Construction, Construction, What’s your Function?! Frustration!

Construction, Construction, What’s your Function?! Frustration!

Our town is full of road construction right now. It started mid-April and is in full swing. We are outgrowing our infrastructure and thus, the roads are getting widened, grocery store chains are building new, improved, larger stores, and more housing developments are developing! Needless to say, it is frustrating to get from one end of town to the other.

On Tuesdays, I walk with a girlfriend for just over an hour.  We trade routes every other week, and this week was my turn to drive to her house and walk in her neighborhood. What is normally a ten minute drive was a 30 minute drive yesterday. The roads near both of our houses are ripped up, constituting a drive out-of-the-way to reach each other. Almost there, it started to rain. When I got there, we walked anyway, in the rain.

It was a wet, but enjoyable, quiet relief from dodging the orange cones and noise of the jack hammer.  I needed the relaxation and so did she.

The worst part is that I find people are driving very haphazardly! Is it due to all the rain? Is it due to the construction? I do not know for sure, but some of it is due to impatience.  Frustration and impatience are on the rise for the drivers in our town as we battle this construction during this spring and summer.

Just today, on the way home from buying annuals to plant in my garden, two nearly close calls had me gesticulating from the driver’s side of my car, while I watched an SUV approach me too rapidly from behind after I made a turn. I am not sure they had even seen me approach. I was turning left from an arm of the intersection that has the right of way.  This is a very strange intersection in our town. It is a three-way stop at a four-way intersection. What is usually an area that has a slight amount of risk in passing through, has grown exponentially in danger since the construction has started.  This is where I was almost rear-ended today. The driver caught my surprised gesticulation and backed off, accordingly. No vulgarity was involved.

However, almost immediately after that, another vehicle made a right hand turn in front of one of our school buses that was signaling a drop off with flashing red lights and a retractable stop sign that was extended.  I am hoping the bus driver caught her license plate. She definitely knew what she did and slowly pulled over – which was probably another dangerous decision, given the time of day.

I was glad to return home, safe. I have to be honest here and disclose that I am not a fan of all this growth and parallel need for construction in our town.  I will be more than happy when the construction ends and has no function, leaving us with wider – hopefully safer, roads on which to drive.

Are you a teacher?

Are you a teacher?

Today, I discovered something about myself. I have a very difficult time calling myself a teacher! While at the local copy store this morning, getting my third grade writer’s circle student newspapers made from the mock-up, the clerk said, “You must be a teacher.” She was looking at the student work on the 11 x 26 inch double-sided page I had given her in order to obtain ten copies.  It was more of a question than a statement in the way she asked me. I was taken aback by my response.

“Well, I’m really a nurse who likes to teach,”  I replied, before realizing what I was saying.

What?! My brain silently screamed, as I stood there looking back at the clerk. A nurse? You phony! You haven’t been a nurse in almost twenty years!

Then, I realized that I almost said, “I’m a wanna be teacher.”  That much at least would have been true!  I  have wanted to be a teacher as long as I can remember.  Believe it or not, there were no available teaching jobs when it was my time to go to college in the early 80’s. Tenured teachers were being laid off. Who wants to spend four years in college to not have a job when you are finished? Instead, I chose nursing; there were jobs.

But, you know, I am a teacher. I have taught hundreds of  elementary students over the last twelve years as a garden club leader. I now have thirty-six students who have participated in writer’s circle with me over the last six years. I am a teacher. Why can’t I tell a stranger that?

It must be some weird adherence to the social norm of what a “real” teacher is.  A real teacher has a license, a real teacher has a classroom, a real teacher grades student work, and a real teacher is not told they need 3 years of additional undergraduate work (on top of baccalaureate and master’s degrees in nursing and another half-finished graduate degree in environmental education) to be one.  A real teacher gets a paycheck (although, some would argue that it is not enough). No, I don’t have those things. So, I must not be a “real” teacher.  I cannot say that I am.

But, wait a minute. I have students who are not assigned to me by administration, but elect to come to my enrichment groups. I have students who do the work I ask them to do  and give it to me to receive my feedback.  I have students I care about. I have students who care about me.  I have loads of people who think of me as a teacher. Then, why can’t I say it?

My response this morning was a revelation for me. It was a kind of personal wake up call. If I do not say I am a teacher – then, I am the one thinking I am not one. This stops today.  I should not define myself by another educator introducing me as a “parent who does a lot of things.”  I should not define myself by the lack of a license.  I should not define myself by the lack of a formal classroom or title.  I know what I am; I am a teacher!  The next time some stranger asks, that is what I will reply.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go meet my writer’s circle students. We are celebrating the creation of their third grade newspaper and I am their teacher!


