Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Mostly Quiet Christmas

It was a quiet cozy Christmas for us. Anna Rae and I went to an early Christmas Eve mass; I loved singing carols before mass, the sight of the altar with sparkling Christmas trees and tall pyramids of vivid pointsettas, the little herd of children in their holiday finery were amusingly serious and sincere as they talked with father about the meaning of Christ's birth before he gave us his homily, and HG and her friend Brittany sang a flawless and beautiful duet of What Child Is This (if ever I have been guilty of the sin of pride, it was then). On Christmas morning we opened gifts at about 8:30. As an only child being FIRST to see what Santa left under the tree was an unknown concern for HG. That never was the case with me. I would get up long before my brothers and sisters, poking and shaking packages, examining labels, wanting to know and wanting to be surprised at the same time. Now that HG is a young adult I don't feel the need to abandon the comfort of a warm bed even on Christmas morning. Besides it is SO dark, with sunrise only minutes before 8:00am. Once we opened gifts and the french bread stuffed with sausage, Canadian bacon, and Swiss cheese was in the oven, we retreated to our corners with our gifts; HG reading a book of Transit Maps of the World (she has had a big time fascination with maps ever since about age 5), Chris reading the Onion's Dumb Atlas of the World, and me struggling through the user's manual for our new digital photo frame. I have it working, well, sort of; I can load the pictures from a memory card but I busted the feature that allows us to upload from the computer. How? Well the directions say, " You can connect the Digital Photo Frame to a Windows or Macintosh computer to copy files to the built-in memory." Then the next section talks about connecting to a Windows Computer, no more mention of Macintosh. That was not going to stop me, I wanted to play with my Christmas toy, @#*& it! So I followed the Windows directions and the Pandigital icon came up and everything was looking A-OK, I started uploading a photo and the little wheel that turns on your screen to tell you "I'm busy, DON'T TOUCH!" just kept turning and turning and turning for a long, long time. I panicked and force quit every operation I could find and then turned off the frame and removed the USB cable. Big mistake, a few pages later in the manual it says, "It is important not to just unplug or switch off the Digital Photo Frame when files are being transferred...". But like I said, I can still load photos from a memory card so, all is not lost!
Have you noticed our perfect Christmas tree? Yes, it is perfectly fake. We have officially made the switch to an artificial tree this year. What I like most about a fake tree is that you don't need to worry about leaving the lights on too long and drying out the needles and burning down the house. What I like least about a fake tree is that the lights are kept on ALOT and I find myself becoming more jaded about the brightness they bring to otherwise dreary winter nights.
The biggest surprise on Christmas was the snow that started to fall at about midday.
A white Christmas is very rare in Seattle; I can think of only two in my 31 years here. I chopped and sauteed, preparing our holiday dinner while listening to seasonal music on the radio and the big wet flakes of snow swirled outside my big garden window, making it feel almost like Midwest Christmases from my past. Our dinner though was decidedly Pacific Northwest; Pistachio Encrusted Halibut with Spicy Cucumber Yogurt Dip and Skewered Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta Cheese, accompanied by a simple lettuce salad and tortellini pasta with roasted peppers and garlic. I did not make a dessert but there were plenty of cookies around for nibbling all day long. A good bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon rounded out our very tasty feast.
Afterwards we retreated downstairs to watch a DVD, The Waitress which is a lighthearted romantic comedy. HG was not totally pleased with the ending but just the same we all agreed it was worth viewing. As we were happily cuddled in blankets on the couch and rocking chair, a little excitement ensued in the backyard as I saw a the beam of a tiny flashlight pass the window in front of us. "Hey Chris, someone is in our backyard!" I exclaim. He shoots off the couch pulls open the back door and shouts, "HEY BUDDY! What are doing in our yard?" Turns out it was our neighbor Sam. His girlfriend's black cat had escaped when a visiting relative opened the door. The cat is an indoor cat and is probably a real dufus about living in the wild neighborhood of feral cats, raccoons, and possums in Shorewood. I still don't know if the cat has been found. We loaned Sam our mega watt flashlight. In retrospect I am not so sure that opening the door BEFORE Chris knew who it was, was the best line of response. Adrenaline makes a person do crazy things.
So that was Christmas 2007 for us!

