Monday, October 17, 2011

I'll Take "Cool Children" for $800, Alex

This week, our daughter is a contestant on Jeopardy! !  The game show! Yes, someone in our family besides me likes to be on television game shows.

Actually, she has been a quiz contestant many times. In high school she was on the championship Geography Bowl team. They won the county contest after a tie-breaker question. It was quite a coup, because our high school was well-known for having the most parents who picked strawberries for a living, and their big competitor was the private, all-boy high school. It was a very satisfying win, believe me.

Then, in college, she was on the Brigham Young University academic competition team. They traveled to contests all over. Once they came out to the University of Maryland when we were still living there, so we got to watch. Then, the school cut their minuscule budget to nothing. Blah. They were great! Really, I believe they were in the top ten.  She was the only girl on the squad, and she held her own. One of her team members was the guy who won all those games on Jeopardy! a few years ago. They are still great friends, so I'm sure he'll be excited to watch her, too. She qualified as a contestant several years ago, and finally this summer, she got the call. The taping was the second day of my new school year, so I didn't even dare ask for the day off to go watch. CoolGuy went, however, and he said they had a fun time. Alex Trebek is a very pleasant fellow.

So, anyway, this Thursday, Oct. 20th, sit and watch her. She's the one from Orem, Utah---the beautiful, intelligent, witty, clever one. Not that her parents have a bias, or anything...

*Go to the Jeopardy! website and look up what time of day the show comes on wherever you live.*

Jessie Christensen

Saturday, October 15, 2011


I've started teaching the Saturday class again. It is good. Again. Instructional aides from elementary and middle schools come two Saturdays a month and my partner and I teach them all about the writing curriculum and how to be more effective with their students. I enjoyed it so much last year, and it looks like this year will be just as pleasant. It is hard work, but at least I have last year's lesson plans to revise and reuse parts of so that we're not just re-inventing the wheel.

But...there is a new person at the top of the food chain in the department that sponsors this class and so our requests for supplies were not automatically filled (small stuff: copy paper, single subject notebooks) and so today when we started the class, we didn't have the notebooks. I didn't find out until we arrived at the building. The supervisor was so apologetic. She thought she'd be able to approve our supply lists at her level, but was stopped, and she explained it most tactfully. New supervisor, new rules. It is obvious that the new person is just attempting to assert the "who is in charge" vibe. So, while my partner teacher taught a section he'd planned, I zipped down the street to the store and picked up the 29 notebooks we needed to pass out.  The writer's notebooks are an essential part of our curriculum. That's why I asked for them...duh. But, problem solved. They'll reimburse me. She thinks. I don't actually care if they don't; I needed them.

Then, at school, we've got a wonderful field trip planned. We go to this local nature park every year. I call and get our date on the first day of school, because it is a popular destination and they have limited times. If you don't get your appointment within the first two or three days of school, you won't get one. We sent out our two permission slips, stapled together: one copy we take with us (it explains the field trip, collects phone numbers of parents and offers them a chance to come with us) and the official school district form that allows us to take their children from the school site on a bus to this area. This form stays in the office. On Friday, our secretary came to my room with a THIRD form required by our newly reconfigured "area" (the division of the gigantic school district to which we are now assigned after our new superintendent started making his changes.)  I read it and flipped out. Then, I apologized to the secretary.

This form requests from the parents the information about their medical insurance coverage---on the level that you would give to a doctor's office so that they can bill your insurance company! What company; who is covered; who is the person that the insurance is assigned to; what or if the secondary insurance is; what your child's medical conditions are, etc. etc. Then, in the legal fine print at the end of the form, it attempts to have the parents sign off that they will not sue the district over any medical care we give their kid on the field trip, if it is needed. The principal was out of town on Friday. But on Monday, I'm going in to discuss this intrusive form. I know it isn't her fault. It is some anal person in our new "area"--but there is no way I'm sending this form to my parents. If I were asked to sign that type of form just to let my child go on a three hour field trip, I'd write across the front of it ---"NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS"---and return the paper to school.

 It is completely obnoxious. And redundant. One of the forms they've already signed has the legal language that allows us to take their children on the bus away from school. The nurse already has all the health information about each child, from a form the parents completed as part of our First Day of School paperwork. It is none of our business what insurance they have, if they even have any. If their child needs medical care at a hospital, the EMTs are going to transport that kid and the hospital is going to treat that kid and no stupid invasive paper is going to facilitate or allow that. Okay, I'll take a breath. I just hope that I'll have calmed down enough when I go in and talk to our principal. I'm pretty sure she'll see it my way. She may be able to get the bureaucrats in the central office to be reasonable and see how obnoxious this THIRD field trip permission form is for us to give to parents. I've been going on field trips in this district for six years without this new form. Where did it come from now??

As I ranted to CoolGuy last night, "I sent my teenage clarinet playing son to NYC from Maryland on a three day band trip and I didn't have to tell the school who my insurance policy was with or who the adult in our family was who paid for it."  CoolGuy patiently listened to me stomp around and wave my arms and vent and then started to laugh. "Next time, I'll let the secretary know that she should just call me first before asking you to do ridiculous assignments like this. I could save her a lot of trouble by vetting these things for her. Don't ask Mrs.[ESM] to offend her parents or jump through these kind of hoops. She'll come at you with logic and reason and passion. You don't have a chance."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling...

