December 28, 2012

Shelving

I ordered a shelf from Walmart, $25 with shipping, and it came today. It took me thirty minutes to assemble the thing and I still have pieces left over... I'm pretty sure they don't normally send extra nails.

One theory is that the nails are for some sort of cardboard backing, but there wasn't one in the box. As for those other pieces, well, I'm at a loss.

It's Friday and this was my productive moment of the day. I feel like Christmas is finally over. What's Christmas vacation? It's not a vacation, it's more stressful them work. Now I have two days where, besides a visit with a friend and returning some boots, I have nothing I need to do. I plan to sleep. A lot.


December 27, 2012

Teaching Opera

I swear, the life of a teacher is filled with obstacles that would never have crossed my mind before teaching.

Remember that my class consists of nine 3 and 4 year olds and I teach a lot of things that the average pre-K teacher might not, like Opera, Spanish, and American History. It's almost January and I try to focus on one opera and one ballet each month and I wanted January's ballet to be Swan Lake and the Opera to be The Magic Flute. A little optimistic, but I still think it can be done.

Each lesson I plan begins at the library where I order books, videos, and CDs to the point that the children's librarian knows my name. In planning for next month I was very excited to find a DVD of The Magic Flute performed by the Zurich Opera! Last night, just because I love the music and haven't seen the opera in years, I poured a glass of wine and popped it into my laptop (the DVD, not the wine). If you've ever seen this opera you know that it opens with a prince being chased by a serpent. Well in this particular adaption that serpent was played by a topless woman wrapped in a snake. Yup, not exactly age appropriate for my pre-K class, so now I need to find a version with less nudity. Good thing I screened it first because answering those questions in class would have been tough (though not as tough as answering to the parents after class).

So I went to school today slightly disappointed that I didn't have the opera, but excited that I had also come across Swan Lake performed in 1967 by the Vienna Stage Ballet. OK, so most of you are thinking "is she serious?" Trust me, if you enjoy ballet, this is a good version.

So I planned to show the ballet to my class this morning, but we had a lot of rain today. Why does that matter? Because the excessive rain caused the fumes from the heater in the preschool classroom to be pinned to the outside wall and forced back into the building. The preschool and toddler classes had to evacuate their classroom and, because my room is across the hall and the heater is working fine, they ended up with me for the morning. 20 kids between the ages of 1 1/2 and 5 years crammed into a classroom that holds nine kids at the most. Their room wasn't cleared until after lunch when, finally, we sat down to watch the ballet.

Well, we really didn't sit down. The kids took out all their dress up costumes and put on a parallel performance of Swan lake as we watched the film, pausing occasionally for costume changes and questions. I was the evil magician who changes Odett into a swan. We also had Odett, Odell, the prince, a conductor, a stage manager, and spider man (One of the kids was being argumentative). It all went really well and we had a great time, but did you remember that the prince drowns in the end? I didn't. Even in a ballet it's obvious what's happening so my kids got an impromptu lesson in theatrical tragedies.

I was exhausted by the time I got home, but my roommate had venison waiting for me. She's never had it so I cooked it up and had a very nice meal. So nice that I'm ready to go do this teaching thing again tomorrow!

December 22, 2012

Music Software

“A poet is a man who puts up a ladder to a star 
and climbs it while playing a violin.” 

― Edmond De Goncourt

When I bought my violin I had no illusions about my musical abilities. I knew I'd need lessons of some kind, someone to show me the basic chords and how to hold the bow. I hoped, of course, that I could learn the basics and then teach myself from there (I'm pretty cheap, after all), but the lesson thing turned out to be tougher then expected. I checked everywhere in town. Teachers are in high demand and they charge, on average, about $30 for a half hour lesson. That's 2 1/2 hours of my work day! On top of the price tag I also found they don't need to work around my schedule. If I wanted to take lessons I needed to get in line and take whatever slot they had open, even on a lunch break.
So I went shopping. I figured that if there were violin lessons on youtube then there must be some software out there. What I found was My Violin, a program designed for kids that costs less than $40 on Amazon and boasts all sorts of cool interactive features, like a tuner and the ability to listen to my playing and tell me if my fingers are in the wrong place. Because I spoil myself on Christmas I bought it (no point having a nice violin if I can't play it) and it came today!

I unwrapped it, installed it (It does work on Windows 8, even though the description doesn't mention it) and have been playing all afternoon. It goes through all the basics, like how to tighten the bow and the different parts of the violin, then it goes into playing. It's awesome, I love it (even though it's for kids) and in two hours it saved me almost $80 in lesson fees! 

The world didn't end on Friday and the New Year is coming up fast. If one of your resolutions is to learn an instrument then check out this software. They also have My Guitar (acoustic or electric) and My Piano (which are all much cheaper then the violin edition. Go figure).

