Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Dilemma

Notes on having spent the last two weeks in a classroom inside the main building because my portable is uninhabitable:

  • I don't go home sweaty because I don't ever have to go outside except to get in the car.
  • The air conditioning is constant and comfortable.
  • Students who need a drink just step out in the hall, get the drink, and come back into class and there's no hassle
  • I get a lot more done on my prep because the copier/library/materials room are all right there...& if I forget a pen, or a transparency sheet, it isn't a 1/4 mile hike to get it.
  • We have a window, so we have natural lighting; it feels so good.
  • It doesn't have a "funny" smell--the portable always had a funny smell--even before the birds
  • It's nice to have other people nearby.
  • I can go to the bathroom if I have an emergency--the teacher next door can "cover" my class.

I heard from the office that someone is scheduled to come out this week and do the clean-up on the portables that have pigeon nests in the ducts (at least two). So possibly, we could return to our normal room in a week. Now, my dilemma is I've grown very fond of being back inside the regular building. Hmm...even if the room is small and I keep needing things that are outside. Good thing there are only 29 days left until I don't have to worry about this problem EVER AGAIN.

(Because I'll quit working as a teacher if I'm ever told I must teach in a portable in the future.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Day and Night

DAY: Since we can no longer use my wretched portable classroom because of the foul/fowl odor and the random falling larva, I am holding class in a borrowed room. The second graders who normally use it are on track break. We squeeze our fourth grade selves in there and try to be academic. It is a challenge. Each student has a pile of books to deal with, but nowhere to store them. Over and over each day I reach for something that the portable. Hmmm....punt.
We spent the last three days feverishly completing our Science Fair projects and displays to the exclusion of all else. Then I stayed until 6:00 P.M. today attending the Science Fair.

NIGHT: After cleaning house for a bit, then reading the newspaper, I went out and jumped in the pool. Then I soaked in the hot tub,and now I'm going to eat my supper, watch tonight's taped Jeopardy and go to bed.

My life is like NIGHT and DAY.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Picking Rocks

We decided to remove all the landscaping rocks around the pool so we could lay out new weed-deterent cloth, plant some new things and get rid of all the sneaky grass that has grown up through the rocks. It wasn't a very big area, so it didn't seem like a huge task. Good grief....I hope I never encounter an actual huge task. Duh. My Pollyana Brain always thinks jobs are going to be easier than they actually turn out to be.

One complication of my ill-timed ambition was the temperature. When I decided to start this after school on Thursday it was 105 degrees. Yup--105. But it was really evening and the sun was low enough in the sky as to not be actually shining on me. The pool wall created a shadow. But, nevertheless, the air temp was 105. Even in A Dry Heat this is not work weather. It was a small space, so mostly I was on my knees with a trowel scooping. Cool Guy was busy in the garage with some engine work so I worked alone until it was too dark to see.

Then Friday, Cool Guy came out and helped me for an hour and we cleared off another large area. But Friday it was 108. So after that hour, we looked at one another, put up the shovels and got in the pool. A FABULOUS IDEA!

At last using some common sense...we got up early on Saturday morning and finished the job while it was still shady on that side of the house and the air temperature was below 100. So, now we have naked ground ready for the new landscape cloth, more plants to soften the wall areas and a new load of rocks. Which I really, really hope will be easier to spread than to clear off. We'll see.

Ultimately though, this rock picking beats the rock picking I did as a farm girl: when I finish up here I can dive in the pool. Back then, finishing up for the day was followed by two hours of cow milking.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Today is the Summer Solstice, the First Day of Summer, the Longest Day of the Year. I love summer. Summer used to mean hauling hay. But it also meant time to ride my horse, bonfires out in the pasture with dutch-oven potatoes followed by marshmallows on a stick. For ten years it meant I got my Real Life back---school was finished and I could stay home and do things around my house every day. Even though I've now taught school for 12 years, I stayed home and was the Mom for 19 years before that and so I'm not accustomed to being considered a "working woman" entirely.

Summer means sweet corn, blue crabs, fresh tomatoes and fire flies in Maryland. Summer means "late night, early morning low-cloudiness", hours at the beach, no rain, and strawberries in South California. Summer means twilight till 10:00, rodeos, and creamed fresh peas in Wyoming.

