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Compost Happens is a personal blog: part family, part garden, part crunchy green eco-writer. I'm Daisy, and I'm the groundskeeper here. I take care of family, garden, and coffee, when I'm not teaching and doing laundry.

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  • Monday, April 30, 2007

    In memory of those who died at Virginia Tech, and in honor of those who survived:

    One Day Blog Silence

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    Saturday, April 28, 2007

    Backyard surprises and muffins, too

    The first spring in our home, eleven years ago, we discovered all kinds of fun things growing. We'd moved in late enough in the fall that everything except the grass was brown, and nothing was blooming. We enjoyed the show as daffodils, tulips, daylilies, and even a beautiful bleeding heart bush made their appearances on the stage. Tucked into the backyard next to the garage we found rhubarb.
    I had never cooked or baked with rhubarb before, so I decided I'd better learn. This one's tried and true, a regular product of my tiny kitchen.

    Backyard Rhubarb Muffins

    1 cup all-purpose flour
    ½ cups whole wheat flour
    ¾ cup brown sugar, packed
    ¾ teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup applesauce or 1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
    1 large egg or ¼ cup egg substitute
    ½ cup buttermilk
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    1 cup fresh rhubarb, cut in ½ inch dice
    1/8 cup brown sugar, packed
    1/8 cup chopped walnuts
    ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat 12 muffin cups with non-stick spray. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt.
    Make a hole in the center of the dry ingredients and add the oil (applesauce), egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the rhubarb. Scoop batter into the muffin cups.
    Topping; Combine the brown sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon. Sprinkle mixture over the tops of the muffins, dividing equally.

    Bake for 20 to 23 minutes or just until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean and dry. Remove from oven and cool on rack. Makes twelve muffins.
    Alternate topping: After cooling, drizzle with a simple powdered sugar icing.


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    spring surprises

    Hey, where did that tulip come from? I didn't plant any tulips in the daylilies.

    It must have been moved there by a squirrel. I know the humans didn't do it.

    Oh, well, it looks healthy and happy. I hope it doesn't miss its friends.

    Wait a minute -- are those daylily leaves sneaking up next to my tulips?


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    Friday, April 27, 2007

    Random Thoughts and random links on a lovely spring day

    Can I call it window shopping if I'm looking at a computer screen? I was surfing through some of the deals the pretty Mir discovered at, and I found this. I'm not sure why anyone would want a serving platter held up by elephants, but it is, um, well, unique.

    It's Friday. It's a true TGIF. I'd love to do nothing all weekend, but I have a heavy bag full of papers to correct and score before Monday. Maybe I'll do them on the deck with a cup of hazelnut coffee by my side. Ah, now we're talking! I made these muffins last weekend. Maybe it's time for a batch of rhubarb muffins. I could use up the rhubarb in the freezer before the fresh stuff grows and ripens.

    I ordered/ downloaded the ebook Jumble Pie by Melanie Lynne Hauser. It's a definite "girlfriend" book, and I plan to read more of it this weekend. Just me, my laptop, and a bagel and I'll be happy.

    We've had a cold week, and our heater was temperamental. Husband changed the batteries in the thermostat, and now all is well. Is that all it takes to heat a house -- two AA batteries?

    I'll be judging another music festival next weekend. Amigo's IEP is coming up soon. After that, I have a long day at a track meet with my students. And then, well, I've arranged for a personal day to regain my sanity and bring a few empty boxes to La Petite to help expedite her move home for the summer. And if I just happen to stop at the outlet mall on the way there...well, it IS on the way.

    And then I'll have another three and a half weeks to finish teaching my students everything they need to know, pack up my own teaching materials, and clean up the classroom I'm leaving. Included in that time period is a school-wide field day, a tour of the middle school, and numerous other events. Somehow, I know I'll get it all done. I might have to buy out the neighborhood Starbucks to gather enough energy, but it'll get done.

