Thursday, May 30, 2013

Math Tests, Globes and a Story from last week

Tuesday at Kaiser School we were testing the progress of the first graders in math.  Testing this age group is always a challenge.  They circle answers where they should bubble in a circle.  They work ahead, even though they have no idea what the directions say.  They are on the wrong problem.  They share what they have answered with their neighbors and they lean over and check what their neighbors have marked.  So Ms. H administers the test, and I walk constantly around the tables making sure things are going smoothly.  Of course they don’t.
This is the set up for taking the test.  A little private area for each child.   A little snack is waiting for them when they come in from recess.

A different viewpoint.
I had promised to show you the globes when they were finished.


Here is a close up of a globe ready to be hung up.
Last week I read the book and Tango makes Three.  This book has caused a lot of controversy over the years.  It is a true story dealing with a same sex animal couple.  When we read this book the issue of homosexuality is not really discussed.  We talk about how a family can be two moms or dads, one mom, a grandparent, one dad.  We stress that families are all different and no one kind of family is better.  Usually that is all that we discuss. 
This class is more aware of same sex parents.  They discussed that.  Then they wanted to know if animals can be gay too. I said I wasn’t sure if the word gay was correct for animals.  But yes animals sometimes just want to be with their own sex. I told them again that the book is about real penguins and how they made a family.  So I was asked if horses could be gay.  I guess so.  What about elephants, bears, pigs? I guess so.   I told them it was possible, but I did not know of any other animals. I was hoping I was answering their questions without giving information they don’t need.  Keep it simple and just answer what they ask is the rule with small children.  One little boy is frantic to be called on, arm waving, bouncing off the floor.  Oh glory, what will he be ask me?  “Ms. Appel, how do giraffes sleep?”

Monday, May 27, 2013


I have a big birthday next week.  It is one with that awful zero at the end.  I am entering a decade that I guess will be exciting, so far each decade has been.  But California DMV has a rule, when you hit this decade you have to take a written driver's test.

I hate taking tests, especially a driver's test.  This is the only test as an adult that really counts.  If you blow this one, you end up walking.  As we have moved around from state to state, I have had to take a vision and written test.  I always pass, but I freak out.

I have been studying online for weeks.  I read, and read, and read the DMV handbook.  I took all the sample tests and the tutorial over and over.  The tutorial tests change every time you click on it.  I was ready, I hoped.  Thursday was my  appointment.

I picked a DMV office I had been to before, that was in a safe area, and that had free parking.  These were things this agoraphobic needed to slow down the panic attack that could strike.  I was taken on time for my appointment, the paper work went quickly, vision test, then another clerk took my picture and then handed me my test.  I thought for sure it would be on a computer like the tutorial.  Nope, a long piece of paper. There were 18 questions and I was allowed 3 errors. 

I started reading, The first one I knew I would miss, I just couldn't remember what was the legal limit of blood alcohol to get a DUI.  I guessed too low.  Then there were questions that had not been on the tutorial, and I am pretty sure not in the handbook.  I was starting to panic.  Deep breaths.  Calm down.  I finished the test.  I took my test back to the clerk and yay, I only missed one question.

I am good for 5 more years.  Then we do this all again.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

One meltdown, total bedlam, and mean adults

Yes, I was back at Kaiser School, and the children were nutso.  I mean that in a loving way.  As I was told by one of the teachers, "If they weren't so cute we could never forgive them anything." I said that if they weren't so cute I would kill them.  Tuesday it was hard to forgive anything.

One of the little girls doesn't think rules apply to her.  She does not listen to directions, she talks out, and she is the one who played me a few weeks back.  The children were doing a worksheet for reading comprehension.  They were to read the story, read the questions, and write answers in complete sentences.  She had no answers in a complete sentence.  (The class had done the first question together.)  The first question was Who was our first president?  Her answer was George.  She threw a dramatic crying temper tantrum when I erased every answer and said do it over.  Daddy is one of our good volunteers and she was playing to him.  He wisely watched from a distance.  She got up to go to him and I made her sit down.  Great drama was performed over not listening to or reading the directions.  Then Ms. H got on her case too.  The sad thing, she could have done the page easily, just didn't.

