Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pardon My Complaining

The high temperature here in the desert today was only 49 degrees! I just watched the local weather report and they pointed that out. Currently is it 38 degrees and will drop to 33 before morning. BRRRRRR.....

First, may I say how sorry I am for any of the people who are walking along Glitter Gulch, shivering, on their vacation here from whatever bitterly cold climes they left. I'm sure they were hoping to wear their sandals and lie by the pool and soak up the sun.

And may I say: at least it wasn't just me feeling all whiny this afternoon as I stepped outside to pick up my class after lunch and found that it was still as cold as it felt when I picked them up at 8:40 this morning.

Hey! This is just WRONG! What are the weather gods doing??? Their job is to keep things moderate here in the winter. Yes, yes, I know I'm not shoveling anything, (except cookies, into my mouth.) But, we're the Land of the Sun here. We're not supposed to shiver at noon. Let's hope this is the last we hear of not even hitting 50 degrees for the rest of this year. After all--the story is: summer is hot, yes, but the mild winters make up for it. Well, 49 at noon is not mild, thank you very much.

That is all.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Two More Weeks

I have a lot to do over the next two weeks. I know I can do it, too, but it will require total discipline. Blah.

I finished the 15-20 pages for my project in the graduate class. I ended up with 17 pages. Tomorrow my group will present our chapter and lead the discussion.

Then, Tuesday, after tutoring, I will stay at school until I finish the report card comments. I will need to write up some lesson plans because...

Wednesday, we have an afternoon planning time in which the fourth grade teachers will disect the results of our end of trimester testing. We figure out what went wrong and what went right and work on it so that the students will be remediated for the Big Test in March. Wednesday evening I must go to the church to rehearse some music for an upcoming program.

Thursday, I must plan after school for my Instructional Aid class on Saturday. Also, report cards are due into the office for the last minute check.

Friday is the usual staying late to write next week's lesson plans and check papers. Also, I need to start getting all of my awards organized and printed off so that I'll be ready next week.

Saturday, I'm teaching all morning and then a former student is being baptized in the evening and I've been invited...and I'll be playing the piano since he lives in my stake.

Sunday is the usual frenzy of playing for church and then choir practice in the afternoon.

Each day this week I also need to devote a little time to typing the essays for the five questions I need to have answered for the final exam in my graduate class. I don't actually have to show up to the class next Monday, but I have to have the document e-mailed to her by midnight that day.

And I won't start in on the rest of the week...program, meeting, awards assembly, etc. etc. Let's just say that by December 13th, I'll be ready for a rest...that I will get on Monday the 20th because by then the Christmas programs will be completed, school vaction will have begun and I will be breathing slowly and calmly.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

  • I am thankful for the beautiful world where we live. I've lived in five distinctly different climate zones in the United States, and can say, without hesitation, that all of them have natural beauty. Each of the places was quite different from the others, yet all had some feature that struck me with awe in its glorious wonder.
  • I am thankful for my health. There have been times when I wasn't particularly healthy, and each of those times reminds me to be grateful that it was something from which I could recover. I hope to stay a vigorous person for many years to come. It is a priceless bounty.
  • I am thankful for my faith in God. I have a strong belief in His loving care for all of His children. I'm sure He is often grieved as a parent over the choices we, the children, make to harm one another. I feel His love for me often, and recognize His Hand in the blessings I have.
  • I am thankful for my job. Again today, I met with parents who thanked me effusively for the relationship I have with their child. How enthused their kid is to come to school--because I am the teacher. It is humbling and gratifying to be appreciated for something I work so hard to do well.
  • I am thankful for reading and music and good movies and bacon and cold milk and KittyCat and driving and the full moon and the constellation Orion and flowers and bird songs and automatic washers. Life is filled with wonders.
  • I am thankful I can be a mother and a grandmother. It has been a long strange trip, but this role has enriched my life immeasurably in unimagined ways. I could never have dreamed that a person could have so many emotions all connected to one part of living.
  • I am thankful for my husband. He and I epitomize the "strange and wonderful relationship"---we alternate between the roles. We help each other, we inspire each other, we provoke each other, and we cannot imagine who we'd be now without each other. I'm glad to be his wife.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meet The Parents

I made a mother cry today. Let me explain...

We are having parent conferences. Another thing I love about this school where I'm lucky to be teaching is that we set aside the three days before Thanksgiving as Parent Conference Days. Yes, all three of them. It allows us fourth grade teachers (and fifth) to meet with more than just our homeroom students. We can meet with students whose homeroom might be the math teacher, but the writing teacher has a concern. It also gives our parents a lot of flexibility because we even have evening appointments on Tuesday until 6:30 P.M. In the time between appointments, I can start typing my report card comments and take care of all sorts of business I don't normally have time for on a regular school day.

