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Archive for August, 2011

My older son has his first day of middle school tomorrow. It’s a pretty momentous occasion in my book. He has a schedule and different teachers for every subject. Communication between parents and teachers won’t be as prevalent as it was in elementary school (no more Monday Letters or Folders). I’m excited for him, a little bit nervous, and a tiny bit scared. Everyone talks about how horrible middle school was. All those crazy hormones flying around. Children wanting more independence and parents unsure how much to allow. Mean girls. Bullies. Terrible teachers. It’s amazing any of us ever made it to high school!

And don’t get me started on the horrors brought about by misuse of  cell phones and social media – ugh.

Anyway, I personally enjoyed middle school. Yes, I know I’m a geek. But I loved reading actual books in English class, performing science experiments, and more challenging math classes. I also enjoyed going to electives. Well, not  gym – I always hated gym. In Middle School we also had art, Home Economics, and Industrial Arts. I remember going to music as well – chorus and orchestra – but not everyone participated in those.

I loved Home Economics (Home Ec.) and Industrial Arts (I.A.). These were so very different from art. In art they made me draw and I cannot draw at all. In fact I am so bad that every year I have to teach my Kindergarteners that it is not polite to laugh at my drawings.

In I.A. we manipulated wood through a jigsaw to make a bread board.  We heated and twisted iron to form a plant hanger.
And we melted and cut different colored plastic into things like a napkin holder and a pie server. Almost 30 years later the plant hanger holds a plant outside my parents’ house and the napkin holder still holds napkins in their kitchen. Occasionally the pie server is brought out, but I made the point so sharp my parents considered it to be more of lethal weapon than serving utensil.

In Home Ec. I learned to sew and cook – things my working mom didn’t have time to teach me. And while my mother could sew fairly well, I was probably better off not learning how to cook from her. The favorite Home Ec. recipe was monkey bread. I can smell the cinnamon wafting down the hall even as I type. Everyone who had Home Ec was popular on monkey bread day. Who knew that small balls of dough dipped in butter and rolled in cinnamon sugar could get the cute boy from math class to notice you? Even if it was only for a bite of monkey bread – when you’re 12 who cares!

I’m sure there were mean girls and bullies galore, but for the most part I was able to avoid them. I don’t know how. Probably because I was so shy and quiet back then most kids didn’t even realize I was there. I never aspired to be part of The Clique and therefore never suffered from ridicule and rejection when they didn’t want me. When I looked at who the cool girls were – they weren’t people I wanted as friends. I know this is the 42 year old me projecting back on 12 year old me, but it’s true. I had one or two friends and that was all I needed.

So on this eve of Middle School I have many hopes for my son:

I hope he maintains his strong sense of self, his courage, and his compassion.

I hope he finds a trusted group of friends.

I hope he keeps his wits about him.

I hope he laughs every day.

I hope he uses his sense of humor for good not evil.

I hope he enjoys the academic challenges and independence.

I hope he loves learning for learning’s sake.

I hope he finds that which brings him joy in life.

I hope he is never bullied or is a bully.

More importantly

I hope he stands up for those who are bullied.

Finally, I hope he finds the monkey bread of middle school.

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As I was looking at my Site Stats, I saw for the first time that I had options. I could view my stats By Day, By Week, By Month or Humanize. Intrigued as to what Humanized stats might look like, I clicked on it. Here is what it said:

Today you have had 2 views.

Two and three are the only two consecutive prime numbers. 2 is the first Sophie Germain prime, the first factorial prime, the first Lucas prime, and the first …

Other than feeling sad that I only had 2 views, I found this to be strangely coincidental. I couldn’t remember ever learning about Sophie Germain until last night when I was reading. I am currently reading The Square Root of Murder by Ada Madison.

