There are those out there who would say it’s ridiculous to look for signs of spring where I live–they might even say there are only 2 seasons here: spring and summer. But those people would be wrong.
It’s funny, but since the “official” change of seasons on Monday, it seems like signs of spring are everywhere (in spite of A LOT of rain this week). The tree in front of my classroom has pulled on its gorgeous light green dress of leaves…that green that seems only visible in early spring. Just a week ago I was noticing a few leaves popping…and today, it’s showing its full glory.
The succulents in my backyard, those that don’t get very much attention at any time of the year, are suddenly showing off. While always pretty in their own succulent right, right now they are sporting new buds and blossoms-to-be.
The air too is different. Even though storms have still been rushing through, the temperatures are noticeably warmer and I find myself opting for lighter jackets and relishing the warmth of the sun on my shoulders when it pokes its way out from behind the clouds.
Are you experiencing signs of spring in your part of the world? What do your signs looks like, feel like, smell like, sound like, maybe even taste like?
Today I read the book, I’m Trying to Love Garbageby Bethany Barton to my class of first graders. We’ve read other books in the series, including I’m Trying to Love Spiders and I’m Trying to Love Math. My students LOVE these books. Somehow the author manages to hit the perfect balance of funny, gross, and information.
I’m trying to infuse a steady dose of “let’s take care of our earth” throughout the school year, striking a balance of the urgent need to pay attention to the environment with a sense of joy and possibility– that little things DO matter.
This book does a nice job of teaching about nature’s clean up crew–the scavengers, detritivores, and decomposers who break down organic matter and contrasts that with human trash that can take centuries to break down (if at all). They learned about landfills–and were appalled that we, as human, are making huge stacks of trash that will take a long time to break down.
Luckily, at our school we have students engage in trash reduction every day. They compost remains of fruits and vegetables, recycle their paper trays and other recyclable packaging, and limit trash to those things that do not fit into the other categories. We also live in a place that has banned single use plastics, making reuse ordinary.
After reading, they wrote to their parents asking how their families reduce trash–and already, many students were aware of many efforts going on at home. I know that composting and recycling is not enough to change the climate trajectory, but I know that the more we and future generations know and do, the better our chances are to improve the situation.
I love a great book. Especially one that gets kids (and adults) thinking and acting in ways that have a positive impact on the world. What wonderful book have you read to kids lately?
I’ll admit it. I’m done with rain. As I may have mentioned (aka complained) before, we’ve nearly reached our annual rainfall total in the first three months of the year (I think the storm this week–some today and more forecasted for tomorrow and Wednesday–will take us over that total). As a classroom teacher, rain tends to make me grumpy. All the wet stuff, the missed recesses, the eating in the classroom, the pent up energy…ugh.
But, instead of complaining, I’m going to switch it up on myself and find some reasons to love rain–even in the classroom!
Here I go…
Super bloom! Our local plants are loving this water and we are already seeing hints of the bloom to come. It won’t be long until cactus as in full flower, trees are already dressing in their best green leaves, and the ever invasive black mustard is showing off its showy yellow best (and getting taller by the minute).
Music to my ears. The drip drop of rain is wonderfully soothing if you take the time to listen. Just last week, my students and I took a few minutes to soak in the sounds. Those few minutes of the rhythm of the rain were priceless.
No need to wash the car. With the regularly occurring rainstorms, my car is staying pretty much dust-free. A few swipes of the windshield wiper and the windows are clear. This is probably the cleanest my car has been in years!
Makes Elaine Maglioaro’s Things to do if you are Rain incredible relevant–and perfect to study tomorrow. What better activity to do when it is raining than read a poem about rain?
Quiet time with kids as they trickle in before school. Instead of playing on the playground and lining up for me to pick them up, on rainy days the kids trickle in a few at a time. I feel like I get a chance to check in with kids when things are quiet, a softer more mellow start to the day than is typical. I love the informality of it.
Raincoats and rain boots get some use! I bought a pair of colorful, fun rain boots a few years back–and wore them at most a couple of times before this year. This year, my rain boots and my cowboy boots are both getting some love. Same for my raincoats!
Drought relief. After all the misery that accompanies extreme drought, it’s nice to get a bit of relief. While we are certainly not out of the woods when it comes to adequate rainfall and enough water to meet the demands of our region, it is nice to see our state drought map begin to ease and reservoirs begins to fill. Hopefully this will also decrease some of the wild fire danger this year.
It’s cozy. Even though my ideal rainy day would be spent curled up in my own home with the fireplace blazing, a cup of tea at my elbow and a good book in hand, I do like the coziness of rain at school too. It’s fun to experience rain through the eyes of children–their pure joy at the wonders of nature as we all hunker down, enjoying the indoors is nice (on a limited basis–of course).
