Thursday, September 29, 2011

Sight words and small groups

Tuesday was my day with the first graders.  It was a big day. For the first time Ms. H broke the children into five groups and each group worked on a different project. The first problem was some children thought they had to finish all five projects that day. They will move to a different project each day.  They did not listen. There was an adult to help each group and it still was a little chaotic. 

My group was working on scrambled sentences. Each word in each sentence was numbered.  Sentence 1 each word had a 1, sentence 2 each word had a 2.   They were to cut out one word at a time for each sentence, arrange it correctly, have  me check it, and then glue. Then they were to write the sentence. An example:   the He with cat. played    I asked them what the first word of a sentence begins with, then asked what goes at the end of every sentence.  After they found those two words, some could complete the sentence.  But cutting, gluing, arranging words, tough for some.  A lot of things to do in a certain order.  A couple of the boys just glued without any thought to correct order.  That did not work out well. 

All five groups finally finished their tasks and them we moved on to phonics.  While they worked in their workbooks, I tested them individually on Dolch sight words.   Each child would read the word list, if they did well I had them go on to the next list. I marked down which words they missed, gave a check , minus, plus depending on how many they missed.  I made comments on speed, sounding out (which rarely works with sight words) whether they liked to read or not. Then on to the next child.

Then we did my favorite thing.  I read them a story.  Ms. H always picks the story, gives it to me when I arrive, and then before lunch I read to them.  This week's book was How Rocket Learned to Read written and illustrated by Tad Hills.  This is such a sweet gentle story, and really nails learning to read.  The children loved this book and made some great observations about sounding out words.  Click here to see the book.  Be sure to click on Search inside this book  just under the picture of the book.  You will be able to read several pages of the book.

Another nice thing for me is walking through the halls.  Children stop and hug me or call to me.  Parents stop and talk to me.  This school is a community.  Feels good being there.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Testing another recipe

Monday night Marty and I, mostly Marty, tested another recipe for Cook's Illustrated.  (I was the wash up help) The recipe was for Szechuan Stir Fried Pork and Eggplant with Garlic Sauce.  It read yummy, we love to cook and eat Chinese food.  I thought this time I would show you some of the shopping we have to do for these recipes.

After Marty picked me up at the Marriage Factory, we were off to Whole Paycheck to buy ingredients, some of which we didn't think Safeway would carry.

Eggplant was the first ingredient we picked up.  Let's just say the globe eggplant was the most expensive in 9 counties.  It isn't called Whole Paycheck for nothing.

Next up boneless pork ribs.  How can they be ribs if no bone?  Just asking.  As for the specialty items we needed, they didn't carry them.

So  we go to almost where we started to China Town to get Chinese Black Vinegar and Asian Broad Bean Chili Paste.  The store we went to is pretty friendly to non Asians.  Some clerks speak English and some signs and products are in Chinese and English.  We still had to ask for help.  There were shelves of vinegar, and this was on the very bottom.

This is the wall of live fish, crab, lobster, and other interesting things that swim.  We get Dungeness Crab often.

Just a look at the signs.  Most stores in China Town do not have English signs.

Home, Marty is making one of the elaborate sauces.  One sauce has 9 ingredients and the other has 5.

Marty cutting the boneless ribs into small pieces.  Boneless ribs, that just makes me laugh.

Marty showing off flipping the eggplant. It is pretty impressive to watch.

Here he is adding the sauce to the stir fried pork.  It really smells yummy.

All ingredients are combined and ready to be plated.  Smells rich and spicy.

Ready to sit down and enjoy.  So we ate this lovely looking meal.  Did we enjoy it?  No.  It was bitter, little taste in spite of the 14 ingredients making up two sauces, and the texture was awful.  Szechuan food is hot and spicy, not this recipe.

Chinese food is multi textures, some soft, some firm, some in between.  This was just soft.  The eggplant was almost too soft (Remember we cook exactly as the recipe says.  We can not pull things out if we think it is overdone.).  The celery was firm, but there was too much of it.  The meat was soft with little flavor.  This was pork, how did this recipe kill the pork flavor?

