Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Franken Foot Update

Haven't heard about the feet for quite a while, huh? Well, tomorrow I'm having a little "procedure" done and I thought I'd tell you about it. It's been two years since I had the first surgery for the torn posterior tibial tendon. I laid on the couch for six weeks, then went back to work in the boot till school ended. I finally got back into shoes about mid-June and it felt rather sore still. But, hey! It'd had been totally rebuilt only a few weeks earlier, so I didn't worry much about the pain. I did head back in the doctor to complain about it a little. He really thought it just needed more time, too. About the first of October, I realized one morning that my other foot was now the messed up one. It was really flopped over, in a lot of pain, etc. etc. I went in, got it diagnosed and we started up the whole stupid process again--months of wearing the cast, then the surgery, then the recovery, etc. etc. Well, the right foot was still in pain.

And I don't just mean a little achy...I mean an icepick stabbing me in the side of my foot with each and every step. That kind of pain. I attributed it to my having to favor my new messed-up foot. And then stomping around in a cast for months. But, finally, I got the new messed-up foot all fixed and well again, and still I was in agony. We tried this and that and another thing. Finally, when nothing made any difference at all after nearly a year of messing with it, my doctor referred me to a neurologist.

Which brings me to tomorrow's "procedure." We're pretty sure that a group of nerves got pinched in that area when the bone was healing around the metal insert that was put into my foot to restore it to a normal position after the tendon graft. Rather than go in there and try to un-pinch them, because there are so many little tendrils of it, the neurologist is going to cut the main branch of that nerve up in my shin, so that the impulses from that area will be shut off for good. Of course, I'll have a numb toe, too. BUT...I would choose that over the excruciating pain-with-every-step I've been dealing with for two years.

So, tomorrow afternoon, I go in for a short visit to my old friends at the hospital, and once again get conked out, and cut open, and sewed up. However, this will be a much shorter, less complex surgery and I should be home fairly soon to sleep off the anesthetic. I'm staying home from school until Monday to let things heal up. Then, back in the saddle on the run-away horse of the Last Month of School. And hopefully, I won't be on the lame horse anymore!!! Wish me luck!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tell About A Time....

The learning standard was to write a personal narrative and the prompt was "Tell about a time when you were disappointed and things didn't turn out like you wanted."  It was part of long diagnostic test that the students had taken, and many of them wrote very little or wrote a fairly boring introduction along the lines of "I am going to tell about a time when I was disappointed."  Now, I'd spent a great deal of time in the last month grinding away on the concept that when one is answering a small question (called a "constructed response" in test jargon) that it is critical to restate the question and then answer it. Then, in the next sentences explain your reasons for that answer with details from the text. Don't use because in your topic sentence; then it isn't a topic sentence any longer---it's a detail sentence. So, I know why they used that dead form "I am going to tell you about...."

However, we re-read the directions and it explained that they were actually not responding to a text they'd read---they were supposed to write a personal narrative. Sigh. Teachers are always changing stuff on us, just when we kind of get good at something. Sigh. Read directions??? Are you kidding???

So, to stimulate thinking for this, and to help them to understand the idea of explaining a "disappointment" I wrote a paragraph to read to them. We've studied before how to write a narrative and how to start it out with a compelling opening; something that will motivate the reader to continue reading. So, I tried to write a paragraph that would get them thinking about how they could try to motivate their readers. (ahem...me.)

I turned the corner in our high school hallway,  and headed down toward the junior lockers. There was Deb, talking to Chad, and my heart started to beat nervously. Now was my chance! It was two weeks until the Sadie Hawkins Dance and I planned to ask Deb to be my date. I was almost there, when, suddenly, all my plans were ruined!

 So, do you want to know more? Are you interested? Can you tell that I was excited and happy and then found myself "disappointed?"  My students got the message. In fact, when I read each small group that tiny paragraph, they all leaned in toward me, and when I ended the last sentence, nearly simultaneously and breathlessly said, "What happened next?!?!?"  It was an awesome lesson. I asked them, "So...you want to know what happens next, huh?  So, did I write an interesting opener? Do you understand that this is definitely about a time I had a disappointment? Can you tell that, at first, everything was going great, I expected to get what I wanted and I was excited, and then.....blah."

