Sunday, March 28, 2010

There's even books in the bathroom.

A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, Indiana

My latest read is Zippy by Haven Kimmel.

It was great. A lovely, light-hearted account of growing up in a small town. You get some glimpses of the strange things in her life, but in all Zippy is totally happy, and it is just fun.

My favorite parts:
Zippy describes the family camping vacation and how her dad prepares.
"It took, quite literally, a whole day for my dad to prepare to go camping. The trailer had to be outfitted with supplies, and they all had to go in special tiny places, all facing the same direction; the truck had to be cleaned and gassed up and all the fluids checked and topped off; the hitch had to be stepped on seventy-four times to make sure it could handle the weight of the trailer; the trailer had to be connected to the hitch, which involved actually lifting the trailer off the ground and fitting it onto the ball."

I liked that description (and it goes on) because it reminded me of my dad. He's not as neurotic as Zippy's dad, but he is a super efficient packer, so we just stand back and let him load everything. Usually this starts early in the morning, and my dad will work for an hour getting everything in and placed just right. By that time (in the summers on the east coast) he is sweating and has to go have another shower before we can leave.

The other part I liked best was when Zippy describes memorizing poetry in 4th grade.
"The first poem I chose was Frost's 'Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,' and when I stood up to recite it I got through it marvelously, right up until the last line, 'and miles to go before I sleep,' repeats itself, and then I got intensely moved and just had to stand there with my throat aching while thirty-seven unsympathetic eyes stared at me. Finally I just ran over to my desk and put my head down, and Mrs. Denver walked over behind my desk and put her hand on my shoulder.
'Why does he do that?' I asked in a tight, mad voice, meaning why does he repeat the last line in that devilish way."

Great book, I totally recommend it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I'm a big girl. Tie my own sandals and everything.

My students are so entertaining. They were complaining about Saturday's snowfall, and I made some comment about shoveling the driveway. One student looked at me horrified, and then said, "Wait, aren't you married?"

I responded, "No. I'm not."

She said, "Oh, I was going to say, Where was your husband?"

The entire class erupted and decided that I need to get married so that I don't have to shovel my own driveway any more.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Bill! We're on defense!" "Whoa hoa hoa! I don't play defense."

March Madness
(I think you should just hit play here and let the song play while you read the rest of this post. )

I have a funny writing assignment. I only get to do it in March, because it is based on March Madness -- the most wonderful time of the year.

I have the students each set up a bracket (sometimes this takes some explaining, for those sad sad people who don't celebrate the holiday), picking a category and pitting anything they like against each other. Examples that I throw out are subjects like math and English, sodas like Coke and Pepsi, or the contents of one's purse, like lipstick and perfume (yeah, I don't know anyone who carries perfume, but maybe that is just because I'm not that kind of girl).

I had some really good stories last Friday. One student typed hers up and gave it to me, and I simply can't resist sharing it with you.

English vs. Band
The day finally came, English is taking on Band. The two teams were ready and standing on the Chiefs stadium. Each team could use whatever weapon they desired. The referee who was Dwayne the Rock Johnson took his place center field. As soon as he said go both teams came charging at each other. All of a sudden the Band team started shooting flutes and mallets out of the cannons. The English teams were not surprised and pulled out their giant staplers shooting them towards the other team. Oh no there goes the wind section, they all were hit by ink from the pen section from the English team. The pencil section had been crushed by the drum line. It finally came down to the captains of the teams, Band director Erica G--- from F--- O--- High and English teacher Emily M--- from B--- R---. They were each fighting each other, one with a piton in her hand and the other with a red ink pen. All of a sudden the Band captain said something so outrageous and using bad grammar it made Emily spitting mad. She crouched down and got ready to attack with foam coming from her mouth. Then the Band director said it again, "Yawl don't have no mercy on me." That was it, Emily jumped her hitting her with the pen yelling that's bad grammar and a double negative over and over again. Finally she pinned the Band director to the ground and put a giant F on her forehead. "I hate when people use bad grammar," said Emily, "do not ever do it again." The Band director tried to get up, but she couldn't, she was badly beaten. "Winner Team English," said the Rock. From that day on every student in Emily's class always used proper grammar.

Note: I decided names should be removed to protect the innocent.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Smee, flunk the maggot.

I am in the process of training to teach classes online. As part of the process, I am reviewing an online course. Here is what the syllabus says:

Final Grades are calculated using the following formula:

I can just imagine the look on my students' faces!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Florals? For spring? Ground breaking.

Welcome to Spring:
I feel like there should be a happy spring song, that just defies the 4 inches of snow on my patio. Oh well. I had a happy project Saturday to show my defiance of the snow. And bring on spring.

