Thursday, June 29, 2006

Nightmare Over

Good news! (be warned, this post is going to be full of !!!) I just got the transcript that I PASSED my Professional Certification course! The horrible, frustrating, humiliating experience is over, done, finished! Hooray! True, the teacher did have the nerve to give me a "B" even though I did all the required work (I honestly believe she wanted to stick it to me for being difficult) but I don't care because it's OVER!!! Of course I will not believe that it's truly over until I receive the new license from the state (the university now has to send my application to them). It takes the state over twelve weeks to process teacher license applications, so that will be a while. However, I don't really mind because the only thing I have to do now is waiting. No more essays, no more digital pictures of things you can't read, no more tormenting from the world's most clueless instructor. Hooray!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Garden #1

I've been meaning to post these pictures for the last several weeks. M and I built the box based on a plan we hashed out on the back of an envelope, and we used raw cedar because I wanted it to last without being pressure treated (Just not a nice flavor for baby lettuce). No, we did not use ties on corners. No we did not dig in one end to counteract the slope of the hill. No we did not use stretcher bars to prevent eventual splaying of the boards. In short, it was not exactly a professional job. Nevertheless, I was thrilled with the way it turned out because we actually went out there and built it instead of just talking about how we really should.

It only took about 7000 bags of steer manure and planting mix to get the thing close to full, but we did eventually get there. We planted lettuce, onions, and three varieties of tomatoes in the box itself, and we planted pumpkins, zucchini, and cucumbers in big pots. Last, but certainly not least, I planted a whole collection of flowers along the edges.

The most exciting flower discovery (for me anyway) was marigolds from the nearby nursery. Not just any marigolds though; these are my all-time favorites. Safari Reds are not just any old marigold with color all over the place willy-nilly. Perfect.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Summer Calm

At 9:47 this morning our school let out for the summer. Kids were delirious and skipping and whooping down the halls. Teachers were very decorous, calm, collected. We went outside and stood in a line to wave goodbye to the busses, and then WE whooped and skipped down the halls. I LOVE my job, and I LOVE my summer vacation too. Everyone should get long vacations. I think we would be a happier country if we had more respect for the value of quiet time.

The first thing I did when I got home was sit in the shade of our big cedar trees and said NOTHING to ANYONE. It was wonderful. Then I went inside and took a nap, and that was pretty wonderful too.

Saturday, June 24, 2006


When we came to look at the house the first time, it was November. Still, I noticed the rosebush growing by the front door. At that time, of course, it was nothing but a few leaves and lots of leggy stocks, but I did have a passing thought that it might be pretty in bloom. Well, time makes all the difference it seems. I am thoroughly enjoying the rainbow sherbet (minus the green) colored roses now. The started out almost all yellow as buds, but the longer they bloom the more they deepen through orange and into pink. Not overly much scent, which is sad, but at least we get a feast for the eyes.

Friday, June 23, 2006

School Pride

My kids made me so proud the last few days. I'm a bit like a mother hen all puffed up over her chicks because they did such a great job. A few days ago we had the trivia competition in our school. Now my class is supposed to be sort of a "TLC" class for those who need it, so some people don't expect much from them. However, I know that they are incredibly capable when they choose to be, and the trivia competition was no exception. My little team answered 7/10 questions correctly and they got sixth place over all! They were up against gifted classes, advanced math classes, and all sorts of others and they still got sixth place! My hands hurt from clapping when we were done.

The next day was our field day, and things got even better. In the water relay (spoonfuls of water from the beaker, across the track, into the empty beaker) we had strategy, we had finesse, we had awesome players, and we had 20 cc's MORE than any other team! Next came the over under game (medicine ball + line of kids over head and under legs until it gets to the end- repeat) and we got fourth place. Dodge ball (I don’t' need to explain that one right?) was not so good (I think we got 8th), but then there was the tug'o'war (I really don't need to explain that) and we kicked butt. There were kids sliding around and falling all over the place because no team could stand against ours. They pulled four rounds one right after another, and they did not even come close to being beaten. My voice hurt from screaming. They were walking on air when we heard the announcement that they got the overall win. It feels great to get a little success sometimes, and it was certainly a good way to head into the summer.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

