Saturday, December 30, 2006

Trail Dog

Duke is a mountain goat.

I don't mean that literally, but the dog just loves to hike and there's no stopping him. He just goes and goes and goes. Pretty amazing for a miniature dachshund, huh?

Duke is the smallest of my dogs and runs on pure nervous energy. It's not that he's a barker or that he's neurotic or anything, he just seems perpetually wound up. He rarely relaxes and when he does, you can still see him twitching every 30 seconds or so.

Duke is one of the only dogs I've ever seen who can smile. He smiles in greeting, usually, and if you don't watch carefully, you're likely to miss it. Smiling is accompanied by much wiggling of the hindquarters and vocalizing about whatever it is that is making him so happy - like cheese. Or the prospect of a hike.

Duke just loves to hike and nothing slows him down. On general walks he stays right next to me but when hiking, he plays scout and runs off ahead or takes the rear and makes sure I don't get attacked by a bear or something. He's stepped on foxtails, sharp rocks, and pointy cockleburrs - he just keeps going, hobbling on 3 legs if necessary. I'd like to think he looks at me like the lion looked at Androcles when he removed the thorn - but it's hard to tell with Duke. He usually looks wide-eyed and nervous. Once he tangled with some red ants - they bit him on the paw, rear-driver's side... he didn't even pause. Just hitched up the back end and kept going.

Sometimes I wish I could get inside that little dog's head and figure him out.

When he was a puppy, he lived with Connie and Dave out in Mojave. They had this plan to breed and sell miniature dachshund puppies and Duke was to be the stud. No sooner had they adopted Heidi than the two of them took off for an 8-day adventure in the Mojave Desert. They crawled back to civilization without having learned their lesson - because after birthing 2 litters of pups, they up and did it again. Sadly, Heidi did not return that time and Duke was a bit worse for wear when he hobbled back to the Mojave spread. His hindquarters were very sensitive and he developed a slight hitch in his back leg.

When Connie and Dave moved to Antelope Acres, Duke was penned up and miserable. Dustin and I would often go out to the house when Connie and Dave were up in Washington - to take care of the plants, the house, and Duke. The sight of that little dog peering through the gate, praying for somebody to throw a ball for him really stuck with me. So when Connie and Dave decided to put Duke up for adoption because they couldn't pay him enough attention, Dustin and I leapt at the chance.

Duke seemed to remember Augie Doggie - one of the pups from Heidi's first litter. Even though he was, by all accounts, a terrible father to the puppies, Augie quickly forgave him and they became best friends. As long as Augie gets to be in charge, that is.

Sometimes I take just Duke out for a hike - in compensation for getting picked on by Seamus or bothered by Little Beans. He was the one I took when I first discovered the Pacific Crest Trail in San Francisquito Canyon. He really seems to strut when he is by himself.

I think his favorite hikes are with me and Augie - the two of them run off ahead, side by side, father and son - enjoying life and thinking about whatever trail dogs think about as they run up the trail toward the sun.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

On the Topic of Christmas Bows

I'm wrapping presents today and started ruminating about bows. I wonder how many people really THINK about bows? I think bows get shortchanged.

I love bows, especially the real fancy ones that are tightly looped. Deep reds and greens make me salivate but I appreciate a good white, cream, silver, and gold bow too. Cheap bows annoy me. Why bother?

Some people THROW bows away after unwrapping a gift. I have never understood this. It's not like they wear out or anything - they are perfectly good!

I always dive for the bows and save them, but not after hawking out the situation to make sure the recipient isn't saving bows too. It's not very classy to snatch a good bow away from a bow-saver. It can get kind of embarrassing. I've recycled some bows several times. This is a matter of great pride.

You have to divide your bows into categories before wrapping. Some people, like my father-in-law, get the cheap bows because NOTHING in his house is allowed to hit the floor in the form of trash and bows fit this category. He just stuffs them in the bag and I learned long ago not to complain. (Just dig 'em out later.)

Some people KNOW you recycle bows and just remove the bow and hand it to me. This is quick and easy. Other people have to be told to give me the bow. If they put the bow in the box with the gift, I've learned to ask if they save bows too. Especially if it's a really, really GOOD bow, because they may not realize what they have. Heaven forbid they return home, stack the box and throw away the bow!

The more often you recycle your bows, the cheaper they get to use. If you take the cost of the entire bag of bows and divide it by the number of bows in the bag, you get the FIRST price. But then the price is HALVED each time you recycle it. Pretty soon your bows are costing you fractions of a penny and this HAS to be good for the universe.

If you buy bows one year but don't use them all, you will have them for the following year. Finding a bag of last year's bows is ALMOST as good as getting a bag of bows free! After all, the cost of the bag is depreciated from last year - so it's much cheaper.

Packages with good bows don't need ribbon - ribbon is redundant. The only time you should use ribbon is if you're curling it - and you have to work pretty darn hard to make a curling ribbon "bow" look half-way decent. A well-done curly bow is a work of art.

Bows should be dead-on center of the package - not placed in some obscure corner, throwing off the balance of things. Especially well-done curly bows. They need to cascade JUST SO.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Franky's Gift Tag

Yesterday, the kindergarten kids made beaded necklaces for the mothers for Christmas. Once this fine jewelry was completed, the kids brought their creations over to one of the middle school helpers for wrapping. (We went through an entire roll of tape. More tape is better when you are five.)

The final link in this process was the creation of a gift card for Mom. The kids would dictate what they wanted to say on the card, Lupita would write it out on a white board, and the kids would copy it. (Except for Jasmine. "YOU write it," she ordered me.)

All the kids at the table were hard at work copying their personalized greetings:

"Merry Christmas Mom."
"This is for you, Mom."
"Feliz Navidad, Mami."
"Happy Holidays Mom."
"I love you Mommy."

So Lupita asks Franky what he wants to write on his mother's gift card.

"Happy Halloween," replies Franky.

"But Franky... it's Christmas," reminds Lupita.

Franky is unfazed and doesn't miss a beat.

"I'm okay with that."

Sunday, December 10, 2006

No Tip for the Newspaper Dude

Here is the note I plan to enclose in the fake Christmas card lodged into my L.A. Times when it arrives sometime this week:

Dear Newspaper Dude:

I am in receipt of your thoughtful and obviously "personalized" Christmas greeting and I bet you think that my response includes a cash gift, in acknowledgement of your "service" this year. I am a generous person and considered enclosing a crisp $10 bill - but cannot for the following reasons:

1. Despite my numerous pleadings to you, my "plastic wrapped" paper continues to land in the sprinklers at least 2 mornings out of 7. The plastic wrap does little good. Why do you bother? Call me a tree-hugger.

