Monday, June 30, 2008

Making Ice Cream

I'm making ice cream again. I don't know how much of this story I've already committed to blog, so let me start at the beginning. Well, in a moment. Right now I need to go and stir...

The recipe calls for "stirring frequently", which means that I pretty much have to hover over the mixture. It has to gain temperature slowly so that the eggs don't turn into a nasty mess. But the stirring is boring, so I have to find things to do while the ice cream is heating, or else I'll go a bit mad. Oh, better stir the thing again...

First I saw the recipe on an episode of Good Eats (great show, by the way). Then I found my old ice cream maker, but that turned out to be a disaster. Then I asked for a new ice cream maker for Christmas. I got one, and I've been making ice cream for myself ever since. And it's time to, well, you know...

I've tweaked the recipe a couple times because the recipe as written is much too rich. Then it was time to try a new variation. My mother doesn't do dairy, but loves ice cream, so I thought I'd try a version using almond milk for her. It's denser (for almond milk doesn't have a heavy cream version), but she says it tastes fine. I haven't tried it myself. (Oh, back to the saucepan...)

Today I'm making the almond milk version. It's finally starting to thicken up a bit (not as much as the milk version), and it's time to dip the thermometer in. Almost 165 degrees Fahrenheit. The target is 170, so I'm closer than I thought...(just a quick check)...It's only been 20 minutes, so either this is starting to go faster for me, or 20 minutes used to seem like such a long time when I started.

I guess buying ice cream is much simpler. It takes a lot less time. But I get a certain satisfaction from doing it myself. Pride of ownership, perhaps...

And now I'm to the last three degrees, the degrees that never seem to climb. It's best if no one is here to watch. I tend to get a bit cranky.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Today was my clean-out-the-closet day. Last week I went through my yarn stash and organized it. I'm on a de-cluttering binge, and I'm only getting started.

The thing about clutter is that it blocks all the incoming energy, and it gets you stuck. I cleared out all of the clothes that I no longer wear. Some pieces no longer fit; others no longer feel right. Some of my old clothes are no longer in style. And they all were clogging up my closet with their stagnant energy, making it impossible to bring in any new clothes.

What I really want is some new clothes. But my closet was so packed that I couldn't see what I actually had in there. Now I can. Now I have freed up some room. And now I have room for new clothes to go in.

Clutter can be insidious. It slowly grows. That stack of mail order catalogs starts to grow until there's a tower of them. Then every surface in the house is covered. And then there is no room for anything new.

So, since I want some new things, it's time to clear out the old. The more I get rid of, the more room there is for new and wonderful things to come in.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Misery Loves Company

I got this cough a bit over two weeks ago. It was that day that I had to fight with seventh graders all day. Bad day. I got a migraine from it as well. The migraine went away. The cough has not.

The cough gets a bit better, then worse, then better. It's kind of like a lingering cold. And I'm ready to be done with it.

Then a couple days ago I was sitting at the computer, and the back door was open. I heard someone else coughing.

I'm a terrible person. This made me feel better.

I don't feel so alone anymore. Someone else has a cough too.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Upside Down

It takes me practically no time. I go from having to get up at 5 AM every weekday morning to staying up until 2 AM in less than a week. These are the joys of summer vacation.

It's kind of like having jet lag. My body is getting used to the new schedule.

Once I get into the swing of things I'll have stuff to write about. Until then...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Graduation Daydream

As mentioned before, yesterday was the last day of school. I was sitting near the door of the classroom when I heard someone outside say, "We're seniors now." It wasn't exactly true as the girls still had three periods to go, but the seniors had graduated the previous evening, so it wasn't far from the truth.

I had a prep period at the time, so I was alone with my thoughts. An image formed in my mind's eye, and that image became a scene, and that scene developed into a montage. As I won't have any new school stories for a while, I thought I'd share my daydream with you.

It begins with the seniors. They're onstage in caps and gowns. They throw their mortar boards into the air. They cheer. Then, they hug each other. Some are in tears. And they all slowly leave the stage.

The stage isn't empty for long. The juniors, who had been watching all of this from the edge of the stage, run onstage to take the place of the departed seniors. They've made it! They are excited. They're jumping up and down, high-fiving each other, and running at each other doing chest bumps. They are so enjoying themselves that they don't see the scene before them, of all the lower grades lining up to take their new spots.

