July 30, 2006

Parents Poison Children with Baba Ganoush

We stopped for lunch at our favorite little strip-mall shop for gyros yesterday. You know the place. No decor to speak of. About 20 feet wide. Same 2 people working no matter what time or day you visit. Steady stream of customers. Just some good people makin' some good food. (You might be imagining an older couple behind the counter, but it's actually two younger-looking guys who are pretty pierced-up.)

Now, we haven't taken the kids there before, and it is likely they've never had gyros before, so I was prepared for a little wariness. Actually, I'm prepared for a little wariness from the kids no matter where or what we eat, but they usually find that their father and I can pick some good food. Personally, I don't like gyros that much. Oh, they taste good. Mmmm. Very good. But seeing that huge lump of meat on the rotisserie grosses me out. Not to mention, to me, it's really like hot dog meat. Or spam. Obviously some means to deal with leftover meat parts. I prefer falafel, sharazi salad, or just an order of baba ganoush. For the spirit of the day, I ordered what everyone else did, but I also ordered baba ganoush, so I could share my favorite dish.

And that's how the fun all started. When I the baba ganoush came, the kids were reluctant to even try it. Big shock. We insisted that they just take a bite. The 7-year-old took a bite, but instantly displayed her dislike before it even hit her taste buds. The 5-year-old, upon seeing his sister's reaction, was quite determined not to even try it. And the battle started.

When he finally put the a piece of pita with baba ganoush in his mouth, he refused to swallow it--for ten minutes! He certainly needs to take tips on eating "yucky" food from Fear Factor or Survivor contestants. The faster you swallow it, the faster the taste goes away. Oh, how the evil stepmom in me is laughing right now.

The whole thing was just ridiculous. And don't think that we spent those 10 minutes trying to talk him into swallowing either. That's not how we play the game. He's such a dramatic child. (Perhaps I need to find a children's theater.) Did I mention in my vast jack-of-all-trades educator career that I've directed 15 plays? Oh, I know how to deal with those dramatic types. That child has NOTHING on me!

When the gyros came, oh they were so delicious! The pitas were so fresh, the tomatoes were ripe, and the cooks were generous with their yummy tzatziki sauce. I know I said I'm not a fan, but that's because of the creepy nature of the meat, not because it isn't just the tastiest ever. (You know, I should just chill because I've never gotten sick after eating there, and I easily get sick from eating in restaurants in general.)

So, how do you think the darling, drama child thought of our gyros? He started crying! They weren't tears of joy, either. They were the tears of a child being tortured, perhaps maybe from the pain of having his toenails ripped out with plyers. Seriously! The theatrics of it all! Unfortunately he still had bread, baba ganoush, and 10 minutes worth of saliva in his mouth.

Then, he finally got to spit it out, lest he should choke. But he did get a darn good taste of it, didn't he?

Then the two of us got go outside so he could finish his tantrum while my food was getting cold and I was getting hot (it's still over 100 all the time for a few more months). I once again explained to him how grateful he should be to eat. Period. And some bullshit story how little kids in Greece are begging their moms to make gyros just like how kids in Mexico beg their moms for tacos, kids in Italy beg their moms for pizza, and kids here in America beg their moms for hot dogs. (Please don't comment on my lack of international food and culture knowledge.)

Of course the clincher was the obvious understanding of what his afternoon might look like compared to his sister's.

He cleaned up in the restroom, and on the way back to the table the cook asked me if everything was okay, and I quickly explained that the child just thought we were trying to poison his by asking him to try something new.

The man was incredulous: "Are you serious?"

To which I replied, "Yea, I know! Hard to believe."

Of course the man may have been judging us and our parenting skills. I'd rather believe that neither of could understand how someone could not like baba ganoush and gyros!

July 28, 2006

Love and Hate Those Crazy Students

I just committed to teaching writing at night school again this year. I'm excited and apprehensive all at once.

A few weeks into the 2nd quarter last year, I began teaching a two-hour writing class, two nights a week. The first quarter was tough because I spent the whole quarter reminding the students that I wasn't the teacher I'd replaced. Since the students enroll quarter by quarter, and rosters change, I would have thought that it wouldn't matter that much what the other teacher had done, but there were enough students who'd had the class the 1st quarter and remembered that they liked it better. Well, since I was left with NOTHING to carry on, that meant it was going to be done MY way.

It's okay. I'm a trained professional.

(Yes, I actually say that to my students.)

