Sunday, October 31, 2010

Before It's Too Late...

Pretty uneventful Halloween. Rachel and I went to see Idina Menzel last night instead of going out for Halloween with costumes. Fine with me, I was pretty tired after the Rally, and the concert was worth every single second. I love show tunes, Idina, and the Kennedy Center.

As for today, Finn is too little to trick-or-treat, so I saw a movie with Emily. We saw "Life As You Know It," and I was relieved that there was still some meat to it. I was nervous I had seen it all in the previews. I wish Katherine Heigl would stop making movies where I see her resembling me...27 Dresses was practically a biopic of my life. In this movie, she cooks for people to love her. I don't do that (often), but she was sort of a control freak. Sometimes I act this way. Only sometimes.

No kiddos tomorrow, and our principal made it a work-from-home day. I am going to try to disappear from the internet, grade papers, and read for grad school. Fingers crossed.

Four Hundred Posts and a Rally.

This is my four hundredth post. That's a lot of writing, revising and "publishing" on this little blog. Thanks for reading it - I feel blessed by the number of people that I know and my new friends I know through blogging. This seems momentous especially because this blog has no constant theme and has the random stories I normally would just tell my mom. It blows my mind that around a hundred or so people read it every single time. Weird but cool!

Yesterday I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Seemed like everyone else was going - estimates were that around 150,000 people were on the mall for it. I've never seen that many people before, and for most of the time I was there, I was just people watching. It was tough to get on the mall to see the screens and/or hear. I watched it later on TV, and it was pretty funny.

I went by myself, hoping to meet up with some friends when I got there, but the crowds were too massive. My cell phone wouldn't go though - text or phone calls - so I just wandered for a while till I was done with the crowds.

As I was leaving, I asked someone to take my picture to "prove that I was there." He said, "I don't know, were you here?" He took the photo, looked at it on the back of my camera, and said, "It looks photoshopped." You can judge for yourself - that's me in my Lincoln t-shirt on the mall. I promise.

I was glad I went. I didn't agree with everyone that was there, but it was a pretty neat gathering that mirrored the things I teach my eighth graders about freedom of assembly.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rocky's Philadelphia Breakfast.

A weekend full of sight seeing, walking, talking, shopping and exploring requires a good breakfast. I like to imagine this is the same stuff Rocky ate before he ran the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

No? No quiche? No homemade granola? Hmm. Okay, I guess.

Mom and I had two great brunches while we were there. Saturday, we hopped around the corner in Old City to the "Old City Cheese Shop." They sell fancy cheeses, which I never understand and think smell funny sometimes, and serve a great brunch.

Breakfast included fresh juice (orange + mango), hot yummy muffins, fruit salad with mint yogurt and then your choice from a few sweet options.

There were only six tables in the little shop with a few more in the back garden. We could see the staff preparing each little dish right behind the cheese counter. They weren't hurried but very sincere.

Mom's yummy french toast with apples and raisins. It was the good crispy kind of french toast.

Quiche with roasted vegetables. This crust wasn't kidding around, and I ate every single flake.

Sunday morning we obviously needed to eat again. I found a small place less than two blocks away from our hotel, FARMiCiA. It's similar to Founding Farmers and Farmers & Fishers in DC, places that I love. Dim on the inside, so no good photos of the cozy booths. The place was very busy - even before ten am on Sunday morning. It was the kind of place where people were meeting for catching up with their neighbors.

Mom had a pancake, and I had the french toast. It was the squishy kind with no syrup, just a yummy fresh apple and cherry compote. But the real treat was the granola.

Served with Lancaster yogurt and blueberries, it was the best.granola.I.ever.ate. The sweet waiter came out after it was served, frowned, and brought me another cup of blueberries. I asked for some granola to go, and he gave me the great news. They sell the granola! We bought a bag for me and for my great-aunt. And now it's almost gone, and I want some more.

After breakfasts like these, we didn't eat a lot of lunch. Dinner on Saturday night was at Alma de Cuba. It was dark and there were no photos taken - but there was good food. My first ceviche, Mom's first mojito, and bacon wrapped dates. We felt very chic, and even cooler because we knew the chef. Not really. But it was one of my good girlfriend's fiancee's cousin's HUSBAND. Same diff.

Philly = good food. That's probably why Rocky was such a good boxer. And definitely why we had a very good time.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Zombie Zumba Jam.

