Monday, December 31, 2012

Gingerbread Architecture

Family tradition was maintained again this year with a cousins' get-together to create gingerbread houses. Well, I think that at least one of them is a house. But they were all quite elaborate, so when I arrived to visit at Christmas, I was treated to the tour. It did require a bit of explanation to explain some of the details, but once the theme of each edifice was revealed, it was clear what was being represented with the gumdrops and M&M's. 
This is a school. Note the bell tower on top, with chocolate bell. There are some gummy students playing soccer on the playground in the front. Notice the pretzel bike rack there on the back right? It also has pretezel & M&M bikes parked at it.

Here is a close-up of a couple of gummie students going into the door wearing their backpacks.

This next edifice is a military base. The chocolate bells are the guard station.

Then, up on the roof, this is the solar panel to help with energy costs. Apparently at that point, the builder was distracted by something in the play room, and there aren't any more details to enjoy.

Now we have just a house. But, this house has a dinosaur in the yard. (I think this accessory was influenced by the dinosaur museum that had been visited the day before the Gingerbread House party.) One significant detail I enjoyed was the careful selection of the colors for the roof tiles. There are stripes of color on most parts of it that were meticulously placed. That is only significant because this builder is not quite three years old. She has great attention to detail, apparently.

It's a little hard to see the dinosaur, but I wanted to include this close-up. I think it was built by auntie, but it was an important part of the decor. See the long tail and blue eyes? Also, a gummie bear is riding it!

Here we have an airport. This construction manager is a little obsessed with flight. When he visits me, we always have to spend at least 30 minutes parked near the runway so we can tune in the radio to the channel that lets us listen in on the exchanges between the pilots and the control tower. That's the control tower there on the top right corner. The neat rows of gumdrops in the lower left is the parking lot. See the passengers waiting there to board on the the platform in the center of the front wall? The plane is there in the center of the picture--candy cane wing visible on the right.

Here is a close-up of the side of the plane. That structure in the foreground is a baggage cart--it's getting ready for loading on the plane. A lot of angst went into the plane design, apparently. Several other attempts didn't result in something satisfactory to the builder, so this was as closed at he could get. I'm really fond of the wing structure, but I'm especially a fan of the baggage cart.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sign of the Apocalypse

This is ice on my windshield. Note the palm trees in the background. Now if that doesn't signify that something is extremely wrong with the universe, then you tell me what it means.
This is the view from the driver's seat. Just wrong, wrong, I'm telling you!
Actually, all it signifies is that everything is normal here in the desert. It always get cold like this each winter. The good thing is that it doesn't last long. We have a couple of weeks of chilly weather, with the temperatures dipping below freezing a few nights. Then, the weather returns to the mild temperatures with lows in the 50's and highs in the 70's. January through May is the reward for surviving the blast furnace of August. We're willing to put up with a little frost in December.
Again...nothing to shovel.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What I Learned in School Today

We've been having a spirit-filled week sponsored by our student council. Each day featured a fun  holiday clothing theme and today was candy cane day. So, I wore my red sweater and my white fleece vest. And I made myself a candy cane necklace. I unwrapped the little candy canes, tied them to a long piece of yarn and wore it around my neck.

But, do you know what happens to candy canes when you unwrap them? They begin to be affected by the moisture in the air and start to get sticky. And when the lady wearing the candy cane necklace has a little Tropical Vacation moment, and her shirt gets a little "warm" then the candy canes really get I spent most of the day with my candy cane necklace glued firmly to my shirt.

Can you see how nicely they adhere to my shirt? They weren't going anywhere! Which is actually okay, because then, if I leaned down over a student, that person didn't get whacked in the head with flopping candy canes. But it was pretty funny.

One student said that I'd just have to eat them right off my shirt. Someone else wondered if I'd have to throw away my shirt. But, I'm pretty sure that I can simply peel them free and wash the sugary residue away in the laundry. Next year, I'll look for tinsel with little foil candy canes and stay away from the real thing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


The "high" today was 47 degrees! It finally crept up there by 1:30 P.M. Also, the wind kicked in again, so it was extra chilly when you were standing out in it. I know, I know...all you folks out there in the Rocky Mountains, or some other region where winter means that a "high" of 47 degrees would have meant that you didn't need to wear a jacket, are scoffing at me. However...we are in the desert. So my students don't remember that every winter it will be pretty chilly for a few days. And today was definitely one of those days.

I only feel sad for those folks who've saved up their money to come to Vegas Baby, and were hoping for some warmth. They aren't getting any on this trip. Sorry. Come back in May. It'll be mighty warm by then.


