Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I am actually having a Happy Halloween, even I always have costume anxiety and am, consequently, not that excited about the holiday in general.  Plus, kids who are generally in uniform who suddenly get to wear bizarre costumes tend to be a little less focused on Halloween....

I must say, though, the exercises I did with the kids to set "ideal classroom" norms seemed to have trickled into their heads - they were stellar today, in actuality.   They did get through a powerful amount of chocolate in two periods (with a few random trick-or-treats between classes). 

My observation from last week was rated today and it was pretty good!  Yay!  I now feel a lot happier with myself, which I know is stupid, but I can't help it.  

My husband forced - yes, forced! - me to dress up today.  He said, "Teachers should dress up.  The kids will think you're lame if you don't."  I thought back to how usually very few teachers dress up and considered how stupid I would feel, but I did it anyway.  At first, I considered being a girl from the 80s.  I quite remember how to do my hair like I did in 1984, and I have some jeans from a period not that far from that time - throw on a pair of Reeboks and wear one long earring and one short, do my hair, wear those old jeans, and I'd be good to go.  Instead, I went with the even easier route.  Grabbed my riding boots, a pair of jeans, a cowboy hat, and the rope from the tack room (taped up so no kids decided to try to rope each other, sigh).  Pretty basic, but at least my boots have real horse manure on them! Well, not really, but they've kicked through quite a lot of it over the last decade or so (Ariat boots are the BEST!) 

Just found out that the soccer season is four weeks long with three games (!) each Saturday.  THREE games!  That's all day.  How they expect kids to play three games in one day for several weeks in a row is beyond me.  How they expect me to sit through three games each Saturday is beyond me, too.  Well, if most of the games are at our campus, I can go to my classroom and work on stuff between games, I guess.... Always try to find a bright spot. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Advantages of Living on a Volcano

Apparently, the sulfur-y rain eventually gets rid of powdery mildew.  Who knew?  I didn't even have to spray after this last period of south (voggy) winds, my collard greens are mildew free.  Good thing I didn't rip them out. 

My olive trees seem to have liked this summer and fall - they just grew a ton.  A year or so ago, the sheep ate them up - call it a drastic prune.  No baby olives, but maybe next year. 

I got an extremely rough draft of one of my entries for National Board done, cleaned all the bathrooms, started the pizza dough rising, and got some laundry folded.  I just have to pay a few bills and make the pizza, and I will actually have accomplished everything on my list today.  That's amazing.  I must have made a manageable list, instead of my usual, "You're dreaming, honey!" list. 

After my walk/jog with my son, I got a call from the older woman  up the road about walking.  Thunder had rolled in, so I set a time to walk with her tomorrow.  She only walks a mile, so I figure I'll walk to her house, walk with her for her mile and then go back and finish  my walk, which will be cool, because it will be 7 miles instead of 6.  I really ought to finish cleaning the basement for the kids' party next week.  My son asked if I could just not do it and let he and his sister do the job - I think he thinks I am annoying (right on schedule, he's 15) and would rather not hear me barking orders.  I said that would be fine, but I am going in if it isn't done tomorrow, because I have a work thing to do next Saturday morning, and there isn't any way I am cleaning after work any day this week.  Not with my 12+ hour days. 

Nice Kid, My Son

My son decided he would go on a run with me.  Since I mostly walk (even after 18 months of fairly dedicated exercising), this is usually a euphemism for "I run ahead and you do your best."  He did run ahead, but then he waited at the top of the road.  And then he walked or ran at my slow pace all the way back down.  I thought that was pretty nice. 

He's been a bit sad this week because his sister made it to the State Meet, but he did not - by just a second.  He told me last week that he didn't want to feel like this again, so he was going to run all year.  I told our older son that and his reply was, "We all feel that way, but then you get over it and you don't run."  We'll see. 

My daughter did well at the meet, but of course, at that level, all the girls are running fast, so she didn't place that high over all, but the team did well in their division.  And so, another XC season is now over except for the after party (at my house, next week, for 60 runners or so and their families - yikes!) 

It's almost November, which is NaNoWriMo.  I have to admit I started my book last November, and I have never yet been able to keep up with it the whole month of November.  Sigh.  I told one of my students the basic plot premise and he (like my son) said, "Oh, that's cool.  You should finish it."  One thing about teaching is that you really know what 15 year olds like.  Maybe some day, this story will see the light of day. 

