Wednesday, September 30, 2009

time for quotes

Kindergarten is a good source for quotes.  From Bug:

"I learned how to spell APPLE at school today!"
(me)"How do you spell it?"
"I don't know."

"Did you know that the word TREE is not spelled with a CH?  You should really say, chree, not chree."

"Is there a low school, like there's a high school?"

"If I'm really doing all this work I really might as well get an M&M. I'm doing so much work it's like I'm the servant."

"My concern is this: If we do that first, will we still be able to play?"

Monday, September 28, 2009

still learning

Did you know that a female Komodo Dragon can have all male offspring without having ever had a mate?  CD and I were determined to do some research after learning this.  Sure enough, there is more to life than XY chromosomes. "Komodo dragons have the ZW chromosomal sex-determination system, as opposed to the mammalian XY system" and through Parthenogenesis they can reproduce on an uninhabited island and continue the species.  Thanks Wikipedia and PBS.

Today I went to Pook and Bug's elementary school and did not make copies, did not check books out to kids, did not organize the school pictures, and did not clean the fishtank (although it needs it).  I have been asking the administration for years if they had a need for someone to tutor.  I may be a SAHM, but I'm also an MEd, thankyouverymuch.  No, they didn't need anyone to tutor, but maybe I could check in the library; they always need help in there.  However, this year I was in the right place at the right time.  Our school is busting out the seams and needed to add two new kindergarten teachers, but were only allocated funds for one.  Some shifting had to be done, and what lost out was the at risk kids.  The teacher who had helped them was given a self contained class of kindergarteners, (also at risk).  The fifth grade classes are huge and the teachers now have the added responsibility of providing extra help to this struggling handful of kids.  Immediately after hearing this at the PTA board meeting, I approached the principal.  (Ooh, ooh, call on me!!)  She all but begged me if I could start immediately.

Now, mind you, I may have taught for ten years, but this isn't what I taught.  I had preschool special needs children in my classroom.  They were often unpotty-trained, non-verbal, or violent.  I know how to put on afo's, I can detect speech issues, I recognize poor pencil grips.  I never had a text book of any type to teach with, and I never saw any formal curriculum.  I made most of my materials and sat on the floor a lot.  My favorite learning activity was Playdoh Time.  For reinforcements, I offered tickles.

This morning four boys followed me to the library.  (I am not legally to be trusted without a certified teacher in the room.)  We found an out of the way table and started our lesson.   These boys had visible chips on their shoulders.  But, the opportunity to be with me was presented as a privilege and it was clear that they could lose the chance for future weeks.  They didn't read as poorly as I expected; one of them seems to be doing fine, although the teacher says his comprehension lacks.  We read and discussed a two paragraph story about learning in different environments: a tent, a mud and straw hut, at home in front of a computer and camera, and in a school.  They were given vocabulary words (challenge, misunderstand, examination....) and we used the pictures, the prefixes and suffixes and tried to figure out their meanings and put them in sentences.

One hour.  The other four days the teacher will probably give up her lunchtime to work extra with them.  She has several more who need help, who speak primary languages other than English, but they didn't have time to come work with me.  I will do what I can; I'm looking forward to getting to know them. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

writing for money

I cannot get enough of early writing.  It's just like that awesome first year of talking, but you get to keep samples of it written.  Pook and Bug's school is holding a Fun Run fundraiser.  Usually I keep family and friends out of school fundraising, but since my parents will be visiting the weekend of the race, I figured they were fair game to hit up for donations.  Plus, trying to write a coherent letter on the computer is great practice for both kids.  This is Bug's request for a donation:


Now, what grandparent could resist that?  (Now I have to tell them that it starts at 8am....  You reading, Mom?)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

