Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What Teachers Learn

Today I picked up a boy's backpack off the floor and it was packed as tight as a drum. It wasn't heavy, so I said to him to take his coat out of it so it wouldn't be so bulky as it hung off his chair. He pointed out that it didn't have coats in it--it was all wadded up paper.

And it was...we cleaned it out during the lull after recess when some kids were finishing up in the bathroom and some were just drawing idly at their desk. We have about 5 minutes before we transition into the next topic. This guy is on a behavior plan, so he takes home a paper every night that chronicles his day for his mom. It is broken down by the hour so that he can fail or succeed and then regroup for the next hour if necessary. She is to sign them to show that she actually saw it.

Normally, he is on the ball with these and she is too. But today I found every sheet since we returned from Christmas break and every piece of missing homework, permission slip, completed work--everything---crammed into a wad in that bulging backpack. I gave her a call and asked if she could come in when she came to pick him up after school so we could talk. She agreed.

I knew that they had been taking care of a sick nephew. Today I learned all the details: the sick nephew is three years old. He has been sent home from the hospital in California to die. He is on hospice care, he has a morphine pump. His skull is covered with lumps from tumors, his eyes are bulging from his head because of the brain tumor, he is just waiting to die. She showed me pictures.

She is a very sweet woman and I really like her and I like her son. Some days, I'd like to wrap him up in duct tape and tie him to his chair....but he is also a very thoughtful, helpful, soft-hearted person (with spectacular ADHD). Mom apologized for neglecting our boy, she said that ever since the little nephew came home (about 3 weeks ago) it has just been so draining. She said she can't understand where all of her energy is gone to and then she pointed out how hard it was to see this little dear baby being transformed day to day into this disfigured, tortured soul. (Well, she explained it differently, but that is what she meant.)

I finally just hugged her and said, "You take care of home and we'll take care of school, and soon enough you'll be able to take care of all the kids in your house again." Seriously, I just felt so sorry I'd even bothered her.

No wonder he can't concentrate or he sits and cries sometimes, or he gets flaming angry at some pest who is bugging him!! I can't believe he isn't just laying in the floor crying every day. He loves this little nephew. I knew they had been taking care of him for about a year (I had his big sister last year.) I'd heard how they went back and forth between here and California to hospitals for this and that. I guess his real parents just can't deal with it, or his dad is in prison or something equally dreadful. But I didn't realize that the little nephew was at my student's house, dying while being sedated so that the pressure from the tumors don't cause him to cry continually from pain. Hospice is helping them every day. But, still....three years old.

Okay...we'll deal with it. Wow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Five Decades and More

Today is my birthday. So I decided to link you to a still relevant post about birthdays at this stage of my life...and then to highlight a few fun parts of the decades.

  • being born
  • moving to Smoot when I'm 10 days old
  • going to elementary school in a one-room school/17 students
  • growing tall
  • learning to milk (little did I know this wasn't a good thing, especially)
  • piano lessons
  • discovering "Misty of Chincoteague" book


  • growing even taller
  • reading "Misty of Chincoteague" about eight more times
  • meeting CoolGuy in 6th grade
  • being a giant, skinny dweeb for several years
  • getting my very own horse
  • learning French
  • graduating from high school
  • graduating from full-time cow milking
  • getting published in the "New Era"


  • seeing the ocean for the first time
  • moving there so I can see it every day
  • marrying CoolGuy
  • having four babies (not all at once)
  • meeting Marguerite Henry and getting her autograph in my Misty book
  • being on TV game shows twice
  • getting published in the "New Era," again, and a biker magagzine


  • Last baby born
  • reading "Misty" to all of my kids
  • moving, then moving again--it's a sport
  • returning to the ocean
  • first child's high school graduation (sob...)(but they are tears of happiness)
  • graduating from college
  • being on another TV game show
  • being mother/fan/audience/groupie of awesome children


  • moving again and again--maybe we're done?
  • the flock is flying away
  • more high school graduations
  • mission farewells
  • weddings
  • temple w/CoolGuy
  • grandchildren
  • college graduations
  • I become a teacher
  • being published in the "New Era" again and "The Ensign"
  • going to Chincoteague Island for Pony Penning Day


  • new city, new schools
  • new babies (I can read "Misty" to another generation!)
  • my very first passport stamps: Spain and Morocco
  • good grief! Another TV game show!! (that's it...really)
  • hopefully: the master's degree will get finished
  • fun in the pool with grandpa and grandma
  • fun in the desert with grandpa and grandma and the race car
  • fun at the beach with grandpa and grandma
  • I should try for the "Friend"...huh?

One thing about being old is that you have lots of memories and you can filter them any way you'd like to. You can just dump the bad ones if that suits you, and you can embellish the good ones. At least that is what I choose to do. It's just a lot more fun. And, as my birthday button that I wear each year says: "It's my birthday! I can do what I want."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Birthday, Birthday

Today we celebrate two members of the family.

Born just two weeks ago: Wee Bird! She is our fourth grandchild and we just returned from a week of helping at their house. CoolGuy and I double-teamed the big sister and brother so Mom could rest up and recover. We're exhausted. There's a reason why young people have babies and toddlers. But we really enjoyed ourselves immensely. There's nothing like being grandma and grandpa. We were even able to spend an afternoon and evening with our son and his wife and our #1 grandson.

The other birthday is for a person born 87 years ago today, my father. I've blogged about him several times. He died far too young, 26 years ago, and it is interesting how his influence on our family remains so strong. I credit our mother for some of that, because she and he were a true team. They functioned as a unit and even after he left, things were done with the consideration of how "your dad would have wanted it." They were really equal partners.

