Weeds, Paper Mache, and Teaching

by Claire on May 21, 2011

One day, towards the end of April, I became fed up with the dirt in our backyard. Dottie's bright white coat is generally a dull brown by the time we get home from school in the afternoon due to the state of our backyard. Sometimes we hose her off (but she hates it and usually urinates all over), and other times we let her into the house (but then we need to dust and sweep daily).  We decided the solution would be grass.

We have been dragging our feet about this; we didn't want to use up any more precious water than necessary. Luckily, we found a great place here in Albuquerque called Plants of the Southwest. We bought some seed that is native to New Mexico and apparently requires very little water (a couple of times a month!) once it is established. Furthermore, we were told that we didn't need fertilizer or compost as it would naturally like our soil. 

The planting was pretty easy. We borrowed a roto-tiller from our neighbors, installed a stake and chicken-wire fence to keep Dottie out, sprinkled and raked the seed, and covered it in a light layer of hay.

Shortly after we planted the grass, Albuquerque had a couple of extremely windy weeks. The hay we used to cover the grass all blew away. Oh, and then it snowed. In May. Somehow grass still came up, but unfortunately weeds did too, outnumbering the grass.

Nick making a fence that will keep Dottie off the future grass until it's strong. 
Dottie giving Nick a hug.
The weeds. (And some grass.)

On a different note, our graduate classes ended for the semester, not to resume until June 7th. The final project was actually pretty fun. Nick and I both got a bit carried away with it! We were told to create a 3D model (along with a paper, of course) with a movable part that was a metaphor for teaching and learning. Nick chose a toolbox (with a secret door representing a student's prior knowledge), and I chose to make a marionette out of paper mache and fabric scraps (the puppeteer is the super exciting subject matter, the figure is the student, and I (as the teacher) am the strings--connecting the student to the powerful and life-giving content). This is a metaphor and my goal; it is what I aspire to be in the classroom. Pictured below is the making of the marionette.

Headless paper mache doll. 

Adding hair.

The finished head. 

The finished marionette.

She is a sinister sight in our guest room,  continuously staring at me from the ceiling when I pass.  Would it be helpful to make another one (or five), or would that be even more creepy? 

In other news, Nick and I found out what we will be teaching in the fall. We are both pretty pleased with our assignments. Nick has the exact same schedule as this year and the previous year: five sections of sixth grade Earth Science. I am moving back into my old classroom from the 2009-2010 school year to  teach eighth grade American History. I am going to need to do a lot of refreshing and preparing over the summer! I have started by reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Fascinating.

Later this summer:
A visit to Los Alamos to see Maggie and Leni
A visit from Nick's parents
A possible camping trip in the White Mountains
A long and much awaited road trip to Tennessee to see Eleanor and Nick
9 credits of graduate school in the month of June (Sounds a little terrifying.)
Lots and lots of sun tea

If you made it through this rather mundane post, I congratulate you. 

Bathroom Refurbishing

by Nick on Mar 16, 2011

While in Tucson visiting Jim and Candy, we decided to do several small home improvement jobs. The timing couldn't have been better: Candy was recovering in the assisted nursing facility, and Jim was away all morning visiting her. We had the house to ourselves, and we took advantage of it!

Refurbished Ceiling Fan

by Claire on Feb 5, 2011

On our second of four snow days, Nick and I decided to do something productive on the home improvement front. Our ceiling fan had been bugging us for over a year, and we thought it would be relatively simple task to paint it. Thirteen hours and four trips to Lowes later, we had the finished product. Well almost. We're going to put it on a dimmer switch because it's a little too intense!

Upcycled Workbench

by Nick on Feb 1, 2011

This work bench is made out of plastic decking. We have about 300 linear feet that is sitting in our backyard instead of at the landfill. I've been working on it for the last few weekends and am pretty happy with the way it turned out. Yes that is weekends, plural. We've been really busy here at The General.

I almost broke down and purchased some 4x4s to use as legs, but came up with an alternative using the decking. Screwing two equal length boards in an "L" shape made the surprisingly strong legs you see in the last image. I also mounted a used vise on the side, and sizable scraps of plywood as the work surface.

I plan to add a shelf below the work surface to store tools, and holes in the front and top that can be used to clamp projects to the work surface. 

Coats and Coat Hangers

by Claire

Today was a snow day in Albuquerque. It literally snowed for at least 24 hours continuously. Actually, I take that back. It was difficult to tell if it was snowing nonstop because it was also very windy. This morning Nick and I realized we were in desperate need of doing laundry. Ninety-nine percent of the time  this isn't a problem in this arid land, even if the temperatures are frigid. Moisture in the air (like snow or rain) makes up that other one percent. Nick cleverly hung some rope in our hallway, strung between three bedrooms and one bathroom. This system dried one load already today, and will help us out with a second tonight. 

We felt very sorry for Dottie today in the icy weather; we caved and bought her third (and final!) coat. The first one we made the mistake of leaving on her one day. She took it off and chewed it to pieces while we were at work. I made her a fleece second coat. Somehow, months later, we thought she would be mature enough to keep it on while we were away. It was cold this time, and we figured she would have the common sense to wear it for the duration of the day. Turns out, she struggled to get out of it, but couldn't. (I had secured the velcro too well.) Instead of being free of the coat entirely, she had somehow managed to get one arm out, and stretch it in a way that she was able to poop on it. With her third coat that resembles a sleeping bag, she will never be allowed to wear it out of our sight. (I think it's cute that it  doesn't quite cover her bum... it must be the Basset in her!)

Other interesting news (since it has been so long):

1. Nick and I are working on our Master's degrees through UNM. It is a really fabulous program, however we seem to spend all of our weekend writing papers, reading, and preparing for our own classrooms. I'm glad it is only going to be a year and a half long. 

2. My parents just bought a cute vintage mobile home as a second home here in Albuquerque, and our dear friends, Byron and Jordan, are moving here next week! It will be nice to see them all more often.