Thursday, December 24, 2009
Have you ever received a gift that took your breath away, that made your heart jump, that brought tears to your eyes and a lump to your throat? Well, that happened to each of the teachers at our school this year. John is our 'neighborhood angel'. He is about 80 years old I would guess, gnarled hands, white hair, a tiny bit stooped, never drawing attention to himself, never going further than our front office. He sometimes visits with the principal in the mornings but none of the teachers has had a meaningful conversation with him. The most I ever said was "Good morning, nice to have you visit us." I would see him linger at the gold painted financial contribution box that is locked to the front table and he would appear to be reading all the bulletins on the wall but I had a strong hunch he was putting money into the box every now and then. So the week before the holiday break each classroom teacher received this card (click on the photo to see the words) hand delivered by our principal:
It was made clear that John does not want recognition. There were suggestions that we put together a basket for him or have the children make some card or artwork but we were told "No, he would be uncomfortable." Several of us googled his name and found nothing; not even an address near our school. We all signed a thank you card for him. I hope he knows the impact this had on us. I did my best to' pay it forward', to be more generous in my own seasonal giving. If there was a 'spirit of Christmas' award, John would be my nominee!
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Yesterday I took the light rail from Tukwilla into downtown. This is not the most efficient way for us to go downtown; it tacks 20 minutes onto the trip because the nearest station is not convenient to our part of town. But since we have this new, much touted rail system, I was intrigued and had to give it a try.
For the people lucky enough to live in the neighborhoods near the stations it is a clean, quiet, and VERY quick way to get downtown. Now that it serves the airport it is also convenient for tourists to get to and from the city's center. For me it was just a novel experience. The views you get are certainly not worth much. The rail runs alongside I5 and through lower income neighborhoods, zipping past small strip malls with signs for cigar shops, teriyaki joints, and nail salons. Once downtown I was overwhelmed by the crowds and the cacophonous mixture of street musicians, a choral group and traffic. All the stores where I shopped had lines at the counters, which is a good economic sign considering the times. There were many more street people with homeless signs and stories of woe written on cardboard and echoed in the creases of grimy clothes and unshaven faces. The Washington Lottery had a mobile unit parked at Westlake Center and they were doing a brisk business. The only place I did not encounter a line was at the Group Health clinic where I got my H1N1 shot and I was glad of that because if I had to wait I might have walked away. The best part of taking public transportation is not having to find and pay for parking. I took the return trip south to the park and ride, picked up my car and met the daughter at Westfield mall. We saw the movie Precious which is NOT a fun uplifting holiday movie. I left the movie marveling at how some people can have so much resilience in the face of such a grim, oppressive, downright evil environment.
Once at home we fixed a yummy and fun dinner of a salad and a Swiss cheese and beer fondue; all ready to heat and serve, thanks to Trader Joes'. We dipped cubes of french bread into the creamy cheese, each of us vying for the last smear of cheese in the pot. Then we watched the last episode of Dexter, Season 1. I love these lazy evenings with the three of us on the couch or crouched on the floor around the crossword puzzle.
Later nights and lounging mornings, what a 'Break' from the teaching routine! But now the sky is light and I had best put on my running shoes so I won't feel so guilty about eating all that cheese, wine, eggnog, and sweet treats!
Friday, November 27, 2009
So much ground has been covered in the classroom since September and a lot of it was rugged terrain. One child has been reassigned to another school after copious amounts of documentation by me, several meetings with the Student Intervention Team and the implementation of interventions that went nowhere. One intervention was to place a small tent in a corner of our classroom and I was to say "Tent" in a calm, neutral voice to the child when I thought he might be close to 'going off'. That certainly bombed. He would get inside and roll the tent into things or haul items from around the classroom; small toys, blocks, pencils, etc. into the tent. He became more unpredictable by the day; poking classmates with pencils, punching on the playground, kicking teachers and saying "Kill, die die." spitting at people, (me included), sometimes walking out of the room when he got agitated, other times overturning tables and chairs and tossing pencils, crayons and whatever else was within his reach. There was a very sweet side to this child too, and a real desire to learn, but both those qualities got more and more difficult to find as his destructive and bullying behavior intensified. Hours of communication between myself, his mother (who REALLY seemed to be doing her 'single parent best'), his counselor, the school's Special Ed. teacher, the consulting teacher for special ed., a behaviorist with our district, the school psychologist, the principal and after 45 days of school he was granted a placement in another school. In his new classroom there is one teacher, 10 students, and two Instructional Assistants. I am hoping that the system has worked in his favor because many interested parties spent a lot of time and careful thought to get him a more suitable placement. In my 27 years as a teacher I have never had a student removed from my classroom. It is a lengthy, arduous process that wracked me with anxiety. It is painful to see a young child so far out of control. This child was always the last one I thought of before I fell asleep and the first one on my mind in the morning. In fact, I began this post on Thanksgiving weekend and it was just too painful to write. I thought about just not writing about it at all, but that would be like leaving an important chapter out of a book. So now, Christmas Break is beginning, 66 days of school have passed and I am moving on. The remaining 24 students deserve and need 100% of my care and classroom expertise. They missed out on my attention for the first 25% of the school year so I am scrambling fast to give them their 'dues'.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
full of rain; 16 inches of rain so far. This is not a record but the gray and wetness and wind seem to be wearing us all down. As teacher, the inside recesses are certainly getting on my nerves. Today when the sun broke through ever so briefly, even the common kitchen towel next to the shadow of the garden window geranium became photo worthy, along with strappy Madagascar palms
and the Malabar spinach climbing up the palm stems.
