Thursday, December 30, 2010

To resolute or not to resolute: January

With the new year upon us in a day, I've been thinking about possible resolutions or goals for 2011. I have so many ideas and they are all such BIG ideas, its overwhelming and I'm not sure I can find the level of detail for them all to satisfy my need. I try very hard to create goals for myself that are (1) reasonable, (2) measurable, and (3) framed in a time period. So far my ideas include such things as.... (but not limited to...)

(a) do more knitting and crocheting with some specific ideas and goals
(b) develop and establish good routines for good household management
(b) get the herb garden going
(c) plan the summer/fall garden

Unfortunately, these are not measurable, there's no time frame (for some of them) and I'm doubtful such broad and sweeping goals are reasonable (especially a & b). So, I'm thinking to break down the goals into monthly goals. That's what flylady does after all, so it must work at some level. I can figure out what is reasonable for the month (1 or 2 things), I have a month to focus on that habit/goal and with fewer items I can add the detail I desire.

So, for January 2011... my goals are:

(a) Finish the "February Lady Sweater". I've only got the sleeves left, even if I am feeling frustrated with them.
(b) figure out or develop and establish good kitchen habits, including sorting out the pantry regularly, cleaning out the fridge regularly, and do a menu weekly (with shopping list). I am not too far from the weekly menu and shopping list (it happens on most weeks), but the other two need work. My pantry is scary to look in right now and the fridge needs some wiping down.

How do others handle new year resolutions? Do you establish year long goals for yourself, and if so, do you keep and obtain them?

Monday, December 13, 2010

And its a ....

Can you guess? Today, was the ultrasound to look at anatomy, and we got 8 pictures of our little boy. He's a cutie!

Here you can see him from the side quite well, with his little hands up around his head.

We saw his arms, legs, face, fingers, feet, heart, ribs, spine and numerous other bits and pieces. We also have a very clear picture of his boys parts that I just can find in my heart to post.  I've started to feel him move, and each day I feel a bit more; I'm utterly thrilled at the movements I feel. I know, I know, I'll get tired of it at some point, but I'm not starting there, and I'll stay in the utterly thrilled stage just as long as I can.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Belly Pic

Now, I'm stinking excited about the baby belly that is forming on me. I know not all women find the changes in pregnancy the most becoming, and this is certainly different from anything I've experienced before. Sure, I dealt with widening hips at 24, and the rounding off of angles (into curves) at 26, but this is quite unique. I'm so excited about the baby inside, I can't help but be excited about the belly showing off to the world that there is a baby inside!

The main event of this post:
It's a baby belly!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Flow in the Kitchen

As my previous post was related to one of my favorite blogs, so this one is.  Auntie Leila mentioned thinking about how your kitchen flows when you are working in, so I started thinking. I realized I had a pretty good system that only needed a bit of tweaking.

So... here goes. I hope I can express well my thoughts and that you, oh, reader, will understand.

When I started working on the kitchen -- (in the midst of making bread and dishes not done... just being honest!)

The right side holds the sink, the dishwasher and cabinets. Plates and bowls are in the cabinet above the dishwasher. Drinking glasses and mugs are in the cabinet just to the right of the sink and all tupper-style containers in the cabinets to the lower right of the sink. (Hubby created a wonderful organization system for the lids.) When I was still drinking coffee, pre-pregnancy, the coffee maker sat under the paper towel roll.

This counter space stays busy. Dirty dishes go on the right and clean dishes to the left; that makes it easy to put still wet tupper-style containers in the dish drainer.

One the left side of the kitchen is the fridge, the stove, microwave and plenty of cabinets. Pots and pans are in the drawer on the bottom of the stove, my container of cooking utensils, such as spatulas and spoons, is to the right of the stove, and the knives to the left. All the things I use for cooking are on this side: spices are in the cabinet to the upper left of the stove, measuring cups in the cabinet to the upper left of the stove and in the drawer just to the left. Mixer, rice maker, griddle, tortilla press, food processor (and several more small electrical appliances) live in the cabinets to the lower left of the stove.

The kitchen is just the right width for me. Someone can work on each side and still move freely, in fact, over Thanksgiving I think we had 5 women maneuvering around each other (it got crowed, for sure). The pantry is at the far end of the left side (open door), and the laundry room is at the far end on the right side (see the laundry waiting?). The kitchen triangle is pretty good; this is the lines between the stove, fridge and sink. They should flow easily and not be blocked by anything (ideally, I think). There is plenty of counter space and cabinet storage. Should I get the chance to design a kitchen there are things I'd do differently, but this isn't too bad, at all.

I gave it all some thought. I realized I do most of my chopping, mixing, etc on the counter to the left of the stove, but its crowded there with the microwave and toaster there. The knife holder should be there, with all the veggy chopping to do there. Often, I end up doing some on the counter next to the sink, b/c my preferred counter is too crowed for work. My cookbook, if I have one, will often block the microwave, thus shuffling is required to warm water for bread or some such. I've given up coffee for the pregnancy, so that cabinet had some more room. After making sure Hubby was okay with the changes, I moved the microwave to under the paper towel roll, along with the toaster next to it. I did some more clearing off and picking up and now have this:

I now I have a nice, wide open space to do all the chopping, mixing and kneading my cooking requires of me. The ride side counter is a tad crowded, but I think it better to have one crowded, one open counter, than to have 2 semi-crowded counters. I'll see how this works, and might make more changes, but I don't want to make too many at once. There will be habits to change as locations change.

So, reader, what do you think? Let me know what you think of my lay out and my ideas, and I pass the challenge on to you to consider the flow in your kitchen and how can you make it better.

Shortly-after update: I decided to put a towel on the drawer handle that is just to the right of the sink as a dedicated hand towel. The towels on the stove, I think, should be dedicated to cooking and hand wiping while cooking -- then they can get dirty all I need without worry about drying my hands on them (or drying clean dishes).

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Kitchen Sink

Well, not exactly, but the shelf behind the kitchen sink. For better or worse it, it opens into the living room. Not all bad, I can watch TV or a movie while washing dishes, which is nice. (except trying to cut back TV and movies!). I somewhat wish it was a window outside, but I'm quite happy how it is.

I was inspired to clean up the area, so I could post a link on one of my favorite blogs.

Here is the before:

A bit cluttered, and all those pots and pan in the drainer block the fun frog dish. So, I spend about 2 minutes, cleaned it off and arranged.....
 The frog dish was a gift from a good friend back in LA when we were leaving. I keep jewlry in it; like when I need to take rings off to cook and such. The plates and cups were gifts many years ago from someone who was more my Mom's friend than mine.  The small red candle was a thank you gift from my aunt at Thanksgiving. The angle holding a baby is a gift from my mother-in-law soon after we discovered we were pregnant. The tarnished silver creamer and sugar are from Hubby's grandfather's collection. They are due for a shining, which I hope to do soon. :P And the candle I bought on the candle warmer I purchased years ago. I enjoy the candle warmer, except that it uses up the scent without using up the wax, so its hard to know when  candle is spent (and I haven't have an effect smeller in several weeks).  I have pump bottles for dish washing soap (left side, white) and hand soap (right side, clear), and a fly catcher (the sink traps are hard to dry and attract the little fruit flies -- easiest way to control them).

I try to keep the sink shiny (Thanks, FLYLady!), and hubby helps keep it empty.  I hope to show the flow of my kitchen soon, I think I've got it mostly figured out.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sinuses and relief

Finally, after watching me suffer over the last 4 or 5 weeks, my sweet, sweet coworker, office-mate and fellow science teacher, Kat, encouraged me to call the Doc. I was feeling particularly miserable today, as I couldn't breath through my nose AT ALL and I'd had a bad night with sinuses, Hubby saying I woke him from snoring at least once (oh, that's bad!). So, I called.

