Here we are in the last week of December. Where did the year go? Seems like I ask that more and more lately.
Returning to reality after a week in Florida for Christmas. We rented a house on the gulf side in Redington Shores, and visited family from there. That was probably the best idea ever! Everyone had their own space, and could sleep in if they wanted without being bothered. We had the beach right outside the front door, so walking the dogs every morning and late in the evening each day became one of my daily rituals.
Visits to mom and dad, watching one of Jennifer's soccer games, shopping, chilling, and spending one whole day at the Universal parks filled the week quickly. Christmas Eve was at Bret's with everyone. Always fun when there are kids around! We brought a small pre-lit tree and our star, tree skirt, and stockings so we could have some Christmas decor in our house. Mom and dad got to try out their new Tom Tom navigation system when they came to our house for a spaghetti dinner on christmas afternoon. Although it seems like they got lost, they really did not! Tom Tom led them to the correct destination, just not the one they intended! ;-) Gary and Chris drove about 5 minutes and brought them to the house for a few hours away from home, dinner, and a short walk to the beach.
And then - just like that - it was over, time to pack up and go home.
But Harry Potter Wizarding World opens this spring at Universal, so I do know we will be back at some point, just not sure when! Now back to reality and the process of unpacking and whatnot.
I can not believe it is almost December. I am so in the mood to do Christmas decorations and have about 250 other things to do. Ah well.
We had a very nice Thanksgiving - went to San Antonio for family dinner with Mike, Diane, Joe & Michelle. Made me remember all the years past that we went out there with the kids when they were so young, going to watch the lights on the Riverwalk, etc.
I forgot to bring the dessert cheesecakes, though. :-( At least they still had some awesomely great stuff - german chocolate pie, punkin pie (made by Michelle) and an apple pie we picked up at Buccee's. And we now have pumpkin cheesecake and a cranberry walnut cheescake to eat here. Oh darn! ;-)
So here's to the slide into the 2009 holiday season!
The first weekend of the month and stores along Hwy 6 already have Christmas decorations out on the buildings. Sheesh! I just put our jack-o-lanterns away!
Biggest travesty in automotive history seen on Keith Harrow Rd, pulling out of Glencairn - a nice 4 door Jaguar - with big shiny rims. I mean, c'mon, really?
The Illini won today! Yeah!
Nothing is nicer than getting a nice mani/pedi on a Saturday morning! Although, Michelle's salon would be at the top of the list, since they serve wine and other adult beverages with their services. Mmmm!
Chik-fil-a has Peppermint chocolate chip shakes for the holidays. I could have one every day, but then I would look like the cows they use to advertise! But they are really good. I'm also glad to see Starbucks Pumpkin Spice and Gingerbread lattes back for the holidays. Makes grocery shopping a bit more fun! I am easy to please, too! ;-)
...just wish it could have held off for a couple more years.
We will be down to three for Thanksgiving this year. :-( I expected it, but still am sad. But now Gary and I are thinking out of the box for us (me, him and Chris). Not sure what we are doing, but if we travel, it won't be anything huge. We are going to Florida for Christmas, renting a beach house for a family vacation that does not center around a sporting event! Ch-ch-ch-changes!
Monday I was at an awesome workshop that provided yet another professional spark, Wednesday I was navigating some choppy professional waters, and Friday I was spinning about 10 plates on those long poles. Let's just say, I am glad the week is behind me.
I absolutely love when I attend a workshop or meeting and it feels like the philosophy of the presenter fits me. I hate when people look at a problem and respond with "Well why isn't Person Y doing something about it?" or worse, throw a colleague under the bus. I love helping my colleagues when I can, better I love helping WITH my colleagues. I hate when I hear "Our kids can't do that" without even looking at the plan details. I hate when a teacher stands in the way of someone trying to meet a kids needs, but I hate it worse when I feel I am not meeting those needs. I love it when colleagues are willing to listen to you dump and offer a huge shoulder, a kind ear, and/or sympathetic words or a great suggestion. It is the absolute best when someone helps you carry the load.
I love that I can start over next week, and every week after that if I have to. I may not know what I am going to do, but it is still a chance to start over. I need to keep reminding myself to change what needs changing, not what is easy.
And I love watching Rowdy stare intently at the TV when there is a dog program on and the dogs are barking. The TV is speaking to him!
Pig jokes will be funny for about 20 minutes. Starting now.
A week ago today I was sitting at a baseball tourney, watching Chris' games. Sunday it felt like allergies were kicking in, although an internet search told me nothing was really high in terms of allergens. Monday the Mack and Peterbilt trucks hit me. Tuesday I did not even get out of bed - all day. I turned on TV, got a can of ginger ale, a bottle of water and some pretzels on the nightstand and started a cycle of watch a little TV, sip and crunch, sleep, wash, rinse, repeat. This continued into Wednesday morning. A 102+ fever decided to take up residence in my otherwise normally healthy body Monday. It kept a hold on me till about noon Wednesday afternoon when it teasingly dropped to about 100, then went back up to 101.
Thursday a trip to the doctor's office confirmed what an internet search caused me to suspect, I tested positive for H1N1. Fortunately I was on the downside and the fever was actually stayinig around 100 most of that day. By noon Friday I saw 98.something for the first time in days! And it stayed there. So that meant that I could resume normal daily life again Saturday (today).
We have all been hearing about this virus since last spring, and I am really glad I did not get this last spring. Talk about feeling like the town pariah! When I got to the doctor's office there is a big sign telling you to ask for a face mask if you are coughing or have flu symptoms. Seeing as I had both I did the responsible thing. Everyone who walked into the office after me avoided sitting near me like I was a leper! Technically I was not contagious, but I did not know that. It was a very unsettling feeling to say the least.
So what did I learn about this nasty flu virus? It is nasty. I get a flu shot every year for seasonal flus and if I ever get flu, it is really mild and very managable. This one sucked big time! I ate only pretzels and crackers, drank only ginger ale and water for 2 1/2 days, and after that really could only eat small amounts of really bland things like rice. I lost 6 lbs in 3 days on that diet though! The incubation period for this virus is very short - 2 hours to 48 hours at most. So I was exposed Friday or Saturday. My bet is Saturday since no one at school has reported flu symptoms yet. Gary and Chris both escaped it since neither have shown any syptoms at all.
