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Montenegro – Day 2

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Excited faces and voices crowded the foyer of the Montenegrin elementary school and then suddenly it was time! This is what we’ve been preparing and waiting for! Originally we had 16 and as if by magic, we now had 26 eager 3rd/4th graders.  The classroom was smaller than my own classroom back home and we literally could not squeeze another desk or chair. Despite the large sized group, the students behaved so well and we had no behavior issues. It was a productive and fun-filled day! They were all still smiling at the end of the day, so this was definitely a successful first day! I loved every minute of it! More about the kids later.

Later in the afternoon, we hit the beach. The beaches in this area have funny names. This one was called Copacabana! The sand was a dark gray color and very soft. The water looked a brilliant blue (more pictures coming soon), and the sun was hot — until the clouds started getting darker and we finally made a run for a beach cafe when a sandstorm practically threw us at it.  More on the food another time.

Here are some observations and things I’ve learned about the culture and community, so far:

  • Montenegrins don’t buy coffee on the go.  On our walk to the school, I stopped for a quick breakfast bite and wanted my coffee in a “to-go” cup. They laughed at me and amongst each other for a minute before handing me a tiny cup with the coffee, which was delicious, by the way).  I guess they don’t believe in Starbucks here and are not upset about it.
  • Cows roam free on the streets. I saw at least 4 cows on this same morning walk. So cool. They didn’t bother us at all as we basically walked around them on the path. I love cows!
  • The kids in our class are VERY SIMILAR to the kids back home. They love many things and especially SOCCER (they say football) and DOGS! They loved EVERYTHING we did with them and especially anything with music, dancing, singing, movement,  and interactions with partners or in small groups.
  • The kids here do the FLOSS dance too!! If you’re not a teacher or a parent, you may not be familiar with it — omg! Youtube is most likely behind this! Ditto with FLIPPING water bottles — well, only one kid was doing this, but it’s a fad I’m glad is mostly over in the U.S.

My jet-lagged brain needs a break…more tomorrow! And yes, more pictures too…

 

 

Soccer Tips for Newbies

A funny thing happened one morning when I casually asked a friend how she got into such amazing shape.  She opened my eyes to a whole new world of …women’s SOCCER!  Wait. What? At that point, my daughter had played on a few teams and I’d gone to all her games and practices (most were cold and dreary), but grown-ups play too? It was music to a young mom’s ears, who craved – yes CRAVED – to get into shape.  Only thing was…I’d NEVER played before.  Not in college.  Not in high school.  Heck, not even in middle school.  In fact, I Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in fitness, Funny, Games, kids, soccer

 

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Joys of Teaching Teen to Drive

Um…the word for it is much more like…TERRIFYING!  Okay, okay….it’s getting better, but those first few times were pretty rough.

After you spend all kinds of money on a “Segment 1” class, you need to drive your teen around for a total of about 50 hours. Part of that class includes an instructor driving with your teen.  They even go on the highway.  When I first heard this, I was in awe of the instructor.  Brave man.  He does this for a living too.  But, after a couple of seconds, I realized he has an extra brake pedal in the car!!  Brave? Not so much.

The first couple of times were absolutely the roughest.  For. me.  She was fine.  I death-gripped the sides of my Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2012 in Family, Funny, parenting, Teaching

 

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Max, the birthday boy, celebrates at the dog park

Max turns 8 years old today! Happy Birthday Max! In dog years, that makes him the oldest in our family.  To celebrate, we will be giving him a special treat – he doesn’t have to know it’s also good for cleaning his teeth. We’ll also be taking him to one of his new favorite places in the entire world:  THE DOG PARK!

The dog park opened in late May and we’ve gone numerous times.  I actually overheard someone say, “What happens at the dog park, stays at the dog park.”  I found out later that it’s a slogan on a t-shirt and I provided the link here.

We’d never experienced too much “off leash time” with other dogs, so I was a little hesitant at first and wasn’t sure what to expect.  Would we encounter Cujo-like dogs that’d attack my gentle and loving Max, who thinks everyone is his best friend? What if a dog fight breaks out and he gets swept up in it?

Poop bags and water on hand, we braved it one sunny afternoon. The second we arrived, Max’s nose went into full sniff mode. It was like me in a fudge store, inhaling all the wonderful smells that make me want to devour ten pounds of fudge.

Of course, Max left his “mark” every couple of feet, and we weren’t even at the gate of the fenced off area yet. There were only a couple of other dogs in the “small dog” section and of course, they greeted each other in their up-close and personal way. Again, think fudge store! Soon, Max ran off with one of the dogs and it was pretty sweet to see his little personality shine. I also found it to be a great social time for us owners, and it reminded me a lot of when my teenagers were toddlers and I made tons of mommy friends.

