Thursday, July 19, 2012


Haleakala as viewed from our oceanside resort. 
The crater at the top of the now dormant Haleakala Volcano on Maui is large and deep enough to hide Manhattan. We passed up the opportunity to watch the sunrise from its rim simply due to the 2:30am wakeup call. Instead we opted for a late morning excursion that had us coasting down her wide flanks on bicycles with blessedly strong brakes.
Haleakala Crater
Haleakala Crater II
The sandy hills are former lava vents.
A cold wind pummelled us at the top, sending the girls and I running for the glassed in viewing shelter. I'd hate to think what it felt like at 5am! Thankfully the tour company had leant us rain/wind gear. The bike ride down started three thousand feet lower so there was no risk of us being blown off course into oblivion. 
Hams on Haleakala
The surrounding terroir changed dramatically from top to bottom: sun, rain, sun and rain; arid stretches with only scrub grasses, cacti, and prickly shrubs; towering pines and eucalyptus groves giving way to fields of cattle and sugar cane; thick rain forest that had me humming 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight" and longing for a machete (to slash through the undergrowth, not slay lion!). A far more fit person might aspire to biking up that diva. That ship has sailed for this rider. We all had a great time and would highly recommend it. Kudos to the Captain for not ditching us in search of a thrill ride and to the kiddos for not a single wipe out. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Volcano National Park

 Call me crazy, but I've always wanted to see an active volcano--from a safe distance, of course. In honour of turning 40, I made a wish for a trip to Hawaii. While I was denied flowing lava by Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of all things hot, the experience was nonetheless spectacular. In the photo above, Emma and Mouse huddle in the lava tube located in the back yard of our Volcano Village cottage. Below is the tsunami evacuation area just outside of the park. With as much volcanic activity in the area as there is, occasional tsunamis are as inevitable as the quakes that cause them. Let's just say we didn't linger.

Shortly after sunset one night we voyaged to the Kilauea crater to view the glow of lava percolating 200ft below the opening. Instructions for hiking in the area recommended sturdy boots, lots of water, wind and rain gear, and sunscreen. There were signs posted warning of areas with poor air quality due to expelled gases. There were also signs to watch out for a distant relative of the Canadian Goose, called a ne-ne, who seems to have survived the eruptions just fine, but is under serious threat of extinction due to humans.  We never did see one.

I was fascinated with the variety of forms of lava we found. Some of them looked like reptile skin. Others looked like a backyard barbecue that got out of hand. Even more remarkable was the life springing from the cracks and crevices. I feel like I've travelled to a place of birth... and rebirth.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Camp Miller 2012

Since moving to P-town, Camp Miller has become an annual tradition. It fills those weeks of summer that aren't taken up by day camp or trips out of town as a family. Days pass in a blink, filled with trips to the library, the local museum, destination bike rides, hikes, and crafts galore. Of course, I can't resist dabbling in academia. They read, write, and do math, too, every day save weekends. I've had them test multitude of websites that I hope to use with my students next year. My girls are such good sports! This year we have to squeeze in gymnastics and cross country practices, piano and flute lessons, and dog sitting. I can hardly believe June is over already. As kids return to school mid-August here, I feel like summer is passing by too quickly. 

Evelyn and Madelaine at the K'nex exhibit ( Lakeview Museum )

Maddy and Evelyn resting at Starbucks, our first destination bike ride.

Evelyn and her painted lizard tile (pre-firing)

Madelaine and her painted random tile (pre-firing)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My First Classroom

So this is it, my first classroom. Please overlook the chaos, as this is how it must be left for the cleaners who promise to have it back to me by August. To be honest, I'm beside myself with anticipation. It can be a tad overwhelming at times, but ever so worth it. When I think back to my first year as a physical therapist, I know I still had so much to learn. I was also a measly 21 years old with as much to master outside the workplace as within it. Despite the additional nineteen years of life experience, I know I won't be able to dodge every rookie mistake. Still, they are mine to make. I'm ever so grateful for the opportunity.
Look out 5th grade, here I come!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Venus Tracking

June 5, 2012 Venus crossed in front of the sun. The little fleck's path was from top right to bottom right and was just barely visible through solar viewing glasses. Still, it was pretty cool and won't be seen again in any of our lifetimes. Needless to say I've socked away the glasses for my future classroom. Finally, my packrat nature is being put to full use!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

