Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas 2007

The stocking are indeed hung by the chimney with care. M and my brother are tucked all snug in their beds, but I can't reliably guess what kind of visions might dance in their heads. I am not in my kerchief, but I am in my Christmas-y red robe. I am fairly certain that M does not own a night cap. I have not heard any clatters arising in the yard, but I will listen carefully. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good rest of December.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Here We Go A-Caroling

One of the best things for getting in the holiday spirit (in my opinion anyway) is Christmas music. No, no, I'm not talking about the horrible muzak versions of "Christmas favorites" that they pump into all the malls. I mean the real thing. This is the one time of year when I set aside my suspicion of things Christian, and give them credit for some really good music. In order to get the complete effect you have to sing the carols yourself.

Yesterday was my book club's annual holiday sing-along, and it was just as much fun as always. Luckily, one of our number plays the piano, so she provides us with a good supply of sing-able music. A few of the ladies (including the pianist) can actually sing. This is a good thing because it gives the rest of us a way to follow along without being too painful. I am, by no means, an accomplished singer, but it is still SUCH fun to go along with the old familiar carols. "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" is one of my favorites along with "Joy to the World" and "It Came upon a Midnight Clear." Many of the carols are too high for my one inch range, but I just drop out of the parts I can't hit.

Singing really is good for the soul, and everyone should get the chance to do it. I think it is a lot like dancing in that you have to get over being self-conscious in order to enjoy yourself. Even if you're not very good, beg the pardon of the person next to you, and sing away. Thanks very much to my book club ladies for putting up with me!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How Not to Get Ready for a Party

1. Have the power go out
2. Try to get ready by candlelight
3. Try to get ready without the aid of irons, washing machines, or clocks
4. Have it snow/slush/ice in your neighborhood
5. Spill cocoa on your dress when the car hits a slippery patch
6. Wipe the spill in the bathroom only to find the color of your dress coming away on the cloth
7. Cover the large wet patch on your dress with a coat for most of the party

This is the absolute truth about M's company Christmas party this year. It was still fun once we got there, but it was more than a little stressful. I was getting quite grumpy by about step #5, but M was very good natured about the whole thing. Still, it would be nice if next year could be a little less thrilling.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Big Niece Goes to the Symphony

We finally did it; we took Big Niece to the symphony. I've been contemplating it for some time now, and I was just not sure if she was old enough (nine), if she would like it, if she could sit still and be quiet. Then, last week, an extra ticket became available at very short notice. We made a phone call, swooped in, and picked her up still wearing her school clothes. When asked if she wanted to go, she was not remotely ambivalent. "Yes, duh!" were her exact words. It seems that she has read a few books about Mozart, and she is fascinated by the idea.

Before we entered the hall, I explained how everyone would listen silently, and how she would have to be able to sit still for TWO WHOLE HOURS. She said she could handle this idea. We made a quick potty visit, and then we headed down to our seats (for future reference, seats up fairly close to the stage are good for kids because they can really watch the performers). She was thrilled with the idea of having her own ticket and her own program, and we spent some time talking about how you can just imagine a story for each performer you see on stage.

As the music began, she was enthralled. She hardly tried to talk to me or wiggle in her seat, but sat there with nearly rapt attention. Only once or twice did I have to remind her to be silent. At the end of one particularly boisterous piece, you could hear her voice say "Wow!" just before the applause cut in. I was thinking we might have to leave at intermission if she seemed bored, but when we actually got there, I was sure we didn't need to go.

Just before intermission ended, I borrowed a pen from a friend. My plan was to avoid any talking at all by letting her write notes about the music. We used the back of a card, and she happily wrote questions and comments and passed them to me. She did not talk (at least I really don't think she did) and she did not wiggle. Her comments about the music where quite interesting too. For example, as she watched the cellist really feeling the music she wrote "It looks like he is smelling a really good smell!" I was very proud of her because she was not the only child there, but she was definitely the best-behaved. Thus you would think this was the perfect evening. However, this was not quite the case.

After the rounds of applause were over, and stood chatting as we waited for the crowds to clear. The woman (the enormously large woman I can't help but add) who had been sitting behind us leaned forward and said "You must not pass notes at the symphony! It is very visually distracting!" I was in complete shock. The only responses that came to mind were not appropriate for children to hear! I just shook my head at her, and watched her ooze her slimy way up the aisle. My poor little niece was silent. I really think her whole experience was tarnished by this awful, unkind person.

People often remark how youth does not appreciate culture. They moan about the lack of manners and respectful behavior. Is it any wonder that kids often behave badly when there are people out there who treat them like this? I am not suggesting that kids be allowed to run wild, but a little kindness and understanding would have been invaluable in this case.

In spite of the ending, it really was a successful visit to the symphony. When my brother heard that she'd gone, he asked her, incredulously, if she enjoyed it. She laughed and said "Duh! Yes!" She gave the same response when he asked if she wanted to go again some time. I guess the experience can't have been tarnished too much (although I still hope the nasty woman gets an unpleasant disease) because she's excited to go again. Next time we need to find a concert with some Mozart.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Pranking All the Way

Last night we got M so good (as they say)! In keeping with a long tradition at his company, we went to his office after he'd left and made a significant impact thereon. In fact, we spread Christmas cheer from one end of the office to the other. About 50% of the things in the office got wrapped in festive paper. This included his white board pens, his keyboard and mouse, his computer monitors, and even the paper cup that was left on his desk! We created lovely winter scenes on his bookcases, and we even used a 1/2 life-size deer to add that special outdoor touch. There were garlands, lights, and Christmas tchotchkies all over the place. The best part was the door into the hall that was wrapped like a package ribbon and all.

Our friend, B, also had the brilliant idea to leave a "naughty and nice" list. M's name went in the nice column, and all the rest of us were naughty. It seemed like the perfect way to let him know who'd done the damage. I also left a Christmas card promising to help him clean it all up again. When he got home last night, I snuck the camera into his car where he wouldn't see it by accident. Judging by the email I got from him this morning, I think he was pretty pleased with our little prank! Hopefully pics will come out soon.

Thanks again Naughty People!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sandra Lee Should Go to Mars

There are many horrible things to be found on television lately, but I recently came across something that really turned my stomach. No, I am not talking about some gory slasher thing, or a skeezy gossip program. Nope, I actually found this piece of twaddle on the Food Network! "Semi-Homemade with Sandra Lee" is a crime against food in America.

This is a program that ostensibly caters to the new or time-strapped cook by using pre-made ingredients to make dinner preparation easy and convenient. You know this theme; it's the same one Rachel Ray uses on her "30 Minute Meals" program. You too can create Norman Rockwell-worthy meals without any knowledge of food or cooking! Just open a can and a packet of seasoning, mix well, and sprinkle parsley on top to make your guest thing you've slaved all day! Who cares if it tastes like complete crap and makes you fat! Ugh!

Watching a show about Thanksgiving, we were exposed to one horrible fake recipe after another. Open a can of beans, apply mayo, sprinkle parsley. Open a box of mashed potato flakes, apply hot water, sprinkle parsley. Open a can of biscuit dough, cut out shapes, sprinkle sugar. You get the idea. The worst, though, was the turkey.

I am not making this up! Get a prepared, but not cooked, turkey from the store. Next, open a packet of Italian salad dressing mix, mash into A POUND of butter, squish butter under skin, squish butter over entire surface of turkey. Bake. Of course, it isn't very hard to disgust me when it comes to poultry, but I understand that many poultry fans are hugely offended by this recipe.

In addition to her wonderful meals, Ms. Lee always prepares a cocktail (perhaps to kill diners' taste buds before they have her food?). This time it was a version of a hot toddy, and it began with, surprise surprise, a lump of butter. Mix spices into butter, spoon one to two tablespoons of butter into each glass. Next, make a cider packet with boiling water, and pour cider over butter. Add rum, non-dairy whipped topping (hydrogenated oil whipped with sugar and stabilizers) and crushed cookies. Serve and enjoy!

Some argue that these recipes are perfect for a certain portion of the population, and that anyone who dislikes them is just being a food snob. Translation, there are poor and stupid people out there who need these recipes! What a horrible idea. I know for a fact that the least expensive, simplest food to prepare is that which comes from scratch. The problem lies in the fact that people have literally been fed so much garbage that they no longer appreciate or understand the simple good stuff. Sandra Lee should be ashamed of herself for perpetuating the problem instead of trying to address it.

Snow, Rain, and Wind

Whew! What a weekend it's been! For those who do not live in the Seattle area, we've been having some wild weather. Three storms hit our region in about three days, and it has been one extreme to another. First came the snow which was fairly light at first, but then fell heavily enough to coat roads and houses with about three inches in our area (we are up a bit in elevation). The next day, as the snow began to melt (dammit!), we had high winds and temperatures just above freezing. Today we are full "Pineapple Express" mode. All the snow is gone but for a few melting snowmen, the temperature is unusually warm, and it is POURING rain. Roads are beginning to flood, creeks are rising, and there is no firm answer on when it will stop. Please no more power outages! Please no more power outages!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Two Odd Things in 20 Minutes

The first was a woman selling proteas on a frosty hillside near Seattle. Protea flowers are native to South Africa, and I'm used to seeing them in that sunny setting half way around the world. I know people grow them in this country, but it still came as a huge surprise to drive by and see them on that hillside. It definitely made me smile.

