Thursday, May 21, 2015

There's No Tired like End-of-the-year-Teacher tired

There's a thing going around Facebook. It is a quote on top of a cartoon of an exhausted teacher and the quote says,

"There's no tired like end-of-the-year teacher tired."

Yes, except there is no tired also like end-of-the-year para-pro tired, too.

We have so many end of the year activities, end of the year assessments, end of the year deadlines, it's bewildering.

Today we had a party outside sponsored by the Library at school. The school librarian, her parapro, and other staff associated with them held a reward party for accelerated readers. All those children who earned a certain amount of points in a reading program were treated to an end-of-the-year party. This party, which was held outdoors, included amplified music, Popsicles, and a fire truck spraying water! The kids were told ahead of time and wore their bathing suits to school. Release 120 kids on the soccer field to run around, dance, do cartwheels, chase each other, and play under the fire hose, all under breezy, cloudless, 80 degree skies, and well, you have the perfect recipe for fun under the sun. You never heard so much kid laughter.

For me it was exhausting, it was hot, but it was absolutely wonderful to see so many happy kids playing outside, all because of their success in reading and being rewarded for their efforts!

I was pretty beat when I left school. But it is Thursday and if it is Thursday I must grocery shop. I must. Luckily the Dollar Store and Grocery Store are only 1 mile from school so I drove down and noticed the new striping when I approached the stores' parking lot. The two stores are adjacent to each other. I am glad the parking lot was re-striped. It was getting kind of like a free for all there with cars parked every which way. I like things to be organized. So I was happy with the new striping alerting one and all as to where they should park. Organizing the world one parking lot at a time.

In the Dollar Store, which was mercifully quiet, I was bleary and not making good decisions. Or maybe they were excellent decisions. In addition to my other groceries, unusually I ended up with a bag of popcorn, a bag of chips, and a bag of potato sticks. Clearly salty and crunchy is my comfort food.

I came home and made an open faced tuna & grapes sandwich, spilled out some chips, and drank chilled hibiscus tea mixed with fizzy club soda. I had a piece of blackberry pie with Cool Whip for dessert. Ahhh, home and peace and quiet. But mostly sitting down. I was sitting down. That's my goal in life now. Not being President. Not winning the Pulitzer. Not finding a cure for cancer. Just sitting.

Now to make it through Friday, then the next 4.5 days at school with the kids, and the next 5 days after that. Then I'm sprung. For now, I'll watch Bosch on Amazon streaming, have a glass of milk, pet my cat, and soon after, fall asleep.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Kid Art

At school kids love to draw. Give them a blank piece of paper and a pencil or crayons and with no hesitation they will get busy. As they get older the blank page scares them into writer's block and illustrator's block, but not when they're 5 years old. They love to draw.

I can tell a lot about a child by their drawings. I'm fascinated by them, because they give me a window into their world, one they can't articulate but from their perspective things seem very different from the same world I inhabit with them. Grass is taller. Needles are longer. Things they don't talk about, like harvesting corn, they draw. Random things that otherwise I'd never have known they enjoy or think about.

I work in a kindergarten and as the kids draw things that tickle me I collect them. I have a stash of kid art going back five years now. Here it is, including the latest entries.

Hospital visit
 This little guy wound up in the hospital overnight. He drew, from left to right, the men's and ladies rest room doors (across from his room). Click to enlarge, and note the detail with which he illustrated the difference between the men's door and the ladies'. The next object is the TV on the high shelf mounted on the wall, with the plugs and wires hanging down. There he is on the hospital bed, with the nurse approaching with what looks to be a very long needle. Next to that is a family member sitting in the chair, and behind that is the tray full of medical objects the nurse had wheeled in- all needles.

Alligator, by K.
I think this is the most evocative alligator I've ever seen. With a few pencil strokes she captured the actual physical look and the spooky fierceness of the animal.

Combine harvesting corn, by W.
 In this one, I can feel the heat of the sun, see the dry stalks on the dusty ground and hear the rumble of the huge machinery as it grinds up the corn.

Ant, by A.
 My, but that ant looks tired. Just like A. usually did.

