Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cooking with Grandma

I found my favorite recipe today in my little tin box of recipes. I cut this out a long time ago and glued it to a recipe card. I think it is from the San Diego Tribune Food Section. It is very old.

Often I am asked what is my "favorite" recipe. My favorite recipe is Edward Lear's recipe for Gosky Patties.

It goes this way:

"Take a pig three or four years of age, and tie him by the off hind leg to a post. Place five pounds of currants, three of sugar, two pecks of peas, 18 roasted chestnuts, a candle and six bushels of turnips with in his reach; if he eats these, constantly provide him with more.

"Then procure some cream, some slices of Cheshire cheese, four quires of foolscap paper, and a packet of black pins. Work the whole into a paste, and spread it out to dry on a sheet of clean brown water-proof linen.

"When the paste is perfectly dry, but not before, proceed to beat the pig violently with the handle of a large broom. If he squeals, beat him again.

"Visit the paste and beat the pig alternately for some days and ascertain if, at the end of that period, the whole is about to turn into Gosky Patties.

"If it does not then, it never will; and in that case the pig may be let loose, and the whole process may be considered as finished."

Okay, (the food author concludes) that is my favorite recipe.

I admit that it is my favorite, too.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

And the Nominees Are....

For most disturbing commercial of the holiday season....the one I just saw with the toddler laughing with his animatronic teddy bear as they "read" together. The female-voice-over says "blah blah blah blah...He's learning to love books with blahtedy-blah-blah products..."



I'm So Glad When Daddy Comes Home

I read an article on-line today giving advice to married people about that time of day when the Dad comes home to a house where the Mom is often exhausted and frazzled and, instead of having dinner started like she'd planned, is nursing a fussy baby while other small children circle like frenzied hyenas nipping at one another and howling. So, she tends to assign her spouse a job as a response to his "Hi, I'm home!" rather than offer a cheery greeting of her own. I remember those days...but we accidentally stumbled onto a different way that I didn't even know was so special until Cool Guy told me.

When it approached that time of day for his arrival back at the ramshackle structure we loved and lived in, I'd mobilize the forces and we'd quickly clean up the house. It would be strewn with toys and clothes a short time later, but that first impression of order was very soothing to Dad. I usually had something cooking because most of my meals required a long prep as it was cheaper to cook that way. the magic hour approached...we could hear the motorcycle engine as he powered up the hills that led to our house in San Diego...the kids would rush outside to the porch and the dogs would start to bark and run around in contagious joy...and TA DA---there's our Dad coming up the long driveway on the chopper! Cue the cheering! Cue the jumping up and down! Everyday...same drill.

Well, one day it was raining hard, I needed the car, and so he got a ride to the base and home again with a co-worker. They stopped at this man's house before dropping off Cool Guy and later he recounted how no one even looked up when THIER dad walked in the door. They were watching cartoons, Mom was folding laundry; blah--Dad's home---blah. Cool Guy told me how he was amazed and that right then, realized how much he LOVED coming home everyday, because of his hero's welcome.

Wow. I didn't even know. I didn't make the welcome ceremony happen. It was spontaneous. We were genuinely happy to have him come home everyday. The roaring Harley engine gave us the chance to anticipate it right to the moment, but still, everyone was pleased to welcome our Dad.

Tonight, I'm headed to the airport, again, to do the Welcome Home ceremony. It's a little different now---no barking dogs and leaping children---but I still get the house all tidied up and comb my hair and give him what?? A GREAT BIG KISS!

Monday, December 18, 2006

My Real Life...Back

Everytime there is an extended break from school---like summer in a nine month school--or now, the two weeks for "winter" break, I feel like I have my "real" life back. I have now been teaching full-time for 12 years. You'd think I'd have become accustomed to being a full-time working woman. That is what I am---actually, I usually spend much more than 40 hours on my job each week. But I spent eighteen years without a full-time paid job outside my home. I'm being so careful with that description because during that time, I had day-care kids for nearly five years, and I worked part-time a couple of years in my children's elementary school as a half-day aide, and again, as a substitute teacher. But, these jobs enabled me have essentially the same hours as my schoolkids. My last two babies were taken care of by other paid women off and on throughout the years, but never full-time, never every day. So, I consider this my "working" years. Most of my paid work before teaching was on my schedule, and didn't require me to put my kids in day-care for eight or nine hours a day. I still had hours at home each day with them.

But now when I have an extended break from school, it is such a relief to feel like "normal" again, even though I don't have children living at home. I can help with church things, I can sew, I can go to doctor appointments without a huge production. (Writing lesson plans is a 2:1 kind of activity--it is SO much easier to just teach it yourself.) I can be in my house during the daylight hours. I LOVE IT.

So I'm torn: I love teaching school. I especially love my paycheck. But I really do miss my old life of being available to help other people and do stuff around my house. However, if I had no paycheck I'd be unable to have the luxury I have during my time off to do some of the good things I get to do. So, I should just enjoy my times off, and appreciate that we both had the expectation that while we had kids living at home, I'd get to be their mom--there at home. I'm the one who decided I'd go to college and start working now.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sexiest Man Alive

People Magazine says that it is George Clooney in 2006.

