Friday, December 23, 2005

December 23, 2005,

We woke at the Ramada Inn in Kodak Tennessee, near Gatlinburg. Our intention was to spend the day at Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s Tennessee theme park. Unfortunately the park did not open until 2:00, and had most of its neatest activities after dark. Staying to enjoy the parade and fireworks would have gotten us to Little Rock after 3:00 A.M. and it would have been hard to leave before they started, so we made other plans.

The area offers an enormous array of family friendly activities, everything from old fashioned amusement parks and minature golf courses to race tracks, an aquarium, and museums dedicated to subjects as diverse as veterans, knifes and dinosaurs. But for us, the premier attraction was Smoky Mountains National Park. On this cold morning we drove through icicle crusted cliffs into the appropriately smoky looking mountains to find Laurel Falls Trail. During a quick stop at the park visitor’s center Zachary, whose Daddy calls him Little Bear, surprised us by instantly spotting, identifying by name and running to the full grown stuffed black bear on exhibit behind glass.

At the Laurel Falls trail head, bundled up, the boys in gloves and hats, we crossed the highway to the trailhead where a sign announced “DANGER, falling deaths have occurred here. Keep strict control of your children!” We were a bit daunted, since the brochure Bob found at the motel had described this trail as “Very easy and wheel chair accessible”/ We talked to the boys about the sign and got agreement from both of them to hold an adult hand at all times. This had worked on the Louisiana boardwalk, so we trusted them and sallied forth.

The paved trail, 2/5 mile round trip. Took us uphill through a winter wood past mountain laurel, rhododendron and pine, all still green and a thick ,maze of bare maple, sumac, and dogwood. Danny loved finding the numbered nature trail markers, at each of which Bob read aloud about some feature of the terrain. We learned that lichen erode rocks and were alerted to the mountain view through a picture window in the trees. We found pine needles on the trail and Danny practiced identifying pine trees and learned the word “evergreen” as well as two more nature words “lichen” and “moss” He was also the first to hear the waterfall, our destination.

Laurel Falls, partially frozen into tangled pillars of ice, running freely in the middle, was a lovely culmination of our uphill walk.. Sixty feet in height, Laurel Falls towered above and tumbled below the bridge on which we stood. Bob pronounced it a “beautiful small waterfall”. All the way up and down the mountain, both boys were great hikers, bright eyed with curiosity and mindful of the dangers of steep drop offs. Both of them took pleasure in touching trees and rocks. Hiking with them was a joy – to be repearted many times this spring we hope.

After leaving the national park, the country’s most heavily used and free to the public since being bought by the states of Tennesssee and North Carolina/, we took the boys to a small museum which features Jurassic Park style life size models of dinosaurs. When Zachary first heard the roar from the twenty foot high T rex which loomed above us,, he practically jumped into Bob’s arms, as Danny had when he first visited this museum two years ago. Soon Zach’s natural courage reemerged and he approached and touched both the T Rex and the 30 foot long crocodile. Danny found over a dozen small flying dinosaurs and correctly noted which dinosaurs lived in the ocean based on whether they had flippers.

Riding through Tennessee at dusk we saw a Confederate flag flying from a stone tower and discussed the racist history of Tennessee, birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. A few miles down the road we stopped for supper at a Burger King with a play ground and happened upon an extended family’s birthday party for four of its children. The family members ranged from blondest pale nine year old through every shade of bronze and mocha. They were also very friendly and shared their birthday cake with the boys, who greatly enjoyed it.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My day started with birthday greetings at the breakfast table in Blacksburg. Ruth, Chris and Heidi had already left (in the virtual middle of the night) for early flights home. Sara and Fred Reed, Aunt Inez and Hazel visited until near lunch time, with breakfast table conversations topics ranging from family values on education to the fee and referral structures of the health care system today. Bob and I were in and out of the room as I worked on our laundry and packing and he copied the video from the wedding onto DVD so that Sarah and Peter can take it with him to show his family when they leave for Peru right after Christmas. During the afternoon Bob, Bill and I took the boys to Chik Filet so they could play on the indoor playgroud while we had a great visit. After supper the video was finished and we said our good-byes and bundled into the car for the long road home.