Soon to be Adrift

Soon to be Adrift

via Daily Prompt: Adrift

I assume at some point soon, I will be adrift. A club I founded and led for the last twelve years is ending. I am electing to end it, even though it is still very popular with the students. The club, an elementary garden club, is for any student in grades two through five at one of our local, public elementary schools.  Over the years, I have had any where from 25-63 students enrolled for our once a month meetings on horticultural topics. Of late, the club has become more based on environmental issues like monarch habitat decline and the loss of our forests.  We have even discussed cacao or chocolate and where it comes from and the social issues involved with the growing and harvesting of these beans that become one of the world’s most delectable treats. We could have spent an entire year on any of these topics – monarchs, forests, and chocolate.  Instead, we spend a monthly meeting discussing these and other topics of interest – corn, carnivorous plants, flower bulbs, milkweed, plant life cycles, bamboo, fruit trees, vermi-composting, pumpkins, and fungi, among others.

Over the last twelve years, the topics have consumed me. Hours upon hours have been spent preparing the lesson plans and activities to accompany the lessons. We usually have an interactive discussion for forty-five minutes, followed by a hands-on activity, based on the topic, for forty-five minutes.  The lessons are interdisciplinary, meaning that I bring in components from math, language arts, and social studies, not just science. Math questions related to our garden club topics have been developed and distributed for a school wide raffle for the last three years.  Children’s literature is brought in with stories by authors such as Tomie dePaola on the legend of the poinsettia and the story of popcorn. Haiku on bees were written this year and several are to be published in a national compilation. Vocabulary is expanded as I explain my love for words and what a particular one means. Cultural practices such as three sister’s plantings, and maple syrup collection are introduced along with geographical representations of the habitat of carnivorous plants or the location of migration for monarchs in the spring and fall. There has been something for everyone, and anyone, who has an interest. The more I read and search to prepare my lessons, the more I learn and the better I can discuss the information with the students. If there are questions, we find out together. I have never pretended to know everything. Yes, garden club has consumed me for the last twelve years.

Now that I have made the very difficult decision to end the group, I am starting to wonder about what will replace the hundreds of hours spent each year working on developing and teaching  these lessons, new math questions, activity assemblages, care of the butterfly garden, and communications with staff, students, and parents.  I expect for a while, I will be adrift. I think it will be alright. I need time to think about how and where I can next impact our youth to become environmental stewards. I have always wanted to publish my curricular materials. Now, there will be time for that. I have started to speak at conferences and meetings about developing a garden club. After all, we were successful – we ran for twelve years. I have been asked to be a guest speaker for local community groups and classrooms on topics especially close to my heart, like monarch habitat conservation. There are 18 more graduate credits for me to complete before obtaining my Master’s degree in Environmental Education and Interpretation. Maybe, I can take an increased credit load to finish. I just know none of the empty hours will be spent preparing for garden club.

Yes, I expect to be adrift soon and for the drifting to last for a while. My hope is that it will not last too long. My passion for teaching about the environment will soon anchor me in a new place so I can plant more seeds of environmental stewardship. The drifting will end and I can be consumed again. I just need to walk through the door.


Preview: If you are interested in why I have chosen to end this club, please return to the blog tomorrow for my post regarding the end of garden club. Thank you!

Inspired by the Daily Prompt: Adrift

A Stormy Week – Tornado Warnings & All

A Stormy Week – Tornado Warnings & All

This week we experienced some wild weather. It was Wednesday evening, around 5pm, when my youngest son called and asked to be picked up from track practice at our high school. The sky had darkened and we expected more rain, even though we had definitely gotten our share already.  As we came back in the driveway, the clouds were ominous. Less than 10 minutes later, my cell phone went off in the kitchen, alerting us that a tornado warning had been issued for our county. We have lived here eighteen years and I can count on one hand the number of times we have “hidden” in the basement due to a tornado warning being issued.  This was the first time in about seven years we had a specific warning. Dinner on hold, and phone in hand, off to the basement we went.  There, we did turn on the T.V. to see what the weather radar could tell us. A few things we already knew about this storm. It was generating a lot of wind and driving rains. The various noises were making our cat nervous. We experienced sideways rain with gusting winds around lunch time earlier on this same day, wild enough for me to take photographs and video.  The sky had also become very dark. The radar confirmed that the tornado warning was necessary.  Winds over 60 mph and driving rains along with rotation was noted in the clouds. No tornado touch down in our area was confirmed during the storm. Those came a day or two later, after the investigative teams determined two F0’s and an F1 had been confirmed in counties north of us. The warnings continued to be issued on the newscast and precautions hopefully were taken by those, like us, who consider these to be serious storms.

During all this, my seventeen year old was at tennis practice! Our courts are in a nearby park, not at the high school. I texted him but did not get a response. Luckily, the tennis coach is a pretty serious guy and I felt confident that he had gotten his team off the courts and into shelter. Still, several texts later, without a response from my son, was  nerve-wracking.

Finally, the warnings expired, as the storm had moved northward past our area and into adjacent counties. The sky lightened, although rain continued to fall.  The cat was no longer cowering from fear and resumed a comfortable napping position. Dinner preparations resumed. And, the phone rang. My tennis playing son was safe and headed home.

All was well, after the storm.



International Museum Day

International Museum Day

This morning, reading my morning social media feed provided a moment of serendipity. One of the posts reminded me that it was International Museum Day. Just recently, after assigning my writer’s circle students to write on a the events of a specific day in history, one completed the work for the date of May 18th, informitng me of International Museum Day. It was the first I’d heard of this designation and now, it had popped up again, only a couple of weeks later!

