Friday, May 31, 2013

Another School Year Ends...

...and not a moment too soon.  A body can only take so much gearing up for a big event.  By today, all we were fit for was watching a movie to pass the time between the morning awards assembly and the last bell for the march to the buses at 12:10.

The movie I chose to show was called Second Hand Lions -- a perfect movie for young people (funny, bittersweet, uplifting, a bit mystical with just enough romance to keep the girls happy and sword fighting to entertain the boys, all capped with a message of hope and courage that puts a lump in the throat and a good feeling in your heart.  That kind of movie) .  The only downside is that it stars two sweet, crusty old gentlemen who regularly swear like sailors.  Nothing that the children haven't heard before, but not exactly the kind of thing you'd want the superintendent to walk in and hear.  No matter.  The children loved it.  I was sorting books while the children watched and whenever the old men got on a potty-mouthed jag, I'd call out, "Don't listen, children," and they'd respond with, "We're covering our ears."  We had it all worked out.  Really.

When I got home this afternoon I looked at the notes and gifts the students had given me.  One of my favorites was this:

A drawing of me, Poom (and his shaved tail), Arby (with catnip banana) and my little orange car.  This is boy who listened carefully to all of my silly stories.

Another favorite:
It's a photograph taken of my teaching sister, Sue, and I talking while looking for whales on our ocean field trip.  The student's father took our picture and it came to me in a silver frame.

Tonight I'm feeling a bit wrung out and tomorrow I must be up early to be at a writing workshop that begins at 8:30.  Not feeling the most enthusiastic about the timing of this, but I'm determined to carry on with a positive attitude.  This is what comes from watching an inspirational movie today with a message of hope and courage.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Snake in the Grass

Rattlesnakes call this place home.  The warning for all people who move to this area is to never put your hands in places where something might be hiding.  I remember and heed this warning most of the time -- but after many months of seeing no snakes I lapse into complacency.  Until, that is, I'm tearing up thick mats of daffodil stalks in the front garden and can't be bothered to think of anything except that the sun is warm and it's wonderful to be outside.  And then I pull up a mass of dead growth and underneath is coiled an exquisite Celtic brooch of a baby rattler.  It looked up at me, utterly silent, while I stared down at it thinking how close I'd been to grabbing it in my hand.  Then I hollered, "Snake! Snake!" until Bruce came out.  The day was cool enough that the snake was torpid, so gently grasping him with the snake tongs and depositing him in a lard bucket was quick work.

It was such a small snake.  Very quiet and docile, hoping to be left alone.  Sweet though it was, such a venomous creature could not live its small life in my garden.  It was moving day.

We placed a pot on top of the bucket in case the snake decided to go places and then put the whole thing in the back of the car.

Murphy wanted to come along for the ride.  Once he was sitting in the back seat, though, I think he had second thoughts.  I think that he could smell our little reptile friend behind him.

Is this not the face of a worried dog?  He was resolute, though, and never flinched from guarding us from the menace in the back of the car.

We drove the quarter of a mile to the end of our road and stopped at the rock wall there.  The gate is the entrance to a cattle ranch -- no houses or people.  A perfect place for a young snake to start a new life.

 Bruce tipped the bucket...

...and the snake stretched out motionlessly on the lichen covered rock.  The three of us watched each other for a few minutes (Murphy made himself scarce).

I'll say it again -- such a pretty little snake.  He never moved and seemed perfectly content to stretch his small self along the rock.  He blended in beautifully.

So we left him to begin his new life as a rock wall snake.

I do love a happy ending.

Mommy's Boy

High hopes of posting last night about my exciting Memorial Day were dashed when I turned into a pumpkin and was in bed before ten.  The last Tuesday of the school year is upon me, so I'll just have wait until tonight to post about my adventure with the rattlesnake.

Instead, I'll share these pix of my big boy, Cornelius. In addition to playing with snakes, I got in an afternoon ride -- walk, trot, canter in the arena.  Afterwards we ambled along the winding path through the oaks next door.

Corny, once again, has gained back his fat tummy.  Evidence in the first photo not withstanding, we're working on that (he does love his vittles).  Tummy or not, he's still one of the most gloriously beautiful animals I've ever owned -- and this opinion has nothing to do with the fact that I'm the darling boy's Mommy.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Report Card Weekend

The hallmark of an effective teacher is the organized way in which she addresses all aspects of her profession...Hah!

I spent most of the Saturday before the last week of school inside the house averaging and posting grades for report cards.  Great fun.  I'd had every intention of chipping away at this during the evenings last week so I wouldn't be stuck doing it on a beautiful day in May with the garden screaming at me to come outside and play.  The garden, alas, had to play without me.  

In the late afternoon, though, things began looking up.  Mama arrived to spend the night and we went down to the orchard garden with a bottle of wine, an assortment of cats and dogs and the plant clippers.  After watering, she deadheaded roses while I began work on the stone wall project that's been waiting in the wings since last summer (pictures of this to come).  Meanwhile, Bruce loaded up in the trailer the mountain of dry weeds and brought them to the upper pad for burning.  

