Saturday, September 28, 2013

Race Day

So windy I had to hold on to my hat - I was glad I didn't have to run uphill against the wind! 

The kids did great, and the boys were very grateful for the li hing mui oranges, grapes, and granola bars - well, especially the grapes and the oranges.  I buy bananas, too, but I end up having to make banana bread out of them mostly. I buy the bananas, because that is what my son likes, and because they really ought to eat them after a race...but they like grapes and li hing mui oranges.  Fortunately, the also love banana bread! 

Both of my kids had their best times on that course, so that was fun.  We drove to Kona, whipped through Costco, and weren't the last family to pick up a boy (always embarrassing when you make the coach wait).  I was amused to see the giant bus drive in and drop off the girls' coach, my kid and one other girl.  I know that lots of families probably took the opportunity to head to the beach after (best beaches are in Kona, if you want sand, anyway) and the bus stopped at the mall first, but it was funny.  The coach was way up in the front near the driver, and the girls were in the back seat.

Oh well, only three more races - plus the state meet, if they make it, but that's on Kauai, so I won't be seeing that one.  I haven't been to Kauai for 24 years - hard to believe. 

We're definitely going to need a pond liner - it's been raining and it's not filling up, even with our clay soil.  My son was wondering when he could swim in in - but when I mentioned the fish to keep it clean, he was a bit reluctant.  I told him the ocean has fish and you swim in it, but I guess a pond is smaller.  I think it is just going to be too cold most of the time - the fish won't bother me, but the cold will.  I am looking forward to having it filled though.  It seems like the bulldozer came on the last possible dry day - the weather is back to normal after quite a long dry spell. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Two Hours

Just spent two hours after school with a kid who really wanted to bring up his grade. 

He painstakingly learned how to do MLA format (without Easy Bib), how to evaluate websites and arguments of author's for validity and credibility.  In the interest of being precise, I think I mean, "painfully," as well as "painstakingly." 

On the plus side, he raised his grade from a C to a B. 

I really wanted to run today - but this was good, too. 

Craigslist on an Island

Sadly, craiglist is not always that great around here.  There is always cool stuff - but it is on Maui or Oahu, so kind of a pain to deal with.  But last night, I saw canning stuff on my island.  Even better - on my SIDE of the island.  The Big Island is just that - Big.  The other side is a 100 miles one way, and a 100 miles back.  It's a five hour proposition, so basically, unless you are really motivated, you mostly stick to your side of the island.  In fact, most of my life takes place in the 12 mile radius between me and school.  Once every other week, I drive to Hilo, which is a bit further. 

These people are selling a 23 qt. pressure canner, a 33 qt water bath canner, and 50 mason jars (don't know what size).  I am very tempted because basically the price they're asking is about how much I would pay to buy a 23 qt. pressure canner and ship it here, too.  And apparently, Amazon doesn't ship to PO Boxes (at least pressure cookers), and that's all we got for mail delivery out here.  Yup, no county water (just catchment) and no mail delivery and, my sore spot, no wired internet either.  No cable TV, but I don't give a rat's tail about that - though the weak and sad cell phone service isn't a lot of fun, mostly because of the sad internet, I want to use my phone sometimes to check my work email.  

You know all those memes about 1st world problems?  Well, I have some second and third world problems, too - water, for example.  Although, you know, water falls from the sky with prodigious regularity in a rain forest, so there is water - we just have to pump it and clean it.  You don't just drink out of a tap on catchment, in other words.  

On more week until Fall break.  Now, I am just crossing my fingers that the boys' and girls' cross country practices are at the same time, because I think if I have to drive to work twice a day during a break I may just snap.  I can't have them miss it, because beyond my expectations, my children have a shot at the State meet - fairly shocking in the case of the 9th grader, frankly and the qualifying meet is the week after the break.  You can't take a week off running at this point in the season, and neither of my kids is capable of pushing themselves on their own (neither am I!).   If they aren't, that might mean that the girl has to run with the boys, which isn't the greatest option.  I have absolutely drained myself this quarter (even more than usual) and my garden, animals, and house show it.  I need to sleep and then dig and then clean....after all the grading I have to do. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Race I Missed and Pictures of the "Pond"

So, my kids went to a race on Oahu.  My mom, stepdad, and older daughter went out to see them run.  They did so great!  I had updates through text messages all afternoon.

