Joy With Kids

Cee’s On the Hunt for Joy this week has the theme Let a kid decorateI’m not around kids much anymore, so I went into my archives from my years of teaching. Since my language arts students were all of Mexican & Central American origin, we celebrated the Day of the Dead on the day after Halloween. In the school year 2009-10, the fifth grade classes made posters – they cut out skeletons and then, as a class, they had to decide on a scene and place their skeletons in the scene. When they were finished, we decorated the halls with them.
100Ana shows off her skeleton so far!
Below are their final products!

Lens Artists Challenge: Time to Relax

Lens Artist Photo Challenge this week is Time to Relax.

It’s time to relax when classes are over for the school year.


Northwestern students relaxing in hammocks in the park, Evanston, Illinois

It’s time to relax after having lunch on Mother’s Day.


My son Jayme behind and in between my sister Mary and our friend Sandy.

It’s time to relax on a hot day when you have nothing to do but immerse yourself in a cool pond with your herd.


Hippo pool in the Serengeti, Tanzania

It’s time to relax when your tummy’s full and you’re done hunting for awhile.


Lion, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

It’s time to relax on a cold day when you find a nice warm spot on the radiator.


My cat Hazel on a January afternoon

It’s time to relax with a magazine after a full day of sightseeing.


Me in our hotel room in Tucson, Arizona

Taking time to relax and unwind is, I believe, a necessity in our overly rushed society!

Evanston: A Walk on the Lakefront & a Recital at Northwestern University

Yesterday, my friends and I went to Northwestern’s new Bienen School of Music to attend a recital. It had been a hot day and I had stayed inside most of the day, so the outing was welcome. We arrived early, had a light and delicious dinner at a vegetarian restaurant in Evanston called Blind Faith Café,

blind faith cafe

Image downloaded from Google

then went to Northwestern. From there, two of us took a walk along the lakefront in front of the university campus. There was a wonderful cooling breeze off Lake Michigan and the walk was so refreshing.  There are lots of winding paths through green and leafy areas for walking or biking along this stretch of the lake. (Some of the photos are not very clear because I was using my Samsung Galaxy 7 cellphone camera, which doesn’t do zoom photography well.)

Chicago skyline in the distance on the shore of Lake Michigan

20180526_191901We saw lots of fish in this inlet off the lake. I wondered if they were carp, which is an invasive species that has become a threat to Lake Michigan’s ecosystem. I showed my photos to Dale; he didn’t think they were carp. 20180526_191954Lots of students were out celebrating the weather and the end of the semester. Some were lying around in hammocks strung between trees,

while others donned their bathing suits and took a dip in the cold water or sunbathed. One group was roasting marshmallows for s’mores.  20180526_191237Earlier apparently someone had been flying a kite because the kite was stuck up in a tree!


20180526_184230We passed the shiny new Kellogg Business School and I also took some close up shots of alliums.20180526_190130

20180526_190046Along the lakefront, there are a lot of large rocks and Northwestern students over the years have painted many of them – some have specific messages, such as marriage proposals, while others are just colorful cartoons.


The new Bienen School of Music is affectionately or sarcastically called “The Cruise Ship” and it’s easy to see why!  20180526_184337Inside, the main lobby area is sparse with no furniture and minimalist artwork, such as this sculpture by Spanish artist Joan Miró.

The acoustics in the recital venue, Galvin Hall, however, are amazing. And so was the master’s recital we attended by Nathan Canfield, a young man who has been the accompanist at our church this year.  This recital was in fulfillment of his Master’s Degree in Piano Performance.

He played an entire program, over one hour, completely for memory. Although he modestly said he wasn’t totally pleased with his performance, the audience was highly appreciative and applauded long and hard for him!

The first piece he played was J.S. Bach’s Capriccio on the Departure of a Beloved Brother,  a short, moving piece. I’ve included a recording of it from YouTube here.

This will be my last post for nearly three weeks. We are going on a road trip to California, returning on Route 66, and I have decided not to take my laptop. So I’ll have a lot to blog about when I return!

CFFC: Working Hard or Hardly Working?

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week is “Busy or People Working.”

Every year, the last weekend in April (this weekend!), our church has a huge rummage sale, our biggest fundraiser of the year. We always need a lot of volunteers.
STAS13-IMAG0363.jpgThe sale takes over nearly every room in the church. We have a clothing room (above), housewares (below – the biggest department), Housewares, always a busy, popular, antiques, jewelry, toys, baked goods, books/CDs/DVDs, and outside there is a furniture tent and hot food (hamburgers, hot dogs, etc.).20160421_111420Our church also does mission work. One of our missions is feeding the poor and sheltering the homeless. Des Plaines has a local PADS shelter on Fridays at a nearby church, where homeless adults get a hot meal for dinner, breakfast, sack lunches, and a place to sleep for the night. Different churches sign up for the Fridays they prefer and get volunteers from their church to work the shifts and make or bring food.  Some people work in the kitchen, preparing for dinner…20150227_190349
and then serve the food to the guests.
In the summer, we have at least one church service outside, with special invited musicians and ice cream afterward! This is the Chicago Metropolitan Jazz Ensemble.20150705_095043.jpgEmergency workers are important in any community.  The American Red Cross collects supplies for people in disaster areas.IMAG0367-RedCrosshelpTeaching is a lot of work, even during special events when we look like we’re having fun (and sometimes we are)! Here’s a teacher holding up the flag of her alma mater during an annual College Day rally.
Sandy Rywelski holds up WIU flag next to her class.
The music teacher works hard – and so do the kids – with the different age groups to put on an annual show for the different grade levels. Here is the 1st-2nd grade music show.
20150415_134623.jpgA student helps out on the last day of school by cleaning the chalkboards.269
For children, school is their workplace and for very young children, play is their work; it’s how they learn. These kindergartners love building things with blocks.
And in December, everyone works hard on holiday projects. Here, a teacher’s assistant helps kindergartners make gingerbread houses.
Sometimes, people work to provide entertainment for others, either as volunteers or for tips, such as at a summer concert in the park.
While kids are getting their balloons, the band plays.
People with special talents perform for tourists for tips, such as this young man in Tallinn, Estonia.
Waiters in Japanese restaurants “perform” for diners, cooking their food right in front of them.
IMAG1924.jpgSome of the hardest working people work on cruise ships, in kitchens…20170324_103302or as stewards, such as this one trying to hold a tray of hot soup steady for the tourists on the windy deck of a ship in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska.The steward holds on tight to the tray of soup.
Some athletes and actors make millions entertaining the public. They might even get a trophy, such as when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series in 2016!20161103_001137.jpg