It's forty degrees on my patio this morning!! The wind was blowing all night in a terrifc rage, but this morning the air is still. Apparently, it was a wind from the North Pole!!

However...there is zero chance of snowfall today. The sun is shining, as usual. And I'm sure it won't be 40 degrees by noon. I still have palm trees in front of my house and I won't have to scrape anything frozen off my windshield. So, more complaining about my weather.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Doing Good

Today is the anniversary of our mother's birth. I've always intended to write about her on this date, because I do each year, but I hadn't really thought of the topic or message. However, today in church, a woman recited a motto that had hung in her mother's kitchen all of her life, and it so perfectly fitted my mother, that I'm borrowing it today.

To do constantly,
To do kindly,
To do lovingly,
Many little things
Is not a little thing.
It perfectly states her life's mission statement. Of course, I don't think she ever actually wrote a mission statement. But that could have been it, if she had done so. Her life was an example of this motto.

There is never a time that I can recall my mom failing to do good for someone in need. If she visited someone, she took food. Sometimes, it was something she'd baked or cooked. Sometimes, it was something she'd grown in her garden. Many times, it was something produced by the chickens she kept, or the cows we milked.

My father had two families: the one he was born to, and the one he grew up with after his parents' early deaths. My mother incorporated both of them actively into our lives. I didn't really understand the dual relatives thing until I was grown. Daddy and his brother and sister didn't live in the same home from the time my dad was only eight years old. But they had tried to maintain a sense of family. When they were all grown, they had the option to keep their family ties or not. It would require an effort. We visited their homes regularly and they were invited to ours, even though we didn't live near them. We traded cousins for visits, we helped them whenever possible and included them always in holidays and celebrations. We did live just a few miles from the family who raised my dad, and attended church together each week. We ate meals with them on holidays often, we dropped by for casual visits and big celebrations. We helped one another with farm work. They were family, too. I know from being married that, in many cases, it is the wife who nurtures these relationships. I know my mother reached out to keep family ties active for both of our dad's families.

She reached out to non-relatives, as well. We stopped off to pick up a very old lady many Sundays so she'd get to church. Mind you, that resulted in five of us children sitting in the back seat, so she'd have room in the front. No problem. My mother served Sunday dinner regularly to an elderly bachelor whom my dad would pick up after church (he rarely attended).  Mr. C always cracked us up by pointing out, when asked if he'd like to wash up before the meal, that he'd been wearing gloves, so no thanks. He gobbled up all the delicious mashed potatoes, roast chicken, lemon meringue pie and homemade bread that was served to him. As did everyone who sat with us for those amazing Sunday dinners.

It was her example to be always going about doing good that each of most remembers, I think. We were actually quite poor---in the sense of having actual cash. I didn't realize this until I was an adult. It seemed that I lived in a world of abundance. I always had clean clothes. My hair was washed and curled regularly. I ate well-balanced, delicious meals every day. I had a warm and clean bed. I frequently teach children who desperately need any of those things. Our mother's life work was teaming with our dad in providing these very things to their children. She'd grown up in a world secure with the knowledge that loving adults would care for her needs. He hadn't. But we children lived in a veritable cocoon of security. Of course, it was made possible through their never-ending efforts, and we children recognized that and contributed our work however possible. I don't remember ever being resentful that we had to do chores. I just remember feeling happy whenever I got skilled enough to take over one of their jobs, so that they didn't have so much to do.

Anyway, I just like to reminisce on her birthday and recall the fine example of a being a person who followed Christ's teachings to do good to others in kindness and abundance. She was definitely a person of good cheer and good works. Happy Birthday Mother!  


I'm copying something from Facebook because I am at a loss for words after Friday.

To Parents who aren't educators, this may be hard to understand.

Five days a week, we teach your kids. That means we educate your kids. Play with your kids. Discipline your kids. Joke with your kids. Console your kids. Praise your kids, question your kids. Beat our heads up against a wall about your kids. Gush over your kids. Laugh with your kids. Worry about your kids. Keep an eye on your kids. Learn about your kids. Invest in your kids. Protect your kids. Love your kids.

We would all take a bullet for your kids.

It's nowhere in our job description. It isn't covered in the employee handbook. It isn't cited in our contracts. But we would all do it. So, yes---please hug your kids tonight--really, really tightly. But on Monday, if you see your kids' teachers, please hug them, too. Thanks.

This was credited to Pam McAnally. I don't know who she is. But, as a teacher, I cannot even imagine what those teachers are going through. As a parent, I cannot even conceive of losing a child in that way. My prayers are with everyone who has been touched by this horror.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bright Spots

#1 It waited to rain until after our recess time, so all the rowdy students got to go out and run and scream outdoors.