off kilter

I'm sure it all started with the school cancellation yesterday. Monday afternoon I put notes with each backpack "Child X will be tardy to school Wednesday.  He has a morning dentist appointment."  This morning, I remembered the appointment, reminded the kids they needed to brush extra carefully and all that.  Then, just twenty minutes before we needed to leave, I realized that I was sitting, relaxed, at the kitchen table in boxers and an XL t-shirt.  Only.  I hadn't showered, let alone brushed my hair or teeth or even looked in the direction of makeup.  Yikes!  I dashed upstairs to dress and clean up as much as I could.  I even remembered my glasses and a magazine before hurrying the boys out the door.  (Recently I've been remembering a book/magazine when I have an appointment and forgetting the glasses.  This is mattering more and more.)  We walked into the office on-the-dot on time and both boys were quickly escorted to the back.  I sat down, dug out the glasses and found my magazine. The receptionist had paperwork for me to review and by the time I was done, one of the two hygienists had come for me already.  Bug's teeth were shiny and clean with no problems.  Pook got the same clean bill of health a few minutes later.  It all moved so quickly I felt rushed.  I was still holding my glasses and hadn't put them back in the case. Nevertheless, they missed less than an hour of school.

Since I was already at the school, I stayed to count out the reminders about School Pictures to go in each teacher's mailbox to send home.  I was one class short and had to make copies of the colored postcard.  And then copies for administrators.  And then went back to the copier to make extra copies to leave in the office. 

Finally I emerged.  My usual Wednesday is a strict routine.  I head to the Farmer's Market and then the grocery.  After leaving the school, I headed up to the Farmer's Market.  There were many booths, but only one with a tiny bit of produce today.  Most crops were destroyed by our recent flooding.  I bought mustard greens to support the guy who came.  I've never cooked them before, but we'll check them out.  The sausage guy had some great new samples, so I bought some breakfast sausage too.  Gotta support the independent producers!  Problem was, it needed to be refrigerated or frozen.  So, I headed home instead of to the grocery. 

That is never a good idea.  Break the routine and everything intrudes.  I started a load of laundry (the white sheets and the red blanket from last night's wet bed won't mind being washed together, right?) and answered some urgent email.  Suddenly an hour had passed.  I went back to the car and drove to the grocery.  Couldn't find the list.  Sat in the car trying to recreate it.  Found it in my pocket after two aisles of shopping.  As I was checking out and realizing that I'd hardly bought anything and would probably be back in a few days, a dad rushed into the store with two young, pigtailed girls, both wearing masks over their faces. Two bottles of Gatorade later, he rushed them back out.  I reminded myself, it could be worse.  Just before arriving home, the gas light came on in the car.  I came home anyway.  I have to go back out to buy some combs to have available during tomorrow's picture day.

The rest of the day leaves small gaps of time between school pick up, post chess club pick up, homework, piano practice, dinner at our church and a class at the church.  At some point I hope to shower. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

ark building time

It is time to build the ark.  I don't usually blog about the weather, snow being the exception but this rain is something else.  I planted the garden between showers, and it has rained ever since.  (The good news is that the chard sprouted and no critters are venturing out to eat it.)  The forecast is for rain the next nine days!  I knew they were giving driving warnings this morning, but when I heard school systems getting canceled I was still surprised.  Then I started to hear of friends trapped at home because of deep water on roads.  A bad traffic jam yesterday, on a Sunday afternoon, turned out to have been a fatal accident due to a car sliding on wet pavement.

The kids' school is canceled for tomorrow now too.  I'm fortunate that we already had a playdate scheduled, so it has been expanded- three hours there, three hours here.  I hope the kids can enjoy each other that long!

The picture here was taken by a friend.  It is looking down the spillway which heads down through the ball fields.  Sometimes it's almost dry, but this is how it looked today.  I hope no children get curious and play in it.  It looks dangerous.

Our house is on a hill, and the continuing hill in our backyard is bleeding red clay from where we dug out ivy to put in our azaleas this summer.  The hill will keep us from getting any water in the house (we have no basement anyway).  There are creeks all around, feeding into the lake, which has a spillway and even drain which feed into another larger creek.  I'm sure they're all at capacity.  I haven't heard of any major house issues of neighbors yet.  I do know of three trees down (cable outages #1 and #2) two of which smashed cars, one of which was being driven by the photographer who took this picture I stole (with permission).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

fall gardening

There are perks to living in the south. Getting mosquito bites during breakfast, in my own kitchen, in September, is not one of them. Planting in the fall is. I've already got the asters and chrysanthemums in and happy. I'll wait on pansies for another month probably; I'm not much for annuals, but they do offer nice color in the winter and especially look good when the bulbs pop through them in the spring.