Quiche

Three days to Christmas and I spent it baking quiche and wrapping last minute gifts. I think I'm all set and not having a car has kept me from 11th hour purchases.

My biggest challenge this year has been my own wants and needs. Well, mainly my wants. I go searching for a cookbook for a friend and find three that I really want or an order arrives in the mail and I wonder if maybe I should just keep it and get them something else. My violin was my big gift to myself and I'm loving it! I try to play every day and, though progress is slow, I'm improving.

Quiche Recipe

You will need:

  • 1 bunch of green onions diced
  • 1 package of mushrooms choped in 1/4
  • 10 slices of capacola
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese shredded
  • Pie crust (premade is ok)
  • Salt and pepper
Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 375
  • In a skillet melt 1/2 cup of butter
  • Dice green onion and add to skillet. Cook until wilted, about three minutes
  • Slice capacola into strips and add to the skillet along with the chopped mushrooms. Cook everything for about five minutes then add 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese and stir until melted. Pour skillet contents into the pie crust. 
  • Whip the four eggs, milk, a good pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper. Pour egg mixture into skillet.
  • Cook in the oven for ten minutes then sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Put it back in the oven and cook until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let sit for five minutes before serving.

December 17, 2012

It Came!


“Music gives a soul to the universe, 
wings to the mind, flight to the imagination
and life to everything.” 
― Plato


When I got home today this beautiful electric violin was waiting for me. I'm so excited! I ordered a Snark tuner so I got to tune and play it a bit tonight and it sounds great. I have to say that the word "silent" was not entirely accurate, but it's muted enough that my roommate might not kill me for the first few months.

December 15, 2012

Productivity


“It is not enough to be busy... The question is: what are we busy about?” 
― Henry David Thoreau


My New Boots
I've been so productive today! I went out early this morning to mail Christmas gifts (which should have been send last week), and return those awesome Timberland boots that came in too narrow. Then I went to Payless and bought these Rugged Outback boots (which I really hope will hold up). With the money I saved on the boots I ordered that electric violin I was talking about yesterday (It will be here Tuesday!) and I got a couple cool pillow cases at the thrift store.

All that and I was home by 11am. Now I need to decide whether my productivity is done for the day or if I should go do laundry. How about we let the Hallmark channel and a cup of tea decide.

December 14, 2012

Electric Violin

I am desperately trying to talk myself out of this awesome electric violin.

I got a violin years ago with the idea that I would learn to play it. It wasn't a very good one and bow was too small, but I hauled it around for nearly eight years and across country twice before giving it to a little boy in Massachusetts as his first instrument.

Here's the story (at least my side of the story). My parents always wanted my sister and I to be musical.I took piano, my sister took voice lessons, we both took recorder, Sara tried drums, then I took up saxophone. I wasn't bad, the basic notes come pretty easily to me, but my sister really didn't like any instrument so my parents were especially keen to get her interested in something. One summer Sara and I both wanted to learn fiddle but, because I already had an instrument I liked, Sara got lessons and I did not. I was very disappointed, especially when Sara lost interest in the fiddle a few months later, and I have been wanting to learn ever since. This was also around the time that I heard the Edgar Lee Masters poem about Fiddler Jones that ends:
"I ended up with forty acres;
I ended up with a broken fiddle,
and a broken laugh
          and a thousand memories, 
                 and not a single regret"
I always liked to think that someday I would end up the same as Fiddler Jones, which may have lead to my slight infatuation with the fiddle. Well, now there's this awesome electric/silent violin on Amazon for $129, which is a lot of money, but I could practice in my apartment without waking the neighbors and enraging my roommate.

This may just be a Christmas present to myself...

Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004: Corrente by Lara St. John on Grooveshark

December 12, 2012

Colder and Colder


“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you've got a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies- 
"God damn it, you've got to be kind.” 
― Kurt Vonnegut


It's that time of year, the weather is getting cold and I've been getting a lot emails from people moving into temporary housing for the winter. Think of the number of time you walked outside on a cold winter morning to scrape the car off and let it warm up before heading off to work. When you live in a car or van that's what you sleep in each night!

I lived in the Jetta last winter and it could get pretty chilly in the wee hours of the morning. I was lucky because I spent most of my time on a college campus and only slept in my freezing cold car (in a nest of blankets that never go under 65 degrees with body heat).

I've been feeling antsy the past few weeks, which is what usually happens once I get settled in to a new place and a new routine. Nothing major, just wondering what the next step will be. Despite the long commitment I've been revisiting the possibility of the Peace Corp, but, in fairness, there probably isn't much call for a sociologist anyway.

I'm home sick again today, work told me not to bother, so I'm going to get things accomplished! Wrap presents, write my lesson plan, watch movies... I'll try to get something accomplished. 

