Friday, July 27, 2012

Another Dine LA Restaurant Week

Dine LA’s summer Restaurant Week wraps up today.  Mike, Elana, and I got a restaurant in just under the wire by visiting Grub last night.  Grub is a charming little place right in the heart of Hollywood on Seward between Highland, Cahuenga, Santa Monica, and Melrose, surrounded by warehouses and post-production companies.

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Season Two Top Chef contestant Betty Fraser
betty2opened the restaurant with Denise DeCarlo about 9 years ago.  It’s very cute and quaint covered in tchotchkes and doodads that add to its charm.  stuff 532

Although Chef Betty didn’t wait on us specifically, we did see her in and out of the dining room throughout the evening which was kind of fun.

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As with past Dine LA events, participating restaurants prepare three course meal options for diners at a prix fixe price.  Grub’s menu options are like upscale American comfort food – read a heart attack on a plate - but totally delish! 

stuff 535 We all started off with a “crack bacon quesadilla”.  The sweet and savory bacon was truly addicting.

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For our main course we ordered a couple of pulled pork sandwiches and the mac & cheese.  Both were quite tasty and HUGE.  The pork was sweet and spicy and so tender.  Chardonnay wine is used in the cheese sauce, and I love food is cooked with wine.

By this time, we were all stuffed!  That didn’t stop us from ordering our third course though…dessert!  It was part of the meal people!

One of each dessert was ordered – Quarter of a Big Ass Ice Cream Sandwich, Cyndi’s Chocolate Bacon Sandwich, and Libby’s Famous Cookies.

stuff 542 The cookies are homemade chocolate chip and potato chip – they were very soft and very different.stuff 541Next was the crack bacon sandwich.  This was so sweet and rich, I wasn’t really a fan.  It was too bready for me.  Mike and I did however dig out all the bacon – the crack bacon because it was so addicting. 

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The best part of the whole evening was when the server put down this plate last and said, “And here’s your ‘Ass’.”  Ha ha ha!  I don’t know about anyone else, but this looks like a whole Big Ass ice cream sandwich, not a quarter of one.  It was the best dessert out of the three, but still a little bit too sweet for me.

While we ate dessert, a man walked into the restaurant and asked for a menu.  He said that he was riding by on his bike with his kids and it smelled so good he just had to stop.  We agree!  The smells and tastes were amazing.  I would definitely go back to Grub again, even for their regular menu.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Daily 5, Chapter 7

I spent yesterday making airport runs.  It was a drop off for Jason who is visiting family in Italy for a couple of weeks and a pick up for my mom who returned from traveling around the Baltic States for a few weeks.  And what have I been doing for the summer?  Thinking about school!  I’m also thinking it’s time for a trip abroad some time soon too, but that will have to be another post.  This Daily 5 deal has got my wheels spinning.  Chapter 7, the final chapter, packaged up all the components nicely and gave some answers to common questions.

Some key points that I want to remember (since my book got to go to Italy with Jason I’m just going off my notes here, hopefully I remember correctly)...

