go hug a palm tree. or a MN Twin.

You might think that my biggest accomplishment of the week was parent-teacher conferences.  Or being a dominoes co-champion with a fellow Laura.

But no – my biggest accomplishment this week was buying plane tickets.  Yes, I will soon be escaping this cold, snowy, dreary place.  I cannot wait.  I hope that I remember what the sun looks like.

Don’t get me wrong – I love MN, I love winter, and I love snow.  But I hate January.  It is my least favorite month, and I cannot think of anything good about it.  And I’m ready to be done with winter.  Especially because I had an extra week of winter in August when I traveled south of the equator.  What was I thinking?

Purchasing plane tickets was a big accomplishment.  It was no easy task.  It was touch and go for a while.  For a while it seemed that my friends would be going and I would not.  Which was tricky since without me they have no place to stay.  Eventually we got it sorted out.  The stress of it all only caused me to cry a tiny bit out of my left eye.

I will be birthday-ing in Florida this year, and it is time to prepare.*

Here are some things on my to-do list.

  1. Go to Twins fest and get to know some of the players so we can set up some times to hang out while we are all in Florida.
  2. Create paper dolls of the Twins players** so that I will be more likely to recognize them in various potential street clothes.  No one wants a repeat of the Chicago incident of ’07, when I didn’t see Cuddyer at Wicked with us.  Embarrassing.
  3. Review elements of nature I may have forgotten since the snow fell upon us here in the tundra.  This includes, but is not limited to: sun, breeze, ocean, sand, warmth, and pool.  Pool is not nature.  But it is essential to the Florida experience.
  4. Prepare my presidential report for President’s Day.
  5. Pick a president to report on for President’s Day.
  6. Research if there are any Caribous in Florida to get my free coffee drink on my birthday.
  7. Get a few small dogs.
  8. Get a stroller for said dogs.  This is the only way to fit in at the Florida outlet mall.
  9. Create a townhouse paper chain to count down the days until vacation.
  10. Remind the Bible study ladies that we will be meeting on Valentine’s Day, but not on President’s Day.  Because like I told them last week: we care more about Presidents than about love.

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things on my list, but it is good to have somewhere to start.

* I like to pretend that I am fancy and go to Florida for my birthday.  This is a lie.  I just happen to have a birthday that falls near a three day weekend.  And I am a teacher.  Thus, I don’t have to work on days like President’s Day.

** I am not actually a creepy stalker.  I do like the Twins, but there is a line, and for the most part, I do not cross it.

*** Here is photographic evidence supplied by my sister in reference to the Cuddyer incident of ’07.

Celebrate! (A Multiple Choice Test)

Let’s see how much you know about traditions and celebrations around the world.  Do you know more than my kindergartners?

What is the history of Santa Lucia Day?

  1. About Saint Lucia Day, she be nice and helpful to everybody.  They celebrate her, they have some food and that’s all.
  2. Saint Lucia give cookies to her friends and family on her day.  I know she prays and everybody else didn’t like the way she prays.
  3. At Saint Lucia Day, she brings cookies for everyone.  She is nice and other people don’t like her.

What do you know about Martin Luther King?

  1. He don’t like it when I sag my pants.
  2. Martin Luther King made everything fair.

    I'm going out on a limb and saying this does not have a whole lot of likeness to MLK

Why do we celebrate our parents?

  1. I never knew we had Mother’s Day.  It is to celebrate your mom – how much she loves. you.
  2. Father’s Day.  I know everybody comes over.  It’s a good celebration.  You might get to play.  You celebrate because your dad is fun to have around.
  3. When it is Mother’s Day you give your mom presents.

How do people participate in Children’s Day in Japan?

  1. I think they just eat a lot of ramen noodles.
  2. They celebrate in Africa.
  3. They celebrate in Hanukkah.
  4. On Children’s Day they hang the fish up because they want kids to be nice and strong.
  5. At Children’s Day they wear Kimonos.
  6. Fish kites is for Children’s Day so they can be strong and brave.
  7. It’s Children’s Day wtih fish kites.  It’s really fun and you get to play games.  You get to wear cool clothes.  Because there is a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day and the children would feel left out if they didn’t get a day.

What happens at a Chinese New Year celebration?

  1. They put out dragons to celebrate.

Which of the following statements is true about Christmas?

  1. Santa has to do his job so kids don’t cry
  2. Christmas.  I like Christmas.  I like myself.
  3. I learned about Christmas how you open presents.  You sing songs and play.
  4. Christmas.  There’s an American flag, and all that stuff.