I chatted with the nurse for a few minutes and she declared that no, this was not 'pregnancy stuffiness' but likely a full blown sinus infections (based on colors and duration). This evening, after a bit of run around, I talked with the doctor on call and got the low down. She issued a prescription, which Hubby is currently picking up from the store, and told me to take guaifenesin and dextromethorphan (expectorant and cough suppressent). Looks like I'm finally on the way to recovery -- should have called weeks ago!

I'm also glad to find that I'm not doomed to such crazy sinus congestion for the duration of my pregnancy, that was beginning to sound utterly miserable. As of 830 this evening, I'm still stuffy and mostly miserable, but hopeful for the morning.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Life, School and Stuffiness

Life continues as per normal. Hubby is stressed over those last 2 papers to write. I don't blame him at all, I'd be wound up over them, too. Especially when the class grade is based on that one paper. Previously, during the 3 weeks of crazy paper writing time, he worked well enough that the last few days weren't all that bad. I sure hope this round works out the same. He is quite disciplined with his time, but its still hard to get yourself to work when you are tired.

Tonight, I'm feeling pretty good. Thanksgiving was great, and I had a wonderful time with all the family in. Last minute, I discovered we only had 11 forks, so I used a plastic fork. I had 12 knives, and 12 spoons... and 12 adults! Luckily, the toddler wasn't using silverware, nor was the newborn (6 weeks -- that would be my sister's little boy). We ended up with 12 adults, a toddler, a baby and 2 not-yet-born-babies! Quite a full house. I had a ton of fun playing house all week and was feeling great by week's end.

Then, the week back to school was very up and down. By the end of last week, I was weary and tired and still stuffy (still am, in fact), and Saturday evening I was feeling quite miserable. I began to wonder if I was coming down with another cold! But it passed and quickly, so I think it was just the stress/tired/weary effects. Today, Monday, was pretty good. In fact, I got all the current grading done this evening while watching Dr. Who (season 5). I've got a biology final to write, which is the big stressful thing on my plate currently -- but, as a plus -- finals week makes for a much easier schedule for me at school. I'm very much looking forward to it.

A little over a week ago, I thought I might have felt baby move, but I'm not sure. There have been a few times that I wondered if it was baby, my digestive track, or my imagination moving, so who knows. Next Monday, we go for the ultrasound to check anatomy (and find out gender!), and a good MD friend said that would really help me identify if its baby moving or not. He said I'd see the baby move in the ultrasound, feel it and know what I was feeling. So, here's to hoping!

I'm off to bed, now. I'm making for early nights these days, to see if I can make it through the day with out crashing at 230 or 3 pm. Hope all out there have a good sleep tonight and find themselves refreshed in the morning!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Playing House

This week is looking like so much fun! I'm getting to play housewife, and so far, I'm loving it. The laundry is almost done, I got the back patio swept off, I cleaned out/organized the chest freezer, and cleaned out the fridge. And its not even 10 am.

As I folded some laundry earlier, I thought about how I'll get to play housewife more often next summer and fall, and I'll get to play mommy, too. And after getting to play mommy for a few years, I'll get to play teacher again with a class of 1 or 2 (maybe more?). Life is looking good, even if my sinuses are still stuffy and my ears feel stobbed up.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A room with a view (and a sound system)

According to "What to Expect", week 16 means:

Your baby now weighs in at a whopping three to five ounces, and he's four to five inches in length. The bones that are now in place in his ears means he can probably hear your voice as you talk to your partner and pals and sing in the car. While he’s getting used to your voice, the tiny muscles in his body, especially the ones in his back, are gaining strength, so he can straighten out a little more. And thanks to his developing facial muscles, your baby is capable of making a few expressive frowns and squints, even at this early stage. (Don’t worry, those frowns have nothing to do with the sound of your voice!) And his eyes are finally working, making small side-to-side movements and perceiving light (although the eyelids are still sealed). Peekaboo!

Its fun to think about baby being able to see (somewhat) and hear (at least me). Of course, baby will learn that my voice changes.... with the changing sinuses! Its rather nasaly right now, more so than usual. 

Speaking of which, the sinuses are feeling better. I've still got some stuffiness and I'm still taking the antihistamine, but I don't feel overly bad. I'm trying to arrange the schedule so I get more sleep, as that always helps me feel better. The power naps aren't doing much right now.... it takes me 5 to 10 minutes to drift off, and after 10 minutes I'm rather groggy. I'm sure I'll get the hang of it, but I'll work to do that when I'm feeling more on top of the game. For now, I will work to get the 30 minute to hour nap.

I did realize that I've been pushing myself too hard. I got a small cold sore on my lip (which has healed up rather quickly, thank goodness). That's a stress signal.... must slow down... a week off will help.

Friday, November 19, 2010

November slump | brain open now

November slump | brain open now

One of my google reader "friends" (unsure what else to call him, though he is also a coworker) shared this link today. However, if you aren't a teacher, you won't likely find the post all that interesting.

I believe I am in a slump, a November slump since it is November, but I think my slump is from being busy and tired and feeling like I have too much to do. I hope/plan to be proactive over the Thanksgiving break to remedy this. Goals include:

1. Lots of sleep to regain control over the sinuses.
2.Lots of sleep to just feel better in general.
3. Host a fun Thanksgiving with the family coming in town.
4. Get more sleep to be ready for the 3 week run to Christmas Holiday.

Sound reasonable?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


True misery  has got to be something more than anything I've experienced. It seems to include not just physically hurting, but a depressed spirit and tired and hungry soul. Thus, I'm reluctant to describe myself as miserable at the moment, but it is sure close.

Last Sunday I realized how very stuffy I was. I didn't feel that bad, so I called it allergies and stopped drinking milk (which tends to make me stuffy). Wednesday afternoon, I was feeling pretty bad, and though I finished the day teaching, I skipped staff meeting and mock trial for which I am faculty sponsor. I went home and slept a hour, then went to bed early, but didn't feel any better on Thursday.  By the the weekend, I still wasn't feeling much better, and was firmly thinking it was allergies. This week, I'm not so sure. Tuesday morning I was feeling miles better and my sinuses were starting to clear. This morning, I felt quite good, and even the right side was starting to clear (blowing my nose like crazy, hard to teach when the  nose is dripping so much stuff). This afternoon, however, my right side sinuses are clogged again, and my head is really starting to ache.

I have successfully made it with no drugs so far. Doc has given me permission to take a few specific ones, but I'd rather not. Alas, I might succumb tonight to the pseudophephidrine (unsure of spelling -- its the decongestant). Overall, I guess its better to take the drug and avoid a sinus infection than go drug free and suffer the sinus infection. Aren't the antibioitics worse? Had one friend who got a sinus infection in the last month of her pregnancy and the doc made her wait till she'd given birth to take antibiotics. Ah, well, I'm likely being way over dramatic anyhow.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Would anyone have an extra time I could use? I'm running short these days and would really like a bit extra to tide me over. I've found that after allotting a full measure of time to sleeping (otherwise, I'm miserable and those around me are likely miserable because of me), and the other things I MUST do (mostly school stuff), I don't have much left over to do the things I really love to do. I promise to treat your time gently, and will return it in as excellent a shape as you loaned it to me.

Alas, I wish I could borrow or buy additional time. Lately, I've felt like my time is filled with all those things that MUST be done... dishes, cooking, grocery shopping, school work (grading, lesson planning) and sleeping. I have knitted in a few weeks, I'd like to do some sewing. I'd love to knit socks, but feel like I should finish the sweater first, but who knows when that will happen. I'm really looking forward to the week of Thanksgiving, I get the whole week off (after a Saturday inservice).  But I know I will need to grocery shop, cook and clean, though I'm hoping that these things don't swamp my time.

I have ideals of having time to do more than just what MUST be done next summer and next year (I'll be part time next year), but perhaps that is a naive illusion? I'm sure I will find out!


PS. It started raining yesterday, that might be contributing to my mood.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hardships: coffee and tomatoes

So far, the greatest hardship of pregnancy has been giving up coffee. I really miss coffee. I'm sure I will start back with decaff towards the end of the pregnancy, but that seems so far away right now.

