Saturday, April 23, 2011

Permission to Buzz the Tower?

One afternoon this week as I drove in from work, I noticed a strange piece of equipment. When Lovey came home, he joked, "I bought a helicopter today." The land on across the road from us is owned by a timber company. Last summer they cut the trees and then replanted this fall. The helicopter, along with a tank truck, was here to spray the newly planted trees. The winds were too strong to spray the day it arrived, so it was parked just across the road in a small opening. The exact spot that log trucks had been loaded the summer before. It has been a very dry winter for us. And maybe the guy just didn't notice that the spot he parked his very expensive piece of equipment in was lower than everything around it. Maybe he didn't think that this would be the night we would get 4 inches of rain. And his very expensive helicopter would be sitting in a giant mud puddle. As Baby Jus and I left for school the next morning, we noticed that water was covering some of the spray rigging and almost touching the bottom of the helicopter.

Being the good guy that he is, Lovey stopped some time that morning and dug a trench to drain the hole. The guy still had to wade water to get to his toy, but he didn't have to swim. When the crew returned on Friday, the guy noticed that someone had done him a favor. One of the truck guys stopped Lovey and told him that the pilot wanted to talk to him on the radio. The pilot asked if he had drained the hole and then thanked him for doing so. Nice guy. The winds were still too strong to spray, so the crew left their expensive toys behind for another day.

It's a beautiful morning.

I woke up at 5:30. I have much to do today, but I wasn't quite ready to get up at 5:30.

But just before 6:00, Jacob started growling at some unindentifiable noise.  I tried to convince him that everything was fine. But he is a big chicken. I knew what the noise was. And what noise was about to follow it.

It sounded like I was part of on old MASH rerun. When the chopper flies in during the opening.

It's a beautiful, not-windy day. And the nice pilot guy is taking advantage of his window of opportunity.

Flying right in front of my bedroom window. Over and over again.

So, by 6:30 I was outside taking a few pictures. It was a beautiful morning.

Is it wrong of me that just for a few minutes this morning I thought, "If Lovey hadn't 'a drained that stupid mud puddle, that pilot would be working on his stupid helicopter rather flying over my dang house at 6:00 in the morning!"? Lovey is such a better person than I.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reasons # 63 and 64 Why I Shouldn't Waste Money on Manicures

For the last several years, I have had Easter lunch and egg hunting at my house. One year it rained so much that we hid eggs in the garage for the kids to hunt - not much of a challenge there. I can also remember at least two years where the kids hunted in mud boots. But we have had some beautiful Easter afternoons too. Last year was one of those years. After lunch we had a quick egg hunt and then flew kites. The weather was great.

With the weather we have been having, I am worried that this year will be a mud boot hunt again. No matter the weather, we will have a good time I know. But the kids we love getting outside in the sunshine.

Wednesday was payday, and after school I headed to the bank. Since I was in town, I decided to run by the farm co-op to pick up ferns and some flowers to plant along the front of the porch. Once the back of my truck was full (I just can't stop myself.), my procrastinating self decided that I had time for a much needed manicure before heading home. Nothing fancy, just a basic manicure maybe with clear polish, maybe no polish. I wasn't technically procrastinating; it was about to start storming. I knew that I wouldn't be able to plant anything when I got home - so why hurry?

When I got inside the shop, the guy at the front desk ask what I wanted. "Manicure."

And then he tempted me, "Just a manicure?"

"Yes, a plain manicure."

"Nothing else."

I quickly thought about how just the day before I had worn flip flops and noticed that my almost four week old pedicure was looking a little ragged. It would be nice to get it all done at one time. You know, so that I wouldn't have to come back. But I stuck to my guns and said, "No, just a manicure." And then he tempted me again - no, he directed me.

"Go pick your color from the back wall."

Well, it wouldn't hurt to look. I would just check their colors - for next time. Because I had just bought a truck load of plants that would need to be planted. And I still had cleaning to do to prepare for company. But wait! Look at that! The prettiest shade of pink, no magenta or fuschia. And it has sparkles! I'm a sucker for sparkles. I would just let her test the color. So that I would know what color to get NEXT time.