These are my seeds. I planted tomatoes, lettuce, parsley, basil, and flowers yesterday. I will report back and let you know how they grow.

Maybe at some point, Missouri will have some sunshine and they will be able to grow.

I went to a community ed class. It was called bookbinding, but the project was to make little journals in the style of the Moleskin notebooks.

It was a big project that took quite a long time. It wasn't all that labor intensive, but we were in the instructor's basement, which was really his garage, so it was even colder than a normal basement. At the end of 4 hours, I was frozen solid and thought I would never be able to feel my feet again.

There was one older man in the class and we got about halfway through, and he just kept sighing, "Ohh, OK." That made the instructor worry about him, and the old man was just like, "No, but this is a lot of work, and suddenly those moleskin journals are looking pretty good for $20."

But look, my journal is super cute.
Posted by Picasa

And to finish off the happy project-ness, I tried the dessert class cake again. If you would like the whole discussion of cake, head over to my other blog.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Hey look, he's trained! Shake.

I am doing some training with work so that I can teach online classes. I just realized that I read the same sentence 5 times and I still don't know what it said.

My solution: Walk up and down the hallway 5 times. Sit back down and start a new blog post.

Today I walked into class and had about half the class in attendance. I looked around and one of the students said, "Yeah, I don't think there will be many people here today." And another said, "Why?" "Because yesterday was St. Patrick's day."

So I laughed and said, "Oh, are you all the non-green-beer-drinking crowd?"

They all said yes.

Then a student walked in and walked over to me and said, "How long do I have to stay so that you won't count me absent?"

I just looked at him for a minute. Then I said, "Seriously? Just leave then."

He responded, "No I want to be in class, but I have things I have to do."

"Ok. Go ahead."

He stood and deliberated for five minutes, and then started talking about the NCAA tournament. He had four brackets with him. I was like what did you do? Pick four different teams to win?

He left, and one of the girls just starting laughing and said, "So his 'things to do' are to go home and sit on the couch and watch basketball? That's hilarious!" Everyone was laughing.

Then he stuck his head back in the door and said, "No I am not going home to sit on the couch. I'm going downtown to watch the games."

Not less hilarious.

While I was home over spring break, I was singing something and totally made up the words. Of course everyone corrected me. So I just had to tell the story about Heather when she came to visit me.

She kept saying she had a song stuck in her head, and then she would sing a little bit of it. That promptly made it stick in my head, so I just started singing it out loud and got to the chorus and she said is that what he says?

Heather's version:
Like my eyeball stuck on replay, replay-ay-ay-ay

This brought up all kinds of funny stories about misunderstand lyrics.
My fav:

"Bright young women, sick of swimming" becomes "Pregnant women. Sick of swimming."

This brings me to another story about Heather's visit.

Some background. I live in a suburban neighborhood. So much so that when my former roommate came to see my house for the first time she said, "Ugh. Looks like an army base." And I thought, yup, you can live in the ghetto if you like. I like this.

Heather and I jumped in the car to head out somewhere and drove down the street. Suddenly the car was attacked by two gi-normous wild turkeys! They ran towards us and then started flapping their wings and took flight, barely clearing the roof of the car.

Now before you start thinking that I am crazy. I lived in the mountains of North Carolina. I've seen wild turkeys. These were definitely wild turkeys that could barely fly because they were so huge.

My little suburbia is being overrun by wild animals.

While I was home for break, we skyped Carla. Then we watched the Academy Awards.

Watch how Meryl Streep laughs. She laughs just like Carla. So for those of you who read Carla's blog, every time she writes haha, just thinking about her throwing her head back and laughing.

My other activity during Spring Break was to go to a conference. Now it's a conference, so you are supposed to hobnob and schmooze and talk to people. A guy started talking to me while we were looking at a poster presentation, we both teach English, so we exchanged cards.

I got home and he had facebook friended me. I thought whatever and so I confirmed.

Now I don't facebook stalk. I'm not interested in looking through all of someone's photos. I don't really care who posts on their wall. I'm just not interested. And so I forget that that is what other people do.

His post on my wall (where all my proper friends in my normal life can see it), a mere 2 hours after I accepted the request, was "Wow, great family pics. You have such a big family! I'm from a catholic family so I have six siblings too. Awesome!"

I feel gross knowing that he looked through all of my pictures.

Yes, the irony of the fact that I am writing this on a public blog that can be viewed by anyone with an internet connection doesn't escape me.

I was driving downtown yesterday. I was going to a new place, so I just googled directions. It took me through an area I knew to an area that I didn't.

Which leads us to a new segment. I like to call it: You Know You Are In A Scary Part of Town When...
There are bars on the windows of the Family Dollar.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

How can you read this? There's no pictures.

Ah... a break and the opportunity to read some books.

