Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Expect the Unexpected.

There is one student who has taught me this lesson for the second week in a row. And it's a great lesson to learn again and again!

This particular student has an IEP and is normally sitting in the back of the room in the beginning of class, working on a separate curriculum with an instructional assistant. But when I am reading the novel aloud, he promptly logs off the computer and turns to face me. He stares at me with the eyes of rapture, but he quickly averts his eyes when I chance a glance in his direction. I should never know that he is actually listening and listening attentively.

Last week we were reading A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle, and we stopped as we normally do at the end of each chapter to discuss some questions or elements from the novel. When I asked the question, "What three faults of Meg's were identified in this chapter?" the rest of the students sat and thought for a minute.

It was _________ who chimed up and said, "Anger, impadence and, and dhh."

"Yes,___________! It was anger and impatience and what else did they mention in the book?" Woohoo! How exciting! And OH MY GOSH! The rest of the students sat for a second and marveled at the student and he got a bit embarrassed. At this, I continued to prompt the rest of the class to come up with the last one, which they did through checking back through the text.

But first, there were many congratulations spoken to _____________!

There's the first anecdote for the title of this quote. The second event came today.

Again, we were reading A Wrinkle in Time and we are into some of the final chapters. All of the student participate in a word studies in order to be the "pros" for a particular word we will meet throughout the chapter.

Well, one word came up that no one had completed in a word study. So, I turned to the class and asked them what the word "perplexity" might mean. They shot out many answers such as afraid, and nervous and sad, but none of them were spot on. So, I was about to ask them to look up the definition in the dictionaries spread throughout the tables in the classroom, when an instructional aid near ____________ made the mime gesture to me that I should call on this student. It should be noted that she was not sitting close enough to give an answer or prompt him. I called on the student and he said, "Confused. It means confused!"

So, again I repeat...

Expect the unexpected.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Huckleberry Trail

Let me start by saying that I love the name of this trail. It's enticing enough without actually knowing what you're getting into. I always think of my grandma when I hear about huckleberries because she used to go and pick these berries and make them into jam. She would find the bushes along the Clarion River, where my parents have their summer cabin. But now there's a trail with its namesake, as well!

We've been on many walks on this trail and I took Leif on one, short bike trip earlier this year. But yesterday I hopped on my bike and went all by myself.

The trail, in full, lived up to my expectations. I rode from Blacksburg to Christiansburg and it is a beautiful trail, with perhaps even some locks (canal lock), and train tunnels and it follows a brook for parts of it. It's just beautiful and it's local.

And it's named the Huckleberry Trail. Who wouldn't love it with a name like that?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

GREAT day!

walked the dogs.
made coffee and fixed up the homemade bagels we made yesterday for our on-the-road breakfast.
walked the dogs.
egg salad sandwich in the gazebo with Jim :)
walked the dogs.
lying in the hammock and reading.
walked the dogs.
incredible dinner with some new friends.
walked the dogs.
finished the "happy birthday" banner. (pictures coming when I find the cord, as well as the Easter egg banner I made yesterday)
walked the dogs.

*** That's a lot of walks for dogs! We sure must love 'em :)

Not to mention that yesterday we BOUGHT OUR TICKETS TO ALASKA! And we planned our summer! Woohooo, we can almost taste it. Now we just have to wait until June 17th to get started :)

Lots o' love!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!

Today is Earth Day and while I think it is wonderful that we have this day to celebrate, it's also important for us to be stewards of the earth every day. So, here's a list of things we try to do in our house to be green. I know there are many more and hopefully this list will continue to grow throughout our lives!