December 11, 2012

So Sickly

My germy class of kiddies has, once again, infected me with with some orange juice resistant strain of flu. As much as I miss the Jetta, I like having a couch to crash on when I'm feeling icky. I went to bed at 4pm on Saturday and haven't been out of bed for more than an hour in two days. This morning I got up, showered, dressed, and marched myself to work prepared to be a trooper... and was promptly send home.

Rich people take time off to be sick, I have bills to pay!

November 30, 2012

The Tree

The tree is up, which means Christmas is officially on it's way. I'm not going to lie, I'd be very happy if the whole things passed us by this year. I hate the shopping (ok, I enjoy the shopping but hate the spending). But it can't be helped so I may as well deal with it.

The worst part is that no one needs anything. You reach a point that you either have everything you need or the things you need are so specific that you wouldn't want anyone else picking them out for you. Now I'm trying to shop for people who also don't need anything. The biggest time constraint is my sister who, as you may remember, lives in Montana. Every year I play Santa and send out her stocking. Now that she's living in a van she really doesn't have room for anything so I'm running out of ideas. Maybe a AAA membership.


November 29, 2012

On Foot & in Style

We're fast approaching the end of November (crazy, right?) and that means I've been living in town and walking to work for a month. I'm car-less, but in a city where I can catch the bus or walk to the store. As far as bills I guess that I've traded one expense for another. I pay rent, but not gas or car repairs. I miss the freedom of my car, being able to go where I want when I want, but I'm making due with my smaller world.

A side effect of my limited mobility is that there is really only one grocery store I can shop at regularly and right now Thanksgiving leftovers are on super sale. I'm broke, so I've been eating a lot of acorn squash and trying to figure out a good pumpkin recipe.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I've developed an earring fetish that threatens to become my main disposable income expense. I got my ears pierced when I was a kid, but really never wore earrings, except to weddings and funerals and the like. Then I became a classroom teacher and found that few things entertain young children like jewelry. Jingly jewelry! Oh well, I'm an imperfect person. 

November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I just took my two pumpkin and a single (somewhat experimental) blueberry  pie out of the oven, and I didn't catch them on fire!

Hope all you out there in the world are having a good Thanksgiving this year. I know we're not all with family or friends today but ,wherever you are, I hope you're safe and happy.

November 20, 2012

Censoring Madeline

Last night I went on a shopping spree at my local library and, among other things, I picked up a copy of Mad About Madeline (the complete Madeline collection) by Ludwig Bemelmans. I always loved these books and hoped they would give the kids some idea (through the pictures, of course) of what Paris looks like.

Would you believe that some idiot used a pen to scratch out words that they (presumably) felt were controversial or inappropriate? "Among other words guillotine" was replaced with "mean machine" and "molest" with "bother". Who in their right mind would deface Madeline?

November 17, 2012

Jackson Pollock

Every good painter paints what he is.
-Jackson Pollock

I think I've mentioned that I'm teaching the kids geography through art; Russia through Kandinsky, the Neatherlands through Avercamp, etc. So far their favorite artist is Jackson Pollock, so I ordered this poster and it arrived today! Each Friday in my class is "Free Friday", where the kids get to write the schedule and decide what activities we're going to do and this last Friday they voted to play with the Lego castle and "make abstract art." My kids are the best!

In other news, I've been sick all week. It's that lingering cold that you get from hugging nine sick children every day. Bla. Oh! And my roommate's cat had fleas. Yeah, go figure. We've been combing, frontlining, and washing everything in sight in hopes of curbing the little buggers.

New Country by Jean-Luc Ponty on Grooveshark


November 9, 2012

"Obscene" Children's Books



“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” 
― G.K. Chesterton



I may have mentioned this before, so tune me out if you've heard the story.

My mother felt that there were certain books that every educated person had to read and, because I home schooled for much of elementary school, I began her reading list at an early age. In all fairness it was in part that I was home schooled and in part because I was raised in a home where you read a book instead of watching TV and by the time I was seven it was getting hard to find challenging novels.

Anyway, I began this reading list of culturally significant literature early and had finished Beowulf, Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island (to name a few) by the time I was eleven. These books expanded my understanding of the world, challenged my perceptions, stretched my imagination, and encouraged my use of new vocabulary. They shaped the person I became and never once did my mother deny me a book based on content, trusting that whatever my age I would absorb something useful.

