Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Power of Advertising

Every night before the girls go to sleep, my husband and I lie down with them for a few minutes of cuddle time. We talk about their day and their tomorrow. They listen to a book on tape or some soothing music (Lydia likes Dean Martin. Really.)It's one of my favorite parts of the day. Our itty bitty kitty, Shirley (aka Lil'Shirl- it's her hip-hop name) loves to nestle in with Claire. We love it because she gets into like a sleep high and squinches up her eyes and looks so cute. Plus, there is nothing warmer or cozier than a sleepin' kitty. She's the sassy one on the right.

Last night, as I was snuggling with Lydia, she let out this big sigh and said, "I'm tired!"
Quickly followed up with, "But I don't want to take Lunesta!" (Because we so often feel the need to drug our children with sleep aids before they go to bed)

THIS is why prescription medication ought not to be advertised on television at the magnitude that it is currently. And also why my kids are limited to PBS, Disney and The Food Network- it's as much for the content of the programming as it is the things they advertise. Claire wants to watch American Idol, which admittedly, I have never watched. From what I know about it, I don't have any objections to her watching the show, but I do have an issue with the commercials- especially for scary and/or inappropriate movie trailers.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Proud to be an American

So, my friend's husband just became a US citizen today. I'd like to do something for him/get him something in honor of this momentous occasion. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This is my brain:

Your Brain is Orange
Of all the brain types, yours is the quickest.You are usually thinking a mile a minute, and you could be thinking about anything at all.Your thoughts are often scattered and random - but they're also a lot of fun!
You tend to spend a lot of time thinking about esoteric subjects, the meaning of life, and pop culture.

Monday, February 19, 2007


Right now the most delicious smell is wafting through my house. I just made 6 glorious, delicious, mouth-watering Cornish pasties. (not the boobie-tassles, the "a" is short, or "pure" if you know IPA)
My paternal grandmother had family who came to Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania from Cornwall. That area of PA is known as the Slate Belt, aptly named for the slate mines that were prevalent there. The miners used to take pasties in their lunch- and according to my grandmother, her father took them in his lunch as well. For those of you unfortunate enough not to have tasted a pasty, it's a meat pie. It's usually made with steak, potato, onion, sometimes turnip or rutabega (not this girl) and sometimes carrot. It is simply seasoned with salt and pepper and a dot of butter- the filling placed in a circle of yummy pie dough, folded over and the edges crimped. Yes, I make my own pie dough, and have turned into a snob about it. You cut slits in the top so it can vent, then bake and enjoy the most delicious smell ever.

No one around here has heard of pasties, but if you drive about an hour and a half north and a bit east to Mineral Point, Wisconsin, you can get a tasty pasty (they do not rhyme, people) at the Red Rooster cafe. They had miners up there from Cornwall as well, and the pasty stayed on.

As a person who HATES the "samification" (thanks, Teacher Lady) of America, I adore regional food. I love that when you order breakfast in the south, grits are on the menu. I love that when you go to New Orleans, a "po-boy" is a sandwich. What'chall got in your neck of the woods that I would be hard pressed to get here in Iowa? Here, we've got Maid-Rites (aka "loose-meat sandwiches"); breaded pork tenderloins, the Iowa chop (big-ass pork chop) and where I live, Chicago-style pizza and Italian beef. Not in restaurants, but in Scandinavian families, we've also got lefse, kringle and if you're really unlucky, ludefisk. The Czech families are quite fond of making kolaches (yummy pastries).

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Thinking Bloggers

Many thanks to my "virtual" friend in Arizona, Nic, at Siempre Fiel, for tagging me as a Thinking Blogger. I am flattered and perhaps slightly embarrassed, since some of my posts aren't exactly along the lines of "thinking" material. Like others who have been tagged and want to be as inclusive as possible, I will leave some very worth names off my short list of 5, only because they have been nominated by others, and not because I think they are not worthy. I would have to include all on Nic's list and Nic herself, but then I wouldn't be able to tag these fine people:

1. Happy Chyck, at Happy Chyck Wonders. I find her to be incredibly engaging as a writer and imagine she is as such in the classroom. No matter her mood, her frustrations, it is always clearly evident that she has a passion for teaching and truly loves her students.

2. Adeline, at Chez What?. She and I are very simpatico in our love for languages and the process by which people learn them.