And it frosted last night. Not much, just a tad on the car windshield. I just hope the tomato flowers survived! I know tomatoes don't like it too chilly. Ah, well, I know I was taking quite the risk planting them as late as I did.  I know better for next year. I thought it was awfully chilly getting up this morning and the windows weren't even open (glad they weren't!). I should get out later today and check and water everything. From the window, the garden still looks good; I don't think it got all that cold last night. As it was only the car windshield with any ice on it, I'm guessing that it frosted up higher in the atmosphere and landed on the car, but that the ground is warm enough that won't near freezing for many more weeks (if at all before the new year).

In other news, I heard baby's heartbeat at the doctor on Thursday. About 156 beats per minutes, Doc said. I had been thinking we could find out the baby's gender at the next appointment, but I learned this time that the sonogram for checking out baby's anatomy and such is a separate appointment -- sometime the week of Dec 6 (they will call me to set up the appointment). Bummer! We will have to wait an extra 2 weeks! Ah, well, we will still know before Christmas.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Baby, Habits and Household

One blog that I read regularly (its in my google reader) is Today, she posted about getting her household organized and her commitment to get this done. Its a funny thing, as I've seen two TV shows recently about hoarders and the situations they create (neither where actually about hoarders, but the hoarders provided a plot point). And then, this morning's sermon was over James 5:1-6 and the lure money has on us (brief reference to hoarding money and possessions given). So, it seems I'm hearing, seeing and reading about things and stuff quite a bit recently. Could just be my perception.

Anyhoo, all this discussion of things and stuff has me thinking about our household. We do pretty good and the house is C.H.A.O.S.* free most days. And I have fairly good habits to keep it that way. I tend to clean and do laundry on Saturday (or other day off), and grocery shop on Monday afternoons. Honestly, the carpet hasn't be vacuumed in a few weeks, but by in large, these chores are kept up with. No, I don't do it to the level of my true satisfaction, but its good enough. Good enough is the level of doneness that I give to those things that really are not all that important. Honestly, will weekly vacuumed carpet keep my relationship with Hubby good? No, it won't. But making sure we have something reasonable to eat each evening will impact my relationship with Hubby, both by just providing for him and making sure both of our blood sugar levels are adequate for general life. So, that say, I feel okay about where my house stands on the housekeeping standards, especially while I'm working full time and growing a baby. Different times of life call for different priorities, especially when it comes to housekeeping.

There are two areas of the house that really do need some work... decluttering or organizing or just putting away stuff. First is the office closet. Its really not that bad, but when this room becomes the nursery, where is all this stuff going to go? That may be an issue to be dealt with when the room is truly converted. Second is the guest bedroom closet. This, unfortunately, has become my dumping ground for all things without a home. The room itself needs some picking up, but its not bad compared to the closet. I really need to think through these items... should they stay and just be organized? Or does it need to be thrown away or given away? Do I need to acquire some shelves to add some organization? Ah, decisions, decisions, decisions.

As for the baby front, I'm feeling pretty good. My belly has started to "pop" just a touch and one pair of beloved pants have been outgrown. But, I am in luck, a good friend blessed me with a large stash of maternity clothes, so I'm set for the next 6 months. The hard part has been finding a place for all the clothes, as I now have more maternity clothes than I had of regular clothes previously. I have more than doubled my wardrobe. My plan is to trade out regular clothes as I outgrow them for maternity clothes so that I shouldn't need to buy a slew more hangers. Some of these clothes are just so cute! I'm excited to get to wear them. In fact, I wore some today, and the outfit is quite comfy.

I have rambled enough for today, I think, and I should get this grading done. Or take a nap. Hmmmmmm........

*Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome -- its a word.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Nephew

Huck Brown -- born 10/13/2010 about 700 pm. 8 lbs 11 oz, 21 inches. Loved by many. And here he is with his favorite Aunt (at least in my opinion, he was very happy in my arms):

This was the first time I'd held a baby this young. He's only about a hour or two old and was just the sweetest thing. He was looking around and even trying to lift his head. What an amazing baby!

Baby Changes

Suddenly, with a baby on the way, I have many ideas of what I need to adjust and change to both accommodate baby and to make our home a safe and secure place for all three of us. I've already found myself being much more intentional about what I eat, and I hope this new found discipline will carry over into other parts of my life also.

The biggest change I can see is the need to cut out much of the TV/movies I watch. I love just having something on while I do mundane activities, like wash dishes, cook, fold laundry, knit, grade and any number of other things. But, I know from 0 to 2 years, baby shouldn't watch any TV. Both common sense and research shows it messes with development that isn't made up later in life. I've considered cutting back on TV slowly over the next 6 months, or just going cold turkey in 6 months. Going cold turkey sounds appealing right now, with no changes to be made at the moment. But I think it is a wiser choice to cut back over the next 6 months and replace this habit with other habits. Perhaps I need to turn the radio on more, or put on CDs of music, radio drama, books on CD, or lectures. Over the past few days, I've made a point to not turn on the TV until later in the evening and for only 2 hours, and the silence is nice, but the mind-emptying activities are driving me near bonkers.  I know I'll figure it out. I grew up with very little TV and I don't remember being bored all that much as a child. I'm creative enough that something will occur to me (I hope!).

I do want to add in reading more books. I've stopped reading all that much lately (last few years), I feel like I just don't have the time. I'm outside working in the garden, or knitting and watching TV, things that aren't compatible with book reading. But I think its worth it to give some time each day to reading, even though it seems so generally unproductive. There are plenty of good non-fiction books to read and some excellent fiction books that are worth the time. I can't just replace TV with books, b/c I don't JUST watch TV -- I'm always doing something else (unless I'm sick or exhausted). But, both books and TV have their place, I just need to figure out what that place is in my home.

I'm sure I will find more things that need adjusting and changing before baby comes. There are plenty of more mundane things, like door latches and corner guards that should make an appearance not long after baby is born. I'm a list making woman, maybe I should start a list. I'd love to hear how others have done these things and what kind of habits you and your children have when it comes to occupying your time, please leave a comment, or a link to a blog post or some such with your thoughts, ideas and advice.

I'm off to try and make good use of this Friday off. Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Babies and Bellies

Alas, baby Huck has not made is appearance yet. His "official" due date was last Monday (Oct 4), that day came and went with little to-do. Alas, pray that all the details will work themselves out and Huck will make his appearance before Tuesday, that's when the schedule induction is. My poor sister is getting rather impatient, and so is the doctor.

My news is more about my belly than the baby. Hubby tells me that Saturday introduced Carnegie Stage 20 which means baby can make spontaneous movement because the brain connections have been made. It will be 6 more weeks before baby is big enough for me to feel it, though. Thus, what I have particularly noticed is that I can't get a favorite pair of blue jeans buttoned any more. That was quite the thrill when I realized that, I'm looking forward to growing a belly! So, Friday, for school, I used a hair band to thread around the button, through the button hole and back around the button. It added only, perhaps, 1/2 an inch, but that was all I needed. By the end of the day, my belly itched, though. I have wonderful coworkers and 2 or 3 were appropriately giddy and excited with me as I showed them my make-shift expansion.

Yesterday, I wore my comfy yoga pants, that should fit an even very large belly, and took myself to Target for a bellyband. I'd seen these online, and both my sister and a friend at school said I should get one. Its a smallish tube of stretchy fabric, quite simple. Basically, it fits around your pants at the waist and holds them in place even if the button is unbuttoned. Later on, it should help keep pants up when the big belly is pushing down and hold up too big maternity pants. I so wanted to use my new belly band, so I wore my favorite pants  with the belly band to the fair last night. I promise more about the fair in a moment. But, about the belly band....  it worked quite well. I'm going to have to make sure I collect a few longer shirts though. Pants that won't button seem to gape in the back some.