The second thing was confusing, surprising, and perhaps a bit funny. As we drove into Bellevue we ended up following a very nice late model BMW M3. The car turned into the driveway and we could see that it was a pizza delivery car! We imagined all sorts of possible scenarios to explain this, but our favorite was the idea that parents bought the car but expected the kid to pay the insurance.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wedding Spending

I am starting to understand why the average American wedding costs $16k-$25k. That amount sounds completely insane for a one day party, but if you just bought everything that "they" suggest, things could get away from you very quickly. Everyone knows you need a dress, but then they also hit you up for shoes, veil, tiara, clips, garters, undergarments, crinolines, garment bag, and a gown preservation kit. You are still feeling light-headed from all the gown trying, that you may become weak and cave to it all.

At every turn, "they" try to tell you that you have to buy "one of these," and you have to buy the best one you can afford because this is the ONLY chance you will ever have to get one. Do you want to look back on your wedding and think "oh those cocktail napkins were so cheap and nasty! If only I'd splurged on the really good cocktail napkins then my day would have been perfect!" Actually, when I look back on my special day what I want AVOID is feeing like a chump. Contrary to popular belief (or at least what "they" are trying to sell) the lavishness of your wedding DOES NOT equate to the quality of your marriage.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Birthday!

Happy birthday to my dear M who means more to me than I can say. Hopefully the next year will be very full of good thing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Gown!

I found a gown! I found a gown! After going on SEVEN gown hunting missions with my ever-patient mom, I found a gown that I really love. Okay, so it's not quite what I thought I wanted when I first went out, but it is beautiful and very wedding-y, if you know what I mean. Of course, I can't tell anything about it because M reads this blog. I keep telling him that it is pink and green polka dots with lots of frothy orange lace.

Now I still need to shop for a veil, shoes, and various other bits and pieces. The veil they wanted to sell me at the bridal salon cost more than the dress! It was a lovely veil, but MORE THAN THE DRESS! I don't know if I can cope. They also kept trying to give me a tiara every time I tried on a veil, and I just kept taking it off again. How many times do I have to say NO TIARAS! Who do you think I am? The princess of Andorra?! Why do brides feel the need to pretend at royalty? You're the bride for goodness sake! You are already the center of attention!

Polka dots and tiaras aside, it was fun searching for just the right gown. I am quite happy with the one I finally bought, and I am looking forward to wearing it when the time is right. Let the alterations begin!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bad Dreams

The other night I had the second of my wedding anxiety dreams. This is odd because I don't "think" I have a lot of stress about the wedding. The first dream was just about heading to the wedding, being late, and never seeming to get there. It was really more annoying than anything lese. This second one, however, was much more detailed.

The first thing I noticed was that we seemed to be just about to get married in a church. That struck me as odd, but I decided that there must not have been any other venues available. I decided I could just speak to the minister about having a god and obedience-free ceremony. Next I realized that I'd forgotten all the flowers, but that was okay because my brothers could head to Safeway (ooo Safeway flowers would be lovely) Then I'd forgotten even to brush my hair. I decided that this too would be okay because no one would be able to see it under the veil. That brings me to the veil. It was edged in Barbie-pink ribbon. That was the final straw. I woke up in a sweat. The pressure (that I didn't know was there) must be getting to me. I'm definitely cracking up.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Emerson on Success

We are forever doing snippets of poetry in my LA class. I have this belief that students should be exposed to lots of poetry because that's the only way they can find poems they really love. I also have this theory that poetry, like art and music, is entirely in the mind of the beholder, and that just because I like a poem does not mean you will. I tell the kids that probably 80% of the poetry they hear will not mean anything to them. Another 5% or 15% will be actively distasteful, and then a small, small portion will really strike a chord. It's a lot of work to find meaningful ones, but once you do, they sort of stick with you forever. Here is, in my opinion, a "good" one.


What Is Success?
By: Ralph Waldo Emerson
What is success?
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived;
This is to have succeeded.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Minor Complaint

Okay, I know this is completely unimportant, but I just can't resist whining every once in a while.

Why, oh way, must "they" do such horrible things with women's fashion? I'm not talking about the ridiculous things they get up to on the runways; we all know those are stupid and un-wearable. What I'm talking about is regular everyday stuff that you (many of you anyway) and I are supposed to buy and wear on a daily basis. Everywhere you go you find things that are silly, inconvenient, poorly made, and downright embarrassing.

Several times now, I've gone out looking for reasonably priced sweaters in natural fibers. In the men’s department you can find any number of nice, simple, inexpensive (often $20-$30) wool and cotton options. Unfortunately, these are cut for men (boxes) and the sizes tend to run large (go figure). Therefore, a person is left with the schlock they call "separates" in the ladies department.

First of all are the fibers. Oh the horror of a purple knit item made from something called "tricot." Every single ridge of a person's fingerprint catches on this nasty stuff and creates (at least for me) that awful nails-on-chalkboard sensation. Don't get me wrong, I don't object to human-made fibers in principle, I love my fleece after all, but I just can't stand some of the textures.

Next, is the annoying tendency to create sweaters that wrap, tie, ruche, hook, belt, gather, or (god forbid) lace. It turns out that sweaters stay on just fine without ANY of these extra details. Not once, in my entire sweater wearing career, has a sweater gone flying off willy-nilly! I am willing to accept a decent cardigan or two, but that is about it.

Last, and perhaps most horrifying, is what passes as sweater decoration. As it turns out, I am a grown-up, and I do not need or want any type of characters on my clothing. This includes all Disney images, Hello Kitty, and every other cutsie-poo animal motif. Same goes for flags, most flowers, butterflies, hearts, and clever sayings as well. Leave off the weird collars, fuzzy do-dads, odd buttons, huge buttons, appliqu├ęs, and all the other horrible stuff. What is so hard about making plain, simple sweaters in nice shapes and pretty colors?

Yes, yes, I know I could find what I am looking for a J. Crew, L.L. Beane, or Eddie Bauer, but that is the yuppie solution. On top of everything else, I do not wish to spend $80-$120 on a single item. Also, I like to be able to try things on before I buy, so the internet is not really an option. The search continues...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tasting for the Future

Last night, M and I went and had a tasting at the Ravishing Radish Catering Company. These people were recommended by a friend of mine, and we were certainly not disappointed by what we had. This was a monthly tasting, not just for us, so there were many different types of food laid out for people to try. I had at least one helping (and sometimes TWO!) of each of the vegetarian items. Everything from the salad to the vegetable tort was very tasty, and M reported that the fish was quite good as well.

On the whole, we were quite impressed with the food, the ambiance (they will be setting the tables and doing some of the decorations), and the professionalism of the people. The owner and the chef both came over to speak to us about our event, and they really did go beyond the smile and wave and "thanks for coming." The Chef seemed a little taken a back when we said we were not providing a meat option (sorry meat-eaters, you'll have to make do with fish!), but she quickly turned to discussing the various seasonal vegetarian options. Unless something changes, I would think our wedding guests can look forward to yummy food catered by The Ravishing Radish! Whew! One more choice made, and it feels so good!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

WA State Election Picks 2007

Warning, Washington State Election information to follow. If you can't or won't be voting in the election, this probably will be a very boring post and you might want to give it a pass.

Some people don't get interested or excited about elections unless there is a president, governor, or at least a senator involved. None of those positions are up for election this time, but it turns out to still be a fairly interesting ballot. We have an array of interesting initiatives and referendums on the list, and we also have a number of local positions to fill. I've read the voters' pamphlet and done a modest bit of research on my own, but I do not claim to be an in-depth expert on any of these issues. Feel free to comment if you have any constructive input on any of these issues. Without further ado, here are my Washington State elections picks for 2007:

1. Initiative 960 (aka the 2/3 majority requirement for tax increases)---> NO
The logic here? If Eyman is for it, than it must be bad. Sure enough, upon further inspection, this initiative would make it very difficult for the state government to authorize even the most important increases. As a teacher I feel that simple majority is the way to go.

2. Referendum 67 (aka the insurance fair conduct bill) ---> Yes
The short version, as I read it anyway, is that insurance companies are currently able to deny reasonable claims in the hopes that the patient will just accept the denial and go away. In other states, this practice is illegal, and any patient who finds there reasonable claim denied may sue the insurer. I've had this one happen to me (denial of a reasonable claim) and it sucks. Let's nail them to the proverbial wall.

3. Resolution 8206 (aka the rainy day fund) ---> Yes
My logic for this one is very short. Oregon has a rainy day fund, and it has proven to be a major asset when economics take a downturn or natural disasters hit. Washington needs one of these too.

4. Resolution 8212 (aka The Prison Work Program) ---> Yes
I admit that this one was very tough to work out. It changes the way prison labor is allocated, and it has a provision preventing certain types of competition with outside business. In the end, I narrowly decided for support because some of my research indicated that there would be better employment for inmates under the changes. Like I said though, this is one of the ones I feel least confident about.

5. Resolution 4204 (aka eliminates the supermajority requirement for increases in educational funding) ---> Yes
This one is a no-brainer. For the same reasons that I can't approve #1, I am in support of this one. The idea of requiring supermajorities for this kind of thing seems antithetical to democratic principles.

6. Resolution 4215 (aka Investment of higher education funds) ---> Yes
This one was also quite tricky for me to decide on at first, but then my union stepped in. It seems that this proposal gives greater flexibility in investing certain types of education funding.

