Slice of Life: Traditions of the Season

(This post is for Slice of Life, a regular writing invitation from Two Writing Teachers to find small moments to write about, and reflect. Come join in.)

Apple picking 2016

We have a family tradition this time of year. We go apple picking. In cold and hot, in rain .. we try to stay true to the idea that we will all make room in our busy schedules for apple picking. We used to go to this orchard up in our hilltowns, with amazing views of a valley. It closed down after a few particularly bad seasons. So we started to go to another orchard not far from the school where I teach.

But my oldest son is now off to college, so that made an Apple Picking Adventure a bit more tricky. And my sister-in-law’s family, who used to live ten minutes away, now lives in Rhode Island, so that makes it tricky. My middle son works and my youngest son plays baseball. Tricky.

But my wife is determined, and she made it happen.

Sure, we had to drive nearly two hours — first to pick up our son from his college outside of Boston and then drive another 30 minutes to meet my sister-in-law at the orchard found by Googling apples. But we made it happen this weekend and it was great to see the cousins together again, and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. The weather was overcast but not too hot, and the trees were dripping with apples (the drought has brought a good year for apples, bad year for peaches, I guess).

I even grabbed a few Asian pears from some trees. Biting into those is like biting into a small container of sweet water. They were simply delicious.

It is these kinds of traditions that keep a family connected, even as we disperse geographically. Apples, for us, are always more than apples — they are a reason to find time to come together. Plus, they taste pretty darn good, too. So, there’s that.

Peace (on trees everywhere, in abundance),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Generator Blues

(This is a Slice of Life story, which is a regular feature at Two Writing Teachers. Come write with us.)


flickr photo shared by Jacob Davies under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

We lost our power the other day. A huge tree crashed down across the main roadway, taking down wires. Sparks everywhere. The police set up roadblocks and traffic was zooming through our quiet neighborhood. It was a mess. And the electricity loss was going on five hours when my wife looked at me and said, We should start the generator.

We were both worrying about the Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer, you know.

:0

We bought our home generator about six years ago, after a winter storm knocked out our power for nearly a week. The sump pump stopped working, and well, if you have a basement that needs a pump, you know you never want it to stop working. So we invested in a generator and paid to have an electrician wire the house for it.

And once or twice a year, I kick the thing into gear in the driveway to make sure it can start. But we have never ever had to hook it up to the house and actually use it. On one hand, that’s good. No big storms. On the other hand … we paid a lot to get it set and then we never have to use it.

But I have to admit: it stressed me out to finally have to hook it all up. I was reading my handwritten notes to myself about how to do it — which breakers need to be pushed where, and so on. I questioned my writing. What did I mean “push it left”?  The last thing I wanted was to be fooling around with electricity.

We did figure it out, and got it work. But you can prob guess the end of this story. One minute into getting the fridge and pump and lights up and running on the generator, the electricity came back on and we were back to normal again.

Sigh.

At least I remember now how it is done. I hope I don’t have to worry about it for a long time, though. (And this time, along with notes, I drew some pictures for my future self.)

Peace (generate it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Questions, Question and More Questions

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a regular writing activity on Tuesdays hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Come join in.)


flickr photo shared by pasukaru76 under a Public Domain Dedication Creative Commons ( CC0 ) license

“How am I getting to school?”

“What bus number am I?”

“What time does school open?”

“What time does school close?”

“Can I do the after-school programs when they start?”

“Can I ride my bike to school on Wednesday with friends?”

“Am I going to like my teachers?”

“What time do I need to wake up?”

“Am I home lunch or school lunch?”

My youngest son moves from his elementary school to the middle school (grades 6-8) today, and yesterday (actually, all weekend), he was a fountain of questions about the first day of school. It’s a nervous energy but of the positive kind. He was all dressed in his school clothes last night, with hair combed, ready to go, and was disappointed when I told him not to sleep in his nice clothes.

“Why not?”

Peace (jittery cool),
Kevin

Slice of Life: How’s Your Head

(This is a post for Slice of Life, a weekly writing activity hosted by Two Writing Teachers. You choose a moment and narrow your focus, and then share out into the SOL community. You write, too.)

Back to School Anxiety Dreamscape

I knew it. I knew I’d be awake in the middle of the night, with a tumble of thoughts about the start of school. And so it was. Staff goes back today and then kids start their new school year tomorrow. I did fall back asleep eventually, dreaming the dreams only teachers seem to dream.