    This is the Christmas version of the American Flag

Origami and Mittens (not to be confused with Origami Mittens)

Have you ever had a bottle that was so difficult to open that it hurt your hand to try and twist the top off?  That was my problem today at lunch.  I usually don’t have bottles of pop at work, but today for some reason I had one at home so I brought it.  Lunch time came and I was so excited for some Dr. Pepper in my life.  I went to open it and the top wouldn’t budge.  Not only would it not budge, but it was incredibly painful to try to twist the top off!  I tried using the edge of my shirt.  Not helpful.  Still painful.  Plan D: Mittens.  I knew I loved my mittens for a reason!  Finally I could enjoy some delicious Dr. Pepper and get ready for our afternoon.

Speaking of my mittens.  What the heck happened to them?  Why did my thumb decided it wanted to be free like my fingers!?  Boo.  How have I gone through two pairs of them this year and usually they last forever (or until our dogs would eat them back in the day when I was living at my parents).  Lame and a half!

In other non-related news, today I spend approximately 60 minutes of my day making origami samurai hats for all the children in my class.  We are learning about Children’s Day in Japan, so it seemed like the thing to do.  Then we played Habu, Habu, Mongoose – the Okinawan version of Duck, Duck, Gray Duck.  The hats are quite fashionable, and I think my class will be starting quite the trend here in kindergarten.

Was an hour of paper folding the best use of my time?  Probably not.  Especially with conferences just around the corner.  But the kids were real excited.  And it was like a stroll down memory lane to the Tokyo boat cruise my sister and I went with our Japanese friend Masami.  Masami brought origami paper and we made paper cranes together.  I am basically a professional crane maker.   My sister – not so much.  While I will admit this face was a re-enactment for the camera – it is true emotion she is showing.  If I remember correctly, Masami had to take Rachel’s “goose” away from her and fixed it/finish it.

When I told Rachel how I spent my day, she responded by saying, “This is just one of the many reasons I could not do your job–no folding skills and an inability to identify origami properly.”

The Tunnel vs. The Museum

Sometimes it is the little things in life that count.  Actually, I take that back.  More often than not, it is the little things in life that count.  My kindergartners reminded me of that this week as we went on a field trip to the children’s museum.

My kids arrived at school that morning practically jumping out of their skin.  It was their first field trip, and many of them had never been to the Children’s Museum before.  I wish I could adequately describe the way they couldn’t handle sitting down in their seats and doing their work, but basically were prancing around the room excitedly chattering.

They did have a great time at the museum, but their excitement over playing was NOTHING compared to the excitement in the air when we drove through the Lowry Hill Tunnel.

This led me to think of some of the little things that have brought me joy this week.

#1 – I got my new computer battery this week.  After months of my computer shutting down if I breathed funny while using it, I finally have a computer battery that can hold a charge.  As you can imagine, it is a great feeling to be able to flinch while I use the computer.

#2 – Cookie Dough Dip. My sister and I made this on Saturday night and ate it with Nilla Wafers while we watched Inception.  Even though she lives approximately 17 hours (read 40 min) away, it was fun to go hang out with her and eat tasty snacks.

#3 – Holding a baby as he falls asleep.  I was able to babysit for an adorable 3 yr old and 6 mo old this weekend.  I don’t have a lot of babies in my life, so it was fun to be able to play with the kids, and then rock the baby to sleep.  So precious.  Love it.

#4 – Days off of work. On MLK day, a bunch of my friends and I went to lunch.  Then I was able to spend the afternoon visiting with another friend of mine – which is always terrific, and as an added bonus, I got to hang out with her kids  – who happen to be some of my favorite kids.

#5 – Free things. Shutterfly wants to thank me for being such a good friend, so they have sent me a free photobook.  I think I will use it to make a month by month book of 2010.  I will probably highlight each month’s photos on here.  So that is something to look forward to.

#6 – Blogs. I have discovered a couple of really great missionary blogs in the past few weeks. I have loved reading their stories and the ways God is working in other places in the world.  Check out Katie’s story: http://kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com/ I think that I spent an entire weekend reading her story chronologically from start to finish.  I would highly recommend it to you.  But be warned, it will be difficult to walk away once you start.

Just a couple quotes…

I have nothing amazing to say tonight, just wanted to share a couple of great kindergarten moments.

*I think I might be a teacher when I grow up.  Or just go to clubs.

Good luck with that decision buddy.  They both sound like good options.

*Martin Luther King doesn’t like it when I sag my pants?

Nope, so you’d better keep them pulled up.