How I Live Now

I try not to spend too much time on book reviews because I could probably write a whole blog on the subject. However, when I run across a really GOOD book I feel compelled to say something. My really good book this time is called How I Live Now by Meg Rossoff. I would not suggest anyone read this book aloud to their ten year-old, but for teens and adults it's a GREAT read. The story is about an emotionally troubled girl from New York who finds solace by visiting her cousins in the English countryside. Sounds idyllic and sweet, and it is, but it stops being a children's book when the girl falls for one cousin, and an unnamed enemy invades the country. Normally I am not a huge fan of the whole "lovers divided by a horrible war" storyline, but here it is compelling and actually bittersweet. This is not a cheerful "beach read" type of book, but it is definitely worth a look.

Monday, June 19, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

On Friday we went with some friends to see Al Gore's new documentary An Inconvenient Truth. I was prepared for the fact that this movie would be grim, and I was completely correct. Al and the movie do a great job of convincing us that their really is a problem and it really is serious RIGHT NOW! The effects of global warming are already happening, and if things continue as they are, it will get much, much worse.

The part that I did not expect was the humor and real feeling that Al Gore actually managed to include in his presentation. The wooden one was no more. You can tell that he really does care about what he is saying, and that he wants his audience to care too. If he had only displayed one tenth of that warmth on the campaign trail he might have carried more states that could not be co-opted by a Bush. Al Gore claims that "100% of the profits will go back in the education campaign" so go see the movie if only to have better ammunition against the doubters.

Friday, June 16, 2006

World Cup Madness

The World Cup games are a big deal here in middle school. While adult Americans do not seem to care very much about soccer (unlike those in the rest of the world) kid Americans are big soccer fans. After all, millions of them are dedicated soccer players themselves, so this is a big event. We have a deal in my classroom. You can turn on the game during passing times to check the scores and watch a few minutes, but when the bell rings that TV needs to be off. Mostly this works very well and the big fans are very grateful for the chance. Earlier this week, however, we had a problem.

Germany was playing against some other team (hey I never said that I was a fan) and the score was zero to zero. They had sixty seconds of overtime. Germany moved the ball down the field. Germany made a beautiful pass towards the goal AND... Zap one of the girls turned off the TV. Her timing could not have been more perfect. The fans went absolutely mad. The poor girl had no idea what she'd done because she was just trying to follow the rule and turn it off before the bell. Amid cries of anguish, the TV was immediately switched back on and we were saved by the miracle of replay. Wheew! Otherwise, I'm afraid they might have become hooligans and tried to burn some cars.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Summer Madness Cont.

Monday we collected the textbooks and other materials that the students have been borrowing all year. We collect the books and look them over for damage that was not there in the fall. For example, if your book was brand new in the fall but it is now covered in mud and curse words, we tend to give you a fine. Also, if we gave you a book in the fall, and you do not have the same book to give back to us, you are fined for replacement cost. You would not believe how many kids try to turn in somebody else's book as their own to avoid the fine. We do check numbers against our records so that never works. Today the bookkeeper announced that we have 264 outstanding fines totaling almost $12,000! If they don't pay, they don't get a yearbook or a report card. There are going to be some cranky parents in town tonight.

Also, I heard a great one in the hall last week. A group of girls was standing in a semi-circle around another girl who was clearly have a "moment." Center-of-attention girl was clutching a paper and yelling "It's just the stupid endocrine system! Who needs a stupid Endocrine system!" I can only guess that she did badly on a health test.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Avian Flu

This morning I found in my box an exciting discovery. The state of Washington has decided to offer a sober warning to all educators about the threats of Avian Flu. A glossy eight page packet tells everyone about "preparing for the pandemic" and "knowing the risks." We all must be aware that "Flue pandemics DO happen" we did have 1918 after all! The next great flu outbreak may be "just an airplane ride away." In fact, airplanes are one of the reasons that we are MORE at risk now than we were in 1918. Also, there are a lot more people alive now, so clearly our risk is EVEN HIGHER! We must all hide tuna fish and powdered milk under our beds! (Too bad if you’re a vegan I guess) Other things we must do:

