Tuesday, August 31, 2010

New Beginnings

Like every other teacher I know, I love the beginning.  I love a fresh start, a clean slate, an unopened box, a notebook that's never been written in....you get the picture.  I worked hard this summer, cleaning the house and going through closets, and purging and sorting and generally driving my family to distraction with my insistence that it all be done before school starts.
So the boys exchanged their twin beds for a bunk bed.  No ladder, you say?  No ladder, I say.  I only want you up there if you have the mad skillz to haul your ass up on your own volition.  (Both of my kids can...but I don't want some play date disaster.  Not on my watch!)
There's something so right about only having toys that you actually play with, books that you actually read, and clothes that you actually wear, in your life.  It's so liberating!
And this closet is a must have for getting four people ready and out the door every morning, with minimum fuss and no breakdowns.  Mine, that would be.  Shoes (two pairs each) in their place, dressers (both in the closet) all stocked up, and socks for all my friends.  It's a good way to start the year!

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's All I Got Right Now

Here are some of my students, working with some pattern blocks during the first week of school.  I actually count 22 students in this photo.  Dude, seriously.  That means that are still another sixteen students in this classroom, outside the range of this photo.  It's nuts in there.  But let's not forget to take this opportunity to say, you know, how flippin' cute are they???  (Ahem, blurred faces and all.  :)

I made some twee curtains for my classroom out of two repurposed sheets that I 'inherited' from Gram.  She couldn't use all her twins anymore, so I got some fab fabric.  I love this closest one, as it has bees and butterflies and how awesome is that?
I think they look so much more festive than the industrial grey curtains that came with the classroom!  I was so excited to go back today and see the kids again!  Especially because I was sick this weekend.  This weather probably isn't helping...I do not exaggerate when I tell you it was at least 40 degrees colder on Friday than it was on Monday. 

That can't be good for you!  I think I should start a category here called "whining".  Of course, it could be applied to practically every post, so I don't know how helpful that would actually be, long term.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I am going to go out on a limb here and just state for the record that thirty-eight children is just too many for one classroom.  More specifically...for my classroom.  I love them ~ each and every one of them ~ already.  They are seriously awesome.  But there are just too many!  We are all way over, which means sometime in the next week or two, it has to be dealt with.  I swear, it's going to be one of those things where the cure is worse than the disease.  There's a possibility (floated to me just today) that I may lose my WHOLE class at the end of this, and have to start over with a WHOLE NEW CLASS.  This is, of course, totally unacceptable.  But I have no control over it, so I'm just carrying on.  It's just that we've already bonded!  I hate to even think of losing any of them (though, come on, it's ridiculous!) let alone all of them.   Just writing that makes me need to go lie down.

But!  Before I go!  Here are a few pictures of my classroom, mostly having to do with my books.
This corner is my 'professional' area.  It's the only place in the whole class that is "mine".  The first day I moved into this classroom, I pushed the teacher's desk over to the door and left a note on it that said "Please Remove" for the custodians.  I replaced the behemoth with this tiny writing desk and a slim (hand-me-down) wicker storage from the Pottery Barn.  The desk top is where I keep my plan book and some 'grab it quick' supplies, such as push pins and a stapler.  It's also where Miss Carmen's swap gifts are sitting (at least the turtle and the "B" notepad!) but unfortunately, I didn't get close enough to show them.  :( 

The books on the bookshelf, categorized by my obsessions:
First shelf for my obsession with the politics of race in the educational system, and the opportunities for social justice and equity that are so familiar ~ and so hard to actualize ~ in our classrooms.  There are a few books here that changed my life...Hunger of Memory is one, Pedagogy of the Oppressed is another, and "Other People's Children" too.  Everything else on this bookshelf, and in fact, my master's degree in math education for social justice in urban schools, can be traced back to just a few books that started my brain ~ and my heart ~ on this path.
My obsession with learning about math...
My obsession with teaching math...
My obsession with teaching teachers how to teach math....
A theme is starting to reveal itself here...hmmmmm.....
Not to worry!  I have a whole other closet for science, social studies, and teaching reading and writing!  Elementary schools are so wonderful for broadening your horizons...and breaking your back, honestly, as the amount of work it takes is overwhelming.
None of these books even includes my literature or class library.  These were all just the professional books.  I have two long shelves under the windows for the kids to choose from, and another bookshelf for my children's books that I use for teaching purposes.  Whew!  We have an iPad AND a Kindle (because, frankly, Erik has his own obsessions!) but nothing, NOTHING beats an actual book in the hands of a child.  Except, maybe...
Getting some of these into their hands!  Cubes and blocks and counters and tiles...oh my, be still my heart.   Even just looking at these, I can't get over how completely irresistable they all are.  Aren't they positively begging us to dive right in?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Card, an Article, and a Bowl

