Saturday, December 25, 2010

Suddenly Winter

Snow in November, but thankfully no snow days...

led to so much wind and rain in December, our rain gauge actually broke. But we had no wind calamities like this neighbor. The tree was such a beauty too.

But I did have classroom calamities caused by the whirlwind of 'Naughty Boy #1'; the usual ADHD type behavior along with a bit of block throwing, elbow jabbing, and wagging his backside at the instructional assistant, calling the art teacher a loser and a 'dookie head', threatening classmates with pencil points, putting pencils (POINTY ENDS) into his nostrils and ears, spitting on the floor and blaming someone else, telling me "No, and never" or simply ignoring me when I would give directions, interrupting every lesson that any of us was trying to teach and on and on. Are you getting exhausted yet? Well, we sure are. So, the principal comes in and does a 90 minute observation and we confer together after school with the principal toting his 2 inch thick tome of '500 solutions for 100 behavior problems' and now we have a new plan of sorts which I will need to review before we go back into the classroom on Jan. 3rd. Right now, I am just enjoying the break from all the drama and stress.

Anna Rae is home from Bangkok for the holidays and no gift is greater than that. We ran in the Jingle Bell Run together.

Baked and cooked together, shopped together, watched movies together, and talked and talked. It will be so hard to send her back to Thailand.

As if that wasn't present enough, June, Chris' mom has joined us from Green Bay as well. So we have a family of four in our house this holiday season and that has been splendid!

Here we are in Benaroya Hall, enjoying Charlie Brown's Christmas:

Photographs were verbotene but EVERYONE was snapping shots of the little piano and tree, much to the consternation of the ushers.

Here we all are sitting down to Christmas dinner at the Kornowske's:

Everything was incredibly delicious (as is everything from Valerie's kitchen), from the filet mignon to the egg nog creme brulee and all the libations and goodies in between!

See how glum Galen looks? He has good reason. His dominoe game was more than a little off. But not so for Lindsey!

Here's Galen learning to put on his Thai fisherman's pants. All the guys agreed that they are ready to make a new fashion statement with these pants as they are SO comfortable. I told Anna Rae these pants could be a business an export business for her while Joe is determined that Valerie should learn to sew them with all the bolts of pocket lining they have stored in the closet.

And the final gift from the Kornowskes; hearing Lindsey play lovely music on her new cello.

But that was not the end of the music on Christmas day. Once back in our own own neighborhood we headed over to our friends the Reinholds' and were treated to fabulous guitar playing by Dave Bunker, Teresa Reinhold's dad.

Dave designed and made the touch guitar he is playing.

And what a treat to hear his grand daughter, Brittany, and her aunt Brenda sing:

Brittany is heading off next month to New Mexico to study Theater and English Lit. I can't wait till she makes it 'big time' and I can say I knew her 'way back when'.

So that is our holiday season to date; busy, happy, and with so much for which to be thankful! I hope that 2011 is full of the same.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I Could...

...write a happy post, or a seasonal post, a ranting post or a raving post; but what is on my mind is a sad post, an all too real post for many public school teachers in urban classrooms. Last week a kindergartner sat on the 'story chair' and was heralded with a sweet rendition of 'Happy Birthday To You' by his classmates. The song ended and the teacher asked the new six year old if he would be doing anything special on his birthday. His eyes opened wide, he smiled and said "Yes! We are going to see my dad in his new jail. We won't be able to touch him though, there will be a thick glass window between him and us. But we will get to see him and he can watch us play at the jail for two hours."