One Proud Mama

Evelyn graduated from elementary school today having earned the President's Education Award for Outstanding Academic Excellence. This requires that she have maintained an A- average in 4th and 5th grade and to have scored in the Exceeds range on the state standardized tests for Math, Language Arts and Science.
Madelaine earned her very first Presidential Physical Fitness Award. There are five tests that the kids have to complete. To get the Presidential award, you have to score above the 85 percentile in all five tests. Amazing! I only got it for the first time in 7th grade and I think it was because the wind was at my back.
Enough bragging.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mission Control

Emma has developed a fascination with space this past year thanks to her school's trip to the Challenger Center and a 5th grade science unit on rockets. Check out her launch:

This rocket was recovered and she's finishing a second, larger one today.  Apparently the teacher does not keep any engines at school. After watching launch day, I can see why. The Captain is keen on planning a summer launch. Yikes! The thought of having even one engine in the house makes me a little nervous. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Dear Mrs. Miller

"I hope your 5th grade classroom is nice to you because if there not I'm going down there and say show some respect and their lucky to have you."
"Thanks for teaching us about poetry and because of you my brother will be proud of me. "
"I will miss your beautiful smile every day."
"We liked the fraction party you threw us. We got to mix the juice and soda. We got to mix the snacks, too."
"You are the best student teacher ever except  for Mr. S."
"When we were having hard times you told us to write you a note."
"Thank you for helping us to get 25 compliments and have a free shirt (not uniform) day."
"I liked doing the lunch bunch."
"Thank you for teaching us our multiplication facts better. I'll remember math the most out of all you teached us."
"Maybe you can be my 5th grade teacher."
"I really liked Social Studies and Science Jeopardy."
"Thank you for teaching us how to use Wordsmyth and the Smartboard."
"Thank you to teach us. Have a good summer."
"I think by the time I go to fifth grade I will know a lot of stuff because of your hard work."
"My favourite thing to do is the bird beak thing."
"I liked the plants we grew." 
"I love how you say sorry. At first I didn't understand you."
"The thing I will remember about you is your laugh."
"I liked it when you timed us when we went to bathroom and challenged us to beat our best time."
"I like that when we don't turn something in you give us a pink slip."
"If we don't understand something you take the time to do a huddle. You don't just make us do it without help."
 "I liked the story about how they named Canada: C-A(eh)-N-A(eh)-D-A(eh)."
"I remember your favourite food is cake. I really love cake, too. We are similar."
 "Your favourite food is cake. I really don't like cake that much."
 Thank you so much x 24,
Mrs. Meyer's 4th grade class

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Poetry in Action

They had just finished reading the poem Lester by Shel Silverstein in pairs. I had them answer the usual questions teachers must ask like, "Who granted Lester his first wish?" and "What did he do with it?" I had them delve into what the author thought Lester should have done with his wishes instead wishing for more. I even probed into how we might describe the rhyme scheme and meter. But then came my favourite question, "If a troll granted you one wish, what would you wish for?"
First came the answers I expected: Ferraris, iPods, cell phones, and getting to meet someone famous. But then one brave soul spoke out, "I wish my mom and dad would get back together." "Me, too," said another, and then another. Someone started to clap. I joined in. Hands shot into the air. "I wish I could see my grandma again." "I wish my brother would come back home and live with us." Students who had wished for trinkets asked to change their wishes. The pain behind these wishes was raw. Miraculously no one laughed at anyone else. For a split second they were a family.
How I'm going to leave them on Wednesday without crying is beyond me.

Monday, April 2, 2012

And I Quote...

"Who was the first man to set foot on the moon?" I ask.

The response of a truly divergent thinker: "Jesus?"

Walk in space; walk on water. How did I ever miss that connection?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

How the Captain was fooled...

Idea by Mouse; design by Emma; polish by Mighty Mom; effect: PRICELESS!
Happy April Fools Day, big guy!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Teacher Rant: Old School Measuring Cups, Dear Pyrex.