Now this school is a type of alternative school. Student choose to go there, and there is a waiting list, but they are mostly the students who need a second chance. Most of the girls had babies. Several also attending school during the day but needed to attend at night if there were ever going to graduate. Some had problems with the law. Most had jobs during the day. Check out my post about A Typical Night. (The beginning is typical, but the end wasn't. It's a little deceiving as to what is typical. Or how.)

I appreciated these students' maturity, as it was a nice relief from middle school drama. I was impressed with their drive to not give up. Many of them had great voices in their writing, also. The class was suppose to be remedial, but few of the students were really at the level. They were bright and interesting, yet they were looked edgier than your average teen. I know a few of them weren't, but they tried to be good people. They were passionate and protective of their families. And I know if you were the average citizen you would totally misunderstand these young people.

Don't think it was all great all the time because there were many nights I wanted to quit on the spot. Name 30 teenagers in a school of less than 200 who want to take a two hour writing class because they like writing. Don't strain yourself. Name 30 teenagers in this same school who would take a two-hour writing class because they thought it would be an easy grade. Maybe lots of worksheets or something. Bingo! Sign me up! How wrong they were. It was a WRITING class! What did they think I'd have them do for 2 hours? Well much of that was going be WRITING--long and short. Sure, we can talk about writing, but that's not going to be the focus of the class. Go to college if you want to talk about writing for two hours. Drop the class if your hand gets tired after 10 minutes of writing. Geez.

And you know, they were teenagers. The apathetic, give-me-instant-gratification-on-a-platter I suspect the majority of them had been pushed through with minimal effort. They were motivated to stay in school and graduate, but they didn't expect that they'd have to work for their grades. Perhaps they had the misconception that the school was a cake school--easier than going to a high school during the day. I didn't meet any teachers there who subscribed that that idea, yet students are always going to look the teacher who does, aye?

So I'm talking about attitude, right? Well, that was more than I could tolerate some nights, especially since the class didn't even start until 8:00p.m. It was such an intense teaching experience that I was constantly swinging between loving it and hating it. At the end of the year I decided that I wouldn't go back, but my major reason was because I need to go back to school. It wasn't an easy decision.

It obviously wasn't a firm decision either. Two days after I resigned, the principal asked if I wouldn't reconsider and then gave me compliments on being a great teacher. I was surprised because I know the students tell him everything good and bad, so I was sure I would come out at the losing end when it was all tallied up. And that would have been cool. I thought I'd done a good job, but there were so many struggles. He saw that I was waivering, so he gave me the summer to think it over.

Hmmm...Compliment the teacher and then give her the summer to forget about all the things burned her out. Call her up while she's still relaxing. Remind her of how well the class went. Then give her the choice of which days she'd like to teach...he's good.

So, I've taken the plunge. I know what I'm getting into now, and I have a little time to plan. (But will I?) Hopefully there a little more love than hate this year. Fingers crossed. Get lessons planned. Here I go.

July 27, 2006

More Walkin' in the Parents' Shoes.

"I can't wait for school to start!" exclaim moms all over the United States.

I know how they feel.

July 24, 2006

Chyck in Waiting

Warning: this is a pissy post.

It is sooooooo Monday. I didn't really think Mondays could be nasty if I wasn't working.

It should have been a decent day. I had a day off from playing happy housewife and homemaker.

Stuff is not not cooperating. My desktop isn't working well great, particularly on the Internet. My dear computer nerd husband ran a spyware destroyer a few weeks ago (Then told his nerdy friend my computer had never been swept before, which is not TRUE. I distinctly remembering doing it about 2 years ago.) Since then, I think it has been slower. Now we just upgraded our Internet service to one that is like 100x faster than anybody even cares. I should not have to wait for anything. It's like dial-up. Arg!

My work laptop is okay, and as much as I love my little Mac G4, it is small. Plus, Safari isn't user friendly sometimes. Don't even tell me I need Firefox, I KNOW. I'm having some issues thought. But it's so stupid I can't even talk about it. Well, okay. I can't remember the admin password. Stupid.

And my laptop has been SLOW, too. (Rebooting has helped) And it gets too hot. Even with my cooling tray. Then my wrists hurt. And I might be going blind from the tiny screen. The battery isn't lasting very long. My charger connector doesn't want to stay connected. Just the little stuff irritating the crap out of me...