Today I took the advice of my farmer friends and planted a cool season garden. The leaves will soon fall and sun will be able to get to the plants. Most of the time I don't have much sun here and the summer plants suffered. The tomatoes got blight, the cucumbers were not meant to be, and even the watermelon was tossed even though it had finally produced fruit:

The peppers are still doing ok; the bell peppers were disappointing but I'm getting years' worth of hot chili peppers to dry. My pumpkin is still doing great; turning a bit orange already. (It will get it's own post someday I suspect.)

After applying bug spray, I turned the soil and made tidy little rows using a handy stick. The rows were also marked with sticks; there is never any need to search far for them. Two rows were planted with carrots (germination 8-12 days, harvest in 70) four were given over to spinach (germination 8-10, harvest in 45) two for broccoli (germination 10-20, harvest in 55) and four to lettuce (germination 7-10, harvest in 75- should have planted two weeks ago and again every two weeks) and swiss chard (germination 7-10, harvest in 50-60). I have the chard in my front yard, along with some extra spinach and lettuce, but the rest is in the back yard raised bed garden, next to the compost pile. We shall see. I marked my calendar to keep track of the dates. I'll be excited if this works. And, if it does, there will be a late January, early February crop following these.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

ducks in a row

I finally found an opportunity to search for a header photo for the blog. In the free images online, a shot of crayons lined up in a row caught my eye. Immediately I thought of this photo, taken when Bug was born. We used a similar shot that Christmas, with Pook in a Santa hat. I remember being so impressed when we used Photoshop to whiten the grout in the tub. It was the cleanest the tub had/has ever been. In this original, Pook, age 2 1/2 is in the tub, with the amount of clothing one usually wears in the tub. So, some quick work and poor Pook was edited out. (CD and I once turned a woman into an ivy covered wall when she, as a stranger, looked right into the camera behind a group shot. I love that type of challenging edit. This was simply a crop.) Then, my tech savvy husband spent another half hour trying to get the photo to fit and to work with the Blogger requirements and my template. It can be great having his knowledge around, but sometimes the shoemakers children get no shoes, at least when they need them. However, thank you CD. I hope the site looks good because it won't be changing again for a while.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

school supplies

A note came home with Pook, from his gifted teacher. It listed a few more school supplies the kids will need for the 3rd grade gifted group. Two more folders, two more notebooks, a highlighter... a flash drive. Wah?

I've seen CD's flash drive; I'm not completely clueless. I even know what it does and could probably figure out how to... well, I'm mostly clueless. But my eight year old needs one of these things? I thought I'd let CD buy it, and avoid having to ask for help. No, that wouldn't work, so I needed to get one for him. I asked. "Where?" "Oh, anywhere." "Anywhere? Like... (with that leading, go-ahead-and-finish-that-idea sound)" So, with the basic information that I needed only 1GB (that is pronounced gigabyte, for those even more clueless (love you!)) I stopped at Office Depot.

I asked. I went "over there" and then searched until I found them, all encased in large plastic packages with key locks. They were all 2GB, but one was on sale for $12. Seemed like the one. But the teacher had suggested getting one on a wrist or neck strap and since trusting an eight year old with this small item without one seemed unwise, I asked. I went "over there" and found packages of 100 lanyards. Finally got a two pack. We'll use the second one for something.

So, my kid had his own flashdrive. Little turquoise thing (had to go for a cute one) on a black lanyard. For a school supply. At the register, the guy says, "Just two gig?" I explained that it was for a 3rd grader. "Wow, when I was a kid we just had to bring a floppy disk! I'm old!"

Him, old? I most definitely did not need a flash drive, or a floppy disk when I was in 3rd grade. We used pencils and paper Back Then. Crayons, not even markers. Slates maybe.

To make myself feel better/younger, I told all this to CD. "I think I got through my undergrad years without any computers. In mechanical engineering too." Me, well, I had a computer, sort of, but telling about it makes me seem old again. I got a Tandy laptop-ish computer for high school graduation. It had an 8K memory with a cassette tape which could hold the equivalent of a six page term paper. I never learned how to use the cassette tapes to extend the memory (assuming that I could have) and remember one night I had to start over when a paper was lost. I began using university computers, strictly for word processing still, and then had no need for any type of computers after graduating. In 1996, CD's friend Marvin was tossing out a PC and it ended up on my desk at home. I was introduced to Windows, and to email. Ironically, when the school where I taught got PCs for teachers, I became one of the people to go to for help. Still, when Pook was born and I left my job, the schools had not yet networked rooms or schools and I did not yet have any way to print in another room without a 3" disk.