7. King County Initiative 25 (aka county director of elections) ---> No
After some research, I am convinced that this office is unnecessary. There are already a number of good checks and balances on our elections, so I really don't think this is required. It seems to me like a potshot by Republicans who are still smarting over Gregoire. I also do not want to politicize this type of position.

8. King County Proposition 1 (aka EMT renewal of services) ---> Yes
I like the idea that someone will come REALLY QUICKLY to my house if I need them. I am willing to pay for this service.

9. Regional Transportation Investment District Proposition 1 (aka transit tax) --> Yes
This one was also tough. I would like to see more traffic relief for roads. However, I think I would probably vote for this thing even if it included NO traffic relief. We are in desperate need of mass transit in this area, and the longer we delay, the worse things will get. At no point will any of these proposals get any cheaper either. Given the current price of gas, this proposal seems all the more timely.

Sorry, I've run out of time for now. If I have more to spare tomorrow, I might delve into people. Do feel free to comment if you have additional information.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Good, The Scary, and The Stupid

Tomorrow, as you probably know, is that day when all the kids in all the schools go more than a little crazy. Even the ones who deem themselves "too mature" for dressing up get all excited and amped up by the thrill of the holiday. Halloween is definitely one of the highlights of the middle school social calendar, and the halls will become deafening as a result. I've learned from experience that it does no good to try to fight the mood. Anyone attempting to do a serious lab experiment or literary analysis tomorrow will be sadly disappointed by the lack of student attention. Instead, I choose to run with all the excitement and do "autumn" (not Halloween because that isn't pc) -themed lessons.

Therefore, instead of the usual Wednesday lesson of spelling, vocabulary, and grammar, we will be reading ghost stories. Not horror movie ghost stories with lots of blood and gore. Those are too much for many of our more tender souls (like mine). Instead we're going to read some great spine tinglers from a website I found called The Moonlit Road. This is a great collection of old Southern ghost stories. Not all of them are appropriate for middle school, but careful selection gives me many options.

In the process of looking for some good stories, I also came across an article from a "real" ghost hunter who'd visited Fort Worden. She is unintentionally hilarious. The best part is her special ghost-sensing camera, Sparkles. Definitely good for a few laughs.

Friday, October 26, 2007

TGIF and TGTO (Thank Goodness That's Over)

Warning, quite possibly boring work stuff ahead.

First of all, it's Friday, and that is almost always a very good thing. Second, the three major projects that have been hanging over my head for the last several weeks are finally completed! Hooray! Let there be rejoicing in the streets or at least in my classroom. I'm practically skipping down the hall.

Project #1 was a very tricky combination of organization, politics, and just plain work. I hate these projects where you don't have any real authority over the group because they are your immediate co-workers, but you are still expected to motivate them into finishing the work. We are finished (at last) and I don't think anyone even hates me (mild resentment maybe, but not hate I don't think).

Project #2 dealt with the extreme incompetence of a vendor. On the good side, the district, my co-workers, and I were in agreement that the Publisher sucks. This meant that there was no hostility or political wrangling (we left this end of things to our admin) between us. However, the logistics of collection, re-numbering, stamping, and distribution of books were intense. The publisher screwed up and had to re-send the order THREE TIMES. My arms and shoulders are still sore from delivering all those books to classrooms.

Project #3 was not so much a project as a political negotiation. As department chair (yay! another position where I have no authority, but I'm still responsible getting people to do things) I'm supposed to "guide my team" to select a person who will serve on a certain committee. This committee has a quite a bit of power, so several people want the job. Eventually, all but one of our team agree on one candidate, Mr. X. It seems like we've made a good choice. However, the lone holdout refused to believe that we aren't putting her on the committee because "she really, really wants it." We are only allowed one representative, and she is NOT a good choice. I tiptoe veeeery quietly off to my boss and lay the situation out for him. He sends out an email saying "since you can't choose, I will choose for you. I choose Mr. X because he needs to do more leadership." I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

I haven't stopped sighing (in a good, relaxed way) since. It feels SO GOOD to be out from under all that stress. The normal work days seems sort of like vacation by comparison. Now it's Friday, and things should get even better.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A Little Humor

Nearly all teachers agree that the question "Did I miss anything?" from an absent student is more than irritating. It seems to us like the perfect representation of the self-centered view the students sometimes have of the world around them. This teacher actually came up with some possible answers. Of course, I can't use any of them because "middle-schoolers cannot comprehend sarcasm" according to my graduate school professors. They are funny nonetheless.

Did I Miss Anything?

By Tom Wayman

Question frequently asked by students after missing a class.

Nothing.
When we realized you weren’t here
We sat with our hands folded on our desks
In silence, for the full two hours

Everything. I gave an exam worth
40 per cent of the grade for this term
And assigned some reading due today
On which I’m about to hand out a quiz
Worth 50 per cent.

Nothing. None of the content of this course
Has value or meaning.
Take as many days off as you like:
Any activities we undertake as a class
I assure you will not matter either to you or me
And are without purpose.

Everything. I few minutes after we began last time
A shaft of light descended and an angel
Or other heavenly being appeared
And revealed to us what each woman or man must do to attain divine wisdom in this

life and the hereafter
This is the last time the class will meet
Before we disperse to bring this good news to all people on earth.

Nothing. When you are not present
How could anything significant occur?

Everything. Contained in this classroom
Is a microcosm of human existence
Assembled for you to query and examine and ponder
This is not the only place such an opportunity has been gathered

But it was one place.

And you weren’t here.

Originally from: The Astonishing Weight of the Dead, Vancouver; Polestar, 1994

Monday, October 22, 2007

Work is Like...

When you first get a job, it's as if they hand you a satchel and tell you that your job is to carry the satchel and not let anything fall out. You think to yourself "This satchel is not so heavy. I'll just sling it over one shoulder, and that still leaves plenty of space for the stuff I was already carrying."

You go on like this for a brief period, and then people at work start handing you extra things to put in the satchel "Oh, by the way, this is part of your job too, and your also responsible for this, etc" None of these items is very large or heavy, so you just keep stuffing them into the bag. Pretty soon the satchel is getting kind of heavy, but you figure it's not that big a deal because you can keep switching it from one shoulder to the other.

One day you realize that nothing, not one more tiny thing, can fit into the bag. This is the point at which 25% of new teachers say "That's more than I want to carry!" and they put down the satchel and walk out the door for good. The rest of us decide that maybe a new backpack wouldn't be such a bad idea, and maybe a coat with lots of pockets?

After a while you start to learn that it's bad to volunteer for everything. In fact, some people cope with the problem by flatly refusing any and all requests. I loath these people because they try their best to skate through on the assumption that "someone else will do it." For those who continue to engage, even "good causes" must be scrutinized with extreme care.

People will come up to you and say "Look at this important thing. It really needs some attention from a caring person like yourself. It's just a tiny little thing anyway; you'll hardly notice it among all the other stuff." Sometimes they convince you, and then you have to find a place where you can cram the thing. In truth, sometimes things fall out again. At some point, you just have to start putting things down.

My only real professional experience is in education. However, I suspect that many other kinds of jobs probably work in much the same way. The difficult part is finding a way to remain energized and enthusiastic about your work without eventually getting your back broken. I’m still working on this.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Venue! Venue!

Hooray we have a venue! This means that we can actually get married next year! (I suppose we need an officiant, but still) We decided on a building in the Arboretum, so I'm crossing my fingers for beautiful scenery. The place that we've selected is surrounded by wisteria, and I'm also crossing my fingers that some of it might still be blooming by our wedding (it's normally a late spring thing). I love the way the venue has an outdoor area for the ceremony, and an indoor place for the actual reception. We also have a line on a caterer who knows the facility and will provide not just food and service, but also rentals and decorations. Now we're on to searching out the fun stuff like flowers, cake, and music. Woo Hoo! It's all starting to come together!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Wedding Venues #10 and #11

Okay, I admit it, I'm burning out. We have not seen the perfect venue anywhere (or for any price) we are going to need to make a compromise somewhere, but it's not an easy choice to make. When we started out looking for venues, it was fun. Now, however, it's starting to get frustrating. We will need to make a decision soon.

Skansonia--- Historical, funky, charming in many ways, but also on a not-so-lovely portion of Lake Union. Lots of old boats, junk, and construction stuff lying around. The main view is the underside of the bridge. Also, no good parking, the seating space is cut up into several different rooms, and they have a 150 minimum on Saturday evenings in summer.

Lord Hill Farms--- We went in the dark, so it's sort of hard to say what the outdoor spaces are like. The indoor part is quite charming in many ways. Big open spaces, a very nice country feel, and plenty of room for dancing, eating, etc. The in-house catering is also reasonably priced. Some details that aren't so great such as the floors, the road noise near the outdoor ceremony space, and the distance to greater Seattle. Oh yes, and the part where they have no Saturdays for all spring/summer 2008. We would have to do a Friday such as the 4th of July. Do I want my anniversary to be the 4th of July forever?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wedding Venues #7, #8, and #9

Newcastle Golf Club--- Very pretty views, slightly musty tent smell, HUGE price tag for even the "lesser" venues. I agree that the views are worth quite a bit, but I cannot see spending that much on the whole wedding, let alone just the venue.

DAR House--- We really liked the historical charm of this old place. There was room to hold the wedding in the large living room, and then go upstairs to have the reception in the ballroom. However, there was a feeling of faded elegance about the place that almost reached the level of shabbiness. We sort of wanted to ask if they were planning to paint any time in the next year. Also, the house is located in a crowded part of Seattle and had NO parking at all. All the guests would have to pay in a lot and hoof it several blocks.