Visit to the Dentist, by H.
 Above from l-r, we have the door to the examining room, then the dentist holding the tube, then the patient with mouth wide open, mama standing by, and below, a random picture of a mouth with teeth.

Love, by A.
Above is an end-of-year picture given to me by a child, it is her and me, she said, with the heart in between. It's my favorite.

Once per year the kindergarten has Chalk Day. The children bring in colored chalk and they are allowed to sit on the pavement and draw as many pictures as they want. Until this year, I'd despaired a little because after only a few moments it seemed that the bulk of them became discontent and wanted to do something else. They complained, they fussed, they said it was boring. Was chalk drawing on the sidewalk a past-time from an era gone by? Well, this year my hopes were restored. The children settled into drawing very nicely, put time and effort into their creations, and cooperated like champions, helping each other out and making suggestions like pros. The photos don't do the chalk drawings justice, but here they are.

In 9 1/2 days I'll say goodbye to this year's crop. I believe I have done my best to support the children and support the teachers who teach the children. But with kids, you always wonder did I do enough? Did I do all I could to ensure they had the best support socially, physically, academically? In the end, the best I can do is the best I can do, and time will tell what kind of little people they will grow into.  They'll pass on to the next grade, where another group of teachers and staff are waiting to take them under their wing like we did. So long and farewell, my little ducklings.

Friday, May 15, 2015

School is almost out and my stack of books is getting higher

A spring Friday night...having finished a supper of fresh egg scrambled with a red pepper, bagel, and a creaky red potato. Yum. it's so goo, in fact, I've eaten this exact dinner all week.

I'm listening to Spotify's Folk channel. These are the gentle acoustic songs of my childhood of the 1960s I didn't like then but I do now. Especially the Mamas and the Papas, their harmonies are gorgeous.

I've been thinking about the 1960s a lot lately. It was a terrible, crazy time. The death counts on the nightly news with Walter Cronkite, toting up the cost of Viet Nam War in bodies and blood. The hippies turning everything upside down. The assassinations, riots and chaos. It felt like the world was ending. Or out of control anyway.
Entrance of the Drive In, showing screen, admissions office, and driveway.
HillTop Drive in, East Greenwich RI. It was a active drive-in for decades.
These photographs were taken before the site was adapted for another use.
Demolished 1999 Source

On the upside, it was a thrilling time too. The NASA space shots. Watching a man land on the moon, get out of the spaceship, and walk around. I was amazed. Color television. Bar codes. Piling into the wayback of the station wagon with bunches of cousins and going to the Drive-In Movie Theater in our pjs. It was thrilling and all coming on so fast.

I remember the Kent Cinema, the two-screen theater in town next to where the kids would go get milk shakes at the creamery after the game. If you tried to go to an R-rated movie the ticket booth lady would holler at you. "I know your parents. I am calling them right now!"

Almacs where after you paid for your groceries the cashier would give the mom a placard with a black number on it. You went to the car and then drove up to the front of the grocery store, and the bag boy had taken your groceries and put them in a gray bin with a corresponding number to your  placard, and placed the bin on a conveyor belt with rollers. The guy would push it through a flap like a large doggie door, and they rolled on the belt outside to the front of the store. You pulled up curbside and gave the placard to the guy. He'd load your groceries from the bin to your car. Once in a while he'd get the bins mixed up and we wouldn't notice the wrong groceries were in the car till we got home. The kids heard some swearing then, and the mom would have to go back and track down her real groceries.

Well love beads gave way to puka beads which gave way to mood rings then pet rocks and Tomagatchis and then I was grown up and didn't track fads anymore.

So all that is water under the bridge. In today's fast world I have deliberately slowed my life down. I want peace and quiet. And here it is-

I have 9.5 more days of school then I am out for the summer. I got my summer kitchen chair out and swapped it for the winter chair. I sit at the table in the kitchen and sip chilled herb tea and read and watch movies and study and write. I need a good chair due to the length of time I sit in it! That means taking the 100-year-old Bankers chair from the bedroom and putting it at the kitchen table. The Italian metal and wood chair I usually use during the year is good and comfortable, but is about 3/4 inch too high. My calf muscles get cramped.