As I become a veteran teacher I may cry less, but I care as passionately as when I was 25. Between 9 and 3 everyday there are teachers in classrooms showing compassion by providing a listening ear, predictable daily routines and high expectations. And this week I have gone to bed wondering what more can be done.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A Weekend of Rain

My new running shoes arrived yesterday. Friday night I fell asleep dreaming of my long run, the loop up hill and down from home, through Lincoln Park and back home. But I wanted to break my shoes in, not baptize them in puddles. So I waited till 10:00. The rain took a pause and I ran. North to Roxbury, then east to 19thSW and meandered south onto Shorewood Dr. watching the west view of small boats on the Sound and wisps of cloud decorating the trees on Vashon, turning north on 26th, a 5 mile run in all. I was hardly in the door and the rain began again and it has been consistent, filling the rain gauge to above the half inch mark.

The work week was full. Thursday was picture day honestly, this is the cutest bunch of 5 year olds I have ever seen. So many of them seem really small for their age and very naive or, quite honestly, are babied at home. I have 5 boys that I can think of off the top of my head, that are the youngest in their families and they sure do act it! Taking turns and cleaning up after themselves are totally foreign ideas and of course they think that wrestling on the carpet or playground is the only way to play. Yes this is definitely an immature group. They were all fancied up with party dresses on some girls and three fauxhawks on boys, one which was gold! They smiled adorably for the camera, but I always ask for a funny face photo:

On Thursday evening we had our curriculum night and a disappointing total of 11 families represented the 50 kindergartners. This, I think, was the poorest showing in my 18 years at this building. Why? I can only speculate; new boundaries were drawn for assigning attendance, parents are given less choice in where to send their children to school. When drawing from the immediate neighborhood of our school you get a lot more diversity, more bilingual families, and more low income families and they just don't read everything that goes home (I know this by looking at the untouched papers crammed into the bottoms of backpacks and homework folders). I have fewer responses to requests for volunteers this year too; there are less stay at home moms in this group. Fortunately there are two parents available to volunteer for Science which is a HUGE relief. There is no way an investigative program can work without breaking the students into small groups to encourage conversation. In addition to time in the classroom I had one IEP meeting and one SIT meeting before school. On Friday we had professional development in Writers Workshop (out of Columbia College). This is the second time for me...I love the program but there simply is not enough time in the school day to have 45 minutes to an hour of writing on top of the minutes or Math and Reading. We are going to adapt it to our schedule but we certainly won't be purists.

Now it is Saturday and yes, it is still raining. We passed the two inch mark on the rain gauge!
I am off to a presentation at church about Our Lady of Guadalupe. In a couple hours though, we have a Packer game to watch which I hope will be the best part of my Sunday!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

More Rain

Good thing I did my yard work yesterday. Today was a perfect day for baking in my new Frigidaire Gallery oven. I made Zucchini Banana Tea Bread. By time I got the batter put together it was time for me to dash off to church so I used the 'time bake' feature and it worked perfectly. It is so nice to walk into a kitchen on a rainy day and smell something sweet coming from the oven. This afternoon I think I will roast a chicken. I thought I would miss my vintage electric range but apparently not. I am having fun relearning about cooking with gas. There me be a few sun breaks today but even so I had better stick inside and get my class assessment data organized and there is laundry to fold and dusting which is endless. But maybe I will let the dust sit and read a 30 or 40 pages in Freedom.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fall Rain

The fall rain is already here. It poured and poured all last night, at least a half inch worth. But this morning we awoke to sunny skies and raindrops sparkling on every leaf and flower and on the multitude of spider webs. The amount of spiders in Seattle is ridiculous. Every morning we are dodging new webs. The one in the photo is a Garden Spider. Yes, that is it's name. They eat lots and lots of insects but they do bite too and the hard red welt lasts longer than a mosquito bite. I pruned and trimmed all afternoon and I managed to avoid getting bit. Now the rain has begun again; good thing I got my yard work (and a very pleasant 4 mile run) done today.


One of Many Webs



Jewels of Rain


Fall Is...