If I didn't live in a big city, a large suburb, or part of a megalopolis, I would probably have to become a certified fitness instructor. Then I could live in some small town and teach group exercise classes. My alternative evening activity might be to bake all the time, and something tells me one is a better option than the other.

I didn't always take these fun group classes. For some reason, I never took a single one at the Rec in college. Forget high school too. I took freshman gym and was gleefully done. I was 24 before I learned how to lift weights, plank, zumba and even downward facing dog. Abbey, Erica and I started slowly at the community center in Overland Park, and it wasn't long before we had favorite instructors and classes. Naturally finding a good place to work out with a group was a total priority when I moved to Virginia.

Some of my friends (and my sister/cousins) are really motivated to work out on their own. They can run five, ten, twenty miles all by themselves, do weights at home or the gym. I have a first cousin who has modeled for Abercrombie. That take some serious dedication to the gym and one's abdomen.

Let's pause and ponder the unfair distribution of Luhrs genes for a second, shall we?

But I don't have that same burning drive. I read blogs about runners and by runners, and sometimes it makes me want to run. I ran for six weeks last November/December, even running a 5K. Through my neighborhood. (Snowmagedon ruined my real 5K.) But I just didn't care enough to keep it up. I didn't feel that much better about my body. And I was really tired of marking miles off on my calendar. My brain doesn't work that way, so I had to return to what works for me. Walking (not running) the dog and the group exercise classes.

In a good week, I do four to five classes and walk the dog. I have two weights classes that I love, plus spinning classes, zumba or pilates. Occasionally I throw in a hip hop dance class (you'd love to see that, wouldn't you?) or a body combat. Even after a day of 8th graders, I am barely angry enough for all that punching in body combat. Fridays after school about twelve teachers meet for yoga in the lecture hall. Classes push me to put in the full sixty minutes of exercise, plus they make me happy. If "exercise gives you endorphins" and "endorphins make you happy," can you imagine what a room full of women and men exercising together does for me?

Tonight was the Zombie Zumba Jam at the gym. Some Latin dancing and then the more contemporary hip hop. The instructors were dressed in scary Halloween costumes, and at least 75 of us were having a great time on the basketball court together. I about fainted when one of the gym staffers walked past me in a terrifying mask. As per usual, there were men and women representing several different countries and six different decades. It was a great work out - longer than an hour tonight - and a very silly thing to do. I feel better about life and ready for my own zombies (eighth graders) tomorrow.

P.S. I once wanted to learn how to play the dulcimer and that didn't happen either. So don't get too excited about me teaching group weight classes.
P.S.S. Elle Woods was a good lawyer.
P.S.S.S. Did you rethink that thing about my cousin the model? I know. I can't let it go either.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Philadelpha: The Places We Went.

We really did have just the best time in Philly. Mom and I walked everywhere, shopped and saw the historical sights. We tried to see as many different neighborhoods downtown as we could. Here are some photos of the places we went. The food, well, it deserves its own post. We ate some really tremendous places all over Philadelphia.

Walking to Penn's Landing. Thanks William Penn for landing here and making a big stink about freedom of religion.

Founding Fathers - to scale - in the Constitution Center. I'm standing next to George Mason. He's with two other dudes who didn't sign the Constitution because they didn't think it was finished. Mr. Mason wanted this thing called the Bill of Rights.

I am in awe that both the Declaration of Independence AND the Constitution were written in this room. It gave me goosebumps.

Right after we took this photo behind Independence Hall, we found a bride and a groom taking some photos downtown. And the bridesmaids were wearing the most revealing dresses I have ever seen. I'm not exaggerating.

We stayed in Old City. This beautiful Episcopalian church was very close to our hotel, as was Betsy Ross's house.

It's just a really pretty city. Easy to figure out and navigate, so walkable, and so lovely. It feels more like a big city than DC, and it was a nice balance of historical and new.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Vicki in Jamaica - Guest Blog!

I returned from a fun weekend with my mom in Philadelphia late tonight. Posts coming about reasons why Mom and I LOVED the city later. But for now, I'm really excited to share a "guest post" from my friend Vicki. Sorority sisters, Mortar Boarders, and friends, I am really proud to know Vic. Enjoy her stories and photos - she explains her life better than I can.

I live in Jamaica. Yes, live here. No, I’m not experiencing an early mid-life crisis, trying to channel my inner Bob Marley, or experimenting with the Rasta lifestyle. My husband and I live here because I have the coolest job in the world, and the U.S. government needed me on this little island.