I am fifty five today. I don't know what that means really - what if any values to attach to having attained this particular age. When I free associate on a writing exercise, my thoughts about my age chrystalize a bit.

I am standing in a doorway. 55 is a doorway. Behind me lies a full house, generations of rocking chairs and china figurines, my grandmother's rice pot with a lid Daddy banged like a cymbol, against what I'll never know since everyone who could remember is dead. Behind me lie the rooms where I conceived my babies, rocked and nursed them, played board games on ancient green shag carpet and fought over potential piercings. Behind me lie the memories of their father, tossing pickle princesses in the air, rubbing their tummies on his head, singing along with Gordon Lightfoot or Don Williams. He died at 36. Who would he have been at 55? Who am I? Would he know me?

Behind me stands the house we bought with love, watched burn in terror, rebuilt, remodeled, the house Bob and I reclaimed as our family changed, remodeled again, chose to keep as our home. Before me, the sidewalk is familiar, and the street. But change is in the air - mist conceals mysteries - I cannot turn back, cannot pretend to be able to replay past chapters - no more babies at 55, no fantasies of adoption. Grandchildren run, tumble, leap around my feet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Wedding day dawned cold and crisp, and proceeded at a quick but not frantic pace as Ruth bought the few napkins we still needed for the reception, and all of us dressed and primped. Putting the two little snowflake boys into their brand new suits was less or a production than I expected (one way boys are easer than girls). The pace was more frantic at the bride's house, I’m sure, as evidenced by her DadÂ’s statement, about two hours before the wedding, that he couldn't find a free bedroom or bathroom at home in which to change clothes.

The wedding was beautiful. The bridesmaids' outfits epitomized the blending of American and Peruvian cultures. They wore layered silky golden skirts, very fashionable in the US right now, with gorgeous deep red ponchos PeterÂ’s sister sent from Peru. The effect was graceful and elegant. Sarah, in a simply elegant white gown and her motherÂ’s wedding veil and Peter, whose smile was so bright I barely noticed his attire, vowed their troth with passion and tenderness.

Danny and Zachary, dapper in their suits once Danny got it that the tie is worn INSIDE the jacket, added to the procession. Danny scattered snowflakes from his basket as planned and Zach trailed his big brother, snowflakes remaining in the basket. They paved the way, without a hitch for the beautiful bride.

Sarah and Peter pledged their love to each other and their faith to God. Open prayers of the people tied the two people marrying to the world community as well as the community gathered in the chapel of SarahÂ’s childhood church.

The reception was fun. Danny and even Zachary surprised me with their ability to begin to learn some dance steps from their grown cousins. Watching reminded me of my own childhood – dancing in the SPJST hall – Czech Fraternal organization outside West. We kids danced among the grownups – learned from them, bothered them, delighted them. Everybody danced and you didn’t worry about being good at it any more than you worried about being good at walking. Now at Sarah’s wedding, the dancers were very, very good – but the feeling of dance as part of life reminded me of my own childhood.

The international flavor of Sarah and Peter’s community was exciting, and its warmth reassuring. They are loved by friends as well as family – will have the support they need to meet whatever life dishes out. On the family side, they are fortunate in the number of happy intact long term marriages in their parents’ and grandparents’ generation. Love filled the transformed church hall tonight – a night of celebration

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

In Jewish tradition the wedding procession has a deep and beautiful symbolism. In the old days, the village days, in Europe the bride’s and groom’s families walked with them from their houses to the synagogue – accompanying, blessing, and supporting the new couple as they move from their past histories into a shared future. It’s a symbolism I love, and one that was moved me deeply at Ruth’s wedding when Bob and I walked with her through a meadow of flowers to meet Chris and walk on toward the Chuppa with him. A similar meaning was expressed in a completely different way today as Sarah and Peter were helped by friends and family to transform the chapel and community hall of Sarah”s childhood church into a winter wonderland sprigged with snowflakes and reflecting Peruvian culture in rich colors and weaving.