Back to School Bouquet

Fall is back to school time. My 'back to school' bouquet is of zinnias and sunflowers and two delicate purple scabiosas. They were in my garden beds shouting "Pick me, pick me!" like the hands of so many new kindergartners waving in the air in my classroom. I am one short of being totally full in my classroom. (That is kind of like one short of a full deck.) 27 wiggly, sometimes teary, sometimes sleepy, kindergarten students are assigned to me. Every kindergarten class in Seattle is close to full or is overflowing this fall. Some schools have added an extra classroom of K students. My students are more diverse than ever. Nine receive ELL services: Oromo, Arabic, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Somali are the languages they speak at home. This does not include the Samoan, Cambodian, Filipino, and Japanese students who are at a reasonably proficient level of English but they use at least some of their mother tongue at home and most definitely their home culture is not like mine. There are 15 boys and 12 girls. Three of them heed directions given once, fifteen of them heed directions given twice, the nine remaining need a heap of practice. Eight school days are now tucked under our belts and I can say two things: They are working as a team more than on 'day one' and I have pinpointed exactly who is going to do their darnedest to drain me of every last bit of my time and energy. I won't be as stretched and stressed as last year but it won't be any 'walk in the park' either. My best back to school story: In the kindergarten assessment two items are: asking if the child knows his address and phone number. One little guy shook his head when asked if he knew his address, and once again, more disconsolately he said "no" to the query about his phone number. Then he perked up and exclaimed, "But I know my Facebook number!"

Monday, September 06, 2010

I Have Not...

done everything on my summer list. The garage could still use a good cleaning, I did not do all the professional reading I intended, the hedge between us and our neighbors to the east is still untrimmed, and I just may not get to hemming the western shirt that Chris recently bought.
But I did tidy the garden shed, I have been using the clothes line instead of the dryer, we picked oodles of blueberries and strawberries, our goal of converting to gas is halfway accomplished; in fact the range was ordered today, I went on nine home visits to incoming students, my classroom is set to go, plans are in place for days 1,2 and 3. On the personal improvement side I improved my Yoga practice; attending at least a dozen classes over the summer, I ran consistently (never a problem for me), I read books for pleasure; The Help, The Street, and The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, I gardened for many hours and had lovely results in terms of flowers, not so much so with the vegetables; it was just too cool of a summer. Most importantly of all, I had time to visit family in Wisconsin and had friends visit me here.

People often tell me the old saw: " I know why you teach." then follow with the punch line "June, July and August." There is some truth to that but only some. The nine months in the classroom are very fulfilling to me too. I work hard, the kids do too and it is truly amazing all that they learn in the school year.

I have been intrigued by reviews of Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom. Lev Grossman's Time magazine review of the novel says:
"There is something beyond freedom that people need: work, love, belief in something, commitment to something. Freedom is not enough. It's necessary but not sufficient. It's what you do with freedom — what you give it up for — that matters." Teaching is that thing beyond freedom that I need. That is why I will be less free, and quite frankly less motivated, to be writing posts. The challenges of the classroom are more consuming than ever (and I am more determined) so that is where I will put my energy and where I will sacrifice my freedom.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Visitors From Wisconsin

We were friends since first grade. Her last name began with M and mine with N so we always stood near each other in any alphabetical line. We had our first communions together, she went to every birthday party and we had sleepovers at the Y together and we were in the same swimming class. For a while we even thought we were mermaids and we took synchronized swimming classes. We got our first 'real' jobs at about the same time in the kitchen of a hospital, serving meals to patients and washing dishes in a monstrous, steamy dishwasher. I should have asked her if she remembered the time one of us threw a ball of mashed potatoes into the fan just to see what would happen, or the the times on hot days when we would take breaks in the walk in refrigerator and sneak bites of the cookie dough. We lived in different neighborhoods, went to different high schools and she went to Madison for college and I stayed in Green Bay. I always liked going to Madison for music and 'party times' with her and our other BF, Sue. When I moved to San Francisco, they visited me. She married and moved to the north woods of Wisconsin. And Chris and I chose the west coast and city life in Seattle to begin our life together. Sometimes the connections between friends becomes thin through distance and the passage of time. Those yearly Christmas cards and emails are that last little hook to keep us connected. But sometimes, if you are very lucky, the stars line up perfectly, and a visit happens. You get to laugh about old escapades, cook together in your kitchen, and share your home and city with with your childhood friend.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

98.6 is Too Hot For Me

It may be normal body temperature but for air temperature, 98.6 is too hot for me. This is day two of 90+ weather in Seattle. It is challenging to be productive in weather like this. I did manage to rinse and freeze the last of the 29 pounds of berries that Chris and I picked on Thursday.

