Wednesday, March 31, 2010
For the past 4 years, whenever I needed something to occupy my students' time after a test or project of some sort, I would ask them to visit Free Rice, a website that has sponsors, quizzes students on a number of topics (English vocabulary, English grammar, foreign languages, art, etc.) and donates food to the hungry for every correct answer. It is a legitimate site - several years ago there was an investigation into it to determine if it truly donated the food it claimed, and it was found to be accurate.
But today, I had my students (one of the rowdier classes) take a unit test online. After they finished it, a handful begged me for extra credit, claiming they did not do well on the test. I already had a few students I had directed to the site, and after watching them play the game, I thought I could convince them to learn without realizing it...I told them they would receive 1 point of extra credit for every 100 grains of rice they earned and donated to the hungry. I don't think I have EVER had that quiet of a room AFTER a unit test...ususally, they need to vent after being quiet and focusing, but today...well, it was a beautiful thing to witness.
In addition to the use of Free Rice, I also have an email reminder sent to me from The Literacy Site. This site, too, has corporate sponsors who will donate for 6 very worthy causes when you click on a link. They donate for world hunger, breast cancer, child health, literacy, the rainforest, and animal rescue. In addition to the sponsors donating to the causes, each page also has a store with items that are free trade, organic, or help in some other manner.
The email reminder is sent daily, and, let's be honest, in our busy lives, who will remember to visit a site every day when it doesn't spout gossip or shopping, or even something more mundane that we find fascinating? All it takes is 6 little clicks to help others.
And it is our busy lives, our society as a whole, that prompts me to do this. So simple, and something I can do - I can afford it, I can spare 30 seconds, and I have no reason to forget. It is, next to being a mother, wife, and teacher, the most important thing I do to help those less fortunate, and it reminds me that, no matter how hard I think I have it, how exhausted, how worried, how stretched, there are others out there who are facing things much worse. This is my esemplastic link to reality and to expanded borders outside my tiny world.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
And here I am now, 33, with time seemingly a figment of my imagination as it flirtaciously 'fugits' by.
My beautiful son is now 7 months old. Holy guacamole. How did that happen? He's sitting up and playing with toys like a little boy - tossing aside the ones he's tired of playing with like the brothers in A Christmas Story toss aside the socks their aunt gave them for Christmas.
But even more daunting than watching Sydney grow is being forced to face and acknowledge my own age and place in life. No, I'm not old. I know that. But I've reached the age where life forces you to start taking a serious look at things...
My father had a stroke yesterday. Not my grandfather or a great-uncle. My dad. He is still in the ICU and I'm still waiting updates via phone calls from my brother and sister-in-law. At this time, it appears he will suffer some paralysis, but he will survive.
My mother had surgery on her wrist on Thursday. She's doing well, but she has to have the other wrist done in two weeks, as well.
Since when is it my parents who are needing medical attention? This has made me realize that the concentric ripples in the pool of life just got closer to home. It makes me recall the absolute horror my mother felt when she realized Bill Clinton had just been elected president of the United States...not because he's a Democrat, mind you, but because they are from the same generation. That was her 'ah-hah' moment. But I was in high school at the time and knew it would ages before I had to worry about that...
Saturday, March 27, 2010
This evening, then, Steve and I were watching the History Channel, and a show discussing George Washington and his heirs was on. Curious, since Washington did not have any children with Martha. I came in at the end, but the show was actually about sex and politics, and the belief that Washington sired a son with a servant. The only way to prove the geneology, though, is to exhume his grave and take a DNA sample for comparison. No one is going to ever approve that, so the mystery shall remain. All in all, a very educational day for the Nichols'.
On our way home from the memorial, we stopped at a tiny mom-and-pop restaurant for lunch. If any of you are familiar with William Least-Heat Moon's autobiography Blue Highways, you'll understand why I was so tickled with the diner. Moon traveled across country, living out of his van, and following the 'blue highways' on a road atlas - the minor roads taken only by the locals. The interstates were marked in red, instead. In one part of his autobiography, he comments on diners and the fact that the quality of food can be determined by the number of calendars hanging on the wall.
