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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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  • Friday, November 30, 2007

    Every story, new or ancient...

    The most memorable gifts are those that spark stories. The story might about the gift, the giver, or the recipient, but the story is the heart of it. Like fruitcake, it's the piece that gets remembered, long after the holiday itself is gone.
    Like fruitcake, the gift isn't always fancy. One of my favorite Teacher Gifts was a gift card to a garden center in town. this student and his parents knew enough about that they went beyond the World's Best Teacher coffee mug (which would've been nice, too) and addressed one of my favorite activities: digging in the dirt.
    Many years ago, one of my dad's idols (Bart Starr) published an autobiography. I stood in line for two hours to get it autographed, and it was worth every minute. My dad was notoriously hard to buy for, and this was perfect -- and he let me read it when he was done.
    A student gave me this cute little popsicle stick sculpture. I'll always remember her when I see it because she finished gluing it together at the last minute in class...much like the way she did homework!
    So you see, it really is the thought that counts. All the students who have given me coffee mugs or Green Bay Packer ornaments are in my memory because of the stories their gifts inspire. As my little snowman insisted (below), I did, indeed, have a very merry Christmas.

    This post inspired by the Parent Bloggers Network and their Blog Blasts, and Excitations, a site designed to make gift giving fun and memorable for givers and receivers alike.

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    Thursday, November 29, 2007

    funday -- Thursday?

    Reasons I predict the Packers to win tonight:

    • Favre hasn't won yet in Dallas. It's time. (Remember KC? Same thing.)
    • Youth and good health (receiving corps) + Experience (quarterback) = Win
    • Al Harris vs. T.O. -- Harris is all talent, no ego. 'Nuff said.
    • Packers are looking much better than they did at Chicago, their only loss.
    • Mason Crosby's kicks have come through in a pinch -- several pinches, in fact.
    • Tony Romo grew up idolizing Brett Favre. Beat his idol? No way.
    • And the final reason: It's just a game, after all. And the Packers enjoy it and play it very, very well.
    And as to the other "game" tonight, the NFL Network vs. Home Town Fans: we'll leave the outcome to you, executives. But remember: Lambeau Field has been sold out for decades, not just years. We don't even know what television blackouts are in Wisconsin. Packer fans have gone to the legislature, for heaven's sake, to preserve their right to watch the games.
    So without further ado, I'm going to pop a pizza in the oven and reach for my cheesehead.

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    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    Don't let the emptiness fool you...

    Packer fans are on their way to Dallas. And those fans who aren't traveling are there in spirit.

    (Photo courtesy of Husband's cell phone camera)

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    Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    White Christmas? Blue Christmas? Green Christmas?

    The tune that gets stuck in my head is the middle one, and it's always an Elvis style voice, too. "I'll have a bloooooo Christmas, without you..." sniff, sniff, sob...oh, the sadness of being left by his baby at the holidays!
    But seriously, folks, people are already thinking about holiday shopping and some have already started. Um, yes, I have. And others have been thinking about how to make their Christmas more green this year. Leah at the Lean, Green Family asked commenters to share their own families green traditions at holiday time. I talked about getting the most out of wrapping paper in this post last year. There are other ways of being environmentally conscious on Christmas.
    Shop online or combine shopping trips. Carbon Footprint may be the trendy phrase, but it's true that using additional gas costs more money and expels more pollution into our airspace. Driving fewer miles is cost-effective and eco-conscious.
    Shipping packages? Use paper from your home shredder instead of foam packing materials. If you've shredded it well enough, it won't give away any personal information, and it makes a great cushion for gift boxes. It's recyclable at the receiving end, too.
    Here's a unique story of reduce, reuse, and recycle of holiday materials. Our Christmas tree gets reused. No, it's not a live tree that gets planted in the yard. It's not artificial, either.
    We have neighbors who hunt, fish, and remain outdoors and active year-round. In our neck of the woods, people go ice fishing and sturgeon spearing. The neighbors are part of a group that collects these trees as people put them out on the curb. The "used" trees will become a path, a guide line that marks a safer path across the ice on Lake Winnebago. By sticking to a track that has been tested for its thickness, spearers and ice fishermen can feel a little more secure as they travel to their shanties.
    If our tree didn't go out on the lake, the city crews would pick it up and feed it through their chipper, where it would eventually end up part of the park department's mulch. The tree gives us pleasure, after which it can be put to another use, which pleases me, too.

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    Monday, November 26, 2007

    Just when you thought it was safe to stop cleaning...

    I had just finished cleaning up the majority of the wake of Thanksgiving dinner at our house when this email turned up in my school inbox.

    "I received a phone call this afternoon stating that the BOE [Board of
    Education] has to go into closed session from 6:30 - 7:00 next Monday night.
    They need a classroom to hold the closed session and due to your proximity to
    the LMC [library], you win ~lucky you! Please see me regarding how the Powers
    That Be mentioned setting up the room."
    Our local school board meets in a variety of venues throughout the year. This month, you guessed it, it's my building. And as you can tell by the principal's note, my room is the closest to the library, where the majority of the meeting will be held. When it's time to meet in "closed session," they'll move into my room.