Very disappointed by the meal.  Also it had some expensive ingredients.  It is one thing if the meal is good to spend money, but not OK if the meal is bad.  Marty threw the recipe in the trash.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kaiser School Update

Saturday the Oakland School Board gave Kaiser a reprieve.  They are no longer on the list for closing, this year.  Conditions were named that will be looked at again in 2013.  They were happy with Kaiser's high test scores.  They recognized Kaiser is one of the most diverse schools in Oakland.  So for now we are all doing our happy dance.

But we know work has to be done to meet the conditions, one of which is growth.  And the neighbors are already beginning to grumble, too much traffic, parking etc.  Keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Wedding outfits

Wednesday two brides each made a fashion statement.  The first bride certainly stood out and everyone was talking about her.  Clerks found business to do out front just to look at this woman. 
You know how yellow a banana is?   Well not bright enough to describe this outfit. Maybe daffodil yellow.  It was really really bright.  She had on a yellow picture hat with pink cabbage roses.  Something like this, only bright yellow.  It totally hid one side of her face. She wore a yellow coat dress with offset buttons.  The buttons were the size of a silver dollar and each was a different color.  Her shoes were silver and her clutch purse was a beaded ecru.   She wore a huge yellow watch.  To complete this outfit she wore fuchsia Jackie O sunglasses.  This woman looked like something from the late 50's, about the time she was born. 

Vintage clothing is cool.  I love hats.  But this outfit was just over the top.  When the groom bent down to kiss her the hat nearly blocked him.  That would be why in the 50's and 60's I usually wore pillbox hats. 
The next fashion statement was gorgeous.  The groom's shirt and the bride's dress were the exact same color, brown.  Not just any brown, this brown was rich, soft, elegant.  When I saw them I flashed to when I was around 6 or 7 years old.  My piano recital dress was the same brown.  I loved that dress. Back to the wedding.  The brown was almost a milk chocolate but better, lighter.  It was like a cup of coffee with just a little cream in it.   The dress was a full skirt at knee length in the classic Greek style. The material was chiffon.  She wore a brown silk flower in her hair.
One note about this couple's wedding.  Their son was their ring bearer.  They had tied the rings onto a little satin pillow.  The son brought up the rings and they couldn't get them untied.  They worked and worked, the groom's mother came to help them.  I thought I would have to go get scissors next door.  Finally they untied the knots and we finished the ceremony.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Strange Wedding Date

Monday we only had two couples who wanted to be married.  The first couple the groom was 60 and the bride B was 50.  The groom told us he woke up B and said, "Get dressed, we are getting married today".  Then he told us that Monday's date, September 19, was the date he had married his ex wife.  That was 30 years ago.  Wife two had no problem with the date.  They looked at the date as an ending to the first marriage and a new beginning for this marriage. The clerks and I felt it was just weird.

To buy a marriage license each person has to present a current government issued picture ID. The next couple had brought a Mexican birth certificate and an International ID. That is what it said across the top, International ID.  Problem, the name on the birth certificate and the ID don't match.  Another problem, the International ID says not a government issued ID. Yet the card had a California government logo on the bottom. 

The clerk started asking questions.  Do you have a California driver's license or ID?  No, it was stolen.  Do you have a Mexican passport?  No, it was stolen. Any government ID?  No it was stolen.  A work ID?  No, it was stolen.  How did you get the ID you have now?  He ordered a birth certificate from Mexico and bought the international ID from a Notary Public here in Oakland. A  Notary Public can not create and sell IDs. That would be illegal.  Can you say illegal resident?

No, we did not sell them a license. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

School traffic, no parking

Yesterday I took Marty to BART earlier than usual.  Then I headed off to school.  Huge mistake.  I have to pass three other schools before I get to Kaiser.  The first traffic was a little heavier, then I got closer to Chabot.  School buses, Mamas dropping children off, Mamas walking children to school.  Close to chaos.  The next school had started so not much traffic, and then I was a couple of block from the turn to Kaiser. 