Go Cubs Go! video





D is for disorganized desks

(Tues., May 12):  D  is for disorganized desks.

My home office desk as it looks right now

My home office desk as it looks right now

Every school year, I would start with a clean classroom and vow to keep it that way. And I would – for awhile. As the school year got underway, at the beginning I was able to keep track of everything and find a place for every piece of paper that landed on my desk. I made files for my paperwork and kept them in a large drawer in my desk or in crates.
But eventually, papers would land on my desk that I couldn’t do anything with right away. I allowed a small pile to accumulate, but no problem – I’d go through it and find a place for everything soon, or throw it away if I no longer needed it.
Unfortunately, that pile began to grow, because I couldn’t find a home for every piece of paper and I was reluctant to throw anything away, in case I needed it again. I made binders to put templates, graphic organizers, packets from workshops, etc., to have a handy set of “tools” ready to use in my classroom.
But the life of a teacher is exhausting. Even if I could go through the pile(s) accumulating on my desk and dispose of everything in them, life soon became too overwhelming. I always had something more important to do – grade papers, work on lesson plans, make copies or laminate something, read and answer emails, even just organize my classroom. After spending a busy day there each day, I usually took a half hour or more straightening it up afterward – locating and putting away dry erase markers or smart board pens, putting away books and other supplies the kids left lying around, gathering up all the papers I had gotten from students that day, etc. The jobs were endless. I am not naturally organized, so I’m not the type to always put things back right away as soon as I am done using them – the ADD brain just doesn’t work like that. Although I made an effort to stay organized and consistent, any system I devised eventually broke down.
And the piles on my desk grew. (Because by this time there was more than one pile, each new pile being justified at first.) Sometimes, when I did go through them, I’d find things I’d either forgotten about or long since given up ever finding again.
Some of my students would notice my messy desk – always girls who had a knack and desire to help the teacher and clean up – and offer to organize it for me. They’d offer to stay in at recess to work on it. Of course, that meant giving up my lunch hour and staying in my classroom while they were in there, but I usually let them do it. If there were several of them, I’d assign them different tasks – one could organize the books, another could take down a bulletin board, while the remainder would go through everything on my desk and “organize” – or at least straighten – it.
It was impossible for 4th and 5th grade girls to actually reduce all those piles, since they had no idea what to do with all those papers – but they would occasionally ask me what to do with something. At least they drew my attention to them. They were really good at putting away things like scissors, tape, paper clips, etc. – things that they could generally figure out what to do with, or sometimes things that I had bins for, like markers or kids’ scissors that ended up on my desk.
When they were finished, they beamed with pride as I praised their great work. It was nice of them but sometimes I couldn’t find things afterward, because they’d put them where they thought they should go, not where I usually put them!

When I was a kid, school desks looked like this. They had a lid and you put everything inside. If you couldn't close the lid all the way, your desk was too messy!

When I was a kid, school desks looked sort of like this. They had a lid and you put everything inside. If you couldn’t close the lid all the way, your desk was too messy!

Meanwhile, I wasn’t the only messy one – some students had messy desks too. Sometimes it was surprising which students kept a neat desk and which ones didn’t. Sometimes a kid that daydreamed or fooled around in class had a very neat desk. I instituted a monthly or semi-monthly Friday afternoon activity of cleaning out their desks.

All the students would take everything out of their desks, sort it, take it home, throw it

School desks nowadays are like this. This one is very neat!

School desks nowadays are like this. This one is very neat!

away, hand it in – as appropriate. The kids with neat desks would help the ones who had hopelessly large amounts of crumpled papers, pencil stubs, eraser shavings, and a variety of items that they didn’t know how to keep neat. Then the neat students were in their “element” – helping disorganized classmates get organized! They sometimes would take on a sort of teacher-like role, admonishing their messy peers about putting papers away and handing in overdue homework.
I’ve seen teachers who use days like St. Patrick’s Day to have special elves or leprechauns come to the classroom after the students have gone home to inspect their desks and leave notes of praise to those who had the neatest desks. I especially enjoyed giving one of these notes to a kid who generally didn’t have a neat desk, but happened to have cleaned it out earlier that day! How proud that kid would be the next day, getting a note of praise which entitled him or her to some small prize!
I often counsel students on keeping their desks and folders organized, and handing in homework they’d forgotten all about. Sometimes I find things in their folders that they thought they had lost and had to do over because they had told the teacher they’d lost the first copy. Yet I secretly sympathize with these kids, because I see myself in them. It’s funny how I develop a special place in my heart for these messy, disorganized kids. I get it. I’m the same way!