Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Running in the rain

This afternoon was the city championships for cross country. The three junior highs, all dressed in red, were out to find out who was the best in the town. The Girl's race was at 4:15 pm. Around 4 it started to rain. Just a light drizzle that made you wish you kept an umbrella in your car but nothing terrible. By the starting gun it was pouring. But those girls ran like nobody's business.

The Girl got her personal best time of 16:20 and came in tenth!

The coach said that if both the girls and boys team won the championship, there would be no practice tomorrow. The girls ran first and one of our girls came in number one by a long shot. When the boys ran, the girls cheered on their lead boy so much, he broke the school record. It was a wet, cold and successful meet!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Return to the River

We like to start out our Scout year with camping. This past weekend we kicked it out in style back at one of our favorite campsites, Singing River.

Our troop has never been so small as it is this year. Only six girls went with us to the cabin. But they brought so much stuff and spread it out so far and wide that it looked like 30 girls were living in there.

Weaver, the cabin has a new stove, refrigerator and thermostat. Sweet! The plumbing is still sluggish and the kitchen floor is always wet because the floor is seeping through the cracks. Not sweet. There was this big, braided oval rug that smelled so funky we had to kick it out. We put on note on it that it should never be let in again!

The highlight of the trip was our afternoon picnic by the river. This year we took the buddy burners and hobo stoves and made soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

And don't even start on me about flip flops and outdoor cooking. It may have been anti Safety-Wise, but I assure you that no one was injured.

The only bummer was that when the river is this low, it's not as much fun to play in. Weaver, someday you'll have to come out with us. Olive's Grave is waiting!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Time of Painful Renewal

Autumn officially began this week and with it comes not only cool days and bright colors but also all the fundraisers. Boy Scout popcorn. Cookie dough for school. Girl Scout nuts and magazines. Take your checkbook and hide in a cave-- Here comes the kids!

I'll have plenty to say about popcorn in the coming days, being that I'm the troop's Popcorn Kernel. (I'm not kidding, that's what the person who runs the sale is called. ACK!). But today I want to tell you a story about the GS fall sale.

I was at the big kick-off event about a month ago out at Timberlane. Girl Scouts have had a fall product sale for a long time now. Compared to the insanity of cookies, the fall sale is barely a blip on the troop year. When I was a lass we sold calendars, then it was calendars and nuts, then just nuts, now it's magazines and nuts. The magazine sale, new last year, had a lot of bugs in the system. Add that to the fact that most people can't follow simple written directions, and by December the magazine sale had everyone hopping mad.

At this big kick-off meeting, people still felt like they hadn't complained enough about how last year went and proceeded to hog up the meeting time with their grievances. The sales rep guy was way, WAY too patient with them all:

"My subscriptions didn't start coming until March!"
"I paid for a year and it stopped after six months!"
"My mother got double billed!"
"Those annoying renewal offers come every week!"

At that last one, the calm sales rep raised his hand for attention.

"Remember that renewal offers you get in the mail are from the magazine publisher itself, not Girl Scouting. If you renew with them, Girl Scouts doesn't get any of the money."

The room quieted down a bit. He continued, mistakenly believeing he was getting control of the room finally.

"You have to renew on one of these forms," he said, holding up a copy of the now familiar form, "in order for your troop to make any profit from the sale."

The room was now practically silent. The only sound was that of women muttering not very Girl Scout words under their breath.

Are you kidding me? I thought. These women have renewed their subscriptions with the publishers and thought it would count? Uh-oh.

That uh-oh then happened quickly. One leader broke the silence with an exasperated, "Well, I wish to hell someone would have explained that a year ago!"

And with that the room broke out into chaos again. It was the single worst kick-off event in recent memory.

With that said, if you need any of your magazines renewed, let me know. I've got plenty of forms.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rocket Park

Back in the day, THE place for playground fun was Rocket Park. That wasn't it's official name, but that's what everyone called it. If you were good in the grocery store or kept your cool the entire time at some boring great-aunt's house, a trip to Rocket Park was the big reward.

Of course we called it Rocket Park because of the rocket. After you made it across the swinging bridge and got over the planking you could enter the rocket itself. It had three levels that you reached by ladder. The middle level had a shiny slide for an emergency exit. The top level was the nose of the rocket and was so small only two or three kids could fit at the time.

Somewhere along the line, they tore out the amazing rocket and installed safe playground equipment. (I should mention that most moms hated Rocket Park because the whole thing was a serious, and possibly deadly, accident waiting to happen. The moms would sit together on the benches watching in horror as their kids would climb, almost slip and then climb again.)

I'm telling you all this because I think I found the rocket yesterday!

The Boy and I were out on the back roads on our way to the Girl's cross country meet. The team is forced to ride the bus to get to all its meets, so family members have to get their on their own. Luckily when the meet is over, you are allowed to take your kid with you so they don't have to ride home on the bus. Anyway, yesterday's meet was way the hell out in Sullivan. That's pretty big time Amish country and we passed plenty of buggies on the way. One of the towns we had to creep through was Spencer and right there on the road was a little community park with a rocket. The boy posed by it so you can get an idea of it's size.