Now, the fair. That was a ton of fun; I got funnel cake and I love funnel cake. The main plan was to go to the rodeo. The cultural experience began in the line to get into the parking lot. It was very long. Then, we discovered it was $5 to park, cash only and the line was long. I hope out to get in line to buy tickets while Hubby parks the car, and discover its cash only to buy tickets. I called Hubby and Hubby called a classmate (who was already there) to ask about borrowing cash (like we carry cash!). We got some cash, got our tickets and made it into the rodeo. (cash only was a bit of a culture shock, but it kept the line moving fast) We ended up sitting in the nose-bleed section, so we could see well, but no details. Plus the time clock was mostly blocked and the big screen T.V. was blocked completely. But at least we got to see the events clearly. Hubby and I tried to figure out the intricacies of each event as it happened, were the guys holding on with one hand or two hands, were they roping one leg or two. Neither of us really know enough about such things to be able to actually notice much, but it was fun. And I got funnel cake.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In other news....

My previous post was about our new car. Today's post is about something drastically more important, a much bigger change, and the whole reason to get a second car.

Yep, we are now parents. The little one is only 7.7 mm long and it will be 8  more months before we really meet. But we know he/she is there and we are praying for him/her regularly.  Here's the picture we have...

This baby  has been asked for in prayer for 3 years. I know that in the wide scope of things, 3 years isn't that long, but its long enough. We are so thankful to the Lord for this blessing and look forward expectantly to meeting this child.

I'M A MOMMY!!!!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fun New Stuff

I enjoy getting new things, but I just the biggest new thing (other than the house) that we've every purchased.

Its official, we are now a two car family; that seems absolutely crazy to me. Anaconda (the Saturn) was presenting with some issues (a/c stopped working for a time, rack and pinnion making noises) that made us begin thinking about a second car. Anaconda has been faithful for many years to take from LA to Texas and back again and even up to Wisconsin last Christmas. She gets great gas mileage (talking 45 - 50 mpg on the highway, 35-38 mpg in town). But her age is catching up to her. So, we searched and sought and came up with with this... a Hyundai Elantra. He is a stick shift, just like Anaconda, which we demanded and we have named him Land Shark. He is much fancier than Anaconda, who has only power brakes (no power stearing, no power anything!). Land Shark has power windows and locks and even cruise control! Quite the upgrade.

Why name him Land Shark? He also comes with XM radio capabilities and a little antenna on the back. It looks a bit like a fin, thus a fishy name came to mind.

We've really enjoyed the driving so far. He is very quite, and I love the cruise control. New stuff can be a ton of fun!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Garden and Life Update

Sweet Friends! Sorry it has been so long since my last post. I must learn to write when it strikes me and set it automatically post.

Anyhoo -- I got the fall garden planted. Lotsa, lotsa tomatoes: 4 roma plants, 3 amish paste, 3 mexico midgets, and 4 cherry romas. I put in 6 sweet peppers, as well, and need to put some garlic out in the midst of the plants. The two spicy pepper plants are still producing fruit, so I left them in. Plus, it rained last night and this morning, nearly an inch worth.  Yeah! It's September!

In other news, the adjustment to full time isn't as hard as I thought. The big downside is that I leave my household chores to Saturday and I still have school work for the weekends. So, for example, last Saturday was very full. Sunday was equally busy, with church in the morning, working all afternoon on school stuff and Fellowship Family in the evening. Ah, well, such is life, I guess.

My sister put together a 101 things to do in 1001 days. I'm quite tempted to join in and put together my own list, but is quite frightening. Well, we'll see what I get to.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dutch Profanities �Old Dutch invective Archive

Hope you are using a browser that will translate, 'cause its in Dutch. But who wouldn't want to know Dutch profanities? Chrome translated it for me automatically.

I might have to take note and see how many I can fit in a single conversation!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New microbe found eating Gulf oil spill - Disaster in the Gulf -

New microbe found eating Gulf oil spill - Disaster in the Gulf -

This is the most beautiful thing! There is a critter that EATS oil. Sure, there are always issues with some specific critter suddenly flourishing above and beyond anything its done before, but when the resource is gone, the population will decrease. My students thought this was the coolest thing ever. Probably helps that I was just about jumping up and down with excitement over it. If there is a niche to be filled, something will fill it. Such total coolness.

Add to it... BP was funding the $500 million, 10 year grant. Hmmmm.... I've doubted how 'evil' BP might be, and this points to more 'stupidity' involved in this leak than evilness.

I wonder what next cool thing we will discover!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

School has started, Life is busy

Well, as I expected posting is less now that school has started. I feel at a loss as to what to write about, even though there all sorts of little bits of news: I love my classes, school has started off quite well, I'm tired, my seedlings are HUGE, but its still too hot to plant them out in the garden, I did really good with the weekly home blessings this morning and we put together some fun stuff yesterday.

Part 1: School. 
This really is the bulk of my life these days. Luckily, I love teaching and I love figuring out how to educate my students in a way that is fun for all of us. I haven't implemented full-blown SBG, its more a blend between a more traditional grading system and SBG. The school admin wants to better understand what the impact SBG would have on grades and parental understanding of what the grades mean. I understand that. I might not love the response to SBG, but it works for me. I'll spend this year presented a good case for SBG.

In Logic 2 (8th grade-ish), we started reading Silent Spring. I think this might need its own blog post to describe the great time I'm having with it. We had a wonderful conversation in both classes as we read chapter 1 and part of 2. Carson paints a grim picture in chapter 1 and uses some major emotional language in chapter 2, so I tried to bring that out. We talked about what Carson is trying to convince us of, with the thought towards evaluating that claim after we've seen the book's argument. I love the intelligent conversation we can have! Its amazing the change that just 2 years brings in a child's development. The younger 2 grades, grammar 5 (5th) and grammar 6 (6th) both also went amazingly well. Last year had a rocky start, but with just one year of experience, I'm feel so much  more confident.

Part 2: Garden
The high today is 104'. ARGH!!!! When I figured out the timing for planting my seeds (so that they would be ready to plant out last week of Aug or first week of Sept), I took into account both seed packet times and how long it took in the spring. Nope -- Rachael got that wrong. Sort of a "duh" moment. Early spring is chilly, chilly, even here in Central Texas, and tomatoes and peppers will take what seems like forever to sprout and grow. With this heat, they will grow wonderfully fast, which would be good, except they are outgrowing the seedling containers. The seeds all sprouted in less and a week, and now they are starting to produce little bunches of flowers (the tomatoes, at least). Well, I guess I'll have to plant them out even in this heat and hope for the best. In the meantime, I've pinched off the flowers and I'll transplant to bigger containers this afternoon. Maybe I can put off putting them out another week.

Cayenne Pepper -- Still producing!
The crazy bit is that the cayenne pepper plant is still producing abundantly and I think its only getting water from the septic sprinklers -- I'm not watering it. I picked 20 some odd peppers this morning, and there are more flowers. Plus, all the leaf-footed bugs are gone, I can't find any stink bugs, and even the weeds are chilling out for now. I haven't watered but once a week ago or so; my plan was to let stuff petter out and give the garden a rest for Aug. The neighbors down the street, who I've never gotten over to talk to, completely cleared out their garden at the end of July and haven't planted it yet for the fall. (Maybe they won't, I've never asked.).

On the more poopy side, I usually handle heat fairly well, but lately its been really taking it out of me. But I'm also back working more than ever before, so who knows why I'm so tired. Probably a combination? Just makes for less garden time.

Part 3: Housekeeping.
I talked about my chore schedule rearrangement a few weeks ago, here it is. For two weeks now, I've aimed to do the weekly home blessing on Saturday morning, along with the laundry and other sorts of chores. Its worked quite well; it gets my Saturday off to a decent start and the house is wonderfully clean for Sunday and the start of the week. I still haven't figured out when to grocery shop (I think Thursday after school?) and menu planning is a hit and miss activity (aiming for Sunday afternoon), but things are going well for the most part.

