Archive | March, 2018

The team to beat

11 Mar

Despite the beautiful Spring-like day outside, four students, their families and I spent the better part of the day inside. It was the Regional Oregon Battle of the Books (OBOB) tournament.

Last year, this same team were the Middle School State Champs!

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This year, we were the team to beat. Maybe you remember that old Avis advertising line, “We try harder”, when they were consistently #2 behind Hertz. Well, we were Hertz. Everybody else was Avis – just a little hungrier than these four.

Our practices the two weeks leading up to the tournament were spotty. One book (Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson) seemed to be their nemesis. It was such a weak point that I kept making a joke out of it as I quizzed them, calling it their favorite book.

They started off a little rocky in their first battle, winning the match, but not with a brilliant score. Fortunately, they had boned up on Rebel Mechanics and got every question about that book.  By the end of the 4 battles of pool play, their mojo had kicked in and we were tied for 5th place and assured a spot on the next “Sweet Sixteen” round. Only Sixteen of the 40+ teams got to continue on.

Their “Sweet Sixteen” battle was probably the hardest fought – a come from behind victory that moved them into the “Elite Eight”. That battle was quick and they were a well-oiled machine again, easily defeating their opponents and jumping into the “Final Four” pool. A nice place to be, but only the top three teams get to go to the State OBOB tournament.

By now, six battles in, they were humming. They took an early lead in their “Final Four”  battle and never really looked back (except for that one answer…).

Their final battle for the day was to determine who got first place and who got second. The pressure was off for both teams. Both would go to State. Across the hall, the two teams battling for the third spot were, perhaps, a little more stressed. Despite the certainty of their place at State, my students did a superb job and triumphed.

The end was almost anticlimactic. Some hurried photos, alone and with the top three teams. Two of my students had also qualified for the next level at tour school Science Fair and had to rush off to take make their presentations.

I’ll give them a break next week. We have parent teacher conferences and only three days of school anyway. But, the following week, we will be back to practicing. There are a few new candidates for nemesis book, I have a brilliant idea on how to comb through each book for details,  and we have a title to defend.

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Just another day at USPS

10 Mar

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Having assembled the large box, I started packing it, only to realize it was too large. I went over to the stand in the small USPS grocery store outlet and grabbed a medium box.

This was my first time using a priority mail box. I’ve always saved boxes, packed them and wrapped them in brown paper. But the cost of shipping this way has gone up and, over Christmas, I realized that using a standard-sized, priority mail box would be cheaper that a random box, beautifully wrapped in brown paper.

Setting aside the large box, I taped the bottom of the medium box and filled it. My contents fit perfectly – snug, but not squished. I wrote the address on top and began taping the top shut. Dang! I cursed silently when I realized I’d left something out.

Using my keys, I cut the tape, added the missing item then retaped the box. The upside of this setback was that the line, which was five people long when I started, was now only one!

I lifted the box and it felt pretty light. I bet this is under 4 pounds, I mused and I grabbed the smaller of the two customs forms used for shipping to Canada, the parcel’s final destination. I carefully filled out the form and walked between the stanchions whose belts led to the counter. Surprise – I was the head of the line!

As soon as a customer left,  I was called up and I placed my package on the counter.

“Canada,” said the clerk. “Did you fill out the form?”

“Yes,” I replied, smiling and waving the small form. The clerk furrowed her brow.

“It feels pretty light,” I said, hopefully.

“Hmmm, let’s see,” she replied, setting the package on the scale. “Four pounds, five ounces. You’ll need the other form.” I groaned inwardly.

She pointed to my left. “Just fill it out over there, then step back here when you are ready, as long as no other customer is here.”

Grumbling a little, I wrote the exact same information from the small form onto the large form. Maybe I grumbled a bit. Once done, and back at the counter, the rest of the process went smoothly. Despite the small obstacles I had encountered in mailing it, I drove home happy in the knowledge that the package was finally on its way.

 

 

Happy birthday, Barbie

9 Mar

One of the best presents I ever got was a shoebox full of handmade Barbie clothes. My sister got one too, and though the clothes in each box were similar, no two pieces were exactly the same. We both got a wedding dress, but they were in different styles.