But---no---the title definitely goes to Cool Guy who is just finishing up the dishes while I balance my checkbook. There is nothing more erotic than a man with a dishtowel in his hand, standing in a clean kitchen that was messy 30 minutes ago.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Secret to My Success

I had a co-worker come to me today to see what I'd done to get some students moved into another class. Ummm...nothing except be a racist, hateful, white teacher...apparently. She has a very difficult second-grader who hits her and others, and shouts and throws things, and she knows that I started this school year with several really difficult students, three of whom are now in other teachers' rooms. But, seriously, I did nothing but try to get them under control by meeting with their parents and starting a daily behavior log that the parents were to sign every night and return to school.

This behavior log has served me well in the past by enabling me to have a quick conference, hourly, with the student to monitor several behaviors and rate them with a "yes" or "no" for that hour. It helps the student by enabling them to recover from a bad hour or two and go on to having a better day. The parents know each day that there will be an accounting and the student can earn a reward by having improved behavior at school. The whole idea is to help the child change old habits and, of course, make my life easier. EXCEPT---that I forgot those pesky Hidden Rules.

So I used the behavior chart for a couple of weeks with these students, but there wasn't any obvious improvement. But I did get remarks from the parents in their reply space to the effect of "[My darling wonderful child] will stop teasing [hideous pest in your room] when he stops teasing her." or...[Fabulous charming boy of mine] says that the whole bathroom problem was all [dreadful wretched other boy's] fault. You only punished my boy. I want to meet with the other parents and the principal to solve this once and for all." Hmmm...

So, another tenet of Ruby Payne is that changing behavior is not the goal of punishment. In generational poverty, people are punished by withdrawal of affection/attention. Then, when the person in charge considers that the punishment has lasted long enough, the attention/affection is returned. But no expectation is ever made that the punished one will change the behavior because of the punishment. People just are what they are---they can't be expected to reform, improve, change. That would imply that one has power over one's fate and that simply isn't so in this world.

So, my presumptious and rude implication that their child should alter their behavior by annoying everyone with my little pieces of paper was actually just the last straw. The first straw being that I would complain to them about something the kid did in my classroom. It IS the classroom after all---keep it there. They don't bring me their troubles from home, do they? (No, they don't actually bring them...they come on the school bus.)

But the ultimate outcome was that my meddling in their affairs by attempting to enlist them in the education of their offspring was just the final evidence of my unrelenting unfairness toward them and all their family, and the only reason that I could possibly have for this horrible behavior would be my ugly racist attitudes.

But, since, ultimately, I no longer have to deal with their student on a day to day basis--no problem. Call me what you will---just move your child to some other teacher's room if that'll make you happy. I know it made me happy.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Party Girl

I just got back from Maryland where I was on the ground for just 25 hours. I went to a party. It all started when Cool Guy said to me (in September when we were at a wedding reception) "Wouldn't it be great if you came to my company Christmas party? We'd have a good time and everyone could finally meet you and see what a fox you are." Well, how could I say no? Except that the party was on a Tuesday night---the middle of the school week. Well, I decided to throw caution to the wind and go anyway. I wrote two days of lesson plans (and you know's twice as much work to tell someone else what to teach as it is to just be there and do it yourself.)

I left Vegas on the midnight red-eye, landed in DC at 7:00 A.M. , took the Metro out to the Southern Maryland stop and he picked me up and drove down to our place there. I slept for a few hours while he went over to the base and worked. Then we drove up to Baltimore, checked into the hotel, dressed and went to the party. I'd bought a really nifty red silk mandarin style jacket to wear over a black silk skirt and (in my quest to replace my jewelry) found some marcasite and garnet earrings to go with it. We had yummy hors d'oeuvres and chatting. We sat down for the salad and entrees (filet of beef with roasted vegetables) and chose creme brulee for dessert. It is a small company, about 25 people were there, and it is an interesting mix of young and old, Israeli and American, military vets (from both countries) yarmulkes, and male and female. A surprising number of wives are teachers from such a small sample of men. So there was fascinating conversation and, as the wine bottles emptied, hilarious and sometimes ribald, jokes. I had to get up the next morning after only five hours of sleep to get back to the airport and I landed back in the desert at 10:30 A.M. But my sense of time is very distorted after two nights of limited sleep and radical time zone shifts. I'll get some sleep tonight, because tomorrow, I'm back to my old job of just being a fourth grade teacher.

But--overall---was it worth it? Well, of course!! How often does an old lady get to fly first-class just to go to a party as eye-candy on the arm of a cute guy?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Time Is: 11:00 P.M.