Right now, though, I really need to clean the house for that massive onslaught of teens,  and I need to grade, and I need to finish Entry 4 for National Boards.  Oh, and laundry, of course....And most imperatively, repair some fencing up in the front so I can let the horse out up front to eat that California grass that is growing so tall. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Two Down, One to Go

This week was a rough one - a meeting on Oahu, which is torture because I come in on the first flight, take a late flight and don't even have time to see my kid or my parents.  Also, the first flight means I have to get up at 3:30 am and late flight means I get home at 8.  It was supposed to be 7, but there was something wrong with our plane, so we had to move.  The meeting was intense, too, which is good when you are there, and not so good the next day, when you are expected to be back on top of things after a very long day. 

Today was the court date for my son's small claims case.  I've never been to court, and I was under the impression that this would be a real court case, but this was sort of a preliminary.  Anyway, my son and his erstwhile landlord went into mediation and my son decided on a settlement.  The mediators told him the law was on his side, but he didn't want to go back to court during finals week (when the rest of the cases were being set in the people who went before us) and he'd made his point.  He got quite a bit of the deposit back, and he made his point.  I suspect this landlord rents to students, routinely keeps their deposits, and was rather surprised when this student objected.  I could be wrong, but hey, it all worked out, more or less.  And we all learned something. It was pretty interesting, all in all.  I also brought work with me, so when the judge was in recess, I went ahead and plugged away at the work.

Tomorrow is my formal observation #1.  I hate these things, but I just have to get over it.  I will let you know how it goes. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Regional Championship Day

Yesterday, I met my older son down at the University to give him some of his mail.  It was kind of a downer day for him and me, so we had a good talk about relationships (his, not his parents, obviously), speculating what the certified letter waiting for him at the Post Office was all about, and goals. 

Today, I got a bunch of texts from him - the certified letter was just his certified letter getting returned to him (phew - emailed my lawyer friend and she said "good!" too), and some other good kind of "everything is looking up" kind of news.  I vividly remember being 19 being a roller coaster - one of the commiserations I shared with him yesterday. I definitely feel my kids' pain a lot more than is good for me.  His relief makes me feel relieved and now I can concentrate on feeling really nervous - as if I were running the race today. 

I have a classroom full of runners and volunteer course marshals.  I jokingly told the boys that if they don't come in one of the top few spots, I am going to erase the "Congratulations" from the cake I bought them.  The girls are chatting and quite a few of the boys are sacked out on the floor.  I bought food for the course marshals (we had the PSAT today at school and most of them didn't go home) and told the runners to not eat it under any circumstances.  Jalapeno and pepperoni breads are NOT good pre-race food. 

It is a very hot and voggy day, unfortunately.  The vog makes a cover over the island that holds in the heat.  You cough and sneeze from the particulates in the air - during the PSAT, one of my students was sneezing and sneezing, poor guy.  

I am torn because I really want to ask if I can be in the chute.  It's a place everyone wants to be, so I feel bad for asking, but I have done just a lot this year, and they like to put me in the boonies where I can't see much of anything.  I just want to see my kids finish their race.  I don't want to put myself forward, though.  My husband has seen the stress I put myself through as team mom (I am sure there are moms who can handle it with aplomb, but I am obviously not one of them - I hate bothering people or being bossy and I am an inveterate introvert).  He thinks I should just say, "I want this, please!"  I did tell the kid marshals to ask to be in the field because they tend to put the kids in the chute - and they are fine being out in the course. 

Oh well, I will let you know how it all goes.  My son wants to win his Open race (sadly, even placing 4th on his team last week didn't budge him from the 8th spot going into today).  There are a couple of things that need to happen to allow him to compete in the State Championship next week.  One is that the varsity team needs to place in the top 2 for the race.  The other is that he needs to have a faster time than at least one of the Varsity boys (this is possible - but he'll have to scramble, because they are scrambling and he won't be in the same race as them for him to pace off them).  It's possible they can get the number 2 spot, but it will be an effort.  I think this is why I am so nervous.  I want him to run next week, because he wants it so badly.  It doesn't matter all that much, in the scheme of things, but still....  It's very likely that my daughter will make it because her team will make it, and I would like them to both make it. 