When Ruth and I arrived in the morning the church basement was just a church basement – mix-matched chairs in the hall, high chairs from Head Start stored on the stage, table cloths and napkins still in their plastic, the giant banner meant to hang over the alter still unhung. Friends and family worked all day – changing out old chairs with the new chairs delivered to the church, arranging tables and flowers, and setting tables with brightly woven Peruvian cloths, holly and and cedar from Sarah’s childhood yard, and pottery candle holders Sarah had lovingly made as favors for her guests. Parents, friends, grandparents, Sarah.s sisters and Peter’s brother, aunts uncles and cousins all ironed, hauled, draped tulle, folded napkins, played music, and took video. In the end the chuch hall was transformed. More importantly Sarah and Peter were supported by their community as they prepared for the important transition of marriage.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Today I enjoyed being in the classroom with Bob. I think he's turning a corner with the fifth graders, though I know he is still frustrated with how often he has to tell them to be quiet. I had fun working with the newsletter team creating a small newsletter to be given out to the whole school. Writing a newsletter was a goal several of these kids had stated when Bob took over the class and they were proud to achieve it today. The kids were really excited and worked hard to get details right, to find their voices. They were delightfully young - excited about voting on names for the Newsletter and on the color paper they would print it on (a pale yellow) What follows is the "Menger Megaphone, as they wrote it with my help.

The Menger Megaphone


The Cheetahs are our Menger running team. Third, fourth and fifth graders can join the Cheetahs. Coach Medina is our coach. We practice from 3:15 to 4:00 Monday through Thursday, and sometimes on Saturday. We run races and we run very hard. It's great exercise. We like running. It feels good to be on a team. If you want to join Cheetahs, ask Coach Medina.
Alexandra Sanchez

Spelling Bee

Some of Menger’s best spellers competed in a spelling bee which finished up on December fourteenth. The first round was held in the cafeteria, and later rounds were held in Ms. Henna’s room. We were eager to see who would be the best speller. It was a close contest between Alyssa Garcia and Cody Spier, but Cody won. The winning word was “swallow” Both Cody and Marissa will go on to the city competition, with Cody spelling and Marissa as alternate. We wish them luck in moving on to the state spelling bee.
Richie Haas

Fundraising Time

Fundraising is big this year at Menger Elementary. Almost everyone is selling something to raise money for field trips. Our fourth graders are selling flavored popcorn for $1.00 a bag. This reporter likes the white cheddar best. You can buy popcorn in any fourth grade class. Fifth graders are selling World’s Finest Chocolate bars for $1.00 each. You can buy a bar from any fifth grader holding a white box of candy. Do popcorn and chocolate sound yummy? If so, bring money.
Alyssa Garcia
Sabreena Garza

Football Championship

The Menger football team was unstoppable. We had seven wins and no losses. In the final win against the Vikings, the Cowboys had 24 points to the Vikings 22. We were all excited when we won and even Coach Medina was so excited he jumped up in the air. Coach Medina had a video camera and got the game on tape. We took pictures after the game and then got our first place medals. We are proud of our football team.
Marcus Garcia

Choir Update

The Menger choir sang at the PTA meeting on December 8, 2005. After the first grade performed it was time for the choir kids to go on. As we approached the stage the flag fell and almost hit some people in the audience! The choir went on anyway and sang “Survive” and “Up on the Rooftop, The Rap”. The fifth grade girls sang a song with bells and the boys in the front row entertained the audience by playing air guitar. The concert ended with the arrival of our special guest, Santa Claus, who gave out candy canes and chocolate.

On Friday morning, December 9 at 9:00 the choir left on our field trip, excited to travel from place to place, singing our hearts out. We were most excited about our final stop, the port, our school’s adopter. The people at the port loved our songs and gave us a treat of Christmas cookies. After singing at the port we got an even bigger treat. We went to Peter Piper Pizza and played games. The day of the choir trip was a thrilling day.
Marissa Sanchez

Fall Fest

Fall Fest was great. Everyone was there (well, almost). The people who came had a blast. Some
people came in costume or with spray painted hair. You could throw a pie at some V.I.P.s including our principal, Ms. Wilson Ferris. People enjoyed the moon walk, the cake walk and eating nachos, pickles, pizza, and candy.
Richie Haas

Red Ribbon Picnic

The Red Ribbon Picnic took place on Friday, October 28 to remind us how important it is not to use drugs. Everyone had fun eating with friends and family. Our parents brought our favorite foods. Scruffy the detective dog came and danced with us. It was a big treat. This reporter had a very good time.
Alyssa Garcia

Megaphone Staff

Alexandria Sanchez, editor and reporter
Alyssa Garcia, reporter
Marcus Garcia, reporter
Saleena Garza, reporter
Richie Haas, reporter, photographer
Angelica Mendoza, reporter
Marisa Sanchez, reporter

Monday, November 07, 2005

This season is hard. I keep reminding myself of the cosmic AND. Life is hard AND life is good.