So get your seasonal flu shots ASAP, and when they get the vaccines for this flu, run to get it if you can. I hear they are doing at risk populations first, but if you can get one, get one! If you are unfortunate enough to be exposed, plan for being down at least 4-5 days, and get a supply of Gatorade and ginger ale!
I missed 4 days of school with this. If it was last spring I would have been banned for at least 2 weeks from campus. Hmmm - maybe that is not such a bad deal after all. ;-)
Sweet Redemption by Leslie Follmar click here! Two posts in one day? This is a short one. My friend and former co-teacher writes and sings her own music. It is awesome. Take a listen and if you like it, maybe you will think of a purchase. She is also on iTunes. "End of the Road" is my favorite so far.
One week down. It was a good week, probably the best start I have had in a while. Even though I could not get into my room when I wanted to so I could start setting up, and even though the construction at school still is not finished, I think we had a great start.
I am loving the paint color in my room. Thanks to Heather, Craig, Chris, and Jackson for helping me get it painted. Mitch (my boa) is happily settled in, and Gary was only too glad to help load the car with his stuff. Goliath (my little lizard) died towards the end of last year, so we are one pet down in my class. I still have a few things left to move in, like my plants and some window coverings. But overall, it looks great. Every once in a while it catches me by surprise how nice it looks. Behr Fresh Pine and Old Vine look quite nice if I say so myself!
I put dark brown burlap on the bulletin boards, and bought some new borders. Earthy stuff. The result is that the room has a very calming effect, in spite of the red cabinets. Add to that, the music I am using thanks to Quantum Learning over the summer, and we are off to a good start. Now if I could just get my music moved to my school computer so I don't have to bring my laptop every day. I burned a couple CD's with the music I chose to use in my classroom and it won't play or transfer. Hmmm. I burned it as an audio file. This weekend I will try a data file.
Gotta give a shout out to a former student teacher of mine, Jim, too for his contribution to the start of the year. Thanks for the awesome rec on software to rip DVD clips to use in PPT presentation for the classroom. I am having way to much fun with it and now need to begin to catalog all the clips I plan to use. Examples: Run Silent, Run Deep the scene when some bolts start to leak or pop because the sub has gone too deep. Red October, the scene where they are looking for the Russian sub and the audio guy reports that he hears singing???, many clips from Apollo 13, clips from Harry Potter with Hermione politely waving her hand in class and Seamus blowing himself up for class procedues and lab safety. The list goes on and on.
I also managed to stay yesterday afternoon and get all the spiral notebooks graded so I did not have to drag them home. They would have just visited here and would have never been productive if I had done that. So I am pleased that I got some grading done in a timely manner for a change. That is probably my biggest downfall. I put grading papers up there with folding laundry and cleaning the house. An evil necessity.
So, I sit here happily blogging away, while the wash machine sits idle. I guess I had better get it going. Maybe we can do something fun tomorrow!
Tomorrow is the first day of school, my 46th over all! Thirteen for grade K through 12, five in college, and twenty eight in teaching. As always, I am nowhere near ready, but as ready as I can be. Kind of like having a baby. It happens no matter how much more time you think you need. It finally just gets here.
I spent all day yesterday (yes Saturday) in my room, 8AM to 4PM, trying to get things in some order. We had rooms reassigned at the end of last year. The room I was assigned to was left a huge mess, so I had to clean that before I could even move my stuff in. We had renovations over the summer, so we could not unpack stuff until renovations were done. Any guesses when that was??? Yes - Monday of this week! So in the middle of all the inservice week meetings, we have scattered hours here and there to get settled in. Fortunately, the work is still not done, although done in the classrooms, so the building was open. There were way too many teachers there for a Saturday, but it was nice to know I was not the only one behind the 8-ball.
Took Chris and 3 buddies to Comedy Sportz for his birthday last night. They had a blast! Getting ready to get breakfast ready for them this morning.
So I enjoy the last official day of vacation doing a mountain of laundry and maybe watching a movie. Also messing with a first day PPT and a lab safety PPT. Got some new software to download video clips from DVD's we own. Make things a little more fun for me and my kids. And then it begins again, another year, year forty six. And I am still loving it!
Last year at this time we were in China. And we had 2 dogs.
We came back from China on a Sunday. Monday Craig left for Abilene, Gary left for work as usual and Chris and I started back to school. I missed all of the inservice week - darn it! Just started the first day with the kids. At least jumping back into school helped the jet lag issue resolve a bit quicker.
I have one week of vacation left - sort of. I have a district DC meeting tomorrow, and a meeting at school Wed for a couple hours. But Monday our inservice starts. I start year twenty eight! I am eligible to retire this year, but won't. I still have lots of work to do.
In the past year we lost Abbey, daddy, and Duke. But we welcomed Rowdy. Life goes on. Different, but it goes on. Put one foot in front of the other and take a step. Then do it again. And again. And again. Wash, rinse, repeat.
A friend of mine shared this video with me, ercently. I have been a recipient of an e-mail with the text of this many times, but had never seen the video. I will make a point to watch it often. I like it! He says what I often think. I like his other stuff too. Check him out.
I have yet to get the whole house cleaned on one day this summer. I guess today is that day. Better get to work. Have a great day all!
Another year, another trip to beautiful Oklahoma City! We have been going up there since spring of 2002, for Catherine's first Big 12 tourney. Some years we have been there 2 or three times. It seems to have become "our summer vacation destination" except we really have seen very little else there except softball! IS there anything else in OKC to see or do? Ah well - if we did not have softball of some sort in the summer, I don't know if we would know what to do!
Anyway - photos are arranged in albums over to the right. We were not there for the first game, so no pics. :-( Some highlights - fan photos at the end of the Italy album and scattered in a few other albums. It is amusing when kids paint their faces, wear adorned caps, and make great posters! Caitlin Lowe's diving catch is towards the end of the Japan album. With a little lucky shooting, I also managed to get Hansen's grannie swing and Lappin's HR swing. A nice sequence of the Japanese runner, Lappin, and the throw coming in is also in the Japan album. Late games caused a few problems, since I kept having to change the settings. I deleted way more photos than I saved.
