Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wish I Were There

It'll probably be two loooooong years before we can go back to Oregon.

Sara adores spores. I didn't know that fern spores are under their leaves. She showed us how it works. Ferns are a rarity in Utah.

I hope the time passes quickly.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

High Point, Low Point

I'm really trying to blog every day for a week. And if I don't have anything clever to say, it's "high point, low point".

High Point

Now, I don't let my students talk disparagingly about themselves; and when they do, I protest. I protested tonight, but only after laughing my head off at the student's virtuosity. M. is a dignified, older gentleman; We sat down for a testing session together and he, in one breath, equated himself with a burro; then his head was compared to a coconut! No! A bowling ball! Even if submerged in water, neither the head or the bowling ball would absorb ANYTHING. This was by far the most eloquent and far-reaching self disparagement I have ever heard. Too bad there aren't prizes for that.

Low Point

The Othermothers at the bus stop. I'll bet they all know that my kids are going to be at home alone on Thursdays. We're talking about something totally unrelated, and I find myself thinking, "You know, don't you? About me and what a bad parent I am? I can see that you know."

OK. Your turn. Think through your day yesterday. What was the single high moment? The single low moment?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Emerging from Hell

Well, I have had a lot to blog about, and consequently, no time to write.

I wrote a few days ago, about one of the new teachers I had just hired (the one to replace the one who “needed to think”), and how I felt I had been duped by a half-truth she told me. It was an exciting blog-entry (in my opinion), but I didn’t have time to spell-check it, so I saved it for later posting. I was on a conference call with the schools’ attorneys deciding what course of action to take. We decided what we were going to do and the lawyer finished the conversation with, “Now, you haven’t e-mailed anyone about this, right? Nothing in writing that could be used against you later?” For a minute, I thought about saying, “Oh, no! Of course not! Just my blog…” just to hear him freak. No, better not. Maybe I’ll be able to post that entry one of these days.

All in all, it’s been a challenging few weeks. There was:

1. The above-mentioned hiring debacle, which I’ll write about some day, when I’m sure we won’t get sued;
2. The two-week notice of yet another (valuable, much-loved) staff member. I feel like we’re going to be in hiring mode forever. Which sucks;
3. The first day of school today, which means that we are about to embark upon “life without after-school child care”;
4. My peach tree is dying, my Roma tomatoes have blossom-end rot, and I’ll bet I’m not going to get any beans.

But we go forward.

On the upside, I’m getting some new windows today. The installer is here putting them in, which is why I am working (or not working) from home. Nate is here, ‘cause he doesn’t start school until tomorrow. It’s hot and windy, so I’m working on the sun porch, where I can catch a breeze. We are watching the progress of a wildfire in what looks like the Corner Canyon area. The house is filled with an early-sunset light (it’s 2:00) and throat-scorching smoke (smells like a campfire!).

In a couple hours, I will take Nate and walk to the school to meet Sara and her little friend Nikki. This is Day One of the Diggins / Bennett Childcare Co-op:
Monday: Kate comes home early to meet the kids
Tuesday: Si home early
Wednesday: One of the Bennetts home early
Thursday: Ah…. That’s a problem.
Friday: One of the Bennetts home early

Thursdays, Sara and Nathan will have to ride the school bus home and let themselves in the house. They’ll do homework and productive, helpful chores while waiting for their father to get home. Or beat the s*** out of each other, like my brother and I used to do. And call me, screaming, "MOM! S/HE'S TRYING TO KILL ME!!!" We are wait-listed for every after-school program that picks up from their school. The principal had promised an after-school program on Thursdays, but it’s “Studio Kids”, a for-profit venture committed to making my daughter look like Britney and sing like Miley. What would they do with Nate? The mind boggles. We'll pass.

And…I have resumes.
[drum roll]

1. A post-graduate student in Educational Psychology from the University. From Mali. Finishing his PhD. Credentials to die for, but has never taught ESL.
2. A bank teller who speaks Spanish.
3. An administrative assistant with a degree in Linguistics from the University of Vilnius (Lithuania), who has never taught ESL.
4. A guy whose Employment Objective is to “find a position to help [him] expand [his] current Internet knowledge”. No teaching qualifications or experience whatsoever.
5. AND three resumes that actually have some promise.

Life is good. And smells like a campfire.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Two Important Moments

1. I walked into the bedroom, and found Johnny Depp there in repose, waiting for me. As he IS an action-figure, I was expecting a little more...action. Geeze. He's not even fully posable.

2. And I got my new sewing machine out of the box and set it up in my "sewing room", actually a card table stuck into the spare-room closet. Now what? I looked at the instructions, and I can't make hide nor hair.... Seagrape, the weather in Florida being what it is this week, maybe you should come up here and spend a few days. You could show me how to use this thing. Tomorrow's goal? Plug it in. Wednesday? Buy thread. After that, I think I have to wind the bobbin, whatever that means. More postings about sewing coming soon, I'm sure.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I must, as with all my book reviews, preface this one with my standard caveat. This is not a real book review. This is just Kate's pedestrian and provincial view . If you're looking for a real book review, please exit now.


Let me start by saying that I was an English major. I have read some weighty tomes. I have waded though some complex prose. And enjoyed it, even.

I also want to say that I love a lot of Latin American writers, and magical realism is a device that works for me.

So WHY, WHY, WHY did I dislike this book so much?? It's not fair. It's not right. We're talking about a Nobel laureate, here. Lots of people GOT IT, obviously. I tried, but could not finish the book.

On my "Damn Good Read" scale, this rates a 5 out of 10.

