Thursday, October 13, 2011

Man I Love My Kids

Tommy had created this little scene with his legos. I said, "Hey, Tommy.....what happened to the heads?"

I was prepared to be annoyed, because I get so tired of the way they take care of things sometimes! Legos are expensive, especially the figures, and to think we'd have all these missing heads??? It was more than I could take as we rushed out the door and into the car during our morning grand prix.

"Oh, I took the heads off," he answered. "Those are the zombies."


Thursday, September 22, 2011


I had Back to School Night last night. And today I'm yarg. (yawn + argh = yarg)

But! It was back in July when we took the boys on our first big canoeing adventure! We headed up to Strawberry and spent a few days on a private lake (let's call it a pond) and also went to Bardsley Reservoir. No phones. No computers. No television. Best cheeseburger on the face of the planet at the snack shack near Pinecrest Lake. Soft serve ice cream for breakfast. Three fights over how to steer the canoe. Sore shoulders for three weeks.  Heaven on earth, really.

 Just noticed that Thing Two is doing The Robot in this picture. Dying laughing over here, really.
 You can't see her in this picture, but puppy Lego is in Scotty's lap here. She loved canoeing!

 I remember laying out in the sun to get a tan in high school. I don't remember a six year old laying on me when I did,
Learned (a bit late) that our canoe anchoring system was not sufficient for the ride home. (not to worry, we made it! and so did our 52 pound, 17 foot, canoe!) Was reminded that I can always call my daddy when I need help. Haven't had to do that for awhile, but I had such a familiar rush of well-being when I looked at Erik, after helplessly tiptoeing down blocked off side roads still an hour and a half from home (a 3 hour drive already creeping up on 4 hours and no end in sight), and said, "Let's call my dad. He'll know what to do." And he did. Love him. When he caught up with us on the backroads leading to the Altamont Pass, with enough rope to secure a navy fleet, he found me giggling helplessly at the absurdity of chasing our foam mounts down the road, through barbed wire fences, and across farmers' fields, as they rolled away like chicklets from our swaying and bobbing canoe.

He shook his head (not without affection) and said, "You're so much like your mother." I'm pretty sure I saw Erik shudder.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


The spring was a very difficult time for me. My amazing and beloved grandma's steep illness and death in May brought one of the most difficult school year's I've ever experienced to a halting and bitter close. I needed the summer to regroup and recoup. I wasn't at all sure that I would be teaching this fall, or at least, I wasn't at all sure it would be at this school, or in this district. It was an impossible situation, and I certainly didn't see this fall coming together any better than the way the spring ended.

It would be nearly impossible to explain the violence exhibited by a great portion of my students last school year. Their stories are not my stories to tell; let me just state emphatically that the kind of chaotic lives that result in 8 year olds who attack adults on campus, stand on kids' necks and try to stab them with a ruler, try to hang themselves in a garage, respond to every interaction with anger and physical's not something I wish on anyone, let alone little kids who are still forming. You expect a handful of "behavior problems" in any class of 33. But this? This was not that. Promise. I'm not prone to hyperbole when it comes to children, either. I don't exaggerate or feel sorry for myself; I'm not out to win the Pity Olympics for What I Had To Deal With This Year. I say it with total humility and great sadness, that I don't know how much of a positive impact I was able to have, overall, when I was so worn down and so overwhelmed by the day-to-dayness of those four walls.

All that to say! I tiptoed into this summer and had several great adventures and many quiet days. I can't share them all here, of course, but I few stand out in my mind. Today's is an awesome adventure in Chicago during the last week of June. I went for work as a consultant for the non-profit organization that I work with that works with teachers on improving math instruction. I worked with an amazing group of about 80 K-8 teachers, administrators, and coaches. And I worked with one of my favorite colleagues.

It was my first visit to Chicago, and I totally and completely fell in love. I've not spent much time at all in the midwest, to be honest. Drove through it twice in my life for cross-country trips. Flew over to get to New York and the East Coast. But really? The Rockies to the Appalachians....kind of a mystery to me. Overall impression: incredibly friendly people, insane amounts of steakhouses, and Chicago is a beautiful, fun city.

I'm so spoiled to be from San Francisco, which I happen to think (with some bias) is the most beautiful, vibrant, exciting, and fun city in the country. But I have to say, Chicago was amazing. I spent two days there by myself after the rest of my colleagues went home (long story) and I fell in love.