Last time we were with S-Boogie, Grampa Cool Guy let her play with his watch. It's a pretty cool watch with lots of buttons and sounds and gizmoes. It even lights up. There's an alarm, too. We know, because S-Boogie set it for 11:00 P.M. and every night it beeps right on the dot. It keeps on beeping after all these months because we're not quite sure where the direction book is and, so far, the various things that Grampa Cool Guy has tried haven't un-set the alarm. We need to go see the grandchildren so S-Boogie can fix Grampa's watch. In the meantime, everynight at 11:00 P.M. we have a sweet little reminder that she's a pretty clever girl. Like we needed to be reminded!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Oyster Snobbery

I bought some really delicious looking oysters to put in my stuffing for Thanksgiving and they were very fresh and yummy. They were from Washington state. But when we ate the rest of them in oyster stew, I realized that my oyster love is definitely reserved for those "arsters drudged" from Chesapeake Bay. There's something about those bivalves that are absolutely fabulous. They are mild and light tasting--eating them is like breathing the air near the ocean--light, sweet & salty all at once. The west coast oysters were good, and the milk broth was just fine, but the oysters themselves were just too strong. They weren't "gone 'round the bend" bad, just too strong.

My oyster love started when Cool Guy and I went to a seafood restaurant in Malibu. We tried some raw on the half-shell and they were really yummy. Then, five years later we moved to Southern Maryland where oysters were king for many years, and now, in their decline, are still pretty darned regal. We ate them at the seafood restaurant near our house. The oysters there were so fresh they had probably been dredged that very day. Then we went to the National Oyster Shucking Championships at the county fairgrounds and totally gorged ourselves. Once we were gifted with a gallon of freshly shucked oysters by our son who brought them home from the restaurant where he cooked. They were closing for a week and all the fresh food went home with the workers. Wow. We had them fried, stewed, baked and creamed. I used my cookbook from the oyster shucking festival! Ymmmmmmm. We really didn't get sick of oysters everyday for five straight.

When I was a girl, my dad used to have oyster stew several nights a week. He'd open that can of oysters to pour into the hot milk and I'd have to leave the room. They looked like boogers and tasted like an old shoe filled with horse poop. Blecchh...

Don't know why as an adult I've gained a taste for them---raw, no less! Guess I have to make up for all the oysters my dad missed out on since he died too young. Happy to do my part, Daddy.

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Ha! Looking at my weather box on the computer I see that everywhere I've ever lived, or my children (in the western hemisphere) are living is FREEZING COLD. Even here in Vegas Baby. Southern Maryland it is warm! What? That's just wrong. Oh well, at least the brothers are not shivering. The rest of the family is.

But of course, if we were in Port Hueneme, the 65 Degree Town, we'd be okay, too. My friend there used to say that it would either get up to 65 or down to 65, but everyday, it would be 65. And in six years---I can validate her remark. Hmmm...California.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Olive Blah

I have always like Olive Garden's soup and salad combo. Their soups are tasty, the salad dressing delicious, the breadsticks to die for. So tonight, I thought I'd stop there, get that for dinner, and take home another entree to feed myself for the next two days before the Season of Cooking officially begins. Blah...what a yucky experience! My soup was tasty, but they apparently just chopped and tossed in the kale about two seconds before serving it to me. What? Then the salad: a pathetic collection of the yellowed inner leaves of really old iceberg. You know, that bitter core part? And TWO, count them (apparently someone did!) TWO olives!!! Come on!! One measly peppericini and two tiny tomato slices. GOOD GRIEF--I've had better salad at Denny's. And the ultimate failure: pasty, undercooked breadsticks. I got there at 5:00 P.M. so I figured they wouldn't be too busy. Wrong. Evidently they were "between shifts" or something. My server disappeared shortly after I finished eating what I could of my icky salad and raw breadsticks. So I finished off the soup. Sat there. Sat there. Sat there. Someone cleared my table. I sat and sat waiting for my check. But I didn't see the server again! Finally I went up to the front and asked a hostess to find her. She appeared with the take out bag, handed it to me and said bye. I could have just walked right out, because no one seemed to notice that I'd never been asked to pay anything by anyone. I offered my money to the bartender, but he had to find the server and eventually she came back and charged me.'ll be a long time before I go there again. Bummer, I really love their breadsticks and soup. Guess I'll have to find an Olive Garden in another part of town. Or another town---it was all too much like many of my Vegas experiences.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Things I Wouldn't Camp in Front of A Store to Get

Tonight I stopped off at Target and there were seven people in lawn chairs sitting in a line outside the door. One person had a small tent pitched at the end of the line. I asked why they were there and one woman said, "To get away from my kids!" I told her that was a good enough reason for me. What they were actually doing, however was lining up for tomorrow morning's release of the new Play Station version whatever.

This, I would not camp in front of a store to get.

But then, we did without t.v. for eight years. It broke, we couldn't really afford the part right then for Cool Guy to fix it, and after about a week, we looked at one another and said, "Hey, this is pretty nice...." and threw it away.