For an assessment, students had to draw people celebrating and tell me the name of the tradition and also why people celebrate it.  I approach a child.  He points to his picture, “This is the girl with the baby.” What baby?  “God baby.” Oh.  What are they celebrating?  Christmas. (Naturally).  Why do people celebrate Christmas?  (silence).  So I wrote “God baby” for his answer on that line.  I mean, I guess it sums it up?


Godspeed: Tips for Travel.

Wishing you all the best in your future travelings, I’d like to share some travel tips with you.  As a word of caution, this post is fairly long.  This is primarily due to the fact that I wrote this as a paper for grad school.  Before you judge my lack of professionalism in my writings for academia, please note that this assignment just called for a few pages of writing about any topic we want to get us thinking about the processes we ourselves use when we sit down to write.  Also, please forgive the double numbering.  I feel it would be a headache to attempt to fix it.  And, because I care, I will throw in some pictures for you.

As a child, I loved to spin the globe, put out my finger, and pretend I would be vacationing in the destination where my finger stopped.  Little did I know, my future self would have a love for traveling and exploring new places and cultures.  During my adventures abroad, I have learned some valuable lessons.  Lessons that I’m sure could be beneficial to you as well.  Here are my top ten tips for travel:

  1. 1. Know your time zone. Actually listening to those end-of-flight announcements about the local weather and local time can be quite handy.  It can save you a lot of stress in the Mexico City airport, as you won’t have to wonder if you have five minutes to navigate the airport, get through customs and make your next flight, or if you have an hour and five minutes to do those important tasks. 
  2. 2. Pack strategically.  Specifically in regards to your carry-on. When you pack your carry-on luggage, be mindful that if all doesn’t go according to plan, you could end up living off only what is in your carry-on suitcase.  This could be particularly devastating if you are in Guatemala for a week and your luggage does not come for the first three days.  This will become even more devastating if during those three days you have scheduled a hike up a volcano and you have no appropriate clothing for the trek.  While experiencing extreme feelings of jealousy of your roommate’s wise packing methods, you will be forced to visit the local market and buy and a “stylish” shirt with a moose and calligraphied Abercrombie on the front, and a Sesame Street tag inside the collar.

    Sweet shirt from the market

    I've missed you, luggage!

  3. 3. Learn the Local Language. Learning local languages will be helpful for a variety of reasons.  Exhibit A: Communicating with people.  Exhibit B: Despite your blonde hair, you may frequently be mistaken for a local in Argentina.  Tourists may seek you out to ask questions.  If you have taken some time to learn the language (or at least a few key phrases), you can reply, “No se”, which maintains your Spanish-speaking façade, while pointing them in a new direction for help.

    Oh, just giving directions to a new friend.

  4. 4. Use public transportation. Rental cars are expensive.  Other countries can be tricky to drive in.  For example, in England, you have to drive on the opposite side of the street and worry about round-a-bouts.  In Okinawa, Japan, locals drive on sidewalks.  Who wants to navigate that?  If you don’t take advantage of public transportation, you could miss out on snazzy busses with wifi in Uruguay; pirate ships, swan paddleboats, trams, and ropeway gondolas outside of Tokyo; and trolleys, shuttles, and trains in Canada.  Also, bus drivers wouldn’t be able to make fun of your incorrect German verb usage in Switzerland.  That is a valuable learning opportunity.

    Trust me. You do NOT want to miss out on public transportation.

  5. 5. Meet locals. For our first day in Tokyo, my sister and I were given a tour by a sweet Japanese woman named Masami.  Not only did she give us a gift of fans, she also gave us the gift of knowledge of the Japanese train and subway system.  It was relatively simple to purchase tickets and read the maps, but I am fairly certain that we would never have figured it out without Masami’s guidance.  As an added bonus, we got Christmas cards from her that year.  In Canada, if we hadn’t befriended “Shuttle Man”, we would never have gotten a personalized driving tour of Vancouver, including stopping at the end of Drug Addict Alley where Shuttle Man encouraged us to look closely to see people shooting up.  Where does one meet these local gems?  We met Masami through Lonely Planet’s free guides (and no, Mom, Lonely Planet is not a singles group).   Shuttle Man was our hotel’s complimentary shuttle driver-turned-new-best-friend.

    Making use of my fan from Masami

    Rachel and Masami. Stalker pic from behind.

  6. 6. Be open to love. You never know when a pre-teen on a ski chair lift going the opposite direction might propose to you as he passes by.  If you are not prepared, you might not be able to shout, “yes” before your sister, thus missing a great opportunity for true love.

