Monday, December 18, 2006

2006 in Review

First line of each month's post from 2006:

January 3rd, 2006: We returned home from our Christmas extravaganza at the home of my brother, his lovely wife, and their oh-so-precocious triplet boys (2.5 years of age), graced by the presence of Mom, Sam, assorted in-laws on either side, lots of booze, neighbors, parties, gifts, etc.
[Wow, was that a crazy Christmas! But so much fun to see the boys.]

February 2nd, 2006: Face Plant
Lest you think that I have some new kind of ivy or rhododendron growing from my visage, here's the gruesome story.
[This was my bloody noise accomplished by trying to ski too fast down a slope in some seriously slippery snow. Whew. Makes me look forward to skiing this weekend!]

March 6th, 2006:
Spring Break is Coming! Spring Break is Coming!
Here's what I'll be doing over spring break . . .
[Ah, our Belize diving trip. This year, it's the Caymans!]

April 3rd, 2006:
Change is a Good Thing
Lately I've been pondering changes to my junior-level English methods class, which focuses on teaching writing.
[The changes to my class were fantastic! Such a vast improvement, and it made the class a lot more fun for me, as well.]

May 2nd, 2006:
Exciting Stuff!
Yesterday was my last day of involvement in a year-long professional development project in a large city in my state (now called "Center City").
[Now that the professional development is over, I'm working with a colleague on getting a publication out of it.]

June 2nd, 2006:
Hiking Journal -- Monday, May 22nd
My loving spouse dropped me off at the Blue Ridge Parkway (not sure of the mile marker, but it's near the Peaks of Otter Lodge) at about 10:30.
[My 100 miles in Virginia by myself. The heat just about killed me.]

July 17th, 2006:
Hard Hiking
Um, those Mainers? When they say a trail is hard, you should listen.
[No shit. That was the hardest 100 miles of hiking I've ever done. Bar none.]

August 3rd, 2006:
Boring as Life
I received some harassment from a friend (yes, you, Jennifer!) about not updating my blog, so I am writing an entry under pressure.
[No comment. My life can be pretty boring.]

September 1st, 2006:
As a Freshman . . .
Since I'm now taking a freshman level class, I'm technically both a faculty member and a freshman.
[A freshman who got an A. Damn skippy.]

October 2nd, 2006:
Not Enough Sleep
I woke up countless times during the night, worrying. About friends who are ill, about a manuscript that I'll need to revise (again!), about my students, about my upcoming bid for tenure, about my husband, about my geology class and my inability to find a class to take next semester, etc. Worry, worry, worry.
[My mom says that if I don't have something to worry about, I'll worry till I find something. Hmm. She is so smart.]

November 4th, 2006:
What's Up?
Several colleagues have asked me recently what's going on with my adventures in geology.
[Next semester should be even better.]

December 1st, 2006:
Science Nerd Test #3
In about 30 minutes, I will take my third test in physical geology.
[Hoo-yah. Aced that test AND the final exam.]

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The End of the Semester

Holiday Parties Attended: 2
Secret Santa Presents Given Out: 5
Final Exams Taken: 1
Graded Writing Workshop Descriptions: 4 (out of 16)
Graded Unit Designs: 0 (out of 8)
Graded Writing Portfolios: 0 (out of 16)

So, it becomes clear what I'll be doing this weekend.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

No more death-wish skiiers

On Sunday, we went to the first weekend of skiing at our local ski resort. Lots of fun, though we waited in line too long to pick up our season passes, and we only did two runs. It was icy, and the ski resort was selling $10 lift tickets, with only 2 runs open. So we felt that we were putting our lives on the line as we made our (relatively slow) way down the slope only to have skiiers with death wishes come zooming at and past us along the way.

Afterwards, we dropped off our skis for a tune up, and I fell in love with this jacket. It's red, it's warm, and best of all, death-wish skiiers can see me well and perhaps choose to run into a tree instead of me!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Student

That's me. An "A" student. Got a 92 on my geology test.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Science Nerd Test #3

In about 30 minutes, I will take my third test in physical geology. Aside from previous posts, in which I attested to the lack of difficulty that this class presents, I've still been spending every evening this week studying. Why, you might ask? Well, because I'm a serious grade freak. I admit it. I like making A's. On the first test, I had a high A. On the last test, a high B.


I'm planning to make an A on this one, dammit.

I got up extra early this morning to study, came to the Union and am now surrounded by other students, most of whom are also studying for tests. Cool. Had myself a sesame bagel for brain food, and now I feel pretty ready for the test.

In other news, next year's student teaching applications are due today at 5, which has resulted in an unexpectedly high number of panicked phone calls to my office. That's ok, but I wonder about what seems to me to be the racheting up of the stress level around those applications. I don't think it is healthy; however, I also don't think there is much I can do about it, except to provide as much advice as I can and be willing to help students out when they ask for it. The problem for me is that that is a reactive response, not a proactive one. Maybe I should make an attempt to talk to the powers that be about our process? I don't think most of them would want their own children going through this level of stress. And I don't think that's what partnership should be about.

I'll be working this afternoon on revising a manuscript that has (so far) been rejected by three different journals. I've still got two potential publication sites for it, though, so I'm not giving up on it. It does get better every time I work on it!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Thanksgiving with Mom

We bought Mark's mom a new tv for Christmas. She is almost completely blind, but with the larger tv she was able to watch some home video of her parents' 25th wedding anniversary party.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Home, finally

I want to say just a few more things about the conference I attended, and particularly about the conference presentation.

Our presentation was a bit of a preview for an edited book that will (hopefully) be available in November of 2007. It's an edited book on secondary reading and writing, with chapters written by talented and wonderful people on interesting topics. Our presentation was part commercial for the upcoming book and part information on research on secondary reading and writing. My part was on research on secondary writing, and I had three sections:

1. What do we already know about instruction of writing in secondary schools?
2. How does the upcoming book add to that knowledge base?
3. What questions are we (really, just me) still asking?

I tried to make it both interesting to secondary teachers and useful, with a bit of humor thrown in. I DID make my opinion of five-paragraph essays and 6-Traits of Writing painfully clear. After the session, in our discussion time, there was a discussion among several teachers of how assessments in this country, from state assessments of writing to the SAT and ACT seem to push students into formulaic writing. It was a heated discussion among audience members at our session that I was happy to see.

I just wish I were more of an activist. So many teachers tell me that they just go in their classrooms, shut the door, and teach the best way they can. OR they do some kind of balancing act between teaching to the test and good instruction (I've been there myself, so I can really relate).

I want to see teachers banding together and arguing for quality instruction, for learning that indicates depth, and for encouraging the whole child, not just the child's ability to perform on standardized assessments.

