Monday, December 19, 2011

Elf on a Shelf: A Horror Story

A terrible thing emerged several Christmases ago called 

Through some facebook sleuthing I discovered that these awful puppets have become somewhat of a staple in the homes of small children every holiday season. The whole scheme works like this: A FOOTLESS puppet enters a home sometime after Thanksgiving with direct orders from Santa to keep an eye on the children.  Every night this borderline peeping tom will magically fly back to the North Pole where he will recount the day's events to Santa.  Santa then uses this information to scribe his Naughty and Nice lists, while parents have an entire month's worth of discipline that involves pointing to the informant elf and crying,  "I hope SANTA doesn't have to hear about this!"

As someone who has an irrational fear of puppets I am NOT a fan of the Elf on the Shelf.  It scares the crap out of me.  Take a look at this!!!:

 Ahhh!!  So scary!! No feet!  Creepily peering around doorways!!  Ahhh!!

I do not have children, but I would like to have some someday, and this Elf on the Shelf business is really making me reconsider. The thought of a FOOTLESS elf sneaking around my house at night is positively terrifying. Now, I KNOW that the parents are the ones who actually move the elf, but I would always second guess myself if said Elf were ever out of my sight for more than 30 seconds.  No one can guarantee what those puppets are doing when they aren't being watched.

I'll admit I'm intrigued by the whole behavior management angle.  I have visions of TWENTY little elves hanging from my classroom projector with their frightening eyes staring at each students' chair.  But, I'm far too creeped out by their painted faces and lack of feet to actually ever go through with it.

However, there is some good news!  A Christmas miracle, if you will.  While browsing the internets for ways to protect myself from elves without feet I came upon this little gem:

This is so great.  A mother decided to hold a contest to see who could create the most hilarious inappropriate elf picture. (Within reason!  All the photos are PG-13...ish).  I encourage all of my friends and family members who have an elf to participate.  You can even win an Ipad 2!

Happy Holidays everyone! 
Lookout for those elves.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

On Narwhals

   My Earth was turned upside down on Saturday night when I discovered that narwhals are not, in fact, mythical creatures.  For years I had them categorized in the same group as unicorns, yetis, and the chupacabra.  But no, as wikipedia has informed me: Narwhals are very real, and they are swimming around in the arctic ocean RIGHT NOW!
   This brings up some pretty serious questions for me.  For instance, if they have those giant horns sticking out of their faces what kind of turning radius can they possibly have?  It's a good thing they have an entire ocean to turn around in.  Also, what do they do if they get attacked from the side?  My very basic knowledge of physics tells me that they would probably not be able to get that horn pointed in an effective defensive position in enough time.  Finally, do they like shish kebabs, or ring toss?
   According to wikipedia, they don't even use those horns for hunting!  What a waste!  It seems they are mostly for show, like a male peacock feathers or a lion's mane.  This news is kind of disappointing, considering once I discovered the validity of narwhals I instantly pictured them chasing after other sea creatures and harpooning them with their horns.  Sadly, they do no harpooning, from what I can gather from wikipedia, my most reliable source of information.
   Oh, and it turns out, the "horn" is actually a "tusk."  So, it is the worst snaggle-tooth ever.

I have so much to think about.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Kindergarten is Back...With a Spider in the Bathroom

Kindergarten started again this week.  We are at a brand new school site and I have 30 students.  Also, I'm the school's Garden Coordinator, I started a Masters Program, and I got engaged.  All of these things have happened in the past week. This year will be a wild ride!

I'm happy to say that after five first days of Kindergarten I am no longer surprised at how crazy it is. The kids are cute and hilarious, and I've loved getting to know their personalities.  I have one student who I am calling "The Squirrel" because she shoots around the room, gets into everything, and is outrageously cute.  Another student has (so far) spent every day wandering around my classroom crying as loudly as possible, begging me to call her mom. :(  And yet another student cannot use our Kindergarten bathroom because he is afraid of spiders.

The spider situation came to light today when said student came rushing up to me with a desperate look on his face.  He had already made one unsuccessful trip to the bathroom where he realized he was unable to unfasten his belt.  He oddly stalked back into the room, approached me and said,

"Can you do dis belt fing? It's really hard!"

I undid the belt, and he went streaking back out in the direction of the bathroom.  This happened right at the beginning of recess when all of my other students were sprinting in sweaty circles outside, while a student from another class was throwing a tantrum that I was called to assist with.

In the midst of all the chaos I forgot that my one student had gone to the bathroom. (Safety note: That bathroom is right outside my classroom which is next to the fenced in playground so he wasn't lost or unsupervised).  Near the end of recess I noticed the same student pacing in and out of the bathroom, muttering to himself and sporting a concerned expression.

My school principal was in the midst (due to the aforementioned tantrum) and he mentioned to me,

"Hey, why is *Johnny* still going in and out of that bathroom?"

I realized that he was right, and that Johnny had been inexplicably wandering around the bathroom area for a longer amount of time then is usually necessary.  To top off the scene, he now had his belt half-way off, and he was pacing back and forth with it dangling from the belt loops on one side of his body.  The principal thought his concern might be getting his belt back on, so he pulled him aside to coach him in putting his belt through the loops on his pants.