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    Monday, April 23, 2007

    just dreaming, not wishful thinking

    Coming home from the annual sixth grade trip to camp always leaves a little wistful feeling that I call "Camp Hangover." The symptoms are feelings of relaxation, peace, and good will toward least until the first bell rings. This year the hangover was stronger than most -- perhaps because it was my last school trip to camp. When I woke up in the cabin each morning and climbed out of my bunk, usually before anyone else in the cabin, there was such a crystal clearness in the air, a crispness so strong I could almost taste it. I felt like pouring a cup of coffee, sitting down at the picnic table and listening to nature around me. Now, for a hearing impaired person, listening is a relative term. But here, on the edge of a small lake the locals call a pond, the area was so quiet that I could hear several different kinds of birds, an occasional fish jumping, bullfrogs (yes, bullfrogs!), and a distant woodpecker. I could see the still surface of the water reflecting the birch trees on the island across the way. Most of all, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace.
    That's where the dreaming comes in. I'll never own a cottage on water. They're simply too expensive. Buying a small vacation cabin in the woods would be impractical, too. To get privacy and distance would require buying acres of land, and therefore paying mega-taxes and spending large amounts of time maintaining it. Uh-uh, not likely.
    I can, however, pour my coffee and sit out on my own deck in the summer. We live in an older, almost historical neighborhood of many trees, lots of birds, albeit with an occasional car or lawnmower in the early morning mist instead of bullfrogs. The sense of peace can still be around; I just have to look within to get it, rather than without. If I can do just that, perhaps the dreaming isn't wasted after all.

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    supermom can rest for a few minutes now

    Last week was an incredibly busy one. My calendar was so full the dates ran off into the wilderness to escape. Oh, wait, that was me.
    Monday: meeting with school nurse to go over meds for camping trip; react and grieve for those at Virgina Tech
    Tuesday: Public Health training (Oh, my, stock up on the bottled water and canned food!)
    Wednesday: Off to camp
    Thursday: Still gone to camp
    Friday: Home from camp, start post-camp paperwork, retrieve over 150 emails at work
    Saturday: early morning phone call from La Petite, camping out at the local Love Sac store's grand opening; suffer through a forty-five minute power outage mid-morning
    Sunday: go to school (with Amigo's help) and begin catching up on regular classroom planning and paperwork
    Each of these could probably rate its own post. I'll work on Saturday's event first.
    Our local mall was recently graced with the presence of a Love Sac store. I read the newspaper blurb aloud because Amigo loves his simple vinyl bean bag chairs. La Petite was home for the weekend and got all excited, calling out to her boyfriend in the other room, "Honey, we're getting a Love Sac!" Huh? It seems he adores the store and its product line. He was one of the first in line when the store opened its doors, and therefore found out about the megasale coming up. The first 100 people in line on the magic day would receive a sizable discount of at least 50% off on their purchases.
    To make a long story (including midnight breakfast at IHOP, a big crowd, and a lonely nervous security guard calling for backup) they joined a few friends and lined up in the mall parking lot at about 4:00 AM. She called us at 6:00 to say, "Hey! I've got an 87% discount! Can you come get me in an hour in the van?" Husband headed out that way in my minivan and met her at the mall. Unfortunately, she didn't get into the store itself until 9:30 because they were only letting a few people into the small store at a time. Fortunately, the two of them shopped with her discount and picked up over $1000 worth of fabulous furniture for around $300.
    Yes, they came home and slept. Meanwhile, Amigo fluffed our PillowSac and sat on the rocker frame for the entire Brewers-Astros game. Rock on, kiddo, and go Brewers, too!


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    Saturday, April 21, 2007

    for Earth Day and every day

    I was going to write a quick poem about the value of teaching kids in nature, but it was turning out sappy and silly, so I think I'll let a few pictures speak for themselves.

    In or outdoors, fail or pass, Teachers never lose their Class.