I’d never heard of the book or the author prior to picking it up at Borders last month. It was an impulse buy. I was a math major in college so I was drawn to the term Square Root in the title. I occasionally enjoy a good mystery as well. The main character Sophie is a mathematics professor at a fictional college in Boston. She happens to be named after Sophie Germain.

Here’s a picture and some information from Wikipedia about Sophie Germain:

picture from wikipedia.com

Marie-Sophie Germain (April 1, 1776 – June 27, 1831) was a French mathematicianphysicist, and philosopher. Despite initial opposition from her parents and difficulties presented by a gender-biased society, she gained education from books in her father’s library and from correspondence with famous mathematicians such as Lagrange, Legendre, and Gauss. One of the pioneers of elasticity theory, she won the grand prize from the Paris Academy of Sciences for her essay on the subject. Her work on Fermat’s Last Theorem provided a foundation for mathematicians exploring the subject for hundreds of years after.[1] Because of her gender, she was unable to make a career out of mathematics, but worked independently throughout her life.[2]

I’m sure I must have learned about Sophie Germain during four years of studying mathematics in college. And I must have learned about Sophie Germain primes at some point.  According to wikipedia:
Sophie Germain prime is a prime p such that 2p + 1 is also prime.[47]
So 2 is a the first Sophie Germain prime since it is a prime and when you multiply by 2 and add 1 you get 5 which is also prime.  7 would not be a Sophie Germain prime because 2×7 + 1 = 15  which is not a prime number.
OK, sorry. I can get carried away by my nerdiness.
Anyway, yesterday I didn’t know anything about Sophie Germain and today I do. And now you do too!

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One blustery but sunny afternoon this summer we made plans to go to a small beach that was easily accessible for my in-laws. The boys, my sister-in-law, and I arrived first. Our first warning should have been the ease with which we found a parking space. We hauled all our paraphernalia out onto the beach fighting against the wind that was quite fierce. We figured once we sat next to the beach club fence we’d be OK. No such luck.

The wind was coming from the north and the sand by the water was being blown straight at us. As my son said, it felt like millions of needles being thrown at us. After about 10 seconds of this torture we headed back to the car.

With only a few days left on the island, I was not willing to miss a day at the beach no matter how strong the wind blew. We had to be smart. We decided to go to the south side of the island figuring the dunes would protect us and we’d still be able to sit in the sand and face the water. That’s all I wanted. And to read my book of course.

We went to a public beach – one with a lifeguard and a concession stand. Normally, we avoid the public beaches because of the crowds but on this day there was almost no one at the beach due to the wind.

The four of us had the most amazing day. My sister-in-law took a much needed nap. The boys and I went for a glorious swim watched over by lifeguards.  The kids found a dead shark that had washed ashore.  And the best part was our walk. The boys and I walked on a beach we had never been to before.

Just beyond the public beach but before the beach where those with 4-wheel drive vehicles and oversand permits go was a stretch of beach covered in quahog shells and moon shells. Having never seen so many in one place we gathered as many as we could carry. We thought a jar of moon shells would be pretty. And one can never have too many quahog shells.

Back from our walk I settled into my chair to read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s (AML) Gift from the Sea. I was feeling her connection to the sea so strongly that day, which isn’t difficult since the ocean fills my soul like no other part of nature. And then I came upon her second chapter, Moon Shell. How appropriate after our discovery. Moon shells remind AML of solitude. She goes on to address the desperate need for quiet and solitude in a busy world – especially for women who are always giving of themselves to others in the day to day requirements of being a wife and mother. Her words are more than relevant 56 years later when so many women work outside of the home as well.

But women need solitude in order to find again the true essence of themselves: that firm strand which will be the indispensable center of a whole web of human relationships. She must find that inner stillness which Charles Morgan describes as “the stilling of the soul within the activities of the mind and body so that it might be still as the axis of a revolving wheel is still (p. 45).”

The quest for quiet and solitude. Oh what joys they are when they are found. How difficult to squeeze them in amongst family life and teaching.

