A Different Place and Time


#sol20- January 21, 2020

We are just beginning our “Where We Are in Place and Time” unit and focusing on the history of Phnom Penh since independence. The country declared independence from France in 1953. It is a heavy topic, for sure, but so important for our students. Nearly half of my class is Khmer and we are all learning a lot together.

This week we are visiting the Sosoro Museum. the Cambodian Museum of Money and Economy. It all came together by coincidence when we were meeting with the language teachers were talking to us about connections they could make to the unit.

“A friend told me about a money museum,” Solenn said. “I haven’t been there, but it sounded good.”

Once we looked at the website we were convinced enough to book it sight unseen.

My teammate, Anita, made a quick visit on Saturday and gave it good reviews, so Sunday morning, with a friend’s mom in town, I decided it was worth a sneak peek. I decided to limit myself to a one hour (more or less) visit, as that is what the students will have. Now money and economy do not really sound super interesting to me, but this museum really was outstanding. It managed to include relevant bits of Cambodia’s history in twelve “modules” where the story of money throughout time was shared. Timelines were annotated and included some comparisons (like the cost of rice) to help visitors really understand the information. The museum is thoughtfully laid out, has interactive displays in Khmer, English, and French, and even includes some online games at the end. As a souvenir, you can even get “money” printed with your face on it.

I am glad I went ahead of time and know I will go back afterward as well. I love a field trip that really enriches student learning and can’t wait to go with our class on Thursday. This museum really brings history alive. My only complaint is that there is so much information I wanted to take down and no photos are allowed.

What a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning and I am sure the third graders will be excited to return with their parents after their time there. It’s interesting, organized, and air conditioned- a great way to spend some time. An unexpected treat!

I Might Have a Problem!


#sol20- January 14, 2020

I might have a problem (well, actually I have a few, but I know I can share this here). I am overly aspirational. I love the idea of so many things and happily source all the right tools, but do… well, there’s the stumbling block.

Just before the new year I eagerly joined #100daysofnotebooking and I LOVE it- I am back to daily writing and I love getting ideas from the people sharing there (and some of my students are doing it too!). So, of course I was inspired by the beautiful pages and I thought “I can do that too!”-ha! So when I saw a notice about a bullet journaling meet-up I thought “How perfect- I can bullet journal! Sounds fun!” Off I went Saturday morning to the local craft store, and there is where the trouble began.

First, I LOVE notebooks and the owner/organizer was “offering” a kit- a dotted notebook with two pens and a ruler for $15. So, of course because of my weakness in saying no to stationery (in spite of me bringing my current notebook and a fat pencil case stuffed with pens), I chose a kit. I have never done any bullet journaling and some in the group are clearly experts, so I asked them to share their “must have” sections” and vowed to not start my “bullet journal” until I had a more clear plan. So I started my list of pages I wanted to create and sorted them into yearly, monthly, and weekly. But then I was paralyzed, because the thing is, I am not artsy or neat enough to be satisfied with my messy work in something I deemed too special. So mostly I spent time listing and looking at other people’s work. But because we were in an actual craft store I also decided that some more tools would make it all better/easier, so I also bought some great stickers and a set of 24 two-sided markers (brush style and fine point) and played with my new ruler because it has one edge that is scalloped.

But after lunch with a friend who also attended I decided that I needed a few more tools from a wider selection, so off I went to a large stationery store and I bought some different colored Micron pens, a 48 pack of watercolor pencils, and two purple Energel pens. Now, surely I would be able to start my bullet journal!

Well, I have started it and I am really enjoying planning it all, but really, who did I think I was kidding? Mine is never going to be beautiful- I will have to be okay with functional and a bit playful/colorful. Neat and artsy is just not in my wheelhouse (“yet”, I try to tell myself with my growth mindset brain” “ever”, I say with my realistic view of my patience and willingness to devote the time needed to improve that).

