Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Joy of a Good Stew

KC is cold and dreary. I'm tired and haven't been eating right because . . . well, I'm too tired when I get home from school to cook and so a dish of oatmeal or a cheese sandwich holds me until the middle of the night when I wake up starving and then eat cookies and milk. I'm going to bed at 7 p.m. and getting up at midnight because I can't hold my head up longer than after the 6 p.m. news and I'm used to only four or five hours of sleep.

Our weather is "fixin' to change" so the kids at school are unruly and unsettled. My classes this semester are a huge challenge for me -- the first time I've really run into a classroom majority of non-English speaking functional students. Combine the two and you get kids who can't read, write, or even speak much English. And they're boys. Boys who can't sit still for 60 minutes, much the 90 minute class periods we have. Every day I'm scrambling to make it through the class. I don't have any grand plan in mind either. I'm just winging it every day, trying to find something these kids can succeed in doing, will actually try to do, and need to learn to do. I have no end goal other than survive the immediate challenge facing me each period. I don't have any lesson plans more than a day ahead. This is really frustrating.

Add to that one of our SPED teachers quit January 4th and has not been replaced. All his caseload had to be distributed among the rest of our SPED staff. I picked up four new students. In looking at their schedules I found that I need to reschedule three of them because the guy who quit hadn't bothered (or cared enough) to make sure these kids had collaborative help in their algebra and science classrooms. I haven't completed the IEP I held last week and I haven't turned in a single IEP since November. We're supposed to submit then 10 days after we hold them. Not 10 working days -- 10 days. I'm now two full months out of compliance.

Then over the weekend I look in the freezer and unearth a huge package of stew meat from Sams, the big box discount store. We'd had it too long and it needed to be used up quickly. We've had it so long I won't even dare mention how long but I was pretty sure it would need to be cooked in the crockpot at least 14 hours to make it tender.

I just couldn't justify throwing out that much stew meat (over $10 of it -- that's a lot of beef chunks!) I finally asked Hubby if he would make us a pot of stew if I thawed the meat and he agreed. So last night I pulled the worn pack of beef from the freezer and by midnight it had mostly unthawed.

When I got today home, exhausted as always, our entire house was redolent of beef stew smells. Knowing I was on the edge of cracking, Hubby had spent the morning combining simple but tasty stew ingredients and seasonings and had elected to cook the whole thing on top of the stove. So the stew was ready for dishing. A small loaf of sour dough bread, buttered and heated in the oven, and huge mugs of cocoa completed the best meal I've had in ages.

Stomach comfortably filled and then a long soak in a hot tub relaxed me enough to not worry about the IEP's that the district head is coming in person to collect tomorrow (I've got a couple of them ready -- not all but a enough to hold off the angry hordes). It's amazing that a few tender carrots, potatoes, onions, and stew chunks can cause my lesson plan and weather worries to also abate. And tomorrow is Friday after all.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Death of a Dear Friend

A tradition for Hubby and me on Sunday morning is watching CBS Sunday Morning. Somehow I had missed the fact that our favorite author, Robert B. Parker, died this week. When Sunday Morning eulogized him briefly today, our household went into mourning.

Parker has been one of our most read authors during the last 30 years. Our home library contains all the Spenser novels and most of the spin-offs, too (Jesse Stone and Sunne Randall). I even loved the Spenser TV series with Robert Ulrich, though, of course, Parker himself hated the series.

I enjoyed the stories about Parker and his wife Joan -- how they lived in a duplex with her upstairs in her own private quarters and he could only visit when she invited him upstairs while she had free roam of the entire complex. He, like Spenser, did all the cooking for them both. I thought the couple (like Susan and Spenser) had worked out a wonderful relationship. I enjoyed the stories of his sons, especially the gay one whom they accepted openly and clearly admired.

Spenser, Hawk, and Susan have been an integral part of our family. When Hubby had his aneurysm, the novels he reread over and over while recuperating were the early Spensers. Several times in my life I've reread the Spenser books in chronological order. They always bring us a new sense of delight. Now that Hubby is beginning the onset of glaucoma, he asked for big print Spenser novels for Christmas this year. On our last trip to Barnes and Nobles Hubby left with three new copies of Spenser books that were duplicate copies of worn-out ones on our shelves.

Robert P. Parker brought us much happiness. We thought of him as an old and trusted friend. We will miss him greatly.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Got Nothin'

I currently have to keep talking myself into blogging. But I can't think of anything worth blogging about.

Honestly, reading blogs recounting the movies people have seen is BORing to the max. Yeah, we saw Avatar and Invictus and Up in the Air and Sherlock Homes and The Book of Eli and some other stuff that I liked but Hubby didn't.

The weather is dull beyond boring. It snowed. Repeatedly. The snow piled up. It got very cold. School in my district was cancelled for three days. Then it started back-up. And we had fog and something called Ice Fog which caused multiple pile-ups on the interstates.

