Saturday, February 28, 2009

At Grandmother's House

Not much time for this one. I just spent way too long composing an email to Edward and Elinor (the pseudonyms I gave to the family I stayed with in Germany), and then translating it because I wanted to be fair to both of them, not making Edward translate and not making Elinor wait until he was up to it. (I think that he will still have plenty to do with straightening out the bits I messed up, though.)

I am staying with my Grandmother, who has been sick and in and out of the hospital for the past couple of months. I believe that they think it is a herniated disk, but there have been complications. I'm somewhat unclear on all of the details. Her body is doing minutely better each day--I think-- but her mind is still sharp as anything, which is a great comfort to me. She needs her walker to get anywhere on foot, and has to be driven to doctor's appointments and shopping and so on, but she seems to have more energy now than even three days ago, which again is a very good sign.

I had not been to her house for about fourteen years. She has come to blessings, graduations, baptisms, and Christmas, so I have seen HER a fair bit; I just haven't seen her house, and

I LOVE being at the house.

The landscape around here, most of the year, is pretty brown-- mostly dried vegetation-- and since I have usually visited on Christmas vacations, that is how I remember it. At the moment, however, it is spring, and that means that the rain has been coming down and the grass is coming up, so there is a lot more green than I have ever seen before. The roads are red, which makes a beautiful contrast to the grass. (Our tap water, from the well my grandfather dug fifty years ago when he was building the house, is plentiful, but it tastes a little funny and dyes the bathtubs rust-colored for the same reason the roads are red: there is lots of iron in it.) I need not tell you that the sky is blue, and it is impossible to tell you how gorgeous the moon and, I believe it was, Jupiter, were last night right after the sun had set. I was outside, gazing at them, and just did not want to come back to the house. I was just soaking in the glory of God, in these things that please the eye and gladden the heart and make the soul sing for joy.

I will take pictures and try, someday, to get them up, but since I keep running in to technical difficulties (such as losing the cable to connect my camera to the computer, only to find I had left it in the box it had come in) I will refrain from making any more rash promises about how soon I will post my own photographs.

The dog and I have made friends. He spent part of yesterday evening's TV-watching with his head in my lap, which I tolerated because I figure that it is good to have friends wherever you are. OK, OK, so I LIKE the dog, but I am allergic to him, and now I have to remember not to sit on my own bed until I wash these pants.

And now I've spent a long time on this, too, but it feels good to be writing again, and it especially feels good to be finicky about my writing. After all, what else is a blog for?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tooth Fairy-ing by mail

No, not tooth ferry-ing by mail, although it involves that, too.

With me in Maryland (at the moment) and my beloved fairy-ees in Utah, my normal tooth fairying activities have been, of a necessity, interrupted. For the Weathercolour household, I deputized replacement fairys before I left, but I hadn't planned on needing to (don't know where my brain was) for Klari's kids.

Sure enough, The Great Event happened in Klari's almost-six-year-old's life: he lost his first tooth. They called as soon as it was in danger (after all, when you not only know who your tooth fairy is, but have your tooth fairy's phone number, calling is only the natural step to take when you feel that first wiggling). The next day, it actually fell out, and said nephew was very concerned that he get his due sleepover, so he called again.

I explained as gently as I could that I wouldn't be able to come out any time soon. Then, I had a (probable) Stroke of Brilliance. I suggested that he mail the tooth to me, and I would mail the money to him. I am deeply hoping that the coolness of getting a real, live letter in the mail from your auntie/tooth fairy will somehow be close enough to the coolness of having her sleep over.

There is one small glitch, which is that I am going to my grandmother Tommy's house in California for a month, quite soon. She has been ill and I am currently unemployed and am therefore have the freedom to make a visit. I told my nephew that if I happened to leave before his tooth got here, I would have Nana or Papa forward it to me. He was, perhaps, concerned that I would forget to mention it to them.

"Can I talk to Papa?"

"No, I'm sorry, he's on a walk."

"What about Nana?"

"I'm sorry, darling, but she's at work. Shall I have Papa call you later when he gets in?"


So I nagged my father until he called, but by then my nephew seemed to have forgotten about it, so I also didn't worry about it any more.

However, last Saturday, I got a call from Klari, informing me that they had just mailed off the tooth. (Incidentally, she shares my feelings about how gross teeth are, and therefore, unlike my older sister, has no desire to get her childrens' teeth back after I have traded them for Sacagawea (had to look that spelling up) gold dollars.)