So, a beautiful notebook is not what is happening, but I am notebooking daily (in my purple notebook) and beginning to use my bullet journal (it is blue). I realize I want both and I may will actually fill this one, as compared to so many partially filled notebooks of my past. My real problem here is an addiction to buying stationery supplies, but hey, at least everything will get used over time it is not money down the drain, and in the meantime, it is injecting some more play into my life.



One Little Word


#sol20- January 7, 2020

This year’s word choice was actually a collection of wonderful moments. For the first time since I started choosing a word (which I learned was 2013) I actually was a bit methodical. First, I searched back and found out what my previous words were (love, brave, change, joy, brave, challenge, and intention) and on December 13 (our last half-day of school) I started a written list of possibilities. By the end of December, my list had ballooned to more than 30! On the 31st I shared a shortlist with a few friends (and then on Facebook) and I more suggestions (not what I needed, MORE words!?!).

In actually being open-minded I considered them all and added a few to my list- now at 38! I went to sleep on December 31 with it narrowed down to two, leaning towards one. I woke up convinced it should be moxie. It was suggested by a friend, Linnea (actually she sent ‘moxy’), who knows me pretty well. I researched it a bit the day before, so I knew that my friend, Ashley has it as part of her Twitter handle (and she is someone I really admire). Turns out Michelle had it as previous OLW and she is a great mentor too!

I like that it means force of character, determination, or nerve. It is also a regionalism (New England) for chutzpah and can mean gumption, brashness, or just plain pluck. Vigor and pep also come up in definitions. I wanted a word that I can use to help me push myself and this seemed to fit.

I want to show more moxie as I strive to align my actions and beliefs. I want to be a positive model of a lifelong learner and will push myself to learn new things (bullet journal workshop already signed up for as a start). I also signed up for the #100daysofnotebooking (thanks, @mhaseltine) and that is already pushing me to try out new things (and get back to writing regularly). I avoid confrontation but hope that my focus on moxie will encourage me to stand up when I should. Much to my mother’s horror, I am a rule follower, but I am trying to make sure this does not mean I compromise strong beliefs. Living alone, I tend to be a hermit in my free time- so I will use moxie as my reason to get out and about more. I feel like it is an extension of my word from last year- with a sprinkling of joy.

Here’s to a new year and new challenges!

PS If you have not joined #100daysofnotebooking it is not too late- look for it on Facebook, Twitter, or on Michelle’s blog. It is a super fun (and growing) group full of inspiration!

Intentional Until the End!


#sol19- December 31, 2019

My one little word for 2019 was ‘intentional’ and it was just what I needed this year! For a change, I started talking and thinking about next year’s word earlier and I even compiled my previous words love, brave, change, joy, brave, challenge, and intention) and for the first time (duh!) realized that I have repeated brave!

Intention helped me to focus and prioritize and even pushed me to do a few things I might not have done (see the ukulele gathering dust in the corner of the living room, but also see that pictures are hung for the first time in more than five years). I finally had a complete physical (hello daily statin and vitamin D). I also worked hard to learn more about areas of interest (even beyond my teacher interests).

I ended the year intentionally by gathering my sons. We have not been together in at least 3 1/2 years and with son #2 almost finished law school and son #1 thinking about moving from S. Korea, I couldn’t be sure that we would all be able to make it happen in the near future. So #2 is here in South East Asia for his break and we flew to Hoi An, Vietnam so that we were a bit closer to son #1 who joined us for a day and a half. We ate well, had some clothing made, and enjoyed some together time. As they are now 26 and 28 I am grateful that we enjoy being together as adults. It is still strange to realize how time really does fly! I was happy to Skype my own parents on Christmas too!

Now on to the next challenge- choosing my word for 2020! This morning I had 37 words on my list- I may have it whittled down to 5 now, but hey, I have about 10 1/2 hours to go! I think I have it narrowed down to wholehearted, choose, fierce, play, and bold… I am (almost) ready for 2020. With moxie being a late entry!

Will Travel for Books!


