Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bread and Milk! We must have Bread and Milk!

While Mr. Bluebird and Poppa Bird and I have had a relatively uneventful holiday, marred only by a bit of rain, our kin in Colorado are having a heck of a time this Christmas season. While they're getting ready for the latest round of blizzards, Mr. Bluebird is out on the back deck grilling steaks. Patently unfair, don't you think?

Anyhow, last week when the first blizzard hit Denver I called my cousin, Penguin. Penguin is a year older than me and is a definite free spirit who marches to her own tune. Nothing phases her. Even a rollicking day of baby-sitting her nephews and niece doesn't send her over the edge. In fact, I'm not sure what would send her over the edge, if anything.

So I reach her on her cell phone as she's just boarded the shuttle bus at the airport that's supposed to take her to her car that's parked at Stapleton, the old airport. (She works for an airline out of Denver International Airport). Apparently, instead of having the employees drive for miles across the prairie to reach the airport, the airlines run a shuttle service. Which usually runs fairly frequently. However, with the blizzard in full battle mode, it ran a bit late.

"Oh, we just got on the shuttle to take us to our cars," she says. "It was kind of cool. We waiting there for two hours, just like penguins huddling together and taking turns being on the inside of the huddle and outside of the huddle because the wind and snow was blowing so bad." Penguin, I might add, is nuts about penguins and has been collecting them since we were knee-high. Hence, her name.

"You were waiting in the snow for two hours?"

"Oh yeah, and they say it make take us two hours to get to our cars." Penguin is not even remotely concerned or upset at this point. In fact, it sounded like the entire shuttle bus was singing Christmas Carols and partying.

I called Penguin a day or so later and she informed me that yes, it did take two hours to get to their cars, but she had parked in covered parking so it was only a matter of getting home along the snow-covered roads. Apparently this took some time as well, but she made it. She then spent the following day walking all over her neighborhood and the local park with her snowshoes and digital camera. She reported that her area received 33" of snow. In Penguin's eyes that simply means more chances to play with her snowshoes and digital camera.

Today, as the weather reports are screeching about Yet Another Blizzard, I call Penguin to see what's really going on. She is nonplussed.

"People are so silly," she says on the phone. "The lines at the gas stations are huge," she reports. "Which is kind of silly because if you have a blizzard, you aren't going driving anywhere, right?"

I agree that people really are rather silly (I do, after all, teach so I am very aware of this fact).

Penguin continues, "I ran by the market on the way home from Mother's, just to get a few things, and they're out of milk. Is that silly or what? I mean, what's with the bread and milk? Every time there's a storm people all stock up on bread and milk. I'd rather stock up on tortilla chips and salsa, if I'm going to stock up on anything."

Mr. Bluebird, Poppa Bird and I all tend to agree with Penguin on this. Why do people stock up on bread and milk? Why not lunchmeat and chips? Why not peanut butter? Why not chocolate? Me, if I'm stuck home during a blizzard, I'd probably want to make sure I had plenty of coffee, shortbread cookies, and Jack Daniels.

And some really good books to read.

So, there are two questions for my dear readers.

1. What's with the bread and milk?

2. What would you stock up on???

Rock Goddess

My nickname isn't The Rock Goddess for nothing!

Rock Star

You scored 94%!

You damn rock star. You know all the basics, and if you got any wrong, I bet it was that stupid Traveling Wilburys question.

Your friends are probably intimidated by your knowledge of classic rock and envy your impressive collection. When a classic rock song comes on the radio, you can probably identify it before the vocals kick in most of the time. You probably get good scores on the "maiden name of Clapton's mom" tests, too.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 99% on notes

Link: The BASIC classic rock Test written by allmydays on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve, hard to believe it's already here, and I'm finally getting caught up on my blog reading, knitting, house cleaning, baking, etc.

I'm enjoying reading about Christmas traditions and plans from all my fellow bloggers, which is one way to vicariously live the holiday through other people's eyes. See, my family doesn't really have any big deal holiday traditions, for a number of reasons.