Our version of hard isn't about life or death or putting babies to bed without their stomachs full (or even without the best dance clases in town). All of our basic needs are met. We have love all around us - and still I struggle with frustration. I want to be able to keep everyone I love perfectly healthy and happy all the time.

No way - of course!

Danny is having vision problems which he (and we) hoped glasses would correct, but last week an eye exam proved him virtually blind in one eye (20-20 last year). We don't know what happend and he's on the waiting list to see a specialist, but the list is too long - at this point the appointment is in January. I have to fight not imagining something awful going on in his little brain - and I am fighting that concern. He is learning and growing, his usual happy self- gives the best hugs.

Ruth had a frustrating time with a football photo job that she knew wasn't a match - and I know she is a grown woman and can handle frustration - but she's my Baby Ruth and she shouldn't have to deal with anything hard. Ever. My rational self is very proud of how hard she is working to salvage this challenge.

As I am proud of James and Joanna for working as hard as they are to keep their little family thriving - and I don't want them to have to work so hard either.


Bob is sick with a fever and too far away in Corpus and struggling with the fifth grade even healthy. He had grades due today and was behind. He was also up for evaluation this morning and has been struggling to keep the class engaged and listening, learning. He talks about needing to yell to get their atention and feeling guilty about yelling - about feeling a lack of personal respect from many of the kids. He does like some of the kides very much and sees that they like him. He was so happy in second grade, really feeling like he was making a difference and clearly doing so. Now I keep looking for silver linings - that his special gifts in math and science make fifth grade a good match- but it sure doesn't feel that way to him. I am afraid to just sympathize, to see the change to fifth grade as a bad thing and support him in face of a clear bad thing. I am afraid to respond with sympathy to almost any circumstance - to myself as well as to others. I think right now my need to find a way to make every circumstance good may be working against Bob's comfort, against what is best for us. I want to relax a little and just let this time be hard, but that relaxing scares me. Personal change is so hard!

On the other side of the AND - the grandkids are a delight. KK seems to have burst through her reading block, read me the last four chapters of Knight at Dawn yesterday with confidence and without struggle - just wanted to see how the story ended! I'm so proud of her. She is also of an age to ask questions like "What's a law suit?" in the context of a movie about protest, which is challenging and fun. Danny is so proud to be able to spell and sound out words, counting everything in sight, growing week by week. Zachy is a total trip. He and I walked to the park this morning and experienced fall literally - acorns on our heads, magnolia seed pods and pecans with the leaves under our fet. He was full of questions about all this cool stuff suddenly falling out of the trees. He keeps me fresh and curious. They all do.