He managed to get his belt back on, but then immediately came up to me and asked to go to the bathroom again.  The situation was getting stranger and stranger so I finally asked him what was going on.  I told him he had spent plenty of time in the bathroom, and I wanted to know why he still had not gone.  He threw his head back, dropped his hands to his side, and gave a loud and exasperated sigh as he said,

"BECAUSE der is a SPIDER in der!  And if a spider bites you you will DIE!  And you hafta go to da hospital and get shots and I HATE shots!"

A true five year-old dilemna: Do I pee my pants, or face a bathroom spider?

From the way he was acting I pictured a tarantula in an elaborate web hanging over the urinal, but as I went into the bathroom to scope out the scene I could see no spider.  Johnny waved me over to a corner near the door, the farthest point from the bathroom stall, and pointed up at the ceiling.  There, in the tiniest crack near the window, was a small spider running back and forth.

"You see!!?  It's wight der!  Can you watch the spider so I can go pee?"

"You want me to keep an eye on the spider while you use the stall so it doesn't go near you?"


So that is how I found myself standing in the corner of the bathroom watching a small spider while a student went in the stall and FINALLY used the restroom.

I can't wait for day three.

*As always, names are changed.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Some Great Blogs

I've been very busy with packing up my entire classroom and stealing off to summer camp to live in the woods for a week.  This means that I have lots to write about, but that I have even more laundry to do.  So all camp related blogging will happen after the last dirty sock has been laundered and put away, and all of my outrageous costumes have been accounted for.  In the meantime, I suggest you read these blogs:

In Honor of Design
A blog about home decor, fashion, and sometimes babies.  It's cute.

WTForever 21
 This blog pokes fun at all of the crazy stuff Forever 21 tries to sell under the guise of fashion.  Also, the creators are currently being sued by Forever 21 for alleged copyright infringement regarding their brand name.  Sarcastic and Controversial?  I love it.

Fashionably Bombed
Do you wish you could wear cute dresses and drink fun cocktails all day?  I do.  These sisters have somehow managed to pull that off.  Luckies.

Every Day I Write the Book
This is one of those Mormon Mommy Bloggers, but she's not so much preachy as she is hilarious.  She talks about how she's really bad at things that Mormon moms are supposed to be good at.  Plus she reads a lot, and I like her book recommendations.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Top Chef

Every once in a while my friends Bill and Rebecca host a Top Chef competition.  Luckily, Rebecca's sister Jessica is an amazing documentary film maker (or something like that) and Rebecca is an editing genius. Together they have managed to create a video which captures the competition in ways I couldn't begin to describe with the written word.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

La Llorona

To completely understand this story you're going to have to do some additional research.  It is imperative that you understand who La Llorona is, otherwise this will make little sense.

Thanks, Wikipedia!
(My most reliable source of information)

Essentially, she is a crying ghost-lady that tries to steal children (from what my five year old students tell me).

The other day I was sitting with a group of my students (Yellow Table, to be precise) who were working on writing in their journals.  Ideally, the children will draw pictures and write stories about past experiences, and then I will write back to them in their journals to draw out more information and encourage them to expand their writing.  In reality, my students always want to write about being at the park with Spiderman, or at Chucky Cheese with a princess.  When I remind them that they have to write about something that really happened to them they will put some sort of absurd spin on it.  Typically it goes down like this:

Me: "Tell me about your drawing!"
Student: "I am playing soccer with Spiderman!"
Me: "Hmm, is that something that REALLY happened?"
Student: "Oh, yeah, well, one time I was watching Spiderman and then I was dreaming about him playing soccer with me so that is why it really happened 'cause I dreamed it."

Sometimes I battle with them over this, but on this particular day I wasn't really in the mood so when my student told me he was drawing La Llorona I did not try and convince him to do something else. (I mean, there are only so many times you can write about going to the park!)

I asked him to tell me what La Llorona was doing, and he elaborated, "She is chasing me on my skateboard.  She is trying to get me because I was not being a good listener.  She steals kids.  My skateboard is a fire skateboard and it makes me go fast so I can get away from her.  The fire is on her head."

There were four other children at the table.  Two of them were very familiar with the tales of La Llorona, and two were not.  Upon hearing the first student's idea the two more familiar with the story immediately jumped on the bandwagon and began drawing their own versions of their encounters with La Llorona.

"This is me with La Llorona at a birthday party at the park!"

"I am playing soccer with La the park!"

(Always the park)

The other two students; however, sat confused.  "Who is La Llorona?" one little girl asked.

One student offered the explanation, "Oh, she is a lady who has a face like this," makes terrible face, "and hair like THIS, scribbles all over paper with black crayon, "and hands like THIS!" makes gnarled-claw hands.

"But why does she have yucky hands?"

"Because she is trying to steal kids and take them from their moms when they are so bad or they don't clean up their messes!"

She considered this for a moment, then turned to me and asked, "Is it for real?"

I was at an impasse.  This was the same little girl that would not put her feet on the floor for the entirety of St. Patrick's day because she was terrified that there was an actual leprechaun in the classroom.  As far as make-believe characters go she took them pretty seriously.   I could tell her yes, possibly scarring her forever, or tell her no and completely undercut a cultural story that was really important to several of the other students.  I turned the question around on her and asked, "Well, what do you think?"