Now, mind you--our children were 4 and 2 and 1...there was no cable t.v. one at our house watched sports...VCR's weren't invented yet...and we loved to listen to music and read. Although, one year I had two children who quit my home daycare after a week when they couldn't handle living in a house, even for three hours after school, without a t.v. or a video game set-up.

I grew up in a home where the television was mostly always on. I loved and still love to watch the tube. But, honestly, we rarely missed it! Occasionally, I'd rent one for Christmas break, still pre-cable, but we lived in a big city and so could easily get the broadcast channels. And no one was forbidden to go to a friend's house and watch it now and then. But mostly our kids played and read and made crafts and dressed up and wrote family newspapers, and dug huge pits in the pathetically ratty backyards we seemed to always have. And had wars with GI Joes during which Barbie was taken as prisoner and inevitably died and a funeral and burial followed. (I didn't buy Barbies again after she was lost in an unmarked grave...)

We bought a t.v. again one year after Cool Guy was given a broken VCR which he repaired. We figured we could watch movies. Well, cable had been invented and so we started watching regularly again. But, if we wanted to see a show at 8:00 and then another one at 10:00, we'd shut it off in between. And we still read books, and played GI Joes and made crafts and dug huge pits in the backyard (curious how that activity remained popular over the years even as the children grew older.)

But at no time would I have considered owning a game console. Yes, I was [and am] the evil mother who would not permit one to be purchased and installed. Okay, we had computer games. But no way, no how, will I ever live in a house with a game console. To me it is the equivalent of crack for kids. I've taught nine year olds for 12 years. And the kids who play a lot of video games have no imagination for story-telling. They do not read for fun. They don't even play outside very often! They live, eat, and breath X-BOX/GAMECUBE/PS3/whatever. I think it is a path to brain inertia at the least, and brain damage at the worst.

So, you'll never find me camped outside a store, waiting for the release of the newest, bestest, coolest brain-cell sucking object for my children. I just laughed with/at them in a nice way and went into the store.

I didn't tell them that as a parent and a school teacher I was appalled and horrified that they would waste the time and the money on something so destined to stunt their child's intellectual growth and physical health. Since none of them asked.

Kitty Cat Schedule

5:00 A.M. Get on the bed and knead the bladder of the sleeping person so she will wake up and let you out the door. Even though there is a perfectly fine cat box right there by the door.

6:45 A.M. Sit on the counter and sniff everything that the person is putting into her lunch box. Lick the top of her glass of milk.

7:15 A.M. ---6:00 P.M. Nap

6:01 P.M. Hearing the garage door open, assume position on front rug in order to meow loudly as soon as she walks in the kitchen door.

6:01 --- 6:15 P.M. Continue meowing loudly until the kitty-chicken is served. (If foolish person does anything prior to kitty-chicken service continue meowing as you follow her around and, if necessary, jump up and pound on her leg if she still fails to deliver the kitty-chicken.)

6:15--6:18 P.M. Gobble down half of kitty-chicken.

6:18--7:00 P.M. Rush back and forth between patio and kitchen and living room in a state of delirious dervishness for reasons known only to Kitty-Cats.

7:00 P.M. Curl up at the side of person correcting math tests on the couch.

10:30 P.M. Curl up beside person who FINALLY went to bed.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Forgetting the Hidden Rules

In coming here to teach in a very poor part of this town, I spent several weeks over the first summer in a class sponsored by the school district that, among other things, gave us some specific information on generational poverty and its impact on student learning and behavior.

I forgot some important parts of it this year. And it has led to serious misunderstandings with parents and students--but definitely parents.

Ruby Payne, PhD. has a terrific book about this and one important part is about the hidden rules. She points out this:

Understanding and Working with Students and Adults from Poverty:
The hidden rules of the middle class govern schools and work; students from generational poverty
come with a completely different set of hidden rules.
In generational poverty, the driving forces are survival,
entertainment, and relationships. That is why you will have a student whose Halloween costume cost $30 but the textbook bill is not paid. Relationships and entertainment are more important than

Hidden Rules
Generational Poverty

The driving forces for decision
making are survival,
relationships, and

People are possessions. It is
worse to steal someone’s
girlfriend than a thing. A
relationship is valued over
achievement. That is why you
must defend your child no
matter what he or she has done.*

(*there are several others...this is the relevant one)

So, when I invited the guardian of one of my most difficult students to come over one afternoon and sit in my class to help me keep him under control---as she volunteered to do on several occasions---it was a mistake. It actually just allowed her to "gather evidence" that indeed, the white teacher wasn't being fair to her "boy" because other students talked some, and other students were off task, too, now and then. So WHY WAS I PICKING ON HIM???[her surrogate person--therefore I'm picking on the adult]

I had forgotten the hidden rules. When I had a child acting badly in a class years ago, I volunteered to come and sit in the back of the room and the humilation factor for that young teen worked great!! I only had to do it twice before I was promised (and the promise was kept) that no more bad behavior would interrupt that teacher's class.