About the crying---the mom was crying in gratitude. She was so grateful for the progress that her child had made this year, that she actually teared up. Wow. Now, that really makes my day. Gratitude, I mean, not crying. The student is the fellow I wrote about a month ago who gifted me after a trip they'd taken. I asked the parents, after he and I presented his portfolio of work from the term, if they had any concerns for me. Mom sighed, adjusted her glasses, and started in a sober sounding voice, "Well, Mrs. [EarthSignMama], all I can say..." She paused and I was really getting nervous about what could be so hard to tell me. Her son has an IEP and is officially diagnosed with a form of autism, so I know they have many concerns.

She continued, "...all I can say is that I'm so grateful for this school and for you. This is our son's best year. He is doing so well, he loves school. He loves you. He has never expressed so much joy before about being in school." By now she had removed her glasses and had to wipe her reddened eyes. Her son looked at her and smiled, "Mom, don't cry! I thought you were happy." His dad laughed and patted her arm. "She is happy...sometimes mommies cry for happiness."

They stood up to leave and they both thanked me again and left. See why I LOVE my job?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

We Laughed

We had a good time at the radio show on Thursday. Our seats were near the front and so we had a good view of the stage. I took this photo of their backdrop from the edge of the stage before the show started; we weren't that close. It is a sparse set, because it is a radio show, duh. There was a table full of engineers and producers to one side. Two podiums were near the center for Carl Kasell and Peter Sagal to stand by as they read the scripted parts from their Ipads, and the "panelists" were at a table to the left of them. A comfy looking chair was in the direct center for the guest (Wayne Newton) to sit in while his "Not My Job" segment was done.

They came out and chatted us up, and then they went on with the show. There is an outline, with some scripted parts, but mostly they actually do just make up a lot of it as they go along. The job to be amusing is mostly tasked to the panelists. I listened to the broadcast today, and it was clear how they edited the performance that we witnessed. But, it needed edited, because not everything the whole group riffed was worthy to be presented coast to coast.

One part I enjoyed was the extended conversation that Peter Sagal held with Wayne Newton. There was a small part of it on the broadcast, but Sagal is a skilled interviewer and he allowed Newton to go on about Old Vegas, his lengthy performance career, his friendships with Elvis and the Rat Pack people. It was informative, nostalgic and amusing. Wayne Newton is pretty good himself at cracking wise off the cuff. It's clear how he's managed to be in show business for such a long, long time.

Anyway, we appreciate the freebie from the Wait, Wait folks. We had a great date and laughed a lot. I'll tell you about our "dinner" at a sandwich shop in the Paris casino some other blog. I don't want to mess this one up with any downer stories. But, someone at JJ Boulangerie should be ashamed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


This means: Happy Birthday! It is directed to my Russian speaking child who is 26 years old today. Child...he's definitely a man. He is a kind, talented man who has always been a valuable employee to whomever hired him. Once he got asked to work doing data entry for a friend of our family at this person's job site. This person needed a couple of guys to work independently for just the time they were off from high school for the Christmas break. I heard later that he chose our son (and his friend) because he knew they wouldn't need much supervision and they would work diligently and not embarrass him. That is a great compliment. Even today, he is at a job (that he got when he moved to a new city) through a recommendation from his previous boss because our son is a trustworthy, capable worker. It bodes well for the rest of life.

Which life he will spend surrounded by music! He plays lots of instruments, writes music, sings, hums and pretty much lives in a world of music. Sadly, he took all the music with him when he left home..it's awfully quiet here without him. (Except when CoolGuy is in charge of choosing the soundtrack for the day.)

Here is a small photo montage of the "baby of the family"---he's actually the tallest one,now.

Twenty-Six years ago, today:

Isn't he a doll?

At Coronado State Beach, San Diego, on the 4th of July, 1985.

In Idaho with best buddy, Jed. (Note tennis ball in dog's mouth.)

This is what happens when you let your big sisters mess around with you.

This was twenty-one years ago, today.
This is Hueneme Beach, just a few blocks from our house.

He was also a natural at baseball. Here, he is the catcher. But he could pitch like a pro, too.

The last photo before entering the MTC where he learned Russian...in theory.

This is where he really learned Russian. Until you live somewhere and try to communicate with people, you don't learn it. (I'm not sure this is him in this photo...it may be another guy.)

But this is definitely him in this photo, being the Most Fun Uncle Ever.

I can't believe I couldn't find even one picture of him playing music...hmm...another blog for another day.

