Monday, February 28, 2011


This weekend J-Bird and I decided to go on a date night, so I sent the girls over to Grandma Vic's and went online to see what's happen' in Fargo, North Dakota. 

"Hey, hey, hey..." I thought,   "maybe there's something exciting going on at the Fargo Theater."

So, I found Biutiful was playing.

 We spent the day poking around Herbergers, Barnes and Noble, and Harbor Freight.   Because theses are our interests.  Sales on clothes, books and tools.

For awhile there, I lost Jason in Barnes and Nobel.   Every once in a while, I'd walk by the gardening section - I was sure that he'd end up there eventually.  Suddenly, I heard a woman ask where she may find books on building chicken coops - Ah ha!

So, yeah - that's about where I found him.

We settled into our room and headed off to the movie.  I was nervous - what if all the tickets were sold out?

Well...  turns out there were only two other people in the theater - foreign films aren't the biggest seller in the Northern Plains.

The movie was remarkable.  Javier Bardem was amazing.  I was completely lost in the story and agitated throughout the movie - I didn't know how this dying man would find peace or someone to take care of his children.  I hadn't considered how poorly illegal immigrants were treated.  I hadn't considered how complete their desperation was. And if those topics weren't enough to cover,  there was mental illness.  But mostly - forgiveness.

I had planned on making a Target run after the movie, but there are just some movies that are so hard to transition to normal life after watching.  And this was that type of movie. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Slowing Down and Learning.

I've been in the Spanish classroom since November. 

We've only covered a chapter and a half since then.  We are having our second chapter test on Tuesday. 

I'm at odds. I'm not used to spending eight weeks on one chapter.  As we have been reviewing for the test on Tuesday,  I've realized all the students have learned since I've been there.

1.  25 new verbs.

2.  That all AR verbs are conjugated the same way.

3. The deal with the personal a - it's not translatable...  but it is learnable.

4. They've written two mini books and countless paragraphs.

5.  They've read several selections in Spanish and discovered that yes, they can read it.

6.  They are learning about the culture and national struggles of  Latin America and Spain.

I'm amazed at how much they know.  For the first time in my teaching career, the learning process is completely objective.

I can see what they know.  I can see almost instantly that they are confused.  At times, I'm shocked - Gwarsh - they understood that...

I'm amazed at what they know at what they can write.  I'm amazed that they can read.  I'll write messages and letters to them, and they can write back.

I could never explain how completely difficult it was to follow in my predecessor's steps. It's hard to follow that up.

Eventually, I just had to figure it out with the help of the para in my room.  I'm teaching a course where there is no standardized test.  I'm not in a race to that April deadline.  We can just learn because we can.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Good Things In Education

Education is changing  a lot of it is good like this -

I work at one of the schools featured in this video!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Favorite Fosston Teaching Day wasn't in Fosston

Last year, I was in charge of the yearbook/newspaper.  We were the Greyhound Gazette.  I loved every minute of the newspaper.

My favorite day was when we went on a field trip to Grand Forks to visit the Grand Forks Herald and UND.   Before leaving, the kids complained.  They thought for sure that the day would be "lame."  They wanted to go shopping instead.

Uhhhh, no?

As we piled out of the bus, I could tell the kids were not impressed.

Little by little, as we went through the archives, marketing, and advertising departments, the girls started asking more questions.  We ended up visiting some reporters.

We fell in love.

One of the reporters I recognized as Ryan Bakken.  He started out as a sports reporter for the Herald and little by little he started writing more human interest columns.  He asked us where we were from....

I answered "Straight Outta Fosston..."  The girls gasped in embarrassment.

He broke out in pure laughter.

I explained to the girls that Mr. Bakken had written an article about the local smash hit the previous Spring.  

The reporter at the next desk squealed.  "Fosston!"  It was Chuck Haga!  He had taken the stories of the Fosston crop circles. 

From that moment, we were in love with the Grand Forks Herald.

It was hard to leave to go to UND.   Bobbie Duchamp, the graphic artis,t just started showing us her new layout for the next day.  The stories of the food editor had us salivating for the recipes featured in the next day's paper.

We toured the campus of UND and ate for free at their dining center.  The girls were bursting with laughter at the various organizations one could join.  And aghast at others.

"Mrs. Aakhus - did you see that sign?  There's a club for lesbians."

"Yeah - you're going to see a bunch of things when you go off to college that aren't in Fosston.  It can be overwhelming."

I explained to them about the various gay bashing found on sidewalks in the Spring.

After lunch, the girls tried and tried to talk me out of visiting the school paper on campus.  I wouldn't budge.  They were so glad that I didn't.  They hadn't realized that their writing skills could be a job to support them during their studies.

The drive home was filled with sleepy juniors and seniors.  Laughs snuck up on their cheeks as they re-lived their teacher rapping with the Grand Forks Herald reporter.

"Oh Mrs. Aakhus, you actually rapped with Ryan Bakken."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

My Scare.

This afternoon, my mom treated the girls and I to a movie -  we saw Gnomio and Juliet.   Afterward, we ran into to Target to pick up some Valentines.  Nat asked to stay in the car to listen to the radio.  I didn't see a problem with it.  She's twelve.

I told her to lock all the doors and headed into the store.

When I came back with my mom, Allison, and my niece, I couldn't find the car where I had thought I had parked it.

It wasn't that I couldn't find the car that scared me.  It was that I couldn't find Natalie.

I turned to mom - "I'm scared."

I had just seen a car very similar to mine leave the parking long.

My heart squeezed real tight.  I tried not to think of Dru Sjodin or Julie Holmquist. (Two young women, from the area, who lost their lives to a horrific deaths.)

I ran throughout the parking lot just to be sure one last time before I called 911.

