Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I am officially Mrs. B

I had always wondered what I would be like as a teacher. For one day, I got to find out. For one day, I am apparently a pretty quiet one. I have a reasonably good hunch that if I was left to my own devices for an extended period of time, I would have a somewhat different take on that, but for now... I am simply a substitute. The one who fills in when the 'real' teacher is gone. The one at whom the kids stare and think, "What's she going to be like?"

We got the work done, though I'm sure it's not as perfect as it would have been if the real teacher had been there. The kids probably got away with more than they would have if the real teacher had been there, too.

However... it was kinda cool to be called Mrs. B. I did have my FULL last name written up on the board along with the daily vocabulary words (more on those in a bit) when they walked in, and the whole group had an interesting time trying to pronounce it. After a few seconds of letting them mangle it every which way, I just grinned and told them to call me Mrs. B.

And Mrs. B I remained for the rest of the day.

There were only 10 kids in the class - nine initially, but one was tardy - so it was not like I was dealing with a full public-school-sized class, nor was I dealing with all the attitude that would have potentially come along with public school, so it wasn't a hard day. I can sure understand how some students fall through the cracks and some of them get completely bored, though. Some kids were consistently done first; others were consistently daydreaming and really not focusing at all. The kid who was arguably the smartest in the class was also the one up to the most devildom. In the end, I told a teacher friend of mine that it was like herding sheep - they CAN be taught, but they'd just rather go out to graze!


I didn't have to teach the entire day. The gym teacher took them for half an hour first thing in the morning, the Spanish teacher came in for half an hour in the morning, and the writing teacher held their attention for 45 minutes right after lunch/recess. The best part of all that wasn't sitting back and relaxing (though I did) but watching the kids. One of them consistently kept checking back to see what I was doing or how I was reacting to what the interim teacher was saying. One of them who had done a great job of listening to me all day would put his head down on his desk and thoroughly ignore anyone else. One of the girls was a little jumping box whenever the teacher was talking (which helped me understand why she was all the way at the back).

Apparently third-graders also LOVE to overthink things. Give them a list of words and say, "Use each word in a sentence," and they want to know the precise definition of each word before writing, and they want to know if they can use more than one word in a sentence, and they want to know... and they want to know... and they want to know. Give them a magnifying glass and two plants (radish and grass, specifically) and ask them to find some similarities and differences, and you then have to explain the precise way to do that. Deeeeep breathing required.

The final anecdote, and then I promise I'll be quiet and go away.

As I mentioned before, the daily vocabulary words were written on the blackboard first thing in the morning. These words came out of the book that they're reading, and they have 4-5 words each day. They write the words and definitions into a notebook and get tested on them at the end of the book. I read the chapter to the kids as they follow along, and as they hear a word, they raise their hands and we discuss possible definitions. At the end, the correct definition goes onto the board.

One of today's words was "massacre." As we got past the word, five hands went up. I called on one of the boys and asked him what he thought the word 'massacre' meant.

And, in all seriousness, he practically yelled, "That's eye make-... ohhhhhhhhhhhhh noooo... that's mascara."

Even *I* had a hard time not rolling on the floor over that one. It's hard to go from that to random death, but we did make the jump - eventually.

Such was my stint as a third-grade teacher!

Monday, March 30, 2009

The party post

So I'm finally getting around to blogging the party! I could blog other things instead, if you like... like M2 informing me today that one day I will be as smart as her. Or finding out that I'm going to substitute-teach tomorrow for an entire class of third-graders!

However... party priority.

This was kind of the 'pre' fun. The party had a rainbow theme.

Not that kids get excited about cake or anything.

Especially THIS cake. All self-respecting 80's kids will now collectively say, "Ahhh! I remember her!"

Three out of four candles on one blow isn't bad, right?
And then for the absolute cutest photo...
Me wanty cake!

Present time was fun as well. She got plenty of good stuff. Now... take a look at the last photo, at the boys on the left. See the big grown men playing with the Care Bear? Let's do it again... one last collective, "Awwwwwww...."

Thanks to my friend Beth for taking most of these photos for me and giving me copies! I appreciate it!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Winter Recap

My poor baby girl had an interesting birthday party! But before we get there, we have to start the day before.

Meet the guinea.

