Friday, April 24, 2009

And I thought Atlanta weather was strange!

Wow...we went from highs in the 60s, to a high of 90 today! Next week it is supposed to be back in the 60s again! I broke down and turned on the air conditioner today after listening to poor Gus panting all night long last night. I don't think he likes the drastic temperature change either. I suppose I will probably need to turn the heat back on next week!

Mark is in Frankfurt, Germany right now. He is scheduled to fly home on Sunday, but was going to try and get a flight home tomorrow. I think the Germans were trying to be nice and give him a day of sightseeing, but....he wants to be home, and I'd rather that he was home as well.

Austin was on Facebook this evening and we were able to chat for awhile. He was on the scene at one of the suicide bombings that happened yesterday. It has been relatively peaceful since he went to Iraq, but the announcements of the suicide bombings yesterday in downtown Baghdad, where he is currently located, gave me a scare. He worked the scene, then went to the Emergency Room to assist. I think it was a pretty hairy experience for him, to be sure. He can't get back home soon enough!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Newborn Photos

Sara, Ryan and Emery had a newborn photo session last week and some of the photos are now posted on They are incredible!!! Sara had fallen in love with this woman's work before Emery was born, and it is so great that they were able to have her come take photos of the family. I can't wait to see the full CD of wonderful pictures, and get copies made!

Food Fight!

Friday night we went to see a new play, Food Fight! at the Westport Playhouse ( I had gotten free tickets from school. We went to Westport early, and decided to eat at Ice Kitchen, a new tapas bar there. The food was great! The weather was nice, and for the first time since last fall, we were able to have a real meal served outside. Something to celebrate! Food Fight was a very funny musical about weight issues, and the fight to overcome them. We had a wonderful time!

Saturday we went to the Eco Expo, a show with lots of "green" alternatives. There were many items for home building, but they won't really apply to us, since the log house kit doesn't allow for concrete, stryofoam, etc., walls. But there was cool stuff on appliances, heat pumps, solar panels, countertops, tiling, etc. Nothing on wind mills, which is Mark's current passion. We have found a company that will evaluate the home site for solar/wind/geothermal possibillities, which we will definitely have done. We have also found a Katahdin home dealer/contractor who is about twenty miles away from the farm. This should make our lives, and the building process, much simpler than the previous plan of having someone come in from Kentucky. These people have already gotten a copy of our plans and we hope to meet soon to discuss finalizing them. I want to really spend some time this summer working out the final details, since it is difficult to focus on something like that during the school year.

The rest of the weekend was spent in a rainy, dreary weather fog. Mark worked on a skid to haul log timbers from the bluffs later this summer, and I attempted (unsuccessfully) to clean off my desk top. Austin has called with a wonderful regularity lately, as well as catching him on Facebook a time or two. I have done an amazing job (for me, at least!) of not worrying in a day to day fashion over his time there, but it is very wonderful to hear his voice, or see his name online! He is coping well, and his homecoming continues to be closer and closer.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Springtime at the Missouri Botanical Gardens

Without a doubt, my favorite place inside the city of St. Louis is the Botanical Gardens. They are celebrating their 150th anniversary of existence this year, and they have huge beautiful trees, a fabulous Japanese garden, and just tons of space and plants. We finally made it back there on Easter Sunday, and although it was a blustery day, we still had a wonderful time. Of course my camera was in tow, and it was really hard to sort through all the pictures to find the "best" ones....there was so much there to take pictures of!

Here's some Virginia Bluebells
There were thousands and thousands of tulips...nothing beats tulips for a dramatic floral display!
Red ones...
Pink and yellow ones....
more pink ones....
multicolored ones!
Kwanzaan cherry tree blossoms

Looking across the pond at the japanese garden
Pink dogwoods...we will be planting lots of these at the newly titled Mark's Park (formerly known as "the farm").

A japanese maple in bloom
Mark's favorite activity is feeding the koi, who always oblige with a brilliant display, some of these guys are huge!

