Thursday, May 26, 2011

updates:gardening and matching

I haven't posted in a week. This is because the weather improved.  I had to do some gardening and some mowing.  Also I lost time last week with the "sick" child who couldn't go to play care.  I haven't had too many interesting thoughts.  We had an contemplative conversation one night, but I still have to edit that post. (Sorry)
This post is just an update.

I've been working on "experiments" for my writing thing.  I spent a while deciding which ones seemed appropriate, and finally got a contract- it specified that I was supposed to have an outline of my experiments... a few days ago.  So by then I actually had one, but I hadn't tried them all out.   I sent it in.  As usual, I haven't had a reply.  (I had to prompt them to send me contract, and I think that took a week to get a reply.   They sent it Fed Ex... I'm not sure why- I was able to send it back by scanning and using email just fine.)

Yesterday I tried one of those experiments out, and it really doesn't work well.  It might work in a very large space with two people, but it doesn't work at all on the small scale.  My husband said he'd tried it out with his brother when they were kids and they never got it to work either.  I'll have to find something else.

We scheduled a meeting for the science play space tonight, and I sent out a reminder yesterday.  I keep getting these emails from people who can't make it.  What?  You people decided on the date!  I suppose this kind of thing is to be expected, but its still annoying.

Little Star refused to nap again, but he really needed it.  I told him he could listen to music lying on the couch and he barely made it through one song.  Last week I got him to sleep on the bicycle and in the car, but I wasn't planning either of those today.  He's been going to bed really late when he does nap, so I had figured it would be OK if he didn't nap.  No, he really needed it.

The garden is partially planted.  I just need to add some herbs, and all my transplants (tomatoes and such), but they are still so small.  Somehow I think something is wrong with their environment that's keeping them from growing more.  And beyond that I need to plant the non-garden with gourds and some iris's I just inherited.  So much to do; so little time.  I'm really only good at gardening for a few hours at a time out there before I get tired, but its a lot more efficient without little star interrupting every few minutes.  I managed to add lime and a bit of compost (not enough, but some) this year.

The weather has been great for gardening... and grass and weeds.  At least the ground is wet enough to pull the weeds up by the roots.  My strawberries have needed weeding since... last fall.  I have almost half done now. They are flowering and have little green berry type things. Every evening or morning we get a rain storm with thunder.  Its like a different climate.  I was just reading that Chicago is expecting more like Alabama climate in the future.  I heard we should expect Maryland, but maybe that's not hot and wet enough.

I took my little star to our little library this morning.   Its at our community center, and behind the building is our local playground.  I asked if he wanted to go to the playground first or the library.  I was surprised he chose the library- I wasn't even sure if we would get to the playground before it rained. I  let him pick among the board books.  The nice thing about the setup at this branch is that the board books are not in any particular order.  This means that he can take them out and look at them at leisure without close supervision, and I don't have to worry about putting them back in order.  He took out about ten books and read them while I investigated the other ones.

When I was done he told me he wanted only two of the books to take home, so we took them.  I didn't even look at them.  He told me they were "potty books", but I'd not seen potty books at our branch before.  Anyway we took them to the potty (no he didn't actually use it (: ), and I noticed that while these books were not "potty" books, they had the same characters as two of the "potty" books we had taken out from the main branch previously, and were by the same two authors.  So, I was pretty impressed that he'd recognized the pictures and characters as similar.

Of course he's always been good with sorting/matching.  One of the books was called something like happy baby, sad baby and I figured this book was really for babies.  I was wrong- it was the perfect thing to help my son with figuring out happy and sad expressions. Perhaps he should have figured that out as a baby, but he's not good with that.   As soon as I explained to look for a tear or the mouth going up and down, he picked up on it immediately.  I'm not sure if this will help with real life.  We also talked about why the baby was happy or sad.  I hope that will be helpful.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Biking success!

I did it! I biked my 38 pounder up the hill from the bike path.  I tried it once before last year (he was less heavy) and was unsuccessful, so I just assumed that wasn't happening.  Perhaps I tried the wrong street last year.  Or just maybe I'm actually stronger now.