AML goes on to describe how modern conveniences freed up so much of a women’s time, yet eliminated time for contemplation and creativity which feed the soul.

Their very seclusion in the home gave them time alone. Many of their duties were conducive to a quiet contemplative drawing together of the self. They had more creative task to perform. Nothing feeds the center so much as creative work..(p.46).”

While I would never want to wash my clothes by hand and my lack of green thumbs precludes growing my own vegetables, I have found joy in baking my own bread or creating a quilt or scrapbook. Recently I have found writing this blog to be a contemplative and creative outlet. At least I had until this week.

I have started and stopped a bunch of posts this week without publishing one. I have been busy with school and my mind was not on writing but preparing for Thursday when students arrive. I know I need to keep writing. Writing provides time for quiet and contemplation, for clearing my head. I think writing will help keep me focused and centered when the demands of family life, teaching, and the boys’ after school activities take precedence.

Moon shell, who named you? Some intuitive woman I like to think. I shall give you another name-Island shell. I cannot live forever on my island. But I can take you back to my desk in Connecticut. You will sit there and fasten your single eye upon me. You will make me think, with your smooth circles winding inward to the tiny core, of the island I lived on for a few weeks. You will say to me “solitude.” You will remind me that I must try to be alone for part of each year, even a week or a few days; and for part of each day, even for an hour or a few minutes in order to keep my core, my center, my island-quality. You will remind me that unless I keep the island-quality intact somewhere within me, I will have little to give my husband, my children, my friends or the world at large (p. 51-52).

So like AML, I too will keep a moon shell on my desk. There it will sit to remind me of beautiful blustery day with my boys. It will remind me to find quiet and solitude even for a brief moment every day. And it will remind me to make time to write every day.

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Just breathe

I moved to Colorado fourteen years ago. The air is thinner here. Lighter. And I love it.

I love to have my windows open and truly dread winter when they are closed. On those days when the temperature reaches the 50’s, I release the old air and let in the new air.

In the heat of summer, my husband is always trying to have me close the windows during the heat of the day, but I would still rather have them open.

The boys and I visit my parents in New York every summer. Their house backs to a marsh. The air is oppressively heavy and thick. This summer the temperatures rose to over 100 degrees. My parents have central air conditioning and I hate it. They had it on the entire week we were there. Trying to beat the heat and humidity.

I don’t mind the air conditioning during the day. It’s the nighttime that is awful. Around 2 am the temperature outside is cooler. The air conditioning no longer goes on because the temperature has dropped. But my father insists we keep all the windows closed.

I toss and turn in my sleep, uncomfortable in the stuffy room. I feel as if I’m suffocating. I gasp for air like I did as an asthmatic child. Groggily I get out of bed. It’s so hot. I fumble through the dark and throw open all the windows in the room. The whoosh of fresh air washes over me. I crawl back to bed and sleep like a baby.

I count the minutes until I can return to Colorado. To dry air. To lighter air. To sleep with open windows and a fan. I may go to sleep without even a sheet, but by morning I am pulling the covers around me.

Fresh air.

——————————–

The inspiration for the post came from a post I read this morning about a woman’s relationship to the elements, Brea’s Air.

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Photo by Max Klingensmith

I walked into the classroom to find desks and chairs. Not a single book. Not a single curriculum guide. No paper, pencils, crayons or markers. Nothing. Just desks and chairs.

The school had been “blown up” the previous spring. The entire staff had been dismissed and all new teachers were hired. When I say all new, I mean approximately 85% of the teachers were brand new to teaching. 97% of the students qualified for free & reduced lunch. I was told that students would come to school with very few school supplies, if any.

Overwhelmed by the vast emptiness of my classroom I went shopping. I bought dozens of spiral notebooks and folders. Boxes and boxes of pencils, crayons, and markers. Bottles of glue. Twenty pairs of scissors. Anything I could find that was reasonably cheap. I bought post-it notes, index cards, Sharpies, paper clips and even chalk. I went to library book sales and tag sales buying as many books as I could find.  I bought bulletin board borders and classroom decorations to make my classroom look cheerful and conducive to learning rather than the dark, dismal basement room it was.