This isn't very coherent, I know, but it is warm-up time.  Wish us luck! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

October Envy

I keep looking at the blogs from mainland rural people - and they have oodles of apples to can.  I don't think I would like winter much, but it would be so cool to have an abundance of apples that you could just pick and process (I know it'd be a lot of work, but the cheapest I can get apples is $4/lb, and they're far from fresh enough to can well). 

We do have guavas, and three bunches of bananas starting on the red banana trees.  Our mountain apple is growing fast (not a real apple, though).  Even my tiny Meyer lemon tree has four or five baby lemons.  I keep telling my orange,  lime, tangerine, and Brazilian plum trees to get on the job... Even the fig tree, which I thought was dying has a bunch of new sprouts.  So it's not like we're devoid of fruit, but still.  I love applesauce. 

Work has been incredibly stressful, although I know I am putting a lot of the stress on myself.  Yes, I got asked to represent our school at the next standards meeting, suddenly and kind of inconveniently during Imua Week (our version of homecoming).  Yes, I am planning to go to the small claims court with my son to battle the unscrupulous landlord the very next day.  Yes, we have both the PSAT and the big regional championship race.  But those aren't my responsibility - except sort of to find enough course marshals for Saturday.  It was probably stupid of me to also schedule my formal observation next week, too.  I just wanted to get it done, to tell the truth.  

National Boards is stressful on its own, but it's not like I don't do that kind of reflecting on my own - it's just the nitty gritty stuff.  They want certain fonts and formats and one line over means the whole page is discarded and you fail.  I appreciate why they need to be so exacting and detail-oriented, but it does add a certain level of stress.  Also, I really, really hate being on camera.  It's basically a phobia of mine, and the thought of filming my class and then having to watch it over and over and transcribe it and reflect on it is just so insanely appalling to me.  It's like asking someone afraid of bugs to sit in a room crawling with creepy critters repeatedly. 

Unfortunately, both my evaluator teacher and my National Board coach are exactly the opposite of me pedagogically.  In my usual, "blame myself" mode, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I had to make myself like them and felt pretty crappy in general - until I took some time to really think about it.  Although there is room for all kinds of pedagogical beliefs in the classroom and different things work for different kids and different teachers, the way the people assigned to "coach" me teach gives me the cold chills - literally: I read a lesson plan by one of them and it gave me a shudder.   It works for them; it would make me deeply unhappy.  People learn best when they are happy, and me being happy and excited makes my students happy and more willing to take the risks I ask for in their thinking.  

I asked the National Board coach whether teachers from other schools would be considered "community" for one of the entries.  Her reply was it would depend on why you are including that activity.  My first, sarcastic and quickly deleted, response was, "You are useless," because I know why I am including the activity and that was not the question. That's how I know I am stressed.  I usually try to see things from others' perspective - perhaps too much.  I have decided I will go to the meetings and take the materials, but I will have other people read my entries.  I have several friends at other schools who are already Board certified, and our curriculum coordinator has offered to help, too.  There isn't any point in dealing with that level of stress if I can find a work-around.  

On another level, there is my son's security deposit dispute.  Pray for a good outcome for my son.  There is a certified letter in the mail for him (which is problematic as he doesn't live with us and the post office closes before I get off work), which I suspect is the landlord lodging a countersuit.  He doesn't have a case and it is retaliatory, and therefore helps our case next week, but it still is stressful.  My son isn't stressed, but I am.  I just have to get through next week, and then all I have to worry about is NaNoWriMo and National Board, and NaNoWriMo is, again, self-imposed and not a big deal - if I miss a day of writing 1667 words, so what? 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Loser Livestock Thieves

We heard some hunters on the large property behind us - happens sometimes; there's a pond and abundance of wild pigs.  However, this time, it seems they had a hankering for lamb.  When the sheep came in the other night, we were missing one young ram.  I walked through the pasture looking for him that evening, and my husband went the next day - there are thickets of trees where a little guy could get hidden away, but he's just not there. 

Someone asked me if they could have thought he was just a wild sheep - umm, no, he's fenced in a pasture.   There were bigger rams and wethers for them to take, but maybe they thought he looked young and tender - or maybe he was the one who walked right up to them, because he would be one to do that. 