    Most board members will be too busy with the meeting agenda to look around them. But just like at home, I'd like to make sure the room reflects positively on me and my students.

    So... my lesson plans for Monday will include:

    --desk cleaning for every student
    --floor cleaning ( a pet peeve: how can so many pencils go rolling around the floor each day? Pick them up!)
    --straightening the Book Nook and Reading Table
    --cleaning/ straightening my own desk (kind of a scary proposition)
    --adding tape to any art works threatening to fall from wall
    --find out what kind of arrangement the board wants
    --involve the students in any necessary re-arranging

    I feel like my storage area on top of the cupboards is very cluttered, but there's not much I can do. Most of what I own is up there in boxes, and most of those boxes are full of books. Maybe I can straighten the boxes a little. The counter area is a bit overcrowded, too. But anything I move from the counter will end up on top of the cupboards, making that area worse. I think I'm stuck on this one.
    My overhead screen doesn't stay down unless I loop the cord around a hook below the chalk tray. It's quite worn, too. I can't avoid that; it will have to be Exhibit A in the impact of revenue caps.
    Since it's still November, the basic room decor can stay the same. I don't feel pressured to put up anything that screams "Holidays!!" quite yet -- if ever, that is.

    I'm sure this is a case of Murphy's Law. If I do nothing, board members will look around the room and comment on it to my principal. If I knock myself out getting the room ready, their closed session will either be very short or cancelled altogether, and no one will even look beyond the door of the room.

    I'll feel best about the whole situation if I approach it with the children as a matter of pride in their surroundings, ownership of their learning space. Then, no matter what happens at the evening meeting, I'll know I grabbed the teachable moment.

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    Sunday, November 25, 2007

    Ho-Ho-Ho, I predict a winning season!

    By a score of 10-8, last week I actually won the prediction game! This week we started early because of the games on Thanksgiving, and we included the other family members who were here for Thanksgiving. As of noon Sunday, we're all tied -- except for Grandma. She insisted on being pessimistic and predicted Detroit to beat the Packers. Therefore, she remains one game behind the rest, because all of us, yes all the rest of us, chose Green Bay, Dallas, and then Indianapolis.

    Today will be more interesting, with more variety. I'll report the scores as they come in -- our scores, that is. You can find the actual NFL scores on your own!

    Hop, hop, hop, Touchdown!!
    Sunday Afternoon Update:
    Kid Brother 8
    Sister-in-Law, La Petite, and Howie tied at 7
    Amigo and Husband tied at 6
    Grandma and Daisy, tied for last, with only 5 predictions correct. :(
    Early Sunday evening update:
    Kid Brother and La Petite tied at 10
    Howie at 9
    Sister-in-Law and Daisy tied at 8 each
    Husband, Amigo, and Grandma tied for last, each with 7 predictions correct.
    Everyone picked New England to win tonight, so while the numbers might change, the standing won't. Tomorrow could mix up the last two places; everyone picked Pittsburgh except Husband. If Miami wins, he'll move up a notch. Mind you, only a notch.

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    Saturday, November 24, 2007

    Signs of a Wisconsin Thanksgiving

    1. There's a real turkey feather on the fireplace mantle (from MIL's backyard).
    2. My brother and my daughter are both wearing Packer gear (see below).
    3. Appetizers include cheese, of course.
    4. There's a radio in the kitchen so the cooks don't miss any of The Game (You knew that, I'm sure).
    5. The lawn hasn't been raked yet, but there's a dusting of snow on the leaves.

    The turkey was terrific. The pies were perfect. The Packers won. Really, who could ask for anything more?

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    Friday, November 23, 2007

    Random thoughts come in sevens

    I've been tagged by Jennifer at Ziff-Niffer. Memes are actually handy during NaBloPoMo; they relieve me of the task of thinking up topics! My mission, since I've accepted it, is as follows.

    1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
    2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
    3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
    4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

    Seven facts? If you've read Compost Happens at all you know that I'm a teacher, I love to read, and I enjoy our pet rabbits (most of the time). In the spirit of the meme, I'll find seven random facts that may not be so obvious.

