Sunday, September 28, 2008

Our Landscaping Project

I use the term "our" very loosely, as all our part consisted of meeting with the designers, telling them what we wanted, then approving the plan. Of course it also consists of paying them!

Anyway, here are some pictures of the work in progress!

Friday, September 26, 2008

What a Week

I rarely let so much time go by between postings, but this week left me very little time to do much of anything.

Of course there was the normal school stuff to deal with. In addition to the "normal" stuff, we're doing a new thing this year called Reading Mastery. I attended training the week before school started and I immediately thought to myself "OVERWHELMING!"

Sure, it's all scripted and the script and what you show the kids is all in one book (bad idea, in my opinion, but they never asked me what I thought) so that should make it easy, right? Throughout the scripts, there is regular black print. There is also bold print. There is also italic print. And there is also blue print.

I think I have a learning disability of some type because try as I might, I just can't seem to teach from that. I have had to take each lesson and retype it completely, so that I can understand it. I've also put the student part on a separate sheet, and I've made up individual student sheets with the sounds or words that we cover each day. The kids keep those in their folders and we practice them for a few minutes each day. It takes me an hour to prepare for each 45 minute lesson.

If you're any good at math, you can figure that that's five hours a week of planning, not even counting the prep for my regular reading intervention classes, or math inclusion classes (the math doesn't take very long at all, but the reading does). About two weeks ago I was asked to teach an additional class of Reading Mastery. Hey, that's great...I'm already spending a ton of time on the plans, might as well get more use out of them.

But nothing is that simple...oh no. The additional class is a different level. So now that's at least TEN hours of planning for Reading Mastery only, in addition to my other stuff.

And then there's the fact that I had to take on a 40 minute duty EVERY SINGLE DAY. So while every other teacher (except one) has 75 minutes of duty a week, I have 275. The other reading intervention teacher has 175 minutes a week. My extra duty is not a difficult duty in the least. All I do is collect lunch money from third and fourth graders and mark each child's order on classroom sheets, HOWEVER, it starts at 7:15 (when I am required to arrive at school, but I come in a little earlier than that) and runs until 7:55, and my first class starts at 8:00. That gives me practically NO planning time in the morning. My principal had scheduled a 15 minute break in for me in the middle of each morning, but my second Reading Mastery class made me lose an intervention class and give up the break. I rarely go into the lounge at lunchtime because I'm busy working on my plans. I also have cafeteria duty twice a week. I really don't want to start anything with the union as far as this is concerned, because things usually have a way of working themselves out. Many times I've had to leave a little early for a doctor's appointment and my principal has not had me fill out an absence sheet. She's very good about that, as long as it's not taken advantage of.

Two evenings this past week I was not feeling well at all. I had terrible chills and was sitting in the recliner in the bedroom covered with 3 or 4 blankets from about 5:30 pm on. Both times I was feeling much better by morning, thank goodness, but those two nights had me completely out of commission. Last night I ended up staying at school until after 8 pm working on my plans.

I've still got a little work to do (a couple hours worth) to be ready for next week, but hopefully I'll get to it tomorrow.

The bad part is that we were told that we're only doing this Reading Mastery for two years. So all the planning that I'm doing will be good for this year and next year. Then we'll probably have to learn something entirely new...whatever the newest thing is that is supposed to get every child reading on grade level.

Enough ranting for now....we've been having some landscaping done this past week and we are so thrilled with how it's turning out. I've got some pictures on my camera and will try to post them this weekend. They're not quite finished, but the difference is absolutely amazing!

We were originally going to spend Labor Day weekend putting in plants, etc. ourselves. (Okay, so I was just going to direct things from the pool, but you get my drift.) Then we couldn't find any plans that we really liked and don't know enough about all of this to really make something look nice. That's when Ted said to call a local family owned landscaping company. I called and within a week and a half they had been here twice to talk to us about what we had in mind, take pictures and measurements, drawn up a very nice plan and met with us to go over it.

While we were sitting at the kitchen table with the plan laid out in front of us, I commented to them and Ted that I felt like I was on HGTV! It was great seeing everything that we had mentioned laid out in a great plan. Our primary request was low maintenance and they've definitely kept that in mind.