As I looked around the diner, waiting for our burgers and fries, I realized that this is exactly the type of place to which he was referring. Our diner did not have calendars hanging on the wall, but it did have 4 little league pictures which the owners had sponsored. It also had a Dr. Pepper wall clock that had to be from the 80s, and a gumball machine that offered Skittles and pistachios. The food was excellent, the ambiance reminiscent of simpler times, and the experience, as a whole, quite enjoyable. To quote Moon, "It is for this I have come."
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
The last time we met, though, we had a fascinating discussion on the characters, and what shapes them - nature or nurture, or what combination of both. This includes parental involvement, the location of the two houses (deep in the English countryside, on the moors, with only a small town 15 miles away), and the moorish weather.
I was so tickled by the conversation we had in class. It was fortunate, as well, since I was being obvserved by my assistant principal, but regardless, I truly enjoyed the dialogue. It just goes to show that you do not have to like what you teach, as long as you enjoy teaching. This class has such a nice group of students in it, and it is small, which means we were able to become more comfortable with each other more quickly, and therefore, no one feels vulnerable and everyone is able to contribute to the conversation.
Allow me to explain my thoughts on the novel, briefly - it boils down to this...the characters annoy the hell out of me. They are exceedingly petty, selfish, juvenile, and self-involved. I would not respect or stand to deal with anyone like this in person, so I find it tedious to deal with them in my spare time/class time. But the crux of it all is this - obviously, it is a successful novel if ONLY because Bronte is able to achieve an emotional reaction from me.
The novel is the epitome of Victorian Romanticism/Gothic. I can truly understand, after finishing the novel, why it is taught. And, as stated above, I enjoy teaching it. I just don't like it. I anticipate our final discussion on the novel after we take our last quiz.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
The doctor visit was the perfect lead into a beautiful weekend. Sunny, warm, slight breeze. It was an excellent time to introduce Sydney to the game of golf. Steve wanted to play a round at a local course that had 9 holes. I went along and carried Sydney in the carrier-thingy that straps on to you. He was facing forward, taking in everything. Between the fresh air, sunshine, and recovering from his shots on Thursday, he took the best nap that afternoon. It was such a nice outing, and everyone got a dose of vitamin D! :-)
We decided to top off the evening by watching one of the best worst movies ever made. I had never seen this treasure, but Steve saw it when he was a kid. He bought it several weeks ago on a whim and was itching to watch it with me. Now, tell me faithfully, who out of you has seen the 1980 rendition of Flash Gordan? Horrible movie, but ever so entertaining. I could see this being a huge hit for anyone who...imbibed in certain substances...licit or otherwise. Regardless, with just a glass of milk and fresh homemade snickerdoodle cookies, we were quite entertained.
And last, Steve's schedule has changed at work. He is now on shifts, starting tomorrow, and his first will be the 6-4:30 shift. This means he is no longer able to take Sydney to Nanny in the morning (for the next two weeks). Or, if he did, I'd have to be up by 4:30 am to nurse and get him ready. So, I will be leaving home by 6:30 (hopefully) in order to drive all the way to Salem to drop him off and drive all the way back to school (I live about 2.5 miles from the school). We'll see how well this works out. Once again, keep us in your thoughts.
Oh, yeah...almost forgot! We tried the peas, again, this evening. I mixed them with cereal and breast milk, and he actually ate about 3 spoonfuls before he decided he still didn't like peas. We'll try again in a few days, but I think we're on the way to finally getting some green vegetables in to him!!
Friday, March 19, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
But in the meantime, I would like to broach a subject that I don't usually discuss without some compunctions - I believe I have a ghost in the trailer. And it is a friendly ghost.
Once we reach Thanksgiving each year, I will hang Christmas lights in my classroom. I call them 'Winter Lights,' not because I don't want to step on anyone's politically correct toes, but because I will leave them up through the dark months - I do not take them down until at least spring break...hence, Winter Lights.