2. Despite my numerous pleadings to you, the paper ends up UNDER one of my vehicles at least once a week. This means that I, in my work clothes, must get down on my hands and knees at 6am on these currently frosty mornings, to shimmy under a vehicle to retrieve my paper. I don't like having to do this. Call me a wimp.

3. Wet papers are messy and often unreadable. My calls for replacement papers always mean that the readable version won't arrive until AFTER I've left for work. You know darn good and well I leave the house early - because when you deliver my replacement - I AM NOT HOME. Doofus. Call me cantankerous.

4. AND.. at least once a month my paper doesn't show up at all. This may not seem much to you - but I pay $52.00 every other month for this service and do appreciate timeliness. Call me picky and unreasonable.

When you remedy these issues I will enclose a cash gift commisurate with your improved service.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Poinsettia Parts?

We have been making My Poinsettia Book in class, one page per day. This is part of our ELA and ELD lessons for the week.

Today, the kids had to cut out 4 poinsettia leaves from construction paper and glue them onto the page, then add the cut-up text: The leaves are green.

After several reminders, Dominique finally came over to my table and began cutting out the leaves. After gluing down the text, she arranged the leaves artfully on the page. I asked Dominique to come over to me and read the book to me - so I could check the correctness and her developing concepts of print. I noticed that she had glued the arch-shaped scraps from her cut-out leaves to the opposite page.

"Dominique," I asked patiently. "What part of the poinsettia are these?"

Dominique carefully caressed each one and then looked at me seriously, as if she felt very, very, sorry for me.

Then she leaned over and whispered: "The eyebrows."

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The "Little P.E. Lady"

Most of you know that my school has been under Nazi-review the past few years and in addition to the usual Nazi Crew coming in to wag fingers at us, we had a state team come in to do a once-over on our overall program. They used to call it Program Quality Review but now it has a new name and a new acronym.

So Janice, my principal, has been sweating bullets because she knows that our P.E. "program" (rolling on the floor trying not to lose my liver here) leaves a lot to be desired. Not that she really wants to DO anything about it, but she is tired of being "dinged" for stuff. She went to some meeting to let administrators know in advance what this Gestapo Review team is looking for - and she came away quaking in her pointy shoes over the "little P.E. lady."

Apparently this lady wants to see lesson plans, in plan books. She wants a prescribed curriculum that adheres to the California State Standards and she wants those kids SHIP SHAPE and having P.E. every waking minute they aren't learning to read or using the bathroom.

So you know what rolls downhill and the next thing we know there is a fire-drill of the "P.E. in the Planbook" sort. Whether or not you actually DO it seems open to interpretation - but it needs to be in the book and done often enough that the kids don't say "huh?" when asked about P.E.

I have worried about this myself - feeling less than exemplary as a teacher of P.E., I have asked for a curriculum or at least a Binder o' Suggestions. But nothing happened. I eMailed Janice about S.P.A.R.K. P.E.... they have handy little binders chock full of suggestions. Nothing happened. I eMailed Janice about Sue, my sister the P.E. Guru who is willing to come down here FREE and inservice the staff. I sensed a great big YAWN from Janice's office. At least I think it was a yawn since I never heard from her about it.

I sat down with Janice and waved my arms wildly about the crap that is served to our students disguised as school lunches - and was told this was "a battle you will not win." Not that she doesn't agree. But she doesn't eat school lunches.

So, we all had to live in fear today that the "little P.E. lady" would come in with her Nike sweatsuit and $100 running shoes and brightly colored lanyard with a great big shiny whistle attached. I pictured a cross between some Asian dominatrix and Richard Simmons, 5'1" and all of 100 pounds soaking wet - with buns of steel and a finely cut bicep. I figured she would make us all drop and give her twenty.

Well, friends, I gotta tell you.... if I'd been drinking a soda it would have shot out my nose when I saw this "little P.E. lady." If this lady is little, then I'm Thumbelina. I think it would be generous of me to say that this lady's pants size probably rivals the age range of my two sons. She didn't have a whistle - only a clipboard and she apparently loves to count minutes because our kids only got 10 minutes of actual movement time during their hour of P.E. today. (Heaven help poor Kenny tomorrow.) I have to admire her for standing out there for an hour during an icy windstorm, painstakingly counting minutes.

We will be "dinged" she reported in her most severe voice, because 85% of our 5th graders are at risk for heart disease. We do a crappy job of teaching P.E. and she really wants us to know about it.

My mind flashed back to Arroyo Seco Junior High School and my P.E. teacher, Mrs. Hammond, who had a pot belly that rivaled any solid 8-month pregnancy, and liked to scream at us during calisthentics in between drags on her Pall Mall.

If this lady has had ANY exercise in the past year, it has been a walk through the parking lot when everybody and their mother decided to beat her to the grocery store.

I did speak up, of course. I talked about the poor food choices and the necessity for staff development. I didn't mention the apparent dichotomy between HER and her JOB.

She "thanked me for sharing" and then wrote something on her clipboard.

I went an extra ten minutes on the treadmill tonight - just for good measure.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Dad's Birthday

Today is my dad's birthday. On this day in 1938, my grandparents welcomed into the world, gave him a good family name, and proceeded to give him a good childhood.

How does anyone really determine what a "good life" is? Did he live a good life or did he not? How to measure such a thing - that indeterminable quality that defines a life as having been well-lived?

If we measure by accomplishments, we could balance positives by degree. A good job, a loving wife, children, and a head full of hair. But is that enough?

If we measure by pursuits, we can look at life-long literacy that translated into a love of books and curiosity about many things. He loved a good conversation and could entertain people for hours with his wit, knowledge, and good humor. He loved the "manly pursuits" modeled for him by his father and uncle - strong, decent men of integrity who worked hard all their lives and enjoyed outdoor pursuits and working with their hands.

My father certainly didn't lack for looks. Until the day he died that man looked good. Women watched him and on what he would say were too many occasions in his life, he watched back. His weight problem just wasn't an issue. He still looked good - and therein lies one of the differences between men and women.

Did he courageously fight his demons? Those addictions that dogged him relentlessly his whole life? I think he did put up the fight - but something inside him just couldn't be convinced that tenacity needed a hold here - that sticking to something required more than good-looks and a winning smile. He had been beaten by them all his life - and not tasted success. To taste that success might have made all the difference. But how are we to know?