When I was a little girl summer lasted forever. We had our weekly swimming lesson at a pool that was filled by a natural hot sulfur spring, so we smelled like rotten eggs all the rest of the day. We'd build a little playhouse under the lilac trees with a blanket and pretend to be nurses, using our little brothers for patients. We'd lick a lilac leaf and plaster it on their arms and it would stick like a Bandaide. Sometimes we'd bring a snack into our shady cove by raiding the garden in the only row we were permitted to raid: the turnips. Mother planted the turnips for snacking, so we'd peel and slice it and bring out the salt shaker. They were juicy and a little bit spicy.

Some other blog maybe I'll recount the summer of a working farm girl. But not this one. This blog is for the joys of summer.

Who knew that I'd learn to love summer in the desert? We drove through the Mohave on the annual trek to The Grandmas for twenty years and I'd just grit my teeth as we survived another trip in the latest old vehicle with no air conditioning. But! Ten years of East Coast humidity taught me to finally understand the phrase, "But it's a DRY heat" and now, I just love 100+ degrees: I have a pool.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A Fowl Smell

Monday morning I went to work and spent about an hour in my classroom before the students arrived. I usually do this. But when the students came marching in following the morning announcements they all grabbed their noses and began to complain about the nasty smell. I had a very bad cold and could smell nothing since Friday. Often the carpet has an icky odor and then there is the funky smell of 10 year-old kids after a hot recess that has permeated the atmosphere. But no...this was evidently different.

Another teacher comes to my room on M-W mornings for an hour to give an extra lesson on writing to try to boost our school's fifth grade writing test scores. (She figures by starting on them in fourth grade, there's a better chance to get some improvement for fifth grade.) Well, when she stepped in the door, she too declared "Ick---something really smells in here--like the bottom of a bird cage, only worse." I stepped out and got the custodian. He concurred---bleh.

Evidently the pigeons whose babies we've heard cheeping in our air conditioner vent had reached a critical mass of guano, or perhaps there had been a fatality in the nest. Something foul and fowl-ish was wafting down from the air conditioner vent and the room reeked. Lucky me with the head cold! We opened the doors, I sprayed Febreeze all around. It didn't help much.

Then, just after her lesson finished, as we were starting math, a half-inch long maggot dropped from the vent and plopped onto a boy's desk at table 3. EEEKK!!! I calmly scooped it up onto an index card, folded the card over and stapled it shut into a little envelope. With ten minutes the fat juicy maggot had stretched itself thin and was wriggling out between the staples. DOUBLE EEEK!!! I dropped the whole thing into a cup.

When the students went to the library at 11:00 I went to the office with my maggot friend and had a cow. Bad plan. The next day I brought in homemade banana bread to mollify the secretary whom I'd alienated with my shouted "Why AREN'T maggots an emergency for maintenance!!??" I was directed to go yell at the principal because she (the secretary) didn't make enough money to get yelled at. Oops.

So--the solution? I moved out of my room with my class and their books to a teacher's room who is on track break. That worked for two days. Then I moved to another room because someone needed the previous room for something else. Today we had a field trip. But the rest of the week we're camping in a tiny room.

I've seen e-mails that indicate that perhaps next week some contract crew will come and remove the cause of the wretched odor and then someone else will come and put a wire grate over the opening the pigeons used to gain access to the air ducts. But not necessarily next week.

No, maggots are NOT an emergency. Sigh. Seven weeks to go.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


In keeping with the blog-fads, I submit the following:

25 Things I Love:

1. new books
2. swimming
3. the way horses smell
4. fresh tomatoes from my garden
5. the ocean
6. chocolate licorice
7. playing the piano when no one is listening
8. the first day of school
9. the last day of school
10. raw oysters
11. tulips and lilacs
12. Halloween decorations
13. Christmas
14. kneading bread dough
15. reading the newspaper
16. mushrooms
17. shrimp
18. clean sheets on my bed
19. Cool Guy
20. mountains
21. the smell of hay
22. driving across the country
23. the smell of sagebrush
24. dark chocolate
25. the hot tub