I am going to resume studying quantum physics, make collages and hopefully some cloth covered books with the huge pile of good scraps my friend gave me, and take photos and post-process them in Pixlr. I am going to watch movies and good TV shows, like Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing and then double feature it with a re-viewing of Branagh's version from 20 years ago. There is a show called Eureka that is a sci-fi series about a town full of quantum physicist-genius types. I'll watch that, too.

I've got my books stacked up and ready to go, John Flavel's The Mystery of Providence, and Fatal Inquiry, #6 in the Barker and Llewellyn Victorian detective series by Will Thomas. And a few others, as well.

Here is some Boogie Woogie to enjoy. The music is outstanding and the dancers are amazing. The pianist is Silvan Zingg, he can speak many languages, (French, German, Italian, English, to name a few)is considered THE finest boogie woogie pianist alive today,and is a tremendous pianist of any genre. He founded the San Francisco International Boogie Woogie Festival.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Summer of Elizabeth

What a lovely week, weather wise. No humidity, cool temps, and after the early rain on Monday, sunshine. Abundant sunshine with puffy clouds! I love April in Georgia.

This is the end of the year push at school. We have a few weeks to go, our school year ends for the kids on May 29. May is full of end of year testing, field trips, field day, Derby Day, Kindergarten program rehearsals, Kindergarten Program, chalk day, bubble day, extra recess...and academics crammed in between.

My plan is to survive till the end with the kids and make it through post-planning to reach that golden apple: SUMMER. Post-planning is just that, planning for closing this year out and planning for next year. It also involves completely reducing our classroom to boxes that are either stored on a shelf or on rolling carts. The custodians paint and do stuff to the floor over the summer, so all the furniture is moved to the edges of the room and everything movable is boxed and put up so when the time comes they can move everything out.

The end of the year is kind of melancholy ... we work hard all year to get the kindergarteners reading, writing and independently able to do some work. Small groups or pairs at centers click along with less fussing and more ability to complete the work by themselves. They have matured, get jokes, tattle only 1000 times a day instead of 100000, can read and do it excitedly, and are generally pleasant to be around. Many can even tie their own shoes and open their own milks by this point, lol. The team prepares them for the leap to first grade...and we start all over again with excitable little peeing puppies in August. And so it goes.

When I went outside this afternoon to put a bag in the trash, the sheep and lambs all ran over to see what I was doing. They baa'd and stomped, and were generally entertaining. They were probably very disappointed to see that I was not their shepherdess. It is very fun to have farm animals around.

I took a photo at sunset the other day. The puffy clouds were thinning out but still gorgeous, and pink. I tweaked it in Pixlr to look like an oil painting.

I don't do anything in summer. I stay inside except for early morning and evening, I read, watch movies and tv, study, write, and commune with my cats. I don't do anything like travel or see museums or waterparks or visit, because I don't want to do those things. I like home. Home sweet home.

I wasn't feeling that well today but I still hobbled around (my achin' back...neck...& head) and deep cleaned the apartment. I also de-cluttered. I am so so so happy right now in a clean and pretty apartment, smells of Pledge and spring flowers, all neat and orderly, who wouldn't want to stay here every single day? I would! And I am going to be able to, soon. In time this very good and great school year will end. It will be the Summer of Elizabeth! As long as it doesn't become the Summer of George. Oops, the Summer of George didn't turn out so well for him, did it?

Monday, April 27, 2015

Flower power

Someone wondered in a comment, kiddingly, if I was a flower power child of the 60s. Here is a photo taken in 1970, when I was ten years old, and you decide for yourself...

I was on a 4th grade field trip to Mystic CT Seaport and Museum. The lady next to me was my teacher, Miss May

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A slideshow of Pixlr photos

These represent all the pixlr photos I've created so far. I update it each time I add more photos
A Pixlr photo is my photo post-processed using Pixlr software to overlay or otherwise manipulate the photo to add texture, mood, or other elements into the photo.

Created with flickr slideshow.

Bountiful Basket Saturday

We had two solid weeks of steady rain, accumulating to about 6 inches. The past three days of sun were glorious and well needed. The sun shone all day, the birds sang, the humidity was gone, and everything was green, green, green. April in Georgia is simply stupendous.