This memory was resurrected because I'm right now sitting in the children's section at my new local library looking for art books. I'd found a pile, way more then I could check out, and claimed a small table to sort through them, when I overheard a woman sitting a few tables away. She's at the library with what I assume are her three children; a young boy of about 3, a girl in a school uniform that looks 11, and a boy that could pass for anything from 10 to 12. The woman was loudly reprimanding her daughter for selecting a book which the mother felt was inappropriate, the tale of a young girl who needs to lie and steal to save her friends from a gang of kidnappers in what sounded like a very Harry Potter like world. I know the synopsis because the mother made her daughter read it aloud, interrupting her with reproachful remarks and ending the conversation with "I worry about you if you're alright reading a story about a girl who lies and steals."

I was a little taken aback. After all, is that story line so much worse than Kidnapped? Amazingly it didn't stop with that book either, one after the other both the older boy and girl brought books for their mother's critique and one by one they were shot down. Even the little boy was told not to look at a young children's book about monsters which (and I hope I'm wrong) sounded a lot like Where the Wild Things Are. Every book was in some way "obscene" or "grotesque", adjectives not often used in the children's section of a public library.

Protect your children, make sure they grow up in a safe environment, but let them explore! Don't deny them a book about pirates just because pirates can be scary or a book where someone dies just because death is frightening. Above everything else, don't make them feel ashamed of the things that interest them.

Rox In The Box by The Decemberists on Grooveshark

November 4, 2012

Nesting


“Women usually love what they buy, 
yet hate two-thirds of what is in their closets.” 
― Mignon McLaughlin


I am a nester at heart.

I think I mentioned this way back when I moved into the Jetta; if given unlimited money and space I would probably be either a severe shopaholic or some kind of hoarder, but either way my house would be over run with stuff I don't need.

Because this is the largest place I've lived since March of 2011 I have found myself spreading out over the past few days. Those three boxes and two duffle bags shown in the last post held all my clothes, one cooking pot, one bowl, one fork... You get the idea. My room was pretty sparse and if I'm going to be living here for the next few months I wanted to aim for homey. With that in mind I went shopping.

Yesterday was my little sister's birthday. She turned 27 years old (which makes me feel old) and she and Dad went up north to window shop for ski gear. Sara had picked me up Friday night and made me stay with the folks for her birthday, but because I have no use for heavy winter stuff I took Mum on an outing. She got to see my new place and we attacked Salvation Army where I found some lamps and, best of all, a mattress for $6.99. I know, I was a little sketched out too, but they said it was practically wrapped when they got it so I'm taking a chance. For about $50 I pretty much decked out my room so, when it comes time to leave, I won't feel bad leaving it all behind me. The last thing I need to get is a bucket of paint. which makes my cheap and crappy items into something usable and cute. I'm thinking white and teal...

November 1, 2012

The New Place

Yup, that's all my stuff
The little sister picked me up from work at about 5:30pm. First we went to Salvation Army to buy a desk she had seen earlier in the day, then to Wal-Mart for a money order, and finally to my new apartment where it took all of ten minutes to move everything (including the new desk) into my cozy little ground floor room (I've never lived on the ground floor before and am use to hiking up multiple flights when moving in and out of apartments). I am, admittedly, not the best judge of character, but my roommate seems very nice and even on the safe side of quirky.

I've already set my alarm for 7am, which is two hours later than normal (5am) and still gives me 45 minutes to get ready before heading out the door. There were two pennies dropped in my room by, I assume, the last roommate. One was heads up and one was heads down, which confuses my closeted superstitious tendencies. Good night new apartment. Welcome home me (again).

October 31, 2012

The Power Is Back!

“Electricity is actually made up of extremely tiny particles called electrons, that you cannot see with the naked eye unless you have been drinking.” 
-Dave Berry


Thanks to this hurricane nonsense the power has been out since Monday afternoon. The family has been staring at each other, talking nonsense for endless hours, and getting gradually more grumpy. Obviously the daylight hours were easier and more like a regular day, but the nights were torture. Now, having not showered since Sunday, I am looking forward to running water and maybe even a bad sitcom. 

October 29, 2012

Welcoming Sandy

I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.
-W.C. Fields

The Potting Shed
I woke up this morning and started looking at school closings. I'm pretty sure I was told that when the public schools in town were closed so was the childcare center, so when I saw the big red CLOSINGS note at the bottom of WMUR's newscast and watched as dozens of schools ticks by, I knew I wasn't going anywhere today. Unfortunately I was wrong and the center was open. Oh well, I'll feel guilty tomorrow but right now I'm busy filling gallon jugs with water in case the power goes off.

With so many trees around here Mum's waiting for one to fall on her potting shed, but so far the wind isn't too bad. Staying home means that Mum, Sara, and myself are stuck in a very small house with hardly any walls and a limited TV channel selection. To pass the time we're watching A Very Good Year and drinking more than a healthy amount of coffee.