The sophomores now move into the spot just offstage that the juniors just vacated. They look around in wonder. There's this line behind them, but mostly they watch the new seniors in front of them. And the former freshmen also move up into their new spot.

The former 8th graders run into their new freshmen spot, and they're thrilled. They're in high school now, and they won't let anyone forget it. They're almost as excited as the new seniors, and some chaos ensues.

Now the 7th graders take over the 8th grade spot, and the former 6th graders are a bit in awe of their new position. They've finally finished elementary school, and they've come into this new middle school place. They feel a bit out of place as they look around.

The 5th graders kind of act like the 7th graders--now they're at the top of their school. And the lower grades all take up their new positions. The kindergartners slowly leave their initial position to take up the 1st grade spot. And now there's this big hole that the kindergartners have left, but it's not empty for long.

Along come the young 5-year-olds, some pulling their parents while others are being dragged. There are tears in the parents eyes as they place their children in that new spot--the future class of 2021. The parents look at the line of kids, and they see the seniors off in the distance. They are a bit awed by it all, and they wonder if they'll ever see the end of that line.

As the new kindergarten parents stand there, they see the graduates with their parents, celebrating. One of the graduate's parents passes by. She pats the young mother on her shoulder. The young parent wonders how the older one got through it all. The older parent explains that it seems like no time at all that she had been where the younger one was, and she wonders where the time went. They both shake their heads.

Here's where my daydream ends. I got back on the Internet and tried to find something to pass the time. It's not good when I spend too much time in my own head. Things like the above tend to occur to me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

No Students

It is the last day of school. It is currently 4th period. I have a class, but no one is here.

No, it's not a prep period. It is a class for seniors. The seniors had their graduation ceremony yesterday. They have activities all this week. They are excused from classes.

I have classes the rest of the day, however. Special ed. But any class would be wound up today.

Hey, at least I'm getting paid for today. And then it's summer vacation time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Leaning Tower of Markers

The last day of school is tomorrow. Today they are on a block schedule for finals. The seniors took their finals last week. The math analysis class had a large percentage of seniors (none of them at school today), so they all took their final last week. That meant two-plus hours of nothing-to-do.

The teacher left me a movie selection, and I let the students pick which movie they wanted to see (again). But, of course, many of them weren't pleased by the selection, and they had to find other things to entertain themselves.

Suddenly I heard a commotion. Each student was throwing something towards the boys in the back corner of the room. Then I saw it, and everything made sense.

Each desk had a small dry-erase board, a dry-erase marker, and an eraser under it. The items being tossed--dry-erase markers.

The boys had taken several markers and attached them end to end. At this point they had enough markers to reach about three feet. And with the new markers that had been tossed their way, they were making a go of reaching from the floor to the ceiling.

These were the thicker markers, but at three-foot tall that makes for a very thin "tower". So, the inevitable happened--the thing swayed and broke. The boys would not be deterred, however, and they picked up the markers and continued.

One boy held the bottom steady so it wouldn't break, and a second boy continued to add markers to the top. The "tower" got so tall that the boy had to stand on a chair, and then a desk to reach the top. More markers were tossed their way. I suggested that they might need a third to hold on to the empty section so that it wouldn't break and fall. Eventually someone did.

The "tower" failed several times before the boy got up to the ceiling. He didn't reach the ceiling, but he was within inches. Another marker wouldn't have fit in the space between the last marker and the drop ceiling. One of the girls in class snapped a photo, and the boys let their handiwork fall.

Why didn't I put a stop to this? They didn't have an assignment. They weren't doing any harm. And it was entertaining.

Besides, it made for a great story to put in the note to the teacher. And now the markers have been collected and put in one place (which I'm told is on the agenda for tomorrow).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Pleasant Surprise

"Today is a combined day."

I found these words on today's lesson plan. I couldn't believe my eyes. I rechecked, and sure enough, the date on the lesson plan was for today. What a wonderful surprise.

As a sub, many times I go into a class not knowing what to expect. I must be flexible. But today I was covering for a teacher I had subbed for many times, so I had a fair expectation of what my day would be like. I knew that the students would be mentally gone already. I knew that the lesson plans would be adequate. But I expected to be there until 3:15.

It's nice when I get one of the good surprises (I sure get enough of the other).

