Friday, December 23, 2011

Amy and Mike Update for 2011

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. Happy Blue Panda December.

What's up with Amy and Mike? Well, I am happy to report that we have had a fun and happy year. We bought a house and Amy started teaching second grade. Mike has been learning some new programming tools. But enough boring junk.

The very exciting news is that we have become a formidable team, vanquishing enemies on the planets of Korriban, Dromund Kaas, and Balmorra. Although still young Sith, we have already demolished many of the enemies of the Empire, including a few weak and brittle-minded Jedi. With the help of our companions, Vette and Khem Val, we have yet to face an enemy that we cannot defeat.

Mike, a Sith Inquisitor, has learned the dark healing arts of Sith sorcery. Amy, a Sith Juggernaut, is a warrior who takes the brunt of all assaults. We each have our own starship and we're saving our money for our own speeders.

May each of you dominate your enemies with skill, and may the force be with you.

Love, Amy and Mike

p.s. Come to the dark side. We have cookies.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Be Brave and Be Kind

My class of second graders is full of some of the most delightful humans I know. For many reasons. They are curious and adventurous and loving. They are excited about learning and exploring and simply being. Do you remember this story from a few years ago? This very small child pulled several of his classmates out from the earthquake rubble at his school. Many of the young children I know would probably do the same thing if they were put in the same situation. I want a kind and brave heart like that, too. I am grateful I am surrounded by little humans that teach me a wonderful and happy way of being in our world.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Merry December

The whole entire month of December is a Blue Panda holiday called Eat, Play, Love. Here is what pandites do in December:

Honor the religious and cultural traditions that you like best and that you want to keep in circulation. We put up a Christmas tree today and we are definitely participating in some family gatherings and gift exchanges.

If you enjoy eating and sharing yummy food, then cook and bake. Share some cookies if you feel like it. Eat every last cookie yourself if you prefer.

Invent some new holiday traditions. Have cold cereal for breakfast Christmas morning if you don't want the extra stress of cooking. Go all Martha Stewart for Christmas morning breakfast if you want an excuse to try fancypants entertaining. Eat, Play, Love is always about creating a season of joy and you know yourself best so you must decide what to celebrate and how.

Some ideas of mine: I want to read the same book as family I'll be seeing so we can share responses. Get a professional massage. Write Blue Panda a letter. Find a Zumba Party on Christmas Eve. Watch a favorite funny movie, like Elf. Have a poker night. Have at least 3 full days with nothing planned except be with Mikey. Bake cookies.

What are your favorite old traditions and what are some ideas you have to make your December perfect for you?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Five Ways to Adore Blue Panda

1. Cultivate self-awareness, compassion, humility and balance in your life.
2. Love What Is.
3. Remember that nothing, ever, is a big deal.
4. Take good care of yourself. Daily doses of laughter, music, and movement are good ways to do this.
5. Be full of peaceful love and joy.

Friday, December 02, 2011

A Blue December

This December I will post a lot about the blue panda (god) and love and joy. When I was 14, despite my doubts, I wanted to be a seminary teacher, or a prophet.   I get to be so many of the things that I always wanted to be when I am at school. For example, every work day I am an artist and a scientist and a clown. But this is a better place for me to channel the divine spirit of the universe and be a prophet.

Question: Is the blue panda real?
Answer: Of course not. I made this whole theology up as a way to explain to my best mate what it is that I believe.  But if you feel like imagining a gentle, enormous panda that knows and loves all the humans with perfect love, and that embodies the EVERYTHING that is our universe, including her countless mysteries, then YES!! the panda god exists---in your imagination, too!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

November Joys

  • iPad
  • My second graders are learning to read and write well, which I imagine as my darling brood of dragons all learning how to fly. It's much harder for some of them, but all dragons must fly.
  • Sugar. Powerful words from a blue panda prophetess.
  • It is cozy and wonderful in our little home. The nasty weather makes it extra nice to have a warm bed and a crock pot.
  • Mikey
  • Scrivener
  • I love teaching second grade so much. My biggest stress right now is that there are too many happy futures to choose from.