There are just not enough minutes in a day when school is on. Then, we added stake roadshows to that and the usual extra time for the graduate class. Oh, and I got to blow off two hours at the dentist on Saturday, too, having another tooth extracted. Life is just buzzing along at the usual frantic pace.

Last spring I was asked to help figure out what our roadshow was going to be, then I was tasked with writing the script. Really, that was not a problem---if someone gives me an idea, I can write stuff. Then, when summer ended and everyone was finished with camp and vacations, etc. etc., we started in on the rehearsals. And finally, Thursday (dress rehearsal) Friday, and Saturday (performances) we threw our whole selves into it and it was lovely. Although, watching the others, I realized that the next roadshow I write needs some big, flashy dance numbers, or at least more running around on the stage. The roadshows that had those elements were extremely entertaining. But ours was pretty good, too. CoolGuy came on Saturday and watched and he said, "They were very entertaining and lame--just like the roadshows I remember from my youth!"  So, you see:  success!

But, Saturday, I spent the morning reclined at my dentist's office while he and his assistant went through the lengthy torture of extracting another of my stupid teeth. It, like the others, had an aging root canal that developed an infection around the roots. But teeth that have had endodontic treatments grow brittle with age. So, naturally, it could not just be pulled. Noooooo....Instead there was a great deal of drilling (to get the old crown off) then tugging and loosening, then more drilling to divide it into pieces. Then more tugging and more drilling and this and that and this and that. He'd leave me alone for 10 minutes or so, while he went in to do examines on other patients who were in just for their bi-annual cleaning and check-ups. (He had to change his smock twice to do that because we were generating a lot of debris and ...blood...yuck.) Then he'd come back and (trying to hide his dismay) start up again. He's a great dentist, and I give him many props for his cheerful attitude and kind manner. I know he felt quite gloomy when he read the report from the endodontist I'd visited, in the slim chance that I could re-do the root canal and save the tooth. He extracted a molar last year, too. And it was the same type of ordeal. But, eventually, every last little bit of cracked and infected root was removed. We were all delighted to be done with it.

Now, it is even more fortuitous that I've been hired again to teach the instructional aide writing class two Saturdays a month from  now through February. I'm devoting all that pay to my new implants. Hurray for modern dentistry!  Right now, I'm eating soft foods--stitches and soreness, but also: no bottom molars! Geez, I'm really a certified geezer now.

But, the weather is nice! On Sunday afternoon, we opened all the doors and windows and let the pleasant 75 degree breeze waft through the house. Tonight, I'm going to soak in the hot tub under the full moon, and then after a nice sleep with KittyCat by my side, I'll start the whole marathon over again on Tuesday.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Here Comes the Sun

And that's what I like about living here. This morning, the sun is coming up over the towering stark rock mountain outside my east windows. The sky is (mostly) blue. The entire outside has been washed clean and every desert plant is refreshed and glistening. The back door is open and freshness is flowing into the house (and no money is flowing out to keep the air conditioner cranking.) It's going to be a beautiful day.

We have new tomatoes growing on the plants that we cut back when they melted in the August blast. The basil has turned into an enormous bush that has overtaken half of the garden bed. We'll be back in the caprese salad business, soon. I should plant beets. And sugar snap peas. MMMM...vegetables.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Enough Already

It has now rained for three days. Yesterday, we missed recess because it was pouring. Today after school, I directed traffic in a drizzle. Right now, it is pouring again. I'm done with it.

Bring back the sun!!

Monday, October 03, 2011

It's Raining, It's Pouring

It really is nice when it rains in the desert. The scent of all those resinous plants is intoxicating. It doesn't rain like in Maryland or California, where the entire sky is just grey and rain comes dumping out. Instead, we get big towering thunderheads that grow up over the mountains. The blue sky is gradually overtaken or just a portion of it sometimes. You can be driving along the road on one side of the valley with sunshine all around, but across the city you can see the lightening jagging out of the black mass and the rain blurring the horizons. Then, the clouds and the wind spread the storms to a new sector. Finally, tonight, the entire sky is involved and it has been pouring rain for about 20 minutes. I was going to hot tub, but I just washed my hair this morning, and I don't want to get all of me soaked, just the skin parts--plus, the rain is chilly.

The bad part about rain in the desert is that it doesn't happen too often, so when a really big storm comes blasting through, no one knows how to drive in it. This afternoon, I had to get across town to my graduate class by 4:15. It's bad enough that every school in the city is dismissing right then, but it was also raining. We crept through all the cross-walks just fine, but in the areas where people could go the normal speed--they did. Big Mistake... When one steps on the brakes during the first hour of a rainstorm on a street that hasn't been wet for weeks or months, one just slithers and slides. Right into the back of the car in front of you that may have slowed for the light. It wasn't me....But I drove past four of these events on my way to class. One scene was almost comical---four cars all smushed  together, like a cartoon accident. Everyone standing around in the median with their cell phones up to their ears, the police officer picking his way around the fallen headlights, and pieces of bumpers. And the rain just kept washing over everything, creating havoc in our normally dry habitat.

I'm driving carefully, Pooh.  (go to 3:30 to start the scene for the money quote)