A really pretty variety of japanese maple. Unfortunately, it wasn't labeled, so we don't know which specific type it is.

Inside their educational center they have a glass encased honeybee hive...very cool!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Springtime and Morels

Every week that we go out to the farm there are new signs of spring! I have been stating that spring has sprung for several weeks now, but last week we got snow for a whole day. It had been in the 70s right before the snow, so nothing stuck, but for most of the day a steady snowfall fell. This past week has been rather cool, and Good Friday was downright blustery, more February in GA like than April. But yesterday was beautiful, and today (Easter) looks cloudy, but fair enough that we are going to venture to the Botanical Gardens.
Here are the blossoms on a redbud tree. There are several out on the farm, and they are gorgeous right now!
Back in the wooded areas of the farm there are tons of little flowering plants. I need to brush up on my botany, because I don't know the names of any of them, unfortunately.

Along the river bluffs there are tons of little tiny ferns unfurling for the springtime.

Not that the dogs ever stopped getting in the water in the wintertime (except when it was frozen solid!), but now they are back in it full force, and there is lots of water for them to play in. Gus has this very strange habit of hunting rocks in the creek bed, diving for them, and them bringing them to the edge to actually try to chew on! So far, all his teeth are intact, but he loves this game!
Here he is pawing the water to feel for the proper sized rock....

Then he dives in after it....

And carries it to the shore. Typically about this time we yell at him to spit it out, and he'll return to the creek to find a new one.

Mark is constantly finding grape vines in the woods, and takes great joy in cutting them out...they are the midwest version of kudzu. This vine seemed to be aching to be part of a Tarzan scene, so Mark did his best to accommodate. I recently read a student evaluation where the student is described as acting "professor like". The evaluator apparently has never met this professor!

We also went on a search for morels this weekend. We had searched unsuccessfully last weekend as well, but we finally found the elusive fungi this weekend. Here is the first one that I spotted on the ground. Our total take after over an hour of searching was four tiny little fungi, but they were good! We think that it is still early and we marked our successful spots so we can go back and try again next weekend.

These were some other interesting fungi that had sprouted up in the woods.
And this is a false morel, which apparently some people mistake for the real thing??! It is way different, much bigger and bright red. Very cool looking critter to find in the woods. There were four of these things grouped together in one spot, and four of them would have easily been a complete meal for the two of us! Why is it that the tiny little ones have to be the ones that taste so good??

MAP testing

I have now survived CRCT testing in GA, and MAP testing in MO. Of the two, the CRCT testing was the worst. While I'm all behind the motive for No Child Left Behind, particularly with the needs of students with disabilities, this high stakes testing is for the birds! I have had students with 73 IQ's expected to take the same test that the 140 IQ kids take. What I hate the most is that my job mandates me to put my children through nothing short of torture. I know I'm torturing them, they know they are being tortured, but my job depends on me performing the torture exactly as the state mandates. The rest of the year, every minute is spent making sure that I am serving the best needs of my students, then testing shows up, and I can't help them or provide assistance in any way. My younger kids at Gainesville were so stressed and anxious over the test that behaviors were way up. What I noticed most about the middle school kids is that they just don't care. Most of my students were done in less than half the time required, except for a few students who truly tried their best, and one poor child who missed lunch each and every day of testing because she wasn't allowed to leave the test to go eat until she had finished it, but she was so cautious and careful and stressed about doing a good job that she spent almost the entire day each day on the test, which wasn't supposed to take more than an hour or so. My heart ached for her.

The good news is that it is over! In MO, it seems that the attitude is to play after testing until the school has ended. We have trips to the Museum, bowling, Six Flags, etc lined up to keep the kids entertained. I intend to keep teaching as long as they will at least pretend to put forth effort. I have learned a lot about middle school, and particularly education in Missouri, and next year I will do things very differently!


A little late in posting, but I am no longer a homeowner!! My house in Buford finally sold, after fourteen months on the market, and multiple price reductions (I don't want to think about how many!). It has been a challenge, but it is now over!!