Tuesday, December 22, 2009

An Early Christmas Gift

One of my orchids has bloomed just in time for Christmas!  Oh how I love a Florida Christmas!

The bud has been developing for a few weeks, but I brought him inside just before he opened so we could enjoy it.  Yesterday I went to get some close-ups of the flower, but another little beauty decided she wanted a close-up too...

It's Morgan!!  She is very fascinated by the noises the camera makes and always comes running when it's out.

...easily distracted cat...

Today when I was leaving to run some errands, I noticed that the flower had opened even more, so I made a mental note to take some more pictures when I got home:

Even more beautiful than before!  But if you look at the bottom left corner of this picture, you can see the ear of someone else who was waiting for a close-up of her own....

It's Brooklyn!!  Soaking up the sun in our greenhouse window, no doubt.  She's always ready for a photo session!

"I can't help it if I'm beautiful..."

"Here, let me show you my best side..."

"Okay, that's enough...I need my beauty rest!"

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice!

Our heating system decided to celebrate the shortest day of the year by going KAPUT on us last night.  Actually, we don't really know when it stopped working, because we've been trying to go as long as possible without turning it on, but Mike and I spent the day debating on whether or not it was actually out or not.  All I know is that I slept with socks on my hands last night....and and I WAS RIGHT!

So today I've been wearing my long underwear, making good use of our space heater, doin' the Santa Claus Boogie while I give my poor, neglected house the cleaning it needs.  However, I'm starting to really feel the cold, so I think this may be me for the rest of the day:

You can't tell me I haven't earned it!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Darn Those Little Disease Vectors!

Somehow I wound up making it all the way to December before getting a cold - usually I'm out by October, so I'm quite proud of myself.  However, I could not have waited for a more inopportune time, because this week was the last week before school lets out for the holidays.  And lemme tell ya, trying to take care of first graders while hopped up on cold meds is no fun.  Even less fun when it's the last week before school lets out before winter break, a magical time when every parent of a December baby wants to bring in cake for their precious darling's birthday that will be missed during break....a time when telling the kids that you have Santa on speed dial is no longer a good enough threat to suppress their holiday "cheer."

Anyhoo, I was trying to read my first graders a book yesterday...trying being the operative word, because what I was really doing was sneezing uncontrollably.  But I didn't realize how bad it was, until one of my girls asked me, "Mrs. Wolfe, are you allergic to books?"

That day, I went to CVS and bought the GOOD cold medicine - the kind behind the counter, where they take down your driver's license number, mother's maiden name, and dental records.  Much better.  No longer allergic to books.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Thrown Under the Bus...

A few weeks ago I was thrown under the bus by two of my first graders.  Literally.  Almost.

I have two girls who ride the same bus.  One of them is the same girl who got my name mixed up with the name of her bus on the first day of school, calling me Mrs. Hyena and thereby missing her bus.  Shall we say that she has....carried on with her initial display of....flightiness.  And the other one is not too far behind.  The two of them have missed the bus together twice, due to their flightly powers combined.  Now, this is a bigger deal than it may seem to those who are outside the world of elementary school.  When one of my students misses the bus, I get a nice little note in my mailbox from the principal.  The parents are usually pretty upset, too, requiring me to take the time to make phone calls to them.  So it goes without saying that I do what I  to make sure it doesn't happen again.  After the first occurrence, I sat the girls down for a problem-solving meeting.  We came up with a strategy, which basically took the statement QUIT BEING SUCH A DINGBAT and put it into constructive words.  We agreed - no detours, no waiting for someone...I told them that when they miss the bus, I get in trouble, and they swore up and down that it would never happen again.

Fast forward to a few weeks later.  The final bus had been called about 10 minutes earlier, a time that all teachers look forward to - peace at last!  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.............and then suddenly...



You never know what to expect when this happens, but it's usually not good.  I had a hunch about what would be waiting for me, and surprise, surprise!  What did I see but two very guilty looking girls sitting in the front office!

Weeeeeeell, butter my butt and call me a biscuit!!