Being Green, Barlow Style:
1) We compost all vegetable and fruit leftovers, rinds, peelings, shells and cores, as well as some biodegradable trash.
2) Carpool with our ONE car. I drive Jim to work and pick him up at the end of the day. It is almost on my route to school.
3) We try to limit our trips into town by having our date night and grocery-shopping trip on the same night. I don't think we necessarily planned this for "being green" purposes, but it works that way!
4) Jim uses scrap paper leftover from work and school to create his study guides. He likes to write study guides for tests and uses the back of printed, white paper leftovers.
5) Jim made a "aquaponics" lab in which the water from our aquarium serves as the water and nutrient provider for some spinach plants that are growing. We don't have to constantly use new water to water these plants- it's reused! He liked this idea because it is self-supported.
6) We recycle EVERYTHING we can! The recycling place is just a couple miles from our house and on my back-way to work! Leif, our puppy, gets most of his play-toys from our recycling bin. Fortunately, he just likes to bang them around and make loud noises and rip them up a bit
7) We never use plastic ziploc bags when we pack lunches. We have a wide assortment of different tupperware and pyrex containers to use to transport each element of our lunches.
8) We try (this being the key word!) to bring our own bags to the grocery store, but I often forget. We do always return the bags to the recycling box at Walmart or Kroger.
9) We use Nalgenes and other water bottles to hydrate ourselves every day. We never purchase plastic water bottles.
10) We attempt to reuse jars and containers for different purposes, if possible. Right now our compost container for inside is what used to be a pretzel container and Jim stores nails and screws in old jars.
11) We keep the thermostat low in the winter, to save energy and costs by bundling up under heavy blankets and warm sweaters.
12) We're attempting to grow our own vegetables this year!

That's all I can think of right now, but we will hopefully continue to improve :)

What are some things that you do in your household? What could we be doing?

Born to Hum

If you know me, you know that I love to sing. When I am not singing, I am most often humming a song to myself or have one on my mind. Lately, I have noticed that I have not been singing as much or humming. I think that it is a reflection on being overwhelmed. But today marks the first day of my spring break and I put Pandora on to my favorite station and the first song that came on was, "Born to Hum" by Erin McKeown. It struck a chord for one major reason that's in the first line of this song:

Once in the spring of my twenty-fourth year
I had nothing to say
With a dangling promise and a terrible past
I threw all the words away
We were born to hum

You were the last in my twenty-fourth year
To make a demand of my voice
I tickled your ear and I laughed in your face
I gave you my choice
We were born to hum
We were born to hum

So as a gradual running
A kinda relief
Settles on my face
Once in a while I complain to myself
Nothing gets done
Nothing's in place

I, I would rather hum
I, I would rather hum


Here I am in the 24th year of my life and it is springtime. I would rather hum!

A Breather

Our "Spring Break" starts today, but I have aptly changed the title to "Breather." Somehow a four day weekend doesn't translate to a spring break in my book! But I am going to take these days and grab them by the horns and do some things for myself and relax and rest.

Which is why I woke up at 7:30 :(

Haha! But have no fear, this just means that I have more time to my day off. Who wants to sleep that away? It's time to get up, walk the dogs, make coffee and a yummy egg breakfast, and get the day going.

Goals for the break:
- Read
- Make a (few) craft projects, including dyeing Easter eggs!
- Browse some stores (which I NEVER do- Pier 1, I'm coming!)
- Exercise with the Leif. Already started that off by going on a GREAT walk yesterday with another girl and her dog :)
- Enjoy my delicious Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout- check!

- Laundry
- Clean up my dumping area- the top of my dresser
- Lesson plan for next week

Hey, my goals are LONGER than the have-tos! Thank you to Jim for his amazing cleaning last weekend :)

Off to walk the antsy dogs, check exercise for the second time!!!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rainy Day Blues

Today is a very rainy day, but I don't have the blues as in sadness. No, I have the blues of my beautiful new pair of Five Fingers, camp chair, our fleeces, and the blue of the words on my coffee cup. This morning we slept in, ate a yummy fried eggs breakfast, Jim mailed off the taxes, and when he returned we went for a glorious walk in the RAIN.

Giving my Five Fingers another go for a hike, we plodded off down the path behind our house, followed the road down to cross another road, and met the path down to the watering hole. Except, rather than actually find the watering hole, during our second attempt, we took a fork in the trail and followed the stream-bed in which we could view multiple waterfalls along our route. It was a wonderful, wet, and muddy trek. The Five Fingers faired incredibly well. The mud was nothing for my ankles, as I could feel exactly where I was stepping and not have to adjust my footing to the range of my shoes or soles.

But the best part of the walk was yet to come. On our way back we decided to allow Leif to play in the water... free of the leash! We found a nice, sandy bank/beach and set him free. You would have thought we injected him with some sort of energy shot because I've never seen the boy so ecstatic. From running up and down the trail to crossing the stream, which was deep at parts, to slipping over rocks, he had a grand ole time! I think we know where to take him from now on :) Such a joy it was to watch our "baby" so happy!