I was so pleased with our first visit that I go several times a week, which is more times than I go to the gym! Hmmm…funny how that happens.

We’ve gone at times when there were 20 or more dogs running around and, happily, haven’t had any Cujo incidents or aggressiveness. But there was one incident with growling and ironically, it came from Max!

Now that Max is in his “golden years”, he likes to take a little break now and then and not run around non-stop. The other dog was a puppy that never stopped running or jumping and he hadn’t quite learned the fine art of giving another dog his space. He’d race around with another dog and bulldoze his way into and over Max, who was minding his own little business on the soft grass. The first time, Max gave him a warning “look”. The second time, he put that puppy in his place with a vicious growl that surprised the heck out of me. My Max? He knows how to growl? He doesn’t hardly even bark! The puppy left him alone after that.

I highly recommend our dog park. It truly is a great place where dogs can run off leash to exercise and socialize. There’s also the added benefit of seeing all the different breeds, mixed or pure, and laughing at their individual antics.

In honor of Max’s birthday, here is some doggie etiquette for the dog park:

Do run off and socialize

Do not run off and socialize until you’re off leash

Do greet other dogs in the usual sniffing the privates ritual

Do not lick said privates, regardless of the enticing smells

Do smell every square inch of the 5 acres

Do not lick any of those inches, regardless of the enticing smells

Do relieve yourself of that full bladder

Do not relieve it all over a curious onlooker, human nor canine

Do empty your bowels if the urge arises

Do not empty them in small increments, every few feet

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in Dogs, Funny

 

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Funny things students say


As you may know, I teach English as a second language at the elementary level and I laugh every day at the funny things kids say.  I have to share this one from a couple of weeks ago:

I was listening to a second grade girl read and she couldn’t pronounce the name “Shirley”. I corrected her gently, but she couldn’t quite get it and kept tripping up on it.  After several times (it must have been in the story 80 times) she stopped, gave me a deadpan look and said,

“I have five missing teeth – what do you want?”

LOVE IT!

~~Maggie

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2010 in Funny, kids, Teaching

 

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Halloween visitors and Max

Max was whimpering like crazy as he peeked out the little window by the front door — his favorite spot to people watch.  It was not to be confused with ordinary whimpering.  It was more like his:  “HURRY, WE HAVE VISITORS! let them in, please, please, let them in, they are my best friends, please…” But the thing is….no one was at the door.  Or so I thought.  Upon closer look —  our “visitors” were our Halloween lawn decorations! We had to let the little guy go outside and see for himself.  He ran right to them (Mr. and Mrs. Witch) and he literally stared at them for a full 30 seconds before daring to go up and smell them…aww chucks…not best friends after all…what a hoot!

~~Maggie

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2010 in dog, Funny, Holidays

 

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Janet Evanovich Rocks!

I met Janet Evanovich at her book signing in Michigan and she is a one terrific lady! I’m a HUGE fan.  How HUGE? Well, recently, I helped plan a fan party at our local library in her honor and then went in costume to her book signing and helped the book store entertain the long lines.  It happened something like this:

My friend wanted to throw a “little” dinner party with all the favorites from the books (mashed potatoes, meatloaf, pineapple upside cake)  complete with character costumes. Picture someone dressed as Lula or Vinnie!!  What a hoot!! Then – I don’t know what came over me but I thought — why not make this a community event? I contacted the local library and it snowballed from there.

Each day we came up with more fun ideas and it was like planning a wedding! Food had to be DONUTS (all Stephanie Plum series readers would get this) and of course I figured I’d ask local businesses to sponsor this.  At first it was just the donuts — Dunkin Donuts and Tim Hortons were super generous! Then the library provided coffee and gift cards for the used book store.

Hmmm….why not promote local businesses and help the economy while we’re at it? The responses were mostly positive! We had gift cards that related to the stories:  Lula loves her chicken — so KFC donated gift cards! cars blow up in every book — Lighthouse Car Wash donated GCs! Food is a central theme in all the books so we had GCs from Wendy’s, Holiday Market, Leo’s Coney Island and Big Boy too.  Big hair in New Jersey? Salon Anew GC! Rex the hamster and Bob the dog? Pet Supplies Plus GC!  It was amazing!  Even the Janet Evanovich website sent us tons of goodies to give out!  (Thanks Alex!!)