They also added an "artificial boulder" to cover up some electrical thing for the light inside the deep end of the pool. I told them that it's really just a "fake rock" but when they use the term "artificial boulder" they can charge more for it. We've known the family for many years, so we can get away with teasing them a little.

The guys that have been here working have been great! They've been working hard, and staying until around 6 pm every day. They clean up their messes, no loud yelling (at least while I'm here), no loud radios, and they're very nice. One guy is extremely talented when it comes to putting pavers in, and that's what he's been spending a lot of time on. We could have gone with concrete or pavers, and we really liked the pavers, so that's what we decided on.

Last weekend, very little laundry got done due to cleaning up the pool and other stuff, so this weekend that's going to have to be a top priority. I had no idea that four people could create so many dirty laundry!

Well, that's about it from here...sorry about the school rant, but sometimes it helps to just go on and on about it!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekends Are Too Short

We're still working on getting things back to "normal," whatever that means, from the effects Hurricane Ike had here.

Our deep freeze was completely empty, our refrigerator had a few things, and the laundry was piled up. Then, of course, there was the yard and the pool with all the branches, twigs, and leaves to deal with.

Our nearest Sam's Club is about 40 minutes away, so it's not something you can do in a quick hour. Yesterday morning Ted and I went there and got quite a few things that we needed. When you are stocking a refrigerator and/or a freezer, you need to get things that you don't normally go through in a week, so it's like starting from scratch. Anyway, we got what we needed there, and were back home by 12:30. That was a great start.

Shortly after that, I ventured out to the pool. Although we'd had the pump running since the power came back on, a lot of tree debris had settled on the bottom. For the record, we have NO trees in our back yard. We have a couple small ones in the front, but nothing in the back.

When we had our pool installed, the company included many things in the price of the pool. They went over each item with us and we felt that "The Shark" was probably one of the best things. It's a sweeper that is attached to about 35 feet of tube and hooks up to the skimmer. It scoots along the bottom and sides of the pool all on its own, sucking up each and every little piece of dirt, dead bug, and whatever else it runs across. We do not have to stand on the edge of the pool and push a sweeper around with a long pole attached to it. We just throw in the Shark and let it do its thing. And it does it very well.

We did not, however, put the Shark in when we turned the pump on Wednesday night. The pieces of debris were too big and we did not want to ruin anything, yesterday as the temperature approached the mid 70s and it was only partly cloudy, out I went. It didn't take long for me to realize that this was NOT a one person job. I called for Ted and he came out and helped me.

Although the air temp was around 74, the water temp was at 90 and it felt wonderful! But when I was standing in the shallow end, I was cold. Therefore, I tried to keep as much of myself under water as I could.

We worked out a method, with me in the water and Ted on the edge of the pool. We worked well together, and a little over three hours later, the pool was pretty darn clean. There were some little tiny bits of debris still floating around so we left the Shark in all night and those things got sucked up as they made their way to the bottom. When I got out of the water I was shivering and Ted wrapping a towel around me didn't help. I came inside and immediately got into a HOT shower. That helped immensely.

While we were doing these things, I had told the boys that they were responsible for their laundry and they were using the washer and dryer.

Ted asked me to get the grocery list ready for the regular weekly shopping so he could get that out of the way. He went there while I straightened up a little around here.

After dinner, I knew I had a lot of school work to so I headed to the den to download things from my flash drive. That took longer than I wanted it too because I was also listening to a football game Ted was watching in the living room. Yes, he turns the volume up LOUD. A player was injured pretty bad and had tingling and numbness for the Ball State University team, so I was trying to hear what the announcers were saying. (They were goofballs, by the way.)

Shortly after that I decided to take my school bag, flash drive, and a bottle of water into the bedroom and work on the laptop. I worked for a couple of hours, but then couldn't stay awake any longer and fell asleep. I was awake a little before 5 am and the schoolwork was weighing heavy on my mind, so I got back to it. Around 9, I was at a good stopping point and unable to stay awake any longer, AND Miss Pepina decided she needed some attention and was trying to walk all over my keyboard. I took all this as a sign to take a little snooze. So I did.

