Sunday, December 30, 2007

First Fire Station Tour

One thing I love about Christmas time is seeing old friends. My friend Kristin lives in NYC now, but she came home with husband David and son, Sebastian, to visit family for Christmas. We decided to hang out a bit this past Thursday. Kristin and her sister, Erin, invited us to visit a fire station with them. Everyone met at our house for lunch and then we were off to the fire house! Erin's husband, Jeff, is a fire fighter.

Did you know that firemen, when on duty, have to take their fire trucks with them wherever they go? That makes it sound like they tuck them in their pockets instead of driving them, but you get the picture: the grocery story, the gas station, or even 7-11. If the fireman has to run an errand, he has to drive his truck with his full crew. While we were at the station the firemen needed to go to the grocery story, so they all piled in the fire engine and off they went. Jeff said that firemen always stay with their truck (and crew) in case there is a call out. He didn't have to go on the grocery run because he wasn't on the crew of that truck. Each fireman has a specific position within the fire house. Jeff is the engineer on the bucket truck named Tower 8.

Prior to all of this touring and talking of fire house living, Jeff gave the kids (Collin, Blake, and Sebastian) a tour of the truck and a ride in the bucket. They tried on Jeff's helmet. Do you call it a helmet? or a hat? or head gear? Now I'm missing some specialized vocabulary! Each boy got a chance to sit in the driver's seat! One of Jeff's buddies on the truck fitted the seat with a special contraption he called "the rat booster." The seat sits on what looks like an accordion lift. And Mr. Rat, I presume, uses the block of wood to keep the seat up where he needs it. Kristin wanted it out of the pictures though; sometimes, for mom's, it's all about the pictures. I snapped a quick one with the real booster in place.

After the truck climb and drive, Jeff got the engine ready to take the kids up. The truck has hug stabilizers that come out from the body of the truck, lift the engine up and then settle it back down on the four pneumatic posts. Jeff took Collin and his son, Blake, up first. As I watched them go higher and higher I worried that Collin would get scared. It hadn't even crossed my mind that the ride up would get to him. Then I figured, heck, Jeff's a fireman, if Collin panics, he can handle it! At one point, Erin looked at me and said "Are you going to go up?"

"No I don't think so" was my first response, but then I realized something. When else would I have the opportunity to go up in a fire truck's bucket? Uninjured? Never--that's right. So I told Erin, she and I were going up next! The bucket has some movement or swing, but aside from that it was steady and smooth going up. We were up so high I could hardly see the kids below. Jeff said the truck can go 10 stories, but that they generally only need to go up 2-3 stories during a fire.

Collin's favorite part of the tour was not riding up in the bucket, nor was it seeing all of the fireman's recliners in front of the TV in the station house. Nope, he loved riding in the truck. Jeff outfitted he and Black with headphones and set them up in the jump seat. David with Sebastian on his lap rode in front--off they went horns honking and sirens screeching.

Riding fire trucks, touring stations, and getting the inside scoop on all things fireman-related. What more could a six-year-old ask for? How about an alligator that comes when you call it? Go ahead and say it: dangerous nuisance. Yes, lucky for us Jeff's shift (there are three A, B, & C shifts) is not the shift that's apparently feeding the gator, but someone is because it continues to hang out in the retention pond and when you clap your hangs or jangle keys it crosses the pond to come and see you. Can you say Pavlov?

To see all of the fire station pictures stop by my flickr page.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Little Reader Me

I'm a reader. I always have been. I've loved to snuggle up with a book for as long as I can remember as evidenced by this old photo my dad sent me recently. I think I'm six in the picture. Dad has a friend who is scanning his old slides into the computer. Every few days I get a random image from my childhood--most have me making some sort of funny face. I'm so glad this technology wasn't around before I got married! Dad keeps threatening to bribe me--teasing that he will reveal the pictures to my students. Perhaps he could augment his fixed income with a small collection each week? He could try, but I love the old photos--even the funny ones. Maybe I should pay him to send them to me.
I wish that the first thing I noticed when I saw this picture was me reading the book. I loved that book, a Richard Scary book of nursery rhymes. No, I didn't notice the book at first. I noticed my hair. Yes, sans bangs, I have essentially the same hair cut that I had when I was six. Some things never change, do they?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Frog Hollow