    1. I enjoy baking, but I'm not as fond of cooking. Thanksgiving was fine because it meant a turkey, which is easy. Stuff it, stick it in the oven, and let it cook for hours.
    2. I have a bad cold at the moment, which is quite frustrating because it plugs up my already impaired ears. World, I'm sorry, but I honestly can't hear you today.
    3. I like second hand, consignment, and thrift stores. I find fabulous deals on decent clothes and books (and more!) in all of those places.
    4. I asked "Santa" for a new laptop for Christmas. I know I'm not going to get one, but it puts the idea out there.
    5. I'd love to teach half time and spend mor etime writing, but it's not to be.
    6. I am constantly fighting the battle of the clutter monster. No, don't recommend FlyLady or similar services; I don't have time to teach all day and then deal with her daily suggestions.
    7. I'm reuniting with my grad school friends next weekend for a shopping trip. I'm not a big shopping fan, but the van ride together will be like old times, bonding and chatting and catching up. I don't care if I don't buy a thing, even though my gift card prize arrived in the mail on Wednesday.

    I tag...(this is tough because I read and enjoy so many people!):
    Mom-not otherwise specified
    Shash at Diary of a Crazed Mommy
    Margalit at What was I Thinking?
    Michelle at Scribbit
    Kelly at Mocha Momma
    Jenn from Mommy Needs Coffee (oh, I can identify with her blog's name)
    Shannon (the Red Sox fan) at Believer in Balance

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    Thursday, November 22, 2007

    Pillow Fight!

    It was pillow against the rabbit, and Buttercup won.
    The vacuum cleaner wasn't happy, either. It coughed and gagged and had to have a new bag installed before we could finish the job. This was, of course, in the midst of Thanksgiving preparations. Naturally, I put the turkey in the oven this morning and then started to clean up the rabbit's nesting materials. Gee, doesn't everybody do that on Thanksgiving before the guests arrive? Buttercup, silly bunny, played innocent.

    "Who, me? I was napping up here on the couch the whole time."

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    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    Decking the Halls for Thanksgiving

    Why, yes, there is a Green Bay Packer game on Thanksgiving Day. Why do you ask?

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    Tuesday, November 20, 2007

    The Sandwich, and I'm not talking turkey

    Husband is caught firmly in the role of Sandwich Generation. He is caring for his family and his children, as always. but now he's adding the role of advisor to his parents.
    Father-in-Law has had both knees replaced, and doesn't walk well. He still insists on mowing the lawn and using the snowblower and other chores, but now he's reached a point where it's simply not safe.
    He had back surgery a few weeks ago, and the doctors couldn't discharge him afterwards because he wasn't able to physically care for himself. He went instead to a rehab wing to undergo physical therapy and more basic training.
    Husband helped out by handling a few chores (lawn mowing, etc.), but one of the biggest things he did was attend a progress and planning meeting for his dad. I don't know what these meeting are called in senior citizen language, but in education we call them Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs. Just before he left to meet up with his parents at the rehab conference, Husband realized that it was, indeed, just like an IEP. Therapists, present level of performance reports, evaluations, goals -- the whole thing sounded extremely familiar. But we've done this for our child, not for our parents.
    To make it tougher, F-i-L has been grumpy as all get out since moving into rehab. He's in pain. He's facing major life changes. He is finally being forced to confront the denial he's maintained for years about his health and his future. His child is taking care of him instead of vice-versa. He has trouble expressing himself on the big issues, so he complains about the little ones. He hates the food. His roommate hogs the bathroom. The serving staff takes away his meal trays too soon, rushing him. He's bored and has nothing to do. Oh, did I mention he hates the food?
    We understand how he feels and why he's acting this way, but it still grates on our nerves. Husband and Mother-in-Law are getting the worst of it.
    The next step in the process will be finding an appropriate apartment or condo for them. F-i-L needs assisted living; M-i-L doesn't. He needs to use his walker, so the place needs to be handicapped accessible. Household chores and repairs are not realistic for him. Lawnmowers? Uh-uh. Ladders? Not a chance. In case his health worsens, we need to look for a place that can accomodate his medical needs.
    Then? We'll help them pack up and move, including selling their home and cleaning out 50 years of accumulated possessions and memories.
    I'm not sure which step is going to be the hardest, but I know none of it will be easy for them or for Husband.
    If the saying is true, that you are what you eat, hand the man a sandwich. Make it a good one; he'll need a lot of endurance for this marathon.

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    Monday, November 19, 2007

    2007 Thanksgiving Menu at Chez OK

    The menu is ready! We think it is, anyway.

    Pickles & Olives ; Husband and Amigo
    French Onion Soup; Husband and Amigo

    Main Course:
    Turkey with Stuffing; Daisy

    Classic Mashed Potatoes; Husband
    Mashed Potatoes a la Joie; La Petite
    Sweet potatoes; Daisy
    Gravy; Daisy
    Steamed Asparagus Sesame; Husband
    Packer Beans; Daisy and Amigo
    1-2-3 Cranberry Sauce; Amigo
    Cranberry Jell-O; Grandma's famous recipe
    Pumpkin & Cranberry Breads; Grandma's famous recipes
    Dinner Rolls; Daisy

    Pumpkin Pies and Whipped Topping; Brother and Sister-in-Law
    Apple Pie; Grandma and Husband

    Wines; your Sommelier, husband
    Soda (Various); hosts, others as preferred
    Milk; Buttercup
    Water; Peanut, Sadie
    Coffee, Regular and Decaf; Daisy

    Some beverages will be in La Petite's small fridge
    Grandma will bring four folding chairs.
    We will eat at 3:00 or after the Packer game.
    The Packer game will be broadcast on a radio in the kitchen so that the cooks don't miss a play. (yeah, like you thought I'd make Thanksgiving dinner and miss a Packer game?!!)