So. Much. Fun.


Blogging from my iPad. Experimenting. Fun.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Little Dragons

I'm loving second grade. The kids are so eager and loving.

I feel overloaded with new questions and new information. My brain can't STOP processing all of the data. Several things I planned are working like magic, but there are some other things I've got to change. I feel such an urgent desire to set things up well, so that we can have a peaceful and productive nine months together.

Ten specific thoughts after 3 days of teaching second grade:

1. Eating lunch with the kids is a wonderful way to spend 15 minutes a day. I'm getting more little individual bonding moments in the cafeteria than anywhere else so far.

2. The Shrinky Dink self-portrait magnets for our Daily Graph turned out darling. Now I gotta think of 175 more questions to ask for the year. Our first question was, "Which do you like more, cats or dogs?" Suggestions?

3. The book they enjoyed the most so far was an Elephant and Piggie book called "Should I Share My Icecream?"

4. I can't ever go younger than 2nd. They are far more independent than the first graders that we share the hall with, and I'm certain I'm at my lower age limit here.

5. Getting them to write independently has been a struggle. Most of them have a lot to say but they want to spell everything right. I haven't put up a word wall yet. Maybe that will help. I'm not sure how to get them to spell words the best that they can and just keep writing.

6. We've done skip counting by 2's around a circle everyday and I'm surprised how hard it's been for several of them.

7. I'm puzzling over what to use for a paper and pencil math fact memorization tool, and also what to do for math homework.

8. The CAFE and Daily 5 routines and strategy wall is part of what is working super well.

9. There are these K-2 teachers from Georgia and Texas, who were probably beauty queens in college, who make and sell adorable teaching resources on the Teachers Pay Teachers website. I love having cute pictures and stuff in my room, but I'm horrible at making such things. Paying some teacher across the country 3 bucks for an adorable classroom job chart makes me ever so grateful for the miracle of the interwebs.

10. A free download on that Teachers Pay Teachers site was a chart with 16 ways to say goodbye. As we say goodbye each day we do a "hug, high-five or handshake" and say one of these fun animal goodbyes. My favorite ones: Blow a kiss, jellyfish; Out the door, dinosaur; Give a hug, ladybug; and Toodle-loo, kangaroo.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer 2011 Gratitudes

2. the chance to create a Magical Learning Planet for second graders
3. Summer Vacation
4. our house and yard and garden
5. red rock slot canyons near Moab
6. the proximity of the Wasatch Mountains
7. Lisa and David and Tina and Lydia coming to UT soon
8. Amanda and her soon-to-be-born baby's good health
9. colors
10. music
11. Zumba
12. Centerville 4th of July 5 K
13. both of my house plants are still alive
14. the cookbook mom gave me last month
15. Mikey's love
16. Elephants
17. picture books
18. Great Harvest bread
19. the loving life force of the universe, aka blue panda
20. puppies
21. my dragon form
22. summer sunshine
23. my kitchen and central air and a washer and dryer
24. jeans and tank tops
25. a calm and peaceful heart

Friday, June 17, 2011

Blue Panda Holy Writings, Chapter 2

1. Sing and pray in gratitude often and also petition the universe for more self awareness and for a strong and peaceful heart.

2. Here is one of the most powerful prayers humans have ever uttered:

Dear Blue Panda (or God, or Universe, or whatever),
Grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

3. There is a Blue Panda addition to this golden prayer of serenity and change: Dear Blue Panda, Please also grant me the humor to laugh at the things that I hate but cannot change and the creativity and imagination to see all the things I can change, especially my own beliefs and thoughts.


