22 December 2008

A New Holiday

My brother is a very witty man. The other day he left me one of the funniest messages I have ever heard: “Hello Red Head. I was just calling to celebrate the miracle of modern communication. If you feel inclined to also celebrate call me back.” It made me laugh for a very long time.

As a somewhat nerdy World History teacher I think he really is on to something here. The list of modern miracles that deserve celebration is really quite long: Automobiles, vaccinations, iPods, movies, Harry Potter books, LED lights, Global Positioning Systems, elevators, soft sheets, electricity…Really the list is endless. We have a lot more to celebrate than the ancient Sumerians. Good thing our calendar has more days in it.

After a really long, intense, exhausting, and high-stress day I feel that it would be appropriate to celebrate a convenience of the modern industrialized world that is frequently overlooked: A hot shower. The powers of appropriate water pressure, a hot water heater, some well placed tile, and a shower head combine to make the world a better place. Seriously, I think the course of human history might have been altered if Napoleon had been able to take a hot shower while deciding to invade Russia.

I declare today hot shower day.

15 December 2008

Happy Birthday Dad

My dad is pretty cool. Today is his birthday. Here is a song that I discovered when I was a missionary that reminds me of my dad. I wish I could say that I wrote it, but all I can honestly say is that I like it. Happy birthday dad. I hope you have a great day

13 December 2008

Kitchen Mysteries

I am not particularly fond of bananas. It’s basically a texture thing. They feel weird in my mouth. And they smell funny too. Thus, having offended two of my five senses, bananas are not on the list of my favorite foods. Sometimes I can appreciate a good banana with some peanut butter on it, but that makes it a different food entirely, so that doesn’t count.

One day I came home to discover no fewer than 10 bananas on our kitchen counter. I was rather confused as to how we acquired so many bananas, but had no intention of participating in the consumption of this fruit. Instead I ate an apple. A few days later, as I made my way to the kitchen in search of breakfast, I was greeted by the smell of old bananas. I discovered that our kitchen counter was still home to 8 bananas is varying stages of over-ripe. Clearly it was time for action. My first inclination was to take all 8 blackened fruits and deposit them in the trash can. However, more productive thoughts prevailed and I pulled out my Harry Potter apron and set out to make some banana bread for my visiting teachees. In short order I had enough batter to bake 3 loaves of banana bread. This was perfect because there are three girls that I visit teach. However, I could only locate two bread pans in the cupboard.

As I was greasing these pans and deciding what to do with the rest of the batter I suddenly realized that the pans I was using did not belong to me. This brought a ray of hope to my predicament. I remembered that a few years ago, when I was still living in Provo, I made a goal to learn to make really good bread. As part of that goal I purchased some bread pans. If the pans currently in the cupboard did not belong to me that meant that I had more pans somewhere else. The most likely somewhere else was in the very back corner of the storage closet. I put two loaves of bread in the oven and then went to the closet to begin the excavation process.

After extracting 3 suitcases, a bike rack, and a box of Christmas decorations, I finally happened upon the box labeled “kitchen.” I opened it up to discover some silverware, two blue plastic plates that I do not remember ever owning, a few glasses, and, much to my delight, a bread pan. One pan was just what I needed, but I figured if I was going to release one pan from storage into the kitchen I might as well liberate the set. I emptied the rest of the box in search of the second bread pan. I discovered many cups, some bowls, a cheese grater, and a pitcher, but not a second bread pan. I know that I had two. No one makes just one loaf of bread. I don’t think a recipe exists for a single loaf. It makes no sense to have just one bread pan, and I am certain that I bought two. So I went back to the storage closet. Behind some camping chairs and sleeping bags I found a second box labeled “kitchen.” I unloaded its contents and discovered a glass 9x13 pan, some plates that probably belong to Justin, my favorite dishtowels, and a waffle iron, but no bread pan. I am quite perplexed by this lack of a second pan. It makes absolutely no sense. Where does a bread pan disappear to? I’m not sure, but this baffling mystery remains, to date, unsolved.

10 December 2008

It's Snowing in Texas

Texas is a rather large state. Perhaps I should specify. It is currently snowing in Houston, Texas (and surrounding area). This is rather significant because, although I am the Colorado Red Head, I currently reside in the Sub Tropical city of Houston. Therefore I am currently experiencing this climatic anomaly first hand. I feel somewhat conflicted about this altered weather pattern. On one hand I really love snow and miss Colorado winters. And listening to Christmas music on the radio seems so much more appropriate when there’s some snow on the ground. On the other hand, I endured the scorching hot and miserably humid summer by telling myself that at least the winter weather would temperate. I feel like I’ve been cheated. If I had purchased something I would ask for a refund.

