Thursday, June 30, 2011

Moment of Magic

That's what my son said about his daughter's behavior.

Last Saturday, first-born granddaughter Kayla was a flower girl in her mother's cousin's wedding. At the rehearsal, Kayla met the other flower girl. Evidently the bride's mother works with the deaf and the little girl walking down the aisle with Kayla was one of her students, not completely deaf but seriously challenged. Additionally, the little girl reads lips, a fascinating skill. The connection between the two girls was instantaneous and their practice was flawless.

If there is a word to describe Kayla it is Kindness. Although a bit shy, she is extremely tenderhearted and kind to others, always putting herself in the other person's shoes, so to speak. After the wedding rehearsal was the big dinner. I do not know the little girl's name so I'm just going to give her one: Rosa. It solidifies the connection with my Kayla Rose and indicates the little one's Hispanic roots.

My son said there was a big buffet that was well worth waiting in line to experience. My d-i-l's family members were through the line and seated together at a large table, thoroughly enjoying each others' company. Since they don't live very close to each other, I'm sure the reconnecting was a lot of fun. Kayla's mom was at the table with her family, and her dad was still in line when Kayla came away from the buffet with a full plate in her hand then looked around the room. Her dad said that she looked at the family group and smiled, but then she saw her... she saw Rosa with her father, mother, and younger sibling, sitting alone at another table. Kayla's dad watched as a multitude of thoughts dashed through his daughter's mind, and the lump in his throat grew when he saw her move away from the laughter of her own family to sit with the isolated little family; he couldn't wait to join her.

This was not an event that was high on my son's priority list; he went to please his wife and daughter. But even as he thought of what he could have been doing (sleeping) at home, he reflected on how special it was to have that moment of magic when he saw his daughter choose kindness over her own possible pleasure. He was so glad he didn't miss it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Book Club Begins Again

I had a great day yesterday! Around 11 in the morning, I went to the YMCA and took over the grandkids, allowing my lovely daughter-in-law a day on her own. My son is away on business and the three adorables have our family's high-energy-gene which can be a real drain when they choose to engage it. The little bit has swim lessons first so finishes first and can be showered, dressed, and ready to go when the other two finish their lessons. That's a good thing as she wants both my help and my full attention whenever she can get it. Once the three were finished, we headed to the DQ for lunch and ice cream. Summer and Dairy Queen kind of go hand-in-hand for me. After a quick trip to Sears for socks and long-sleeved T-shirts, it was off to Jumpin' Jacks for a full hour of bouncy, slidey things. They were already a bit tired after swimming and this sealed the deal. We headed to our house and by the time I got inside, the two older kids were stretched out on the sofas in the family room, waiting for me to hand them popsicles and turn on the cartoons. I wanted to laugh out loud but restrained myself. As dinner time approached, I began the process of getting them off the couch and in the car. After one last 30-minute stop at the playground in the park, we continued to their house where I delivered three worn-out kids who were ready to eat (or not) and drop into bed!

Just before we left my house, I handed each of the kids a book. Colton looked at me and wanted to know why I was giving him a book. I told him it was summer reading time. Kayla immediately piped up, remembering our book club discussions from last year. She explained to Colton that he would read the book and let me know when he was finished. Then the two of us would go to lunch and talk about his book. He looked at the book, looked up at me and said, "This is a chapter book Grandma." (He just finished first grade) I told him that he was right but I thought he could read it. He glanced at a few pages and agreed, then responded, "I'm going to read this in the car so I can go to lunch with you right away!" I laughed... I know summer is all about activity with this boy so if he reads a few books, I will declare myself the victor! Long live summer reading!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My contribution

Sometimes I don't get along well with others; I don't work well with others. That seemed rather evident to me the day we were packing/moving the in-laws. When they decided to come to my house overnight, I was so glad to go home and prepare the guest room for them. I really did want to help but the group dynamics can sometimes make me crazy, so I volunteered to clean their condo after everyone left. My m-i-l is the world's all-time, most dedicated housekeeper - ever! I didn't think it would take me two hours but it did. It took five! I didn't expect the refrigerator to take that long and I didn't expect the bathrooms to take that long and.... you get my point. At the end of the day, some guys came to remove a couch and hide-a-bed that the in-laws were donating to someone in need. I tried to get these guys to listen to me - didn't happen. What did happen was they crunched the bedroom door, poked a good-sized hole in it with the hide-a-bed leg. I was irritated big time but they couldn't tell. I appeared totally serene. I just wanted them gone! Thankfully the hubby found a You-Tube that explains how to repair a hole in a hollow-core door. Not what we wanted to do but at least it's fixable!

