Friday, November 30, 2012

Last Day of November

Last night the wind moaned around the house most splendidly.  I woke up from time to time to press my ear to the wall to see if I could hear rain tinkling through the downspouts.  There were only a few spatters of rain during the night -- the deluge came as soon as I set foot at school in the morning.  The water came down in waves; sheets slid down my windows.  My portable is located on the far perimeter of the campus and it's a long walk from our classroom to anywhere else.  The children loved it.  First, coming to class through the pelting rain at the beginning of the day.  Half an hour later, back to the mult-purpose room for our awards assembly.  Then back to my room.  Then back to the multi-purpose room for lunch.  Then back to my room.  I was surrounded by soggy kids all day long.  Other than one of them stepping on my umbrella and breaking it, the day went fine.

Tomorrow morning I'll be driving back to school to help at our school's Christmas Bazaar.  The 4th grade is selling pies to help pay for our springtime overnight trip to the ocean. 

The next storm is due to hit in the late afternoon.  Hopefully I'll be back home by then.  I want to be sitting at the window, watching the rain and sipping tea (or a glass of wine).  This rain is wonderful.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First Storm

First of the series of storms staged across the Pacific and aimed in our general direction has blown through.  We got 0.42"  by our rain gauge -- not bad.  The next storm is supposed to come in tomorrow and have stronger winds and more rain.  Keep 'em coming!

I had two long meetings after school, but bailed and ditched the third.  Enough is enough. Bruce was was home taking a homemade chicken pot pie out of the oven.  I love being married to a man who cooks! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Lull Before the Storm

Weather-wise, it's been a calm, benign sort of week.  But just around a corner a good sized storm is brewing and should be here by early tomorrow morning.  The weather site says that we should have 2 to 4 inches of rain by the end of this weekend -- that's a good amount for around here.

It occurs to me, as I sit in my bathrobe, typing and sipping tea, that most of my houseplants are still sitting out on the back deck, completely unprotected.  Crap.  I'd better get them moved before I go to bed. 

Other than that, everything else outside is pretty much battened down.  Bruce works from home tomorrow -- it will be nice to come home to a warm, lit house and all the outside chores done.  Perhaps he'll even have a fire in the woodstove and dinner waiting...


Sunday, November 25, 2012



Good things come to those who wait.
Sweet dreams, dear Seal!

Now, how to reclaim my own bed... 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Bed Thief



 Several weeks ago, Bruce and I brought home three plump new dog beds to replace the torn, flattened ones that lined the front porch.  It took a few days for Seal, Arlo and Murphy to break them in so that they indented in the right spots, but all three dogs are now delighted to nap their days away from their centers. 

At least most of the time.

Seal likes to sunbathe on the carport, so we moved her bed over there.  Max also likes to sunbathe.  I'm sure that you know how this story is going to go...

Seal came over and very politely asked Max to please get off of her bed.  Max blinked up at her and, just as politely, told her that this wasn't going to happen.

Seal is a very patient (and long-suffering) dog.  She sighed and settled on the doormat.
Buddenbrooks update: I'm on page 207! It's been a very long time since I've managed to stay with a book this thick (both in a metaphorical and physical sense).  Stacks of schoolwork await, but I have to read just one more chapter first.  And then another... And another...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Post Thanksgiving Blessings

I love the whole Thanksgiving feast/celebration thing -- I really do.  A day where the table wears a tablecloth; flowers in a vase; a candle; appetizers, main course and desert; company; conversation; music.  The closest we ever get to a party around here.  Fun times, to be sure.

But the truth is that I enjoy the day after Thanksgiving even more.

A steaming hot turkey leg, glass of white wine and a good book.  In my humble opinion, it gets no better than this.
The immensely thick book I'm reading is Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann.  Cousin Anke in Germany told me that it was one of her favorite books when I was visiting her in Hamburg last summer.  I promised her that I would read it and it's been patiently sitting on my bookcase for several months now.                                                                                

After visiting Uncle Mike in Arizona and showing pictures of Lubeck (where Buddenbrooks is set), I decided that it was time to finally actually open the book.  So, when I got home, I blew the dust off the cover and began reading the first of 731 pages.  It was a hard slog through the first few chapters -- about 15 characters are introduced and some of them have the same first names.  I was lost and had to go back several times to reread who was who.  I haven't suffered so much since I read War and Peace.  But now those chapters are safely behind me and I know everybody pretty well.  And I can't put the book down!  Cousin Anke was right -- this is a fabulous novel (thank you, Anke!).
Best of all, I actually was in Lubeck and can have an image in my mind of what the author is describing.  I'm in heaven!!! 

