Thursday, August 31, 2006

Job Description

Every job has its share highs and lows, secret benefits, and unexpected surprises. I'm quite certain that very few young students ever think "oh the fabulous meetings I'll have when I'm a (insert profession here)!" Instead, we all dream about the more glamorous aspects of our chosen career without much real sense of what it will take day in and day out. Invariably it is a bit of a shock when reality hits.

My shock for this year was that I was expected to number, stamp, sort, and distribute 1200 new social studies textbooks. I had about three days of notice, and no extra help (or extra pay for that matter). I did one set of 300 books and then I ran over to my computer and begged for help. Fortunately for my back, I have many wonderful friends, and six willing helpers volunteered their time.

Everyone made their way through horrible traffic to meet me at my school after the workday was over. We sliced open boxes, unpacked the books, numbered them, stamped them, and put them back in the boxes in numerical order. It turns out that seven grown-ups are a force to be reckoned with. What would have taken me at least two days took the team only a couple of hours. Hooray! Now I just have to organize distribution to classrooms and things will be good.

Thanks and thanks again to the volunteers!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Camping With Children Part 2

There are good and bad things about Money Creek Campground. The bad things are the highway and the rail line that sandwich the sites. Most of the trains seem to run at night, so you are jolted awake every few hours by the sounds of whistles and wheels. It started to get pretty comical after a while, and everyone was exceptionally good natured about the whole thing. Fortunately, the campground itself is quite beautiful with huge old cedar and fir trees, and the swimable river off to one side. Another great thing about this place was the buffer between the sites. I love car camping, but not when I can see and hear every little detail of my neighbor's camping experience. We arrived at the campground with plenty of time to set up the tents ("can we get in the tent yet?!" x 1000 repetitions) and get the fire going. Luckily scavenging of downed wood was okay because the kids found the foraging process to be very exciting.

It is easy to forget how exciting things are to children. We adults get soooo jaded, but they seem to enjoy every little detail. The tents, the fire, the special cooking, special foods, lanterns and candles, singing around the campfire, and all those things that seem like such common parts of camping. We also had a few other entertainments planned to keep the peace. Little niece got to play with all the playdough she wanted (there is no carpet to worry about in the woods!), and we also had a set of Velcro mitts for playing catch with a tennis ball. The most popular entertainment was definitely the Madlibs. We had "A Trip to the Farm" and "Science Lab" to start, but the most popular one by far was "How to Ride the School bus." Both little and big niece were nearly falling off their chairs with the humor of it all. We learned that you should never talk to the hippo or throw princesses while the bus is in motion. We wrapped up the evening with roasting marshmallows. This was a very popular activity, but there were a few tricky moments when a little person would forget themselves and hot sticky marshmallow went waving around on the end of its sharp stick. Beware the stick!

On Saturday morning we headed out for hiking at Bridal Veil Falls. Little niece and I had the same opinion of the steep and rocky trial, so we spent most of the trip brining up the rear. She is such a tiny little person that piggyback rides are not difficult to give, and she got more and more of them as the trail went on. Big niece, on the other hand, was not having any assistance of any kind, and she was actually the one to set the pace. By the time we reached the top we all agreed that the view and the falls made the trip entirely worthwhile. We all dangled our toes in the cold mountain water, and some people even took off their pants and went wading. Big niece and I agreed that we do NOT take our pants off in public thank you very much!

On the whole, I would say that our camping expedition was a huge success. We were not put off by freight trains or helicopters (oh I left that bit out didn't I? It was loud.) and we managed to enjoy almost every moment. By the time we were heading home on Sunday the nieces were getting a bit crabby with each other, but they were SO well behaved for almost the entire weekend. Having the two of them along made the whole camping experience seem fresh and new (not that I was tired of it, but you get the idea) and I hope we will have time to do it again soon (maybe in a slightly quieter place?).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Camping With Children Part 1

Last weekend we went camping with my nieces who are five and eight. It was the "second best thing in the world after Disneyland" according to my elder niece, and I have to say that I concur. Okay, maybe not the second best time in the whole world, but still pretty darn good fun. We all met up on Friday afternoon and headed out to Money Creek campground on highway 2. I found this place by looking at reservable campgrounds in Washington State, and then finding one that had two free sites on the correct weekend. In short, I had no idea what we were really getting into. Nevertheless, we were all pretty cheerful with what we found when we arrived. But I get ahead of myself.