This was in my garage on Friday when the rain/snowstorm really started. It was tame enough, because it would run to me when I called it, and it hung out in my garage for a while, especially during a hailstorm. I've heard it several times today as well, so I think it's living somewhere out in the pasture. I'm going to go hunting for it again when the ground dries out a bit. If it ever does. The theory goes that it's going to rain again next Saturday. Gah.

Back to the party. It wasn't going to be a big party to begin with, but just as I started pulling out the cleaner to go scrub the bathroom, the constant rain became THIS.

It didn't stick for a while, so I was optimistic, but that first photo was taken about 9:30... i.e. BEFORE the party. That's when a few people started calling and Oz went out to check the road conditions since we do live in a rural area. They were slushy but not icy, so we kept the party as a 'go.'
Below is what it looked like by 11-ish. We didn't lose any tree limbs because, quite frankly, anything that was going to fall apart was taken out last winter by that massive ice storm that took out our power for a week.
More on that in a minute.
After the little kids left, the big kids bundled up and went outdoors. Oz and his two youngest brothers had a big snowball fight, and then everyone worked together to build a snowman. I have no idea what's on top of his head. Those kids are mine with my MIL and my Sweet Little Sister's husband J.

The kids made a mini-snowman, too.

Just before everyone decided they were freezing - and DRIPPING with melted snow - and came back indoors, the power went out. At first I thought it would be up within a few minutes. At 2 p.m., when my Sweet Little Sister and J left and my kids went down to rest... it still hadn't come back on. At 4 p.m., I started planning for a dinner sans oven/microwave/lights/thawed meat (I usually use my microwave to defrost meat). At 8 p.m., when the house was pitch black, I took a long, hot bath and watched my bathwater literally steam in the candlelight.

I took this picture at about 10 p.m. I feel it epitomizes my evening: Reading an old book by lamplight with a cat lap warmer and a nonworking phone!
We got power back about 9 a.m. today and let the kids run rampant outdoors.

I am grateful for heat. More on the party tomorrow!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bakerella I am NOT!

I reiterate my title statement. What you are about to see is not pretty, perfect, or very Susie Homemaker-esque. But preschoolers (and the principal) liked it!

Here's my version of making Bakerella's gorgeous cake pops. She can do this SO much better than I can. I have an infinite amount of respect for her now. I had respect before, but now I bow before the Cake Pop Deity in actual reverence.

Start with cake. Chocolate cake in my instance. I used Pam to grease this, so the sides climbed, but meh. Why worry about that when all you're going to do is crumble the entire thing? That is a detail best worried about another day.

Crumble the entire thing and add an entire container of frosting. This takes FOREVER to mix in, because you have to make sure that all of it is mixed very, very well. I learned that even if you only have a few stray crumbs, they will come back to bite you in the butt later. Trust me on this. It's not pretty.

Then you form the cake/frosting mixture into a ball. This isn't pretty, either. This is what your hand will look like halfway through. I actually had to wash both of my hands before going to back to making more because the balls were sticking to my hands rather than each other.

The product of my labor... so far...

Once you get them all formed, stick them in the fridge or freezer till they're cold.
Then it's melting time! I used two colors of candy wafers today - white and pink - just for giggles and because my daughter likes pink but boys don't. I melted the white on the stove and the pink in the microwave, just to see which worked better. Microwave wins. Just do a 1-minute cook time at 50% power followed by 30-second intervals at 50% power, stirring in between. It should be melted in about 3 minutes' worth of cook time.

This is what the white ones looked like... I did them first. See how those crumbs show up? I warned you!

Then I got smart and took a picture of the process. Bakerella is 100% right about how to do this. She first of all recommends using a bowl with very high edges. I actually used a glass (as in, drinking glass that I usually fill with gin & tonic) for the white chocolate. Dip the stick in the chocolate before sticking it in the cake pop and let it set for a minute. Then thunk the thing down in the melted wafers and spoon the stuff over the top. Lift out, and TAP. TAP TAP TAP. It reminded me of that Simpson's episode where Lisa takes up tap dancing... "taaappa tappa tappa!"
Moving on.... tap some more. Some will fall apart. Keep a spoon handy to scoop them out. If you want to be like me, eat the casualties until you are nauseous. Once they start falling apart, though, put the rest back in the fridge until they're cold again, because apparently warm cake/icing falls apart much easier than cold cake/icing. Nothing like logic to ruin my snacking.