The Christmas Box
I spent the weekend packing up my belongings and once again am faced with the alarmingly small pile of boxes and duffle bags which make up my life. It can't measure more than 4X3 square and it's mostly clothes. As I was pulling stuff out of the closet Sara and I found what appears to be a box of Christmas presents that were never mailed to Montana. It's not from last year which leaves 2010 and begs the questions: What is the she;f life of loose tea?

I hope everyone, having stocked up on bourbon and library books, is prepared for the impending storm. Keep safe.

October 28, 2012

A New Chapter

If you knew that your life was merely a phase or short, short segment of your entire existence, how would you live? Knowing nothing 'real' was at risk, what would you do? You'd live a gigantic, bold, fun, dazzling life. You know you would. That's what the ghosts want us to do - all the exciting things they no longer can. 

- Chuck Palahniuk 


My life so far has been a random hodge podge of very distinct yet inter connected chapters. The food service chapter, the cafe manager chapter, the Oregon chapter, the girlfriend chapter, the farmer chapter, the carpenter chapter... The list goes on. Some of the chapters I leave behind me while others I whittle down so I can take them along to the next adventure.

Most of this blog has been dedicated to two major chapters in my life: car dwelling and college (round #3). Vehicle dwelling was the initial reason I began The Tuckerbag blog, to reach out for advice from those with experience and to pass along some of my trial and error conclusions to those who would come next. It was kind of like adding to the collective body of knowledge for a new culture. That culture is growing and, more importantly, shifting. People come in, they leave, they change vehicles and locations. This culture is more than one of mobile dwelling: it is one of freedom and discovery.

The Jetta that I called home for fourteen months is sitting at the top of my parent's driveway in New Hampshire. I'm sure she'll be road worthy again, I'm just not sure it will be me driving her. Vehicle dwelling was one of my favorite chapters, but for the time being it has ended and I have started, for better or worse, on a new adventure. I know that I'm going to get a van or RV the first chance I get, but right now I am more concerned with exploring this new chapter.

I live in a small city, I teach pre-K, I will (as of Thursday) live in a little apartment with a girl named B who likes renascence fairs and crocheting. I have gone from a car being my life and home to having no vehicle at all and that has lead to a new set of challenges.

A tuckerbag is a sack carried by hobos and swagger-men  It holds food, supplies, and most of their possessions giving new meaning to the term minimalist living. It is both the product and means of a mobile lifestyle. For me the tuckerbag has come to represent a life well lived, one that covets the accumulation of experiences rather than possessions and rejects the conventional norms of a sedentary society. In other words: The Tuckerbag has become more than a car.

The blog and all the information I have collected will still be here, but as I transition into this new chapter of my life so will the blog. I hope you stick around for the continuing adventures 

October 25, 2012

Commuting

Did you know that my daily commute time is about three hours? My father drives me 25 minutes to the bus stop in the morning, then a 45 minute to 1 hour bus ride, then a twenty minute walk. In the afternoon I do it in reverse. What I'm getting at is that the countdown is on until next Thursday when I can walk fifteen minutes to work. I won't know what to do with so many extra hours in my day!

Even if I disregard the commute, today was rough. The kids were nuts and refused to nap and parents (mainly mothers) don't like it when their children are out of control at pick up and won't listen to them. They like it even less when the child listens to the teacher and not the mother. It's like I've stomped on something holy and off-limits, home is not suppose to overlap with school and mothers should never be upstaged. Between the parents and their kids I found myself willing the weekend closer, which is not like me.

I get a lot of compliments about my class, parents, like one today, who say "Ben was playing with Dad's globe yesterday and we had no idea that he knew all the continents!". Well lady, not only does he now know the continents, he also knows at least three countries on each continent and what language they speak there! I recognize that no mother wants to share their child and that I will, should I ever have children, feel the same way someday, but parents need to accept that they are co-parenting with teachers and that we spend equal amounts of time with kids. If they don't speak to their children about what they are learning in school, at least keep in touch with the teacher. We're not just baby sitting, we spend each day trying to prepare them for what's coming. I honestly never realized how uninterested parents could be until working with pre-K kids.

October 20, 2012

Renting

As of November 1st I am going to become (GASP!) a renter. I know! It's such a waste of money and completely against everything I've learned. Why pay money to live in someone else' home? I'm not going to walk away with anything at the end and it's just going to cost more in the winter... I have justified this decision by reminding myself that time is money and right now I am wasting time by commuting an extra two hours a day by bus. I am moving closer to work, and that alone might be enough, but I am also getting a library card. I know, my sister thinks I'm a dork, but I love libraries and now I can read all the time! Very exciting, and I can also get resources for my classroom. Yup, dorky.