My Snowman Collection

Run your curser over the snowman images to enlarge them and see the ones that are underneath. I love Photobucket!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Solstice Party

We came dressed in our glitziest and gaudiest Christmas wear to wine, dine, and watch corny holiday movies with our friends Bethany and Jason. Bethany brings 'funwear' to new heights with her green crinoline and silver spandex legs. Jason works at Magnolia Audio Video, installing high end home theaters in homes, businesses, on yachts, and commercial fishing boats. They hosted their Solstice Party in the Design Center's 15 seat theater. On view was: The Muppets Christmas Carol, The Grinch, and Scrooged. It was the perfect start to my two week holiday break. The buffet table groaned with the weight of food and drink. Honestly folks, the holiday is just now gaining momentum for me and I think I have already gained the 7# that most Americans put on during this time of year. I have made only one batch of cut out cookies but goodies have abounded at work and of course both my parents and my in laws have sent goodies: Angel Food Candy (my hands down favorite Christmas sweet since childhood), candied nuts, and of course cheese from Laney's; curds, cheddar aged 2 and 4 years, baby whips, aged Parmesan, and the list goes on and on! But wait, I still have not given the list of treats from students: gift cards to Cupcake Royale and Starbucks, boxes of Ferrero Roche, Godiva chocolates, Rock-n-Roca (delicious beyond imagining!) and bars of chocolate flavored with Earl Grey Tea an Ginger (from Trader Joe's). I must confess, I gave about half of the 'loot' from school away to our church's holiday 'meal in a bag' program. This rain had better let up so I can run some of these excess calories off. Oh! The official results for the Jingle Bell Run have been posted and I ran the 5k in 25.51. This put me at 18th out of 183 in females aged 50-54, which is totally respectable in my opinion.
So what do I have planned for the next two weeks?
1. Reading Love in the Time of Cholera
2. Starting a classroom blog
3. Painting a bathroom
4. Cross country skiing
5. Cooking and enjoying it
6. Lunch with friends
7. More running
8. Watching more dvds
9. Phone calls to relatives and friends
10. Some time in my classroom; "What? You didn't know that teachers spent time at school during break? Tsk, tsk."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I remember when a tangerine in my Christmas stocking was as expected as a candy cane. Now Clementines like these Cuties, share the produce aisle along with satsumas and a host of various tangerines. So why two boxes for a family of three? It was a BOGO (buy one, get one) of course. Even at that the price was, "Gasp!" $8.99. But the HG, like me, pouted that it just wouldn't be right to be without these fragrant, juicy, easy to peel citrus fruits during the holidays. They make the best of snacks in the classroom too and the whole room smells fresh (something you can't always say about a kindergarten classroom).
Speaking of kindergarten, look who visited my classroom yesterday! HG stopped by to meet my class and she helped at the Arts and Crafts table. Of course she thought they were all SO cute and they in turn were rather 'taken' with her. I do not encourage HG to pursue teaching as a career but I guess it wouldn't surprise me if she did, considering all the time she has spent visiting and helping in my classroom ever since she was very little.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holiday Spirit

Last night I poured my holiday spirit into creating the playlist you see on the right side of my blog. I asked the opinion of HG (honey girl) and she said with a groan, "Eww...I don't like to be bombarded with music when I am reading a blog!" I must say I agree with her and I am tempted to take it off. I think though I will keep it on through this month and let you readers out there give your opinion. There is a little button in the left hand corner of the playlist that you can click to turn the music off if you find it obnoxious. If you listen to nothing other than Jingle Bells by Anup, it will be worth your while.
So what else has kept me busy? Well, last Sunday HG and I ran in the Jingle Bell Run. That was fabulous fun! There were over 11,000 runners! Most of the runners wear gaudy holiday costumes and everyone wears bells. Our attire was decidedly tame. We were in the 5k runners wave and by my watch my time, 25.53 looked very good! Official times won't be posted till Dec. 21st. It actually started to snow briefly as I came running out from under the Convention Center, which gave me the burst of adrenaline I needed to run up the exit ramp and on to the finish line.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Slipper Day

Friday was Slipper Day at Sanislo. How fun to be in toasty slippers all day! Only two of my kindergartners wore the exact same slippers and those were Spiderman slippers. On the first Friday of every month it is school spirit day and we have an assembly at the end of the day. Kids can sign up to showcase their talent. This month, a second grader showed us his Irish dancing and two first grade girls and a third grade girl played the piano. At the end of the assembly we sing Happy Birthday to students and teachers who celebrate birthdays during the month. They are simple, no pressure assemblies for the teachers and the kids really enjoy seeing each other on stage.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Women

