irish i may

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Five Favorites: Books With My Classes this Year

Here are five of my favorite books I have read this year with my 1st-5th grader reading students. Some of these I read with them for the first time, believe it or not.  Old teacher lady can still learn a few things, too!:


I am so glad I chose this Grandfather of kids fantasy to share with my 3rd Graders.  Several of the boys loved it and are now reading the whole series.  The girls not so much so, but you can't please everyone.


I love, love, love Beverly Cleary and now my First Graders do too!


How did I not read this before this year? What a beautiful book.  The Fourth Graders voted and chose this one themselves.  Makes you believe that Jack London was the original Dog Whisperer


Never gets old.


"Why did you do all this for me?" he asked.  "I don't deserve it.  I've never done anything for you.""You have been my friend.  That in itself is a tremendous thing"
Wow. That is the kind of writing that can get you through many a long cold night.  

Thank you for reading!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Simple Woman's Book Club: February

This is my very first month linking up with The Simple Woman's Book Club.   Its not February any more, of course, but I did read this in February:

The Chronicles of Prydain, Book One:The Book of Three

Lloyd Alexander

I read this book in:
paperback, which you can buy here atAmazon.

My Personal Thoughts on this Book:
Lately, I have not been reading much that isn't for school.  I chose this for the 3rd grade although I had never read it.  I gave the kids a chance to make suggestions and about 85% of them suggested Harry Potter.  Well, that wasn't going to happen, so I went in search of a fantasy alternative.   I was not disappointed in my choice.  The story centers on Taran, a young man of unknown family background who is raised by the ancient wizard, Dalben, and the aging hero, Coll.  Taren is impulsive and self-centered and he longs for adventure away from his day-to-day duties as "assistant Pig-keeper" to the oracular pig, Hen Wen.  One of the first things that made the book enjoyable, especially for the students,  was that you don't have to wait long for the adventures to begin.  Lloyd Alexander created interesting and dimensional characters in an alternate universe based on Welsh mythology.  In many ways he is one of the founders of today's children's fantasy genre.  The book is formal in tone, very well written and CHOCK FULL of vocabulary! Another bonus, aside from the 3rd rate Disney cartoon, by students had never heard of it. Old Miss Betty can still pick 'em!

A Favorite Quote from the book:
"Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we can do. Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart."

Also, here is a really great quote from Lloyd Alexander perfect for a book club:

"We don't need to have just one favorite. We keep adding favorites. Our favorite book is always the book that speaks most directly to us at a particular stage in our lives. And our lives change. We have other favorites that give us what we most need at that particular time. But we never lose the old favorites. They're always with us. We just sort of accumulate them.” 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

A January Daybook


Outside my window... cold.  An much improved 23 over Tuesday's high of 9 degrees.  I think our son is just about ready to head back to Dallas where it was all of 47 today.

In the kitchen... homemade minestrone!  

I am reading... Hatchet, The Book of Three Charlotte's Web,  and Amelia Bedelia Bookworm,   During the school year I mostly just read what my students are reading.  Otherwise, sad to say, only the Wall Street Journal before its used to light the  stove.  

I am hoping...that the kids will all have a successful spring semester, and listen for the Holy Spirit's guiding voice as they make decisions.  

I am looking forward to... a hot bath and a good night's sleep.  Something to look forward to every day!

One of my favorite things...the wood-burning stove in our little rental house

A few plans for the rest of the week: My oldest is trying to convince me to get my hair colored (just a semi-permanent rinse) for the first time in my life. So far my resistance holds firm.   Either way we are going for mother daughter trims tomorrow before she heads back up to school.

I am thankful...  For the three big kids home from college

I am wondering... what to read next with the 5th grade.  We have been doing short stories along with their test prep and we just finished A Christmas Carol.  I think I would like something funny.

I am pajamas, again.  I should take this one off my list.

Around the house... still putting up the Christmas things.  We don't start early, but we do go late.

A favorite quote for today... "A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”  Carl Reiner

Thanks as always to The Simple Woman's Daybook for all the fun. Check out other Daybook entries there!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fives Favorites for the First Time: New Jersey

This is my very first link up with Hallie at Moxie Wife.  I am enjoying her writing and also her really fun community of readers.