First, there was the packing part. Packing for a camping trip is usually a mad dash for me. I find it both thrilling and anxiety inducing to try and get all the required bits and pieces together in one place. We are so used to having all our comforts that it can be kind of tough to remember all the things will really be needed. Food is a good example of this. It is easy to remember that you need to buy some cans (keep in mind that we are car camping, so cans are just fine thanks) of chili if you want to have anything to eat. However, it is also easy to forget that you will need a can opener to get at that chili. I once carefully packed all the ingredients and materials required to make pancakes (including the butter and the whisk and all that) only to find that I'd forgotten to pack any forks. You get the idea. Therefore, I spent most of Friday morning running around trying to figure out what I might be forgetting. The elder niece vacillated between making fun of me and bouncing off the walls with excitement. She got extra excited when we went shopping for a new tent (we didn't know how to fit two not-so-little girls into our two person dome). We found one with, get this, two separate rooms! Add to that it's apple green color, and you've got something very special as far as an eight year-old is concerned.

Splendiferous green tent in hand, we moved on to packing the rest of the car (save the nasty anti-car camping rants for someone who cares please). Ice chest, sleeping bags, and all the rest went in and we headed off to meet up with the rest of our party. It only takes a little over an hour to get to the campground, so we also had time to stop along the way and buy a few essentials. These included a disposable cameras (we forgot the good camera) chili-cheese Fritos (mmm chili-cheese!) and a Strawberry Shortcake kite (little niece was captivated by its glory and it only cost $1.50). Finally, in the early evening, we made it to Money Creek.

Part 2 shortly

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Happy Birthday Mjo

Happy birthday to our friend Mjo who turned 30 last week! Going to that party certainly reminded me of how close I am to that same milestone. Somehow, the idea of being 30 is sort of a shock. When you hit your 20's it's sort of like being an adult with training wheels. No one is surprised if you still behave like a child every once in a while. Once you hit 30 though there can be no question that you are a grown up. It's not that I fear being responsible or even sober(not that you are required to be serious); it's just that I can't quite see myself as a 30 year-old. I'm quite certain that I was 12 just a little while ago! I suppose it's going to happen no matter what, and I will just have to get used to it.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Kayaking the Duwamish

M and I love a good Kayaking trip, so when our friend P suggested a trip along the Duwamish we jumped at the chance. This is, perhaps, the most industrial part of the Seattle waterfront, and it is quite famous for having been badly polluted. However, we were not put off, and I'm glad because it was an amazing trip. We started out in a nice calm area near Alkai, but before the thing was over we were weaving our way in among the huge cargo cranes and massive cruise ships. The tugs were both amazing and a little scary because of how quick and maneuverable they are. We were SO tiny and slow compared to all the other things out on the water.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

To Work or Not to Work

That is the question. Today we met at school to continue our planning for the upcoming year. There is no doubt that by working now we are saving ourselves a lot of effort later, but still, summer is only going to last a few more weeks. I could go in tomorrow and get a whole slew of useful and important things done, but would I be better off sitting on my bottom in the backyard? Tough to say for sure (I know that’s a fragment, but I just couldn’t help myself). The Stop and Smell the Roses Crowd (SSRC for short) would definitely say that a sunny day should never be spent inside, and besides stress is bad for you. Then again their own argument can be used against them. The Nose to the Grindstone Crowd (maybe I should call them The Deferred Gratification Crowd?) would probably argue that stress IS bad for you and that is why I should go to work and save myself from future stress. What do you think? Is it better to get your sunshine even if it costs you later? Or should more people get on with IT to avoid pressure down the line?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Produce at Last!

Sure, we've eaten quite a bit of lettuce from the garden already. However, the first cucumber seemed like a much bigger deal. Growing lettuce the way we did feels like a sort of a cheat. You plant the wee lettuce plants in the garden box, add water, and eventually you pick leaves off the big lettuce plant. The cucumber, on the other hand, came from tiny plants, grew into big plants with lots of leaves and nice trailing tendrils, grew flowers which turned into teeny tiny little cucumbers which grew into big spiky cukes. Wheew! Then I went out and whacked it off with a knife! Ha! Ha! (and people say vegetarians are wussies) It tasted very good, and I think we might even do some pickling if all those flowers live up to their potential. I LOVE my little garden.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Back to Work

Yesterday was my first day back to work since we went on break at the end of June. We spent two days writing a curriculum schedule for the whole year, and unit plans for the individual subjects. Since we weren't getting paid I was not surprised that only 6 of the 20 teachers decided to attend. However, it turned out that fewer cooks was really a very good thing. We were able to plow through a huge amount of work without much, ahem, debate or digression. Meetings that are actually useful and highly productive are SUCH satisfying things, but they are just so incredibly rare. The other 14 people will be back with us by the end of the month (not even they can avoid contract time!), so we will have the fun of hearing them complain about the things we did and did not include in the plan. I will have to restrain myself when I have the urge to say "oh, well it's too bad you couldn't attend when we decided that in August."