Chris Bennion, photographer

Busy, busy weekend for me, and lots of fun too! It began Friday night at the ACT theatre where I went along with about a dozen other teachers/friends to see Clare Booth Luce's stylish 1936 play The Women It was described as "venomously funny" and I must say that is an accurate description. I also thought it was an appalling commentary on how some females communicate with each other; lots of cattiness and backstabbing. The script left no doubt that the 'good old days', really weren't all that great for women. The best part of the play was the detailed and extravagant costuming of 1930s women's wear, everything from lingerie to evening gowns.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Rain, Rain Go Away

On Saturday there was snow and now today it is 56 degrees out and it has been raining nearly steady since last night. Many areas of the state are experiencing serious flooding and a stretch of I5 near Chehalis is closed. Some small towns are being evacuated by boat. All Star Fitness here in West Seattle has been flooded and is closed. Check out the West Seattle blog for photos. Personally, we have nothing disastrous to report at our house but I do know more than one of my coworkers has a flooded basement. The photos above show the lake that has taken over our playground.
This isn't going to drain anytime soon!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

December Is Here!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Nothing like a couple inches of snow to usher in the holiday season! I am glad it was a Saturday as I really don't want the school year to drag out in the spring. At the start of all this snow, I was in 'old Burien' and the little specialty shops and boutiques were having their open holiday house and there were carriage and hay wagon rides up and down the street. It was quite picturesque and I sure wish I had brought my camera with me. I just know on Monday the kids in the classroom are going to be full of chatter about this lovely, although wet and brief snowfall. This morning it sounds like rain and looks like sleet coming out of the sky; quite miserable. The Midwest also got snow yesterday but from looking at the news, it probably was a bit heavier and is still around today. Here in Seattle the snow seems like a dream.
Well, time to make some pumpkin bread and then start decorating the tree!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mercedes World, that's Meredith, tagged me today. Here are the rules of this particular meme: Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog. Share 7 facts about yourself. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

1. My house is always clean but my counters are always cluttered.
2. I am not particularly fond of shopping, unless it is for buying plants and gardening tools. I'm a sucker for nursery shops in spring and summer...oh, let's be honest, even in fall and winter I at least troll the online catalogs.
3. I have sleep apnea.
4. My father was on the cheer squad for the Green Bay Packers in 194? Yes, I am a Packer fan.
5. It is challenging for me to read a book cover to cover. I usually read ahead and then go back and fill in the gaps as I find the time.
6. My mother grew up on a Wisconsin farm. Sundays at Grandma's and Grandpa's were a big part of my childhood.
7. I lived in San Francisco on my own, at age 20, for one year.

Some of the bloggers below know I am a regular reader and others don't know me from Adam (or shall I say Eve). Give 'em a read; we're all connected, in one way or another.

1. Quiet Life
2. Learning to Live
3. Time for Change
4. Piffle
5. A Snowball's Chance In...
6. Poetry and Ideas
7. The Happenings in NYC

Sunday, November 25, 2007

For Graham Crackers

So, for what do you give thanks? On last Wednesday the kids had PE after recess and I met them at the door with the snack in hand. Instead of the usual "Thank you!" little 'B' looks up at me and quips with gusto "We give thanks for graham crackers!" and I get one of those warm 'fuzzies' that many people say are make up for the lowly status of teachers on the pay scale. I've gotta say, it did give me an inner grin. We had read a book about Thanksgiving earlier and we had discussed reasons to be thankful. The discussion went well enough but it felt a bit contrived. B's thanks was so much more heartfelt or shall I say 'tummy felt'. Kindergarten kids are so immediate; so in the present. Say your thanks now. You can change today if you say what you mean RIGHT NOW. For adults, Thanksgiving can be reflection, but for kids that is strange territory. The 'here and now' is what it is all about for them.
I hope your Thanksgiving was as enjoyable as ours was; time to eat lots of great food with friends, time to take long runs, time to clean the house AND sweep the garage, time to put up Christmas lights, time to do a bit of Christmas shopping, time to talk on the phone with relatives, time to tackle report cards, time to wash the car, time to go to a play (Cook's Story), time to explore other blogs, time to take take pictures of a lovely full moon. Dear Lord, thank you for the gift of time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