The library wrote up a little blurb about the event in their newsletter (we just barely made the deadline) and their website (alright!) and our local paper wrote about it too! (AWESOME!)

In the meantime, my friend created most of the trivia questions and I typed them up and put them in balloons!! (okay that was much later…) The only way to get the questions is to have fans sit on the balloons and POP — like the cars that blow up in the books! Okay…more on that later…We came up with an ice breaker type game and little details and whammo – we had our games and activities!

Food? Check! Gifts? Check! Press? Check! Games and activities? Check! Costumes?….wait, what? I have to wear a costume? 🙂

I decided on the Stephanie Plum character because she’s one of my favorites — and, okay, so that one’s pretty easy without looking ridiculous! 🙂

By the way, my friend and I work in a school and the fan party was on the Saturday after school started!! Talk about a busy week!!!

Okay – now – my friend decides she still wants to have the dinner at her house after our fan party at the library and actually cooked a fabulous meal! She made mouth-watering meatloaf, chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls!! To top it all off, we had upside down pineapple cake AND double chocolate cake!! I could hardly move the whole night!! (Think: Thanksgiving).  The characters in the books eat like this all the time — good thing they’re fictional — too much of a good thing.  (And of course, we had wine, but that’s another story).

The morning of the event was filled with runs to the donut shops and bakery but the best part was loading my car!! Remember all those balloons with the questions tucked inside them for the game? I thought I was smart by putting them in four huge black garbage bags and putting them in my garage as I loaded up my SUV.  I was standing in the back of my car watching my hubby put the seats down to make room and per chance, I glanced up — only three garbage bags are in my garage.  One of the bags blew away onto the neighbor’s yard — complete with balloons inside – AND two of the balloons escaped from the bag! I made a mad dash after the bag and the run-away balloons!  Did I mention how windy it was? Oh for pete’s sake!

The event was a blast! The fans were terrific and we all shared our favorite LOL parts of the Stephanie Plum series.  The games and activities were fun and thanks to our generous sponsors, the gifts were great too!! (Big Boy even made a special appearance!) Oh yeah, and did I mention the DONUTS!!

YUM!

The book signing was a total hoot! My friend arranged for us to provide the entertainment while people wait in the long lines.  I was happy to do it and didn’t even mind wearing my costume — it’s like Janet Evanovich fans all “understand” each other — we love her books, the humor and the men in the stories!! So many women told us they LOVED Ranger!! I asked trivia questions and the best reaction was when I asked what was Lula’s previous profession — the answer was always “She was a HO!” complete with attitude and all! People were so funny – my smile was still plastered on when I left the store a few hours later…

I’d read so many things about the author previously that I felt I already knew her when it was finally my turn to meet her. She was all smiles and friendly (and probably a little surprised at my costume). Besides devouring all her Stephanie Plum series books, I’d read her “How I Write” book and found her to be very down to earth and refreshing as a person and writer.  What a classy lady!

Pictures by Jennifer Wilmarth.  I’ll post more pictures  soon!

~~Maggie

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2010 in Funny, Games, Writing

 

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Snickers turned Cujo!

I took Max for a long overdue walk (it’s been too humid before tonight) and on our way home, I detoured through the neighborhood park where we found an adorable Yorkie. Of course, Max was super excited and they did their silent talk — I think Max dominated him by the way he kept lifting his left up (4 times) at the nearby tree.  (Mind you — his bladder is completely empty by now).  I looked around, expecting to see the dog‘s owner, but the nearby gardening neighbor said no. No one else was around.

I decided the adorable Yorkie must be lost so I took a closer look on his collar — he had one of those special invisible fence things on it and I could make out his name — Snickers.  Cute,  so I thought, until I tried to get the phone number and he turned all CUJO on me. I know he’s tiny, but I wasn’t taking any chances, so I backed up. He decided he had enough of the park and took off.  I couldn’t leave him alone without finding his owner so I decided to follow him a little until I could get his number…somehow.  In the meantime, I called my daughter to meet me at the park with some treats — bribery always works with Max when I want him to come.

Luckily, he stopped a lot — he liked Max, I guess — but every time I got closer — Grrr!! I was sure he’d get my hand or ankle one of those  times.  As I waited for my daughter, I saw two women with a stroller coming through the park path and a boy on a bike coming from the street. I asked them if they knew the little dog. The women didn’t but the boy recognized him after we said his name was Snickers. He pointed to a house down the street by the park! Phew! We returned the dog to the owner — she said the battery died on his collar and she had no idea he’d gotten out. (I resisted the urge to tell her to rename her dog.)