The boys and I flew in from Dallas just two days ago, on a rainy August evening that reminded me of my first flight into Newark 27 years ago.  I had flown in from my home airport,the green, pristeen, Orlando International.  I landed in the part of New Jersey that makes visitors think that the "Garden State" was nicknamed by a satirist.  I thought to myself, "I am landing in hell.":

But you can't judge New Jersey by its industrial corridor, and even places that are not scenic have much to recommend them, like employment. Newark, too has many of its own virtues.  Here are five reasons (besides family, friends, and two great jobs) that we are happy to be back home in New Jersey:

1. Italian Bakeries:
One of our favorites, by the way, is Calandra's, which has their original location in beautiful Newark.  We really missed our zeppole di San Giuseppe the last couple of years.

2. Sandwiches like this:

This one is eggplant, roasted red pepper, and fresh mozzarella with a balsamic vinaigrette. I got mine today from Anthony and Sons and I nearly wept from joy!

3.  Jersey Pizza: truly, once you are spoiled by New Jersey/ New York pizza, it is very hard to find something comparable in other states. Of course we still ate pizza in Arkansas, we just complained obnoxiously. 

4. Chinese food that is not from a buffet.  One of our local faves is the Hunan Room in Morris Plains. Try the delicious Szechuan crispy beef. 

5. Bagels. Although I grew up in Florida, thanks to my Bronxite father and the Bagel King, which opened in Winter Park when I was just 9 years old, I was in college before I tasted a frozen bagel.  There are more good bagel places in New york, of course, but our little local shop, Time For a Bagel,  is excellent!

There are many other reasons to love New Jersey, but, hey, its a foodie state, so these stand out.  Now that I have made myself hungry, I think I will stop for that  bagel on the way to work!

Chin up,


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

On Facebook and Nosy Ladies...

My daughter and I were surprised week to find out a good friend of my son just broke up with her boyfriend.  A 19 year old breaking up with her boyfriend, of course, is not such a shocking thing.  Where we were all surprised is that this young romance was chronicled over the last year on Facebook with hundreds (literally) of lovey-dovey snapshots and pronouncements of affection.  So what happened?  Well, we don't know and what's more it's not our business. However, having been made party to the relationship, we now want to be party to its end game, which brings me to...

...a fantastic post from the ever-radical Matthew Warner on quitting Facebook.  As someone who is only rarely on Facebook any more, I took it as encouragement to take the last radical step and just disable my account.  I like that Warner's reasons ultimately boiled down to whether FB was a good use of his God-given time in building relationships, or not so much so.  

This was particularly interesting to me because my oldest, showing an amazingly mature attitude, disabled her own account last spring for reasons both practical and philosophical, many of which were echoed in Warner's own thinking.   One of Mia's most important reasons was the one that Warner called "Life through a Lens".  As he put it, the living of your life became less important than the reporting of it.  I recall on that note a couple of occasions in high school when she persuaded either her grandmother or I to buy her an new outfit for a certain event, rather than risking the humiliation of being photographed for Facebook in a re-worn dress!

But, as Mia enters her senior year, she noted that even this far into college, many of her friends were still very concerned with the public nature of their social lives.  You travel, go out to eat, attend parties, go to baseball games,  relax on Rejects Beach; who cares unless its all recorded on Facebook? Its not so much that you are having fun, its that everyone KNOWS you are having fun. Soon you aren't having fun to have fun, but to seem to have fun. Hmmm... 

One of her other big reasons for quitting FB was the question of who she gave access to her private life.  Not just an enormous, increasingly ubiquitous, corporation, but even individuals, most of whom she only knows casually.  Some time ago I was talking to my high school students about our school policy forbidding teachers to "friend" students on their private accounts.  I suggested to them that even they deserved an arena of privacy that I and other school personnel did not have access to.  Most of them had never even considered such a notion.  To my son's young friend, though I won't have the chance, I would say something similar.  She deserves to have a youthful romance without exciting the interest of nosy middle-aged ladies and their teen-aged daughters. Or, as Warner put it:

Intimacy requires some level of privacy and exclusivity of audience. That’s what makes it special. With Facebook, if we have something good to share, we rarely *only* share it with somebody special. The ability to share it with *lots of people* is too easy and the temptation too strong. This has led to fewer special, personal and intimate moments in our friendships.

 Sounds about right, no?  For even more encouragement to quit FB, I found this great post from Mama needs Coffee.  Less Facebook, more Downton Abbey?  I can handle that!

Monday, August 5, 2013

An August Daybook...


Outside my window... welcome rain.

I am thankful...  for our comfortable and homey summer cottage here in the heart of the Arkansas Wine Country, and for our friends's hospitality.

