Friday, July 19, 2013


Flash fiction

She knew this was supposed to be like eating summer cherries, fleeting but sweet, the hard pits something to roll around in her mouth until all that remained were small bitter shreds of flesh, like the hole in the gums when a molar comes out. It was supposed to be sweet like that, pregnant with its own nostalgia. 

It wasn't terrible, torturous, or an aching grief. But instead of sweet cherries, it was the cherries you buy from the supermarket because they are plump and taut, a deep ripe red, and you buy lots of them because it is mid-summer, and these prices won't last, and you remove them from their ziplocked plastic bag and wash them in a colander because then they look like a feast. But when you finally try one, they are neutral. The texture is right, but somehow modern living has chlorinated out the sweetness.

You roll the cherry against the edge of your teeth, stripping the flesh free of the pit, because maybe, if you eat a whole mouthful, you can conjure the flavor. But no, just cherry-textured neutral. Not sour enough or overripe enough to return to the store. Any romance in the fruit has been lost as a thin film over the asphalt that stretches from the orchards in Washington to the air-conditioned interior habitats of summer in the desert.

So you are left with a pit, shreds of cherry in your teeth, and a colander load of subtle disappointment. 

That's how it was for her. It didn't sour her or leave her hardened. Just fed, in the least satisfying kind of way.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Family Camping Trip Packing List

Some of my fondest memories in Girl Scouts are of preparing for camping and backpacking. I've written before about the "stuff" involved. Although getting out of town puts me on edge and makes me almost unbearable to be around, I actually enjoy the mental preparation for a trip, and I like going over the checklists. I enjoy the anticipation of breaking routine, exploring, thinking about where all this equipment will take us.

Could we get by with less than the list below?  Of course.  The first time I really took the kids camping on my own, I felt that we had really overdone it in terms of equipment.  However, once we had a well-organized camping site, it allowed us to spend several days together without having to flail around, look for things, drop things in the dirt, etc. every time we wanted to prepare a meal or get ready for bed.  A well-organized and well-stocked campsite makes it a lot easier with kids, tell you what.  Mine are elementary aged, and it's the golden age for camping trips.  They are old enough to help, not too whiny, and excited to explore anything new.  I can still get them interested in identifying types of trees, wildflowers, birds and rocks.  It's the best family activity I know.  Hopefully our list helps you prepare your next trip.

This link will take you to my document with any changes I make to it, but here's the list as it stands right now:
Camping Trip Packing List

Shelter and Sleeping
  • Ground cloth
  • Tent(s)
  • Sleeping pads
  • inflatable mattress & pump
  • cots
  • Sleeping bags
  • Pillows
  • Chairs
  • rug for tent entryway

Camp Kitchen
  • folding table
  • Stove (be sure to test it each time before you go)
  • Stove fuel
  • Charcoal and lighter fuel (if grilling)
  • Firewood and kindling (if allowed)
  • Matches/lighter
  • Cooking pots and pans
  • Cast iron grill
  • Extra drinking water & large water dispenser (to get you started & then to refill for your campsite)
  • Utensil set (including spoons, knives, forks, and cooking utensils such as serving spoons, knives, and spatulas) TONGS.
  • Can opener
  • Mess kits for everyone (plates, cups, bowls)
  • sporks
  • Cooler and ice  (make block ice)
  • Dish detergent
  • Dish towels/ small towels
  • Sponge/scraper
  • Plastic basin (for washing dishes)
  • Small bottle of bleach or antibacterial kitchen cleaner
  • Tablecloth
  • Trash bags
  • Foil
  • Ziploc bags
  • Hot pads
  • Citronella candle
  • Food Items
  • Snacks
  • Fruit
  • Peanut butter and bread (very quick and handy if your kids like it)
  • Butter/cooking oil
  • Condiments (salt, pepper, multi-spice, and mustard/catsup when applicable)
  • Beverages (juice boxes, milk)
  • Coffee, tea, or hot chocolate
  • Milk, sugar (if needed)
  • Desserts
  • Makings for s'mores (marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate)
  • 2 big coolers.  Picnic cooler.