Peace (dream it sleepily),
Kevin

Visual Slice of Life: Leaf on Car Window

I glanced out the sun room window yesterday morning and saw this leaf on the front window of my car. It had rained the night before, so water droplets were still-life portraits on the glass, stuck in motion. I kept looking at the one leaf, though, and thought: I have to take a picture of that leaf.

The curvature of the car window made for both an interesting shot, and a tricky one to pull off. It was like looking over the edge of the globe … the view became distorted, in an interesting way.

I was just using my Android phone for a camera, but I found it interesting how a slight placement shift of my hand and phone would change what the lens was focusing in on. Sometimes, it would be the leaf. Sometimes, the droplets of water. Sometimes, the trees beyond the car.

When I was looking through the shots later, I thought it would be cool to use the Fuse app to “blend” some of the images together. It helped that the angles had the leaf in different spots, and that the light created slightly different hues of color.

I could not help but tinker, too, adding an interesting filter effect for this one, which looks very “artsy fartsy” (official terminology). Look at those drops of water near the bottom of the image … magical.

I find it interesting how one small moment – a leaf stuck to a car window — provides so many different ways to “look” at the world, and a perfect visual Slice of Life.

Peace (it looks wonderful),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Pitching Relief

hacking bball

(A project I made in CLMOOC a few years ago, with Jim as the inspiration)

We arrived, my son and I, by bike, on the field, just before 5:30 p.m. with baseball gloves in a backpack. It was Monday night, time for the thrice-weekly Summer Ball pick-up game fun by our neighbor, Jim. But no Jim. Instead, a sign hanging on the fence, with Jim’s scratchy writing, said “Jim has some family business. Equipment in the green box. Have fun.”

Jim left all of his equipment at the field, and I was the only adult around. All the other kids — about 14 of them by now — had come by bike or their parents had dropped them off, and left. I had brought a new book with me, thinking I would enjoy some reading time while Jim led the kids in the craziness of baseball in summer. Sometimes, there can be nearly 30 kids on the field.

“I guess we can still play?” one older kid said, almost uncertainly. “Jim left the stuff. And a note.”

“OK,” another responded, as two younger kids grabbed the bases and began to unplug the field in order to anchor the bases at first, second and third. “We can make teams.”

“We just need someone to pitch,” the older one explained. In Summer Ball, Jim always pitches, to keep the game moving along and avoid squabbled over the pitching mound.

I stepped up in the quiet. They were looking at me, anyway. “I’ll pitch,” I said, putting the book away and taking out my glove, which I had brought just in case Jim needed a catcher. I stretched my arm, trying to remember the last time I pitched to kids. At least a year or so. I didn’t coach this past spring.

It showed. But I kept at it for nearly two hours, one pitch after another (a few out of control, but no kids were hurt) and they were pretty good-natured about it. The kids just wanted to play, so they just let me pitch. They hit and hit and hit, with the older kids cranking a few homerooms over the fence. They do that to Jim, too, so I didn’t feel so bad.

“This arm is going to hurt in the morning,” I told my son, who just laughed as I kept stretching after the game. I was right. My arm hurts this morning. Soreness in the shoulder. But they got to play baseball on an August summer evening and I got to go in as relief for Jim. As a reward, my son and I stopped for ice cream on the way home.

Some things are worth celebrating …

Peace (on the mound),
Kevin

Cross-Pollination Reciprocation: Mixing SOL with CLMOOC


flickr photo shared by susanvg under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

This week’s theme of Reciprocate with Generosity in the Making Learning Connected MOOC reminds me of Tuesdays. You see, most Tuesdays, I try to take part in the Slice of Life, a weekly writing challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. Every Tuesday, many educators write a bit about their day — a slice of time, put into reflection.

cropped-clmooc-letters-sq-trans-1.gifSOLSC Button

As a writer, I like that open invitation to write, and so I often do. But what really interests me is the interaction at the blogs (sometimes, like during the Slice of Life Challenge each March, there are more than 100 writers involved, sometimes nearly 200) as people leave comments, and spark conversations — asking questions, wondering about the world, making connections.

It’s unlike any other year-long writing project that I have been involved in. Readers are engaged. Writers react. Conversations happen. Ideas, shared.