My Honey Girl

My 'honey girl', that is what I called Anna Rae when she was just a wee little baby of six pounds and one ounce born on November 11, 1987. She turned 20 this year and she continues to amaze and delight her dad and I. She has spunk, smarts, and a sensitivity that is not always obvious. And at 5'2"(oh yes, and eyes of blue)she continues to be petite. In fact, the two young, 6' statuesque blond women who share her apartment never cease to let her forget that she is miniature. They designed an unforgettable birthday dinner for Anna Rae. Here is a descriptive explanation from Anna Rae's email: "My friends threw me a little birthday dinner last night. It was incredible. there is a long running joke about me being "miniature" compared to most of my friends. So Meryl, Cassie, and Emma made me a miniature dinner. For everyone other than me there were two normal chickens , baked potatoes, salad, cake, and bread. then for me there was a Cornish game hen, a baby potato, a salad with cherry tomatoes and baby carrots sliced up in it, a mini loaf of bread and a baby cake. The baby cake was four layers, my friend Emma went through h a lot of effort to make it. The thing I was really impressed with was that whereas everyone else got normal Coronas with limes in them....I got a 7 oz. Coronita with a key lime in it." The box her dad and I sent with love DID arrive in time but we have not heard much on what she thinks of its contents. Not because she doesn't want to tell us but because she has laryngitis. We called her to bestow our birthday wishes and were greeted with a softly croaked "Thank you!" Upon hearing her we said, "Hang up, go to bed, drink plenty of fluids, and don't you know, whispering is more stressful on your vocal chords than talking in a regular voice?"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Leaves that Linger

OK. So yesterday I had a post written to go with these pictures but something interfered and an error message came up and "poof!" no text. So I shall try again albeit cautiously. I just checked and it seems to be working. On these gray days of fall as the branches of many trees are bare against the sky our deck view to the west includes a peak at the Puget Sound. Even so, my eyes are drawn more often to the east corner where a birch tree shimmers with yellow leaves and the ruby leaved sweet gum rises up to nestle underneath it's drooping branches. Even today, with the 50 mph winds and driving rain, most of those colorful leaves stayed put. It was not until recent years that I learned that not all trees DROP their leaves, some PUSH them off with the growth of new buds. Such is the case with the sweet gum and oak in our yard.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

This Lovely Day

So this morning I woke up leisurely, had coffee in bed, and finished reading The Kite Runner; an excellent read but oh so sad. Then, seeing the rain had stopped I went out for a 4 mile run. Some runs are exercise but my Saturday runs are extra, just for fun. I don't normally push myself on the weekend and because the sun is up I can take in the progress of neighborhood gardens and I listen to my Ipod. Well, at about the 3 mile point a slim hipped blond (she could not have been 30) with a bouncy pony tail goes breezily past me and this was at a downhill stretch. (Although, I must say that middle aged caution kicks in when I'm running downhill.) "OK" I think, "She IS younger." but it is really the kick in the butt I need and as I hit the corner of my street (uphill by the way) we are running abreast. I turn, smile, and say "Enjoy your run." and that felt so fine.
After the run I showered and indulged in my other favorite past time, gardening. I went to the West Seattle Nursery's annual fall Open House and bought Cyclamen, Ornamental Kale, a Guacamole Hosta, a May Apple, and a few more yellow Speedwell.
Then after a bite of lunch I took the 125 bus downtown where I went to the barbershop in the Market for a haircut a good gab with my former neighbor and hairstylist, Paige. She is string bean thin, at least 20 years younger than me, has LOTS of interesting tattoos and her currently blonde hair is no longer than an inch at any point on her head, and she was raised Mormon. Could we be more different? In many ways no, yet I think she is 'a dear one', a hard working single mom raising a bright, sociable 4 year old little girl. We had lots of talk to catch up on, she had changed salons, I had lost her number. We had reconnected by chance and I was happy to have my hair back in her hands.
Pike Place Market was packed with tourists and I felt happy knowing this is my city, a place I can navigate easily, and instead of taking it for granted, I pulled my camera out of my handbag and took these few pictures just like the many tourists who were also enjoying Seattle on this lovely November day.

Everybody Loves a Party

These kids are growing on me. Things are settling down in my classroom and I find something gives me an inside chuckle almost everyday. Kindergartners are party obsessed. We do not let kids hand out party invitations and we do not do so for the parents. We have created a phone list and we ask that parents call the families of the children they would like to invite or they can pass out the invitations themselves as the class exits. That takes us off the hook. There is just about no greater hurt to a 5 or 6 year old than saying "You're not invited to my party." No matter that the child who is saying the hurtful words is only 5 him/herself and his/her birthday is months away and who's to know if his/her parents have any intention of having a party. Yes, they are party obsessed. On the day I took this picture four little girls eagerly invited me over to my story chair and excitedly told me: "Look the dinosaurs are having a party!"

Monday, October 29, 2007

Anna Rae's Halloween History

Anna Rae is now two weeks shy of twenty years old. I wonder if she remembers these Halloweens from years ago. Deciding the costume and then making the costume were always big deal decisions for the two of us. To take her trick or treating, no matter how foul the weather, was usually the responsibility of Chris. This year she tells me she is a Ninja. Her two roommates are a bear and a cowboy. Their costumes are based on college game analogous to Rock Paper Scissors. They call it Bear Cowboy Ninja. Go figure!