My father was a man of voracious appetite, telling one of his best friends that he "just couldn't stop" and push the plate away. When he was briefly successful, he was miserable - the demons just kept gnawing. So he opted for pills and surgery - what he perceived to be the "reasonable" way out. Medically speaking, I suppose it was - but was it the right way? The only way? In the end, did those drugs for weight loss contribute to his death? They are easy to blame.

And the drugs and alcohol - now there's an elephant in the livingroom! Drugs and alcohol - twin demons who took up residence with my father early in his life and steered him away from the very accomplishments he would have used to gauge his life in years to come. Drugs for pain, alcohol for release - from what?

Did my dad think he didn't measure up to my grandfather's standards? Did my grandfather ever take him to task for being weak in this way? Or did he remain taciturn and take refuge in his garage? These things I do not know. He certainly couldn't have been pleased - these were never behaviors the firefighter and cabinet maker pursued. He liked fast cars - but gave them up when one damn near killed his son. (Did he blame my dad for crashing that Austin-Healy? Or did he blame the car? Did my father feel blamed? By the time the story got to me it was a family legend. Humorous. Innocent.)

My father battled depression his whole life. Nobody discussed it. Nobody talked about it. Nobody petted or dressed the elephant in the living room. This depression was chemical and he came by it naturally - his mother assuaged hers with alcohol every evening of her life. (But always after 5:00pm.) His maternal grandfather was apparently quite the drinker and left deep and abiding wounds that his family will never discuss. To discuss it would be admitting weakness - moral weakness, not physical - after all, if you ask God to cure your affliction and it isn't cured, then you just didn't ask hard enough.

He was the most intelligent man I know. This sounds grandiose - after all, I've met many intelligent people. So take it with a grain of salt. But he was extremely smart in so many ways. What options this man had! Talk about the path not taken! A true scotsman lament - the would have beens. The coulda-shouldas. My father regretted many things. He told me this. He promised me he would wean off the pain-killers and I do believe he was trying. He supposedly stopped drinking but I have heard otherwise - and this is something best not discussed, right? What about that other road? The road that would have him sitting in his chair in South Pasadena right now and some pile of ash in a livingroom shrine.

So how to measure the man - this very fallible man born on this day 68 years ago in Glendale, California, to very loving parents and a warm, extended family?

I can only measure him by the depth of my love for him. I always forgave him - from the first days of my life he was never held accountable. I adored the man would forgive him anything. I miss him terribly and want to call him up almost everyday and tell him something, relate some tidbit to him, share a book, tell a joke. I miss him with a pain and a void that is unending.

I watch these psychic shows on television and fantasize that he is around me, watching me, wanting to tell me things. What would he tell me?

I wait for inevitable dreams of the man, since I have dreamed a lot in the past few years. But he has shown up twice. Once comically - the details I won't divulge but it was vintage dad, telling me he "couldn't go." The other was more recent - he drove up looking like my favorite professor and then put on sunglasses and became my dad - who walked by me without looking at me while those sunglasses got bigger and bigger and I'm thinking "Hobo Kelly" glasses. But this wasn't a funny dream.

I wish a happy birthday to the memory of the man because I can't tell him directly anymore. He is a pile of ash sitting in a shrine in a dark and sad apartment. He is surrounded by the detritus of his life - his things - the possessions that somehow link him this world in some tenuous and sad way. These things that we hold and caress in an attempt to conjure up the essence of the man, thinking, "He touched this. He touched this."

I am sad, bitter, and angry. I am these things because he should have been with me a lot longer. He shouldn't have died when he did. He was killed by his weaknesses - and what kind of justice is that? Where is the justice in the world when a man unable to control his appetites, his addictions, his needs - is done in by these very things? Definitely a human condition.

I miss my dad. I love him still. I wish a happy, happy birthday.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Seamus and the Trash Can

My long-haired dachshund, Seamus, has a fascination with the downstairs bathroom trash can. Once upon a time, he found treasure in there and that was enough to compel him to knock the can over every single day of his life.

I don't know what the treasure was, but - knowing Seamus, it was probably something disgusting. Each day he seeks this elusive treasure by knocking the can over and rifling the contents before walking away, tail between his legs in disapointment.

The can is round and metal - with raised designs to emulate something antique. It is a cream color and very attractive. It is also very loud when it topples - so we are clued in right away that the bathroom floor is littered. But it holds very little on a daily basis - used tissue, an occasional soap wrapper, and dryer lint. The really good stuff is upstairs in the master bathroom or the boy's bathroom - but for some reason known only to Seamus and his cognitive deficits - he doesn't bother those.

Seamus is my dog with little brain. I always say that this is probably a blessing for him since No Brain = No Headaches and Seamus is a very happy dog. Happy, but tenacious. He always looks for lizards when we hike, cats when we walk, and treasure in the downstairs bathroom trash can every single morning.

He rarely finds either - but that never stops him from trying.

Friday, October 20, 2006

You want fries with that?

Considering the gosh-awful week I've had with my Kinders, I am considering a change of profession. I have until June to practice asking patrons if they would like fries with that. What do you think?


Concerned: "Would you REALLY like fries with that? Or are you eating AT something?"

Annoyed: "Don't tell me... you want FRIES with that."

Incredulous: "You want FRIES with THAT?"

Sweet: "Okay, hon.. you want some fries to go with that?"

Motherly: "Honey, you may want some fries to go with that."

Grandmotherly: "Look dear... some fries would go nicely with that."

Bitter and Motherly: "You don't REALLY want fries with that, right?"

Righteous: "Um.. you don't NEED fries with that."

Prissy: "Fries? French fries? With THAT?"

Condescending: "I suppose that you want Fatty Old Fries with that?"

Terse: "Fries?"

Overbearing: "Okay, you want some fries to go with that. And a shake. And one of those lovely salads. And you need extra napkins. And some wipes for your hands because heaven knows you need wipes for those hands and here is an extra lid in case you lose the first one and DON'T forget to get a straw. Here. Here's a straw."

Surprised: "You WANT fries with that? REALLY?"

Elated: "Stupendous! You DO want fries with that! Wonderful! I am so very pleased! Fries it will be. With that."

Analytical: "Okay. I am thinking that you might like some fries to go with that. Am I right? Have you examined WHY you want fries to go with that? I mean, really THOUGHT about it?"