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    Sunday, November 18, 2007

    Good thing I don't gamble.

    Offices have their football pools. Sportswriters have their contests. We've started our own friendly family competition on Sundays, predicting the outcome of the NFL games.
    Amigo picks up his schedule binder with the Braille schedules in it, and he reads the list of the day's games. As he does, I write down our predictions for the winners. When it's all over, we check the scores and add up our results.
    Scores in the last three weeks:
    Husband 10, Daisy 9, Amigo 8
    Amigo 8, Husband and Daisy tie at 6
    Amigo 7, Daisy 5 (Husband was out of town)

    Wait a minute. I'm the main football fan in the house! Why do I keep losing? It's a good thing I don't play Fantasy Football, with this kind of record.
    We'll see. Maybe today's my day.

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    Saturday, November 17, 2007

    The LoveSac Quarterback

    Amigo is a sports fan in a major way. He's my child, so he enjoys pro football and cheers loudly for the Green and Gold any given Sunday. But he's developed interests of his own, too, beyond the NFL Network that his mother would love to add to the cable package.
    On Saturdays, he watches college football. But wait -- it's not as simple as you think.
    Early in the week, he finds a web site with the week's (and weekend's) college football television schedule. Husband or I sit down at the computer and copy the schedule into the translation software so that it can be embossed, or printed in Braille. Amigo puts the finished schedule in a designated Schedule Binder, and then he's ready.
    On Saturday morning, after squandering a perfectly good hour listening to Car Talk on public radio, he'll dress, come downstairs, and examine the day's outlook. He eventually settles into the LoveSac Rocker with his schedule binder on his lap and the remote control by his side and watches as many games as he can. He'll stick to one game for a while, then switch to another later on. How many games does he eventually watch? I honestly couldn't tell you the total.
    He tells me about on-field drama and big rivalries. He can flawlessly identify the names of every stadium -- look out, Jeopardy! When the opportunity presents itself, he takes a half-time computer break to check his email and search for a few game highlights on the web.
    Meanwhile, I kind of co-exist in the house. I work on laundry, do any necessary schoolwork, and at times turn off my hearing aids and nap. I trust that he'll wake me to make supper if he's hungry.
    Husband? Well, he's working this weekend -- on the sidelines of the Packer game.

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    Friday, November 16, 2007

    "live" blogging my morning routine

    This started as an effort to chronicle my day, but real life took over. Here's as far as I got.

    5:30, alarm goes off
    5:35, feed rabbit, shower
    5:55, showered and dressed, finish setting up breakfast
    6:05, back exercises in den
    6:15, wonder why Amigo isn't downstairs yet
    6:17, Amigo comes downstairs.
    6:20, breakfast, brush teeth
    6:25, clear table
    6:30, shoes on, coat on, go outside
    6:35, wave goodbye to Amigo as he gets on his school bus
    6: 38, pick up bags and get in minivan
    6:45, return Amigo's books on tape to the public library
    6:50, Jo to Go for 16 oz. hazelnut, no cream or sugar (the usual)
    6:57 arrive at school
    7:00- 7:15, deal with emails
    7:15-7:40, stand at copier and make copies (Is this really a good use of my time?)
    7:35, touch base with principal regarding student behavior concern, basically talk at her while she hurriedly took off her coat and ran off down the hall for a meeting
    7:45, back at desk, trying to release pettiness of yesterday and focus on today
    7:55, in library finding videos for social studies. Checkout computer isn't on yet, specialist and aide not in yet, left stack for checkout
    8:05, reheated remainder of coffee
    8:15, posted daily schedule
    8:21, welcomed kids into building!

    And at this point, I was too busy to list events for blogging the rest of the day. But it was a good kind of busy, the kind of busy that means being involved in teaching and learning and feeling like the day was moving along well. I even managed to get my gradebook nearly up to date.
    Teaching is one of those fields where the work is never done. I can feel content when I've accomplished most of what is on my to-do list and still managed to teach all day. Today, I think I did that.
    And now, the weekend. After this week? TGIF!!

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    Thursday, November 15, 2007

    Ah, the magical fifteenth.

    I read Nina's post at Mid-Century Moms and thought how sadly common it has become for teens and young adults not to read. My teen reads for pleasure, but my college student doesn't read unless it's online. This struck a chord with me because I informally joined Melanie of The Refrigerator Door in her quest to spread the book-buying habit. Those interested in being a part of this project have a simple job: buy, then read, then review. Reviews and new titles are usually posted on the 15th of every month.