When we got back home, he curled up in our (his) blue camp chair and has proceeded to nap. He's satisfied and that makes everyone happy in our household.

As I type, Jim is putting the finishing touches on his Aquaponics set-up. This has been a dream of his for the last 2-3 years, so he is so excited to see it come to fruition. I'll post pictures once it is complete. It is quite a site to see! I think he may have the coolest desk/bookself/study/garden set-up of any desk I will ever see. But, perhaps I'm partial.

Enjoy the rainy day!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Five Fingers

Okay, I'm a believer!

I finally bit the bullet and got the Five Fingers KSO Multisport shoes, or as Jim and I call them, the "Toe Shoes!" I had always seen them and thought about how ridiculous they look, but was somewhat intrigued. But lately I've been hearing a lot about how doctors are prescribing them for their patients and when the REI dividend came, we decided it was time to try them out.

They came in the mail yesterday and I wore them around all night. I've heard that you need to wear them in small increments in order to adjust to them. Today we went on a short, 2 mile hike with the dogs on a trail across the road and I'm convinced that they were a great purchase! It's neat to feel the ground beneath you and be completely aware of the trail. It's true, my muscles are a bit sore, but I am hoping that they are strengthening my ankles! No more weak and twisted ankles, please!

So, don't judge me if I am wearing my "Toe Shoes" the next time I see you :)

Autism and Literacy Conference

Yesterday I went to a conference in Blacksburg on Autism and Literacy. The presenter was Paula Kluth, Ph.D. and she was incredible! She offered many concrete ideas that can be used in any classroom, but also spoke a great deal about accommodations. If you ever get the chance, go to one of her conferences.

Find her and her many resources on the link below:

You'll be inspired, I'm sure!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Song for Today

I'm going to sing till my feet turn blue,
I'll sing loud enough to go through the mountains to you,
I'm going to dance when the music stops,
When soft hearts that can't sit still,

So wake up the day and darken the night
Lighten my eyes
Cuz' I don't want to sleep while you're shining so bright
Sweet Mona Louise

I'm going to carry your picture,
Till I fix up a place down the street,
It might be a long time till we're catching rainbows child,
But don't you doubt we always will,

So won't you wake up the day and darken the night,
Lighten my eyes,
Cuz I don't want to sleep while you're shining so bright,
Sweet Mona Louise

The waterfall will rock your little song to sleep,
The light will spark your heart,
And you'll rise up to keep,
All those simple gifts that shine everywhere I see,
Shine for me, Mona Louise

Won't you wake up the day and darken the night,
Lighten my eyes,
Cuz I don't want to sleep while you're shining so bright,
Sweet Mona Louise
Sweet, sweet Dreams.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A Haiku

We studied haikus a few weeks ago and some of the students are quite obsessed with them. One student who hadn't written them for a couple weeks came up to me and asked what my favorite color was and if I spell my title "Ms.," or "Mrs.," or "Miss." I told her that either of the first two would be fine.

At the end of the class I had this sitting on my desk:

Mrs. Barlow
(in big, blue, bubble letters)

Mrs. Barlow so sweet
Heart as big as an iceberg
Souls full of her love

It's the little things that make all of the tears, headaches, stress, and interrupted sleep worth it. Or, so I am telling myself this weekend. I had one of those Fridays where you are really just at your wits end. I told Jim, "You know something's wrong when a student comes to ask you to go to the bathroom and you snap at them before they even ask!" Who I am to stop their bodies from being relieved!? They weren't even the student(s) who brought me to this state!

When the last ounce of patience is gone then it is time for a weekend.





And grade papers and plan lessons... oof!

Introducing Heidi Rose Kosker!

On March 30th my cousin Julie had her second baby girl! We are so happy for them. Heidi Rose was born in the morning and weighed 5 lbs. 11oz. Julie delivered her at home (her midwifes, that is) and in the water!

Did I mention that the baby was breech, so she actually delivered her butt first? Go Julie!

We love you, Heidi!

Claytor Lake State Park

Two weekends in a row with my parents- I'll take it!

