Shoes and Rabbits – Some things never change

Here’s an old post from one of many college dorm moves. We were grateful to own a reasonably big minivan for these occasions.

The pile begins.

The pile grows…

…and grows.

Can I bring my rabbit?

Sorry, no more room. It’s either the rabbit or your shoes.

(Just kidding! The rabbit stayed home.)

Now, back to the present day. La Petite lives in an apartment with rabbits AND shoes.

Shoes! Slippers! Boots!

She still manages to keep them in a relatively small space. There’s still room for the rabbits.

Last Week of School – encore

Years ago, when I was still teaching in a traditional classroom, the chalkboard provided all kinds of opportunities. My fourth graders loved to create their own drawings with this simple medium of chalk on chalkboard. This one went up on a muggy, drizzly day. The blurry writing in the middle states, “Rain, rain, go away!” Earlier in the day it said, “Rian, rian, go away!” until someone more astute took eraser in hand and played editor.

 Over the weekend, La Petite came with me while I cleaned up my classroom. This was the work of La Petite, age 21, art minor, in colored chalk. 

In truth, the wild bunnies eat my vegetables more than they do the flowers – with the exception of the coneflowers last year. The flowers in this picture lasted longer than the coneflowers did.

Note: the plethora of encores may be due to the fact that it’s the last week of school and any creativity of my own is getting poured into progress report comments. 

Another encore, on a counseling tone

from spring, 2013

My email has been overloaded with courses lately. I’m not sure why. Are the trainers and higher-educators getting desperate for business? I know few of us are taking extra courses or earning higher degrees now because we can’t afford it and because additional training and education no longer pays.

But reduced pay scales aside, this offer came through recently. There’s a lot of public attention to mental illnesses these days, so I actually read it instead of hitting delete.

Dealing with Metal Illness in the Classroom

I could have used this a few years ago, or a few years before that, or – the list goes on. Or could I? Let’s look more closely.

This course is designed for teachers, support staff and school counselors.

Okay, the focus is good. School counselors have been cut way back, though, due to the usual and customary budget constraints. When a student needs counseling, the teacher is the first and sometimes the last to handle it. If the student is lucky, his/her teacher will have had at least some counseling training. Next, please.

Participants will learn about the diagnostic characteristics of the various types of mood disorders and the other types of mental health disorders that mimic the symptoms of each.

Now they’ve lost me. Teachers can’t and don’t diagnose illness, whether physical or mental. We may recognize head lice and flu, and we might be the ones monitoring behavior that suggests attention deficit disorder, but we do not diagnose. Training us in “diagnostic characteristics” isn’t the right direction at all.

If we teachers are to help students with possible mental illnesses, we need to have opportunities to refer these students for real diagnosis and treatment. We need to have the connections with medical professionals, and we need permission to contact them. We need administrators who take our concerns seriously, and we need time – yes, time – to meet with and call parents so we can work as a team. We need school psychologists who take our concerns seriously, school social workers who do more than push papers, and most of all, administrators who care about our safety and well-being.

We need coworkers and support staff that will work with us. We need the public to respect our knowledge, our experience, and our observations.

Most of all, we need this because the students, the ones who need help, need us.

 This is an encore from 2013. All, for better or worse, is still very true. Public trends are leading toward the need for more services in schools, but budgets don’t match the need. Until then, we teachers will still be the front line for those kids who need help.

Cleaning the Classroom – Encore

I attended a graduation party for a former student, a girl I’d taught in fourth grade. She had just graduated from high school (my alma mater, no less), and was preparing to head off to college. I reminisced on the way home. 

One year my fourth grade class decorated the chalkboard with flowers during the last few weeks of school. I liked it so much that this year, I assigned them the task. We were gearing up for a field trip to see a play based on the book Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. I helped prepare them for the story by reading about urban gardens, learning about plants, planting their own tomato plants in little pots made from toilet paper rolls, and more. One day I presented them with several shades and lengths of green construction paper, told them these were their stems, and challenged them to create flowers using our bin of paper scraps.

They outdid themselves.