She looked at me, looked at her friends, and said, "No, I don't think it's real."

The student with the original La Llorona inspiration threw down his black crayon (which he had been using to add some extra tangles to La Llorona's hair) and shouted, "IN MEXICO IT'S REAL!"

She looked at him, smiled and said, "Oh, that's OK then." and everyone continued to color.

Well, crises averted.  My students still believe in La Llorona, but think she is safely tucked away in Mexico.  

I win at teaching.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011



If you, OR ANYONE YOU KNOW, might be interested in hosting an exchange student from Spain from June 30th-July 24th please let me know!  I'm working with a student exchange company called American Discovery, and I need to find host families for 7 more high school students, and 1 female chaperon.

The students are high-school aged, eager to improve their English, and so excited about spending three weeks in the United States.  They come completely insured, with their own spending money, and the cost of all of our activities is included in their program fee.  The only additional cost to the host families is the extra mouth to feed for just three weeks. 

Right now I am responsible for recruiting host families, but once the students arrive the real fun begins!  I'm in charge of coordinating awesome trips and activities for the students AND their host families during the three weeks. It's a great way to practice Spanish, and an even better way to learn about a different culture, PLUS you (and/or your kids) can participate in the trips and activities  (hosted by me) to San Francisco, Six Flags, AND Sun Splash. (I'm sure it's the Sun Splash that will really seal the deal for a lot of you).

American Discovery charters a bus for all of the far out of town trips, as well as provides transportation to and from the airport.  Host families only responsibility in regards to these trips is to get the students to the meet up points.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, if you or anyone you know might even kind of sort of maybe want to know even a tiny little bit about this program please contact me!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Love Potion

One of my student's parents invited Lee and I to come over for dinner a couple of weeks ago.  They are the nicest people in the world, so we readily accepted, although doing so required me to reveal to my student (and; therefore, my entire class) that I have a boyfriend.

Five year olds have a really hard time understanding what goes on in people's lives in between college and marriage.  I get questions all the time about this, such as, "Who do you live with?  Where are your kids?  Do you have a mom?  If you aren't married, then who do you sleep with?"  They have no concept of life after college but before marriage.  So while I don't hide the fact that I have a boyfriend, I don't really advertise it either because it is confusing to them.

Once word got out that I had a real life boyfriend that I LIKE like weird things started happening.  Granted, some of my students could not have cared less.  As long as I keep the legos available and the juice supply plentiful they have little concern about what I do.  However, a couple of the girls in my class were completely fascinated with my new-found relationship status and it caused them to act like, well, a bunch of school girls.

They began stealing off to corners of the playground to whisper and point at me.  I would catch snippets of conversations with words like boyfriend, love, gross, married, and the like.  When I approached the girls and asked them what they were talking about they would all laugh and cry, "NOTHING!!! But we know about your boyfriend!!!!" (I briefly considered giving them a life lesson on "playing it cool," but decided against it, as maintaining a straight face to cover your tracks is not a California State Standard).

Eventually this behavior spilled over into playtime, where for several days in a row all this gaggle of girls did was make lists.  Endless, endless lists.  At first I was fine with it because they were writing!  Hooray, a teaching success!  But then another one of my students, who walks a fine line between only caring about juice and being vaguely interested in other parts of my life came up to me and said she needed to say something important.

"Maestra Robin," she started, "I want you to know that those girls are making up a secret potion for you to drink."
"Oh really?" I said, "What kind of potion?"
"It's a kind of potion that makes you fall in love so you will kiss your boyfriend."
I considered this and then asked, "Why do they want me to kiss my boyfriend?"
Exasperated, my student threw her hands up in the air, "BECAUSE they want you to get married!"
"OK...." I carefully continued, "and why do they want me to get married?"
This particular student did a double take over both shoulders to make sure no one would hear the terrible plot that she was so carelessly revealing to me, "They want you to get married so they can be FLOWER GIRLS IN YOUR WEDDING!"

Well, there it was; the whole sordid plan spelled out for me.  A flower girl is a most coveted position for five year old girls, and it appears that they will stop at nothing to secure it.

I decided that this had gone on for long enough, so I sauntered over to the table where two girls were furiously scribbling away on two pieces of paper.  When they saw me they gasped and covered their papers, which I plucked out from underneath their hands to examine.

"What is this for?"  I asked.
"NOTHING!!!!" they both cried.  "Really, it's nothing."
"It doesn't look like nothing, " I replied, "It almost looks like you are trying to make some sort of...potion?"

Their facial expressions vacillated between disbelief and fear before one of them offered, "Oh yes!  It IS a  potion!  A potion for my BROTHER so he will fall in love with HIS girlfriend and kiss HER."
"YES!" the other one cried, "Her brother has a girlfriend!"

"Well, here's the thing:" I said, as their heads hung, fearing that they were about to be found out.  "If you're going to make lists for potions, you're going to need to write in Spanish."  Their eyes flashed up to me with shock.  They had gotten away with it!  They were making secret potion for me and I had NO idea.  They were so smart.