After a while, I wound up with THESE.

Did I mention that you shouldn't forget the styrofoam to stick them in?? That is one I nearly forgot. Kind of important.
There. It has now been blogged.
It is finished. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

M2's birthday - the actual day

M2, in case you ever read this, never EVER doubt that I love you. How do I love thee? Let me count the pans. That's fried chicken, asparagus, and mashed potatoes in the pot on the back - you picked the meal! I then used the chicken pan to make gravy, too, which you insisted was crucial to the meal.

For all you other moms out there, THIS is really what love means. Being willing to cook all of THAT so that you can then wash all of THIS.

And don't forget the cake! It's not my most elaborate cake, but it worked. M2 actually picked out the cake and the frosting herself (with the sprinkles, of course... I know my friend Beth would approve), but Mama added the writing, sloppy as it is. I promise the party cake will look better.

Doing a round cake also gave me a great excuse to use my Kake Kutter! I have the square cake one, too. My Ozzie wuvs me.

See that gleam in her eye? That's 4-dom. It's a whole kingdom of entitlement complexes, drama, and still wishing for snuggles. She pwns that kingdom right now. She knows it. She wants it. She blew out all the candles, which is really what that concentrated look is all about.

And then she thoroughly enjoyed her cake and ice cream. See that gleam? It's back.

After that, it was time for presents. Everyone into the living room to watch the show!

Of course those weren't all the gifts, but it was the first gift and the last. That kitty is the new winner of her heart. She's in love with its tail. I knew she would be, which is why I bought it in the first place.
Finally... a birthday wouldn't be a birthday without a little movie at the end, would it? Gotta have memories. Enjoy!

Garden soil update

Let me preface this by saying I need a new camera - one with better control of aperture. I also need a steadier hand, but given the fact that I can now barely squeeze the contents of a tube of Betty Crocker decorating icing (the container that looks like a tube of Easy Cheese) without my hand shaking like a leaf, I fear those days have passed. If I had both of those things, there would be more pictures here.

Moving on... THIS

is what the garden looked like before it rained. This is sand mixed with the native clay soil... mixed with extra topsoil, potting soil, and manure. We tilled it all together, and I'm going to let it sit for a week or two and relax (and pluck out any weeds that come out in the meantime) before planting. Right now, the planting date is APRIL 11!!!
Now comes the fun part... picking out what to plant. Oz is gunning for tomatoes, but I fear them. Besides anything else, I learned today that tomato pollen dies in temperatures over 95. No wonder Oklahoma summers kill tomato plants! Right now, the plan is: Okra, squash, pumpkins, bell peppers, green beans, and little plots for whatever the kiddlywinks want to plant - M1 is thinking herbs (because Mommy kills them), M2 is dying for flowers (pink ones, please!).
Let the adventure begin!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

To be a gardener - help!

I am not good at gardening or growing anything, really, other than nice fat animals. If it wasn't so much more trouble, I'd skip the gardening bit and go straight into animal husbandry. I can raise animals! Hamsters, turtles, fish, cats, dogs, birds - THOSE I can manage. Somehow plants escape me.

Anyway... back to gardening. Like I said, I have a black thumb, but I keep trying. Last year, by sheer neglect, I raised a pumpkin. It was a plant that the preschool had been raising, and I brought it home to die. I literally stuck it in the ground when we got it home and forgot about it for three weeks. I figured it was dead. I was absolutely amazed when I went back out there and it was thriving. I continued to neglect it all the way till October when we cut the pumpkin off of it and carved it! I did save the seeds, but I am pretty sure there's no way I can grow things from seed yet. That's always been a pitfall for me, especially with herbs.

All that said, I really wanted to have a garden this year. For Christmas, my dad got me some gloves, tools, and a kneeler (and ones for the kids as well), and I got a couple of books on gardening. I actually have read through a good chunk of them. One of them is the Dummies gardening book; the other is a book specifically on organic vegetable gardening. (Am I game for organic this year? I'm not sure yet. I'm thinking probably not.)

Next, time to pick a location. That was a no-brainer for me. We have a spot in our back yard where we used to have a pool. It wasn't a big pool, just one of those 4' deep, soft-sided ones, but still a pool... that eventually sprung unrepairable leaks and had to be pitched. The pool area is surrounded by railroad ties, is a good-sized square area, is close to the hose/house, gets shade in the evenings in summer, and thus makes a perfect spot for a garden, right??