But I knew that wasn't really why I was called to the office.  And I didn't have to wait long to find out the real reason.  Turns out the girls co-conspired to keep themselves out of trouble when they missed the bus and decided that they would tell their parents, the office staff, AND the principal that *I* was the reason.  According to them, it was all MY fault because I wouldn't let them leave the classroom when the bus was called.  So I had an office worker demanding to know why I had physically prevented the girls from leaving the classroom, holding in one hand a telephone with a parent on hold angrily wanting to know the same thing, holding in her other hand a memo to see the principal immediately.

Hoo boy.

Needless to say, I was LIVID with those girls.  And I was even more livid when I talked to both sets of parents and realized that they really could care less and still pretty much blamed me for the whole thing.  So I did the only thing I could do: I took every single solitary fun thing we did away from them for a whole week.  And I will just say that I put a lot of fun in my classroom.  And I relished hearing them whine about it, because then I got to channel my mother and say:

"Well you should have thought about that before you tried to throw your teacher under the bus!"
Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is the holiday that my dear Aunt Faye usually handles, and this year was no different, despite her having a humdinger of a bad week.  My mom beat me to posting Thanksgiving pictures, but I wanted to share my perspective:

A banana spider

My dad's hand....and the banana spider.  I can't really give a reason why he put his hand that close to a spider...

My uncle Randy and his daughter Rachel on our traditional after-dinner walk.  It was a beautiful day for a walk outside!

My crazy Uncle Jerry was TRYING to stick out his chest, his reason being so he looked slimmer.  I think it just  made him look silly!

We walked along some train tracks in Dunnellon.

Hey look, mistletoe!  I had no idea that it grew in Florida.

My cousin Rachel in some deep thought.  As usual.  She is one of the deepest thinkers I know.  Which is weird because I still fight the urge to think of her as a little kid.

She's so observant - she finds things that I would never notice, like this cool mushroom.

But I DID notice this awesome caterpillar!  I love his green fuzziness!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Has This Ever Happened to You?

Have you ever been found by an old acquaintance on facebook, someone you haven't heard from in years, maybe from high school, and discovered they were married, and thought.....

"They found someone that can STAND them?"

Happened to me today.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day Off Continued

I spotted this little guy while enjoying some porch time yesterday.  He was hanging out on one of our tomato plants, hopefully devouring some of the aphids that have decided to devour that bush as of late.  I loved the little imperfection on his nose - he got into a tussle with something!

He was probably also enjoying the raindrops left from yesterday - we all are!  Boy did we need that rain.

Knockout Rose - we just got this recently, and it is SO easy to take care of!  Seriously - if you hate growing roses because of how hard they are to take care of, try a Knockout Rose.  WHY haven't I tried these before?!?

And my HUGE harvest from yesterday - a tiny oriental pepper!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's the Simple Things in Life...

Today I am enjoying a day off from school, thanks for our nation's Veterans.  I've had a blast re-discovering the joys of staying at home once in awhile!  I've gotten to spend some time with Miss Mollie -we went to the dog park, where she romped and ran and exhausted herself.  Of course when we come back, she lays down for about 5 minutes, then is ready to GO again!  It's been so long since I've had a puppy, I'd forgotten about how much work they are!  Sophie was always so....mellow.  You could literally leave a whole turkey on a table and walk out of the room for 5 minutes, and when you came back it wouldn't be touched.  Mollie once jumped in the air and grabbed a banana...OUT OF MY HAND.  Sophie was a great listener, I swear she could understand everything you told her.  If I wanted her to stop, all I had to do was hold up my hand and say, "stay," and it didn't matter how far away she was, if she could see me, she would do it.  And I never taught her to do any of that, she just did it!  But then again Sophie was a full adult when we got her.  Anyway, Mollie went out to the garage with me to do some laundry, because, let's face it, I can't even go to the bathroom by myself when she's around!  Usually she just sniffs around while I load our front-loading washer and dryer, but today she discovered that the world of swishing laundry is quite interesting!  She had her nose pressed up again the glass, her head making small circles as she followed the laundry being turned over and over.  It was so funny!  I'll have to bring a camera with me next time I got out in case she does it again.  It's just been so nice today to not have to HURRYHURRYHURRY through all the household chores - to slow down and actually enjoy them!  Thank you, veterans, not only for serving our country, but for letting me slow down and enjoy the little things in life!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Reflections on Germany