I still have several hours of schoolwork to do, about 5 loads of laundry, and I really want to get into the pool again today to make sure that all is well in there. The pool company is coming to close the pool in about a week and there's no guarantee that next weekend will be warm and sunny enough to get in the water.

I really don't mind a 5 day work week, but I really need a 3 day weekend!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm Baaaaaaaaaaaack


Several hours I posted on Sunday we were hit with winds that reached up to 65 mph. The winds were remnants of Hurricane Ike.

(That's what I get for talking about it in the previous post!)

The worst of the winds lasted for about 5 hours and were pretty bad, to say the least. Ted's sister and her husband are in the process of building a new home next door to us and most of the tar paper came off the roof.

I was folding laundry and had a load of school clothes in the washer at 6:10 pm Sunday, when the power went out. We knew it was due to the wind. What we didn't know, however, was that the power outage was far reaching.

Rumors have circulated and if you believe them, they say that 90% of AEP customers in Ohio lost power Sunday evening.

It was sort of fun for the first couple of hours. Ted's brother and sister in law came over and we sat on the back porch talking and watching branches blow around. Alex went and picked up a couple of trash cans. Sand from the building process next door blew into our faces. That's when we laughed and said it was time to go in. We got out the candles and flashlights and all sat inside and talked for a while, then realized that our quiet road was being heavily traveled. Apparently the main road that ours runs parallel to ours was blocked off due to trees and power lines being down, so traffic was being re-routed down our road. Tim and Patty didn't want to walk over to their house in the dark as we were concerned they might get injured from blowing debris. Ted drove them home, and as they left I mentioned that I thought the power would be off all night long. Alex (Mr. Cell Phone) said he would set the alarm on his cell phone and call them in the morning to make sure they were up. (Not even a windstorm could keep that kid from texting his he was relieved that no cell phone towers went down!)

We took showers by candlelight, made sure all the flashlights had fresh batteries and went to bed. I was hoping I was wrong about the power being out all night, but alas, I was not.

All the schools in the county were closed on Monday, mostly due to the fact that this is a fairly rural county and the school buses were not able to run hardly any of their routes because of downed trees and wires. The schools have generators, but didn't want to run them unless it was absolutely necessary, and if only a small fraction of the students would be there, it just wasn't worth it. So, one calamity day has now been used, and we have four more left for snow. After we use five, we have to make them up.

At this point we were extremely thankful that we had city water, even though we live right outside of town. It cost us a fortune to connect to the city lines when we built our home, but being without power made it worth every single penny! People who had wells had no water because the pumps ran on electricity. So not only did those folks not have power, they also had no water!

So by Monday night, when we hit the 24 hour mark, we were starting to get a little worried about the things in our refrigerator and deep freeze. Again we got through the night. By Tuesday morning, IT WAS NO LONGER FUN.

Ted has pretty bad sleep apnea and needs his cpap machine to sleep. Heck, we ALL need his cpap machine to sleep! When he doesn't use it, it's just like the Flintstones. Fred Flintstone would snore so loud and hard that the walls of the house would suck in, then burst out with each exhale. That's what it's like here. Between the extremely LOUD snoring and Pepina sleeping on me, making me hot, and worrying about the stuff we were going to be losing in the freezer and refrigerator, I got about 45 minutes of good sleep Monday night.

On Tuesday I called the power company. I was able to get through to a real person within about 10 minutes and she was so kind and helpful. She checked for notes about our area and found nothing. She apologized, but said that all she could tell me was that we would definitely have power by midnight on Monday, September 22. It wasn't her fault, so I didn't lose my temper with her at all. Besides, she was very apologetic about everything we were going through.

Tuesday night Ted said he would sleep on the couch and keep all the cats out there with him. I could close the bedroom door and get a good night's sleep. That really helped.


Wednesday around 2:10 pm, our power was restored!!

I called our insurance agent and asked him if there was anything in our policy about covering food loss in the event of a power outage. He checked and said that there was! We are covered up to $500! We just had to take pictures and inventory everything.