Bossy: "Fries with that."

Victimly: "Yeah, YOU could have fries with that. ME, I could never, ever, get fries with that."

Militarily: "You're gettin' fries with that."


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Why Be Redundant?

Every year the kids and I create The Tactile Alphabet Book. This is a book created by gluing something touchable to the page and accompanying it with a sentence strip that is framed like this: "___ is for ____." For example, 'Gg is for grass'. We generally complete one page a day.

So, you have to picture it. Each day the kids make their way to my table during our Group Time. We have already reviewed the letter of the day, sang UP to the letter of the day, and acted out the sentence with word cards. We've counted the words in the sentence, looked for letters we know, and practiced the sound that is spelled by the letter. We do this almost every day. This means I cut up almost 20 sentences per day and repeat the process 26 times, not including the cover title.

So last week one of our letters was Qq. It was a big hit, since Dominique, the Class Queen, has a 'q' in her lovely and long name. The kids cut out photocopies of quarters and glued them down to the page, then carefully placed the cut up sentence at the bottom: Q q is for quarters. We discussed how using one quarter would change the word to 'quarter.'

As luck would have it, 5 kids were seated at the table and all 5 happened to finish at the same time. Each day the kids have to read the sentence back to me before setting it on the floor to try. This means I listen to and watch 20 kids read aloud 20 sentences to me each day for 26 pages.

"Okay, Ethan. Read it back to me."
As expected, Ethan dutifully touched once under each word and recited, "Q q is for quarters."

"Alex? Read it back to me."
"Q q is for quarters."

"Q q is for quarters."

"Q q is for quarters."

"Genevieve?" (No response. Her head is in her hand. She looks put-upon, which is interesting since I am the one engaging in the repetitive behavior.)

"Gena? Genevieve? What does yours say?"
Gena dramatically shrugs her shoulders. Then she responds in her most put-upon of voices,

"The same as theirs!"


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Dominique and the Sweater

We were having a very productive "big book" session this morning - the kids were extremely involved and 'reading' with me with much enthusiasm. I was pleased with this on-task behavior and visible interest of the children.

Except for Dominique, who was enamored with her lovely lavendar sweater - worn for picture day but much too hot, as she loudly complained, to actually WEAR. So, I asked her to hang it up. She did. Slowly. The first time.

But somehow, the sweater ended up in Dominique's possession again - and she was twisting it, turning it, manipulating it, swinging it, and just generally ENJOYING the sweater WAY too much. I have learned to NOT ask her to go hang anything back up once she is on the rug. The chances are real good I won't see her again for a long, long time. The drinking fountain, the bathroom, the scented soap, the paper towels, the cubbies - temptation is far too great.

"Dominique. Hold the sweater on your lap," I instructed. She did. For 8 seconds.

We proceeded to read about the adventures of Mrs. Wishy-Washy and her constantly dirty animals that needed to be washed. While the kids read with much enthusiasm about the dirty pig, cow, and duck, Dominique proceeded to 'wear' the lavendar sweater so that the sleeve was covering her eyes like a blindfold. Then she began bobbing her head around, in a perfect Stevie Wonder imitation.

I had a choice: Interrupt the flow of the dirty animals and their daily scrub, or deal with Dominique. Snapping my fingers at her did no good. Hissing "DOMINIQUE!" only caused her head to bob in my general direction. So, we kept reading. It was a pragmatic decision.

We finished the book and the kids begged for another one. I chose this transition time to hiss again at Dominique, "DOMINIQUE! Give me that sweater!"

Then several of the children began pawing the cover of the book to enthusiastically point out the letters they know - and Dominique resumed her Ray Charles routine with the sleeve of her sweater draped dashingly across her eyes.

Throughout the next book the kids were engaged and pretty much ignored Dominique's head-bobbing with the sweater. At times she was up on her knees - the climax of her performance.

When the book was finished I put my head in my hands and quietly said to Dominique, the child I am constantly redirecting, "Dominique. What do you think I am going to say to you now?"

She bobbed her head in my general direction and then loudly replied, "I don't know! I can't SEE!"

Monday, October 02, 2006

Following Directions

Following directions is always a huge issue for young children. Listening skills take a long time to develop and kindergarten teachers really need the patience of saints.

Today I found that the children DO listen, at least some of the time. Maybe the problem isn't so much the directions as the GIVING of the directions. This was obvious today.

The children are working on an autobiography. Our page today listed their favorite color. I passed out the clipboards and crayons and asked the children to look at the nice black outline of a crayon - so artfully placed on the page. At the top of the page is the sentence frame, "My favorite color is ________________."

After reminding them several times NOT to tap, bang, or snap their clipboards, I asked the kids to look into the crayon box and pull out their favorite color. "Don't TELL me," I said, "Show me!"

They did. I had them wave it around while I checked for complete compliance. Then I directed the children to color in the oversized black crayon outline.

Since it is the beginning of the year, I can't really expect them to write the color word in the sentence frame. But hey - I have high expectations and why not give it a try? Why not allow them to exceed their grasp, go for the gold, and really shine as STAR learners? Why not give them the opportunity to be successful - and copy the color word onto the sentence frame?

I set out huge color word cards. We had reviewed them before the activity started. I got a bunch of blank looks. Understanding just wasn't there.

Then I hit upon this marvelous idea.

"You know," I said in a conspiratorial tone, "the name of your favorite color is RIGHT THERE on the crayon."

I showed them on about a half dozen crayons where the color word could be found. A collective "ooh" and "ahh" went up from the rug and I was pleased. The busily began printing.

They put their finished papers on my table, as directed, and got ready to go home. After taking them to the bus, I returned to the classroom to see how well this little endeavor turned out.

Creatively printed in areas IN and AROUND the sentence frame on almost all my students' papers was one word:


Saturday, September 30, 2006

Dominique and the Cow

Ethan, one of the boys in my new class, is not very impressed with the cafeteria. He will eat all the fresh fruit but often examines the entree and decides to leave well-enough alone.

One day last week he asked me about the origin of cafeteria food. I told him it comes to school on a truck. He then asked where the truck gets the food. (The way he said 'food' gives a good indication how he feels about the daily fare.) I told him they get it from the market.

A couple days later, Ethan asks me HOW the 'food' gets to the market. I told him about farms. AND.. seizing the teachable moment, I grabbed the Gail Gibbons Farming book and set the class down for an informative read-aloud session.