Two rows down, I saw a door open.  Natalie waved to me.  "Hey mom... what took you so long?"

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Everyday, I try to add more Spanish to my life.  When I first started teaching Spanish, the Spanish was hurting my brain....  I had to adjust my thinking and reach back to some very old files in my long term memory.

 I've been talking to friends about how they learned languages, and one thing they told me is they watched a lot of movies in the language they are learning.  One kid who moved from Mexico to the United States to live with his brother and sister-in-law told me he'd watch a movie in Spanish with English subtitles and then, watch the move in English with English subtitles.  I had never  thought of that!  What a great idea!  So - that's what I've been doing.  Despicable Me is even cuter in Spanish!

I've switched my facebook settings to Spanish, so all of my notifications are sent to me in Spanish.  I've also started following native speakers on twitter.

I love how the internet has opened up possibilities into learning another language.  How easy it is to find Spanish shows rom Mexico or Spain.  How fun it is to watch an episode of Esponja Bob on youtube! 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Orbitz Worst Nightmare

I'm's worst nightmare.  Or's ..  Or 

I love to go on travel websites and pretend to book trips.  Last week, I made elaborate plans to go on an Alaskan cruise with Jason and the girls.  We were to leave fom Seattle on June 4th and return the 11th.

I even priced out Dramamine because I was pretty sure I'd be sea sick the first few days.

I had thought about driving to Ketchikan, AK, but then, I'd have to drive through Canada.  And psst...  Canada is big.  And sort of boring.  Kinda like driving through North Dakota but bigger.

View Larger Map

 Aaaahhh never mind - look at all those mountains -

But then, I'd have to drive through the mountains.  Yikes!  Driving though mountains isn't easy.  And Jason makes me drive. I can't always put my feet on the dash and holler "Mush" as he takes me to my desired destination.

To add to orbitz' annoyance, I pretend booked trips to DisneyWorld - but guess what?  Suncountry has better deals - and traveler's can leave from the smaller airport in MSP.  And save like $1,000 for a family of four. 

I've also been comparing trips via amtrak and plane to head out to Chesapeake to see J's aunt and uncle.  So - Amtrak is annoyed with me because I pretend to go on trips with them, too. 

I didn't book any of those trips.  I will though.  After paying off some major bills, our cash-flow situation has improved...  So maybe Orbitz, Suncountry, and Amtrak will finally  reap the benefits of our diligence.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Times I Was a Bad Parent

I could write a whole blog of my nightmarish parenting skills.  If anyone knew what a bad parent I could be, I wonder what they'd think of me.

Sigh -

I hope I've become a better parent.  I cringe desperately at my mistakes.

Just Go Home.

Last night, I decided to get the girls checked out in urgent care.  After 48 hours of fighting 104 temps with Allison, I started to worry that she had strep throat.  I brought Natalie along because they had both been coughing seriously WITH. OUT. COVERING. THEIR MOUTHS.   sighh....

Well...I think the girls will survive.  Allie has a sinus infection on top of the flu and Nat?  Who know's?  She has fever spikes- So we're at home again today.

After our visit to urgent care, I stopped at Walmart to get some supplies for the girls.  Jason stayed in the car while I was to sprint through the store grabbing Jello and Gaterade.  As I was by the apples, I noticed I stepped in something.

A little girl puked.

Oh the poor thing.

The parents calmly brought her to the bathroom while I noted to myself to change my pants when I got home.

As I piled supplies in to my cart, I noticed both parents in Walmart looking at DVD players and various stereo equipment.  The little girl sat quietly in the grocery cart waiting for her parents to finish shopping.

I wanted to scream at them...

"Just go home.  Grab your Gaterade and go home."


"Just bring her to the car so she doesn't puke on my shoes again."

(As I write this, I can think of a time when I stayed instead of going home.  And boy oh boy - I'm not sure if I'll share that story.)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sick Kids

Last Night, we didn't sleep much.  Allie crawled into bed with us.  I knew she hadn't been feeling well so I snuggled up to her until she quit coughing.  Only thing, when she quit coughing, she started humming in her sleep.  After a while, she added grinding teeth to the humming.

Every so often, I'd notice Jason's eyes were open.

"Have you ever heard anyone hum in their sleep?"

"Now I have."

I got up and got the thermometer.  103.8.

Oh man.


Don't these kids ever wash their hands?

So, I got some cool water and Ibuprofen.  Jason got a cool wash cloth and gave her a soft sponge bath.

I called a sub.

Natalie had stayed home for three days during her last bout of Influenza and missed  her ortho appointment.  So, guess what?  Her appointment is scheduled for this morning.

So - dad gets in on the action.  He stays home with Allison while I'll bring Natalie to her appointment and get my sub notes to school (it's on the way to the dentist).  When I get home, dad will go back to work.   I'll stay home with Allison and snuggle up watching movies with her.

When the girls were younger, this happened fairly frequently.  It seemed they got every little bug that went around.  As they got older, they started REALLY taking my advice about washing their hands - and now, they rarely get sick.  So - there's a plus to kids growing up - they wash their hands.

Yesterday, when I brought Allison to the doctor, the doc told me she thought Allie might be coming down with influenza since Nat had just had it.  I'd know within the next twelve hours.  If her temp was low, and she had the sniffles, her advice was to go ahead and send her to school.  If it climbed to 101 - 102, it was probably influenza and to keep her home. 

Afterwards, I mentioned to the doctor how hard it was when the girls were sick because it seemed like I was checking on "every-little-thing"  just to get the go ahead to go back to work.  She got that.  It's not easy being a working parent.  I'm lucky to work for the type of business that believes in kids - kids are their business after all, right?  If my kids are sick, I won't get an eye-roll or a tongue lashing.  I can just concentrate on being a mom.