Friday, November 17, 2006

What did you say?

English teachers are a funny bunch. There are thousands of them here, and they are all different. Different accents, clothing, body shapes, colors, hairstyles, etc. But they all have one thing in common: They like to talk.

I'm surrounded by English teachers, they all have something to say, and I can't get a word in edgewise. At dinner tonight, the cacophony of voices, all striving to be heard, echoed off the ceiling and smashed into my ears. This went on and on and on, and the whole time, I was leaning over the table, shouting "What? What did you say? I can't quite hear you" to the guy mumbling into his buffet plate beside me.

Fun times in conference land!

Ready to go Conference

Yes, I just verbed a noun. Too bad, Trout!

I have just returned from a walk around the Gaylord Opryland Convention Center. I like it much better from the outside, because there is actual air to breath. Liked it. That may just keep me from going insane here.

On the other hand, inside the massive Disney-like structure, they have ducks. Mallards or some such shit. How do those ducks live all inside?

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Here I am in Nashville, Tennessee, hanging out with 27,000 or so English teachers. That's either someone's worst nightmare or . . . someone's worst nightmare. I've already run into an old friend from grad school (hi Leslie!) and had a nice dinner of fish tacos (they weren't that great). Tomorrow is my presentation and a presentation by one of my former doc students (now graduated), along with a luncheon that features Sherman Alexie. Coolest!
A busy day tomorrow.

Only one little spot to mar my conference happiness. I'm supposed to be rooming with a former student who now teaches in Dubois. She hasn't shown up yet. I'm hoping she didn't bail . . .

We shall see what happens.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Monday, November 06, 2006


On occasion, I consider the possibility of going back to teaching full-time. I miss the kids, the focus; sometimes I even miss the colleagues I taught with over the years. I'd like to try out some of the ideas I've developed over the last few years about teaching and see how they work. I'd like to have that great feeling of helping kids develop reading and writing skills and stronger vocabulary, and responding positively to great literature. I miss those things.

Then happens a day like today, when I'm suffering from a bad cold. I can decide to work at home pretty easily, can get almost as much done at home as I could at work (because I don't teach on Mondays) AND I don't have to prepare any sub plans or feel guilty about not going to work.

Flexibility is a good thing.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

What's Up?

Several colleagues have asked me recently what's going on with my adventures in geology. Apparently, I haven't been talking about it much. I guess that's because I've realized, in spite of my lack of background in the science, that there's a reason it's a 1000-level class. It's easy. Go to lecture, take notes, go to lab, take a quiz, take a test every now and then . . . I'm learning a lot, don't get me wrong, but this class is just dead easy.

Perhaps things will be different in the spring when I take chemistry. But it also is a 1000-level class, so I'm not sure.

In the meantime, last week was advising week. Advising week is hell, aside from the entertaining moment when one of my advisees described her major (majors changed to protect the innocent):

"Well, I'm a science education major, with a minor in German. And I'm thinking of getting a double major in engineering."

Focus, grasshopper. Focus.

Monday, October 30, 2006

What is Boring?

Froshboy in front of me in Geology class this morning:

"This is the most boring class I've ever been in. I have trouble staying awake." (Pulls sweatshirt hood over his head and proceeds to nod out.)

This comment and others like it are regular fare from students in my Physical Geology class. I can understand this, because I remember being 18 years old and only interested in the next party, the next date, the next time I could be the center of attention.

But now that I'm in my 40s, and am learning things that are intrinsically of interest to me, the only time I'm truly bored is . . .

[wait for it]

. . . in meetings.

Now those are boring.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Climate of Fear

I apologize for not posting recently. The only excuse I can give is that I had a test on Monday, and a football game on Saturday, so my mind was all awhirl and awry. Anyway, now that the test is over -- and I think I did pretty well on it -- I thought I would post this poem that I wrote over the weekend. I hope it makes some sense.

Fear of Freedom

A kernel, a core, a seed
has long ago infiltrated,
overthrown and occupied her system,
blood, bone, sinew, and muscle.
Placed there by --
Institutions, perhaps.
Schools and churches.
Families, yes,
our mothers and fathers,
brothers and sisters;
our pastors and teachers
with loving care
imparted to us the offshoots of suckers
emplaced in their guts
by others.

In the gut, this tiny crumb
occupies space and
makes brittle and thin and rigid
what should flow and pulse and beat.

Movement slows, fluids dry,
Dust collects in the veins and organs,
lithifies into a clastic sediment of
blockages and boundary lines.

And the breaking begins.

Dear one, I recognize in you
the endstage symptoms
of my own disease.

My dust calls to your dust;
my brittle breaking bones
sound an echo to yours.

Let us seek a greenhouse, a waterfall,
that oasis of health where
rules should be broken,
good sense need not apply,
and our boundaries

Yesterday evening I was privileged to be part of the crowd listening to Wole Soyinka, Nigerian Nobel-Prize winner, speak about the politics of art. Quite impressive, thoughtful, and funny at times. It was actually reading his book, Climate of Fear that gave me the beginning image for this poem.

Today I'm off to Center City to visit with some high school English teachers. Should be interesting!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Poetry Galore

No, that is not a sideways reference to a Bond film.

I spent Friday evening and Saturday with several Wyoming Writing Project folks in Center City, planning a course for new teachers on teaching writing, eating a lot (A LOT) and writing poetry. Fun was had all around, only a little pretentiousness and self-promotion was to be had, and we all had a great time. Even got some planning done, too.

I wrote a new poem, but I'm not going to post it here just yet. It is not yet worthy of your eyes, oh dearly beloved. Oh, and I also dreamed that I wrote a poem that solved all of the problems related to applying information from my dissertation research in classrooms. Finally! A breakthrough!

And then I woke up. Dammit.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


Got another email reminder yesterday about an upcoming conference -- NCTE's Research Conference, which can be found here. As you can see, the topic for 2007 is "What Counts as Literacy? Living Literacies of the Body and Image." Now THAT is exactly what my dissertation was about, and I have yet to get a good article published from it. Well, I did get an article but it was an invited one and not a peer-reviewed one. So, I'm thinking about framing a proposal that would use the research I've already done in terms of developing implications for classroom practice. That has ALWAYS been my difficulty with that study, is making the connection between it and the classroom. Perhaps the round-table based format for this conference would help me to get something going with it. On the other hand, I'm already so FREAKING busy with classes and other research projects that I'm not sure it's a good idea to get started on something else.

I'll think about it. The proposals are due November 1st.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Not to Worry . . .

