Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Hoddoween

Duncan had a banner day of trick or treating.  Housatonic Child Care Center took the kids into Salisbury to trick or treat at the local businesses, and Duncan came home with a large bag of treats, including a fireman's hat and activity book.  When he got home, we put him back in the turtle costume and headed to Kildonan ("the beeg school") to do a little more trick or treating. Many thanks to Ken, Bob, Karl, and Dana, who supplied us with even more candy, and also to the mysterious benefactor who provided the treat pumpkin.  (This pumpkin appeared on our doorstep while I was home between school and a meeting on Thursday).  My guess is Lisamarie and Tim, but I don't know for sure.  We hope you all enjoyed a little fall cheer.  As for the great pumpkin, I don't think we'll be seeing him in our pumpkin patch tonight.

Mea Culpa

That wasn't very useful, was it?  The pictures are too small.  Sorry!  I think the directions are pretty clear though.  If I can zoom into the photos, I'll post them again.

Comments on Multisensory Instruction

I've received a few more question about you to post comments on my blog. As a multisensory language instructor, I know that presentation is often enhanced by the use of more than one sense so I've prepared a multisensory lesson on how to comment.

1. At the bottom of the blog post, click on the "comments" button. Unless it's been a particularly interesting post, the comments button will probably read "0 Comments.

2. When the comment window opens, type your comments in the box.

3. Type in the letters in the word verification box; this is to ensure that I don't get loads of spam sent to my blog.

4. If you have a gmail account or a blogger account, click that button and type in your screen name. However, most of you don't so click Name/URL instead.

5. Type in your name. Leave the URL box blank (unless you have one that you'd like to share).

6. Click "Publish Your Comment."

Easy peasy lemon squeasy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Butterfly Born A Day

I promised this video quite some time ago, but I've only just learned how to edit it. This video portrays Duncan's interaction with the monarch butterfly we "hatched" at home this summer.

Trick or Treat

Perhaps it's because we have a gymnast friend, who I am hoping will open his own gym and then coach Duncan in 5 years or so. Perhaps it's because Duncan is 2 and likes to climb things and act like a monkey. In any case, I've been taking pictures and now video of some of Duncan's gymnastic maneuvers (they call them TRICKS in the trade). Forgive me if you've seen these already, but I wanted to post them all together. Move over Paul Hamm. There's a new gymnast in town.

Monday, October 27, 2008


A few weeks ago when we went to the grocery store, we had to buy small garbage bags; you know, the kind you put in the small wastebaskets around the house? I had forgotten about them, quite frankly, because I was using my grocery store bags in the trash cans. Much to my surprise, we had finally run out of grocery store bags, and I was INORDINATELY excited.

We are not a green household by any means. It's not that I didn't CARE about the environment. I've always CARED, but like many people, I didn't really believe that any changes I made would make a difference in the overall scheme of things. So we recycled cans and bottles because it's the law, and that was about it.

Then came the summer. We decided that we would save money on our groceries by no longer purchasing individually packaged fruit, apple sauce, cottage cheese, and yogurt for Duncan's lunches. Since he was only attending day care one day a week, we were only packing lunch for him one day a week; we thought we could put a little extra work into it and save a little cash. And we survived.

In mid-August, I decided to give up plastic grocery store bags. I don't think Jamie thought we would stick with it, but he discovered that he could pack the groceries better in the cloth bags. And Stop and Shop gives us a 5 cent discount for each bag we use. I stocked both our cars with bags and bought one for my purse...and we haven't looked back. I knew then that if I wanted to make changes, I had to take them one step at a time and wait to add a new one until the previous ones had become a way of life.

Buoyed by our bag success, I decided to use our collection of cloth napkins rather than store them in a drawer. I said to Jamie, "I know you're going to think this is crazy, but..." He said that as long as I washed the laundry, he didn't care. We still use paper napkins for dessert and for lunches we pack for school, but I've only bought napkins once since August. Yeah!

So, lunches...when Duncan went back to daycare full time, we didn't go back to the prepackaged fruits, yogurts, and cottage cheeses. It takes a little longer to pack his lunch, but maybe there will still be trees and oxygen and grass when he's in high school. I can live with that. On opening day at school, I received my sandwich mats in the mail, and we've been using them to pack our sandwiches and vegetables. Not only do they save plastic bags, but they also save the paper towels we used to make the sandwiches on top of so they're doing double duty.