To whom this may concern at Pyrex:
A few months ago my 1-cup liquid measure broke during an unfortunate dishwashing accident. Its design was what I must now describe as 'old school'. It had increment markings that could be read only from the outside with the observer crouched down to the level of the meniscus of the liquid inside. I have since attempted to replace the aforementioned cup without success. It would seem the only 1-cup liquid measures sold in my area are the more modern 'read from above' variety. As a teacher and science educator, I am disappointed that a manufacturer of measuring tools would make such a blatant design flaw. Consider the following photos of the same volume of cooking oil.

In the world of baking, where the liquid to dry ratio is key, this is a huge discrepancy and, quite simply, unacceptable. I would highly recommend you reconsider this design, if not for me, then for the future bakers and scientist who I must forcibly re-educate in my classroom. 
Thanks for this,
Mrs. Miller aka Mighty Mom

Sunday, January 15, 2012


Perhaps it's an odd diversion, but I've been trying my hand at origami. It's mindful, yet non-verbal, a nice diversion from my heavily language-driven days. I think I enjoy choosing paper combinations almost as much as the creations themselves. These are Level 1 and 2 projects according to my book, The Simple Art of Japanese Papercrafts by Mari Ono. The book goes up to Level 5. We'll see...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

And I quote

"Nana's spaghetti sauce is better than yours."
I guess the tuna marinara wasn't a hit.

How not to use your head, by The Captain.

The digital camera that had been mounted on his helmet took a licking, but it just kept ticking. No Captain's were harmed in filming of this serendipitous stunt.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Teacher at Work

This was my five minutes of fame last year: front page of the Peoria Journal Star, a photo taken as I novice taught at Quest Charter Academy. (Notice the granny glasses that I still wasn't in the habit of wearing except as a headband.) The article related the school's successes in its previous (and first) academic year. My fabulously engaging lesson plan was woefully overlooked. I left Quest at the end of December grudgingly, having fully enjoyed the experience of being a 5th and 6th grade science teacher, if only for a few hours a day. Who knows...I may be back there someday. For now, I need to prepare to teach fourth grade at Thomas Jefferson Primary School, a few blocks away. I start January 18th. Wish me luck!

Quest Charter Academy student Aniya Bailey listens to suggestions Friday from Bradley University student teacher Melissa Miller during 5th grade science class. The students were studying taxonomy, or the scientific classification, of different species.

Apparently they re-ran the photo on the first of January as part of an article called "Journal Star Best Stories of 2011." I guess I've had my fame for 2012 already. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Tremendous Year

The bottle was a gift from the Captain for my 40th birthday. I like to imagine having trailed my fingers along its dusty label as I trolled the Moet & Chandon caves not so long ago. We paired it with a lovely sweet pepper risotto and toasted our family's restored health. It was the best Champagne I have ever tasted, surpassing even the coupe of Krug I sipped in Rems.
Madelaine was well on her way during the fall of 2002. The choice to have a second child took monumental courage on my part -- more than moving to Europe with a three- and one-year-old, if you can believe that. Some people flourish during pregnancy. I do not. Luckily my desire exceeded my fear and I had a tremendous collection of family, friends, and experts to see me through. It was, indeed, a tremendous year in more ways than one.

Monday, January 2, 2012

358 days

I had to break it to them that 2012 was a leap year.
They took it well.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Sound of Silence

Blogging, for me, has always begun away from the computer, in the very midst of precious moments that I don't want to forget. As the mother of little ones, those moments were interspersed by nap times during which I would record them at leisure while my pretty ones slept. As the naps fell away, the blog posts persisted, serving the purpose of distilling our family's experiences into something we could revisit weeks, months, or years later. But then life got busy. And complicated. I found myself debating whether I could post one thing or another for fear of betraying the privacy of Emma, Mouse, or my students. It is one thing to post about a child's antics when they are too little to be embarrassed by them; it is quite another to spill forth with one's parental pride or frustration when said proginy (or her friends) are capable of googling such anecdotes, code names be damned.  It is is a predicament that I  haven't sorted out yet, as my sporadic posting would suggest.
In a few weeks time I will begin student teaching. I guarantee that the blog-worthy moments will over-floweth, both at home and at school. A few months after that I hope to have my first classroom. I would like to look back a year from today at a journey in blogs. Read that as a resolution if you like. 2012 will be recorded. It promises to be a doozie.