Crowds were great during the games, with a full house for Japan as expected. We got there about 20 minutes before game time and ended up having to park/walk about a mile down the road from the Firefighter Museum. Made for an enjoyable hike back when they cleared the stadium! (Yeah right!) But it made it easy to find a better spot when the game resumed. ;-)
I always enjoy moving around the stadium for photo ops, talking with others. I am always in awe of the fans that travel significant distances to see the games and haved no direct tie to the team, many with even no direct tie to softball. They just love watching the game.
Next year, OKC will host the World Championships. This tourney is every 4 years, in between Olympic years, and hosted in different countries each time. Since the tourney will be from July 16 through 26, we are going to look for a house or condo to rent near one of the lakes. The thought of 11-12 days in a hotel sends shivers down my "budget" spine!
When you pay for a decent hotel room, is it too much to ask for sheets that actually fit the bed? How about a shower head that is higher then 5 feet up the wall? Free internet? I mean really, does a hotel need to charge $13 per day (and then not even give you a full 24 hours) for internet access? How about TWO coffee cups?
Ok rant over! I am glad to be home. More later! Tomorrow starts day 1 of the "Canine Idol - the Osterman Version". We shall see.
Happy Blogiversay! Happy Blog Anniversary? Happy Blog Birthday? Anyway - happy belated!
I started this as a way for family to keep up with what was going on with us in our travels last summer. Then it was a way for them to keep track of us during the hurricane. Now it is a way to help them get to sleep at night!
The house was weirdly quiet last night and this morning. For the first time in over 20 years, we do not have a dog in the house. We had to say goodbye to Duke Monday morning. We lost Abby suddenly in October to pneumonia, she was only 8 years old.
Duke was a stray, found at a post office in Austin, by Catherine. She tried to keep him, but after staying here while she was in post-season play, he was not happy back in Austin. So, Duke took up residence here with us and Abby, a little over 4 years ago, and promptly, quietly let us now who the boss in this house was.
The vet estimated that Duke was about 10 when he came to us, already a crusty old man who was missing at least 7 teeth. He was quirky and "bossy", but like most dogs, he loved us unconditionally. Duke loved laundry day, walking through the piles of dirty clothes taking in all the scents. He loved sitting out in the middle of the back yard in the morning, after he was done with morning business. At bedtime, he sat on the floor waiting to be picked up and put on the bed, where he hopped over to Gary to get his nightly petting. His bossy "arf arf" when it was breakfast, dinner, or Pupperoni time was sorely missing today.
Duke had a mass in his chest that was compromising his breathing. Sunday night it became very apparent that he was getting worse. So Monday morning, Chris and I took him to the vet's office. Both of us were with him to say goodbye.
So, today, while everyone else in the world was saying one more goodbye to Michael Jackson, the Osterman family was thinking of Duke, boss of the house! Happy trails Dukie! Hope you are having fun with Abby!
Two weeks ago today my dad passed away. The days after have flown by and the days have crawled by. June 10 seems a lifetime ago, it seems like yesterday. Cliche after cliche passes through my mind, some of them now with a ring of truth. The passing of a parent, whether sudden or prolonged, is just a strange feeling. Walking into the house and realizing that dad won't come walking through the door, or that I won't hear his snores as he naps, his window shaking sneezes, or his really bad jokes is an indescribable feeling, a hole that will get smaller with time, but won't go away.
Dad was always about having family fun. While we had the usual obligations to take care of for an occasion like this, we also planned some time to honor dad in ways that spoke of his love of family and fun. We had several meals together and time to just sit around with some beer and wine, when we all shared stories once more - some old and well told, some new - and remembered the bad jokes that were dad's favorites. We had a gathering of about 40 people at the Rockford Thunder game after his funeral and watched the Thunder beat the Pride, with Catherine throwing a great game.
Often I was wishing I had my camera out, but then again, when I am taking pics I am really detached from the event. So the memories and visuals will suffice - the best among them being 1) my nephew in his Marine dress blues walking the casket into and out of church 2) the honor guard folding the flag in the courtyard of church while Brian stood at attention and the bugler stood away from us playing Taps 3) the crowd of family and friends who gathered to pay their respects to my dad both at the wake and the funeral and finally 4) my dad on his final tractor ride. Explanation to follow.
Growing up in a greenhouse, my dad's first and probably favorite vehicle was a tractor. Whether it was dumping loads of dirt, mowing the lawn, clearing snow, or teaching the grandkids how to drive one, I have hundreds of visual images of my dad on a tractor. Since Dad was cremated after the funeral service, we had to take his ashes to the cememtary Monday following his Thursday funeral service. My grandparents and other family members are also there, so we obtained a map to find my grandparents and pay our respects to them. Mom and dad's plot is only 2 rows away and we found it easily.
Shortly after I left his ashes in the cemetary office, while we were at grandparents' graves, a worker came driving towards us on a small tractor, Dad's urn sitting next to him on the seat. All of us had a chuckle about it, commenting on how dad would have laughed at the sight. After making sure we were OK if he proceeded with the burial of the ashes while we were there, he interred them, offering me the opportunity to put the first shovelful of dirt in. As I did so, I told dad one last bad knock knock joke that he told me often. Mom, Aunt Linda, Michelle, Melissa and I all had a little laugh and then found a nice little brew pub where we once more toasted Dad, his life, and his love of family.
The only thing we forgot during all of this were big blue or red hanky/bandanas and stanky cigars.
(Link to Memorial Site in the Links list - lots of great photos)
*Korean War Vet, USMC *owner of Kellen Country greenhouses and florist *teller of really bad jokes, war stories and Chicago politics stories *father to Laura, Sharon, Vince, Neil, Susan, and Michelle *grandfather to Catherine, Heather, Craig, Brian, Chris, Emily, Beth, Claire, JR, and Melissa *husband to Barbara *brother-in-law to Linda *son of Jacob and Helen Kellen *brother to Mary (RIP), Jake (RIP), Joe, and Rita *3rd generation Luxie! *Harley guy
Daddy - I hope you are kicking back with a Heineken or a Southern Comfort Old-fashioned and a good cigar and that you have found a whole new group to swap stories with. Tell grandma and grandpa hey! We all love you and miss you already.
