Saturday, January 24, 2015

Rock Ruminations

Ruined my Springtime on the farm
Oh no! It's such a hard job,
Clearing these glacier remains
Kicking through the dirt.
Swimming pool with friends? I'll never get there.

 Seriously? We go home for a visit, and 
I'm right back out there in the dirt. 

Sifting through my toes
Always reminds me of California
Near the ocean.
Desert? No! Beach...

 Ocean Beach, San Diego,  Easter Night

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Family Time

We drove north for a visit over this weekend + Monday. Our oldest grandson was getting ordained to be a deacon, and that governed the timing for this visit. His other grandmother is visiting from Buenos Aires, Argentina, this month. It is her summer vacation...she brought some of that balmy weather with her, I think. We had a great day together at church, then at their home. It seems like his dad was just 12 years old...How can he already be this age??
Three generations

 The two grandmas, doting on the kid

A nice hug for a fine person

On Monday, we spent the morning having fun with the other grandchildren. We went bowling and then ate some lunch. Finally, we had to go back home, since I had to teach school on Tuesday. But, wow, we really enjoyed ourselves for three days!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Obscure Knowlege Experts

This week, I passed out to 20 students confirmation that they were finalists in our school's Geography Bee. They were delighted. A couple of them were astonished...But, hey---you don't have to be in Mensa to be interested in maps, globes and the earth. So, in two weeks, we'll hold the final contest. Their parents are invited to watch, and then the last one standing will be awarded the medal and certificate that I have waiting in my classroom.

I asked our PTO to fund our registration this year because it has been several years since we even held the contest. It is sponsored by the National Geographic Society (naturally...) and we have a plaque in our library with the names of previous years' winners. But the last one posted there was a boy I know is in high school now. I had his little brother two years ago. So, I decided to just jump in and run it myself because I love geography, trivia contests, and giving students a chance to excel without a grade attached. Plus, I know how fun it is to watch your child be a winner in an event like this.

In fact, I even know how a grandma feels on these occasions! I came home from school, on the day I passed out the confirmations, only to read on Facebook how our granddaughter (6th grade) had won the Geography Bee in her school in Utah! And her brother (3rd grade) even made it into the contest as the only one in his level against the 4th, 5th and 6th graders. It's exciting! But not surprising...we love maps in our family. We've been geography nuts for generations.

Their mother was on a trivia team in high school. Their school had the reputation of being a sort of under-achieving place. Probably 2/3 of our parents picked strawberries for a living. It wasn't in the hoity-toity part of town. But, there was a lot of spirit! And one year, our daughter's team beat the fancy private high school in a tie-breaker nail-biter final! She helped by being the child of Wyoming people.That final question was "Which is the oldest National Park?" Naturally, all those California kids were thinking Yosemite. However, we watched from the audience, as our daughter vigorously made her case in the team huddle for Yellowstone. After all, we'd been visiting the grandma's the previous summer when all the Yellowstone Centennial festivities were going one. She convinced them, and --they won!! It was a great moment to remind the other students that, just because you might not live in the coolest part of town, it doesn't mean you aren't SMART!

She went on to be on the college trivia team, and eventually she even appeared on Jeopardy! And, of course, I've got a few game shows in my resume. So, we love facts in our family. We can't help it...there are words out there! And they must be read! Somehow, many of them stayed firmly in our brains, waiting for just the right moment when someone might really need to know where the taxidermied horse Trigger is on display, or what type of whale has a long sharp protuberance on its nose. You just never know.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


We have a student in our grade who needs more motivation. By "we" I mean my two fellow 4th grade teachers. I am the writing teacher, one of them teaches math, and the other teaches reading. Between the reading teacher and I, we work in the science and social studies, too. But, we've got this one boy who, despite his reasonable ability, is not at all motivated to do well in academics.

His life is oriented to football. He's a big and tall fellow, for being only ten years old. He loves to watch football, and he plays on a team. He is pretty good at it, too, I imagine. He has stated to each of us, more than once, that he doesn't really care about school; and, because he is going to be a pro football player some day, he doesn't think school is really that important.

Now, I can't blame him for this attitude. I mean, when I was ten, I really don't think I was overly excited by trying to figure out the author's purpose for writing whatever it was I reading in class. But that is one of the standards that the reading teacher is obligated to teach. In fact, although I loved reading, I don't remember any lessons at all about it from elementary school. Um..I do remember struggling with division, however.

So, my co-worker, the reading teacher, had a great idea. She has connections in the sports world through her husband's work, so she reached out to find some NFL player who might be willing to write a letter to our student with the player's opinion of whether or not school was important for a person who aspires to become a pro footballer. She got the letter on Friday!

A player from Tampa Bay wrote an email to her, addressed our student in the greeting, and went on to explain why this player felt that school was, indeed, important if you aim for the NFL. He wrote about the discipline of doing hard things, and how it is the only way a person can get good enough to be a pro player. He talked about how important it is to learn to follow directions, tough it out when it seems to hard, and that school makes you a better person. I forget the rest, but it was a very nice letter that emphasized how important it was to this player that he had gone to school, and that it got him into college and gave him the opportunity to be a football player now.