It was just after 4:30 when I walked in the shop. I walked out just before 5:30 with a beautiful manicure the perfect shade of pink and just the right amount of sparkle. By 6:00, I had already dinged two nails and chipped the paint. Reason # 63 - I can't sit still long enought to let the paint dry completely.

I got home just before the storms hit my area. It has been a very dry fall, an even drier winter, an a dry spring. We needed a good rain, and boy did we get one. It rained all night long. We got about 4 inches. It was a drizzly day too. But I had to do something with those plants. I moved the ferns from the pots they came in to the ones I already had.

My pots have a bottom on them that will hold water. Without these, my ferns suffer. Watering plants doesn't always rank at the top of the To-Do list.

I'm sure this is not the way Martha would re-pot ferns, but it works for me.

Reason # 64 - I can never find my work gloves when I need them.

Lovey came home while I was moving ferns. He took those pics of me. He also helped me to plant some foxgloves and impatients along the front of the porch.

I have been trying to get peonies to bloom for several years. Today I found my first bloom. Beautiful.

Lovey likes the irises.

After pulling a few weeds I went back to the porch for a quick peek before heading in.

Impatients look great with what is already blooming.

And I love what a few ferns do to make a porch feel homey.

Even if it rains on Sunday we can sit on the porch and enjoy the view. Maybe everyone will be so taken by the lovely ferns and pretty flowers that they won't notice the dinged up manicure.

Monday, April 18, 2011

So many novels, so little time

Today the ALE students, along with their teacher, presented a lesson to my students about being a responsible dog owner. Their points were don't chain a dog, get them spayed/neutered, and adopt from a shelter rather than buy or breed. The presentation and question session lasted about 30 minutes. Because I have my 7th graders for two periods each day, this was a great lead in to the novel we were going to start reading - Jack London's The Call of the Wild. From time to time, I switch up the novels I read with my students. But this book is one that my students and I usually enjoy, and I don't often skip it.

Sometimes students mistakenly think that because it is a small book, less than 150 pages, it is an easy read. Very quickly, they change their minds. The vocabulary is challenging for most. Another reason they sometimes think it will be easy is that it is told from the perspective of a dog. Students remember children's books being told from an animals perspective. They are usually surprised when I don't allow them to read the book independently. I sometimes have students tell me that they read the book in elementary. But after we start reading and discussing in class, they admit that they now have a much better understanding of the book. Sometimes they even start out telling me that they didn't like the book - this is a sure sign to me that the book was too challenging for their independent reading.

Today we read the Forward by Gary Paulsen and chapter 1. Even with as many times as I have read/taught this book, I enjoyed the reading. I hope that tomorrow we can get through chapters 2 and 3, but I won't rush it. The more I can get them to discuss; the more they learn and enjoy the book.

Eigth graders are only in my room for one period, so we didn't begin a new unit today. Tomorrow I am going to give let them play games such as UNO, Yahtzee, and Ratuki as a reward for their hard work on the Benchmark tests last week, but Wednesday we buckle down and get back to work. I have to admit that I haven't decided for sure just what we will be doing. Some of the novels I read with 8th graders include The Giver, Animal Farm, and sometimes The Diary of a Young Girl. This year my 8th graders also need to finish a comic project that we have been working on in bits and pieces throughout the year. There just isn't enough time to get to it all. The Giver is one of those books like The Call of the Wild that students have frequently have read independently and will tell me that they didn't like it. Most times they love the book after we read and discuss it in class. Another case of reading something before they were ready.

I would like to know what you homeschoolers read with your middleschoolers.
Classroom teachers, what novels do you teach in 7th and 8th graders?
What do you remember reading from that time period in your life?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Busy Week

It has been a strange week. We had Benchmark testing which made for a very long day each and every day. I'm not very good at being quiet. Never have been. I have a callus on the top knuckle of my right hand middle finger. It's from writing "I will be quiet in class" over and over again during the 4th grade. I don't know that I got one full recess that entire year! Obviously, the writing of sentences was not an effective punishment for me.