Last night we did the refrigerator. Since we had to throw everything out, it was the perfect time to take out all the shelves and drawers and scrub the whole thing out. Our fridge hasn't been this clean since we moved in! As soon as we finished, Ted went to the grocery store and got some turkey breast from the deli and a gallon of milk.

Our refrigerator...the bucket was because some of the melted ice made it to the kitchen floor. Even though we didn't open the doors, it somehow seeped out and we were mopping it up fairly often.

Tonight we emptied out the freezer. Oh my. We had no idea how much stuff we had in there. NOT A CLUE. Although it's empty right now, we did not scrub it out yet. We'll save that for tomorrow night.

As you can see, the freezer was pretty full. What a mess. I had no idea how much we actually had in there until we inventoried it. There were over 24 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, tons of bags of frozen vegetables, and whole beef tenderloin in there, among everything else.

We were able to get through this situation fairly easily, although it was a little challenging at times. I absolutely can NOT imagine what people in coastal Texas are going through! They probably have no idea when they'll have their power restored. We dealt with winds....they dealt with winds, rain, and flooding. Their situation is a thousand times worse than what we've had and I feel so badly for them.

So, now you know why I haven't posted in a while. Either tonight or tomorrow I'll be checking all the blogs that I follow, getting caught up on what's going on with all of you!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My "Sure To Be" Unpopular Thoughts

Like many other Americans I have been watching the television coverage of Hurricane Ike (with an occasional break, like to see the Ohio State Buckeyes get TROUNCED by the USC Trojans last night, how pathetic) and getting more and more frustrated with each passing hour.

Before I get started, let me first say that I live in OHIO, nowhere near any of the places that are in the paths of hurricanes, so therefore, I know nothing about what it's like to be forced to leave my home for my and my family's safety. Perhaps if I did know what that was like, my thoughts would be different.

Residents of many coastal communities in Texas were ordered to evacuate late last week. From what I understand, about half of them did. Then when the approaching hurricane got really close, about half of the remaining residents fled.

For those that stayed behind....I don't understand why you are begging to be rescued now that Ike has gone through? You were ordered to evacuate. You chose to defy those orders. Now you want help because you ignored common sense?

I was raised to be responsible for my actions, and so was Ted. We have raised our sons the same way. If you insist on choosing to do stupid things, then you better be prepared to get yourself out of the messes you find yourself in.

Maybe there's something I don't get about it.

If you're told to leave by the authorities....then LEAVE. Don't stay around and then ask to be rescued after the fact. Now the police and fire departments, along with other groups, are putting their lives on the line to save those who didn't follow the orders.

Don't get me wrong, my heart goes out to those who have lost their homes, their vehicles, and everything else they own. I can't imagine what they are going through, or dealing with, or what they will be returning to.

From what I've seen on the news reports, there was nothing that the people who remained in their homes were able to do to lessen any of the why did they stay?

I guess I just don't get it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Young Love

I try not to make too many posts about school, but this is a cute one.

I have 3rd and 4th grade lunch count duty every day. All the 3rd and 4th grade students who are ordering a tray or milk if they pack, have to come up to me and I need to mark it all on a sheet.

Last Friday a little boy in 3rd grade came up to order his lunch. He had on a polo style shirt and a clip on neck tie that reached down to the middle of his tummy.

Very guietly, I leaned toward him and said, "Michael, you look so handsome today. Are you trying to impress a girl with your tie?"

He shook his head yes.

"May I ask who the lucky girl is?"

He looked around to see if anyone was within earshot, then leaned in close and with a huge smile on his face said, "Molly."

"Wow, I bet she'll notice how nice you look today."

On Monday, I saw him in the line again.

"Did the tie work?"

He shook his head, and said, "No."

This morning he had on a plain t-shirt with the clip on tie again.

"Same girl Michael?" I asked him quietly.

He grinned and said, "Yep!"

I sure hope she noticed him's hard to handle rejection in third grade!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

My Guy

My husband is a wonderful man. I've sung his praises high and low here, and will continue to do so, as long as he keeps being such a terrific guy.

He does the grocery shopping.

He takes care of the yard work.

He puts gas in the car. (I do NOT do gas. Period.)