The hyacinth bulbs stretch their roots downwards and look so pure and perfect in the unexpected sunlight.
This morning, when the rain fell and the sky was a sheet of gray, I baked my second batch of pumpkin bread using the pumpkins harvested from our vines. Those 5 little pumpkins contain a lot of pulp. The two recipes I used are Orange Pumpkin Loaf and from Epicurus; Spiced Pumpkin Bread.
To say I prefer one recipe over the other would not be fair . Both are tasty. The Orange Pumpkin has the adjectives in the right order, that is for sure. The pumpkin is overshadowed by the orange and it is very moist. I think I would reduce the water if I were to bake it again. Really, that is true for any recipe when you use fresh roasted pumpkin instead of canned. There is more moisture in fresh pumpkin than canned. Many of the Epicurus recipe comments said to use less sugar or substitute applesauce for half the oil but I am hesitant to do either. It is so perfectly delicious as is. Making adjustments would take away some of the calories. We just need to remember to consider these breads to be 'treats' and not regular breakfast items. In fact, it is my intention to use some of the loaves as gifts.
While we could only celebrate my daughter's birthday from a distance, we were happy to attend a party for my friend Christine who celebrated one of those notable decade birthdays; I won't say which one. Christine is my best friend and the most incredible teacher ever. She has been teaching for 34 years and continues to be admired by many of her colleagues. She 'loops'; one year first grade, and second the next. Writer's Workshop, The Daily Five, Guided Literacy; she does it all AND she is a lead teacher for the second grade Science curriculum. None of that may be impressive to you but considering the inner city kids she teaches, she truly is a notch above most of us in the teaching ranks. She is my best garden buddy too. Her thumb is at least as green as mine.
This week we have a wedding reception to attend (one of those "It's about time!" situations), Thanksgiving of course (at our house) and then December is here. Our daughter will be home on the 5th, a champagne tasting on the 12th and watching the Christmas ships, the Jingle Bell run is the 13th, tickets to a Black Nativity performance on the 20th...the season of anticipation is here!
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Eat the frosting first, Anna Rae! Twenty two years ago today our 'one and only' was born. Here she is on her first birthday eating carrot cake. As I recall she didn't eat much of the cake but she loved the blueberries and frosting on top.
I have spent my first hour of the day looking through her baby book and at photos. She changed our lives forever and in all the right ways. She has given us laughter, love, and pride along with only a few gray hairs.
She is now a lovely young woman of 22 with brains to match. It is hard to believe that she is in her 4th year at the U of Chicago!
Who's making your cake this year, daughter dear? I'll bet it is chocolate, not carrot!
[Thank You Caroline for making Anna Rae's 22nd birthday cupcakes! I KNEW they would be chocolate!]
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Making Quince Paste
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Sunday, October 04, 2009
A long lovely summer has moved into an equally outstanding fall. The first day of fall it actually got up to 90 degrees! It has gotten cooler since than and we began turning the on the heat Sept. 30th, but the weather for the coming week has temperatures in the 70s and not much rain. I have pulled out the sunflowers, tomato plants and beans in the back yard. So this:
Now looks like this:
We had plenty of tomatoes, the last of which are ripening in our garden window. We had more than enough beans too. I even froze a quart bag. There are some Asian pears still on the tree ripening but we have already taken a bucket of them to the food bank. I know of no good way to preserve them. A fall crop of lettuce has taken hold and I still have carrots in the ground but don't know if they are going to get much bigger before the bugs find them. I harvested 5 little sugar pumpkins which match the garden shed perfectly. The chickadees and bush tits found the hanging sunflowers in no time flat.