    October's calendar was spilling over with commitments, so it's amazing that I even had time to pick a book off a store shelf and plop it on the checkout counter. Somehow, I managed to pick up three. I finished one and started the others.

    I bought Nicholas Evans' The Divide because I enjoyed his other works so, so much. This book was shorter than the others, but every bit as dramatic and intense. It was haunting. Powerful. It'll stay on my shelf for future rereads.
    I also bought Amerithrax: the story of the Anthrax killer. It's a heavy read at times because of the scientific detail, but that's also what makes it fascinating. I haven't finished it. I might have to wait until a break or even next summer to really devote some time and thought to it.
    I've started Seabiscuit, too. I saw the movie, and when I see a movie based on a book, I usually like the books better. So far, so good. It sits on the table next to my rocking chair, and I've been reading at a relaxed pace when I can.

    I'll find time to visit another bookstore soon. Amigo wants a Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift CD, and I think they'll have that in another dept. He and I can make it a team visit. I'll post my new reading material titles as soon as I buy them. Oh, and family? Books always work for my birthday...hint...hint....

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    Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    Even Bunnies Have Talents

    Buttercup can run a figure eight around our feet.
    (photo credit to La Petite; feet are hers, too)

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    Tuesday, November 13, 2007

    I've got green pastures....

    I've been humming "I've Got Rhythm" ever since Amigo and I went to his high school's production of Crazy for You. Now I have even more reason -- reasons, really -- to sing my own songs and blow my own horn!

    Glennia of The Silent I has given me the Nice Blogger award and compounded it with a Rockin' Blogger award, too! When I stopped over to visit her yesterday, she had a post up about rockin' liberals. Oh, she's my kind of blogger! Thanks, Glennia, I think we share some political leanings as well as enjoying each other's family-related posts.
    Update: Nicole from Not Just a Working Mom and Silicon Valley Moms also offered me a Nice Matters Award! I feel like I'm swimming in pink, and I should be blushing!

    MammaCheryl, another Wisconsin blogger, posts on Red Pens and Diapers. She thought I should participate in a great meme from BlogHer. It's short and simple and doesn't require any html, so I thought I'd go right ahead!

    1.) State the name of your blog, your online name, and link to your "about me" page.
    Hello, BlogHer fans and others. My blogging name is Daisy, my blog is Compost Happens. I also post poetry at A Mother's Garden of Verses and contribute to Mid-Century Modern Moms. My profile/ about me page is here.

    2.) Say you want to be profiled on BlogHer as a family blogger and link back to (this post).
    Okay, this is easy. Nordette, come on over, I'd like to be profiled as a family blogger! Really. I'll sit down at the computer and talk to you, now that it's too cold to garden. :)

    3.) Tell how long you've been blogging.
    I've been blogging since June 2006. It started as cheap therapy, and became an enjoyable outlet and connection to a whole new world with a whole new network of people.

    4.) Pass this meme on to three other bloggers that you think should be profiled/interviewed.
    The hard part of this one is limiting my choices to three! I read and enjoy so many.

    I'd like to read in-depth interviews with Farmgirl Susan; Boogiemum; and for a Dad, how about Joe from Club 166? His son had the cutest Halloween costume ever.

    Celebrate! I expect to register my 15,000th hit any day now. I hope some of you will take off your coats and stay a while. I have tomatoes ripening on the windowsill, and the coffeepot's always on.

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    Monday, November 12, 2007

    Hey, that's my line!

    I got up this morning at 5:30 (grudgingly), fed Buttercup the rabbit, took my shower, dressed, did my back exercises, and then on my way back to the kitchen noticed (ominous music) drops of blood on the floor.I checked to make sure I wasn’t bleeding (I was sleepy enough that I felt I couldn’t assume anything), wiped up the spots, checked the bunny (looked fine), and went back into the bathroom. I noticed a bloody napkin or Kleenex in the wastebasket.
    Hmmm…did I mention that Husband got home after 3 AM from his weekend train show?Meanwhile, Amigo got up (late), ate, brushed his teeth, put on shoes, and waddled out to the bus stop just in time.
    I got in the minivan (still with modular HO scale layout in the back), and headed for my blood test appt. Yes, I was doing all of this after fasting overnight. Hungry, wanted coffee. On my way to the test clinic, I got stopped by a train -- at the slowest intersection in town. After the train, the other light turned green first, so I had to wait again. Bleh. Somehow, I made it to the middle school for my appoinment by 6:50. The nurse couldn’t hear my blood pressure, so she presumed it must not be too high. I’ll just have to guess at the numbers.

    Got to school, text-messaged Husband RU OK? Checked my mail, got coffee, found the credit union’s free calendar for 2008 in my box. Its theme? Never a Dull Moment. Hey, where’s the camera? They know me too, too well.