Ms. H was later called out of the class room.  A special reading teacher, Ms. S, and I were left in charge.  All the children had work to do and were told no talking, no one get up, finish the workbook pages.  Ms. H was not out of sight and they all went nuts on us.  Under desks, talking across the room.  I told them to sit down and be quiet or they would stay in at recess,  It continued.  Ms.S  told them to quiet down.  A half minute of calm and then again with the noise and being out of their chairs.  The third time I told they had now lost part of their recess.  Ms. H returned and blew a gasket.

It was recess time, Ms. H had yard duty, and left.  The whole class had to put their heads down and stay in 3 minutes, an eternity to a first grader.  I set my timer and said I would put push start when every head was down.  Anytime a head came up after start, I would add a minute.  There was a lesson to be taught here, cause and effect.  It took about 2 minutes before I could hit start, and then heads came up and chairs were rocking, I added time.  When I finally let them out for recess they had missed over half of it. 

The lesson really wasn't learned.  The noise and breaking of rules continued. Who knows why the children were acting out.  We are getting close to the end of school.  That is when the children turn on you.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Things that make me crazy

Now there are some who would just say I am crazy without the need of outside influences.  This post is about pet peeves, little irritations in life.  Things that make me yell obscenities. 

Right now I am ticked off at me.  I nearly always wear an apron when cooking and eating at home.  I am just a little messy.  Well today, while wearing white, I forgot to wear an apron.  The juicy tomato on my sandwich dripped down the front of my shirt.  I am now trying to salvage my shirt so I can wear it tonight.

We have neighbors who have a deep sense of entitlement.  No more than two cars per apartment is the rule.  They have three that they just park where they want, behind their other cars, in front of their apartment which makes it hard to get through the cars to our space. Their guests park in illegal spots too.

Neighbors who put their trash in our cans rile me.  I am not just talking about the apartment complex people, the property next door has two houses and only have one set of cans.  So when their cans are full they put their trash in the cans in our complex.  We take it out of ours and put it on top of their cans.  Even if we have room, I don't want their garbage.  Most of these people don't separate compost, recycle, or landfill.  If it is wrong, the garbage company could give us grief.

And speaking of the garbage company, why do they start at 5:00 in the morning?  Why can't I ever live where there is an afternoon pickup?  Why every Tuesday do I have to be awakened at 5:00 hearing them go up the other side of the street and just as I fall asleep again, they come down our side.

My biggest pet peeve, incorrect grammar usage by people who should know better. You would think to be a TV or print reporter the correct use of the English language would be a requirement.  I know grammar is still taught.  We teach our first graders contractions, possessive, verb and pronoun tense, how to write a complete sentence. The reporters have no idea of what pronoun to use.  Last night a reporter said, "Them and her went to . . ."  In print your and you're, they're their and there are used incorrectly.  I want to get a big red pencil and go mark up what they have written.  I have just about given up on the correct usage of can and may.

I grew up in mountains of Kentucky and trust me they taught English.  From day one in the first grade you were corrected if you spoke or wrote incorrectly.  And this teaching went on until you graduated from high school.  I am betting 90% of the people in my high school class still could conjugate verbs and know which contractions or pronouns to use. Because if they use them incorrectly they know Mrs. Riddell and Mrs. Pope will rise from their graves and make them do it over and over until they get it right.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ms. Appel thinks she is preshcious

My title is what one of the Kaiser first grade boys wrote about me this week.  You all understand I am a poor speller but that is his spelling not mine.

For workshop the whole class was doing picture writing.  They chose a picture taken at an event, glued it to the paper, and then wrote about the specific picture or the event in general.  This time they were doing a follow up on a visit from Ranger James. This took place in January 30, so some details were a little fuzzy for all of us.  I got my phone and pulled up my blog post to help. Was it a gecko, a salamander, or a newt Ms. H held?  It was a live newt.

We all remembered the Ranger blindfolded Ms. H and had her identify objects by touch and asking yes and no questions.  I told the children I would have thrown the live newt and run screaming from the room.  They all thought that was funny.

I was walking around helping where needed and saw my picture on one of the papers.  N had written:  Ms. Appel would have thrown the newt.  She would have run away screaming.  Ms. Appel thinks she is preshcious.  I asked him what that meant and he said, "You said you're precious."  I have no idea what I said to have him come up with precious.  It is his story so I left and moved on to the next child.

posted by  Precious Ms. Appel

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I had a flashback to my childhood

This morning I was checking Facebook before I left for Kaiser School.  One of my friends from my hometown had posted a recipe.  There was a big picture and then the recipe under.  It was banana pudding.  I could taste it, smell, almost chew it.  It was in the room.  I shared it so the recipe would be saved on my wall.  Later tonight I will do a copy/paste to my recipe file.