Part 4: Fun Stuff
We know Hank likes high places, and we've put him on top of the TV cabinet a few times to see what he would do. We've discussed how to create a set of "stairs" for him to get up there on his own (and down), and went to the local hardware store to explore the creation of a PVC pipe contraption. I drew it out and we pondered what we needed and started looking at prices and figured out quick that would be $100 and up. So, nix that. Then Hubby had a wonderful idea! We got 2 simple plastic shelving units with 4 shelves each, got several pvc couplings, and put the shelves together so that the shelves alternate going up. We figure if Hank decides he's not interested, we have plenty of places we can use a set of shelves.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Google Books

Google Books

Wow, I love this! I can find boo-koos and boo-koos of full text books here. I can't save them or print them, but that's okay. I know I will still find myself bored at points, but I have little excuse. I've been using another site to track book reads, and I think it has the most up to date lists, but for the stuff I like to read over and over, this is the place to go.

Anyone else?

Monday, August 02, 2010

For the love of Sausage

We love sausage. It might possibly nature's perfect food, but then bacon is pretty good, too.  And we recently discovered we really enjoy grass-fed beef. We like the extra gamey flavor it offers, beyond. Perhaps it is better for us, even, which is icing on the cake. So, when one blog I follow offered a give away of grass-fed sausage sampler, I had to jump!

So, here is the advertisement for one entry! Go check it out, enter yourself, you just might find you LOVE grass-fed sausage (we might).

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Housekeeping, routines and life

Yep, I'm to more home bound topics on this post. School starts next week for me (teachers only, no students, yet) and I'm full time this year. Last year, I'd hoped to be full time, but it didn't work out for them, and I think it was a good thing for me. I was at school all day Monday, Wednesday and Friday and for a few hours Tuesday and Thursday afternoon. Despite my disappoint at not being full time, it worked well for me. I got lots done on T/Th mornings -- grocery shopping, cleaning, running errands. It left my Saturday free to play and catch up.

This year, I'll be at school 5 days a week, all day. I'm full time. For many you, you might be thinking, "yeah, normal life, what's the big deal?"  I've never worked "full time" before. The closest I've gotten is 39.5 hours a week at the local coffee shop right after graduating from college, but before leaving for China. And I was still paid hourly with no work to take home after hours. I have finally reached true adulthood. In my mid to late 20s, I'd begun to wonder if I really counted as a true adult. Sure, I had the years of living, but I was still a student and had never held a full time/salaried job.  That I wasn't married didn't help any (I know marriage shouldn't play into it, but it does sometimes). So, all that to say I finally have my first "real" full time job.

Luckily, I'm excited about what I'm going to teach, just in case you hadn't notice from reading my blog. But I'm nervous as well. I have a lot of things I want to work on, just to be a better teacher. Teaching more means less time to spend in homekeeping.  And I'm really into homekeeping, in theory at least.

I love the idea of keeping a nice house in good condition, company ready nearly all the time. I read, and enjoy, Martha Stewart Living, I follow and I've read, cover to cover, Home Comforts: The art and science of keeping house. I love this stuff. If you had a chance to look at my bookshelf, there are other books that point to my desire to read about and think about keeping house. When it comes to the practice, however, I feel like I can't keep up. There is a voice in the back of my head (and Hubby says, it too) that says I'm not doing that bad of a job. Not getting around to vacuuming except every few weeks is not the downfall of the family... it just means the carpet isn't as clean as I'd like.

Yes, this all has a point, I promise.

In preparation of teaching full time, I put together daily routines to practice before school starts. I'd followed Flylady's admonition to spread out the cleaning tasks over the weekdays to keep Saturday free for "Family Fun Day". As I've practiced, and as Hubby observed, I realize I'm lazy in the evenings. And when school starts, I'll be tired. I want evenings to wind down, to chill and to get to bed at a reasonable time (which for me is 930 or 10 if I'm getting up at 6 or 630 am).  Some evenings we won't get home till 6:00 pm as Hubby has late classes those days -- doesn't leave much time for chores and chilling. So, I'm adjusting the routines. I'm taking all those chores (vacuuming, dusting, laundry, mopping, etc) out of the evening slots and putting them all Saturday morning. It will only be an hour or two, it will be good for me to have some specific to get done to get my day started, and it opens up my evenings. (Wow, many new thoughts of random reflection about me starting a day well have overwhelmed my thought processes. Crazy how that works.) Sometimes it takes me a bit to figure out the obvious, I can be quite stubborn.

In addition, I put together a very nice control journal. I've been using a simple, black, 1 inch binder with a flylady sticker on the front, and its worked okay for me. I realized recently that I need to be able to take this binder with me as well as some key supplies; having it all contained together is a major bonus. I have a small box of bill paying put together (checkbook, stapler, pen, envelopes, stamps, return address labels, a few paper clips and some post-its), but I'd like something to go with the binder with pen, pencil, post-its, and other such random items. I also want a binder where lots stuff doesn't all fall out when I put it in a bag or take it out, as it does now. I think I found something that works nicely (at least it does so far)... it has fabric elastic to pull around the corner to keep it closed, pockets in the back and these really nifty inserts. They fit in the front of the binder, under the rings and adds 2 more pockets to the front. I feel like there is no good way to fully describe it! Anyhoo, I got a pocket that fit in the rings to carry my random office supply style stuff, and stick-em-on tabs to put on the sheet protectors so I have "tabbed dividers" that actually show from between the sheet protectors. I feel pretty good about picking this thing up and taking it along. I might need to adjust what's in it so I can put school stuff, routines and notes, in it also. Now I'm wishing my calendar book was three-hole punched so I can put that in there, too. Oh, well, can't have everything.

I'll post about my classroom/teaching routines when I get those figured out.  For now, here is my housekeeping/life-in-general routines (haven't figured out a good time to go grocery shopping, though). And... think this post is long enough, now. Time to go!  I'd love to hear your thoughts about what you do to keep up with life.

Friday, July 30, 2010

I guess the farm is too wet.

So, I notice these guys in the worm farm a few weeks ago (borrowed picture)

Garden soldier fly larva

In the last week, I've been finding them on the dinning room floor, apparently crawling out of the worm bin. Finally, this morning I went about scouring the internet for an answer. One of the two worm farms is going back to school next week, and I'd rather not have a cleaning lady asking me about these guys she might find on the floor.

Turns out, I'm quite confident about this, that it is a soldier fly larvae, or, perhaps more specifically, a garden soldier fly larvae. All I read is that they are voracious eaters of dead and decaying matter (good for worm farm), don't compete with the worms so much, but like it much wetter than do worms. So, I will go about adding some nice dry material to both farms today. They leave the worm farm to pupate, looking for dryer soil. Alas, my dining room floor doesn't have much soil, I work hard to keep it that way.

I'm gonna have to totally have a 'worm farm ecosystem' lesson this year in either (both?) grammar 6, Life Science, or Logic 2, Biology. Now the creative juices are flowing! We can identify how it works in the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle.... WOOT! I'm excited now!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Regrets and Plans, part 3: the new stuff

Sorry about the massive number of new posts today, I haven't figured out how to delay posting so that they are evenly spaced even if I write them all at once. That is, how to delay posting without me coming back and going through the process to post it (I want it done automatically at a certain time). Yes, I'm lazy about it. I've only got so much time and energy, so I pick what to be lazy about and try not to stress it.

This post is about what I'm doing new this year. I've got tons of ideas and even more hopes that I see great improvement this year. I think I know what kind of feelings I want as the year progresses and what I want to see out of my students.  I've got 2 things really going for me. First, two of the three classes I'm teaching I taught last year, so only one class is new to me. Second, two of the three sets of students (by grade) I had last year. Basically, it means I'm familiar with 2/3 of the material and 2/3 of the students. The other 1/3 of the material, and 1/3 of the students, is not totally new to me in that I've interacted with the material before and interacted with the students some this last year, just never as MY class. I think these two things in and of themselves makes for a more confident year.

So, what's gonna be different?