I've gotten some 'snail mail' that's made me so happy!  Not too long ago, my cousins sent me a lovely 'thinking of you' card when my godmother was declining and my blog got quiet.  Recently, my friend Laurie (who doesn't have a blog, but DOES have a life and has been traveling and enjoying her post-retirement summer!) sent me a lovely note and a newspaper article on beekeeping.  (She wrote that clipping news articles was "old lady-ish behavior", and if so, I couldn't be more delighted!  I think Kelly will also think that's funny, as she recently sent two links to beekeeping blogs, via email, which has to be the 21st century version of clippings from the paper!)  This box also arrived, quite unexpectedly.
So much goodness inside!
Crafy stickers!  I've already used some, of course!  They're perfect for cards and decorations on some handmades I've gifted this summer!  I imagine they'll work their way onto some Christmas gifts, too!
Oh, stop it!  This divine bowl comes from the hands of the second-half of The Stitches, and while everything he makes is positively swoon-worthy (and I have a nice, growing collection of both purchased and gifted articles, so I have some expertise in this area) the sweet, sweet, SIZE of this bowl alone is enough to tip me over the edge.
For reference, here it is with my very favorite (also Scott-made) tea mug.  If you happen to think cereal is like crack, you will agree with me that this is the PERFECT cereal-sized bowl.
Oh, but it's perfect for lots of things!  My beloved cucumber and tomato salads, which I've been eating daily?  Just the right sized bowl for salad-as-dinner evenings.  My favorite kind!
I wish there was a way I could eat from it AND look at it upside down at the same time.  Because, hi, look at how beautiful the glazing is!
And, because Brit is only awesome, I have to say that the little note that said, "Don't throw out the packing newspaper....see who's on it!" makes my day!  Mr. Andy Paulson, nurse-extra-ordinaire, and that makes me laugh!  Alicia Paulson is so wonderful, and I have loved reading about their twee life in Portland, Oregon,  so much so that I recommended the blog to sweet Brit (she loves it, she does!) and so this funny touch just kills me.  Also, Mr. Andy Paulson became a nurse after he and Alicia went through a horrible ordeal (she was runover by a garbage truck, truth) and he found his calling at her bedside, and during her months of recovery.  They were newlyweds when this happened, and it was devastating (she still wears a boot, as she lost most of one of her feet) but it's so much a part of their love story ...I love people in love.  Did you click on the link to The Stitches?  Yeah.  
I love people in love!

The Internets have been so kind to me over the years, both as a way of keeping in touch with old friends and in making new friends.  Old and new...the best kinds of friends, don't you agree?

Monday, August 23, 2010

First Day of School!

It was the first day of school today!  I'm too exhausted to write about it in depth, but I would like to briefly point out that, in a whole summer of days that barely got out of the 60s, we were met for the first day with a heat wave that will get worse...and last all week.  Which is awesome, since we have no air.

In other news, for two nights in a row, I was sitting at the kitchen table when something caught my eye at the glass door that goes into our backyard.  I was excited, because it looked gray-ish, and I thought maybe it was my brother's cat coming back, but then when I got up (both times) I saw this:
And he wasn't afraid of me at all.  In fact, when I stepped out onto the back porch, he stood on his back legs and walked right toward me, and all I could think (as I scrambled to get back in the house) was, "Sweet fancy jesus, this things going to kill us all."
I'd back him off the patio, and just when I thought I had him on the ropes, he'd turn back and come right for me!  Erik finally had to come in and pull the shades on the door and lock it.  Not to keep the raccoon out, but to keep me in.  Apparently, he was tired of hearing me squeak, "Erik, get in here!  Come look at this thing!  Oh my god this thing's going to get us!  Look at him!" 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