I am a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State. I am one of about 6,500 American diplomats dispersed throughout the globe, trying to promote U.S. interests and build relationships with our foreign counterparts. Cool, right? I didn’t realize my job was so cool until I went back to my home state of Kansas a few weeks ago.

As part of the State Department’s Hometown Diplomats program, I was invited to speak at my high school and university Alma matters. And people at both of these places were thoroughly intrigued by what I do. My high school principal nearly caused me to miss an interview because he had so many questions. Thousands of K-State students came to a reception just to meet me and get insider tips about becoming a diplomat. (By thousands, I mean about 60. Hey, I’m not an economic officer.) And even Victoria, one of the coolest people I know, wanted me to share my cool job with world on her blog. Perhaps the past month has not been ideal for my humility...

There are five different career tracks in the Foreign Service, and I am a Political Officer. But because all new officers are required to experience consular work, I’m serving in the consular section of U.S. Embassy Kingston. My two-year tour has included visa interviews, passport issuances, prison visits, and child welfare investigations. And that’s just the beginning. Working in American Citizen Services, I do feel more like a social worker than a diplomat on some days. But we regularly succeed in helping people when they have no one else, like when we assisted American citizens fleeing the destruction of the Haiti earthquake this past January. This has been the greatest part of my job here. I actually enjoy going to work (most days), as each day brings something new.

Every two to three years, we will move on to a new assignment in a new country. This means our lives are continually in transition as we bid on future assignments, learn new languages, pack up belongings, and fly around the world. With the exception of a very few places (like Iraq and Afghanistan), we travel with our families. Daniel and I are next headed to Belgrade, Serbia, where I’ll be doing a tour as an economic officer. (Note: For the record, Serbia is not in northern Russia, as many of the Kansas folks seemed to think. “How are you going to deal with the freezing temperatures and constant snow?” We will be in eastern Europe.).

We’ll spend most of 2011 in D.C., where I’ll be a full-time Serbian language student. (Yes, we’re paid to learn foreign languages.) This is especially cool given that I’ll be able to hang out with my favorite D.C. friends - Vic included. Life in the Foreign Service is truly an adventure, and I feel extremely blessed to be on this ride. Ya mon.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Orchard Apples with Andy.

This week's photo challenge was orchard, and I had to share this one of Andrea. We were seniors in high school when she got the tattoo in the middle of her back - the famous f holes from her cello. She drew them herself! Read more about our trip to Stribling Orchard here and check out the other orchard entries at I Heart Faces.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ozzie's Corner.

We ate dinner Saturday night in the corner of Ozzie's Corner. We thought we were SO smart calling ahead to eat at the newest restaurant in the Great American family. Much to our surprise, the wait for a party of five was three hours.

Say what? We strategized in the car while driving there, found Jon and Adrienne and made some more plans, and then split up to conquer Fairfax Corner. Sol and Jon watched for seats at the bar at PF Changs (where the wait was a mere 1.5 hours), Adri and I tried to get outdoor seats at Coastal Flats (2 hour wait but the patio was maybe happening), and Rach ran (literally) to Ozzie's.

We got the call soon after - Rach secured five seats in the bar. Destination decided.

It was probably worth it. The homemade noodles were awesome. I had the spaghetti and the delicious meatballs. I didn't have a date so I pretended I was Brittany from last week's Glee episode and pushed the meatball across the plate with my nose. Poor Brittany. And Artie.

It was so much food I divided the leftovers into TWO more servings. Yum and double yum.

It was fun, even if it was a weird place to sit. We got done in plenty of time to catch our movie, The Social Network, at 7:50. It was great, and it was really well done. All the review and hype are accurate, it's definitely worth seeing. Even if you aren't on facebook.

These photos are all good examples of what happens when there isn't enough light. And when your best friend Rachel has just seen Iron Man 2 and thinks she should say "I privatized world peace," like Tony Stark. Sigh. You'll see the peace sign again this weekend, I promise. But I still like all of these photos and all of these people and Ozzie's. A lot.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Have a Problem.

I can't read Mockingjay, watch Veronica Mars Season 3 or read HP and the Deathly Hallows because once I do, the series is OVER. Don't think I haven't tried. I bought the Harry Potter book and Mockingjay on the days they were released. I probably went to a party for Harry Potter even. Veronica Mars has been sitting on the shelf in my room since last fall when I started watching the best television series ever.