Happy Birthday!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

In a Pinch

Some mornings, I rush out of the house because I failed to get up when the alarm rang. Today, I apparently shut off the alarm in my sleep, and only because CoolGuy rolled over and asked me if I needed to get up yet, did I actually awaken and leap out of bed. It wasn't a good day for sleeping a little too long, because I really needed to wash my hair. So I took the time and washed it, and dried it, and used the curling iron and it looked great.

In fact, whenever I leave my hair down, with curls here and there, several students will always say how pretty it is. Or that I should wear it down all the time, because they really like it. They're sweet. But, it does look nice like that--for about an hour. Then the curls start to droop a little, and pretty soon, the sweaty-me starts to fire up and it is just too hot. So, I have a clip or two in my purse or in my desk, and in my car, and everywhere, just for that time of day.
However, today...couldn't find one. So I used teacher-skills and improvised:

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Smokey Cuisine

Little Smokies are legend in our family. Well, legend may be the wrong word...how about notorious? Actually, they started out very popular. It all began a really long time ago near Christmas. We were going to decorate the tree one evening, and I thought it would be fun to have a buffet-supper so that we could nosh as we trimmed. I bought a bunch of cool things I'd never normally purchase: ready-made hors d'oeuvres and appetizers and then I made a punch bowl of something yummy. NOT the normal, frugal, made-from-scratch type of meal I usually served. One of the menu items was Little Smokies in barbecue sauce, eaten by jabbing one with a toothpick and plopping in the mouth. Cool! And we had cups for the punch bowl--it was exotic. It was pretty fun, too. So we did it again for most of the years that we had children living at home. Somehow, Little Smokies became a ridiculed item on this menu, yet, it was strangely required. I no longer know if they were actually despised all along, or if people secretly like them, but are too embarrassed to admit it.

Anyway, I found a new way to serve them! It's a recipe from Sunset Magazine, of all places, so that gives it the imprimatur of coolness. But they were also tasty and attractive. Here's photo to show them off:

Here they are "plated" with a little mustard, a little sweet relish and a sprinkle of grated cheese:

I served them with fruit salad (pears, mango, pomegrante seeds, banana) and baked beans. They were really terrific and also good again today with lunch after we re-heated them in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

The recipe has you make creme-puff dough and then squeeze it out onto a parchment paper in two tiny strips, side by side, not quite touching. Next, plop a little piece in the center, so you've formed an "H". Then you nestle the sausage onto the center piece. Bake them about 20 minutes, and serve them with mustard, sweet relish and grated cheese. They were attractive and delicious. Seriously.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Whining Pays Off

A couple of weeks ago, I complained about the cost of tickets to go to an NPR show that was being broadcast from Las Vegas on Thursday. Well, about a week later, I got a comment on my blog from a person with that show. (!) She offered me free tickets! Good Grief...I'm simultaneously embarrassed and delighted. So, I responded to their website, as instructed, and now I have two tickets at WillCall in my name to attend the show at the Paris Casino. Cool.

I'm pretty sure there must be some service that they hire to keep track of how and when their show name shows up on the net. Then, they rank if it is positive or negative, or if people need some response. I am startled that they gave me free tickets. I hope it's because they read some of my posts and learned what a wonderful person I am, and that I teach little children and I'm a fabulous mother and grandmother, and that I'm just so worthy to part of their audience. Hah. No, I imagine it's because their PR people are hoping I'll give them a positive shout-out in my blog and they can count it on their list. So, excited as I am to go to the show on their dime, I decided I'd just refrain from mentioning them. I'll write something nice after I go as a thank you.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebrate A Veteran

We commemorated this day by attending the parade in Las Vegas. It is one of the biggest Veteran's Day parade in the United States. It actually lasted almost two and a half hours. But it was a lovely day to be standing outside here. It started out a little chilly, but got up to a sunny 65 by noon.

There were many groups represented. The first group to come by, and then they took their seats in a reviewing stand, was a large troop of "wounded warriors" who are here as guests of a couple of casinos. They and their families are spending a few days on R&R here in Las Vegas. Then there were many, many high school marching bands and JROTC groups. We had all the VFW groups, floats with Pearl Harbor survivors, Purple Heart Vets, and one gentleman who marched on his own wearing his orginal Army uniform. He was introduced as a veteran of the Burma/China Trail. He had to have been at least 87 years old and that would have made him only 20 when he served. Tough nut. The group that got a standing ovation, and many a tear-filled eye, was the Gold-Star families who each carried a photo of the loved one whose sacrifice resulted in their family's entry into this "club" of bereaved people.

