Monday, July 31, 2006

A little warm, eh?

Here where I live, the the glorious South, we are currently under a heat advisory. Basically that means temps are in the mid to upper 90's, humidity is high, and the heat index is running around 105. (Still, considering what Minneapolis and Pierre, SD are going through, we're lucky - at least most of us have air conditioning.)

Notice I said, "most of us", not "all of us"?

The new air conditioning unit for the part of the building where my classroom is has not been turned on because they aren't finished installing it. We were told it would be on by 9:00 am, then "by the end of the day." I cleared out at 3:00 and there was no relief in sight.

So, I've spent the day working in my room with sweat pouring down my nose. I'm having flashbacks to last year when I had to teach in an upstairs room without a functioning air conditioning unit for the first few months of school.

The good news is that I'm one of the 8 teachers who is getting the bells and whistles high tech LCD projector/DVD player/VCR/Document reader system in my room. (Mrs. Eagle and Mr. Social Studies are as well). This means I can show everything on a big screen, larger than life, and no more kids whining that "I can't see the T.V.!" I've been wanting something like this for three years and I am ecstatic that I finally have it.


They installed it so I had to rearrange my entire room so that all the kids can see it. I've moved my desk, all the kids tables and chairs, elminated two work station tables, and moved the remaining stations to different walls. Apparently because the rooms in this part of the building aren't square (think of pieces of pie and you get a slight idea of what they look like), it was a bit of a challenge installing these things, so we get what they gave us.

Did I mention that it was 94 degrees in my room while I was moving all this furniture?

Fortunately tomorrow we have a science department in-service to be held in the science lab. It's in the new part of the building that has air conditioning.

Thank goodness. I'm going to go have some sweet tea and cool down.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

See ya later summer

Today is my last day of summer vacation.

Oh yeah, school doesn't start for a little over a week, but between now and the first day with students I have a full schedule of working in my classroom, as well as in-service offerings to gear us up for the school year. Part of me is screaming that I need at least two more weeks of nothing, but another part of me is wanting to get it all started and over with so I can get back into the groove.

And you would be amazed how much work goes into getting your room ready for the beginning of the year. However, this year we're doing the happy dance because for the first time in four years I am not changing classrooms. Long time readers may recall that last year I started out in a temporary upstairs room (without any functioning air conditioning in August, in the South) due to a construction project that was behind schedule. In October I finally moved into my "real" room, which is where I'll be again this year. So, in a three year period I had four different classrooms. What a pain that was.

However, I have been informed by the Guidance Goddess (who Mrs. Eagle and I rain into last night at a free "jazz on the lawn" concert) that the new air conditioning unit in that part of the building is not on. Tomorrow is supposed to be in the upper 90's and it's incredibly humid. I may have flashbacks to last year if someone doesn't get that chiller going.

The best part about school starting here shortly is that I'll get to see my kids and I'll get a whole crop of new ones. I really miss some of my kids from last year. Okay, I don't really miss Poop Boy or Kelpto Boy, but most of them I enjoyed having in my life. Face it, middle school is nothing if not entertaining.

So Mrs. Eagle, Mr. Music and I are done, done, done with graduate school. The comp exams weren't that bad, considering how much we all studied for them, they shouldn't have been. We treated ourselves to a wonderful lunch (with adult beverages) at a very cool and funky restaurant where we toasted our perserverance in finishing the program without completely losing our minds. Mr. Music treated us both with CD's which he made (the man is an incredibly talented musician as well as a fantastic teacher) which was a treat. However, for me the highlight was after lunch when we wandered through the mall into a music store and he treated us to an impromtu concert on guitar and mandolin. It was a very nice end to the afternoon.

I'm going to go enjoy my last day.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Down to the Wire

Tomorrow at 6:00 am Mrs. Eagle and I will depart from my house and head off to take our comprehensive exams for our Master's Degrees at a University several hours away. We've been working on our degrees for two years now, along with Mr. Music who teachers in a nearby city, via a distance learning program. The distance learning thing worked out well for us because, let's be honest, after spending nearly ten hours a day in my own classroom, I really didn't want to sit in another classroom listening to someone talk in the evenings. I'm dead tired by 8:00 pm anyway and the chances of either one of us staying awake were pretty slim. So, we did the distance learning thing and it worked out okay for the most part.

We're just all so ready to have this thing done and over with. I'm ready to have weekends back where I can do novel things like clean my house, read a book of my choice, or just sit and knit or do nothing. The fact that I'll have this freedom to do what I want is just enough to nearly make me giddy with joy.

However, I can say that I am totally studied out. I have Blooms and Gardners booming around my brain, along with stuff on motivation, law, action research, and learning styles and teaching styles and so much other stuff.

And all I want to do is curl up, watch HGTV and knit.