. . . the sleeping problem is over. I have, however, been obsessed with my list of things to do and have been steadily crossing those items off while also attending loads of meetings, teaching, etc. Actually, my obsession with my to-do list is probably the only thing that's allowing me to sleep. Somehow, writing down all of those things swirling around my head helps me to shut off my worries.

Soon it will be time to register for classes again; I'm thinking of taking an introductory chemistry class in the spring. Should be a challenge!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Not Enough Sleep

I woke up countless times during the night, worrying. About friends who are ill, about a manuscript that I'll need to revise (again!), about my students, about my upcoming bid for tenure, about my husband, about my geology class and my inability to find a class to take next semester, etc. Worry, worry, worry. My mom says, and she is so right, that if I didn't have something to worry about, I would worry until I found something.

What's called for here, I believe, is more exercise. So I got up this morning and did 20 minutes on the gazelle (love that machine!) and 50 sit-ups (with a 10-pound weight). I hope that will do the trick. During the day, I'm good. Reason allows me to focus on the task at hand and to enjoy my day. It's only at night that my worrying side takes over -- sometimes -- and keeps me from sleeping.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Freshmen Are Rude

This morning in lecture, I had serious difficulty restraining myself from casting hairy eyeballs, uttering loud sighs, and coughing in (mostly passive-aggressive, I admit) attempts to shush the loud freshmen around me. The loudest bag of cookies ever opened, conversations about how boring the class was, and people dropping CPS units in class were all ganging up on my patience quota, attempting to frustrate me right out of my gourd.

I restrained myself by promising I would tell you reader(s) all about it.

See, my professor was not in class today, so the lab director (also with a doctorate) who just happens to be fairly young and female, took his place to lecture. I noticed a DISTINCT difference in the way students were behaving toward her, talking away as if she was not lecturing in the front of the room, etc. Perhaps there is something going here in terms of gender? Hmmm?

Anyway, it annoyed me and I wanted to tell you about it. And I wanted to cut off the ears of the cookie-eater behind me, but that is for another time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Drum Roll, Please . . .

I. Made. The. Highest. Grade. In. The. Class.


Monday, September 18, 2006

And another thing . . .

I have a test on Friday. Think of me, please!

An Elephant

Rough draft of a poem written recently in a meeting:

A monstrous elephant
is rampaging through this meeting room,
thrusting his tusks through the upholstery
and battering away at the polished tabletop.
His massive head butts up under
the lip of the table, overturns it
and tramples heedlessly on the meeting
minutes, paper clips, and agendas.

The conversation glides quietly on,
with barely a ripple to mar
the calm surface.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nuclear huh?

You might be wondering, dear reader(s), how things are going in the science nerd sweepstakes I have recently entered. Well, everything has, in fact, been going along swimmingly. I had to change where I sit because the band dorks turned out to be non-stop talkers -- very distracting, when I'm trying to figure out science for the FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE. I do have a huge bruise on my arm: on Wednesday in class, because some guy came in late, everyone in his row had to stand up to let him squeeze into the really tiny row. The girl who sat behind me stood up and DROPPED HER NOTEBOOK ON MY ARM. Ouch. But I am willing to take the beatings and the torture, just to be a science nerd.

I will say that my lack of science background caused me a momentary problem on Wednesday, when the professor -- who is really great -- was lecturing on the origins of the universe. He got the nuclear fusion part and showed us this diagram:

It looked like this to me:

but I went straight home and asked my even more science nerdy husband about it; I think I understood his explanation.

Today in lab we had to identify rocks, and that was somewhat difficult. The girls at my table and I kept looking at rocks and saying "Is that metallic? It's kind of shiny... but maybe it's not." Then there were issues with whether this rock would scratch glass, or could be scratched by a penny, or was metallic, or fizzed when an acid solution was poured on it, or tasted like salt, for god's sake. Complicated, especially for me and the other freshmen.

But now I can definitely identify galena and pyrite and probably plagioclase feldspar. Which is good, because we have a quiz next week!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Fern Envy

I got this fern from a colleague who said it had outgrown her house. Now it's in the process of outgrowing mine. It's huge and beautiful, of course, but the question is, where do I put it? It needs to be in a bright room without direct sun. And it needs to be up off of the floor, or my cat will eat pieces of it and vomit a lot. Right now, it's in a room on the north side of my house and it's on a baker's rack that's really too shaky and small for it. I'm thinking of buying a plant stand, but probably in that room, which I think will work ok.

Any suggestions on the care and feeding of unknown ferns?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Nap Cat

This handsome guy is one lucky cat. His name is Loner, and he's been with me since he was found abandoned as a young guy. Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 01, 2006

As a Freshman . . .

Since I'm now taking a freshman level class, I'm technically both a faculty member and a freshman. It's been an interesting experience (now that I'm so experienced, with a week of class under my belt!), reminiscent of My Freshman Year by Rebekah Nathan (that's actually a pseudonym for Cathy Small at Northern Arizona University). I've sat in class and listened to interesting discussions like this one that took place between a couple of band dorks (I can say that, cause I was in the band in high school) behind me:

Male Band Dork: Wow! It's really crowded in here. I can't wait till next week.
Female Band Dork: Why next week?
Male Band Dork: Everyone goes to class for the first week. Next week, they'll all be skipping, and we can spread out a bit.

Skipping class? WTF? Why would anyone do that?

Also, I've noticed that, towards the end of class, these kids (and I say "kids" because I'm the only grey-haired chick in the bunch) start closing their books and putting them away just like my high school seniors always did, religiously, in the last 5 minutes of class. It always bugged the shit out of me then, and it still does, even though I'm not the teacher.

By the way, the website associated with this course is freaking amazing!! I'm completely impressed.

My class looks to be great, although my lack of background in chemistry is going to bite me in the butt, I believe. It took me quite a while to work my way through the section of chapter 2 on atoms and their accompanying electrons, neutrons, protons, etc. Luckily, my husband has long been a science nerd, so I was able to close the book and say "OK, here's what I just learned about electrons. . . is that right?"

We'll see how I do on the first test . . .

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ulterior Motive

Just saw a commentator on CNN remark that one motive for John Carr's weird declaration of his involvement in the Jon Benet Ramsey murder (ok, he said he loved her and she died by accident) could be that he was charged in Thailand with some other sex crime, and he preferred to deal with the police in Boulder, rather than those in Thailand.

OK. That makes sense.

Or, he's just a wack job. It's a toss-up.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Global Warming Ads

OK, I've seen the "tick-tick" ad on television, advertising, but this one is even more striking. Take a look:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Obsession with P.R.