I'm annoyed with the "In Demand" feature with my new cable. Half the time it won't connect. I had some time alone to watch a movie that nobody else would want to see. Only I couldn't get it to connect. So I'd wait, like it told me to. Yea, yea, I know...I should have just saved my $$ on this whole cable business. And yes, I have had the cable guy here...twice. I'm quite enjoying my brain-numbing entertainment, though. Last night I saw the Brady wedding and today I watched an enlightening documentary on punk rock.

And on the non-electronic front...family drama gives me a headache and my underwire snapped today. Ouch. Yea, snapped. Don't even ask. I don't know how that happens. It just does.

Oh! No worries. There's the belated chocolate my bro sent me for my b-day in the fridge. It ain't pretty, but it's tasty. Yea, I don't know why he send chocolates in this heat, and when I asked him he said, "Oh, well...uhm...you can probably still eat them.."

And I will.

July 22, 2006

Teacher Sucked Into Lies by Peer Pressure

Tim Fredrick is rehashing some lies teachers tell. The lies about writing pararaphs and essays has me thinking about teaching writing in my own classroom. Last summer I spent plenty of time thinking about writing at the SNWP Summer Institute. And during that time of great reflection, I came up with the all answers of how to grow excellent writers in my classroom.

I wish.

I've had this inner battle about teaching formulaic essays. I don't really like it for most students. For students who struggle with writing and those who are more left-brained, heavy structures work for them. I'm thinking of a group of boys I had in a proficiency English class a few years ago. They were the last five students who needed to pass their high school writing proficiency test. It just so happens that they all had IEP's and ranked woodshop as their favorite class. The only reason they tolerated my class is because I gave them hope that they might actually graduate. Tough crew, aye? (Nay, they were such a great bunch of guys!) I taught them how to write basic, structured essays. Paragraphs related to each other. The thesis was supported. Beginning, middle, and end. Bare bones, functional stuff. They passed the exam, and they did become better writers. Better, mind you. Writing is developmental. (Hopefully they never show up in Teacher Lady's class.)

Flash forward a few years where I found myself at a large middle school in a different school district. I'd spent the first several years of my career with few peers in my subject area, as I worked in a small school. I thought I'd done a good job of teaching writing to my high school students--we had many successes. Then I moved to a different environment and I'm told I had to teach using this certain method that I'd never heard of nor used. I'm freaking out because I'm thinking I've missed some important information in my career, like the proper way to teach students to write. Everyone--even some of the first-year teachers--seemed to know exactly how to go about teaching in this method, yet I was clueless. I went to several teachers in the department for information about this writing method, and I came back with some handouts that looked like fill-in-the-blank worksheets.

Those worksheets only filled in part of my confusion of how to teach writing using this certain method--mainly over exactly WHAT I was suppose to do with those worksheets. Would that magically make my students good writers? If they fill in the blanks, will they have an essay? How was I to get from point A to point B with those sheets? It wasn't self-explanatory to the students nor me. I've used some outlines and formulas to help students learn writing structures, but they were no where near as detailed--or stiffling.

Did you know that nothing dulls an interesting narrative than trying to make it fit into a 5-paragraph essay? Of course you all do. Innately, so did I, but we still tried to force that square peg into a round hole...

Later I found out that at one point there had been an in-service training and that method of teaching writing was adopted. Despite the fact that most of the teachers currently on staff had never actually attended the training, each year teachers were pressured to use this method. Whatever it was. It was like some educational folk legend that gets passed down generation after generation.

Is it also educational folk legend that paragraphs have 4-6 sentences? I don't know. I heard that one from my students:

"Last year, Mrs. Wonderful Teacher told us that paragraphs have 4-6 sentences."

I reply, "Uh, well, I guess that could be true." Oh crap! Shouldn't I know how many sentences a paragraph has? Obviously paragraphs don't always have 4-6 sentences, but is that what I should be telling students at this level of their education? Gawd! I hate it when I don't know what I'm doing.

Now, here's the rub. Mrs. Wonderful Teacher is a wonderful teacher, and I respect her. How do I go about addressing this paragraph issue when I'm not sure what to say, yet I know "4-6 sentences" isn't quite that easy? (Especially if they are redundant or empty sentences.) Thanks for paving the way Mrs. Wonderful Teacher...The students seemed to want solid answers--black and white--and I'd already confused them with the last grammar lesson I gave that included so many exceptions to the rule that the rule is actually more of a suggestion. They think I'm nuts because they've known this rule since 1st grade and now I'm breaking it all to hell. So far I don't have much credibility for my brutal honesty about our crazy English language.