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Book Club Picks

Dear Steve, Margie, and Elizabeth,

Here is a list of books that I would recommend you guys consider for book clubs and possibly for whole class read aloud sets:

Shooting the Moon, by Frances O'Roark Dowell.
This book got a lot of buzz but I didn't read it for a while after it came out cuz it didn't look that fabulous. It's about a girl who gets pictures in the mail from her brother who is fighting in Vietnam. It's about her relationships with some soldiers and her father, The Colnel. Pretty short book and easy text, but quite rich---lots of inferring and some background knowledge required. Content is fine for fifth graders or sixth graders. I really enjoyed it and think it would be a great pick for book clubs.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, by Jordan Sonnenblick
This is a story told in first person, rather like a diary, of an eighth-grade boy with a kindergarten little brother who gets diagnosed with leukemia. Funny, sad, honest. I read this out loud this year and my sixth grade class LOVED it. It's more sixth-grade-ish, cuz the main character talks about the "hot" girl he likes looking at and there's some serious adolescent angst with his parents. But at the heart of the whole thing is his love for his little brother and there is nothing inappropriate for any kid to read. If you don't get this for a whole class book, at least get a guided reading set for sixth graders.

Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper
Melody, the main character and narrator of this book, has a photographic memory and is super smart, but she also has cerebral palsy and cannot speak. She has spent most of her schooling in a self-contained special ed class, but she gets a speech computer, like Stephen Hawking has, and starts interacting with some of the "normal" kids at her school. There are a few cruel girls, which kept the book very real, but Melody is STRONG, and sometimes very funny. I read this out loud to my class this year and many kids listed it as their favorite book of the whole year. Melody is such an incredible and believable character and there are excellent themes about understanding disabilities and not judging people and having the courage to get to know people who look and act "weird". The paperback for this doesn't come out until January of 2012, but I'd say it's definitely worth saving some money for.

Diamond Willow, Helen Frost
A novel told in poems, a lot like Out of the Dust, although a little bit easier. The main character and narrator is a twelve-year-old girl who loves being around her sled dogs more than her peers. Her dad is Anglo and her mom is American Indian. The setting is contemporary, in a remote part of Alaska. When one of her dogs is seriously injured and she doesn't think her parents will save him, she takes her one best friend and sets out on a perilous trip to her grandparents' home. There is also an interesting mystery about her own birth. This would be excellent for fifth or sixth graders and the dogs and survival stuff would probably get the boys drawn into the story as well.

Elvis and Olive, by Stephanie Watson
Perfect for fifth grade girls--about two girls who become friends and have a secret hide-out and who go around spying on people. In the end their friendship is tested by their own reckless choices, but they learn to respect people's privacy and to mend their friendship. Really true to the girls' ages and it reminded me (in good ways) of Harriet the Spy.

The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes, by Kelly Easton
I blogged about this one here. Super fun, great for fifth or sixth graders, and it just came out in paperback.

Touch Blue, by Cynthia Lord
Here is what I wrote about this one, by the same author as Rules. Similar level and complexity, but it isn't out in paperback yet.

Have fun spending your money and make sure to read as many of the books as you can before assigning your students to read them. :) And please let me know your favorite picture and early chapter book choices!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fun News

Most of the time when I happen upon a high ledge I peer over the edge, feel my tummy drop, and take a solid step back. But sometimes I fold out my wings, vigorously shake up their magic sparkles, and then I JUMP.

I requested and have been graciously given the chance to teach second grade next year. I'm very excited and also nervous.

There are many variables that led to this big jump, including the fact that I have enough storage space in our new house for all of my upper grade teaching materials. Heck, there's enough space in our garage!

My head is overflowing with second-grade questions. What books will they love? How do you fuel their desire to read? Will they get my Chuck Norris jokes? What will I do if they try to wipe their noses on me? Will teaching math still be as much fun? How am I going to stay within a reasonable budget of personal money spent on my new classroom? Is it possible to teach them to be self-directed? Which of my well-developed teaching skills will transfer well, and which ones will I need to recalibrate for much smaller children?

Anyway, that's my news. Feel free to recommend good books for 7 and 8 year olds.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

blue panda scriptures

Blue panda is my name for god these days. We constantly converse, the blue panda and I. For real. My brain observes, questions, interprets, and judges things, and I imagine this giant, beautifully animated, panda-god responding. Usually he just laughs, sometimes with me, sometimes at me. His big panda tummy shakes up and down. Sometimes he stops laughing and he whispers insights and understandings and helpful ways of thinking about things. In the last few months I've passed along some of this blue panda wisdom and some people have found it so helpful that they forwarded it on throughout the interwebs!