"OK Maestra!  We will!" (Cue the exchange of knowing glances)

Later I was able to get a copy of the secret potion ingredient list.  After some difficult decoding, this is what I think it says:

Salt, butter, milk, juice, sparkles,
pieces of pepper, cinnamon, crayons,
nail polish, ice, markers, soap, bean,
leaves, blood, Capri Sun's (apostrophe S?), germs, candy, brother's potion (nice try), glitter, magic, lipstick, hair. Water, lemon, orange juice, flower seeds, hand sanitizer, rock, feather's (there's that apostrophe again), play dough, eraser and pencils, blocks, grass, spit, boogers, bread, wax, stickers, wood, fruit, gum, strings, food, coffee, nails, rubber, fur, mucous, legos, plastic, tea, 6, glue, and buttons.

Thank God I'm still alive.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sweater Applique DIY

 I love to make crafts, and the other day Lee pointed out to me that I haven't crafted anything for a few months.  I have a lot of painting crafts that I want to do, but the lack of cooperation from the weather has left me staring longingly outside and even MORE longingly at the pile of "projects" (junk?) that I have set aside in the corner of our living room for future crafts.
I poked around on the internet for a while and found website that showed lots of ways to revamp an old cardigan that you don't wear anymore. This was the PERFECT craft for right now, as it involves no sewing, or painting, or going outside.  (Unless you count going to the store to buy some supplies, but I wore a coat, so, hey, no big deal)

You need:
  • Fabric
  • Fusible webbing (stuff you iron on to fabric to turn it into a sticker-like thing)
  • An iron
  • Scissors
  • A pencil

 I cut a piece of the fusible webbing

 and I ironed it on the back side of the fabric
(The side I didn't want showing)

 I traced out the shape of some flowers I found online

 And cut out the shape

 After I had cut out several flower shapes I peeled off the paper on the back and pinned them on the cardigan

 And I pulled off the pins as I ironed the different shapes onto the sweater

 The back of the sweater looks like this

 And the front looks like this

(Photograph by Lee Black, all rights reserved)

I wasn't really wearing the white cardigan anymore, but now I'm going to wear it all the time!
I love how it turned out!

Thanks Mormon mommy blogs!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Today I learned Sudanese

There is a student in my English class who is hilarious.  I'm talking laugh-out-loud, I can't even contain myself, hilarious.  His speech pattern also adds to the amusement, as he enunciates e-ve-ry sin-gle sy-la-ble in e-ve-ry word.  Try envisioning a robot, or one of those text-to-speech functions on the computer, but with a really cute little kid voice and you have a good idea of how funny and adorable it is when this little guy talks...about the military.

He is obsessed with the military.  And ninjas.  AND Japan.  And Beijing, which he thinks is in Japan.    He feels it is his duty to inform everyone about all things pertaining to these themes.  No matter what our topic of conversation he will some how bring it back to something having to do with a military tactic that involved a ninja war in Beijing, Japan (See, Bullies).  Not really in a gory or graphic sort of way, but more in a History Channel sort of way.

Today we walked into class and he immediately sat on the rug, shot his hand into the air, and gave me the giant eyes, please call on me before I explode from suspense, type of look.  I could not resist because I knew it would be awesome.

Child: "Ms. Robin!  I have something to share with the class!"

Me: "OK, come up here in front to share."
Child: "Everyone. pause for effect.  I can speak Sudanese."
Me: Knowing that no other child had any idea what he was talking about "Yes, Sudanese, like, an African language from the Sudan, I'm assuming?"
Child: "Yes.  And I know a song in Sudanese."
Me: "Really?  Um, are you going to sing it?"
Child:  BLAUIIU BIUAINGN OIGUISONEV!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Really, he just belted out a ton of Sudanese? words at top volume with a slight change of musical notes.

When he was finished with the song many of the other children started snickering, and I had to interrupt them to say, 

Me: "Hey!  We wouldn't laugh at someone for speaking English, and we wouldn't laugh at someone for speaking Spanish, so it's not OK to laugh at someone who might be speaking Sudanese."
Child: "I learned about the Sudanese and the war they had in 1982.   They were fighting with a military which had a very large gun, called a Black Hawk Down.  There were helicopters that are also called Black Hawk Down.  I learned about this from a movie."
Me: "Was the movie called, Black Hawk Down?"
Child: "YES!  I know all about the Sudanese and about the wars in Beijing, Japan."
Me: "OK, thanks so much for sharing!  You can go sit down now!"

And that's how I learned my first Sudanese song.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Leprechaun Trap

I'm Irish, in case you didn't know.

That being said, I decided to build a Leprechaun Trap with my class this year.  I had never done it before because most people don't really celebrate St. Patrick's Day the way my family did when I was little, but enough of my students were bringing it up that I thought it would be somewhat meaningful.

I told the students all about leprechauns.  By that I mean, I explained that a leprechaun is like a little gnome who dresses is green and is really funny and REALLY smart.  I made sure to tell the kids several times that they are NICE, and they like to play silly tricks on people.  I sweetened the deal by telling them that if we trapped a leprechaun he would have to give us all of his gold.  This ignited a firestorm of leprechaun knowledge ranging from, "I'm afraid of leprechauns!" (whoops) to, "I know about lucky leaves!"