    Radiant with proposal joy 😉

  7. 7. Food. Eat it.  Or don’t. You know those warnings about eating local fare made in potentially dodgy restaurants?  They give them for a reason.  Cotton candy from a street vendor in Guatemala probably tastes like incense.  Not worth it.  The restaurant that your small hotel is behind?  It probably serves food that will make you so sick you think you will pass out in the middle of the airport and be detained in a third world country.  On the other hand, ethnic food and local fare can be delicious, and I would highly recommend trying new foods when you travel.  You and your stomach will regret it if you miss out on Japanese udon noodle soup, Argentine empanadas, Guatemalan horchata, and British digestives.  (I promise digestives are biscuits with chocolate, not some sort of tasty dietary aid).

    Cotton Candy. Tastes like dirt.

    Guatemalan Coffee? Yes, please. (I drank all of this one. It was later in the trip my coffee drink was stolen out of my hand by a homeless girl)

    The food that made me want to die. Why did I not delete this picture?

    hmm. I wonder what I am about to cook? I wonder what the preparation directions say?

  8. 8. Trust your gut. Or don’t. You may think this reflects back to point number seven, but I promise we have moved on to a new topic.  This is more in reference to navigational situations.  If your sister is convinced the hotel is to the right, but you really feel like the map is telling you to take a left, speak up.  Don’t wait until you have dragged your suitcase two blocks down the hill to the right.  Because now you will have to drag them back uphill two blocks just to get back to the starting point.  Or perhaps you exited the train station and are looking for a nearby castle.  One person traveling in your party might suggest that you follow the wordless arrow signs.  This might seem like a good idea at first, but after wandering aimlessly for an indefinite period of time, perhaps check your gut.  And the map.

    Take a picture of the map for easy consultation later on.

  9. 9. Be a risk taker. Some experiences may be outside your comfort zone, but they will probably end up being some of the best experiences of your life.  During my summer in Okinawa, Japan, I went snorkeling for the first time.  As an avid swimmer, I assumed snorkeling would be no problem.  However, my first experience was dreadful.  It was a windy day.  We set out from shore, and I could barely get deep enough to start swimming due to the waves and my paranoia of stepping on the sea urchins and sea cucumbers carpeting the ocean floor.  By the time we were deep enough to suit up with fins and masks, I was a nervous wreck and fought off hyperventilating when trying to master breathing with a snorkeling mask on.  The waves were churning up sand to the extent that I couldn’t even see anything underwater.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have read up on sea snakes before the outing.  I hated every minute and never wanted to go again.  However, when the school groundskeeper Max invited us out on his boat to go snorkeling at the reef out by the caves, I put on a brave face and vowed to try it again.

    my brave face

    Batfish! We fed this and one totally bit my finger!


    I am so glad I did.  The water was turquoise, the sun was out, and it was a perfect day for snorkeling.  I could not believe the beauty of this whole other world that exists under the tranquil water’s surface.  If I hadn’t been a risk taker, I wouldn’t have ever pet a puffer fish in the ocean, fed wild bat fish, or seen a scuba diver leaving with a freshly speared octopus.  On my list of great life experiences, snorkeling is right up there with climbing a volcano to watch the sunset over the flowing lava.  This venture didn’t seem like as big of a risk until I noticed lava flowing under the rocks I was standing on.  Then there was the hike down the volcano in the pitch black darkness of night.  Another related tip is that sometimes you may need to lie, or rather, be vague in the details, for your travel companions.  Otherwise they may miss out on incredible experiences like ziplining in the rainforest.  You are really doing them a favor.

10. Bring your camera. Document everything and don’t be afraid to re-enact key moments.  Didn’t capture that moment of delight when you tasted dolce de leche ice cream the first time?  Don’t sweat it.  Just fake it for the camera on your next bite.  Perhaps you realize the ridiculousness of wandering around an estancia looking for the horses, which are supposedly tied to a tree in an obvious location.  Be sure and stop to snap a photo of your searching gaze.  Did you just find an elephant in the courtyard of a castle in Japan?  Go stand in front of it and show off your perplexity.  You may want to practice these facial expressions in front of a mirror so your photos look as authentic as possible.  Now you won’t have to worry about forgetting the details of your journeys.  The stories are in the details.  That is what makes a trip memorable.

Literally bathing in coffee. A memorable detail you should document.

Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for future flights, and I have no doubt in the success of your upcoming journeys.  Or don’t abide by these rules and you will probably run into some great adventures of your own.  A good friend of mine likes to say, “When in doubt, do it for the story.”  This is a great motto to travel by.  Just be sure and keep a journal along the way so you can remember to share your stories with others.  What good is a story if you keep it to yourself?

At the exit. Of the airport. Of Japan. Of this blog post.