#2  I received the money for a field trip for which I'd written a grant application! This is good so that we can go on the field trip with the students. And it is good because it makes me look competent and pro-active to my principal. It also feels fine to know that other people are willing to help us be great teachers, and donate money to let us go on these terrific field trips.

#3  Again---no felonies were committed by licensed personnel at our school. One day closer to a badly needed time away from each other for teachers and students.

#4 I got compliments from students today about my "cool" boots. I've had these knee length boots for four years, but lately, I've been wearing them with the pants tucked in---very au courant---and all the little fashionistas in 4th and 5th grade admire them. Cool.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Numbers Are Fun

Everyone in fourth grade had a wonderful time writing the date today. Me too! 12-12-12 and it's the last time I'll get to write one of those. I pointed out to my students that they might make it to 1-1-1 which would be January 1, 2101, but they'd be really, really old.

However, then we got going on some other interesting dates and we came up with a few that will be coming up in our lifetimes:

11-12-13   will come along next year!

12-13-14   will be there in a couple more years!

The math brain kids already pointed out some fun dates in the last month:

11-1-12    They said that we could change the first dash to a plus sign and make an addition equation.

10-2-12    Again, that little change and we've got an equation. They went through the whole calendar at that point, and came up with every date in 2012 that could become an equation.

These are the real teaching moments! You can sense a change in the atmosphere--there's a little ripple of excitement going through the room. Everyone is engaged and, suddenly, it isn't just math anymore---it's Real Life Using Math!  Cool! 

I love teaching school. Still. Even the week before, the week before Christmas. Everyone is nuts! Especially me. Sigh. Just seven more school days and we can all take a break from each other. I'm really concentrating on that most important professional goal of mine: Do not commit a felony. Merry Next to the Last Week of School Before Christmas all you teachers out there!!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

All My Children Need a Guiding Light as The World Turns So Teacher Doesn't End Up in General Hospital

Friday was filled with angst for students. It was ridiculous! I had a little girl start crying as she returned from P.E. I asked about the cause...[all the names are fictitious to protect the guilty.]

"Well, Betty said that I said the "b-word" to Shania and now Charmaine said that she is starting a club to be mad at me and no one will be my friend." Tears are flowing, sobbing is shaking her shoulders. Hmmmm...

I talked to various people implicated in the incident. Each and every time I asked Betty or Shania or Charmaine or the sobbing Wanda to clarify the incident, I got a different version of what actually happened. Seriously. EACH AND EVERY sentence from EACH AND EVERY girl was a contradictory version of the previous version. I began to doubt that anyone at all was even getting accurate information, not just me, but anyone. (I pursued it because none of these girls were involved in this sort of thing in my experience, so I felt that perhaps there was something there.)

So, I tried it from the top:  I turned to Shania: "Did Wanda say it to you, so you could hear?"

"No, but Ralph said that Charmaine said that Wanda said it."

Charmaine:  "No, Henry told me that Ralph said that Wanda said it."

Wanda, [still crying], "I didn't say it!"

Me: "When did this happen?  Someone said it happened today in P.E." 

Charmaine:  "No, nobody said anything in P.E."

Shania: " Yesterday Charmaine told me she heard that Ralph said that Wanda said it."

Around and around and around we went for another series, and a couple of more people were mentioned, including a boy I'd heard about from Ralph....Leonard!  Who allegedly is "liked" by both Wanda and Shania and with whom Wanda was sitting on the bus coming back from the field trip or they possibly sat together in P.E. or whatever!!!!

And Leonard?? The object of all this angst and affection? He is the SAME boy who another girl was crying about a couple of months ago. I mean, seriously people...this is a nine year old boy whose demeanor in school is that of an eggplant. "Girls?  Girls?  Where's the wallball court??" That is what he is concerned with, mainly.

So, ultimately, I announced that this incident was now closed and I had a few new rules:

A)  There are no boyfriends in 4th grade. Period. End of Story. Wait till middle school...

B)   If you didn't hear with your very own ears, then it didn't happen to you, okay?

C)  If you hear something bad being said about another person, do not run quickly to that person and tell them the terrible thing you heard. That's not what friends do. Friends stand up for their friends and say, "Oh, that's a terrible thing to say."

Like any of this is going to make any difference, right? Well, I can always hope. I'm going to keep saying it as many times as I need, to as many nine year old girls as I can. Maybe it's like the starfish thing, huh? One at a time, and maybe it will matter to that starfish.