Well, sort of! Many teachers are changing classrooms for next year, so I am still going up cleaning and packing. The new room I am going to was not cleared out before the teacher left, so I have been working on cleaning it out, while my room still looks like a Cat 5 tornado hit it! :-) I hope to be able to get all of that cleared up this morning and start moving my stuff in.
I really wanted to use the move as an excuse to go through my things and throw stuff away, but having to spend time cleaning out the new room has pretty much forced me into throwing things in boxes in my room. Much of what was left in her room I either threw away without really sorting through it, or just shoving it into one of the cabinets in her new room. But the room was also a mess - rodent droppings and dried pee puddles in the cabinets and on the counters and stuff the kids did. We are getting new countertops in our rooms this summer, so we can not put stuff in the lower cabinets until they are done. So it is boxing day today! I guess I will try to go up early in August and sort through stuff.
After that - getting things at home in shape. Then Michelle and I leave for Chicago at the end of the week. Time to get things rolling!
Chapter 27 is now done and closed! Another year, another group of kids.
I got kind of attached to this group, this year, even some of my challenges. Eh, who am I fooling. I get attached to them every year. But I do have a soft spot for the 3 years I taught that held my babies, too. It is fun to teach your kids friends. They don't quite know what to make of you, the teacher, since they know you as the mom. And then there are the ones who discover halfway through the year - ohh, your _____'s mom??? Always makes me laugh a little.
So, tomorrow is an inservice day. I have to clean my room out, and move my stuff. I also have to clean out the room I am moving into, since that teacher is not here and there is quite a mess. Ah well. I am excited to rest up and begin planning for next year. I have not felt like that in quite a while. Nice to feel that again. The only burning question now is should I paint my new classroom the same blue the other one was (dark regatta blue) or an olive or khaki green???
Good night, and to the ones I won't see tomorrow - Good morning starshines! The Earth says "Hello!"
Ok - we had the hurricane to start the year off. Swine flu panic and a flood day were up next. Somewhere in there, the pool flooded and ruined the gym floor yet again, so the gym has been torn up for several weeks. And today we had an unscheduled fire drill that was not a drill. Well it was sort of a drill for some of us.
We started final exams today, and we planned to give ours in science. In the middle of second period the fire alarm went off. Ruh roh! My second period is an upper level class, one that I have to tell them it is OK to talk sometimes. So they are diligently working on the exam when the alarm went off. Bright kids that they are, the first thing someone said was "This isn't scheduled is it?" They know that we don't do fire drills during TAKS, on exam days or on rainy days. Plus the puzzled look on my face was probably another clue.
We all head outside, but not after I have to give the "ultra nasty teacher look" to a 7th grader who thought it would be a great joke to push her friend while we were all crowded on the staircase going down. As we are standing outside I notice a flaming trash can on the sidewalk by the portable buildings and one of the AP's with a fire extinguisher on it. I tell the kids to have a seat on the ground that we will likely be there a while. After about 20 minutes we get the all clear to go back in. The bell for the next period has rung, so 2nd period kids just grab their stuff, turn in unfinished tests and go. We will finish tests tomorrow.
During the next period it was fun watching one of the 7th grade math classes outside with the AP, all students emptying their backpacks and pockets. Later I find out that 3-4 students in that class conspired to start the fire. One of them had a lighter, started some papers on fire and dropped them in the trash can. We were so lucky. Can't wait to see what happens to them.
We have five days left! Five! That is 2100 minutes of instructional time. We are having an egg drop or egg toss competition in our classes the last 4-5 days. That gives us 4 days to get all our grades done. I have started cleaning out my room and getting things ready to move. I still have a boatload to grade, but I am making headway. Where did May go???
Exactly eight days left. And the last two weeks have lasted four! Seriously, it seems like yesterday should have been Friday, and last week was no different.
We got our science TAKS scores back, not as good as I had hoped, but not too bad considering all the crazyness this year. The hurrication, a flood day, and swine flu all managed to derail us for a bit each time. We scored a 79% passing rate last year, and managed a 77% passing rate this year. We made some nice gains in 2 of our sub pops, so that helps a bit. But I now have a better vision of where we need to start next year. It will take all 3 grade levels pulling, even though they do not test.
I started taking things down in my classroom and the sad thing is that the kids have not even noticed it yet. It seems really bare to me though. They are more interested in our now dead lizard, Goliath. I had a little leopard gecko that had a pretty bad incomplete shed about 10 days ago. I set up a little humidity chamber for him, but it did not seem to help. It looked like he got an infection in his leg and he stopped eating. Monday when I came in, he was under his log, cold. :-( Ah well.
I move rooms next year, so I will spend some time painting my room again. We get new coutertops in the science rooms this summer. And all the rooms are getting ceiling mounted projectors! Yeah! I saw the first one, and except for being a little bit too low, it is really nice. Looking forward to not needing a cart with a projector.
Well - back to grading papers. I am so behind, maybe if I just ignore it long enough it will just go away. :-P
Five days next week, four the following week, and three the week after that. That is all that is left of this school year. Twelve days - but who is counting? Me! This was a week that seemed to have eight days in it rather than five.
Last night was 8th grade recognition night. I had to be on stage to shake hands (one of the jobs of the dept chair) but I also got a chance to give a certain 8th grader a huge hug as he received his accolades! ;-) It was quite funny today at school, the teachers and the girls in my classes all thought it was sweet that I gave Chris a hug. The boys all stated that they would be embarassed if their moms did that. Yeah, I know guys! But Chris was OK with it, and that is all that matters. So we close one more educational chapter as a parent - no more middle school. And as Chris pointed out on the way home - he gets to move out to college in 4 years! Geesh! Who's counting now??? And he asked how soon he can apply for his permit too. Help!
The end of the year is always sad and sweet. I started to take stuff down in my room tonight. The room starts to look a little more barren every few days as I take a few more things down. :-( But, it means summer vacation is around the corner. Sleep a little later, go to Chicago and see parents and friends, get some things done around the house. :-) The kids start to get really squirrely and annoying, but then during the last day or so will act like you are the best thing since sliced bread and be all sad to leave you! Many of them give us their phone numbers and implore us to call them. Yeah - I'll call you and we can discuss Mendel's experiments in genetics, OK?