Both sides of the street were lined with cars, two blocks before the turn to the school and four blocks uphill after the turn.  Traffic was stopped down hill for a couple of blocks as parents let children out in the circle in front of the school. Cars just stop in the circle and doors slowly open, a leg or head will appear.  Then nothing.  Finally children start spilling out of the car, both sides not just on the sidewalk side.  And I wait to get around to the street where I can park.  Why do these children have to be driven to the door, and why do many parents have to walk them to their desks???  Why can't they be let out at the foot of the hill (one block walk) and parents leave.  I can almost understand walking a kindergarten child to class the first week, but 5th graders? 

So I can't find a spot close to park and I drive uphill several blocks.  I know in about 15 minutes most of the street parking will empty out. I'll then move my car down hill.  No way am I walking up this monster hill when I leave.  We are having summer as usual in September, and it will be 90 degrees when I leave.  This girl does not do heat and sweating.

I planned to sit and play Angry Birds as I waited.  But you would not believe the view from the Hiller Highlands.  It is one of the best views in the Bay Area.  Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, The Oakland Bay Bridge, Alcatraz.  This link is close to what I was looking at.  Be sure to click on the time lapse for yesterday. Lovely. I sat and enjoyed the beauty and then went inside to work with the first graders.

I now know next time Marty leaves early, I'll sit in BART's parking lot and call my Mother, read a book.  I won't get in the school traffic. I can look at the view when I leave.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Monday Weddings

I only did weddings on Monday.  Wednesday I had a conflict.  That is the beauty of volunteering, you get to pick what you will do.  Monday was really busy before I got there.  When I walked in at 1:00, one clerk yelled, "I love you, Janet!".  Then she handed me a marriage license with a big smile.  She had done a lot of ceremonies that morning, and it wasn't her turn.  For some reason the clerk on call was not answering her phone.  That meant W had to do them.

I perforomed 3 1/2 marriage ceremonies.  Regular readers know what that means.  Someone didn't tell the clerk they needed a translator.  The clerks should figure that out.  If only one person is talking in English and translates to the other, big sign English will not work.  I hated not to do the ceremony.  The bride wore a white chiffon knee length Greek style dress.  The groom wore a black suit with a lighter black stitching on the lapels.  Their toddler son wore a long sleeve white shirt, black tie, black vest, and black slacks.   Guests were dressed up, everyone was nice.  But it wasn't mine to do, Marriage Desk Lady got to do it.

I had a Confidential Wedding to do.  (a confidential license doesn't require a witness, the record of the marriage can only be accessed by the bride and groom, anyone else wanting information about their marriage must obtain a court order which are rarely given.)  The couple was relaxed, excited about the wedding . . .  until the ceremony started.  The groom became very emotional, he barely could say I do.  And then for the vows, he lost it.  He cried, then he could not utter a word, she held him until he calmed down enough to finish the vows.  Then she cried during her vows.  I was worried I was going to cry, it was pretty emotional.  It was very touching.

The last wedding left a bad taste in my mouth.  The couple used the young man from the Deli for the witness.  I asked if they wanted him to take pictures for them.  The bride looked at me as if I were crazy, and said, "Why would we want pictures of this?  We were married yesterday. We had a huge wedding yesterday. Just get this done."  OK, bitch, heard.  I explained this is the wedding/marriage for legal purposes and she can't use yesterday's party as her marriage date.  She glared at me, crossed her arms, and looked between pissed and bored.  The entire ceremony she and the groom had their arms crossed, looked bored, and did the vows in a dead I am so over this voice.

Usually if there is no interest in the ceremony, I do the 3 legal sentences ceremony.  This chick had ticked me off.  She was rude to me and to the volunteer witness.  She felt no importance for her legal ceremony.  So I out bitched her, I am way older and have much more experience as a Southern Belle in handling rude people.

I gave her and her bored groom the longest fluffiest ceremony we have.  I also read it as slow as molasses in January. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Kaiser School continues for now

Even though parents, staff, volunteers and teachers are upset over a possible closing, Kaiser is running like a well oiled machine.  Education goes on.