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    Thursday, April 19, 2007

    What a difference a day makes

    I am teaching in a different school today -- the school of the outdoors. I took my class to a YMCA camp about 75 miles north of our school on the edge of a national forest. Before we left, I was tense, worried, to put it bluntly, stressed to the max. We left our helicopter parents (you know, the ones that hover) behind and took only those who were experienced campers and decent chaperones. And I'll admit it, with each mile away from school I felt the weight of the world get a little bit lighter.
    There is a sense of magic about camp. Kids who are difficult between the four walls of the school building often find that the outdoors is their ideal classroom. Children who struggle with long division can be experts at steering a canoe. Pre-adolescents find their social pyramid tipped sideways and upside down and begin to see each other in a different light.
    This trip is time consuming, tiring, and a lot, I mean a lot of work to prepare, and requires many personal sacrifices on the part of the teachers and their families. Due to my upcoming job change, this will be my last sixth grade camping trip. I can look out the cabin windows, fine-tune my ghost story for tonight's campfire, and say yes, this was worthwhile.

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    Monday, April 16, 2007

    This strange new world goes to college

    It's a roller coaster of emotions.
    Grief for those at Virginia Tech, the dead, the injured, and their families and friends.
    Relief that the shooting wasn't at my own child's campus.
    Guilt for feeling relief when others are suffering.
    Gratitude toward those officers who responded.
    Worry -- what if the violence spreads?
    Hope for healing -- for all.

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    Sunday, April 15, 2007

    One mom and a truck -- er, minivan

    I taught in six different classrooms in my first six years of teaching. By the time I settled into room seven, I was tired of moving, but I sure didn't have any "junk" in my closets! I had cleaned and de-cluttered every spring before packing my boxes and dragging them up or downstairs or across town.
    Now I've been in that same room for six consecutive years, and I'm moving on to a different grade in a different building next fall. Six years makes for a lot of junk. Fortunately, we adopted a new science curriculum this year, which meant I purged most of the old materials last spring. Now I just need to go through six cupboards and nine storage drawers and two file cabinets and... the rest.
    I'm determined to do something, no matter how small, each and every day. Here are the small contributions I've made to my June moving day thus far.

    • cleaned out my old fifth grade math folders from six years ago
    • emptied the folder with sixth grade camp files (my last trip is later this week)
    • brought home three vases and a tiny teddy bear sporting a "Think Snow" sign (gift from co-worker hoping for a snow day)
    • packed up my fingerless gloves, worn many mornings when the Energy Savings dept. decided not to turn the heat on until the students arrived, and heck with the teachers preparing for the day
    • recycled and/or threw away the contents of an outdated science binder (one down, two more to go)


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    Friday, April 13, 2007

    Save my Sanity, please.

    Sanity Savers: tips for women to live a balanced life by Dr. Dale Vicky Atkins, is the latest title on the BlogHer Virtual Book Tour. My usual books fall into the categories of escapist fiction, professional reading, and news/current events. Sanity Savers didn't fit readily into these, but it still caught my attention. When the short preview mentioned the everpresent juggling act, I knew I had to read it.
    Sanity Savers is written in a unique format with entries divided into days (five weekday entries plus a weekend) and subject headings that remind me of blog post labels. Readers can approach the book one day or week at a time or search for a particular heading of interest. Subjects include parent, friend, community, well-being, and more.
    Most of her advice is concise, rational, and thoughtful. Some entries focus on specific and concrete events (moving with kids) and others are more general or abstract (going through sorrow, creating a peaceful workplace).
    Skimming through the headings, I found a few entries on disabilities. Some spoke to the perspective of parenting a disabled child; one offered suggestions for dealing with disabled peers. None, however, spoke to the perspective of being a disabled adult woman. Dr. Atkins deals with so many angles; why not this one? I am a professional (a teacher), a mother, a wife, and hearing impaired. I know I'm not alone as a self-sufficient disabled adult, and I do buy books -- lots of books.
    Sanity Savers has valuable advice and a positive outlook on life. I hope that Dr. Atkins will consider addressing the lack of disabled and capable adults in future books.

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    Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    April Showers

    Both Photos are courtesy of Husband's trip outside in his winter coat in the middle of the, um, storm. We're expecting up to six inches -- maybe. I'm not expecting a snow day tomorrow. Darn. But we're stocking up on bunny food just in case.