I don't know what it is about Bravo's Project Runway but I seriously cannot get enough. I've got my DVR set to record new episodes, and then I have to watch some of it every morning before I leave for work. Perhaps it is that the next round of work is due to begin in LESS THAN A WEEK and I'm substituting obsessive behaviors for the real work of getting ready for it. I mean, I'll get the work done, don't get me wrong. But for some reason, Project Runway allows me to forget about it for around an hour a day. AND it's not harmful!

However, on the drawbacks side of the equation, is last night's dream about Laura, one of the contestants on Project Runway. In my dream she was building a sleigh. Yes, she was dressed in one of her characteristic glamour gowns, but she was hammering and welding and working with metal. Interesting.

On the issue of books, I did pick up my geology text yesterday afternoon and started reading the first chapter. So far, so good. But, knowing myself, I'm pretty sure I'll need to read every chapter twice . . . .

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hang Onto Your Hats, Campers!

TODAY is the day I pick up my geology texts. Calloo, callay! More later . . .

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Can I Get Them Now? Can I?

In my overzealous preparation for the geology course I'll be taking this fall (cause I wanna be a science nerd) I decided to purchase my textbooks online at the bookstore, thinking I could get them early that way and actually do some reading before class starts.

But no.

I called the bookstore and they said, sure, come pick them up. I went there and they said, no, not until the 21st. I momentarily considered buying a new set of books and then returning the other set -- once I was able to pick them up -- but that seemed, even for me, a bit too paranoid and nerdy.

I am a bit nervous about starting out down the science route, but I think that's just part of the stretching-myself motif that is engrained in my current science push.

Also, last night we had company over for dinner on our deck, with our new furniture and etc. Had a GREAT time, with a very international crowd, representing folks who are from or have traveled/lived in Europe, South America, Central America, Japan, Australia, and Africa.

Monday, August 14, 2006

CDT near Encampment, Wyoming

After the rain ended and the sky cleared, we had this kind of lovely day . . .

Handy Reading Meme

I read about this meme on Profgrrrrl. Here's how it works:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open it to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence on that page.
4. Post the text of the next four sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. No careful choosing of books that will make you look cool! Just pick the one that is closest to you.
6. Tag five people.

The nearest book is David Miller's AWOL on the Appalachian Trail. AWOL is a hiker who thru-hiked in 2003, when my spouse hiked. I met him when I hiked about 200 miles in Virginia. In fact, Footslogger and I are mentioned on page 80-something!

OK, here's the excerpt:

"Baltimore Jack, repeat thru-hiker and all-around trail bum, is at the grill, churning out hot dogs and hamburgers. A piece of red tape, roughly the same size as a white blaze, is plastered to the back of his t-shirt.
I am intrigued by what I over hear from a small group of hikers. They are talking about Elwood. I move closer with my plate of food, and ask if they will start the story over, from the beginning."

Hmm. As to tagging, I only know a couple of folks with blogs who read this one. So ... Trout and Classroom 9, consider yourself tagged.

On another note, we drove out to Encampment on Saturday and hiked a few miles in on the Continental Divide Trail, camped overnight, and got a deluge during the night. No leaks from the tents, though! More on that in the next post.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

One S One H One E One R One I

Thursday evening -- and late into Friday morning -- I had the awesome opportunity to visit with one of my oldest friends, Sheri (see title for spelling) and her family, who stopped by one their way back home from vacation to spend the night with us. We barbecued, we chatted, chatted some more, and talked till 2 in the morning. The last time I saw Sheri was maybe 8 years ago. Now, even though we were both 16 just yesterday, she has one child about to begin her senior year in high school and another starting 6th grade. Wow. How does that happen?

Oh, and mom -- Sheri said to say hi.

OK, this blog entry will not be complete without a few memories that Sheri and I share:

* Junior year English class, writing notes to each other in Shakespeare-esque language while Mrs. R droned on and on in her unescapable monotone. Statements like this appeared in our notes: "Wilst thou comest to my abode after schooleth?" and other such rot.
* Canoe trip with Explorer Post #4 down the Current River in Missouri, where we spent one night in a public restroom because of a devastating rainstorm and a frog perched itself on Mrs. R's face (not the same Mrs. R as the one above -- this was a cool Mrs. R). We also lyricized our adventure as follows: "Red water/ Red water/ That's what you get when you go down a six-foot waterfall with sharp rocks at the bottom."
* Touring campsites at Philmont Scout Ranch -- back in the 80s, when campers and staff of the female persuasion at this august scouting famility were rarer than six-footed antelope -- singing "In the Jungle" to sold-out audiences of panting males.
* Driving together to our job at Page Drugs (in my lovely Datsun, named Bernie) during several years of high school. We were usually singing along to an 8-track tape of one of Paul Simon's albums, screaming the chorus at the top of our lungs. We goofed off more than we worked at the drugstore, taking lots of "sample" pictures of people's butts with the Polaroid Land cameras (we had to make sure they worked!), running around the store with feather dusters, etc. There was that one time the pharmacy was robbed and Sheri was almost shot, but I won't get into that one here!
* The morning of our high school graduation, Sheri's mom and mine organized a champagne breakfast for us and all of our friends, who showed up in our pajamas. Surprise! It was a good thing no one was sleeping nude that night . . .

There is much more I could add, but I won't, just to protect the innocent. Needless to say, it was great seeing Sheri again, her family is the bomb, and we should not let 8 years go by without seeing each other again. Maybe another reunion trip down the Current River?

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I don't know whether to be happy or sad that I spent the whole morning (9-12) pulling weeds from my front yard. Should I be embarassed that I had that many weeds? Or happy that they're all pulled up? Either way, my hands and arms are sore, I have blisters on my palm, and I have a REALLY good excuse to spend the rest of the day piddling around. Ha!

About 2 weeks ago, I put weed and feed on my yard, which caused most of the weeds to shrivel slightly. This did make them easier to dig up, but . . . I still had to dig them up! I want to reseed in the bare spots, but I need to wait a month after the weed and feed, according to the instructions. So . . . I'll probably get some practice by reseeding in the back yard first, (where the weeds are growing happily) and then reseed the front once school starts.

It's not that I'm obsessive about my yard. I just want the grass to grow nicely, and it seems to be not doing so well. I've fertilized the heck out of it, and I water faithfully, but . . . .