Tuesday, my class was doing group work.  There were to cut out four pages (printed on one sheet of paper) and put them in order. An adult would then staple the pages together. Cutting is a hard learned skill.  Either you have the muscle development to use scissors, or you don't.  I trimmed up a lot of pages.  Even though the pages were numbered, not all students could put them in order.  Other directions were given, and were not followed.  They were to find page 1 and put their name under the word name.  That went so so.  Some put their names on the line, some put it at the bottom of the page, some didn't put their name anywhere until shown where.  They were not to draw anything, or write anything else, until told to go to the next page.  That part did not go well.  Several children finished the 4 pages, even though they couldn't read the directions. 

This was to be a group project.  They were to follow directions, not lag behind, all were to finish together.  No where close to that happened.  This project was all about directions.  Children have to learn to listen and follow directions.  The directions may be to help them to take a test together, or to be safe during an earthquake.  Groups have to be able to follow directions.  We work on this all the time.

Other times we let them work on being an individual.  But always they have to follow directions.  That is a life skill we all have to learn.

I did some one on one work in math.  They had taken an addition test and many didn't finish in the time given.  Some finished but many of the numerals were backwards. For example 9 looked like P.    10 would have an open zero and look like 16.  Math is exact, if we can't read it, it is wrong.  They must learn that at an early age.  While I worked with the students who had lots of mistakes, I made notes for Ms. H.  She wanted to know how they solved problems:  in their heads, using counters, using fingers, or knew the math facts.  Most could do the problems with counters, but were very careless.  They wrote answers under the wrong problem, started with one problem and then took part of the next one so neither was correct. 

This is a very chatty group.  I think most of them will be successful this year.  But in many ways they are "younger" than last year's class.  They have a harder time sitting in a chair, they stand, perch, lean.  We will work with them, fuss at them, expand their horizons, let them be creative.  We will educate.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Wednesday Weddings

 As soon as I arrived at my desk there was a marriage license on it.  For the next hour and a half I did five weddings.  The weddings ended at 2:30.  Nothing after that.  I guess they had all heard about the 3:00 rush and wanted to avoid it.

One marriage ceremony I just grinned through out the ceremony.  The couple had a year old daughter and that little girl cackled with laughter the whole time we were in the wedding room.  The more she cackled, the more I smiled.  There is nothing like the laughter, or cackle in her case, of a small child. 

One of the most touching weddings was a bride who was 54 years old.  She had never been married.  Her groom had been divorced for 47 years.  They were so in love, so emotional, goose bumps up and down my arms.  The groom's age you ask, 86 year old.  And let me tell you he didn't look or act much older than the bride.

Then we had the rude arrogant, did I say rude group.  I saw the group of Indians in the lobby.  The women wore incredibly beautiful saris.  The men were in suits and each turban was a different color.  I was looking forward to this wedding.  Big group, gorgeous clothes, my kind of people.  Well, it did not go well.  I called the couple's names.  They looked at me and just sat.  I called their names again, and finally the bride walked up to me.  I asked my most important question, "Is everyone here?"  Yes they were.  I met the groom and said let's go upstairs.  A clerk is holding the elevator for us, and she deeply regretted this  later.

We load on the elevator, and I start to punch the button.  The groom says, "There are still two people not here. We can wait for them upstairs."  I said, "NO, we don't go up until everyone is here.  Please everyone get off the elevator."  And the arrogant sh*t said, "NO, we'll wait here."  And he sent someone outside to look for the missing persons.  I asked everyone to please get off the elevator.  They wouldn't, the alarm is going off because the door has been open too long.  I can't let them go upstairs with out me, so I am trying to get them off.  We don't tie up the room waiting for late people.  Staff could need the room for a non English wedding.

The missing two people show up, and there are really five of them.  They stood outside the elevator and argued about who should get on first.  Finally these rude people get on the elevator and we go up.  I tell them to follow me to the left.  As I turn toward the wedding  room, I realized no one was behind me.  They are out by the elevator talking.  I herd them in, and try to give instructions about phones, cameras, taking up the rings etc. No one will shut up so I can be heard.

I give up and began the ceremony.  The whole time I am doing the ceremony, everyone is talking.  Not whispering, just talking and talking. They are taking pictures and walking in front of me.  I am ready to kill.

