My blog about knitting, teaching, and being a mother to two energetic young boys.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Another First Day...

Tis the season to be jolly... Oh - wrong season. Yes - 'tis the season I head back to work and entrusted with educating the masses. I am always so worried and nervous about the 1st day. After 13 years you'd think I'd have it down & be able to breeze on through. I do know I'll be fine. I am confident in my abilities, however - I feel the first day is so important - first impressions and all that. I want the kids to know science - specifically chemistry and anatomy, is fun! I want them to know I mean business (No - you may not go to your locker!) I want them to leave excited about being in my class. So - what do I do on the first day? Go over the rules? Give them a synopsis of the course? Nope - I sing. Yes - I sing. Well, lip sync is more like it, but I always eventually let my real (horrible) voice shine through. I so love a captive audience. Michael Offutt has written and produced tons of songs about chemistry. Sometimes I sing "They Call Me A Chemistry Nerd", but lately (last couple of years) I've chosen the more upbeat "We Dig Chemistry (it really is a blast!)". I put on my tie dye lab coat & nerdy goggles & take the stage as soon as the bell rings. You would not believe the look on the faces of those teenagers. Wow. Usually by the end of the song after much encouragement from me - many students are singing the chorus. It's a great way to let the kids know they aren't just in any science class. We also discuss how music and rhythms can help us remember difficult concepts. I also use it to let them know that sometimes we have to take risks in order to move forward - if I can get in front of a group of teenagers I don't know very well, then they can take the risk & give Chemistry a chance. It's been a week since the 1st day and my students continue to ask if we're going to have more songs.

Ahh! I have no arms! (Wow - that really looks freaky!)

The boys have both settled into 3rd & 1st grade. I'm including the annual '1st Day of School Photo In Front Of The Fireplace' photo. Dang - they're getting all growed up. Orion says 3rd grade is going to be way more work - he's looking forward to the challenge. Iain claims 1st grade is going well & that the day is longer than it was in kindergarten. In our district, kindergarten is full day with very few exceptions, so he's on the same time schedule as last year. Perhaps the day just seems longer because they don't begin every morning with fun/free choice time - they get straight to work! Don't you love the plaid? Iain claims plaid shirts are the choice for school pictures. Every formal picture he's had in the last 3 years (preschool - kindergarten), he's worn a plaid shirt. He picked this one out for that very reason; at least it's a different color than last year's plaid shirt. So - what are the chances we'll make it through 12th grade with a plaid shirt every year? Hmmm.....

Even though the start of a new school year means I'm 'busier than a one armed coat hanger', I'm making time for knitting. Here a few F.O.s I promised to show:

"Patrick's Pumpkin" hat

Fiber trends pattern - well written & a very quick knit. I think I finished this in a day. I had a little 'goof' while attaching the 'leaves' to the rolled brim, but with a bit of fudging, I think it's all good. I used the Galway worsted yarn - great color selection & new-mom friendly. This hat is for the new baby of one of my colleagues. I think I need to knit a few more...

"Summer Seafoam Scarf"

This pattern is from the Churchmouse Yarns & Teas July-August newsletter. I used two skeins of Jo Sharp Soho Summer DK Cotton in a navy (can't find the ball band.) & a Addi Turbo #6 needle. Very simple & quick knit as well. I knit most of it on our return drive from Seattle to Anchorage & was able to wear it on the 1st day of school. Finishing a scarf is quite the accomplishment for me - I have the attention span of a flea, so I haven't finished a scarf (I get bored with the pattern too soon) since I knit scarves for my grandparents back in 1980!!

Here's a close up of the stitch detail. Dropping stitches on purpose was so fun because it felt like you were doing something naughty. I wonder if knitting the Clapotis gives you the same feeling.

Well - off to work on my impulse knit.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Red Ribbon Day!

Sock Award, originally uploaded by Arctic Knitter.

Holy Schnikey! Check this out - on a whim & inspired by Winston's Mom & fellow blogger of One More Row - I entered a sock in the Knitted Sock division of the AK State Fair.

Who'da thunk - the things actually won a prize - a pretty red 2nd place no less! Now don't get me wrong - I'm thrilled with these socks & very proud. I just love how the color (STR - Oregon Red Honey) complements the pattern (Celtic Braid Socks) - I'm just surprised they actually won something! Having said that - I really wonder about the judging criteria for the socks. Yes - I love my socks & think they're worthy of recognition, however after looking at the plain stockinette pair of socks that earned the 1st place/Division champion (read - Big, pretty Purple Ribbon) - I wonder how those were better than mine. Also - saw a beautiful pair of blue socks on display w/nary an honorable mention - what's up with that? Perhaps the AK State Fair judges attended the same judging school as those of the Olympic gymnastics? Just a thought...

Our other reason for trudging out to the AK State Money Pit, oops I mean state fair - was to admire Winston's Mom's beautiful Fair Isle Cardigan she made for her mom:

Friend's Fair Isle

Isn't it gorgeous? I can't believe it didn't place higher. Now - the 2nd place sweater was another beautiful fair isle - well done, beautiful design & colors. However - the first place? A monochromatic cable sweater. Hmmmm - again, I question the judging. Don't get me wrong, cables are beautiful - in fact I'm knitting two projects involving cables right now. However - it just didn't stand out & say "Wow - Look at Me, Aren't I Gorgeous?" I dunno - perhaps I'm just a tad bit biased since this sweater was knit by a dear friend of mine. I also think (since I'm already on my soap box, why get off now...) - the folks who put up the knitting displays could have done a much better job in showing off this fantastic piece of craftsman(woman)ship. Folded, albeit neatly, just does not do this sweater justice. Two honorable mention sweaters were nicely displayed on forms (is that the correct name for those armless, headless things?) - don't you think a sweater that placed higher would deserve a more prominent display? Just another thought.... (okay, climbing down from said soap box)

So - a great day for Anchorage, East High, and SWS knitters at the AK State Fair. Booyah!