Book of Blue Panda
Chapter 1, Verses 1-5

1. Our human brains and our broken hearts have a strong need to make sense of things. We are desperate to understand everything that happens, especially when we are in a lot of pain. And so we create stories about the past. We label ourselves and we label other humans. There is nothing wrong with being human and many of our interpretations and stories and labels are valid. But it helps to be aware of our tendency to interpret the past and then believe that our interpretations and our stories are what "really" happened.

2. In the past, some stuff happened. Maybe your partner had an affair or maybe you lost custody of your children. But watch how fast and how much like a strong reflex you turn those factual events into huge, significant stories. "If only we had gone to counseling." "If only I had been someone different." "She never loved me and doesn't know how much I loved her." "I was an awful parent." And then we give everyone, including ourselves labels, like "broken" and "unlovable" and "not good enough" and "ex-rat-bastard-jerk-face."

3. Set all of these beliefs and stories and labels on this imaginary kitchen table right here. All of these stories are NOT TRUE. They are your extremely biased and completely self-serving interpretations of the past. All together they form an epic piece of historical fiction, starring you, the tragic martyr, the lonely super-hero, and the dark super-villain. Pure fiction. Yes, some stuff happened, but in attempting to understand it and in order to feel that you can exercise control of things in the future, you have made up some stories and you have come to believe many things (about yourself, about other individuals, and about humankind in general) that are pure hogwash.

4. Don't try to stop yourself from interpreting and understanding things. Just be aware that you're doing it and be aware that there is a large distance between all of the random, benign, infinitely complex and incomprehensible stuff that happens, and your deliciously alluring set of interpretations and beliefs. You have created stories that you use to understand your past and these are the stories that you will use to shape and limit your future.

5. Dust off your imagination and think about how it would feel to let any unkind or stressful stories, interpretations, and beliefs go. Imagine letting them float up off this kitchen table and disperse into nothing. What really happened? Nothing that means anything cruel or significant or even noteworthy about anyone or anything.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Little and Big Gratitudes

A blog that I frequent that is focused primarily on picture books makes space every Sunday for readers to list seven gratitudes. My seven for this week:

  • Modernity. That whole situation in Japan is tragic and scary and sad. And it could have been so much worse if Tokyo wasn't full of buildings designed to withstand earthquakes. I am grateful for modern medical science and food science and strict building codes and for the complex web of global interdependency that gives me nutritious foods to choose from and protection from most of the diseases and hardships that most humans that have inhabited this planet have had to endure. Not to mention washing machines and pressure cookers and hot water on demand for hot baths and showers.
  • Philosophers. I like puzzling over human behaviors, motivations, and the mysteries of the universe and I recently enjoyed reading The Happiness Myth by the brilliant contemporary philosopher Jennifer Michael Hecht.
  • A quiet home. Well, to be honest, we can hear loud noises from the gym down on the bottom floor. But what I'm grateful for is that my best mate hates TV as much as I do, so we don't have an incessant, annoying background noise in our home.
  • Weekends.
  • Shared dreams. My best mate and I don't have any elaborate life goals, just a simple and modest plan. We are going to buy a house and enjoy living together until we become old geezers. And then we are going to enjoy being old geezers together. About one month ago I realized how incredibly good it felt to have this shared dream, but then I immediately felt terrified, because WHAT IF OUR DREAM GETS INCINERATED? But then I remembered that we've been happy together for almost two years and that we're both pretty self-aware and that you can't know anything for certain, but that we've built this relationship on things that last, like a solid friendship, and honesty and compatible senses of fun and humor. And so now most of the fear is gone and I'm grateful that we plan to have a happy, peaceful future, together.
  • Spring
  • A decent raiding guild.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Five

1. Right now is the blast-off of a four day weekend. Wednesday and Thursday were Parent Teacher Conferences, which were good, but I'm ready to not work for a few days.