1. I have a plan and a system for grading. I think it will be easy for me to implement standards based grading (sbg) since I don't already have a system in place. Nothing to replace, just a hole to fill. And SBG seems intuitive to me, I'm not sure why I didn't come up with it on my own. As a linguist, I'm very familiar with language learning and the goals and progress involved with teaching and learning a new language, which almost completely standards based, just witness the language learning progression/levels. I will make sure I detail this out and how I'm going to do it in another post, but I think this is enough for now.

2. I'm gonna correspond more with parents.  I had some contact with parents, but I want more. I teach at a private school, so parents are quite involved already and some I got to know fairly well. Luckily, I'll have some of those same kids, so I'll see some of those parents again. But I want to be able to talk to parents more about how their child is doing (both good and bad) such that when something really does come up there is less shock value when I send an email or make a phone call.

3. That means I'll have to keep up with grading and paper work! Drat! No more putting off grading that paragraph till the end of the quarter. I want to be able to give good feedback on how the student is doing in relation to this or that, but that means not putting off grading/marking till the last minute. (slap hand just for thinking about it)

4. Discovery learning at least once a week. Yep, hands on, experimental, let the student go kinds of learning times. I'm pretty good with a bit of chaos in the classroom, I think with a clear set of guidelines and structured and specific instructions and goals, the kids will take this to the nines.

5. (this is for home life, too) Do the routines. No skimping and no whatever-I'll-do-it-later. Routines are good (say it often, repeat till it is ingrained!)

6. Have a water boiler in the office. Yep, hot tea on demand; no more walking to the teacher's lounge where I get distracted by this, that, and the other. No more getting coffee from the office where I think to rummage in the cabinet to see if anything fun can be found and don't get back to work for 45 minutes.

7. Provide healthy snacks for the last class of the day. I sort-of did this last year; I let the kids bring a snack to eat at the beginning of class since it was the last period of the day and they'd just come from P.E. and they were so very, very droopy. However, it was as often as not candy and/or soda which doesn't help the learning atmosphere. So, I decided I'll keep a supply of bananas, apples, oranges (and whatever else is cheap and in season) in a bowl in the room. If the I-just-grew-2-inches-in-the-last-hour boys find they are hungry, there is something to eat. Won't cost me tons, might get me to eat more fruit and will provide food for the worms (we have a worm farm :P). [seriously, though, I was at least an inch or 2 taller than all the students in grammar 6 at the beginning of the year last year, and by the end two or three were an inch or 2 taller than me!]

8. Work ahead. I've already got skeleton skedules (:D) for 1 class done, with the topic plans for the first quarter written out. For the other two classes I have some of the skeleton skedules done, and I still have 5 business days till in-service starts and 2 weeks after that till the students start back. And then, logic 2 biology won't start till the next week due to orientation and such for the students. I'm feeling so prepared right now! The key will be keeping up so that by quarter 2 I'm not significantly behind. It helps that I know the basic systems of the school, how things work, where things are, I know most of my students, I know my co-workers, I'm not moving into my house, nor learning a totally new city (as I was last year this time), so I don't think it will be as hard to stay ahead.

This is what I can think of so far, and stuff I've started working on or planning for. Here's to hoping this year is heads and shoulders better than last year.

Regrets and Plans, part 2

Last year wasn't all bad, was it?

You might feel the desire to ask this question after reading Regrets and Plans, part 1. No, last year wasn't all bad; there were somethings that went quite well and I hope to redo these things.

1. We had lots of fun demonstrations and hands on learning, especially in grammar 4 and 5. Grammar 4 is an introduction to physics. Yes, 9 and 10 year olds learning physics. We didn't do any of the math (they learned about decimal points and such that year in math), but covered most of the basic topics. That meant lots and lots of building things and seeing things happen. We built a paddle boat out of paper milk cartons to see elastic potential energy at work (used rubber band to attach the paddle and make the paddle go). We let a toy car roll down an incline and smash a banana to see gravitational potential energy at work (we raised the incline to see how high it had to be to smash the banana). Grammar 5 was an introduction to chemistry. Yeppers, 10 and 11 year olds doing chemistry! We made gak, we burned various salts in solution to see their colors, we put together a density tube, and any number of other 'experiments'. It was tons of fun.

2. I let the students ask all the questions they wanted. The grammar 4 students were the best at this, they were so good that I asked Hubby, a physics/astronomer nerd, to come and answer their questions. The kids loved it. They asked about black holes, why Pluto wasn't planet, was their life on other planets, will our sun ever run out, and on and on. The first time I let them just ask questions was a day we were reading about... gosh, I forget... but the students just started asking good questions. It was hard shutting it down when our time was up, they had so many more questions. After that, when I felt particularly busy, I'd dedicate a class to just Q and A. The older students weren't as into this, but that's okay. We still took rabbit trails through various topics. One class we were reading about designer molecules, and synthetic DNA was one molecule we read a brief paragraph about. Someone asked about cloning, and then someone asked if we could clone humans. We talked about what questions we should ask about morality and ethics when it came to cloning, as well as the physical/scientific questions.

3. We had some fun field trips. We went to the Waco Wet Lands (grammar 5 and 6) and I took the grammar 4 students to the Mayborn Museum. Must... do... more....

These are big things that are very big-picture oriented. I want these things to continue.

Regrets and Plans, part 1

I have a ton of regrets from last year and boo-koos of plans for this year. I'm feeling the need to write about them, and I've been inspired reading so many others discuss these things. This post pushed me over the edge to go ahead and start writing. I decided to split this post into 3 parts; part 1 will be a rendition of the ways I screwed up last year and here's to hoping I didn't doom my students to perpetual science failure.  Part 2 will be a rendition of what went well and what activities students loved. Part 3 will be a, hopefully, organized presentation of my plans for this year to rectify my mistakes and make general improvements (and keep the good stuff).

What I regret about last year:
1. I had no plan or system for determining grades or giving grades. Students got credit for doing homework, there was the occasional quiz, and topical tests. Eventually, I added in a daily participation grade, especially because, for example, the grammar 4 science was more about doing the activities and talking about it than being able to answer questions on a piece of paper. I wanted them to be able to tell me why the rubber-band paddle boat worked, in their own words, not be able to write out the definition of elastic potential energy.

2. I wrote/figured out the test when I was ready to give a test. I should have created the test right after I established the objectives/standards for the topic, which the test could then drive my lesson plans and give me a tool for establishing exactly what I want the kids to know; instead I usually had to write the test around did-I-actually-talk-about-that?

3. I didn't know what I wanted the students to know. I had a general idea of "I want them to know about chemistry", but what should they be able to spout back about chemistry? It was all very nebulous.

4. I was too nice. I'm a push over, always have been; I started working hard last year to be mean, without being cruel, but when you start out too nice, its hard to go back.

5. I lacked confidence in myself to really be able to teach this stuff. I know this stuff, I love this stuff, I dream about this stuff (this stuff being science: chemistry and biology especially), but I doubted my ability to create lessons that students would learn from and truly enjoy, even students who don't naturally LOVE this stuff.

6. I procrastinated about grading papers, inputing attendance and grades, and just keeping up. I was lazy about lesson plans plenty of times, when I got behind and needed something NOW.

7. I always felt behind. I never really felt caught up or on time.

As I reflected here, I don't think I ruined any of my students. They still had fun, and as I've seen one or two over the summer, they seem happy to see me.

Lesson planning and formatting

I started teaching several years ago in Nov of 2006. True, I was teaching adult ESL then and now I'm teaching middle school science, but the aspect of lesson planning hasn't really changed. Not at all really. In fact, planning swimming lessons is much the same process as planning ESL lessons which is much the same process for planning science lessons. I've never liked any of the formats presented in books, classes, or seminars for planning out lessons when its a general lesson and not for a specific class. They, the book, the teacher, the instructor, assume that you can define the parameters for the class even if you don't know what class this lesson will be for. The lesson writer must make an assumption about how much class time there is, the level of the students, the pacing the students can handle. I never liked this, because when you finally had the class assigned with actual students, the characteristics of that class never lined up with the assumed characteristics of your fictional class. I have any number of examples of the issues with this general system, but I will refrain from detailing them all here.