This Friday Bartlett Tree Service will come to prune the deodor cedar in the front yard and take down the two dead cherry trees in back. I am also sacrificing this old but graceful pink dogwood. It is just becoming too laborious and dangerous (ladders are no place for middle aged women) to keep trimmed. Once it is gone there will also be more sun to the lower east rockery and we will be able to view that sun garden easier from our deck.
And yes, I still run in the early hours of the morning before work. The smell of chlorinated pools is replaced with wood smoke coming from chimneys of quiet houses. My new lime green jacket with all it's reflective stripes is getting plenty of use. I carry my cell and I have an ID tag attached to my shoe laces. Advancing age does make one more cautious. I see dog walkers and some interesting wildlife; always a raccoon a week at least and an owl buzzed my head one dark moonless morning, on another day a plush white rabbit with little black spots (some body's pet?) stood still enough for me to get within 4 feet and then hopped away with a zig and zag.
With less blogging I read more. I just finished Velva Jean Learns to Drive (a 5* recommendation from me) and I am half way through Julia in France which is not as delightful as the movie Julie and Julia. In fact, I find Julia Child to be quite stuffy and full of herself in her auto biography.
This morning we ate at Youngs Restaurant in White Center. It may be Chinese run but the fare is certainly 'All American'. I hope my breakfast of pancakes and eggs is digested before the 1:00 Burien Brat Trot, the 5k which I will run. Chris is outside painting the pickets to the back stretch of fence which he has repaired. His new bus route is between Auburn and downtown Seattle and he likes it just fine. Driving I 5 is easier than driving city neighborhoods, he tells me. That of course could change if the big flooding occurs with seasonal rains.
So that's it for month #2. Next installment: November!
Sunday, August 30, 2009
My goal for this year is one post a month, anything more is a bonus but I really want to stick to just one. I'm sure that September's will be all about school which is my major persona 10 1/2 months of the year. You can always check out my classroom blog for the 'fuzzy version' of teaching in a public school. I bought a public domain for the year so it will be an easy url for folks to remember: sanislokindergarten.com I have gone on 5 home visits and within those five there is evidence of huge variety; a single parent asking to be connected to the family support worker to get clothes and shoes for her child, a little girl who has a Dr. and a nurse for parents, a little boy who speaks Russian and English and his mom wanted to know if buying a desk as a 'special spot' for him to do homework was a good idea. And oh my, are they ever cute! One little girl put her fairy wings on for me and explained the technique for flying which involved lots of bouncing on your tippy toes. Do I love my job? You betcha! But I must say I was close to having a heart attach two weeks ago when our new principal called me at home and asked what I thought of possibly switching classrooms with first grades since they have an overload this year. I told him I would do it if everyone agreed it was for the common good but I think I would need a doctor's order to take time off afterward because I would be so totally spent and near collapse and believe me, Mr. New Principal, I have enough sick leave to do just that! I am willing to share my space but to actually physically trade spaces... 14 years in one spot is a LONG time and even though I am fairly organized it is not something I would do 3 weeks before the start of school especially since it would involve reciprocity of orderliness from the two first grade teachers. As to giving up my classroom bathrooms; never!
Wish me luck, it all starts tomorrow with an Everyday Math workshop followed with a general membership union meeting to vote on our contact ( I sure hope that the required 800 teachers show up to make a quorum for voting.)
Next post...late September, with tales of classroom woes and wows. On the garden front I will be harvesting Asian pears and picking the last of beans and tomatoes (I can hardly keep up with them this month).
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Inside: "Don't look so puzzled - you know who's who."