3. Mrs. Bluebird. When she writes about her students and colleagues and what's happening in her classroom, I feel like I'm there.

4. Mr. Teacher, at Learn Me Good. He's hilarious, and that comes through in his writing. More important, though is that it's easy to see that he is probably highly energetic in the classroom. We need more males in the field of elementary education. This is a second career for him, having left the corporate world. I think that many times, when people come to teaching later, they bring a freshness, balanced by experience to the classrooms where they teach.

5. Teacher Lady, at Sex Ed in Higher Ed. She's taking a break from blogging right now, and I hope it's a short one, because I miss her so. She validates the belief that we should indeed be holding our students accountable for things like properly constructing sentences, showing up for finals, reading the damn syllabus. Plus, she's pretty damn funny.

That's it, those are my 5- very hard to choose, I might add. Go ahead, tag yourself some Thinking Bloggers!


Ok, so I got some pokes from my first installment of the manifesto. I love it when people say "You can think what you want, it is your blog." Oh, thanks. Thanks for allowing me to have my own opinion. I really needed that.

I'll spare us all from a second installment for a day or so. Let the dust settle a bit.

Instead, I will brag that I had dinner with Senator Joe Biden, former Senator John Edwards, and former governor of Iowa and Presidential candidate hopeful, Tom Vilsack and his lovely wife Christy, and Representative Bruce Braley. Of course, 350 others joined us, but still, we ate food together from the same buffet, under the same roof. (county democratic fund raiser dinner). It's a great thing to live in Iowa- all the candidates come here and you get to meet them up close and personal. We take our caucus business pretty seriously.

In other news, our main floor bathroom is getting a makeover. We had little, hexagonal/mosaic tile put in as the flooring. It was like that "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" book, though. Once we got started, we just kept going. The plastic coated masonite glued to the wall? Ripped off, including some hunks of the plaster. We will put up bead board and paint it white. The huge, tacky globe like sconces? Gone. Replaced with much more appropriate chrome ones. The bronzed/antiqued/fugly toilet paper holder? Gone. Replaced with chrome. Ugly layers of wallpaper? Going- will have to scrub to get it the hell off the walls, but will be worth it. Ugly formica counter top on cabinet? Still trying to decide what kind of really cool surface will replace it. It's not that big of an area, so we're thinking about splurging on something extravagant, like marble. The tile installer discovered that our toilet had been bolted to the floor, but that the wax ring was really just sitting on the floor, not attached properly. It had most likely been that way for 40 years. It's so funny doing home improvement in an older home- you never know what you're going to get.

Next up: the upstairs bathroom. I have before pictures I'll share once we begin.

It is supposed to be in the 40's all week! Spring is almost here!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

T Manifesto: Part One

There's a crabby old lady who's taken up residence in my psyche. I've decided that one way to rid myself of her presence is to share in the joy with my friends in the blogosphere. Aren't you delighted? I've decided to do so by means of a manifesto. Remember this guy? Or what about this whack job? Ok, maybe I shouldn't call it a manifesto. Do we know of any normal people who have written a manifesto?

I'm going ahead with the manifesto. It feels very empowering to me right now. I won't inundate you with the complete text, but rather parcel out the different elements to you periodically so as not to make you all think I've turned into a complete whacka-do.

My first rant in my T Manifesto: Home Schooling.