It was foggy on Thursday when we left for berry picking in North Bend. Note the nifty new signs that display the rate of speed in each lane. Not exactly correct though. We were going 15 in a lane that said 40.

New highway signs weren't the only signs of progress. McDonald's is now sorting it's garbage along with the rest of Seattle.

It was sunny and very busy with plenty of pickers. Mt Si was lovely as always. The berries were big and plentiful. It was easy work made twice as easy by having Chris along.

A perfect berry piking day always ends with lunch or at least ice cream from Scott's Dairy Freeze. Their blackberry shakes are my favorite!

Today it was beginning to smell like the inside of a pie when you walked into the kitchen. Speaking of pies, I did refrigerate enough berries and crush enough graham crackers, to put together a pie later tonight when hopefully, the kitchen cools down a bit. I washed a load of sheets and have them hanging on the lines under the deck. I am sure they are bone dry but it is just scorching out there so I will stay here in the cool retreat of the basement. It is cool and it is clean. I have vacuumed and washed the floors and scrubbed away every spider and web from the corners. This is no small feat in late summer when spiders and webs abound. I have no trouble believing that spiders make new webs daily. It is my mission to keep them outside where I consider them my garden friends instead of foes. The frenzy of cleaning is in preparation for a visit from a childhood friend Jeanne, and her husband Dan. It is good to get major cleaning out of the way before school starts and my life as a teacher eats away at most of my time. I am also finishing up the last of my pleasure reading (The Street by Ann Perry) for the summer, and overlapping with some professional reading (Teach Like a Champion by Doug Lemov.

Time to refill my tea glass and I think I'll get my book...guess which one!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Taste of Summer

Now I can say I have had, at the least, a taste of summer. I escaped Seattle's cool gray weather and visited friends and relatives in Wisconsin. In addition to warmer weather I had more than my share of decadent food. Perch WITH BONES if you please, and a slice of onion on rye bread from Maricques. (Read the review. It describes the fried perch experience perfectly.)

And an award winning breakfast of cherry stuffed French Toast at the White Gull Inn in Door County.

Sweet Corn that was tender and so tasty with a slathering of real butter. This corn is at Green Bay's Broadway Farmer's Market, held every Wednesday in summer. It is probably delicious but my mom is insistent that we get our corn from the stand at Sunny Hill which is within 5 miles of home. You can't get much fresher than that.

Sharing a meal, reuniting with cousins; lovely ladies one and all.

More food around campfires up north with relatives:

And picnics at the beach between rounds of swimming and tubing:

Dinner at Legends Brew Pub with my childhood friend, Sue. It had been SO long; more years than I can recall since we last had time to sit at a table share food and talk, talk, talk!

Of course I had to stop at Renards to buy cheese.

And now, you guessed it, this post has left me hungry. I think I will go upstairs and eat just a few of those cheese curds.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

More Proof...

...that SEX sells. I titled this photo 'Flowers Are Sexy' on my Flickr account and it got 15 views, which is a lot for me, in less than a day! It is a huge pumpkin blossom. Did you know that the blossoms on the long stems are male and the ones on short stems are female? This is the best site ever for information on growing pumpkins!

The Livin' Is Easy

It was a perfect day for dog walking and friends talking, and that is what I did. Emik, my friend Beth's husky, sure liked his shower and he was very popular with the kids on the beach.