You better believe I was going to Wrigley, no matter what! But, unbelievably, the Giants
were on a roadtrip to play the Cubbies that week! So Wednesday found us down in
Wrigley Town. It was everything you've heard, and more. It was so rowdy, and cozy, and amazing.
A "W" would have been better, I won't lie, but we got to hear the Cubbie's Song and yes,
I admit, we were humming right along on the way out. : )

 The architectural river tour is amazing. HIGHLY recommend if you get down out that way.
The Willis Tower used to the Sear Tower. There are new observation decks made completely of glass, floor, walls, ceiling. It was an amazing experience to walk out "into thin air" and hover over
downtown Chicago. Even more amazing to watch people freak out about it. Holy cow. Watching grown men and women crawl on the glass floors of the balconies? Surreal.
 I'm not a shopper (understatement) but I walked all the way down Michigan Avenue, just for people
watching purposes, and ended up down at Grant Park, the Art Institute museum, and the outdoor festival of Taste, where I sweated it out with thousands of my closest strangers, and ate ice cream
and spinach stuffed pizza. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!
 The river that runs through the city. It's so charming there!
 I stopped to knit under The Bean in Memorial Park.

It's possible that my fabulous two days in Chicago was more attributable to the quiet of my hotel room, (where I read, soaked in a hot tub, and generally thought deep thoughts), or to the quiet dinners at Xoco and Luxe and the Greek food and the deep dish pizzas....

Maybe, afterall, I just needed a few days where I was "Mia" instead of "mama" or "maestra". A nice little palette cleanser to the end of the school year!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Rip Van Winkle

I love fall. Even though it means the end of my summer garden, and that I need to do SOMETHING about all these tomatoes. I think today will be that day....
 Easily the best garden I've ever had! Cucumbers and all manner of tomatoes (those yellow ones? oh my!), plus two kinds of squash, honeydew melon (small but oh so sweet!), and more eggplants than probably any one person ought to eat.  But I'm doing my best!
The pole beans were a huge success! Many summer meals consisted of steamed beans and white corn on the cob, with just a little salt added to each. I wish I could grow corn just doesn't get hot enough with the lovely bay marine layer. Maybe I need a greenhouse....oh yes, I think I do!  Let me get right on that.

Oh! By the way? Are you surprised to see me? : ) I've been missing in action....not really checking facebook, or the blog, or anything else for that matter. But I miss it. And I miss you. Fall is the perfect time for new beginnings....don't you agree?

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Do you have any idea how easy it is to make jam? I had some frozen blackberries from  one of many blackberry picking adventures. (I planted three black berries on the hill above the artichokes...oh someday i will have my own patch!) But in the meantime, I have good friends and wild berries to keep me busy. 
 There are great directions that can be found here for preparing and preserving your own fruit jams. But if it all feels too fussy, there's no reason you can't just do what I do, which is 1) take fresh or frozen-from-fresh blackberries. Around 6 or 8 cups worth. Bring it to a hard boil (meaning, when you stir it, the boiling bubbles don't go down) and add a packet of low-sugar pectin.
 Let it dissolve, stirring constantly, then add 2 or 3 cups of granulated sugar. Let it dissolve, stirring constantly, then I use a hand masher to mush it all up while it's cooking for another 10 minutes or so.
Then I spooned it into jars and let it cool, jar lids on. Let that sit on the counter. Convince yourself that it will never set, that you'll be left with berry soup at the end of the day. Come back in a couple of hours and be pleasantly surprised that it actually worked, and the jam is, in fact, of jam-like consistency.

So store without bothering to water bath preserve them, I just popped these jars in the refrigerator. They'll stay for a couple of months, good as fresh, but they won't last that long anyway, so it was a good solution. I could also freeze it, pretty much indefinitely.

There are all kinds of snappy ideas about adding lemon (acidity helps it set) or using sugar substitutes (only an option with low-sugar pectin), but don't let that stuff intimidate you. You can just ignore it (I do, and my jam is still fab : )

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Keep All Sissy Soft Suckers Off My Corner*

*Run DMC ~ Is IT Live

Teaching is not for the weak.  Nor is parenting. Nor is death. All three have collided for me this week.

In perhaps the most surreal moment of my week so far, I pulled up to my mom's car at my grandma's funeral on this drizzly Monday afternoon. Her windows were up and she was mouthing something to me. I squinted at her through the glass, and it became apparent that she was trying to tell me something. 

I could juuuusssstttt make it out.  "They all think you're baked." Alright. That's.....weird.

I'm down to the next 12 hours. If I can get through the next 12 hours, I believe I will be able to say that the last 72 hours were not so bad in hindsight.
From my garden! I'm looking forward to a lot more of this. Starting soon!

Sunday, June 5, 2011


During math the other day, I made a few puzzle-like items available to the students and invited them to explore a bit. Pentominoes, Tangrams, and Pattern Blocks are super fun and offer some really interesting and profound mathematics for kids to noodle on in interesting ways. I also had a box of dominoes, and thought that the kids might make some interesting connections around decomposing numbers (for example, a 7 domino may be represented as a 5 side and 2 side, or a 3 side and a 4 side, or a 1 side and a 6 side) which would be really super helpful for when I want them to do arithmetic without counting on their toes.  haha Not even kidding.

It took the dominoes group less than 15 seconds to begin a domino relay. You know what I'm talking about, right?

Do I really need to tell you how addicting these are?

The squirrels have become obsessed with making designs with the dominoes.