Everything came full-circle when I visited Unkle Mike in Arizona.  I asked him what music he listened to and the first name he said was Gustav Mahler.  I can't say that I was delighted -- I've tried on several occasions to appreciate his music but have never been able to "get" it.  Mahler, to be blunt, makes me grit my teeth.  But when people I admire like something, I do my best to understand why.  So I told Mike that I would give it another try. 
He gave me this cd of Mahler's 5th Symphony.  I've listened to it twice now.  The music is not easily accessible (at least not by me), but the first movement (with the trumpets) is growing on me (thank you Mike!).
When Mike called me yesterday to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving, I told him that I was working on Mahler.  I also told him that I thought it only fair that he read Buddenbrooks, to sort of even things out.  He agreed and said that he'll be checking the book out of the library. 
Gustav Mahler and Thomas Mann were roughly contemporaries.  I was born the same year that Thomas Mann died.  I have no idea what any of this means, but am very happy to be deep into the literature and music of my German heritage.
School is a million miles away.  Two more days of freedom -- a blessing!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Symphony in Orange

Max in the Tupelo Tree
Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Eve Day

Three days in Arizona...

...and then...

- POP! -

...here I am back at Frogpond again, feeling (in a good way) a bit like Alice in Wonderland.

Traveling to Phoenix so quickly after a long week at school was hectic, but worth the scrambling in an abundance of ways. I'm so glad that I went. The three days of quiet visiting with Mike and Mirelle were so exactly what I needed to be doing -- I'm still amazed that I was able to figure this out all on my own several weeks ago. Maybe I'm getting smarter after all! I do hope that my visit, on their end, was also beneficial.
As an aside, I have also come to a very helpful realization. After screeching along at breakneck speed during the previous four days at school -- brain crammed full of a storm of angst, worry, and hurry -- all that negative energy drained away from me in a matter of hours. It was quickly kicked out by new (but transient) concerns such as how many pairs of socks to pack, whether I should take off my belt when going through security at the airport (I did, and got through without setting off the alarm -- finally), how to find my way to Mike in the Phoenix airport... Minutia like that fully occupied my mind and I assume that my brain cells can only fret about a limited amount of crap at one time. So it was out with the old school worries as I filled up with new travel worries. The wonderful thing is that when the travel worries were resolved, the school worries never came back.
Wow! Is this something that everyone else knew but me? Maybe I really am getting smarter! Yeah, that's it...

Monday, November 19, 2012


I'm here for only a few more hours and then whisk back to California.  I haven't had a chance to see much of the Scottsdale area, but have been fascinated by the peaks that form a ragged circle around the city.  My cousin is undergoing cancer treatment, so we took several easy walks in nearby parks.  It was good to stroll and talk under this blue, blue desert sky.  Besides sitting around and talking, we've just been sitting around and talking.  Last night my uncle and I watched a sweet but quirky Norwegian film called 'Oh, Horton'.  This quiet time has been a blessing to me and very much needed and appreciated.  I only hope my visit has been a fraction as beneficial to Mike and Mirelle.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Start of Thanksgiving Break

Four days and 53 parent/teacher conferences later...the week has ended.  Wrung-out describes me at this very instant.  However, it's nothing that a week of no school can't remedy. 

Tomorrow I leave for Scottsdale to visit with Uncle Mike and Cousin Mirelle for three days.  She's been sick and I've been wanting to see her -- now is the perfect time.  I'm rather bemused, though, to have rushed from school to pack for a trip to the Oakland airport early tomorrow morning.  So uncharacteristically jet-settish of me.

Tonight there is a soft rain -- a nice sort of send off, to be sure.  I'm here now to tuck my blog in for the next few days.  Back soon!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Three days of parent/teacher conferences down -- one to go.  Between our two classes, Sue and I share 53 students and since she teaches all the math and I all the language arts, we decided to meet jointly with all of the parents of our combined classes.  In retrospect, not the wisest decision.  After our third afternoon of non-stop yapping, both of us have tired mouths, fried brains and I, for one, no longer know what or even who I'm talking about.

Today I compounded my woes by wearing a pair of shoes that cut into the top of my feet.  I knew they would when I considered them this morning, but wedged them on anyway.  What can I say -- they're cute little flats that look great with trousers and I was eager to look teacherish.  By afternoon my feet had expanded and I was in pain.  During the fourth conference, I hid my feet under the table and surreptitiously slipped my shoes off.  Ahhhhh.... Unfortunately, my feet strongly resisted getting back in those shoes when the conference was over.  Feeling like Cinderella's largest-footed stepsister, I finally managed to cram my feet back in them and then ever-so elegantly hobbled the parent over to the door.

Enough is enough -- tomorrow it's jeans and my comfy walking shoes. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Who Peed in the Fruit Bowl?

This is the kind of question you never, ever want to have to ask on a Wednesday morning as you're dashing off (late, as usual) for work.  And yet, there I was this morning asking myself that very thing. 