I've sat quietly about this one for too long. I've apologized for my position on this. When Claire was born, I "got" home-schooling, as I wondered how I would ever be able to send my beautiful baby out into the big, bad world of kindergarten. I know several people who are fine, upstanding citizens who dutifully and responsibly home school their children. I know that home-schooled children do very well on standardized tests and despite what others my speculate, do very well socially. I know this. Then what's my beef? Well, here it is, I take great issue with the fact that, at least in the state of Iowa, virtually anyone can homeschool their kids. Anyone. Not only that, but the parents have the right to use of textbooks and other materials. They can (and do) request that their children be allowed to accompany the class that would have been their child's on field trips, and to attend classroom parties.
As a classroom teacher, what did I have to do to get to where I am? Well, first of all, while in college, I had to apply to the College of Education and be accepted. I had to take a teacher competency exam (and it was slightly harder than "find your ass with both hands"). I had to do an initial "field experience, where I observed a class for a certain number of hours. I had to take classes in child development, child and adolescent psych., testing and evaluation instruments, human relations. I had to log more hours in field experience, where I not only observed, but was required to do a little bit of actual teaching. I had to take methods courses. I then had to student teach for an entire semester, which I did in Omaha, Nebraska. THEN, I had to apply to the State Board of Educational Examiners, whereupon I was issued a provisional teaching license. Since then, I have whatever comes after a provisional license that I must renew every 5 years with proof that I have been taking classes. To get a job in my district, I had to have a criminal records check. I had to go through Mandatory Reporter/Child Abuse training. I had to teach a lesson to my prospective employers. I had to have letters of recommendation. Once hired, I have to have regular evaluations done by an administrator. I have to have a "Career Development Plan". I have to meet the needs of diverse learners and follow this kid's IEP and that kids 504 plan. I have to contact parents regarding their kids' behavior and progress in my classroom. I am expected to fulfill "other duties as assigned". Some days, I literally have no time to use the restroom. 6:15- 3:30 is kind of a long time to wait. And not very healthy. But I digress.
So what am I saying here? We all have to jump through all of these hoops to be teachers. But, anyone who decides that school just isn't for them or their child can homeschool. So, if anyone can do this without going through all the things I mentioned, what does that say about my profession? Can this happen in other professions? Medicine? Law? Social work? Law enforcement? Massage therapy?
And, if it is indeed true that anyone can teach, then why the hell do we have to jump through all these hoops? Why can't anyone just walk in off the street and teach? I know some people who speak Spanish, couldn't they teach my class? What about someone who's a history buff- couldn't they teach history? And an elementary classroom? Come on! We've all been to school, right? So doesn't that qualify all of us to teach 1st, or 2nd or 4th grade? (elementary teachers, please note my sarcastic tone, I'm on your side)
Recently, homeschooling has become so mainstream that kids who aren't happy in their classrooms go home and request to be homeschooled. Are you kidding me? Part of life is dealing with difficult situations, teachers you don't like, classmates you don't care for. Sometimes, things at school don't entirely reflect one's home values. And isn't that a part of life as well? Kids are smart enough to realize that home and school are different. And yes, of course parents should be their children's first teachers. Of course. Everytime you interact with a child can be a teaching and learning experience. But it doesn't have to be the education. It should complement, not replace.
Do not even get me started on unschooling.

Rant over. I feel so much better, and the crabby old lady is quiet for now.

P.S. Does anyone else see the utter irony in the Unabomber's manifesto being available on the Internet?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

We're having a heatwave, a midwestern heatwave!

One nice thing about it being cold as hell these last couple of weeks: when it's finally sunny and above 25 degrees, it feels downright balmy. We are soooo going to appreciate Spring when it gets here.

Speaking of Spring, what is up with having Daylight Savings time be March 11? the hell? Doesn't it usually happen in April? Do we really need that extra hour of daylight? Someone said it's for the economy. If it is, I still don't get it.

In a couple of months, my book group will be making selections for the coming year. (We choose our books a year in advance- each person has a "pick") Any recommendations? We have a few guidelines- nothing of the Danielle Steele ilk, nothing so long as not to be finished in a 4-5 week period of time, as we meet monthly. It must be in print, preferably in paperback. We have found that some of the books we enjoyed the most prompted the least discussion, while those we liked less, or had trouble reading sparked the best discussions.

I've got a mild case of Sunday-itis tonight. I don't want to go to school tomorrow. Wahh. The good part about Wed. being our ITED (Iowa Tests of Educational Development) day is that the kids are done at noon, so we get to go out to lunch after we have safely delivered the test booklets to their proper vault. It's almost like a day off, not having to prepare lesson plans for that day. Woo hoo!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mrs. President, sprinklers, and standardized tests

At school, things have been a flurry of activity of late. Not last weekend, but the weekend before, none other than Ms. Hilary Clinton came to have a press conference in our library. (oops, I mean media center) Unfortunately, I had prior kid commitments, so was unable to attend. Even if you're not a fan, what a thrill. I heard it was pretty canned- only the press was allowed to ask any questions, no surprises in what she said. It was earlier in the day, but still here in town, where she made some comment about the big, bad man or whatever it was she said.

We have steam heat at school and the boiler has been crazy- really cold rooms in parts of the building, sauna like conditions in others. Yesterday we got to school to find that one of the sprinkler heads in the auditorium had burst, causing all kinds of water damage to the 3rd and 4th floors.