The flowers were lovely, each as original as its creator. My young students (ages 9-10) decided to write their names on the board to claim their work. They wrote and drew and made more flowers, and I was glad to say Yes to saving their work from the cleaning staff. I knew Di, the cleaner who keeps my room spotless, would love the classroom flower garden as much as I did and would be glad to leave it untouched by rag or vinegar cleaning spray.


When a student moved the week before school let out, she made sure to pick her flower from the board. On the last full day of school, plucking the flowers was a high priority for the young paper gardeners. By then the chalk was getting dusty, but the paper work was as unique as ever. High art? Nope. Just right? Absolutely.

Spring Memories

 

A few years ago, and not so far away, I had a papasan chair that masqueraded as a large pot for plants. We’d noticed it tipping, leaning to the right, and it needed help to get upright again. Nobody leans to the right for long in Daisy’s household. Trust me. 

It looked like this from the sidewalk.

It looked like this from the sidewalk.

Close up, it looked even worse.

Close up, it looked even worse.

I wrestled, pulled, pushed, and eventually slid the top off its base. Then I reached for the camera – and I laughed out loud. Any neighbors lucky enough to witness the event surely think…trust me, I probably don’t want to know.

It's all about that base.

It’s all about that base. Whoa.

I tipped and balanced the planter part until it seemed stable, and then added a cinder block to help keep it in place. The base went out to the curb for Excess Garbage Day. Convenient timing, wasn’t it?

That papasan bit the dust the following fall, but I got lucky. Chuck sent me a text one night on his way home from work. There’s a papasan out on the curb a few blocks from home. Do you want it?

Of course! I tell you, folks, the man’s a keeper. He saws holes in old chairs just the right size for pots of flowers. He picks up an aging papasan chair for the same purpose. When the planting is done, I’ll share photos.

Readers, can you suggest a few unusual planters? Chairs, buckets – the sky’s the limit.

Encore – Almost – for Autism Awareness

It’s April, again. Autism Awareness Month. What are the numbers now? A few years ago, autism occurrences were estimated at 1 in 88. That’s looking almost common, rather than unusual.

Well, folks, it’s time we start learning about each other, neurotypical or on the autism spectrum. Even under the old numbers of 1 in 166, the estimates indicated so many children and adults with autism that “normal” needed redefinition.

Awareness, people, is not enough. Awareness is a low form of knowledge, and knowledge itself sits down low at the base of the learning pyramid. Awareness means knowing that the student sitting next to your child in class might have autism. Knowledge and understanding come around when that child responds to gestures of friendship, perhaps awkwardly, yet making a step toward joining the social peer group in some way.

Awareness? Awareness means slapping a multi-colored puzzle-design ribbon magnet on the back of the family minivan. Understanding means that when the minivan next to yours at the red light is moving back and forth propelled by the rocking of the teenager in the front seat, you notice but don’t judge. You might offer an understanding smile to the driver if the opportunity comes up. By refraining from negative comments, a parent provides a role model for the rest of the minivan passengers. Parents can take it to the next level by explaining to the others in the car pool why it’s so important to be supportive of others, neurotypical or autistic or with no label at all.

These days, with a dangerously unqualified Secretary of Education and a potential Supreme Court justice who has ruled against students with disabilities multiple times, awareness can go to…well, anyway, awareness is nowhere near enough. During this year’s Autism Awareness month, make a vow to move beyond awareness into the category of understanding – or better.

The Daisy Reality Show Returns and Reminisces

Readers, if you haven’t been around long enough to recognize the Daisy Reality Show, here’s a brief introduction.

Daisy (yours truly) hosts a reality show at the O.K. Chorale. The show’s director and her bumbling assistant keep the show on track and provide a running commentary off-screen. This episode “aired” in late summer of 2013, two years before the surprise guest was recruited to become Speaker of the House. Oh, sorry. Was that a spoiler? Well, here goes.

Daisy: I’m baking cookies this afternoon. We have no snack foods worth eating. Well, few snack foods in the house. Peanuts, cashews, the makings for trail mix – that’s it.

Assistant: I see chips. What’s wrong with potato chips?

He had to ask, didn’t he?