Some people are like Snickers – aren’t they? They look all cute and adorable, but you try to help them with something and they turn all  Cujo on you. They put up a brick wall and don’t want to hear it, even if it’s in their best interest. If you push it, they show their teeth too. My reaction is the same with these people — step away slowly and no one gets hurt.

~~Maggie

 
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Posted by on July 9, 2010 in dog, Funny

 

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Lessons from the World Cup games

It’s exhilarating to watch the World Cup games.  WOW! I haven’t watched every game, but each time I watch, I’m riveted!

Their control of the ball is amazing — they make it look like they’re dribbling in their backyard and not at full speed with attackers all around. Their kicks are powerful and go clear across the huge field — with precision! They can bring those powerful passes to a complete stop, without losing the ball. Their headers are pretty powerful too.

I know, I know, these are professionals and that’s why they’re in the World Cup. It’s just that some of these guys are only 20-22! I didn’t start playing until…well, let’s just say it was way past 20.  I’ve been  playing on a woman’s recreational team for about six years and, naturally, I wish I could play like that! Who wouldn’t? One funny thing that surprised me, though, is how dramatic they are when they are “hurt” — like one player covered his face with his hands when the replay showed the collision was not near his face. It’s so obvious when they are running the clock. I just laugh because it’s so childish.  Yes, they are professionals — but human too.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned from watching the World Cup games:

  1. It’s mental too. Japanese midfielder, Yasuhito said, “We are mentally strong and we are now playing with a really positive attitude.” Mental strength is Czech Republic goalkeeper Cech’s most important quality. He said, “Because as a goalkeeper you always have a huge amount of pressure on your shoulders.”
  2. Pressure fuels desire. Netherlands left-back, van Bronckhorst said, “My ultimate dream is to say goodbye with the Trophy in my hands.”
  3. Teamwork and pride of team are crucial. USA‘s midfielder Bradley said, “When we get in tough spots, or things don’t go our way, there’s still a real feeling of togetherness and fight and just sticking by one another. You need that in the toughest of times.” Also, Germany‘s Podolski said, “We’ve definitely come on as a team, and we have a number of very good young players, which has to be a good thing.”
  4. Defensive strength is about discipline. Ghana‘s Pantsil said, “Everyone does their utmost to stop our opponents gaining possession in between our midfield and defense.”
  5. Good support system helps. Argentina’s Higuain said,  “[Coach Maradona] is a great motivator, there’s no doubt about that.”
Of course, it would have been great to see the USA team win, but I respect the teams that progressed to the quarter finals and the the ones who will go on to the semi-finals and finals.

May the best team win!
~~Maggie
 
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Posted by on June 28, 2010 in Funny, soccer

 

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WIP – story of my life! :)

My first writer’s conference was amazing! I can’t believe I waited all these years to attend one, but I don’t believe in coincidences.

The opening speech was by Jay Asher,  who wrote “Thirteen Reasons Why“. It’s a YA novel on the  New York Times bestseller (for 60 weeks in a row, I think). His speech was hilarious as well as inspirational.   With his easy charm and great humor, he shared his story as an aspiring author and entry into the publishing world. I learned that you may start out writing one genre and end up discovering that you’re more gifted in an entirely different one.

Other speakers included editors and an agent. I learned a lot from all of these women.  It was great to see them as real people, instead of “the agent” or “publishers”. One main message I got from the editors is: use an agent – they very rarely publish a new author who doesn’t have an agent. Also, make sure it’s well written because the competition is huge. I just had to look around the conference room to bring this message home.  Another message is that my WIP (work in progress) is seriously in need of more revisions!! 🙂 More on this later.

The main message I got from the agent was that she had to believe in the manuscript to be able to sell it. I can totally understand this. This brings up another message: send ms to several agents because they are all individuals with different tastes.

In the middle of all this, I was fortunate to make the lottery for a chapter critique by Jay Asher! He was just as funny and nice during our one-on-one meeting. He made a line-by-line edit of my first chapter and ms synopsis, which was more than I expected. He had great advice and overall was quite positive. Thanks Jay! It was refreshing to hear his opinions and I felt encouraged to keep at it.

My revisions, based on the critique, were not too bad; I was able to make the changes as soon as I got home. However, I decided to shake things up some more and it is still a WIP. I’m even considering writing something new in a different genre just for the fun of it. And, writing is fun — I’m loving the process!  As much as it would be amazing to get published, I’m loving the ride along the way.

~~Maggie

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2010 in Funny, Writing

 

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