Oh! Then what will my students say to their teachers next year?

"Ms. Crazy Teacher told us____________. Can you believe that?!"

I don't want to perpetuate some of the lies going around in our ELA classrooms. Reminder to self: Avoid getting sucked into lies. You do know what you're doing. Paragraph and sentence lengths are suggestions--for some they serve as a foundation. For too many they could serve as an crutch, and that is unacceptable. There is no easy way to teach writing. It's about ideas, not numbers. I cannot even explain how I teach writing in my classroom because it's different from year to year. From student to student. No worries, though. I have this wonderful bag of holding with tons of tools and tips. Metaphorically, or course.

Being Ms. Crazy Teacher who gives elusive answers about our crazy language in an attempt to stretch the minds and abilities of students isn't such a bad thing, is it? Better than Ms. Liar-Liar-Pants-On-Fire!

July 18, 2006

She Needs Wide Open Spaces

It's monsoon season, so that means that it's still hot as a skillet, but we are prone to wicked storms. We had what I imagine to be a beautiful lightning storm last night that lasted for over two hours. I imagine because from my ground-floor apartment I have views of buildings and just a sliver of sky above. At least I have the memories of lightning forking across the sky, brightening with booms of thunder. At least I have the memories.

Ah...city life.

July 16, 2006


I could hear my mom just smiling away as I told her my adventures of being a mom this summer. It's that amusement that I'm getting mild torture, which is what all parents hope their children are repayed with someday. "Just wait until you're a parent!" No, really. My parents were great, so I think, "What would Mom do?" or "What what Dad do?" pretty frequently. That is, WWMD or WWDD?

**We're starting school clothes shopping. I know it's early, but I'm partial to clearance racks, and that takes time. We nearly have all of DS's (darling son) clothes, but so far we have only have one outfit for DD (darling daughter), and she looks like she might cry. WWMD?

**I really don't like half the clothes for little girls. I think she should be conservative, but cute. Clothes should not be half worn out when you buy then, nor should they advertise just how cute you are in sparkly letters across your chest. Even if you are only 7. Especially for school wear. My sweetie is more uptight than I am. Uhm, "square" is the word I like. WWDD? He's the original "square" after all!

**DS isn't watching where he puts his face under the water at the pool and scratches his faces. Minor, really. Must feel worse to DS because he's boobing about it. WWMD?

**DD trips at the park, scratching a nice boo-boo from knee to ankle. Whoa! That's a big one! WWMD?

**DS throws up in the pool. Seriously. Shredded carrots. WWMD?

**DS is the pokiest eater ever. I've sprouted new gray hairs waiting and waiting every day. WWDD?

**DD and DS are prone to bantering, which turns to bickering, and sometimes then on to tattling. I have my solution. My sweetie has his own solution, but the real question is...WWMD? WWDD?

**It's over 110 degrees during the day. It's still in the 100's at night. Outside play is not practical. WWMD? WWDD?

**"I'm bored! Will you play with me?" Yea, like twenty times a day. WWMD?


July 15, 2006

Leisure Reading: Wicked, Sick & Twisted

Several months ago I played a little game with myself to see how many of the books I've read from some "best of" lists. I realized that many of the books I had read from the lists, I hadn't read very recently. Now I prefer some good brain candy to so I can get a fix. I also prefer some edgier stuff that is very well written, quite thought-provoking, yet not usually on any mainstream lists you'll see.

This week I read Chuck Palahniuk's Haunted. I've heard of Palahniuk, but his best known book, Fight Club, is not something I had wanted to read. I didn't know what I was getting into when I read it, but turns out the book is seriously sick and twisted. It's about writings who go to a writer's retreat that turns into a sort of Survivor-like scenario. Sounds suspensionful, aye? Yea like how Rob Zombie might do suspense without the hillbilly element.

You've got to have strong nerves, a stomach of steel, and an open mind to tackle this one.

There's the main story of the participants, but also woven in are poems about each and the stories they tell. I felt detached from the characters in the present day "retreat" situation, yet I was totally sucked into the largely autobiographical stories each told. It was more like morbidly fascination in some cases. The first story is Palahniuk's "Guts," which I found out after reading this book, is well known and easily found on the Web. (I'd link it, but then I'd be corrupting you, too. It will create an image in your head about actual guts that you'll always wish you didn't have. It's all on you if you want to seek it out.) The storyline of "Guts" sounded vaguely familiar, like an urban folk legend. I should have known from that story that might only get worse. Some stories were disturbing (bloody, gross, sexually bizarre), while others were just lonely.

