Friday, November 25, 2011


Things I learned this week -- from my 2nd science fair, and from Thanksgiving -- that I'm writing down so I won't forget.

Science Fair first, since it was something of a debacle. I had one class hour (20 students) in which only one student turned in a project. I'm still struggling with how much responsibility for that lies with me; this page details the entire process. What usually happens is that the students screw around until the last minute and then come up with something, but with this particular group of students, that did not happen. Astoundingly, only one other group turned in a project on Wednesday. What are the other ones waiting for? The majority of them had their data and their reports drafted -- all they needed to do was type them up and make a display board. I don't get it.

Next time (if there is a next time):
* submit the facility request form (now that I know it exists) for the gym when the schedule is set
* find out the schedule for benchmark testing for language arts and math, since they either take over the computer lab or screw up the schedule, or both
* find out the schedule for standardized testing for high school, because it screws up the schedule for junior high even though no junior high students are testing
* make the all the projects due at the beginning of school on the first day of the science fair so the judges have more time
* review the rubrics with the judges to smooth out the extremes (everything was great! everything was a mess!)

Things that worked well: requiring complete typed rough drafts from the students was very helpful to the groups that did them. Making the students evaluate at least five other student presentations worked well and forced the students to look at other projects in more depth. The timing -- Thanksgiving week -- seems insane but is actually awesome, because the students know it's a short week and don't want to do anything, anyway, and then there's the four day weekend to plow through all the grading.

Wednesday was a full day at school, but even with breaking down the science fair, I still got home around 4PM, which gave me plenty of time to cook.

Thanksgiving was a vastly more pleasant experience.

* Brine for an already-injected frozen, then defrosted turkey: 2/3 cup kosher salt, 2/3 cup sugar, 1 gallon of water; 12-14 hour brining time for a very large bird.

* Cutting up the turkey before brining and roasting it is awesome. I roasted the back (for soup) while the pies were baking on Wednesday. On Thursday, I sliced carrots, celery, and onion very thinly and scattered the pieces over (double, heavy-duty, lots of extra at the edges) foil-lined sheet pans. The whole breast and one wing fit on one pan, the legs, thighs, and other wing on another. I brushed the pieces with melted butter and gave them a little salt, then roasted at 400 for about 2 hours. (These were pieces from a 22-pound bird). I checked them periodically and added chicken stock to the pans if the vegetables where charring. The meat came out perfect, and made excellent drippings for gravy that were easy to handle -- I just picked up the foil and poured off the liquid. Clean up was a snap, too.

* The cranberry apricot pecan relish needs a lot more ginger than I thought it does.

* Gingersnaps make an awesome crust for a pumpkin pie.

* Microwave cooking a full pot of green beans takes longer than microwaving a few servings.

* Store bought rolls may be easy but the home made ones are so much better. I just need to suck it up and make my own.

* Peeling and cubing the squash before cooking it is a lot easier to deal with than cooking the whole squash and trying to get the edible parts separated from the peel.

* The pies won't overcook if you don't overfill them.

* Check and make sure there's still molasses in the cupboard before starting to bake.

* When making meringue, the instructions that say "add sugar gradually" are not kidding.

* Making cranberry sauce on the stove top, and letting it cook for (at least) 10 minutes, as the recipe dictates, works a lot better than using the microwave.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

a day off

So many times I would've typed "a day, off" -- but not today.

Today was a day to count blessings, so I did.

Monday, October 31, 2011

no more jack-o-lanterns

This is the first year in all the years we've lived in this house, I think -- 13 years -- that we haven't carved pumpkins. It was always my job to rustle up some candles from somewhere so I could light them and put them in the pumpkins out front. And then I had to remember to go out later, much later than the last trick-or-treaters, to blow out the candles and bring in the pumpkins, before they got smashed in the street. This year no one in the house wanted to do it, so we didn't.

DS1 opted out this year, knowing he'll be able to share his younger siblings' candy. DD and DS2 are wearing sensible footwear (as opposed to the pre-teen in stiletto heels who just left the door) and will probably be out with DH for another hour, hauling back more candy than they will even want to eat.

While at home things seem less stressed than usual, I'm dreading the rest of this week at school. Children on an all-candy diet don't listen or learn well. Best not to think of that, and enjoy watching Alice's excitement with each new group of children at the door.

She's very patient, and only occasionally
tries to fish a lollipop out of the candy bowl.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

pilfering trifles

Today I discovered the latest in an ongoing series of minor thefts from my classroom: the toy cars I'd bought last year for the 8th graders to use in our physics unit. So far this year, I've "lost"

- Basher Science: Rocks and Minerals: A Gem of a Read


- a set of 4 fine-tipped dry erase markers... one at a time... from my desk

- a lovely brain coral specimen that was given to me by a student

- a gallon-size ziploc bag of more than two dozen Sharpies and other permanent markers

- 18 Matchbox cars

The bag of Sharpies was in one of my desk drawers, all the way in the back, behind a divider. The Matchbox cars were in a plastic lunchbox from Disneyland, in a closed cabinet by my desk.

