Thursday, January 31, 2013

You Can't Make These Things Up

As I walked down the hall of the education building to my class tonight, I chanced to pass by another occupied classroom just as the professor was talking about the "FFA."  I glanced into the open door, and saw on the screen a photo of high school boys wearing the distinctive blue jackets with the gold symbol on the backs. If you've seen "Napoleon Dynamite" then you know what I'm talking about. So, when my class took our break, I walked by their room again to see what was being taught there.

They were on break, too, so I stepped in to chat with their teacher, a cheerful, older guy. The class was part of a graduate program for career and tech school administrators. Well, I told him I'd heard him saying "FFA" and that I'd seen the blue jackets in the slide show. And then I said, "It caught my eye because I was the 1971 FFA Queen in my high school."  He was delighted! He laughed and asked my name, and where I'd gone to high school. I told him Wyoming, and then he looked at me and said, "Really, which school?" 

Well, here's where the ridiculous part starts. When I told him, he looked at me like it was just the most normal thing in the world and said, "Oh, I lived in Pinedale and was the area supervisor. Our group included your school, Lyman, Jackson..." and he went on to name the surrounding communities. Then, he looked at me and said, "Do you remember Gale Haderlie?" He was the teacher and FFA advisor at our high school. Hmmm....yes, he's my mother's first cousin. He slapped his leg and laughed. Then he talked with fond memories of what a great leader Mr. Haderlie was and how thoughtful to the boys and so kind-hearted. Get out of here!! He knew (and remembered his name from forty years ago!!) my mom's cousin!!

So, we chatted a minute more and he asked me to stay for a bit, while his students came back into the room. He called for their attention, and then introduced me as his "special guest."  "Remember those pictures of the FFA? Well, here's [EarthSignMama] who was chosen queen of the FFA for her high school in Wyoming." They all laughed and cheered and I took a bow. He asked me what my farming connection had been. I replied that I milked cows and hauled hay and fed chickens. He certified me as the Real Thing, and I bid them all adieu and returned to my class on Action Research for the Classroom Teacher. 

It was just ridiculous. Our children often shake their heads in amazement  because where ever we've lived, inevitably, there was always someone with a connection back to our small, small valley in Wyoming. They ask, "Almost no one lives there! How can the entire world know someone, or have dated someone, or have had their cousin marry someone, or ....whatever! from there??!?"  I don't know. But it happened again tonight in Las Vegas, and I never cease to be amazed.

Here we are! The blonde on the right, the Junior Class Princess, is my sister Trish. We were awesome, huh?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Saturday, the Special Day

Saturday is my "day off" and so I don't set my alarm. It's such a luxury. However, when I do wake up, sometimes it is just a marathon from that moment on. I woke up at 8:30, and KittyCat was laying by my side. I just stayed put for a while, listening to the radio and petting her. She eventually got up and left, so I, too, got up and got dressed. I sorted the laundry, put in a load, then went to the computer to see what was new on Facebook.  I never post my "status" but I do like to read about other people and enjoy the little jokes and cartoons.

As I sat there, KittyCat came in and started harassing me vocally. She'd meow impatiently and start for the door. She'd already been outside; the door was still open because it was such a lovely morning. But something was really important for me to do. So, I got up and followed her to my room. She leaped up on the bed and stood there expectantly, meowing again for a minute. Obviously, I needed to get back under the covers so she could massage me through the corduroy. Obviously. So, I did. Duh. We had another little moment.

Then, having satisfied the cat, I packed up an envelope of Fun-Stuff-From-Grandma to mail, and went out to the truck. That's when I remembered that a co-worker had pointed out on Friday that my left brake light was not functioning. My neighbor's son was in his yard, and I asked if he'd come over and check it out with me. I got a screwdriver and he showed me how to get the old, burned-out bulb out so I'd know what to replace it with. I thanked him, and took my screwdriver with me. After mailing the envelope (and getting a donut...7-11, you fiends for making us stand next to the donuts while we wait in line for the postal services) I stopped at the auto store.