Then they annoyed me and the Marriage Desk Clerk, M.  M has a tiny one woman office.  She has two chairs for the couple and that fills up the office.  I always tell the guests to please wait in the small lobby, there is only room for the couple. I take couples in, I stand and have M check the license is correct, and I leave.  This time a couple of the men came in the office with us.  I asked them to please wait in the lobby.  They just looked at me.  One finally left, but I couldn't get out of the office for the other man blocking the doorway.  I put my hand on him and pushed him back into the lobby so I could get out. 

This could have been such a fun lovely group.  Lovely clothes, really really good jewelry, I  should be describing beauty, not rudeness.   Some people are just more special that the rest of us. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Kaiser School

As long time readers know, I volunteer at a school in the Oakland Hills.  I have been there for 10 years.  I used to volunteer twice a week, and then dropped to one morning a week.  I work with a first grade class, and it is a highlight of my week.

Well folks there is trouble on the horizon.  Kaiser is on the Oakland School District list of closures.  It is not final yet.  But it is a very possible thing.   This is a school that draws from the whole city.  We have every race, ethnic group you can think of.  We have every income group you can think of.  This school serves the total population of the city. We teach children from the hills to the flats.  Read this link about Kaiser.

Kaiser is a small school and that is one reason it is on the list.  It is more economical to run large schools.  But if Kaiser closes, the area with the huge property taxes that support a city wide school system will have no school.  No school, people will request a lower tax assessment.  And then less money to run the schools.

There are many reasons why this school should remain open.  Too many to list here.  I know a lot of my readers are not from Oakland.  But if you feel like writing an email to some officials, I would be really happy.  Read the above link and then you decide.  I will list a few people to email.  If you are from Oakland, please write, I know some of you already have.  This closure affects the city, not just kids from a high end neighborhood. 

Thank you.

Here's who to email AND call:
Tony Smith (Superintendent), (510) 879-8200

Jody London (school board member for Kaiser's neighborhood), (510) 879-2161

Mia Settles (our Regional Executive Officer),, (510) 879-2923

David Montes de Oca ,, (510) 336-7570

Other school board members:

Vice President Jody London -
District 1 -

David Kakishiba -
District 2 -

Jumoke Hinton Hodge -
District 3 -

President Gary Yee -
District 4 -

Noel Gallo - District 5

Christopher Dobbins - District 6

Alice Spearman - District 7

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wearing a different hat

Today I am not wearing my marriage commissioner hat, not my wife hat, not even my best MOM ever  hat. Today I am wearing my first grade volunteer hat.  Yes, school started last week.  Ms. H likes a little time alone with the children before she has volunteers come in.

Today she introduced me to the class, and they all told me their names.  I will never remember all the names.  Well maybe around March I will.  We have more children this year, 26 students.  I told Ms. H to think about when I taught in the 60's and 70's, if we had under 30 kids we felt lucky.  My first year teaching I had 38 first graders.  That was probably a living hell.  But as a new teacher, I was too green to know.  Anyway, Ms. H has had classes of 30, so she just has to adjust her methods to handle more children.

There are problems with that many children.  When they sit on the rug, they don't all fit.  We have more desks, so there is less room to walk around and help children.  I kept sliding chairs under desks so I could get through the "aisles".  Checking that the children are doing the work correctly as we walk around takes longer. This is a chatty bunch, so the noise level is louder.  Even lining up for lunch takes longer.  It will smooth out shortly, but right now Ms. H has her hands full.

What did I do all morning?  I put together the checked work packets to go home, that means all work is alphabetized and stapled together.  I glued homework information on lunch bags, I worked one on one with many of the students, I handed out snacks, and I read them a story.  The worse part of helping first graders is their low desks.  My back is killing me.  I bend over so much of the time.  When there is a real problem I pull a LOW chair over and sit with the child.  Sitting helps with the back pain, but the low chair transfers pain to the knees.  Oh well, it is only one day a week.  I always recover by the next Tuesday.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Rita Moreno

Marty and I met Rita Moreno at a neighbor's New Year's Day party about 8 years ago.  We walked in and this beautiful woman walked up to me and said, "Hi, I'm Rita."  And I was tongue tied.  Of course she was Rita.  She was Rita Freaking Moreno, shaking hands with me, talking to me about cooking.  I babbled stupid gushing fan things and then promised I would never act that way again.  And over the years at neighborhood parties, I have been almost normal talking to her.  But she is Rita Freaking Moreno.