Inside: (Even happy couples have SOME disagreements.) Happy Anniversary, You Two
We went on a mission to buy on microwave on Thursday. I'll bet you didn't know that the microwave is the required 27th Anniversary gift. Off we went to Sears to purchase the Sharp counter top microwave that was, after intensive reading of online reviews the answer to our need to replace the old one which starts up all of it's own accord with nothing inside of it, sometimes waking even ME out of a sound sleep. More recently it has started to rumble when we use it, sounding not unlike a wagon on a gravel road. I have visions of the microwave coming to life in the middle of the night and doing a rumba off the counter, similar to the kitchen characters in Disney's movie, Fantasia. To be on the safe side we unplug the unpredictable appliance whenever it is not in use. Dealing with Sears which is now Sears Holding is a nightmare unto itself. I like their online ordering site. Problem is; there is no follow through at the store level. The online confirmation said the store would have the microwave at pickup in 2 hours and they would call us at that time. It didn't happen. So two DAYS later we call and are told "Next week it will be in stock." So the 27th was the 'next week' and we went in and asked a clerk for directions to the microwaves. As we are heading to the aisle the DH hears one clerk ask another "Do you know anything about microwaves?" Then they both turned and busied their gazes on t.v.s and sound systems; items that were apparently more at their comfort level. The place was DEAD folks; I think that we were two of maybe a half dozen customers on the floor! We see the model we want on display and the DH hunts down one of the hapless clerks. He checks 'the back' for available stock and no luck. "Sorry, it is not in now. We will have it on the Sept. 11th." We probably should have considered the date a bad omen for a deal that is already a bit sour and headed for the escalator. But no, I paid, tucked the receipt in my wallet and that Sharp microwave better be at Sears on the eleventh.
Monday, August 24, 2009
The cake was white chocolate mousse from the Honey Bear Bakery in Wallingford. It was almost a disaster because it started to melt and slide down one side in transit from Wallingford to Queen Anne. The bakery had warned us that it was a delicate cake but it was the one I wanted. Fortunately, friends shored it up, refrigerated it, and absolutely refused to let me look at the back of the cake until after we had taken our 'first bite'. It was scrumptious!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
In this first shot we tried to have straight faces, kind of like Grant Wood's American Gothic. Apparently, daughter dearest didn't understand, she's just grinning away.
This is the silly shot and we like it best!
Great Sunflower Project
Originally uploaded by mtnester.
I am taking part in the Great Sunflower Project; counting bees that visit my Lemon Queen sunflowers. I observe for half an hour or 5 bee visits to a flower, whichever comes first. Go to www.greatsunflower.org for more info. They don't ask you to do a huge amount of observations. They are gathering bee observation data from all over the world. Did you know that bees are responsible for every third bite of food that you eat? They visit a lot more than sunflowers in my garden beds! Here is one on the Russian Sage that borders our driveway and always wants to flop. Someone, me, most likely, will probably get stung eventually because it is so easy to brush against the sage when getting in or out of the car.
And my Zinnias are absolutely stunning this year and the bees are taking notice.
But the absolute favorite spot for the honey bees in our yard is the oregano. they have been working this huge mound in the rockery for a good two months or more. From dawn to dusk there are literally dozens of bees buzzing away on blossoms that look spent to us but certainly are appealing to bees.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
2009 Walla Walla Wine Country
Last weekend our family of three, along with our friend Valerie, went to Walla Walla to visit wineries and just 'kick back'. I wrote captions under many of the photos. If you click on the slide show I think it will take you to Webshots and then you can read more about what is in the pictures. I love wine tasting and yes, I do spit but not all the time. If you visit 5 or 6 tasting rooms in a day you better spit. I taste, I talk with the pourers and confer with other tasters and yet I still am in the dark as to really being able to definitively know at that first sniff and sip if I am tasting a good wine or a great wine. I know I like reds more than whites but I did sincerely try to branch out and we came home with 4 whites; a Riesling, a Chardonnay/Semillion blend from The Foundry (my favorite), an Orange Muscat (too sweet for the man of the family, but us girls will enjoy it for a desert), and a Viogner. I lusted after but did not buy The Boy from K Vintners. The reds we DID buy: Sangiovese, Malbec and a 2006 Syrah from the vintner with the best story, Otis Kenyon. Wine alone does not fill a weekend. We went to Rook Park and chose to skate, run or walk. We also went BOWLING! Certainly it was not part of any plan but there was this alley only two blocks from the condo where we stayed and they were celebrating their 50th anniversary with 50 CENT games and there was disco music playing! Not that I like disco, but it was fun bowling music. I don't think I have bowled in a dozen years or more. I didn't do half bad.First game I scored 96 and second game 136! I think I made the hubs sweat a bit. He had to really 'work it' to get 158 and beat me. Even today he whined about sore gluts from "THAT GAME". We ate out but the food was not as noteworthy as two years ago, so I will leave it at that. We went to the Farmers Market and I bought the most delicious watermelon called Yellow Doll. It is small and has vivid, yellow meat and yes, there are seeds to contend with, but not many. Wow! It is SO juicy and sweet and only cost meet $2.00. Who cares if the other two family members don't like melons. That means more for me! We also stopped and bought a box of yummy nectarines and some big red tomatoes. The dehydrator is humming away, drying fruit as I type. Since returning to Seattle we have been blessed with rain. More of a blessing than usual for me because we have been painting our living room and I sure would hate to be cooped up in the house with paint fumes on a HOT day! My plants are really happy with the return of wet weather too. The tomatoes are ripening and I have plenty of beans and lemon cucumbers to share. The carrots are my treasured crop, they are growing just fine but not as fast as I like to eat them. Next posting will be garden pictures because I can feel it already; alas, the season is winding down.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
It is SO nice to have our girl home! She arrived on Tuesday. She had her teeth cleaned at our dentist's then we went down to the market for lunch at an Italian sandwich shop. When I took this picture she protested "It makes me look like a tourist!" In fact she has a protest of one sort or another every time I take my camera out. We also went shopping for athletic shoes (hers) and new glass frames (mine). I am still working on finding the perfect frames that will fit my every mood. We have been to yoga class together and this evening we are going to the Art Walk in Pioneer Square. She has visited with old friends. Gee, it is even good to see them around our house. We have plans, plans, plans: a weekend in the wine country and then wall painting in the living room next week. She can't call it child labor anymore, she's 21!