We had dinner on the deck last night, with the new deck furniture, new umbrella, etc. Lovely! Felt all elegant and shit.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I Wanna Be a Science Nerd

Over the summer, I came to a startling awareness that has resulted in a choice that I'm still unsure about. Here's the deal: when I hike, I see rocks, and I wonder about them. How did that big chunk of (what I think is) granite get a vertical white stripe in it? How did that weird-shaped rock get left sticking out of a meadow? What makes the Appalachian mountains so rounded and green, while the mountains in the Grand Tetons, for example, are jagged and pointy and barren? (I know a bit of the answer to that is age, but I'd like to know more). So, I've decided to take up my employer on the promise to pay for 3 hours of coursework a semester, and use it to pursue these questions and others yet undiscovered. This fall, beginning August 27th or so, I'll be a freshman taking an introductory Geology course, also known as "Rocks for Jocks."

Another part of this for me is that I know I'll be pursuing something I don't have strengths in. Every other degree I've gotten has been in an area of strength -- literature, words, history, etc. I'm looking forward to a challenge, an intellectual one, that will require me to push on areas of weakness and make them stronger. At least, that's the tack I'm taking on it currently; we'll see when I start having to do math.

I'll keep you posted, my couple of readers . . .

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Boring as Life

I received some harassment from a friend (yes, you, Jennifer!) about not updating my blog, so I am writing an entry under pressure.

Right now, things are pretty boring. I go to the office in the morning and work on projects, like

** editing chapters for a book (in regard to this book, I just found out that I'm going to be the first editor and not the second. Hoo-yeah!)
** writing an introductory chapter for said book
** writing a chapter on secondary literacy programs with a colleague from another southwestern state
** preparing for classes, which will start in a couple of weeks
** preparing for a research project on Instructional Facilitators

Mostly, I'm getting used to my new computers. It was my turn around for technology money, and I managed to get a new desktop and a new laptop. I LOVE my laptop -- it's tiny, weighs only 2.5 pounds, and fits smoothly into my backpack. I'm finally getting my desktop set up to run smoothly; the best thing about it is that the new monitor has USB ports right on it, so I can plug in my flash drive without getting down on my hands and knees and crawling around under my desk. Beautiful!

The weather has been delightful here this week -- today we had a high of 78 degrees. Perfect!

And I just found out that I'm going to get paid bookoo bucks for a project that I will enjoy working on. Hello, I'll be paying off my credit card . . .

Now back to Project Runway, my newest obsession.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Maine Pics

OK, this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. My mom would say "This is not a trail. This is a bunch of rocks with blazes painted on them." Actually, we found blazes were few and far between in these rocky sections, leaving us often wondering if we were climbing up the right set of rocks! The guy in the picture is my loving spouse. The bandana under his cap is to keep out the biting flies. You know, the kind that fly circles around your head for miles, looking for a way to get inside your brain? Sort of like a Twilight Zone episode.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hard Hiking

Um, those Mainers? When they say a trail is hard, you should listen.

Slogger and I just returned from a week or so of hiking on the AT in southern Maine. Whew. That was -- bar none -- the toughest hiking I have ever done in my life. And since I've been backpacking since I was 12, that's a lot of hiking.

We hiked from Rangely south to Gorham, about 78 miles all told. Part of that involved climbing countless mountains, as the trail was either going up a mountain or down one. None of this weeny, sidehill hiking for southern Maine.

The highlight of the trip, of course, was the Mahoosuc Notch. This one-mile section of the AT, known as the "most difficult mile on the Appalachian Trail" is famous for its rock scrambles and general coolness. It's hard to say whether it's really the most difficult, but it did take us 2 and a half hours to negotiate over and under boulders, etc. Basically, there's a stream -- the Bull Branch, I think -- running through this narrow valley and on top of the stream are loads of boulders that range from smallish to house-sized. The trail winds around and over and through, sometimes through holes so small you have to take off your pack and push it through, then crawl through yourself. Here's a trip report on Mahoosuc Notch, if you're interested. Oh, and one of the coolest things about the Notch is -- it's really cool. There's even ice in crevices under the boulders, and as we were hiking through, every once in while we would walk through cool air that felt just like walking into a walk-in cooler. (And I do actually know how that feels, as I got locked in a walk-in cooler once by a sadistic fellow employee at a Boy Scout camp where I once worked. Maybe I'll tell that story at a later date.)Climbing up and out of the notch, we could feel the temps rising at an incredible pace.

The day we did the Mahoosuc Notch we hiked 5.1 miles -- and it took us from 8 in the morning to 5 in the evening to do it. So . . . needless to say we were a bit bushed. A different kind of tired, though, from the regular backpacking tired. The regular tired is a sore feet, achy knees, sweaty and disgusting tired; this one felt like I had done energetic aerobics and weight workouts all day long -- think The Firm workouts for a full day.

When we got into Gorham, New Hampshire, we had planned on hiking on to Pinkham Notch, but the timing was a bit off. (Translation: if we had kept on hiking, we wouldn't have had time to take a shower before taking a bus and two flights back here. Just can't inflict that kind of olfactory torture on the unwitting populace.) So we ended up renting a car and driving around New Hampshire, stopping at places where the road crosses the trail and handing out trail magic -- sodas, Little Debbies, and fruit -- to hikers who happened along. You wouldn't imagine how good it feels to see a hiker's eyes light up when you croon to them "We've got Swiss Rolls . . . "

Now that we're back home, we're compiling a video of photos from our trip, which we will obnoxiously send to just about anyone who either voices an interest or who we think might be willing to receive it without throwing it in the trash.

In the meantime, lots of work to do and lots of time to spend daydreaming about next year's long-distance hike. I'll be posting a couple of pics soon.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Peak Bagging

With friends from the AT in town yesterday, (hi Trace and One-Third!), we decided after lunch that we HAD to hike the Medicine Bow Peak trail. Got started hiking about 3 and had a beautiful, flower-filled hike. What lovely vistas. Reminds me of why I love hiking.

Speaking of which, we're heading for Maine soon to do our 120 miles from Rangely south to Pinkham Notch on the AT. Looking forward to that... this time I'm taking my digital recorder to do a better job of journalling.

Summer so far has been a parade of visitors, which has been lovely.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Not Enough Time

In spite of the fact that it is summer, I still have not had the time to finish posting my hiking journal from my Virginia AT hike last month. Perhaps because suddenly the deadline on the handbook section that I am co-editing is NEXT WEEK! Erg. That means I've got to spend every moment of Monday and Tuesday doing final edits on all four of the chapters I'm tracking, along with working on our co-written introductory chapter.

So . . . more hiking journal later, folks.

