School Leaf Collection Projects

When did teachers stop requiring students to make leaf collections in science class?

I remember making one in junior high; so did my sister. But none of our kids did.

Could it be that today’s teachers think all kids have to do is Google stuff if they’re interested in leaves and trees?

When I was that age, we didn’t have Google, and teachers recognized the connection between physically doing something and learning.

So we had to scour the countryside for actual leaves and fruit; take detailed notes on the shape of the tree, the appearance of its bark, and its location; preserve the leaves between pieces of wax paper inserted into big thick books; and organize the whole thing into some sort of folder.

For a grade.

We quickly learned:

  • where in town the interesting trees could be found
  • to be careful with those leaves, gathering intact specimens rather than bug-bitten ones
  • and to work quickly, before frost fell

I can still hear my dad cautioning me, “Don’t wait ’til the last minute, Deb. Some trees lose their leaves in winter.”

A certain protocol came about with school leaf collection projects and for a shy kid like me, it was uncomfortable.

You had to find the tree, then knock on the owner’s door and ask if you could have a leaf for your collection.

Not borrow it — you weren’t bringing it back!

Most folks didn’t seem to mind. Some told me to help myself to the lot of ’em. They were going to fall off anyway, and this would mean one less for them to rake up and burn.

It was a happy day when no one answered the knock on the door. Only then could I grab the prize leaf and RUN!

Thanks to my forward-thinking, yet practical, teachers, I did learn about leaves and trees. To this day, I can identify many trees by their shape, bark, and leaves.

My Favorite Domer finds this fascinating though a bit odd. He never had to make a leaf collection so one tree looks pretty much like another to him.


So who else out there has memories of leaf collections in school?

That Helpless Feeling

My Favorite Domer (AKA College Guy) called the other night to tell me he’s been sick with some kind of upper respiratory bug.

The kind that makes your nose run. And your eyes water. And your throat tickle.

The kind that makes you want to crawl into bed and sleep, not pore over textbooks, take notes, and study for tests.

This might be one of the hardest things to endure as a parent — a kid who’s sick and miles away from home.

No, it’s not a major catastrophe (thank heaven!).

Yes, many of his friends are also sick. The changing weather — hot and windy one day, cold and rainy the next — certainly plays a part. And it doesn’t help that he’s had too many nights without sufficient sleep of late.

I know these “bugs” have to run their course, generally a week to 10 days.

But the mom in me wants to feed him chicken noodle soup and Jello. Why? Because my mom fed that to me, and it seemed to help.

I want to strip the sheets off his bed and put on fresh ones. To tuck him in with some Vicks VapoRub and a humidifior belching warm steam.

I want to draw the blinds and close his door, letting him sleep until he feels better.

I want to set aside his homework and books and projects. Just for a little while.

Just until his brain isn’t so foggy and he’s able to concentrate again.

But I can’t. I’m too far away, and he’s too grown up for mom to hit the highway and hover over him.

So I fight that helpless feeling, knowing there’s an Infirmary on campus if he starts feeling really awful.

And I pray for healing. And I count the days until he’s well and back to being himself.

What tricks have you found that make sick kids feel better?

Maybe I’m a Good-Luck Charm

ND 31, MSU 13

Somebody needs to tell Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly that I’m his team’s Good Luck Charm.


And he should think about providing me with a season pass — sidelines would be good — for as long as my charming ways continue.

Which could be forever.

Not convinced? Okay, let’s look at the facts:

  • The Record. Going into this game, the Fighting Irish were 0-2, after being nationally ranked prior to the season’s start. The Spartans of Michigan State University were 2-0. Logic tells me MSU should have won, but the Irish pulled out a convincing 31-13 victory. Because I was there!
  • The Weather. Two weeks ago, Notre Dame’s initial home game was caught in a series of wicked storms, causing the game to be rain-delayed, twice. But this Saturday’s weather was perfect — sunny and pleasant — all because I showed up!
  • The Band. The Band of the Fighting Irish couldn’t take to the field for their first home game, due to inclement weather. Ostensibly, this meant that long hard hours of marching and playing were flushed down the drain. But because I was there, the Band performed that halftime show post-game, letting fans see what they missed and giving music-lovers two halftime shows!
  • Turnovers. Notre Dame led the nation in its first two games with 10 turnovers — yikes. You can’t win football games like that. So, thanks to my presence on Saturday, the turnovers were limited to just three (still too many, but hey, I did what I could!)
  • Fake Field Goal. Last year, MSU’s fake field goal play caught the Irish by surprise and sent the game into overtime, where the Spartans were victorious. They tried again on Saturday, but this time the Irish were ready and foiled the attempt. Because I was there!

So Coach Kelly, if you’re reading this, please rest assured it was my Good-Luck Charm presence that led to your practically perfect outcome on Saturday.

And I think I could handle a reward in the way of some freebie tickets. That sounds fair, doesn’t it?

Okay, maybe I had a little help from former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was back at her ND alma mater for the same weekend.

She can share the glory. I’ll stick with the free tickets!

Of Rings and Things

The third year of college, similar to the junior year of high school, is unique in that generally, this is the year students are allowed to choose their class rings.

ND class rings, large and small

Four years ago, My Favorite Domer (AKA College Guy) refused to have a high school class ring, even when I offered to pick up the tab for it.

‘I’d only wear it two years at most,’ he said. ‘Why spend a couple of hundred dollars on something like that?’

Part of me agreed with him. It was a rather senseless-sounding expense.

But back in the day, most of us wore our high school rings into college, thereby extending the practicality of the purchase.

Different times, I guess.

In the spring semester of his sophomore year, I received a flyer with information on ordering College Guy’s class ring — a ring he wouldn’t be allowed to receive or wear until two weeks into his junior year — and I shared it with him over the phone.

‘Definitely!’ he answered to my question about his desire for one.

When he came home in May, we pored over the brochure and the Website, examining the options, weighing the costs of the different metals, finishes, stones and sizes. Soon he knew exactly what he wanted.

So over the summer we trekked to South Bend and placed the order. It was way more money than either of us wanted to spend, but how can one put a price tag on memories?

Recently he called and announced he’d gotten his ring. I won’t get to see it for a while, but I marvel at the tradition, the history:

  • Notre Dame class rings haven’t changed since they were first offered, some 80 years ago!
  • Rings are worn with the school name facing the owner until that person graduates; the ring is then “turned outward to face the world.”
  • Class rings feature shamrocks, Celtic font, a cross, the interlocking ND, the school seal, and the Dome.
  • Rings can be personalized with initials, name, and graduation year.

Do you still have your class ring, from high school or college? Does it hold special memories for you?

Remembering Sept. 11, 2001

I’d just started my new Web Design business three months previously and was actively seeking new clients and new projects.

Earlier in the week I’d been contacted by one of the officers of our local shopping mall association. They had a Website but it wasn’t doing everything they wanted it to, nor did it look as inviting as they knew shoppers expected.

Would I come by the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and do a presentation for them? Nothing too fancy, nothing too formal. Just kind of let them know how I could transform their online presence, as well as a general idea how much that would cost.

Sure. Of course. I was elated! Something this big had the potential of changing my life.

Gathering my presentation materials — informational fliers, business cards, etc. — that morning, I fought back a case of nerves as I pulled into the mall parking lot.

I’ve met most of these people before, I told myself. I can do this. It won’t cost them a fortune. I need the business, and doing such a potentially-extensive site will look good on my portfolio.

I had my car radio on but wasn’t really listening to it. I was previewing in my mind’s eye my presentation — visualizing success, I believe they call it.

Suddenly the announcer screamed something like, “Oh, my God, NO!” and started talking about a plane flying into a tower in New York City.

The news-hound in me wanted to learn more. I wanted to be in front of the TV like I was during Space Shuttle Challenger’s ill-fated explosion shortly after takeoff in 1986.

It was incomprehensible to me that, in the midst of all that destruction and loss of life, my life was going on.