Then the kids brainstormed several ways to trap leprechauns. These plans included:
  • Putting a hammock across the classroom door.
  • Disguising ourselves as leprechauns
  • Closing the classroom door
  • Getting a piece of paper (no elaboration followed)
  • and...wait for it...the best response EVER....
"You know, one time even I was asleep and I went into my kitchen and I saw a leprechaun and he started pooping out eggs and I cracked the eggs open and there were baby chicks inside."

In the end, we went with the "Hang a box from the arm of the Promethean board projector and put some coins underneath the box" approach.  In order to lure the leprechaun into the classroom we made leprechaun puppets and placed them all over the room so the real leprechaun would think it was a cool leprechaun party, or something.

 Several puppets peered through our barred window.

 A few students stuck their leprechauns to the whiteboard with magnets.  
Because nothing looks more natural than being stuck to a whiteboard.

 Oh, don't mind me, I'm just relaxing in the book corner.

 An old box hangs precariously from the air.
Some paper bag leprechauns look on, luring any would-be real leprechaun right into our trap.

 One of my students is extra thoughtful.
She left a colorful letter K drawing for the leprechaun to look at while he was trapped so he wouldn't be bored.

 Also, this helpful note, two pennies, and a Chucky Cheese token.

 I'm really good at using technology.
Thanks for the smart board, school district!
(Please don't tell them I did this.  
I actually do use it for its intended purpose when I'm not trying to trap imaginary creatures for profit)

 In the morning the kids walked in to this scene.
They had no idea what would be in the box.

 Before I lifted the lid the kids prepared for the leprechaun's escape by getting their hands in the catching position.
We lifted it up and....

No leprechaun.
BUT, a note!  And gold!
Roughly translated, the note reads:

Room 5,
Ha, ha, ha, you didn't trap me!  
Now I'm going to play tricks on you all day. 
Catch me if you can!
Your friend,
The Leprechaun

And, you can just imagine my disappointment when we discovered that the gold was actually chocolate.  That leprechaun is so sneaky!

The whole thing was really hilarious.  The children spent the rest of the day asking me if I had witnessed any mysterious behavior, and noting important clues, such as, "Hey, this pencil has a BROKEN TIP!  I bet the leprechaun did it," and they nearly lost their minds when I told them a leprechaun in Chicago had turned the river green. 

"He must have been a BIG leprechaun!"

Yeah, must have been!

Monday, March 14, 2011

I Was Running: A Birth Story

Ha.  This is not really a birth story.  I just said that because there are about a million birth stories on all the blogs out there.  This is probably because most of the women who blog are Mormon, stay at home mommies.  I shamelessly follow (stalk?) a lot of Mormon bloggesses because I find their DIY crafts ingenious and their economic recipes amazing.  Also, my friend from high school is Mormon and I really like her so I follow her too.  Wait, way of track.  OK, let me try again.

I said birth story because they tend to attract a lot of attention, and while I didn't give birth on Sunday, I did complete the biggest physical accomplishment of my entire life, so it's as close to a birth story as I've got.

I ran a half-marathon.  
Seriously, ran.  
Didn't walk one time.  
For 13.1 miles I didn't walk.

I've never been a big "runner."  Before I started training for the Shamrockn' Half-Marathon I only ever ran if a coach was making me or if I let enough guilt build up, and I usually hated every step.  I did the half-marathon training program with Fleet Feet Sacramento and it completely changed my feelings about running.  I learned how to do it and actually like it.  (The secret, for anyone who is curious, is to go as slowly as possible.  I'm really good at that).

And now, for the photo recap:

 This is my friend and coworker Lindsey.
She is the one who convinced me to do this.
This was, like, her millionth half-marathon.
Or, something like that.

And...We're off.

Lee went to meet the rest of my family in Old Town Sacramento where they were waiting for me to run by at mile marker 9. When Lee asked my brother how long they had been waiting he responded, "We watched them put the cones up." 
Ha ha ha! Louise McFadden strikes again.

Here I come!

See, how fast I am going?  An actual blur!

One of the happiest/in pain moments ever.
(See, like birth!)
(Ok, so not exactly like birth)

 My family = The best family

And my boyfriend = The best boyfriend.
Never in his life has he taken a serious picture.

 The thing about races is this:
You get so much free stuff!

My parents were so cute!  
They brought champagne and a cake!

Christi Black staged this photo.
Christi, do you work in PR?

Highlights of the day included:
  • Being allowed to use the VIP porta-potty.
  • Watching Lee have to get out of bed at 6:00am.
  • Realizing fifteen minutes into the race that I hadn't rinsed out my water bottles well enough and they all tasted like soap.
  • My father running after me after I passed him yelling, "Wait!  I didn't get the picture!"
  • My brother finding me in a sea of people at the finish and giving me the biggest hug ever.
  • Having my parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and Lee's family packed into my tiny house drinking champagne and listening to my Aunt Joan talk about her concern over the amount of pedophiles that come from Ireland. ("Because WE'RE Irish and I just never knew it was this bad back then!")
  • Discovering that the people at Raley Field think it's a good plan to store the coffee creamer next to the onions and the mayonnaise.  Barf.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bowling for Bullies on Bulls

This month our school is focusing on standing up to bullies and bullying prevention.  It was my job to prep my English class before our morning assembly which would introduce this new month-long focus.  Here is how the introduction went:

Me: "We are going to an assembly about something very serious.  It's going to be about bullying.  Does anyone know what bullying is?"