Graham Visitor Center--- This venue is located in the arboretum, and it serves as a gathering place for many local plant societies. When we arrived to take a look, there was a bulb sale set up in the conference room. This room, along with the patio, make up the wedding facility. I admit that the room is not exactly glamorous or romantic, but I do think it might be okay with some serious decoration. The patio is what does it for me. Surrounded by arbors, it is covered in wisteria vines, and it looks very lush and pretty. Downsides of this place are the room, and the tiny little kitchenette. It remains on the list.


1. No stinky venues

2. No busy roads within hearing distance

3. No ugly ceiling tiles

4. No wedding planners who can't manage their own schedules

5. No rooms without windows

6. No venues that cost the same as my car

7. No staff who just can't be bothered

8. No hideous decor

9. No venues that completely lack parking

Monday, October 08, 2007

Whirlwind Wedding (but not our own) Part 2

We were surprised (and touched) to be seated in the family pew with M's aunt and uncle, and it gave us an incredible view of the proceedings. I don't think I've attended a seriously Christian wedding (I'm sorry, but Christian-light is a whole different experience) since I was a very tiny child, so much of the ritual was foreign to me. I was later informed that we were watching the Lutheran equivalent of high mass, so the service included hymns, a homily, a number of prayers and readings, and Holy Communion for all comers. We kept watching everyone else to know when we should rise, say certain things, look prayerful (or respectfully silent).

I am not a Christian. I do not pretend to be a Christian, and most of the time this is not much of a problem. The more rational portions of the world at large are accepting of the fact that not everyone follows Christianity. However, many people do seem to have this idea that everyone will sort of automatically know the ins and outs of Christian ritual. I do not know these rituals at all because I am (say it with me now) NOT A CHRISTIAN. Sorry to get strident, but I feel I understand a little of what it must be like to be a Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist etc. in this country.

The issue of Holy Communion had me panicking. The priest announced that all baptized people in the church were welcome to come up, and that the bride and groom would serve as chalice-bearers for the wine (or blood depending on your views). I suddenly did not know what to do! M's family are dear, sweet people, and I did not want to offend them. However, the priest was very clear about the baptism part, and also I'm not comfortable doing such a ritual. Better still, he had the people coming up one row at a time. This meant that when M and I stayed seated instead of going up, the whole church was looking at us and waiting for us to move! Fortunately, Uncle J., in the row behind us, understood quite quickly, and shoved his family out to go up to the alter. M and I just sat and smiled vaguely. I'm still hoping his aunt and uncle weren't offended.

All this said, it was a beautiful wedding. The bride and groom both seemed so happy, and there is not doubt that their families were pretty ecstatic as well. The flowers were a lovely combination of roses and rosehips (to add a fall touch and great texture), and the stained glass windows of the church made everything glow. M and I certainly got some great ideas for our own wedding. However, I think we'll skip the hymns and communion for our ceremony.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Whirlwind Wedding (but not our own) Part 1

Last Friday, a friend of mine from work covered the last 20 minutes of my last class so I could make it to the airport on time. Of course, this being 2007, the flight was delayed, but we did eventually make it down to Southern California. M's aunt, uncle, and two grown cousins are also from South Africa, but they have lived in San Diego for several years now. The elder one was getting married, so we had the chance to do a little research by attending the wedding.

Of course, since our flight was delayed, we missed the rehearsal dinner, and had to go instead to an Olive Garden at 10:30 at night. Olive Garden is not a good choice at any time, but it was especially bad because they were doing their best to hurry up and get us out of there. This was the first of our unfortunate food experiences. The second occurred when we went to get breakfast at the hotel restaurant. Some buffet breakfasts are sinful but also delicious. This one was sinful and not delicious, so we did not partake all that much.

After the unfortunate breakfast, we had a few hours to kill, so we used the navigation computer M bought to find Balboa Park. The navi is called Tom Tom, and I have to say that it was incredibly useful. Even when you make a mistake, it just recalculates the route and give you new directions. In just a few minutes, we were to the park and admiring the incredibly beautiful setting. Why can't our old World's Fairgrounds look like that? Amazing architecture, lovely landscaping, and even a perfect reflecting pool with blooming water lilies! We really enjoyed our time at the park, but pretty soon it was time to head over to the church.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Wedding Venue #6

Acalia Events is a sweet LITTLE place in a so-so neighborhood. Emphasis on the world "little." The dance floor is literally the ten foot square entry hall, and you can't seat more than 40ish people in the "main" hall. I can't imagine trying to hold a wedding reception (with toasts and such) while people are all seated in different rooms! Extra credit to the owners for turning a pokey little place into a nice venue for small events. However, we will not be holding our wedding there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Wedding Venues #4 and #5

One good and one bad this time, but neither one will work. The good one was The Edgewater hotel on the waterfront in Seattle. This is the hotel where the Beatles famously fished out of a window, and it has kept up its glamorous patina. The rooms are decorated in a funky Pacific NW meet just a hint of industrial, and the restaurant, 6/7, serves some incredible food. The actual wedding venue is a dedicated suite with one large room looking out over incredible water views. Ferries pass regularly and you can just make out the Olympics in the distance. Several smaller rooms offer space for buffet tables, a bar, and there is even a terrace for outdoor lounging. The reason we didn't sign a contract then and there?

Whoa baby did it cost a lot. The catering manager was very bright and cheerful, and she informed us that we were in luck because they had no facility fee. However, the catering minimums killed the deal. For a wedding of our size, we would need to spend a whopping $150 per head to reach the minimum, and that did not include cake, flowers, or gratuities. We had fun imagining how a person spends that kind of money on a largely vegetarian meal. Gold-plated salad anyone?

Directly after leaving The Edgewater, we hoofed it up to the ferry at Anacortes, and caught the evening sailing to Orcas Island. On the ride, we were treated to the most vibrant orange/pink/purple sunset, and it made me wish we were getting married that evening, when the weather was so perfect. We arrived on Orcas after dark, and make our way along the winding roads (I was feeling green by the time we arrived) to Rosario Resort.

We were under-whelmed by the service of the front desk, the dining room (she told us she didn't have a table available when we could see this was not the case at all), or the bar. Everyone working there just seems sort of bored and perhaps faintly annoyed at having to look after you. After a lovely dinner of salad and ginger ale (It was the road and nothing more. Don't get any ideas) for me and oysters, fish, and chips for M, we made the five minute drive up to our rooms. That's right, very few people actually stay in the historical lodge. Most rooms are located in apartment-style blocks a few minutes up the hill. When we got to our room we found it reasonably clean, but also incredibly ugly. The decor was a mishmash of rainbow striped curtains, India print bedspreads, and distressed yellow furniture. Not the sort of place you want to spend the night, let alone your wedding night!

On the whole, Rosario is just kind of a sad place. The people don't care, the buildings are sort of shabby and worn down, and it all has this air of faded grandeur. The setting and scenery are truly amazing, and if someone would just put some money into rehab (and kick the staff in their collective behind) it would be a wonderful place for vacations or even a wedding. However, as things stand now, there is no way I would even consider it as our wedding venue.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wedding Venue #3

Okay, the first odd part about this place was that the wedding coordinator double booked herself and had two couples arriving at the same time to look at the space. All four of us were clearly confused about this, and it created an odd, stilted atmosphere. Were we competing with each other for dates? Could we ask specific questions about OUR event when the other couple was waiting to do the next part of the tour? Not a good start to things. That said:

Columbia Winery is set in a beautiful spot near Woodinville. It boasts impressive architecture, thoughtful landscaping, and an overall feel of subtle opulence. It also has a nicely appointed reception room and reasonable changing rooms for the bridal party. However, it also has a patio for ceremonies that backs onto a major road. You can't see the cars, but you can sure as heck hear them. Going there would be like getting married at a raceway. Also, they have awful acoustic ceiling tiles. I'm starting to develop an odd list of no-no items.

1. No stinky venues
2. No busy roads within hearing distance
3. No ugly ceiling tiles
4. No wedding planners who can't manage their own schedules
5. No rooms without windows

More to come I'm sure.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Women and Books

NPR had an fascinating and disturbing story about reading this morning. It seems that women read far more than men. (No surprises there!) You can read the specifics in the actual piece, but the basic questions are about why women should choose to read more than men. Some suggest it's because women are more able to empathize with the characters, while others seem to think it has more to do with the simple ability to sit still.

Who knows the actual reason, but in my personal experience, it is true. Many of the intelligent, educated men I know do not read for pleasure. Of those who do, only a handful are willing to read fiction. One of the many things I love about M is that he has a stack of novels next to his bed, and he actually moves through it at a reasonable pace. Why should we care about the fiction vs. non-fiction question? Educational research suggests that our brains process fiction as if it were actually happening to us. Therefore, my reading a moving story, and caring about the characters, is a form of emotional practice. Perhaps if more people were good fiction readers there would be a better sense of empathy in general.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I MUST Have My Frap!

No real wedding news to report except that we are continuing to search for a good venue. This weekend should be quite busy with the hunt. However, in other news...

One of my immediate co-workers (we'll call him Mr. Smith) was informed last week that a student in his class wanted to transfer out. Mr. Smith was surprised by this because he feels that he hardly knows the students yet, and they hardly know him. It took some time, but he was finally able to learn the reason for the transfer request.