I’ve been fornuate to have been able to visit some wonderful museums. My travels include several international museums as well some closer to home.  I think my fascination with museums stems from an 8th grade field trip to the Toronto Science Center.  The other attractant that draws me to museums is that I love information!

Some of the museums recommended to visit in the United States are the following:

  • Franklin Institute – Philadelphia PA
  • The Air and Space Museum in San Diego, California
  • The Smithsonian Institution Museums in Washington, D.C.
    • The Air and Space Museum is a favorite and one I have been to several times in my life, sharing it with my parents, my husband, and my boys – all on separate occasions. If you like space flight and airplanes, it is the place to go!
    • The Natural History Museum is also a favorite of mine, having much to offer my curiosity about science and our natural world.
  • Also in Washington, D.C., is the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. We took our teen boys to this museum in the summer of 2015. It is a sad and serious place that loudly reviberates the atrocities that humans can commit against each other. I would d like to say it should not be missed, but it is not for everyone. It might be too emotionally draining and definitely not something I would do with young children.
  • Being from Rochester, New York, a trip to the George Eastman Museum (and House) is necessary to for any visiting photographer or local resident fascinated with the lore of the Eastman Kodak Company.
  • Also in Rochester is the The Strong – National Museum of Play. This is what I would deem a pre-eminent children’s museum. It has something for everyone and probably bears repeat visits or membership if you are a local family in that region. I’ve been to other children’s museums around the country, including Madison, WI and even volunteered in our local children’s museum in La Crosse, WI, but nothing has ever surpassed The Strong! Of course their numerous and generous endowments allow this museum to continue to be top notch. One cannot reasonable expect other children’s museum to compete without simlar funding.
  • Philadelphia is filled with museums, and the Franklin Institute, mentioned above is filled with interesting exhibits.  One must visit Independence Mall, which has numerous museum like venues but is run by the National Park Service. Gettysburg is another place I would highly suggest visiting that has several museums or museum like exhibits.

Internationally, the following museums are interesting –

There is more about my visits to these Dutch museums in an earlier post on the Dutch artist, Vermeer.

As you can tell, I think museums are great places to visit. If you are able, start going to a few local museums with your children.  If they are exposed early to museums, they will develop an ability to appreciate the exhibits and time spent learning about our world!

Happy International Museum Day!


Busy Finch on a Morning Filled with Birds

Busy Finch on a Morning Filled with Birds

This morning I was able to watch a female purple finch work on making her nest. She caught my eye as I looked out my kitchen window and saw movement in the garden below, near an ornamental Korean Lilac tree close to blooming. Busily, she kept adding pieces of mulch and plant debris to the clutch in her beak, obviously approving of the quality and availability.

Not making the connection at first, I soon realized her nest was being made in tightly woven confines of branches in the soon to flower lilac. She nearly disappeared when she entered the rounded crown where her family would  grow.

After a brief period, and maybe realizing I was watching, she flew out of the tree, off to another place to collect treasures of twigs that might strengthen her soon to be nest.  In the time I sat waiting for her return, now with camera in hand, I noticed other birds were checking out Miss Kim II (fond nickname of the Lilac Tree). Several robins visited, barn swallows, and at least one tiny black-capped chickadee.  The swallow, or at least what I thought was a swallow, was really checking out the tree and sat in it for several minutes. The lady finch had returned, now only ten feet away, sitting on our deck railing, again with a mouthful of the newest nest components. She patiently sat, waiting for the other birds to leave. Again, I assumed she could see me, now the lady with the camera, and wanted to be sure I was there to do nothing more than take pictures.

Eventually, the purple finch flew back onto the very top branches of Miss Kim II, still holding her precious oral cargo. There, she very obviously checked around the yard for what I imagine she thought were any signs of potential predators. After looking thoroughly, I saw her fly into the tree once again to add to her nest.

There was a flurry of song bird activity in our yard this morning. My observations all started with noticing a very plump Eastern Blue Bird siting on our deck rail, in the very same spot the finch subsequently patiently waited to return to the popular, odiferous, and soon to bloom lilac tree.

The beauty of the birds, the color of the tree, and the persistence of the finch, all attracted my attention today. It’s the little things in life. Notice them.

Wordless Wednesday: Views of the Iowa State University Campus

Wordless Wednesday: Views of the Iowa State University Campus

The Campanile on Central Campus at Iowa State University. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015.
Spring Tulips at Iowa State University. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015.
Outside of Friley Hall (Dormatory) during early December Snowstorm. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2013.


Catt Hall, Home of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, at ISU, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015
Beadshear Hall at Iowa State University, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017.


Jischke Honors Building at Iowa State University, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017


Close up of the Bell Tower, Graduation Weekend 2017, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017


Spring Color at Iowa State University, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017


Fall Color At Iowa State University. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015


May 2017, Iowa State Campus, Campanile. © Carol Labuzzetta, 2017
Bell Tower Doorway, Iowa State University, © Carol Labuzzetta, 2015.