We went to the bookstore and bought reading material so we wouldn't have to be out in the fog that caused ice to form on the interstates. I'm reading the Georgette Heyer mystery novels that have been reissued from the 1930's. Hubby is re-reading Parker (the Spenser series).

We watch some TV. I like the looks of some of the new shows about to start this week. I've got my DVR programmed for Human Target tonight. I like Mark Valley a lot -- both his funny British TV series and when he was on Boston Legal. Life Unexpected is also on the program -- I dearly loved Gilmore Girls though Hubby hated every episode. And, of course, I will watch Parenthood because of Lauren Graham (from Gilmore Girls) and because the movie was so wonderful. American Idol, though -- No. So nobody really cares much what kind of old fashioned TV I'm watching -- just as nobody much cares that I'm reading books from the 1930's.

Grad school ended so I've nothing to bitch about until the summer session begins. I did earn that coveted A and I'm proud that I am still carrying a perfect A average after 24 hours.

Thursday the semester changed at school. My new classes are okay but not quite the delight of my junior / senior class. It was hard to say goodbye to the boys. My freshman class is all boys again but these are very low functioning and speak and write poorly in English. Class moves very slowly when the kids can't spell "plot" much less define it.

My Wii is set up but I'm not using it the way I should. The laundry has piled up once again and I"m slowly getting caught up over this Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. I hate doing laundry -- well, not the laundry so much as the sorting and then putting everything away.

I had a lunch date for today with an old business friend but he cancelled and it's just as well. I had arranged with Hubby to have the car for the day but he went off in it this morning and didn't return until noon. He claims I had told him my lunch was at 1:00 but, of course, what I told him was that my date had to be back at work at 1:00. You think Hubby had ulterior motives?

Hubby has a cold. I'm trying not to catch it.

See? Honestly, I don't have much to report that's interesting enough to blog about. I'm not complaining though. It's kind of nice to have a life without drama.

Friday, January 08, 2010


We never got above five degrees today. The wind chill stayed below zero all day long. It's been cold. Very, very cold.

This evening I thought I'd pamper myself with the new bath products my sister-in-law gave as one of my Christmas gifts. She put together a wonderful box of Crabtree and Evelyn soaps and lotions. I filled the tub with steaming water which I had liberally doused with the liquid soap. After a long soak, I suds down with one of the cakes of soap. Finally after drying off, I rubbed in the lotion. I smell wonderful now and feel very relaxed.

The irony -- all the products were Summer Hill.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Snow Days

We had school on Monday and Tuesday after the Sunday snow. Everybody bitched like mad. "The kids are having to walk in the street because none of our sidewalks are plowed." "It's too cold for our kids to be out in this four degree weather."

Then the predication's came in for Wednesday. Two to six inches of more powder predicted with temperatures at zero degrees. The mayor of Kansas City decreed that it was wise not to plow the streets because driving on packed ice and snow was "safer" than driving on clean streets. The KCMO school district had already been closed from Monday on because of the mayor's wise(ass) decrees. The Kansas cities and 'burbs all tried to keep ahead of the snow but by Wednesday, the predictions were just too dangerous. Even the Kansas schools caved and shut down.

My district has now been closed for two days and we will have our third snow day tomorrow. The weather is really, really cold. None of the snow melts. We have had high winds so we have snow drifts up to a foot deep. There is ice, of course. Driving is so treacherous in Kansas City, MO that the trash trucks have been sitting in their garages -- and in the shopping areas the trash is piling up to a dangerous level. No trash has been picked up by the city for the last three days. The idiot mayor of KCMO has finally had to face the snow facts and call an emergency session of the city council.

Meanwhile the temps keep dropping and the winds are still blowing. It is frigidly, frighteningly cold.
Our little house is mostly warm. We have some chilly spots but where it counts, in the bedroom and bath and kitchen, we are toasty. We have food and drink. Yesterday we feasted on sour dough toast and hot cocoa. Today we had meatloaf and baked potatoes. We are, however, down to our last two eggs and there is only a quarter of a gallon of milk left. We might need a run to the store . . . but I think we can last until the temperatures at least get about freezing and the wind chill is above zero. Right now our wind chill is -13 degrees. The dogs are using the pee-pee pads in the living room because the snow is now higher than their butts -- and nobody wants to poop in frozen snow when it's ten degrees below zero.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Christmas 2009 Pictures Continued

Blogger makes adding multiple photos a very dreary process.
These are photos of our crab dinner celebration on the 23rd of December.


Interestingly this blog documents my rejuvenated teaching career -- I think it seemed more possible to be blogging than for me to resume teaching this late in my life. Both choices though have been satisfying -- teaching more than blogging, actually. This is the 249th post since I began my final career journey.

And here are some pictures from the Houston Christmas.

Hubby and the boys enjoying Christmas treats:

Hubby and his sister opening Christmas presents:

Just a portion of the Houston nutcracker collection:

Friday, January 01, 2010