Oh well, here are some pictures: 

 Pond from the deck.  Obviously, not done, but wow! 

Chicken, just because chickens are fun. Although this one is nearing "retirement."  
 Tractor is temporarily out of commission, so Gibby does lawn mowing. 
 My husband calls this the "lake view". 

Three of my kids and my step-dad.  Gosh, I miss Oahu.  Not the traffic, but those pali in the background....gorgeous.   And my daughter, and my parents.... and beaches that aren't rocks or two hours away. 

I don't miss traffic, postage stamp lawns, or houses that are falling apart, but still cost over $600,000, though. 
Pond in the making. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bulldozing and Bulldozed

It looks like my husband's latest engineering project payment is going toward building us a pond.  There is a tiny little bulldozer digging out a pond which will be six feet deep at it's deeper end.  It's sloping, like a pool with a shallow end but round like a pond.  I've seen small homestead farmers use those ponds with good effect - to water plants, to grow tilapia, and to water animals.  I am confused, because I thought that was where part of the ram pen was going, but very happy it isn't in the middle of the main pasture - and that it is downhill from our house.  I am sure I will be grateful later, but right now I feel bulldozed.

That's because I just spent two days in a workshop on the Common Core State Standards.  No, I don't believe that these came from the states or a grass roots initiative, as billed.  I see bits and pieces of things I have seen in the 24 years since I started teaching.  The main thing is that they want kids to read primary sources and harder texts, because texts have been getting easier and easier for decades.  Just look at the Newbury winners from the earlier part of the 20th century and then at the more recent ones.  Sentence length, complexity, and vocabulary have all been lowered.  I can see that, but this thing about having them read 70% informational and only 30% literature seems like a big march to a population lacking in empathy.

On the other hand, the presenter says the average percentage of kids actually reading, as opposed to skim and scam or checking out the movie version, is only 5%.  I think it's higher - but maybe only 25%

I feel bulldozed, not just because of my irritation with being handed a bunch of new standards and being told that since kids have to read widely and add twice as much informational text, that I now have to give them tiny snippets of text from lots of sources instead of fewer whole texts.  That's like going back 30 years, in a lot of ways.  I was already asking them to do evidence based claims, back when people were asking for their feelings about the literature, so this is like "Yeah, and?" for me - but showing up for a workshop and being given a 300 slide powerpoint and 221 files on a flashdrive - and then, I kid you not, being flown through nearly all of them over 12 hour of sitting - a bulldozer just flattened me.  I think fluency comes from reading whole texts - kids get short snippets of informational text when they go on Google. 

On the flip side, I do feel validated, because the unit I did, with which the kids struggled mightily, was right on the money - except I think I want to beef up my writing task at the end of it in two weeks.  I redid my Quarter Two unit a bit while she was covering math stuff.  I gave them whole texts, though shorter ones.  I don't think I can compromise on that. 

I am flattened, tired, and so I will say good-bye for now.  Thank goodness it is Friday.  

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Bummers and a Few Nice Bits

Bummer Number One:  The John Deere is leaking fluid, and it looks like the whole transmission needs to come out for what is probably a simple seal replacement.  Related mini-bummer:  our John Deere dealership doesn't answer the phone, doesn't return calls, and apparently have moved shops. 

Bummer Number Two:  My son's driver and passenger door windows were smashed - apparently a random act of vandalism as the car is 21 years old and there's nothing in it to steal. 

Bummer Number Three:  My daughter had to be carried off the field at the XC race today.  It was hot, she got dizzy, suddenly had to sit down, and couldn't get up.  (She's fine now - hyperventilating and about to throw up when I retrieved her from the athletic trainers).  Too bad, she was running about 15th in an Open race, which is pretty darned good.

