cuddly, keeps my feet cozy during the winter and stays away from my face with her sweet doggy breath. And I like when she lays on the bed next to me while I work at my desk because then I can pet her whenever I want.

I love that dog. Because she doesn't judge and always forgives.

We all need a little of that kind of love.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gingerbread and Ramadan.

In college I read about cultural responsive teaching. I attended the conference on White Privilege twice. I felt like I was prepared to mold young minds for a global world.

I took that big step that reflected my college shaped ideals, and I taught in an urban middle school for four years. Most of the time I was the only white kid in the room. But I got lackadaisical about some of my progressive teaching goals, and I didn't do a lot to push how my students. In many ways, I just survived. I planned field trips, interactive lessons, coached soccer and loved loved loved my tough little kids.

This isn't a criticism of my school at all, but more of a reflection of the historic culture of our school and neighborhood. Christmas crafts and decorations and holiday concerts were perfectly normal. We had a cultural assembly once or twice a year and big Cinco de Mayo parties. DJs played Mexican polka at school dances.

But that just wouldn't cut it in Northern Virginia. I have lots to say about my global students. Another time. Now I just want to illustrate how culturally responsive my instruction needs to be every day.

We used the easy and well known fairy tale "The Gingerbread Man" to review story mapping and plot elements with our students this week. However, I wasn't sure that all of my students knew the story, so I wanted to plan activities that built background knowledge.

To warm-up, I asked them what foods their families that make for special occasions that are important. One little girl wrote about a special soup for wishing that they make for birthdays. Then we watched this clip from Shrek, because even if they don't know the fairy tale, they all know Shrek. And I made homemade gingerbread for my classes too.

One girl hated it. She took one bite, spit it out and told me so.

But it's also Ramadan. I have a few students who are fasting for a month, and I struggled with how to have cookies with my class. I finally decided that it was okay as long as I brought ziploc bags to send them home with my students who were fasting.

I'm still not sure about what the culturally responsive thing to do was.

I'm also not sure about those kids who took the cookies home. They might have hated it too.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Saturday after I babysat, I went to The Container Store. It is one of my favorite places added to my retail repertoire since I moved to VA. It's like the old Organized Living from KC but better.

I bought hangers. Lots and lots of hangers. And then I went home and fixed my closet with these slim hangers. I'm able to put a lot more clothing in my closet and it protects the shoulders too. Belle supervised.

Yes, you read that right. I reorganized my closet on a Saturday night.

Making new friends is tough. Sometimes I am kind of sad about it because I love friends. I have a great collection of BFFs. I don't have any other collections besides my clothes, and I love collecting both (friends and clothes).

When you are the new kid, you have to extend the invitation sometimes. So I'm working on getting gutsier and finding things that I can do with people around town. I like the teachers at my school and at Mason, so we'll see what trouble we can get into in the coming weeks.

Because I have room in my closet for more clothes and room in my heart for more friends.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Talk.

When I first started teaching reading in the fall of 2008, my friend Susan told me that I would be fine because I was a "reader." In many ways, she was right. I love books so so so much.

My bookshelf next to my bed is designated for books that I want to read. The pile grows every month, and it hardly rotates. I spend most of my times with the books stacked above it: my Bible, a devotional, grad school books, and usually my book club book from the "Sunflower State of Mind." I've already finished the book for this month, and I'm loving the The Guernsey and Potato Peel Pie Society until I begin the October book.

At school, I have three classes that are "non-readers." I suspect that they are non-readers because they have had difficulty reading, tried the wrong type of books, or didn't have the skills to decode what they were reading. I gave them a survey on reading last week, and only one person in my three classes said that they "love to read." The other two possible responses were "reading is okay" and "I don't like to read." Yesterday when we were discussing how reading makes them feel, one of them said "Like death on the inside."

I heart dramatic eighth graders.

This is where my job gets difficult. I don't remember learning how to read or what to do when reading ideas were difficult to master. Seven times out of ten, I don't correctly identify the climax of the story, and there are more types of conflict than I ever can remember. The preparation for my reading classes is tricky because I want to deliberately balance activities to pique their interest, teach the important concepts, and get more of them into the "reading is okay" category.

Go big or go home, that's what I always say.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Buffalo Stampede.

I've got buffalo on the brain. This post is about food at our Sycamore house, with a bonus middle school style update on the side.

We're obsessed with buffalo flavored everything. Sol's dinner request this week to his lovely wife Rachel was simple. Two things: buffalo turkey burgers and buffalo turkey chili. Both delicious. I already planned to make buffalo chicken tenders, and we stuffed those in pita halves tonight with some blue cheese dressing. YUM.

Rachel and Sol debated whether or not to buy hot sauce by the gallon at the whole sale club last night. They probably should have since we are going to finish the bottle this week.