We have seen her in concert, been at an event where she was given an award, seen her in movies and on TV, she has led the neighbors in Christmas songs, she has been a neighbor. She is an amazing beautiful person. 

Saturday our good friend Thom called and asked if we would like two tickets to see Rita's show.  Of course we wanted the tickets.  Last night we really saw Rita, well what she would let us see.  We saw her one woman show at Berkley Rep, Rita Moreno Life Without Makeup.  If you only see one performance this year, this is the one to see.  We laughed, we cried, we were horrified by the way she had been treated.  This show is great.

Rita is 79 years old.  She admits it, makes no bones about her age.  She dances as well as ever, sings like an angel, and is sexy as hell. 

This is part of a display of Rita's pictures in the lobby of the theater.  Marty is on the right.

This is a picture of Rita Moreno in San Francisco Magazine.  Trust me she looks this great in person.

See, this was taken with my iphone at a Christmas party.  She is gorgeous and fun.

In 1961 Rita won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story. (The dancing in this You Tube link was recreated in the show last night.  She had two male dancers who performed with her.)  Fellow winner from West Side Story George Chakiris is beside her. 

This is a page from the program listing some of the awards Rita Moreno has won.  No, you probably can't read it.  But you can tell, she has won a lot of awards. Just four you might have heard of:  Grammy, Oscar, Tony, Emmy. If you click on her name at the beginning of this blog, you can read the list in that article.

Last night was magic.  Live theater always is.  But this was a much higher level.  We were with an American Icon who brought the audience to their feet to cheer her.  Fabulous show, go see it while you can.  It won't be long before it will be on Broadway. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Finally, lots of wedding

Yes, Monday was a busy day.  It started really slow and I thought yuck, another day of reading and not marrying.  And then all hell broke loose, in a good way.  The lobby filled up and staff and I were marrying couples right and left.  I married 9 couples, most who showed up after 3:00.  I usually am done by 4:15.  Not Monday, I left the building at 5:00.  If they are punched in by 4:00 they will have a marriage ceremony.

I will share a few from Monday.  The first couple were in their mid 20's and were wearing braces.  The groom wore a midnight blue suit, that the bride had picked out.  The bride wore midnight blue floor length chiffon dress.The groom had picked it out. The straps were beaded and she had a chiffon scarf around her neck that hung down her back .  The groom was soooooooo shy.  He would barely talk to me and that caused a problem.  When I asked, "Do you take this woman?", nothing.  Not a sound.  And suddenly the bride punched him and said, "Tell her I do!"  So he did.

One bride wore a knee length dress.  The top was red, white, black smocking with spaghetti straps.  The skirt was tiers of black chiffon.  She had a red sash at the waist.    Another bride wore a grey dress and carried pink carnations.  The groom had on a grey suit and had a pink carnation boutonniere.  They had such a crisp sharp look. 

And now to my favorite wedding of the week.  The bride was 7 1/2 months pregnant and looked gorgeous , the groom was tall and handsome.  Their witness had a huge thick bandage on his right arm. It went from his knuckles to his elbow.   He was to be the camera man.  He balanced the camera on his bandage and pushed the button with his left arm  He was right handed so this was a little hard for him.

The wedding began.  The bride was throwing the most outrageous flirty looks to the groom.  He is just melting from the love.  I am getting goose bumps watching the two of them.  As I start to pronounce them married a rap song starts playing.  It is the witness' phone.  {sidebar That was my fault.  I always ask for phones to be put on mute, except I forgot to this wedding.} The witness is suddenly jumping up and down, throwing his hips to the left, and trying not to drop the camera.  We all start laughing at him.  He has one good hand, he can't reach the phone, and we don't offer to help him.  It looked like he was doing some crazy dance.  We laughed until we cried.  The phone stopped ringing, he quit dancing, and I pronounced the couple married.