Bummer Number Four:  I had my first formal observation yesterday. It didn't go as well as I would hope - I get so nervous in front of grown-ups.  The observers miss all the teaching and notice the kid throwing paper in the waste basket (although the kid who was throwing paper - I would rather have him do that, because he tends to do offensive things to his neighbors if allowed out of his seat).  Anyway, a real bummer for me, because I am trying to be perfect this year.  I feel like I did back in high school.  I went to a doozy of a prep school - pressure cooker stress.  I loved it, but I am not enjoying the visit from my old friend "Perfectionist Nag Voice."  I cried on my principal's shoulder at the race.  He told me to get over it, they didn't spin the wheel to hire me, I am a good teacher - basically, shut up in the nicest possible way.  Thank goodness for my principal.  Someday, when I finally grow up - that's who I want to be. 

So I guess that last bit isn't a bummer - that's a nice bit.  And our coaches measured the course (it was 3.2 miles, not 3) and that means my son made his goal time of under 19 minutes (can you imagine running 3 miles in under 19 minutes!)  He clawed his way back to varsity (he was running at the horrible 8th spot - off by less than a second for the 7th spot). In fact, he's now #6.  I don't know what basically passing out means to my daughter's place on varsity - but oh well.  She wasn't the only girl to tank. 

Nice Bit #2:  When I came home, I let Gibby out.  He followed me around the yard for a bit, which made me miss my Ohia - who followed me like a dog.  Since we don't have a tractor, and we can't let the sheep out because they'll eat the fruit trees and the sweet potatoes all up - Gibby's our only lawn mower. 

Nice Bit #2:  I let some bok choy go to seed and some of the seed got away from me.  I am finding bonus bok choy in the papayas and on the floor of the greenhouse and all kinds of places - lots of lovely dark leafy greens.

Okay, that's my bummers with a few mitigating nice bits. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

My Jaw Just Dropped

The invitational meet is really quite stressful for we parents - especially me.  I got to organize the main dishes and salads for the potluck for our visiting teams.  It was so stressful that I was crying the morning of - the last straw was when I was arguing with the facilities people that they needed to open the room where the warmers were because we didn't want to give everyone food poisoning.  They were worried that a parent volunteer would fall into the pool....sigh.  So, that meant I had to stay at the pool the whole time - or until the lifeguard got there.  I just lost it.  I dearly love to see my kids run; even after all these years.  That makes me sound like a baby, I am sure, but there was a whole lot of other stress between the landlord stuff and just the end of a project with students kind of stuff, and just, you know, life - on top of no sleep. 

I broke down in tears in front of the coach, which was embarrassing, but I think it got through to him that - hey this team mom thing is pretty darned stressful - even if it isn't from him but this big tradition that comes from the girls' team, actually.  At the end of the potluck he came to say thank you and all that good stuff - and then "So, you'll keep doing it for two more years, right?"  I told him I am sure there are other moms who could do it better than me, so probably not - or not without someone else doing the potluck.  I don't mind doing the fundraising and the snack thing and stuff like that, but that potluck was a monster. 

The two nice moms who were with me at the food told me to lock the door, they'd sit outside and wait while I watched the two races.  I felt bad, but I still did it. They had chairs and shade and were chatting, and I told them to not hesitate to flag down a security guy to open the door and watch them put food in the warmers should any parents show up while I was gone.  After the races were done, I went back.

It was worth it, because I got to spend time with my older son, who'd come to take my place as course marshal, and we got to watch my daughter run her race.  In this race, this top team comes from the mainland - those girls run as fast as our boys - so it was California, California, California - one after the other.  Then there were two girls from a Big Island school - and then there was MY girl.  My jaw dropped, and the other parents were screaming, "Nancy, Nancy - look!!!"  I couldn't believe it.  She just suddenly figured out she could do it - and she did it. 