    Update: husband is tired, but fine. He wasn't bleeding. Now we're wondering -- what was in those red spots on the floor? Ketchup? Fruit juice? Tropicana fruit punch flavored soda? Modeling paint? The drops were still partly liquid when I found them, just drying around the edges. It's a mystery. Never a dull moment, indeed.

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    Sunday, November 11, 2007

    Go!! Go!! Yeah!! De-fense!

    Husband took this picture with his cell phone camera at Lambeau Field, that shrine to the sport of professional football. The stadium isn't the only place where there's noise on Sunday afternoons: you should hear our den!

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    Saturday, November 10, 2007

    And the dominoes fall...

    It's that time of year again: State Test Season.
    Before we go any farther, this disclaimer: Accountability is good. Quality assessment is good. I do not object to using a test to evaluate my students' skills.
    I do, however, object to the negative effect that state testing, as per the requirements of federal law, has on instruction. Here we go, folks. Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy ride.

    For just over two weeks, my students will have no writing classes. None. That period of the day is designated for test-taking.
    A test period also displaces their weekly art class.
    Rescheduling the art class cancels math on Tuesdays.
    Rescheduling art also results in my orchestra students having to reschedule their weekly small group lesson.
    Rescheduling their lesson means pulling out a third of my class during social studies.
    Another class needs to use the computer lab as a test venue during our usual lab time. This means that we can't use the lab for keyboarding lessons for two weeks.
    Back to the beginning. Scheduling tests during our writing workshop also means moving their morning recess.
    Moving recess cuts fifteen minutes out of reading class each day.
    Moving recess also cancels our weekly library checkout. Rescheduling that changes spelling and penmanship lessons, which means those have to be skipped or taught some other time, forcing another domino to tip....

    Now add in time for handing out pencils, scratch paper, and gum or snacks, and instructional minutes get reduced even further.
    And that doesn't count the make-up tests for those who were absent.

    After the Test Window, I'll pack up the booklets and send them off to the scoring lab. Out of sight, out of mind, until the scores come back in the spring.
    And then I can teach again. My students can learn again. School, in earnest, can begin again.

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    Friday, November 09, 2007

    Three, no, four reasons why I'm glad my kids are too old for toys

    1. Dora with lead paint
    2. Diego with lead paint.
    3. SpongeBob Squarepants notebooks with traces of lead.
    4. Winnie the Pooh, Thomas the Tank Engine, and who knows what else? -- all contain lead.

    I could go on, but what's the point?

    It's the stuff of which late night jokes are made, when their writers are working, that is. Who would believe the sheer number of new recalls in the last six to twelve months? It's been unbelievable. Simply unreal. No one can blame it on terrorism, either. At least no one at the White House has tried...yet.

    My children are no longer children, thank goodness, so I didn't have to find a way to explain why their favorite toys had to come out of the toy box or their favorite new notebook was better off under the sea. Mine are 15 and 20, and their holiday needs are, well, different from the wish lists of their younger cousins.

    So in the spirit of the Twelve Days of Safe Shopping, here are twelve ways I'm considering to help get the lead out of our family's holiday.

    1. Read the boxes. The bags. The packaging.
    2. Look for those magic words "non-toxic" on the label.
    3. Watch the news.
    4. Look for water soluble paints and dyes. Lead isn't.
    5. Give homemade gifts to family and close friends.
    6. Know your sources (like Dale and Thomas Popcorn: Mmm. Fresh.)
    7. Buy music. Support artists and musicians making their living.
    8. Buy clothes.
    9. Look for country of origin, buying closer to home whenever possible.
    10. Buy fair trade.
    11. Buy from local craft fairs and farmer's markets.
    12. Stop buying toys (I can do that; my "kids" are older).

    I didn't need to clean out a toy box with each new recall, but I did wonder about families who did. It had to be difficult to handle with children to young to understand the dangers.
    Many sites can give you up to date information on recalls. Try these.
    The League of Maternal Justice
    Consumer's Union (Not in My Cart! is their mantra.)
    Consumer's Union's blog
    And finally, if you'd like to join Consumers' Union in making a difference, check this site, their Safe Shopper movement.
    Parent Bloggers Network is chronicling many bloggers who are addressing this topic in today's blog blast. Find them here.

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    Thursday, November 08, 2007

    Bad cookie. Bad, bad cookie.

    La Petite had an adventure a few nights ago with her rabbits finding and attacking a fortune cookie, still in its plastic wrapper. She wrestled it away from them, unwrapped it, and let them go at it so that she could sleep. She never did tell me what their fortune was.
    Mocha Momma, a high school dean and coffee aficionado, led me to this site for fun. Warning: the cookies on this site will not predict a lottery win.

    My results:

    You will become a great bore in your later years.
    Well, gentle readers, stick with me now. The posts will likely go downhill as I get older and wider. I mean, wiser.

    An evil letter or message is on its way to you.
    Spam, begone! Enough already!