I could always differentiate my Barbie from my sister’s. Mine was a brunette like me; hers a blonde like her. Mine was also unable to wear any form of Barbie shoe because I chewed her feet off. My sister was not as orally fixated as I, and her Barbie always had intact feet.

We spent many hours playing Barbie – well into grade eight. I look at the 8th graders at my school and I can’t imagine any of them playing with dolls. I wish they were still so innocent and naive that they would.

Barbie paraphernalia appeared at birthdays and Christmas. In the early 70’s,  Barbie’s bright orange camper arrived. An airplane arrived a few years later. Even now, writing about them decades later, I still remember the scent of that vinyl.

 

At some point in high school, my mother gave my Barbie “stuff” to my nieces, without asking first. I recall being very upset, and my mother not understanding why. She just assumed we were too old.

Even now, when I cringe at the thought of Barbie and her misshapen, biologically impossible body. A Huffington Post article stated that, if she’d been real, the doll I played with would be “about six feet tall with a 39” bust, 18” waist, and 33” hips.” Despite this horrific portrayal of women, I still can’t help thinking back to the many hours my sister, our friends and I spent, happily playing with Barbies.

Lucy’s Seven

8 Mar

I’ve never had a dog that liked any kind of citrus, but Lucy loves mandarin oranges. She has mastered the art of getting what she wants à la Steven Covey.

1. Stephen Covey says: Be proactive.

Lucy says: Always be in the room where the mandarin is being eaten.

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2.Stephen Covey says: Begin with the end in mind.

Lucy says: Visualize that tiny morsel of deliciousness sliding down your throat and into your tummy.

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3.Stephen Covey says: Put first things first.

Lucy says: It is important and urgent that I get a slice of that mandarin.

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4.Stephen Covey says: Think win-win. 

Lucy says: A piece for Mommy, a piece for Lucy. Sounds like a win-win, to me!

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5.Stephen Covey says: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Lucy says: You want me to to sit. Look, I am sitting for the next slice.

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6. Stephen Covey says: Synergize.

Lucy says: Together, Mommy and I can polish off that mandarin in no time.

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7.Stephen Covey says: Sharpen the saw.

Lucy says: We’ve had a snack, let’s take one more walk before bedtime.

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Discombobulated and covered in glitter

7 Mar

I woke at my regular time, that Tuesday morning, and went through my usual morning routine. Except it was a Tuesday. And I’d been watching the price of airline tickets. And  I had a feeling today was the day to place my order.

It was and I did. I felt relief and triumph, until I looked at the clock.

Oh, crap! I bolted to my feet and hurried through the rest of my pre-work ritual.

Lunch packed? Check.

Coffee pot unplugged? Check.

Teeth brushed? Check.

I got dressed, took Lucy out for a shorter-than-usual walk, then exited the house. By then, I was running 15 minutes late.

And, of course, there was frost and I had to scrape the car. Add five more minutes to my lateness. Could this day get anymore more discombobulated? I wondered.

Of course it could!

I gained five minutes on my drive and was, once more,  only running 15 minutes late. We had a PLT meeting. On my way I found and picked up a few sparkly Shamrocks that were hidden around the school, for prizes at our staff breakfast on Friday. Maybe my luck was changing.

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Thank goodness. I had a first period plan. As I scrambled to get my morning together, I noticed little dark flecks on my papers. I blew them off unsure where they had come from. Just before the kids came in, I finally made a cup of tea and ate my banana. In my haste, I dropped a piece of banana. As I bent to pick it off the floor, I noticed sparkles on my top. Oh man, those sparkly shamrocks left a mess on me! I brushed off what I could see and got ready for the onslaught.

I felt shaky through my first class and warned them that I was off my game. They are a great group of kids and just rolled with my discombobulation. I laughed out loud when a student asked me why I was wearing glitter. I simply told them that today,  I was just “discombobulated and covered in glitter”.

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That other harbinger of Spring

6 Mar

The birds were singing as I walked into work this morning. And a few daffodils were close to blooming, but something I did this weekend was just a much a harbinger of Spring as anything Nature can throw at me.

Sunday was laundry day. I usually do laundry Saturday, but the Rose City Yarn Crawl kept me too busy. This Sunday was especially auspicious because after I stripped the flannel sheets off my bed, I replaced them with a cotton set , in a lovely, Spring-inspired floral pattern that brightened my bedroom as much as the sun shining in through the window.

