Elastic Basket for my Peaches

I also have a website: www.lizhightower.com

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A slip of the tongue

Tomorrow my students are taking a fake TAKS test all day long. This means I do pretty much nothing. This fact coupled with too much caffeine means that I will probably be staying up late tonight. Yes, tonight.

We had Young Life club tonight. That consists of some goofy songs, a game that is often embarrassing and/or messy and then a Jesus talk. Before and after involve hanging out with some pretty cool high school kids. Sometimes I get overwhelmed by trying to balance my real job and my volunteer job. One key to this balance is naps. I seem to be able to manage it all better when I take a thirty minute nap during the couple hours I have between school and Young Life. It makes me feel like it's two short days instead of one long one.

One of my co-leaders is a great guy but he sometimes inadvertently says awkward things when he's the one giving the Jesus talk. One time he was trying to make a point about how our sins make us "black." Then he says, but God can't be black! About half of the kids in our club are black so this did not go over well. I heard a lot of different confused and offended utterances. And the poor guy just starts sputtering and trying to clarify. It took a while to restore order in the room.

Today he did it again. He was telling a story about meeting a really good looking girl at a Young Life camp. He said he was interested in her but he was "just there for the guys." He meant that he was there to be with the high school guys he brought but it definitely sounded like he was saying he was there to pick up guys and not girls. I couldn't stop laughing. It was one of those times I knew I shouldn't be laughing but I just couldn't help myself.

It reminds me of a couple months ago when I was introduced to a friend of a friend. This guy seemed pretty cool until this conversation:
guy: I used to play the trumpet in high school and I still play it a lot.
me: Oh, are you in a band?
guy: No, but I play with myself every night
me: (giggling)
guy: (looks at me confused)
me: You just said you play with yourself every night
guy: (still looking confused)

It's hard for me to hide my amusement in general even if it is inappropriate in the situation and I am definitely easily amused. This happens at school a lot. The kids do or say something that deserves punishment and I giggle. One girl told my co-teacher that her dog ate her homework. How funny is that? Did she hear that on TV or in a movie? Who thinks they can get away with something like that? Haha!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Evolution of the Bicyclist

I have been trying to get a bit more serious about riding my bike lately. I am riding the MS150 for the third time in April. The MS150 is a 180 mile bike ride between Houston and Austin that raises money for Multiple Sclerosis. The first time I rode it, I got about 3 hours of sleep the night before and the farthest I had ever ridden was 40 miles, which I did all of two times before. The ride was difficult but I persevered and did not walk even up the most daunting of hills.

Being able to complete the ride despite my lack of sleep and lack of training was not helpful in motivating me to train for my second MS150. I really didn't ride too much beforehand. It was hard work and I was slow. I rode a hybrid bike as I had in the first ride. A hybrid is a cross between a mountain bike and a rode bike. It's a good idea in theory because you can go more off-road than a road bike and you can go faster on a smooth surface than on a mountain bike. But unfortunately it doesn't do as well as a mountain bike or a road bike. I was very frustrated as I got passed by hundreds of people on their sleek road bikes with their skinny tires.

I caved and bought a nice road bike that I will be using in the MS150 this year. I rode in a practice ride yesterday. It was 36 miles which wouldn't have been near as grueling if not for the hills I encountered about once a mile. My legs were burning and my pace was slow but I managed to finish the ride without walking my bike. This was more than I could say for some wimps I saw walking up some of the steeper hills. I wanted to yell out a "HaHa" like Nelson on The Simpsons but I was too out of breath from my own struggle up the hill.

As I was riding, I reflected on some of the stages I went through as well as what I saw on this ride. When you first start getting into road biking, you might borrow a friend's bike or ride one you might find at Wal-Mart. This doesn't last long if you really want to get into it. You can try to find a good used bike or buy an entry-level new bike. Most new road bikes start around $1000 for a good one.

Once you have a bike, you have to get a helmet. I used to wear a skateboarding helmet because they are slightly less dorky than bicycle helmets. They are also much less ventilated. I have since converted to a real bicycle helmet. I used to hate wearing them but now they are just part of my ride like a seatbelt in a car. The other important thing you need is bike shorts that cost at least $80. I was told this by a friend and I was a bit skeptical. I have since tried cheaper shorts and realized that he was indeed correct. For some reason, shorts under $80 just don't cut it. Good bike shorts are gender-specific and the padding is designed accordingly. Padding is what makes these long rides bareable. At first I felt too dorky in my biker shorts (I blame the eighties) so I would wear long basketball shorts over them. In fact, this is what I rode for the first MS150. I think I was one of the only ones without exposed biker shorts.