When I saw the picture I flashed back to picnics of my early childhood.  Mother was not real interested in cooking, but some things she cooked were outstanding.  Her high points were chuck roast the best in the world, great potato salad, pimento cheese, white fruit cake cookies (soaked in rum), and banana pudding.   At pot lucks and family reunions she brought potato salad or banana pudding, sometimes both.

We had lots of picnics at Levi Jackson State Park.  They had swings, see-saws, tables, grills, and Shelter Houses.  The Shelter Houses had huge fireplaces on either end and lots and lots of picnic tables.  if it was pouring rain as it does lots of the time in the South, you sat in the Shelter House and ate good food.  You roasted marshmallows on sticks in the fireplace.  Sometimes we even cooked our hot dogs on a stick all by our selves.  I have great memories of being pushed in the swings, playing hide and seek in the woods.   And we always stopped at the grist mill which is still working after 200 years. And ghoulish children that we were, we would reenact the Indian attack.  Some would hide and the Indians would look for us.  But they always had to not find three of us. 

Why is banana pudding so strong a trigger you ask?  Bananas were a food we could not buy every day.  Bananas had to be brought inland seasonally from a port on the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. There was not much commerce between the Tropics and the mountains of Kentucky.  My little town of less than 5000 people had bananas in the stores, but it was a big deal.  Bananas were nectar of the gods to me.  And to have a whole banana of my own, no sharing with rotten little brother, or eating the part with the brown spots my big sister wouldn’t eat, heaven.  We are talking the 1940s and 50s.  Not much fresh food after Labor Day.  Canned fruit and vegetables only.  But sometimes someone (usually my Uncle Fessor) would drive a truck to Georgia or Florida and load up fruit in the middle of winter.  And then we would have banana pudding out of season.  It was a special food, you couldn’t just decide you wanted it.

Mother fixed it and we would be given dessert if we ate those awful canned vegetables.  The next morning we would have banana on our cereal.

I can still see Levi Jackson, see my friends, taste the awful sulfur water.  It was the best picnic place ever!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

I think I scared the bride

Clerk F brought me the license.  I checked it over and found what I thought might be an error.  The bride's name was Mary Worth.  Her mother's maiden name was Sally Forth, her dad's name was Rex Morgan.  The bride had been married before and on the line for name at birth if different, it was blank.  I looked at the names of her mom and dad and her name, it didn't add up.  I was 99% sure Worth was not her birth name.  Now she could have been adopted and they kept her birth name but I doubted it.  I had to check it in case we needed to correct the license.

I went out to talk to to the couple. The couple was Japanese and the groom did all the talking while she looked to him for a translation.  That is never a good sign.  I told the groom he mustn't talk, she had to answer my questions.  I asked her what was her birth name, blank stare.  What was your name before you married?  Is Worth your married name?  No answer and then very broken English that I could not understand.  I asked if she could understand what I was saying, blank stare.  The groom says she has a problem with English.  He said Worth was not her birth name. I told him we had to correct the license.  Then I explained if she could not understand me I legally could not marry them. I told him it was for her protection.

I talked to F and she was bent out of joint.  She didn't want to correct the license, and the bride spoke English.  We have no Japanese translator so we would have to credit their credit cards.  Not a happy clerk.  I went to get the lead clerk Y to do the refund.

About 5 minutes later Y says, "She speaks pretty good English and if you aren't comfortable doing the ceremony someone else will do it."  I agreed to do  the ceremony, not understanding why the groom said she had a problem with English.

The bride and groom explained they only speak Japanese at home and it takes a while to totally switch to English.  The bride said she just got nervous and couldn't think of any words.  We laughed and I tried to make them comfortable. They both relaxed and I did the marriage ceremony.  The groom asked if we really have men bring in non English speaking brides and we have to refuse to do the ceremony.  Yes, yes we do.  More than you would think.

 I think the bride thought I was going to make her take an English test before they could marry.  I feel bad that I might have scared her.  I thought I was being nice and professional.  Maybe I need to work on professional being a little softer.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hot hot in the Wedding Room

I have had to change my comments' controls.  I am getting all kinds of spam.  I am still allowing anonymous comments.  But I put in the awful write the word and prove you are human thing.  I really want anyone to comment so bear with  me and try to figure out the stupid word.   

