Sunday, June 29, 2008
I have one more week of this life of luxury and then summer school starts. For those of you who don't know, I am going to be teaching this summer at the same school I was at during the year. I will have about 8 kids in my group, most of whom were in my class as a student teacher. We will be concentrating mainly on reading and math. It's 4 hours a day, 4 days a week, for six weeks. I think it's a great opportunity for me, and something that will look good on the 'ol resume. Plus, the pay is good, so that's always a nice bonus!
One thing that I have started since we got back from up north is working out. I was finding that my "big" pants and shorts were no longer big. And I was finding that I was missing the feeling of being in shape. I could never find the time nor energy to work out while I was teaching. Most nights I could barely stay up past 9:00 pm. The couch and I became one almost immediately when I walked through the door. (Bless Stein for all the dinners he cooked and laundry he did. I am trying to repay this good deed now while I have more time on my hands.) So, my sister-n-law Anne and I have been running about twice a week (at 6:00 am - whew!), and I have even stepped through the doors of the Y a couple times this week. No sirens or bells went off when I did, so I took that as a good sign.
I am thankful for this time off and the reflecting I've been doing on the year behind me. My friend Regina told me that I won't fully understand just how much I've learned and have grown from the previous year for a while. I find in the most unusual places and times that I am struck by a nugget of wisdom that I acquired. It's a nice feeling when that happens, especially when I am relaxing and taking in my favorite season.
Friday, June 27, 2008
I didn't know how this whole blog thing was going to work. I didn't know if I would keep up with it at all. It was all so new to me, and sometimes I felt like I was baring it all. It took me a while to get into the groove of it. I usually write with an audience in mind, so at first it was a bit intimidating knowing a wide variety of people including my Mom (hi Mom!), friends, family, teachers, and co-workers were reading it.
I have to say, it's been great. I have found that especially with student teaching and my long-term sub gig, it's been really therapeutic. At times when I felt I was going nowhere with anything at school, I know I could feel productive writing a post for this blog. And it also did what I hoped it would do - helped people stay in touch with me without me having to write a ton of emails.
So thank you. Thanks to Amy (of Roustabouts fame) for turning me on to blogging. Thanks to all the regular readers for reading this blog. Thanks for your comments (made on the blog or verbally). It's been a fun experience for me that I hope to continue for another 200 posts and beyond.
Have a great weekend, everyone!
Thursday, June 26, 2008
You remember our basil from last year? It was mid-August when I did that post. It's only the end of June and our basil is looking the same. Again, I'm not complaining. I think some pesto making is in my future. Along with giving away a lot of it. I would hate to see it go to waste. And the tomatoes are already flowering. Hopefully we'll have some soon so I won't have to buy any more for our tomato and basil salads.
The pictures above and below didn't come out as clear as I wanted, but I just love the bright colors. Planting all of these flowers each year is always time-consuming, but so worth it when they bloom and grow.
Stein recently put these edging stones in one of the corners and I love them. I should've planted some flowers that spread more than these snap dragons, but oh well. Maybe next year.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
When she first came into my life, I was living with my Mom and Rich. There she and I would take rides through the forest preserves. I would also throw her in the back of my Honda Del Sol and take her to see friends. She has seen me through some interesting relationships prior to the important one with Stein. She kept me company during the day while I was unemployed one summer and spent most of the time on the lakefront bike path in Chicago. She got me from point A (Wrigleyville) to point B (Grant Park) so many summers to go to Taste of Chicago, movies outside, free WRXT concerts, or Emeril Lagasse's show that they taped there. Sometimes the trips we took weren't exactly the safest. I never owned a bike helmet while I lived there, and always rode in the streets. I naively saw each trip through the streets as an obstacle course of sorts, dodging pot holes, sewers (sorry Mickey and Patty), and the occasional door opened by a driver parking his car.