Once you have those three things, you are ready to ride. There are a lot of other biking accesories and it takes a little time to feel like you need them. For me, I bought gloves next. Gloves are nice because they help pad your hands on the handlebars and can keep you warmer on cold days. For the second MS150, my dad gave me a jersey. Now I was no longer wearing a random old t-shirt. So far, I have not found a jersey that doesn't make me feel dorky but I have also learned to accept that feeling dorky is part of the experience. I also acquired some bike socks that just seem like thinner stretchier versions of socks I already have. I don't think they are worth the $10 they cost at the bike shops.

For the first two MS150s I used cage pedals. These are straps that go on yoru pedals to attach your foot to the pedal. If your foot is attached, you use your energy more efficiently on each stroke. Cage pedals enable you to use your own shoes but are also not as good as clip-on pedals. My dad bought me my first set of clips and pedals as well as the fancy shoes that go with them. It's funny how he likes to buy me bike stuff. It's how we bond. I got mountain biking shoes because they look cooler and are more comfortable for walking around. There is definitely a bit of technique involved in clipping in and out of your pedals. It took me a couple of frustrating days to get used to them. I really felt like an incompetent idiot. Finally I got the hang of it and can clip in and out with relative ease. Most people have at least one bad fall with clip-on pedals. If you can't get your foot detached from the pedal before you stop, you fall down. My dad says it's only a matter of time. This is coming from a man I saw fall over in a parking lot during the last five miles of the MS150.

For yesterday's race, I felt like a real biker. I was wearing the biker shorts, a jersey, helmet, gloves, camelbak, and sunglasses. Because of the cold temperatures and gusty winds, I was wearing these spandex sleeves and leg warmers. They are very convienant because you can just take them off when you get too hot. You don't have to take off your pants. They are also small and easy to store. And who doesn't want to wear spandex leg warmers? I also had a special windbreaker that claimed to be "windproof." I don't know about windproof but it seemed to do the trick.

So, I have come a long way since my first MS150 with my basketball shorts, hybrid bike and skateboarding helmet. Now I only get mad if people her aren't dressed in all the gear pass me. If they don't have the right stuff, clearly they are not as hardcore as me and should not be overtaking me.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A party and a baby

Friday was a festive day at school. It was the last school day before Valentine's so we celebrated that day. We are in the middle of TAKS season so we couldn't do a whole lot. As a kid, Valentine's Day was such a fun and memorable event at school that I couldn't deprive my students of its pleasures. When I was a kid, we decorated elaborate little mailboxes to store our valentines. I didn't let the kids decorate boxes but they did exchange valentines and make a valentine craft.

It's fun to be a teacher at Valentine's. I enjoy candy and the kids give me tons of it. Not a bad deal at all! Luckily I didn't get too many stuffed animals this year. It's always hard to know what to do with the stuffed animals I get. I would regift them to other kids in my class but I fear that the gift giver would get his or her feelings hurt. My favorite valentine was a Homies valentine. For those of you not familiar with the finer things in life, Homies are these miniature Mexican people figures that you can get for 50 cents from one of those machines that give you the clear plastic eggs. I am not sure who came up with these things but they are hilarious! It is funny because a lot of the parents at my school resemble these homies. You should google them. Anyway, they have homies valentines and I got one! Yay!

I ate so much candy on Friday. I have gotten into the habit of eating candy at school throughout the day as a mood booster. When cramming for the TAKS test, I need a little pick-me-up. I guess I need to start keeping fruit or something in the room or I will soon be 300 pounds. Our school sold balloons, pencils and little teddy bears. My kids bought a ton of it. The school accidentally bought some balloons with turtle cartoons on them implying that the turtles were getting it on. It was funny to see the vice principal trying to snatch the offending balloons out of the confused kids' hands.

After my sugar fest, I hung out with school friends and then went to my parents house for my first solo babysitting gig with my nephew, Samuel. My parents and Sam's parents went to a play. It was kind of reminiscent of all the babysitting I did in high school. Sam is only three months old and is a little high maintenence. He is fine as long as you are holding him and sometimes only if you are dancing around with him. He was good at the beginning of the night and let me dress him like a thug. I put a Nike onesie, hat and booties on him and had a little photo shoot. Unfortunately I don't have the pics to post because I used his parents' camera.

Later he would only sleep when I was holding him. He would wake up every time I laid him down. I spent the last hour of babysitting watching TV while Samuel slept in my arms. I can't wait until Samuel is old enough to appreciate me for more than my strong arms and dancing ability.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentine's Day Travesty

I try not to talk too much about my school on my blog. I figure it's public record so I don't want to say something that could hurt me later. But I can't help but write about what's going on at my school right now. It's absolutely ridiculous!