This month my class has (deep breath!) learned why leaves change color in the fall, read two chapter books, studied Vincent Van Gogh and tried to recreate his paintings, created a cardboard box village, learned how to write letters E-I, made a rocket, grown celery on the window sill, raised $150 for Heifer International through their Read to Feed program, gone on four nature walks, sprouted a potato, experimented with gravity and carbon dioxide, and aced the first grade math standards. Whew! I'm exhausted and I'm sure my kids are too, but we're having fun and I'm gearing up for next month with a visit to a ballet studio and a new world map.

My sister is still here in New Hampshire reminding my why we didn't spend a lot of time together during our high school years. She turns 27 years old in November and is still into the heavy drinking and party phase while I was never that good at partying (though drinking was never a problem). It nice that we have a boat load of other things to talk about.

October 13, 2012

Sisters



“The capacity for friendship is God's way of apologizing for our families.”
― Jay McInerney, The Last of the Savages  

Well, it’s been a pretty eventful week!  I realized only today that I’d neglected to post last weekend and got a few emails wondering where I disappeared to. I’m still here, just staying busy.

I have never particularly wanted children of my own, probably for the same reason I don’t want a pet. I don’t plan ahead very well and acquiring either a child or a pet would mean planning on at least one thing for the next fifteen to eighteen years. I’d have to take something else into consideration when making decisions. Come to think of it, that’s also a factor in my love life (or lack thereof). I realized last week that, despite my not wanting kids, when I inherited my classroom I also inadvertently inherited the lives of nine small children. Their problems, their discipline, their mood swings, their quarrels, and, for better or worse, their futures. I’m the starting gate for the rest of their education and I worry every day about the way I handle them, what kind of world I’ll send them into and with what tools. Because of this sense of extreme responsibility I take my job as teacher very seriously and my students are advancing faster than I can write lesson plans. Since October 10th they have been doing math, science experiments, penmanship, and phonics each day and I keep waiting for that wall when they say “enough is enough! We can’t cram anything more into our heads!” but it hasn’t come yet.

That's Sara on the right
My little sister Sara came home on Wednesday night after being in Montana for the past two years, which is pretty cool, and one of the first things I did was bring her to my class. The kids were thrilled to have a new person to play with especially my “sister princess” as they kept calling her.

With Sara back in town the whole family is under one roof for the first time in about seven years, maybe more. I pulled the futon mattress out of the Jetta (which sits forlornly idle at the top of the driveway) and Sara is in her teenage bed while we share the same small room strewn with clothes and heavy blankets. She’s going to be around for about a month and come November 1st she’ll be helping me move into my new apartment! I found a place ten minutes walk from work for $450/month (with nothing included, oh well). The girl I’ll be living with seems very nice, if a little quirky. When I viewed the place she was making her costume for the renaissance fair and in the evenings she likes to crochet. He place (My place!) smelled so strongly of sandalwood that when I got off the bus an hour later Dad thought I’d been smoking pot. This apartment will cut almost two hours a day off my commute time. Yeah!

Alright, Sara wants to go apple picking and I have lesson plans to write. Keep on Truckin’


Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford & Sons on Grooveshark

September 29, 2012

Where Did September Go?

"Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we've been doing."  
"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" 
 -Lewis Carrol

September is pretty much over now and, looking back on the past month, I have no idea what I did with it. Since being promoted to Lead Pre-K Teacher I've been running (like the Red Queen) as fast as I can and still always seem to be a step behind. I think this is why the lessons I got as an elementary school student were so dull. Once the teacher had a year of lesson plans done they just kept recycling them, that way they could have a breather once in a while. If teachers are expected to stay current on techniques and information they should have smaller classes and more administrative support, otherwise they have the options of either being stressed and current or relaxed and ineffective. Lucky for me I got my second raise in a month. I asked for $11 (up from $10) when I took over the classroom and yesterday they gave me $12, just because they like me. That makes me feel a little better about spending so much of my weekend planning my school week.

In other news I have contacted the state about my former landlord, who is now completely ignoring my calls and owes me $480. We'll see where that goes, but bureaucracies are not known for their efficiency.

I'm still getting lots of use from my Kindle Fire, watching too many movies. I read The Hunger Games, which was surprisingly good. I normally don't trust the public's taste in books, but there's always an exception. I also read Wool, by Hugh Howey, which was very well done and I'm going to *gasp!* buy the full collection.

So that's life folks. Still searching for a throttle body, still with the folks, still taking the bus to work. I need to get transportation/housing squared away and I can feel winter creeping closer which, eventually, will force my hand.

Calamity Song by The Decemberists on Grooveshark

September 23, 2012

Memories & Keepsakes

 “At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.”
- Toni Morrison


A very young (and toothy) me
This week (the whole month really) has flown by. Most of my time has been spent writing lesson plans and trying to keep my temper when nine little kids are flying off the handle. It's been fun, but really time consuming.