  • To ensure success with Daily 5 right off the bat, it’s important to spend the time teaching the kids how to participate in each component and what the expectations are.  In addition, the procedures MUST be modeled and practiced numerous times.  The authors included a recommended plan for introducing each part at the beginning of the school year.  It takes about a month if going by their plan.  That length of time initially gave me pause, as we start our instruction IMMEDIATELY when the year starts.  However, I’m going to do my best to fit it in and make it work.  If the kids aren’t independent with the D5 it will not be successful. 
  • After the first month of introducing and practicing, students are given total choice in how they complete their Daily 5.  Again, that caused a panicked moment, but as I thought about it more it sounds great.  No more rotation charts.  Less for the teacher to worry about.  The authors talk about TRUST.  If the kids are well prepared on what they have to do, they can be trusted to do it.  Only after someone shows you they are struggling do you step in and address his/her challenge.
  • After each portion of the D5, the teacher pulls the students back to the carpet for some type of instruction before sending them back out for the next part of independent time.  The authors recommend a “check in” before each component.  Each student thinks about what they wish to do next and the teacher asks them to share.  After sharing, the teacher asks them to close their eyes and visualize themselves doing their chosen part correctly.  Then students are dismissed by component in order to avoid a stampede. 
  • If a degree of teacher control for certain students is unavoidable some ideas were offered on how to go about it without being too invasive in the D5 process.  One of those ways is arranging the room by component.  Having set places to go can eliminate disruption for those kids having trouble choosing an appropriate place to work.  Another option is a set schedule made by the teacher.  I’m hoping to avoid that one if possible, but it may be necessary for some kids who aren’t yet able to handle the independence.
  • My favorite part of this book was about work product.  Again, coming from a very heavy test-prep environment, skill practice seatwork has been a mainstay in my classroom for years.  Sometimes that practice has been effective, but a lot of time it ends up just being busy work.  I really liked the concept of “practice + independence = accountability”.  Basically, if the kids are doing the D5 correctly, there isn’t a need for a whole lot of worksheet practice which is music to  my ears.  This is my philosophy when I’m in GLAD mode, so it will be such a relief to have that spill over into the core part of my language arts time. Yay!

The authors kind of addressed using the D5 with English Language Learners (ELLs).  But I didn’t feel they addressed my biggest concern.  Working with ELLs is all about expectations.  If expectations are dumbed down, then those kids won’t meet standards.  I think this program will work remarkably with all kids regardless of ELL level.  One question I have that wasn’t addressed is about the transiency rate that many of our large ELL population schools have.  Since I’ve been teaching I’ve had anywhere from 5 to 12 students come and go from my classroom each year.  Something as procedure based and stamina based as the D5 will make transiency difficult.  Has anyone come up with tricks for integrating new students quickly and easily into the D5?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

So as summer break is winding down, I’ve got a few things I need to wrap my mind around before implementation – daily schedule (fitting it all in), how to organize my library (in my new classroom) so it’s accessible to both my students and to me, getting books on tape put onto CDs or mp3 players, and setting up the stations for each component.  It’s a lot to think about especially when friends and family are off gallivanting around Europe, but it’s the first time in a few years that I’ve been excited about my language arts instruction.  The authors’ next book TheCafe Book is sitting on my nightstand waiting to be read.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the Sisters suggest assessing within the Daily 5 classroom.

Thanks to Kimberly and Corinna for hosting this week’s book study. 

Here’s the linky thingy

Monday, July 23, 2012


With three weeks of summer break already behind me I’ve finally accomplished my to do list.
stuff 165There were many other things on my to do list, but for some reason these things kept eluding my memory so three weeks ago I wrote them down hoping not to forget.  Every time I walked out the door I was reminded, but it still took me three weeks.  Since I’m not terribly handy around the house I tend to put off those jobs that a) require me to be handy or b) require me to call someone handy.  On Sunday, I decided enough was enough.

Even though I was shown where and how to change my air filter on my new air conditioning last year, I couldn’t remember for the life of me.  After some online research I was able to remove both of the unit’s doors and located the filter for cleaning.  CHECK!  Since the sprinklers’ timer is right next to the AC I reset it as well.  With our hot temperatures, it was time to set the sprinklers to go off twice a day instead of once.  Luckily I keep the instruction sheet next to the timer.  CHECK!

Since my handy jobs were finished yesterday, I worked on the handy phone calls today.  I don’t like to make phone calls like this.  I’m not exactly sure why, BUT it could have something to do with the volume of phone calls made when making arrangements for someone handy.  In today’s case, between leaving messages and call backs, 17 phone calls in all.

The first one was quick and easy - one of my new shutters wasn’t staying closed.  After a couple of appointment time changes, the installer came by and fixed the thingy that kept it closed.  CHECK!

The last thing on my list was the one I dreaded most.  I’ve been unhappy with my gardener for a few years now.  He and his guys just “mow and blow”.  That’s what I pay for so it’s fine, but since I am the complete opposite of a gardener I need someone who will take care of things that need to be taken care – a broken sprinkler, a dead plant, dry grass, whatever.  My gardener didn’t do that on his own.  If I called and asked, sometimes he would, but a lot of time he wouldn’t so I couldn’t rely on them.  Regardless, making this phone call wasn’t just going to be hiring a new gardener but basically firing the old one, which was why I kept avoiding it I think. 