It changed the whole lesson. Suddenly everyone (well, most everyone) figured out how to rewrite their story. 1st: let the reader know that everything was going to be great and why. 2nd: let the reader realize that something went wrong with your plan.  Then, go on and tell about the let-down. Voila: a great personal narrative about a time when you were disappointed. They eagerly rewrote their opening paragraphs, and next week, we'll spend some time completing those stories and sharing them.

And, yes, I did tell them the end of my story. Just then, another girl came around a different corner, and she got there to Deb about three steps ahead of me. I saw her approach him, realized why she was there, heard her ask, heard him reply "Yes" and then suddenly, I needed to figure out how I was going to pretend that I was walking up to him for some other reason, or that I wasn't really walking over to him, or something!!  It was a terrible disappointment. I'd developed a serious crush on him, and now it was not meant to be. In fact, I had to figure out how to get out of there without being embarrassed. The kids were very sympathetic as I told "The Rest of the Story" and some suggested that I should have stepped up and tried to get him to change his mind. However, I asked them if they'd ever seen a cartoon or a movie where two people are walking toward each other, and there are hearts and little birds flying around and beautiful music is playing as their eyes meet?  Well, that's the way it was with Deb and Marie. Then I told the students that a couple of years later, after high school, those two got married and they've been married ever since: nearly 40 years! Oh. Well, they optimistically asked me, "Who did you go to the dance with? Did you go ask Mr. [CoolGuy] then?"  Um....no. He had a girlfriend already. I did find a nice boy to ask, and he had a cool car, so it was okay ultimately.

They love to hear stories of my life, and they love to give me advice about how I should have conducted myself. I assure them that someday their traumatic life events will simply be a good story to tell their children and that they'll get over almost everything. Plus---all these things that happen can be turned into really interesting stories to write the next time some test prompt asks them to write a personal narrative!!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

More Spring Fever

As I walked out of the school on Friday night, the air was fabulous! The sun was low in the sky, the wind was still, it was pleasantly warm. I crossed the parking lot and ducked under the foliage of a mesquite tree and was enveloped in a sweet scent almost like honeysuckle. I'd forgotten that mesquite trees have such a lovely aroma when they bloom. It doesn't look much like a flower. They're just a fuzzy, long tube-thing that, upon close inspection, have teeny little blooms all up and down the stem. They hang in clusters on the branches.

They're about the size of an adult finger.

The mesquite trees in our parking lot are loaded with these blooms.
These trees provide shade for our cars during the school day as the weather begins to heat up. They're native to southern Nevada, so they tolerate the high temperatures and need very little water.

You see how small the leaves are, and they're very resinous too--all important features of a desert dweller. These flowers will turn into seed pods, and--I learned from my nature field trips--that coyotes are a main consumer of these seeds. The early people who lived here ground up the seeds on a metate to make a cake or a porridge. The seeds are full of protein.
Well, I wasn't the only one enjoying the beautiful evening air filled with the scent of the honey mesquite. Ummm...I guess that's why they call it the "honey" mesquite, huh?

Every one of these trees lining the median in our parking lot was vibrating with hundreds of bees, gobbling up the nectar from those tiny, tiny flowers. I'm going to have to look for some mesquite honey in the grocery store. I'm sure that the beautiful scent has to translate into some really tasty toast topping. The bees were working enthusiastically and I'm sure their honey will be terrific.
And, yes, I spent about twenty minutes photographing bees and flowers. It was such a great night to be outside. I think we need to plant one of these in our yard so we can enjoy the beautiful aroma and be a host to bees every spring.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

At The Buffet

Who says I don't do Vegas-y things? Last night, I crashed the Birdy Happy Hour and tonight, I stepped into the Caterpillar Buffet.  Yes, worms, creepy crawlies...caterpillars. Lots of them, all over the place.