My kids haven't had much experience with technology at home. They have an 8yo laptop to use, but it is so slow they don't bother using it much. They've played wii at the homes of friends, and other games I know nothing about, but in general I have stayed ahead of my children in knowledge of technology. Unfortunately, my progress has been slow and I have a feeling my days are numbered.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

secret stash

Do all moms have a secret stash hidden in the kitchen? David Lebovitz' blog has a picture of "Anti-stress" chocolate bars and a commenter mentioned the stash of chocolate chips all moms have. My mom kept cinnamon Red Hots under the dishtowels. Sister MD and I ate them regularly. I know we've discussed our thieving tendencies with her, as adults, but I don't think she knew about it until she was told. There was a code among us thieves. We never finished a bag (one must leave a reasonable number so the Mom doesn't notice any missing) and we never opened a new bag.

Around here, it is Dove chocolates. I love chocolate, especially the good stuff (and can ignore milk chocolate completely) but I don't crave it. I keep chocolates behind the tea bags and most days at about 1pm, I eat two. I can stop after those two which is what I like about them; with some treats I can't stop. Sometimes I forget to eat them, some times of the month I need more than two. I don't drink caffeine, so it may be the combination of the sugar and the caffeine that help me at that dragging time of day. Or, it may be that they remind me to take a deep breath and enjoy my time alone for a bit. Either way, they're there for good, and if you visit and need a dose, you know where they are. Just don't tell the kids.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

fall in

Fall arrived to tease us, promptly on September 1st. I know it'll get hot again, we've even had an 80° Halloween before, but for now I'm going to pretend it won't be back. I went to the Big Box Garden Store to look around for Fall Color. It was more scientific than that actually. I had a list. I didn't expect to find anything from the list, but I had one. I've been writing down plants that I'd like, plants that would show off in my yard when it needs a pop of help, and plants that might survive in my yard. But few, if any, of them are available at the Big Box Garden Store. I should gather catalogs for winter dreaming-- and some real ordering. But meanwhile one gallon chrysanthemums were on sale two for $5. I picked up six in yellow, gold and purple, then saw purple asters (on the list!) and gathered two more of them.

Each year at Halloween I decide my yard is dull and I buy some chrysanthemums to brighten it up. I plant them after they're done blooming, but don't come back to check on them or baby them through the winter. And yet, some come back the next season anyway. This year I'm filling in the gaps early and promising to water and love them all fall. We will see if they return the love.

The area between my driveway and my neighbor's driveway has too many specimen plants which the previous owner planted tiny and didn't plan to ever see this big. We pulled out the fountain grass, even though I like it, because it just didn't fit. Unfortunately, something else is going to have to go. We've got a dwarf arborvitae, then two lovely cypress trees flanking a Chinese maple, in front of and all too close to a huge Southern Magnolia. The maple is beautiful spring through fall, but I hate to lose the evergreens who provide the deep green all winter when most else is brown. The arborvitae is the first I'd choose to give up, but it's at the end by her mailbox and the least crowded. They're all too big and too tight together to hope for transplanting anything. I will study this situation another year. At least.

In front and under these plants, closer to the driveway, I have tried many options. Hostas should do well. They don't. They're out this spring. Well... at least moving. Some monkey grass is covering right near the magnolia and then I have odds and ends of feverfew, purple coneflower volunteers, purple verbena, wild geranium (yes, Mom, I found four leaves from the start I got in June!) and lily of the valley. Some chrysanthemum leaves have remained nice all summer and I'm waiting to see if they get buds. It is here that the eight new flowers have been carefully added. Here is a photo of the area, in today's dull morning rain. I can hold a camera and an umbrella and wave to passing neighbors who think I'm crazy, all at the same time.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

play time

I'm messing around with the look of the blog. Bear with me. It may change several times today as I'm not wise enough to sample it, make changes, make decisions and THEN post it after it is all ready. Why must I learn HTML to blog? I'd like some sort of image at the top, but I don't really want a photo, so there may be nothing for a time while I search for Just The Right Thing. Meanwhile, any comments on it now?