Anyhow, I finally called and arranged for another gardener (recommended by a friend) to tell me what he would do and give me an estimate.  I really liked him, and I think he’ll take care of my yard nicely.  He starts Thursday.  check…but there was still that pesky issue of canceling the other service.  I tell you what, I could never be in a business where I would have to fire people, ever!  Even though I was just stopping a service, I felt so bad about calling.  I did suck it up though and called, soooo hoping to get an answering machine.  When the woman who answers the phone picked up I almost hung up, a nervous wreck.  Instead I powered through and canceled the service with her.  She didn’t seem to care one bit, so it ended up being painless.  CHECK!

I always feel so empowered when I take care of home repair or maintenance…or maybe it’s relief that I don’t have to think about it anymore. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Dark Night

News about Friday’s shooting at the midnight showing of Batman has been constant on our 24 hour news cycle.  The untimely death of twelve and the numerous injuries are such a tragedy even more so when you think these people were just being “regular” and going to the movies. 

After reading some of the initial reports and subsequent articles a few thoughts started spinning in my head. 

As so many regularly allege, the 24 hour news cycle is the downfall of real news.  I can’t tell you how many reports from Aurora I’ve read in the last 36 hours that have reported incorrect information and had incorrect or poor writing and grammar – like rather than doing any fact checking or editing at all it was posted just to be first.  In this age of the internet and 24 hour news shows we are accustomed to finding out our information immediately.  However, a few times over the last day while looking for information on Colorado I had pangs of nostalgia about waiting around for the 6:00 news program or until the paper arrived the next morning AFTER they took the time to gather their facts before reporting. 

The stories all reported the number of children that were in the theater at this midnight show - 3 months old, 4 months old, 6 years, 9 years old.  Why on earth were all those kids at a midnight showing of a loud, dark, adult-themed, violent movie?  Certainly the parents had no idea what would happen once they got there, and it could have happen anywhere at anytime.  They can not be blamed for a crazy person showing up and doing awful things.  However, there is something wrong when parents forget they are parents and expose their kids to things made for adults.  Our kids have (hopefully) a very long time to be adults.  They don’t need to have it forced upon them too early by their parents.

In one of the stories I read yesterday, this one caught my attention…
Suspected Colorado movie theater gunman James Holmes purchased four guns at local shops and more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet in the past 60 days, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told a news conference this evening.

"All the ammunition he possessed, he possessed legally, all the weapons he possessed, he possessed legally, all the clips he possessed, he possessed legally," an emotional Oates said.

The chief declined to say whether the weapons were automatic or semi-automatic, but "he could have gotten off 50 to 60 rounds, even if it was semi-automatic, within one minute," Oates said

I haven’t a clue what it takes to buy a gun and/or ammunition, but it seems like the amount purchased by the shooter was excessive.  And the NRA says that we shouldn’t politicize this recent tragedy.  Really?  It’s probably a pretty good time (or after any of the other gun-related tragedies in recent years) to look at what the heck is going on in this country.  The number of gun-related deaths in the US is more than the rest of the developed nations’ combined. 

The NRA spouts we need guns to keep this a civilized society.  It’s interesting that during this terrible tragedy not one of the movie goers pulled out a weapon for protection.  The only person who had a gun in the theater was the insane one. 

Let’s face it, automatic weapons aren’t usually purchased for weekend hunting or protection by responsible gun owners.  They are purchased for violent crimes.  Of course, in a gun culture, it won’t stop all gun deaths, but if it would limit them wouldn’t it be worth it?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Daily 5, Chapter 6


This week’s Chapter 5 book study is hosted by Jenn and Deb.  Although I’m still enjoying this book and the authors’ philosophy very much, this was the first chapter (the writing part) that I couldn’t see fitting, as described, right into place in my classroom. 