If this isn't the exact same rocket that was in our park when I was a kid, then it is definitely it's twin.

These opening for the ladders are a bit smaller than I remember them being. I wish that graffiti wasn't so hidden. It said, "Becky is a wannabe redneck". Whoa! Those small town kids are scary!

This slide could use a coat of wax. If you had to actually escape from an exploding rocket, you'd only get halfway down before you'd have to push yourself along. Burnt for sure!

Way up in the nosecone, Commander J, spies the alien life form on the planet.

The alien has taken control of the rocket and is taunting me from the control room!

Back on Earth, I got to be the mommy sitting on the bench gasping as I watched my kid almost slip down the ladder. Not fun at all.

Not only did this park have the rocket, but look at the size of this swing set! And you know that I got it up there and I was looking over the top bar before I was done. The Boy was mighty impressed.

He wasn't so impressed with the thing that spins you until you barf.

There was also a spiral slide that was actually slippery, some real teeter-totters that we tried out and this little crane that you can sit on and dig up sand. The Boy really liked playing with that even though he was way too big for it.

Oh yeah, we made it to the Girl's meet with plenty of time to spare. She came in 31st with a time of 18:49. Considering how hot it was and that they had to run up and down hills instead of just a flat course, I think she did wonderful.

Now she wants to go to Rocket Park since she's seen the pictures. Another road trip is surely in our future!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Cedar Point Again

Sunday was Season Pass Day at Cedar Point. Season Pass holders got to enter the park an hour early and ride The Raptor . You could ride it as much as you wanted because it was the only thing open in the whole park. We got there fifteen minutes early and rode it once. That was fine by us.

After that the park was completely open so we rode Maverick twice and then the Millennium. The whole joint is all dressed up for Halloweekends which starts next week. The decorations are fantastic. They had a graveyard built on the midway with rides that have been removed from the park written on the headstones. "Funhouse" was written upside-down! Oh, I miss that one!

And finally we all rode Top Thrill Dragster. The boy rode it for the first time a couple of weeks ago, but this was a first for the rest of us. The Girl was so nervous she was on the verge of tears. When they were strapping me in all I could think was "So stupid! So stupid!"

But it was awesome! We all loved it so much we got right back on it right away. Of course, it helps that the line was only 15 minutes long both times!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Nature vs. Nurture (A Math Problem)

The kids read most of my posts. They get a big kick out of them. But this one I'll have to keep on the down-low.

Most of their academic lives I've been lying to the kids about my feelings for math. It's true. I would lie to them every school day when they would need help with their math homework. It's an experiment I started with them back in second grade. That's the year you learn to borrow in order to subtract, the first complicated math process.

I took the least amount of math possible to graduate from high school. When I got to college they told me I had to take more math or I could take logic. I took all the logic they offered. It's not that I hate math or numbers. I just never felt comfortable in the subject. It's shaky ground I'd rather not walk on.

But here's where being a zombie teacher came in very handy. When you have to teach a math lesson everyday you can't help but become proficient at it. When you have to teach to first grade one day and then sixth grade the next, you get down right good at it. I can multiply using partial products or lattice. I can find the area of two and three dimensional shapes. I know what PEMDAS means and I can use it. And if you need to turn those mixed numbers into improper fractions, multiply them together, simplify the answer and then show it as a decimal and a percentage, I've got it covered.

So when the kids would get stuck at a math problem, I was always ready to help. I not only knew what they were learning but I knew how the concept was going to be extended into the next grade. The kids would say, "We're lucky you're so good at math." And here's where the lying started. I would answer, "I love math. It was always my favorite subject."

Why did I do this? Well, why not. I didn't see any harm. Why should I burden them with my math reservations when I was in the position to do the exact opposite? And the ironic thing is that I really do enjoy math now. Teaching the math lesson is usually my favorite part of a zombie day. There's manipulatives to play with, charts and graph and in the end there's an answer, a real answer that you can prove is right. When I'm explaining a math concept and you get to see that little bulb go off because they finally get it, that's the best. You don't get to see that little light in other subjects like you do in math.

The problem now is that I only teach through sixth grade and my kids are in eighth. This year they are taking algebra. It's not pre-algebra but high school algebra, the class I barely passed. The size of their book is intimidating. Flipping through it's pages is even more so. Their math teacher has already rubbed me the wrong way. (She told her class that this is the year that math would get hard, so hard they might cry. What the hell kind of thing is that to say to children at the start of a brand new year? Is sabotaging your class morale a new teaching model that I haven't heard about yet? I've already had words with this woman and I foresee more words in the future.)

Anyway, the jig is almost up. The Boy's math work last night had a story problem that made me want to go in the corner and hide...and they've only been in school eight days!