Yes, yes, it was probably showing off to stand there in the parking lot with my screwdriver and replace my brake light bulb. But, apparently I didn't look too great, because I asked someone at the next parking lot where I stopped, if I actually had two brake lights, and I didn't. So after I went in and picked up milk, bleach and cat food, I tried again. This time, I got the bulb to click in tighter with a satisfying sound. When I asked the guy in a truck behind me to wave if I had two brake lights, he gave me cheerful thumbs up. 

I went home to drop off the milk, and put another load of laundry in, added a little of the bleach, and went out again to go to the library. I'm starting research reports next week, and I need a bunch of books about the specific birds I'm assigning students for their reports. I ended up going to three different city library branches before I could get enough books to do the job. By then, it was starting to get late. I still had to stop for gas, and get a couple of bunches of beets to cook for my lunch salads next week, and stop at yet a different grocery store for the rice puddings I like for dessert. Yes, yes, if I weren't so fussy, it'd be easier, huh? But---the store where I buy the beets also gives me discounts for gas, so I shop there for most things. And the rice puddings are only sold at a tiny market near my school.

And I did, yes I'm ashamed to say...stop at the school for an hour. Well, I dropped off the books and finished copying the homework and stapled it all together, and got everything ready for Monday. This is only scandalous because I didn't leave the stinking school until 7:30 on Friday night. There's a lot of front-loading preparations for the bird reports. But, when I get it all done, then I've got a couple of weeks before I really have to change topics and go in another direction. However....7:30 is a little ridiculous, I know. But, CoolGuy is out of town, and sometimes, I just need the hours at the school.

I finally got home, ate some dinner, dried and folded the rest of the laundry, watched a couple of T.V. shows and went to bed where KittyCat and I cuddled some more. Day off?? How did I function when I had children living at home? When did I find time to do anything? Obviously, I wasn't teaching school most of that time, but it still seems like I had more "spare time" back in the olden days.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Another Best-Day-of-School-Ever

We've been out-doing ourselves this year in having a great time while learning. We already went on a really terrific field trip. Then, on Friday, we had a science lab extraordinaire. Our science topic has been the human skeleton and bones, in general. We have a number of good labs and learning materials to work with for this unit, so it is fun to teach and it allows the students to understand how their body works. The final lab activity for this unit is an opportunity to dissect an owl pellet.

I didn't know about owl pellets until a couple of my own little children went to a summer science enrichment event while we lived in San Diego. There, among the many super activities they did, they dissected owl pellets. It is basically an object about the size of a stuffed grape leaf, that is made of compacted fur and bones from the rodents consumed by an owl. The owl swallows it prey whole, then a special internal organ collects all the refuse that is indigestible to the owl. There it is formed into a packet that is then "coughed" up by the owl several hours after it has eaten. Apparently, it is a good business in some parts of the country to trek around the woods (and old barns) where owls live and find these pellets and sell them to a science supply house. They are sterilized, wrapped in foil, and sold to teachers.

I've learned to apply for a grant each year, and generous people have funded my owl pellets for the fourth grade for three years in a row. They only cost about $2 each, but since we need fifty of them,  I look for help to buy them. All I have to do in exchange is send them a thank you letter, with photos of our lab (kids are incognito, of course) and have a couple of students write and tell about their experiences.

So, finally, Friday arrived. IT WAS OWL PELLET DAY!! We went to an unused portable class room up on our playground. This was to allow us to spread out and have plenty of room to work. Plus, the pellets are a bit smelly---mouse fur, you know. Also, there is SO MUCH excitement, that despite my importuning, it can get loud. Actually, once they got into the dissection, they were so intrigued that mostly there was the sound of enthusiastic "oohing" and "aahing."

First, they took it all apart and compared the bones to the chart they had to determine what type of prey the owl ate. We had a sheet with bird bones, and various types of rodents--shrew, rat, mouse, mole. They sorted the bones, looked at them with the magnifiers, excitedly called me over to admire a teeny little femur, and marvel over the orange color of a rodents incisors. Finally, I passed out a small plastic bag to each student and they could either share the bones so that each takes some of them home. Occasionally, one partner lucked out because the other student was too grossed out to take home a bag of bones. Then, we returned to our normal classroom, back downstairs, where we washed  hands thoroughly and wrote a little paragraph about the experience. I told them it could either be a personal narrative, or an informational paragraph. But, since it is writing class, we were going to do some writing. Actually, everyone was so enthralled with what we'd done, that they all had something to say.