Somehow, I made it through the school year last year without losing these things (well, not the dry erase markers).

Every time this happens, I get upset. It's not the money. I have these things so that my students can use them, and so they are just stealing from themselves. It makes me very sad.

I need to figure out how to let this kind of thing go, but I'm not there yet.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


Tomorrow begins the second quarter of school, already... fall break was just a week but seemed like more.

DD & I flew into Boston for a quick trip out to see how Mom is recovering. In a word: splendidly.

Mom with one brother & his family

We were very lucky to hit the end of Indian Summer. There's something glorious about swimming in the Atlantic in October, when the water is tolerably cool and incredibly clear. We walked clear to the tip of Chapaquoit, with crowds of sandpipers fleeing before us.

Non-plussed, they'd just scurry a few feet away and wait for us to catch up to them.

We packed a lot into a few days: beach, shopping, cupcakes, Woods Hole... best of course was seeing family, including my newest grand-nephew.

Then home again, for piano lessons and assorted appointments and two days of a debate tournament. That left just today for getting ready for the week to come. Second quarter -- I'm taking a deep breath now because I won't be able to get another until Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

round peg, square hole

I cleaned up some graffiti in a girls' bathroom at work today, and now it seems as if I may catch flak for it.

The question keeps arising: what am I doing there?

Only two more days of classes until fall break, and a quick trip out to see Mom, who is nicely recovering from all her procedures. Yay!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

being a philosopher...

... I have a problem for every solution.

That's one of the quotes I heard -- the topic for an Impromptu speech -- at the speech & debate festival I attended with DS1 today. It was a long day, but very satisfying in many ways. I don't get too much intellectual stimulation during my normal routine. Today I remembered how I felt as a college freshman, surrounded by other people who weren't ashamed of the fact that they were smart, or beyond smart. When I got out of school and started working, it took a while for the expectation of brilliance to wear off. I ran into all sorts of problems, usually minor, because I wasn't taking into account the fact that not everyone thinks the way I do.

I still get hassled by my students when I throw some unusual (for them) vocabulary their way (I think everyone should know, for example, what wretched means). They don't see the point, and when I try to explain to them that limited vocabulary means a limited ability to think, the majority of them don't see that as a downside.

So all of this... intellectual stimulation is setting of a cycle of introspection regarding where I am now and whether or not it is the kind of place I really should be in. I am feeling very square-peg-in-a-round-hole after today, because at the festival, I felt as if I belonged. At my school, I belong only because I've carved out a space for myself and everyone else just has to accept the fact that I'm there. I acutely feel how different I am from everyone else, both faculty and staff.

Not that anything is changing. This is just me spinning my wheels again, finding the problems where they don't exist.

Speaking of: Mom's pace maker was implanted without any incidents, and she is back home again. Her case for valve replacement as part of the clinical trial goes before the review board this week, and her doctor is hoping to schedule her for the procedure before the end of the month. She sounds good but tired, and I have been distracted and disturbed all week by being so far away. Talking on the phone doesn't help that much, and even though I know she would tell me to stay home and take care of my family and my work, I still want to be there, with her.

My u/s report came back OK, I guess. The lymph nodes they saw on the left are gone, replaced by lymph nodes on the right. The catch in my throat when I swallow appears to be the result of scar tissue. I'll ask the ENT about that when I see him in a couple of weeks.

So, it's good. I have to stop thinking past the good to the potential bads lurking behind it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

today & tomorrow

It's the sixth week of school, and some days are heaven and some are... more like today. Today was one of those days when, in a less-than-ideal situation, you find yourself making less-than-ideal choices. And having started down that path, I found myself pushed along it, prevented from taking another by all of the other people around me. Specifically, in dealing with a particularly needy student, all of the other students piling in didn't help, and in those moments, the sense of everything slipping away was quite real.

The reality is, a student who won't work, won't hush, and won't leave the classroom when told to do so leaves me very few choices, and waiting for the dean of students to arrive to escort the student out still leaves my class ground to a halt. There has to be a better way, I just haven't figured it out yet.

Part of what made today difficult was waiting for news about my mom, who was scheduled for a pace maker. And then later un-scheduled, or re-scheduled, as the OR was booked for an emergency, or something. All of this is happening hundreds of miles and 3 times zones away. I feel like an amputee waiting for nerve sensations that literally can't happen.

Tomorrow I'm handing off one of my classes for an appointment with my endocrinologist to get the results of my September 1st ultrasound. I have been vaguely unsettled since then, probably for no good reason, but -- I've had a lot of these ultrasounds. I couldn't see the screen, so I have no idea what the tech was seeing. But I do know what the little tapping noises + beep means: measuring something,and taking an image. The tech measured a lot and took a lot of images. Of what, again, I don't know, but I do know that there was roughly twice as much measuring and beeping as last time. Maybe that's just a personal preference thing with the technicians (although I wouldn't think so.) I see what I'm doing here, which is making myself crazy, and I'm trying not to do that. There's no reason to think I have a recurrence.