I got my Kindle Fire, which is well worth the $199 if you're looking for an e-reader that acts more like a mini laptop then a book. I love the thing and have been plowing through The Hunger Games (I held back jumping on the HG bandwagon until the wagon until everyone else got off. Now there's more room). The other great thing is that I can watch movies on it and, on those nights when the folks are hell bent on a PBS rerun, I can escape to something more stimulating.

The cellar halfway through cleaning
So much dust!
Today I took a break from my Kindle to clean out the cellar, which has been an ongoing battle for about as long as the house has been standing. Today I moved two six foot stacks of Rubbermaid containers only to find that they are almost all marked "memories". In opening them up I was amazed to find not just photographs but random snippets of the past like my old Girl Scout uniform and hand-prints from the first ten years of my life. Toys, report cards, art projects, ski passes; they were all neatly boxed up. While I appreciate the idea of priceless memories, it terrifies me that we've managed to hold onto years worth of stuff which, thanks to the passage of time, is now more difficult to part with. Most of it would be in the burn bin right now, but I think this needs to be a gradual process of taking things out, reminiscing, and then moving on.


September 16, 2012

A Day Out Yachting

“I can't control the wind but I can adjust the sail.”
- Ricky Skaggs


I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but my mother had an aneurism in 2008 while driving to the post office and she managed to dent the old noggin pretty nicely. Thanks to some pretty severe brain damage she is a loopier and slightly  slower version of the mother I grew up with (think MOM 2.0 with the screen that freezes sometimes and that annoying hourglass that keeps popping up). With some local support from groups that deal with brain damage she's been taking classes and kept pretty entertained the past few years and today, for the first time, I got to participate in one of the weekend events. Sort of...

Mum and I were suppose to go to a regatta at the Yacht Club today (and only at a yacht club would they call a simple race a "regatta"). All the participating boats had to have at least one brain damaged person on board in order to be eligible to race, so we showed up at 9:30am to sign in for our per-designated boat: The Briggs. Well, they put out donuts and coffee, so 10:00am came and went quickly (if hectically). They started a slide show which I swear played Enya's Sail Away on a loop and we munched our breakfast. The place was crowded and by 10:30am they were starting to call names to board. We waited as they called every boat, except the Briggs which seemed to be running late. By 11:15am (the race started at 11am) Mum and I were both getting giddy, Enya was playing for at least the seventeenth time, and we couldn't stop laughing. One man kept shouting randomly and another decided that Enya was the perfect music to showcase his awesome robot dance moves. They took away the donuts and replaced it with dip and a bowl of bananas, but no chips, which told us this must be a conspiracy, and the coffee ran out. By 11:30 all the tables had a place on the boats except for ours and there was no sign of the Briggs showing up.

Mum was upset, which she vocalized in a string of words which better suited less economically privileged seafarers. With a great harrumph we exited the Yacht Club. They were obviously, as my mother put it, a Mickey Mouse operation who loured brain damaged people in with promises of a fictitious boat ride only to mock them by playing "Sail Away" on a loop and feed them sub-par refreshments.

It wasn't all bad really, I got a kick out of it, but mum is still brooding.

In other news I bought the new Kindle Fire HD today! You might remember how much I LOVE my Kindle keyboard, but it's time to trade up and I'm giving my old one to mum so she doesn't need a ride to the library for a new book. It arrives in two days so I'll let you know what I think.

Sail Away by Enya on Grooveshark

September 13, 2012

Resort Day Care?

“It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, 

far more than our abilities.”
-J.K. Rowling


I was offered a position at a ski resort in Vermont working with at a daycare with both the children of guests and employees. Here I go with my pros and cons list:

Pros:
  • When I'm not playing in the classroom I get to teach two and three year olds to ski! (about three times a day)
  • I could live in Vermont, which I really enjoy
  • I get a seasons ski pass to the mountain
  • I get points I can use towards golfing lessons, a gym membership or other resort amenities (the whole points system is a little strange, but I'm sure it's cool)
  • No lesson plans, just day care so less work
Cons:
  • Less money, $9.80/hr when I'm making $11/hr now and can probably finagle $12
  • There is employee housing available for about $500, but I would be sharing a room with two other people and a house with about fifteen. 
  •  If I can't live really close to the mountain I'll need transportation of some kind which mean the car will have to be fixed anyhow.
  • Day care doesn't really give me the same hands on teaching experience that my current job does.
Me at ski school many many years ago. (3rd in from the left at the top with the pom pom and my sister is in front of me)
Maybe it comes down to the devil you know vs. the devil you don't. There's a gamble involved here. If I stay where I am I'll work my butt off and need to get the car fixed OR get an apartment close to work (which can be super expensive). If I leave I'll make less money so I'll walk away with less money saved and I might be walking into a position more suited to a teenager fresh out of baby sitting. Whichever I choose I plan to take off come May for the greener pastures of good seasonal work.