First, my father, and all my uncles, all worked for the airline industry. That meant that Christmas dinner was usually a buffet style affair where you grabbed a plate and ate whenever you could. Every one of them worked Christmas day. I don't think my Dad actually had Christmas off until he had over 25 years in, and then he always volunteered to work it so the guys with little kids (I was past college by this time) could enjoy it.

I guess the second reason we don't have a lot of traditions is that Mr. Bluebird and I both come from small families. I'm an only child, he has one (estranged, slightly wacko) sister, and a half sister who's quite a bit older. There are, outside of my cousins' kids, no children in the family. Like my family, he moved a bit as a child (including overseas) so having grandmas and grandpas around for thie holidays was a rarity.

That being said, we tend to do our own traditions which might seem strange to some people, but when you have a houseful of two or three people, you can do what you want.

Like make all day spaghetti sauce and invite your Jewish friends over for a spaghetti Christmas dinner.

My mother thought it was horrible that we didn't do a turkey that year. But really, why bother with a big bird when it's only a handful of folks and you really like Italian food?

Last year we invited all my friends and fellow teachers who had spouses deployed and who had no family in the area over. We had a blast! This just proved the point that you can chose your friends but not your relatives. If I had had some of my crazy, dysfunctional relatives over (instead of good friends) I probably would have been found behind the tree getting plowed on Jack Daniels.

Tonight we're going over to Mr. and Mrs. Littlebird's house for our monthly dinner and game night with a little foray out to look at Christmas lights. The Prodigal Daughter (their daughter who we would keep as our own) will be home from college, although Mr. Littlebird is overseas again this holiday. Tomorrow Papa Bird will drive up for Christmas dinner and most likely will stay for a few days. I'll be cooking Christmas dinner.

I'm making lasagne.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Whoo-hoo! Carnival Time!

It's time for another Carnival of Education. Wander on over to The Median Sib for another outstanding read. I highly recommend a good cup of coffee and chocolate to enhance your reading experience. It is the holidays after all.

At last...

I can sleep in.

And take a nap later on if I want to.

I can read a novel.

I can knit, knit, knit.

I can watch all the DVD's I haven't had time to watch.

I might even make some Christmas cookies.

I can hang out with Mr. Bluebird.

I love my kids, but gosh, I like having some time to myself!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Out of the Mouths of Middler Schoolers, or Doughboy Discovers Sex

There are days in the life of a middle school teacher when you wonder how on earth you manage to maintain your compsure and not dissolve into fits of hysterical giggles. Especially when one of your kids says something so off the wall that you're not even sure you heard it correctly. In fact, you're hoping you didn't hear it correctly.

Today was one of those days for Mr. Social Studies.

You have to give him credit. He tries to drag our kids kicking and screaming into discussions of current events, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. In fact, it all depends on the class. Some class periods do well in this area, others don't. It all sort of depends on the make up of the kids.

Today he was having a current event discussion when one of the kids raises his hand and mentions that he thought he heard on the radio news this morning that a cure for AIDS had been discovered. Mr. Social Studies responds that he hadn't heard that, but if it is the case, that would be a very good thing. The class then gets into a discussion about AIDS, which the kids apparently have a lot of questions about. (Which shows that they don't pay any more attention in health class than they do in science.) Mr. Social Studies explains a bit about the origins of the disease, how it's an STD, how it has decimated populations in Africa, and so on.

Doughboy raises his hand. Now there's several schools of thought when Doughboy raises his hand. One is the belief that you're delighted he's apparently paying attention and wants to contribute. The other is that you're scared to death about what might come out of his mouth.

Mr. Social Studies decides to take a gamble and calls on Doughboy.

"What's an STD?" he asks.

Great. Mr. Social Studies does as clinical an explanation of STD's as he can, couching his terms in words that hopefully won't get a parent mad at him. The kid seem to get it. He moves on.

Five minutes late Doughboy's hand is up in the air again, waving frantically.

Mr. Social Studies throws caution to the wind and calls on Doughboy again.

"Does that mean you can get AIDS from jerking off?" he asks, deadly serious.