Actually, the first question I asked myself was, "What's this liquid pooled on the bottom of the fruit bowl?"  This was after reaching in to pull out an apple.  Ever curious, I then dipped in my index finger and took a sniff.  It was then that I asked the second question.

So far, the dogs are off the hook.  As is Bruce, the ducks, Cornelius (the horse), the geese and the chickens.  That leaves five cats, all of whom have guilty looks on their faces.  Max and Zelda never jump on the counter, so that brings the count down to three.  Poom, Arby and Multi-Pass are all pointing paws at each other.  In the end, it hardly matters.

When I got home this evening (after another long afternoon of Parent/Teacher Conferences) I changed my clothes and then carried the sloshy bowl of fruit to the compost heap and said goodbye to three apples, an onion and a winter squash. 

The cats aren't saying a word.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Parent/Teacher Conferences

We've reached the twelfth week of school: the week when we sit down with every parent to discuss their child's progress.  I'm thinking that this must be stressful for many parents, but can say without reservations that it's intense for teachers. 

Over the years I've learned that saying the unvarnished truth (as I know it) is often not the best route to take for forward progress.  As a teacher, there is so much that I don't know and don't understand.  When I sit down opposite a parent, I just hope that the words I say are the right ones -- positive, honest, kind, helpful and forward thinking.  A tall order for a teacher at the end of a long day of teaching. 

With some (actually, most) parents, I know that I hit the mark -- what I said resonated and confirmed what they already knew.  They were aware that I appreciated and understood their child, even as I went on to discuss areas of improvement.  Other parents were defensive and not able to have a dialogue.  One set of parents politely asked if they could tape record our conference.  I said, "Of course."  And that's how it is.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm really wise enough to be a teacher.  Sometimes I feel incredibly old as I face these ever younger parents, who seem to think that they have all the answers.  Usually I just feel very gentle and forgiving as I face them -- being a parent is such a very difficult job. 
As is being a teacher.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

First Frost

Last night the weather service prediction was for the possibility of frost -- our first of the season.  Because the tomatoes have finally gotten into the groove and are steadily producing, we decided to rig up some tarps over them to try and thwart a mild frost. 

And so by evening we'd built the world's ugliest tent over the railed bed off the carport.  Under it were tomatoes, basil, a few surprised cosmos and a row of marigolds. 

Then I went down to the orchard garden and said goodby to my zinnias.  They're still stoically flowering and putting out new buds, but look tired and ready to pack it in and call it a day.  I felt a bit wistful as I looked down at them, knowing that this was their last afternoon.  (I've long accepted that I've an almost Victorian sentimentality when it comes to flowers)

Then I went back up to the nice warm house and closed the door behind me.

In the morning, our home weather station gave a reading of 28 degrees for our low temperature of the night.  This was definitely colder than we were anticipating.  Outside, frost glittered on the golden grass of the hillsides...

...and bumpy crystals thickly covered the green tarps that sagged over the garden.  Underneath, the tomatoes had made it through passably well.  Their long tips had gotten zapped and were already beginning to droop, but the centers of the plants were still green and sturdy.  The basil, though, is pretty much shot.  However, to my surprise, the marigolds look great.

Tonight is supposed to be a few degrees warmer than last night, and the rest of the week the lows will be back up into the mid 40's.  With any luck, we'll have garden tomatoes at least through Thanksgiving.  It's the little things.

Tomorrow I have the day off for Veteran's Day.  A strange thing happened -- on Saturday, while Bruce and I were on our way to the little foothill town of Murphys to buy fresh bread and spices, a name suddenly came to me.  So, out of the blue, I asked Bruce, "What would you have done if your mother had named you 'Pendergrass'?  Bruce looked puzzled, but said that he'd have been ok with it  because he liked the name.  After we were done shopping and were walking back to the car which was parked in the small lot on the other side of the creek, we came upon a Veteran's Memorial that we'd never seen.  It was simple, but dignified -- a tall flag pole in the center, with a brick semi-circular wall behind it.  On each brick was a plaque listing the name and information of locals who had served in the military.

And there on a brick, right in the middle, was the name of a serviceman whose last name was Pendergrass.  Bruce's brain veers away from things like this, so his reaction was decidedly cool.  That didn't stop me one little bit from being gobsmacked as I stared at the name.  What on earth do things like this mean -- surely this can't be coincidence?  This sort of thing has happened at regular intervals throughout my life.  It never seems to be linked to anything to do with me.  It's just a random "something" that I somehow pick up on.  Or it's just coincidence.

Anyway, I like these isolated, sort of spiritual events that pop up every once in awhile when I least expect it.  Call it another one of my Victorian qualities.

In Hopes of Opening Storm Gates

Day one of my three-day weekend passed quietly enough -- stayed home in the morning, went shopping in the afternoon, and did some chores around here towards evening.  And that was it.

