Saturday, February 25, 2012

Midweek Confessions

Not only did I kill my four adorable fishes that I've had since September, I also killed a new fish named Bettis. Yes, I killed them when I cleaned all of the algae out of my tank. Little did I know I was wreaking havoc on the biological kingdom of my tank. I have since spoken to a "professional" aquarist (is that a word?) and purchased and read cover to cover a book on how to care for my three new gold fish. Their names are Coco Chanel, Madeline, and Morgan.

Secret ingredient revealed. I have been baking chocolate chip cookies for years following my aunt's recipe. No one makes cookies as good as my aunt. Although I'm trying to come close. Monday I scored a home run! I baked chocolate chip cookies and tweaked the recipe yet again. My husband wishes I would just leave well enough alone. I didn't tell him I tweaked it, but he noticed anyway. He thinks this new batch is the bomb. Michael said they tasted exactly like my aunt's. Needless to say, the recipe she gave me is not exactly how I made them Monday. Creme of Tartar. Enough said.

I've enjoyed a blissful four day weekend doing absolutely nothing. Well, I did get sick. YUCK! Not a fun way to spend a holiday. While I was feeling under the weather I snuggled on the couch and watched Law and Order reruns I took a three and a half hour nap and still went to bed by ten on Saturday. I didn't get ANY grading done. BOO!

I'm so behind on reading my blogs, but I've finished two books and read 108 pages of the Count of Monte Cristo. My kids better have it read for class.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I'm a Murderer (Quite Unintentionally)

This is our aquarium that we've had for quite a long time. Many moons ago it housed numerous colorful fishes. Then one day we brought home the MONSTER - our Angel Fish. He was no angel. He (I'm not for certain if he was a he or a she) started out as a good housemate to the other fishes in the tank. He swam around with them, ate food, seemed quite content. BUT he grew! He got bigger and bigger and bigger. And meaner and meaner and meaner. Pretty soon our other little fishes began to disappear. Yes. The Monster ate them - all. of. them. I wish I had a photo of this monstrosity of a fish to share with you. He used to live in the aquarium pictured above. Imagine if you will his top angelic (cough) fin touching the top of the tank while his bottom fin touched the gravel. His body was about the size of a baseball. No kidding. Not thick wise just around wise. Does that make sense?

My birds are finally coming back! YEAH! Sorry for the interruption, but I've had seed out for days and no birds. We've had a hawk in the area scaring them off. I just looked up from my screen and there are two house finch on the bird feeder. WOOT!

Okay back to the fish. Monster finally died last September. This is going to sound awful, but I was NOT sad to see him go. My husband and I cleaned out the aquarium and brought it out of the basement. Wasn't that the perfect place for a monster fish to live? We placed the aquarium on the back porch. I love having it back here. I love to sit and watch my fishes swim around. It's so relaxing. For my birthday my husband decided to buy me fish for the aquarium. I've been wanting Oranda goldfish. They're the fish that get the big heads. The proper name for their large head is wen.

I borrowed this photo from google images.
Isn't he gorgeous? Well, we went to the pet store. I won't say which one. I selected four goldfish. All four were supposed to be Orandas. It wasn't until this week that I found out that NONE of them were Orandas. Again, I wish I had photos to show you of my adorable fishes. Their names were Harvey, Lucy, Marylin, Poseidon, and Ollie. Harvey came to us via the Fish Festival. Michael won him playing a game.

All of them were doing nicely until we decided to bring home two snails. We had an algae problem and I didn't want an algae eater. The last one we had grew to monster size like the Angel Fish. We brought the snails home in January. (So we had success with the tank for four months.) The snails seemed to enjoy chomping away at the algae, and the fish didn't seem to mind them. Two weeks went by, and Lucy didn't seem to be feeling well. She wasn't eating, and her beautiful tail looked like it was being eaten away. At about the same time the snails sealed themselves into their shells and wouldn't come out.

I removed the snails and treated the tank for bacteria, like ick and tail rot. I read that snails can die from the treatment. Unfortunately, Lucy died the next morning. This time I WAS sad. My poor Lucy! It happened so fast. The other fish seemed to be doing better, and we continued with the treatment. By the end of the week everybody seemed back to normal, swimming, eating, and playing tag. I placed the snails back in the tank because the algae was getting out of control. It was layered all over the glass and my decorations. The snails wouldn't budge out of their shells. Still sealed tight. I even picked them up and smelled them. If they smell fishy, they're dead. Eww! Luckily there was no fishy oder.