Lucy Mercer, Great American Cat Wrangler, has transformed into Mommy of the year. I have been very worried about her and the new puppies. I am supplementing the runt with bottle feeding. He is so much smaller than the others, and I'm not sure that he will make it. But I'm not giving up. And neither is Lucy. She occasionally brings him to me. I think she knows that he is getting needed attention when I feed him.

I managed to watch two of my nieces play softball games this week. One plays for the Lady Bears and the other for the Lady Dogs. This weekend the Lady Bears hosted a tournament which the Lady Dogs won. Both nieces played great games, and I am so proud of them. My Lady Dogs niece is a senior this year, so I am especially glad that I got to watch her play.

After this game, I took Baby Jus and the two nephews to Star Daze where we met up with more family and friends. The wind was so COLD. But the kids had a great time. This is a great small town festival. Each year we look forward to this festival in April and the Pink Tomato Festival in June.

Why is everything so yummy at a carnival? I always get a funnel cake just as we are about to leave. I have discovered that eating it in the car and going home with powdered sugar everywhere is preferable to eating it in public and walking around all night with a white sugary coating. But this time I waited just a tad too late. When I went to order my sweet treat, the booth was closing. Guess I'll just have to double up at the Pink Tomato.

There were many unsuccessful attempts at winning a rabbit,

Twirling rides,

rides that spun high in the air,

and fun houses that were fun for those stumbling through as well as those watching from the outside.

I had planned to spend the weekend with the women in Lovey's family. Because I was worried to leave Lucy and the puppies, I canceled those plans. Lovey called Saturday morning and asked me to meet him at another barn. He and his brother had gotten up another group of cows for worming and shots.

It was an all-hands-on-deck sort of day. Joey and Hank worked the cows from the big pen to the small pens, Baby Jus helped to guide them through the shoot, ChanMan worked the gate, Liz prepared the shots and did the paperwork, and I helped Lovey with worming, shots, and fly stuff while they were in the headgate. It started out as one of those days where everything went wrong, and I was beginning to wonder if I would regret going to help out.

Liz and I were working on the same side of the gate in a little corner area. It seemed very protected most of the time. But every now and then a crazy cow came through, and we were looking for shortcuts out of suddenly-too-close-for-comfort corner area. After around 200 cows and calves, we were all tired and a little banged up.

It was not the Saturday that I had planned, but it was a good day. Working with family, finishing a job. and enjoying a beautiful spring day. I'm already looking forward to this next weekend and spending time with family in a different way. Everyone is coming here for Easter lunch. I think this Saturday, I'll call Lovey and asked him to come help me with a few jobs.

Fessin' Up

It's (past) time for Saturday Morning Confessions; it's becoming afamiliarpath.

1. I slept until 9:00 am this morning. I NEVER sleep that late. I just haven't gotten enough sleep in the last few weeks. And 9 felt really good this morning. I wish I could make it a Saturday morning habit. I've tried to sleep late; it just doesn't work for me.

2.  I was scheduled to go to a girl's weekend with Lovey's mom, sister, aunts, and cousins, but had to cancel because I am bottle feeding one of Lucy's puppies. I was very disappointed when I realized that I would have to cancel.

3. I had a good day with family. We wormed cows at another field today. It was a family affair:  Lovey/me, his brother/wife, Baby Jus, and my nephew ChanMan. And Hank the cowhand. Everyone had a job, everyone worked hard, and I think we are all tired (ChanMan was too tired to come for supper).

4. This has been the longest week.  Benchmark testing lasted all week. The day just drags by when I am proctoring tests.

5. I can barely keep my eyes open. And keep having to retype things. It's time for bed.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

In the Recovery Room

For the last few days I have worried about leaving Lucy at home. And the nights - oh, the nights! She has been miserable, so Lovey and I have not had a good night's sleep in over a week. She had gotten so big and miserable that she couldn't get comfortable - so we didn't either.

 This was taken about a week ago. Picture several inches added to that belly and that is what she looked like this morning. She sprawled out this way on the concrete floors in the house. I guess a pregnant dog is no different than most moms to be - hot.