    Be selfish with your money; trouble lies ahead.
    Good thing I finished the Christmas shopping early.

    Idleness is the holiday of the wise.
    Hmm. I actually like this one. I think I'll go relax, drink some coffee, and read a book. It'll feel like a holiday.

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    Wednesday, November 07, 2007

    Sing it with me: It's a small world after all ---

    Blogging has expanded my worlds, er, world in ways I never expected. I started blogging as inexpensive therapy. As I surfed through other blogs, I developed networks of acquaintances and (dare I say it?) new friends. One of the great things about blogging and reading blogs is the networking. I've discovered so many people with whom I share so much.
    Other parents of teens.
    Other parents of college kids.
    Working moms with many different experiences.
    Parents of children with autism and Asperger's. (Too many to link!)
    Other teachers.
    Other gardeners.
    Other coffee lovers.
    Other Green Bay Packer fans (Okay, maybe not, but I know they're out there!)
    Other women of my age (and not) with the same sense of humor. (Again, too many to link, snicker)

    I took a leap, despite my relatively low readership, and added BlogHer ads. This network has the added advantage of seeing links to other enjoyable blog posts and discovering more favorites.
    Well, a few days ago, I got an email from a favorite local coffee drive-through kiosk. Upon seeing my post mentioning their lovely beverages, they offered me a sweatshirt for the positive word-of-mouth PR. Word of keyboard? Well, customer relations. I will wear it with pride! My coffee-fiend friends will be jealous.
    Today I received more good news. My blog blast post about our LoveSac Rocker and its wonderfully funny warning tag won honorable mention from the Parent Bloggers Network. Fun! Now I like the rocker even more.

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    Tuesday, November 06, 2007

    Notes to self in case of pandemic or bioterrorism

    I did it again. I signed up for more training with our public health department. The latest session, about two hours, was at a local high school to learn the ropes at an actual flu shot clinic.

    After I signed in, the folks in charge assigned me and one other volunteer to another registration table. Our job was to hand out cookies and bottles of water to the volunteers as they arrived --with no opportunities to wash up first.
    Note to self: bring hand sanitizer or antibacterial wet wipes next time.

    As the majority of the volunteers were dispersed to their stations, complete with water bottle and cookie snack, we were relocated to the communications trainer. This trainer was a local police officer who was in charge of two things: training volunteers in using the radios and finding a channel that would actually work in all the clinic stations throughout the high school building. They had already tested two channels unsuccessfully; our group was to try the third. He taught us the basics, helped us find the assigned channel, and then showed us how to wear the police-style radios and shoulder microphones.
    Note to self: if assigned to communications, wear a belt. A strong one. These radios are heavy!

    After communications training, our group joined another batch of workers at the exit station putting together bags of information and supplies. As people exited the shot clinic, they picked up these bags to take home. The supervisor told us she hoped to make up at least a thousand such bags. I don't know how many they made before my group arrived, but I know the seven of us packed up several hundred. Typical of teachers and school staff (as were all the volunteers tonight), we streamlined the process to make it more efficient. If we had to spend time on our feet, we were going to be productive, darn it.
    Note to self: wear comfortable shoes -- very comfortable shoes.

    We then returned to the registration table, this time to check people out and collect their "uniform" vests and name tags. These blue vinyl mesh vests were so ugly (how ugly were they?) that more than half the people handed them in with a sarcastic, "Oh, I don't get to keep it?"
    Note to self: don't worry about wardrobe. The vests will make anything look bad. And in a crisis situation, no one will care.

    The time went quickly. The explanations made sense. Trainers explained not only how-to, but also why. I liked knowing the rationale behind the structure and the plan. The trivia fiend in me enjoyed hearing that emergency planners looked to Disney theme parks to figure out ways to move large numbers of people efficiently.

    Of course, I hope this kind of emergency, pandemic or biological attack, never happens. but like first aid and CPR, it's a type of necessary skill that no one wants to use. I'd say, "Bring it on!" but I really don't want to see a health emergency, flu or otherwise, reach these proportions.
    Note to self: get flu shot. Soon.

    Update: Yesterday, I got my annual flu shot (ouch). The people at the registration desk were crabby and hated the long lines; the nurses were wonderful and thrilled that so many people came.
    Note to self: it's good when a lot of people want a flu shot. Stay friendly and courteous.

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    Monday, November 05, 2007

    Are you sneaking snacks from your child's Halloween candy?

    Halloween Candy Quiz
    (courtesy of the Wellness Coordinator at my place of employment)

    Which of the mini version is lowest in calories & fat -- Milky Way, 3 Musketeers or Snickers?

    Answer: 3 Musketeers has 24 cal. & less than 1 g. of fat/mini, Milky Way has 38 cal. & 1.6g of fat/mini & Snickers has 42.5 cal. & 2.25g of fat/mini.