Now it's back to yard work. It is summer, dammit.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Hiking Journal -- Monday, May 22nd

My loving spouse dropped me off at the Blue Ridge Parkway (not sure of the mile marker, but it's near the Peaks of Otter Lodge) at about 10:30. He's only got just enough time to get back to the Tri-Cities Airport if he speeds the whole way. He'll probably miss his flight.
I hiked 7 miles in lovely sunny but cool weather to Marble Springs Campsite. Along the way, I met some thru-hikers: Pumpkin, Pepperoni (whom we gave a ride to Pearisburg), Caboose and Walkabout (picked them up on the Parkway), Energizer Bunny, and Lounge Lizard. Interestingly, Lounge Lizard was sitting next to a van at a forest service road about halfway through today's hike, with sodas, fruit, cookies, etc. When I asked what he was doing, he said that he had started the trail, but only got a few days into it (in Georgia) when he injured his knee. The interesting thing is that he was doing his dissertation research -- he's working on a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies -- while hiking the trail. Sound familiar? When I heard this, I immediately took off my pack, sat down, and chatted for a while. I wish him the best -- in fact, it's probably for the best that he was injured. Though it means he won't get to hike the trail, he'll probably do a better job of his dissertation than I did.
As I reached Marble Spring, I thought about going on, but my legs were a bit wobbly -- first day, and all -- so I decided to stay put. Energizer Bunny, a 60-year old woman who is surely high on caffeine at all times, pushed on, planning for a 22-mile day. Better her.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Zero Day

Although I'm currently hiking on the AT in Virginia, I am taking a day off (a zero day, in thru-hiker speak) at a lovely bed and breakfast just off the trail. Internet access is just one of the perks of this beautiful place!

I'm keeping a journal of my hiking experiences, and will post those when I return.

Happy hiking on your own trails to you!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

And I Didn't Cry

Graduation was this morning. Most of my students showed up to walk, and it was fun seeing them and wishing them the best. I enjoyed dressing up in my spiffy robes and snazzy hat. The graduation speaker was excellent, with lots of good things to say about the responsibility our nation has to provide a good education especially for the millions of children who live in poverty. Quite inspiring.

I got to stand at the end of the stage and give all of my students hugs as they walked off the stage, having received -- well, not their diplomas, but a neat portfolio for the one they will eventually receive in the mail. I hooded my first doctoral student, which was an outstanding feeling (congrats, Karen!).

And I did all of this without crying. Miracles. Never. Cease.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Exciting Stuff!

Yesterday was my last day of involvement in a year-long professional development project in a large city in my state (now called "Center City"). We've been teaching secondary teachers, speech therapists, principals, librarians, etc. about using comprehension strategies, developing text sets, writing, working with vocabulary as part of their work with students. It's been the most satisfying professional development work I've ever been involved in, particularly because of the ways in which groups of teachers at various schools are implementing the knowledge they've gained. Heard lots of stories yesterday about new projects started, new classes for students in which they are reading young adult novels related to various topics in content area classes. Lots of excitement brewing, and very high ratings on the professional development program itself.
I got to sit down with an art teacher and a music teacher who are taking seriously the involvement of literacy in their courses, and that was thrilling for me.
The drive there and back was beautiful -- I checked out a book on CD from the library and enjoyed listening to about half of it.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Good News!

As of yesterday, I am finished visiting student teachers! Calloo, callay, it's a beautiful day!

No, really, can you tell I'm relieved?

It was actually quite a decent semester for student teachers, except that I supervised nineteeen this time, spread out over 4 districts and 9 buildings. That meant that I didn't get to spend as much time with all of them as I wanted to, but I still feel that I did the best I could under the circumstances. (I know, what am I doing under there, anyway?)

Only a couple of problems, and those were handled with a relatively small amount of angst.

Now I must get to work on the umpteen billion writing projects that have to be finished this summer.

Monday, April 24, 2006

One More Thing

Another change to my junior-level English methods class: Since I'll be operating Thursdays as writing workshops, each student in class will collaborate with me on teaching the mini-lesson for one workshop day during the semester. The collaboration is so that the workshop focuses on an aspect of their writing that is in need of work, and so that I can make sure the instructional experience they get is valuable. Perhaps after the workshop, I should require them to meet with me to debrief the experience of teaching the mini-lesson? I'll need to be sure to have a clear, highly structured and well-articulated sense of what the mini-lesson should involve.

I think this plan has more possibilities for quality instructional time and for learning about teaching than the "opening circle" work that I did last year.

I also would like to work in to this class some experiences with reading and commenting on student papers. This will mean, probably, using the local writing project website (for which I am the technology liaison) for teachers in the state to post their students' writing, and for my students to have an opportunity to read and respond to those. It's a bit tough to figure out, because I'm not sure how to organize it so that both the preservice teachers and the students of the inservice teachers get the most out of it, especially in terms of timing.

I'll work on that aspect some more this summer.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Just an FYI. If you write a grant proposal that has this in it:
"This data base can help departments of education start to think about how current and future high school teachers are taught how to teach writing."

and this:

"This statistic would allow us to look closely at the kind of education our teachers are receiving and to look at how they are applying their education in the classroom."

you'd better have talked to me about it first. Especially when you're talking about English teachers.

"Start to think"!! What the hell?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


I decided this mornign that I would walk to work. Decided that BEFORE I looked out the window and saw the snow falling. That's right, you heard me, snow falling on April 18th.

But it's ok, I'm a bad ass, I can take walking to work in the snow. I pulled on my warm blue jacket, wool hat (made by my mom!), fleece gloves. I turned on my mp3 player (no, it's not an Ipod, damn it) and cruised along for a few blocks.

That's when the real fun began. The wind picked up, to the point where I could hear it whistling even over the 70's-rock sound of Lenny Kravitz. The snow was pelting my face, sticking to my jeans, crusting my gloves and hat. The side of my face started stiffening up, and I could barely begin to see the snow sticking to my eyelashes.

I started looking around for a building I could enter, but aside from just knocking on doors, there was nothing around. So I trudged on, passing other freaks of nature out for a walk in this terrible weather, until I finally made it to an office building where I had to run an errand anyway.


Now, of course, the sun is out, the snow has melted, and spring is back. Such is life. I'm sure when I head for home this afternoon, another blizzard will hit. Just seems like that kind of day.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I recently sat in a meeting with some school administrators who told me about the state's investment (via an allocation of funding from the legislature) in "instructional facilitators" for school districts. These are teachers whose job will be to work with other teachers on improving instruction. My sense is that these IFs will be working particularly with math and literacy skills across the curriculum, especially at the secondary level. Many school districts in the state are now frantically getting their paperwork in line so that they can hire several IFs per school. For example in the district I mentioned above, they will be hiring 36 new IFs, mostly classroom teachers who will come out of their classrooms to work with other teachers.
This trend has been common in elementary classrooms, particularly in terms of teachers called "literacy coaches" -- this has a special meaning for schools involved in the Reading First work.
But in secondary schools, it's a fairly new idea.