So much has happened since we got back from Germany in July. Two family weddings, starting my second year of teaching, football season....I shouldn't be surprised that it's taken me this long to post all of my Germany pictures!  I have a few last reflections on our trip before I try to catch up on what's happenend since I've been trying to catch up on our trip  :)

  1. The Germans are as complex as us Americans. Why does this surprise me? But as someone who's always had a keen interest in sociology, it was interesting to me to see how the Holocaust has shaped the German identity. Yes, there is the occasional delusional individual who still espouses the Nazi belief system, but they are about as common in Germany as they are in America.  Before I went to Germany, I read about the different "types" of Germans I would encounter.  Young people who seem almost apologetic about being German, afraid of showing too much German pride. Older Saxons who speak almost wistfully of the Old Communist days. Middle-agers who are almost TOO aggressive with their open-ness and acceptance, trying to overcome a stereotype put on all Germans.   I would say that yes, I saw all of those "types" of people, but more important than that, all Germans are still trying to deal with an event in their history that has affected every fiber of their being.  They may deal with it in different ways, and that is because they are individuals - a unique and interesting people!
  2. I was really surprised by how different Germans eat. It gave me a taste of how Nils must have felt when he first came to live with us. Hardly any fried food, but there is....gelato!!  It wreaked havoc on my stomach, which does NOT like change, but I tried to fix that with....gelato. 
  3. Certain types of stores are very abundant in Germany. Namely, pharmacies, bakeries, flower shops and.....gelato!!! Cheap gelato on practically every street corner. Love it.
  4. Germans are way more active than Americans. We could really take a lesson from the German transportation system. The Hampes live in what could be called a suburb of Hamburg, and they can bike to the train station and take the "tube" to anywhere in Hamburg.  Then they walk to their job, grocery store...or gelato stand.
  5. I like gelato.
But whenever I think of our trip, I think first and foremost of the wonderful people we met, who were kind enough to host us and show us their country.  I think of those who opened their homes to us.  Those who gave their time to us.  Those who took my heart and keep a part of it with them.  I think the coolest thing about the relationships we developed in Germany is that it is just the beginning.  Our lives are intertwined now.  Thank you SO MUCH to Christiane Hampe, Wolfgang Hampe, Benni Hampe, Julius Hampe (The Zealous!), Elke and Mattias Nilzschke, and Else and Wolfgang Hampe!

And of course, the boy who started it all....

Sunday, October 04, 2009

German Adventure Day 11: Tuesday, July 28th

Our last full day in Germany. This day was so surreal for me - not looking forward to the long plane ride home, taking care of my still-swollen foot, but mostly trying to take it all in one last time. I realized that while there were things I were sick of in Germany, I would come to miss them once I was back in the States. Now what I mostly feel is relief that I am finally done posting these pictures! But I will give this day the same attention every other day has gotten and tell you about our wonderful last day in Germany.

We started off the day taking a look at a farmer's markey in Kiel:

All the farmer's markets that we went to had lots of berries, fish, and FLOWERS! The climate is different, and as such the selection is different as well. But it's no less charming!

Next we went to Lubeck, a town not far from Kiel. Much of its historic buildings were lost in World War II - do you see a theme in all my Germany posts?

However, the city has been rebuilt in keeping with the medieval theme. In fact, it was declared a World Heritage site in 1987!

The entire town is surrounded by water.

Mike with our generous and lovely hosts, the Mr. and Mrs. Wolfgang Hampe the Elder.

I just LOVED the architecture of Lubeck! If there is anything like this in America, I haven't seen it!

The churches in Lubeck are breathtaking. This is St. Mary's church (Marien zu Lübeck), constructed in the thirteenth century.