My son's fourth grade supplies

Hundreds of dollars later my classroom was ready. Hundreds of dollars I had not yet made because the school year had not yet started. Hundreds of dollars I spent when I wouldn’t receive my first paycheck until mid-September.

Not one cent of that money did I ever get back from the school. It’s a good thing I didn’t go into teaching for the money.

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Fortunately I teach in a school now where the majority of students can afford to bring in school supplies. I usually have a few parents who send in extra supplies for those who couldn’t and I truly appreciate those donations. Those few donations mean that I do not have to single out a child whose parents could not afford school supplies.

As you’re purchasing your children’s school supplies this year (or if you’re children are grown or yet to come), think about purchasing an extra box of crayons for 24 cents. Or a spiral notebook for 15 cents. A folder for 10 cents. For a few dollars you could purchase a notebook, a few folders, pencils, crayons and even a set of markers.

I’m sure your child’s school will appreciate the donations. For those of you without school-aged children, most stores like Target, Wal*Mart and grocery stores have donation bins set up to collect school supplies which are then sent out to various schools.

No, you probably won’t receive a thank you note in the mail for your donation. But know that your little act of kindness made a big difference for a child in school. I thank you for all of them.

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Pottermore!

After missing the Magical Quill every day so far because it was in the middle of the night, I found it today! Pretty easy question, though. I did not have to scroll through a bunch of pictures to find the Magical Quill as others have described. I just entered the answer and voila!

My username is MoonCrimson210 – they make you select from a few choices. I chose MoonCrimson because quirky little Luna Lovegood is one of my favorite characters.

Now I wonder what my patronus will be…

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August Angst

Edvard Munch's "The Scream"

Hello August,

You snuck up on me when I wasn’t looking, August. I was enjoying my summer. You didn’t have to come so early, I haven’t been idle. I’ve read 14 books. I traveled to Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. I swam in the Atlantic with my boys and some wave-loving harbor seals. I made a lot of Cool Whip pies. I visited with friends and family. I mourned the loss of my dog. So why do you have to come now?

It seems like just yesterday it was June. I’ve barely finished unpacking. I’m just beginning to settle back into our summer routine at home. And now you’re here. Oh, August please just wait another week?

Now that you’re here the search for school supplies begins – the perfect notebook, the cheapest markers, and jumbo sized book socks (whatever happened to brown paper bags?). New clothes and shoes must be bought and arguments over what’s appropriate for school will be fought. Registering for after school activities becomes overwhelming – how to get one child here and one child there? Oh, and I think I missed the deadline for soccer. It’s not my fault – August you came too soon!

My baby’s going to middle school. Can he really be that old already? I remember when he was starting Kindergarten. How have six years flown by? See, August – I’m not ready for you yet.

My classroom has a fresh coat of paint and new carpet. But unless I master wingardium leviosa my enormous book collection will take some time to reshelve. And the games. And the puzzles. And the flash cards (why do I have so many flash cards?). My desk is a mess. I can’t find my markers, but I have to write my students’ names five billion times in perfect Zaner-Bloser print. On felt, clothespins, sentence strips, name cards, envelopes, folders and these cute little dog bone cut-outs. The empty spaces in my plan book haunt me at night.  All because of you August.

I have five different To Do lists and they all seem to grow exponentially. My anxiety is rising. Insomnia hovers over my bed at night. Books and papers completely cover my coffee table. Please August. Just one more week.

I promise I’ll come quietly after that. I’ll welcome you with a smile on my face, a cheery new classroom and freshly sharpened pencils. Pinky swear!

Sincerely,

A Kindergarten teacher who truly loves her job but can’t believe how fast time flies

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