In the Garden

Coming home and checking the garden after our vacation was pretty exciting, to say the least!
Giant zucchini... there will be Laurel's Kitchen baked zucchini casserole this week!
The cucumbers are obnoxious!  I pulled seven like this one.  Luz, who was housesitting, already helped herself.  There are at least another dozen, though they aren't THIS big.  I'm going to have to figure out how to make refrigerator pickles.  Are pickles easy to preserve, in general?
Some of my tomatoes have this weird rot on the bottom.  These two tomatoes came off the same plant, and one has it and the other doesn't.  The ones growing in the backyard have just a few like this, but one of the ones in the front yard has pretty much all like this. I tried to look it up in my Golden Gate Gardening book, but meh, who knows?  It's been a pretty cold summer (foggy and overcast until afternoon) but I'm not sure that's why....
It is with pure joy that I report new growth on four of my five propogated hummingbird sage plants!  They are still so wee, but they grow so fast.  I can't wait!   I'm going to plant two on my (still mostly bare!) hill and give two to my mom.
These geraniums are growing from pieces I snapped off my my main two plants.  They are so happy and beautiful in their colorful pots.  In what happens to be, apparently, the most desolate corner of my yard.  Holy.
I put up a few new feeders over the last couple of weeks, too.  I thought nobody was interested in them, but I guess it was just the watched pot that never boils, because when we left for a week and half, the squirrels and birds went nuts!
I was especially (pleasantly) surprised that my hummingbird feeder was finally emptied! 
I happily buzzed around, checking on my bees (love you, bees!) and refilled the feeders, and harvested my vegetables, and I even felt happy when I came back inside and saw that in those thirty minutes... my family had completely destroyed the inside of our house.  *sigh*  Domestic bliss, really.  :)

Saturday, August 21, 2010


We had decided to stay in LA to go to DisneyLand for a few days because it was our boys' birthdays last week.  Tommy turned 10 while we were in DisneyLand, and Scotty turned 5 after we got home.   Both boys were treated to room service breakfast our fist day at the hotel...pancakes shaped like Mickey Mouse, of course!!!  On Tommy's birthday he got to wear a Disney birthday button with his name on it, and everywhere we went, park employees said, "Happy birthday, Tommy!" and I do declare this to be the very best way to spend your birthday.  Magical indeed!
At home, on Scotty's birthday, I made a huge cupcake and topped it with 10 large beeswax candles and 5 squat beeswax candles, and Scotty was positively delighted by this.  Like all kids, he is so excited to get older...yet, sensing the advantages to being "the baby" in our family, he also resists growing up.  "Yesterday I was four...now I am five....but look at me!  I'm still tiny!!!"  I'm sure years of therapy as an adult will eventually sort this out.  You're welcome, son.
It's weird, in our neck-of-the-woods, to have such a private birthday celebration.  A family trip, a family candle-lit ceremony, and no goodie bags or dozens of school friends at a themed party....I don't know, maybe they'll feel like they've missed out on something later, but it felt oh-so-right just now!

Since I just downloaded a bunch of pictures from my camera (thanks for the new card reader, honey!) here are a few more pictures from DisneyLand.  We're heading up to claim our Fast Pass place in line for a second round on Space Mountain here....Scotty leading the pack, of course!
Here's one for Carmen and Nancy...perhaps this is more your speed, ladies?  haha!  :-P
Scotty and I rested our dogs at the exit to the California Screamin' roller coaster, as we waited for Tommy and Erik to finish up (they loved it!!!).  Scotty loves these types of maps, with the pictures?  He stares at them when we get them at the zoo, too.  He's trying to decide where we should go next.

Here he is pointing to the Tower of Terror on the map.  "We're not going here," he said.  "The Tower of Terror makes me sad."  Got it.  Worst parents ever....check!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dispatches from The Magical Kingdom

On our way to Anaheim, Erik proclaimed that we would be going to the "happiest place on Earth"...and, he predicted that everybody would cry, at least once.  haha!  Oh, how we laughed.  We were there for three days and three nights, and there was very little crying or sore feelings after all!  We stayed at The Californian Resort, and it was so beautiful.  It was a craftsman-style lodge, and Erik and I both whispered to each other that we sure wouldn't mind coming back...without kids.  :-) 

Our (unconscionably high-priced) resort package included "The Magic Hour", which meant that for two of the three days, we got into the DisneyLand Park at 7am....one hour before the gates opened.  I'm here to report, it was a bargain at any price.  People:  We breezed up to The Matterhorn, Nemo's Submarine, Pirates of Caribbean, and the Haunted Mansion.  We waited no more than 10 minutes for Space Mountain.  We got fast-passes for Indiana Jones, Splash Mountain, Buzz Light Year, Buzz Light Year, Buzz Light Year, and Space Mountain.  The next day?  Buzz Light Year.  And Space Mountain.  We had some favorites!