No recess duty. Tuesday is my day for recess duty–both before school and during our afternoon recess. But if it really rains as predicted, I will have a duty-free day. Of course, I will have my own students during those times but an occasional break from recess duty is always welcome. And it’s always great to not have to go outside and watch kids when it’s cold and windy (as tomorrow is promising, along with the rain).
Opportunities for new and different photos. A change in the weather means new opportunities for photography. What will I notice on the rain slicked streets? Where will rain drops stage themselves? What new beauty will reveal itself?
Hopefully I will be loving the rain tomorrow instead of griping about it. All my grumps will be put away for a while as I remind myself of all the reasons to love rain.
Shhh…don’t tell anyone. I am a total competition show addict. I can be drawn into the regular network fare, (think: The Voice, Survivor, Top Chef) and most anything cooking related (although I don’t cook) like Chopped, Kid’s Baking Championship, and Tournament of Champions. But the shows I love best are the quirky off-channel series that come up from time to time on Netflix or some obscure network.
I particularly love art-related competitions. A recent favorite was The Great Pottery Throw Down. I loved learning about the variety of pottery techniques and watching pottery artists realize their visions with clay. I enjoy learning to critique each work and match my decisions about the quality of the works against those of the judges. I love the way these shows help you get to know the artists, learning a bit about their lives and their skills. Have you seen Blown Away? I’ve learned so much about glass blowing and have become fascinated with the interplay of heat and breath that goes into creating these delicate works of art.
I can watch tattoo competitions, make up artists at work, up and coming fashion designers, aspiring models, interior designers… You can see, I’m not overly choosy about indulging in my guilty pleasure. And right now, while I should be writing those report cards that are due later this week, I just watched the first episode of The Exhibit: Finding the Next Great Artist, a show my son (who is an artist and knows how much I love competition shows, especially of the art variety) recommended.
What is your guilty pleasure? And if you have a recommendation of a quirky, wonderful competition show, please share!
I’m lucky enough to walk the beach regularly, which means I’ve become quite familiar with the variety of characters you might come across on any given day.
There are the surfers. They come in all ages and genders and pretty much all wear the same uniform: a black, long sleeved, long legged wetsuit. For the most part, they do not heed warnings about the water (stay out of the water for 72 hours after a rain event), they come no matter what the surf report says (small waves, crumbly waves, rough surf) and seem to enjoy themselves even when worthy surfing waves are few and far between.
There are players. The ocean is their playroom. They often bring toys: kites, footballs, frisbees, shovels…you get the idea. Players give play their full effort and attention. Teenagers are common in this category–especially teenaged boys. Adults, however, are the ones I notice (and secretly admire) who fall in to this category. They clearly derive intense joy from this play…and make me want to try whatever they are doing.
There are the artists. They see the beach as a blank canvas, a place to express their artistic vision. Some create with rocks, carefully balancing stones to create unfathomable towers using only gravity to hold the creation together. Others come armed only with a rake or stick and create intricate designs in the sand, proportions in alignment yet they bring no measurements that are visible–the vision seems to be firmly in the artist’s head and arms and body.
There are also the characters who don’t fit into any category–instead they are their own unique character, like the guy we call the naked guy. This guy walks miles on the beach wearing his private parts in a small bag slung on a string worn around his hips. Today I heard some young boys behind me describing his attire as “a very tight speedo.” The naked guy seems to know quite a few beach regulars, he sometimes chats as he walks. I’m not sure if this is his version of sunbathing, his exercise regime, or if he just enjoys the feel of the.briny sea breeze on all of his skin, but his practice definitely makes him stand out as noticeable on the beach.
I wonder if other places have a similar cast of characters–or unique categories of characters that inhabit the space. I’d love to know about the characters your come across in the places you frequent.
Inspired by NYT Tiny Love stories, here’s my attempt at an 100 word love story.
We met over green beer oh-so-many years ago. A college St. Patrick’s Day party before I was old enough to (legally) drink. With the luck of the shamrock, our chemistry was immediate. The room narrowed and it was only him and me. The beer lost, connection found. We talked and talked, clearly blessed by the gift of gab–another part of our green beer, Irish-themed meeting? Love at first sip, at first sight…or maybe the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Many years, two sons, two daughters-in-law, and three grandsons later, we’re still inseparable. Leprechaun green beer luck?
For more than a decade, I have taken and posted a photo a day. (You can see my collection on Instagram @kd0602). I have to be honest, some days taking those photos feels easy and inspiring. The tough choice is which photo to post. But other days, especially days when I am mired down in work or find myself in the head space where everything feels mundane–the same ol’ same ol’–it’s hard to even find a photo to take.
To push aside that malaise, I try to find something ordinary to look at from a new perspective. Maybe the light is different or I try another angle. Some days I get low, other days I move in close. Sometimes the variety comes in the editing process where I try different colors or remove all the color as I experiment with black and white.
