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 weather.com 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...