My favorite story is a milder story about desensitized socialites who make living as homeless people the next hip thing. I've always wondered what it would be like to have a fortunate, charmed life. No worries, plenty of money, charity work, and a busy social life with plenty of cocktails. Sounds kind of fun to me. However, the narrator this story tells how it all becomes so common and dull, so she and her husband join other the bored andwealthy as they "hide" from the world publically posing as homeless people. Strange how suddenly they actually start to feel alive again. Liberated. Ah, but it's a dangerous life. Tragedy strikes, and then narrator finds herself living a lonely life of a recluse. That makes her more like the rest of the human race more than anything else. In fact, I think her life is sadder than that of a down-and-out vagrant.

What's the point in reading disturbing stories? Extreme tales scream the pain and hurt--the baggage-- we all carry in life. Everyone has a story. Everyone has issues. Everyone wants attention. We all crave for a peace that seems unattainable. These are such common themes that writers and artists have to keep coming up with new ways to express themselves to our culture. Palahniuk might be considered a "shock" author, but how else might he get our attention? The deep horrors of our minds, baby!

July 14, 2006

Quick Outline of My Summer Planning Homework

I have been doing a little reflecting in the last few weeks, but none of it really materializes here. Lot's of thinking while busily playing happy homemaker this summer. (oy!)

First, I wish I could have/would have done a better job using technology last year. I had the opportunity to use it more than I ever have, and I did. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. It has made learning and teaching just that much more exciting and engaging, but there are times--too many times--where I think a regular pencil/paper/brain combination is actually more effective. These thoughts are not unreasonable. I just have to figure out the correct classroom ratio.

Last year, I had wanted to start a classroom blog or a network of student blogs, but that proved to be more than I personally could handle with so many walls (of the fire kind) in front of me. I think I have some solutions of where to go that I didn't have a year ago--or even 4 months ago--but it is difficult to know for sure until I am in front of a computer on the school's server. (A seriously common problem I have in not being able to access the same places at school as I can at home.) But even more, I am still floundering on how to use blogs in my classroom, that is, for what great purpose would I use blogs to enhance students learning? To that question I have a lot of answers, and I have even more questions. This is the jumble of stuff that goes on in my head all the time. For those of you who can tolerate my long-ass posts, you already know that.

I'm also interested in wikis and I think I have some ideas there, too. I know what they are, but I'm shakier in that area in knowing how to apply them in the classroom. And podcasting? I can definately see some application. Oh! And am the only teacher who doesn't use video streaming? (We apparently have some great resources in the district.) And is there some other great technology any teacher worth her medicore technological ability should be using? Please enlighten me now while I have time to think. A month from now I won't.

Geez, I used to be pretty good at this computer stuff. In 1996. When the Internet was in black and white...

But then addition to the technology...how can I encourage my students to read more? I had an amazing number of students who would actually do their nightly reading, but it was that 10% who were good readers but simply refused. (Oh, I know that 90% mostly doing what they should be is amazing. I am thankful.) I also need a better system for monitoring my 150 students so they don't cheat on their AR quizzes, too.

Will I have to set up any new cheating preventions this year? Last year's teacher had several instances of plagarism with the group of students I'll be receiving. As 7th graders they are already trying it, lying about it, and denying it even with solid proof! Sure, I'm a crafty opponent--I once busted and benched half a baseball team for plagarising book reviews--but I'd rather have prevention in place. Setting up every trap and net to prevent students from failing themselves is just that new millenium bonus to teaching, is it not?

How can I squeeze in more literature? More writing? More speaking? More thinking? Okay, those are the basics, the no-brainers. The great curriculum juggling act.

Think, think, think...

July 12, 2006

The Game That Saved the World

Or at least my sanity. Kind of. This is a representation of 100 UNO cards in celebration of History is Elementary's 100th post. She has some diverse assignments for us to do to celebrate with her, and quite frankly about all I can do is piggy back off other's ideas these days. But WAHOO for her ongoing enthusiasm!

So, what's with the UNO? It's the kids' favorite game right now, and keeps them entertained for sporadically throughout the day. (Unfornately, it has done nothing to help me in the last few minutes as I was trying to make this post.) I hate to admit it, but this was also a game that I adored when I was a kid, too. I just celebrated a birthday this week (as you can see no celebration post anywhere) and when I think back to how many years ago that was, well...I can tell you that Uno has been entertaining kids for a helluva long time!