So - here's a glimpse on my latest impulse cast-on project:
Hey, Teach - Day 2

Any guesses?

I leave you with this - a photo that warms my heart:

"Can't Play Wii Right Now - This Book Is Too Good!"


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mono Lake & Yosemite

Hello again... So my last post was my poor attempt to reconnect in blogland. Now that I have access to hubby's computer and therefore all photos from this summer, I guess I can provide at least a bit more visual stimulation.

I think my last vacation post was about our arrival in Wisconsin. I hadn't discussed our trip to Mono Lake etc. So - here are the Cliff's Notes:

July 8th & 9th, 2008

About the time the temperatures were soaring into the 100's in Sacramento, we departed to visit the Eastern Sierras - specifically Mono Lake & the east side of Yosemite. Many of you may remember Mono Lake being the center of attention for many environmentalists back in the 80's. Essentially the Los Angeles basin was diverting water from the tributaries that feed into Mono Lake. As a result water levels dropped & had a negative impact on the ecosystem. Eventually (I'm a science teacher - I can use ambiguous terms for historical dates, like 'eventually') measures were passed to stop the diversion of water with the hopes the levels of Mono Lake will return to normal. Political history aside, the natural history of Mono Lake is very interesting. For specific details, you may want to go here.

The formations you see in the picture above are called Tufa Towers. They are formed over time from the reaction of dissolved calcium from underground springs and carbonates that exist in the lake water. In a nutshell - limestone (Calcium carbonate - CaCO3) is formed in what is called a precipitation reaction. Yes - chemistry in the real world; my students will be thrilled! The towers are so impressive due to the level of the lake dropping as mentioned above.

The chemistry didn't stop there!! The blurry photo above shows Iain holding a piece of pH paper. For those of you who have forgotten, pH paper helps measure the pH (power of hydrogen) or how acidic/basic a solution is. This color is indicative of a pH of 10. On the pH scale (from 0 - 14), pH values above 7 are considered basic. Soap is an everyday example of a basic substance. Soap is slippery - a property associated with all bases. After wading in Mono Lake, you feel a bit slimy & need a clean water rinse.

You might think that a lake that has such a high salinity (I believe Mono Lake is twice as salty as the ocean) and so basic would be devoid of any creatures. Au contraire Mon frere! Check this out:

**Sorry for the sideways video - don't know how to edit & apparently this is how I took the video.

Alkali (basic) flies are pretty neat! They are everywhere! Normally you'd think - gross, I don't want to touch those yucky flies. Apparently the feeling is mutual since you can run through a swarm of these things & it's like the parting of the red sea - the darned flies just get out of the way!! My boys had a field day w/this - running through the flies to watch them scatter. To their delight - I even ate a fly larvae! Crunchy & a bit salty, but not too bad. I ate one after learning that the indigenous people used to eat tons of the larvae as part of their diet - high in protein!!

Fascinating political & natural history. I just love this picture - the two boys totally engrossed in the wonders of nature - so cool!

During this time we also attempted to visit the east side of Yosemite. I say 'attempted' because of this:
If you look close enough, you'll see steam emanating from under the hood.

A quick fix - adding a little lake water... (don't worry - we read the owner's manual & it said under emergency circumstances, water can be added. We think this constitutes as an emergency)
As we were heading up over the pass into Yosemite, the temperature light flicked on letting us know something was wrong. Luckily there was a pull-out nearby & a lake. Turns out all of our coolant had leaked out... not good.

Here's something you certainly don't want to add to your vacation photo collection:

We had the van towed to Mammoth Lake to have a VW mechanic take a look. Turns out a hose popped off & that caused all of the coolant to drain out. Fortunately it was a simple fix - reattach the hose & fill up w/coolant. I guess we'll have to save the east side of Yosemite for another road trip!

Okay - more of our adventures & perhaps some knitting content (must get batteries...) next time. I need to make dinner so my 8 yo will stop climbing in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Home Again....

...Home Again, Jiggity-Jig
Went To The Market
To Buy A Fat Pig.
Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity-Jog
Went To the Market
To Buy A Fat Hog.

I remember my Mom saying this rhyme and now my boys & I always say it when we return home from school, shopping, etc. I say the Home, Again, Home Again & Went to the Market stanzas, and they continue the rest. It's kind of corny, but fun...

Yes - we're home. We arrived safely back in Anchorage, Thursday evening on August 7th. My poor friends thought perhaps I was kidnapped in Wisconsin since I haven't posted (gasp) in over a month now - shame on me. When we first arrived home I was just so happy to be in my own space, that sitting down to compose a blog entry and hope the words would be logical was just too much to ask. So - I just kept putting it off.

and off...

Until now, when I've received my 2nd wind, the day our students returned to school. How crazy is that - I'm dog tired from teaching all day (well, almost all day - I teach an 80% schedule which means I get to arrive at school at a reasonable 8:45ish rather than the insane 7:00am time) and I summon the energy to sit & blog. But of course - the batteries in the camera are dead & I can't seem to locate any fresh ones.

Ahh - the best laid plans.

So - I leave you dear reader(s)?? with assurance that we are safely home after logging 13, 237 miles over 10 weeks. I even have a couple of F.O.s to share with you in my next entry & will try to wrap up the last month as concisely as possible.

Until then (whenever I can find fresh batteries)...