It's those pesky middle class values: you can change your behavior because you are in charge of you; the future DOES matter; education is important. I can't forget that I'm working in a different culture, and I need to play by the rules.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Creeping Alarm Clock

Every Sunday night, I get to bed before ten. I set my alarm for 5:30, I go to sleep, I get up right on the dot. Then, I'm at school by 6:45 A.M. and I get a lot of prep done and I'm ON THE BALL. Tuesday, I get up about 5:45, then by Wed. I've moved the alarm time to 6:00 and sometimes I barely get to school on Friday by 8:20, my official start time. I just don't know what happens...But I'm beginning to get a clue---


Do other employees experience this??

I know farmers do, and mothers do. So...why the heck did I choose teacher after 20 years of farming, and 25 years of mothering? This is sick.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Jeopardy! Lite

Okay, okay, It's really an addiction when you're willing to watch Jeopardy! even during Celebrity Week. Blah. Many of the questions have to do with topical-to-the-celebrity items such as Broadway, NYC, t.v. etc. But yesterday there was a catagory called "Molecular Biology". It was no doubt to flatter the guests/contestants so that the catagory on deli foods wasn't so obviously for the non-thinkers. (ooh this is getting mean) But, when the celebs finally ventured into the biology catagory the first thing that occurred to me was "These are questions they would have asked during Kid Jeopardy! week..." Something on the lines of..."What legume did Mendel study to learn about genetics?" and today all three of them stood mute till the time ran out because NONE of them could tell who was president when Fort Sumter was fired on. Sigh. But I still sat there and watched. Sigh. I really need to get out more.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Evolving Roles of Mother

According to a post on her fabulous website , I recently caused my daughter to cry from happiness. (Well, at least get teary-eyed.) I'm pleased to have made it to this phase of our relationship. I've caused her to cry a number of times in our lives, and most of them were NOT from happiness. And I'm very sorry for all of those times, except for the (extremely rare) ones where she was being really naughty and spanking was the inevitable consequence.

But---I vividly remember several instances where the tears were a result of my careless, rude blurting out of the first (usually self-centered) thing that popped into my head without regard to her view or feelings. And these are the ones I wish to officially apologize for now and for the remaining years of our lives...hopefully there will be fewer and fewer of these events. They shall remain unenumerated because I'm confident that there are more instances of which I am unaware than any that I could recount.

Here's to a future of more happy tears!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fright Night for Kitty Cat

Every time the doorbell rang tonight, announcing the arrival of the next wave of costumed children, the Kitty Cat froze and stared at the door. Would the next little person standing there, shouting something in an excited voice, be that same Little Person who comes and stays for extended periods? And hollers at the Kitty Cat and tries to get the Kitty Cat to "come out here!" And NEVER SEEMS TO GO AWAY? Whew...finally the noise died down and Kitty Cat was all alone with the Old Quiet Big People. Whew.

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Washing Monument

There has been a lot written about laundry lately in the family blogsosphere here and here. And I'm adding a little more. We just replaced our Harvest Gold washer and dryer (that came with the house) with a new set of front loaders. We stacked them so we'd have room to put in a deep sink, and WOW does it look cool! I must explain why the front loader: my mother had a front loading washing machine all of my life. She insisted (correctly I might add) that it does a better job of cleaning and it also uses less water to do so. Now that I live in the desert, using less water is important. I've owned only three washers in my life:

#1 was an old laundromat Speed Queen purchased for $50 from my former employer at Betsy Brown's Cleaning Town on University Avenue in San Diego. I worked there, part-time for about three years, quitting just before baby #2 was born. The washer was critical because I suddenly had two sets of cloth diapers to wash, including all the rest of our clothes. Since I wasn't going to the laundry (to work) everyday, the clothes had to be washed somehow. We just took the coin box out, and it had two cycles: on and off. But it was so durable that it lasted through three more babies (with the occasional belt or spin-clutch replacement by the versatile Cool Guy) before the motor just burned up. Then, back to the laundromat: our house in Port Hueneme did not have a washer hook-up (disabled by our cranky landlord to prevent flooding) and I took 15 loads a week out to be washed. Yes, 15. For six years. I had a system and a dryer---I washed out and dried in with the help of the rest of the capable crew.

#2 We rented a house with a new washer and dryer and inherited it when we left and our landlord could not return our cleaning deposit because of his financial straits. He traded me. I think I got the better end of that deal, what with the Oriental rugs and all he threw in to sweeten the pot. That set was bequeathed when a baby was born and the parents had a washer hook-up in their apartment.