I also like ending the year planning for next year. The nice thing about teaching school is that you have 3 new years, so you get to "start over" three times! I always strive to make the next year better, no matter which new year it is!
So here is to the next twelve days - go fast when kids are in my class but slow down on Saturdays and Sundays please. Summer vacation - here we come!
Some quotes from one of my fave moms - Erma Bombeck:
*Housework is a treadmill from futility to oblivion with stop offs at tedium and counter productivity.
*Kids have little computer bodies with disks that store information. They remember who had to do the dishes the last time you had spaghetti, who lost the knob off the Tv set six years ago, who got punished for teasing the dog when he wasn't teasing the dog and who had to wear girls boots the last time it snowed.
*Who, in their infinite wisdom, decreed that Little League uniforms be white? Certainly not a mother.
*Mother's words of wisdom: "Answer me! Don't talk with food in your mouth!"
*Have you any idea how many children it takes to turn off one light in the kitchen? Three. It takes one to say, "What light?" and two more to say, "I didn't turn it on."
*When your mother asks, "Do you want a piece of advice?" it's a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no. You're going to get it anyway.
As I sit here in a quiet, albeit somewhat (uh, Laura, look around again! "somewhat" is an understatement!) disorderly home, I am thinking how incredibly lucky I am as a mom. I can point out the flaws in each of the three offspring of mine in two seconds flat, and tell you what they need to dop to improve their lot in life (see the last EB quote above!) But honestly, Gary and I have managed to produce three awesome kids. Yeah, I will throw Gary a bone here and give him some credit, especially for their athletic abilities. Lord knows THAT did not come from me. But, I do have to brag just a bit on the the fact that all three kids are good, kind, decent, and thoughtful human beings. They don't do drugs, get blind drunk, or have been arrested (that we know of). I wanted them to follow their hearts and not dollar signs, they are doing that. I wanted them to go out and make the world a better place each day by doing something, even if it is to just smile when you don't feel like smiling. They are doing that. I want them to look back and feel like they made a difference somehow, some way. I hope they feel that, because they have.
So - Catherine, Craig, and Chris - thanks for making me the best mom I could be. Not sure I hold the title of best mom in the world since there are myriad things I never let you do, but you survived! I love you all very much! Now I have to go find the copy of one of Erma's books I have floating around the house and visit with my old friend!
Slowly drying out from Tuesday's dousing. Highway 6 is closed between Clay and I-10. As long as we have lived here (27+ years) that has only happened one other time. And that was when we had an extremely wet January (or was it February?) Anyway - it caused a huge traffic SNAFU, but it should resolve itself by Monday.
The day off just pushed the TAKS tests back one day. So yesterday we had our science blitz for the 8th graders while the 6th and 7th graders did their math TAKS. Today the 8th graders had the social studies blitz, while 6th and 7th graders did reading TAKS.
Lucky me today (said very sarcastically) I got to moderate a test. The kids complain about having to sit quietly after a test, sometimes for 2-3 hours while we wait for everyone to finish. When they do finish their test they can read a book, stare out the window, or put their heads down and sleep. I, on the other hand, have to sit there and watch them take a test. Nothing else, just watch them take the test. Can't read a book, can't grade papers, can't sit at the computer or anything else. Yeah time today just seemed to fly - NOT! I feel like a mental vegetable now.
Rain from 2:30 AM on this morning - straight. Up at the usual 4:45AM, finally at 5:50, the district announced that classes were cancelled. Everything on this side of town is flooding. We have had a bunch of rain lately, too, so the ground is already wet. The clay soil can not hold much more so it all runs off.
Sixth and seventh graders were supposed to take TAKS today and tomorrow, while the 8th graders have TAKS Thursday and Friday. I guess it just gets pushed back a day, but it does create a big headache.
I Dreamed A Dream There was a time when men were kind When their voices were soft And their words inviting There was a time when love was blind And the world was a song And the song was exciting There was a time Then it all went wrong
I dreamed a dream in time gone by When hope was high And life worth living I dreamed that love would never die I dreamed that God would be forgiving Then I was young and unafraid And dreams were made and used and wasted There was no ransom to be paid No song unsung, no wine untasted
But the tigers come at night With their voices soft as thunder As they tear your hope apart And they turn your dream to shame
He slept a summer by my side He filled my days with endless wonder He took my childhood in his stride But he was gone when autumn came
And still I dream he'll come to me That we will live the years together But there are dreams that cannot be And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be So different from this hell I'm living So different now from what it seemed Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.
Many years ago, Texas, in its infinite wisdom, voted to have state mandated testing. It was TABS first, Texas Assessment of Basic Skills. Then TEAMS came along, Texas Assessment of Minimal Skills. Not good enough, so they came up with TAKS, Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. And still they change it, changing the grade levels that are tested, changing what is tested, changing how and how often things are tested.
March third was the official "start" of testing season, beginning with 8th grade reading and 7th grade writing. Testing continues for various grade levels on different days through the month of April. Not sure if the change is a good thing or not for the kids. In the past we just had the tests on consecutive days. For 8th graders that meant 4 consectuive days of tests, 2 all day and 2 half days. By the end they were ready to burst at the seams, but we got them all out of the way. Now the tests are spread out, less stress all at once, instead it is spread out over 2 months.
I had my summative conference this week, also. Overall my principal is very happy with the way the 8th grade science team is coming together and we both have high expectations for the science department as a whole. He asked me if I thought we were going to improve on our 8th grade science scores from last year. I hate those kind of questions! There is so much out of my control, I feel like it is a crap shoot right now. We (8th grade teachers) set a goal of 75% of the econ disadvantaged kids passing. I am not sure we will get there. The kids are tired of hearing about the test, and the fact that it covers 6th, 7th, and 8th grade science is stressing the teachers out! We can't teach all 3 years in one, and once again I feel like the concepts I taught were developed a mile wide and an inch deep instead of the other way around.
So I control what I can control - what I do in my classroom - and hope that the kids come through. Have I done enough? I don't ever think I have. I always find one more thing I could have done, or should have done differently. But I can say that, once again, I did give it 110% and if my students give just 100% on the test I think we can do it. We shall see. Test day is April 30, t minus 8 school days and counting.