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    Monday, April 09, 2007

    The Day After

    Knock knock.
    Who's there?
    Ether who?
    Ether bunny.
    Knock knock.
    Who's there?
    Samoa who?
    Samoa ether bunnies.

    Photo credits, of course, by La Petite, photographer to rabbits everywhere

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    Sunday, April 08, 2007

    The Easter Bunny?

    Happy Easter, everyone.


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    Saturday, April 07, 2007

    It's spring...Maybe

    Outside Temperature: 30 degrees
    Precipitation: none falling at the moment, but there are still big patches of white on the ground from this morning's snow shower.
    Outlook: cold
    Easter forecast? Tie the bonnet tightly; you'll need the warmth. Leave the lace gloves at home; you'll want wool.
    Real life forecast? Spring break comes to an end. La Petite goes back to the University tomorrow afternoon. I go back to school on Monday for a staff development day full of meetings and trainings. Amigo's classes start Tuesday.
    Futurecast: Stress.
    These transitions are tougher than they used to be, so I made a conscious effort to have a true mental health break. I made just one trip to school to put up a showcase for Autism Awareness Month. I did not check my school email from home. I just took out my schoolbag today and corrected a stack of papers; I'll do a few more (stacks) tomorrow. I'll be ready for Monday and the return of the kids on Tuesday. Hopefully, this gradual return to the world of school will let me slide back into the routine without tension headaches and stomachaches, or at least with fewer side-effects.
    We've had a good break, Amigo and I. He helped me put up the showcase, take blankets to the laundromat, vacate the house when the cleaning crew came, and bring all three bunnies to the vet for a nail-clipping party. Er, appointment. I look forward to summer when we can Field Trip some more.
    But all too soon, it's back to routine.
    I have ten weeks of school left. But who's counting?

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    Thursday, April 05, 2007

    An open letter to Oprah and her producers

    Dear Oprah and colleagues;
    Thank you for making a contribution to Autism Awareness Month by featuring families of autistic children on your show on Thursday. An hour show has only a little time, and yours opened the window on autism for many viewers.
    However, I have some concerns.
    I am a mother of a teenager with Asperger's Syndrome, a diagnosis on the high end of the autism spectrum. I am also the cousin of a more severely autistic adult. And I fill yet another role: that of classroom teacher who has taught several students on the spectrum. Based on my life experiences, both personal and professional, I saw some major holes in the production.
    • The opening was definitely produced with the goal of tear-jerker rather than presenting facts. Facts and concepts can provide dramatic television while providing the audience with knowledge that leads to comprehension.
    • Background knowledge, including your own, seemed to only scratch the surface.
    • Guests and experts were primarily from the Chicago area, and therefore the group was limited in scope.
    • The show didn't talk about or feature a range of people on the spectrum.
    • Featured guests were parents, not older adults or teens with autism.
    As we say in public education, perception is reality. Your show guides perception for many millions of people in the United States. Please consider the points above for future productions. With your opportunities for educating the public, you can expand the perception of autism to include much more reality.

    On behalf of many parents, teachers, and people with autism, thank you for your time.

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    Breaking up is hard to do