Monday, October 24, 2005

I don't feel profound tonight, but it is time to record a bit of the pace here. bob seems a little happier with his class. he is letting them join him for lunch three ata ime and is getting to know them that way. He also is getting a better sense of appropriate pacing and lesson plans. I had fun at the park with Zachary this morning - first time with coats. He was an entranced observer or an elementary school field trip, knew enough to stay out tof the big kids' way and watched everything they did. We watched Kk's character dance class on Saturday - such serious classes now - emphasis on geting it all right, all down - French words for positions, the beat, the body stance - I'm impressed with the concentration of all the kids - and KK especially - so right there.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Lately I've been reading March of Dime share logs, the stories of families with very premature babies. I started reading looking for voluneteer opportunities, but now am caught in the pain and tenderness of these families stories - the hurt and the hope. I realise anew how fragile life is and how precious. And I am, again, thinkful that I carried Ruth, despite placenta previa, to a month before her due date. These stories make me realise how close we came to a frightening struggle - how close to losing her. I'm thankful for Ruth tonight.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The moon did rise in perfect harvest moon glory - blood red, then blowing up and floating like a child's orange ballon, next clear pumpkin orange, then the color of candy corn, lemon yellow, flaxen, finally high and silver. Glorious.
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Full moon tonight - I plan to eat out in the yard on the orange bench that used to be on my grandparents' back porch. Not exactly traditional for the first night of Sukkoth (no sukkah and I don't feel inclined to walk up the hill to the community sukkoh) but at least out doors. The air is clear with the slanted light appropriate to October though the temperature is ten degrees higher than my October ideal (80's not low 70's this afternoon) Leaves are looking old and gold tinged, waiting to fall. I wonder if the moon will rise orange.
I am in full grandma mode. KK will be a mouse in the Nutcracker this year, one of five at her level - a little more serious choreography than last year as an angel. She and I get the treat of going to Ballet Austin's costume ball for Petit Partners - the kids whose families make a small contribution each year in their names. All are young dancers - most pretty serious, and its a fun group. I love dressing up and being entertained. KK will be a white cat and I think I will stick with my black dress and orange boa but may try something more elaborate. I've been accompanying KK to Saturday classes and rehearsals and love the routine - traveling with her on the city bus, picnics between classes, stopping for shaved ice on the way to the bus stop when she's done, watching her stretch in the hall and adjust her hair, watching her grow and thrive - knowing her and being part of the network that helps her do what she loves -dance.
Monday mornings Zach - three - visits. Today we went to Northwest Park, as we often do - so perfect - I sat on a bench in the cool alternately watching the kids and reading - probably the same bench I sat on when Ruth and Joanna played at the same park. Zach came flapping his arms to be fed Chex Mix - Zachy bird - then ran off to climb and laugh with other kids. He is so much fun these days - no tantrums likehe threw last year, easy communication, clear affection. He is beginning to recognise letters and uses increasingly complex sentences.
Yesterday afternoon I had all theree kids and it was Danny who shone, with his imagination and creative skills, his social connection with kids at the park, his sweetness and awareness. He had them playing an elaborate dressed up game in the back yard - king, princess and bad guy - classic. I called them in at dark and fed them pumpkin pudding. It was an afternoon that reflected the best times raising my own girls.
I am so fortunate to have these children close. Some days I wish every day was a Monday - a day without work and with both family time and time alone. Retirement seems so idyllic but I know I'm not ready yet financially or in terms of feeling done regarding the practice and what I can contribute there. Work days are still good, satisfying, not too hard - but Mondays are special and mine and I need them.
Bob is trying hard not to be disappointed with the change to fifth grade. He has great kids but still feels uprooted and unprepared, is trying not to resent being forced to make the change. I'm glad he has a whole week off at Thanksgiving and we have no special plans. I hope we get some hiking in. I think that will help him feel refreshed and ready to continue with his class.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Home late from my long weekend with Bob in Corpus - should sleep - but there is so much to record. I'll hit the highlights so I don't forget and expand later, after sleep. Bus trip down was odd - OU football weekend, buses even going south crowded - the bus overheating, turning around, the driver threatening to throw off a man who kept cussing loudly - but eventually stopped, a couple across the aisle from me meeting for the first time on the bus (clear from their conversation) and then making out vigorously most of hte way from San Antonio to Corpus . She had a wedding ring on. I was shocked and distressed and judgemental. on the other end of human nature, I talked to a young man who had been transfered from Tulane to UT after Katrina and who was impressed with how well the University is taking care of him - just took three hours to get registered, books, housing, everything arranged, and he loves his classes.

Bob and I organized his class room during the work day Saturday, watched the end of the OU game, we out Itallian, enjoyed some wetlands birding and walking Lobo by the bay at sunset We, started Sunday in the Gulf - glassy calm, no waves to speak of - walked out farther than we ever have, from sand bar to sandbar, turned when it gor over our heads . Today the waves were more acive and a storm was blowing up as we walked the shore through a convention of terns, Foresters, sandwich, Caspian, Royal, gull billed - as well as willet, Gulls, great blue heron, sanderling and ruddy turnstones. At the Port Aransas birding center we clibed the tower and were treated by a glorious view of birds - white ibis, cormorants, redwinged black birds, pelicans white and brown, egrets snowy and Great American - but mostly dozens of deeply roseate spoonbills, flapping and feeding, active and GLORIOUS. The shrimp has been good this year, as evidenced in the brightness of their feathers.