Of course, as soon as I heard about this, my research mode kicked in. A colleague and I have something planned, something I am very excited about, to take a look in a mixed method format at what happens in secondary schools when IFs are provided to help teachers. Still in the planning stages, but I'm excited about it.

The whole IF thing also raises some questions in my mind:
* What kind of teachers will volunteer to step out of their classrooms and work with other teachers? Will they be (and this is my hope) the ones who are master teachers, who are keenly interested in improving instruction and who can work well with other teachers? Or will they be the ones who are sick and tired of being in the classroom and see IF work as an easier, less stressful option?
* Will these IFs be able to work with teachers? I mean, in my experience, there are some teachers who are seriously interested in changing/improving their craft (the easy and lovely ones to work with) and then there are those who would not change if a fire was lit under their ass. How successful will these IFs be with the latter? What will stand in their way? What will facilitate their work?
* Ultimately, we will want to see improvement in student achievement. Will this happen?
* What does this do to the principal's responsibility as an Instructional Leader?

In the meantime, while this work is in the planning stages, the chapters are beginning to roll in for the two editing jobs I've agreed to. Exciting stuff.

And my class in Casper is over for the semester (except for the grading) and I'm suddenly freed up a bit to get some writing done. Hooray!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Beer Poet(ry)

Here's a poem written by a long-distance hiker, Beer Poet, who is now hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. (He's also famous for his poem, "The Rainy Day (AT Poem)"

My Compass (8/13)

15 miles from Oregon
I realized
that I had lost a close friend. . .

(my compass)

This is a horribly tragic moment.
That compass had become my mirror,
my reflection of the real world. . .

When it looked back at me
I found movement and direction.

"Oh what grief!"

If only it could talk. . .
It would yell out,
“Help! . . .
Take me to my friend!”
and it would tell grandiose stories of adventure
and madness.

(It could tell one hell of a tale.)

but it lies quiet somewhere . . .

(without me)

Sadly sleeping,
without the movement . . .
without serving me well.

And the hush of the wind
sings a lulling sad lament
as the morning begins
the stars fade, and the sky turns
from black to early grey. . .
and I sip on a cup of tea
(Earl Grey)
with a distant bugle playing taps in my head

. . . and I miss my compass.

The Beer Poet

Monday, April 03, 2006

Change is a Good Thing

Lately I've been pondering changes to my junior-level English methods class, which focuses on teaching writing. This has begun with completely abandoning the textbooks for the class and adopting new ones. I've decided on these:

Teaching Writing: Craft, Art, Genre by Fran Claggett
Grammar Alive! A Guide for Teachers by Brock Haussamen
Risking Intensity: Reading and Writing Poetry with High School Students by Judith Rowe Michaels

I'll also need to have students read some chapters on the writing process, on conferencing with students, on setting up a writing workshop -- I've got most of those in hand.

I'm thinking of setting it up in a similar fashion to last year, with Tuesdays being regular class days and Thursdays being workshop days. As to the workshop, we will be spending time developing our own portfolio of writing, including at least one narrative piece and some poetry.

Other assignments I'm thinking about include using Hillocks' ideas about structuring writing and a sense of writing workshop format to have students -- individually -- create a plan for teaching a particular type of writing. This will include a "gateway activity" and then a series of structured lessons, in workshop format, to assist students with writing that particular genre.

That's about as far as I've gotten so far, although I have other ideas milling about in my brain.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The highlight, for me, of our spring break diving trip in Belize, was swimming alongside this turtle for a good five minutes. Eye-to-eye, we shared this moment. What a blast! Posted by Picasa

Monday, March 06, 2006

Spring Break is Coming! Spring Break is Coming!

Here's what I'll be doing over spring break . . .

Friday night, our search committee took our final candidate out to dinner. The folks at the table started counting the number of times I said "Belize." I think the count was about 10 in an hour and a half.

I'm expecting to come back tanned, fatter, and happier. I'm certainly not taking any work with me. Sigh. Can't wait.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Green is the Color

My wonderful spouse packed his backpacking gear in his Vapor Trail last night, in preparation for his trip to the Rockies Ruck this weekend.

When I saw him in that backpack, I slowly turned green.

Because of some work commitments, I can't go to the Ruck this year, and that does not make me happy. However, when I think about it, I just repeat my mantra: "Spring break is coming. Spring break is coming. Spring break is coming."

It's odd that I've been having spring breaks as long as I can remember. Since I was 5 years old, I've been in school, either teaching or being taught, and spring break is a staple of the school experience. So much so, that when I first met Footslogger, who is not an educator, I cracked him up by asking "So what are you doing for spring break?"

I guess not everyone gets spring break. So sad for you guys!

I'm still waiting with bated breath to find out if any of my poetry gets published... will let you know when I find out.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sick to my Stomach

When my younger brother was very small, he used to say "I've got a headache in my tummy."

That's what's going on with me now, except that the headache is in my tummy, my head, my bones, etc.

Got up at 5:15 this morning to take someone to the airport. Have eaten out almost every night this week, with candidates coming in. Stressing over the timing of the search and whether or not it will be successful and how to make everyone happy (I know, I can't) and how to get all my work done while still chairing the search committee.

Impossible, I know.

On the bright side, we have two (and hopefully, with the funding gods on our side, three) extremely qualified candidates coming in. Bright hopes all around. But it sure is a lot of work getting them here and getting them through their meetings, job talks, etc.

Longing for spring break . . . .

Friday, February 10, 2006

This bunny lives in our parking lot. It's our parking lot bunny. Looks cold, doesn't he? Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Melted Honey

I found this rough draft of a poem in last year's composition book.

Made of stone
Sheathed in silk
Atop stiletto heels.
Not a sign of feeling escapes
Nor a breath of joy or despair.
A picture of perfect elegance
Made hard by those feelings now bricked up:
Life's unfailing plagues
Of sorrow and triumph and pain and elation.

Some force within me longs
To ruffle the feathers,
To mar the silken surface.
To tap the hardened stone
And see the honey flow forth.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Face Plant

Lest you think that I have some new kind of ivy or rhododendron growing from my visage, here's the gruesome story.

On Sunday last, I went with my caretaking spouse, a doctor from the clinic where said spouse works, and the wonderful young woman the doctor is currently dating for a day of skiing at Snowy Range Ski Area just outside of beautiful Laramie, Wyoming.

The powder was deep, it snowed all day long, the company was fantastic, the roads weren't too bad. We had a fantastic time. Except for me, on my first run down Ogalalla.