I like that I need to force myself to find something interesting to photograph each day, that I have to push beyond that feeling of sameness and explore the world, even the very familiar not so exciting world of my everyday life to find something worthy of a photograph.
This week I’ve been in that “I can’t find anything interesting to photograph” funk. A busy schedule, dreary weather, and uncooperative tides have kept me close to home. The dandelions on my around the neighborhood walk have been interesting, but how many dandelions photos can one person take and post? I took some dandelion photos on today’s walk, but when my husband mentioned the “six foot high weeds in the backyard,” I headed out with my camera in hand (actually my phone, which has a pretty good camera).
I started with the weeds. More dandelions. I wasn’t finding success capturing the tall perspective. But I leaned in and noticed the seed hanging onto the yellow blossom. Interesting.
But then I noticed the texture of the trees and the play of light and shadow on the bark.
I came around to our “wild garden,” my affection term for the plants that have been relegated outdoors. They are the plants that have outgrown the kitchen window garden or are trying to die from overcare. Somehow, when sent outdoors, they seem to thrive. My eye was drawn right away to this composition of delicate and sturdy, highlighting a variety of greens.
This pool that had formed in the pot holding another succulent drew me in. Will it survive the overflow of water? Looking closely, I also notice the shadow of other plants reflected in the water along with the fallen leaves floating on the surface.
The aloe vera has grown prolifically since moving outdoors. It has spilled out of its pot and now grows along the patio. My husband has pulled off pieces and thrust them into other pots and they thrive too. It’s almost become a forest of aloe vera.
And the colors! Orangy-reds or reddish-oranges tipping yellowish green succulents. I think they may be showing off after getting all that nature-fresh rain. (I don’t think they like tap water nearly as much.)
When you look really closely, you’ll see buds getting ready to open and scabs or spores on the meaty lobes that invite questions and wonderings. I don’t even know the name of this plant. Guess I have some research to do!
I am once again reminded of why I take a photo each day as I experience the joy of discovery. Taking daily photos is my way of taking care of myself, making sure I enjoy the small stuff and avoid being overwhelmed with the negative stuff. I doubt I would have even headed into the backyard without my daily photo practice. Now the question becomes, which photo do I post on Instagram?
So what do you do to infuse beauty and purpose and the appreciation of small things into your life? How do you keep yourself accountable for this self-care practice?
Rainy days…for the last two years they have been few and far between. We had around 4 inches of total rainfall followed by 6 inches. This year we are already at nearly 10 inches (our seasonal average before the drought parched the state), and it’s early in the rainfall season.
I appreciate the need for rainfall, but as a teacher, I don’t love a rainy school day. Our school is ill prepared for rain. There are no pathways from the classroom to anywhere else on campus (including the bathrooms and the lunch serving area) that are totally covered. You WILL get wet if rain is falling. And since students eat outdoors (we have picnic tables under an awning), when it rains, it means they eat in our classrooms.
California has been plagued (blessed?) with lots of atmospheric rivers this season, bringing A LOT of rain. And I know I shouldn’t be complaining–we are getting rain AND we haven’t had the kind of devastation that other areas have been experiencing.
But as the rain drip dropped this morning I tried to make the best of things. Since students arrived directly to classrooms, I got those last few kiddos’ assessments completed while things were still quiet. When I learned that two of our reading teachers were out today (I knew about one yesterday–got the call about the other experiencing flooding in her home this morning, yucky for her!), I figured I could get some one-on-one reading time squeezed in. Drip by drop, I ended up reading with 20 of my 22 students today!
And the good news?!? The rain is done for now, we are looking at clear skies until the middle of next week. Hopefully we can dry out, get outside (for eating and for exercise), and return to a more typical schedule.
While the persistent drought we’ve been experiencing isn’t over, this over the top rainfall is helping to alleviate some of the pressure. And the plants are loving it, lapping up each drip and drop.
First graders are slow, especially when you want them to speed up. Today we were running late to get out to the line of cars picking students up after school. I was hustling along, trying not to tie up the line that sometimes snakes out of the parking lot, down the street, and then threatens to spill out onto the busy street around the corner. I turn around and I have only one student with me. The rest have stopped back inside the gate where they are crouched down, faces peering closely at the rain-wet sidewalk. Parents are peering in, probably wondering just what is holding their children up in there. But I knew. My students are nature lovers with the softest, kindest hearts and no regard for time as we adults know it. And sure enough, they were saving a slug from the potential trample of the oncoming feet of other classes.
On so many occasions, my students seem to slither forward, maybe an inch at a time. Putting away headphones and iPad–that seems to take an eternity. Zip up the backpack (if you have managed to cram the items actually into its belly instead of having them slip out in all directions), another lifetime. Put your name on your paper, along with the date…still waiting.
But head down to recess…wait, don’t run me over! Where did this speed come from? These slow-as-snail kids can go from 0-50 in no time when the word recess is associated!