2. Tomorrow we are looking at seven houses. Maybe we'll like one or two of them.

3. Incarceron has been a fabulous book club book that more than half of my class is loving.

4. Words With Friends is now on Android phones. More competitors=more winning=more fun.

5. My "Bar Modeling" math project is winding down and has been an exciting, positive adventure. I only wish I'd taught this to all of my previous classes of fifth and sixth grade students.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


About a month ago we watched the movie Julie and Julia. I couldn't stand the thirty-something blogger. She was a self-absorbed, navel-gazing whiner. At least half of my strong negative reaction to this movie character, I recognize, was because she was a nice shiny mirror. OHHH SNNAAPPPP!

But I guess if people want to read my teaching reflections and inner dialogs and attempts at poetry, I enjoy writing them and that's reason enough not to quit or delete this entire blog. My birthday is coming up soon. And it's a brand new year. To celebrate both, a gratitude list:

1. Work. I had two splendid weeks off. I was not looking forward to going back to work after all that relaxing down time. I thought about getting up early and being on my feet all day and not being at home. Monday morning, however, when all 15 of my students were sitting bright eyed in their chairs, and we picked right up where we left off, I remembered how much I love teaching. I love the kids and I love the challenge of structuring lessons and organizing our time in ways that encourage them to construct and retain new knowledge. I like being in charge of a community and setting the tone for our social interactions. I cherish the individual relationships I build with my students. It's challenging and fulfilling work and having work that I love is simply wonderful.

2. My siblings. Over the Christmas break, the five of us were all together for the first time in over two years. We have so much inside humor and shared history and gentle teasing that it's hard for our partners or even our parents and cousins to completely keep up. We laugh and joke and poke and tumble around like the little cubs we once were. One of my dearest wishes is that one or two of them that live out of state will someday move back to Utah.

3. My parents. I'm grateful that they still love each other and that they take good care of each other. I'm grateful for how much support they've given me in the last two years and I'm grateful for every single thing they did that made me who I am.

4. Mikey. We make each other smile and laugh often. We enjoy doing many of the same things and have many shared beliefs. He is kind and generous and sexy and extremely honest. When people want to know what's going on with me and this Mike guy, I don't always know what exactly to say. We might start looking for a house soon, but we already have a loving home. We are creating and enjoying our own version of Happily Ever After. When I consider all the fears and trauma and loss of the last two years and then look at what the universe has given me in the form of this relationship, I feel an overpowering need to either laugh or cry in pure gratitude. It's like God keeps whispering, "I told you to trust me....." I both hope and predict that we will be happy together for a long, long time.

5. My body. I do my best to eat well and to exercise regularly. I go through cycles when I'm better at being healthy than other times, but I'm pretty good at keeping myself fit. Exercise feels good and summiting mountains feels amazing. I lost over 50 pounds two years ago and I've done a good job of maintaining my current weight. I feel good about how I look and I feel great about my level of physical fitness. Yes, I still have some insecurities and I have a few New Year's resolutions, including a bikini diet, but regardless of how I do in the next 12 weeks, I'm very grateful for my physical health and for a strong, fit body.

6. Friends and colleagues. I have several close friends who are also my coworkers. It's not just the work and the kids that I get to enjoy everyday at school, it's also Gwen and Steve and Cindy and Margie and our new principal, and Mike Harman, and all the other teachers and aides and our janitor and lunch lady. I'm grateful to be part of what our new boss refers to as "The Washington Family."

7. Blue Panda. That's my name, these days, for the all-loving spirit of the universe. I don't really have any idea who or what is ultimately in charge or if there is a consciousness that governs everything, but I do FEEL that beneath and between and inside and among all other parts of our universe there is also a LOVE that is larger and also more quiet than our capacity to understand. I believe that our imaginations are tools that are meant to be creatively employed to reach toward that love. And so, dear Blue Panda, thank you for this moment, and for the words to make meaning of things, and for the delicious and energizing panda-power that may come from an inner source or may come from somewhere outside of me, (although I am pretty sure that this distinction does not matter). Thank you. Yes. Thank you.