At 4am the rain began again. I don't mind really, my plan for today was to pick up a Bountiful Basket and use the oven to roast whatever is in it, plus the butternut squash I got last time. And chick peas. If you haven't had roasted chick peas, you're missing out! They make a filling and tidy little snack.

My monthly Tea Time magazine is filled with tea history, serving ideas, and recipes for cute little bites for your afternoon tea. One recipe caught my eye: English Pea Salad in frilled phyllo cups. Phyllo cups were on sale at the store so I am going to make a tea for myself Sunday afternoon, using the Whittard Tea Clipper set with rose hip tea and the pea salad cups. I'm fancy.

I've enjoyed this week's challenge at Pixlr, post-editing photos using their newest overlay pack, "Gibson." I've favorited Clark and Constellation as the best of these for my tastes. I notice on the Pixlr blog the archive of Gibson entries almost uniformly use the birds. I like the birds but man, it's just as easy to go outside and actually take a photo of birds. So for my entry I entertained myself by using a photo of an actual bird with the other Gibson overlays. I posted two of them earlier this week. The lines are phone wires.

Here are some more post-processing editing efforts.

I really like the 'Metal" overlay in the Default pak.

Yes. I caved. Here are birds from Gibson. I liked how they reminded me of the neon steam circles, changing into birds once set free from the coffee cup.

It's a few hours later now and I've gotten the Basket. It contained cukes (which I promptly gave away) mangoes, honeydew, apples, a lot of great looking broccoli, orange peppers, spaghetti squash, onions, potatoes, and lettuce. I probably forgot a thing or two.

I roasted some of the broccoli, butternut squash I had from last time, peppers, and the spaghetti squash. The spaghetti squash is so hard that once I get my cleaver a quarter inch into the rind, I can't get it to move in more nor can I get it out. I've taken to going outside at the walkway to the front door and smashing it on the pavement. With the knife stuck in there, I simply lift it entirely and then crash it to the ground, Even then, it's a cement rind. The cookbook wasn't kidding when it said "the rind is seriously hard". But I must look pretty funny out there...smashing pumpkins squash.

Have a good day everyone!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Some pixlr pics

Pixlr is a photo editing software in which the photographer post-processes his or her photos by adding overlays, effects, and borders. People who are talented even make their photos look like works of art. Here are a few of my attempts.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A short story

The dog ran into Mexico and I had to go after him. The Rio Grande was narrow here and Bud saw a horse come to graze at dusk and he saw his chance for a little fun. Too bad he doesn't know about geopolitical and economic boundaries. All Bud saw was a horse and some fun.

EPrata photo

I hear him barking in Boquillos now and I'm not looking forward to that guy selling mineral earrings again. He scared me with his pitiful intense desperation, 'look I made these aren't they beautiful' and then he touched my sleeve.

So I slip off my sneakers trying hard not to notice the myriad paw prints looking like hieroglyphics from big things came to graze. I tie the sneaks in a good knot and slip them over my shoulders. Feet slipping in the oozy mud, my prints now mingling with last night's predator and prey I run splashing loud across the river drowning out the cattails' whisper announcing my arrival in a foreign country without a passport.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Back to School tomorrow

Spring break is over and it sure was a good one. Great weather, very quiet, nice cats, haircut, Bountiful Basket, books and shows.

I got into The Indian Doctor from BBC on Hulu, a very good show. Well written and acted, pretty to look at, safe to enjoy without profanity or sex.

The old neighbors had left their lawn swing last summer, promising to come get it at some point. After nearly 10 months I had gotten used to the thing maybe always being here... I sat in it, looked at the clouds, took photos, read, listened to the birds.

This week with magazine in hand I went out to sit...and it was gone. I'm glad they have it back, becuase I know they enjoyed sitting on it a lot. I did too, so I'm glad I got to use it as much as I did.

Murray the cat is turning out to be a very nice cat. He's a legacy from the neighbors too. A nice cat who likes my other nice cats. We are happy here.