My son did really well, too - he made his goal time of about a 6:30 minute mile and he caught and kept up with a couple of the boys on the team who've been faster than him this season.  I can't even imagine running a 6minute and 30 second mile - even for half a mile, much less three on a very hot day. 

Farm-wise, nothing much - my leafy greens in the greenhouse are loving the sunny weather we've had, which is odd, but the mint isn't liking it.  The asparagus ferny growth is huge and lush.  The sweet potato slips I pulled and threw in a bucket but forgot to take to the biology teacher are growing in the bucket, which is cool, I guess.  In spite of the powdery mildew, my collards are growing like - well, like weeds, since I can only eat the newest leaves before they get the mildew on them.  The neem isn't working on that.  The sheep are being sheep.  Allie is pregnant and it looks like twins because she is about a month or so shy of lambing and she's pretty fat.  Cookie keeps going into heat, but she never catches, and one of the spring lambs is growing stubby horns - which is annoying because my sheep are a polled breed.   I don't think any feral sheep could get in my yard, so that means there is a little wild blood back aways that is popping out here.

My husband decided to move where the ram pen corner was going to be (it was too close to the house) and almost punctured his neck when a board with a nail sprang right for him - first rolling the tractor, now this... He also helped a friend take down a cabin from a rental property - they guy said the could have the materials if they carted it out of there, so he got some metal roof panels and some plywood (the $50 a sheet stuff) for our chicken coops.  Even though I was pretty darned mad he wasn't home to help me as I cooked my 20 lbs of shoyu chicken for the potluck, I am pretty pleased with the building materials for the chickens.  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hurdles, Getting Through The Big Weekend

It's been a week and half - in spite of being a short week and not being over, yet. 

I decided to forgo the Ed.D. degree in lieu of pursuing National Board Teacher Certification.  It costs less money - and when I pass my organization will reimburse me.  When I pass, I also am paid a stipend for the life of the certificate, so bonus.  It's pretty much like doing formal observation year, only even more so.  Since I am doing formal observation year, I figured I might as well get the pain over with. 

My challenge is to get it done in one year, which is actually pretty hard.  I also have to come up with the initial investment, but I will figure it out.  The worst of it is having to video myself.  I hate being in still pictures, and video is just torture.  In fact, my husband and I watched 24 years of life as he copied our old VHS tapes to DVD this summer.  There are 24 years of me, aging all the while, making a face and waving at the camera.  It got to be funny, actually. 

I am swamped with work, as is normal for the middle of the grading period, and I am still getting a few new initiatives of the ground - like a peer tutoring cadre, possibly a NaNoWriMo group, and I want to be in on every group this year's content lead set up.  Of course, I can't, and my perkiness is annoying to everyone else on the content lead who hates these kinds of things.  I really can't help it; I love doing research, and I love talking about teaching with other teachers - as long as it isn't complaining about kids or parents.  I get tired of those conversations real fast. 

We're in the middle of a dispute over the non-returned deposit for my son's last rental.  We got this ridiculous itemized list that claimed all kinds of damage to the apartment that was already there (and pointed out when we moved in, but sadly, not written down), damage to carpet from the landlord's own poorly maintained shower, and a "stolen" hose (which my son coiled neatly and put in their shed).  I am livid, frankly, at the really dishonest landlord.  My son and his roommate had left the key on the fridge and went back to do the inspection to find the key missing - along with $48 of recycling money which they had forgotten in the rush to the new place.  Guess how much deposit came back?  That's right - $48 - out of $750.  Guess a little bit of conscience kicked in on this creepy jerk.  He broke the laws regarding landlord-tenants several times this summer, and it was just getting old. 

This guy thinks he can get away with bilking 19 year olds.  Well, he forgot they have parents.  Since the check was postmarked after the 14 day limit, state law says they have to pay up.  They think it's all bluster, as they haven't responded to my email requesting they comply with the law, but I guess they'll feel differently when the notice to appear in Small Claims court appears. 

Saturday is the potluck, big meet day - I am beyond stressed.  That's about all I want to say about that, right now.