Then last night the hubby decided to move his desk from the home office (which he doesn't use nearly as much these days) to his school office. We're getting ready to have company and need a bit more bedroom space. I am actually quite excited about the change because it means my kids and grandkids will be able to have a comfortable space at our house this Christmas. They are coming for six weeks! That will be so much fun! It's a long way down the road yet so I haven't allowed myself to go there. But it's always in the back of my mind. Family makes it all worthwhile.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Moving at 80 and 90

My in-laws are almost all packed up. They are almost 85 and 92 (summer birthdays) and are moving from WA to ID, to a college town with lots to see and do, plus a lot more sunshine than Western WA. He loves to golf and she has a ton of friends over there so it's a good move for them. However... at their age, moving is more than a pain, it's down right dangerous! They've been working too hard and are totally worn out. Tomorrow they're beginning the drive over there. So if I were you, I'd get off the roads between Olympia and Nampa for a couple days, cuz here come two sleep-deprived old people to a freeway near you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Seattle Séjour

This week, the hubby and I went to a conference on Differentiated Instruction in Light of Brain Research. The conference itself was very interesting with a lot of practical resources provided for the 300+ private school educators in attendance. However, I really didn't want to get up before six in the morning for an hour's + drive to Seattle on Monday, then home, and back to Seattle on Tuesday, so we came up with a brilliant plan.

My brother owns a condo in downtown Seattle only ten minutes or so from SPU, home of our two-day conference. No one has used his condo in more than a month so he graciously agreed to let us stay there. We drove up Sunday afternoon, avoiding a lot of heavy traffic, and settled in for a relaxing afternoon, wandering the city on foot and thoroughly enjoying Zeek's Pizza.

Monday we drove the few minutes to the university and stay put until four in the afternoon. We called some friends who live in Edmonds, met them for dinner that evening, then headed back to the condo and rested well before our last conference session on Tuesday. Each day, a catered lunch was provided, and it was sooooooo good! Tuesday we knew we couldn't each much dinner after our pasta lunch so checked out a Seattle magazine and found a Caribbean restaurant that specialized in Cuban pork delicacies. After enjoying the early evening at the Ballard Locks, we went to The Paseo and shared a delicious grilled pork, green salad, rice and black bean platter! This tiny space was hopping! Seating was limited to six tiny tables and we were fortunate to snag one of the last vacancies. Don't offer these guys a credit card or check; they're strictly a cash only establishment. This place gave new definition to the proverbial hole-in-a-wall restaurant! And it was wonderful!

Wednesday morning we packed up, left the condo, and headed downtown, specifically to Pike's Place Market and my all-time favorite kitchen store, Sur La Table. I also wandered into a Made in Washington store and bought Goodnight Seattle, a sweet book that I will read to my granddaughter via iChat and then ship to France to add to her expanding library. After our traditional trip to Ivar's on Pier 54, we headed home and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon and evening. Well, I did... the hubby mowed the lawn, weeded, and accomplished several other outdoor jobs. Tomorrow he will go into the office and I will tackle the laundry and then babysit two of our three adorables here in town. The third is headed to Seattle with her mom for a wedding rehearsal. She's going to be the flower girl in a cousin's wedding. And she will do it perfectly!

Such a great way to participate in a conference and spend our first week out of school together!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sierra's Sleepover #2

Whew! What a day we have had! I picked up almost four-year-old Sierra a few minutes before noon and off to DQ we went. After lunch, we got ice cream and went to Grandpa's office to drop off a strawberry-chocolate chunk blizzard for him to enjoy. We stopped at the store for popsicles and some new sandbox toys because... we created a sandbox for Sierra to enjoy! It's made from a big old drawer that used to be part of the bedroom closet in my mother's 1940's house. I just think it's cute and she loves it!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Staff meeting delight!

Yesterday's staff meeting really surprised me. We actually accomplished several things. That's been my biggest gripe. For too long we have hashed over the same old things then tabled everything for the fall. This year, decisions were made, changes that will make our lives easier as teachers, including dress code, assemblies, attendance policy enforcement, and other things that are smaller or don't directly affect junior high.