Oops! Almost forgot! Check out the 75th Carnival of Education over at School Me! It promises to be a rockin' good time.

July 7, 2006

Down Meme-ory Lane

CaliforniaTeacherGuy has started a memory lane meme. Nothing like a little reminiscing on a warm summer afternoon. So grab some lemonade and then go on over to read his beginning meme. He's also included a template for your convenience!

  • Though I have never given birth my own children, after years of teaching, I think I know quite a bit about parenting. I try to be compassionate to parents who are having a rough time with their kids (especially in teenager form) because I've found that most of them are trying their best and are at their wit's end. (My stints at being an evil stepmother also give me insight, of course.)
  • I have always loved reading. I used to get in trouble in Mr. Long's language arts class because I was often reading instead of listening to him.
  • I still remember moving to another state in April of my kindergarten year. Some boys stole my show-and-tell, which was a stuffed tiger, and hid it in the boys' bathroom. Ew! Yuck! I still remember who one of the boys was, and he never became a nicer person.
  • It astounds me that my best friend's oldest daughter is going to be in 9th grade next year. How did she end up with a teenage daughter? In a few years her children will be grown up!! Of course my best friend is a whole day older than I am...so these things could happen to HER, but certainly not me...
  • I was fortunate that my parents were strict. Man, my dad was a hard-ass. And kind of a tighwad, too. I appreciate those things about him, though. And my mother kept us in line helping around the house and yard. My brother and I learned a strong work ethic, and we stayed out of trouble because we weren't allowed to just run wild. I still fear the wrath of my father and try not to disappoint him. It's not that bad, though. My sweetie and I love to spend time with my parents--they're a lot of fun! My dad has turned in to a real teddy bear, but when we were younger he could be a grizzly bear. It worked, though.
  • I never really planned what my wedding would be like as some young girls did. When I married the first time, I just kind of winged it--and on a low budget no less. It was nice, I suppose, but hardly a dream wedding. The second time around I opted to just run off and get married at a riverside chapel in Reno. That was more a dream wedding to me!
  • I first learned…about teaching when I taught Sunday school and vacation bible school when I was a teenager. Mostly I taught the preschool and kindergarten classes. I must have been a completely different person then because those are the LAST two age levels I ever hope to teach. Yea, they are cute, but after that Christmas pageant stint with what I believed to be cousins to the Herdman family (from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever), I think I lost a little passion for bringing Jesus to the children. And teaching little children.
  • I never expected to have the ability to travel when I became a teacher. Or have any kind of luxury. When I graduated, the going rate for teachers in Utah was $18,000. Luckily, I couldn't find a job and ended up moving to Nevada where I made about $6,000 more a year. I don't get to do it too much anymore because my family has different priorities right now, but when I was single, I was always traveling about.
  • By the time I graduated from college, I thought I'd have a breakdown if I didn't get a job. It took me several years to put myself through school, and the last few years were financially the worst. (Not to mention I was ready to move on in life!)
  • I have received a lot of criticism in my career. Geez, everyone has something to say about teachers. Sometimes it hurts, but I do try to take those outside thoughts to my own inside thoughts. I'm hardly perfect, so sometimes criticism is the stepping stone to self-improvement.
  • I found that I have a low tolerance for poor customer service. When I worked in food and retail I always had supervisors who insisted that the customer was right now matter how crazy they might be. It was never an option to be rude or indifferent to a customer no matter how busy we were, how rude they were, or how bad they might smell.
  • I had always assumed I wouldn't live to see my 18th birthday. I was a pretty together kid, but I had a hard time imaging life after high school. It was just so out of my realm of knowledge or expectation. Sure, I made plans, but it just didn't seem real. Or perhaps at the time, it seemed too real.
  • I’m grateful for the time I spent working at my job at the independent bookstore through my college years. I worked with a bunch of strong, educated women and through them associated with other women like them. It was more than work, though. They were an extended family to me. My experiences there really shaped a lot of who I became, and for that I am extremely grateful.
Wanna give it a shot? Why not?

July 6, 2006

Take a Break! Go to the Carnival!

I'm a little behind on the times, but just in case you didn't know, the 74th Carnival of Education is over at NYC Educator this week. Can I just say that NYC is one of my favorite daily reads? (Sometimes I am a little lost since I'm a left-coaster, but a lot of issues are universal.) And NYC, thanks, dahling for mentioning me! Sorry I haven't been writing about education, though.

