Thursday, March 31, 2011

Let's Play Ball!

It is Opening Day!  Expectations are HIGH for the Brewers!  They went above and beyond what we expected to get pitching and missing pieces.  It is finally that time of the year.  I have been waiting since February.  The high from the Super Bowl win has gotten me here, but now I am ready!  But let's now lose sight of what baseball really is - Ernie Harwell said it best.  Nothing I could possibly say could top this...


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What if my worst fears had been confirmed?

I never check my phone during the school day - well not until my lunch period.  I have an overload this term, so I have no off classes.  I also never have my phone on vibrate when J is working.  Today I did both!

At about 11:30am, my little 7th graders started on their homework, so I swiped my phone and saw that there was an odd number on the missed call list.  For some reason I checked the message.  It wasn't any of the firehouse numbers, any of the kids' schools or my FF's number.  So, I am not exactly sure why I did.  The message was my husband and all I could understand was, "I am at St. Mary's..."  Had it been ANY of the other hospitals I would not have been too concerned.  St. Mary's is in another COUNTY and it houses the BURN UNIT!  I took a deep breath, excused myself from my little babies and started dialing in the hall.

J's phone went straight to voicemail, so my next logical thought was to call the firehouse.  I did, ready with my calm voice and my list of questions.  I literally looked at my dial pad when my husband answered the phone - he was already back at the engine house!

Turns out it was "just" a battery that exploded and caught him in the face - JUST!  But, being a firefighter - on an engine - no matter what, there is always water around.  So, he got flushed on site and the trip to the hospital was merely a precautionary move.  He is extremely "itchy", but there are no burns. The doctor simply told him how lucky he was and left it at that.

Now, in the future, I will be forever reminded by this to KEEP MY PHONE ON RING when he is working.  What if it had been something worse?  I will also remember to be sure to kiss him goodbye at the start of every shift and remind him of how much I loved him - there was a day last week, aside from the retreat, where I did not take the time because I was running late.  And hopefully I will not let myself think, "Eh, it is probably nothing." and put that call off until I have time, based on this experience.  Lastly, hopefully I will keep my composure, just as I did today, no matter the circumstance.

What if my worst fears had been confirmed?

Monday, March 28, 2011


FIREFIGHTER/PARAMEDIC STORIES: Wet Stuff On The Red Stuff No Longer?: "While wasting time I found a very interesting article on firefighting on Fire Rescue 1's website. Firefighters know that in a structure fir..."

I read this and was instantly in awe! I have no clue on the logistics of this technology - but think of the implications! It is AMAZING! Awesome post!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Craig A. Birkholz - Army Sgt., Police Officer, Husband, Hero

Craig A. Birkholz  He survived two tours in the big sand box just to be lost trying to save a fellow officer in Fond du Lac?  Really?  It is a tragic story.  It is a tale of two soldiers and their stories after returning home.  I have been writing this post in my head for days.  Trying to figure out what to say, what to focus on, how to handle it. It has been on my mind - constantly.  I listened to the feed as it all went down - I was just captured by the surrealism of the whole situation.  My heart broke when the news mentioned his wife.  I am a teacher in Kenosha and the parish that was taking care of the funeral mass is attached to our lower campus.  LITERALLY the signs of this tragic loss were everywhere!  There are pink signs reminding us that there is a police funeral surrounding the entire school and church.  Throughout Kenosha there are signs - at union halls and scrolling at banks.  Kenosha is feeling the loss of one of their own.

My boys have taken it so much to heart that they wanted to attend.  I thought about trying to make it happen.  But we had a family college graduation and I wanted to be sure there was enough space for those who were closest to him to mourn the loss of a hero.  And...I was not sure if I could handle it, personally.  There are no words, none.  As wives to servicemen, police officers and firefighters - we all know this is a reality of our world.  My husband is at work as we speak and I could be the one getting that call.  But we always put it to the side.  This loss, I have not been able to do that with - I was not even part of his world. But I feel for his wife - they have only been married since 2009.  They had so many plans, the future was waiting for them.  Now, I am certain, her future is moment by moment as she tries to grasp the reality of the whole situation. At the graduation yesterday, there was an MPD officer behind us, his badge was a reminder of the loss.  Craig Birkholz was a hero - at home and in the bigger world.  The world is a better place because of him.  There are no words.  Nothing I can write or say can bring him back.  Nothing I can write or say can take the pain away.  THERE ARE NO WORDS.

Photos by Brian Passino

War Through Their Eyes: Book Cover
War: Through Their Eyes is a multi media project completed by UW-Oshkosh - including a photo exhibit, a series of podcasts and a book, about the experiences of the soldiers, UWO students and alum, in the modern war campaigns.The interviews are conducted by Grace Lim's Spring 2009 Writing for the Media class.  Sgt. Birkholz story is among those stories preserved in this piece.  Please take a moment to take a look at the site.