He takes care of me when I'm sick.

He clears the table after dinner.

He does all of this and more, and I'm so thankful for him.

Today he showed me yet again that I made the right decision when I married him.

I had a rotten day at work. Totally rotten. I'm only one woman and apparently that hasn't been noticed yet. Without going into too much detail (that would bore all of you anyway) I've just been put into a position where my workload is seriously increasing.

I got home from work a few minutes after 4:00, and I called Ted to ask him if he'd made a specific phone call today. He had said yesterday morning that he would try to do it. He had to work late yesterday and I didn't get home until almost 5:30. I was hoping he would take care of it today.

He said that he hadn't had time to do it today, and I said I was just checking, because if he hadn't, I would do it right then. He told me to go ahead and make the call. Then I told him I had a bad day. That's all I said. He said he'd be home shortly and we'd talk then.

I made the phone call, then had to call my sister-in-law to see how she made it through her colonoscopy today. While I was talking to her, Ted walked in, said he was going to take a shower and that he was taking me out to dinner.

How nice is that??

He took a shower and got dressed, I finished my phone call, and he said that he could tell I was upset and didn't want me to have to worry about fixing dinner and that we were going to go out.

We went to Red Lobster and they're having their Endless Shrimp promotion. That's what I got, of course. I ordered three kinds of shrimp and ate one. I brought home Shrimp Linguini Alfredo (lunch tomorrow) and Shrimp Scampi (lunch on Thursday).

As we were leaving we ran into some acquaintances and had a nice long chat.

By the time we got home, I was feeling much better. I will do the best I can at work, but I am DONE putting in so much extra time. I have a life outside of that building and I'm going to enjoy it.

(Okay, so I've said this before, but THIS TIME I really mean it!)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Just a Nice Day

I'm a homebody. I admit it. I don't like to have to leave the house unless it's absolutely necessary. In fact, I really like to stay in our "suite." We have a fairly large bedroom, with a bathroom, two walk-in closets, a sitting area and french doors that go out to the back patio and pool area. Our bedroom door is the first door down the hall, so when the door is open you can "catch" anyone (the boys) walking down the hall to their bedrooms. We have a recliner and a rocking chair in the bedroom, along with a TV, so all that's missing is a small refrigerator and a microwave.

Just kidding.

Actually, no I'm not.

But that's not high on my priority list.

I haven't always been a homebody. I used to be on the go constantly. When the kids were younger, we were going here, there, and everywhere on the weekends, and in the evenings when school was in session.

Then I realized that I'd had enough of running around and that was it.

Now I stay home. A lot. Almost all the time, in fact. If I have errands to run, Alex is usually thrilled to take care of them. I guess when you're 17 and have a drivers license, you enjoy doing things like that.

So Ted and I had been talking about going to a place out in Amish country to get some apples. We had been there in mid August and got some fresh peaches (fresh, as in picked that morning) and asked about their Gala apples. They said they would be available starting the very end of August and they'd have them until the beginning of October.

My weekend activities now center around the weather. If it's going to be warm and sunny, I want to get in some pool time before we have to close it in a few weeks. If it's not, then I'm somewhat flexible.

Yesterday was a cloudy day, and the temp was only going to get up into the low 70s, so we decided to go.

Our first stop, was a store that features all kinds of cheeses and meats, along with bulk food items. They have the second best swiss cheese I've ever tasted. We got a couple of kinds of cheese and meat, along with some chicken salad for Ted (I don't do mayonnaise AT ALL...and he said it was fabulous!). We also got a few types of candy and chocolate along with some of their soup mixes, some strawberry jam and three pie pumpkins, which are just small pumpkins. I'll put them out on the front porch.

Then we were off to the orchard a little further into the depths of Amish country.

The orchard we go to is like a small warehouse. We don't actually go out and pick the apples, etc. Everything has already been picked and put in baskets. They also have pumpkins, mums, and other stuff. We ended up getting about a dozen gala apples, a small basket of red new potatoes, two mums for the front porch, and a bigger pumpkin to put out on the porch along with the smaller ones.

