So here’s a thing I’m thinking about

pile-of-money

Anybody ever heard of the Lilly Endowment’s Teacher Creativity Fellowships?  I found out about them on Facebook the other day– it’s a $10,000 grant given out to 100 teachers across the state of Indiana for the rather nebulous purpose of “creative projects that are personally renewing and intellectually revitalizing to individual Indiana teachers and education professionals.”

In other words, ten grand for writing a grant proposal about a creative way to fucking relax during the six weeks of the summer.  And they even say that if your budget for your relaxing thing doesn’t add up to ten grand you can designate the rest as a stipend.  Here’s some examples of some of the crazy nonsense that people got handed ten grand for this year.  These are all direct quotes from the website:

  • travel to Costa Rica to dive on a coral reef; study environmental conservation; learn to speak Spanish
  • “Hooked on Becoming a Nova Scotia Hooker”—attend workshops in Nova Scotia to learn wool dyeing and rug hooking; visit textile-arts museums in Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine
  • travel the country, taking lessons from master guitarists in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Maine and Hawaii; write songs and post a blog; record new songs written during the journey
  • create artwork from debris found while scuba diving and beachcombing; participate in workshops in Oregon and California that promote using trash to make artwork
  • attend workshops in Montana and Oregon to learn landscape quilting; visit and photograph four national parks; prepare quilts of national park scenes
  • visit historic sites in France, Greece and Italy; capture images of sites using high-dynamic range photography and video techniques

I swear I’m not cherry-picking the ridiculous ones, guys; the recipients are listed by alphabetical order by the city they’re from and I didn’t get through F.  That last one boils down to go to Europe and take pictures of shit, gimme ten grand.  And it got funded.  That’s insane.

I am pretty damn sure that I can come up with a way to spend someone’s ten thousand dollars this summer.  They apparently have way too much money if they’re giving it away for nonsense like this.  Which means that some of this shit is gonna be mine.

On twenny dolla dip

20130826-180207.jpgPictured: not my dip. I didn’t take a picture. It’s dip. Also: this entry may be slightly more profane than usual, as I seem to be in a bit of a mood.

So, you know how every so often you go to Applebee’s, and you’re like, Man, I could go for a damn appetizer right about now, and since everything else on the damn menu is fried you end up with spinach and artichoke dip, and it costs like seven bucks and there’s like an ounce of dip and four hundred chips and you end up scraping every last sad minuscule shred of spinach and artichoke dip out of the container it’s in because, one, that shit is delicious, it’s the best bloody thing on their menu, and two, you basically paid your seven bucks for like a bag of Tostitos and some dip and you’re bloody well eating every last molecule of that dip if you have to lick it off a napkin to do it?

No? Am I the only one? Well, don’t read the rest of this then.

I decided I wanted some goddamn spinach and artichoke dip to go with my guacamole (actually Thug Kitchen’s guacamole, but as the Thug would say, whatfuckinever) at my son’s birthday party. I found what looked like a capable recipe in one of the cooking magazines my mother in law has subscribed me to and sent the wife out to acquire the ingredients. She found everything– that is, provolone cheese, feta cheese, cream cheese, sweet roasted red peppers, quartered artichoke hearts, frozen spinach, and mozzarella (they wanted fresh, I assume the kind that comes still in liquid; we figured that shredded would be fine)– except for asiago cheese. Locating the asiago was up to me. The shit had already cost like a hundred dollars, and the asiago was another five bucks for like six ounces– and that was the cheap asiago.

I have always been told that cooking for yourself was much cheaper than eating out all the time. While my five cheese spinach and artichoke dip was bloody goddamn outstanding (favorite moment of the night: my M-I-L’s eyes actually fluttered when she took her first bite, and she has more cookbooks than I have regular books, as astonishing and impossible as that might sound) it cost more than a meal at Red Lobster would have– and that was just for fucking dip.

I can’t tell if I just have extravagant taste in dip or if if this whole “home cooking is cheap” thing is bullshit. I know I feel like every time I have to buy stuff for a recipe I feel like I’m getting taken to court over it. (God help me the first time I get off my ass and make Thai iced tea– do you assholes know how expensive cardamom is? It’s made from the blood of Christ. And not from the readily-obtainable transubstantiated Catholic shit either; I’m talking they got themselves a ninja and sent him back in time with a syringe.)

The boy’s presents included a drum set and a set of cymbals, which were not from my brother as they should have been but were from my wife and I, because we are lunatics. My brother bought him a bunch of bubble/lawn stuff, which I can’t even insult him for. I do not know why we did this. It is entirely possible– perhaps likely– that we are insane.

But at least we have cheese dip.


OH, RIGHT, I FORGOT edit:  On that guacamole– at a friend’s suggestion, I’ve chopped up a jalapeno and tossed it into what was left of the guac from yesterday.  It’s in the fridge so that the little jalapeno bits can get to know everybody else for a while before I try and eat it.  I’ll report back on whether I’ve made a terrible mistake or not.

What’s a “day off?”