#3 The new set....which brings me to the monument. My mom always owned a front loader, but was not always able to use it. When I was a youngster, our house water pipe would freeze most winters. This was the pipe leading from the spring to the house. It would happen if too many hard frosts came before the heavy snows, letting the cold creep down far enough to affect the main water pipe. My dad would go out and build a series of fires along the pipeline to thaw it out. One winter, the fires didn't work and the pipes burst leaving us with no water piped into the house for almost a year. We had to wait until spring to replace the pipeline. So my mom borrowed a wringer washer from her mother-in-law, and did the laundry for nine people, (including cloth diapers and chore clothes) the old-fashioned way from November till September. It took that long for the whole project. Each Monday morning my dad brought into the kitchen two milkcans of scalding water from the creamery in town. Mother would start up the washer, dipping from the cans while they were still hot, and wash everything, load by load. These clothes didn't go into a dryer. If it wasn't snowing, they went outside (to freeze-dry). If it was snowing, she hung them on lines over the stairs so the warm air could waft up and dry them. Then of course they got ironed--every single piece; no perma-press back then.

So: the monument: I got these awesome new machines because when she died last spring, she'd saved enough money to leave each of her kids a little something. And I've spent my little "something" on a product I know she'd love and I will too.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

My Pet Writing Project ala Vegas

In teaching nine year olds to write, it is important to have topics about which they will have something to say. One of the more popular subjects I've introduced over the years is pets. Everyone has a pet, or wishes to have a pet, and so the students can write from personal experience. These essays have been terrific and I used them to help move little writers from merely listing facts to elaborating each item with details. I've had varying degrees of success, but every student has been passionate about the topic. My students here in this very tough neighborhood of the Gritty City also wrote "My Favorite Pet" papers with enthusiam. The only difference: nine years of essays in Maryland yielded descriptions of dogs, cats, birds, fish, hamsters,the occasional snake and a chinchilla. This year the pet essays were wonderful descriptions of just two household animals: chiahuahuas and pit bulls. Every essay. They either owned one or wanted one. Sometimes there were multiple chiahuahuas. Except one girl who wished she could own a bunny. Cool Guy said maybe it was for training the pit bull.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Weather or Not

It was unusally dark this morning when my alarm went off. I checked two other clocks just to see that I hadn't accidentally reset the time and tried to figure out why I couldn't see outside. I went over to the french doors peering out to determine why dawn wasn't illuminating the big desert sky per normal and WOW--a rare sight! Rain running off my roof onto the patio edge. The sky was completely covered with black clouds and water was pouring from them. Cool. It helps the pool ph and makes the tree happy. However, my planned ensemble for the day included sandals--hmmm--check to see how long it will last...
Forecast: 0% chance of rain at 7:00 A.M. 0% was doing a really nice job of soaking my palm trees. Turned on the local news for the weather: (and I quote)
"Some sunshine peeking through the clouds out there right now across the valley. There may be a few isolated thunder showers from this front coming through with the Baja hurricane. But they'll be scattered and limited."
From my view up on the east hill, the entire valley was covered with "partly cloudy, isolated thunder showers" that were soaking my newspaper and rushing the discarded Jack in the Box bags down my street's gutter to the storm drain.
Eyes: 1 Doppler: 0

Monday, October 23, 2006

Just Gonna Say It!

I have experienced an overdose of parents saying or writing to me this year something like this:

"I think you aren't being fair to [fill in child's name here] because [he/she] is Black."

"How many other Black children in your room do you treat this way?"

"How can you be fair to my child since he is Black?"

Well, my response to future remarks along these lines is:

"It sounds like you have had bad experiences with white people. I haven't had bad experiences with Black students. Our job here is to help your child succeed in school this year. We're the grown-ups, so let's team up to do whatever we need to so fourth grade will be successful ."

Friday, October 20, 2006

Get Out On the Highway

I just love to drive! I left work tonight (many hours after everyone else...sigh) and got out on the freeway and headed south to the big DooDad store to look for cookie cutters to mail to Morocco. The sun had just set, the air was clear, you could see all the way across the valley--a huge bowl of lights--and the mountains were indigo silhouettes. Good radio and songs I liked were playing. I could have just kept going for hours. Of course if the freeway had been a parking lot, or if it had been raining, snowing or just smoggy...maybe my enthusiasm would haven't been so acute. So let's amend that: I love to drive! When and If: the weather is great, the road conditions are great, my legs aren't tired and jumpy, I'm not in a hurry, etc. etc.

Monday, October 16, 2006

It's a Wonder I Have Any Hair Left

I read through today's math assignment early so I'd know which concept was most likely to trip up my students. Then during our warm-up I did some examples of it on the board, I had them do examples of it on their paper and I walked around and monitored it. Then, we reviewed the whole idea again. And I gave them the assigned problems for today. But, NO, it was almost universal--when they got to #6--an example of the example--hands went up "I don't know what this means" "Help me with this" "How do you do this". So we went over it on the board again--I set up the pattern. I practically told them the answers!!! Tiny light bulbs began to turn on in their little heads. Okay, taking a deep breath...Ten minutes later two girls, finally arriving at #6 because they didn't pay attention to the fact that I only assigned the even numbers whine out in unison "We don't get number six! Help!"