---Learn how to treat fever and lung conditions since hospitals will quickly become overwhelmed and possibly even shut down
---Figure out how to keep kids from going insane if the quarantine lasts more than a few weeks
---Figure out how to get fresh water and cook food for six weeks or more
---Realize that the 1918 pandemic lasted 18 MONTHS!!!
---Stock the usual supply of radios, candles, medical kits, and extra clothes
---Keep an extra supply of all medications (how do you get those out of your doctor?)
---Convince your boss to let you just not come in to the office for the duration
---Not leave the house for any reason
---Realize that "hundreds of thousands in your community could get sick AND DIE" (emphasis added)

It does get a bit annoyed when health officials take the alarmist tack on these issues. Some people say that their frantic warnings have been effective in battling diseases in the past. The simplest way, some argue, for health agencies to get more money is to have the public clamoring in fear of the latest thing. Do the health workers really BELIEVE that bird flu is coming? Who knows, but it doesn't seem overly likely.

Slate, among many others, scoffed at the idea of a bird flu pandemic based on the belief that the virus in not likely to mutate enough for human to human transition. As things stand now, a bird can give it to another bird, and a bird can give it to a human, but one human cannot give it to another. Therefore, if you don't go around hugging chickens you should probably be okay. There is always the chance that the virus might mutate enough to make the leap, but odds are very much against.

Then there is also the argument that we are worried about a pandemic which MIGHT kill 10 million if it were REALLY bad. Given the fact that AIDS and other diseases are currently killing that many and more each and every year; it seems kind of odd that we would focus only on the flu. Perhaps it would be more humane and productive to send our tuna fish and powdered milk to Africa. In reality, however, this is not simply about the number of possible deaths. In truth we are worried about the possibility of AMERICAN deaths. NIMBY, it seems, is alive and well when it comes to American attitudes about health.

All in all, it is a good thing to be prepared for all sorts of disasters. We should all have fresh water, canned food (please not tuna?), and other essentials stored away against the worst. However, we can do this without going into panic mode. Threats of "The Big One" only work for so long before people start to get jaded. One day the government may actually have a real wolf on its hands, and it will need people to take notice.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

100th Post!

Wow! I can't believe we're to 100 already! It certainly doesn't seem like that many. If you're still a loyal reader then you must either be very dedicated or have a high tolerance for the mundane. I am under no illusions about the quality and interest level of most posts, but it is fun for me to do the actual writing. Being a teacher means correcting a lot of other peoples' writing and doing hours upon hours of writing instruction, but you rarely do much creative writing of your own. This blog gives me the chance to natter on about whatever's going on at the moment and not worry too much about structure or format or word choice. Three things I apologize for:

--- Excessive and gratuitous use of parenthesis (I just can't help myself!)
--- Lame humor (I can't help myself there either)
--- Over use of the compound sentence (I will work on this)

I really do appreciate the comments I've gotten on many of the posts. Getting feedback on your writing (positive or negative) is almost always a good thing. I don't have any plans to stop, so count me in for another 100. Contrary to the opinion of most 7th graders, writing really is fun.

Friday, June 09, 2006

History of Washington

Whew! Blogger's been down for such a long time. It felt really strange not to blog for five days. Over the course of the last few months I have definitely gotten used to doing a little writing every few days.

Here at school we are all trying to wrap our minds around the new curriculum we are supposed to teach in 7th grade next year. The state has decreed that we must radically change our focus, so we are trying to become experts in our new areas of study. Instead of modern geography of Washington State and Asia (I know, odd pairing, go figure) with a little history, we are now supposed to teach the history of the world from 600-1600 plus Washington history to the present. Oh yes, and we are not supposed to include North American history EXCEPT for Washington. We have given up trying to understand their logic. We find it is easier just to nod and smile because complaints get you exactly no where.

As if all this were not enough, we recently discovered that the district miscalculated a little when it built the most recent school, and we are now in a major budget crunch. The end result is budget cuts across the board and that means most of our planning time has disappeared. We are now supposed to plan a year's worth of new curriculum in, get this, THREE HOURS! In reality it will take dozens upon dozens of hours to get the job done, so we will just have to do the work for free. Fortunately teachers are used to doing lots of unpaid overtime, so it won't be that much of a shock. We're not trying to play the martyrs here; that is simply the way things are.