Writing is the fourth component in the Daily 5.  As with the other independent time, teachers should introduce the writing component with direct instruction, modeling, practice, and more modeling.  Gradually students build up their writing stamina much like they do with their reading stamina.  We’re hoping to increase the students enjoyment of writing during this time.  They are given the chance to write about what THEY want to write about.  For some students, this will be so much fun.  For others though, it will be a challenge because they are so used to teachers telling them what to write about.  Focus lessons are important, especially to those students who will struggle, to introduce skills that they will need for their independent writing.  This component reminds me of Lucy Calkins’ Writers Workshop. 

And this is where my apprehension comes in…we have a district writing program that takes up most if not all of our allotted writing time.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good program and the kids do well with it, but it is more prescriptive and there isn’t much choice because we are preparing for district and state writing tests.  As much as I would enjoy implementing writers workshop and allow all this choice, I’m really struggling with how to fit all of it in and/or allow for both programs to co-exist.   

Luckily, I think I’ve talked my work husband and 2nd grade teammate into delving into the Daily 5 as well.  He and I have been discussing the components this summer, and I think we’ve come up with a plan for the writing component by just tweaking it a bit.  We aren’t going to be able to do the all the conferencing and editing and rewriting with the Daily 5 writing because we have to do that with our own writing program, but we’ve decided that our kids should STILL be able to write for enjoyment during the Daily 5 time.  Students will have notebooks/journals that they keep in their book boxes.  When it’s their writing time, they can write in their notebooks.  We plan on still using the focus lessons (hopefully linking them to our district program) and Author’s Chair, maybe a 2 or 3 each day for a chance to talk about writing.  The kids, however, won’t be required to take their independent writing to publishing.  I think we can manage to do both if we just trim a bit off the D5 piece.  If you are already using the program, I’d love to hear your thoughts on our adjustments.  Or please share how you’ve managed to fit it in.

The fifth and final component is word work.  This one is probably the most engaging of the five.  The word work component is how students can practice their spelling and vocabulary using various methods – pencil/paper tasks, magnetic letters, wiki sticks, chalk/whiteboards, flash cards, etc.  Most of us have used word work in centers but in the Daily 5 the practice is done every day which is so valuable.  Second grade has several vocabulary skills (synonyms/antonyms, compound words, multiple meaning words, prefixes/suffixes, etc) that are important for vocab development AND are heavily tested.  Previously, we’ve used 
“seatwork time” as practice of these skills.  In order to make the Daily 5 fit in our day, I think that seatwork time will be (happily) eliminated.  Those skills will need to be addressed somewhere else though, so it is imperative that our word work time includes not only spelling and sight words, but also our vocabulary skills. 

Teachers introduce and practice this piece like the previous four.  However, modeling is taken a step further as this part my have materials that will need to be taken out, cleaned up, and put away correctly. 

I’ve spent the last couple of days in my new classroom unpacking boxes.  Even though it’s a chaotic mess right now, while unpacking my language arts boxes today I found so many materials that would be great for word work.  It was fun to set up the materials in the cupboards with the understanding that they were for Daily 5. 

If you’re participating in the book study and have posted about it, be sure to add it to the blog hop.  Here’s the linky thingy…

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It IS Just a Job

Last month I saw the French film Polisse.  It is about police detectives who handle crimes against children, along the lines of Law and Order.  At the end of the film, one of the detectives walked over to the window during a staff meeting and jumped, killing herself.  It, of course, was an eerie end to the film.  I remember being taken back by it, but assumed it was for shock value more than a commentary on society. 

Then last week, I read an article about how CEOs in France are being investigated for employee suicide.  When I first saw the headline (30 suicides)I thought the article was going to be about the Foxconn scandal in China where employees were killing themselves due to poor working conditions.  When I read further, I was shocked that a company in France had over 30 suicides between 2009 and 2010.  It seems as if restructuring, performance demands, and poor treatment when those demands were not met led to the employees’ demise.  One employee stabbed himself during a staff meeting while another threw herself out her office window.  Can you even imagine?  A couple of thoughts went through my mind while reading this horrible story.  First, no one thought to investigate this before 2012?  And how did the number get to be over 30 without some kind of investigation.  That is a lot of people, especially when many referenced their job being the reason they took their lives.  What took so long?