Hello from Kenya

I was asked if I would continue blogging after I move with my student’s family back to Kenya to escape the snow and cold.  As you can see from this picture, Kenya is a lovely sunny place, where I, the “tca” (teacher) hang out with my student as she rides on a zebra led by her little sister, and her parents and newborn baby brother watch.  I do think it is really sweet that she labeled this drawing as, “Kenya Family” (Kenya fml).

Self Esteem

Some days are good for a teacher’s self esteem.  In fact, most days the kids have nothing but compliments.  Some of my favorites to date are: “You smell like a princess.” and “Your hair is so curly.  How did it get like that? I just can’t stop looking at it.”  Yes, most days the kids adore me (I am their kindergarten teacher – they have nothing to compare me to.  It is awesome).  Today however, was not that day.  🙂

One child had lots of questions about my face.  Here is our entertaining conversation:

Q: Why do you have a headband in your hair?

A: Because sparkly things make me feel happy.


Q: Why do you got make-up on?

A: To make my face look better.


Q: Why do you got glasses?

A: To help me see better.


Q: Why do you got those bumps on your face?

A: I don’t know.

*Pushing hard on a zit: Q: Does this hurt?”

A: Yes, very much.  Please stop.

Q: Did you get bit by lots of mosquitoes?

A: Yes. That is what happened.


End of conversation and he went back to getting ready to go home.

Oh, children 🙂

babies. teeth. tears. tarantulas.

Today I learned that if you lose a tooth, and you want a new one to grow in, you should probably go ahead and plant a seed in your mouth.  The child was shocked when I told him this wasn’t actually how teeth grow.  He then said, “You can put a seed in your mouth and then you will have a baby in your mouth!  Because if you swallow a seed, you will have a baby!”  And even though I did not actually want to get into a discussion on how babies are made, I couldn’t resist asking, “Who told you that?  Did your mom tell you that?”


A couple of kids were crying (for way too long) and a little girl says, “That crying has GOT to stop.”  I agree kid – they need to pull themselves together.  No sympathy when they are crying because they got in trouble.


A little girl just had a baby brother born.  Mom must have had a C-section because she said, “…and then they cracked my mum’s belly open….”


We had a middle school science teacher visit us today to share with us about arthropods – animals with exoskeletons.  We had the speaker in my room so the other teacher could leave if the creepy creatures got to be too much 🙂  We got to see a tarantula, a giant African millipede, a scorpion that glows green under a black light, and a rat the size of a large squirrel.  It was hilarious to see the kids’ reactions.  Many were SUPER freaked out – even though the first thing we saw was just the fuzzy exoskeleton of a tarantula.  While she was holding it out, a leg fell off onto my classroom floor.  She was quick to say that she would make sure she cleaned up the tarantula leg before she left.  While having a loose tarantula leg in my classroom could sound moderately exciting, it is a good thing she took care of it, because knowing me, I would forget it was there, and then knowing my kids, someone would probably try and eat it…

On giving up and sucking up…

The children have been SO loud this week.  One theory is that they have created a calling tree and they are scheming at night how they can make their teachers cranky.  Another theory is that it is January – the worst month of the year.  Regardless, towards the end of the day yesterday, I was trying to teach math to a group of about 11 kindergartners.  We were sitting on the carpet and I was telling an enthralling tale about my farm (this would eventually lead to a sorting lesson) and as I looked around, not a child was listening to me.  My EA was having a similar problem in the pod.  She later reported that one kid was eating a penny, one kids was shaking a bag of pennies, and one kid was banging his work-tray on the table.  I expressed very sadly to my students how frustrated I felt that no one was listening, and I didn’t know what to do anymore.  I was hoping to guilt them into behaving 😉 but no.  The loudest response:

Maybe you should just give up.

To which I of course responded: maybe I will.

Also, I was recently reminded of an awesome teaching moment from last week.  I don’t think I shared it on here.  But if I did – you will be fine if you read it again.

We were brainstorming sentences with our new star word “to”.  Several children had offered up sentences.  Then one child suggests: “I like to learn.”  What a suck up answer. I mean – I’m so glad I’m instilling a love of learning into these kids.  🙂  Not to be outdone, then next kid plays on my interests, saying, “I like the Twins.” awesome sentence!  Fails the assignment though.  I don’t ask much.  Just for them to use the word “to” in a sentence.

And finally… we learned about kids in China getting red envelopes with money in it for good luck for their birthdays.  We did a follow-up project involving fake paper money inside a red envelope.  Apparently a group of 5 or 6 kids planned to go to the movies together that night.  They would be bringing their newly acquired money with.  Good luck with that, kids.