Gorilla-hungover_1370932iMy son turned two on Friday.  I was thinking about using today to muse about fatherhood a little bit, but instead I’m all OH MY GOD THERE ARE ONE MILLION FAMILY MEMBERS COMING OVER IN FIVE HOURS FOR A PARTY FOR A TWO YEAR OLD BLUE ICING EVERYWHERE COOKING FOR A HUNDRED ALL I KNOW HOW TO MAKE IS DIP JESUS WHERE DID THE VACUUM GO HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN SINCE WE CLEANED THIS HEY I THOUGHT WE POTTY TRAINED THE DOGS WHY THE HELL IS THERE SNOT THERE WHAT HAPPENED TO THE TOILET WHAT THE HELL DID I JUST STEP ON WHERE IS THE OTHER GRAPEFRUIT WHY ARE WE OUT OF PROPANE.

So, maybe not so much on the big posting today.

At least I got my lesson plans done yesterday.

On the plus side: new dinosaur toys.

Terrible Decisions, Stage Two

photoWe started off so well. If you’ve noticed my Instagram feed over there, there’s a picture of a bunch of boxes containing my new toilet, my new tub, and my new tub surround. We’d gotten a bunch of flooring samples from a place online and had narrowed our flooring choices down to two possibilities, one light and one dark. We’d found a vanity or two we liked, and a store that would let us custom-design basically whatever the hell we wanted without blowing our budget up too goddamn much.

Then my father-in-law came over. You remember my father-in-law the general contractor, right? The guy who gave my brother a heart attack when, ten seconds after arriving at the Great Redeckening, he pronounced our wood incorrect?

Yeah. That guy.

“That tub’s not going to work,” he says. Which means the surround isn’t going to work. And I am now very angry– not at him, because he’s right, and more importantly he’s right well before we started destroying our tub or taking things out of boxes and he’s right while we can still take stuff back. I’m angry because I shoulda noticed this shit on my own and I didn’t.

60 inches is basically standard for a tub nowadays, right? I had measured our tub and it had come out to 58 inches from tile to tile– which, I reasoned, given that there was a layer of tile and, underneath that, a layer of drywall, meant that there was certainly going to be sixty inches from stud to stud. The new surround attaches directly to the studs, so all of that stuff was going to come out and then the tub would fit.

Take a real close look at that picture there and see if you can figure out what’s wrong. Go ahead; I’ll wait. No, not the rotten drywall and the mold. We knew about that already; that’s the problem we were going to fix with the new tub and new surround. We discovered the leak when the wallpaper back there started turning black– it’s close to the floor in between the tub and the toilet, though, so it was easy to ignore. Then the drywall started disintegrating. I ripped some of it out to try and figure out how bad it was; it’s actually not very moldy– the black is all on the surface and the wood itself is still, mostly, solid. The white thing on the left is a guard that we put in that (I thought at the time) would stop the leak– I thought water was just running along the edge of the tub and hitting the drywall. No, as it turns out, it’s behind the tile, as we discovered when we pulled one of the tiles out and ran some water. The leak’s not in the tub at all.

But forget about that. Look at the tub, and then look at the wall stud above it. See a problem?

The tub extends a good inch underneath the studs. These fuckers who built this house put the tub in before they even studded the wall, and then built a bloody header over the top of the thing. Which means that any sixty inch tub that expects to have a surround around it is going to be wider than the bathroom is. It’s impossible to put any other modern sixty inch tub in there without moving fucking walls around, and that’s not a level of work that we’re willing to commit to at this time.

My father-in-law figured all this out at a glance.

We have to keep the tub, but we’re still going to have to rip out the tile. There was a brief flirtation with 54″ tubs, but after looking around a bit we decided against that idea on account of they’re all crap. What we’re going to have to do is pull out all the existing tile, pull out all the drywall behind it (which is going to be mostly rotten and moldy at this point anyway), then redrywall (hopefully with a thinner board than they’re using) and retile over that. Tiling is beyond my skill level, so we’ll have to hire someone for it, which is probably gonna blow up our budget– although we’ll make a tiny bit of it back by not having to buy a new tub, I doubt we’ll get anybody to come out and do the new tile work for less than the tub would have cost– although I’ll admit I haven’t really looked into it much so maybe I’ll get lucky.

Also, so much for getting all this done by next weekend. Don’t think so. Sigh.

A goal for this year

(Note that I do plan on going back to talking about things other than teaching again eventually; for obvious reasons it’s just what’s been foremost on my mind lately.)

Here’s the goal I’m setting myself for 2013-14: I’m going to go the entire year without yelling at any of my kids. And by “my kids,” in this context, I mean “any kid in my building,” not just in my class.

Now, let me be specific on what I mean here: I emphatically do not mean “I will never yell” or “I will never raise my voice.” My job would be impossible without occasionally having to raise my voice, and frequently a good loud “YO!” at the front of the room can refocus a classroom when more traditional, gentler methods fail.

What I mean is this: I’m going to make it an entire school year, or as close to it as I can, without ever raising my voice at a kid. There’s a difference between generic Loud-Talkin’ to a roomful of kids and raising my voice to a specific kid. If you know me, y’all know that I tend to have a bit of a temper and I tend to be a bit on the volatile side.

I spent last year working for a guy who I saw defuse potentially nasty situations (and situations that were well past “potentially” nasty) on any number of occasions without ever once speaking harshly to a kid. Not one single goddamn time. And he got results over and over again. I don’t want to be yelly guy any more. This may well sound shocking coming from me, but I need love to be a bigger part of my pedagogy than it’s been in the past.

I’m a good teacher. I need to work on being a better person at school. I need to be someone who is better at de-escalation. I need my temper squashed. And I’m going to find a way to do it this year.

2013-14: no more yelling at kids.