Here's a story from his childhood, just for fun. Remember, he was orphaned by age eight and raised by relatives on a big farm. This is an excerpt from a memoir I wrote about all the stories of his life he told me over the years--most of the stories were told just once, in casual conversation, as we were working.

Another chore he had was snaking logs down off the hill in the winter. In the summer, they’d go cut the trees, and then when there was snow on the ground, they’d drag the logs out behind a horse. When Daddy was twelve, he said he’d spend every Saturday dragging logs off the mountain. He was so tired one night, and came in the house after dark. There was a huge party in the big house, (as there often was), and there was a very large lady blocking his way from getting through the doorway, so he could go upstairs to his room, where he fervently wanted to be—stretched out on the bed. He stepped this way and that, and she’d lean this way and that right along with him, in an unknowing little dance. He decided to speak up, and croaked out “Haw, Lady” instead of the “pardon me” he’d meant too. He’d spent too much time giving commands to horses that day, and was too tired to think straight.
Then there was the Jell-o story. He was working in the summer at the logging campsite, and had to cook dinner (which you eat in the middle of the day, of course). Anyway, he mixed up some Jell-o and, realizing that it wouldn’t serve as many people as he was feeding, he said he just added more water till it looked like enough for everyone. Well, of course, no one had Jell-o for dinner that day; punch maybe…

So, while you enjoy the waning of winter (notice how the daylight is lingering longer?) think of the newest person in my family with a smile at her cuteness, and have a little chuckle over the the childhood of the oldest member. My dad was a jokester and he'd be glad you're happy.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Today I wore sandals to work. Now, that isn't so bold considering that I have students and co-workers who have regularly worn them all this year. But, for me, it was a little Vegas moment. "First Day of Sandals for 2010."

I spent last week in Northern Utah helping with the sweet little grandchildren. Granted, the northern Beehive State is having a very mild winter, thanks to El Nino, but still, there were patches of icy snow in the shady places, and it was dang cold after dark.

So, it was with great pleasure this morning that I awoke to a day promising at least 65 degrees. We had officially 66. Tomorrow: 67. It is beautiful, mild, pleasant, a soft breeze. Definitely no icy snow patches in the shady places. Awww.

I may wear sandals again tomorrow. And the next day, and the next...

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Look! It's [S-Boogie's]Grandma!

Today I went to school with my granddaughter. I'd e-mailed her teacher and made an arrangement so that I could come in and teach a lesson about the two presidents that we celebrate on President's Day. I put up some pictures of the two, read a couple of books, we sorted some sentence strips that had information about each president on it. Then we cut and pasted similar information onto our own little sorters. And finally, we pointed to each piece of info and read it aloud to check that we'd sorted it correctly.

I'm glad I don't teach first grade every day. But it was fun for an hour or so. It was really interesting, however, to see all the types I see in 4th grade:
  • I'm done, it's perfect, what do I do now?
  • I'm also done--it's far from perfect, but it's done and that is the point, right?
  • I didn't pay any attention to your directions and I'm not looking around my table to see what other people are doing, so mine is being done incorrectly--really, really incorrectly.
  • I started, but now I'm busy using my scissors as a gun and firing off phantom shots around the room...papers? gluing? presidents? huh?
  • Glue!! I love glue!! See this big puddle I just squeezed out on my paper?
  • I don't have any glue, so I will just sit here and do nothing till some adult notices because helpless is my default.
  • I'm done and see all the hearts and flowers I've drawn around the edges of my paper and I also colored George Washington's shirt pink because it has cute ruffles.

I actually feel a little better about 4th graders now, because I saw their shadow-selves in 1st grade today!

Then I went to lunch with my new best friends and [S-Boogie] and then we had recess. I left after they went in to finish the school day, and later when I returned to pick up my granddaughter, I walked across the parking lot before the doors opened. Just then, the crowd started to swarm out, and I heard a cute little voice shout: "Look! It's [S-Boogie's] grandma! Hi!!" I was greeted warmly by at least 21 people who charged out of the school to hurry home. Cool.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Wee Bird

She has our hearts. Our fourth grandchild was born on Wednesday and I just got home from writing lesson plans so that I can go there and spend the week taking care of people. She is the only one for whom I would have spent 13 hours (!) at school today. But, I have very coherent lesson plans, and I don't have to spend a minute next week fretting about what my sub is doing. She is a great sub, too, so she'll be fine.

Wee Bird is what I'll call her. She "landed" on Feb. 3 at 8:30 A.M. and Grandpa CoolGuy has been sending me darling little photos regularly. I forwarded one of the e-mails to work so I could show my students how adorable she is. They are just the right age, boys and girls both, to say "Ahhhh..." when they see a photo of a newborn. Plus, it helped me to break the news to them that I won't be there next week.

It's like leaving a three year old with the sitter. There's whining and teeth-gnashing and I even got a few clingers today. "No, we hate subs, they're mean." Hmmm...why does the sub have to be mean??? I queried them...could it be that you're not using good behavior??? We'll see how it went when I come back. It is a challenge to leave them at this point, because there are a thousand little tricks I know that I cannot communicate to a sub about how to handle the various quirks each of them have. And--teaching is all about improvisation--rarely does it go as you plan.

So, I'm off to be Grandma for a week. It's exciting! I get to go to school with two of them to "help" for a morning. It'll be Valentine's Day while we're there, so I can make cookies, and I'm taking fabric so we can put a soft blanket togther for their new sister. You know those fleece blankets that you snip a hole and make fringe and pull one fringe through the hole...My helpers will be able assist with this. This Grandma thing is just the BEST!