Child 1: "Yes, it's like when you have the pins, and you throw the ball like this (ball throwing motion) and then you knock the pins over!"

Me: "No, that's BOWLING.  I'm talking about BULLYING.  Does anyone know what that means?"

Child 2: "Yes, bullies are what you ride.  I've seen my dad ride one, and they have the things like this (motions horns growing out of head)."

Me: "Close...that is a BULL.  Does anyone know about BULLIES?"

Child 3: "One time, I saw in the Karate Kid there was a big karate bully and he had an ARMY of karate bullies!  I like Japan."

Me: "Yes, the mean kid in Karate Kid is a bully.  A bully is someone who tries to hurt someone's feelings on purpose.  It makes people feel sad."

Child 4: "Yeah, like if someone says, 'Oh, I like your shirt!' that is on purpose and then there is a bully!"

Me: "Right...let's go to the assembly."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Camp Reunion Through Kid Pix

Last weekend Lee and I went to Chico for our camp reunion.  It's one of the most fun days of the year, and I was DEVASTATED when we were half way there and I realized that I had forgotten my camera.

But then: TADA! I had a great idea inspired by the hilarious genius at (Seriously.  Read this blog. She is a comedian/magician)

I spent this last week trying to recreate the events of the weekend using Kid Pix.
And so, without further ado:

Camp Reunion 2011

The trip began with Lee and me driving 3,000,000 miles to Chico because that is how far it is from Sacramento.  
Also, there were some silos and rice buildings (official name)

We met some of our friends at the Bear.  They have hamburgers and various libations.  I was the only girl, so I later bailed for Starbucks.

 We checked into the Hotel Diamond.  It was SUPER nice.  I loved it.  I wish I lived there.

 Then it was time for dinner!  It was delicious, and there were even prizes.  This is a picture of when Stephanie won some bacon bandaids.

 The celebration continued at a place called LaSalle's.  They had 80s music and an awkward man who was lip syncing the whole time.

 Then we went back to the Bear.  There were less hamburgers, but more empty cups.

When we got back to the hotel Lee found a broken soda machine.  He was convinced that I had secretly placed the sign there to toy with his soda-wanting emotions.  I had to whisper yell at him to get into our room before we were escorted out of the hotel.

 The next day we all went out for brunch at Breakfast Buzz.
Rachel came a little later.

I love camp.

The Egg Business Circa 1992

My brother and I had various money making schemes growing up. They originated with us trying to sell our toys to each other, or food out of the refrigerator to my parents claiming we were a "toy store," or "restaurant" respectively.  We quickly learned that trying to sell people their own property was not only questionably unethical, but not all that lucrative.  We were looking for the big score, and we knew we had to expand our horizons in order to make any real cash.

Enter the chickens.  My parents were kind enough to give us a 4H-ish experience growing up that included chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs, and cats.  We had a chicken coop at the end of our property that my father spent HOURS trying to wild-animal proof (It took a couple of tries and we lost a few fowl in the process).  Once the Taj Mahal/ Fort Knox of chicken coops was completed those chickens must have felt a knew-found sense of security because the eggs started flowing.  I mean, A LOT of eggs.  Sometimes several dozen every week depending on the rotation of live chickens at any given time.

After hearing my parents complain about us having too many eggs my seven year old business savvy was alerted, and I realized we (the chickens?) were sitting on brown and white gold mine.  (Not all eggs are white, for those of you who didn't grow up in the sticks).

My business plan was as follows: My brother and I would take our red wagon, fill it full of eggs, pull it up and down our street where we would go door to door selling the eggs for 50 cents a piece.

Well, the plan was doomed from the beginning.  Observe:

We didn't live on a street.  
We lived on a dirt road.  We didn't take into account the forces of physics involved in dragging the rickety wheels of a little red wagon over the rocks and pot holes of a back-country road, coupled with the fragility of an eggs shell and the cold, hard metal of the inside of the wagon.  Not to mention, our "neighbors" were neighbors in that their homes were also on the dirt road, but they weren't RIGHT next door.  There was a lot of ground to cover between the houses.  Predictably, the first day of the egg business resulted in our product lying in a scrambled mess at the bottom of the red wagon.

My Brother
Brennan's involvement in the business was more of a PR stunt than anything else.   He was SUPER cute, and he had several speech impediments, which I knew would endear any would-be egg buyers.  However, at only four, there was no way he could deal with the difficult addition that was necessary for the egg business, plus he didn't have any knowledge concerning the value of US coins.  He just knew that they were "money" but that was about as far as it went.   Several times I caught him putting the "money" in his pocket, and not in the predesignated corner of the wagon that would serve as our "bank" because he liked money, and he knew that having it in your pocket was a good idea.  This enraged me, and caused me to accuse him of being a thief.

The Price of the Eggs
As someone who, almost twenty years later, buys eggs on a semi-regular basis it's now obvious to me that my price of 50 cents an egg was ludicrous.  Especially because they had zero quality control, and, especially during the summer months, there really was no telling weather or not those eggs were edible.  I was essentially taking advantage of the egg monopoly I had created, and I got too greedy.