I'm going to stick with that thought, at least until tomorrow morning when I find out that there is no recurrence, and that Mom's pace maker is in and she's fine, and we're all as all right as we can be.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

here lies the difficulty

I'm finally on antibiotics to rid myself of nasty little sinus infection, but that's not the problem. And I'm on a regular dose of NSAIDS to help calm the (likely) tendonitis in my shoulder, but that's not the problem, either.

The real problem is this sense of wanting, needing, to be in two places at once. Of having way too much time on my hands while at the same having way too much to do.

I haven't figured out how write here, either. There are things I could say when I wasn't working and my children were a lot younger and I could afford, frankly, to sound a bit off. When one is recovering from cancer, people tend to make allowances if you're overly emotional from time to time. But as I continue my fairly convincing impersonation of a healthy person, that sort of thing doesn't fly anymore.

On Talcott Mountain, experimenting with the camera's self-timer

Anyway, summer's almost over and I haven't written a word (here or anywhere else) about last year, or this year's vacations, or anything. I hope to, when I figure out how.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

"Everything happened so fast"

I think it's funny that's it's summer again and there's still a post from last summer on the main page. At this time last year I was dealing with intractable headaches and getting my kids ready for summer school. I was still working on my teacher certification courses but in employment limbo. The only thing I knew for sure was that all three kids would be on the same school campus again in the fall, and that freed up the possibility of me working again during the school year.

We took our usual long summer vacation back East.

I got a job teaching 7th and 8th grade general science.

The kids started at their new school.

I switched to Rio Salado's Teacher In Residence program so I could finish my courses without having to do practicums and student teaching in another classroom.

DH's business partner was lost in a freak diving accident.

Mom went on a two-week cruise which was lovely until she came down with some kind of intestinal bug. She spent the last four or five days unable to eat or drink and ended up getting IV fluids. Then she basically didn't eat or drink for several more days and ended up needing two (3?) emergency surgeries for severe dehydration.

At Christmas, we visited with Mom at my brother's in New Orleans for a week, and then spent all the rest of our time off working diligently on all three kids' projects: DS1 built a scale model of a medieval castle, DD did a science project with dry ice, and DS2 did a research report on the Temple of Caesar.

I finished my last class for my teacher certification program.

I survived my first science fair. My RE students all made their sacraments. DS1, DD, and DS2 completed their next levels of the Arizona Study Program and made purple belt with black stripe in karate.

I had my final classroom observations for my teacher certification program.

In the last full week of May, the kids played brilliantly in their graduation recital, DS2 had a chorus concert, my 8th grade students graduated, and DS1 graduated.

School has been out now, for me, a week -- for the kids, that will be tomorrow. I picked up my Institutional Recommendation from Rio and now have my provisional teaching certificate. (That's what the Dept of Ed calls the full certificate the first two years you hold it.) I have a contract to teach next year.

Mom's home, and while she recovered from the effects of the emergency surgery well, she is still not very strong. We're heading out soon to spend the summer with her.

That is, of course, the bare bones. DH took over getting the kids their breakfasts and lunches during the school week, although often DS2 and I made a huge batch of pancakes on Sunday to get them through a big chunk of the week. Grocery shopping became a shared task, too, as DH did errands on the weekend while I was busy with school work. There were a lot of things that happened every week: lesson planning, grading, talking to parents, teaching RE, checking my own kids' homework, piano lessons, karate. More sporadically, thyroid cancer support, although that is really tapering off as more and more people look to social networking sites for their support needs.

It feels as if all this happened to someone else.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

4 weeks to go

It's May, suddenly -- and I'm just about through with my first year teaching full-time. I would have to write a book about it to avoid understatement, but I'll settle for more blog posts over the summer when I have time. Extraordinary amounts of time were consumed by lesson planning and grading and things I hadn't even imagined I'd have to do, like moving furniture (don't ask).

I'm really, really looking forward to a true summer off -- from teaching and from my own classes, too. Two more observations and a bit of writing and I'm done! Took me long enough, hmmm?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

slogging through

Very, very busy -- so busy we still (still!) haven't sent out the Happy New Year cards we had made up, since we were so busy we missed the window for sending out Christmas cards. Perhaps we'll get them out this weekend.

We've built castles, researched Roman architecture, investigated dry ice, pretty much completely redone DD's room, and took a family trip to New Orleans. Personally, I finally finished my last teacher prep course at Rio Salado, now all I have to do is survive my student teaching gig (through this year) and I'll get my institutional recommendation from Rio, and I should be all set.

I don't think I've ever worked so hard in my life, and given that I used to be a software developer, that's saying something. Next year will be easier, because I'll have all the lesson plans, notes, and materials already. This year, though, I have to write up every content lesson's notes, assemble all the worksheets, make the word walls (thank God for 3M's $30 laminater.) And develop all the quizzes and tests... not to mention the grading. And calling/emailing parents.

As I said, very busy. Looking forward to the upcoming long weekend.