But tomorrow, Mr. Music, Mrs. Eagle and I are going to go out to lunch and celebrate. We all chose not to walk in the graduation ceremonies (we didn't see the point and I can think of a lot of other things to spend money on outside of a cap and gown rental fee), so we're treating ourselves to something besides fast food. That was our usual mode of attack - go to the University, take finals, do orientation for the next classes, go to lunch, and then spend the next semester emailing and calling each other. Mrs. Eagle and I, obviously, were able to do a lot of our work together, but we didn't get many chances to work, in person, with Mr. Music. That being said, we've all become quite good friends through the experience, and I'm glad we did it.

I just want that diploma and the pay raise. I am, at heart, a truly simple girl.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Slobber Slobber Drool

My friend Supermom and her son Squirt took a well deserved quick trip to Texas to visit some friends for a few days. Since SuperDad is currently in Iraq, that trip involved having the dogs boarded. The dogs, by the way, are Abby (a slightly deranged Rottweiler a little over a year old) and Buster, a Catahoula Leopard Dog, who is calm, mellow and the exact opposite of Abby. Unfortunately Supermom was having trouble getting cheap flights at convenient times, which meant she either had to pay an additional day of boarding, or get a friend to pick up the dogs.

I was the friend who picked up the dogs.

Since Abby and Buster both know me, I figured this wouldn't be too much of a challenge, as long as Abby didn't go completely berserk, which she has been known to do. So I drove my little Saturn down to the vet, and got the dog beds, the toys, the extra food, the bowls, and two big dogs. Buster was a breeze. I snapped the collar on him, opened the car door, and in he went. He blinked at me, and laid down and prepared to take a nap.

I really really like Buster.

I asked for help with Abby because when we practiced getting her into my car (yes, we practiced this, she's used to an SUV), she wasn't very agreeable. She's equates getting into a car with going to the vet, so she tends to sit down and refuses to move. However, apparently she finally figured out that this car trip meant she was going home, so after jerking me all over the parking lot, she hopped in next to Buster and we were off.

So I'm driving along, AC on high, radio on, back windows cracked slightly, and the only thing I can hear is the panting of two big dogs breathing down my neck. I look down and Buster has his head in between my seats, and is gazing up at me with big happy Buster eyes. Abby, however, has her mouth right by my ear and her tongue is hanging out about a foot and she's just having the time of her life.

And then she started drooling on my arm.

And I just laughed all the way to Supermom's house!

Check 'em out!

I finally had time to sit down and update my links. Actually I should be studying for my comprehensive exams (this Saturday) but obviously updating my blog is a bit more entertaining.

In any case, check these folks out some time. They write good stuff!

Sunday, July 23, 2006


I am finally back from my two weeks up north visiting friends and teaching summer camp and having a delightful time back in my old neck of the woods. Every year things change a little bit and every year it's nice to go up and see what's going on. I just wish my friends' kids would stop getting taller than I am.

I did, however, end up catching an absolutely dreadful cold while I was up there.

And I mean absolutely dreadful. It started with that achey sinus dripping feeling in the back of my throat late Monday night and by Friday I could barely talk. I managed to finish up camp, help my friend with her teenaged daughter's boy-girl party, and crashed Friday night before getting up, having breakfast with another dear friend, and heading back south. I was dead tired, achy, cranky, and just miserable by the time I got home.

I am thrilled to be home. I am thrilled to have my four delightful cats with me. The only improvement would be if Mr. Bluebird was here, but he's gone on business. In the meantime we're having these really interesting phone conversations because I can't talk. My voice has basically gone away and all I can manage are whisperings and various croaking noises that don't resemble human speech.

It's bad enough having a cold in the first place, but having one in the middle of July when it's hot and humid out makes it worse.

I am sleeping in, reading mystery novels, and getting rid of this cold before I tackle the dozen or so projects that need my attention.

School starts in two weeks.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

All tied up in knots - not!

Every summer for the past six years I have had the privilege of teaching for a few weeks at a summer camp for gifted children. Even now that I'm living in the Glorious South I make the trek up north for at least two weeks every summer. I stay with my girlfriend and her family (ranging in age from 10 months to 14 years so that's an experience in itself), and get to visit my friends, and even get paid.

What a deal!

However, because I'm incredibly mercenary, I make it a point to try to work the last two weeks of camp because that way I can help the camp director eliminate her storage problem over the school year by taking the gently used supplies (crayons, colored pencils, glue, markers, etc.) off her hands. Heck I teach in a school with 52% free and reduced lunch and believe me, I have a use for slightly used school supplies. I'm afraid the camp director has actually started to depend on me to help reduce her storage as there always seems to be boxes with my name on it in the camp office that start getting loaded up as people turn in their materials.

However, this also means that I end up teaching kids going into 2nd, 3rd and 4th grades. Granted, they are gifted (supposedly, we're wondering about a few of them) but there's still a huge difference between the age group I usually teach (7th) and these kids.

And it really becomes apparent when you're talking about knots.