    Which has fewer calories -- 2 Twix Fun Size or 1 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup?

    Answer: 2 Twix Fun Size has 80 cal./cookie, so 2 Twix bars have 160 cal. One little Peanut Butter Cup has 180 cal. – 11g. total fat; 3.5g.. saturated fat!

    Which is highest in calories & saturated fat -- Mounds, Almond Joy or 2 packs of Fun-size M&Ms?

    Answer: Almond Joy & Mounds tie for highest calories at 200cal. each. The 2 packs of Fun-size M&Ms has 180 cal. Mounds and Almond Joy also tie for highest in sat. fat with 8g/serving which is more fattening than a Quarter Pounder at 7g. of sat. fat. Who knew! The 2 packs of M&Ms also has 8g. total fat with 5of those grams being sat. fat.

    Which has more calories 5 mini Kit-Kats or 35 pieces of Candy Corn?

    Answer: 35 pieces of Candy Corn have 12 more calories than 5 mini Kit-Kat bars. One Candy Corn = 6.36 calories each. But the Kit-Kats have 8g of sat. fat/serving.

    Which has more calories -- 20 peanut M&Ms or 7 Hershey Kisses?

    Answer: Each Hershey Kiss has 22 calories each, so 7 kisses add up to 155 total calories. 20 Peanut M&Ms has 220 calories. However, the peanut M&Ms have a little more nutritional value with 4g of protein and less sat. fat.

    And then she adds this disclaimer: "Remember that one occasional mini candy is always an okay treat. Occasionally is the key!"

    All I know is that they all taste better with a cup of good coffee on the side.

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    Sunday, November 04, 2007

    Outstanding Cranberry Muffins

    Ah, a perfect fall day. Leaves raked to the curb, a chill in the air, Packer football on the television, and the clocks set back for an extra hour of sleep. This calls for a fire in the fireplace and home baked goodies.

    I pulled a bag of cranberries out of the freezer to make these. Buy the fresh cranberries between now and Thanksgiving and freeze them; they're a little hard to come by out of season.

    1 1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
    2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 teaspoon grated orange peel
    3 tablespoons butter
    3 tablespoons canola oil
    3/4 cup sugar
    2 large eggs or 1/2 cup egg substitute
    2/3 cup orange juice
    3/4 cup chopped walnuts

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Prepare 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray.
    Place the cranberries and walnuts in a food processor or blender and pulse until chopped. Set aside.
    In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange peel. Set aside.
    In small saucepan, combine the butter and oil and heat until the butter melts. Stir in sugar. (Note: sugar will not dissolve.)
    In a large bowl, stir together the eggs and orange juice. Stir in the sugar-butter-oil mixture, then add the dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Stir in the cranberries and walnuts.
    Fill the muffin cups until almost full. Bake for 18 -- 20 minutes or until muffins and golden brown. Test for doneness with a toothpick.

    Serve warm with a mug of steaming coffee next to a roaring fire in the fireplace. Okay, the coffee is optional, and they'll still taste good without a fireplace by your side. But really, these are not just for Thanksgiving Day breakfast!

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    Saturday, November 03, 2007

    Just a note... a personal, handwritten note

    Note writing is not, repeat, not, a lost art. I have a file of nice notes from parents in my file cabinet at work. That file is separate from the encouraging notes from coworkers. Despite the numerous emails I send and receive each day, I still keep a box of notecards in my desk drawer at home and at school.
    When I saw Just Being Notesy personalized notecards from The Wooden Porch, I had to pass on the offer. Who says you can't mix old and new? She uses new technology to make something personal and unique. If you order, be sure to mention you heard it here. The maker of Notesy wants to know where her referrals come from.

    Enjoy! Click here to find Just Being Notesy.

    notesy long banner

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    Friday, November 02, 2007

    more pumpkin artistry

    On the left is Captain One-Eyed Joe.

    On the right is Hugo.

    They were created by two college roommates.

    Can you tell which student is an art minor?

    (Just kidding, roomie, yours is cute, too!)

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    Thursday, November 01, 2007

    The Post Holiday Letdown

    My school is one of the few that still allows kids to dress for Halloween. We call it Storybook Character Day, and we encourage students and staff to dress up. I have a Bah, Humbug! attitude toward Halloween costumes and lost learning time, but they talked me into it. I dressed as (did anyone guess this?) Minerva McGonagall from the Harry Potter series. With a simple black cape ($12 from Lillian Vernon), my hair in a bun, my reading glasses on my nose, and a name sticker that proclaimed, "Hello, my name is Minerva" I greeted the incoming students at the morning bell.

    Down the hall are three very creative teachers. They dressed as a unit in black from head to toe, with....

    Oh, a picture is worth a thousand words, or in this case, three. I present to you:

    Three Blind Mice.

    Extra Costume Credit goes to my darling son, Amigo, who loaned them an old cane so that they could make theirs look authentic.

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