It also, at one point, had no grass in it. I say at one point because by this spring, it had been neglected for a couple of years and was definitely grown over. So we had to clean it out. What, you may ask, does "cleaning it out" entail? First, we had to get all the landscape fabric out from underneath all the weeds and about two tons of sand. I'm not kidding - about the 'tons' bit, I mean. With my husband Oz's help and a lot of grunt work, we got that done. Now I'm working on getting some of that sand OUT of the garden plot. I want to keep some of it, because we have very thick clay soil around here, but not all of it.

So that's about 7/8 done. All I have to do now is work the sand into the last quarter of the plot of soil. Then we're going to put in some good topsoil, work in some manure, and maybe add some of the dead leaves that I rake up every fall and which always sit in my front yard till it's time to burn again in spring.

Does this sound right to any of you other gardeners out there? Anything I'm missing? I would love to have this done by planting - originally that was going to be April 18, but something about a lake weekend has killed that ;) So I'm thinking the weekend before - the 11th, perhaps, assuming the weather cooperates. Like I said, I'm just going to go with plants instead of seed. I'm thinking bell pepper, green beans, squash, okra - some things that are very, VERY easy to grow. I'm scared of tomatoes.

I also talked Oz into going to Lowe's today and getting me a compost bin. I'd have him make one, but - God love him - he just isn't very motivated about things like that. So we got a "Darth Vader"-style bin. I put some of those leaves I mentioned into it already, made sure it was good and moist but not wet, and tossed in the leftovers I had from chopping up taco salad veggies. Do I need to do anything else to it for now? I don't want to kill COMPOST, for heaven's sake. I'm accomplished enough at Murdering Flora. Let's not extend that to the microbial genre.

I'm happy to take any and all advice you guys have. I don't want to kill everything with love or neglect, and I fear both. Thanks!

Friday, March 20, 2009

The difference between boys and girls...

...was aptly demonstrated in my van yesterday.

They were playing pretend:

M2 was a shark; M1 was a shark.

M2 had babies. She began caring for them.

M1 ate any that escaped M2's nursery.

In the war of nature vs. nurture, nature wins this battle!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My babies, growing up

M2 wanted to pose for pictures the other day when I told her she was growing into a beautiful young lady. She posed for this...

and this...

and this....

And then M1 let me talk him into having HIS picture taken as well...

though he would much rather have been doing THIS!

Boys will definitely be boys... ;)

Remember the Reading Challenge?

M1 completed his Reading Challenge today! For anyone who hasn't read that blog post, I refer you to this entry: http://oursunnyview.blogspot.com/2009/02/opgtr.html. M1 had challenged himself to finish that book by Spring Break, which starts on Monday (I was going to give him till Monday). He worked HARD to do this. There were days, especially when we were working on some of the two-syllable words that have odd sounds (try explaining words like 'ancient' to a kid who believes c says /k/ or /s/ and to whom the syllable 'an' is a word that does NOT have a long a sound), when I wasn't sure we'd make it. But every time I started worrying, he'd sit down and do four or five lessons in a day, and we'd be caught back up!

He insisted I take this picture today after he marked off the very last lesson.

Then he wanted to show off his reading skills for Daddy. This is the next-to-last lesson in the book. The only words that really tripped him up were 'extraterrestrial' and the 'cality' part of 'impracticality.' I couldn't have read this when I was 6!!!

Him, reading this to his Daddy...

And finally, I'm so proud of my lil' dude... here's him sounding out the very last word on the page. The camera didn't work the first time he sounded it out, when he realized that he KNEW the word already, so this is actually a second attempt, but still...

He definitely sounds precocious! I'm so proud of him. Of course, now I owe him a Mommy Day. His work has also already paid off. At his parent-teacher conference at school today, his teacher surprised me by telling me that she IS going to let him go to first-grade reading for the rest of the year after all. She said he's definitely reading at the same level as that class (just think... these kids are getting ready for second grade, and he's reading at their level!) and his comprehension is somewhere between third and fourth grade!
Totally having a bragging Mommy moment, but at the same time, I'm bragging on his hard work. It has definitely been its own reward.