Please say a prayer for the wife, family, friends and Fond du Lac PD that are all feeling this loss.  May God grant them peace, acceptance and healing through this most difficult and tragic part of their lives.  Please say a prayer for your firefighters as they leave for work, to keep them say.  Most of all I will be saying a prayer of thanks that we have these most brave and honorable men and women, willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep us safe - at home, in the community and throughout the world.

Sgt. Craig A. Birkholz - we thank you.  May you rest in peace.   

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Just Don't Want to Talk

I just spent 30 hours with all of our Sophomores at a retreat called Tyme Out.  It was a GREAT retreat.  The kids were wonderful.  The leaders were awesome.  It was a really great time.  It focused on relationships - bf/gf, parents, friends, marriage, siblings, acquaintances  - how you interact with those around you.  We divided the kids into 8 groups - 1 for each staff member that went.  We then divided those groups in half - 4 upstairs and 4 downstairs.  The other 3 adults who were with me were wonderful. But, above all, I think the kids REALLY needed it.  The girls and boys got to figure out how makes the other tick. We divided our groups into boys and girls. They discussed the opposite gender.  WOW!  My girls obviously needed to vent and figure out what makes the other half work!  We had an anonymous Q/A session for both sides and I think it opened up their eyes like never before.  And what did they take from it - that we could all use a reminder of - communication is the key to ANY relationship.  Talking, letting the other side know what you need, what you think, how you feel - COMMUNICATION.  It was tremendous!

Lea RosenbergThe amazing thing of this whole experience was that they got it.  Our retreat leaders were amazed that these were only sophomores.  They did great.  The break out sessions were wonderful, everyone respected everyone else's opinions, some long standing grudges were worked out.  It really was great!  The scripture work did not meet the grumbles that Larry and I seem to find in class.  The games and discussions were real - not pontification and hell and brim fire.  The kids were surprisingly open about things.

Last night really wasn't that bad.  My girls were only up until 12 or 12:30 - not too bad.  Amanda's group in the adjoining room was up until 4 AM.  I threw my headphones in and turned off my Droid light I was reading by around 2:30.  Even though her kids were still up, they were good.  Wake up call at 6am came VERY EARLY!  I got them all up and moving with minimal grumbles - it was quite impressive. One of my boys was PO'd because his buddy woke him up via water bottle. NOT A HAPPY CAMPER!   After a few more activities and cleaning we headed down for our last lunch.

We left after lunch today.  It was time.  We had 30 hours straight - no break.  I feel bad in retrospect, but I need it.  I threw my headphones and listened to my i-Pod for the 2 hour drive back to school.  I did not want to talk to the other teacher.  I had just spent the previous 30 hours talking - talking to kids (large group and small), talking to the retreat leaders, talking to the other teachers (which was a good thing - nice to spend some time chatting OUTSIDE of school), talking to parents whose kids did not want to go back for musical rehearsal at 5pm yesterday, talking to the girls in the hall - in our PJs well after lights out  at 11:30pm - because they just wanted to chat.  THIRTY HOURS TALKING!  I just don't want to talk anymore.

Now, let me tell you about my awesome FF did.  In the CRAZINESS of Wednesday - me getting everything ready for my trip AND my absence, I left my make-up bag and meds on the dining room table.  Somehow, I WONDERFUL FF helped me in my blond moment and brought them to me.  Mind you - this is after he drove 60 minutes down to the boys' school to pick them up, with another 85 minutes to the retreat center and another 45 minutes home. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate what he did. First and foremost, I really need my meds.  Seizures and hypertension, do not go well with 85 10th graders and no sleep.  But, for my comfort level, I was grateful for my make-up.  I am not too vain.  BUT, without make-up I look like a totally different person.  One whom my kids at work have never seen.  It would have caused such a distraction, I did not want to have mess caused by my absent minded moment .  I will forever be grateful to J for that trip he made!

ON TOP OF THAT - he got 4 kids, up, dressed and out the door by 5:20 AM - by himself.  He dropped the girls off at O's sitter, one of the teachers from J's previous life as a 4th grade teacher takes D to school for us on the days J works.  He then drove the hour down to drop the boys off at my school so my retiring department chair could hang out with them until they could walk down to the Lower Campus.  Then my WONDERFUL FF drove another hour back to E2 and off to work he went!  I am indeed a blessed and lucky gal!  I am also so grateful that his Captain allowed some flexibility in the Cub schedule for J to get back there.  He was nowhere near late for his shift at 8am, but Cubs report between 6:30 and 6:45.  When I talked to him at 7am, my FF was about 30 minutes out.  I will have to drop the Capt. a thank you note.  I know he did not necessarily have to do that.