But I digress. The point I was trying to reach before I got off on my little pity party was a really good book. I have this silly belief that teachers should be experts in the areas they are teaching, so I've been looking around for books to help us "bone up" (insert rude joke here if you like) on the subjects. In my searching I came across The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History by Carlos Arnoldo Schwantes. This is a book I read for a college class and it really is a great way to become familiar with local history. Suddenly all the street names have meaning, and you can understand why the I-90 is built that way. It also recounts the story of the native peoples, the history of nuclear energy in our area, and the forest policy that is still used in the state forests. In short, if you want to understand the region, this book is a very good choice. Of course it is over 400 pages long, but we're all grown ups who can handle that right? Well, maybe not R, who claims he can't read, but certainly everyone else ;)

Monday, June 05, 2006


When I was about ten, my brothers and I were given a box of old comics. We spent many happy hours reading our way through Superman, The Incredible Hulk, The Fantastic Four, MAD, and The X-men. I loved them all, but the X-men were definitely my favorite. They all had different powers, Professor X knew everything, and they were all just so incredibly COOL (especially if you were 10).

Now the movies have come along, and I find that I still have a very soft spot for Professor X, Wolverine, Storm, Jean, and the rest. The newest movie is just as a comic should be; exciting, action-packed, and generally bigger than life. Is it full of deep contemplation about racism, homophobia, or isolation? Not really (probably less than the other two movies) but that's okay because it's fun. I went into the movie feeling very tired and worn out from the day, and I came away feeling energized by the show. At one point the Golden Gate Bridge flies off it's moorings and sweeps over to land at Alcatraz. That was fun to watch no matter how unlikely, unreasonable, or impossible it might be. In short, if you are willing to check sizable chunks of your brain at the door then this is one highly entertaining movie.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

More on Tea Shops

R and P very kindly commented on my last post to suggest other tea shops in the greater (very much greater in the case of Snohomish) Seattle area. Both of them are correct that there are options when it comes to buying tea at least. My current favorite is certainly a place in Seattle called Teacup. Located in Queen Anne, this shop seems to have a version of bankers hours, so it can be little tough for a working person to get there. However, if you can manage it, they have a fabulous selection of imported French-blended teas.

When I was in college I acquired an unnatural passion for tea and for two varieties of French-blended teas especially: Plein Lune and Marco Polo. Unable to find these anywhere else, I have been forced to import them from Oregon whenever possible (Oh please Auntie D would you bring me a little tea? Again?). For years I have looked all over the internet, tried teashops, and catalogs and no one has ever even heard of these teas. Then M took me to teacup. Have they heard of these teas? Oh yes of course, they've heard of it, they carry the competitor's teas. If I like Marco Polo I should try this one. Mmmmmm.

Thus far I have tried:

Crème Brule Gray (Sweet, rich, and GREAT with milk and honey)

Afternoon in the Park (Floral but not overly sweet also great with milk and honey)

Silk Road (Spicy with a fragrant, heady aroma and, you guessed it, great with milk and honey)

I am absolutely going to work my way through the Damman Freres line of teas a few at a time. Judging by the first three it should be a very pleasant experience. There may no longer be a Sassy teahouse to visit with groups of ladies, but at least I can now make a far better cup of tea at home.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

No More Sassy

R is right, Sassy Teahouse in Redmond is no more. The message on their website simply says they've closed and thanks everyone who was a patron. It always makes me wonder what happened when a business that seems successful closes without explanation. Was this just a hobby business and the owner got bored? Was the business not successful enough to cover high rents or other high costs? Was there some personal problem? Did they lose their lease? Unique places like that one are few and far between in our world of Starbucks, Safeway, and The Gap. Luckily Redmond-area residents still have Victor's to fall back on when they want something a little less ordinary. Victor's is, by no means, the same kind of fancy little tea shop, but at least they do not have that same same cookie cutter feel of one of the chains. Why do so many people prefer the totally consistent and totally boring to the more unique and unusual? I guess it's all about pleasing the largest number of people which often means appealing to the lowest common denominator.