When Baby Jus came in for lunch today, she was panting heavily and obviously uncomfortable. He decided that she needed to go to the vet. After calling his daddy for a second opinion, he loaded her in the truck and headed to town. I was at school and a nervous wreck. He called with an update that she was getting a shot and hopefully this would help her to deliver the puppies; if not, the vet would take them. As soon as school was out, I headed to the vet's office.

He did have to do surgery to deliver the puppies. When I got to the office. Lucy was just getting cleaned up, and the puppies were in a basket wiggling and squirming away. He said that she has a low calcium level which prevented her from delivering the puppies naturally. And that she arrived just in time, the puppies were showing signs of distress.

We are at home now. The puppies are doing fine; Lucy is not quite awake yet. I worry about them not eating yet. I keep slipping one puppy at a time in to get a snack. With 8 hungry puppies she will have to take calcium, and we will have to carefully watch her for signs of milk fever. When she has had time to pretty herself up, I'll post some pics of the new momma and her sweet babies.  Keep them in your prayers, please.

Monday, April 11, 2011

On My Soapbox

Benchmark testing is this week. It is the dark, ominous cloud looming on the horizon from August until April. Students, teachers, and schools are scored, rated, and judged on these scores. Students who work and make huge improvements may be labeled Basic or Below Basic because of this one test. And in some End Of Course testing, these students may be required to repeat the entire class, no matter what the actual grade in that class might be. What if that student was sick during testing? What if a student marks answers in the wrong section?

School districts are held accountable for students scores. Schools not meeting AYP (annual yearly progress) can be placed on "school improvement" and can even lose funding. I don't know the actual formula for determining AYP (I'm not sure any ONE person does! I think it's like a secret recipe where each cook knows only one or two ingredients.), but I know that this year's AYP will be determined by comparing my current students' scores to my previous year's students' scores. Apples to apples? I think not! Students are different; classes are different. It's more like apples to elephants. As one of my facebook teacher friends put it, "Not a very good way to see how smart they really are."

A few years ago, I had a student who came in to 7th grade with a very big learning disability and a very small test score from the previous year.  He worked extremely hard. I saw improvements each and every day. He had a better understanding of literature than a lot of students in his class. Reading and writing were difficult for him - thinking was not. His 7th grade Benchmark scores were much higher than his 6th grade scores had been, but he wasn't Proficient or Advanced. I taught him again in 8th grade. Again, I saw major improvements. He had gained such independence in class but still struggled with independent reading and writing. His 8th grade test scores rose even higher; he was just a few points short of Proficient. In just two years he had grown from very low Below Basic to almost Proficient - probably the largest jump in scores for the the entire class. But because he didn't hit Proficient, he wasn't rewarded for his scores at all. Because he didn't hit that magic number, his score was a liability for the school - a not a thing to recognize or celebrate. This is one of the most frustrating things for me as a teacher. Each year, I have a student like this one. A student who struggles to overcome so much. A student who makes tremendous gains in the classroom. And I hold my breath, hoping for that magic number when the scores come in.

I hate that I even worry about the test. I do not want to be someone who "teaches to the test." But when my students are judged by that test, my teaching ability is judged by that test, and my school is judged by that test - it is difficult to ignore that damn test.

I am looking forward to Monday. I don't stop teaching, and students don't stop learning after the test is over. We have several weeks of school to finish. But I am looking forward to Monday. Because on Monday, that dark, ominous cloud will be behind us. On Monday, there will be sunny days on the horizon. At least until next August.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Prom Pictures 2011

Pre-prom pictures. We had such a good time taking these. Great memories.

You can also view it from youtube. 

A Southern Sunday

I come from a big family. My mom has 5 brothers and 4 sisters. I have lots of cousins. Most Sundays, we went to Grandma's for Sunday lunch; sometimes it was a small crowd and sometimes a large crowd, but it was always a crowd. We loved the large crowd days. Easter was always one of my favorite Sundays. The crowd would be huge on that day. Kids brought baskets full of eggs for hunting; parents brought potluck.