I am looking forward though, and want to work more on making the whole science team a model PLC (professional learning community). We can't get the 8th grade students proficient at anything unless they have a solid foundation to start with. Right now they do not have that. I want the teams to be vertically aligned yesterday. We are still working on aligning just within our own teams (6th and 7th), so vertical alignment is a long term goal. Sigh. Well, it makes Jose happy - I am there for a few years more, since I now feel my work is not done there yet.
Oh and there are only six and a half weeks of school left. Where has the year gone! It seems like only last month we were recovering from Ike. Here we are looking at May!
Seems one of our neighbors was walking their dog when he saw a young, black man run from the end of our cul-da-sac onto the greenbelt and into the drainage ditch that runs down the center of the greenbelt. The young man apparently ran back up, saw Sam, and then ran back down into the ditch again. Coming back to our street Sam then noticed the red car at the end of the cul-de-sac, door open, car still running. That certainly is suspicious around here. Said red car was also stolen. No huge surprise there.
The police officer at our school is also a trove of information! The family of the suspect that was hit by the car showed up at the scene of the accident within an hour of the accident. The police had not yet notified the family. The family said that "Little Ray" called them and told them their family member had been in a bad accident and gave them the address. He told them to come quickly. So I guess "Little Ray" is Suspect #1.
Also, the shooting at Mc Donald's - a kid named Brandon was the one who shot at the other kids. Brandon is a drop out, apparently, and went to Watkins early in his academic career.
The good news today, though, is tickets to the Astros Opening Day game vs the Cubbies! I can't wait!
Seems the other suspect ditched the car on our street, and hoofed it away from here. It was apparently spotted by one of our constables while on patrol. Our best guess is that they are local, since they ditched the car and walked away.
No resolution to this yet, but an interesting thing happened last night.
Chris and I went out to a comedy club, and came home about 10:15. Turning down our normally quiet little cul-de-sac we were greeted by several squad cars parked down our street in various spots AND crime scene tape going across the street before our house. Talk about an unsettled feeling!!! An officer stops me and asks what I need here. I reply that I need to get home, indicating our house about 3 houses down. He tells me I can not go past the crime scene tape with the car. I can leave my car in front of the neighbor's and walk to the house. I ask what happened, he said they were recovering evidence from a car and that everything in our house was OK. Gary was home, so I was rather relieved. Sort of.
We walk in the front door, which is very unlocked, and Gary is upstairs totally involved in Rainbow 6 Vegas 2, entirely unaware of the drama in our little cul-de-sac. In fact he did not even hear us come in the house!
Anyway - there is a red 4 door car at the end of the cul-de-sac, boxed in by 3 squad cars, doors open and lights from the squad cars illuminating the red car, police/sheriffs poking around in the car. There are at least 4 other squad cars parked in various locations on our street, and the crime scene tape. I walked back out to ask when I might be able to pull my car in the driveway, and the sheriff tells me they will knock on my door when they are done, if we have not gone to sleep already. I look quizzically at him, he states they will be a while.
I watch periodically from an upstairs window, and a few other cars come and go, not neighbors, but police, sheriff or some sort of law enforcement people. Later, about 11:30 a crime scene lab type of truck is there, and they are obviously testing stuff and now they are taking pictures of the car and in the car. Still no permission to move my car.
A little after midnight, I decide to leave my car where it is, and go to bed. There are now at least a dozen people out there around this red car, and something on the ground by the driver's side of the car, looks like black trash bags with something in them. This morning, except that my car is parked in front of the neighbor's two doors down, nothing else looks odd this morning. Like nothing happened. But (nosy me) I want to know!!! No clue - right now. But I am sure the grapevine will bear fruit soon, it always does! Stay tuned.
But until then, I will say that I do not want to experience that feeling again, ever - of pulling down your street and seeing squad cars and crime scene tape. Not a good feeling at all. And Gary has promised to keep doors locked when he is home!!! ;-)
Have not done a whole lot, but have had fun with Chris and caught up on sleep. Always a good thing. Looked at a retirement community yesterday and looking at another one today. They are nice - nothing like I remember from eons ago when we visited retirement homes when I was in Girl Scouts. This is like a cross between the best of dorm living, apartment living and hotel living! Sign me up!
Housecleaning is getting done slowly. Whatever does not get done can wait. My philosophy. I want to get the den cleaned and rearranged though. It is becoming a parking lot and it annoys me.
Friday, I was picking up stuff in my room, and a kid waved a card at me telling me it was in one of the science books. I took the card. It had a cartoon drawing of a rather buxom blond wearing a black & white striped tube top and very short black & white striped shorts. She was bending half over in a very suductive pose, with a smile on her face. In large pink letters above her it said "Misbehavin'?" and underneath it said "Call me!"
It was a business card for Flo's Bail Bonds in Paige, Texas.
I don't even want to know how, or why one of my 8th graders had that! I am glad spring break is here. Even if it is 44 degrees and raining.
Last day before spring break! The natives have been restless, and the chiefs are tired! Not going anywhere for the break, but maybe a couple little trips like to San Anonio for the day or maybe the museum's Ghengis Khan exhibit. Then there is always the "to do" list - which this time includes checking out a couple retirement communities and cleaning out either the den or the garage. Sigh. I also plan to watch all five Harry Potter movies again!
...nothing I could have done. But I keep thinking "What if I could have said just one more thing to encourage a better choice?"
Several of our students will be assigned to a couple alternative campuses because of one really bad choice, taking or supplying a prescription drug. It started with one of my 5th period students who came to class 1) late and 2) "altered". She was acting more strangely than usual, enough to make me hang by her table and do a sniff test. Not smelling anything tell-tale, I called the AP to come up and talk to her, see what was up. The student left with her and did not return.
As we go through the rest of the day, other teachers are commenting about kids acting weird, and having to get someone to take them out. Then two other students are escorted out of class by our constable, but they were not acting "weird". Uh oh. In all it was 11 or 12 students. Plus one busted for pot again. A few of them are my students, not bad kids really, not the ones who give me problems in class. I just can not fathom taking a substance that you have NOT ONE CLUE what it will do to you. At least alcohol and pot are knowns. (Not that I condone it, but the effects are known).