Eventually we scrapped the egg business.  We were overcharging, and let's face it: It was a pain to haul those eggs up and down that dirt road.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blogging and Teaching

When I came home today Lee asked me if I had heard about the teacher who was on paid leave from her school for things she said about her students on her blog.  I panicked a little and told him, no, I hadn't heard about her, but that I was going to seek out more information.

As someone who always blogs about her students, it's a little unsettling to hear that another educator is being punished for doing the same.  I was seriously worried, and I found an article on that gave a brief explanation of what all the drama is about: article

So in an effort to deter some of the heat her blog has since been blocked, but being that it is the internet, the entries have been cached and the posts are still available.  She went on the Today Show this morning in an effort to defend her position.  She claims that the blog was only intended for her friends and, "taken out of context."

I'm all about free speech and, quite clearly, I'm all about sharing stories about my students, so I was a little put off that someone could be persecuted for what they say about their students in a personal blog.  That is, until I read some of her cached posts.

Please read the following post here:Crazy Lady Posts About Students
(The rants about her students start after the asterisk divider)

I'm in complete shock.  I just read her post out loud to Lee and he is in shock.  How in the world can she try and defend what she said?  She is a TERRIBLE person, to say nothing of her interaction with children, and that became evident after reading just ONE of her blog posts.  Seriously, I'm sick. Why in the world did this lady become a teacher?  Of course students are going to give you attitude, especially kids in high school, and ESPECIALLY if you treat them like you hate them.

Every teacher has moments of frustration.  It is inevitable. Teaching isn't easy, and kids are unpredictable. As far as I know, this information is not a secret, and hasn't been for awhile. 

My heart aches for her students.

Safe Touches

This week I am required to give my students lessons on Safe Touches, or as they are known in my class: "Yes Touches, No Touches, and Confusing Touches."

The touching curriculum comes in a special canvas bag (it's purple, if you must know) and includes a giant binder with old, yellowing pages and an even more ancient VHS tape that claim to have all the resources I need to teach my kids about keeping their bodies safe.

My trusty binder told me that the first Safe Touches lesson was to include the viewing of a fifteen minute video, followed by a brief discussion about types of touching and whether they make people feel happy, sad, or confused.

This seemed easy enough, and as I brought my students back in from recess I settled them all in for the video which was supposed to not only provide them with the necessary skills to protect their personal safety, but give them lots of insight regarding bullying, manipulation, and "stranger danger."  The lesson would, surely, be flawless.

Except for one tiny detail: Upon pressing the play button it became evident that I had committed one of the greatest errors a teacher can make.  I did not watch the video before I showed it to the kids, and boy, was it a doozy.

For starters, it was painfully obvious that the video was made in the late seventies/ early eighties.  The cinematography, the costumes, the haircuts, they all screamed of a time when shorts were shorter and they mustaches were plentiful.

Secondly, (and this further proves the aforementioned reference to the eighties) I'm pretty sure the same people that made the movie Laberinth made this "Safe Touches" video.  Laberinth, in case you grew up in a cave/ were born anytime after 1989, is a movie about a girl who somehow casts her baby brother into a world of goblins (puppets) and then she has to go through a laberinth to find him again.   It stars Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie.  Director? Jim Henson.  Seriously, it is the weirdest movie ever.

Anyway, the Safe Touches video features "Thadeus," a freckle faced boy who keeps getting picked on by a big kid at school.  Thadeus' special flashlight takes him into a magic world where two talking frogs, a CARP (yes, as in, strange fish) and a squid teach him lessons about "Saying No, Getting Away, and Telling Someone."

My students could not get past the weirdness of the video.  Here were a few of their questions:

"Why is his name Fatty-ass?" (Thadeus rhymes with...)
"Who is the fish?" (Professor enter name I don't remember here)
"Why does the fish have a square on his head?" (He is a professor)
"Why does the fish have a mustache?" (Carp have mustaches?)
"Why does that rocket have legs?" (Because it's a squid)
"Why is there smoke everywhere?" (Would be stalkers, strangers, and "no-touchers" creepily emerged from some unexplainable, near-by mist whenever they were referenced).

When the video had ended I spent the remainder of the lesson answering many of the above questions. 

No time to talk about personal safety when strange men with short shorts and large mustaches are approaching a young boy learning life-lessons from a fish sporting facial hair and a graduation hat while his friend, the rocket with legs, looks on.

I think I'll do the rest of the lessons without the videos.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

It Could Have Been a Hallmark Commercial

When I tell people that I teach Kindergarten I usually get mixed reactions.  The marks vary from, "Oh, that's so cute!" to, "WHY?  That would drive me crazy!" and, my personal (least) favorite: "That's just like glorified babysitting, right?"  (I always invite people who make the last comment to spend five minutes in my classroom. Fools.)

The truth is that Kindergarten is a little mixture of everything.  Cute?  Yes.  Crazy?  Sometimes.  And every so often there are these moments where my students completely blow me away with their kindness and love.  I was lucky enough to have one of those moments on Friday.