I do see the general idea behind requiring the lesson writer to make assumptions about a class and then write a lesson plan. New teachers need the practice, ideally before they are under the crunch of time and a looming class period for which she must be prepared. I suspect that I learned more than I realized in those classes that required this lesson writing for a fictional class, and I owe more to those books and teachers than I give them credit for at this point. Nonetheless, those styles of lesson plans have helped me when I'm planning for a specific lesson and a specific class, but I yearned for a lesson plan style that allowed me to get the bulk the creative effort out of the way before the crunch time hit. Perhaps for others, this isn't an issue, such that the creative ideas spring from their mind easily. Or perhaps I'm unique among teachers in trying to come up with these creative activities (I seriously doubt this and will be drop-down surprised if this is actually true). I love brainstorming all the fun things I can do to convey new knowledge to my students, but when I'm looking at a looming class time in the midst of also grading assessments, inputing grades, making sure I did attendance today, finding the supplies I need for this activity or that activity, those creative thoughts are dashed against the walls of must-be-dones.  With 2 weeks till teachers start back with in-service, meetings and collaborations, I could feel the crunch developing and decided I would come up with a way to plan lessons that got the creative effort/ideas done (or mostly done) before the crunch hit.

There are a few things I know about the classes I'll be teaching this year: the classes will be 45 to 50 minutes long and either 3 times or 5 times a week (Grammar 5 meets 3 times, Grammar 6 and Logic 2 meet 5 times a week).

All of this starts with my writing up standards in my efforts to convert my haphazard grading non-method into a somewhat structured form of standards based grading (SBG). I've also been asked to start work on curriculum maps for 2 classes I teach, so I've already been thinking about the topics to be covered and reviewed in those classes.  Then, for teach topic, I wrote out the standards, basically what I think each students should know at the end of that topic. Then I divided those standards into smaller subtopics that could reasonably be covered in one class time. Then I let the creative juices flow... for each class time (based on the standards I partitioned into that time period) I wrote out all the possible activities I could do with the idea of having a slew of creative ways to communicate the new information. Finally, I finished with what is the most difficult part for me, I wrote assessment questions. I considered what I wanted the students to know, and how to make them demonstrate that knowledge. Here's the first topic I put together. Its not crazy exciting or fancy, but I think it will work for what I want. I'm also considering setting up a wiki with all my topics/lessons as I'm sure there are other teachers of middle school chemistry who might be interested in my collection, especially if they are teaching at a school with a classical/Charlotte Mason bent.

I'm fairly certain that this is remedial for the vast majority of teachers. Or perhaps my assumptions of where I stand on the good-bad teacher continuum is are skewed? Anyhoo, I looked around for several years for a method of writing lessons that gave me the bank of ideas/questions/activities that I need to be a good teacher during crunch time. Perhaps its out there, but since I never found it, I came up with my own.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Purposes and decisions

Warning: Rambling, thinking-out-loud post

I'm in an interesting spot.  My poor blog is due for a post... its been over a week since the last one. Poor neglected blog.  I'm feeling very academic and wanting to write on the thoughts in my  head about school, SBG and my various downfallings and successes as a teacher. I started blogging again back in January with the intention of blogging about my garden and my home. But here I am not interested in posting about my garden, my knitting or my cooking at all. My reading of blogs is leading heavily towards the blogs of teachers and academics with education topic posts. I've been writing a fair bit, but its related to role-playing, school and educational philosophy (and none of it is getting posted at the moment).

I think I need to decide the purpose of my blog. If it is about news and events of life for friends and family, the blog will be inclined towards one particular style of post. But if I want to reflect my many ideas and thoughts on eduction (of which I have many), then the style changes. ARGH!!! Decisions to be made, and my general life inclination is to decide to not decide when its a difficult decision. Say that fast 10 times!

Too many thoughts, too many ideas. My brain is so full right now, its scary. More to come, I promise!

PS. The February Lady Sweater got put on hold while I knit some Christmas gifts for the ladies in my extended family. After the FLS, I hope to knit either Every Way Wrap or 5 Way Cable Wrap. Its another decision to make....

30 minutes later
Update: I'm going to get better at putting labels, make it easy for people to find what they want. If I find that I am posting regularly about teaching once school starts, I'll branch off and start a new blog with some witty name that is dedicated to teaching. As it is, I suspect that my blogging interval will extend greatly once school starts, I've got a busy, busy schedule.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

More teacher thoughts: the blame game

I've found a slew of teacher blogs to read regularly. One that struck me recently was this one:

Building a Bridge

I started a comment, and realized it was becoming an essay in and of itself. I made the comment shorter and thought I'd post the essay here.

I'm with you, you can't blame previous teachers for a student's lack of skill or knowledge. Nor can you blame the student, or the teacher. At least, you can't blame any one person (or group) solely. I think the blame lies a little bit in each one. And, perhaps, the blame lies in each student's natural tendencies. Hubby is one of those students who always knew his times tables (still does) even before being taught them at school. I think his mother presented the ideas once and he got them. I, on the other hand, was the child that worked her bum off to learn that 8 times 6 is.... let me think... I'll go back to 6x6 = 36 (I know that), so 7x6 = 42, so 8x6=48, and I am not a particularly slow learner, its just that numbers will not stick in my mind, no matter how hard I work at it. Ask me to make salsa from scratch, and I can get the right number of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic cloves and I can whip  up a yummy compliment to tortilla chips in an afternoon. That's easy... Ask Hubby to do the same, and you will see a very lost Hubby.

Please don't hear me saying that a student is bound by his natural tendencies. No, no, no. Any student can venture beyond those boundaries, but it will take extra work. And as humans, I think we are lazy in that way: we like to stick with what comes easily. It's scary to try something that is difficult, its like committing yourself to the unknown. 

So, having said all that, I agree with Ms Caldwell that SBG is a solution to this problem. I'm all for SBG, I love the idea, I'm planning on implementing it in my class room this year, and I think it will provide the impetus needed to motivate students to excel at the subject at hand, beyond what comes easily. Perhaps it provides the motivation to work hard enough to venture beyond what you thought possible, in the realm beyond natural tendencies?

I'm very interested in considering the reasons SBG allows for this, especially in students who might no otherwise be willing to try that hard. Some students tend towards learning in general and learning comes easy (generally, I'm that kind of student). Most students are not inclined to just *learn* on their own and most people feel no need to continue to learn beyond the "normal" school years. And while in school, its like pulling teeth for them to learn. How is it that SBG summons that ...intrinsic motivation (?)... that students need?

Anyhoo -- conversations I sure love to have!

PS. I'm debating a blog issue. Should I divide off the teacher essays into its own blog? Or keep it all as one, knowing the blog will be as eclectic as its author?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Technology in the classroom

I love to learn, so I've been having a great time reading all sorts of stuff that I found from Soft Skills Convention and the various other education style blogs I read.

First up, I listened to a discussion about the 1:1 initiatives by some schools to get each student access to a laptop or computer. The main question was Is 1:1 enough ....

Is 1:1 change a teacher?

Is 1:1 change a classroom?

Is 1:1 change a school?

Is 1:1 engage/empower/enlighten students?

Is 1:1 get politicians off our backs?

Is 1:1 move education into the 21st century?

I'm thinking to really address this issue, and why technology will never be enough to change more than the medium of the instruction (on its own, at least), we need to understand the idea of pedagogy and what issues are foundational to all aspects of pedagogy.