#sol19- December 24, 2019


You may recall that I had few plans for this break. My last post (skipped last week, you will read why here) noted that sometimes not deciding is deciding and I was okay staying put. Well, that was true for the first afternoon (where I indulged in a celebratory 2 hour massage- so cheap here and so lovely). Saturday morning my body clock had me up bright and early and I decided to head out a mid-afternoon movie (Downton Abbey, yay!). But then I realized that maybe endless days of absolutely no plans would make me a bit restless and I REALLY needed to do some book shopping. 

There are some book stores here with English books, but I really wanted more choice. Thanks to Air Asia I knew I could even make Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur (the closest cities with more book choice) an easy day trip. Considering traffic and my local knowledge I opted for KL and alerted a friend (who insisted I extend my trip to two nights). A few texts later and it was sorted- a mid-week trip (sorry to those wonderful friends who made time to catch up in their last week of term) based around my need for books. I came away with 14 new books (and even trekked to IKEA to buy more book boxes). Seeing friends was a definite bonus, but I was clear about my book shopping focus. 

Yesterday (five days since my last bookstore visit, that’s good, right?) I made it to two book stores in Phnom Penh in search of a book for our upcoming unit that will focus on local history since independence, but sadly neither had it (and neither does the larger, farther away book store). Somehow I managed to pick up seven more books (and talked books with a student I ran into). I wish I had known about the book earlier, as later today my son arrives from the US and among other things he is bringing me another 15 or so books (hurray, our Mock Caldecott and Sibert Smackdown book piles will be complete!). I will have to be content borrowing the book from our school library. 

This is definitely one of the hard things about living away from a plethora of English bookstores- I want to buy allll the books! In the meantime, I will travel for books. Which reminds me- I better look online and see if we can visit a bookstore when we go to Hoi An later this week…

In the meantime I am spending lots of time over break reading- another way I love to travel!  

When Not Deciding Is Deciding (for now!)


#sol19- December 10, 2019

Eek! I have known for more than two months that my son arrives late night on December 24th, while my break starts at 12:30 December 13th. I entertained many ideas- considering (among other ideas) Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and more. I considered both beach and city- returning to a favorite place or trying something new. Time passed and I was no closer to a decision. What to do? The problem was I had no strong opinion. So, here we are- three days before break starts and I am not really any closer to a decision (although a few things have been ruled out by my procrastination- the tour group to Sri Lanka is now full). What I know is that I will at least stay in Phnom Penh through the weekend, then see if I am feeling restless. In the meantime, I am loading up my Kindle with lots of books from the two libraries I have cards to and making lists of things I will have time to do if I stay here. I am not feeling stressed about staying, nor panicked about not having definite plans, so all will be well- whatever I decide.

If you have ideas (not too far away) feel free to share, but for now, I am content to imaging lazy days near home.

Ready, Set, Go!


#sol19- November 26, 2019

I can not believe that we have two and a half weeks until the first semester is over! Somehow this feels like the fastest year ever, yet as I sit and stew over reports I am amazed at how far these kiddos have come. I was watching them in the library today:

“Oh, Erika, look here is another one of those dragon books- I know who will want to read this after me!” said TH excitedly as he pulled a Dav Pilkey book off the shelf- this from a boy who really did not read much at all (and the same boy who recently received an email from Steve Jenkins responding to his gushing email admiring his nonfiction writing skills).

“We’re reading this out loud together,” M said, “but I want to check it out!”

“So do I!” said A.

“Not me, you two can decide who gets it,” answered Z, as they read on in All’s Faire in Middle School.

A’s mom had expressed worries at a conference early in the year that she was not much of a reader- no longer a worry.

“I found another one!” K brandished his find (another in the Notebooks of Doom series that several of his classmates are also devouring), “It’s really long, but I can read it!” He then moved to a couch to read part to a friend.

There were also others scattered across the space, all happily settled in with good books.

So, how do I share that kind of growth in a report? I love seeing the love of reading burgeoning in these third graders- it is a special kind of magic and today while report card stress may have me down I know how lucky I am to see it all up close!