Saturday, August 01, 2009
Sometimes I just need to get away. On the hottest day of summer I packed the car and headed over to Hood Canal. The ferry ride was refreshing and the air conditioned car was very calming but no, I did not beat the heat. Once I arrived at Seal's Rock Campground I realized I had not avoided the record breaking heat. The 103 temp made no difference; a change of pace, a change of scenery, and the solitude of the woods were all there waiting for me. I felt like a stick of melting butter but I was out of the city and on my own. No Chris, he had a sweltering bus drive to do. Sometimes it is good to know I can 'go it on my own'. The cell phone connection was still there, it's the 'comfort blanket' that makes it easier for me to be an independent adventurer.
Do you realize how many times I set the camera's photo timer and then leaped into the hammock to get this picture. Really though I did relax a lot. I finished reading Exit Ghost by Phillip Roth and began Onions in the Stew by Betsy MacDonald (a book SO insightful to the character of the Seattle/Vashon area, plus, you will laugh a lot!).
I drove up to the viewpoint at Mt. Walker. No, I did not hike. I would've liked to, but common sense prevailed. Do NOT hike alone!
On Friday there was cool, misty fog in the morning. Oh joy! Such relief. I drove north and east to Port Townsend. This is the Hood Canal Bridge taken from Old Fort Townsend Park/Beach.
I drove on to Fort Worden. This is the old lighthouse at Wilson Point. There is nothing like a lighthouse in fog with the foghorns groaning and the mist kissing your face, to bring to mind romance novels, mystery and a bit of forlornness.
This tree is "How old?" I remember it from the first time I was a Fort Worden, oh, 25 years ago??
It looks the same. I did not wander into the old batteries. It always gives me a lonely, lost feeling to see these military buildings amongst the nature.
Then on to Port Townsend where I took lots of photos of the beautiful old Victorian homes. This just might be my favorite, overlooking the bay. I would be inspired to write novels if I lived in a house such as this.
Can you imagine living in a house with all this spread before you? Not to mention all the weather that would come blasting across the water. Port Townsend is a wonderful place but this weekend it will be too busy for me; they have a hugely popular Blues Festival happening.
To see more photos click here.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Making the 3800 foot elevation gain was certainly easier going up than down. I was glad to have borrowed my husband's hiking poles. Valerie used one and I used one. Valerie and Lindsey patiently stopped every thirty yards or so to let me catch up. All in all, we did the entire hike in about five and a quarter hours and that includes eating lunch and taking photos at the top for about a half hour. During the hike what hurt most was the tips of my toes as they slammed into the toes of my athletic shoes. Granite Mt. and the other trailheads that are at this location are popular. The parking lot was filled to overflowing when we got down at about 1:30. We seriously doubted that anyone starting after noon would be making it to the lookout station at it was SO darn hot by then. We had a real chuckle at the young couple going up with the guy carrying all the gear and the perfumed girlfriend with her glossy long hair following behind. This morning I woke up with my thighs feeling very tired, so no, I did not run today besides it is even hotter than yesterday. Too hot to do anything more than stay downstairs on the computer or swing in the sky chair under the deck and read.
2009 Granite Mountain