I waited a few days until the weekend, but the snails were still sealed up tighter than a drum. I decided I couldn't stand looking at all of that algae. I took out the decorations and scrubbed them off with water in the sink. I used our magnetic scraper and cleaned off the glass sides of the tank. Much better. I left the decorations out. They were only collecting algae afterall. By Sunday all of my fish looked AWFUL! What happened? I took out the snails AGAIN and began treatment. But the next day Ollie was dead. Ollie was black with telescope eyes. Sniff. I kept the treatment going hoping no one else would die. Sadly the very next morning Harvey, Poseidon, and Marylin were floating at the top of the tank. We had another fish funeral.

We cleaned out the tank again. Set everything up AGAIN and ran the tank for a week with no fish. Matt talked me into it, really. At first I didn't want anymore fish since I seemed to kill them all. Matt didn't think it was my fault. We went to a different pet shop in Amherst called the Ben Franklin store. The fish are kept in the basement of the store. The gentleman was quite knowledgable when it came to fish. When we told him what happened he asked, "Did you do weekly water changes?" Water changes? We thought that was more of a recommendation rather than a requirement.

He explained to use that the ammonia levels probably built up to the point where the fish couldn't survive. He said we need to do weekly water changes of 20 percent. What he didn't say was that I got rid of the algae that helped to break down the ammonia levels in the tank thus keeping my fish happy and living. I read about that later. We left the store with a water testing kit (I'm becoming quite the chemist.), an underwater filter and pump, live plants, food, and various additives for the water. Oh...and four new fish.

This is our Red Capped Oranda. I read somewhere that the Japanese think she brings luck. I could use all the help I can get. I named her Madeline for her red beret. Remember the story of Madeleine? "In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. They left the house at half past nine...The smallest one was Madeline."

This is our Chocolate Oranda. Her wen hasn't quite developed too much yet. I named her Coco Chanel. I must have been in a French mood that day. Actually I was really thinking of CHOCOLATE rather than the designer, but I liked the sound of it.

This is our Butterfly Moor. I named him Morgan after Morgan Freeman. Follow me here...Morgan Freeman played a Moor in Robin Hood. Butterfly Moor, Moor in Robin Hood. I love Morgan Freeman with his adorable freckles! Morgan the fish has a beautiful tail that when viewed from above looks like butterfly wings.

You might be wondering where the fourth fish is... Well, our Lionhead, (His name was Bettis after Jerome Bettis, the Bus, from the Steelers because he looked like a little bus.) didn't make it to the first water change. It was the Friday two days before our first water change. That morning when I went to feed my fishes their breakfast, they were all lying on the bottom of the tank. Still breathing, but struggling. Matt must have heard my cry of dismay because when I when I returned from taking Michael to school, Matt was already changing the water. Once we were finished, we tested the water to see what the levels read. The Ph was 7.6, the nitrite was 0, the nitrate was 5, and the ammonia was 2. I wonder what the ammonia had been before the water change? I kept vigil all day praying that our fish would make it.

To make a long story short...we went back to the Ben Franklin store later that afternoon and asked him what we did wrong. He said our tank is cycling, and it will take four to six weeks. He recommended we do water changes daily and then every other day and then weekly. It's a building process.

Yesterday was our third water change. I'm HAPPY to report that everyone in my fishy world is doing fine.

Here's all three hams mugging for the camera.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

My Midweek Confessions

Hey All! It's that time of the week again. Wednesdays sneak up on me so fast. So here's what I'm confessing this week. 

I have had an incurable sweet tooth this week. My friend and fellow teacher Danielle made cupcakes to share with the freshmen team yesterday at our meeting. I ate one and they were delicious! Thanks Danielle. Later after school at the staff meeting one of our secretaries Bev made cupcakes. I had a cupcake. Yummy! Two cupcakes in a two hour period. Whose the pig? I'm the pig. I can't keep my fingers out of the candy bowl. I have a candy dish at home filled with M & Ms both peanut and plain. They're almost gone. The same thing happens at school. When I go into the office I can't help taking a piece of candy from Jen's candy jar.

Last week I confessed that I'm addicted to my kindel. Well that hasn't changed. I love to curl up in bed under my heating blanket and read my kindel. I found I have another addiction...blogs. I enjoy reading everyone's blogs. Sometimes I think I enjoy reading blogs more than books. Maybe because they're about real life and people I can relate to. 