I've only glanced at the events, but it looks HUGE! I'm going to wait to go on over when I don't have The Little One (five-year old stepson) constantly chirping in my ear. It's reminiscent of last summer. It's probably a personality trait. I might start hanging out with the stay-at-home-mommy crowd, although I don't know how they have time to read or write blogs anyway. Have I already said that I'm not cut out for the stay-at-home-mommy thing? I'm a working woman! Plus I require a lot of "me time." [Snort] I'm off to make lunch and rotate laundry.

Yo! There better be a beer garden at the carnival. See ya there!

July 5, 2006

People Watching

Who doesn't love to do a little people watching? I can't help it. When I see people I tend to WONDER what their stories are. Yesterday even my husband admitted "people are interesting," and I don't think he much pays attention to things like that.

We had a picnic lunch at the kids' favorite park. Here are some gleanings:

  • We are obviously amateurs at going to the park. This is actually something I've observed before. Most serious park-goers have blankets, folding chairs, coolers, and gallons of water. The must also arrive early because they also get the best, shaded areas.
  • I saw a couple at one of the tables. They had a big phonebook and a rolodex and were making phone calls. At first I was perplexed by this because if I had to work I wouldn't do it in the park when it was 93 degrees outside. (Yea! That's actually cool for here, but still not THAT cool.) I didn't realize until later that they had children because the man wasn't part of the...
  • Papa Perimeter--which is what you get when all the dads are standing around the edges of the playground watching their children. It's quite endearing! Like a line of bodyguards.

In the evening we went to a park in a neighboring city where there was a big celebration and fireworks display that attracted tens of thousands of people. Oh, you know that place was ripe for people watching.

  • Again, we are certainly amateurs because we lacked anything to temporarily set up house in the park. That was kind of on purpose because I didn't want to have to carry a bunch of stuff. The kids tried to talk me into taking a huge tote bags full of stuff, but when I suggested they might like to carry those things, they decided that we would probably be okay without. I carried my chapstick and a communal bottle of water. Other attendees, however, went to the park for the long haul. One family brought two playpens for their toddlers. Another family set up a tent.
  • While standing in line to get dinner, I observed a guy stuck in 1984 hitting on two girls who told him they were 19. He had long blond Van Halen hair, a baggy t-shirt, and sweat pants with pockets. I think the three of them were kind of talking about the live music on that side of the park, which happened to be country music. The man looked kind of young, but I thought he was maybe my age (it was the hair), until he started talking about remembering when getting tickets to Bob Seger was a big thing. Even I was thinking, "Huh?" The girls didn't know what to say. Crash and burn, dude. Crash and burn.
  • I would say that the majority of the people found a place on the grass--there was lots of it--to watch the fireworks. We were on our way to snag our piece when we found some unoccupied bleacher seating at the baseball field. The field itself was off-limits as it was the fireworks staging area. Front row seating, baby! With this seating came rambunctious boys who proceeded to wrestle and beat the crap out of each other for, well, 45 minutes or so? When the oldest one grew tired of his weakening sibling, he decided to climb the chain-link fence that separated the diamond from the spectator seating. I kept one eye on the boys and another eye on the reactions to the people sitting near us. Some elderly folks behind me look about as irritated as I felt, but other than that, nothing...
  • Our 5-year old said to me at one point when a one of boys was climbing and standing on the handrail, "That baby is going to fall!" I told him that the boy wasn't a baby, and he said, "But he's wearing a diaper!" Uhm, yea. What were our children doing while this was going on? Sitting quietly with only an occasional inquiry about the time. Something about seeing wild children just calms them right down. That's the second time I've seen that behavior in our kids in the last few days. Interesting.
  • Just minutes before the fireworks started a family squeezed into the seating around us. When the fireworks started, their dog started freaking out. It didn't really affect any of us in the stands, which I was thankful for, but the father of the family had to hold the dog and talk to him during the whole display. It was the kind of talk you would say to a small child who was afraid, "It's okay, nobody's going to hurt you, calm down, and etc." Through the WHOLE thing, and in both English and Spanish! Is the dog bilingual? I'm kind of jealous if he is.
  • While waiting for the shuttle, we stood in line in front of a woman, her pre-teen daughter, and the woman's friend. The woman seemed stressed out about something and couldn't wait to drop her daughter off and then go have a drink with her friend. It wasn't until we were on the shuttle that the woman turned around and told me her story. Just a few minutes before she left the house to meet her daughter and friend at the park, her 11-year old son was arrested for setting off firecrackers in an abandoned house with some friends of his. She was quite beside herself because there wasn't a lot she could do that night, and she couldn't believe that her straight-A son had gone off and gotten himself in such big trouble. Apparently it was the first summer she had decided to give him some freedom to go off with his friends without direct supervision. My first impression of her weren't so great, but then after hearing this story, I really believed that she had tried to raise some decent kids. I don't know, something just struck me. (BTW, does anyone else remember those summers when we went off for practically the whole day without direct supervision? And on the 4th of July, we sometimes had fireworks and matches!)
  • Self observation: At one point during the fireworks there was a succession of explosions that, to me, sounded like rapid gunfire. I quite overcome with emotion and almost started crying, as it reminded me of the soldiers we have overseas. When they hear those noises, it's not a sight of beautiful for them. I have quite a few former students in the Armed Forces, and at one point I could think of at least 8-9 in dangerous areas overseas. I'm so proud of them. And thankful to them. They damn well better be keeping their asses safe! They deserve to be spending the day with their families, too. [sniff]