Mama and I came inside as it grew dark, where she read and I once again worked on my report cards. About an hour later, the phone rang and it was Bruce calling from the upper pad to invite us to a hotdog/marshmallow roast at his bonfire.  We bundled up (nights are still chilly) and set off for our dinner date on the hill.  

Bruce had set up chairs around the fire and laid out on the back of the trailer everything needed to roast/eat a hotdog -- from condiments to whittled willow sticks.  So we sat by a warm fire, cooked our dinner like people of old and told stories in the dark.

Mama, true to form, eventually gently asked, "Are you ready for the story about the apparition?"  Me, nervous but eager to be scared, told her to carry on.  And so she proceeded to tell us about a recent "cleansing" she'd been on at a friend's daughter's house.  It seems a spirit had taken up residence there and was causing consternation.  Mama doesn't take any guff from ghosts and was at the ready.  No spirit actually appeared (perhaps it left when it heard she was coming), but I know for certain that this roll-up-the-sleeves-and-tell-that-wispy-thing-"Be gone!" trait wasn't passed down to me.  I would never go into a house to kick out a ghost.  Ever.

It was a marvelous evening.  The just-past the full moon rose through the oaks as we got to the marshmallow course.  Afterwards, Mama, I and Max the Cat pulled ourselves from the fire and wended our way back to the house, the road lit by moonlight.  Bruce stayed up top to finish burning.  I found out this morning that he wasn't finished until after 2:00.  He's sleeping in this morning.

Now it's back to report cards for me and Mama is reading her book across the table.  There is the faint smell of smoke in the house to remind us of last night.  And so, to work.

Friday, May 24, 2013


Last evening, I startled this turkey family gathered around the grain pan
They didn't bother fleeing; just ambled down to the pond to wash down the grain

I woke up this morning and thought, "Oh, it's Saturday -- what a relief."

I wiggled my toes and stretched out in bed, enjoying taking a few extra minutes before getting up.

Several seconds later I realized that the weekend hadn't quite started yet and thought, "Oh, it's only Friday -- crap."

I hauled out of bed, and thus my day started.

In these last days before the end school, I'm consumed by this job.  At this point in time, I'm wearing my teacher hat 24 hours a day, thanks to the wonders of the internet and the fact that I even dream school when I'm asleep.  My world is just a wee bit out of balance right now.

But, even as I rush about, I'm strong and strangely happy.  And look -- I've become wise enough to take time to observe the Frogpond turkeys at their leisure and then blog to you about it.

Pity about that whole Saturday thing, though...

And I'm off.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Almost over...

It's the second-to-last week of the school year and the events are flying thick and fast.  I decided that, with testing behind us, I'd launch both of my classes into using iPads for researching an ocean animal and presenting their report in a slideshow.  As the learning curve of my students ranges from never having used a touchpad screen to having used the latest technology from toddlerhood, this has been an interesting, exhausting and fulfilling experience.  However, it is truly amazing how quickly children catch on to technology if just given the opportunity.  In three days, they've mastered navigating, uploading, downloading, passwords, saving images, deleting information, and creating slides with transitions.

The hardest part is that few but the most skilled among them can type worth squat, and hunting for each correct letter to tap is an agonizingly slow process.  I'll say this though; they are persistent and are putting in every ounce of effort in creating their ocean animal masterpieces.  Next week they'll be presenting their slideshows for their classmates and we'll all become experts on giant siphonophores and upside-down jellies.

Next year, though, we're learning how to type.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Before Summer

 It's that time of year when everything seems possible. It's before the heat of summer blasts the earth with day after day of plus 100 degree days.

Before the deer have a chance to ravage any plants growing outside the ten foot garden fence.

Before the hungry gophers gnaw down the juicy stalks and roots of trees and vegetables.

Before the chomping bugs decimate the grape leaves.

Before tomato hornworms.

Before wildfires.

Before summer.




Every year starts with such hope of fruitfulness. In the four months that constitute our summer,  a lot is lost.  But every year I'm once again ready to do it all over again.

Gardeners are, at heart, eternal optimists.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Open House Classroom


Student Writing

 Here's the classroom on the morning after Open House.  It doesn't always hardly ever looks this nice.  All the clutter and stacks of paper have been consolidated and tucked out of sight (which means that the room looks great, but I couldn't find anything in it for the rest of the day).


Classroom pets that don't need feeding
More art and classroom pets that do need feeding
Smartboard and lots of ocean books

Our  zones of the ocean pictorial
More student writing and ocean books
Rock Collections
Student desks looking neater than ever before

 And that's pretty much it.  The room already is devolving back to its normal state.  Two more weeks and I'll be able to ream out the whole place.

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Good Friday

Today I feel much better about life in general.  The parent meeting I attended was as long as anticipated, but the feeling in the room by the end was of optimism for the coming year.  Obviously, I'm not able to write about any of this in detail, but it's such a relief for the team when a situation that has been solidly negative for a long time finally becomes brighter.  I'm happy.