I read somewhere that baby wash is responsible for a huge amount of plastic in landfills so I bought a bar of baby-friendly soap for Duncan, and no one missed the bottle. What's more, the bar is cheaper and has lasted longer. Who knew?

I'm not sure where I'll go next. We're ready for a new step. I'm excited to compost, but it's not really the season to start that. (I do sneak out from time to time and dump the kitchen vegetable scraps on top of the pile of garden detritus that we dumped in the woods. And when we had a pile of squishy apples, we threw them into the woods for the animals). Maybe I'll give up Diet Coke. Maybe I'll stop using disposable pens. In fact, the concept "disposable" is turning me off these days. Maybe I'll start rinsing out ziploc bags like my Mom. Do I think I'll start baking all my own bread or hanging my laundry on a line...not yet. But we're taking little steps, and I firmly believe that they will make a difference.

By the way, when you're done reading Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, read The Green Book. It will change the way you think about how much you can change the world. Then, loan them both to other people so you can pay it forward. (The Green Book has already been recycled once! Keep it moving!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Last week, each member of the administration was asked by our new Headmaster to prepare a written job description to help the members of our Board of Trustees understand better what our administration does. It was agonizing. I'm still not sure my description really does the job justice. I thought I'd post it here because a lot of my friends and family don't really know what I do. This won't answer all the questions, but it will give you a picture of what I get paid for. And yes, the acronym for my job is DOLT, and isn't that funny, ha ha. I've heard it all before. If you work with me, you know there is a lot that is not in here, like answering on the fly "why is the word simultaneous spelled -eous instead of -ious" and "how does that extended doubling rule work," and "is there a reason Tristan can't copy off the board," and "should Dan be writing in cursive in class by now," and the simple matter of talking a faculty member off the ledge once a week...but I digress. Such are the matters that cannot be documented in writing.

Director of Language Training Job Description

The Director of Language Training (DOLT) oversees the Language Training (Orton-Gillingham tutoring) program at the school.

The DOLT is responsible for organizing and helping to conduct the 70 hour Orton-Gillingham training course in which all first-year teachers participate. In addition, the DOLT, in conjunction with three other A.O.G.P.E. Fellows and a Fellow-in-Training, organizes and conducts ongoing training throughout the year. The Language Training Department meets approximately every three weeks, and those meetings primarily serve the purpose of continued training. The DOLT supervises a department of approximately 30 - 40 tutors, with the help of the other Fellows, by conducting tutoring observations, reading weekly tutoring reports, and meeting with tutors to discuss their students’ progress. The Assistant Director of Language Training is gradually taking over the role of supervising all Elementary School tutors and works closely with the DOLT. The DOLT also tutors several periods a day as needed; the current teaching load is three periods. The DOLT works with the Academic Dean (AD) to schedule and assign upper school students and faculty to evening study halls and monitor student performance. The DOLT oversees the Language Training budget and is responsible for procuring educational materials for use in tutoring.

The DOLT reads each new student’s file and works with the Academic Dean (AD) and other administrators to plan tutoring placements and schedule tutoring periods. In addition, the DOLT, with the help of a Testing Coordinator and the AD, plans and implements individual testing, maintains records of student progress, and communicates with parents regarding student progress in tutoring. The DOLT works closely with the Testing Coordinator around registering students for standardized tests and writes Section 504 Accommodation Plans for eleventh and twelfth grade students whose accommodations are not secured under the IDEA through IEP’s. The DOLT serves as a resource to the college coordinator regarding post-secondary schooling options.

As Chair of the Language Training Department, the DOLT meets weekly with the other Department Chairs to discuss student, scheduling, and curricular concerns. In addition, the DOLT serves as an advocate for students by guiding classroom teachers in making appropriate classroom and testing accommodations. The DOLT works closely with the Assistive Technology Coordinator to identify students who are appropriate for that program and keeps abreast of their progress. The DOLT is responsible for editing all Language Training reports during the interim and end-of-term report periods.