I like this buffalo chicken, any which way you cook it.

Rachel and I are probably subconsciously influenced in our buffalo hunt by all the buffalo plaid at Key MS. It's relentless. I see it in various combinations on shirts, skirts, backpacks, and even shoes. And both boys and girls are sporting lots of it. Lu's company is in on the action, and my mom tried these on last week when they were visiting.

I don't have any in my closet. I'm sticking to my closet's true calling for solid color clothes in various shades. But I would consider buffalo plaid if I could pull off these looks.

I think I better stick to buffalo chicken.

Disclaimer: I did not take the picture of Finley and me. Rachel asked for credit when she is the photographer (obviously whenever it is me and Finn). Also, we do not give the baby Red Hot...yet. And finally, I don't do my hair for this blog. So what you see is what you get. Me with the remnants of the hairtastrophe and post-workout hair.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Raising Kids in the District.

I'm not sure I could do it, but I really admire people who raise their kids in the city. A fellow Truman scholar from Kansas is married, living in the district and raising her two little darling kiddos.

Sometimes on the weekends she pays me to play with them. I'm lucky to spend two hours with these cuties in the park. The little girl is almost 4 and a baby genius. She speaks Chinese and knows most of her letters in English too! The little boy is about 18 months and obsessed with cars and trucks. Seems about right.

They live in a condo, so playing in the backyard happens at the park with all the other condo kids. There are community toys including this little police car. My friend packed us a snack bag full of yummy Whole Foods goodies. I think organic snacks are part of raising kids in the city.

Their mommy told me they thought when they had a family they would probably move to the suburbs, true to their Kansas roots. Then one year passed, and then another year and another baby, and they make it work. It's pretty neat.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Come Visit.

I hold my own as an entertaining person to visit. I like to try new things. I tell dramatic stories. I'll buy cupcakes for taste testing and learn how to whack crab with a mallet. But if I'm not enough of a reason to come to NoVa, this should be.


I took this photo of him Thursday. He's angelic. Come visit us both.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Diet Coke and Peanut Butter.

When Erica and I lived together, we shared a lot of things. Especially a love of Peter Pan Honey Roast peanut butter and Diet Coke. We kept "hers" and "hers" cases in the fridge all the time, because it would be a disaster if we both ran out at the same time.

So the care package Erica sent me today was the perfect reminder of all the things Er and I loved about life in 404. Whenever we finished one of our shared jars of peanut butter, we gave Belle the jar to lick clean. It easily occupied her for 30 minutes. Erica mailed the puppy an empty jar. And Belle loved it.

She also mailed me Diet Coke paraphernalia. I laughed when I opened it because this is the third time a dear pal has mailed me Diet Coke surprises. Ally, Katherine and Erica all know me so well.

Each time there have been a few different Diet Coke surprises but always pencils perfect for a teacher. When I loan out the Diet Coke pencils, I can be sure I'll get them back.

Seriously. I get the best stuff in the mail.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Two Heads Are Better Than One.

Sometimes things go better when you have two people thinking through things. Like earlier this week when Finley helped me do the laundry.

"Here Victoria - I found the missing sock!"

I'm loving team teaching. I was very anxious about it, because my previous experiences sharing the classroom with another adult were limited and mostly unsuccessful. I always planned with McCracken for reading, but it was still my classtime and my space with the students. I like a lot of attention (surprised?), and I was worried this team teaching was going to cramp my style.

Even in this first week, I'm seeing the benefits. The whole process of teaming is rewarding from planning through presenting. My team teacher partners have different strengths, and I like that. Zach (Civics) likes to lead discussion and push their brains to think and communicate in new ways. Jill (English) is studying to be a counselor, extremely kind and ridiculously patient with 8th grade punks.

An additional bonus to team teaching: there is always someone to laugh at your jokes. Middle schoolers can be a tough crowd. Zach and Jill always laugh. That's nice.

Now I sort of even miss them when I am in a room by myself. I am one heck of an extrovert.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

T-Shirts That Mean Something.

One of the biggest changes between Northwest and Key is the absence of school uniforms. Every day here is dress down day. I have to move around in the hallways a lot, and it gives me plenty of time to check out what's hip for 8th graders to wear. And graphic t-shirts totally rule the hallways at Key. I'm sure my new students wonder why I am always laughing as I walk from room to room, but this stuff is fun-E.

These are shirts I saw today...
  • I love boys.
  • I love haters.
  • My brain is full, may I be excused?
  • What other shenanigans can I get into?
  • Get out of my space. Go back to your own planet.
And my personal favorite:
  • Did you have a bowl of stupid for breakfast?
These shirts are always so full of attitude. It makes me wonder about the kids that wear them. Are they sassy? Or do they just want to look like tough new 8th graders?