Wednesday the Bay Area was in the middle of a heat wave.  Even San Francisco and Oakland were in the 90s.  Because they rarely are that hot the air conditioning doesn't seem to understand it has to crank up and fight to keep the buildings cool.  The Marriage Factory was warm on the first floor.  The Wedding Room was hot hot hot. That room is usually 69 or 70 degrees.  It is kept cooler than the rest of the building because  nervous couples feel the heat more.  A cool room will help them stay calm and maybe keep them from passing out.

Wednesday I was warned the room was hot, from the setting and from the two sides of the room being glass.  The blinds were pulled but the room was 5 degrees higher than usual and climbing.  Maintenance had been called to lower the setting, they never showed.

As you all know, I do not do heat. There's an old saying that horses sweat, men perspire, women glow.  I don't glow, I sweat.  Not a nice feeling when you are dressed up in your big girl clothes.  So how did the heat affect the wedding couples?  A little bit.  But I was the one literally mopping my brow.

One bride was really really nervous.  The wedding party and I got on the elevator and then three other people got on.  One was "boss" L from upstairs.  They were all carrying plates of food.  Boss L congratulated the couple and asked how they were doing.  The bride said she was so nervous and she was really hungry.  L offered her his plate of untouched food.  She declined but seemed touched he would offer it.  I thought it was a sweet move.

After the ceremony I apologized for the hot room.  The bride laughed and said she thought it was just her and her nerves.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

So, how's apartment living?

Marty and I have not lived in an apartment since spring of 1968.  Lots of houses over the years as we were transferred here there and yon.  January 2013 we moved into our apartment.  Lots of people ask, how is it, how are you doing, do you miss a house . . . ?  After four months here I think I can answer the questions.

First we really like this apartment.  It is the top floor of a Victorian that has lots of charm.  It is light filled because of 8 foot tall windows.  The rooms are large and there is, for an apartment, some storage, cause we got stuff.  We are happy here.  The landlord lets us drive nails in the walls and hang pictures and shelves.  He let us put a storage shed on the property.  We feel at home.

Of course we miss a house.  We could paint walls lovely colors. Our houses had more room, more storage, Air Conditioning, a washer and a dryer, better kitchens, professional stoves.  Did I mention I miss the AC?  It is bloody hot today, 90 right now.  And I don't do heat well.

Back to other things.  Living this close to the downstairs couple is not as intimate as we were with the neighbors in Rockridge.  We were urban there, we could hears their twin babies scream all day and night, with the windows closed.  And we could hear their doorbell and phone sometimes.

Owning a house means you fix it.  You get on the tall ladders and change the porch light bulbs that are sky high.  The sink leaks here, the landlord handles it.  Leaky faucets, landlord's problem.  Need new window screens, again the landlord handles it.  All that is a nice thing.  At our age we don't need to climb ladders, or crawl under sinks.

There is a convenience to being renters.  You have a lovely home but someone else has all the responsibility.  Right now renting is the best thing for us.  Maybe we will buy again, but we better win the lottery to pay people to pack us and move us.  I am sure our friends and son will not move us again.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Making Paper Airplanes

Tuesday at Kaiser School our First Graders worked on a science project, paper airplanes. They would make a plane, then we would go up to the upper yard and compete for distance. Well that was the plan.  The best laid plans of mice and men . . .

Ms. H used the overhead projector to show the children how to fold the paper to make an airplane. She did each fold. The other volunteer and I walked around checking the folds were crisp and in the right place.  From the first fold we had problems.

This shows some of the directions for the folding.  Ms. H had practiced, but it was not working.  The directions just were not working.  The points on the end of the planes vanished, lumps appeared in their place.  The creases of the folds never happened unless the adults made them.  I don't who was more frustrated, the children or the adults.  Ms. H called a halt to the making of planes.  The game plan changed.

Just on this one table you can see four different types of planes.  Yet from the same directions.

Ms. H made two planes, one larger than the other.  She would throw each plane 5 times, I would measure how far it went, and a student would record the distance.  She is holding two planes and the tape measure.  Before we came outside each student wrote a hypothesis on which plane would fly the furthest.

The larger plane is about to take off.  It was windy and there was a cross wind sometimes.  Some flights went 40 feet, others went straight up and straight down.

After averaging out the 5 flights of each plane, the smaller plane went the furthest.  The students decided the light plane has less drag.  Today they were going to make their own planes and compete for distance.

Science can be fun.