The DOLT serves as a member of the administrative team. In that capacity, the DOLT is responsible for helping to make decisions that affect the entire school, such as consulting with the admissions department, developing yearly calendars and schedules, participating in the faculty hiring process, and advising on campus improvements.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bind Off

That's all I have to say, really. For those of you who have been following the progress of Baby Ben's sweater, the hood of the hoodie is about to be a hood. More later, but I know the excitement has been mounting so I wanted to keep you all updated. Just kidding...sort of...I have, in fact, been asked about the progress of the sweater.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Free to Pee, You and Me

Every parent has one of these stories, whether it's his/her own or that of a friend. Tuesday, while Jamie was in our bedroom changing his clothes after school, Duncan stripped himself naked and peed on the couch. If that parent is (un)lucky, he/she has another. This morning, before Duncan even made it to breakfast, he stripped off his diaper and pajamas and peed on his bath. It has been 48 hours straight of laundry. If only we knew the motivation of a 2 1/2 year old...this could be a good thing, right? An awareness that one has to pee and difficulty navigating all the variables to make a trip to the potty happen? Or it could be naughty...but he doesn't seem to find it funny. Any advice? I don't want to risk traumatizing the kid and setting back his toilet training, so we're left with reminders that there are two places to pee (in your diaper or in the toilet) and requiring him to participate a little in the cleaning up so that he realizes there are some consequences. The boy is home from school so I have to run because anything could happen, and we don't yet have one of those stories about poop...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

YA LIT: My Drug of Choice

I read like a madwoman. More specifically, I read young adult literature like a madwoman. I do it because I love it but also because I buy a lot of reading books for school. In the business of converting children to the world of reading, it's important to be able to match the right book to the reader. And you gain a lot of street cred among the grade 7 -12 crowd if you can just get it right once. If you can find a reluctant reader just one book that he kinda sorta maybe doesn't hate, then he'll come back for more. And each time, you can up the ante with a longer book, a more sophisticated book, a more classic book, a book with a GIRL for a protagonist. And then his friend comes to borrow that first book, and you've got it made. But you have to gain their trust, which means you have to predict what they'll read, and to do that, you have to read. I LOVE this part of my job.

I meant to write this post in August, but life got away with me. My friend Michelle, our beloved bookseller, left Oblong Books and Music in August after 7 years of providing local children and adults with all the best in children's and young adult literature. Michelle reads more than I do and never failed to recommend a book I liked (and usually loved). She left Oblong to do something near and dear to my heart...teach Kindergarten. I've been thinking about Michelle a lot as I drive by her house or find a new, fantastic book, or encounter a new, challenged and challenging reader. I've been wondering how her new job is going and if her students know how lucky they are.

I say all this because today I went back to Oblong for the first time A.M. (after Michelle). I was there to pick out books for Kildonan's Parents' Day book sale, and Michelle would be proud. I think I picked out about 3 boxes full of books. It wasn't the same without Michelle, and that nice, innocent part-time woman working in Oblong, Jr. was okay but not great. She tried. I missed Michelle's enthusiasm and expertise, but I reminded myself that she's getting in at the ground level! She's creating readers before they even hit first grade! I also realized that I DO know what kinds of books appeal to young adults. I can trust my own instincts, and I can continue to read voraciously. It's research, after all. When my child is 16, I hope he'll have someone like me to lead him to great books, but I realize he'll be a lot more receptive to someone like me at 16 if he starts his education with someone like Michelle. That's wordy, but it does the job.

Read on. Get hooked. Read more. Pay it forward.

Greening Amenia, One Step at a Time

My friend Karl just finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; like me, he also found it inspirational, eye opening, and well written. (No, I don't know Barbara Kingsolver personally, and I am not receiving royalties for this book!) It changed the way he thought about food. He called me and said: "I thought it would be easy. I thought I could just stroll the aisles of the supermarket and choose the things that come from within 200 miles. But there's nothing. Even the granola let me down." (Why is it near impossible to find produce that is grown anywhere but California? We are literally SURROUNDED by farms. I'll tell you why...the farms are producing corn to feed the cows that we eat as beef...and so on. Most of what we grow in this country is corn, and most of it is used for animal feed...)