Because I've been spending so much time on my kindel reading my book and on the computer reading blogs I've been a total slacker. However, I finally tackled some laundry this week. Yeah! I only have three baskets to go.  It was really piling up. Oh. I also cleaned my house, swept, dusted, etc. But, only because my Dad called, while Matt, Michael, and I were shopping downtown, and announced they were in the area and wanted to stop by for a visit. We're not the drop kind of family. Dad said they would stop and eat dinner before getting there. Needless to say we flew home and scrubbed the house. Thanks to their visit our house is clean. 

I cut my bangs last night. I got my hair trimmed up two Saturdays ago and when she finished she asked what I thought. I said it looked so much better. However, when I got home I noticed my bangs were in my eyeballs and driving me nuts. Then when I went to curl it my layers had various lengths sticking up from my curling iron. I should go back and tell her to fix it, but I hate confrontation or hurting someone's feelings. I think I might go somewhere else and see if she can make my hair better.

These are my confessions this week. What do you want to confess this week?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Bored With School?

My son Michael has always LOVED school. On his first day at Wee People, three-year-old preschool, he kept looking behind at my husband and saying, "Come on Daddy." Matt followed with the video camera because I wanted to capture every minute. I was already at school with my own students. Michael just couldn't wait to meet his teachers and all of his new friends. When Matt picked him up three hours later, Michael cried because he didn't want to go home. He wanted to stay at school. Matt just about died. Usually a child cries when being dropped off not when getting picked up. What would his teachers think?

Michael has loved every grade and every teacher just about every teacher. There was one. Anyway, he's in sixth grade this year and until the last two weeks has LOVED it.

THEN the math paper came home with a drawing on the back of a boy's face and a cloud coming out of his cartoon mouth that said, "I hate school." OMG! We were so shocked! STUNNED! Is this our little boy?

We sat Michael down at the kitchen table and asked him about the drawing. He explained that he had time left over in class and decided to draw a picture. The boy in the picture hated school. Not him. Teacher mode kicked into my brain and thought: Yes, but you drew the picture therefor it came from you so subconsciously you must hate school. After I gathered my thoughts a barrage of questions spewed from my mouth: Is someone bullying you at school? No. Are you upset with a teacher? No. (sigh of frustration from Michael) Did you have an argument with a friend? No. (another sigh from Michael) Michael reassured both of us that he did NOT hate school.

Three days later...Matt and I had been wondering when Michael would be bringing home his report card. We had asked him each day of the new nine weeks and both times he said he didn't get it yet. Then Matt and Michael drove to wrestling practice and had a conversation on the way.

Matt - "When are you getting your report card?"

Michael - "I don't know dad."

Matt - "Did you get it today?"

Michael - pause "No."

Matt knew something was up at this point.

Matt - "Do you have your report card?"

Michael - Long pause "Yeah."

Matt - "Where is it?"

Michael - "In my computer bag."

When they got home that night we had another sit down at the kitchen table. This seems to be the place where we hash things out in our family. Come to find out Michael had his report card for three days and kept it hidden from us. He was upset, worried that we would be mad at him for a bad grade in math. He received a C-. Now this kid has been bringing home A's and B's in math forever. Math and science were his strongest subjects. Go figure. When we looked at his grades online that night he had several homework assignments with low marks, whereas his test grades were high. How could this be?

Then I remembered how my husband was in school, or so I've been told. Matt is super smart. He never had to study to get good grades. He picks things up easily and has a memory like an elephant. I wonder where this saying came from? He told me that when he was in school he pulled C's because he never did the homework. Why bother when he could ace the tests without studying? He was BORED in school. While other kids worked on their homework Matt read books, until that didn't even keep his interest, and he began to get into trouble. Oh I did NOT want Michael to receive this gene from the Wallace side.

Michael explained that he went in for extra help during music class at the end of the day. Unfortunately, he had an F in music because he was getting extra help in math. Why must he take music when he plays the drum in band? And band is a year long course? I digress. Michael went on to say that he understands the math. He'll try harder. He'll get the grade up. Because he kept his grade card hidden from us (deceitful) we grounded him for a week. No TV, computer, or video games.

I emailed his teacher and she said Michael was bright in math. He participated every day and helped other students who had trouble with the material. She said Michael made careless mistakes in his calculations. Now we have told Michael umpteen thousand times to take his time and double check his work. She also said that he could fix any of the problems on his homework to earn full credit. The students have been allowed to do this all year. Why am I just now hearing this? Back to the kitchen table.

I shared the email with Michael. He smiled feeling pretty good about himself. Then I dropped the bomb about the homework. His face fell. "Oh, yeah. I forgot." We came up with a plan of attack.