It's gotten pretty bad. When one of my students merely mentions Mockingjay, I put my fingers in my room and start yelling "lalalala!" This is mildly terrifying to them, but I am more afraid one of them will ruin it. Now the 7th Harry Potter movie is coming out, and I can't see it because I haven't read the book. And I'm going to London. What if England straight up ruins the ending for me? I could see Ron or Hermoine on the street, and they might tell me what happens.

They are real, right? I need to make sure we see Hogwarts while we're there.

I should finish the stories because they've got my favorite protagonists of all time. But then they're done. Over. Not coming back to me. So I'm leaving them all on the shelf.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cooking (Not) Like My Mom.

My mom is a great cook. Many of the recipes I make on a regular basis are things that she perfected and introduced to me - zucchini muffins, tetrazinni, chicken curry salad. I could go on a really long time about the things I learned in her kitchen. There are also a few things that she makes that I can't duplicate because she makes them with a little of this and little of that. I crave sloppy joes on a regular basis, but I have to wait until I'm home. Manwich is not the same. And, the name is really weird.

But there are a few things that I had to learn to use after moving out because she doesn't use them. I learned a lot about the power of the things above from Erica, and now I need them in my life. Because eggs are better with tabasco, chili is better with garlic, and marinara isn't that great unless it's bordering on fra diavolo sauce. Mom's cooking is great and never bland because she purposely chooses recipes that can hold their own without garlic, tabasco and red pepper flakes.

For me, I'm embracing the motto from Jalapenos in Stanley, Kansas: "Mo hotta, mo betta."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Spiced Apple Cake.

I took this cake to school today. Carefully transported to share with my friends at lunch. Kate, in the lunch bunch, had a special birthday yesterday. And I am working my way through 14 pounds of apples. So this seemed like the right thing to do.

I brought this plate home from school today. The cake was a hit. Cakes are a nervous sort of a creature to me because even if you taste the batter, watch it like a hawk and poke it repeatedly with a toothpick, you don't get to find out till everybody else does how it tastes. Muffins and cookies are much kinder this way.

But I followed the recipe from Joy the Baker exactly and was very pleased. The spices were perfect and the apples tasted so fresh. Rachel ate the last piece and only had one apple bite, something I was afraid would happen. I should have followed my gut and added more apples. I also considered making it in a bigger springform pan so that slices were thinner. This cake was by no means "light," but I really wanted homemade whipped cream for it. Maybe with a touch of cinnamon. I think it would have been delicious that way.

Apple update: I've now made apple crisp, apple bread, spiced apple cake, and curry chicken salad with apple. I'm unstoppable.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Apple Picking with Andrea.

Andrea came from NYC for the weekend. Saturday morning we started our busy day early with a spin class. After showers and coffee for Andy, we headed to an apple orchard here in Virginia.

About an hour west of my house is Stribling Orchard, owned and operated by the family of one of my professors at Mason. My mom was the apple picker when I was growing up, and I always enjoyed the "fruit" of her labor without doing any of the work myself. (Did you see the pun back there? oh! I crack myself up.) So Andrea and I didn't exactly know what to expect when we arrived, but we figured it out quickly.

Even though I am pretty tall, we still need to use this apple picking basket to reach more of the beautiful fruits up high. I used the basket most of the time because combining the basket with my height made me unstoppable. I was like a super hero for apple picking.

The trees were marked at the bottom to signify the variety, and we picked five different varieties: Grimes Golden (below), Stayman, Granny Smith (above left), Rome and York. The above right picture is Rome or York. I can't honestly remember.

Aside from Granny Smith, these apple varieties were most new to me, and many of them are pretty tart. They are perfect for baking, and when Andrea and I got home on Saturday night we made apple pecan quick bread and mini apple crisps. Apples are my favorite beloved fall fruit, and I'm happy to snack and bake them every day.

Do you remember the recipe for my grandma's apple crisp? That's the one we made. I'll probably make it again tomorrow so I have something to eat for breakfast. I'm not kidding.

Having best friends is wonderful. They come to visit, laugh with you and help pick 21 pounds of apples. They think it is normal to take close up photos and carry two lenses through an orchard.

Friday, October 8, 2010

DC to NY Bus Review: TripperBus.

Last summer, Rachel and I went to BlogHer in NYC. You probably remember our excessive blogging about the event. We debated for months how to get there. Driving would be nice because we could split the cost of gas, Andrea's place in Brooklyn had space for our car, we could come and go on our time. The bus had advantages too - we didn't have to buy gas or pay for tolls. And most buses between DC and NYC have the internet on the bus.

