Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. . .

Yesterday and the day before, we made the trek up to the great white north. While we can usually make the drive in one day without a problem, the weather sitaution was cause for concern so we left early and took 2 days for the trip. The drive was quite uneventful--especially between Tulsa and Kansas City where we could not find a single place to stop and eat. (I am still very puzzled as to where the few people that live there get their food.) But the last 15 miles of teh journey was quite an ordeal. My sisters had made a snowman named Olive (to the snacks used for her eyes) in anticipation of our arrival. After waiting quite a while, they realized we were not coming any time soon. Without going into too much detail, let's just say that the dear old Cadillac was not prepared nor was it meant for this type of weather. But with some help from a few yokels, the sheriff, and my sister's boyfriend's dad, we finally made it!
The picture below is what it looked like when we left Dallas. The difference is hilarious!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If you have not read any Charles Dickens lately, I highly recommend it. A year or two ago, Masterpiece Theater did a whole season's worth of adaptations of Dickens' novels. Barrett and I were hooked. It all started with Bleak House--an amazing series--and continued with Oliver Twist, Little Dorritt, and David Copperfield, and others. After watching all these movies and becoming fascinated with the rich, complex stories, I made an effort to start reading Dickens. I remember reading him a little in high school but not not loving it. I read Oliver Twist, and became obsessed. After reading Dickens, anything else I pick up to read feels like trash and a waste of time. He is truly one of the best writers of the English language. . . in my opinion at least.

Hard Tack

Back in November, we took the eighth grade students to Washington DC on an American history trip. One of our many stops this year was the ever-popular Gettysburg. Now, I am fortunate enough to teach in a school where children love to learn, and my students this year love history which fills my heart with joy daily. As we traveled through the town of Gettysburg trudging through battlefields and various museums learning about practically every movement of practically every soldier, the kids began to get a little tired and a little hungry. The result: whining. "What is for lunch?" "Are we going to eat soon?" "What are we doing now?" came the voices from the back of the van. In an attempt to have a little fun, I responded, "No, we are not going to have lunch. Instead, we are going to hike out to the middle of this battlefield and eat hardtack around the campfire just like the soldiers in the Civil War." "Seriously". . . and I awaited the groans. "Cool!"

They were somewhat relieved to know that they were getting a real meal, but sure enough weeks after our return, it came back up. "Mrs. Freeman, do you remember when you said we were going to eat hard tack on the battlefield? We really wanted to do that." "And that is why you are so cool," I said. Sure enough, I found a recipe for hard tack on the Internet later that day.
- 6 cups flour
- 1 cup water
- Roll out to 1/2 inch thickness
- Poke holes in the dough with a fork
- Bake for 1 hour at 325
- Leave out overnight for "authenticity" (read staleness)
So they will get their hard tack.

Now, when I told the seventh graders this, one responded in alarm: "You are giving them a heart attack!" Oh well. . .

I will let you know if they like their Civil War snack.

The elastic heart of youth

"But the elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one constrained shape long at a time."

This line from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has become one of my favorites especially after teaching junior high. It is amazing to me how frequent and drastic the mood swings of adolescents can be. Frequently when my students are being overly dramatic, I simply look at them and ask, "Aren't you just exhausted at the end of the day? Because I am exhausted just watching you."

This year, I have one student who has particularly dramatic mood swings. Humorously enough, I have found that this student's moods correspond directly to her having or not having her glasses--and they are often lost (much to my chagrin). She lost her glasses yesterday (left them on the bench at an away basketball game), so the following day at school was very melancholy. Throughout the day I would find her sitting quietly by herself writing dark poems probably about loneliness, loss, how cold and cruel this world can be, or something to that effect. Towards the end of the day, she came back to my class, and I asked her if everything was alright. Unconvincingly she said it was. Pressing the issue further, I said, "Are you sure? You seem depressed." "Oh no" was the reassuring reply; "I haven't been depressed for the past two hours." It is true: the heart of youth is very elastic.