And then there's the fifth grade. I met the kids today and I jus want to spread my wings around all of them - an age I especially like and these kids touched me - sharing vulnerable writings with me already, asking serious, deep questions about my novel plot, and technical writing questions - one I couldn't answer about how to punctuate sound effects. The fifth grade class was on lock down because twins (one in each class) had been threatened over the weekend by their father in process of a difficult divorce. Bob is still feeling the wight of the task of changing grades - but I sure like these kids. we both miss the little ones, several of whom hugged us in the halls.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

My experience of being between seasons this morning at the bus stop was physical and powerful. The wind from the north, cool and brisk, bleww against my face while summer's stubborn sun, from the south, warmed my back. I felt myself in a doorway, a pocket between realities, a clear space neither this nor that - and worth recording.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Wednesday afternoon at work. Zachary got a boy hair cut yesterday - no more wild blond curls on his shoulders - still huge blue eyes and warrior spirit - himself. I miss the curls. I am trying to move thoughtfully through the High Holy Days - to catch up on tasks undone and to reflect on goals and directions. Mostly I want to be kind and present - to live with enough discipline to accomplish some creation and some service - to love and be loved.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Jewish New Year - feast of sweetness, birthday of earth and hope - wake up call - umpteenth chance - the book of life is open and we are invited to open our own personal books of accounting and recounting. I feel reflective, quiet - discouraged by all the harm people do each other, by the persistance of war and mistrust on levels global and personal. I am aware of the impermanance of life and human creation, whether from hurricaine or from accident (a high school boy killed last week when he rode his bike toward school because of a bus strike and was hit b y a cement truck). I am more comfortable now that my life is past midpoint, that it will wind down, will end. It is rich now. I have so many blessings (three of which still fit on my lap at one time if we squish). I cleaned the house and smile at a bow of apples on the table, fresh flowers. I owe apologies, outreach, continued efforts to heal what is broken in the world. I dip my apple in honey and remember the sweet, even as the bitter scent of misery lingers in the air. I begin again.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