Now, these kids are real talkers and getting them settled down for a story takes an Act of Congress and a LOT of elegant body language on my part. Often, I experience success - and the kids tune in to the book. All at the same time.

The Farming book was a huge hit. Background information sprung forth as we discussed harrowing the fields and planting the crops and milking the cows.

COWS? Oh my goodness. If the Wilsona Kindergarten owned a cow it would be treated like the cows of India. The kids really, really, loved the discussion of the cows and their roles in bringing us milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter. You would think some of these kids actually OWNED cows, they were so enamored and so interested. (Eliza informed me that her family has "sheeps," not cows, unfortunately.)

The kids FINALLY settled down so I could continue my read-aloud. It was almost a perfect teaching moment, the kids were SO engaged.

All of the sudden a giant caterwaul of sound emerged from the rug. Since I was really into the book and the kids' responses to it, I was more than a bit annoyed to look up and see Dominique up on her knees, swaying around, making a long and dreadful "ooooooooooooo" sound.

"Dominique! WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING?" I asked in my most controlled teacher voice.

She looked at me like I was crazy. Like I hadn't been there the whole time.

"I'm being a cow!"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

How to Lose Your Mind in 11 Easy Steps

1. Type letter to parents and send it to print.

2. Walk to staff lounge to pick up letter and fill water bottle.

3. Fill water bottle from principal's private supply stashed in her office (but paid for by the school).

4. Leave water bottle on table while checking mailbox.

5. Leave cr*P in mailbox until tomorrow. Leave staff lounge.

6. Return to classroom door only to realize that water bottle is still on table.

7. Grumble to coworker about losing your mind and then go back to retrieve water bottle.

8. Return to classroom door and smack head in perfect "HEY I COULDA HAD A V-8!" motion. Grumble to different coworker about lost mind and return to staff lounge to retrieve the printed letter.

9. Search for paper to put in the empty paper tray so that letter can print. Wait patiently. When no letter appears, grumble to coworker about stupid computer, stupid printer, and inefficient, stupid networking system.

10. Find letter stashed in mailbox.

11. Return to classroom with letter, water bottle, and a look of complete chagrin upon face.

:-)Kim (who is bravely signing her name here.)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Little Beans and Mom

My 71 year old mother has never been fond of animals. She put up with the occasional cat but always had this slight aversion to dogs. Dogs are messy and slobbery and mom abhors messes and slobberyness.

To her credit, she has tolerated my dogs very well. In keeping with dogly tradition everywhere, they adore her. When gramma comes to visit they bark greetings and then attempt to cover her with doggy smooches. She is a good sport about this. Then they sit on her and around her and gaze at her with pure canine devotion. If they are lucky, she MIGHT toss a ball or a squeaky toy.

What mom is never ready for is the rambunctious puppy. Luckily for her, Duke and Seamus were full-grown when they were adopted and Augie was such a mellow puppy there are times I am convinced that puppyhood just passed him by. She was with me when I picked up Max from a breeder in Canyon Country. But Max was neurotic from Day 1 - so that doesn't count. When Mom visited, Max hid behind the couch.

Little Beans was introduced to Mom while still in the holding stage - Shannon was holding him and Beans cowered and shot hateful glances at anyone and everyone who wasn't Shannon or Dustin. It took Beans almost a month to figure out that I was not an axe murderer and that I did, indeed, truly belong in my own house.

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Little Beans is unfriendly. He just doesn't like people. This goes for most people. So when Mom came for a visit I figured Little Beans would stay out of sight. In true dogly fashion, however, Beans figured out that his mere puppyness would make Mom frantic and he used it to his advantage. He LOVED Mom right away. He bounced right up to her and began the process of Dogly Devotion. Puppy smooches gave way to puppy bites all along the hair line. Since mom values her hair and hates puppy smooches you can imagine she wasn't thrilled.

"I will pet you if you just sit there," Mom intoned in her best Great-Gramma voice. I had to laugh. Beans has many positions: Jump, Bounce, Leap, Run, Canter, Crawl, and Backstep - but SIT? No way. It never happens.

When Little Beans finally settled down a BIT - there are gradients of Puppy Serenity - Dustin came into the room. Beans LIVES for Dustin. (Well, Dustin, Shannon, and Augie - in order of preference.) Dustin is a 21-year old college student. He is very mature. Most of the time.

But on this day, when Mom needed calm and tranquility after an hour of doggy greetings and doggy attention and hyper-attentions of Little Beans, Dustin began playing with his puppy. Balls were thrown. Chases ensued. More toys were strewn about. High-pitched, ecstatic barks filled the air. Mom looked a bit stressed.

Our conversation was constantly punctuated by the leaping and bouncing antics of Little Beans, who found it more than necessary to stop by and smooch Mom about 2.5 minutes - and then bite at her hairline. Each time Mom reacted the same way - shrieking and saying, "No, no, no" as if Little Beans understands English. Seamus decided to get into the act by defending Mom and this involved much posturing and growling. Mom didn't feel defended at all. She was convinced that Seamus would just as readily attack HER.

When Mom left, Dustin and I were embarking on a walk - to help Little Beans expend some of this energy.

I think Mom went home and showered.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Sharpener Boy

Let me tell you about Andrew. He had a possessive and obsessive relationship with the pencil sharpener - an electric one I bought at Staples when I noticed the classroom didn't have a sharpener. Andrew's affair make it necessary for me to buy a SECOND sharpener.

Brand new pencils became stubs within hours at the hands of dear Andrew, who would sharpen morning, noon, and night if I allowed it. Only dedication and tenacity on my part saved a grove of trees and reined in the unsated passions of dear, pencil-loving Andrew.

Andrew LOVED pencils and bought them constantly. He wheedled money from mom, dad, his grandparents, siblings, friends, neighbors, relatives, and perfect strangers. His collection was almost inspiring. And each morning, after arrival, Andrew began the long and loving routine of sharpening. And sharpening. And sharpening.

EACH pencil had to have a pinpoint, dagger-like sharpness. And EACH pencil he owned had to be sharpened. There was no rest or serenity for Andrew or any of us unless the entire collection was JUST SO.

I took to foraging in his desk at night for pencils in order to reduce his collection. I told him that only ____ pencils could be sharpened at a time and that he was hogging the sharpener. HE took to coming in earlier in order to use the sharpener while it was unattended and gloriously HIS alone. He took to counting his pencils because TOO MANY of them, in his opinion, ended up in the pencil basket and in the desk of classmates. He found this suspicious and unsettling.