Daisy: It’s like Michael Pollan says in his Food Rules: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. In this case, I’m following his advice that whole foods are better than processed foods and junk food is okay in moderation when I make it myself.

Assistant (pretending to understand): Oh.

Daisy’s cell phone chirps, indicating a text message. 

Daisy: Oh, it’s La Petite. She says:

So we were sitting at the fair eating ice cream and I spotted something terrifying — Paul Ryan.

Daisy (Laughing): That’s my daughter, a good progressive young woman! I’ll respond and tell her to run, run fast, run far in the other direction.

Director: Oh, I remember you were a volunteer for Obama last year. Was it really only a year ago?

Daisy (texting): It’s been a very full year. La Petite lives in Paul Ryan’s congressional district, and she took great pleasure in voting against him twice last November.

Assistant: She voted twice? Daisy’s phone chirps again. 

Daisy: Here’s the next one!

I was walking towards him to document this with my camera and cousin Doodles, age 2, followed. Her mom was all like, “No, nooooo! Don’t get too close!”

And then, after Daisy responds with “He didn’t try to talk to her, did he? Scary.”

No, I didn’t want to talk to him either, so I stayed my distance. Took a photo of people in line to greet him.

Assistant: Twice? Is that legal?

Daisy: She voted for his opposition in two different races — Congress and Vice President.

Assistant: Oh. Um — never mind. Oh.

Daisy: Back to cookies! Real food for snacks at the O.K. Chorale.

Director: Camera One, zoom in on the cookbook.

Daisy: The recipe is on my blog.

Director: Camera One, zoom in on the laptop on the kitchen counter.

Readers, with the exception of the reality show, this post is entirely true. Cookies can be a good snack, I looked up the recipe on a previous post of Compost Happens, and La Petite really did text me the conversation above. She was mixing work with pleasure by photographing the county fair for the local paper and spending time there with her adorable toddler cousin and family.  

Eight Years Ago

Memories — Recipe for an Historic Inauguration
Take one republic, preheated by
Wars
Poverty and
Health care crises.
Blend worries, industry failures, job losses
Top with slashed budgets and crashing morale.
Mix dedicated candidates with
Intelligence
Experience
and Passion.
Nurture from deep grass roots
Seek hope, change, and motivation.
Beat at high speeds until competition peaks.
Organize. Volunteer. Vote.Set aside to cool.
Season with Knowledge
Insight
Plans and Ideas
Fold in global perspective,
Authentic world view.
Ship by train to nation’s capital.
Set atop quality cabinet.

Serve with courage and inspiration.

photo credit: La Petite, at a rally last June

From two years ago – what a difference.

Two years ago, the garden had officially succumbed to the freezing temps overnight. Today, I was outside in my Wisconsin Badgers tee shirt, turning soil and enjoying the huge blooms on the marigolds.

The election was nearly over (and I was worried). We’re a few days away from Election Tuesday. I’m worried sick. This election – it’s so unreal that it’s scary.

So what’s next? How did Compost Happens find a way to continue without politics or gardening on the topic list? Ha-ha. As if I’m ever at a loss for words!

Don’t worry, friends, family, and fans. There is still almost half of the NFL season to go. You’ll read the reactions of the O.K. Chorale as the Packers do their best to protect their best – Aaron Rodgers, that is. I might even post the results of our Eating the Opponent tradition. Indiana corn chowder (with bacon) and bacon cheeseburgers tonight as we prepare to meet the Colts on Sunday. if you were curious.

The garden was a simple pile of dirt and scattered straw two years ago. This year, like 2015, there’s a lot of green in the yard, providing a beautiful backdrop to the multi-colored leaves falling from the neighbor’s maples. In fact, I turned soil today and pulled up rogue grass roots to make room for a row of walking onions.

I still have a small tray full of green-turning-red and even more green-turning yellow tomatoes. I have enough ripe tomatoes to add to salads and BLTs for a little while longer.

As for the election results – I’m sure there will be reactions, good or bad, from the family here at the Chorale or from our favorite time traveler, Grandma Daisy.

What to write? Blog fodder? No shortage here, folks. As my favorite quarterback said a couple years back, R-E-L-A-X. I’m not going away any time soon.