I am not sure exactly how it all came to be. I think it was a collaboration between several people. The end result is hard to explain.

For Valentine's Day our school is having a Queen and King of the Valentine's Day dance as well as a prince and princess for each grade. I suppose we are giving the kids a preview of the Homecoming Popularity competition they will face in high school. The actual idea of a king and queen and a little court are not what bothers me so much. Each class was instructed to nominate a prince and a princess from their class. We teachers let the kids vote but made sure they voted for a kid with good conduct who does their work. Each prince and princess was told to make posters advertising their campaign for Valentine's Day prince or princess as well as a ballot box where the other kids can vote for them. The kids were also told that they could hand out items to get the kids to vote for them. Basically, they were told they could bribe the other kids to get them to vote for them. Great lesson!

Our school is predominately low-income, though there are a few wealthier families. This idea of bringing things to give out to the other kids to garner their votes is blatantly discriminatory towards the kids who don't have enough money to buy candy and pencils to give out. Another slight to the low income kids is that each kid has to pay a quarter to vote. Basically if you and your friends are rich enough, you can become a Valentine's Day prince or princess. What an awful lesson we are teaching these kids! I can hardly believe it. Some of the teachers have helped their kids a bit in creating posters and ballot boxes. I love my kids but I am so weirded out by this popularity contest, that I can't bring myself to help them. My prince hasn't even brought his ballot box to school or put up any posters yet. I don't really blame him.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Career Day 2009

Friday was Career Day at my school. This year my dad came as well as my best friend, Sarah. The way our career day works is that there are 3- 45 minute rotations with three presenters in each rotation. Each person talks for about 15 minutes.

The first presenter in my class was my dad. The kids were excited by the mere fact that he was my dad and he did a good job of explaining what a lawyer does. Luckily this year he did not have to follow the animal cops. The funny part about career day is that there is no really screening of the presenters. Some have really boring jobs and don't know how to talk to kids. Others bring free stuff and make it fun.

Unfortunately during the second rotation, only one of my presenters showed up. This meant the poor guy had to talk for 45 minutes. Even worse, the presenter was a guy I had last year who had bored the kids to tears and now he had the guy for 45 minutes. He seems like a good guy but he has a very technical job and doesn't have much experience with kids. He works in the Audio Visual field. He spent most of the time talking about his boyhood days in Chicago. He also asked the kids if they knew about physics and binary math. They probably shouldn't move on to either of those until they've mastered their multiplication tables.

I had prepped my kids before career day and told them to ask as many questions as they could so there was no dead time. Spending 45 minutes with the AV guy made for some pretty random questions. The kids asked him some questions about his family and he actually started crying a little because his dad passed away. The kids looked as shocked by his emotional display as I did. Whoah! The whole thing was getting painful after 30 minutes and we still had 15 minutes to go. I decided to have the kids teach him Spanish. Now that was funny! Really, the guy was a really good sport but just not that kid-friendly.

This career day I decided to write down some of the funny things the kids said. Enjoy-

When talking to my dad, the lawyer:

Dad- "Who do lawyers help?"
kid- "Lawyers help people who need lawyers.

When speaking to an accountant:
You work for Price Waterhouse Cougars?

When talking about college:
How many beds were in your dorm room?
What kind of clothes did you wear?

presenter- How long does it take to go to college?
kid- 20 years

presenter- What is a major?
kid- A major is someone in a higher grade
another kid- like a major problem?

Random questions to the AV guy:
When you were a little boy, did you make snowmen?
What does snow taste like?
Do you like multiplication and division?
Were you good at reading or were you bad?
Do you have a brother and what was his favorite subject?
Do you remember how many colleges you went to that didn't have mascots?
If you ever had kids, what would you name them?
What happened to your dad?
When is your birthday?

These were heard during presentation from an airport employee:
presenter- How many continents does the airport fly to?
presenter- No there are only 7 continents

presenter- What makes an airplane fly?
kid- a pilot

kid- When it snows when you're flying, does the plane get heavier?

Why do we need to know a lot of Math?

My best friend, Sarah came to my class even though she wasn't scheduled and talked to the kids about her job at NASA. I had talked about her before and the kids had seen pictures of her before.

kid questions and comments for Sarah
- Are aliens real?
I noticed you cut your hair.
I thought the orange stuff hits people. (Orange stuff meant the large fuel tank attached to the shuttle)
You've been together too long. (about me and Sarah)

kid-Where you got that rocket from? (about Sarah's model rocket)
another kid- I want it.

(after absolutely no mention of California)
Have you ever been to Hollywood?
Did you see any superstars when you were there?
Did you see the Hollywood sign?
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