In any case little star not only was unsuccessful at nap, but also at quiet time.  Now how was I going to get him to sleep?  I'm adamantly opposed to spending gas (driving) to get him asleep- though I know it would be effective.   It's just not environmentally sound.  I lifted weights this morning, and needed to mow again, so I didn't want to stress out my arms with a stroller ride (which has been surprisingly unsuccessful lately).  So there it was.  A bike ride.  But the only place to bike is the bike trail.  The bike trail at the bottom of the hill.  I figured the worst that could happen was I had to push him up the hill.  That's what I did last time.  I didn't know if it would work- I mean how comfortable is it to fall asleep in a bike seat?  But it was a beautiful day, so we went.  And he fell asleep pretty soon after we reached the trail.  I biked for quite a bit  before there was a place I could turn around without waking him up.  Its really hard to turn the bike in a tight space when its weighted with him and not tip it over.

Before we went back up the hill he had awoken and we spent some time at the playground for me to rest (and him to play).  We had to leave when other kids showed up- I mean, in theory he's contagious?  I don't know when we decide he's not any more.  His rash looks better, but its still there.  He's not itchy today, and seems happy.

After I made it up the hill I mowed the lawn for a bit.  The battery doesn't last long when the grass is so long... and I did the hilly part.  So it doesn't look like I got much done.

Well, a lot of exercise and not much writing accomplished today.  Right now little star is busy wasting water (playing) at the sink.  At least he's learned I'll turn it off if he runs a lot, so he doesn't do that anymore.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Another slow day and some teacher evaluation thoughts

So my little star does have a communicable virus.  It doesn't have a name but causes cold symptoms and this itchy rash.  Silly me.  I though he'd irritated his skin and had an allergic reaction.  I probably exposed his whole class to it.  The mystery of course is where he got it from.  I didn't take him to any moms2moms stuff last week because of his cold/runny nose, so the only kids he's seen have been at preschool- and none of them have the rash (that I know of).  He hardly saw any kids at the events on saturday- and only four of them were not  in his class anyway.

The doctor said adults don't seem to get the thing.  Anyway, it looks like we are home for a while, since I can't send him to school.  Its still rainy- though not as cold.  He's kind of subdued this morning.  I suppose its the benedril I gave him (doctor said too).  He's not been to itchy since I put on the prescription hydrocortisone creme.

I've been reading the NYT and not getting much done.  I think it's laziness and lack of motivation.  I don't know where that comes from.  All last week I felt overwhelmed with too much to do.  I think its the weather.  I can't mow the lawn or do much work in the garden.  That kind of cuts down on the stuff I need to get done.

Though there are these experiments to work on... It occurred to me that i don't have a written contract yet.  I wrote to my contact about that.  I'm not turning anything in without it. I've done the first one, and I know what I'm going to work on for the second one, but the other four... its kind of dilemma in a sense.  Firstly, a high proportion of things I've seen are not actually experiments but demonstrations.  Secondly, well, nothing's particularly original.  Either its everywhere, or... well its nowhere, or in one place.  If its in one place, well, I can't very well steal it.  If its everywhere, well how interesting is that? Then again, why reinvent the wheel?  There's good stuff out there- and probably good ideas have already been done.

As for the science play space... well I was supposed to help with an activity this weekend, but I cant have daycare or take my son to it if he's still rashy.   Chances are he will be.  Luckily the person in charge has been pretty reliable and certainly has the qualifications, so I think she'll pull if off well without me.  Still, I'm concerned because the activity requires a bit of planning and materials.  Also we haven't done this venue before.

I'm on a NYS teachers list still- that's where I started teaching.  They are starting to do teacher evaluation with some  portion based on test scores.  I don't understand how this can work unless every teacher starts out with similar kids- and that is certainly not what happens.  The newest, least qualified teachers usually get the hardest kids.  I see a lot more turnover if they are going to judge teachers this way.  If they think people leave teaching quickly now, just wait!   I also see the incentive for cheating on tests increasing.  Honestly, I'm not sure how much good can come out of this idea.

There are other ways to judge teachers.  I'm not claiming they have always been effective or that there are not bad teachers out there, but I don't see how test scores help.  Of course I am coming from the high school teacher perspective.  By then... well, its really hard to get past deficits that started a lot earlier.  Maybe it makes more sense in earlier grades, but I doubt it.