But then I also had another thought…why are people killing themselves over their jobs?  I know that the job market is ROUGH right now and that the thought of staying in a job you hate because you can’t get another one is horrible, but still, it’s just a job.  When I think about the last year or so in mine…it was bad.  We were treated like crap and spent the first part of last year in tears and the second part pissed off, but never once did the thought of killing myself cross my mind (although the thought of kicking the person who was making us miserable in the shins did pop into my mind from time to time).

It’s beyond my frame of understanding that one company would have that terrible statistic.  And also that it wouldn’t just occur to them to investigate why BEFORE it got to that number. 

I know, kind of a downer of a post, but I’m sitting up exhausted with a sick puppy who I can’t get into the vet until tomorrow morning.  So I’m feeling a little bit like a downer.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Grease is the Word

Last night Jlo and I went to the Hollywood Bowl for the Grease Sing-a-Long.
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grease 009The Bowl sits in the Hollywood Hills and dates back to 1922.  It’s such a beautiful location and, even though it’s been sweltering this past week, last night was cool, crisp, and very pleasant.
grease 014The original “shell” was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright but it has been rebuilt 2 or 3 times since.

Jlo is a rabid fan of musicals.  Me?  Eh, but I do LOVE me some Grease.  In fact, whenever I catch it on TV I hold my own sing-a-long sitting on the couch.  We found out about this event just a few days ago, but were able to still get decent tickets to the show last minute. 

Many arrived in costume…

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Since our attendance was so last minute we did not make it in costume…maybe next time.  But we did receive goody bags with the things we’d need for the show. 

grease 003Igrease 004Inside we found a comb (for the greasy hair), pompom (for the cheerleaders), yellow scarf (for the drag race), and bubbles (for beauty school drop out).  Jen made us practice ahead of time.

After the location and the acoustics of the bowl, the next best thing about visiting is that you are allowed to bring a picnic inside with you.  We stopped at Trader Joe’s on the way and picked up our evening meal.
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We forgot cups so we drove through a Jack in the Crack and “borrowed” some.

Before the movie started, there was a preshow.  Didi Conn, the original Frenchie, was the host. 
grease 077She explained when to use our goodies and sorted out the costume contest.   

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If you look carefully, you can see the Hollywood sign peeking out between the hills. grease 016 grease 017

Then the movie began…

grease 026 grease 027 grease 029 grease 030The singing started immediately with the theme song.

If you’re not familiar with the plot, here’s a quick run down.  Danny and Sandy fall in love at the beach the summer before their senior year of high school.  It ends up that Sandy doesn’t go back to Australia and arrives at Rydell High (which was really Venice High School my dad’s alma mater), the same school Danny goes to!!!    
grease 035Danny belongs to the T-Birds and Sandy hooks up with the Pink Ladies.
grease 033grease 034The best part of the movie is Summer Nights when Danny and Sandy “tell me more” about their summer fling.  We belted that song out like nobody’s business.

Then Kenicke buys a beat up car and the T-Birds fix it up in Grease Lightning. 

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For the sing-a-long, words came up on the screen.  Jlo and I didn’t even need ‘em!

grease 040 grease 042A little Grease Lightning dance.

Frenchie drops out of school to attend beauty college, but she’s not very good and accidentally dyes her hair pink.  The bubbles floated around the bowl during Beauty School Dropout.   grease 043
Much to the surprise of both teachers and students, Rydell High is chosen for an episode of National Bandstand.  Danny and Sandy attend the dance and are the best dancers there…grease 049

until Cha-Cha DiGregorio shows up and steals Danny away to win the dance contest.  Sandy sadly leaves the school gym.

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After Grease Lightning is set to race, Kenickie is ready to go head-to-head with Balmudo, the leader of the Scorpions and his nemesis, in a drag race.  But he gets knocked out by a car door and can’t drive in the race.
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Danny takes his place and, after some close calls, wins the race for the T-Birds!grease 055 grease 056While the others run to congratulate Danny, he sees Sandy (who is thinking about what she has to do to get her bad boy).  Seeing Sandy makes him think about what he has to do to get his good girl.