My students are required to participate in Writer's Workshop everyday.  During this time they can "write" about whatever they would like, but I try to get them to write personal narratives about past experiences.  I mean, in a perfect world my five year olds are writing personal narratives on past experiences.  In reality, I spend a lot of time saying things like, "Did you really go to the park with Spiderman?" and "You are copying the story that I gave as an example.  You didn't go to Grass Valley to visit my mom and dad.  That's what I did."  But, whatever, we try.

During Friday's Writer's Workshop one of my students came up to me and told me she really needed to share her story with me.  I looked down at her picture, which was kind of hard to decipher (remember, five years old) But I could make out a person lying on the ground with Xs on her eyes, and three other characters with sad faces standing over her and yelling, indicated by some crude attempts at speech bubbles.

She started to tell me the story of her mother's death, one that I had heard before.  She periodically brings it up, usually out of nowhere, and she and I share a hug and I remind her that is OK to be sad about it, and that she is so lucky to have a dad and a brother who love her so much.

When she was finished describing her picture to me she said, "I think I need to tell everyone about this."  I asked if she meant all of the other kids, and she told me she did.  It's not typical to share at the end of Writer's Workshop, but I made everyone stop what they were doing and come to the carpet so that she could tell them her story.

I told the students that *Katie (*different name) wanted to share a difficult story with everyone, and that it was really important that everyone listen because it was a hard story to tell.  Sensing the seriousness of my voice, everyone sat down without a peep (UNHEARD OF) and gave all their attention to their classmate.

They curiously looked at her as she held up her picture and began to recount how her mother had a blood clot that traveled to her heart and gave her a heart attack.  *Katie had found her on the ground, and called for her brother, who started screaming for her dad.  Her dad called and ambulance and they took her away on the "laying down thing."  She never saw her again.  It was Christmas Eve.

There was a moment of stunned silence when she was finished.  The rest of the kids sat and considered what their lives would be like if their moms died.  For a five year old, there is nothing more horrific than the thought of losing your mother.  What does someone do without a mom?

I desperately searched for something comforting to say.  As I looked at all of the concerned little faces sitting before me I noticed one of my students slowly getting up from her space on the carpet.  She walked towards Katie, and without saying a word, she threw her arms around her and gave her one of the biggest, most sincere embraces I have ever seen.  As she went to sit back down, another student stood up to hug Katie, and then another.  One by one, every student in my class stood up to put their arms around Katie, and no one said a single word.

There was no reason to say anything.  They completely understood the gravity of what she said, and the pain that she was in.  Again, how does anyone, let alone a five year old little girl, cope without her mom?

As I blinked back tears I thanked the class for being so nice to Katie and for listening to her while she shared something that was so difficult to say.

Of course, moments like this are always fleeting, and as the last hugger took his seat back on the carpet Katie held up her picture again and said, "Hey, did you see how funny my dad's beard is!?" and all the kids howled with laughter.  Facial hair is really funny in Kindergarten.

The moment continued to diffuse as another student raised her hand and wanted to share a (I'm pretty sure) made up story about her pet chicken that fell off of a curb and died while trying to lay an egg.

Cute? Yes.
Crazy? Sometimes
Sweet moments? Every so often.
Hilarious?  Always.

And then on the drive home I cried in my car.  
I can't believe what good kids they are.

Friday, February 4, 2011

I Love Teaching

I had to spend all day in a meeting at work. I hate leaving my kids with subs; I feel like I'm abandoning them, and it doesn't help that if I do have to sneak into my room to grab something they all swarm me and grab my legs and cry, "DON'T LEAVE US!  WHY DO YOU HAVE MEETINGS!?  CAN I GO TO THE BATHROOM?"

What's even worse is that today was the 100th Day of School, the veritable Mardi Gras of Kindergarten, and I had to miss it.  I knew ahead of time that I wouldn't be with the class for the big celebration, so we made our 100 Day snacks yesterday (which consist of 10 pieces of 10 different snacks in one baggie. Get it? 100 pieces of snack!) and I saved their snacks for today, when they would make their 100 Day Crowns and have their 100 Day snacks without me.

As I walked back to my classroom after the meeting I passed one of my students leaving with her mom. "I left you a note about the day on your desk!" she told me. When I checked my desk this is what I found:

My job is freaking awesome.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Railroad Museum

It's taken me awhile to get around to posting about the Kee's visit.  It's all my fault because my camera died and I couldn't find the battery charger, but I had a break through today while looking for another lost item.  Ah, such is life.

I love the Kees.  They are my adopted San Francisco family.  I spent many a night eating dinner with them, I taught with Rebecca, and we even went to Disneyland dressed as some of the characters.  The Kees are always a good time.

Here are some pictures of our (mis)adventures at the California Railroad Museum

 Lee's Dream/My Nightmare

And now, a little game I like to call:
Real Person, or Railroad Museum Manikin?:



 Real Person


 Real People

 The Railroad Museum's two biggest fans!
Good News:

 The Railroad Museum is no stranger to puns or double entendres
And how photogenic is Mr. James Kee?
 Really photogenic

Later, Rebecca and I went to Rick's Dessert Diner.

The dessert choices are almost as overwhelming as the manikins at the Railroad Museum
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