Another student, not mine (don't even know who he is) was caught with my keys, Friday. I had been missing them since Wednesday afternoon, but figured I set them somewhere different in my room and that they would eventually turn up - it's happened before. Said student must have come into my room and taken them after school Wednesday afternoon when I ran down to the bathroom or copy room. He was caught trying to steal drinks from the locker room in the gym.
So now I keep a more vigilant eye out for kids acting weirder than usual, and I must remember to take my keys and lock my room EVERY time I leave. I hate that! It takes negative energy to not trust, and I do now!
One nice little plus though. At dinner with a couple friends of mine (one is an elem principal) he was talking about 2 of our elementaries who blew the cover off the 5th grade science TAKS test last year. I mentioned it to my principal, and he is setting up a meeting with theose principals (him, our director of instruction, and me and my co-dept chair!) to see what exactly they did. It is nice to finally see that we might have a definite direction to head next school year!
TAKS reading is Tuesday for our 8th graders. That means walking around watching kids take a test A L L D A Y L O N G . The kids complain that they are bored - at least they can put their heads down and nap. We have to walk around and monitor! At least I will get lots of miles in walking that day!
Thanks to our "hurrication" back in September, we don't have any more 3-4 days weekends. This is the long haul, right now - Jan to March. Spring fever starts to hit the kids, and the teachers as well. Although the effect it takes on each is opposite. Students are giddy and teachers are grumpy. I try to keep myself out of negative situations, and keep busy (which is not too hard for me!) What is frustrating me more than anything though, is trying to deal with people who refuse to act on things that are within their control. Instead they choose to complain about things outside that realm - dragging those of us who are not there down with them. Sigh.
Craig is in Atlanta this weekend, trying to qualify for Nationals. His relay team was DQ'd from the entire meet last weekend. It was their conference championship meet, and his relay team missed their preliminary heat. It really does not seem to be a fair consequence, but it is what it is, and he (and the other 3 guys) had to sit and watch everyone else swim. His coach found a meet in Atlanta that they could attend and try to qualify. So they are there. Let's keep our fingers crossed.
Chris had a pulpectomy this week. Thanks to Kellen family genes, he has two baby teeth with no permanent teeth underneath them. One of them had a cavity that was filled a while ago. The tooth became infected. A pulpectomy is sort of the equivalent of a root canal, but on a baby tooth. They also do not destroy the nerve, so it is not as painful. Later on (many years later) he will need an implant for that tooth. For right now they are trying to save it, so we don't have to mess with the braces.
And Gary is getting ready for his big weekend next weekend! He leaves Thursday evening for a weekend of golf in California. The foursome will be playing Pebble Beach, Spyglass, and Spanish Bay. They are trying to get on at Cypress Point as well. Needless to say - I don't have to wonder where he is when it is daylight this week!
And so closes another week. Now to figure out how many weeks till the end of school!
Fighting it is a futile effort. But yet we try, and then we end up with a lumpy head from the brick wall we kept hitting it on! Trying to teach 13-14 year olds that have had a steady diet of candy, cookies, and cupcakes all day is Sisyphean. But yet I try! I am glad today is almost over.
These are the days that make 27 years of teaching worth it!!! Sorry for the long post - but it just made my day!!!
I got a new student in class several weeks ago. I chatted with him as he came in, from New Orleans, knew where English Turn was, told him my brother used to live near there before Katrina, but that was about all I got out of him. Gave him a seat, and he pulled his hood over his head and proceeded to attempt sleep. Wrong thing to do in my room!!! I gently tap his shoulder and pull back the hood. He sits up and just takes up space the first day.
I see him in the cafeteria the next few days. He sits all the way in the back, by himself. Nice looking kid, neat cornrows; clean, pressed clothes; but very quiet. He does not eat lunch. Girls sit at his table and try to talk to him - fresh meat! He really does not engage and they leave him alone after a few days. Don't see him even try to talk with the boys either. Hmmm.
Since he came about a week before the end of the semester, I tell him I want him to take the semester exam to see what he remembers from his other school. He nods, still not saying much. I tell him, if he can come to tutorials, we will try to get him caught up on one or two of the topics we covered the last two weeks at least. He does not show up. He fails miserably.
New semester started the day after MLK day. I pass out the homework for the week. Remind the kids that they get 5 bonus points for turning it in early. Also reminding the kids in basketball and soccer they can do their HW in tutorials that day and get their bonus points. None of the b-ball kids or soccer kids show up. But at 2:40 he shows up at my door asking if he can stay for tutorials and would I show him how to do the homework! "Well, hell yes" I yell in my head! I show him what to do and sort of hover while he works, noticing also that he puts the book about 6 inches from his face. Note to tell the nurse to check his vision and see about glasses from Lions Club maybe.
He finishes his worksheet, and I check over it. Of course it is 100% because I made sure it would be. I get my purple marker out and put the 105 on it and the slightest smile glimmers across his face for about 2 seconds. I also ask if he has internet at home. He does. I show him our science website and the vocabulary game he can pull up to practice the science vocab. I see him the next day in the counselor's office. Pausing as I pass by, she is talking to him about what he needs to do to pass his classes for the year since he came with mostly D's and F's from NOLA. I stop and mention to her that he is off to a great start for me at least, telling her of tutorials the day before. He grins a little bigger today! He also is starting to be the first one to show up for class. His period is right after lunch and most kids don't get there until 30 seconds before the tardy bell. He is in my room 30 seconds after the release bell. He is eating lunch now too, but still by himself.
Fast forward to this week. We are finishing our unit on plate tectonics. We play vocab bing, and he knows some of the words. I pass out the review sheet, he chooses to work alone, but then comes to tutorials as well. We work a bit more on the review in tutorials, and before he leaves I also give him a review sheet with all the answers (thanks to my wonderful co-teacher Lee!!!) On the test today, he calls me over and whispers that most of this stuff was on the review sheet I gave him! "Yes, you're right" I reply. He gets to work.
After class today he actually comes by to see if I have graded the papers yet. I have (God bless scantrons!) He made a 47. He hangs his head. I point out it is better than what he did on the first test, and that if he is willing to come to tutorials we will get him passing! He leaves saying he will be there "Cuz I wanna pass!" I close the door behind him feeling a bit verklempt.