When I moved to Michigan, Little Red and I continued on our adventures. Stein and his bike (I know he has not named his), and Little Red and I cruised the streets of Ann Arbor and surrounding bike paths. We were (and still are) amazed at the number of people who ride their bikes on the sidewalks. When we see people riding on the sidewalk, we usually say to each other, "It's called a sideWALK for a reason. To walk." It doesn't annoy us as much in our neighborhood or on less busy sidewalks, but downtown in the middle of summer with hundreds of people walking on the sidewalk? Ugh. But, I digress. We also went on a trip up north where she crossed the Mackinac Bridge, rode a ferry to Mackinac Island, and explored the island. Stein and I also threw safety into the mix and bought helmets. How adult of us, huh?
Little Red and I took on a competitive side when we registered for a mini-triathlon. During these races, I realized just how heavy Little Red is, as I struggled to pedal past middle-aged women on their light, aluminum bikes. We did okay though, and even beat our time the second year we were in the race.
Last year Little Red stayed in the basement. I was busy finishing up summer classes and didn't have time to take her out of the house. This week I've been without a car, so yesterday I dusted her off, carried her up the stairs and outside. Her chain needed some oil, her tires needed some air, and then we were off. It was a gorgeous day here yesterday - high 70's, sunny, and no humidity. As I felt the air blowing through my hair (helmet), I was glad to be riding Red again. I remembered all of her nuances in a flash: how heavy she is, how finicky she is about changing gears, and how her back breaks are a little softer than her front breaks.
I thought briefly this year of trading in 'ol Red for a younger, lighter model. (Don't tell Red though). But at this point, why? Despite a few rusty spots, I think she's got a few years left in her. A few years to get me from point A to point B reliably, and a whole lot of memories to conjure up.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Of course, the meals we ate out there were strictly summer meals. Things like BLT sandwiches and cold tuna and shells. Complete with a glass of cold, grainy Kool-Aid and a popsicle or ice cream sandwich for dessert.
I got the recipe below from Mickey last year and never made it. When I was home yesterday with a bit of time of my hands, I had an urge to cook. (But not too much of an urge.) I thought back to those days of eating dinner on the back porch and suddenly had a taste for a BLT sandwich. Which led me to getting this recipe out (I asterisked the items I changed/substituted). I think it's from Rachel Ray since it lists "evoo". I don't really like Rachel Ray (her personality and use of abbreviations like evoo) but her recipes are usually pretty easy and pretty tasty. It was just what we needed for a summer supper. Stein and I ate ours outside on the patio.
6 cups (1/2 inch) cubed French bread or other firm white bread*
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 T water
2 T fat-free mayonnaise
2 1/2 t sugar
2 t evoo
1/4 t salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/8 t ground red pepper
3 cups torn curly leaf lettuce*
2 cups chopped seeded tomato*
2 T thinly sliced green onions
4 bacon slices*
1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Place bread cubes in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan. Lightly coat bread cubes with evoo. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes or until golden, stirring once.
3. Combine vinegar and next 7 ingredients(through red pepper) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add toasted bread cubes lettuce and tomato toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with onions and bacon. Serve immediately.
*Here are the changes I made to this recipe: I didn't want to use my oven (or time) for making croutons, so I bought some really good whole grain garlic and cheese croutons. I just used bagged romaine lettuce for the lettuce, and chopped cherry tomatoes (not seeded). And the bacon? 4 slices is simply not enough for Stein and me. I think I made 10-12 slices, and 8-10 of them ended up in the salad.
Monday, June 23, 2008
We laughed a lot, ate a lot and drank a little (ahem). My Mom was also sure to remind us that we needed ice cream after dinner each night. Bless her.