My husband is almost done with the fence on the ram pen and/or mamma and baby pen - which ever we decide to do with it.  It's an oddly shaped pasture as it zigs around the olives and the garden.  Eventually, it will go along the almost-there pond and around the future site of the big greenhouse.  Lots of almost-theres and future sites, it seems, but, though progress is slow, it is still progress. 

Now in the house progress on anything except those essays and driving to practice has not been happening at all.  In fact, I have 18 more essays to go.  They're painful.  I have decided to postpone the literature I planned to start next week and work on rewriting these essays.  I have a process I call (secretly, to myself) "The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly."  I give the kids a pile of papers with no names and teacher comments removed, and I ask them to sort them into "Needs Work,"  "Getting There,"  and "Wow!"  and then they sit in groups and try to come to consensus on their rankings, and then discuss the criteria they used to sort the papers - what do the Wow!s have that the Needs Work could add/change to get to Wow! too?  It takes a couple of block periods, but it works.  I give them papers from another period or from another year, so no one gets bummed at being put in the Needs Work category.  We argue it out until we have a good description of a good paper, and then I give them back their papers and ask them to make the revisions they need to improve the writing. 

Oh well, once again, it is time to drive to practice.  Tomorrow is my niece's wedding and  the last regular race of the season is tomorrow.  I told the kids to run darned fast so they have time to go home and shower before the wedding!  Next week is the regional championship, the week after that (on Kauai) is the State meet (crossing my fingers for my kids to make it!) and then another XC season is done.  Phew! 

And completely off the topic of anything, I watched part of a typically foolish Hallmark movie this morning while folding laundry.  At the end, they had some weird panel of judges for a hunter-jumper show - one of them didn't want to give the first place to a pinto horse.  What is this, horse racism?  In actuality,  sport horse breeders have been adding color to the roster for quite some time, so it was a little more goofy and uninformed than the usual animal underdog movie.  Made me miss Ohia, anyway - although, as a typically quarter horse-y paint, he wouldn't make a super hunter jumper, anyway. 

Oh well, ramble aside - off to sit in the car grading the last papers. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Wee Haw: Fall Break

Yes, I have a two inch stack of papers to grade this week.  Gotta love that yesterday at the race kids were asking, "How did I do on my essay?"  - you know, the essay they just turned in the day before?  I laughed,  "You think I graded those already?!"  I always feel bad when I have a small outburst like that, but I could see his mom grinning at me from the door, so it couldn't have been that bad.  Sometimes I think I am too uptight. Sigh.  Fortunately, this kid can handle a little sarcasm.  He's a good kid - they all are, really. 

Yes, I decided on the fly to mirror the history time periods, so I am re-thinking everything for next quarter so even more work to do.  Yes, I have to spend between 2 and 6 hours at school on any given day this week - but that's not 10-11 hours, so WOO HOO, it's Fall Break! 

So my usual impossible list is pared down to - check if there are any sweet potatoes in any of the patches.  Plant some lettuce and broccoli, and clean the basement.  And take a few naps and go on a lot of long walks (I think best while walking). 

Oh well, time to get ready for Mass.  Happy Sunday, everyone!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Very Wet Race and a Musing on Shoes

The heavens opened and it poured buckets on the girls as they started their race.  It was just normally drizzly for the boys.  My kids did about as well as they did last week (faster because this is a faster course).  I think my daughter finished higher up in the overall ranks than last week, but the same for her team.  My son is still stubbornly stuck at first alternate.  He got bottle-necked in and couldn't quite catch the kid he needed to catch for that fingernail varsity spot.  He's a sophomore, though, so he's got a couple of years.  I know it is really important to him, though, so it is hard to see him not make his goal. 

He was nearly a full 5 minutes faster than his sister, who is solidly on varsity because the girls are just slower.  Oh well, that's how it goes - and almost all the runners are faster than me, so yeah, it's all relative.

The soccer coach told me, "Lucas needs new soccer shoes."  I told him that Lucas was NOT playing soccer, and I wasn't going to spend $60 on soccer shoes, only to follow up with Lucas and find he is playing soccer.  Sigh, those shoes were new last year and he only played half the season before pole vaulting pre-conditioning started.  I swear that kid and his shoes.  All those sport specific shoes, plus his general hard-on-shoes feet are killing me.  Thank goodness Ross sells racing spikes for a decent price and we actually found some.  You know the old trope with the guy rattling dice, chanting the mantra, "Come on, baby needs new shoes!"  Yeah, that's me these days, minus the dice.

