Saturday, September 26, 2009


Reese and another kid at the playground were commiserating about siblings when I caught this lovely exchange:

Other Kid: "My sister is a . . . " Pause. "You swear, right?"
Reese: "Oh yeah, I swear all the time."
Other Kid: "My sister is a bitch."

Friday, September 18, 2009

writing assignment

Reese had to write about a family member the other day, and he chose me:

"My Mom is a wonderful person. She is wonderful because she is a nerd. Mom listens to Radiolab and podcasts like that. She is a chemistry and physics teacher. I like nerds. That is why she is a nerd and I like her."

This is a compliment, right?

Friday, September 11, 2009


A teacher read this essay today for the high school students, in remembrance of September 11. And though posting essays/poetry/etc. is not usually my "thing," I found it very moving. So I thought I'd share it.

The poem is by Brian Doyle, and I believe it first appeared in the American Scholar magazine. I found it through PBS.


A couple leaped from the south tower, hand in hand. They reached for each other and their hands met and they jumped.

Jennifer Brickhouse saw them falling, hand in hand.

Many people jumped. Perhaps hundreds. No one knows. They struck the pavement with such force that there was a pink mist in the air.

The mayor reported the mist.

A kindergarten boy who saw people falling in flames told his teacher that the birds were on fire. She ran with him on her shoulders out of the ashes.

Tiffany Keeling saw fireballs falling that she later realized were people. Jennifer Griffin saw people falling and wept as she told the story. Niko Winstral saw people free-falling backwards with their hands out, like they were parachuting. Joe Duncan on his roof on Duane Street looked up and saw people jumping. Henry Weintraub saw people "leaping as they flew out." John Carson saw six people fall, "falling over themselves, falling, they were somersaulting." Steve Miller saw people jumping from a thousand feet in the air. Kirk Kjeldsen saw people flailing on the way down, people lining up and jumping, "too many people falling." Jane Tedder saw people leaping and the sight haunts her at night. Steve Tamas counted fourteen people jumping and then he stopped counting. Stuart DeHann saw one woman's dress billowing as she fell, and he saw a shirtless man falling end over end, and he too saw the couple leaping hand in hand.

Several pedestrians were killed by people falling from the sky. A fireman was killed by a body falling from the sky.

But he reached for her hand and she reached for his hand and they leaped out the window holding hands.

I try to whisper prayers for the sudden dead and the harrowed families of the dead and the screaming souls of the murderers but I keep coming back to his hand and her hand nestled in each other with such extraordinary ordinary succinct ancient naked stunning perfect simple ferocious love.

Their hands reaching and joining are the most powerful prayer I can imagine, the most eloquent, the most graceful. It is everything that we are capable of against horror and loss and death. It is what makes me believe that we are not craven fools and charlatans to believe in God, to believe that human beings have greatness and holiness within them like seeds that open only under great fires, to believe that some unimaginable essence of who we are persists past the dissolution of what we were, to believe against such evil hourly evidence that love is why we are here.

No one knows who they were: husband and wife, lovers, dear friends, colleagues, strangers thrown together at the window there at the lip of hell. Maybe they didn't even reach for each other consciously, maybe it was instinctive, a reflex, as they both decided at the same time to take two running steps and jump out the shattered window, but they did reach for each other, and they held on tight, and leaped, and fell endlessly into the smoking canyon, at two hundred miles an hour, falling so far and so fast that they would have blacked out before they hit the pavement near Liberty Street so hard that there was a pink mist in the air.

Jennifer Brickhouse saw them holding hands, and Stuart DeHann saw them holding hands, and I hold onto that.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

garden update

I started off the summer posting about the garden we had finally gotten around to planting this year, and I'll end that way too. (School starts for me tomorrow, and for the boys the next day. You'd think I'd be finishing up all my getting-ready stuff instead of blogging about vegetables. I'm taking my mind off of the first day, calming myself, I think.)

You can click the link to see what the garden looked like in May; here's what it looks like now:

The results are a little mixed, as was to be expected, but I'm happy with it. J is too.

The sunflowers are my favorite. They're huge!

Really huge! (Three-year-old added for scale.)

The lettuce also got quite tall. Allegedly this is romaine. I am skeptical.

The squash was going gangbusters for a long time, but it's dying now. We did get to eat some of it, and it was great.

I hpoe this last one gets big enough to pick before the whole thing goes.

Our little pickling cucumbers were really productive.


Last, and actually least, the tomatoes in the Topsy-Turvies. I am shocked, shocked that the Made-for-TV people let me down like this.