The kids are all wacky because tomorrow is their version of the Sadie Hawkins dance. We've had 2 auds in the past 2 weeks- one to announce the candidates for King of the Dance, and today they announced the winner. The show choir performed- and I am such a dork, I was actually moved to tears. Let me explain myself- they did a number that was beautifully sung- these kids have such amazing talent- and it was all a tribute to our soldiers, a couple of the kids wore military uniforms and they had a folded American flag. I was trying to keep it together, but I just couldn't, sap that I am.

AND, ITEDs are next week and we have to get off the "watch" list, so there is much pressure on the kids to do well, and if they can't do well, they have to do better. So, we have been spending the last 15 minutes of 4th block doing test prep. A committee ran an item analysis of the questions missed on last years' test and made up some math and reading questions that are of a similar type. So, I had to go over the Pythagorean theorum with the kids, which I get, and parabola, which I do not and never did. I don't know if it will help, but it certainly can't hurt. I have a feeling that the kids who do well are going to do well anyway and the kids who don't care will continue not to care. We even have an incentive for them- they will get a maximum of 3 tickets on which they will write their names. The tickets will be put into a drawing for various prizes- tvs, movie tickets, ice cream gift certificates, etc. Should we be bribing them to take these tests? I have a hard time with this. It's hard to make any of the kids care about these tests, when they have no bearing on their grades, nor is their admission to college contingent upon their doing well. If their promotion to the next grade or graduation were contingent upon their achieving certain scores, I think they might work a bit harder. As it is, even the smart ones don't worry much about these tests. Now, the rest of us? We are freaking out. If we don't meet certain criteria- especially in sub-groups, we go back on "The List". Frankly, I think everyone's going to be on that list sooner or later.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Just another frigid Monday....

So glad to have Super Bowl out of the way. I'm pretty much in Bear Country, so there were lots of long faces today. Me? I could really care less. I'd like to say it's because I'm taking the "On Principle" high road, but it's really more of a case of not giving a rat's ass. I'm just not a sports-oriented person, which at times has made me feel a bit of a social outcast. I attend the occasional baseball game in the summer, and I have to admit, for me, it's really more about the ambiance. I root for my girls when they play whatever sport. I attend the obligatory high school football game when my students say shyly "Mrs. T, are you coming to our game tonight?"
But, professional sports really just leave me cold. This weekend I had 2 people tell me that they've boycotted all pro sports on the principle that they players make an obscene amount of money compared to educators. (We might say the same about nurses and social workers and .....)

Out here on the prairie, we are cold, cold, cold, as Nanny would say in the Eloise books. The forcast says "Frigid"- our high temperature has been a whopping 4 degrees for the past several days. When it hits the balmy 20's on Wed. we won't know what to do with ourselves. We'll show up to work in flip flops and tank tops. It's the kind of cold where the undercarriage of your car freezes, so when you go over a bump in the road, your car sounds like it's going to crack. Call me a freak, but I'm actually kind of glad for the cold weather. I get nervous when we have long stretches of unseasonably warm weather in the winter. I keep thinking about the polar ice caps melting and the polar bears coming to town in Canada (anyone else see that PBS special?). It's the midwest, it's February, it's supposed to be cold.

Today we had several water mains break, which shut down several businesses downtown, including the courthouse. Some schools also had mains break- how is it that they still had school? You have no water. You can't flush. Eww. We were under a "boil order" at our school- so the kids were all freaking out about that. I'm trying to put together some sub plans so I can take a mental health day soon and let Calgon take me away.....

Friday, February 02, 2007

My Friday Five

Here are some random things I thought were funny today:

1. Lydia asking me "What is the Pop Secret?"

2. Lydia referring to Corey's Bro Mitzvah. (Instead of a Bar Mitzvah). I thought
she had just said it wrong, it
turns out it was on the new Corey in the House show. Still funny,

3. The YouTube video of the bride freaking out and cutting her hair. I guess it was
staged. Still funny.

4. Autistic student suddenly exclaiming "Oh Snap!" during vocab. quiz, after
realizing that his library book was due that day - most were finished.

5. My friend's story about a Japanese girl she went to college with who wore the
university logo sweatshirt that said "University Grandpa". This led to
discussion of people who get tattoos of Chinese characters and kanji and
whether or not the character says what they THINK it says. ("I say peace, love,
faith, but I put booger!")