Heck, I need new shoes!  I will wear shoes until they die on my feet (same with clothes) because I LOATHE shopping, particularly shoe shopping, so when I say I need new shoes, you can imagine how bad that can be.  I don't like breaking in new shoes and I would be happiest wearing slippers (that's flip flops, I think, to those of you not from Hawaii) all the time - or boots.  I like my Ariat paddock boots for riding and live in rubber boots around the farm.  My Ariat ropers are 10 years old, and they are still great.  Rubber boots - you get them at the hardware store, they all look the same, and they function (as long as a puppy doesn't gnaw on them or they don't split from age - in which case they leak).

I like having nice clothes, but I don't like shopping for them.  I thought that would change once I got back to a size 8, but nope.  I still hate shopping.  I wonder why - my daughters like shopping, my mother likes shopping - I guess I am the odd one out. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Fall Break

Today is the last day of school for a week! (Trumpets are sounding)

But then comes the drums, as I realize that, in spite of there being no school for a week, I have to be here EVERY DAY next week.  Between two different sets of Cross Country practices and two concession stand fund raisers (one for each team)... On the bright side, I will seriously be ready for next quarter.  For two days, I won't even be able to come into my room, because they are painting so it means planning in the car. 

I decided yesterday to flip the quarter around to match the history teacher's schedule.  I was going to do To Kill a Mockingbird first and then The Great Gatsby, but he's doing the 20s and then the 30s (yeah, makes sense for a history teacher).  I find Gatsby horribly depressing, and we just finished The Crucible, another big downer, so I was hoping to pop Mockingbird in there for a little more hope.  Why is so much of canonical American Literature so darned depressing? 

With this in mind, I have had to scale back my usual overly ambitious break time To Do List.  Mostly, I want to dig up the sweet potato patch - or at least part of it and see if there are any potatoes.  Also, I'd like to plant some broccoli and some Brussels sprouts.  Oh, and clean things like cupboards.  Even those few things feel ambitious since I have been battling a sore throat sinus-y thing for a month and my niece is getting married next weekend.  She has her shower this weekend, too - which seems a little cramped in timing - but that's probably me being mad that I felt responsible enough to work both late shifts for the concessions (past my old-lady bedtime!) and just feeling tired all around. 

It's only the 1st Quarter and I am already as worn out as I am during 3rd Quarter.  I don't even know why, except maybe I started these new programs and as much as I like new things, change wears me out. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Living in the Boonies

Yesterday,  we had a church dinner.  When we drove up, my kids were whining (I guess high school kids still whine) about how much homework they have to do.  I was too late for Mass and too early for the potluck, so I gave in.  Not something I usually do, by the way. 

It turns out that it was a good thing I went home.  I was planning on dropping the kids at the gate and driving back down, but when we got to the gate, there was a man standing there in the mostly dark of a 6:15 October evening.  He was looking down toward our darkened house.  When I drove into the driveway, he moved slightly to the side of our driveway to be equal to my window. 

I rolled down the window and asked him if I could help him.  I wasn't speaking a friendly tone, though, because I just felt afraid.  I don't know why. 

"I am just standing here, Alo-a," he said.  I think he meant "Aloha." 

"No, you're trespassing, and you need to move along,"  I replied, making a shoo-ing gesture. 

"Aloa," he said, a little more insistently.  I just shook my head and had my daughter wait until he left to open the gate.  If he thought saying his version of "Aloha" was designed to be peaceable, he was sadly mistaken - first of all, it was really badly mispronounced and second of all - you think standing in someone's driveway looking to see if anyone is home in the dark shows Aloha?  Yeah, I don't think so, Bub.  

Of course, I drove down the drive way, instead of letting them walk down, and I stayed a bit, too, because I was afraid he didn't go far and I didn't want him to see me leaving.  I turned on every light on the second floor - the ones visible from the street.  When I drove out to meet my husband at the church, I looked carefully to see that the guy wasn't hiding in the bushes across the street or standing where he could see me leave. 

I am not sure why that freaked me out as much as it did.  I just got a bad vibe.