Now my nerves became super-charged as I walked into the mall. Everyone was talking about the disaster, speculating on the whys and whos. After introductions, I began my presentation, sensing that no one was really listening, no one was really caring.

I could hardly wait to wrap things up, to get back home where I could glue myself to the TV.

And I did. Just like hundreds of thousands of people worldwide.

My Flag will be flying tomorrow, and my thoughts and prayers will be offered up for my innocent fellow Americans who lost their lives, their family members, their jobs.

By the way, I wasn’t selected for the mall project, but my life did change — other projects have come along, other BIG news has taken place. I’ve come to a deeper faith, to an inner conviction that, regardless of what terrors this world throws at us, the final outcome is cause for joy. God wins!

Safe in the Storm

My Favorite Domer (AKA College Guy) called me around 9:30 Saturday evening to inform me their first football game had finally ended.

I already knew that, of course, because I was watching as much as I could. What I didn’t know was whether he was safe, so his call served to relieve my fears. Let me explain.

The skies over South Bend were wild and wooly, beginning Saturday afternoon as the Irish hosted South Florida.

Temperatures were in the mid-90s. It was sultry. Steamy. Still.

I don’t know how football players are expected to perform their best when conditions are that unbearable.

Maybe they’re used to that in South Florida — yeah, they probably are! — but not in northern Indiana.

Anyway, the Irish came into Saturday’s game sporting a #16 national ranking. To say they appeared full of themselves might be an understatement. To say the first half proved a comeuppance for them couldn’t be truer.

The Irish fumbled. Their passes were intercepted. They racked up as many personal fouls as a team of junkyard dogs.

South Florida led going into halftime 16-0.

As the Irish Band prepared to take the field, the weather began changing — rapidly.

The wind picked up. Dark clouds rolled in from the west.

The announcer told the Band to stay off the field and instructed fans to clear the stadium. A severe storm cell was approaching, with potentially dangerous cloud-to-ground lightning and heavy rain.

(College Guy told me it looked like a hurricane outside.)

Just over two hours later, the game resumed. The heat had broken; fans returned.

Finally the Irish were able to put some points on the board.

But in the fourth quarter, another severe storm approached, halting the game again. The TV station covering the action broke away to other programming; I scrambled to ESPN, where I was at least able to watch the scrolling scores.

And I worried. When your kid is away from home in bad weather, that’s what moms do.

I couldn’t do anything about it, but I worried.

All in all, it was a l-o-n-g game, six hours total. And the outcome was dismal, an Irish loss 23-20.

But when I heard my son’s voice on the other end of the line, I rejoiced. He was safe and so were the other attendees.

And that’s really the best news of all.

Determined Weeds

Weeds, I’m afraid, have gotten creative in Central Illinois.

It’s been ages since we’ve had significant rain — the figure that sticks in my mind is less than an inch in the past 30 days, combined with temps in the 90s. We’re not as bad off as Texas and Oklahoma, but a drought is a drought.

Just this week the national Drought Monitor upgraded most of Illinois (except the Chicago area) from “moderate” to “severe” drought status.

No kidding. When everybody’s yard looks like this:

Dried-out lawn

Well, that looks like a drought to me!

Some cities have taken to voluntary or mandatory conservation. Stream and lake levels are low, crops are beginning to suffer. The rains that flirt with our area seem to fizzle or produce just a few drops before moving on.

So our weeds are showing up in the most unlikely of places.

Like in between bricks:

weed in bricks

and in driveways:

driveway weeds

and on sidewalks:

sidewalk weeds

alongside fences:

climbing weed on fence

in between landscaping rocks:

weed in rocks

and even in the streets:

street weeds

The weather casters keep promising us rain. They can promise all they want; they don’t control the weather. But it could be worse — too much rain, in the form of hurricanes, is just as devastating as too little.

Meanwhile, the weeds don’t seem to care. They’re invincible, tenacious, and ever-present. As Dave Barry has said: Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons.

Are you being a persistent weed today?