Saturday, 19 July 2014

Banana Muffins

Today is not insanely hot and I'm not working, a rare combination in the summer. I'm taking advantage of this mix to make muffins. I don't often cook in the summer because the oven heats up my apartment too much, so today is nice.

For your cooking pleasure, I present my banana muffin recipe:

3 bananas (well, 3-ish; if you have 4, by all means use all four, especially if they're small)
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
a small container of yogurt (the size you pack in lunches) or the rough equivalent*
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup flour

Mash up the bananas, add the egg, oil, yogurt, and sugar, and mix well. Add the baking soda and flour** and mix just until everything is wet and mushy; do not over-mix.

Fill your muffin cups and bake at 350 for around 30 minutes (maybe a bit less, maybe a bit more; it depends on your oven). You should get 12 muffins.

*About the yogurt: it's optional. The original recipe didn't call for yogurt, but one day I was making muffins and discovered that I didn't have any eggs. I searched on-line for a solution and discovered that yogurt can replace eggs when making muffins (although not for everything), so I threw in a small container of vanilla yogurt. I liked the texture, so now I add it all the time, even when I have eggs. The muffins are moister and the vanilla flavor is nice. You can leave out the yogurt or try different flavors.

**Okay, true baking confession time: I know I'm supposed to mix the dry ingredients separately and then add them. I don't. I add the baking soda and get it all mixed in, and then I add the flour. I see no reason to dirty another bowl for baking soda and flour.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

School

This is the first summer in years that I haven't been heading off to school for a week. I miss it. I really liked being around other students and getting to learn all week. Finishing my degree was a great moment and a complete relief; I do not miss having deadlines and papers to write.

I miss the learning. I miss the friendships. I miss the laughter and fun.

I miss having a week where I could relax and be a student again. It was a vacation from real life.

I don't miss it enough to start another degree. I just miss it enough to be a little bit sad today.

I have a friend heading down to Masters next week for his last week of classes. I'm a bit envious. I wish I was going too.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Gearing up for Summer

School is out today or tomorrow depending on the school. The students are excited and the teachers are excited and I'm bracing myself for summer.

Summer is good. The sun shines for long hours, it's warm, there are flowers, and it's a great time to drink iced coffee. Summer at work, though, is a bit more challenging. The students are there all day: 10-2 and 4-8. I get a bit of a break in the middle to catch up on stuff. Some centres are open 9-1, 1:30-3:30, and 4-8. I have no idea how they cope with no down time (yes, they get 30 minutes twice a day, but between students who are picked up late and students who leave early, that's not really any time).

So far summer is looking very quiet this year. There aren't a lot of students coming during the early times, which is odd. Usually evenings are quieter. We haven't had a lot of calls about new students yet either; usually that's started by now. It's left us wondering what is happening out there and if we're going to get swamped next week. Usually the first couple weeks of July are wild with testing new students.

I am considering reading comprehension skills for some parents. These would be the ones who haven't returned their summer schedules despite a May 30th deadline, the words "I need the schedule even if your child is keeping the same schedule in the summer" and regular emails. The other parents are the ones who get the schedule and ask to come from 2-4. Is it really to difficult to understand that we're closed then?

Right now we're waiting to see what summer will bring. Will it stay somewhat quiet, or is everyone waiting until the weekend to start calling?

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Sunday School

Today was the last Sunday School for the year. I finished by giving them their final exam. I don't take it very seriously and they're allowed to work together, use old worksheets, and copy from one another. Basically, I want them to review some key topics and go home with a short recap of the year.

A couple of my boys had most of the worksheets with them (they came prepared this year). They weren't very organized, though, so they ended up with a mess of papers all over the table and everyone searching through to find the right pages! The other teacher and I helped them find the right papers, worked on spelling, and encouraged them to help each other. In the end, almost everyone finished (some students were late and some were slow at writing).

It was interesting to watch. One of the older boys finished his test quickly with some help from the other boys' papers but did not think he should have to help anyone else. He ended up just sitting there doing nothing because I took his test away and gave it to one of the slower students so she could copy his answers. He knew all the answers and could have helped the others, but choose not to. I don't think, in the three years I had him, that I managed to get through to him on this area. He's smart and quick and I haven't been able to teach him about grace and putting others first. I'll keep praying for him.

By now I'm ready for a break from teaching. By September I'll be ready to teach again and very happy to have them back. I'm losing 4 of my boys to the junior/senior high class, but the 3 girls who should move on have asked to stay (two sets of parents are concerned about them being with the older teenagers, and the third girl will stay because there are no other girls moving up).

This summer I need to start preparing for next year. We're going to be studying Acts and the early church.