His mother began coming into the classroom to reclaim the quarters Andrew liberated from her purse in order to feed his habit. She berated him, threatened him, grounded him, and even bought him a PEN. Andrew didn't miss a beat. Quarters, for a resilient and fixated kid like Andrew, were always obtainable.

I took to hiding the pencil machine, which was located in a nearby hallway. People complained. I didn't care. The PTO sent out a search party. I had to get devious. Several sympathetic teachers and I played "Musical Pencil Machine." Andrew began to get pale and shaky. He began foraging for pencils on the ground and in his classmates' desks. He lined them up by size and sorted them by color. The withdrawals were downright painful for him. But I was determined!

The day I caught him washing his pencils, I conceded defeat.

I bought a second sharpener and told everybody this was just for ANDREW. The class was relieved. I told Andrew he could sharpen before school, before recess, after lunch, and after school. He agreed that cutting down was a good thing. He also agreed to buy only one pencil a week. We shook on it.

When Andrew moved to 2nd grade, I sent the sharpener with him.

The teacher looked perplexed. She has NO idea.


Friday, September 01, 2006

My "Flex" Day

Today I decided to work at home. I brought home a TON of work to prep for next week. I also brought the book binding machine, my new RED plan book, and loads of good intentions. I've never had a RED plan book before. I feel very festive about this.

As you know, the classroom was packed to the gills with mostly-useless stuff and I spent a lot of time last summer cleaning it out. The end of last school year is a huge haze to me - so when I left the last day of school I expected that ML would take her stuff and leave.

Well.......she did LEAVE. The stuff ? Nooks, crannies, boxes, tubs, bags, shelves... full of STUFF. That giant 'windy' sound you heard in mid-August was ME realizing that YET AGAIN I have to clean out a room before preparing for a school year.

The good news is that it is almost done. The lone exception is the top of MY filing cabinet (who has time to file your own stuff when HER stuff is permeating the place?), and the tops of the storage cabinets in the workroom. And I'll get to those when I get to them. AND I have a new room partner, Lupita, who is about as organized as my mother - so I will be having stress dreams about MY messes from now on. I only hope that Lupe doesn't own any white gloves. From one extreme to the other, huh?

So today is what the district calls a "flex" day. For some reason, you don't HAVE to work today but if you don't come in you are supposed to tell Janice - for what reason, I don't know. Maybe she adds and subtracts points. I should get extra points because of all the extra cleaning and de-cluttering I am doing. So today I am "flexing" but I forgot to tell Janice. I wonder if she will notice I am not there today.

The lone holdout in the PackRat Crowd is poor Charles. His room looks like a dang bomb went off and I am living in FEAR that Janice will ask ME to go in and clean it out. I think Charles is worried too - when I came over to his side of the building yesterday, he ran inside and locked the door.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Mary Hills and Bird Dogs

The dogs and I have been enjoying a local hike lately. It is a trailhead for the Pacific Crest Trail, located about 20 minutes from my house in San Francisquito Canyon. Usually we hike UP for about an hour and then come back. It is a steady climb but not too strenuous.

Today I decided to hike a bit further up the trail, since we had an earlier start. The dogs were all for it - especially since the area is covered with dove and quail - who love to tease and lead the dogs on - then fly away with much noise and disturbance. This does not dissuade the dogs, who would have NO idea what to do with a quail if they cornered one.

Now, the part of the trail that is an hour UP has what looks like a small hill. I am going to tell you that looks are deceiving. This particular hill is what I would call an OH MY GOD hill. But hikes are full of these hills and getting over them makes you feel very virtuous. Especially if you don't wheeze, moan, or land on your knees at any point during the ascent. Had I known what was BEYOND this hill, however, I just might have taken the adjacent off-road vehicle road instead. But NO. I stuck to the trail, just like a dedicated and responsible PCT hiker.

Cresting this trail is very invigorating because it is flat - for about 50 paces. Then there is another hill. This one is rutted and sandy and full of rocks. It is definitely an OH MY GOD Hill. Getting to the top, while huffing and puffing in a decidedly UNfeminine way, is a sure-fire way to give yourself a heart attack.

(And what is it with that old saying about men perspiring but women only "glistening?" It's running down my NOSE for heaven's sake!)

But guess what you see when you get to the top of this hill? YES! Another hill!

Friends, these are the HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD HILLS because once you see the third hill and begin ascension, you realize that you are GOING TO DIE. It will be an ignoble and lonely death - witnessed by three very dusty and slobbery weinie dogs who will immediately root around in the back pack for water and used kleenex - once you're dead.

It is at this point, as certain death looms and exploded lung will scatter along the trail, the dogs see more BIRDS. Despite the wheezing, hacking, huffing, puffing, and muscle-screaming climb, off they RUN at full dachshund speed to CATCH THE BIRDS. When they dejectedly return a few minutes later, completely chagrined and utterly birdless, I decide to go back before we lose the light.

EVERY single bird, rabbit, lizard, and potential bird, rabbit, and lizard is fair game. These short dogs do not understand the limits of human endurance and OFF THEY GO, careening down the HOLY MARY MOTHER OF GOD Hills with little to no regard for my safety, comfort, or well-being. The fact that I have the car keys means NOTHING. There are BIRDS!

This weekend I plan to return and see what is beyond the three hills. It is my fervent hope that they aren't quadruplets. But with my luck, it will be a mountain - home to a pack of wild turkeys.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bug Parts and Red Dye

Just why, exactly, are RED things so appealing? Would we feel the same way about something that is bright green? Or ebony black? Or deep purple? How about bright yellow? If they remove the red dye, the taste remains "red" but the color does not. Why does the red make it more appealing?

And why, exactly do we hate to eat bugs anyway? We eat cow muscle, chicken parts, and soda pop that POPS because we add an ingredient that we breathe OUT on a regular basis. We eat fish eggs and grind all kinds of ingredients together to create fatty delicacies like corn chips, jolly ranchers, and fake-butter popcorn. We actually eat PORK RINDS which, in essence, is the skin of a pig, deep fried - but we turn our collective noses up at BUG PARTS?

It doesn't make sense.

Think about it: Morgan Spurlock got horribly SICK after eating McDonald's food for a month. Ground up cow muscle with iceberg lettuce, wilted tomatoes and some gosh-awful sauce - everyday! Plus, deep-fried remnants of what were once potatoes and gallons of coca cola, which is loaded with refined sugar. But bug parts? We turn out noses up at bug parts?