Part of the success yesterday was finally getting people to see that we are two schools in one, that junior high is simply not the same as the elementary grades, and that we need to acknowledge this and allow for some changes. One of the biggest disconnects for us has been the Grandparents Day celebration. I'm all for grandparents but once students hit junior high, this kind of event is not always successful. While elementary classes have three grandparents for every student, our classes had one or two sets of grandparents for the entire class. It's been like that for years and making this event anything but a boring embarrassment has been a huge challenge for us. This coming year, junior high will opt out of the day and have a normal day of classes. This is so much better for us.

Another issue, a much bigger one, has been the tardy policy, rather, the enforcement of the tardy policy. Our policy is quite strict and consequences are clearly spelled out but when those consequences are not delivered, students receive the wrong message. Yesterday we requested the authority to deliver the consequences ourselves, and it is going to happen. Little by little, we are shaping our part of the school.

I have to say, part of what we do comes from my experience at QCS. When I taught there, we had a principal for the school and administrative assistants for each department within the school. I had that responsibility for the middle school. We had our own staff meetings, dealt with discipline issues, curriculum issues, and made recommendations to the administration that often resulted in change. Teachers had a voice - or at least we believed we had a voice. And that's what happened in staff meeting yesterday. Teachers spoke, were heard, and witnessed change. It was a good thing!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Who says?

When I moved back to the Pacific Northwest, a song came out that I just had to own. Bon Jovi's "Who Says You Can't Go Home." I loved this song! It perfectly suited my emotions at the time. And today, five years after moving home again, I still love it. Last night two of my four brothers, my mother, my hubby and I went to a lovely waterside restaurant to celebrate my mother's 83rd birthday. My mom is amazing! She is, without doubt, the most independent person I have ever met and my husband says I'm just like her on that front. I do respect people who try their best to resolve their own issues and live their own life without becoming hermits. My mom is one of those people. I really hope I am able grow old just like she has!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

81 Days

My summer vacation is 81 days long... well... kind of... I do have to sit through a meeting on Monday, but I've been known to get up, head to the restroom and not come back for a l.o.n.g time, so that doesn't bother me. I am going to a two-day conference on brain development and learning in junior high students, but that's in Seattle, and we're going to stay in my brother's downtown condo so in spite of the long daytime learning, we'll have some evening fun. I determined last year to truly focus on my days outside the classroom, to read, to garden, to spend intentional time with my grandchildren and my mother. I loved it, so I am going to do this again. But first - it's 10 o'clock in the morning and I should probably get out of the pj's and into some blue jeans. The garden needs watering. Bliss!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Good Day In School

Today was our last in the building day. Tomorrow is the all-school picnic at a nearby park. Our day started well with a bit of sun. Students finished a crossword puzzle that they seemed to enjoy, got everything out of their lockers, wiped them down with clorox-wipes, and then it was time for the awards assembly. I really must do something about this. It's tortuous! The assembly started at 9:35 and ended at 11:50. My students were wasted! I don't care much for this assembly, but I do plan well for it. Last year I took the baby quilt I was making and quilted all morning. This year I took one of the new novels I'm reading for a possible Lit Circle book for next year and I read to page 138, in spite of the noise all around me. I told my students to take a book or sketch pad and pencils because it would be long. Last year's went on for 90 minutes and I thought that was a big deal. This year's was nuts! But it's history so that's that.

The afternoon was far more successful. It was party-time! Students brought cookies, chips, sodas, fruit, veggies, cupcakes, and Rice Krispie treats! I picked up the DVD Tangled from the local Red Box. I love Red Box... good grief, a new movie for a buck! What's not to like! Usually I don't have too many kids show up in my room for the movie but this year, I had a roomful! It was hilarious listening to them sing along with the characters! The last period of the day, the PE teacher took the students for some outside games so we could clean up the mess in our classrooms. I got everything off my walls and windows and put away. Once I clean off my desk, I'll be ready to check out! Productivity!

On the way home this evening, I passed kids playing outside in shorts and tank tops. It was 62*. I thought about where I used to live in the islands. If the temperature ever plummeted that low, people would wear sweaters and hats and whatever else they could find to get warm. Sun and 62 degrees equals summer weather in the Pacific Northwest!

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

And On They Go!

I just walked in from 8th grade promotion. My feet hurt and I'm tired but it was a good evening. My husband, the high school principal, groaned more than once tonight as these kids exhibited their unique personalities. It's okay; he'll love them once he gets to know them! They are ready to move on and I know they will do well. I told them today that they each have ten million mistakes to make in life and they might as well take a risk and start learning from them. They will be fine.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Pretty Cool!