It seems that last year, when the student was a 6th grader, Mr. Smith told her she was not allowed to drink her frappuccino in the hallway. This made her feel sad at the time, and, therefore, she now needs to have a different teacher for 7th grade. OBVIOUSLY she can't be expected to put up with Mr. Smith who made her feel sad before. This would be a funny story except that the parents are in complete support of the transfer request. I am delighted to say that, in spite of much parental fussing, the request was denied.

I love, love, love my school which is full of mostly great kids and mostly wonderful teachers. However, I do have just the occasional twinge of "Sheesh!" in these sorts of situations. At least the right won out in this round.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Wedding Venues 1 & 2

The search is on! The wedding advice ladies at school tell me that if we want to get married in 2008, we must quickly find a venue. It seems that we are coming late to the party already because many venues fill their summer reservations more than a year in advance. Therefore, while we can wait on many things, we must get this first detail nailed down ASAP. Over the weekend, with my mother along for moral support (and because she's fun to have around), we went out and looked at the first two potential locations.

The two venues happened to be fairly close to one another, so we were able to see them one right after the other. The first was The Plateau Club, a golf and country club in Sammamish. Driving up, it looked like most country clubs with perfectly manicured greens, imposing front doors, and special parking for golf carts. We knew going in that it wasn't likely to be a very "us," but we thought we would give it a try. Walking through those imposing front doors, I knew immediately that it was a no-go. It smelled. In fact, it reeked like a diner with a deep-fat fryer that hasn't been cleaned in decades. It did not matter the decor or the prices or the menus, we were not going to use this location. We all dutifully went on the tour and received the brochure, but when we got to the car we all agreed that it was not going to happen. We went off to a Starbucks to recover our sense of smell before the next appointment.

The next place was just about as different as you can get from the first. Located in a city park, this small lodge was just about as quaint as they come. In a beautiful wooded setting, with log finish on walls and ceiling, and windows looking out at the lake, it was a perfect picture of pacific NW aesthetic from about 1940. There were many things to love about it (including the low rental fee) but there were also some drawbacks. First, it had no AC, and the only summer date available was July 26th. Second, it had no truly private bathrooms. The lodge's bathrooms all included doors to the outside because they serve as the bathroom facilities for everyone in the park as well as wedding guests. Last, it's just not that big a space. It could be tough fitting a dance floor, buffet tables, and seating in the one room. This venue stays on the list, but we are not finished looking.

And so, the search continues. M and I would really like to find a place that feels just right. Of course, we may dither so long that nothing is left, but in that case we can just change our date to an off-peak time. Wedding in April anyone?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Ring Pic at Last

Thanks very much for all the good wishes, flowers, treats, and wedding magazines we've received over the last ten days. It was such fun to tell all our family and friends; the looks on people's faces were wonderful. The part where my mom cried, and my friend, C, screamed and jumped in my lap were priceless.

Many of you have already seen the ring, but I wanted to post pictures for those who live far away. The center stone is a ruby, the side stones are diamond, and the setting is platinum (was that crass to tell? People do ask). I look down at it way too often just to enjoy the fact that it's there on my finger.

We still don't have any idea of dates or locations for the wedding, but I believe it will be some time in the next year. I am starting to collect ideas from various sources for how we can go about this whole thing. Two of my aides at school AND the librarian are just about to marry off their daughters, so they are most excited to share tips and ideas. It can be a little overwhelming at times, but they do mean the absolute best. As Big Niece says "all you really need for a wedding is flowers, a cake, and dancing." Now that's some serious wisdom from someone just starting the third grade.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Goodness Gracious! We're Engaged!

Note: I'm typing this post on the day (September 2nd, 2007) that we got engaged. However, I won't be posting it until most of our friends and family have been told. I really wanted to tell people in person or at least over the phone if they live far away. I'm writing this post today, though, so nothing fades from memory in the excitement that is sure to follow.

On Saturday, we went to Bumbershoot as we'd planned to do for several months. It was our first time to the festival, and we planned to stay all day to see shows, and then stay at a hotel in Seattle. The first shows of the day were standing room only and the sun was hot, hot, hot. I must confess that I was fairly grumpy through the first act (Crowded House) because of the heat and the jostling of the crowd. For the next show (The Shins) I was very happy to move into the bleachers and also into the shade. Luckily, my mood improved very much once I had my own seat.

After The Shins were finished, we wandered the festival, found some food, and took in a Can Can dance review that was a lot of fun. There is so much to see and do at Bumbershoot that you can't possibly get to it all. We saw snippets of several more shows, marveled at the length of the line for the Greg Proops show, and then finished our evening with Gabriel Y Rodrigo. They play incredible Latin guitar, and it was a shame to leave just before they finished (but I insisted because I did not want to leave with the other 79,998 people). We took the monorail back towards our hotel, and then took a short walk to one of our favorite restaurants, Lola. By this time, it was at least 10pm, but the place was still hopping.

Our meal at Lola was probably the best we've ever had there (and that's saying something). First we shared a Greek salad with the most perfectly ripe tomatoes in red, yellow, and green. Next were zucchini fritters with creamy dills sauce. Finally, I got my entree of roasted eggplant tagine with bread, onions, pickled tomatoes, and a yogurt-garlic sauce. Normally I'm not a huge fan of eggplant, but this entire dish was perfect, fragrant, and delicious. I can't speak for M's food because it was fishy, but he made happy sounds throughout. Finally, we shared a fruit tart with brown sugar ice-cream for dessert. We left around midnight, full, and very happy.

After dinner, we walked the few blocks back to the Hotel Alexis. We always seem to stay in Kympton hotels, and this was no exception. We like them because their rooms don't look like hotel rooms (hipper? less plastic? more comfortable? I'm not exactly sure what it is), they have good service, and they are a comparatively good deal. Our room was on the third floor, and we practically fell into bed after such a busy day.

The next morning, just as we were waking up, M put a box in my hand and said "I have a present for you." I didn't have my glasses on, so I really wasn't sure what it might be. It was a double box, so bigger than the traditional ring box, and it took me a few minutes to figure out how it opened. When I finally got to the ring, I looked at it, and I looked at him in complete surprise. He said "will you marry me?" and I was so amazed that all I could do was squeak "really?!" and he said "yes" so I squeaked "yes!" and then I just kept saying "really" over and over until he finally said "yes! really!" I truly could not believe it was actually happening.

But it did. It really did happen. We are engaged, my ring is absolutely beautiful (that's another post), and I'm wearing it right now. I have no idea any of the details about how or when or where, but none of that matters very much right now. In fact, it could have been a candy ring and I would still be completely over the moon right now.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back to School 2007

Sorry for the radio silence. Life seems to have filled right up to the top again. We did finally agree to a contract with the district, so that is a very good thing. There are a few compromises, but, overall, I think it will be a workable arrangement for most of us. Also, we are still scheduled to get our 4.3% COLA in the next paycheck, so I'm really looking forward to that. Even a little bit more money is a very nice thing indeed.

School started again without a hitch. One of the truly wonderful things about being a seventh year veteran is that you just don't get so anxious any more. I slept just fine the night before school started, and I did not get any butterflies before going down to meet the kids. A co-worker and I were just discussing the amazing power of just letting go. At some point, you realize that the world will not end if something goes wrong. You can pretty much always come up with a solution.

The beginning of the school year is always an exciting and invigorating time, and this year seems to be especially good.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Finally, Results

After many months of phone calls and negotiations, our house is painted AND we have a new fence around the backyard! When I drove up yesterday I could hardly believe my eyes at the change. We no longer look like the shabbiest house in the neighborhood, and that is a very good thing. We have our privacy back in the backyard, we can let little kids out to play without fear of the road, and our kitties can enjoy the sunshine without fear of dogs. It's a pretty wonderful thing.

Home improvements are kind of like being sick. First you think you might have to do it, then you know you have to do it, they you do it and it isn't much fun, but you feel so much better afterwards.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

To Shirt or Not to Shirt

Okay, so I am not exactly a fashion maven (to say the very least) but I try to present myself in a reasonably tidy way. I always set my clothes out the night before an early morning, and I usually don't have too much trouble choosing outfits that are clean (always clean!) and relatively un-goofy. Last night, however, I had a major fashion dilemma. Well, that's not quite right. Fashion choices were involved, but the real issue was about labor unions. Strange combination, I know, but I am not making any of this up.

Last night, I went to a union meeting to hear how the negotiations are going on the new contract. Some of the old issues have been worked out already (yay!), but a few big things are still causing trouble. The main issue most of us care about is the proposal to convert a portion of our weekly teacher preparation time to do district business. For example, instead of collaborating with my team, correcting papers, or planning lessons, I could be required to attend meetings, trainings, or any other district-directed activity that they choose to throw at us. We are not amused.

The negotiation team still has hopes on this issue, but they also feel that the district may be willing to go to the proverbial wall on this plan. In order to show our solidarity, the union wanted us to all wear black shirts. I was SO torn about this request. I do support the cause, but I am a big fan of the secret ballot. This, to me, was a request that we vote early and wear our opinions on our chests. One of the things that allowed us to avoid divisions during the last strike was by keeping our votes to ourselves. I went back and forth trying to decide what I should do because there just wasn't an easy answer.