Friday, October 26, 2007

Day Is Done

I'm so congested with this cold that I can hardly breathe but the weather was so perfect(although chilly);I just couldn't resist taking my camera and going out to catch a few 'Day is Done' shots. And that is that! Time to get some sleep to help tackle this cold.

Good Morning!

With a moon like this, running at 6:00 am is not a problem. The silvery shimmer on the Sound is just lovely. Even so, I have a crappy cold so I so I opted for using the eliptical machine in the gym instead of a moonlight run. And now it is time to iron my clothes and get on with the day. It looks like a weekend of good weather for us! Yipee!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

At My Feet

My head was in the clouds but my eyes were on the ground as I meandered through a small stretch of Longfellow Creek Trail on my way home from work today. And what should I spy at my feet but this perfect colony (Is that right? Is a group of mushrooms a colony?) of little smooth, yellow mushrooms. I've hiked the 3+ miles to work many a time and always said "I should take some pictures." It was these yellow fungi that caused me to stop, rummage through my backpack to unearth my camera, and snap these shots.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I Wear My Socks

I wear my Smart Wool socks and the furnace whirrs on every now and again as I sit at the computer. It has rained and rained; more days than not the rain has found us and the wind has whipped the leaves off many of the trees. It is an unusually wet October. But even on the grey days, the foggy days, there is beauty.
"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." ~Albert Camus


Our first Science unit of the year is Fabric. We use three FOSS Science kits per year. This lesson's focus question was "How is some fabric made?" and the children made their own weaving of yarn on simple cardboard looms. They chose from red, blue, green, and orange yarn. Most had AB patterns going but there were also ABC, ABB, and even one AABBCCDD pattern. We are lucky enough to have 3 parents who volunteer faithfully plus 2 instructional assistants at the weekly Science hour. We are able to break into groups of 7 or 8 students with all this extra help. They did a really good job this year. Everyone was so intent on their weaving. you could only hear a murmur of conversation about their work as all 54 kindergartners bowed over their weaving. In the picture one early finisher is coaching his classmates on the over-under pattern of weaving.

Where's the Money?

Where is the money for the Arts in Education? At our school we have an Art specialist, a phenomenal Art Specialist. After only 25 days in school they had their first lesson in how to draw faces. Pretty amazing results, in my opinion. In years past we have had a Music Specialist, but never both. Why should we have to choose? We are required to have 80 minutes of reading a day and a comparable amount of math. So we may be preparing for the next Einstein or Sir Isaac Newton but what Pablo Picasso, Jacob Lawrence, Chopin, or even a Johnny Cash, could we be overlooking by underspending on the Arts?

Sharon at Home and In China

Originally uploaded by mtnester

Above is a photo of Sharon at home. To be exact, she is in the Home Center with students in our kindergarten classroom. This is our 14th year of teaching together. To the right is Sharon at the Great Wall in China. She taught English to teachers of English in Henan, China through a Lutheran mission program called China Service Ventures. She was there for six weeks and spent time in Beijing and Tibet in addition to the time spent working in Henan province. The weather was incredibly hot and humid, the pollution hid the sun in Bejing, the plumbing was not always pleasant, she came face to face with a rat in her hotel in Tibet, and she ate exotic food but said "No thanks" to the eels. On the other hand, she made new friends both within the group from the U.S. and in China. The young teachers they were training were open and friendly and eager to improve their English so as to better teach their own students. However, five weeks would've been plenty for most of the people in the CVS group. By time week six rolled around they were having daily conversations about the food they missed the most back in the U.S. Also, I think the constant learning curve, the continually being the 'stranger in a strange place', has to be exhausting.

Can you guess?

Originally uploaded by mtnester
Oh come now, does this need a title?


More China
Originally uploaded by mtnester
Fishing cormorants, pet bunnies for sale, man with cart, and a bug on an umbrella

Mamas and Babies

Originally uploaded by mtnester
Who can resist a baby? I wish I could tell you more about the background of this picture. I do know that Sharon knew at least one of the mothers in this photo. She used it to point out to me the reason why China isn't buried in diapers. Notice the little boy in blue. The answer is in the design of their clothes; they all have an open crotch. The parents simply train them to squat outside. So, watch where you step in China!


Originally uploaded by mtnester
Now just what could this little girl be thinking? It is my favorite of Sharon's
'kids in China' photos.