I'm not the greatest skiier, let me assure you up front. I'm decent, but I'm usually cautious. On Sunday, however, I had some kind of wildness boiling in my blood that prompted me to say, "Sure! Let's do Ogalalla first!" Ogalalla isn't bad, but it's steeper than I usually do on my first run of the day. Let's just say that I need that slow first run of the day in order to work out the kinks, remind my body of what it takes to keep control while sliding down a hill on wooden planks, etc.

Fiberglass, whatever.

I didn't quite get that slow first run. Instead, I went screaming down Ogalalla and ended up with my face planted firmly in a snow bank about half way down. That's after spending a few minutes careening down the hill, way out of control, a few seconds flailing wildly, and a few miliseconds spreading my gear across the mountainside in a yard sale, just missing a snowboarder by inches.

When I pulled my face out of the snow, I noticed the blood.

Noses bleed a lot when they've been slammed into the side of a mountain. Luckily, my compatriots came along (they were behind me -- was I trying to show off? Perhaps, but that is the story of another post) with advice and Kleenex. Lie back, shove this kleenex up your nose, don't worry about the blood streaming down the side of your face and onto your new skiing outfit....

I don't want you think that it ruined my day. It didn't. Just slowed me down. A lot.


We're thinking about buying one of these.

Cool, huh? Just right for a couple of hardship-loving fools.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Cowgirls Beat CSU

Went to the Cowgirls basketball game last night with my spouse. Was it ever an exciting game. Here's the freakiest thing about it -- in the second half, with 15 seconds left in the game, UW was down by 5. 15 seconds. Down by 5.

Then Jodi made a three-pointer, Erin stole an inbound pass for a bucket, and voila! UW is tied with CSU, with 7 seconds left.

In overtime, we went on to beat CSU, 87-80 or something like that.

When we got home, I had a sore throat from screaming so much.

Not Really an Excuse

I know it has been much too long since my last post. No excuses. I should be posting more.

But . . .

(you knew that was coming, right?)

Here's the thing. I am not exactly anonymous here, and sometimes I get to wondering how I can really write anything somewhat approximating my experiences without pissing off my bosses, embarassing my students, implicating my spouse, or just plain making myself look foolish.

When those feelings overwhelm (and really, when the only things I have to talk about are things that would .... see above) I tend to go into hibernation. Work hard. And not blog.

But I had a bit of a breakthrough today, so I thought I would blog about it.

I'm teaching an intensive weekend course starting tomorrow, and planning for the Friday evening and all day Saturday has taken up a GOOD CHUNK of my time lately. Even with all of the work I've put into planning for the class, I started thinking this afternoon that I'm going to end up teaching until noon on Saturday and then run out of things to do.

That's a bad feeling.

So I sat down today, got out my composition book, and did some writing/thinking about what would I want to know about research in writing instruction at the secondary level, if I were a student in my class? Boom. Massive amount of content that I can deliver, that my students can debate and discuss and use for their projects, and that I actually have material on in my office. Cool, huh?

Topics to be enlarged upon before tomorrow afternoon at 1:00:

*** Research on response to student writing
*** Research on grammar and the teaching of writing
*** Research on the process approach to writing instruction

Now I must buckle down.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Triple the Fun

We returned home from our Christmas extravaganza at the home of my brother, his lovely wife, and their oh-so-precocious triplet boys (2.5 years of age), graced by the presence of Mom, Sam, assorted in-laws on either side, lots of booze, neighbors, parties, gifts, etc. What a fun and yet exhausting time!

My mom has written a lively, yet short recap of the experience. I'm still waiting on her permission to post it, but while I wait, I'll just let you know that I returned from Texas with a lovely cold and earache (thanks, boys!) that is just now beginning to simmer down.

Meanwhile, I'm working away on lots of projects, getting ready for next week when classes start, student teaching supervision begins, and I'll be making a trip to the center of the state to do some professional development in Casper.

It's lovely to be able to do all of this from home . . .

OK -- here's Mom's recap of

Christmas with the Triplets


Barbara M. Tobias

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and Matthew was running full tilt: through the den, around the corner into the living room, on into the dining room, back down the hall through the kitchen to make the full circle. Alexander was right behind him with William gaining fast. All three giggling and squealing with sheer delight. You don’t know how loud the pitter-patter of little feet can be until there are six little feet running, all fueled by the M&Ms they managed to get their hands on and the excitement of Christmas Eve.

They are not quite sure yet just what this Santa guy is up to, but everyone else is excited, so they’re in high gear too. Not enough to give serious consideration to being “good” but enough to lift the decibel level.

After they are finally asleep—at least we think they are sleeping—the six adults creep up the stairs to put Santa’s loot together. There is a bicycle. A real two-wheeler with training wheels. And there is a tricycle posing as a motorcycle complete with all the vroom-vroom sounds when you push a button. But the star of the show is a Hummer. Mustard yellow, squat and awesome. It runs on a rechargeable battery, moves when you press the “gas” pedal, turns when you turn the steering wheel, and even goes into reverse.

We were a motley team: two salespeople, one medical tech, one college professor, one computer programmer, and (thank Heaven) one mechanical engineer. But in spite of the somewhat limited qualifications, we managed to get most of the toys assembled. Getting the Hummer down the stairs was a challenge, but we were up to it.

And then we opened the box containing the table that was supposed to play host to a train track, trestle, bridges, and even the train. It contained no less than two dozen pieces, a bag of assorted screws, nuts and bolts, and not one single word of instruction. A three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. The professor and the programmer looked at it, looked at each other, and called the engineer. There was a bit of trial and error. We discovered that you cannot put the drawer stops in place before the drawer is in its slots. We also discovered that right and left have meaning even when they are not marked.

There was much laughing and head scratching and video taking. I suspect the latter may lead to a bit of blackmail somewhere down the line, but not at Christmas, surely. We even managed to get the monster down the staircase and in place under the tree before exhaustion set in and we all fell into bed.

The first thing I saw when I stumbled into the room with the toys after the boys woke on Christmas morning was Will. He had a railroad car in each hand and was moving them carefully over the tracks. He continued to do so for the next two hours, ignoring all efforts to get him to open presents, play with bicycles or radio-controlled cars. He even ignored the mighty Hummer.

Matthew opened his own presents and was more than glad to help anyone else open theirs if they were not moving fast enough to suit him. Alex climbed on the tricycle and immediately mastered pushing buttons to make noises, although his real aim was to regain possession of the M&Ms that had been confiscated the evening before.

But the thing I will always remember about this Christmas is hearing the mother’s voice as I sat nursing a cup of coffee in the dining room: “No, Matthew, the Hummer will not fit into the kitchen.”

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.