Despite my lack of refund I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the snow. This evening my friend Paily and I ventured out in the inclement weather to visit the library. On the way in we saw a couple who were quite fascinated by the snow. The young man grabbed and handful of snow, made it into a snowball, and threw it at his girlfriend. She gave him an appalled and confused look. I think it was the first time she had ever been attacked by a precipitation projectile. She clearly did not understand the appropriate response. I could not stand idly by and let his assault go uncontested. People in Houston do not know how to have a proper snowball fight. It’s a good thing we were there to help them out. I made a snowball, threw it at him, and quickly darted in the other direction. He did not rise to the challenge at all. So Paily decided it was her turn to demonstrate appropriate retaliation and threw a snowball at me. After that they sort of got the idea. We then walked into the library giggling, brushed the snow off our coats, and checked out a book.

Earlier in the day I had a less entertaining encounter with the snow. After school I finished some paperwork that needed to be given to the swim coach. I decided I might as well present it in person and set out to interrupt swim practice. The route from my classroom to the swimming pool includes five steps outside. I looked out my windows and saw that it was raining, but decided that since my five outside steps would be on a covered sidewalk the paperwork would not get wet. I went to make my delivery. I got to the pool right around the time the slushy rain became real snow. I discovered that swim practice had been canceled and the pool was locked. I also discovered that I could see my breath. When I turned around to go back inside I further discovered another locked door. I recalled, with a sinking feeling, our staff meeting where the school’s safety and security program was laid out. Every door in the whole building is locked as soon as the dismissal bell rings at the end of the day. I was stuck outside in the snow, very inadequately dressed for cold weather.

I looked in the window and saw a very deserted hallway. I decided my chances of getting back in that door were pretty much nonexistent, so I went to another door and peered in the window only to find another deserted hallway. I spent quite some time walking around the school trying to find a way back in. Somewhere around the time I was pondering on the irony of a Coloradan getting hypothermia in Texas I spotted a door that, against all school policies, was propped open. I have never in my life been so excited to see a rule be completely disregarded.

09 December 2008

safety scissors

I teach tenth grade. Occasionally I have the kids do a project in class that requires the momentary use of scissors. I decided that my whole life would be much better if I had a class set of scissors, so I asked for them. My school is very accommodating about supplying colored paper, markers, crayons, and glue for my tactile kids, but apparently scissors are a whole different story.

Me: Can I get a class set of scissors for my room?

Administrator: You can’t give all your kids scissors. They’ll get hurt!

Me: They’re in tenth grade. I’m sure they can handle it.

Administrator: I don’t think it’s a good idea.

This method wasn’t getting me anywhere quickly, so I switched strategies and pulled out my arsenal of education terms. After a long conversation I convinced my administrator that having a class set of scissors would improve student performance because it would allow me to differentiate instruction to accommodate kinesthetic learners. I think I also said something about cross-curricular connections. She conceded the point and agreed to order a class set of scissors. I was so delighted the day I got my box of scissors. I opened it up to discover that I had been supplied with safety scissors. I was tempted for a moment to go remind my administrator that I teach tenth grade not kindergarten, and the rounded tip was unnecessary. I couldn’t think of a good way to explain that in education terms, so I decided to be content with my box of safety scissors.

I had a chance to use my newly acquired treasure just a few days later. My first period students were the lucky ones that got to initiate the scissors. I explained the assignment and then eagerly presented each of them with a pair of scissors to use. Near the end of class one of my students called from across the room “Miss, do you have a band aid?” “I’m sorry, I don’t. What do you need it for?” He responded by lifting his bleeding hand into the air. Quite surprised I asked “What did you do?” He looked at the ground and mumbled something that started with, “I was cutting…”

I decided this was an isolated incident. Surely the average tenth grader could cut paper using safety scissors without getting hurt. And my second period class was not filled with average tenth graders. It was an honors class. So I pressed forward. I explained the instructions to second period and confidently presented each student with a pair of scissors to use. This time much more near the beginning of the class I was again interrupted with the question “Miss, do you have a band aid?” Apparently my administrator was right. Tenth graders cannot handle scissors. In a somewhat exasperated, non-nurturing, and unsympathetic tone I asked her how she managed to cut herself while using safety scissors. Her response: “Miss, they’re really sharp.”

I still occasionally assign projects that require the use of scissors. I’m still really excited about my class set of scissors. And I now keep a box of band aids in my desk.

08 December 2008

A Pleasant Morning

I am perhaps the most spoiled girl on the planet. I don't normally enjoy mornings, and I particularly dislike traffic in the mornings. However, this morning as I was sitting on the freeway thinking that I really should live closer to my job I thought to myself, "I really like the song Oh, Holy Night. It is an excellent song. And I'm really glad that someone translated it into English so that monolingual people such as myself could enjoy it." Somewhere in the midst of this pondering I made it to my exit. Just as I got off the freeway the song came on the radio. And it wasn't a cheesy overdone version either. It was one of my favorite arrangements. The last chord of the song faded just as I pulled into the parking lot at school. I turned off my car, walked into school and signed in at the front office at exactly 6:30. Timing doesn't get much better than that.