 

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Either/Or

5 Mar

Either/Or, the first book by Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard,  explains that human existence is marked by the contrast between a hedonistic/aesthetic life and an ethical life based in duty and commitment.

Sunday afternoon, I was faced by my own either/or,  existential dilemma: the hedonistic enjoyment of knitting or  the ethical grading of papers I promised my students I’d return next week.

Duty won, but I allowed myself a few breaks – not knitting breaks – to walk Lucy and enjoy the beautiful early March sunshine.

I gave myself permission to knit later Sunday evening, while I watched an episode of season two of  Victoria. It seemed like a reasonable payoff for doing my duty.

Rose City Yarn Crawl 2018

4 Mar

The Rose City Yarn Crawl is a four-day event for fiber enthusiasts (knitters, crocheters, spinners, and felters) to explore the many shops in and around Portland, Oregon.IMG_0001

I set out with a budget and a time limit. I brought only cash, to ensure I didn’t exceed my budget. Fortunately, I approached my limit of money and time almost simultaneously.

I actually started the crawl Friday night on my way home from work, stopping at the shop closest to home. That evening, after I got home, I planned my route for the next day. Although I finished the crawl last year, I knew I wasn’t up for a full day of shopping – and I had errands I needed attention this weekend.

Saturday, I rose early and puttered about as I looked over my master plan and packed my bag. I arrived early to my first stop, Dublin Bay Yarn Shop. I listened to an audiobook in the car, while I waited for the doors to open. As soon as they did, I was out of the car.

There was browsing and a lot of touching. Fibre people love to touch. Surrounded by so many beautiful colors and textures, it can be hard to make a decision, but I finally made my purchase.

I had paid for a 30 minute ticket to park, but decided to walk to the next shop, a mere 8 blocks away. I bought another ticket but accidentally pushed the 2 hour button.  Well, better too much time than too little.

It was a beautiful brisk morning. The sun was making an effort to peek through the clouds and there was no rain. I wore a hand-knit hat and gloves and had a spring in my step.

At the second shop, Pearl Fiber Arts, I had the chance to talk with two local yarn dyers before deciding on my purchases. I had an equally enjoyable walk back to the car. As I arrived, I saw another car parking across the street. More yarn crawlers, I said to myself as I dashed over to offer them my parking receipt, which still had an hour on it.

Two more stops followed, and, by the end, I had quite a stash.

I bought yarn for a sweater I will knit for myself (the yarn on the left). The photo on the right is yarn for some Christmas gifts – you can’t start holiday knitting too early- and for some other as yet undetermined projects.

Maybe next year, I will have time to finish the Yarn Crawl and fill my passport, but I arrived home very satisfied with my experience this year.

 

Dear {insert parent name}

3 Mar

Dear {insert parent name}

You signed up for a conference with me, but should have signed up with{insert teacher name}. I have deleted your appointment with me because you can’t sign up with more than 1 teacher. Sorry about the confusion. It has been a confusing process for many people, including teachers.

I sent this message to a number of parents yesterday. Up until this Spring, each teacher has scheduled their own conferences through SignUpGenius. We created our own schedule, had a unique link and sent it to our parents.

For the first time ever, we are scheduling centrally using PTCFast. One of our administrators created the schedule and classes for each teacher. When parents enter the site, they have to click on their child’s teacher. Because we are a middle school, students have multiple teachers and most teams aren’t conferencing with the same group of kids we saw in  the Fall.  You can see the confusion.

Slowly but surely, the corrections are happening. There are still 10 days before conferences, so I anticipate that all the wrinkles will be ironed out before the first conference.

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Revisiting grief unexpectedly

2 Mar

After a great day at school, an exciting first day of the Slice of Life Challenge, and a quick and uneventful drive home, tears welled in my eyes. I had just opened the mail to this:

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Fiona’s license renewal.

You think your heart has had enough time to heal and then this arrives in the mail and the wound in your heart opens again.

Fiona went to the Rainbow Bridge on November 10, 2015 – two and a half years ago. She was a sickly girl with chronic ear infections and skin issues, but she left a huge hole in my heart when she left.

Tomorrow I will write something happy or funny. Today, I will just remember my lovely girl.

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Randy Ribay

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