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Leaving on a Jet Plane...again

We started this latest experiment in living a year and a half ago, wherein I move to the West and CoolGuy flies back and forth. When I first moved into the studio apartment, it was a fun adventure. I'd never lived by myself before, ever. I'd always shared a room and, except for college, always shared a bed! But here I was, in my own little room, with only me to care for and care about and, frankly it was really fun! What a luxury! I could eat popcorn and call it dinner! No one else to clean up after, or mesh schedules with or even wonder if they wanted to watch something on tv. But soon the novelty wore off and I was lonely. After six months, we bought a house, we moved all our stuff, and now "we" live here. Sort of. Cool Guy actually lives here less than he is gone. We just get a groove going for a week or two--work, dinnner, Jeopardy, hot tub--and then it's time to go to the airport and I'm alone with the cat again. It's far more schizoid for him than it is for me, I'm sure. But this week, I realized that I'm really looking forward to an entire month of the same routine. And I hope someday again we can truly "live" in the same house (heck--timezone) again. I'm not whining mind you: he has a great, well-paying job that he really likes and they like him. I just realized this week that I crave togetherness. Hmm...We'll get there, I'm sure. For thirty years, through all the separations of deployments, new jobs, me going to help my parents, etc., we keep saying "Let's never live apart again, okay??" And yet--we keep doing it! What' s up with us??

Thursday, October 12, 2006

We're Not in Wyoming Anymore

So, we woke up early on Saturday morning and headed up to D.C. to Georgetown University. We held Lil Dude while Foxy J read her paper at a literary conference and had hot cocoa in a lounge that overlooked the Hoyas football field. They were down there practicing for the game later in the afternoon. Then, we headed across the river for the green, horsey environs of Northern Virginia to a wedding reception. In a very nice house, with a very nice caterer, open bar, mushu station, music, etc. Probably cost about as much as our house...After enjoying the afternoon and the company, we drove to the airport, stopped for one more serving of "a dozen raw" at the seafood bar by our gate (oysters on the half-shell) and boarded. Cool Guy's frequent flyer status had automatically upgraded us to first class the day before, so we had comfy seats, a little snack, and a good nap on our way back to Vegas, Baby. After a luxurious soak in our hot tub under the full moon we flopped into bed. Ahh...home again. Life is very different as a grown-up than I ever imagined while milking cows, looking over the barn door at that same full moon.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

106 Times

It was Conference Weekend. Since it happens twice a year, it was 106 times since I was born. When it finished on Sunday, I was struck by how quickly Conference Weekend passes now that I'm an Elder of the Tribe. When I was little, this conference lasted three days, as I recall. My mom would watch it on television (and I'm sure she listened to it on the radio before they had a t.v) and in the spring, it would sometimes be Thurs. - Sat. - Sun. in order to be held on April 6---the exact date of the original organization of the church. Or Sat. - Sun. - Tues. I don't remember how they accommodated Wed April Sixthes. Hmmm...

Anyway...What I also remember about Conference is that I really wanted to listen and pay attention, but often I simply fell asleep (especially as a teen) and, that as a little child/teen, Conference seemed to be interminable. Not in a bad way, but just incredibly long and it went on and on. Now, I am taken by surprise on Sunday afternoon that--wheee---another conference weekend has flown past!! Is this just the brain damage of the old, or is it because I'm feasting on the Spirit? Or is it that in the equation of how many hours I've lived, these eight hours are such a small proportion that they no longer seem so large? Maybe all-of-the-above? Anyway--I enjoy these weekends enormously and they do speed by so quickly.

Nuggets Gleaned:

  • "Lay down your life for His sake" is not to die (as a martyr) but to give up our our self-centered existence and pick up Christ's goals for our lives.
  • The wise man did not escape the tempest, but he was in a position to survive it from having built on a firm foundation.
  • Instead of complaining that the wagontrain of life is passing us by, we need to put our shoulder to the wheel and serve others and we'll get a life.

I remember once saying to my kids when they'd complained that conference is boring because the speakers always talked about the same old things:

"Wouldn't that be awesome if sometime we went there [the church, to watch the broadcast] and one of them stood up and said, "Well, we won't need to give the talk on tithing anymore because every member of the church is now a full tithe payer." or "We won't be giving a talk about personal prayer because God said that everyone prays to Him daily now." or "No need to discuss honesty or charity or love one another since everyone already does those things all the time now."

Yes, eye-rolling ensued...but you get my drift, too, huh? You'd think after 106 times I'd get it too, and not need to pay attention to that talk on kindness, or the one about the evils of gossip. Maybe after 108...

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Uncle Dan--the fisherman

My dad's only brother died this week and I was able to drive up to his memorial service. When I heard he was gone, my first thought was "The three little orphans are no longer orphans--their family is all together again." Uncle Dan was the last of the siblings to die. My dad left over 22 years ago and their sister Margie left a few years later. Their parents passed two years apart when my dad was only 8, Dan was 6 and Margie 10. They were split up among various relatives with my dad lucking out by getting to live with a kind woman who grew to truly love him. She became our beloved Grandma. Neither Dan nor Margie was so blessed. Once when telling the story of my grandparents' short lives and tragic deaths, my children over-heard and wondered if it was a book I'd read, but no--it is our family history. So now, the end of the sorrow has come and they are a family reunited.