One Hundred Years of Solitude is a sweeping epic of one family through love, through war, through flood, imperialism and insomnia epidemics. Does that make you think you'll care? I thought I would, too, at first. But the epic is so sweeping that minor details like... follow-though, rationale or character development are simply swept away. Generation after generation of characters is named the the same: Arcadio and Aureliano. Jose Arcadio, Aureliano Jose, Jose Aureliano Segundo, Arcadio Jose. It's true that in many cultures, names are used and reused; but here it's merely confusing, because Marquez doesn't give you enough insight into any one character's nature to actually differentiate between them. I needed to check the family tree at the front of the book over and over, until I stopped caring.

Quality writing: Well, for heaven's sake! It's Gabriel Garcia Marquez! How can I fault the quality of the writing? It's beautiful. I had a good translation, and read bits aloud to myself in order to really experience the language. Rating: 9

Interesting characters: Yeah, sure. And just as I started to get to know one, s/he would suddenly ascend to heaven on a freshly washed basket of laundry or be sent to a convent in Brussels, never to return. WTF?! Rating: 5

Plot structure: If only I hadn't cared about such a minor matter as a coherent story... Unfortunately though, I did. Silly me. Rating: 4

Addictiveness: I always try to finish books. For me not to finish means it was a real drag. Rating: 2

Now, maybe someone out there has some insight into this book. If you have the key, and would like to enlighten me, please do so. I feel guilty for not loving this book. Save me from myself.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Top Ten

I'm home!

I guess I am hypnotized and soothed by anything rhythmic and repetitive: crashing waves, tranquil seahorses, pulsing jellyfish. On the flight home, I thought, "OK. I will find my new center. Within myself, I will find...the waves! The jellyfish! The seahorse." Oh, yeah, and from now on, I'm going to get to bed before midnight every night.

I was back in Utah for about half an hour when I realized that I was right back to my usual bad habits. Lost my goddamn inner seahorse. Whatever.

My Oregon Coast Vacation Top Ten

1. Having Nathan call Sara an ignoramus, but pronounce it, "in your anus". I had been blocking them out, as moms do when kids squabble, but that got my attention. "What! What! OK, who put what in whose anus!? What have I told you guys about putting stuff in body cavities, huh? Huh?"

2. Seeing the ocean for the first time, after a long day of travel. We like to be dorks, so we (the kids and I, while Simon lags behind and pretends not to know us) run to the water as fast as we can, yelling, "Ocean in view, oh joy!" (That's what Meriweather Lewis wrote in his journal when the Lewis and Clark expedition made it to the Pacific.) Lewis had problems with is inner seahorse, too.

3. The look on Nathan's face when he heard that the scene at the end of "Return of the Jedi", with the high speed chase on the forest moon of Endor, was filmed in the very same grove of California Redwoods where we were hiking. ohmygawd! There was a little confusion, though, over why the Ewoks were no longer there.

4. I slept until I woke up every morning. No alarm. The customary dark circles under my eyes are temporarily gone.

5. Arriving at a view point to find that the rocks below were crowded with California Sea Lions, Harbor Seals and Elephant Seals. And there was a volunteer there to show me the Elephant Seals. They are so enormous that I thought they were boulders.

6. Watching the Olympics on TV. It's cute, the way NBC thinks Micheal Phelps poops lemon drops.

7. Finding a beach with incredible seashells. And a dead starfish. Which I brought home in my suitcase. Which stinks.

8. Sitting as far out on Cape Perpetua as we could go without actually being killed by the crashing waves.

9. The pirate gift shop in Depoe Bay had a pair of boxers that read, "Prepare to be Boarded!" Aye aye, matey.

10. Reading Oprah's magazine, which I found in one of the houses where we stayed. I am WAY out of the girl-loop, I see. She reviews products I didn't know existed. For example, "Brown Betty". That's pubic hair dye. I asked Si what he thought of that. He wanted to know what colors were available. Uhh...well...brown....? He said he would be more interested if they offered shocking pink or something. I could just hear my mother, asking what if I got in a car accident and had to go to the hospital?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Get Me Out of Here

This is where I'm headed. We leave for the airport in just half an hour.

No phone, no computer for ten days. We've rented a beach house. I have a new book. We've packed two kites; big binoculars for whale watching; the whale caller, of course. At some point, we will probably go out for breakfast, and I will order huevos rancheros.
My hands are shaking with fatigue while I write this, physical and emotional. It has been a very difficult couple of weeks. My dear colleague of many years is retiring next month, and two other experienced teachers have given notice. I thought the new teachers I had hired were all set, but one of them told me yesterday afternoon that she "needs to think". She's expecting other offers. I pointed out that, after she formally accepted the job, I contacted the other candidates and told them that we would not be needing them. No matter how hard I try to square everything away so I can relax on vacation...
At the same time we were having this conversation, I discovered that the State Office of Education had made a huge error in the data I had been sending them, and were saying that there was nothing they could do to fix it. "Our analysis of this error shows that the test scores are no longer valid, because you dropped the students from your rolls on 6/30/08 at 10:39 PM, then entered their test scored at midnight on 6/30/08." I DID WHAT??? Why would I do that?? I sent an absolutely livid e-mail to them last night, telling them (among a lot of other things) that I was at home cleaning out closets at 10:39 PM on 6/30. I had entered that data well before that date. By this time it was way after midnight. I just cried. There's nothing I can do to fix anything at this point. I need to go away and get some rest. See? I've been ranting. It's a sure sign on impending madness.
The kids are calling. Time to go! Back in 10 days.