There were always new dishes and desserts, but some things were expected. A couple of the uncles always smoked turkey and ham. My mom usually made chicken and dressing (In our family dressing isn't just for Thanksgiving.). Aunt Judy always brought fried chicken and bar-b-que weenies. Not just at Easter, everytime we had a family meal - it was expected. I don't know that she ever took an empty pot home. Kids would fight for the front of the line so that we could be certain of getting weenies. When Lovey joined the family, I couldn't believe that he had never had bar-b-que weenies. I was shocked to learn that everyone didn't eat these. I was also a little sad for him; we consider these a necessity of a good potluck dinner (by dinner - I mean the middle meal of the day).

Now Sundays mean lunch at Nannie's (my mom) and a smaller crowd, but still a crowd. Today we only had thirteen people for lunch. As we were leaving church and driving to Nannie's, Baby Jus asked what we were having for lunch. Some weeks I know; some weeks I cook it; some weeks I think I know but get surprised. Today I had no idea.

I took my camera with me this morning. I had planned to take a few pictures while we were all there. I couldn't do that. I was trying to get to the front of the line - Nannie made bar-b-que weenies today.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Saturday Morning Confession

Because I enjoy the confessing going on over at a familiar path...

1. I love the people in my life. But I really, REALLY need just a few minutes alone each day to keep my sanity. Preferably, that few minutes comes first thing in the morning. After about 30 minutes, I'm good to go.

2. This morning, I have three teenagers in the house. They are still asleep after a late night of afterprom fun. I am enjoying the sleeping noises along with my coffee.

3. We have testing this week at school. I hate testing week.

4. I am very competitive. About stupid things that aren't really competitions. But isn't it ALL a competition? Doesn't someone or something always win? It may just be me competing against myself, or me competing against some expectation, but I always turn it into a competition. I don't get upset if I don't win, but I do enjoy the victory.

5. Well, maybe I do get a teensy bit upset.

6.  Five great kids for dinner, some beautiful and some funny pics, a house full of teenagers dancing, playing cards, laughing, and making memories until wee hours of the morning - last night's prom extravaganza goes down as a win.

Consider Yourself Blogged

Baby Jus had his last prom tonight.

It was black-light, glow-in-the-dark and loads of fun. And Baby Jus's last one.

Did I say that this is his LAST prom? As in he's going to graduate soon. And be grown up. And not need his mother.

Because it was his last, I wanted to do something fun and memorable. It is a bit of a tradition for the my mom to cook prom dinner for the grandkid and his/her group of friends. Justin and four friends met there for steak and all the trimmings. Yummy!  But we planned a fun photoshoot while we were there.

Pappaw's old tractor was an excellent prop and looked great with the bright colors of the girls dresses. We were absent one friend, but went ahead with pictures so that we could stay on schedule.

Another great prop! Pictures on a fire truck are fun whether your 5 or 18. I love this one.

Carrie and Macie looked amazing!

And when you've got a fire truck, who can resist a little fun? Baby Just loves to ham it up.

The girls had to get in on the fun too.

And then Jacob.

After playing around a bit, we went in so that the kids could cool off. Nannie had dinner ready, and Morgan got there just in time. After dinner, it was back to take a few more.

The whole crew got in the picture.

And then for some silly pics on the tractor.

We were right on the highway, so lots of people honked as they went by. When someone honks, you have to wave - we live in the south!

Love this pic. It makes me sad. But I love it. And I love these kids! When I was taking pics, they asked, "Mer, are you going to put this on your blog?"  Well, duh!!! I have to.

It's 1:40am. My living room has several teens dancing with Wii remotes and having a great time. I'm not ready for them to walk away.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Windy Wednesday

The weather was grand! Beautiful, sunny skies. Shades of green are everywhere. I came home a little early today.  The kids all wanted to be outside too - no one needs tutoring on beautiful spring days! Everyday I expect to come home and find Lucy with puppies, or at least in labor. I just knew today would be the day. Lucy has kept me awake for the last two nights. All she does is grunt. She can't get comfortable at all.

But again today, no puppies. We went outside to play instead. Lucy Mercer: Great American Cat Wrangler, is so fat she can't chase a kitty too far.