School, people seem to think, is the big equalizer.  It can be for some kids, but its awfully hard for kids with difficult home lives to compete.  Sure, some kids make it, but a lot of them don't.  I had a few when I taught that seemed to be able to work on grade level and do well, but then something would change in their home lives, and they would suddenly stop doing school work for a time.  Sometimes they recovered and tried again, but they had by then lost time and grades.  Sometimes they never did grade-level work again.

Most of my ninth grade students in my difficult classes didn't have the skills or motivation from day one. Occasionally they would try and work for a little bit, but they were already so far behind, they soon stopped again.  I'm not claiming I was the best teacher on earth- perhaps another teacher could have done better.  However, even the best teacher is going to have more trouble with troubled kids, and even the best teacher cannot get great test scores when kids start out way below grade level.  It takes time to bring them up.

I also taught a group of mostly learning disabled ninth graders who probably had pretty good home lives.  They came in well below grade level.  Some were motivated, and tried.  But even as they tried, they didn't get results that normal kids would get, and they were already far behind.  Their test scores were not destined to match other kids.  Sure they could work even harder and maybe do better, but there is only so much time in a day, and there are things other than academics to work on in life. In that class there were a few exceptions, a few kids who could handle the work.  One of them did well, the other was not motivated, and in fact got the lowest scores of all because he cheated on the final.

Kids and families are not standardized, so it is very hard to measure a teacher's skill with a standardized test.  Also, it goes without saying that most teachers need experience, generally about five years before they get good at it.  How can any system deal with that learning time?  Of course some teachers will not be very good in their first years.  I think we need a longer apprenticeship to get skilled teachers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rainy day

We are home today.  They sent my little star home from playcare yesterday because he has this rash.  It's actually left over from last week when he came home with sunscreen and sand all over him.  It was red, and of course he scratched and its all irritated.  Well now he's got raised bumps that itch and its spreading.   We got a doctor appointment at  2pm... just perfect for nap time.  I figure if we don't do anything active this morning he won't take the nap anyway.  Since its cold and rainy out all week, I'm not really tempted to go outside and do some physical activity.

Remember how I said it was HOT?  Well, that's over with.  I had to plug little star's space heater back in  last night.  I turned our heat back on as well.  I'm a real wimp about cold-it was 66 F inside and falling yesterday. (We keep it at 68 in the day, but sometimes I turn it up to 69) Now I'm really worried about the grass police.  Its supposed to rain all week, and the grass is Happy, but the lawn mower is out of commission until it dries off.  I did hack up some weeds in the garden yesterday, so the garden doesn't look quite as bad.

I was hoping to take my little star to The Works, but I think people will think he's contagious with his rash, so that's not really a good option.  Maybe its not just an allergic reaction, and its all a coincidence with the sun screen/sand issue.  He's pretty dramatic today- everything is a tragedy worthy of meltdown, but I don't think he's sick... just itchy.  We put aloe vera on his itches, and that seems to make him feel better.  Hope he's not allergic to that.

I always see cool ideas for what to do with your toddler, but when it comes down to it I can never remember them when we actually have time.  Usually I just want to take him outside.   I found my stamps from when I used to teach yesterday- I have five of them. That kept him happy for a little while... until I realized he was putting his fingers in the ink and we had to wash his hands.  I supposed it would have been a good opportunity for fingerprints, but I just wasn't in the right mindset for that type of creativity.

I also found my marbles yesterday.  Today seemed to be a good day to give them to him.  I set up a fat notebook for him to roll them down and some other things- he of course liked sorting the marbles.  It kept him occupied for a while but not quite as long as I expected.  We then built marble ramps/mazes with his Magnatiles. (well I did-he kind of watched and participated a little)  It was pretty fun, and I thought, pretty creative.

What next? Apparently cassette tapes and cases are more exciting.

Friday, May 13, 2011

gardening and happiness at the gas station

Blogger was apparently down yesterday, so I'm posting today.  Somehow I lost the beginning even though I was smart enough to copy the post to a document when it claimed that it wasn't saving properly.  Somehow the font got changed. I hope you like the new one.