In the end, the black won out. I had a colorful shirt with me, but I wore the black all day. It turned out that almost all my co-workers did the same. Hopefully none of the non-shirts (ha! ha!) will hold it against the rest of us. Even more hopefully, we will get a contract, and we can stop displaying our opinions via our clothes.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Fun With Unions

Still no contract. The old one runs out in just over a week, and things are sticky, sticky, sticky. The district has become "more flexible" on a number of smaller issues, but they are still holding fast on the big ones. I'm crossing every finger and toe that I have. As I mentioned before, strikes are NO FUN.

To answer Sabragirl's questions:

If the teacher's union goes on strike what are your responsibilities?
You don't really have too many "responsibilities" because they really can't force you to do anything. However, they strongly urge you to do all sorts of things to show your support for the strike.

Do you have to be in the picket line during the hours you would otherwise be teaching?
Again, you are strongly encouraged to "walk the line" as they say in the business. I think the only positive things about the last strike was the camaraderie we developed as a group. I really got to know my co-workers in a lasting way. After the strike was over, the normally sparse (we mostly work) lunchroom was packed for weeks.

Do you get strike pay?
Not as such, but if your employer chooses to withhold pay (as ours did last time) they send financial officers from the national union to offer interest free loans in the amount of your paycheck. The issue of withholding pay is a sticky one for many reasons.

What if you disagree with the strike; would you be kicked out of the union if you crossed the picket line?
Many disagreed with the strike last time (myself included at the beginning). You are welcome to go and speak your mind at the various meetings, but your chances of swaying anybody are slim. However, no strike can be called without a strike vote from the general membership. In other words, the union mucky-mucks can't just do this on their own. The law says they much present the district's offer to the members. Crossing the picket line was simply not done in the last strike. However, since teacher strikes are "illegal" in WA, we may face that issue this time.

If you got kicked out would you then not be able to teach? I'm very curious about how this works.

Our district is not a closed shop, so you can decline to be a member of the union. However, this is very difficult to do, and it might not make you very popular in your building (depending on the building). I don't know for sure the consequences of crossing a picket line, but I don’t think it could be used to take away your license or anything like that.

Wish us luck!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Please Not This!

Camping was, of course, a lot of fun. We all enjoyed ourselves, and we managed to avoid most of the rain. However, when we got home I had a less-than-fun email waiting for me. Union negotiations are going "very poorly" according to the teacher bargaining team. Upon return to the summer bargaining session, the teams have failed to resolve even one of the sticking points that caused trouble to the end of the spring session.

What are the issues? Surprisingly, straight-up compensation is not one of them. One of the biggest questions is the special teacher preparation time we have each week. This is a two hour block of time during the "regular" school week where teachers are left to themselves to collaborate or work individually. Administrators want to take a percentage (how much is a big part of the debate) of this time to schedule meetings, trainings, and other admin. directed activities. Translation: instead of grading papers, planning with my team, or preparing lessons, I would have to sit in some "class" or meeting that was not directly related to my daily work.

One of the other discussion points is about the amount of work done by our special education teams. The laws are so strict now about the documentation of special education students that the teachers in this area often wash out within one to two years. Some of these people, depending on their case loads, are working 60-80 hour weeks with little or no additional compensation. The district is refusing to cap the workloads of these teachers or consider extra compensation for their efforts.

There are other problems as well, but I will not go on for pages. It's been several years, but many of us have walked the line (no Johnny Cash puns intended) before. Going on strike is emphatically NOT FUN, and I am really, really hoping we're not headed there again. Fingers crossed that they work something out in time.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Camping No Matter What

In spite of all the dire weather predictions out there, we are going camping this weekend. The girls are coming along to try out a new campground on the peninsula, and we are hoping, hoping, hoping that the skies will not fall. We have marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. What more could we possibly need? It turns out that we last went camping almost exactly a year ago, so we will once again be able to celebrate Big Niece's birthday while we're there. Camp songs and s'mores here we come! Wish us luck.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Big Picture

Several months ago, I was chatting with a friend (lamenting really) about the lack of nice, not skuzzy, lounging/gathering spots on The Eastside. Where are all the cute coffee shops, relaxed bistros, and elegant tea rooms of my youth? Part of the problem is definitely our distance from any universities. College students encourage the growth of "stop and sit a while" establishments. We have Starbucks and Tully's, you might say, but I maintain that those places were never intended for extended group gatherings. That is why it was so nice to find The Big Picture in Redmond Town Center.

This is a great little movie theater tucked away on the second floor of the mall. Who needs another movie theater when there are so many around? Well this is no ordinary theater. For one, it sometimes (not always) shows some of the more art house-type films (we've seen TWO French movies there). Second, it is a 21 only venue, so there are no crying babies and, better yet, there are no irritating teenagers talking through the whole movie. Third, it is absolutely clean. You can put your purse on the floor and not worry about pools of mysterious stickiness. Wouldn't you pay an extra dollar for your movie ticket with these amenities?

But the real reason to go to The Big Picture is the bar and lounging area. Beautifully, elegantly, decorated, the whole place really recommends itself to an hour of chatting and sipping before the show. They do have popcorn and candy, but they also serve some delicious and unusual drinks both alcoholic and non. I believe we should encourage this kind of establishment, so please consider heading down there some night soon.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Harry Potter For All!

A few weeks ago, shortly after the 7th Harry Potter book, I was in a favorite bookstore, Powell’s Books, and I happened to overhear a group of clerks talking together. They were discussing the launch party they'd helped to run, and one of their favorite topics was the derision they felt towards the teenagers who attended. "Come on, that guy had to be like, eighteen, at least! Doesn't he have anything better to do on a Saturday night? I mean, come on, it's a kids' book!" (paraphrasing heavily, but you get the point)

Now I understand that one of the ways to survive your job sometimes is to make inappropriate jokes about it with your co-workers. Goodness knows I’ve made some. However, even knowing that, I was very disappointed in that bookstore. This was not just one knucklehead spouting off, it was a group, and they were all enjoying the joke. Add to all that, they were having this conversation IN THE YA SECTION for all the children to hear. Shame! Shame! Shame!

Now, if they want to make fun of the grown up readers, they should go right ahead. I will cheerfully take on anyone who wants to berate me for reading kids' stuff (narrow-minded people do this on a regular basis), but leave the teenagers alone! A kid who is eighteen now may well have started reading the series when the first book came out ten years ago. These kids have grown up with Harry and they, perhaps more than anyone, had a right to be there for the final installment.

A recent study of 500 young Harry Potter readers found that 51% did not read for pleasure before they met Harry. I have seen this happen so many times in my classroom. Students discover the wonders of Hogwarts, and then they start to get curious about what other interesting worlds might be hidden in those previously distrusted items called books. No matter what you think of Harry or his fans, large amounts of credit are due for that effect.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Painter!

Painter! We have painter! It's such an exciting day (I'm being honest about that, and it just shows you have old we really are that we get excited about that kind of thing) There is a slim chance that we will have a fence AND a freshly painted house BY THE END OF THE MONTH! Wow! Of course now I've probably just jinxed myself, and everything will fall apart. Hopefully not though. The painter we picked is neither the lowest nor the highest bid, but we like him, and he comes with good references. Thanks again to my friend, T, who gave me the referral.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Misplaced Lavender

Normally, M and I are big fans of Tully's coffee (at least when we're choosing from the big chain stores), but sometimes they do disappoint. If you ask me, the Tully's flavor of the month plan is NOT a good one. This month is lavender which is an improvement over the previous flavors of banana and blueberry (banana coffee!?). However, they let me smell the "lavender" syrup, and I really could not detect any of the familiar aromas. A taste of a lavender/white chocolate mocha was quite disappointing as well. All in all, lavender should be left for baking and sachets.

In other lavender news, Martyr Stewart recently featured a lavender champaign cocktail in her magazine. The recipe consisted of pouring a glass of champaign and sticking in a stalk of lavender. Awfully simple and easy for someone like Martyr. Perhaps it's more about the smell?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Home Improvement Frustration

M and I have been valiantly trying all summer to get a new fence and a paint job for our house. We did not think this would be such a big deal because we plan to use the Microsoft home improvement tool (a telephone and a checkbook) to get the job done. No gathering of tools, no visits to Home Debit, and no hours and hours of hard work. Easy right? Ha, ha, not so fast.

You know all those unflattering, unkind things people say about the intelligence, integrity, and possible drug abuse of painters, roofers, and construction workers? I now believe that any and all of those things may be true. The first problem you face with these guys (they're always guys) is just getting them to talk to you. M probably called four or five different fencing companies trying to get estimates from them. You would think that a business would not survive if you completely fail to call the customers back. He finally found some companies that would come and give him estimates, but some of them were sky hi. After MANY months (and two letters of complaint from our HOA) we are FINALLY getting a fence in the next few weeks (knock on wood).

Roughly the same thing happened when we tried to get a house painter. M called one guy who said he would be out on Friday. Then he called back to say he would come at 11:30, oh wait, he meant to say SATURDAY at 11:30. Saturday at 11:30 came and went without any sign of him. He called to ask if M wanted to set up an appointment some time? Argh! Now he's supposed to come this afternoon. We shall see.