In case you're keeping track, there are two more days left of school.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


It's time for the end of the year craziness. And somehow I have assignments up until the end of the school year.

Yesterday I covered middle school special ed. Fifth period was science. They had a simple assignment--they were to make a poster showing various things that they had learned this year. But they were having none of it. They wanted to play.

At the beginning of the period one of the students asked if they could play "Silent Ball". I do not know what this "Silent Ball" is, nor was it listed on the lesson plan, so I said no. And this just set the boy off. Suddenly I was the bad guy. I didn't want them to have fun. I was mean. And he wouldn't do anything I said.

Luckily, I had an instructional aide in class. She backed me up. She knew what the kids could do, and she tried to push them to do it. But still, the boy was so sure that I was out to get him.

The boy "finished" up his assignment. There wasn't much on his poster. A blob of blood. A heart. And a couple things that I couldn't identify. Before I even had a chance to look at his paper he said, "It's not complete." He was not owning up to his lack of effort. He was telling me what I was going to say.

He spent the period like that--being surly. The IA got on his case as well, but to no avail. Eventually he got something on paper that looked like he had sort of tried.

This is what I get at the end of the year. Oh well. At least I got a work day out of it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Cell Wars

It's nearly the end of the year. The 8th graders are getting crazy. I'm having to clamp down on things that up to now haven't been a problem.

Today we were watching a movie. "Akeelah and the Bee". They took their finals yesterday and Tuesday; next week they do their promotion exercises. It's kind of a dead time. But if I let them just "chill", I end up with a very loud, very out of control class (been there, done that), so I insist on silence. And I go after the other distractions.

At the beginning of each period I announced that any cell phone that I saw, heard, or was made aware of would be subject to confiscation, and that I would turn that cell phone in to the office. I granted them one minute to retrieve their devices and turn them off (or silence them--whatever), and then I started the movie. And the lights were off.

It was the light that I noticed. The room wasn't that dark (we had a couple windows), but cell phone light was still noticeable. I got up and headed for the boy. He futilely attempted to hide the thing. Too late. It was now mine.

The boy and his friend approached me at the end of the period. They wanted the cell phone back. And so I got the whole story. The boy wanted to see the time (even though there is a clock on the wall at the front of the classroom--easily visible). But it wasn't even his cell phone: that's why the second boy was there--it was his phone. So, then they claimed that the second boy was showing off his new cell phone to the first boy.

My questions: (1) Why didn't they look at the neat new cell phone at a not-in-class time, like lunch? (2) Why didn't they check the clock on the front wall for the time? And, (3) Why were they griping now after I had given them fair warning of what would happen?

They had answers for all of these, but each answer brought me back to my three questions. The argument quickly went full circle twice, and that's where I ended it. I was not giving the cell phone back. The boy would just have to get it from the office. (Well, actually his mom would have to, and the boy muttered something about how upset she was going to be.)

The second boy came back by after school. He was going to try to talk me into giving him his cell phone back again. Too late. I turned the device in to the office at lunch.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On Hold

The contractor that was hired for the kitchen remodel? The contract has been cancelled. That's not to say that the remodel won't happen. But at the moment we're exploring other options...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bait and Switch

I wasn't looking forward to the 7th grade core classes today, but I wasn't overly anxious about them. But then I got to school today and discovered that there was a mix up. It was a very Mercury retrograde kind of mistake, and by that time I was stuck.

I have a short list of teachers I refuse to sub for. This teacher? He's at the top. And his classes are just as awful as I remember (and these aren't even the same students).

I tried every trick I know. I had one period calm for about ten minutes. Those were the most peaceful ten minutes of the day.

I confiscated one cell phone when it rang in class. I wrote three referrals. One girl (who got the first ticket to the office) refused to leave the classroom (and then came up with three excuses to stall). Then I had a boy decide that it was time to clean the classroom (15 minutes after the period began). You wouldn't think that a room could get that clean with that much noise and that many students going crazy.

The only bright point? His prep period is the last period of the day, so I got to go home early.

Monday, June 9, 2008

In the Learning Center

It's that time of year--when the subbing assignments dry up. I was worried that I might not work much, but I called my sub caller, and I have assignments for every day up to and including the last day of school. So, now I just need to get through them.