Does your home have a name? Not the location, but a place name like Martha Stewart's Pecan Grove or Toot & Puddle's Woodcock Pocket--does your place have a name? When we first built our house I saw some special on tv about Martha Stewart's homes. I couldn't believe all of the names she had for them. My sister-in-law and I got to talking about home names. The idea was suddenly romantic to me. My sister-in-law's Connecticut homestead dates back at least 100 years. A 100-year-old house certainly deserves a name. Her house is on an acre--a double lot in her neighborhood--and it's situated sort of on a bit of a hill. She named her place Highland Meadow. So nice, so heather-smellish, Irish country-sidish. I loved the name. It called to mind purple wildflowers and tall summer grasses. Perfect. I liked this name thing, so I started to wonder what to call our new house.
At my first wonderings I thought about where we lived: near a wood, on a corner, in a pine flats, surrounded by oak scrub. Corner, flats, scrub--not quite the monikers I wanted. I liked wood. A friend has a self-publishing venture named Collinwood, a name I'd considered, but really, could an only child survive that kind of kingdom-ness? I love Holly Hobbies' Toot and Puddle, but Woodcock Pocket is very much their magical place, not ours. So, what could I name our house?

Fire ants colonize our yard. We live in a rural area. When we first built our house, our closest neighbor was a mile away. Our yard, or more specifically the weed and ant filled land that surrounded the house, wasn't picturesque. As far as names go, Ant Hill doesn't have quite the same ring as Highland Meadow or Pecan Grove. Neither did Armadillo Alley, Dirt Drive or the many other funny names we dreamed. We have a lot of tree frogs out and around our place. Rick and I used to marvel at the tree frogs that lived in our wind chimes. Each evening around sunset, we'd sit on the porch and watch the bright green frogs crawl out of the long hollow, hand-tuned tubes. Funny things, frogs. We've always loved quirky names of wines and beers like Flying Dog, Frog's Leap and Toad Hollow, thus inspired came our homestead, Frog Hollow.

image credit:
FHLogoCraftCenter.jpg. Vermont State Craft Center. 18 December 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Here's 2nd period's rough cut of Y3W (Your 3 Words). If you've not seen or heard of the Y3W videos visit them online at iCaught TV or ABC

Friday, December 7, 2007

Collin's NYC Video Postcard to Ethan

Here's the video postcard that Collin and I made to send to his buddy, Ethan. Can you believe that we were so excited to create this that the first time I exported it as a Quicktime movie I spelled NCY instead of NYC. Ha! While using technology, as with writing, I need to remind myself to slow down and keep an eye out for errors.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

First Grade Frustration

Yesterday at the dinner table my son asked me if sentences could start with the word when. I thought a minute and told him that yes, sentences could start with when, but that usually questions started that way. He hung his head and said that his teacher said sentences could not start with when. He continued saying he wrote a sentence with when and that he was embarrassed when his teacher read it to the whole class essentially saying it was wrong.


What to do? I listened. I asked questions. I tried to make it okay, saying that the teacher probably just wanted to use his sentence as an example to teach the class about sentences. I told him that she didn't mean to embarass him. We hugged. It is not okay to embarrass a child in front of whole class. I don't think the teacher meant to embarrass Collin. In fact I don't think she even used his name when sharing the sample. I do know, according to Collin, that he shrunk down in his seat and tried to make himself very small while the teacher talked about it. He hung his head and the kids at his table inferred enough to ask him if it was his writing.

Collin's shy. He's reserved. He likes to follow the rules and to get things right. My heart went out to him. I asked him if he wanted me to talk to the teacher; he said yes, then no. I don't want to be an over-protective teacher-parent. Nor do I want Collin's first forays into writing to be fraught with bad feelings. In the end, I had Collin dig his paper out of his backpack and I talked him through what was incorrect about what he'd written. He was writing a reading journal which essentially consisted of responding to questions. The question asked "What was your favorite part?" Collin answered "when the dog went through the car wash." He's learning. He's practicing. He's developing sentence sense, right? I explained to him that what he wrote wasn't a complete sentence. It isn't a complete thought. We went through a couple of examples, so that he could see if I said "when you finish your homework" he wouldn't know what I really meant.

Eventually, he'll have that sentence sense that will tell him when a line he's written isn't a complete thought. For now, he's still learning and practicing--something I'd like for him to enjoy.