Suddenly it is now summer.  Its hot. In fact, my husband installed a
window air conditioner in my son's room tonight.  His room gets very hot and is not connected to the rest of the house's heating/cooling system.

The garden is mostly tons of dandelions and grass. I'm a little worried about it- not that I won't get it done, but that I will run into trouble with the lawn ordinance.  I've mostly got the lawn itself under control, but the garden does have some long grass.   I also have some excellent looking chard, and lettuce that needs thinning.  Plus the snow peas are beginning to reach the net I have for them to climb on.  And yet... the garden looks like a mass of dandilion fluff.  That's the area for all the warm season crops.  I took my little seedlings out of the cold frame, but they are too small for transplanting.  At least they germinated this year.

This morning I dug up a small area to plant these corn seeds that I had apparently ordered.  It says on the package "heavy feeder". Sorry, but I don't have much compost to contribute for non-edible plants.  Yes, for some reason I ordered ornamental corn.  I figured we wouldn't get enough for a good meal, so why not practice on something pretty.  And, given that I'm probably not fertilizing it enough, we won't get much anyway.  

We also planted scallions.  For some reason I didn't order any last year, and the year before they didn't grow much.  I hope the lime helps. Yesterday we planted sunflower seeds, fennel, and chinese mustard greens- those are for my husband or maybe just to help with the insects.  I have no intention of personally eating them.  The part of the garden we planted in is nearest the road, but is also the least fertile part... and I THINK I added lime to that part.... Anyway, they are not crops that will break my heart if nothing happens.  Although I am definitely hoping for sunflowers.  Still, if I were really serious I would have done something about the compost issue.  Don't think I've completely neglected it- I have grown clover, beans, and weeds in this area in the past to increase organic matter.

Did you notice how I said "we"?  I'm not speaking of me and my husband, but of me and my little star.  I'm not saying he was some great help, but he wasn't a hindrance- he kind of watched or picked dandelions or ate parsley and lettuce.  This means I actually got something done while he was not in play care- and it was educational for him.  I was going to do even more this afternoon- and we did plant some zucchini. That was the seed packet he picked out.  My seed packets come from Fedco, so they don't have pictures on them.  The choice is pretty random though maybe he could tell the flat shape of the seedds. My little star enjoys the challenge of opening them.  

We had to stop gardening after that because... well... I couldn't find any sunscreen.  I figured if I did find some it would be so old it wouldn't be much use anyway. For the past few years, probably since my little star was born three years ago, I mostly avoided the middle of the day with naps and lunch, and kept to the shade since its usually too hot in the sun anyway.  So we went and bought sunscreen and a few other things.

Yesterday when I picked up my little star from play care he was just sitting in the playground looking tired.  They said he had a good day, took a long nap, and played a lot in the sand.  And they put on sunscreen twice. Well he didn't seem too happy.  He had sand allover his face and arms and kept rubbing his eyes.  And he was melting down.  Of course having sunscreen all over you, and sand sticking to it, and then on top of that sunscreen irritating your eyes... Well, he was a lot better after a bath.  So I bought sunscreen that claims it doesn't irritate the eyes.  I doubt it, but I'm willing to try.  I don't know if I can ask playcare to use special sunscreen for my kid.  His cheeks remain all red, and I don't know if it was sunburn or irritation from sand or from sunscreen.  Of course our little zucchini planting probably didn't help.

And the nicest thing today, aside from actually working in the garden, was my experience at our village gas station.  I had my bike tuned up recently, and it really does work better... except for one thing.  My son's bike seat rubs on the fender that now rubs on the tire.  This isn't a big deal when he's not on the bike- its his weight generally that pushes it.  Yesterday I took this rather long (longer than I should have) bike ride to the end of the bikepath- its about 9 miles each way, but pretty flat.  Exhausting.  I'm so out of shape.  And then of course I mowed the lawn.  After lunch and a shower I hardly had any time for anything like cooking dinner, science play space, book....  So about my bike... I took my son into the village on it today since I'm pretty sure I can make it back- the hill is gradual and not much.  I got him there, and when I went to park the bike it seemed like the back wheel wasn't turning.  I figured that was because I was in the mud.  