The Thursday and Friday before Spring Break I got overstimulated. I'm talking autistic overstimulation. Next stop...meltdown. I usually can avoid overstimulation becauase I know my triggers and limits. Whenever I vary from them I will get into trouble. My worst sensitivities are clothes/skin, noise of all kinds that is either sudden or sustained, and exposure to prolonged emotional displays.

I wore the wrong clothes on Thursday, dressing up because a Congressman was touring the school then spending time with the first graders. I wore flat, non-supportive shoes (AKA not my usual orthopedic clodhoppers), a polyester skirt, and nylons. Wearing hosiery for two hours at church is very different from being entangled in them all day. They had wrapped funny around my upper thigh and they chafed my thigh raw. My feet were killing me by the end of the day and I was totally angry at the polyester.

When I wear the wrong clothes my skin screams all day. It is hard to describe but it's like my brain is constantly going "DANGER DANGER, WRONG WRONG, NO NO" like a factory claxon alarm is going off, and my brain won't settle down and let me focus on anything else. It takes mental and emotional energy to shut my brain up enough to be able to function. By the end of the day I am exhausted from this effort.

Friday was loud. Easter Egg hunt, party, cafeteria double duty (meaning I spend an hour and ten minutes in an environment where the number of children is about 150, and decibel level nears or exceeds 80 to 85 db). It had been a long time between breaks and the children and staff were excited. Noise was heightened for the day everywhere but especially in kindergarten area where I work. This is normal but it exceeded my ability to handle it.

I knew I was pushing it to zip to the grocery store after work. But I also knew I didn't want to leave my home again for the week, so I drove there fast and didn't linger. But I was tired, overstimulated, and was running on fumes. I ran into a dear friend and we chatted briefly in each of the aisles where we crossed paths. It is a very small store. But by the last aisle we both went for the cool whip, and she asked me if I wanted regular or lowfat, and my brain was so jumbled I couldn't answer. She handed me regular and I literally only could say "Sugar." I wanted to say thanks but all I could do was stare numbly at the item and say sugar. My brain was shutting down. Picture an overheated computer in a cartoon spewing smoke and lighting zzz sounds.

I hurriedly left the store and got home, putting away only the cold groceries and then I fell face down on the bed.

The result was that Saturday I slept most of the day. I was physically ill. When my body gets overstimulated, my stomach gets upset & nauseous. The overworked brain kind of hurls out a kind of  poison and it swirls all around my body in a residue for a long time. Only time can deplete it. It would be while until I felt normal again. I woke up at 7:00 but went back to bed at 10 and slept until 2. Then I woke up and shambled around but went back to bed at 4 and slept till 6. Saturday was a totally lost day. I was a non-productive human being.

If Sunday hadn't have been Easter I'd have stayed home. As it was I was catatonic at 6:30 am, simply staring blankly at the ceiling and not being able to make my arms move enough to strip the covers off, so there was no chance of getting up at that point to attend Sunrise service. I attended the regular service but I didn't dress up as much as I would have liked. No nylons, that was for sure. So I didn't wear a dress. The music was good but loud and at one point I had to stop myself from covering my ears. Every note was like nails from a nail gun going into my brain. I know at one point I was wincing in actual pain. Afterwards, I went home and naturally, I slept.

By Monday I was feeling somewhat normal and by Tuesday I'd recovered. Phew, that was a bad one. Do I like being like this? No. Can I help it? No. Well I can a bit- make better choices about my environment. There is nothing I can do about the cafeteria but I can dampen or reduce all other effects by being careful about clothes, take small breaks of quiet like at lunch. I look frumpy and misshapen most of the time because I wear ill-fitting clothes that are not stylish, and not flattering. I don't care. They are comfortable, clean, presentable. And I can handle life when I wear them.

Sometimes when I get home the noise dose, an official term for accumulated noise a person encounters during a workday, is so high that once I had to stop chewing chips because they were too loud in my head. 

Well it has been a good week. I recovered, spent time restoring the well of strength I will need to face a noisy, bustling, happy school once again in the morning. I am looking forward to seeing the kids. I'm sure they will all look like they grew like weeds. Only 34 1/2 more days until summer break. Woo-hoo, I can make it!