As folks in the CLMOOC this week engage in different activities that honor each other — and there have been many cool media projects already going — I’d like to use this Tuesday’s Slice of Life post to introduce my CLMOOC friends (we use #clmooc hashtag) to my SOL friends (we use #sol16 hashtag), and vice versa. While much of SOL is located on individual blogs (you can find links when you go to each week’s call for Slice of Life posts at Two Writing Teachers), much of CLMOOC takes place on Twitter and in a Google Community, and on Facebook.

If some of my CLMOOC friends now begin writing for Slice of Life (a few already do, I am pretty sure) and if some of my Slice of Life friends peek into the creative collaborative projects going on this summer (a few already do, I am pretty sure), then I would be very happy indeed. Cross-pollination of writing groups is always a good thing.

I am now off to read Slice of Life posts …

Peace (out there),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Pool Pool

Pool at the pool

I am gearing up for a extended, long weekend visit with some friends that I have known now for nearly 30 years. We gather together each year, from whereever we live, to reconnect, and play the Pool Championship of the World (or, our little world). Yesterday, at our neighborhood community swimming pool, I touched a cue and table for the first time in almost a year. My son is getting better, but not good enough yet to beat the old man!

Peace (in the pocket),
Kevin

PS — my tag, In the Pocket, reminded me of an old song of mine from my band, Big Daddy Kiljoy.

Slice of Life: Hitting Balls Against the Wall


flickr photo shared by Bill David Brooks under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I’m trying something new this summer, and it has nothing to do with teaching or creating or technology. This summer, I am trying to re-learn how to play tennis.

Yesterday, for the first time in many years, I grabbed my old tennis racket (which I bought in college) and a new container of tennis balls (which I bought from Target), and biked to our local park, where they have tennis courts. After ponying up for a year membership to use the courts (my commitment ceremony … now I have to go back at least nine more times to make it worth it), I signed out the court with a wall and spent the next hour hitting the ball back and forth.

I did OK. My arm and shoulder are sore this morning, so I guess I was using parts of my body that have not seen much use in recent years. I hit the ball over the wall, and the fence, about a dozen times, swearing at myself. But learning to get better to control, too. The walk to get the balls over the fence was sort of long, so I concentrated on keeping them in the court (it was hot outside yesterday).

My tennis years, if you can call them that, were sporadic and I won’t claim to have been all that good. But my roommate in one college urged me to get a racket and hit balls with him. Then, when I transferred, another roommate asked the same (it turns out he was a nationally-ranked youth tennis player in high school … he kicked my butt every game … but I got better just trying to keep up with his serves and hits). As an aside: cold beer tastes great after playing tennis on summer days.

What I like about the game of tennis is the rhythm of the movement of the ball and feet. When a volley happens, it’s magic. It’s sort of mesmerizing and trance-like. I also admit: I like the competitive spirit of the game itself. I want to win and push myself to do so. Even when I lose a game, which is often, I still enjoy it.

So now, I am trying to recruit some of my family members to play with me (and realized, yesterday, I forgot how to keep score in a game … need to Google it). The wall was fine — I found a rhythm — but I want someone else on the other side of the net. I am pretty sure I can convince my middle son (age: 16, and an athlete) to move from our garage ping-pong tournaments (we’re pretty even on the little court) to the tennis courts. And my wife said she would try it.

If not, I have the wall.

Peace (in love),
Kevin

Slice of Life: When the Picture Books Arrive

Picture Books Arrive

Many of you know me as someone who enjoys dabbling in technology and digital writing projects, but I am a sucker for the emotional pull of a solid, physical book. Make it a book that a student has written and created, and you have me hooked.

The Books Arrive

So, the delivery of four huge boxes of student-created picture books that arrived at my classroom the other day almost had me thinking of making one of those “unbox it” videos that seem so strangely popular on YouTube. I didn’t make the video so you will just have to accept that I was pretty darned excited when I opened up the boxes and dug out the books.

Not as excited as my sixth grade students, though, who were buzzing throughout the day after my librarian collaborator and I handed out the books with the words, “Congratulations! You are now a published writer. This is your book.”

The published books — picture books designed around the theme of remembering their years at our elementary school as they head off to middle school — were the culmination of a beta-testing project with software by Fablevision that allows students to write and illustrate picture books in a digital space, and then send the books directly to Lulu publishing.

It all reminded me of this short video from Lane Smith:

I’m happy that the physical book still holds allure for my students, living as they are in an age of digital screens, and I am glad it was a gift we could give them as they end their time in elementary school. It’s been a perfect way to end the sixth grade (still a few days to go!)

Peace (past to present),
Kevin