The thing that became comical for us was the restaurants and their hours. We tried to go to one restaurant the first night, and when we pulled up the sign read, "We're closed." Closed? On a Tuesday night? Apparently it was only temporary. When we got back to our cars after eating somewhere else, it was open again. We began to take the whole closing thing personally when our favorite breakfast place was closed the next morning. We made the 25 minute drive to Charlevoix just for the french toast at Jullierette's. The sign on the door read, "Closed Wednesdays". What restaurants are closed on Wednesdays? We thought. We had to settle for a regular breakfast at a nearby diner. Then, that night, we got smart and called the restaurant where we wanted to go to for dinner. Our plans included going late enough to watch the sunset from this restaurant up on a bluff overlooking the bay. The sun was going to set at 9:30. The restaurant was closing at 8:00. It wasn't going to work. It didn't matter. We jumped into our cars, headed up to the restaurant and enjoyed a wonderful polish dinner. It didn't matter that we couldn't see the bay through the drizzling rain and fog. We had kielbasa, pierogi, and potatoes on our plates. All was good. We had to settle for a group photo inside:
We did end up seeing a good sunset on the last night we were there. I was sure to take a lot of pictures of the momentous event. Here are a few:
On Friday, Mike and Mickey went home, and Stein, my Mom, Rich, and I drove over to the west side of the state. Stein wanted us to see one of the golf courses he loves. We all saw why he loves it so much. While we ate a delicious lunch, we took in this view:That night, we stayed in St. Joseph. It was a great night to sit outside and eat. And of course we had ice cream after dinner.
Monday, June 16, 2008
We're lucky enough to have Stein's brother's place to stay. It's within walking distance to downtown Petoskey and within a short drive to other towns too.
The thing I love about being up north is that there's never an agenda, never a definite plan. Just options for things to do, or places to eat. Decisions are made after lingering over breakfasts, drinks and appetizers, or after a nap. Walks are taken, talking flows, and the sites are breathless. You can't go wrong with water, harbors, and winding roads.
I may be out of the blogging world for a bit while we're there. In the meantime, enjoy all my favorite season has to offer... it goes by way too fast.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
That evening we went to Matt and Anne's cottage for a father's day dinner. Summer was happening at every turn. Kids in bathing suits running in and out of the water, catching fish in nets, swinging in the hammock. Burgers cooked on the grill, drinks were in coolers, and chairs all faced the lake. There's something about water that calms. Just sitting there watching the water and boats going by that just soothes. The epitome of relaxing in summer.
After that, we headed over to Linda's house for a party. She invited all the teachers and staff from school to her house for a party. She has a perfect house for a big party complete with slip and slide, bonfires, and a backyard big enough to have loads of kids running around with sparklers or glow in the dark bracelets or necklaces. We caught up with everyone, sat by the bonfire and made s'mores, and then headed home. A great summer night to complete the day.
Here's to you, summer. I'm glad you're here. I'm looking forward to more days like this.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
- Life consists of three things: you, video games, and you.
- Gross stuff is cool.
- Graphic novels (comic books) are the best books.
- Best friends change by the week, or day, or minute.
- Notes written to friends always have a question and then a yes or no that you have to circle.
- When the teacher is talking, listening and being quiet is optional.
- Pens, pencils (especially mechanical), and erasers are so cool.
- Playing soccer at recess (even if you just stand in the middle of the field), is the best.
- If someone is bothering you, and you ask them to stop, it is acceptable to start chasing them around the room if they don't stop. Hitting them is also an option.
- Thinking about going to middle school is a traumatic experience.
- When you want to avoid doing your work, going to the bathroom or getting a drink of water is always a good time waster.
- If you get enough love and attention from someone, you are willing to do almost anything for that person.
Well, it's over. I still can't believe it. I feel like someone is going to call me on Monday and say, "It's a joke. We need you to get into school and teach." I think I would cry if that happened. I can't tell you how good it feels to be done. I have such a feeling of accomplishment. I did it. I stuck it out, learned a heck of a lot along the way, and sent the kids off.
I will write about our last week in another post, but for now I am savoring the feeling of being done, being able to do what I want to do (reading for pleasure - what a concept!) and not having to think about kids, lesson plans, grading tests, and disciplining.