Uncle Dan loved trout fishing and most of my memories of him involve strings of fish laying on our lawn with us admiring them. It was really good to listen to his grown grandchildren tell amusing stories and realize how much the brothers were alike. My dad didn't get to be a grandpa for very long. We children had produced 18 offspring before he died, but most of them were under eight, and so they don't have the great memories I heard about Grandpa Welch from my cousins' children. I'm happy that they have such terrific memories.

It's interesting to realize that someday my children will recount a synopsis of my childhood to their children. I hope it seems more cheerful than that of my dad and his brother and sister--but it should be. My dad worked hard to provide a "happy" childhood for us. We had two parents all through it, they loved each other, and we always had enough food to eat and clothes to wear. It was everything he didn't get.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Visit to Preschool

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Now what could warm a Grandma/teacher's heart more than seeing her grandson at school?? Love the doesn't carry anything, but--come on--it can't be REAL school if you don't have a backpack.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

It's Green

I just returned from Seattle where I planted flowers with S-Boogie and smiled with Little Dude. It is definitely not the desert there. It reminded me of parts of San Diego as we drove around the old neighborhood by the university. There isn't much "flat" in that part of town, so the bungalow style homes have garages dug out out of the hillside, and then you walk up steep stairs to get to the house itself. The San Diego Sensation evaporates when you see the totem pole outside the shopping center, or the Alaska yellow cedar trees. Think "Dr. Seuss" when picturing the Alaska yellow cedar. All these years, when I saw this tree in a photo, I just thought it was a dead tree covered with long trailing moss. But, actually those are its needles. And apparantly it doesn't need many limbs... The other sure sign you're in Seattle is the plethora of anti-Bush bumper stickers and signs in house windows, and abundant recycling receptacles. There are lots of chatty signs reminding one to scoop while walking the dog, stop for pedestrians, sort the trash, impeach the president.

My sister who's lived there and frequently visited, urged me to eat at Ivar's for fish and chips. I saw their store at the airport on the way home, and ordered a small serving. You see, we love food in our family. We often reccommend things to one another, and sometimes embellish a bit. HOWEVER--I can say without exaggeration that Ivar's fish and chips is stunning, fabulous, sensational, without peer, yummy, tasty--well, you get my's weird when food really exceeds your expectations.

So, if you're ever in Seattle, remember to eat at Ivar's and recycle your trash and the administration.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Morning Has Broken

I had to get up really early this Saturday to drive Cool Guy to the airport and it was just barely dawn when I opened the front door. It was breathlessly beautiful! There is a very large, craggy desert mountain a few blocks east of our home and it was silhouetted by a line of golden light. The sky all around it was deep blue and the air is so clear that every surface was in sharp relief. I just stood and gaped, unable to move, it was so stunning. I really missed this aspect of dawn when we lived on the east coast. The farm where I grew up in the West was also on the immediate east side of a narrow valley and dawn was very similar there. We were in the shade, with the light rising up behind the mountains for a long time before the actual sun peaked over. But you could watch the light spilling over the west hills and crawling eastward as the earth turned bringing the sun into full view. It was one thing I really loved about early morning milking: watching the day spilling over the mountains.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Take your hat off when the flag goes by!

Good grief...who'd have thought I'd have nothing to say? This is the first blog and suddenly I'm feeling shy. Hmmm...

Today I wore my heart-shaped red/white/blue necklace with my blue star earrings (since my heart-shaped flag earrings that I had for more than 15 years were stolen by the creeps who took my jewelry box during a break-in) and I, alone, wore anything remotely Americana. I thank our music teacher for making the musical theme for our morning assembly the Star Spangled Banner. It is the anniversary of the Battle of Baltimore Bay on Sept. 14. That is the occasion that prompted the poetry by Francis Scott Key which led to the song. She is preparing the students for Thursday morning when we'll join with thousands of other school children in singing it.

I feel an urgent need to teach more cultural literacy to my fourth graders here in a rather poverty-dominated part of Las Vegas, because so many of them know nothing at all if it isn't on TV. And many of them watch TV exclusively in Spanish, at that. So, today we sang "America" again (we practiced it last week) and then they made books with one phrase from the song on each page. They love drawing and coloring and I needed them busy doing something independently so I can work with individual students giving a reading placement test. Sigh...I'd far rather be teaching, but I must gather data and it'll take about three days.

Anyway, by next summer, at the end of our year round term, my class will know at least five songs about America, and will have sorted out the difference between Lincoln and Washington. Small goals, but strangely retro goals, since the whole design of free, universal public education as envisioned a century ago by Dewey and those radical reformers was to Americanize all those foreigners that were swarming to The Land of the Free and the Home of Brave.