I was huffing and puffing my way from the student parking lot to the CEB (Carlson Education Building) for my (fifth-to-the-last-ever) college class and, as I rounded the corner approaching the door, I came across a whole flock of sparrows and finches hopping around the sidewalk, and all over the plants and landscaping rocks. One of them was gulping an inch long black thingy down its gullet and another was walking backwards on the sidewalk, dragging some sticky black tube along. Mighty curious. I had to hurry into class, but I realized it was some type of worm.

I came back out the same door a little over two hours later, but the sun was so low in the sky that all the birds were now gone. However...Caterpillar City was flourishing!  There were several furry black ones scrunching their way along the sidewalk. I looked around to see where they were going to (or coming from) and I realized that there were several identical bushy plants in the landscaping that were coated with caterpillars!

 I put the pen there to give it some scale. 

Curl, stretch, curl, stretch--he was moving along quite efficiently.

You have to look closely, because in this photo they look more green than black, but along the stem on the lower right side of the photo, you can clearly see two of them.

Notice the black fellow with a yellow head in the center of the photograph? Notice the leaves all chewed and full of holes all around him?

I made this one bigger so you can more easily see all the caterpillars coating this plant. There were at least 15 that I counted before I took the photo. This plant resembles a weed that I have growing in my yard, but the black fuzzy ones were also on other greenery in the plant area, too.
I'm guessing that as soon as the sun comes up tomorrow, the birds will be back with gusto. I don't know how long the Caterpillar Buffet will be open, but, just like the eateries on the Famed Las Vegas Strip, this one on campus, in the shadow of the Strip, is packed with tasty treats, and the customers give it Two Thumbs--er--Feathers UP!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In the Way

I got home tonight about 6:30. The sun was still up, but low enough in the sky that the back yard was shaded by the wall. I brought in the groceries, but I couldn't see CoolGuy anywhere. I stepped out onto the patio and there he was reclining in the hot tub, recovering from being ill today. I was sorry to see he wasn't feeling well, but I was thrilled to know that the tub was ready to get right in.

It was another exciting day in 4th grade. I've been doing "centers" this week. Which means that while I work with a small group, the other 25 students are supervising themselves. Yeah...right. No, really, sometimes Centers works well. Most of the time, actually. I divided them at the beginning of the year into skill groups with a test, but some people have been adjusted when they've shown me they've increased their skills. Then, the groups of six children each work quietly. One group is at the desks on the current writing assignment; another practices typing using home row keys on my classroom computers; a group uses whisper phones to practice fluency and then write a story with the Fry Phrases they've read; and the last group practices spelling patterns, again, according to skills and needs. I'm at a table with the fifth group.

Well, today, a couple of groups were just unable to work quietly. We've rehearsed their activities, we've rehearsed their voice levels, we've rehearsed our classroom expectations. But...every once in a while some people are just out of control. So, some spent recess with me and there's a group tomorrow who left the building screaming and running (and I couldn't hobble fast enough to catch up) who'll be spending recess with me tomorrow.

So, by the time I cleaned up and prepped for tomorrow, bought the groceries, and navigated the roads to home, I was sweaty, foot sore and exhausted. Awwww...the hot tub was PERFECTION!!!

Except. Usually we soak out there after dark. And since the sun was going down, roosting time for the local dove and pigeon population was approaching fast. In other words: it was Birdy Happy Hour and we were sitting in the martini. Maybe you've never heard a dove say, "Harrummp....excuse me, lady." But I did this afternoon. The wall around the pool had seven or eight doves. There were three or four pigeons on our roof, and four more on the neighbor's roof. They fidgeted a bit, then one or two of them flew down to the far end of the pool surround. One dove tried to get a drink from the pool, but it wasn't happening.

I felt a little bad, but not bad enough to get out of the hot tub right then. Finally we went in, and it was just in the nick of time. The sun was almost touching the mountains! Happy hour was ending! It was almost bedtime and the birds needed one more drink! They clustered on the tile between the tub and the pool where the water flows over the edge and had their little rendezvous and hurried off to their nests.