When I went to take the boy home I realized, the wheel was not turning no matter what.  The bike seat was preventing it.  Luckily I was right next to our friendly local gas station/mechanic. I am not saying this sarcastically.  When they realized why I was there, a guy began doing adjustments for me... as if there were no other cars they were working on.  He added some new washers, had exactly the right tools, and knew what to do.  They wouldn't accept payment and sent me and my little star on our way.  We are so lucky to have this business here.   

Monday, May 9, 2011

The busy slow life- updates

Is life so slow I have not time to blog?  Of course not.
So, what's going on?  Well, experiments are not getting written- though I have performed one.   Good thing I didn't agree to write the book!

1.  The lawn is getting mowed.  I go out once or twice a day and use up the electric battery on the mower.  Sometimes my husband does it too.  (Yes our lawn is too big, but at least we get exercise- and we are trying to get rid of the lawn a little at a time)

2. Social life.  We got to a party, and had someone over for brunch.  I also made a cake for my husband's birthday (actually it was banana bread- part cupcakes and part "pie cake" with chocolate cream cheese frosting).

3. Illness- my husband and I both has some weird flue/cold thing. I think my son does too, but symptoms are not obvious.  Unrelated, I also went to the doctor to get a blood test- I recently found out hypothyroidism runs in my family.

4.  We found the awful smell in the house.  You see my wonderful husband actually set two traps for voles (yes, we've moved beyond mice), and put them in a rather non-obvious/dangerous place where we thought the voles were, and where my little star would not discover them by accident.  But I only realized there was ONE trap, and that one was empty.  I searched and searched for this awful smell- I even went into the basement.  Eventually my husband smelled it (he had this stuffed nose), and easily found the other trap. Thank goodness, he took care of it.

5. Gardening.... well, I would like to think so, but I haven't got much done on that front. I did some half hearted weeding of the strawberries, and noticed we have chard and lettuce to eat.

6. Science Play Space.  Yes, that is taking a bit of time- lots of emails to take care of.  We had a disappointing presence at the performing arts event.  What was disappointing was that very very few kids showed up for their (the performing arts people) event.  It was just our kids (2 of them), and about 5 other kids.  Last time there seemed to be about thirty kids.  This lack of participants was blamed on the weather (it was too nice), the farmer's market started (again, weather was too nice), Softball (again weather is good), and the event's theme- which was the "misunderstood wolf".  I was a little worried about what this would be about, but, it actually was a nice story.  The wolf goes out to warn his friends about a storm (hence the pigs houses getting blown apart by the storm), and he plays a prank on his friend little Red (hence dressing up in grandmas clothing- but grandma isn't home and they laugh about it).  Really, it done well.  It was just too nice a day to be inside.

7. Playing outside.  The weather has improved DRAMATICALLY.  Its nice out.  Not too hot.  Not too cold.  Sometimes a bit rainy.  I just want to stay out there with my little star (or without him) and enjoy it.  Soon, I know, I will find it too hot and too buggy.

8. Exercise.  I'm still lifting weights twice a week.  I finally seem to be getting stronger- just in time for the gym to close for a week after graduation next week. Due to the great weather have I been walking with a friend sometimes.  This exercise is apart from Mowing- the one exercise that makes me sweat.

Other news... My little star not only ate a tortilla last night (though he did take the filling out), but he put in some cooked greens, folded it and ate it.  He also decided he would eat "school food" rather than my continuing to pack him a sandwich.  This change is good mostly, but it means we've kind of given up trying to have him eat kosher style in school.  They do serve pork, and they certainly mix milk (cheese) and meat products.  I'm figuring we can do kosher at home, and feel glad that he's trying new foods.   Also, it will save me packing food for him.  Really, if we were serious about Jewish tradition, we would not be living here where there is no synagogue and he would be going to a Jewish preschool.