So, my friend printed off the letter, (keeping the email private) and gave it to our guy. He was over the moon! Turns out that this player plays in the same position our student plays in his league team. But, was our kid ever impressed! I don't even know if he realizes how cool it was that his teacher cared enough to do this. Then, she asked him to sit down and type out a reply, so she could email it back to the player. He was finally motivated to write!

What a great teacher she is, and what a fine thing to do for this boy. I do like his personality. He is curious and funny, but really, really not excited about school work. So, I hope this little gesture from a kind man, who didn't need to do anything for us, will help our student turn it around in class. Positive motivation is always more effective. It's just about impossible to push a rope...

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Good News...

This afternoon, it was 73 degrees as I drove across town at 3:00 P.M. !! That's more like it, Las Vegas!

The bad news...
 I was driving across town because I'd been visiting the endodontist. Yes, that is the dentist who specializes in root canal treatments. Blah. I'm scheduled to have my latest root canal next Thursday. But, if it means I'll be able to chew on the right side again, then, bring it on! 

So, anyway, I don't think the pool will have ice on it anymore. I moved all my outdoor potted plants back out to the edge of the patio and gave them a nice soaking with the hose since the outdoor irrigation is turned off. The geraniums are still blooming. I'll need to pull up the dead basil and tomato plants from where they finally were killed by the frost in my garden bed. But, I still have two tomatoes to eat from the second crop greenies we picked and brought in last week on the night they were predicting the first frost. And I have a cup full of nicely dried basil leaves that I'm using in the yummy stews and soups that have been our dinners during our annual "winter" here in the Mojave. I love that it only lasts for two weeks. I'm pretty much over it now, so the balmy temperatures are good to see.
  Weather Sissy signing off for today.... 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Vacation is Over

My students were pleased to see me back today. I'd missed the last two days before Christmas break because I'd gotten very ill. It felt weird to be back at school because it seemed like such a long, long time since I'd been there. I had three absent students, and I wasn't surprised. There are often several students who don't return on the first day after our long winter vacation. Sometimes, it is because they've gone out of town and aren't back yet. And sometimes, it is just because no one at their house noticed that school started again. Seriously.

Today, as we were walking down the ramp from the playground, downstairs to the door which leads to our hallway, I noticed a little girl standing by her parents and crying her eyes out. When I approached them, as we got to the stairs, I suggested to her that she ought to just follow my class inside to go to her room. I thought they were waiting for us to pass by in order to walk up the ramp to the playground where all the classes meet at the beginning of the day after the bell. However, it wasn't being a little late that was causing her stress.

I said, "Don't worry, you're not late. You can come here with our class and go down to your room."  I explained that her class was probably already downstairs in their classroom. No response--just more crying. At that point, Dad said to me, "Oh, she is just wanting more vacation! She isn't upset about being late."  Ha, ha, ha!! That made me laugh.

I leaned down so I could see her face better, and I replied, "Oh, I know just how you feel! Most of us teachers wish we were still on vacation, too! I don't think anyone is excited to be here today."  She and dad followed us in the door, and I directed him down the hall to her third grade classroom. He had to hold her hand and pretty much insist that she keep walking. I hope she had a better day. It didn't start that well.

We had a pretty good day in fourth grade, but everyone was quite tired. And now, it's time to go to bed, because tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow we have to get up and do it all over again. We'll all feel better soon as we get back into our groove.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year! The Pool is Frozen!

Actually, there is only a film of ice across the top of the pool. But, it makes for a great headline, huh?  There was such disappointment this New Year's Eve in Sin City. For several days there was eager anticipation that we might get snowed on for the celebration!! Yes, snow!! It certainly has been cold enough for snow.

I moved all of my patio plants in from the edges to right next to the house, so I could cover them with the beach towels. It was definitely the end of the garden. We've been picking the "second crop" tomatoes and using fresh basil since the heat dropped off and the plants revived in the end of October. But, a couple of days ago, the basil all turned black overnight because it dipped below 30 degrees. So, it's time to pull up all the dead plants in the garden bed and let it rest till the end of February, when I will plant the new tomatoes.

The weather people were feverishly panting over the prospect of the convergence of a very low jet stream bringing freezing air to the Mojave Desert and the moisture being blown inland from the Pacific Ocean. We were being alerted to the possibility (almost certainty...) that we'd have snow in the city!! But, rats, there were only a few flakes in the extreme southwestern parts. The wind kicked up and blew the snow over to Arizona where they got six inches in Kingman. But, our mountains that form the western edge of the valley got a fresh new painting, and all the tourists froze their fannies during the big celebration on the Strip last night. It was mighty chilly here. I hope the bright blue sky of this New Year's morning will compensate the ones who came here to get away from the frozen regions they call home.

 But, I know that this cold will be gone by next week--winter is fleeting here. It's predicted to be up to 67 again by Wednesday. That's good; that's why we live here and not in some northern latitude. I'm just sad for my students. I know they'd have LOVED a big old snowstorm, or even a light dusting. It would have been such a great topic of discussion when we get back together on Monday. Now, all we'll have to discuss is whether or not it was ME who disrupted their Playstations and XBoxes over the holidays. Bwah ha ha ha!! (cue the evil laughter...)

Here is what is coating the surface of our pool this fine New Year's Day.