Mr. Social Studies, who is never at a loss for words, was at a loss for words. So, apparently, was the entire class. Thank goodness. The chaos this could have generated is unfathomable.

Only one half day of school left.

Thank goodness.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Christmas Store

Our Parent Teacher Organization just rocks.

They are a dedicated group of volunteers who practically live in our building and who do more good than most social services agencies manage to do. Throughout the year they run a "Food For Thought" program where kids receive a backpack with enough food to get them through the weekend. (It's amazing how many of our kids don't eat between school lunch on Friday and school breakfast on Monday.) They also are there to help out with life's emergencies, such as a pair of brand new basketball shoes being stolen from a locker that need to be replaced, a kid who needs a jacket, that sort of thing. They also have chili suppers, dances, festivals, and craft shows to raise money for our Christmas Angel program where they provide Christmas in the form of food and presents to needy families from our building. This year they're taking care of families with over a 100 children. The time and labor that goes into this is mind-boggling.

But the one thing they do that really impacts the kids, that makes the biggest impression on them, is The Christmas Store.

All year long, starting the day after Christmas, these ladies hit the sales. They are zealous at buying things at 75% or more off. The items themselves aren't junk, but actually are pretty nice - jewelry, perfume, stuffed animals, candles, and more. They will stockpile these items and in the week before we leave for the Christmas break they will take our large group instruction room (a room we use for everything from luncheons to multi-class labs) and turn it into The Christmas Store. The items are attractively displayed on tables, there's a cash register, they have holiday music playing, candy canes to snack on, in truth, it looks nicer than most mall stores.

And everything in there is priced from $1 to $5.

Quite simply, they are providing our students with a chance to buy presents for their parents, friends, family, and yes, even teachers, at a price they can afford, and without having to have a parent help them do it. This little bit of independence is something these kids love. It may sound stupid to a grown up (especially if you're like me and you're avoiding malls and shopping centers like the plague) but to be eleven and to be able to take $2 and buy your mom a present all by yourself is a big thing.

The Christmas Store is open all day long and the kids are very good about politely asking if they can leave class to go. I usually let them, as we're winding the semester down this week and there's really nothing that they absolutely can't miss (now that my last test is over). What's fun, for me, is when they return. They usually aren't gone long thanks to Mrs. Math who took them all over for a few minutes on the day the store opened to check it out so they knew what was there. When they return they have these HUGE smiles on their faces and they're carrying brightly colored Christmas gift bags full of goodies nestled in tissue paper (I love the fact that they don't even have to wrap the gifts - they're ready to go!).

The other day I saw the tiniest little sixth grader dragging four huge bags down the hall with a smile that could of lit up the Las Vegas strip.

Interestingly enough, from the conversations I hear, the kids aren't in there buying things for themselves, but are really buying things for others. I hear things like, "Oh man, did you see those candles in there? My mom would love those!" or "My sister is going to love that stuffed bear I got!" It's reassuring to know that most of them have the right idea.

The Christmas Store has been so popular this year that two of the PTO ladies took a road trip and some cash and hit some more sales to restock as they'd nearly sold everything out. They've extended the hours through Monday, our last full day of school.

The kids are ecstatic. And they're discovering something some of us tend to forget. It truly is more fun to give than to receive!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Catching Us At Our Best.

Mrs. Eagle and I have joined a gym. Actually, Mrs. Eagle already belonged to this gym, but found that she wasn't going very often. It's boring when you go by yourself. So, I went down and joined the other day. Our goal is to go 3-4 days a week. We figure this is one way to get out of the building at a halfway decent time, and we need the exercise. Walking was fun, but we weren't as committed to it this year as we were last year, and besides, I wanted to get some weight training in.

So Wednesday we go and hit the gym. We did about 25 minutes on the bikes, then decided to do some weight training (which I really enjoy although by the time we were finished I was wondering if I'd be able to use my arms the following day). Mrs. Eagle, an Army veteran, knows her way around a gym, and it's almost like having a personal trainer.