In the kitchen... banana bread, peach pie, brownies; its baking weekend! 

I am creating... scrap books of some of the kids' artwork and school papers.  

I am wondering... what we are going to do with our "summer dog".  "Sir Henry", a local stray attached himself to us almost as soon as we arrived.  He's really an awesome little dog and we are trying everyone we know to find him a new home. I don't want to break his little doggie heart by dropping him off at the shelter.

I am reading... A Conspiracy of Friends ,third book in the Corduroy Mansions series by Alexander McCall Smith and The Divine Pity by Fr. Gerald Vann, OP.  Also reading The Ranger's Apprentice and True Grit (for the fourth time) aloud to my younger sons.  Although I am a little embarrassed to admit it I am also reading City of Bones along with Vince and his girlfriend, Annie in anticipation of the movie.  I have no particular interest in the movie, but it does give me something to share with the kids.  

I am exercise pants with a blue sleeveless polo and house slippers.

I am hoping... to find a job this week.  I have a strong possibility with a school where I substituted before we moved, but I am still waiting, and hoping, and praying...

I am looking forward to... seeing my husband again in about three weeks. This summer is by far the longest we will have been apart. I now stand in rapt admiration of Navy wives.

Around the house... sorting and re-packing the boys' things for college and pulling together what they still need.  

I am pondering...what its going to be like to have our twins so far away in college this fall. Sigh...

A favorite quote for today..."Live each day as it comes, like a bird in the trees, without worrying about tomorrow." -St. Louis De Montfort

One of my favorite things...the $3.00 theater in Forth Smith:

A few plans for the rest of the week: sleepover parties, movie nights, watching the kids swim in our friends' pool.  Dang... sounds like we are on vacation!

A peek into my day:

Peter and Sir Henry
Thanks as always to The Simple Woman's Daybook for all the fun. Check out other Daybook entries there!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

7 Quick Takes on mostly Prom...

1. Nearly a year ago I totally abandoned writing this blog. I didn't have much spare time and I was sharing an old, slow desktop with five kids. I started to keep another one, but it just wasn't "speaking to me", if you know what I mean, so, one day I just deleted the whole doggone thing.  I have been looking for the right time to start blogging again and perhaps it has arrived.  

2. OK, WHY has the time arrive, you might be asking yourself (depending on whether or not anyone is actually reading this). The time seems right because we just made the decision to move back to New Jersey.  We have had a crazy-busy couple of years in Arkansas, and now that our lives are about to change again, I want to write. 

3. Last Saturday was our big boys' Senior Prom.  I'm really not at all sentimental about Prom, and since Rob and I chaperoned the big wing-ding until nearly midnight, I am even less warm and fuzzy than I might have been if I could have just gushed  about how handsome they looked, cooed over their dates' dresses, snapped a few photos, and sent them on their way.   Having issued my disclaimer, however, a good time was had by all and I am very pleased that the guys got to attend Prom with these two very fun and very good girls:

John and Meranda
Vince and Annie

4. Speaking of Prom, if you have a high school student and you are not homeschooling, living in the tundra or Amish, you have certainly heard about the issue of  grinding at school dances and how many schools, both public and private, are attempting to address it.   My genius husband implemented an excellent solution at last Friday's assembly: "Gentlemen, when the grinding starts, so does the country music."  Message received.  

5. Last Friday our little St. Joseph's took home two 1st place medals and a two-man team 2nd place from the regional NASA Destination Space Science Fair! From  field of 1700 kids, our little crew of 12 showed them how its done! 

Bernie didn't win anything, but she was pleased with the performance of the marble roller coaster that she and her Dad enjoyed many hours of father-daughter time building:

6. The weather has been mighty strange for Arkansas in May.  It was about 45 degrees and rainy all day;  three days ago it was 92.  When Fr.Wolfgang Schlumpf first arrived here in the River Valley to found the priory that became Subiaco Abbey, he wrote home to St. Meinrad's in Indiana complaining  that they had "no climate here, only weather".  Now I can see just what he meant!

7. One last thought about Proms... It is 2AM and we just returned from toting our son up to NWA so that he could escort a friend to her Senior Prom.  One more tux rental, one more corsage, 60 bucks for dinner out, 50 bucks in gas and an entire evening driving back and forth.  Yes, all my warm fuzziness is completely gone now. 

For more Quick Takes from even better bloggers than me, visit Jen at ConversionDiary.Com