I'll post some other stuff about my great spring break later. But first, just some regular old book reviews.

My mom and younger sister and I were walking around the lake, and my mom asked, "What is the best book you read this year?" Honestly that question required a lot of thought, simply because I can't remember all the books I read this year. I was only able to think of the ones I have read since Christmas. Which just seems sad and pathetic. So this is my new way of keeping track.

The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty
The Center of Everything : A Novel
Summary: A young girl grows up in a small town in Kansas. She faces various difficulties because of her family (a single mom) and her friends. She tries to figure out who she is and stay true to herself.
Review: Good premise. The book sucked. The writing was really really uneven, especially at the beginning. The whole life of this girl was just pathetic and wound up being simply predictable and boring.

Brida by Paulo Coelho
Brida: A Novel (P.S.)
Summary: A young girl goes on a journey to find magic, and is trained as a witch. Basically this is a philosophical treatise on magic, love, and soulmates.
Review: Eh. If you like that sort of thing. I liked the Alchemist by Coelho, which is why I picked this one up. I know that book had a lot of philosophizing, but I felt like there was a developed story. This one did not have a developed story to move the philosophizing forward, so I thought it was really flat, and not that great.

The Prize Winner by Terry Ryan
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less
Summary: A memoir-style written about the author's mother, who entered contests in the 1950's and 60's to write jingles, limericks and 25 words or less. She raised her family of 10 kids on the winnings from the contests.
Review: Fabulous. Funny, touching, and well-written. It was a quick and entertaining read.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Heid! Move!

My students are being hilarious this week. And really, what's the use of good hilarity if you can't share.

Class number 1
Yesterday, I walked in and they were practically comatose. I sighed and tried to make up for it by being more interesting. Then I made them read a bit. We were discussing thesis sentences, so I asked them for a topic to write about.

One said, "Food."

The other students immediately start talking. One is going on and on about a chili cheese coney. One is talking about McDonald's french fries. That starts another talking about cheesy fries.

In the middle of all this, the student who first suggested food makes a strange movement, and then gets up and switches his chair with the one next to him. I looked at him and was just said, "Are you ok?" Because it's a little odd to switch your chair in the middle of class. He said, "It just broke."

Everyone busted up laughing, because he seriously did break the chair.

After a minute we go back to food. And one of the students says to me, "You eat really healthy don't you?" I responded, "Well, yeah."

"You're a vegetarian, aren't you. You look like a vegetarian!" he proclaimed.

I thought for a minute, and then said, "You're just saying that because I don't break the chairs aren't you?"

"Nah, if I didn't eat any meat I'd be as skinny as you."

Class number 2
Today I went into my class, and the topic of discussion was Steven Johnson's book Everything Bad is Good For You. If you didn't read that in college, he says that everyone claims popular media is bad, rots your brain and all of that, but in reality our popular media is getting more complex and making us smarter. Our section focused specifically on video games.

After a half hour of really good discussion, someone brought up the games on Facebook, and that was the end of the good discussion. After Facebook was mentioned everyone jumped in with yeah, my mom is on Facebook now, and groups, and fan pages.

A student mentioned that he had a Facebook friend become a fan of "the cool side of the pillow." And another student immediately jumped in with info about a new invention that keeps your pillow continually cool. And that it's basically the best thing ever.

I said that I had in fact seen that. But I thought it was just totally weird, because I don't have that problem.

Everyone just stared at me. And then he said, "Well, you have a little head. There are more places on the pillow for it to go."

I really didn't have a response to that.

Another student called him out on it, and he was like, "It could have been worse, I could have said she has a huge head like me."

I started cracking up, thinking of this scene:

Fortunately this student is my age. So when I said, "It has it's own weather system," he responded with "That boy's head's like Sputnik!"

Good day.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Finishing that 5K was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I ate more fettuccini alfredo, and drank less water than I have in my entire life.



The Olympics officially ended last night with the closing ceremonies. Was anyone else totally bored? I thought the music was bad in the opening ceremonies, but this was way worse. Fortunately Heather called me after I watched about an hour, so then I shut it off. According to the radio this morning, all I missed were dancing beavers.

Fortunately, I used a little Olympic viewing time on Friday and a little of the closing ceremonies and I finished my afghan.

I have to say, I am so glad I picked a 5 1/2 hour project. Because it took way longer than that. If it had actually been labeled a 10 hour project I never would have finished during the Olympics. But thanks Liz, I never would have done a new blanket without the challenge.

Also finished: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Help

It is so good. If you haven't heard of it, it tells the stories of black maids in Mississippi in the 1960s. I highly recommend it. It was a great story, really well-written, and the kind of story that I was really sad when it ended because I felt like the characters were my friends. And my mom and Heather do too.