So peanut gallery, you haven't steered me wrong yet. What do you think? Stay put and save for the winter or take a leap and spend the season skiing in Vermont. I have to let them know by Friday so...

September 8, 2012

Pre-K Promotion

Just when I thought I was on track (maybe not a clear track, but still...) the deck gets reshuffled. I began my current job as a preschool teacher in July. Eight two year olds led by myself and a co-teacher. I wrote lesson plans, got to know the parents, got into a groove with the co-teacher, and pretty much had it figured out. Then the pre-K teacher gave his notice and within sixteen hours I became the new pre-K teacher.

Yup, I got promoted (if you want to call it that) to my own classroom with older kids (3-5 years old) and now have to relearn my whole job. I need to read up on the age group (because I've never worked with kids this age), write a new lesson plan (school starts on Monday), and get to know the kids (who are slightly confused with the changes). It's a challenge, but the freedom is good and I like the older kids. I just wish it came with more than a $1 raise.

In other news I'm still battling that landlord from last month. Quick recap: I rented a weekly paid room in what is basicly a boarding house, but after three days found that my roommates were having curb side narcotic drop offs (like pizza!). I moved out and have been trying to get my money back for the last two weeks. I call the guy every day and on 8/28 he texted me back saying "My apologies for not getting back to you. I'm traveling and will be back in town this weekend. I will call you and we will get together and settle up." Well, the weekend came and went with no phone call and I started my daily calls back up on Monday. Finally last night I called him from the bus stop and said, basically, that it had been two weeks and if I didn't hear from him by Monday I would explore other options. Low and behold, he texted back (this guy REALLY doesn't want to talk with me) claiming he texted me last Sunday asking for my address and the name of the roommate that was having drugs delivered. I never got a text, but that's beside the point, and I told him this morning that I was not going to name names. They were nice guys, just involved in stuff that, as a teacher, I can't get mixed up in. I haven't heard back but I've given him a deadline and if he doesn't stick to it I'm going to get vindictive (legally, of course).

Alright, enough chatter. I'm heading back to finish next week's lesson plan.

September 1, 2012

RVs & Text Books

“You are never too old to set another goal 

or to dream a new dream.”
- C.S. Lewis


It's Saturday evening, the first of a three day Labor Day weekend. I feel like I've been very productive today, applying to a few environmental education jobs as well as the United Nations and Peace Corp (just because, I guess). I also spent some quality time looking for cheap motor homes on Craig's List and Camping World, which is always fun.

One of the great things about living in my car was that if I wanted to leave an area I could just go. I didn't have a car payment so if I was out of work for a while I always had place to sleep and I knew no one was going to tow me away (at least not for lack of money). Now that I'm looking at RVs I'm realizing that it will force me into gainful employment for at least the next few years, which I'm not a huge fan of. Some of the coolest jobs I've had paid the least and I really don't want to be forced into a well paying office job.

Speaking of well paying jobs, I made $64 dollars today! When I worked at the University of Massachusetts I was charged with sorting the mail and distributing it to faculty and staff. It's pretty common for textbook publishers to send a copy of new textbooks to professors and graduate students, just to see if they want to use the book in their class (ie: make their students each buy the newest edition). I guess the publishers didn't update their mailing lists that often because we would get books for faculty that didn't work at the University anymore. Some of those books I put out for free, but I ended up saving a bunch of them to read later. This summer has been nuts and I didn't get around to looking at most of them so I posted seven on Amazon and voila! $480 in the last 1 1/2 weeks. Not bad at all.

August 27, 2012

Saint-Gaudens

“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music - the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.”
- Henry Miller


As you know, I'm back with the folks for the time being and that means family outings! Sunday the whole clan (Mum, Dad, me, and the dog) headed off to northern New Hampshire for an adventure. First we went to Shaker Village in Enfield. There were two very nice stone buildings and a beautiful Church (built by the convent down the road, I think, and not the Shakers). Not bad, but the buildings were right next to an electrical company and some residences (which was a bit strange).

Beautiful stone work

Mum admiring a Shaker dorm

Next we headed to the Mill/Meridian bridge, which was pretty darn cool.

Dad checking it out


Look at those beams
 Last we went to the Saint-Gaudens historic museum in Cornish, which was amazing and I highly recommend that if you get the chance to see it you jump at the opportunity. Saint-Gaundens designed the Lincoln Memorial and other very famous sculptures, many of which can be seen replicated at the museum.

Adam's Memorial

One of the many paths around the grounds

An amazing garden in the gallery


The Saint-Gauden Studio (the patio was modeled on Pompeii)
In other news, I've called my former landlord each day since Friday and have not received a call back. The next step might be the local cops.