This is her "Okay Kitty, I'm giving you to the count of zero, and then I'm coming after you" stance. Notice she's sagging a little in the middle. She did try to chase a kitty today. Made it from the front of the house to the back and decided chasing kitties just wasn't important today.

This is her favorite position these days. She would sprawl like this all day if not for Jake.

He just won't leave her alone. He doesn't stay in one spot very long. He was misnamed. He should have been "Tigger" - he's bouncy, flouncy, pouncy all of the time.

And he's a copycat. Lucy is tolerating him lately because it takes too much energy to do anything else.

I tried to get a pic of me and Jake. I got a lick in the lips instead.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Whatever It Takes to Make Him Happy

Almost two weeks ago I blogged about Lovey and his brother moving the head gate to our barn. Tonight Lovey asked me about my blogging, "Do you have any cow pictures on there?"  That's him showing an interest. I tease him because his phone has pictures of cows, chickens, and dogs. No wife. No kids. His day is cows, chickens, and dogs. So for Lovey, tonight I am adding more cow pictures to my blog. (He just said, "You should come take some pictures of the chickens and write about them." - Really? I told you.)

On that Friday, the brothers got the head gate positioned and ready for action. I went with Lovey to lure the cows out of the hay field and into the small lot beside the barn. This way they would be easily moved into the barn.

Saturday morning my phone rang. It was Lovey. He told me that if I came to the barn he was sure he could find something for me to do. He doesn't ask me to help very often, so I put on my work boots and headed down to the barn. When I got there, they had already moved the cows from the side lot into the barn. that task was fairly easy because we had already gotten them into the side lot. Only a few really crazy cows and the bull were left in the side lot. Lovey would be at the head gate, giving shots and pouring on fly repellent; Baby Just would be working the back gate of the head gate; while Lovey's brother and Hank would be in the barn moving cows through the shoot. My job would be to get the fly stuff ready and record cow tag numbers.

Here's Lovey pouring on the fly stuff, and Baby Jus waiting to open the gate for the next cow.

[Now, I'm new to blogging. And because I have a lot to learn, I have been happy to find suggestions on how to go about all of this. I found some good advice here. Suzanne suggests that we include that planned pictures where everyone is shined and matching, but to also include the real-life stuff. And here it is. Notice Lovey's fashionable quilted flannel shirt. I don't even know how old that thing is, but he loves it. And then check out my baby. This is way he looks everyday. Gym shorts, sleeveless shirt, and mud boots - and nothing EVER matches. These are work clothes, but he would go anywhere looking like that if I let him. And then there's that blasted barn. I've mentioned that in other posts. Every morning I look out the back door to see if it is still standing.]

I was telling him how to do his job offering him suggestions, and this is the response I got. He has just picked up this wearing a cap from his daddy - I hate it. Some people can wear caps while other should not - Baby Jus and I do not look good in caps. I had him convinced of this fact. Then his daddy brought him a new cap while I was at work. I have noticed that since Baby Jus has been on work release from school and spending lots of hours each day with his daddy, he is listening to daddy maybe a little more than me. Curses!

Lovey finally warmed up enough to shed a layer. He probably has on two or three more shirts. Remember that Baby Jus has shorts on. I had on jeans and a short-sleeved t-shirt and was hot. Lovey is very cold natured.

My job. Read the ear tag. Record the number. Pour the next dose of fly stuff.

And every ten or so cows, I had to walk over and open the gate and shoo cows out of the barn lot and into the big field.

There are always a few crazy cows that just won't cooperate. Lovey, Hank, and Joey are inspecting the shoot after two or three crazies in a row. At one point this entire section came out of the ground when a particularly crazy cow decided she wasn't going into the head gate and decided to just turn around and go out the way she had come in.

Late that afternoon, Lovey and I rode out to check his babies. The boxers love to jump in the back of the truck and take an afternoon ride.

Here's Daisy Mae Mercer riding back to the chicken houses after checking cows. She loves to stand on the tool box and stick her face in the wind. Don't tell Lovey that I didn't have pictures of the other two boxers to post; we'll be having a full blown photo shoot at the chicken houses.