One of the classes I teach is a kite building class and it requires lots and lots and lots of knots. And these kids, with their tiny little hands, have a heck of a time with knots. I'm starting to think we need to ban velcro on tennis shoes until kids learn how to tie a decent knot. So I spend a lot of time helping 15 little ones tie their kites together. And usually I get one kid who just dissolves into tears of frustration because he/she just can't tie knots. However, since the goals of the camp include challenging these kids who usually aren't challenged enough, it's not a big deal. We talk about dealing with challenges and taking the time to learn something that's hard, and it all works out in the end. They get their kites built, they want their picture taken with you on the last day and the hug you and tell you that you're the coolest and funnest teacher ever.

But by the end of the week, although I'm having an absolute ball, I really appreciate the independence that my seventh graders have.

I know people look at those of us who teach middle school as people who are either completely insane or people who are incredibly brave to wade in and try to ride herd on a bunch of hormones on feet. However, I think those teachers who spend their careers teaching the little ones, and tying knots, and wiping noses and generally being mommie and teacher all in one are the ones who really are impressive. I don't think I could do it for an entire year.

Friday, July 07, 2006


You know how there are things that just kind of drive you crazy for no real reason outside of they drive you crazy?

I'm standing in line at the super big box store (buying a Bissell steam cleaner for my carpet, long story) and for the umpteenth time I see someone in line ahead of me, apparently a young mom, with one of those stupid phone things stuck in her ear. And it occurs to me, not for the first time, just how darn stupid that looks. For the life of me, everytime I see someone with one of those phone things clipped around their ear I think they're a refugee from a really bad Star Trek episode. It looks, well, stupid.

And really, just how many of us really, really need to be so attached to our telephone that we have to walk around with some goofy little metal contraption hanging off our ear? Are there really that many people out there that these people have to talk to that they have to hang a phone off their ear just so they won't miss a single phone call? Not to mention the fact that when they're talking, they look like they're missing a couple of sandwiches out of the picnic basket.

I don't know about you, but even though I do carry my phone with me (I'm paranoid about vehicle breakdowns) I actually enjoy the fact that I can get away from people simply by turning it off (which I've been known to do). I like my solitude at times, and I certainly don't want to be tied to a telephone.

And goodness knows, I have enough bad hair days without having to hang a stupid metal gadget from my head....

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day

It's Independence Day, one of my favorite holidays. And not because it's summer, or you get to blow off fireworks, or you get to eat a bunch of good food cooked outside. I love this holiday because of what it stands for.

I know we tend to take it for granted, but it really just blows my mind when you think of the daring, the bravery and the intelligence that our Founding Fathers had. They did something that no one ever did before...they told the mother country that they were Independent. They put EVERYTHING on the line for this idea. All the members of the Continental Congress - people like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock and more - knew that what they were doing was, at the time, treason.

And that meant a death sentence.

When they signed the Declaration of Independence, they risked their lives, their fortunes, and their families for the idea of freedom. The idea of a government of the people and by the people and for the people. The idea that we have a voice in how our country is run. That we can worship the religion of our choice. That we can associate with whom we want. That we can become anything we want to be.

As Americans we tend to take our freedoms for granted. I have a good friend, Marina, who grew up in Soviet Russia. And I remember asking her what was the one thing that she really thought was different here in the U.S. than Russia. And without hesitating, she said that here, she could sit in a cafe with her friends and talk about anything they wanted to, and not be threatened with harrassment or arrest. In the Soviet Union, you couldn't do that.

We are so very lucky we live where we do.

So today, when you're chowing down on the hot dogs, and blowing up the fireworks, take a minute to say a quiet thank you to the men (and women) who made it possible. They dserve nothing less.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

What's the point of crabgrass?

I'm in the middle of a battle with my yard and I think the yard is winning.

I have dreams of a perfect yard, the kind you see photographed in Southern Living, and the kind that just look perfect, no matter what. And both hubby and I have worked and worked at the perfect yard and truth be told, it's better than it was when we bought the place.

However, the grass, and especially the crabgrass is going to drive me insane.

There are flower beds where we were able to use a weed barrier before we laid down the mulch (newspaper, to be honest, I'm cheap and its organic). Those parts of the yard are looking pretty okay. The mulch is nice and dark, there's no weeds or grass, the flowers and shrubs look happy.

Then there's the flower beds where we really couldn't do that due to the bulbs in them, as well as some of the seeds and stuff I tossed out. These beds can go from clean to a jungle in twenty-four horus. We go away for a few days, and I come back and I have grass well over a foot high waving in the breeze in my flower beds, plus crabgrass creeping around everywhere.

So I've spent the past two mornings yanking the stuff out. I am a sweaty, filhty mess. Because it's absolutely flipping hot out there, and even if I get a good start in the morning, it's still hot.

And it doesn't look like I've made a dent. I did do a walk around with round up this morning and discovered some weed in a back portion of the side yard which was taller than me.

Now that's scary.

I've come to the conclusion that all these weeds have some weird genetic growth spurt thing going. I swear they could grow on a rock with no rain.

I really need a glass of wine.