I think we decided on the bus because of the internet. Rachel and I love the internet, didn't you know?

For the first time, we took the TripperBus from Arlington instead of going into DC to get on the bus. We took the Metro one way and Sol picked us up when we got back. It was super easy for us to get to the bus and back. The cost was right too. Each of our tickets were $50 round trip.

On our way to NY, I had to share a seat with someone who resembled Winnie from the Wonder Years. She was wearing pantyhose. In August. But she pretty much left me alone, and I put all my extra stuff on the empty seat next to Rachel. I'm not too sure why I didn't put myself on the empty seat next to Rachel. Coming back from NYC, Rach and I each had our own pair of seats. It was pretty relaxing.

I totally recommend TripperBus to friends going from DC to NYC. Leaving from Arlington was the best, and they gave us water bottles. For free! I liked it so much that I told Andrea about it, and she's going to get on a TripperBus this afternoon to come visit from New York. Can't wait till she gets here on the bus!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Locolat and Macarons.

I went to dinner with my Truman friend Lauren recently in the district. She suggested Locolat, and it was a great choice. We sat outside, sipped Belgian beer, and plotted ways to save the world. Lauren is far advanced in this work. She teaches kindergarten and has started a community garden at her school in DC. That's the real deal.

Locolat was good and very Belgian. Even though it was a Saturday night, we all ordered waffles. The rest of the group had the savory waffles - pesto with asparagus on top - but I had sweet. Mine was actually a "Liege" waffle, which I can best describe as a little bit crunchier than a normal waffle. And it has chocolate in it (Belgian, obviously) but in small tiny bites that made it taste like little bits of cookie. It was pretty much the best waffle I ever ate. EVER.

The waffle probably could have been my dessert. But they had all these fancy Belgian chocolates too, plus these macarons from France. I have seen these macarons pictured everywhere, and Rachel and I just were discussing how we should try them sometime. (Also, macarons isn't a misspelling of coconut macaroons. It's French. Now you know.)

So I purchased four - pistachio, rose, orange and chocolate. The orange didn't make it to the photo shoot (traffic in Georgetown was terrible!). But Rachel and I diligently split and taste tested the others. The sacrifices I make for you!

Pistachio was my favorite. Chocolate was Rachel's. Rose was underwhelming. I don't remember orange. (The traffic!) They are pretty neat little cookies, and they are way too fancy to make ourselves. I have no intention of ever trying. But I'm also not entirely sure they are worth $1.85 a piece to be flown in from France. I think I'd rather save all my pennies and buy a cupcake. That's still gourmet, right?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Mama!

Thanks for coming to DC with me way back in October 2008 and convincing me this was the right thing to do. You're always good about knowing the right thing to do. Birthdays don't really make you older, Mom, they make you wiser. And my life is better for it. Love you Mom!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Voting Simulation.

Eighth graders are often unpredictable. When I walk in the building in the morning, I know what I'm going to attempt to teach them. What they learn in my room isn't always as guaranteed.

Today I was going to try a simulation to introduce our next thrilling civics unit - political processes. We have to teach all the rules and regulations for voting - in Virginia you have to register 22 days in advance, be 18 at the time of the election, and so on.(WAKE UP. It is not okay to fall asleep while reading my blog!) Potentially very boring, but I've got some tricks up my sleeves.

Today I let them vote using a great activity I found here. I looked for hours on the internet for a good introduction to the unit because I wanted it to be more interesting and meaningful.

The activity was a total success. Some students didn't register (even though I gave them the form), and they were unable to vote. Other students didn't register correctly so they were turned away at their polling station. Still others went to the wrong polling station even though they were posted on the board! This is fairly accurate to the real voting experience...

At the polls, they voted for an international children's ambassador (Hannah Montana, Ryan Seacrest, Ruby Bridges), their favorite president and yes/no on a classroom issue. The wording was really tricky on the referendum, so they all voted yes. Hehehe, they approved more homework. Unanimously. I laughed every period.

I think finding activities like this are important, but they are a lot of work. It would have been way easier to just give them some notes, but we all would have been bored. Tomorrow's lesson include notes about who how more education and more money makes people more likely to vote, but I don't want to dwell on that for too long. We're going to make posters encouraging everyone to get out and vote this November. If you would like a poster, designed by my students, for your place of work or community center, just let me know.

The Mansion on O Street.