At the end of the school year, there is a carnival.  Danny surprises everyone by arriving with a letterman’s sweater, going jock on his gang.   grease 057grease 060 Then Sandy arrives, again surprising everyone
grease 059including Danny, having morphed into a bad girl who smokes!

After “You’re the One That I Want” (we belted out that one too) the second best song in the movie, Danny and Sandy ride off into the sunset.

grease 074I loved watching the movie outside on the big screen.  It was reminiscent of drive-in movies from back in the 70s.    What a fun way to spend a Su-uhhhh-mmmmerrrrr Niiiiiii-iiiiight!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Daily 5, Chapter 5

Since it’s like a million degrees outside today,
stuff 163I had a good excuse just to stay in and finish reading the remaining three chapters of the Daily 5.  This week’s book study is hosted by Mechelle, Kelli (with freebies), and Melissa (with freebies).


My friend Stef read the Daily 5 book a couple of weeks ago and she told me Chapter 5 really stuck with her, specifically “Read to Someone”.  I looked forward to getting into this chapter to see what it was all about and how it was managed.

Two additional components of the Daily 5 were introduced in this chapter – Read to Someone and Listen to Reading. 

Read to Someone is not only very engaging for the kids because it’s fun, but it also gives them ANOTHER opportunity to practice reading and increases fluency.  This component certainly isn’t rocket science as I think most, if not all, primary teachers have done partner reading in one way or another.  However, the Sisters take it a step or two further. There are three ways to read to someone…
- Read while partner checks for understanding – comprehension work
- I read, You read (same section) – fluency work
- Different Books – take turns reading a section to each other

Like with read to self, direct instruction on the expectations of this component and MODELING it over and over again are the keys.  I can see this turning into chaos in the classroom if the expectations are not made clear from the beginning and revisited often.  The book does include some strategies for solving some concerns that may arise like finding a partner and choosing which book to read together.  Showing the kids how to be reading coaches when their partners struggle with a word or comprehension is also addressed.  The kids are shown that helping isn’t always telling the answer, but sometimes it means giving wait time and being patient.  I like that.

Number 3 of the Daily 5 is Listen to Reading.  This is probably the simplest of components, but one I think is so important.  Most families of the kids in my class struggle with reading at home to their kids. Regardless if it’s lack of language, time, or effort the kids are missing a key piece to developing as readers.  Having the opportunity to listen to good readers read is essential, and a lot of our kids only get that in the classroom.  Audio books with copies of the book to go along with allow kids to get that listening in when they are not working with the teacher.  Again, this is not new for most primary teachers.  An a-ha for me was that the Sisters use individual listening devices rather than several students at a listening center.  Most of my books on tape have only a single book with them so it is difficult for a group to follow along with the words.  The individual devices allow for students to actually follow along, pointing to the words as they read.  Also, rather than the teacher deciding what book the group will listen to, each child has a little more choice if it is individual. 

I have boxes of books on tape so technically this should be easy.  However, they are cassette tapes so finding individual listening devices, ya know those cassette walkmans from the 80s,  will be more difficult.  There is a way of converting the tapes into mp3 which can then be burned on a cd or listened to on the computer or mp3 player.  The cost of it was quite reasonable, but the amount of time it takes might be an issue with hundreds of tapes to convert.  If anyone ran into and solved the same dilemma, I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Overall, this chapter put a refreshing take on some old school strategies.  I enjoyed reading about some ways to make them even more effective.  It is also clear that modeling and practicing the expectations for each component are so important in order for the kids (not the teacher) to manage themselves.  I know that once the school year gets into full swing and each day is a time crunch to fit everything in, the constant revisiting will be difficult.  If I feel that I’m having to manage it too much, I won’t want to do it anymore.  I hope to frontload these strategies the first few weeks of school and then embed some time regularly into the year to keep things running smoothly. 

Here’s the linky thingy…