KK and I had a precious ballet weekend - just us while Joanna worked and James took a truckload of furniture and the boys down to Bob in Corpus. KK had two ballet classes and a Nutcracker audition on Saturday and we got to see Stephen Mills' new ballet performed by Ballet Austin on Sunday - a strongly beautiful piece about grace of body. KK is really showing grace of body and spirit herself - in blue velvet or leotard and tights, with her chignon tight (and self made) at the nape of her neck - her posture perfect - using waiting time in the hall outside class to stretch with her therabands - pinning her audition number carefully on her leotart, making sure its straght - wanting to be safely early for the audition - then after audition joyfully showing me dances on the sidewalk, skittering like a mouse, gliding like an angel, grinning over a cup of rootbeer cinnamon shaved ice. It was great having time to just hang out with KK, to eat pizza and play Uno, to talk and laugh, tickle and watch gymnastics moves in the livingroom (temporarily couchless). We also worked on her travels with grandparents scrapbook. I'm impressed with her clarity on which papers she wants to use and her strong style sense as she arranges mementos - also by her memory for our travels. (Thank you Bob for bringing the concept of amazing travel adventures to our family. That's one I wouldn't have pulled off alone.) I love having time alone with any family member and this weekend with KK was a special gift. I feel like we are coming to know each other more deeply and I love it that she is becoming more interested in my stories of the times when her Mama and Auntie were little.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The heat wave has broken - 70 outside, cloudy and windy, probably won't get out of the seventies today and the low tonight will be sixty. I'm not usually a reporter of weather, but after a first week of fall with highs well into the hundreds the change feels signigicant - like a spell has been broken. I'm actually looking forward to my walk to the bus stop this morning. My life right now is in a centering mode - an attempt to find balance (Do it now), every day crossing one or two tasks off a list of things I got behind on, preparing to deep clean the house and change decorations for fall, trying to get back in the habit of sending letters and cards to people I love, getting my inventory of beads priced and ready for a sidewalk sale. As the High Holy Days approach I take my own inventory, feel more contemplative than at other times and more detemined not to let daily activities sweep me along, away from priorities. I talked to Bob last night and he still was exhausted from the physical work of changing classrooms and discouraged by the attitudes of the teacher taking over his second graders - more concerned about being hot and having allergies in his old room than about the kids. He did get to talk one on one with many of his new kids - learn their interests and likes and dislikes, needs and personalities. I'm beginning to be able to match names with stories and am eager to get down there and match faces too. Ruth wrote in her photo journal that many of Chris' high school students are not applying mind to work - writing things that don't make sense and not caring - and in a later chat she said that she thinks too many teachers feel like trying to teach some high schoolers is like teaching to a brick wall - that if you haven't reached them by elementary school you never will. Ruth , Chris, and Bob and I don't believe that and of course many teachers don't, but it shocks me that even a few might feel that way. There has to be a way (ok ways, lots of ways) to put these kids in touch with how exciting real learning (not production for a grade or processing for a test) is. Ruth says some days she thinks about teaching for herself and this morning I have a fantasy of teaching high school English - but that will probably stay a fantasy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bob had his first real day with his fifth graders today. He is worn out from carrying boxes up the stairs in the heat, rearranging rooms and getting the second grade's grades in for the first six weeks. But he says he has neat fifth graders and he is having fun encouraging them to think with Dr. Seuss stories and rigged mistakes - a silly hat and a turtle on his shoulder. He is getting lots of support, especially from the assistant principal, a very experienced teacher who is in charge of the technology lab, and the long term sub. We are learning a few things about his students - the young man who had a stroke in first grade and still has seizures and struggles to read, the well behaved young woman whose father was killed in a gang shooting in August, his body thrown in the city dump. I know there will be more stories. Math test scores fro his students range from first grade (the kid who had the stroke) through eleventh (don't have a face with that score yet). This change was sudden and jolting, but it does seem to be working out.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Cloudless sky - no wind at all, very hot - 107 this afternoon! Hurricaine Rita turned, it land between Beaumont and Lake Charles in a relatively unpopulated area. The house is full of people - Ruth and Chris and all of Joanna's kids. We had birthday breakfast for Jo today at Fudruckers and laughted playing 20 questions at the table. "Am I a mammal? Do I have four legs? Do I live in the water? Am I a dolphin?" I love it that KK and Danny are old enough for games like this now. Joanna glows - beautiful at twenty eight (tomorrow). Her kids celebrate her. We made a big banner for her with cut out hearts and everyone's hand prints (Zach's footprints" traced. I loved the attention the kids put into making something sweet for their Mommy. I baked a pound cae from scratch because Jo said she wanted that texture. It didn't turn out great (not moist enough) but I feel good that I tried.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Man, dog and turtle made it home safely about five this morning. It was good to wake up with Bob in my bed. Everything in Austin is askew as people worry whether we will get storm damage on Saturday. People are buying up all the water and bread in stores (but not crackers) tuna (but not beef jerky). HEB is restocking water every hour and still selling out . Bob didn't have bad traffic from Corpus but todays evacuees from Houston are barely moving (one family reports seventeen miles in three hours!). They are running out of gas, which the national Guard is supplying when cars stop. Kent went and bought a generator and is stocking up water. Bob and I really don'e expect trouble here in Austin - but who knows?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Hurricaine Rita is in the Gulf of Mexico, heading straight toward Corpus Christi - a monster storm, a tornado the size of the state of Georgia, Joanna heard it described on the news. It is wierd not knowing what this monster storm will do. The belief is that it will probably turn and head toward Galveston or Beaumont, but nothing is for sure. Evacuations are massive. Everyone, I think is determined that we will not be caught unready this time - no reliving Katrina - maybe trying irrationally to rewrite Katrina. Corpus Christi is being evacuated - mandatory evacuation. Bob is on his way home with dog and turtle. It will be good to have a couple of extra days together even in hurricaine conditions. He has so much to do to get ready for his fifth graders.

Monday, September 19, 2005

This is a good day to begin a journal - a day of great change. I went to Corpus to meet Bob's second graders. The day started beautifully. I helped several kids edit writings and then, while I was reading a story out loud to the class, Bob was called out of the room for a meeting with the principal. He came back greatly distressed because he is being moved, within the week, to teach fifth grade. He will miss this sweet class of second graders so - and it will be a lot of work to adapt to another grade. There are good aspect - a strong team member, a decent classroom, an appreciative attitude from the administration. By the time I left this evening he was beginning to get used to the idea and start trying to make the change work.

Testing 1...2.....3.... photo?