I'm leaning towards the latter. They seem like nice enough kids.

And because I can't post without a picture, here's some fish cookies I bought the puppies.

They both had birthdays sometime in the last two months, so I bought two fish for our two two-year olds. Belle ate hers in two bites and then tried to eat Copper's. Growling ensued, and I had to distract Belle while Copper ate his for the next two long minutes. He's such a dainty eater.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

First Day of School - Year 21.

Today was the official "first day" of school for our 850 students. My mom was still here this morning to take our picture on the first day. She's taken a lot of first day of school photos, including all those school years in Blue Valley and when I was student teaching at NWMS. I swear it was just a lucky coincidence she was here for another start of the school year.

Please don't judge this photo of Rachel and me. It was very early. Rachel's baby is miserably teething. I am carrying eighty-two bags. The same person cuts our hair.

The first day went very smoothly, and I loved it. I am at home with 8th graders and in the classroom. It just feels right, and I'm so very blessed to have a place at Key for the upcoming year. I think it is funny that no matter what socioeconomic background, country of origin, home language, Kansas or Virginia, there are universal truths about eighth graders.
  1. Someone is a class clown.
  2. They think when their teachers are nerds, even when they are really cool.
  3. Someone is the smelly kid.
  4. They are loud.
  5. They laugh. A lot.
  6. Lunch is the highlight of their day.
  7. They will probably forget everything tomorrow.
  8. My last name is difficult to say.
  9. If you are an 8th grade girl, boys are cute, but you have to be really brave to talk to them, and it is easier if your friends talk to them for you.
  10. If you are an 8th grade boy, girls are cute, but it is much easier to wait for their friends to talk to you.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Jimmy Cantler Is My Hero.

Dear Mr. Cantler,

Thank you for opening "Jimmy Cantler's Riverside Inn" in Annapolis. I know that Washington, D.C. people have been coming out to your restaurant for a long time, but I just found you yesterday.

And I'm grateful.

I firmly believe that a restaurant with a long wait is a great place to eat. First, we waited to get a spot in the parking lot. Then we waited inside for another hour. While we waited, we found four seats at the bar and enjoyed your creamy crab dip and beer from a can. Where do you buy your Corona in a can?

Our visit to Jimmy Cantler's was the first time my mom, sister and I ate crabs from start to finish. I have to admit that we were a little overwhelmed when our server dumped a half dozen crabs covered in Old Bay on the big brown paper on our table.

But we prevailed with our little mallets and ate every little lump of crab meat. My sister was so proud of her accomplishment that she made sure I photographed her at work. You can even see the little pieces flying in the second photo.

We also loved your crab cakes, quesadillas with crab, lobster and brie, and cole slaw. The big deck outside was the perfect atmosphere for our first crab adventure.

Mr. Cantler, I'm grateful for you and your crab cracking restaurant. Do people ever bring their own mallets for cracking the crabs? I don't have one, I'm just asking.


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Coke at Liberty Tavern.

Lauren and Mom are here and today we shopped until we dropped. Literally.

But first we needed fuel. Lunch with Annie, one of Lauren's friends from her sorority and Blue Key. Annie lived with the Luhrs Ladies for about three months earlier this year while she was completing an internship in KC before she moved out to the DC area. We met for lunch and Annie time.

I think Annie might be on to something. She works with economics and applying it to organizational leadership. We do disagree on one important thing: Annie drinks (gasp) regular coke! It was weird to go to my mom's house and see regular coke in the mini fridge. We haven't seen the likes of that since 2001 when I left for college and still drank regular coke.

Annie. Stop. Come drink diet coke with the rest of us.

We ate at The Liberty Tavern which is on the Washingtonian's Best 100 restaurants. I'd like to eat at all of the restaurants, but I don't like French food despite how much I liked Julie & Julia. A lot of French food on that Best 100 list.

I would take you to The Liberty Tavern for yummy post-work food. The lounge and bar area on the first floor is so perfect. I think it deserves to be on the top 100. But when you visit, we should probably try another different place on the list.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

If You Like Pina Coladas.

I'm adding a new label to my blog posts: Mail Call. If you don't know about labels, this is a good time to teach you. They're located on the bottom right of the sidebar and provide helpful links to things I've written about before today. Also, editorial note: I am going to combine "teach" and "classroom" into one label "Miss Luhrs."

You could find yourself featured on the blog under "Mail Call" if you mail me something. I get the best mail! I've already shown you a great picture that Jennie mailed me. My brothers mailed me a message in a bottle. But yesterday, I arrived home to find my mailbox propped open by a coconut.

Yep. A coconut. Andrea mailed me a coconut from Disneyworld.

Did you even KNOW you can mail a coconut?

It's pretty stinkin' cool to come home to a coconut in your mailbox.

Back to making a is fun!