Everybody is getting Groupon or Living Social these days - websites that allow you access to a great deal somewhere in the city. I try not to get too many, and I only buy them for places I've heard rave reviews about or places I really want to go again. I have a Living Social deal for Againn, and I can't wait to get back to the fish & chips and oysters.

The Mansion on O Street was in the first category, places that others raved about. I purchased it several months ago, and Ally and I went when she was visiting from Arizona. We weren't exactly sure what to expect, and it was totally strange.

The Mansion is a hotel with themed guests rooms. Plus there are rooms and rooms of flea market type finds. Ally and I tried to do the scavenger hunt of the Mansion. We wandered in and out of rooms, and we got lost a lot a few times. Apparently there are 18 secret passageways or doors, but we only found one. We didn't find anything we wanted to buy either.

We had tea before we started roaming through all the rooms. There was a huge spread of food, but Ally and I just had Julia's Empanadas (yum!) so we weren't super hungry. The best part of tea was the table next to us. Two men, one woman and wedding planning! I never really could figure out whose wedding it was, but Ally and I got to give our input for October wedding colors.

I was really glad that I got to hang out with Ally, but I'm not sure I would recommend it to someone else. Sure it's been around a long time and Chelsea Clinton had her sweet 16 there, but it's kind of weird. It is not the kind of treasures Abbey would take me to find at Good JuJu in KC or like the things Mary Carol Gerrity puts together in Nell Hills. I would rather shop in Georgetown or downtown Alexandria.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Belle and Pavlov.

When Ivan Pavlov did his research about trained behaviors and dogs, I am pretty sure he used Belle in her former life. For better or worse, this pup is trained to respond the exact same way every time. I'm hoping that she outgrows a few of these habits but here are some of her most predictable behaviors at three-years-old.
  • Every morning when the alarm goes off, Belle is up pacing around the bed. Her nails on the floor remind me that I can't stay in bed and listen to The Writer's Almanac with Gerrison Keillor.
  • She knows the sound of the dishwasher and deli meat containers, and she is eager to help with dirty dishes and packing lunches. She recently learned she is helpful when I cut carrots too - she eats all the extras.
  • We must go upstairs and into the backyard whenever I come home. It doesn't matter if I take her out front or she just went out. When I come home, she is reminded she needs to check for squirrels in the backyard.
  • As soon as she checks for squirrels, we have to go back downstairs. We can't stay upstairs because she needs to check on her toys downstairs. Then she chews on her bone to show me that she can. This is the only time each day when she chews on her bone.
  • The last thing I do before I leave for school is pour myself a glass of orange juice. At this point, Belle runs to her bed in my room. This is the complete opposite direction of her kennel. It's her silent protest, "Do not leave, do not put me in the kennel, and stop pretending I like it just because I do it every single day."
Happy to report only half of these bad habits (the meat, the carrots, going upstairs) are my fault. They other half I'm blaming on Pavlov.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

School Supplies.

Phew. I did not intend to delay this long between posts. My apologies if it made you nervous, I was just busy. Remember how much TV I watch on Thursday nights? Uh-huh. And today is grad school so I had a lot going on.

I broke my 50mm lens last spring, and it didn't dawn on me to get it fixed. But Rachel advised me to do it, Canon thankfully came through with a repair, and my 50mm lens is back. This allows me to take artsy photos of things close up, so prepare to be zoomed again.

Like with these markers.

They are the happiest thing in my classroom. They came in a giant box, and I very carefully sorted them out into six pencil boxes. But only one of each color because I need to be able to replace later in the year.

I was very explicit about the markers. They should not move from table to table. There should only be one of each color in each box. They should always have their lids on them.

Would you be surprised if I told you that after 113 middle schoolers used them the last two days, I found two greens and three orange in one box? And one marker without a cap. Not cool kids.

At my old school, my mom and I bought boxes of colored pencils and markers at Target and Wal-Mart when they went on sale for a $1 each each year. So when I found out I could order these boxes through school, I literally almost cried. They are not cheap. They are sorted by color. And they make me smile whenever I open them.

I also learned (probably from Abbey) that you have to be very careful with colored pencils. If you drop them, the lead instead can shatter and make it difficult to sharpen. I say to my students, "You know when you are sharpen your pencil and the lead always breaks off?" and they all smile and nod. They know. And yet they still throw them and let them roll of the table. It's fine - I've got replacements of the pencils too. I can't replace the 8th graders, it does appear I'm stuck with them until June.