Our Open House (almost immediately following the meeting) ended up being great in all the ways a teacher hopes it will:

*A classroom crowded with a mix of interested parents and enthusiastic students, looking at all the projects and papers around the room.

* A slideshow of the overnight ocean trip flashing pictures set to music calculated to put a lump in the throat of any parent of their children looking exquisite as they played in the water, etc.

*Several students from former years stopping by just to give hugs and say hello

I'm going to get to school early this morning to take pix of the classroom so I can show you what my little school portable looks like when it's decked out in its Sunday best.

Off I go!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Crazy Time

The goslings are now gooselings

Two weeks until the end of the school year -- that crazy time.  I think that musically, these last few days would be called a crescendo.  Everything that was ever put off, postponed or forgotten about during the preceeding 98.8% of the school year MUST take place now.  And it is.

This afternoon, right after school, I'll be in a meeting to talk about the progress of a student.  It will probably be a long one.  Right after that, is our Open House where we show off our classrooms and a sampling of everything we've done for the year to everyone who cares to visit.  The problem is that my classroom is far from ready to be presented.  And I just remembered that the students' rock collection for science haven't been graded yet.  I forgot.  I've got to somehow get that done before tomorrow.

And the school psychologist emailed last night asking for all the test scores and grades for the student in today's meeting.  She apologized for the short notice, but I've got to get that done now.

Here I sit doing my blog instead.  Crazy times require occasionally tapping on the brakes and slowing down.

And now I must get ready for school -- foot on accelerator and I'm off, leaving trails of teacher-dust in my wake....

Monday, May 13, 2013

Our Trip to See the Sea

Harbor seals and pups
 Last Thursday/Friday was the long-awaited overnight trip with the 4th graders to the Monterey coast.  I meant to blog about it over the weekend, but what with catching up on my gardening projects, grocery shopping, and a Mother's Day outing listen to a performance of Carmina Burana (plus a Sunday evening dose of the never-ending schoolwork), I had to give it a rest.  Or rather, I had to give myself a rest.

Point Lobos cove and sea caves

51 children and 23 adult chaperones, along with their two teachers, had a wonderful time.  We hiked the trails at Point Lobos, visited two Spanish missions, flew kites on the beach, climbed through tide pools, roasted marshmallows at a campfire, played in the sand and water, and said hello to all the animals at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Jellies at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Tidepooling mountain goats  boys

Kite-flying mermaids girls playing in the waves 

As the sun set, we watched a small group of orcas flashing their fins and blowing

Can't figure out why I was so tired when I got home.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Off to the Ocean...

...with 51 children, 23 adults plus their two teachers, luggage, lunch, two kites, and a soccer ball.

There's more, but that's all I can think of at this moment.  Hey ho!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The old rose bush

                                                         Praise be for dappled things.

Larkspur and Thunderstorms

After many weeks of warm weather with dry winds, today lovely grey clouds moved in.  When I got home from school this afternoon it had already rained once (only 0.1", but I prize every drop that patters down on this dry place of ours).  I went out and weeded my friends the thistles for awhile on the hillsides.  Great fun, but after filling three trash bags with them and pulling out numerous stickers from my fingers, it was time for a change of scenery.

  Bruce had told me that the larkspur I'd planted by the baby oaks along the road there were spectacular this spring.  The dogs and I took a walk to see.

The man was right.

They came in every shade of purple, ranging from almost white to almost blue.  I've never had so many.  It's a wonder that they would bloom so extravagently in such a dry spring.

The colors glowed against the drying grasses.

Then, to my delight, a new bank of  rainclouds rolled in.  The lightning flashed, thunder boomed across the hills and finally lovely splooshes of warm rain were released right over us.

Every wildflower on the place gave a sigh of relief.  I sighed with them.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Point Lobos

Well, I don't feel like such a wimp for packing it in and heading for home yesterday -- I checked the weather for Point Lobos and discovered that the wind gusts were up to 41 mph.  Not exactly a gale, but   not picnic-on-the-rocks weather either.  Still, it was lovely.



I love the little worlds that exist in tide pools.  It occurs to me that although these little crabs can get buffeted by the waves, they weren't at troubled by the wind that was just above the water line.  They did look a little smug as they goggled at poor wind-whipped me from their cozy underwater crevices (no doubt making bets on whether my hat would go flying or not...)

These strange circles are worn, I think, by the waves on the soft sandstone

It will be quite the adventure sharing all of this with my 4th graders next week, although some of the are so rambunctious that I worry about them falling off cliffs or being swept away.  Following directions is not their strong suit.  Well, I 'll think positive -- after all, I've always come home with the same number of students that left.

Today we stayed home, which was nice.  My horse trainer friend, Mary, and her daughter trailered their horses over and we rode in the arena together.  It's been over a month since I rode last and Corny's getting fat again.  Sigh.  Time to literally get back in the saddle again.  Afterwards we cooled out the horses by riding on our neighbor's trails that wind through the oaks on his property.  It was a good day.