Sorry, guys, but my sore feet trump your routines.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Keep Looking

I think I've discoursed on this topic before, but it's worth talking about again---being conscious of the Tender Mercies of God. Every day at school, we gather as classes in rows on the playground at the conclusion of morning recess. Then, we join our principal and recite the pledge of allegiance, which is followed by a thirty-second Moment of Silence. I realize that this is the Nevada legislature arranging for a period of daily prayer or meditation for students and teachers, so I've started to thank God for something during this time.

Usually we're outdoors, so it is easy to silently express my appreciation for the beautiful world in which we're standing as we observe our thirty silent seconds. The sky is often bright blue, the mountains are in sharp relief against that azure backdrop. I can see the Las Vegas Temple from our playground---it's just a few blocks away. I love my job, and I express my thanks that I have it. I have superb co-workers in fourth grade and I'm grateful for them. My final university class is completely do-able in the middle of everything else that overwhelms me.

For several days last week and over the weekend, our daughter and her three children visited us. They were on Spring Break from their school, and so their mom took a couple of days off work for a little trip to the land of lovely weather. And it was really lovely while they were here--sunny, 70's and 80's. Winter has been long and harsh in Utah, and it ain't over yet, apparently. (Snow forecast for tonight and tomorrow...)

They visited two popular nature areas here in the desert and soaked up some sun. Then, the kids played in our sandbox, and twice we warmed up the "little pool" so that we could all play in the water. On Saturday afternoon, it was warm enough to use the big pool, too, so we all swam in it. The water was just warm enough...after today's relentless wind storm, I'm sure it's too chilly again.

These are all blessings for which I've expressed my gratitude to Heavenly Father: being a mom and grandmother; sharing meals and fun with them for several days; getting to enjoy a "grown-ups only" evening with our daughter as we experienced near gluttony at a really nice restaurant that recalled her eighteen months of living in Madrid, Spain.

Now that I'm carefully looking, I continually find blessings, large and small, that Father in Heaven is showing upon me. You should look too---I'll bet you'll find you're richly blessed, also.

We licked the plates clean.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

It's Time to Celebrate

As I sat in my principal's office today, to sign my yearly evaluation page (and it was a good one, yes....) she murmured, "What's the date?" and I replied, "April 2nd, my son was born today." And then I looked at my watch, and continued, "About one hour ago..." She looked up at me, smiled, and remarked, "I guess you don't forget something like that, huh?" She is married, but chose not to be a mother -- she has pointed this out. So, she really wouldn't understand that no matter how many years pass, no matter how old I get--or my children get--that moment of their arrival here on earth is indelibly etched into my mind with the vividness of a technicolor movie. It will never fade and will never grow tiresome to remember that marvelous moment when we first met.

It was a sunshine filled morning in Southern California and he came out hollering. His sisters, two and three years old, were playing in the yard, watched over by a dear friend, and they hurried into the house to see their new brother. Back in the olden days....when I was giving birth...we didn't get sonograms to know which gender the baby would be. (They weren't a routine technology.) However, CoolGuy was unfailing in his predictions. I think he got inspiration from his mother, who was with each of our children in heaven while they awaited the completion of their bodies during the nine months. We "knew" it was going to be a boy, and didn't even have a girl name picked out. He was a very loved little brother. It's kind of amazing he survived all the hugging and loving. He was tough then, too.

 Through the years, he's always been a goer and kept everyone entertained. Today, that is his business: entertainment. He's in a band and he has a recording studio so he produces their music and other groups' music too. He's still a pretty cool cat, just like when he was kid.

I'll always think of him as my little boy, no matter how many decades he's been around, though, because that's what mothers do, huh?


Energetic and intelligent--he maintains those two qualities as an adult.
 That's him playing the bass in the top part of this photo. Like I said...he's still cool.

Here is his BFF, Leroy, helping in the studio in Baltimore.
Happy Birthday Daniel. I'd bake you a cake if I were in Maryland.