Back to work :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Recreating this blog

If you've been following this blog (I know, there are so many of you (catch the sarcasm)), you know I've been working to create something I call a science playspace in central Ohio. We finally got around to creating a name for the organization that will work on making such as space, and lo and behold it uses the terms science playspace in its name.  I finally even made a web site on google.  (Have I complained yet about how you cannot ftp from iweb to google? Yes I had to make the site twice.)

In any case, so far, you cannot find said web site if you type it into google, but you CAN find links to this blog.  Oops.  I was alerted by my stats: 14 page viewings from one viewer just after our meeting.  These viewings were from one viewer in our local area who found it in a google search for our organization.  I hope the person who viewed it is the person I think it is.  Did you know I can find all that information out from the stats on this blog?

The blog was never designed for a local audience, and I figured you would have to look pretty hard to find it.  Who would look for my personal blog amongst the blogosphere under an assumed name?  Who would know it was me?  Who would care?

Yes, the name is not real.  I always liked the name Chana.  And Lonicera?  That was actually meant to be Laracina, but I made a mistake.  Why Laracina? I am a forester by education, and I really like the Larch tree- Larix Laracina.  I mean, what other tree in the NE United States looks like a conifer, but shed's its leaves? And the leaves/needles are in these cool whorls. Lonicera is latin for honeysuckle, which is not my favorite plant- its an invasive exotic.  However, I thought the connotation was alright, so I left it after I realized the mistake.  I also liked the sound of the name.

Is everything else you read in the this blog real?  Oh yes- and that is precisely the problem.  The blog is a bit too honest at times.  This honesty was not a problem when first, I had no local audience, and secondly, my life is really not that significant or interesting, and I didn't interact with a lot of people.  Also, the blog, could be better on the editing side, but I never claimed to put out stuff I expect to get paid for.  (Though some part of me just hopes somebody will come across this blog and PAY me to write something for them.  Isn't that every writer's dream?)

Anyway, the point is that I am now a more public figure- and I need to be to make the science playspace actually happen.  That means that image becomes important, not just for me but for the success of the project.  So  I've deleted past posts, and will be careful about what I post.  I was just going to make the blog private, but have decided against that option, because I do have a few readers- and I'm not sure who they are.  (Feel free to COMMENT so I will know :))

I don't have that many readers, but I do find it exciting that I have some, and they are from all over the world- though rarely from Africa or Latin America.  So when I look at my first post so long ago, and think about the purpose of the blog and should I continue it, its not hard to choose.  Its nice to feel like I reach out to the world (in as small a way as it is), and I like writing about my life and documenting my thoughts.  I'll just have to be more careful with presentation.

I'm still in the slow life despite having more things to do.  I say this because my project is (currently) not a paid one, so nobody expects results tomorrow.  That is I can do it at my own pace. We are not a two career couple- which is precisely the reason we cannot afford the numerous 200K+ houses going up for sale in our village recently. (To have more than five houses for sale at the same time here is unheard of).  It's not like we are really thinking of moving any time soon, but sometimes you just wish for a nicer house, and you think about how other people can afford such things.  The answer in this college dominated village appears to be having two wage earners.

I have just taken on a small writing science project that will pay me a little- I am very excited and intimidated by this- which might be why I am working on this blog rather than doing it right now.

I think my biggest problem right now, really, is getting my little star potty trained.  The problem is really that he doesn't want to do it, and I am caught between waiting longer and not wanting to deal with messy diapers any longer.  So I bounce between not pushing it- not focusing on the potty and using diapers or encouraging potty use strongly and trying out underwear.  Both approaches cause different stresses, and no obvious progress.  If only I could resign myself to just waiting, but eventually another disgusting messy diaper tips  me into more emphasis on potty training.  Because, really, almost three and half years is definitely old enough to use the potty.

And if potty training is my biggest problem... we are doing a lot better than most people.

Today's sadness:  Our local school levy did not pass.  I am so sad for our kids and our community... and my favorite music teacher who will lose her job.

Well, I have to go post minutes from our last meeting.  A wonderful person has taken charge of taking notes and making helpful suggestions.  Actually everyone had great ideas at the last meeting.  I'm so pleased to be working with these people.  I'm not being gratuitous here in case anybody reads this- I really mean that.  This project is not only going to be successful, but its going to be a lot better than what I could do on my own.