See the commercial with the overweight guy going around the world sampling ingredients for Kashii - the fencepost cereal? He turns his nose up at grasshoppers on a stick, but digs his hand into some kind of grain that looks like mashed up wheat stalks. The grasshoppers are obviously cooked - probably slow-roasted over some open fire somewhere in the third world. They look crunchy don't they? But this guy, who looks like he could USE a steady diet of health food, won't touch them. The lady offering them? She looks healthier than HE does.

Something is topsy-turvy here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Chickens Crossing the Road?

We all HEAR about the chicken crossing the road and we all PONDER the different answers to this eternal question, but in reality, has anyone ACTUALLY seen a chicken crossing a road? We see chipmunks, squirrels, deer, rabbits, and the occasional possum crossing the road. Sometimes we see snakes crossing the road - at night in the desert. Or coyotes or roadrunners. But chickens?

Don't chickens stay in barnyards or hen houses? What self-respecting chicken farmer would ALLOW an investment, like a chicken, to put itself in harm's way? Surely the farmers KNOW that cars use roads and will HIT unsuspecting chickens if they are not crossing fast enough.
Chickens meander and mosey too. They don't go fast unless a cat is after them. And what are the chances of a CAT chasing an actual chicken ACROSS a road?

It's like dogs named Fido. The mainstream media always refer to "Fido" when referring to your dog and people always seem to KNOW that FIDO is a code-word for DOG. Like it is some kind of really, really, popular name. But WHO IN HECK really has a dog named Fido? I have NEVER, ever, heard of a real dog named Fido.

Duke and Max, yes. Lots of dogs are named Duke or Max. But NO DOGS ARE EVER NAMED FIDO.

So - one of these days I am going to get a chicken, as soon as I can train my dachshunds not to KILL the chicken. The problem is they have a rubber chicken that they "kill" all the time. So I am not sure this is going to work. Dachshunds can't tell the difference between rubber chickens and real chickens. (Unless they are barbecued.)

AND - I am going to name the chicken FIDO.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Water, water, everywhere.....

I am surrounded by pools. They are everywhere. Big, clear, and inviting - they taunt me.
From my second floor window I can see 3 of them in the yards behind and beside me. The beckon and cajole. They call my name. But they are not serious.

Behind me is a beautiful built-in pool with elaborate stone work and one of those lazy pool snake things that is supposed to move around and keep it clean. But it doesn't move and the water is kind of green and murky-looking. In the 2 years I have lived here, nobody, EVER, swims in that pool. People live there - I can hear them, fighting, yelling, partying, yakking on the phone. But they walk AROUND the pool. They sit BESIDE the pool. They are NEVER, ever, IN the pool.

Kitty-corner behind me is another one. This pool is one of those molded things that was dropped into a hole in the ground. It is pristine and very blue. It is plain and not gussied up. It is surrounded by dirt. The original owners used it - usually late at night. But the new owners put a wrought iron fence around it and walked away. It stays clean. It stays pristine and inviting. But - it stays empty. Even their big black DOG can't get at it. He lays next to the sliding glass door, tongue hangning out, panting. But he can't go in the pool. It seems NOBODY can.

Next door is a family with 3 teenagers. The yard has never been landscaped. It is barren dirt and weeds - with a doughboy pool perched right in the middle. Every week some guy comes buy in a white truck to "take care" of the pool. I have seen the boys in the pool once and the mom once. The girl - never. The dad? Nope. It stands there amid the desert beseeching for swimmers. Nobody comes.

I work with several teachers who OWN pools. I was unabashed and unashamed to let them know that I envied them and that I REALLY LIKE TO GO INTO POOLS. They all say the same thing: "Come by anytime!" But they never call to invite me. They never write. And I am too self-conscious to just call them up and ask. (Phone phobia is not good at times like this.)

So I stand there on my little deck outside my bedroom looking at these pools and thinking about injustice. No, I didn't go into debt to get one of them. No, I didn't put up with pool contractors and loan officers and large earth moving equipment to get a pool. I didn't have to put up with some cheesy sign planted in my front yard announcing the construction of "yet another" pool by this very over-worked and over-priced company. So I can't say that I BLAME these people. Not really.

But sheesh. Here I am, willing to USE their pools, dog-paddling away, displacing a bit of water while they do whatever it is they do as they ignore their pools in this record-breaking heat. I am willing to love their pools, appreciate their pools, ENJOY their pools while they turn a blind eye to them.

It is some kind of cosmic torture - the unfairness of the world laid out before me, like dogs and kids with noses pressed against the glass, yearning to be free - an unable to get past the screen door.

Yes, I could go to the PUBLIC pool and swim with hundreds of screaming children. Yes, screaming. They don't swim, they scream. I deal with children all school year. I don't need them SCREAMING in my ear as I swim. I just don't.

I can go to my health club. I can endure the embarrassment as I walk from the locker room to the pool in my bike shorts and halter - AS IF I could get this fat butt into a bathing suit. But there is some kind of foamy stuff on the top of this pool. And there is some strange guy who swims back and forth and stares at me while I do the same. I've read too many true crime novels, I guess. And bacteria? Let's not go there.

Pools, pools, everywhere - and not a one for swimming.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The New Juicer

Well, friends... After much thought and consideration, I bought a Jack LaLanne juicer. It is very fancy and very expensive. But what price for good health? Watching Elaine LaLanne shove all matter of fruits and vegetables through that chute and creating wonderful, delicious, healthy juices just inspired me. After all, Jack is older than dirt and looks damn good. He also hauled a boat across a harbor with his teeth so there must be something to this juicing business.

I went to the market this morning and bought 3 different BAGS of apples - for that uniquely blended apple flavor. Did you know you can shove the WHOLE apple through the chute? Yes! The whole thing, although it is recommended that you remove the stem.

I also bought a whole BAG of oranges, 2 cantaloupes, a whole pineapple, and blueberries. Yes, 2 boxes of blueberries at almost $4 per box because they looked so delicious and they just chock-full of nutrients designed by Mother Nature to thwart all matter of illness. I also bought bananas but Elaine and Jack strongly stress in the little manual that one should NEVER put bananas in the juicer. It is BAD to put bananas in the juicer.

Here are my observations to date with regard to said juicer:

1. $4 worth of blueberries yields 2 teaspoons of juice.

2. One gala and one granny smith apple, stems removed, and one package of $4 blueberries creates 3/4 of a juice glass of juice. It is a purplish green color and tastes quite good.