Handy Stuff
  • Extra shade-- tarp or whatever
  • Paracord
  • Rubber bands/ zip ties
  • bungee cords
  • extra adjustable straps
  • Clothespins
  • Duct tape
  • Multi-tool/utility knife & vise grips
  • Small handheld broom (for sweeping out the tent)
  • Lantern
  • Headlamps for all
  • Batteries/ car chargers for everything
  • bandana

  • washcloths
  • Soap
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Shampoo/ conditioner (if showers)
  • Face cleanser/ moisturizer
  • Quarters for pay showers (?)
  • Toothbrushes/toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Razor
  • Toilet paper and trowel
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Baby wipes

First Aid/ Medical
  • Bandages
  • Gauze/ tape
  • Ace bandage  (or instead of tape I buy that stretchy stuff that sticks to itself and it can double for an ace bandage)
  • Benadryl
  • Neosporin (with pain relief)
  • Bug repellent
  • Ibuprofen
  • Tweezers
  • Moleskin (if hiking)
  • Prescription meds

Clothing for All
  • Shoes/Boots
  • Shorts
  • Long pants
  • Tee shirts
  • Sandals/flip-flops or water shoes (for public showers)
  • Wool socks
  • Underwear
  • Rain/wind jacket
  • sweater or jacket
  • Pajamas
  • Bathing suits
  • Sunglasses
  • beanie-type hat
  • Sun hat/ cap
  • Swim towels
  • Daypacks

  • Water bottles/ hydration packs
  • Camera
  • Video camera
  • Reading material for all (including good bedtime stories)
  • Guidebooks and maps
  • Camping reservation info
  • Cell phone

Kid Stuff

  • Bicycles
  • Whistle/compass
  • crawdadding equipment (line, hook, summer sausage, bucket)
  • knot-tying books
  • Toys, board games, or deck of cards
  • Journal or sketchbook & writing/drawing implements.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Beating Them All" Mostly Hype. Create Your Own Study Plan!

Beating Them All! Thirty Days to a Magic Score on Any Elementary Literacy Instruction Exam for Teacher CertificationBeating Them All! Thirty Days to a Magic Score on Any Elementary Literacy Instruction Exam for Teacher Certification by Chris Nicholas Boosalis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


I briefly referenced most of the book, but read all of Chaper Two: Magic Content. In addition to my review below, I was surprised at the number of editing errors or omissions, and surprised to see that Pearson published this.  Shabby editing.

First of all, the idea of "magically" getting a good score on a test is appealing, but stupid.  I know that idea was in the title, but I didn't realize the Boosalis would continue to throw that in there.  I suppose it was supposed to boost my confidence, but all it did was make me feel like I was reading an infomercial.

In fact, precious space (and study time, had I read the whole book) was used often to explain how valuable, well-organized and extremely essential everything in the book was.  I tired of these mini marketing statements when I know exactly why I bought this book:  To dig into basic concepts of reading assessment and instruction at the elementary levels that I don't encounter regularly as a high school teacher. Unfortunately, I only really found that info. in one chapter.

I suppose that Chapter 2 was useful in the sense that it reassured me that my internet search for resources was actually well on the right track, and that had I known this book was so much about test strategies and so little about actual content, I could have prepared just as well by spending more time with the resources I found online.  You can peruse my list of resources on my blog without paying 28.99: http://amethysthintonsainz.blogspot.c....  Also, it did conceptually help me to create a schema for some of the information that I found online, and I think that will be helpful.

The other chapters were all about testing strategy. I feel very confident about my essay writing skills, and my ability to study for and pass a multiple choice exam.  I suppose that if I felt less competent in these areas, the rest of the book would have been more useful.  To Boosalis' credit, the tables and charts at the end of the book do provide good structures for creating a study guide to the material, and some people might benefit from that. The problem is that it wasn't really comprehensive, and so something like an electronic file or flashcard set that can be added onto is more useful for me.

If you have huge test anxiety or are not a quick or organized student, this book would be more useful.  If you are looking for an overview of essential issues, there are just as useful ways to go for less money.

View all my reviews