So, now I am home, and my dear FF is at work.  Really not that big of a deal. kids have not seen me since yesterday morning.  They - want to talk!  AYE!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Testing a new app

I juat downloaded the Blogger app from Android.  Just putzing to see if it is worth trying. So far aside from my typing skills, so good.

A Sad Afternoon

There is a quiet sadness that has fallen over our house.  Spring Break is over.  It is a rainy day so the kids could not even enjoy time out in the yard.  I go back to teaching, kids go back to school and the firefighter makes his way back to the fire house.  So, we get uniforms for Daddy and the boys washed, backpacks put together, take a look to be sure there is appropriate food for lunch boxes and off we go.  I think it will be a quiet, slow moving morning as we try and get back into the swing of things.  No worries.  We have a 4 1/2 day break for Easter weekend and then June 1st is right around the corner.  Wish us luck tomorrow.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It is SO Hard When They Believe You Know Nothing

This is one of those times where I wish I was a 8-3 teacher, who graded only what she could get done during the school day and left all school related issues at the door.  I wish I could.

Vice LordsI have a former student, already graduated - so she is a big girl.  As I am perusing my Facebook feed, I notice her picture - throwing up gang signs - and my blood begins to boil!  I scroll down her wall and I see a posting regarding VLN.  I instantly inbox her telling her I wish I was close enough to bop her upside the head.  Then I start looking through her pictures...the tattoos she has had done - clear as day,  the gang bangers and their pieces.  I look to see who she has tagged in these pictures.  My stomach sinks.  So, now I go through her feed.
"I love my bruthas and sistas of this Almighty Vice Lord Nation...Happy Holy Divine Day 55"
There's my neon billboard - she is gone.  I've lost her. We had a heated discussion, because I will be danged if I am going to let one of my girls go blindly and without a fight.  And she starts telling me about all the good they do for impoverished blacks in their communities - they are an "organization that has been around since the '50s."  It is all on the up and up.  They are trying to empower her. And I literally shake my head at my monitor.  Really?  She bought that?  I reassured that I would be there no matter what, there is nothing waiting for her at home - which is why this leap makes sense.  She is not hearing anything I am saying.  My stomach is tied in knots.  My head is throbbing.  I still can't make her see.  But I wish I didn't care.  I have buried 18 kids, I don't need to bury another.  I only hope she realizes what she has gotten into before it is too late to get out of.  God Speed, Gilligan Girl. God  Speed.

I LOVED Thursday

I have to admit it, I only pay attention to College Basketball throughout the season so I can make an educated bracket come March. I LOVE March Madness.  And, for the first time in my educational career, I was not sick on Thursday!  ;)  Spring Break came at the PERFECT time.  St. Paddy's Day on opening day of the Big Dance - who could ask for anything more.

Breakfast at Kelly's - not quite Tiffany's
So, Thursday we started with breakfast at one of the Irish bars - one of many.  After Jeff's horrible premixed bloody mary - the bartender in me CRINGED to see her pull out a can of Bloody Mary MIX.  Really - you can't figure out how to use celery salt, tabasco and salt/pepper.  There is not some big secret to it.  Ah well.  We parked at E2 - one of the perks of being stationed downtown and headed off to Water Street.  It was an absolutely GORGEOUS day - light breeze, full sun, 67 degrees.  I did not mind walking through downtown at all.  We hit a few bars - one, even with 3 bartenders and 10 people total, I could not get drinks for us.  Next one  - we were a bit on the older side, but it made for fun people watching.  A pair of guys, who had probably NOT stopped drinking from the night before, we on the prowl for cougars - that was awkward.  J ran into a guy from his EMT class that was in the previous FF class; it made him smile.   There is something to that brotherly bond.  And then we met up with the firefighters.

The afternoon was perfect, good burgers, live music in the background, big screen TVs for me and J had firefighters to talk to while I cussed not so silently over some sad performances on opening day.  There was only one moment where my femaleness and my obsession with the Dance caused a scene.  Or maybe it was the green beer flowing through his veins at that moment.  Eventually the guys will get used to the fact that the SI comes in my name, you don't bother me on Sundays from August until February and it have a Twitter account just to keep up with the sports gossip of the day. Either way, it was still a great day.  We headed back to my dad's for pizza and UW's win over Belmont and rescued him from the girls.  Yesterday we grabbed the boys from my in-laws and the end of Spring Break is upon us.  But Thursday - Thursday I could not have planned to be any better!

After 2 rounds, I am 24-8.  Not too bad, I guess. I should scan my brackets and get them on here.