Ted always cringes when I have to pick out things like mums and pumpkins. He knows that I need to study them first before I make a selection. The mums were fairly easy to pick out. The pumpkin took a little more work. I finally saw one I liked, but it was near the bottom of a pile. He asked me twice if I was sure that it was the one I wanted. He said that if he picked that particular one out, the ones on top would all come sliding down.

I still wanted THAT one.

And he got it for me. What a guy!

I took a couple of pictures of the front of the orchard, but only one came out clear. The rest were fuzzy.

My husband, with his sense of humor, commented that this woman was trying to steal a pumpkin for her little boy. I give her a lot of credit for maneuvering around with a child and obviously being fairly close to delivery.

We continued through this little town and ended up stopping for lunch. We go out this way for dinner about every six weeks or so. Amish restaurants deserve a post all to themselves, but for now, let's just say that everything is open to interpretation.

For those of you who have never experienced anything Amish, I've included a few shots.

This was part of the parking lot for a little store.

We finished up in this area and started to head back home. As we came to a traffic light, I saw this sign:

We'd been at this intersection dozens of times in the past, but I never noticed the sign before. It's quite possible that it was just put up, as we are approaching high traffic volume season. Autumn in Amish country is quite busy, and we tend not to head out there then, unless we absolutely have to.

We went through another little "partly Amish" town on our way back home and I took a picture of the flags. They have this flag trio all through the town.

Yes, they take advantage of the Amish thing, as you can see by name of the store on the door. The Amish began in Switzerland, hence the Swiss flag.

On the way home I was intrigued by the sky...the clouds were moving quickly and it made me wonder if rain was nearby.

We had a really nice time, and ended up being gone from home for only about 3 1/2 hours. Sometimes the simplest things can bring us the greatest pleasures.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Just One More

Just one more DIBELS story...

(those of you who are not familiar with DIBELS won't find this at all amusing, but those who ARE familiar with it, may get a kick out of it)

A little first grader came in for his assessment. I always talk to the kids for a minute or so, before we get started. After chatting with this little boy, he looked down at the notebook we have all the 1st grade materials in and he said....

"I know all about the Devil's Test!"

I couldn't top that if I had to.

(Yes, he had done DIBELS in kindergarten last year and obviously remembered it!)

DIBELS....Devil's....yep, they ironically DO sound just a little bit alike!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Some of you who are teachers may be familiar with DIBELS. It stands for Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, and is an oral diagnostic reading assessment that is performed on students individually three times a year.

We test our kindergarten, first and second grade students at the beginning of the year, after Christmas break, and after Spring break. Based on test results we pull kids for intensive intervention with basic reading skills. When we're doing it, we refer to it as "DIBELing."

It takes almost a week to test these kids individually, and sometimes even a little longer. There are two of us (sometimes three) doing it. During the beginning of the year testing, I try to make the kids comfortable and just talk to them about their summer and how things are going in the classroom.

Today I had a little boy named Joe. Joe is repeating first grade. He's not crazy about school, but has a dynamite personality. I worked with him last year a little, and I just love this guy. He has a different first grade teacher this year than he had last year, so I was asking him about things.

Me: So how are things going in Mrs. L's room this year Joe?

Joe: Good.

Me: What do you think of Mrs. L?

Joe (with his lips sort of clenched in a "thinking" look): mmmmmm.....she's number two.

Me: Number Two?

Joe: Yeah, she's my second favorite teacher.

Me: Soooooooo, who is your FIRST favorite teacher?? (as I look at him and grin broadly)

Joe: Well it's sure not YOU!

Me: Why not???

Joe: 'Cause when we come in here to see you, you make us READ!

Imagine that...I make them read, so I've lost out on Teacher of the Year!

As we got started on the actual assessment, something else made me laugh. Part of this assessment requires the children to read nonsense words. It tests whether they can apply the phonics skills that they've learned. Joe came across the nonsense word "doj" and promptly said "douche."

It was all I could do to not laugh out loud. I held my composure until he finished the assessment and was out of the room, and then burst out in laughter.

I've tested at least 50 kids in the past couple of days (and still have many more to do), and no one else has come up with that word for "doj."

I love my job!