In Which I Feel Incredibly Old

My teaching partner has been out a couple of days over the last few weeks. Both times, the substitute teachers were kids I remember from teaching third grade lo these many years ago. The sweet young ladies weren't in my class, but they were wonderfully memorable as great students. They are both continuing on with their educations, and subbing offers some decent money.

I told the kids who they were, in hopes they'd be easy on them.

Yeah, that didn't happen. Sorry, ladies.

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Winnie-the-Pooch

Note: This was originally shared on my friend Daliene's blog. Today I am publishing it in order to link up at Funky Junk's linky party that honors her kitty, Teddy.

I kept my eyes fixed on the ground, knowing the puddle of tears would spill over if I made eye contact with Dr. Hörger’s sympathetic gaze. I could hear him speaking, but my mind just couldn’t seem to comprehend his words. Here for a routine blood draw, I hadn’t expected to hear this kind of news.

“Thyroid cancer . . . advanced . . . invasive . . .” These words finally penetrated my consciousness like bullets fired from a gun.

Vaguely aware of talk of surgery, I collected myself enough to ask, “What would you do if she were yours?”

He hesitated before replying, “I can’t answer that for you. She is old—fourteen is ancient for a dog her size. She might not even survive the surgery. Plus, I can’t guarantee that I can remove the entire tumor.” He went on to explain the difficulty of the surgery. Winnie would have a large incision and would require care after the operation, necessitating a stay of several days at the clinic. She hated being away from home, I thought.

“And if we don’t operate?” I heard myself ask, needing to know it all.

“I’d say we’re looking at two to four months,” he gently replied.

The tears flowed freely then. Dr. Hörger patted my shoulder and told me to think over the two options that night. “Sleep on it,” he said.

Sleep on it? Was he crazy? I knew he meant well, but I also knew there’d be no sleep for me.

Winnie, of course, had no idea there was anything wrong with her. Her goofy grin and polite handshake charmed the receptionists once again as I wrote the check. We walked to the car, her wagging tail counting cadence as usual.

At home, I sat next to my friend, stroking her long black fur, pondering the impossible. How could I make this life or death decision for a creature so devoted? I felt as if, in a way, I owed her my life. The months after my divorce would have been unbearable without the distractions of raising a puppy. She gave me the unconditional love my broken heart needed so desperately.

I contemplated life without Winnie-the-Pooch. I tried to imagine going to the bathroom unaccompanied, walking through the house without pausing to step over the speed bump her body created in the hallways, spending fewer hours vacuuming black tumbleweeds during shedding season. Just then she looked up at me with her warm, brown eyes as if to say, I trust you completely.

I made my decision. I would spare her the pain of a potentially fruitless surgery. Instead, she would live the rest of her days spoiled beyond compare. The unrelenting efforts to keep her figure svelte would cease; she would eat whatever piqued her interest. We’d go for frequent rides in the car, one of her favorite adventures, and for slow walks in the neighborhood, where she could sniff and explore to her heart’s content.

The next day I called Dr. Hörger’s office to inform him of my decision. He warned me that the tumor would continue to grow and would eventually begin to affect Winnie’s ability to eat and to breathe. We discussed the activities that signaled quality of life for her so that I would know when it was time to let her go. At the end of the conversation, I renewed my vow to make these last months pleasurable.

I can only believe that Winnie knew how I would mourn her loss. She lasted not only the four months Dr. Hörger had predicted, but also an additional year beyond that time.

As the vet warned, Winnie’s tumor continued to enlarge, pressing against her windpipe and causing her to pant in attempts to gain enough air. Our slow walks became shorter and shorter and finally stopped altogether, as the least exertion required more and more energy. She spent less time interacting with me and more time sleeping.

Finally, one night her labored breathing kept us both awake. She kept shifting position, trying unsuccessfully to get comfortable. I mentally reviewed the signs of quality of life Dr. Hörger and I had discussed and knew it was time. The next morning I called the clinic and made arrangements to take her in.

As she lay on the table, I removed her worn leather collar, stroked her head, kissed her nose one last time, and told her I loved her. I thanked her for being such a good friend, and then I watched her drift away.

Winnie gave me more love than I could have ever given her. Setting her free was my way of repaying the debt.

I have had other dogs since Winnie – Lucy, Desi, and Hannah. I love each one, but none will ever be Winnie, my heart dog.


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Task Cards at Saturday Camp

I was at camp the past 2 Saturdays! Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Well, it was. For the fourth graders who came!

We had our last push before Reading and Math STAAR testing this week.

We invited 50 of our students who could use a little more motivation before the test and rotated them through 30 minute long sessions to review some skills that we knew they needed some help with. We made them hands-on and fun. We spent from 8-12 each day, so students were exposed to 3 math and 3 reading activities each day.

I planned the reading activities. I knew right where to go to get components for a couple of great games.

We played fact/opinion basketball with Rachel Lynnette's great task cards.



I created a 2 point line and a 3 point line on the floor with masking tape. I divided the group into 2 teams. The kids got to shoot a Dollar Tree soft ball into a trashcan from one of the lines after correctly answering a question. They loved this activity!

We also played a board game with some more of Rachel's task cards.  For this one, we used the author's purpose cards.


I made game boards from her freebie game board download. Isn't this board cute? I found some fun little birds at Dollar Tree to use as game pieces.




I own tons of Rachel's task cards and we use them in so many ways in my class. Go check out her blog and see how others have used them, too!


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And please keep your fingers crossed that my kids do well on their tests!

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