The Marienkirche is a prime example of the Brick Gothic style. The architecture and structure was groundbreaking for the time of its many renovations. Unfortunately, the church was almost completely burned out duried the Allied raid on Palm Sunday of 1942

We saw many, many organs in Germany, but this organ.....WOW! I can see why muscians like Handel and Back have played here!

The main nave (ceiling).

These are the bells that burned in the belltower on the night of the Allied raid in 1942. They were found when reconstruction was done,and the church was rebuilt around them. What a juxtaposition they made with the rest of the church!

Else lit a candle for our safe return to the States. A very simple gesture, yet so meaningful.

A big clock/calendar/schedule of everything happening in the world right now. I swear I stared at this thing for a full 10 minutes and I couldn't figure it out.

A Last Supper relief.

I took this picture from a second-story cafe where we tried some of the delicious marzipan that Lubeck is so famous for. Wolfgang and Else are such calm, relaxing people - the kind of people you can just sit with and not have to feel like you need to talk. As we sat there, it hit me again that we would be leaving this wonderful country soon.

Do I really have to leave this place?!? Sure, my German is still horrible, but I said "Danke schön" to a cashier today and she did NOT look at me like I accidentally told her that her mother is an elephant or something. There's hope for me, right?? RIGHT?!?

Okay, maybe not. But there is hope for this blog post, which will finally be posted! Pretty soon I can blog about everything that has happened SINCE we got back from Germany in July!

Friday, October 02, 2009

German Adventure Day 11: Tuesday, July 28th

Our second-to-last full day in Germany. Christiane (Nil's mom) drove us to Kiel so we could spend our last few days in Germany with Nil's grandparents. Kiel is about an hour North of Hamburg, right on the Baltic Sea.

We stayed with Wolfgang's parents, Else and Wolfgang The Elder (that's how I think of him in my head to distinguish him from Nils' father, who shares the same name). They maintain a lovely home with a huge garden and many fruit trees.

German houses are so different than American houses - they don't feel the need to spread out so much and appreciate their space more!

Kiel was an important center for Naval Activity during World War II, and still is a major shipbuilding center. We got the unique opportunity to tour a submarine that was used during World War II, Unterseeboot 995. A crew of 40-50 lived on this vessel.
Only one word can sum up the feeling I got from being on this boat: snug!! I can't imagine what it was like to live on one of those things. They were pretty inventive:
That is a BED below the torpedo! Don't sit up too fast! I am told that 2-3 crew members would be assigned the same bed and would sleep in shifts. That's Else standing next to Mike. My poor husband....ships like this were NOT made for guys his height!

The spacious kitchen. I had about as much counter space in our first apartment!

Wolfgang, the Elder. Remember how I mentioned that Nils' dad has the most energy of any man his age I have ever met? He inherited it from this guy.

Every single square inch was put to use!

The ONLY toilet on the ship could not be flushed below 25 m!

Whew, was I glad to get out of there! The Laboe Naval Memorial is near the submarine, so we visited that as well. It was originally built to memorialize World War I, but was later rededicated to commemorate sailors who died in both World Wars. I liked that is remembers sailors of ALL nationalities, but I found that it presented a rather rose-tinted view of war.

As I said before, Kiel is right on the Baltic Sea. It was heavily bombed at the close of WWII but much of it has been rebuilt. We found this to be true of many German cities we visited. Kiel's port is very busy, with sailing ships, ferries from places like Sweden and Norway, and shipbuilding yards.

The next day was our last full day in Germany. I always start feeling the same way at this point in a vacation: sad to leave, but eager to get home. I was NOT looking forward to the loooooong plane ride, but I was really missing our animals, hearing ENGLISH, and American food. But our time in Kiel was very enjoyable - I was able to rest my foot and the rest of my body as well. As you can see from the pictures, Wolfgang and Else have a GORGEOUS home. It was so relaxing!! And as a bonus, Else the nurse took excellent care of my foot! We are so grateful for everyone who hosted us during our German adventure!