And I was so looking forward to lots of yummy tomatoes. Tomatoes in salads, tomato sandwiches, tomato sauce . . . I'm glad my neighbor's tomatoes did well.

So, lessons for next year:
  • Give the squash enough room.
  • Flowers? Screw the flowers - we need the room for the vegetables (see the first lesson). Except for sunflowers.
  • Herbs do very well. I didn't show you the oregano, but it got so big it looks like a shrub. And cilantro is a twofer - the seeds are coriander.
  • No more lettuce.
  • Definitely cucumbers and chili peppers. Both were low-maintenance and super productive.
  • The Topsy-Turvy sucks.
Mmm, I do love a good learning experience. Satisfying stuff.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

new, again

With any sort of luck, this will be my last post about starting a new job.

Wednesday was my first day - just new teacher training, really - at my new school, South Shore Charter Public School. SSCPS is a K-12 school, the first charter school in Mass, I'm told. It was founded with a focus on community service, multiple-intelligence learning, and the belief that school is not just preparatory, that kids need to know that what they are doing now has real value. There's a lot of parent and community involvement, small classes, student-led workshops, and a nice blend of informality and respect. I'm very very happy to be coming back to teaching in a place like this, rather than a more traditional high school. (I'm also happy to have passed the MTELs and gotten my Mass certification, so I can come back to teaching period!)

Of course, with any new job, there are plenty of sources for nervousness. I'll be teaching chemistry for the first time, and while I'm pretty confident with the material itself, running chem labs scares me a little. Also, I was originally going to be joining a science teacher who had been there a few years (Yes, the whole science department consists of two people!), but she has decided to move to be closer to her family. So it'll be me and one other brand-new girl, although we do have an excellent mentor who will be coming in once a week to help us out. An aside, though - how cool is it that the whole science department (including the teacher for the middle grades, too) is young(ish) and female?

It's funny, but the whole way I ended up with this job seems sort of . . . serendipitous (really looking for a less cheesy word here, but coming up blank). I have no recollection of applying for it, though I'm sure I did - I sent out a LOT of resumes. (My process was, essentially, to look for places in Mass that were hiring, check Google Maps to see how long it would take me to get there, and if it was an hour or less, apply.) I was sent an email on a Friday saying they would be interviewing for a week, to leave a message over the weekend, and they would call on the Monday to set up a time. Only, I didn't get the email until Monday. I almost just let it go, figuring it was too late, but I decided to call and managed to schedule an interview for the Tuesday. It was a group interview - a few teachers from the school, the 7-12 principal, a parent, and a student - which I was totally not expecting, and I left thinking I had blown it. Thankfully, I was wrong, and everything happened quickly after that. I had all my paperwork in front of me and had given my notice at Sylvan by the end of the week.

So, here I go again, into something new. I know it's going to be a big change for the whole family. We'll have the "typical" everybody-gets-home-around-five structure, which hasn't been the case for a long time. Jane, in particular, has never gone anywhere full-time like that, though she's quite comfortable at the daycare she's at now. The teachers there have known her for a couple of years now, and have known us since Reese was three, so I'm comfortable with that too. Reese is still at the elementary school, also with a teacher who knows us well (she's been telling him she couldn't wait until he got to fourth grade for a few years now!). What makes me the most nervous is Sam - I wish I could be around more for his first year in junior high. Not that we won't have any time to talk, and for me to stay on top of what's going on with him, but I know it's going to be a lot to keep up with. I suspect my knitting will suffer . . . not to mention blogging . . .

I'll keep you posted, though - if for no other reason than a need to vent!

Monday, August 10, 2009

camping 2009

Camping is . . .
. . . s'mores and sparklers . . .

. . . new sights . . .

. . . and lots of laughing.

We had such a great time this year. The weather cooperated beautifully: sunny 70-80 degree days and crisp 40-50 degree nights. (I shall not speak of the weather we have come home to.)

We ended up spending more time than usual just hanging around the campground, though we did hit the county fair and Crown Point. We visited the latter place at just the right time - they stage a French and Indian War reenactment during the second weekend in August, which we did not know about, and we got there literally just as it was starting up. Kismet!

Our campsite this year was right on the lake, so the kids got to go swimming quite a bit. I spent a lot of time reading, drinking percolated coffee, and eating those s'mores almost every night.

In short, it was relaxing and a lovely break. I look forward to next year already.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

the perils of facebook

I suppose it is inevitable that when you start connecting with people that you haven't seen in a long time, something like this is going to happen.

Yeah. That's a picture of my sister and I, circa 1989, sent by a relative on facebook. I'm the one with the Shirley Temple perm. Good grief.