Monday, October 22, 2007

They've Got a Good Thing Growin'

One of our favorite trips of the year (and given our trip record, that's quite a billing!) is not to somewhere exotic nor is it during one of our summer extravaganzas...No, this excursion is one that combines hometown appeal with the familiarity of our past. It includes great friends, great food and great fun. Every year school lets out for a 3 day weekend in October (MSTA Convention) that just happens to coincide with The North Carolina State Fair. This windfall offers the chance at a perfect getaway to one of our top spots.

Sandwiched between late-night talks with "old but not-so-old friends" and the North-South Invitational (a story in itself) is a six hour feast for the eyes, nose, ears and mouth. Ever since our first time at the fair in 1990, Steve and I have been hooked and have made mammoth efforts to attend each year (except the year that Julie was born and we had just moved to Maryland).

Oh, what a treat to hear Smokey the Bear chow down on roasted corn, London broil sandwiches, french fries, corn dogs, maple sugar cotton candy and Mount Olive ride a giant Ferris wheel and watch the kids bang into the glass walls of the fun house while belly-laughing see the "World's Largest Snake" or meet the "World's Smallest Woman" view a horse show or a cow competition...

Now that's pig racin'!!!


Way To Go Rutgers!

One of the great things about spending a weekend in North Carolina is that you get to immerse yourself in the state's great college sports scene.

With so many schools in such close proximity, good-natured rivalries abound. (That's one kind of diversity DC sorely lacks. With one team in each professional league, there is nothing but venom for fans of organizations other than, say, the Redskins.)

The rivalries just have to be more fun than mean-spirited down there. The person who works next to you, your good friends, and even your parents, spouse, and kids are likely fans of some other North Carolina school. Take our good friends the Blakes, for instance. Dawn (who had a certain Ms. Neidenbach for bio way back when) is a Dukie, while her husband Tim is a State fan. Luckily, they can both unite, because Dawn's dad is a Tar Heel. ABC baby!

In the midst of all of this, I bucked the trend and wore some Rutgers togs to the North Carolina State Fair this past weekend. Turns out it was the right choice! You see, RU had just won a dramatic victory over South Florida the night before on national television. The rare sight of Rutgers in Raleigh was enough to lead plenty of fair goers to approach me with kind questions and words:

How did your boys do last night?
Now there's a happy guy!
You must be enjoying your fifteen minutes of fame!
What a great finish!

Now that was some wholesome sports fun! Can I get a refill on that sweet tea?


Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Quest for Perfect Pondwater

At the start of every school year I introduce my students to the characteristics of living things (affectionately known as COERGRA...don't look it up, it's a mneumonic). In an effort to help them think about what distinguishes living things from non-living I offer the notorious "Pondwater Lab." It is not notorious to students, but rather my family...

You would think that after being a teacher for all these years I'd have my act together enough that the set-up for this lab would be automatic. It is an automatic disaster almost every year because I always want the "perfect sample." This year our quest took us to a few different venues and resulted in new family members becoming involved (thanks, Grampy, for venturing down that hillside!) and injury (sorry, Z, I think we got all the thorns out of your hand!) and good sportsmanship (wasn't that a blast, Grammy? You mean you didn't come to Maryland to go on an additional 150 mile car ride???).

End result, 2 unique samples: one from the C&O Canal in Hancock, MD, and the other from the pond on the 8th hole at Northwest Park Golf Course. I don't know what they do to the water at NWP but it is teaming with life...especially nematodes and rotifers. The students had a ball, as usual, using the microscopes and drawing pictures of the little buggers. It is worth the effort just to hear their oohhh's and aahhh's and "holy cow, Mrs. B., come check this out!" While sometimes they think they have discovered a new organism and it turns out to be an air bubble (which looks really cool at 100X!) most of the time they are able to find at least the eight required specimens.

Who knows where next year will lead us and who will be involved in this crazy adventure...avoid the rush and send your applications in now! I'm sure Steve, the kids, and now Grampy and Grammy, too, will be happy to surrender their spots on this roster!