But, really, that wasn't it exactly.  What I really spent my day doing was trying to regain my equilibrium after a more intense than usual week at school.  As is often the case on the first night of a weekend, I woke up very early and began worrying.  I lay in bed for awhile in the dark, hoping to fall back asleep, but I finally gave it up around two a.m. and went out to the computer.  There, with a cup of herb tea in hand and Arby on my lap, I played around with this blog template.  The ways of Blogger are ever mysterious, but noodling around with various new backgrounds and layouts gave my brain something innocuous to occupy it.  While I sipped tea in front of the glow of the screen, outside one of the first rains of the season pattered against the house.  After last winter's dismal rainfall amounts followed by a long, hot summer of dust and the smoke of wildfires, it was lovely listening to the raindrops falling upon our bone-dry Frogpond Acres. 

In honor of this first gentle storm of winter, I chose this background of water drops on glass.  May the storm gates be open to a wet next four months.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Report Card Week

Incredibly, this was the last week of the first trimester.  The school year is one third over -- I feel like I've barely started teaching this newest crop of 4th graders.  On paper, all report cards were supposed to be completed by Thursday morning.  It is now Friday evening and I just finished the last one.  Some teachers had completed all report cards last weekend (my teaching partner, Sue, being one).  I am, naturally, not friends with them any longer.

Just kidding about that last.  There are several of us who are a bit slower than the rest and our principal gives us the time we need.  I really had wanted to be finished with them so that I'd get them off my back, but it wasn't to be.  But they're done now and, with a Monday holiday,  I have a long three-day weekend in front of me. 

And so begins a Frogpond Weekend -- I need the break.  Life is good.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Voting Day

Bruce and I lost our right to vote at our local polling station due to redistricting and budget cuts (Please don't ask me to explain. I don't understand how it would cost less for the state to mail us our absentee ballots as opposed to our going in in person to vote). This evening Bruce and I discovered that we hadn't been sent the mail-in ballots that were promised us on our voting info mailers. We just assumed that they were in the great stack of unopened mail that piles up on the cabinet in the hall. They weren't. I was worried that our all-important vote was lost, but Bruce called the County Clerk's office for advice and the lady told us to go in to our local polling station and fill out provisional ballots. This we did.

A very nice precinct worker named Marilyn helped us -- she had to figure out what to do as we went along. Because she'd run out of provisional ballot, she had to hand-write all our info on the envelopes while we bubbled in our ballots. She was endlessly patient, even while I asked (more than once) if our rinky-dink ballots in their scribbled on envelopes would really be counted (I had cynical visions of them being dumped in the garbage on everyone's way out that evening; sort of what I occasionally do with my students' papers when I don't know what to do with them). She assured us that they would indeed be counted. And I believed her. She was so kind, funny and cheerful -- thank you Marilyn!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Hens and Chicks

After a summer of having the place overpopulated with poultry of every sort; scratching in the garden, dropping feathers all over, pooping on the porch and laying way too few eggs, it's nice to have a different sort of hens and chicks. This succulent has been quietly growing on the back deck all summer long -- no trouble to anyone. Last weekend, the red tupelo leaves carelessly scattered upon the grey-green leaves sang out every time I passed by them.

This beauty is destined to be ephemeral:  our first frost may hit next weekend.  All my frost-tender plants, which have summering outside, will have to be brought indoors for the winter.  They always look more sedate indoors -- it's obvious that they much prefer to live an uncivilized life sheltered under the trees.  I think they're on to something.

I learned that I must have report cards finished by this Thursday.  I'm contemplating setting up camp beneath a tree somewhere...

Good Belgian Beer and Olives

The weekend was another busy one -- as usual, a mix of schoolwork and chores around the house.  There is absolutely no way around the fact (at least for me) that for me to keep my class running as I think it should, that I take home work to do in the evenings and over the weekend.  That's just the way it is.  However, I'm really working to at least balance the school workload with the home workload.  Not surprisingly, after a morning spent reading and critiquing students' Writer's Notebooks, mundane tasks such as sweeping the floors, and wiping down and rearranging a few kitchen cabinets take on pleasurable aspects.  I like that. 

Even cleaning out the chicken coop (we waited way too long to do this) was a satisfying job.  Bruce carted out all of the soiled straw and then used the leaf blower to try to get some of the dust dislodged (I think that it all relodged on me where I stood outside).  Then I washed down the outside with the hose, knocked down dangling cobwebs from the perches and then swept as much from the floor as I could.  Then I shook out and spread armloads of fresh straw, filling each nestbox and then scattering a thick layer on the floor.  As I stood back to view the result, I was filthy, wet and tired.  And thoroughly content.  When my favorite yellow hen promptly settled in a clean nestbox and immediately laid a lovely brown egg, my day was complete. 

                                                      Well, alright, almost complete.