July 2, 2006

A Meme... Because I Can

Here's a meme I snagged from California Teacher Guy. He got it from some other people, so be sure to work your way back for some interesting reading. These prompts are similar to some poetry formulas I have used. It's kind of cool to me because you can certainly plan your responses around an idea. OR you can just put down the first thing that comes to your head. That's my favorite. Some of my answers surprise me, too. Just never know what's floating around in my head.

I know that I know quite a bit, but compared to what knowledge is out there in the world, I know nothing.

I believe everyone has to believe in something.

I fought to get myself through college.

I am a strong woman, but sometimes I forget and just hang back in the shadows.

I love unconditionally my family and a handful of close friends who are like family.

I need positive influences in my life or I get sucked into negativity pretty quickly.

I take as much time as I can just for myself.

I hear so many points of view to situations that sometimes I have no idea what the truth is.

I drink my share of caffeine pretty much every day and wish I could quit permanently.

I hate nothing. There are things I dislike, though.

I use too much hand santizer. I think it might be some OCD condition I've acquired.

I want to worry about every. damn. thing. a lot less.

I decided to stay at status quo for at least another year, and once made that decisionI felt a lot more peace.

I like quirky people.

I am a good teacher who feels she could be so much better.

I feel mental exhaustions pretty frequently.

I left a lot of my belongings behind when I moved here a few years ago.

I do love and depend on my sweetie so much that it might be kind of sappily sweet to others.

I hope my sweetie and I start moving a little more quickly toward our goals and dreams. Our progress has been slow, yet steady.

I dream about teaching quite a bit. That's when good ideas come to me!

I drive cautiously around the city and fast on the open road.

I listen to what people have to say because even minor encounters with people can provide life lessons.

I type much better without fancy fingernails.

I think too much sometimes. I think it drives my sweetie a little looney.

I wish I didn't have to work so hard to find inner peace.

I compensate for my shortcomings in many ways. Who doesn't?

I regret not going back to school sooner.

I care about kids and the future they can build for themselves and our country.

I should exercise more.

I am not always tuned into the moment at hand. Talk about out of body experience...

I said, "You'll live. We'll slap a band aid on that and tomorrow you will have forgotten about it."

I wonder what my future holds.

I changed my mind on my chosen career. Several times. Still.

I cry too often over silly things. I can't help it.

I am WYSISYG. Deal with it.

I am not always what people think I should be.

I lose patience as I age. What has happened to common deciency?

I leave this post to retire to bed. Sleep rocks!

Feeling adventurous? Cut and paste it into your own blog (delete my answers, of course), then let me know where to find you. Come on! You know you have nothing better to do!

July 1, 2006

Irritational Thoughts

I heard some sounds outside and the first thing I say to myself: "Were those gun shots?"

A couple of brain blinks later, I answer myself: "Duh! The 4th of July is in a few days. It's probably fireworks. Geez. Get a grip."

Perhaps I could really use a news fast--you know when you don't watch the news because it's so negative. So you do a fast for a little while. Maybe rational thought will return to me, instead of quick draw to potential violence.

Plus, I definately could use a nice little vacation to somewhere not so urban.

And much cooler. The heat cannot be a good thing for my brain health.

Yea that's it. Half the blame to my ridiculous reaction to a popping sound goes to the media. The other half goes to oppressive Mother Nature. Makes sense to me.