Meanwhile, I've been searching for painters too. My friend, T, very kindly forwarded several recommendations and I called three of them from the list. One called me back. He said he would call in the next two days to make an estimate appointment. He called four days later to ask if I was home right at that moment. Fortunately I was and he said he would come in an hour. Three hours later he actually appeared. If our house ever gets a paint job and a new fence I will be thrilled and amazed.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Teeniest Tiniest Little Green Frog

Yesterday I went out into the garden to pick some mint leaves to use with dinner. While I was out there I was rearranging pots a little and admiring the flowers. When I moved one plant, I saw a brief flash of movement. A little searching revealed the cutest little tree frog, and I'm sure it could literally have sat on my pinky nail and fit perfectly. It was one of those bright green tree frogs (Hylla Regilla?) with the black and gold racing stripe along the body, and I REALLY wanted a picture. I ran inside for the camera, and when I came back out, it was still there. However, every time I leaned close to get a shot, it would jump away from me. At least M got to see it, but I don't have any great photos to post. That is so much better than being surprised by say, centipedes, in your garden!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Red Star Restaurant Review

As I've mentioned before, M and I are very fond of Hotel Monaco (formerly 5th ave Suites) in Portland. We stay there whenever we go because it's such a nice place, and also such a good value for quality. We've also enjoyed at least two good meals in the hotel restaurant. Therefore, on our last trip, we looked forward to staying the night and enjoying dinner in the Red Star Restaurant. The hotel is still very nice, however, the meal we had left quite a bit to be desired.

Before booking for dinner, I checked the menu and found that they did have one vegetarian entree. We arrived at the appointed time, were seated at a very nice table near the window, and placed our orders. I asked for beet salad to begin and the leek and morel tart as my main course. I was very much looking forward to both courses since beets and morels are two of my favorites. However, it was not to be. The waitress returned and said that the mushroom tart was "out, or actually sort of, um, unavailable" I'm not quite sure what was actually going on with that, but it was clear that I wasn't getting a tart.

I asked if there were any other vegetarian options, and while she tried to be helpful, there was not much she could suggest. I ordered one of the green salads as my main course (how exciting is that?!) because there wasn't really any choice. When the mains arrived, it took me a while to realize that she'd brought the wrong salad. Instead of greens with goat cheese, I got greens with hazelnuts. I hate, hate, hate hazelnuts. I was not feeling up to sending it back, so I just pushed the nuts to the side and ate my greens. At one point I saw that a nut was buried among a forkful of salad, but I decided just to soldier on. This turned out be a bad choice because the "nut" turned out to be a clod of dirt. I was spitting mud for several minutes.

The meal finished with a dessert billed as something like "three flavors of berry" which included a cherry sidecar so viciously alcoholic that not even M could stand it. All in all, it was NOT a good experience. As we were leaving the hotel, one of the clerks was chatting with us about our stay. M told him the truth that we love the hotel but did not like the restaurant. He explained that the chef was new and having trouble getting the hang of things. "There have been meetings!" he said severely. We sincerely hope the meetings help and Red Star gets back on its feet.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Harry Potter Mania

Ahhh Harry Potter. I love Harry Potter. To be more specific, I love the Harry Potter universe. If you are one of those people who dislikes Harry on principle, or who attempts to apply adult lit standards to a YA series, then I have nothing to say to you. I am a huge fan, and no one and nothing can change that. It was thrilling to be around for the release of each book, and I really do think that is something people will look back on as a significant event.

We were on vacation when both the movie (#5) and the book (#7) came out. Fortunately we were able to see the movie during our stay in Ashland, but I had to wait for the book until we got home. The movie was highly enjoyable (I'm doing a good job of separating the book from the movie, so I'm actually able to enjoy them both. This is a relatively new skill for me) but seeing it did not keep me from pining for the book. After all, we've been reading this story for a decade now. We want to know how it ends!

Sunday night (the day after the book came out) we got home from vacation. You might think I ripped open the box the moment we pulled up in the driveway but no. I had decided some time ago to read six again before reading seven so that it could be a single story. Therefore, Sunday night and Monday I spent on six and I'm very glad I did. My memory of the horcruxes and double crosses was not complete, so it turned out to be a good thing. Tuesday morning, I finally opened that special box from Amazon.com (customized for the purpose!) and took out book seven. It's a beautiful, thick book and I felt sort of elated and also sad to see it. Elated because I will soon know all, but sad that the ride is almost over.

The book is really everything I would have hoped. The sophistication of the plot has really grown alongside Harry. The first books are full of fun, humor, and hope. However, as time goes by, things become much more serious. By this last book, things were very serious indeed, and that is really as it should be. Rowling has said that each of her characters is defined by their relationship to death, and that is very much the central theme of this last book.

I will not offer any spoilers (yet anyway) but I will say that there are several parts of the book that are very vivid and very moving. Chapter 34 is (if you care about the characters) quite tough to read, but also heroic in an unexpected way. All in all, it was a satisfying conclusion to this beloved (by not just me) story. I strongly believe that this series will join the ranks of the major works of literature for young people, and that many generations of children are set to enjoy it for a long time to come.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Rest of Vacation 2007

After leaving Ashland, the rainy, even stormy, weather continued. Actually, that's not quite right. The day we left Ashland, we had beautiful weather as we drove a little bit into California and enjoyed the Redwoods. It had been quite a long time since I'd visited, and I can honestly say that Ronald Reagan was wrong: you see one redwood; you have emphatically NOT seen them all. They were quite immense, impressive, and wonderful. Now I know what it's like to be an ant. Perhaps if I get my bleep together, I will put up some pictures. The problem with this is that redwoods are not impressive without context. Perhaps I will use M for this purpose.

After leaving the redwoods, we headed back into Oregon and up to the little town of Brookings. Brookings is in what they call The Banana Belt of the Oregon Coast. True to form, it was beautiful and sunny when we arrived. However, by the next morning, no bananas could save us, and the rain and fog moved in with a vengeance. By the time we'd driven up the 101 to our next stop in Newport, there was practically a tropical storm blowing in.

We arrived at The Silvia Beach Hotel in 40mph winds. This is the kind of wind you can lean into and it almost holds you up. Fortunately, the hotel made up for the less than lovely weather. At one point, the hotel was just a seedy rooming house set right on the beach. However, new owners decided to turn it into a literary-themed hotel, and the rest is history. Each room is carefully decorated "in the style of" a given author. We stayed in the Jane Austen room which is done all in tiny roses with white furniture and a huge squashy chair. The chair sits in front of the window with a view of the beach and the lighthouse, and it even has a beautiful little embroidered footstool. I think I could sit there for days.

Dinner was wonderful, served in the hotel at family-style tables, and we even enjoyed the getting-to-know-you game of two truths and one lie. Breakfast was also quite tasty and a great deal at $8. Other than the need for a new mattress in the Jane Austen room, I would enthusiastically recommend The Sylvia Beach Hotel for any bibliophile, or any person who just wants a very quiet vacation.

Leaving the stormy coast, we headed up to Portland via McMinnville, Dundee, and Tigard. We stopped at a few wineries (I'll let M tell about that) and enjoyed the pastoral scenery. By the time we got to Portland, it was time to check into our hotel. We've been going to the Fifth Avenue Suites for a few years now, but this time they'd changed name and decor to become Hotel Monaco. We still found it to be clean, very pleasant and a good value for the middle of down town. Checked in and squared away, we set out for a new chocolate place called Cacao. Oh the drinking chocolate! They sell tiny little demitasse cups which is the perfect amount because this stuff is rich and delicious beyond belief.

Finally, we visited Powell’s (the world's best bookstore!), had dinner at the hotel restaurant (that's a whole other story), tasted some wines at "our" favorite wine bar, and then had a lovely breakfast at Mother's. All in all, Portland was a great way to cap off our vacation. We were home by 4pm, and it was actually very nice to finally get here. One of the best things about vacation is the way it re-energizes your enthusiasm for your own house (at least it does that for me). Unfortunately, now that we're home it's official: Summer is now half way gone!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Back

HI HONEY! WE'RE HOME! (and it feels great to be here)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Wet Shakespeare

Yesterday, we finally got down to the business of seeing plays. In the afternoon we saw Tracey's Tiger, a new musical, and in the evening we saw The Taming of the Shrew. This was a bit like seeing a Bright Sheng premier vs. Beethoven's Third. That may not be fair to the musical, it really wasn't bad, and I even enjoyed several aspects. However, when you compare it to the incredible performance of "Taming," the difference is obvious.

We saw "Taming" in the Elizabethan theater which is the outdoor venue for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It was a classic production with period costumes and sets, and I could not have asked for a better show. I would not have changed any of it. I know some people don't care for this play because it is not exactly feminist, but I'm willing to look the other way given that it was written over five hundred years ago. It was witty, charming, and very funny with a brilliant actor doing the part of Petruccio. Every time he had a major scene, the audience would burst into applause at the end. It poured rain for the second half, but we were lucky enough to be under the covered part of the theater. Tonight, we have Romeo & Juliette, and our seats are NOT under cover. Wish us luck.


Advice for Seeing Plays at the Elizabethan Theater In Ashland
1. Get seats in the back six rows of the center section in order to be under cover
2. Wear warm, comfortable layers of clothing as the temperature varies widely
3. Bring a cushion if you tend to have a tender bottom
4. Be sure to get cocoa during intermission since you are allowed to take it back in with you and enjoy it during the show.
5. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy! What a wonderful venue

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

OCF and Ashland

I think I can say without reservation that the Oregon Country Fair went very well for us this year. Business was good, everyone got along, and we were actually able to enjoy ourselves. When we arrived on Wednesday evening, it was all thunder, lightening, and rain. We had to rush to secure everything so we wouldn't have a soggy mess by morning. It rained on and off all night, but we were lucky that everything, including ourselves in the tent, stayed dry. After that, the weather co-operated beautifully. The great pleasure of the fair was having the nieces there again. They have not attended for the last five years, so their presence was a special treat. They had a wonderful time, and I absolutely loved watching them discover things that I also loved as a kid.