We were taking turns doing crunches which is probably one of the most unattractive things a 44-year old chubby woman can do. I finished my set, get up to let Mrs. Eagle have her turn and look up across the gym and see Rodeo Girl and her mother standing at the front counter of the gym.

Oh great.

Too late, they've spotted me and are waving frantically. I wave back and smile, trying to forget that I'm sweating, my hair is a mess, and I'm beet red in the face. On the way out I do the polite thing and chit chat a bit with the two of them, wondering all the time how this was going to play out at school.

So this morning I'm standing in my room talking with one of my kids during locker time and I hear Rodeo Girl practically screaming at the top of her lungs, "Guess what? I saw Mrs. Bluebird at the gym last night working out and lifting weights and everything!"

Oh boy.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

And just what, exactly, is normal?

We have a number of student teachers in the building this semester and it's not unusual for one of them to ask me if they can come sit in on a class and do an observation. No problem for me as I'm pretty used to having people in my room. One year my classroom was right by the front office and I swore The Principal used my classroom as a tour stop. I tend to get people wanting to observe because I'm one of the few teachers who has my students seated at tables in groups and I use a lot of hand's on activities.

In any case, I had one of the student teachers this week during my Fourth Period Class which is actually one of my better ones. Interestingly enough it's packed with special education kids but for once they really aren't, for the most part, behavior problems. They tend to work hard even if they don't do well academically, they really try and that counts for a lot with me.

I do have one kid in there who's really....well....odd. Doughboy has one of the roundest faces I've ever seen and he's a bit chubby and very pale. He's really different. He talks really fast, and low, so most of the time no one can understand him. I'm always having to slow him down and repeat things until I get the gist of what he's saying. He drives nearly everyone he sits by nuts because he has conversations with himself or with anyone who'll listen. He's not loud, but it does get old after a while.

Anyhow. I get the kids started on the activity for the day and swing back by the student teacher to see if she has any questions. She does.

"Hum, that kid over there," she says nodding her head toward Doughboy. "He has two pairs of glasses on."

I don't even bother to look because for the past two weeks Doughboy has started wearing two pairs of glasses, one placed on top of the other. I asked him about it and he said it helped him to see better. I sugested he asked his mom to take him to get his prescription checked and he said no, he liked wearing the two pair of glasses just fine.

"Oh," I said, "That's just Doughboy."

"Is that normal?" she asks.

I pause for a minute before I answer. "For Doughboy, yes, it's normal. For any other kid, probably not."

When that little voice in your head escapes...

Mrs. Language related this story to me and it's just too good not to share.

I have a kid in my homeroom I call Boston Boy. This kid has never ever lived or traveled North of the Mason Dixon Line but he sounds like he's straight from South Boston. I have a friend, Trish Murphy, from Southy and Boston Boy could be kin to her based on accent alone. We've never met Dad, but Mom is pure Southern so goodness knows where he picked it up.

Anyhow, Boston Boy is pretty bright, a hard rock music lover, and a kid without a lot of patience. Mrs. Language is doing a class discussion the other day (I believe they were working on descriptive writing) where she would show the kids pictures and she'd call on them to describe it as vividly as they could.

As she's doing this, she's standing near Boston Boys desk and he's sort of leaning forward with his elbow on his desk, and his head propped in his hand. She calls on a student in class to give her description of the picture and she realizes that Boston Boy is mumbling something.

"Oh man, just shut the hell up," she hears him mumble.

The student finishes, and another student is called and begins going over his description.

"Jeez, you're just so damn stupid," she hears Boston Boy mumble.

By this point Mrs. Language decides she needs to put a stop to Boston Boy's mumbling even though it appears no one but she can hear it.

"Boston," she hisses at him. "Watch your mouth!"

She relates that at this point Boston Boy spins around to look at her, his mouth hanging open and his eyes all but popping out of his head. "You heard me?" he asks.

"Of course I heard you," she says. "You're lucky the other kids didnt."

"But I didn't know I was saying anything out loud!" he whispers back at her. "I thought I was just talking in my head."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

And I'd lose my head if it wasn't attached...