Several times each year, I will come to my classroom and discover that either my heat has already been turned on/up (I am usually one of the first at the school, though that has taken a beating now that I am subject to the whims of a 6 month old...) or that my winter lights have been plugged in. This has, in fact, happened more frequently this year than any other year.
Our windows are nailed shut, and Rafe and I are meticulous when it comes to locking our doors, so no one could sneak in that I know of. Besides, why sneak in to a trailer to turn the heat? I am meticulous, too, when it comes to turning the heat/a.c. down. And since it is still dark in the mornings, the winter lights are obvious as I walk to my 'front door.' It happened just this week. The kicker is, when I get to school and see the lights, I not only hesitate, checking to ensure I am the only one in the room, but I also start down the rabbit-hole of "did I really unplug them last night? I did, didn't I?? I grabbed my bag, walked over here........".
Same thing goes with the heat. And more often than not, when it is the heat, it isn't the furnace that has been left on 70 - it has been my little space heater by the desk. The one I bought and brought in. That really worries me, because I don't trust the trailer enough to leave it going overnight.
If it is a ghost - I appreciate it. Morale is low everywhere, and it was quite nice to enter a softly lit classroom as I prepared for another day. If it wasn't...well, that's just plain creepy. And I recall, specifically, unplugging them the afternoon before.
Now, I will say that I unplugged them once, as Rafe and I were both leaving for the day, and freaked out because they came right back on, but on closer examining the cord, I realized the prongs had fallen just in line enough with the outlet to connect and light up. However, this past Wednesday morning, the plug was securely pushed completely into the powerstrip. Oiy.
And, on Sydney watch, we're recovering from our ear infection, teething has taken on a life of its own, and we DESPISE peas! To the point where he gagged. Poor Snickerdoodle. I didn't get any pictures of this one, but my goodness - he didn't even trust the spoon enough to eat his banana afterwards. I'll try again in a few days, and this time, I'm mixing it with milk!!
Thursday, March 11, 2010
I planned, too, on attending our school's senior drag contest/fun night. I'm not exactly sure how to describe this event, and I am VERY ashamed to say I've never made it, before. But, in the past I was balancing coaching and teaching, and tonight we have a recovering baby (ear infection), rereading WH, and for reasons on which I do not yet wish to elaborate, a basic need to be home and with my family. My most sincere apologies to Kathleen and Katie, who worked very hard to put this pageant together. It doesn't help that it started at 7, and that is smack in the middle of Sydney's wall...
Short blog, this evening...just a request that my readers keep us in your hearts and thoughts as some things begin to sort themselves out. And, in the immortal words of Ron Burgundy, and repeated by Ben every Friday morning on the live announcements, "Stay classy - world."
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Then, the boom dropped.
3:53 am, I awaken and go to use the bathroom. Now, allow me to digress for a moment here to explain the irony. We, as a society, as a nation, follow the advice of our leaders regarding health issues - sometimes more than we should, and sometimes not enough to keep the USA from getting laughed at by other countries. We've feared the Avian flu, the Swine flu, the seasonal flu and we get vaccines for these and more. Now, I'm still a little skeptical of the swine flu vaccine, but I work in a school and have an infant who was too young to get the vaccine, so I got it.
But here's the kicker. In the midst of all these flues, scares, and extra squirts of hand sanitizer, what does the entire valley seem to contract? The stomach flu.
Back to 3:53 am. I will refrain from unnecessary details, but suffice it to say that my mental health day was shot. I haven't been this ill or weak since Steve and I were given a delightful Christmas gift called food poisoning about 8 years ago. And for those of you daft enough to still claim it was not food poisoning, here's the clue: 17 people do NOT all get the seasonal flu at once. It was bad ham, and that's all there is to say about that.
So we fear the H1N1, the Avian flu, the foot-mouth disease; we stop eating beef, pork, chicken. We carry bottles of alcohol around and use it before and after and during everything we do, and yet the regular, typical stomach flu lays us flat. I've heard from doctors in the area that the recent epidemic is the largest the valley has seen in a while.