I told Karl to take heart, go to Daisi Hill farm for squash, and make pear sauce from Diana King's home grown, organic pears. We can walk to Diana's house. You can't get much greener than that. The best thing that came out our shared literary and gustatory experience is that Karl and I are talking about sharing a subscription to the (sort of) local CSA, the Chubby Bunny Farm. Karl also admitted that he's tempted to try making his own cheese. Maybe we can have a cheese making party. I'm excited to have a new partner in my green adventures. Today, I ordered a food mill to facilitate the sauce making (this way I don't have to peel or core), and when it arrives, I'll make a huge batch of pear sauce and more apple sauce. I harvested all the green tomatoes from our garden (nothing ripened, but we decided we should pick them before we get hit with frost) and am ready to make a chutney. It's not easy, but we'll take one green step at a time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Knit Organic

Remember when this blog used to be about knitting? I think that was one day during the winter (the day I named the blog, obviously) and then perhaps one day during the spring. Recently, I picked up the needles again and made some serious progress on the mysterious baby sweater. No longer a mystery, for I told Marcie it was for Ben in a desperate attempt to encourage me to finish it, the sage green organic cotton sweater is growing, slowly but surely. It is size 12 months; Ben is size 12 months; you understand my desperation. I'm working on the hood, and then naught is left but stitching it together. That, of course, is the part I know nothing about so I welcome any advice (or assistance) anyone can offer. In the mean time, here's a trailer. I hope we'll be able to post a picture of Ben in it soon. Next (if there is a next), I'm excited to knit a sweater for Duncan who has an odd interest in sweaters and an even stranger interest in hand-knit sweaters. Only 4 more inches to go...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


This summer, I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and because I love Barbara, I was willing to believe it is possible for a family in America in the 21st century to live off the land. Although I know that I don't have the time or persistence to do it myself, I began to believe that I could least live a little bit closer to the land. I was inspired to start a garden, which has produced little but been a source of much inspiration. We'll get it together next year, and hopefully I'll keep us in tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and beans. Then I read Plenty and realized that I can still make smarter choices in the grocery store even if I am not ready to commit to slaughtering my own turkeys and growing 11 kinds of tomatoes. Both books hammered home the point that the average food item that we put on a plate in America has traveled at least 1500 miles to get there...and at these gas prices? Astonishing. Let's just say that again for the shock value...1500 miles. The average food item on our dinner plate has traveled 1500 miles. What is wrong with that picture? What is RIGHT with that picture. Many of us (dare I say most?) are eating produce that is picked unripe, loaded onto trucks, and shipped across the country to arrive bland and pricey. In fact, we have nearly bred the life out of American produce to mold it into this system.

I tried to buy more locally grown produce. To be honest, this is the one area in which I have failed in my attempts to live greener. For several weeks, we visited the farmers' market as well as Daisi Hill farm and bought as much locally grown produce as we could, but our life makes it difficult to add yet another errand to our week. Our garden hasn't produced anything worthwhile except herbs and the odd carrot here and there. There's a cute little Halloween pumpkin, already orange, about 5 inches in diameter. We also have a couple of bigger ones but not exactly the SLAUGHTERING of pumpkins I was anticipating. The cucumbers that threatened take over simply stopped growing, and some small animals ate the tiniest baby pumpkins. I DO look at the origins of my food more closely now. I'm happy when the broccoli comes from Maine instead of California. I buy vegetables that are in season because they are more environmentally friendly and taste better. Asparagus is never in season, and I love it, but I can live without it having such a long commute. On the other hand, we LOVED the vegetables we bought from Daisi Hill, and next summer I'll make them a part of our field trips with Duncan. I try to buy as much unprocessed food as I can, choosing baked potatoes over frozen fries, home baked cookies over store bought, and fresh vegetables whenever possible. We picked two pecks of apples so far and have made two batches of apple sauce. I think when we go to the pumpkin patch, I might actually cook one. It's certainly not sustainable living, but we will only continue to improve.

I need to post this now so that Dawn will stop nagging me, but stay tune for the next installment of my attempts at greener living. Food was our least successful area, but I'm pretty pleased so far with the other changes we have made. Read Barbara's book if you haven't already. I can't recommend it more highly.