File this away with my memory of Alan (an ESL student) who tells me he will invite me to his medical school graduation because he now likes science. I guess I have done an OK job! ;-)
My principal asked me to put together a list last May, of science equipment that I thought we needed, repairs that were needed and inservice or training (out of district, which means $$$) that would be good. The school is over 25 years old, and we have not bought any science equipment of substance pretty much as long as I have been there (10 years). I got a partial list of equipment that they are putting in the new middle schools and started from there, warning him it I did not think it would not be pretty.
First up was cleaning, calibrating, and repairing all the triple beam balances and microscopes we have. That would be around $1500. Next I started looking at what I thought every science teacher should have in his/her classroom all the time - a class set of calculators, a class set of meter sticks and a class set of timers. Add to that the class sets of graphing marker boards that we bought every teacher last year.
There are two trainings I want to go to or send teachers to - 3 science ones at the Dana Center in Austin and a science one by Margaret Kilgo, also in Austin.
Then my list turned to other equipment that we need/could use for various labs - density cubes, probeware, torsos for 7th grade life science, replacing glassware (beakers, graduates etc) etc.
Today, as I presented my principal with the invoice for the balances and scopes work he says that he approved the calculators, meter sticks, timers, and inservices. AND to give him the rest of the "wish list" and we will start looking at what else we can get.
Oh, and we had to turn in a request for capital outlay items last week. These are equipment requests and come from a district catalog, so the choices are limited. I asked for 60 electronic scales (with a note attached that I would be happy with 20, since they were expensive). He approved purchase of 40!!!
I am so tired of hearing teachers complain that they can't do certain labs because we don't have enough equipment, blah blah blah. A few of us make do with what we have and we manage to do some decent labs. Anyway - now there is no excuse. Now to find a way to get them to quit crabbing about their kids in the classroom and actually do something about it!!!
Two of my sweet girls are suspended for three days. One made some wrong choices and was with a group that stole a couple bicycles. She did not steal them, but was with them and did nothing to stop them or turn them in later. She will most likely go to Alternative Learning Center for 6 weeks. Another got in a fight yesterday with the same girl she fought with 5-6 weeks ago. In the fight she got one of her earrings near the top of her ear ripped out. She has a court date for the citation from the first fight this week. She will go to court for the second fight in a few weeks. By that time the judge will have paperwork from two fights and she will likely also go to the ALC. Why do they do these things???
To end on a good note, one of my students was telling Chris today that he loves my class. Asked why, he replied "She gave me a B! My other teacher never gave me a B." Now this was a kid that the other teacher insisted the counselor get out of her class because she could not handle him, she never had a kind word about him in team meetings. (I have inherited 4 of her darlings) Chris said he was going to answer him with the standard reply that he has heard from me a thousand times when kids complain about low grades "She didn't give you a B, you earned it." But instead he said "Yeah that's cool!" because he wanted the kid to go on thinking his mom was cool! Gotta love it! Thanks Chris! You're cool too!
The nice thing about teaching is that you get "New Year's three times a year - the start of a new school year, Dec 31, and the start of the second semester. You get another chance to start over and do better.
Watkins got a new principal last year (2007-2008 school year) after our previous one retired. Jose did not make many changes at all last year, opting instead to just see where things stood with everyone, and also to see who would abandon ship after the first year. This year he is implementing quite a few changes and many have been needed for quite a while. One of the biggest programs he has implemented is PLC's or professional learning communities. It is a huge challenge for the whole faculty.
The science team has also been kind of rudderless for a while, not really having a department chair for the last 5 years. After quite a bit of discussion and soul searching, it is a challenge I took on (really as a co-chair) somewhat apprehensively. But as the new semester starts next week, I am making some resolutions to continue this journey that started back in 1981 and step a bit out of my classroom box and into the leadership box just a bit. I have some ideas, and a principal that is supportive of them, now I just have to get the rest of the department on this train. So here is to a new year, once more, and moving from the travel car of the train to the engine room.
Catherine left last week, Craig left Monday, and Tucker went back today. Our house is back to the three of us once more. It is kind of a good, empty type feeling. Tucker was nice to have around, cute, lovable, and sweet. He was always so happy to see you when we came home from work or whatever. He pepped Dukie up quite a bit, too. But he was still a pup, and pups take a lot of attention. We miss Abby still (or at least I do), but I think our next dog will more likely be a rescue than a puppy.
Midterm exams are this week at school. Then a new semester starts the 20th. In the past, our class rosters usually have quite a bit of moving around at the semesters. The computers do the kids schedules and I am never quite sure of the logic of the computer that does the scheduling. Kids that do not have any class changes at the semester (b/c they are taking all year long courses) end up getting put in all new periods of the same class. The counselors have promised us that there will be hardly any moving around this year. We will believe it when we see it!
Went to Dallas this weekend to watch a swim meet at Austin College in Sherman. Chris went along. Craig swam OK - not the best, but I have definitely seen him do worse. Think he pulled an ab or groin muscle towards the end of the meet. We did not stay for dinner with the team this time, either. They have a meet in San Antonio and one in Austin in a few weeks. Plenty of time to go to dinner then.
Avoiding laundry etc, by doing this. Had best get back to work!
Back at work today, glad to be back in a routine, even if it means getting up at 5AM. Quite a few kids absent today. It was supposed to be a workday for teachers today, not a class day, but thanks to Hurricane Ike, we lost that day. That meant I had to come up last week to make sure my room was ready before the kids got there. Custodians wash and wax the rooms with tile floors over the break. Lost a couple kids, moving, but so far have not gotten any new move-ins. The semester end was also pushed back to next week Friday thanks to the hurricane. Ah well.
The year will be over before I can blink twice I am sure! Time to walk the dog.
Happy New Year all! Here's hoping that 2009 is as good or better to you than 2008.
Quiet night, once again, last night. Spent the night watching a movie and playing Wii with the boys.
The tree and decorations come down today. :-( It is the first time in a few years that I am really not yet ready to take them down. But the house needs to be back before I go back to school Monday. So the procecss begins again.
Oh and football and fish soup later today! Yeah for more family traditions!