Steve stayed home yesterday to help me and to care for Sydney, since we didn't want to take him to a sitter and possibly spread this further. After it all seemed to run its course, I came down with a fever, and Steve, exhausted and wonderful that he is, used Clorox Cleanup on every surface that we touch - phones, remotes, door handles, handle-rails, even the oven door. Everything. I cannot express enough how I hope we eradicated the germ from our home. It would be one thing to pass it on to Steve. It would suck, but we'd pull through. But I can't imagine, cannot fathom how bad it would be, to pass it on to an infant who cannot even sit up by himself completely yet. Oiy vey. Only time will tell.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Today was beautiful, and I fully expect tomorrow to be so, as well. It was an excellent day for a birthday party! Zane is 1!! Kristi and Rafe have such a beautiful boy, and he's so big! I couldn't believe how much he'd grown since I last saw him! I didn't have my camera on me, but once they post pictures of the party, I'll be sure to link back to them.
For now, not much else is going on, which is nice. School is...busy. The end of the grading period is in less than 2 weeks. I'm hoping tomorrow will be a productive day for me and I can catch up. Otherwise, I'll have to really buckle down on my classes and have some reading workshops so I can get more done. Still not happening much at night, what with Sydney's nightly baths for eczema, preparations for the next day, and the meager attempt to remember what Steve looks like. But hey - for now, we've got the laundry and dishes done, Sydney's fast asleep, and Mommy and Daddy will be enjoying some hot cocoa as they watch SNL - missed it during the Olympic hiatus!!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
This time of year has always been hard for me. Stress, lack of sunlight, incessant cold weather...it gets to me. So, in order to keep from vomiting everything I'm worried about (see previous post titled Panglossian), I am, instead, going to simply list everything I love. Some may be expanded upon, others may speak for themselves. And the list will change over the next few weeks/months, so be sure to look back every once in a while! Feel free to comment and add your own 'good thoughts' in as you see fit. :-)
- The smell of a summer cloudburst when the cool rain hits the hot pavement and the oven-like feeling abates for a while
- Baby kisses
- Hot chocolate with whipped cream - forget about the marshmallows. I prefer a sugary cloud that leaves a mustache on me when I sip
- Feel-good texts. When you least expect it, to get a message from someone you care about that makes you smile
- Butterflies and Dragonflies - so dainty
- The smell of baking bread, or our cafeteria on Thursdays
- The smell of bleached towels fresh from the dryer
- The sound of a summer downpour when you are safe under the awning of your front porch
- Getting through your entire "To Do" list in the time expected
- Getting home from the grocery store and deciding which 'treat' to indulge in first - we've all done this...you have a coupon, you try something new. When you've got something new as well as something you've been craving...which do I open first??
- Following closely on #10, that first bite of something you've been dying for! Whether it be ice cream in the middle of July or a chocolate Napoleon from Fresh Market...yum!
- The looks on friends and family's faces as they open 'the perfect gift'
- The 'Ah-Hah!' moment - when you are trying to explain something to your students and it suddenly dawns on one, then another, then, like fireflies at the end of June, these little lights just begin to shine all over the classroom. Beautiful to witness.
- The surprise lesson - Kathleen and I have spoken about this - the lesson you dread, but have hopes for, or sometimes just want to get through only to find that, to your absolute astonishment, the kids not only get it, but enjoy it. Case in point, I had a lesson on ballads that I just wanted to get through with my 'tough' boys. Believe it or not, they got it faster than my other classes. Could have picked my jaw up off the floor...
- Coming from someone who is not a morning person, those mornings when everything just goes well - I'm actually awake, I'm on time, I'm excited to teach
- Sunday naps - the whole family is on the bed, including Skye and Leia
- A wonderful husband who will clean up after you when you've got the stomach flu, including Cloroxing the entire house!
- Said husband who also runs out to the store to get you lemon-lime soda and saltines - the only food that will stay down for now.
Stay tuned for more! I'm just getting going!!