Scotty was completely smitten with Space Mountain ("my head was almost in space!"), Toy Story Midway Mania (in the other park), the Matterhorn, and Splash Mountain.  He went on every ride he was tall enough to ride.  The only two he didn't go on were the California Screamer coaster and Big Thunder Railroad.  Everything else was a go!  Both of my kids, like both of their parents, are total thrill-seekers.  Having said that?  He was equally enthralled by Peter Pan's Flight, Mr. Toad's Wild Adventure, and Small World.  He's such a trip.

I did NOT approve, for the record, of taking The Boys onto the Tower of Terror.  Scotty said it "made me sad", which was understated considering that Tommy bawled.  Oh dear.  Erik and I spent the whole time consoling them, and whispered to each other that we wouldn't mind coming back....without kids.  :-)

Here we are exiting the Candy Store after Tower of Terror.  We're sorry, kids, that we scared the ever loving crap out of you.  Here, have some sugar!

Unbelievably, Tommy decided a little later to go on this ride, the Maliboomer.  Actually, this shouldn't surprise me....the kid went on EVERY RIDE there.  He loves roller coasters, and kept telling me to "put your hands up" on every ride.  He's so fun!  He even got Scotty to ride with his hands up on the Go Gadget coaster in Toon Town.  It was so funny!

But anyway, he's totally into thrilling rides, it's just that, like the Tower of Terror, it's a free fall drop.  Unlike the Tower of Terror, it first SHOOTS you up 1000 feet in less than 2 seconds.  Um......okay?  Scotty and Erik sat this one out, and Tommy and I waited in line for about 20 minutes.
Erik said Scotty sat on his bench and yelled, "SO LONG!!" every time the ride shot to the top.
When it was our turn to board, Tommy looked at me and said, "I changed my mind."  Then he left.  I'm such a sucker!
So I get on, solo.  The attendant pulls down my bar and then says, I swear to you, "Oops, that didn't catch...hold on."  Then he disappeared, came back, and 'tried again'.  I couldn't make this up.  "It's good now."  It is!  It's sooooo good!  What could possibly go wrong with this? 
Erik said that when we shot up, Scotty yelled, "That's what you get, Mommy!"  haha!  hahahahaha  That kills me!  I wonder if those two little twerps plotted the whole thing, to get back at me for Tower of Terror?  Wouldn't that be too funny!  Little schemers.

I was a little confused by the set up of this ride actually.  It has these glass shields as part of the pull down bars.  My friend Maia tells me later that this shield is for in case you throw up.  She also pointed out that there's a shower at the exit.

Maybe next time, Tommy, maybe next time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Worn Out!

 I taught a class last week in Los Angeles, for the California Department of Education.  Erik and The Boys came with me, and they had many adventures while I worked during the day.  Then, we stayed for an extra three days of DisneyLand!  Which left us feeling like this.  :)  We drove home late yesterday, and it was back at work for me today.  Which was quite a relief, after all that fun.  I needed a day at work to recover from this 'vacation'!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Boys are Fun

"death to all humans"

When Tommy asked if he could decorate his drum kit with a sharpie, I couldn't really think of a good reason to say 'no'.  I wanted to say 'no', because it seemed like I should say 'no', but in the end I couldn't bring myself to do it.  When I saw this snake, with what appears to be a mohawk, hissing "Death to all humans", I have to admit....I was never more sure that I had made the right decision, after all.  Because this is obviously, hilariously,  awesome.
Scotty has been keeping himself busy with his kitchen duties.  He opened a restaurant, and we all spend a bit of time, each day, paying him "one thousand dollars" for a taco.  Sometimes he only charges a dollar, and if you give him 'a dollar', he gives you back three bills and some coins.
It's a good system.