Just when we thought that Mrs. Faraway had given up, I find myself the recipient of one of her emails this morning.

Oh yippe.

Not only are her emails ripe with typographical errors (we particularly enjoy her use of "studing" for "studying") but she types in ALL FREAKING CAPS LIKE SHE'S YELLING. Having tried to walk this woman through our school website over the telephone I'm fairly certain she isn't yelling, but happens to be completely clueless about her breach of email etiquette.

Anyhow, I'm giving a benchmark test today, which is boring beyond belief, and I see her email pop up. She wants to know when I'm handing back the study guides for our next unit test because she needs to work with her daughter on memorizing them word for word so she can parrot the answers back and not have a clue what any of it is about. She claims that her daughter turned it in on Friday.

Well, that's pretty interesting because I didn't collect the study guides, and when I went through the homework that was turned into the homework basket, there were no study guides in there. From anyone. I informed Mrs. Faraway of such and told her that I would have an additional study guide ready for her daughter when she came to class, even though my usual practice is if a kid loses a study guide (or anything else for that matter), they better find a friend and change for the copier. However, since her daughter is on an IEP, I do make exceptions (and how) for her.

Mrs. Faraway responds that she appreciated that I would give her daughter a new study guide, but she would really like the old one (which was completed) and that she has no reason not to believe her daughter so apparently, I've lost her study guide. After all, her daughter insisted that she turned it in. What other possibility could it be? I had to have lost it.

At this point I'm shaking my head over the fact that I have yet another parent who believes everything that comes out of the mouth of a seventh grader. If there's one thing that a seventh grader is good at, it is obfuscating the truth. Or, if you prefer, lying.

When Faraway Girl comes in to class, I call her over and hand her another study guide.

"You need to take this home and make sure your mother sees this," I tell her.

She gives me one of her patented blank looks. There are times that I swear I can hear the wind whistling between her ears. Loudly.

"But I have one already," she says.

"Really. Well, your mother says you don't."

"But I do," she insists again. "And it's filled out." At this point she goes to her binder, opens it up, and lo and behold, there's her perfectly completed study guide!

"Well an extra one wouldn't kill either one of you," I say. "Just in case it gets misplaced." She gives me a look like she's completely baffled (which she probably was) and puts the new one in her binder.

I email her mother and let her know I gave her daughter a new study guide. However, interestingly enough, her daughter insisted that she didn't need a study guide because she still had one in her binder, which she did, in fact, produce. I suggested that perhaps her mother might, just maybe, have my class confused with another one?

At least she said thank you. But I'm still annoyed that she was convinced I'd lost the stupid thing in the first place.

Friday, December 01, 2006

And what do you do for fun??!

We were having a discussion in my Fifth Period class the other day about cell processes, including endocytosis. Knowing that my kids are pretty much obsessed with video games I told them that endocytosis, where a cell engulfs a large particle and brings it into the cell, is a lot like Pacman.

This leads to a conversation about how exocytosis (where the cell expells a large particle) is a lot like another character from another video game, one which I wasn't familiar with. I start asking them about this when one of my kids asks, "Don't you know anything about video games?"

"Well, no, I don't really. We don't have any at home." My only familiarity with video games is from the games we used to play in the student union way back when I was in college the first time. That's how I knew about Pacman. And Tetris. But I've never owned a gaming system.

There are gasps of disbelief.

"You don't have any video games? No PS2, nothing like that?" a few of them cry. They are stunned. How on earth can someone function without video games?

"Nope. Not one." I'm kind of enjoying the astonished looks on their faces.

"But what do you do for fun?" one of them finally asks.

"Oh, I read a lot. Mr. Bluebird and I have lots and lots of books and we read a lot. We also watch a lot of DVD's. And we play games, you know, like chess and Risk."

They find this incredibly odd.

One of my kids, Pig Pen, who is very messy but very, very bright, says, "You know, it's a good thing you and Mr. Bluebird don't have any kids, because it would be really mean to have them grow up without a video game system."

Amazing what these kids consider to be necessary for happiness, isn't it?