Tonight was the high school senior/parent evening. It was really nice, simple but nice. Had cake and punch and the kids were able to share with their parents. Academic awards were also handed out. They used to do this during graduation but it makes it way too long so this is the evening activity when it happens. There were several amazing awards. A lot of our kids got the presidential award for excellence (a dozen or more) but the one that kind of blew me away was the Washington State academic awards. Each high school in the state can submit the names of the students who meet certain criteria, like a 3.5 and a 1600 minimum on SAT and 26 minimum on ACT. Then they calculate the top 10% of the state, which winds up being much higher than the minimum. We have 47 students graduating this year and 8 of them made it into that top ten! That is just plain cool!

There are people who want to say that a Christian high school doesn't measure up academically. I know that's not the case! One of the great faculty members that makes such a difference in these kids lives is Dr. Norm Nielsen. Recently he's been chosen as the top chemistry high school teacher in the NW region. This is the link to the article but you do have to scroll past the grads and the summer school stuff. He is an amazing guy and our grads tell us that college biology, chemistry, and physics are smooth sailing for them. They've already had the tough stuff with Norm!

The theme for the high school is Raising the Bar. My hubby is the principal and is committed to academic excellence. It was important to him as a student and it's even more important to him now. I could tell he was happy tonight with all the national and state awards our students were receiving. It is truly well worth the effort.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Sunny Saturday!

It is absolutely gorgeous outside. I've been working in the yard for three hours, and I'm sore. Picked up the mail and came inside to pay a bill on-line... thinking about going back out... thinking, thinking... not moving yet. We took all the weeds off the front hillside and are dreaming of what it could be. I have to remember to take some pictures so I'll be able to do a before and after. I should have done it before we weeded! We put in pathways in the back yard last year and we are thinking of adding one to the front this year. We would have a couple purposes for the path, a route to the mailbox (down on the street) without having to go down the driveway, which is on the opposite side of the house, and a way to head to the back yard from the front door or mailbox area. We need to extend our retaining wall on the west side of the house and build a small retaining wall along the new path. We'll add ferns and azaleas along the retaining wall, back them with my lilacs that will have to be moved. I'm beginning to see it.

Friday, June 03, 2011

One Week

I have one more week of school. My 7th graders just discovered that they actually have to work through next Wednesday and they are shocked. Poor things... this is the perfect time for grammar review and boy, do they need it! We just finished a capital letter review and the grades were not spectacular. Next, word usage... one of my pet peeves. I just corrected a girl who wrote except rather than accept. If I hammer away at this hard enough, it's possible these students will know a few of these things before high school.

Today I removed several things from my classroom walls, mostly schedules for sports, electives, enrichment, and such. I also took down student work and gave it to them. It's always interesting to see which students toss their work and which save it. Nearly all my only children save their work. And yes, I have several onlies in this class. That explains a lot of the conflict these students experience. They are simply used to getting their own way.

So... the sun is shining and I have the afternoon to look forward to. I'm done with most of my work! What joy!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Grades DONE- - -

And uploaded! How glad are all the teachers out there that we don't have to calculate our own grades and fill out paper report cards? That used to take HOURS! As frustrated as I can get over little quirks in our school record keeping program, I am enormously glad that I don't have to do the manual calculating and paper shuffling that I used to do every quarter. Today I gave my 8th graders their last test, entered it, and it's done. Had I been doing this manually, I would not have been able to count today's test. Tomorrow we'll be watching a 30-minute DVD Auschwitz: If You Cried, You Died about two Holocaust survivors. It falls perfectly after our literature circles. My 7th graders are going to take a vocabulary test which won't count - but they don't know that. Ah yes... one more week and vacation begins. This year hasn't been horrible, not at all, but I am ready for summer break. Leisurely mornings, sunshine, garden, and grandchildren... perfect!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Crazy Farm

That's where I told my 7th graders I was going: the crazy farm. They wanted to know if there really was such a place and I assured them there was, not too far from here either. Then D wanted to know if he could have visitation rights. "Absolutely Not! If I'm going crazy, I'm going alone!" was my sweet reply. We are at that point of the year when 7th graders forget they have been in school for nine long months, nearly ten, and act like they haven't a clue in the world how to do a thing! We've been doing the same kind of vocabulary work all year long, the same grammar all year long, the same... you get the picture... but they don't. Their role in life right now is to push me over the edge and I'm rolling right along, I assure you!