25 Things I Hate

1. cleaning the refrigerator
2. head colds
3. people spitting on the ground in public
4. hauling hay bales
5. parents who yell at and jerk their kid instead of just listening
6. teaching in a portable classroom waaaay out there
7. numb fingers and toes from cold weather
8. East coast high humidity
9. stupid people who drive erratically
10. running out of milk
11. feta cheese
12. black licorice
13. banana-flavored things
14. sleeping in a hot room
15. racial bigotry from anyone
16. vulgar movies rated PG-13
17. sore feet
18. bugs that fly into my face
19. cockroaches
20. taggers and their ugly graffiti
21. those filmy plastic shopping bags
22. litterers
23. arguments
24. menudo
25. mosquito bites

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Music History 101

Today we had an assembly featuring a candidate for president who is good buddies with the person for whom our school is named. When our principal was informed that this visit would occur, complete with the full contingent of press, we kicked into gear and did a massive school-wide refresher of bulletin boards, wall-stuff, flower planting, etc. It was rather inconvenient and time-consuming and annoying to go through all this to be a photo-op, but we did it and the whole event was very nice. Our students behaved well, the questions they asked at the Q&A were pertinent, and the stroll through the halls with the reporters and entourage was very nice, blah, blah.

We had a performance by a group of second graders of the song "Yankee-Doodle Dandy" while they wore darling little three corner hats that were very red/white/blue and then they did a round dance to a recorded instrumental of "Yankee-Doodle Dandy."

When we returned to our fourth grade class-room several of my students were exclaiming with disgust "Why did they sing that stupid Barney song??" HUH? BARNEY SONG? I asked one of my more obnoxious girls to explain to me WHAT Barney song. She hummed "Yankee Doodle".


So we spent a few minutes while Mrs. Teacher explained that maybe Barney borrowed the tune, but that was no Barney song. We learned about its 200+ year history and the Continental soldiers who seized onto the British ridicule and made it their Revolutionary Pride Song.

Whew--the things I don't know they don't know. Wow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Can't We All Just Get Along?

When I was a child I grew up in a world where, not only was everyone white, but many of them were my cousins. It was a very small town. However, I knew people of different races, I saw people of different races when we went to other towns, and of course I watched t.v. and saw a variety of people.

Today in my class--where I am the sole blonde/blue-eyed person---I showed them some photos of my trip to Morocco. Included in this were pictures of the taxi-man's son and nephew. When their sweet little faces came up on the screen (I used a CD in my computer and an LCD projector) a voice in my room called out, "They're white!" (They have black hair, olive skin and dark brown eyes.) These boys are in fact Berber children--whose ethnic origins I'm not quite sure of, although they are not Arabic. Hence: berber: barbarians--a moniker the local people of the area now called Morocco were given by the invading Arabs many centuries ago. But I digress...

My thought was when I heard that remark was, "Huh?" I mean why do these kids of mine ALWAYS point out the race of someone? There was an ugly slur delivered against a hispanic boy by a black student today because he was boiling mad about losing at marbles. Ironically, the hispanic boy has been a great buddy of the black kid for months and they frequently choose each other as partners in class. Whenever things get tense, racial remarks are ALWAYS used by my students. No one can ever be upset about the normal things of kid life in my class without the racial remarks being muttered, shouted, or whined.

When Archie Bunker first came to television I was a teenager. Most of the rude/colloquial terms he used when referring to people of other-than-his group I had never heard before. I'm confident my parents had opinions and prejudices but we didn't hear about it from their lips.

So what is wrong with these parents of my students that their nine year children are so conversant with the absolute worst part of American society---sterotyping with ugly racial comments??

Sunday, June 10, 2007

It's Just So Random

Saturday I attended a family reunion with my brothers and sisters and our extended families. Lots of tiny babies! We had a great time. It was held at a large waterpark/amusement park complex in Utah.

My daughter and I took her two little ones over to the pool area and dressed in our swimsuits. Just then, my son called to say that he was at the front gate, and his wife was feeling well enough to come with them afterall, so could I meet them with the extra ticket. Sure--I couldn't walk through the park in my bathing suit, so I just pulled on my djellaba--a long gown worn by many people in Morocco over their other clothing when going out. Then when they are out in public they are the shape of a door--a modest Muslim dresses this way. (It is pronounced gel-laba.)

As I went out the gate to the parking lot, the woman ahead of me stopped to hold the gate and commented: "That's a lovely djellaba!"
I replied in astonishment, "Thank you...Wow! You know it is a djellaba!"
She nodded and went on "Did you get it in Morocco?"
"Yes, "I told her, and that we just returned from a visit to our daughter who is there in the Peace Corps.