My Final Four - OSU, UCONN (Yup over Duke), Kansas and Florida.  Kansas takes it all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Peace Falls Over the House

It is 0511.  I have been up since 4am when Liv decided her bed was no longer sufficient for her slumbering purposes.  As I sit her watching the news in peace and quiet, waiting for the chaos of 4 children to erupt, it dawns on me how quiet how house will be this week.  Grandma and Grandpa are taking the boys and Desiree still has school even though we are on Spring Break.  I should be ecstatic.  We will be able to get our honey-do list accomplished - which might I add, my hubby has been FANTASTIC at knocking out this week.  We will be able to go out with the boys for St. Paddy's Day.  I am grateful, I really am.

But in the peace and quiet that comes with missing children I always find myself missing them.  Missing the arguments over chores, toys, space, snacks, homework, science experiments, haircuts...I must sound insane.  But I miss my kids terribly after the first night.  Can you see me as an empty nester?  YIKES!  They will all be back Friday.  D will be home from school, we will head up to Grandma's to pick up the boys and the chaos will be back in full swing.  Life will be good.

So in the mean time, I anxiously wait for the boys to wake up.  For D to realize she still has to go to school.  For the craziness to ensue.  I will miss it, I always do.  Then, as always my dear husband will merely shake his head and call me crazy - which is totally true.  Why else would I teach high school, while married to a man who gets paid to run into burning buildings, with 4 kids in dire need my sole attention - right NOW?  But sometimes, crazy is good.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mean Teacher!

I heard through the grapevine that is what my reputation has become.  Well, not mean, but hard.  My FF subbed at our Lower Campus Thursday and Friday.  Our school is one big incestual family - per my department chair who has been on staff since 1980.  Everyone is married to someone within the school family.  As he points out his former students, "she used to be a "Smith" but she married a "Jones"  and her mom is a "Johnson."  All of these names have been changed, but you get the idea.  Many of our alum marry other alum.  All of the families are somehow seemingly related.  I was told it was good that we have four kids, because we bring new blood to the gene pool.  Aside from that, we also have several alum who are now back as staff.  One such staff member is at our Lower Campus (PreK-5).  She told my FF that her son is afraid to take my class next year because it is so hard.

J told me this while I was grading papers this afternoon.  So, I looked through my gradebook.  Mind you, we are only 2 weeks into the term, so one assignment can swing your grade quite drastically.  Anyway, no one is failing my class - I have 1 D and 2 Cs.  Last term NO ONE earned a D or F from me - period.  That is unheard of.  Which leads me to my conclusion - Students will rise to meet your expectations if they know you won't be lowering your standards.  That means I am doing my job - making them reach farther than they thought they needed to and expand their horizons.

I am okay with being that mean teacher.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I am a bit of a tech geek.  I love all things computer based.  I have had a PDA of some sort since 2000.  My Droid has since replaced my need for a Palm phone, but I need my life in my hand at the touch of a button.  I  have drooled after a SmartBoard for my classroom for YEARS.  When I could not get one, I made one - dubbed a "Ghetto Smartboard" by my kids.  Duct tape, magnets, pvc pipe, a Wii Mote, a Bluetooth dongle and an IR pen.  My tablet has temporarily plugged that hole.  I have longed for a document camera, so I made one - from a ring stand and an old camcorder.  I love toys.  But when it comes to HTML, it am so lost.  I get the general premise, but beyond that, I am a definite candidate for HTML for Dummies.

BUT, I succeeded in getting a button made for this blog - after 2+ hours.  See, I told you, I sucked at it! But it does give some credence to the old adage, "If at first you don't succeed...spend the first few hours of your Spring Break getting the stupid thing to work!" 

So, feel free to grab and post it on your blogs/sites.  Or not.  But at least I got the dang thing to work!  Happy Saturday!

Spring Break and a Reminder to Be Grateful

It is that time of year.  Kids and teachers alike look forward to it - Spring Break!  I am especially thrilled as my hubby made his trades and PO days work out so that he as off the whole week with us. (Here's where I am thrilled for the flexibility a FF schedule offers!) Now,  it gets even nicer.  The boys are going to Door County for a few days with my in-laws and D is still too young to go to school with the boys and me, so she is still in school.  That means there will only be one kid home with us most of the time.  Now, I know this sounds bad.  But we will be able to get things done around here. No bickering to mediate, to temper tantrums over chores, smaller meals to prepare.  Only early bedtimes.  I love my muppets, but I am excited for the break.

On a more somber note.  Please keep the families of Japan in your thoughts and prayers.  Our college has a sister campus in Tokyo.  We have become lifelong friends with many of the students brave enough to join us in the cornfields.  I feel for them as they struggle to find out who is where and how they are.  I am grateful for the immediate answers the web and Facebook can offer.  The aftershocks continue to rock their world - not in the good way.  To the point where sleep is not an option.  The state of the nuclear reactor is especially troubling for one family.  Please keep them in your thoughts.  It is a good reminder for my family to not whine about the fact that we still have a foot of snow or that the temp barely sees the other side of freezing.  Be safe, my friends.
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