Wow. I did it.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
She got in Friday night after driving through a horrendous rainstorm. When I got out of school and turned on the radio in the car, they began announcing the tornado and storm warnings and watches. What started worrying me is that they were all in towns that Mickey had to drive through. When she finally arrived later that night, I was so relieved.
The minute she stepped through the door, we were talking. We had gifts for each other (we're both gift people) and waited for the right time to open them. We waited a while. There wasn't a break in the talking for a long time. Finally we dug in. I got a bag of books which made me giddy (remember, we're book geeks). I gave Mickey some magazines (remember, we're magazine hounds), a game, and some licorice. That led to me searching for my box of games, which led to a game of Skip-Bo. Stein doesn't really like to play games, but I love them, as does my whole family. So it was the perfect opportunity to play a game.
The next morning, I woke up early and tossed and turned thinking about school. I ended up doing some planning for this week while I let Mickey sleep. We ventured out to Target for some early-morning-beat-the-crowds-shopping while we sipped our Starbucks and chatted some more. The funny thing about us when we're together, is that most things take twice as long because we're busy talking. Man, we sound like some old bittys, don't we? I guess, but boy was it fun...
After a quick breakfast break at home, we went to get pedicures. Like the Seinfeld episode where Elaine has no idea what the people at the salon are saying, we sat and tried to decode the unfamiliar language that was directed our way. We laughed every time we looked at each other with puzzled glances.
That afternoon we visited with my good friend Regina and my mother-n-law. It was a great afternoon, filled with more girlie talk. Each of us is at a different stage in our lives, so the conversation flowed with stories, struggles, and experiences. We coached each other through various stories and stayed optimistic through some of the hard, depressing topics.
After they left, Mickey and I took advantage of the cooler evening, and decided to go for a walk. We went in the direction of the burrito place, as that was going to be our dinner that night (only the best when Mickey comes to town!). We came home, ate our burritos, and watched the chick flick P.S. I Love You. True to form, I started falling asleep, and Mickey suggested we turn it off and finish it the next day.
We didn't end up watching the rest of it the next day because we were busy! We went to a cooking class in the morning, where we learned how to make quiche, crepes, and a sauce for the crepes. We sipped belinis, and savored every bite of the food we prepared. It was only Mickey, another woman, and me at the class, so it made for a really intimate gathering. We were able to pick the brain of the chef and learn a lot more had there been more people there.
After we left, we went home to do some planning for the week. Mickey warned me to be overly prepared for the last week of school, since all the learning would be mostly fun stuff. I heeded her warning and looked up lots of stuff to do. I thought a unit on the Olympics would be good, incorporating this year's Summer Olympics and learning about China. I haven't yet taught anything on it, but hey, I'm prepared when I have a moment to do so...
Monday Mickey came with me to school. I really appreciated her being there. She is a seasoned teacher and I was able to learn from her in the short time she was in my classroom. She had the class' attention while she taught them the parts of speech. She even used a bit of bribery with chocolate. And then she introduced them to Mad Libs. Can you believe that most of them had never done Mad Libs, let alone heard of them? It was a hit. I plan on doing it again with them tomorrow. At lunchtime, she made the journey back to her home. She's on summer vacation now, and she is savoring every minute of it.
The good news? I'll see her next week when we meet up north in Petoskey. There we'll be joined by another (retired) teacher, our mom. Let the teacher talk commence.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Fortunately, we had 2 activities this week which got them outside, but also got them wet to cool off. The first was field day on Thursday. The gym teacher organized a bunch of games that the kids could play. They rotated through all the stations with a team throughout the afternoon. It was cool because all the teams were mixed of third, fourth and fifth graders. I was sure to split my rough boys up and any other cliques that would detract from the fun. The kids had a ball. Some of the games involved water, and the kids took full advantage of those to cool off. I didn't get drenched like some of the kids, but I did stand close enough to some of the games to get a sprinkling. That felt good.
