Friday, November 27, 2009

Missions Accomplished...

...twenty four conferences and a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner shared with our friends the Kornowskes. This year I fixed a Moroccan inspired turkey that was roasted with a cilantro/lemon/paprika sauce that kept it moist and gave it a little tang. I also riced the potatoes into a crock pot along with some cream cheese and that freed up the stove top and was done a couple days ahead. We drank a few bottles of wine from our summer visit to wineries in Walla Walla . My personal favorite was the Riesling from Dunham Cellars. We played a LONG and very enjoyable game of dominoes won by Lindsey, much to her surprise and Galens' dismay.

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

November has been...

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

Go Ahead...

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

A Fall Project

Thanks to my friend Valerie for these beautiful quince from her tree. She also shared her recipe for Membrillo (Quince Paste). Quince paste is served with the Spanish cheese, Manchego, as an appetizer. It takes alot of stirring but it is well worth the effort. The smell of quince is divine; it reminds me of crushed SweetTarts!

Making Quince Paste