Tag Archives: teamwork

A New Olympic Event: Grape Picking

I moved into my house in December of 2008, so I have enjoyed 4 summers here.

One of my favorite things about my house is my grape arbor. I am not a gardener by any means, or a grape farmer, for that matter. It’s more for decorative purposes and I kind of let it grow as it wishes. And this thing certainly has a mind of it’s own.


Here is it in early spring 2009.


In the winter of 2010

grape arbor

Here it is in late summer 2011. Taking over the house.

The grape arbor has been the home to many birds. This year we had a cardinal nest and a mourning dove nest. Let me just tell you, Momma cardinals do not like you near their nests or their babies. And with the arbor right outside my front door….it was a little scary at times. Especially since I am afraid of birds.


Sometimes it’s scary walking out this door!

The grape arbor is also home to many wiffle balls, frisbees, and other sports equipment. Once something gets thrown up there, it’s probably not coming down.

We also use the arbor as a place to relax, to read, to play, to hide, and to eat dinner.


This is the view above in early spring.


Chilling out under the vines on a hot day

My little old neighbor, Maxine, has always been obsessed with my grape arbor. “Got any grapes?” she asks every time she comes over to visit.

However, for the first three years, the arbor produced no edible grapes. They went straight from hard green balls to “raisins” or rotten mush.


None of these grapes are good for eating. Poor Maxine!

Maxine was always bummed.

This year, the 4th summer, I am happy to say we have grapes! They are different than the grapes you buy at Giant Eagle. They have seeds and are very “gelatin-ish” inside. Definitely an acquired taste.

The other night, Admiral Bodee and the kids came down for one last get together before school started and we decided to harvest the grapes. Everyone was into it and we were on a mission to win a team gold medal in grape picking.


It was funny how much the kids were into it. Captain Kidd was all about quality control. Tweedle Ian wanted to climb higher than I would let him.


Delilah used her height to reach the highest vines (and take most of these pics). Tweedle Dee…well, she sometimes takes pride in doing the least amount of work. She is always the quiet comedian.


I told Admiral Bodee, “This is why farmers had so many kids back in the old days…so they could help with all the chores.”

(And then I looked around my flower beds and saw all the weeds and in my head had this great idea for another day….)

With some teamwork, we were able to collect about 9 cups of grapes.

Admiral Bodee took home about a cup.

And the other 8 cups…I took them across the street to Maxine.


I am a Squiggle Stuck Inside a Square

I have been writing about multiple intelligences and learning styles the last few days. Now, how about a personality test? This is a personal favorite of mine, and great ice breaker for the first day of class. Preparation is simple.

  1. Display four shapes on the board/SMARTBoard: a square, circle, triangle, and a squiggle.
  2. Instruct students to choose one shape and draw it on the corner of a pink index card.*
  3. Students then get into groups based on their choices.
  4. Give handouts to each group. I have included the PDF versions of the Symbol Test Handouts I give to the groups.** Feel free to use them in your classroom. These descriptions could be reworded for a variety of age levels. The files I have attached have been used with students at the middle school level.
  5. The group then has about 10-15 minutes to design a poster with their shape, everyone’s names and the characteristics of their shape.
  6. The groups then share their poster briefly with the class.
  7. For homework, students respond on the pink index card about the activity and their shape.

Examples of questions I might ask:

  • Which shape were you and do you think it best described you?
  • What made you think it was a good match?
  • If it wasn’t a good match, which shape would be a better fit?
  • What else do you think I should know about you as a learner?
  • Please include anything that will help me be a better teacher for you.

This activity is a great way to see how students work together, see who the natural leaders are, and let students get to know their classmates. You will be surprised how honest students will be on their index cards. This gives kids a chance to ask for help right away and give you a heads up about their concerns.

Now, out of curiosity, which shape did you choose?


I am a squiggle stuck inside a square.

*The reason for the pink index card? It’s easy for them to find in their binders because of the color. It’s non-threatening because it’s small. And it’s easy to store.

**This activity is based on information from the following sites.



There is No Education Like Adversity*

Last Friday, on our way home from vacation, my dad’s van decided to act up (and by act up, I mean smoke violently).

After 6 days of beaching it up, we were barely into our 11 hour trip home when suddenly, we were stranded on a highway right outside of Maxton, NC.

I should explain that this vacation was the first big “family” vacation with my two children (Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Ian), my boyfriend (Admiral Bodee) and his two children (Delilah and Captain Kidd). I should also say that the week was what we considered a “make or break” situation. Fortunately, we had an absolutely wonderful trip and felt we made leaps and bounds in our relationship. (Whew!)

So, again, imagine four kids – ages 9, 11, 12, and almost 13 in a van, on the side of the highway, in the middle of an 85 degree afternoon, 10 hours from home.

Imagine two adults, both teachers, both single parents, both tired in this situation. Two adults who have dealt with drama and stress both in the classroom and at home, but who haven’t dealt with any “catastrophes” together. For the record, I know, things could have been so much worse and we were thankful it wasn’t, but this was still a big problem and a huge test of how well we could work together.

Long story short, (because it took 4 hours to fix the car and be on our way), as we were chugging/smoking into this tiny town unlike anywhere we’d ever been or want to be again, Admiral Bodee says to a van full of cranky and apprehensive children, “They say that the true test of a person’s character is how they handle adversity.”

In a moment of total chaos and silent panic, my heart gushed. Here was a man driving his girlfriend’s dad’s smoking van, keeping it together and doing what had to be done to keep everyone safe and calm.

There are many hilarious, scary, crazy details about this adventure, and I have preserved them on film and recorded them in my mind.

Fortunately, after a dinner of Lunchables, applesauce, and granola bars in Walgreen’s parking lot, a game of junkyard football, a photo shoot in a pile of old tires, and a flash-before-your-eyes 65 mph ride on an old country road with one scary dude, the damage was only $50.

Yes, a $50 repair bill, for a tiny little garage that worked three hours overtime on a Friday night. I should add that Admiral Bodee ended up giving him $80. A $30 tip seemed totally reasonable after all their help.

As stressful as this situation was, we will never forget the adventure, which is what vacations are all about!

Enjoy this “Wish You Were Here” postcard like pic and take these lessons with you:

  • When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
  • Find humor in all things.
  • There is safety in numbers.
  • Teamwork pays off.
  • Keep calm and carry on.
  • Be prepared.
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Give to those in need and you will be richly rewarded.
  • Respond, don’t react.
  • Use the restroom when given the opportunity; You never know the next time you will come across a clean one.


*The title of this post comes from Benjamin Disraeli.

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