Plan of Attack
Bring ALL papers home every night - no matter the grade
After school relax
When Mom gets home we'll both work on our school work together at the kitchen table ( I could use the time to grade papers.)
Get to bed by 9 pm
Take time and double check ALL work in ALL classes AND fix all errors on homework

Today Michael brought home his math test. He missed one and received a 98%. It brought his grade up to a higher C. He also brought his music grade up to an A since he's been attending class and completing the work. He felt good about it and called Grandma. She's been worried about him too. Hopefully we can keep things on track until the end of the year. I know he can do this.

Is it boredom? As a teacher I struggle with this everyday. I have many Matt's in my classroom, bright students who don't complete their homework, but do well on tests and quizzes. How do we reach these kids? How do we get it through to them that it's important to complete ALL of the work? Most of them settle for just passing. "I just want to pass." How about I want to do the best I can?

Is there anything you've tried in your classroom or with your children that works. If so please share.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

No Place But Here

I belong to a book club in which we are reading No Place But Here A Teacher's Vocation in a Rural Community by Garret Keizer. Our book club holds discussion on a wiki. We read a couple chapters and pose questions for discussion. This past week we read a chapter entitled "Sex and Faith." I wanted to share the post I wrote with you.

Kaizer struck a note with me in the chapter on “Sex and Faith.” I have not had many a young pregnant woman walk through my door.  But the first one that did made me look at her, really look at her and wonder how difficult it was to walk in her shoes.  I wanted to do everything I could to help her, whether that was extra time in her studies or offering advice on parenting, or just listening. Not that I’m a perfect parent, in fact at that point I wasn’t a parent at all. When I looked at her I saw my own mother, my biological mother.

When Tish was pregnant with me in 1967, I wonder what kind of support she had from her teachers? Not much I think. In that time being an unwed teen mother was still shameful, like wearing a scarlet letter on your bosom. Is it still as bad today? Tish was just a sophomore beginning her second semester in school, and my birthfather, Gary, a senior. Anyway, as soon as she found out she was pregnant and shared this with her mother, she dropped out of school. Her mother suggested it herself. When Tish began showing, she was shipped off to live with an older sister in Huron where no one knew her.

Tish didn’t like school, especially not English.  Oh the irony of finding your daughter is an English teacher. In both her freshmen and sophomore years she made cheerleading. However, she never cheered because she didn’t have the grades, which is sad because sometimes an interest in sports helps a student to do better in their studies. I’ve asked her about her teachers. She’s said she felt that some didn’t care about her. She tried coming back to school once I was born, but she was a year behind all of her friends since she took nine months off.  Suffering with the loss of a child and not having anyone to talk to about it must have been difficult. She eventually dropped out all together.

Kaizer said, “Dealing with a student who is pregnant or a mother is, for me, like offering condolences to the bereaved; it is something that I shall never do well,” (30).  Are any of us good in dealing with this situation? How difficult was it for Tish’s teachers in 1967 to come forward and help her? Upon answering the call to teach do future teachers understand that on any given day they will not only be teacher, but also mentor, coach, counselor, mother, friend,… Where was this in the job description? This is truly a profession of service in which most of us are called.

My student, a young mother, came back to finish school and graduate. She became a nurse. But at one time she was a young sophomore walking the halls of her school wearing a badge of shame on her chest like my own mother once wore. Like my former student, Tish went back to school and earned her GED. And in my humble opinion, both are warm and loving mothers.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Mid Week Confessions

In July we renovated our bathroom, new tub and shower, new walls and ceiling, and new floor. We still have to put up the chair rail, base board, and mirror. We have procrastination down to a science.

I have a bad habit of coming home, eating dinner, and parking my butt on the couch to watch television. I don't even watch current shows. I watch reruns of NCIS, Cold Case, Law and Order, and Criminal Minds. Can you tell I enjoy crime and mystery stories. Maybe I was a detective in another life.

I finally broke down and purchased a Kindel. I never thought that I would because I love the smell and feel of books when I read. But I LOVE it! In one click I can purchase a book, and it downloads instantly to my Kindel. Maybe that's not so good for a book junkie like me.

 Since I purchased my Kindel, I'm addicted. I can't seem to wait to get home and read my book. I do think I'm reading more since I'm able to carry my Kindel in my purse with me. If I'm waiting somewhere like the doctor's office I just pull out my Kindel and read my book.

I'm eyeballing a Vera Bradley bag for my Kindel. Yes I know I'm obsessed! However, the bag is a little big for my Kindle Touch. But it's so CUTE! So far it's still sitting at one of my favorite stores in town, Decidedly Different.

DId I mention I bought a Kindel Touch? Just asking.