This lady, too, was a Peace Corps Volunteer who'd served in Morocco, south and east of the area where our daughter is living. We exchanged a little more conversation and then separated to go on with the day.


Friday, June 08, 2007

A Big Thank You to Mother Nature

Today, my class went on a field trip that included a walk along a desert nature trail. (For those of you not familiar with the desert, or who may be snickering "Oxymoron: desert/nature" there is a whole amazing world out here in the desert--it's just subtle.)

In preparation for this field trip I'd pointed out that on this trail in a previous visit I'd seen rabbits, lizards and many birds. But in order for them to see these creatures, it would be necessary to walk quietly and keep out a sharp eye.

Then, when we arrived at the site our guide briefed us for the walk also reminding everyone to walk carefully, and when they spotted some wildlife, to "freeze and point" and then everyone would see the signal and we could observe without frightening away our desert friend.

So, now the pressure was on. What if we went the whole length of the path and didn't see anyone?? These students mostly live in apartments, in a world of concrete with their only "wildlife" experience the pesky pigeons who are nesting on our portable classroom roof.

BUT--just like someone had been sneaking ahead of us and planting them--every few yards we got to freeze and point! We saw four lizards, a jackrabbit and a cottontail, several quail and three enormous crows who just glared back at us as though we were the attraction and they were the visitors. Oh, and a beautiful carmel colored dragon fly landed on a bush and some of my eagle-eyed students pointed it out to us all. Cool.

Plus, we finished the twenty minute walk all extremely grateful that we weren't on the old California trail, with "just four more weeks" until we reached our destination. Wow, how DID those pioneer ancestors do it?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Settlement

We were able to settle out of court, when today a lady came by and picked up the little dog.

I got home last night and there, on the light pole by our mailbox, was a poster advertising a lost dog who fit the description of our guest. This morning the lady returned my phone call (she'd left her cell at work) and we handed over the little mopster an hour ago.

Kitty Cat is breathing easier. Now, if she could just find a hit man for the birds...

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why Kitty Cat Filed the Lawsuit

Well, first, a little bedraggled doggie turned up on our doorstep Saturday morning. We thought he was with the boy selling something for his school, but hours later, the little dustmop with paws was still lying there. And it was 100 degrees. So we gave him a bowl of water, which he promptly consumed. And then we carried him into the back yard so he could lay on the grass in the shade of a tree. THE OUTRAGE!! A dog in her yard!!

Then we gave him a packet of Kitty-Chicken. UNBELIEVABLE!!

He was so dehydrated that we were afraid he might die overnight--he could hardly walk, he was shaking, his eyes were cloudy. He looked tough. But by Sunday afternoon, he was up and walking and toddled over to the door, and came into the dining room. THE NERVE!!

Then, last night when I came home from the airport, Kitty Cat was batting a small bird around the front yard and I picked her up so she wouldn't kill it. Just then, some other cat leaped off the wall and snatched up the birdie in its mouth and the birdie let out a loud squeak and then was silent as the other cat ran away....oh.

This morning the parents of the bird (who have spent a great deal of time shrieking at Kitty Cat whenever she ventures into the yard) were physically dive bombing her on the patio. And it wasn't even her who got to torture the baby bird and have a wonderful time doing so!!!

So, that's why she hired the lawyer. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Harvest Time at Rancho Las Vegas

Hey, hey, hey! We're eating tomatoes--fresh picked, vine ripened. So, this belies the common rumor that you can't grow tomatoes in Las Vegas. You can grow them, but you must plant them in March, and keep them well watered, pick off the green worms, and get them all eaten in May and June because in July the heat will cook the plants in the ground.

Actually I read that the reason they don't do well in mid-summer is that the air temperature is so hot, 24/7, that the blossoms don't set into fruit. And that may well be true. This week has been very hot--98, 99, even 100 degrees, but night is still "cool"--it goes down to 70. But this "cool" time has been enough, or perhaps it hasn't yet been hot for enough days in a row to affect my plants, because they are still flowering and setting fruit.

And the compost bin is working great! We dumped out a batch of lovely dirt-smelling soil tonight and put it in a storage bin. When I clear out the lettuce (going to seed) I'll dig in some of this awesome dirt to the area and watch the crookneck and zucchini grow. I love this job!!
Posted by Picasa