Last weekend I got to enjoy a really nice, relaxing weekend with both of my parents! Jim came and stayed with us in a cabin at Claytor Lake State Park on Friday night and then returned home to study and take care of the dogs. I stayed with my parents in the cabin for an extra night.

My dad has won the same raffle prize two years in a row! This was his second time earning two nights for free in any Virginia state park! He chose to spend it with us and I am so glad he did! We enjoyed a really nice walk throughout the trails with them and delicious meals, and some quality relaxing by the fire in our cosy cabin.

Love them both! It was a nice treat and neat to explore just a bit more of the area around us.

Fun fact: last year Jim and I stayed in a tent at Claytor Lake S.P. with our Uhaul, the night before we were allowed to move our stuff into storage! We had driven from Lafayette, LA to Auburn, AL, to spend time with the Larsons, and then drove from Auburn to Claytor Lake S.P. for our last night of the journey :)


Two weekends ago I had the opportunity to go to New York City with my mother and some of the teachers from her school for an incredible conference. It's called the Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project and it's held at Columbia Teacher's College in the city. I got to sit in four sessions and listen to three of the biggest names in reading and writing education, and the best part was that I got to do it while sitting next to my mom :)

Other highlights from the weekend will have to come in bullet form because we just did SO much:

Thursday, 3/17:
- Sub plans- check!
- Drove to Waterloo to drop off our car
- Mom picked me up from Waterloo and I spent the night in Paris (VA)

Friday, 3/18:
- We hop in the car and head to Hill School to meet the other teachers
-10:30 we board the Megabus from near Union Station in D.C. and head to NYC, with one stop in Baltimore. We sat in the front seat of the second story of the Megabus, so it felt like we were riding on air! :)
- 2:30ish we arrive and head to our motel.
- Grab a few pieces of pizza
- Get in line at the TKTS booth to see if we can get a good deal on a broadway show. Mom and Jill chose to see a play, while Susan and I got tickets for "Mary Poppins!"
- Museum of Modern Art to see Picasso's Guitar exhibit- WOW!
- Hors'deurves (sp?) and drinks
- 8 PM- MARY POPPINS! The show was incredible- great effects, choreography, and nostalgic music, with some new and unfamiliar songs. Unfortunately I sat behind a few people who seemed to think that they were in their own living room and talked and sang along throughout the entire show. This was much to the chagrin of the people to my left and right who, fortunately, assisted me in trying to get these people to BE QUIET! How rude, really!
- Susan and I tried to hail a cab, but they were all taken. So, a kind man in a rickshaw offered us a ride and we accepted! How fun! It was a warm night and I great, memorable way to return to our hotel.

Saturday, 3/19: WORKSHOP DAY!
- Up early and grabbed a yummy breakfast and COFFEE, of course.
- Grabbed a cab (which had barcelona on the top- inside joke for the other teachers on the trip) and headed to the conference.
- Jon Sciezka (author of "Stinky Cheese Man," and "The True Story about the Three Little Pigs") was the keynote and he spoke of some stories from his life.
- Session 1: The incredible Lucy Calkins- importance of reading!
- Session 2: yawn... poor session about incorporating art into the classroom. NOT helpful, unfortunately. I was looking forward to getting a bunch of ideas (that I don't already have!)
- Session 3: Carl Anderson- Amazing session about conferring with students about their writing
- Session 4: Mary Ehrenworth- Fantastic fantasy discussion that is inspiring my future unit on fantasy!

The opportunity to be there was amazing! I would recommend it to any and all teachers of writing and reading.

- The Whitney Museum- Edward Hopper Exhibit, primarily.
- Chinatown- We ate at Joe's Shanghai (YUM!), Mom bought me my new favorite scarf (yay!), and a nice, long walk back to our hotel through the city.

Sunday, 3/21:
- I asked Mom to take me to the Brooklyn Bridge on our last day, so that I could relive the trek she used to take with me. It was really neat to actually walk across the bridge since she used to push me across in a stroller!! Fun morning with just the two of us <3
- Highline- we went and walked across the park that was created from an old highway bridge. Very neat!

Overall, the trip was a great break for me and it rejuvenated me, as far as my goals in the classroom. Four days away from my students was a blessing! It was so nice to spend time with my mom, too. First time since I got married that I had a long time with just her. It sure was enjoyable!