My husband could have died when the tractor rolled over on him.  This is one time it's was good he wasn't wearing a seat belt - he was able to jump away.  

Yeah, it's been a stressful week. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Multi-tasking and Race Results

I am attempting to answer student emails, bake bagels, bake cookies, make shredded brisket for canning tomorrow, ditto beef broth, and I am keeping half an eye on a movie (the second one in the marathon of making).  Tomorrow I will have to do that canning and make pans and pans of banana bread from the leftover bananas from the race. 

Yesterday, I drove round trip 3 hours to watch the second half of the boys' race (I was late because of SOMEONE wanting to do dishes - yeah, it wasn't me) and the first half of the girls' race - I left as soon as my daughter was finished.

 My son ran the three miles in 22:13, which is pretty good for that course (tough course), but not as good as he wanted - he's been dealing with an injury for a couple of weeks - a nasty abrasion on his leg from doing something fifteen-year-old-boyish.  My daughter ran an amazing 28:03 - for a freshman on that course that is amazing.  She has quite a kick at the end - very exciting.  I was jumping up and down like a fool - so proud of her. 

What's hilarious is that my son doesn't want to talk after races (none of my kids do, except my youngest), but the other boys love to tell every excruciating detail and second-guess when they started their kick and how they ran "the Hill."  It's lots of fun.  My kids start talking after a day or two, but at first it is all eye-rolls and pshaw noises.  I get to hear about pained knees, aching shins, second-winds later. 

I am going to miss it in a few years, when my kids are all graduated - well, everything except planning for the invitational potluck - that's just stressful.  I have 18 families signed up for main dish and pasta salad-y kinds of things and there are 150 people coming.  I feel very stressed.  I think I am going to have to make a heck of a lot of shoyu chicken and chili just to cover the bases. There are 25 more parents, and most times, they just bring stuff without telling me, but the waiting part is a little frustrating. 

Lucky You Live Hawaii: Huakaʻi Friday.

So, I am trying to catch the wireless connection here to send the pictures of work on Friday
.  We went to Haʻena (otherwise known as the "Shipman Beach" after the prominent family who owns the land adjacent to the beach).  I seriously am wondering if they have any teen/young adult sons who would be interested in dating my girls after this trip....okay, not seriously, but wow!  They did a good job of keeping their lands in the family and keeping it involved in agriculture.  And the "beach house" the family keeps for its use is AMAZING.  I could live there quite happily, thank you very much.  The beach is almost as nice as Kailua, where I grew up, and that is saying a whole heck of a lot.

The beach is actually accessible to the public with a hike from a parking lot (new, thanks to the generous Shipman family), so I have a plan for the weekend.  Several of my co-workers jumped in and swam - some of them in clothes.  I wasn't that brave (white tank top - not a good idea), but it was so great.  I love that my boss wants to furnish us with a sense of place, and I love that the place is so beautiful.  Puna is kind of looked down on these days, and to be honest, for good reason - it is quite cheap and so you get people who are trying to make it and people who are barely hanging on, and those latter sometimes make very bad choices for themselves, and sadly, their keiki.  But, today, I learned that Puna is quite significant in both ancient and modern Hawaii - and I refreshed my memory that there IS a great beach here.  We were spoiled on Oahu and this young island has beautiful but rocky beaches - but here is one with a healthy reef and lots of Uhu fish to make sand. 

There is a very large fish pond and makaha (where the freshwater joins the ocean) which is well kept and beautiful, and the hala trees are abundant.  I took pictures of the beach, and like I said, I am hoping to upload them soon.  Ah, here's the connection....and here are the pictures:

 Some of my coworkers on the grounds of the estate. 
 Nene goose and the fishpond above, and the really lovely beach at full tide.  Don't you just want to jump in?!  

The makaha - where the fresh water flows into the ocean.  The family member told us 75 million gallons flow through here every day.  Wow!  

This is a hala tree.  The lauhala (leaves) are woven into mats.  I've always wanted to learn, but the centipedes that love hala are really NOT a favorite of mine.