It's been a good year.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

What's Up

Okay, I really meant to get back to writing somewhat regularly after school was done. I still plan to. I've just been enjoying not being stressed, not having to write, not having to read specific books within a specific deadline, not having too much to do, and not feeling behind all the time.

In the past month, I've been somewhat busy at work (one day soon I'll tell you about my new responsibilities). I finished writing the Sunday School curriculum, and today I wrote the final exam. I also finished arranging Junior Church for this year. I met with the elder and started planning teacher training and next fall's Sunday School and Junior Church programs.

I've read a lot (still mostly nonfiction, but of my own choice and at my own pace). I've probably spent too much time on the computer, reading stuff and playing games. I finally cleaned the apartment (well, most of it). I bought some plants for my balcony (I choose them based on which ones were prettiest, so they're a mix of pink, purple, red, peach, white, and yellow flowers). I made some banana muffins. I might make more later today (someday I'll post my banana muffin recipe; it's one I got from a friend with slight modifications).

This summer I need to write book reviews for the women's discipleship class at the church, sew a skirt (the material has been cut out for a long time), at least start Sunday School and Junior Church lessons for this fall, and write more.

I'm starting to feel more relaxed and ready to tackle tasks.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Competition

I have mixed feelings about competition.

We have contests at work sometimes, and we play games with a set winner. The kids sometimes get very competitive, but it's for a short period, someone wins, and they all get on with life. We have contests in Sunday School and some of the kids get very competitive (and then we talk about perspective and showing grace). Some people have told me that we should never have a contest with a winner because it's the wrong way to motivate children, and the ones who don't win feel bad, blah, blah, blah. I obviously disagree. I think there are wrong ways to do competition. I don't make it such a big deal that the ones who don't win feel bad forever, and I make sure there is always another chance to win. I also make the contests and such optional, so no one has to participate (I don't like people trying to force me to be competitive so I won't do it to the children). At work, every hour there's another transition time with a game to play, so every hour there can be a different winner. Plus, a lot of the children just like playing, even if they don't win. We keep it fun. In Sunday School, everyone has the opportunity to win the monthly prizes (it's based on who gets the most points for memory work that month, so in theory they could all win every month if they all do the memory work every week). If the person in charge keeps it fun and fair, I don't have a problem.

I can be competitive at times. I like to be right and I like to win. I did multiple quizzes with my nephew when we were on vacation. We tried to win them all (except classic rock, which we gave up on quickly and started making stuff up and gave ourselves half points for synonyms and putting down "not the Beatles" for the artist once). We did not win a single one. We got on with life and were not unduly upset. This competition did not hurt us; it ended up being something fun we could do together.

On the other hand, I can see where competition can be a bad thing. I see it in myself when I can't let go of things because I have to be right, like I'm competing against people to see who is the smartest. I see it in children's sports where winning is so important that coaches and parents yell at children who make mistakes, expecting them to be perfect. I see it in parents who don't think 90s are high enough marks for their children; they have to be better than everyone else. It's that step above "do your best" to "you have to be better than anyone because that is what defines you" and the idea that winning a competition makes you a better person (rather than better at something) and that you can look down on the losers that makes me dislike competition.

It's that desire to be better than everyone. The Bible teaches us to work hard, to work for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23), so of course we should do our best, and trying to win is not a problem. At the same time, it tells us to consider others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-4), so even in competition we need to think about others and how our actions might be affecting them. Which is not to say "you have to lose so others won't feel bad" but "as you play and if you win, remember that it's not more important than this person sitting across from you".

In general, I think competition can be a good things. It can encourage people to do their best, it can be fun, and it can prepare children for the adult world where competition is real. On the other hand, competition can be a problem if it's forced on people, if winning becomes the most important thing is life, and if winners get the idea that they are better people because they win.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Sundays

Two Sundays ago I was with my family in Tampa, boarding a cruise ship, leaving port, starting a wonderful vacation.

Last Sunday I was with my family, back in Tampa, getting off the ship, ending a wonderful vacation. It was Mother's Day and for the first time in years I was spending it with my mother. We mostly spend it in airports, which I'm sure is where every mother wants to spend Mother's Day.

It was good to be with my family and especially to hang out with my mum on Mother's Day. I miss them all a lot since they're so far away.

Today I was home, in my church with my church family. I taught my Sunday School class, worshiped with a crowd of other believers, hugged a lot of people, caught up with what has been happening, and admired the babies (there are a lot of babies at my church). I love my church family and I love that I belong there and that I can call it home. My nieces and nephews tried to convince me to move back to Thunder Bay, but I pointed out that I have a job and a life here and I belong here now. Mostly it was my church that I was thinking about at those times.

If those nieces and nephews (and their parents (and my parents)) would move out to Edmonton, I could have both of my families in one place and everything would be wonderful.