I always spend time with my students learning about Veteran's Day. I don't ever want them to think it is just a free day off from school, or a shopping time. We looked at a short video this year that described the history of the day. We took a little quiz on the information. Another day we drew "commemorative stamps" on a paper, and then wrote about what we were honoring. When they were finished with that project, they could use my "stationery" (I've copied a sheet with a box for a drawing, and typed in my school address for the return address) to write a letter to a veteran. I'll go on-line and find someone to mail them to. A few of my students asked if they could take their letter home to give to someone in their family. What a great idea! The letters are to say "thank-you" for the veteran's military service. How nice that they have someone personal to give it to.

That's the main reason for this post: to thank the veterans in my life. Naturally, at the top of the list is CoolGuy--US Navy. Then, there is my dad, US Navy, CoolGuy's dad, US Army. All three of his brothers served, two Army and one Air Force. I have a nephew and his wife who are in the Army, and my mother-in-law served in the Army National Guard. The problem with a list like this is that someone will be left out. So I just want to say to all of our relatives and many, many friends who are veterans:

Thank You

Here's a little flash from the past: CoolGuy's re-enlistment ceremony on the deck of the submarine control trainer in San Diego.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Seven Down---25 To Go

Many adults no longer have their "wisdom teeth" because, often when these third molars begin to grow in their late teens and early twenties, there isn't room in the person's mouth for them to fit. Or many times, in my case for instance, they were growing in sideways and would not have erupted crown-up, but would have grown into the other teeth, crowding them together. So, I had to have all four of my wisdom teeth extracted. The uppers came right out. But the lower ones were quite an ordeal to remove. Most people know that an adult has 32 teeth, and in the case of those who had their third molars extracted, they spend their life with 28.

I'm now down to 25. Yes, I went back to my dentist this afternoon because all weekend #20 was really aggravating me. The extraction site, after a week of healing, was feeling rather good. But even tapping on the tooth with my fingernail caused sharp pain. So, I determined that I had to go back. He reviewed the advice from the endodontist and agreed: something was definitely wrong with that dopey tooth. The only option left was extraction. We both sighed.

Actually we laughed with great ghoulish gusto. None of us--the dentist, the assistant, nor I--wanted a re-run of the previous procedure! That took two hours of torture--they worked so hard. So he gave me the injections, they made little jokes about it, I laughed despite the hands in my mouth. But! 40 minutes later, success! He lifted the entire tooth right out of my jaw without having to resort to drilling and chipping and grinding. Awesome!

And there it was: an obvious crack the entire vertical length of the root, starting right at the gum line, all the way to the base. [FYI: root length was 3/4 inch] So, all that gunky stuff in my mouth has been seeping down that crack, pooling up in the root cavity. I was finally feeling the effects of the inflammation now that I had no other teeth on that side to take the force of a bite.

Three teeth are gone from the lower left side of my mouth. When the bone and gums heal we will put in some implants and make some lovely crowns to cover it all up and give me a chewing surface again.

When I told my students that I was leaving this afternoon for the dentist and I'd probably have stitches tomorrow, they said, "You always have stitches!" Um...yes, I have had a rather crazy few weeks between my foot and my mouth. I'm looking forward to just healing right now. After all, Food Season is here--I want to be able to eat.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Doom and Gloom Days Are Back

Autumn starts a period of wonderful events. First is Halloween, then Thanksgiving, finally Christmas and New Year's round out the celebration season. The leaves change colors, and the temperatures moderate. If you live in the East, humidity finally goes away, allowing you to throw open the windows and turn off the air conditioning. Here in the desert, we don't have the humidity, but we also get to enjoy the outdoor air, because it isn't over 100 degrees every day. Even the clothing colors are pleasant: people wear orange, yellow, tan and shades of russet. The air is clear and there is just a sense of vigor and joy as people walk in the evenings.

But, then comes the day of darkness. Daylight savings time is on us once again. I'll walk out of school tomorrow afternoon and the sun will be down. Twilight will be nearly over and it'll be dark for hours and hours. I do not like losing the light and so this time of year is depressing for me. It's a good thing it is filled with beautiful music, holiday decorations (all of them---Halloween decor is one of my joys!) and celebrations. I can understand how ancient peoples in Scandinavia and other Northern climes would hold celebrations and holy days this time of year in an attempt to bring back the sun, or to show how they missed it. I'll be thinking of them until finally February comes around again, and we'll get back our friend, Old Sol.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Wait, Wait,--How Much Did You Say?

So I've been hearing on the radio that one of my favorite NPR shows, "Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me!" is going to have a live show here in Las Vegas. Tonight I finally sat down and went to check out tickets.


I guess I'll just be listening on the radio after all. I selected "best available" and hit the button. Those tickets would cost us $250.00 to go. The lowest prices were $70 each.

Wow. Who knew? Maybe I'm just naive. But I was certainly not expecting to pay that much to be in the audience of a radio show.