Here is a quick and dirty version of what I'm thinking:

The idea is that your 'educational philosophy' will provide the foundation, the basis for everything else you do. Your assumptions of how students learn will affect how you chose to teach. In the same way, your assumptions about how to teach and the best way to go about instruction will directly influence how you structure a lesson, how you write objectives and what students should learn.  Your methodology, materials and media used in teaching will come from how you structured your lesson, what your objectives are, what you decided students should be learning. I'm not committed to this specific ordering, I spent about 2 minutes drawing this in paint and thinking about it. I would love to dialog about what is dependent on what. However, I am confident that technology, outside of programming and computer science and such topics, fits into that top box: methodology, materials and media. The question of  'are students learning what we want them to learn' fits into those bottom two boxes. Giving students access to computers, the internet and technology might make the class more fun, might even make reaching specific objectives easier, but it won't change 'are students learning what we want them to learn'.  

Yet, when technology is talked about, its always about making it so that students will learn what we want them to learn. Its talking about using orange juice to make the oak tree grow the direction you want it to grow. Its like putting a bow tie, spectacles and a sport jacket on a dog and calling him a professor and hoping to learn math from him. Alas, I rant.

I think you've got the idea, reader, or at least I hope you do. Again, I'd love to dialog about these topics.

Other reflections on soft skills coming, but laundry calls to be folded at this moment. :P

PS pls forgive grammatical errors. I'm in a hurry :(

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Soft Skills Convention Center � Point of Inflection

(rambling teacher post)

I love to teach. I have taught swimming lessons, Sunday school, EFL, ESL, basic algebra/geometry (tutoring in high school), gardening, and all manner of science. And I'm good with the material, but when it comes to classroom management, I flounder. I love to learn, it comes naturally, and I tend to approach most of life and learning from this angle. I love to read and I love to think (I married a philosopher, and we talk philosophy on a regular basis). Teaching adult ESL, and now, middle school science has brought the fact that the majority of people don't approach life this way crashing in on me. At times, I just want to retreat to my own house and yard and pretend the world is just like me. But its hard to get a paycheck doing that, and I'd go crazy with just my own company (Hubby completely changes the dynamic -- I can spend days at home with just him). Figuring out how to relate to students who aren't just like me (in the classroom, while teaching) is really hard for me. In contrast, can usually find some thing about an individual student I can relate to. Usually, I try to observe and talk with them, making use of "Love Languages" and finding topics they love and asking lots of questions. That is near impossible for me to do/figure out when I'm working to relate to a classroom of kids, since they are all different, have different interests, etc. I'm pretty decent at one-on-one, but group dynamics throw me off, big time.

All that to say, I'm excited to read all these ideas and see what I can put into practice, 'cause I need some help. When I saw this link on a blog I read (thank you, google reader!), I just about jumped out of my chair. Luckily, the coffee hadn't totally kicked in, so it was more a quiet "woot".

I have read "The Soft Mutiny" and "So bad", and plan on reading the rest of them. Yeah, yeah, its by math teachers, and I teach science. Motivation and classroom management spans all classroom subjects... I hope. I'll let you know what else I learn.

Thanks for reading my rambling!

Monday, July 05, 2010


My works in progress:

curriculum maps for grammar 5 and 6 science
February Lady Sweater (for me)
House slippers (for me)
converting grammar 5, 6 and logic 2 sciences to SBG

And to add to this list:
a new purse/bag/tote of some sort (I'm tired of my current one)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

As a thankful American

See full size image

Today, we celebrate our independence as a nation. Whatever I might think of the current politics, whether I agree with what current or past leaders have done and decided, I'm proud of my country. I recognize that the freedoms we have are not unique to the United States, and some places might be better at some aspect or another. Nonetheless, this is my home.

I'm thankful that I can start a garden in my back yard because I want to. I'm thankful that when Hubby graduates from this PhD program, we get to decide where to apply for a professorship. I'm thankful that we got to look around at a variety of houses and choose the one that we liked best and that we will get to do the same when we next move. I'm thankful for my wonderful Hubby who supports me in my many hobbies, and puts up with my various idiosyncrasies. I'm thankful that I can choose to fly, or drive, or take a bus, to visit my family and in-laws... pretty much when ever I want and my schedule allows. I'm thankful for a school that lets me take initiative to write curriculum maps and chose curriculum for the classes I teach. I'm thankful that I get to chose what church I want to go to (and around her we have lots to choose from -- good or bad, hmmm... a bit of both, I think) and I have the freedom to go, enjoy worship, learn from the sermon without fear of reprisals.

I could go on; life has been good to me recently and I'm feel very much on top. But that is for another post.

Making and canning pizza sauce (and the dress I was making)

I made pizza sauce the other day. It was fairly easy and I canned it, and used the bit left over to make pizza that night. Unfortunately, I can only give general amounts of the ingredients I used, as my tendency is to toss stuff in, taste, mix in something else, taste again.

I had tomatoes left over after making salsa (which turned out very yummy). I think it was about 3 or 4 lbs. I am a lazy cook, so I chopped the tomatoes coarsely, only saving some seed to plant later (planning for a bunch of fall tomatoes -- the joy of living in the south!)

I chopped up two onions, medium sized, and 4 Anaheim peppers. I added the seeds of 2 of the Anaheim peppers, since we like it spicy. I chopped up 5 or 6 garlic cloves and added all of it to my large stock pot.

I get lots of compost when canning... so far at least. I'm also saving harvesting seeds to plant for more tomato plants.

I cooked the mixture, and stirred occassionally, for 2 1/2 hours at a med-lo heat. Well, I brought it to a boil, then reduced the heat to let it simmer gently for a total of 2 1/2 hours. I tried to moosh up the veggies as it cooked and they softened.

At the end of the 2 1/2 hours, scoop by scoop, I put the veggies and juice through the food processor and then through the strainer. Now, this is a special strainer. Its the strainer that the nice man gave me when he gave me all the canning supplies. It was a sad story, but I was happy for all the free stuff. Here's the strainer:

If you know the name of this strainer, please let me know; its one of the most interesting pieces of kitchen equipment I've seen. I poured the pureed sauce in it, turned the wooden stick around and around as the sauce seeped out the holes into the waiting bowl. It was a very nice tomato sauce, though a bit thin, so I put it back in the pot and simmered it for a few more hours (2 or so). When it was almost thick enough, I asked Hubby to try a bit and see if he liked it. He asked for more garlic, so I added some garlic powder and a tbsp of tarragon, thyme and rosemary. (random herbs, yes, its what I have around and it produces a nice flavor). Then, I ladled it into pint jars, leaving 1/2" head space, added lids and rings and put them in a boiling water bath for 25 minutes. I came up with 25 minutes based on the Ball Blue Book on canning instructions for canning tomato sauce. I got about 3 pints of sauce, and about 1 cup left over.

I added a can of tomato paste and a tbsp or two of water to the one cup of sauce and made pizza. It was pretty good. I think I'll plan to get 2 pizzas out each pint, but using half of this sauce and a can of tomato paste. Thicker is nicer when it comes to pizza, I think, I know Hubby likes it that way. (The white-ish specks are the garlic powder granules.)

Next time, I'll use 3 times as many tomatoes; I'll fill the 8 quart stock pot with tomatoes. I'll use 4 onions (maybe 5), and 8 or 9 good sized peppers -- perhaps a 1:3 ratio of spicy:sweet (that would be... calculating... 2 spicy peppers and 6 sweet peppers. A whole bulb of garlic for sure will be used. I think I'll use the food processor to blend the onions, peppers and garlic together before adding it to the tomatoes (easier than chopping, and fewer tears). I will try to be more patient when reducing the pureed and strained sauce to get it thicker.

Anyhoo, I hope to have a much, much larger harvest of tomatoes this fall. Hopefully, I'll have used these 3 pints (won't be hard), and will have a better idea of what I like and don't like in the flavor.

I also finally finished the summer dress I was working on. Putting in button holes and sewing on buttons was the hardest part, but its done. I did make the button holes too small, and had to cut them bigger. Oh, well, I don't need to unbutton it to get it on or off, so I could just stitch the seem closed if needed.
See those tan lines??? I worked hard for those! Those are swimming lesson lines, hard earned in the hot Texas sun. Don't worry, I've been wearing long sleeves and long pants in the garden, trying not to get too much darker.