    A Head Start director once distributed posters that said, "Change is our friend." In smaller letters, it proclaimed, "Posting is mandatory." Yes, she had a sense of humor. Change was the norm in her realm, and facing it with a smile was one way to handle the many changes that were thrown her way on a daily basis.
    Change can be difficult. It's not always possible to face it with a smile. I am leaving my current job for a different one next fall. I hope it's for the better. I still have misgivings, but leaving is the right thing to do. I should have done this sooner, but you know about "shoulds". In leaving my job, I'm leaving some of the best friends and closest professional colleagues I've known. Ever.
    In spring of 2002, we started graduate school together. We were nicknamed the Fab Five, all five of us from the same school in the same district. We carpooled to classes and got to know each other during the 45 minute drive each way. By the time we finished the intense program in fall of 2003, we were bonded for life.
    On our last weekend of classes, the weekend we presented our final projects, we came out of lunch to find the car pool van full of helium balloons. This forced us (kicking and screaming, of course) to take this picture. We've displayed it in each of our classrooms ever since.
    Last October, mine fell from the wall behind my desk, shattering the glass cover. I cleaned it up, vowed to get a new frame, and secretly fought back the superstitious thought that this might be a bad omen.
    Omen or not, I picked up a new position. With the support of my Fab Friends, I will pack up my classroom and move across town come June. Despite our distance, I know they'll still be there for me.
    Amy, whose loving and generous son picked out balloons and wrote us each congratulations cards, even though he was only in second grade.
    Sara, she of the best and funniest camping stories, now a survivor first class after her battle with breast cancer.
    Julie, the calm and cool one, the one who traded classrooms with me when I couldn't do stairs after my foot surgery.
    Dawn, she of the musical laughter, the most talented teacher I've ever met. She truly has the Midas touch.
    Oh, yes, and I can't forget how the banana, wearing Sara's boa, got strategically hung on Dawn's door with Julie's and Amy's help. If I get too serious, these ladies might just post a banana on my door -- or fill my room with deer droppings once again.

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    Wednesday, April 04, 2007

    How many candles?

    Silicon Valley Moms Blog celebrates its one year birthday today! So -- how many candles? 365 for the days? 1 for one year? 1269 for the number of posts? 3325 for the number of comments they've generated? They've even attracted the mainstream press to their Blogging world! How many candles does that warrant?

    The team members of Silicon Valley Moms live a life quite different from mine. They deal with overpriced housing and wealth; I deal with a neighborhood that my boss calls a "slum" (it isn't). They deal with earthquakes; I deal with blizzards. They deal with an ever-changing economy based on a technological world; I live in a somewhat blue collar, yet scholarly, area. They chose between cheering for the Raiders, the 49ers, and the other West Coast teams; for me, well, Cheesehead says it all.

    But when I read their posts, I realize we speak the same language. Much like moms with strollers will smile at one another anywhere, parents in the blogosphere understand each other. Happy one year anniversary, Moms of Silicon Valley! I lift my coffee cup to you.

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    Tuesday, April 03, 2007

    Spring Break reading and rain

    Most of the books I read fall into certain categories: professional books, young adult literature (also a professional task), enrichment, family, and frivolous.

    Frivolous is fun. Frivolous is good. It means a book that makes me smile -- a book that I'm not obliged to read, but I read just for me. Spring break is a great time for books like this, and Gigi Anders' Men may come, and men may go, but I’ve still got my Little Pink Raincoat fits the category perfectly.

    Priorities. It’s all about priorities. Gigi Anders tells a great story – several, in fact, - connecting fashion with life, specific fashion pieces with the men in her life, the quest for the perfect raincoat with the quest for (you guessed it) the quest for Mr. Right.
    The quests made for my favorite parts of the book. Call all over the country for the perfect coat in just the right size? Done that. Dream of the perfect pair of shoes and refuse to go out until they turn up? Done that, too. Covet and eventually buy an overpriced pair of earrings to attract the perfect man? Well, no, I haven’t, but I can totally understand her motivation when she does. Her taste in clothing, accessories, make-up, and more is impeccable. Her taste in men? You’ll have to read the book to find out. Make reading this book a priority – just like that little black dress or the perfect little pink raincoat.

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    Monday, April 02, 2007

    Mom's playing in the dirt -- already!

    You might be a teacher if:

    --"spring cleaning" happens in July
    --you finish planting your garden after report cards are done
    --you prepare the garden when you can and where you can.

    This view has been bothering me for weeks, but I've had no time or energy to work on it until now. The tulips and decorative grasses have been poking out of the thawing soil and reaching for that elusive Wisconsin sunshine, and all the while the remains of last fall's flowers have been blocking their line of light.

    Today, I finally got down on my knees and cut them back.

    I don't know what's growing there now. Are those new shoots from the old plant? This is a flower La Petite bought and planted last summer, so she knows more about it than I do. I hope I didn't cut it back too far, but it's too late now. I guess I'll find out! But for now, the tulips can come up and enjoy the spring sun.

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