Fair over, we've now headed down to Ashland, Oregon, home of a wonderful Shakespeare company. The town has only about 20,000 residents, but more than 100,000 people visit every year to enjoy the plays. We are seeing two plays today and one tomorrow. Romeo and Juliette and Taming of the Shrew are both in the outdoor theater. We are staying in Ashland's Tudor House, a very nice B&B, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to others. This morning we had eggs Benedict and yogurt parfaits for our breakfast! Luckily we've been walking nearly everywhere, so hopefully we will not turn into spherical objects while on our vacation. More to come if I get another chance to use the computer.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

HOT!

No, no, no, I'm not talking about M (although he is pretty cute if I do say so). Just after I arrived in Oregon, I saw a thermometer that read 102 F. This is unreal. The maritime NW is not meant to have these kinds of temperatures. We are two digit kinds of people. When I pulled off the freeway, the car died at the first light. I turned off the air-conditioning, and it started again without any trouble. I drove the last hour with the windows down. It was hot, but the valley smells like sweet new-cut hay in July.

When I arrived at the shop it was far too hot to consider going in a metal building and turning on the curing oven. Therefore, we visited for several hours, had dinner, and only started printing around 10pm. By then the heat was much less, and we printed all the "bike" shirts in only a couple hours. Today we are doing several trips out to the fair site to get everything and everyone delivered. Most of us will camp out there tonight, and tomorrow we will get everything set up. Fingers crossed that there's no rain (or forest fires) with all that thunder and lightening.

Monday, July 09, 2007

OCF Prep

Heading down to Oregon tomorrow morning with a car full of fair supplies. Hoping family will behave and "reunion" will be fun and rewarding. Vacation part after fair is bound to be good: Ashland (Shakespeare!), Oregon Caves, Redwoods, Oregon Coast, Portland. May or may not have the chance to post along the way. Happy summer everyone. We'll see you when we get back.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Kitty Again

The kitty continues to get a little better every day. I don't know if she will ever be completely back to normal, but at least she's looking more and more comfortable in her own skin. When she first came back from the vet, she would contort herself into all sorts of poses trying to find something that didn't hurt. She still wobbles and turns her head to one side when she sleeps, but at least she doesn't lay there, with her eyes open, looking pained.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Happy 4th of July

Today is a day when we celebrate something in America, but nobody seems exactly certain what. Perhaps is the festival of blowing stuff up? National Parade Day? Maybe the homage to eating too much BBQ? Perhaps it's where we celebrate getting all puffed up with an aggressive and macho form of national pride? All of those celebrations do seem to occur on this day, but, I hope it goes without saying, that they are missing the point.

Here's to all the good things about our country. All the friendly, kind, wonderful people, and the heroic and decent things that happen on a small scale every single day. Here's to our freedoms and our ideals. For those who can only see the bad in it (there is certainly plenty of that), I can only quote Max Ehrman:

"With all it's sham and drudgery, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Poor Kitty Update

The good news is that we have our kitty back after three nights at the vet. The bad news is that she is not quite the same as she once was. When the vet called this morning, they said that she was much better and that we could certainly come and take her home. We took this to mean roughly "kitty all better now." However, when she came out of the carrier after arriving home, she walked, if you'll forgive the comparison, like a drunken sailor.

If you've ever seen an animal with partial paralysis, you know that shuffling, uncertain gait that I'm talking about. Nevertheless, she was glad to be home. She shuffled into the litter box without incident, and M put the food and water dishes on the floor so she won't have to jump up to the usual spot. She does not look like a happy cat though. You can tell that it still hurts to move, and she does not have any of her usual sparkle. Mostly, she just finds soft places to hide, but she did come out long enough to get an ear rub and to prove that her purr box still works. All we can do now is wait and see if she improves.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Poor Kitty!

Our poor little kitty has been attacked by a mean and nasty dog! On Sunday, I heard our black cat come screaming through the open back door, and then I heard the scuffle still going on outside. When I went out, I saw the dog under a bush and I heard the cat yowling. After chasing the dog off, I could see that it was our tortie cat underneath. When I pulled her out, I could see marks on her neck, blood on her tongue, and that horrible rapid breathing that comes with shock. We rushed her off to the vet where she has stayed ever since.

They say she has no broken ribs or punctured lungs which is good. They also say that the various little wounds are beginning to heal which is also good. However, she can't seem to use one of her back legs properly. They think she probably has swelling on her spinal cord which is causing the weakness. It may or may not go away, so they've been keeping her and giving her steroids and antibiotics. Our black cat keeping wandering the house looking for her, and I can very much empathize with his distress.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Gardener's Pride

It's been such a wet June that you might not expect any garden at all. However, the plants in our backyard have been making a valiant attempt to do some growing. Our very first actual produce of the season was the lovely, rosy radish at in the picture. It was crispy and peppery and delicious; the perfect example of radishy-ness.






The second great achievement was the single red strawberry we have so far managed to produce. We are working in a single strawberry pot (you know, the ones with the sort of balconies on the sides?) so we were never going to grow bushels of them. We were just happy to get something that actually TASTES like a strawberry. I swear, they lose their flavor just a few hours after picking!





Last, but certainly not least, we actually have a pea crop. Not one or two little pods, but actual piles of peas. They were VERY slow starting out, but in the last few days they've been popping out all over. These are the pod'n'all variety, so you can literally go into the backyard and eat them off the vines. They so sweet and crispy that I haven't had the guts to cook any of them yet.

I know, I know, not exactly a replacement for the veggie section at the grocery store. Still, the satisfaction is at least as good as the actual produce. Next up, we are working on a tender and tasty-looking lettuce crop!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Birthday #29

Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me! I'm 29, and I absolutely can't believe it. I'm starting to understand why older people go so wiggy about birthdays. It really does seem like I just turned 21 about five minutes ago. Oh well, there's not a damn thing we can do about it, so there's not point in getting all worked up. Just like the day I was born, it was rainy here today. We couldn't do a picnic dinner, so we just did a sort of picnic inside. My mom was here, my little brother is here, and of course M is always here. He stopped on the way home to buy me olives and dolmades and other tasties that he knows I like. He really is terribly sweet. I also got the Beatles album, Rubber Soul, two Wallace & Grommit DVD's, and several interesting looking books. I should not whine so much because I really am one lucky girl.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lacking in Focus

Brain not focused. No creativity or drive to do much of anything. No opinion on politics or current events or other important things. Can't even concentrate on news stories or novel plots. Can hardly concentrate on what to have for lunch. All previous mental acuity waning as brain slowly turns to mush. Desire to take naps in the sunshine becoming overwhelming. Terrible suspicion that I may be turning into a cat.

Monday, June 25, 2007

At Last!

They may have taken our sanity, but now we have our freeeeeeeeeedoooooooooomm!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Field Day 2007

We won! We won! We won! Not only is my homeroom filled with brilliant honors kids, it is also filled with super athletes! Yesterday was our field day where we spend time outside enjoying many different games. The sun was shining, the kids were in a great mood, and everyone was ready to have a good time.

First we had the water relay where ten kids line up behind a jar filled with water. The kid at the front of the line uses a plastic teaspoon to scoop up water, run across the track, and dump the water in a beaker, and then he races back and gives the spoon to the next kid. We go on like this for three minutes with me yelling and screaming encouragement. WE had 49 CC's of water at the final tally, and the next closest class had only 38. It turns out that slow and very steady really does win that race. We earned four points for first place.

Next, we won the dodge ball tournament by several hard whacks of the ball. We added four more points to our total for first place. Unfortunately, we were not quite so lucky in the Over-Under Relay, but really it was not a big deal since we were doing so well in the tallies. At the end of the third even, we had eight points and the next three contenders each had five points. All we needed to guarantee a tie was one point in the final game.

Tug'0'War is not a competition you would usually think brainy kids could win, but actually there is strategy here as well. One of the boys on our team worked out the two rules to follow: First, keep your feet and hands moving all the time, and second, sync up those movements. It was amazingly successful. Our team pulled one opponent after another off their feet. I was screaming encouragement, and we ended up taking second place. The final scores were my class, eleven points, next highest team nine points. The crowd went wild. I told them they were my superlative class.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Counting It Up

Here's part of the to-do list for this week in numerical terms:


About a million--- The number of staples and pushpins to be removed from walls and boards

900--- The number of celebratory packaged cookies needing to be delivered to classrooms, by me, tomorrow during 4th period.

305--- The number of comment codes to be applied to student grade reports

240--- The number of textbooks to be inventoried and stored

105--- The number of grades to be reported

At least 100--- The number of times today I've told various kids to knock it off, pick it up, leave that alone, or stop touching him/her

72--- The number of computer parts needing to be bound, bagged, and stored in bins

65--- The number of goodbye cards I need to write to students

15--- The number of bookcases and shelves that must be fronted with butcher paper and taped shut to avoid getting industrial carpet cleaning soap on the books.

7--- The number of signatures I need on my check-out card before I can leave

31--- The number of teachers who need my signature (dept. chair) for summer check-out

2--- The number who have done this already

2--- The number of kids from my class who have already been excused (by the vice) from end of year festivities due to bad behavior

11--- The number of kid hours left in the school year