Here's a rather large skull that one girl found. Note the really yellow teeth on the end of it? Now, isn't that just so exciting?? Wouldn't you be so excited to come to school if you could do cool stuff like this? We try to do it as often as possible. There was a great deal of engagement today, and people were remembering the things we'd read about and the ideas we'd discussed in past lesson. It was some pretty awesome actual education.

I purposely tried to obscure their faces, but see how involved they are? There was some serious science going on here. I love my job.

Monday, January 07, 2013

First Day Back After Vacation

It was grueling...None of us wanted to be there, especially the adults. We all  wanted to still be sleeping in and laying around. But, we had a good day, and it rushed by so quickly that we were stacking chairs and hurrying out the door in no time!

Now, tell me again--when does Spring Break start??

Sunday, January 06, 2013

It's Vegas Style, Baby

It's a beautiful, blue-sky morning here in the desert. The sun is shining across the valley, highlighting the palm fronds as they shimmer in the slight breeze. I stepped outside to look at my back yard and this is what greeted me.

It's been really cold here for about three weeks. Brrrr....the pool water is 40 degrees. I was complaining about it to my sister from Wyoming. She pointed out that her temperature was -10 when she pulled into her school parking lot the same day I'd taken this video. Yes, yes. Also, she added that her principal had come to Las Vegas for their winter break and he'd had a really nice visit. He even laid out by the pool, he told her. Sooooo...I'm not only a weather sissy, but I've become acclimated to my bizarrely hot weather, so that when it is seasonally cold---it does this every winter--I become shocked and whiny and feel offended by the low temperatures.
So, I'll stop now. But I thought you might get a kick out of my frozen spa and pool. It is somewhat odd to live in a place with such temperature swings. It's just another way that Las Vegas lives up to its reputation for being never moderate, but always extreme.
Here's CoolGuy's new ninja-biker get-up for these shivery mornings. It's not raining or snowing, and the sun is shining, so it is a rule that he must ride the motorcycle.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Happy New Year 2013

If you've read this blog in the past, then you know that it is a New Year's tradition to take a motorcycle ride. It is done because we can. I mean that if we lived where it snowed, or was regularly below zero in temperatures, then we could not ride the motorcycle on New Year's Day. Well...I suppose we could, but it would be dumb. However, here in the desert, despite the unusually chilly week we've had, it was not so cold as to prevent our traditional ride.
We commemorate that long ago January 1st when we were just married, living in San Diego, CA, and we rode the 1937 Knucklehead to the beach and gazed around us at the ocean and the seagulls, and we were not bundled up in parkas and gloves and mufflers. We had both spent the first 20 years of our lives in a climate where January 1st was always cold and snow-covered. So we just looked at one another, smiled, and said, "YES!!" We knew that this was a definite plus to be able to stand on the shore of the ocean and admire the view and be warm and comfortable and then ride off on the motorcycle.
Our grandson, whose family visited us for New Year's, took this photo as we were ready to roll. You'll note the chaps, gloves, snugly snapped leather coats. I'm also wearing a headband-earmuff unit under my helmet. We're pushing the limits this year. It hasn't been above 50 degrees all week.
We rode over the mountain to the east, into the desert, toward Lake Mead. The air was bright and clear, and I could see the shimmering blue surface along the hilly shore. At first the wind bit my face, but as we got into the desert, either I grew too numb to notice, or it wasn't quite as chilly.

Notice behind CoolGuy there---green leaves on the few plants that thrive out here. Also, no snow, no ice. That's the way I like it!

Again, we had a great time on the Annual-We-Can-So-We-Do Motorcycle Ride. It's really fun the whole year. But it is especially delightful to ride on these special occasions and renew my resolve to never again live year round in a climate where I might have to drive in the snow. Bring on the hot, but leave me out of the cold, thank you very much.
Sincerely, EarthSignMama, Weather Sissy