 This group of girls called me over every few minutes to watch the 
progression of their simple face to this fantastic vixen.

I am amazed at the level of intense focus and overall cooperation required to make a relay that 1) works and 2) stays up until you are good and ready to knock it down. 
This one minute video is a pretty accurate representation at the fascination with 
which they approach this task.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Love Notes

In a box, somewhere in my house, I know there are two treasures: a note and a card. Both are from my husband. The note was written to me in a college English class.  We did not go to college together, but when we were a-courting, he was taking a night class to finish up his degree and I, besotted and unreasonable, basically audited the class by sitting there mooning at him so we wouldn't have to spend one waking moment apart. I am a constant, attention-mongering pest when it comes to him; this was true from the moment I laid eyes on him, right up until I sat down to write this. For nearly 20 years, I've been poking at his neck and whining at him to talk to me, what are you doing, why won't you talk to me, and his response in 1992 was to drop everything and talk to me.  In 2011, his more measured response is a small smile, a 'what is it honey?', and usually a pat on my head to let me know he's about to move on to more pressing matters, like, I don't know, living his life. But in the early months of our love affair, he reluctantly wrote me a very silly, one page, passing-notes-in-class-kind-of-note, during an English class that he did not want (and I did not have) to take.

The card is a small field of pinkety-pink-pink flowers with no sentiment inside except the one line he wrote to me, the week before we were married in 1998.  What it says is between us, but I promise you, it is a love note.

I am a total sucker for a love note.  For reals. Erik has a set of love letters from me, written pages at a time, every day, from a one month return trip to my beloved Mexico that I took the summer after we started dating. This entire blog feels like a love letter to him and my boys, when the truth be known. He isn't moved to write me love letters (drats!) so I keep my treasures and gratefully accept the many tokens of affection that he does offer.

 I get dozens of love notes from my students every day. 

(I'm going to be totally honest, and tell you that some people ought not a be teaching; some people are damaged and unyielding and angry, and they should turn and walk away. It was one of the most humbling experiences of my life, when I walked into one such teacher's classroom, early in my own teaching career, to find a proliferation of love notes taped to her desk. Teachers are given such a precious gift ~ a child's heart, for a whole year, and maybe even for a lifetime ~ and these love notes are a touch of humility, a reminder of the great responsibility that goes with that precious gift.)

When I had to explain to the students first, that I needed to be gone for a couple of days because my grandma was very sick, and then, that I needed to be gone for a couple of days because my grandma had passed away, I began to receive such an influx in love notes and sympathy cards that I had to actually take some home.  There simply isn't any more space in my classroom to house the sentiments. They go from the profound ("Sorry about your grandma hope you get better so you will rember (sic) her in all your heart xoxoxoxoooxxooooxo") to the sublime (a grave, with "RIP grandma rest in heaven" splashed across the tombstone, with the words, "Get Better Soon" headlining the note). A common theme is a student and I, holding hands and or ambling companionably over hill and dale, or through a field of flowers, a bright yellow sun our constant friend. I get books (Super B!) and drawings and notes and missives.

They are treasures.

I Am Lucky

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

That's A Lot of Sage

After this four day week is a three day week and then my summer begins.  I'm not going to lie to you: I am ready. Oh, I know, after the first couple of weeks, I'll miss my students, I'll miss the creative aspects of designing lessons and trying to figure out what each little squirrel needs just right now, but let me just state:  I'm looking forward to missing it.  That is all

I was thinking today, about all the people who have died in military service to the United States (as it is Memorial Day) so I decided to do an internet search. I found this sobering tally right off the top, and it really set the mood for my "three day weekend".  I mean....I sort of can't comprehend, on the one hand, how many precious lives have been lost (how many families have ached for their loved ones?) and on the other hand, I can't bring myself to accept, on face value, that this is a wholly inclusive total.

We took advantage of our three day weekend by doing some long-needed chores around the house.  Here, Erik "fixed" the dead bolt lock on our front door.  Ahem.
And I even managed to clean this front window, which the pup has taken to rubbing her nose on while pacing back and forth, awaiting our return any time we leave the house.  I mean. Gross.
It's better now : ). I can see out it now.  Oh, except for the two huge cracks that are spiderwebbing across the top of the window.  I mean, we're just keeping it classy around here, really.
I also went into a bit of maintenance mode in the garden, even this early in the season there is so much yummy work that needs to be done!
Complex tasks like caging the tomato plants. A chore made even better by adorable fuschia, yellow,  and orange cages. Yay! Oh, but that sage plant is out of control.  See it there, in the background?
A quick shearing and I had cleared enough space to stake my adorable bean plant experiment.  Oh, they're little arms, forever reaching to hug something....I love you, bean plants!
Which left me with some newly harvested sage.  Quite a bit of it, in fact! My immediate response was, of course, to do a quick internet search.  Now I have another (can't really call this a) chore I can't wait to try.

What did people do, before the internets?????