On Friday, as part of our Friday special activity, we had a water fight. The gym teacher let me borrow her buckets and water squirters. I forgot how kids just love getting wet, especially on hot days. We filled up the buckets and took them to a far corner of the playground. We didn't want other classes that were out for recess to get wet, so we were sure to be far away. Then the drenching ensued. It was neat to watch the progression of it all. The hesitation of someone going up to another person to get them wet, the other person frozen with fear, then running away, and finally letting in when they got soaked. I stood back for a moment to just watch the kids play. The rough boys weren't there again, so it was perfect.
About five minutes into it, one of the kids came up to me with a sly grin on her face. She was holding the squirter so the end was pointed at me. I was waiting for someone to get me. I wanted to get wet. The sun was beating down and it was hot. I ran away from her to make it seem like I didn't want to get wet. She caught up to me and gave me a good dousing. Ah, did that feel nice. But it didn't stop there. I was actually dripping when we got done. My shoes were soaked to the point where they sloshed when I walked. I didn't care. The kids were having a blast, they were cool, and they were squirting each other. At one point, one of the boys said, "This is the best activity ever!" Yay for me, I thought. "Well," he added, "This and the library are the best." Yay for me again.
One of my favorite memories of the water fight was a moment at the beginning. (I didn't take pictures because I was afraid my camera was going to get wet). The buckets were getting drained pretty quickly, so I told the kids to carry the buckets to the hose so we could fill them up again. As we made our way over to the hose, I looked over at one of the kids carrying one of the buckets. Some background - she is one of my students who has a lot of challenges. She comes from a really rough background, and her erratic behavior is a result of this. For the most part she is a great kid. But she has her moments. As we walked, she stopped and picked up the bucket with the remaining water in it and lifted it above her head. Like a moment from a Superbowl victory, she turned the bucket over and dumped it on herself. She just stood there and blinked her eyes while the water ran down her face. She had the biggest grin on her face. I laughed out loud. And I couldn't stop laughing. It was a combination of surprise, disbelief, and release.
I was so happy that these kids could just be kids for a moment. The way that I remember. Free from all the violence and sadness that they see at home or on TV or wherever. Free to just play, and laugh, and run, and have fun.
And how could we possibly top this? We ended the time with bomb pop popsicles. As the blue liquid dripped onto my hand, I thought to myself, this is what it's all about.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
It all started when he tried to schedule the first appointment. I was meeting a friend for dinner that night, and would be about a half hour late to our estimate "appointment". When Stein questioned why I needed to be there the whole time, they said that we both needed to be present to make the decision. So we rescheduled for today.
The guy was supposed to be here around 7:00, but showed up at about 7:20 claiming he couldn't find our house on his GPS. The guy was obviously trying to cover up for being late, because he was well-outfitted with technology. Blackberry and cell phone he had. I don't understand why you would have to stop at the GPS. But I digress.
He first measured the windows around the house, then went out to the car to get his samples. He needed one window to stomp on (seriously), one to show us the weaker competitor, and one to show us how strong his frames are. And then he brought out a heat lamp, and some windows that gave us a cross-cut perspective of what's inside. Thankfully, the guy caught on to Stein's impatience. He cut his lengthy sales pitch short.
When it came down to numbers, it was a lot more expensive than either of us had thought. But we didn't need to worry about the original price he quoted. In a matter of minutes, and 3 (3!) phone calls to his "manager", he cut the price in half. I'm not kidding. How are we supposed to take him seriously when he cut the price that much?
I felt exactly how I feel when I buy a car. No matter how low they go, you always end up leaving the place thinking you've been taken. We told the guy we weren't going to buy tonight, and we didn't. But he was pulling out all the stops to try to get us to buy. He gave us money off for putting a sign on our lawn for a couple months, he gave us a "first time customer" discount. The last stop he pulled out was calling his manager and asking him if we could be considered contractors to get that discount. It reminded me of the "What can we do to get you in a car tonight?" tactic that most car salespeople use.
Thank goodness for caller i.d. I have a feeling the hard sell isn't over just yet.