After she told me to expect the envelope some time this week, she informed me that my niece, T, also wanted to talk to me.

T wanted reassurance that I would not mix her teeth up with her brother's. I didn't think that this was a big deal, and reassured her that I would not. She asked again. I told her again that I didn't think this would happen. When she asked the third time, I remembered (should have remembered this the first time) that my entire tooth-fairy kit is in Utah (including her collected-but-not-returned teeth), and if I am receiving her brother's teeth here or in California, there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that I could get them mixed up.

Whew. Glad that's clear. Now I have to figure how much in postage it is going to cost to mail a $1 coin. Life gets more expensive all the time, I tell you, but at least I'll be doing my part to support our sagging economy.

Friday, February 6, 2009


It's an ugly fact of life, but not only do most people fail from time to time; we also take comfort in the fact that other people also fail. Maybe it's not an ugly fact. Maybe it's just keeping it real.

I was reminded of this yesterday when I was talking to one of my younger sisters about her (relatively new) job as a math teacher. She is having a rough time of it, and I have to say that I have never known of a first-year teacher who hasn't. I remembered last year-- my first real year of teaching-- and I remembered one conversation with my mom, in which I was bemoaning my many inadequacies as a teacher, and finally she shared one of the more embarrassing moments of her teaching career: her first semester of teaching, as a graduate student, she put an unsolvable problem on the final (math) exam. She did not discover the fact that it was unsolvable until was grading the exam, and at that point all she could do about it was give everyone full credit (which she did).

When I told Klari about this, she laughed really hard and said, "I should talk to Mom more." I agree.

On a more personal note, my worst moment teaching (so far) was when I was substitute teaching at a Jr. High in the Utah Valley region. A math class, now that I think about it. The teacher had left a note that I should be really strict, not allow any talking, and call the principal's office if the kids gave me any cheek whatsoever. I sort of raised my eyebrows, because I am personally a little more laid back than all that, but I tried to follow instructions. By third period, if I recall correctly, I had called them something like five times. Fourth period I called again, and they said that I was going to have to learn how to handle discipline problems myself, because they just couldn't handle that many kids. I turned red. I did not eat lunch in the teacher's lunch room because I was so embarrassed and sure that everyone would know that I was the stupid substitute teacher who had called the principal's office so many times that they had to tell her to stop.

By the end of the day, I had developed my own method of classroom management (or maybe I had just developed trust in the method I pretty much had at that point anyway). This method, if it could be called that, worked so well that almost every single time I have been observed teaching since then, I have gotten comments on the positive rapport in my classroom and/or how willing my students are to do what I ask them to. My students also frequently comment on how nice I am. I sometimes worry that this means I'm a pushover, but I'll take what I can get.

I know I'm always begging for comments, but especially here: I would love to have any extra, validating stories about failures that did not end the world and even are pretty funny at this point in time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I am home. Sort of.

I miss R--------- already. I miss the Ferrars (should have picked a pseudonym for that family that was easier to pluralize). I miss German light switches, door handles, and windows. I miss the adrenaline rush of trying to pay attention to meaning (the difference between what I want to say and what I know how to say), pronunciation, genders of nouns, and other grammar ALL AT THE SAME TIME. I miss people telling me all the time how good my German is (only partly true-- they are somewhat led on by my excellent pronunciation-- but it still feels good to hear).

I miss the kids at the kindergarten.

As my mother would say: sigh.


I looked on my email today (I got home yesterday) and found a job posting for a city quite close to R--------, for which it appears that I may be qualified. I meet the minimum requirements set out, and speak some German ("good" German for a visitor, and good enough at least to start in a classroom). They said that they didn't need a German speaker, but I'm hoping they look favorably on what I do have.

So, that is what "home, sort of" means. I got used to Germany while I was there. I didn't really want to come back yet, but I feel that I made a good decision. My visit with my parents at Christmas was too short, anyway, and in some ways it will be easier to apply for the job from here (the German embassy is quite close, for instance, so visa issues will presumably be somewhat easy to work out).

Next posting: Paris, with pictures! (I can finally download my camera's pictures, as soon as I download the software and read the manual...) Not too many, though, since my battery froze and therefore died after the first four I took, three of which were of the Eiffel tower. Sorry. I'll just have to take more next time I go. Which, if I make it back to Frankfurt soon, may be within a year.