I was in what is called the learning center today. This is a room for special ed. students. This is where they go for extra help with their classwork. The trick is to not do the assignments for them (and they try to get us to do their work for them).

One boy spent two periods avoiding reading The Good Earth. He had a book report due on it today. He hadn't started reading it.

There was one girl sitting with an English test. She spent the period talking to her friend and basically ignoring the test (even though I frequently told her to get back to it). She got nothing done on it.

One boy had a five page paper on 1945 due today. He had not started it. He could pick anything that happened in that year. I tried to help him find a topic. He wasn't having any of it.

Though, some of them did get some work done. One boy had a math test, and he was working diligently through one period and even through lunch. I got another boy started on a book report, and he actually finished it. Another boy got through his economics terms while a girl finished a bunch of study guide questions for what looked like world history. So, the day wasn't a total loss.

I wasn't alone in the room; there were plenty of other adults around. I like covering the learning center. It's a bit tiring, but it has its good moments, too.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

"What Are You Going to Do for Your Summer Vacation?"

It's a common question at this time of year. And now I have an answer...I get to watch as the kitchen is remodeled. Oh yeah.

The kitchen is a mess. It's small (80 square feet), but it has dark cabinets, fluorescent lighting, and yellow tile counter tops. It needs an update. So, while I'm happy that the kitchen won't look like something out of the '80's anymore, I'm not looking forward to the process. Well, at least I have somewhere to gripe about it (sorry!).

We hired the contractor today. The process won't start for a couple weeks, so I have plenty of time to finish off the school year. Plenty of time to dread what is to come. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Obsolete Skills

I was covering a middle school theater class. They were preparing for their final scene presentation which meant that they were rehearsing. When I called for them to begin, they all retrieved various props for their scenes and set up. Two of the groups grabbed old rotary-style phones.

I spent the period making sure they didn't get into any mischief as middle schoolers tend to do (and remember, this was a class for actors). Then one of the boys made a comment. He had no idea how to dial a rotary phone.

I should not have been as surprised as I was. It's not like they ever really saw one (they were born in the mid-'90's). So, I went over and dialed a number for the boy. He was fascinated. He had been putting his finger in the "0" slot and dialing it to the number he wanted.

Times like this make me feel really, really old.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Freshman honors English. I thought they'd be an easy class. Not so much.

They had an assignment that went along with Romeo & Juliet (which they are currently reading). It was the type of assignment that they should have been working on silently. But every little thing started the conversation up anew. At one point they started telling this one boy all the things he had said the previous day.

I wasn't paying that much attention to the conversation at this point. I was trying to shush them. They were describing how this boy wasn't focusing on the play and the various non sequiturs he had been throwing out. Someone told me that the boy had had a root canal the previous day, so he was a bit loopy and a lot out of it. Then the conversation got interesting.

"You asked Tiffany out. You went up to her, sang, got down on your knees, and asked her out. She said yes."

The boy was horrified. He did not like this girl at all. He could not believe any of this, but the rest of the class insisted that it had happened. They added information, and the boy detailed how much he did not like this girl.

Then, with about five minutes left, the others let the boy off the hook. He had not asked this girl out. He had said all the crazy things that the class said first, but the rest of it they made up. The boy was relieved and a little irritated. Some of the others lied to him more convincingly than he thought they could.

I was only covering this class for two periods. When the teacher came back, I made sure to tell her of this incident. I couldn't let her miss out on that!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Period 2

Today I covered a 7th grade Spanish class on my prep period. It was a bit hectic. My note to the teacher looked something like this (with explanations for you in italics).

Per 2
Announcements (5 min)
Every day at the beginning of 2nd period they do the Pledge and the morning announcements. Being near the end of the year this might have taken longer than 5 minutes, but I was rounding here.
Silent reading (10 min)
In every class in this middle school the students read a book of their choosing for 10 minutes at the beginning of the period.
Fire drill (20 min)
Return textbooks (10 min)
Today was the day that this class was scheduled to take their Spanish books back to the library (each teacher has an assigned day). So, I got to escort the students out of class again, and escort them back.

They did not have a lot of time to work on the assignment. The period is 63 minutes long.

Crazy day. Remember, these were 7th graders, so all this excitement (you saw the fire drill up there, right?) made them a little more hyper than normal (and normal is pretty hyper already). I was so happy to get a nice, normal, boring 3rd period.