3. Regardless of adherence to directions, the juicer is quite active. When the plastic "pulp collector" spins right off the juicer, which it did twice, fruit pulp flies all over the kitchen.

4. There are 8 parts which must be washed thoroughly when the juicer is finished creating 3/4 of a juice glass full of greenish-purple juice. All of these parts are interlocking and the remaining pulp adheres snugly.

5. Although dogs will eat almost anything, they will not lick up fruit pulp flung onto the floor, cabinet doors, or the refrigerator door. Any pieces that hit the dog dish will be disregarded.

I will say that my kitchen is squeaky clean after scrubbing and mopping but I am a little concerned about all this fruit in my house.

Jack and Elaine must have a maid.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Strange Box

Taking possession of human remains is a very serious thing. It is one of those events that causes a great deal of introspection. There is an implied responsibility, a sense of the sacred. And - it is just plain weird.

How many times in your life can you turn to someone and say, "So - my father's ashes have been delivered to my house. They are in a box on the dining room table. The box is - lovely." It is a blond oak with brass corner things. When you open it, there is a brass urn - rectangular in shape with rounded corners.

The box is a very nice looking box but it is not the sort of box I would pick to place on the table as part of ordinary decor. I think the shape of it is funereal, but I may be influenced in my perception because I know what is inside. It is the sort of box you bury, but not in your backyard.

There is some poetic justice in having this box sit on the dining room table. It is the table my grandfather created in 1940 when he found the top of it underneath the house on Holland Ave. He turned the legs himself, attached them to the top and created a table. He placed that table in the dining room - where it remained for the next 65 years. My father sat at that table many times. He did his homework there and he tinkered with things there and he ate there - a thousand times?

What would he say had he known that the ashes of his body - all that remains of him on this earth - would one day rest upon this table and that his daughter would be unsettled by their mere presence? He might have laughed. Maybe he would have caressed the spot he thought his ashy bones would settle. Maybe he would have walked away, too overwhelmed to think about it.

My son walked past the box several times before realizing what it was. I lifted it out of the non-descript and everyday cardboard container and tried to hand it to him, unaware how heavy it was going to be. My son did not wish to handle the box. He stepped backward. Strange? How would I know?

Although tempted a few times to say that "my father was delivered" to my house by some guy driving a Ford Explorer, I resisted. My father is not in this box. What remains of my father has been reduced to something like 8 pounds of ashes - ashes that, if I remember correctly, look strangely like what gets scooped out of the barbecue after a few weeks of grilling. The body - the man - is gone.

"You have memories," the well-meaning say, and I want to reply that they are not enough. Memories are not enough. I have emotions. I have anger. I have a deep and abiding sadness. I have frustration that I cannot pick up the phone and tell him something. He is not here.

I have a box. A strange and unsettling box that needs to be somewhere out of my sight because it reminds me that he is gone. I had whole days when I was starting to feel better. Hours would go by and I wouldn't think about him. But now I am reminded. My father is dead. All I have is a box.

And a box on the table is not enough.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sausage-Casing Girls

There is nothing quite like picking up the newspaper and finding that one of your favorite columnists is writing about something that you have noticed, something that niggled, pestered, and bothered but was let go. Because the topic is just not quite right for general discussion.

Well, if Robin Abcarian can write about it and the L.A. Times can show pictures of it, then I can talk about it.

AND.... I can write about it: The sausage-casing girls.

We have all seen them because they are legion, everywhere we go. The image of these girls, squeezed into too-tight hip-hugging jeans, pencil-thin teeny little tank tops, with rolls and rolls of fat hanging over like a spare tire - they are unavoidable. How in the world can ANYBODY stand to wear pants that crawl up the crotch and dig into the belly, and then ALLOW that tight squeeze to force the fat up and over - all the way around? Those little spaghetti-strap tank tops that are often worn in layers - are they really MEANT to hug the rolls between a too-small bra and a belt fastened on the very last loop valiantly holding up skinny jeans meant for somebody 30 pounds lighter?

I see these girls everywhere. They walk along with their exposed bellies jiggling like jello and I want to say something - like, "Do you realize how UNATTRACTIVE THAT IS?" Something like, "Have some pride! Respect yourself!" But I don't. I just can't. Maybe it's a generational thing comparable to the enormously baggy pants worn by some teen boys and the comical hair styles that often accompany them. The fact that I consider it silly and ridiculous to let half your boxers show on purpose doesn't dissaude any of them from doing it.

Robin Abcarian writes that most of these girls do not perceive themselves as fat - they buy the clothes they THINK they should fit into and ignore everything unattractive and uncomfortable about the reality of their bodies. One potential interviewee was actually 'hurt' and 'upset' that she was asked for an interview on this subject - "She thinks she looks cute, " her cousin explained. ("Cute?" Has the definition of the word changed that drastically in 20 years?)

This is not just one or two girls - seen just often enough to evoke comment. This is a majority of the teen to twenty-something female population. And to make matters worse, I observe it daily in my elementary school, little girls who are already overweight baring their bellies and celebrating their poor eating habits with tight jeans and teeny little tops not intended for real children.

I am aware every single day of my life that I am overweight. I hate having to buy and wear large size clothing in order to camouflage 40 extra pounds. I would LOVE to ignore it. I would LOVE to accept it. I would love to LOSE IT and KEEP IT OFF. I would even like to have it SUCKED OUT with surgical instruments. But I could never, ever, in a million years, leave the house dressed like a Sausage-Casing girl - "cute" as I may be in those Size 9 Levis.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Packrat Tales: Continuing....

Aunt Trudy loves containers. She has many, many, containers and she uses them to hold all matter of stuff. There is no container that is too old, too big, too small, or too mishapen to use. All containers have value and worth.

Most important are the bags. She has quite possibly saved each and every shopping bag she has ever encountered. Paper bags are neatly folded and stacked. She keeps them in closets, on the floor, and on top of her vintage 1950s era washing machine. Anytime she wishes to do laundry, the bags of bags must be moved - to the floor - until the laundry is finished. Then they are replaced to their perch on top of the washing machine.

Inside her closet are bags of newspaper bags. The kinds of bags the newspaper comes in are plastic - oblong and really not very reusable. But Aunt Trudy saves them and they sit in a brown paper shopping sack on the floor in her closet.

"Let me recycle these," I say, moving them out of the way to gain access to an elusive treasure she wants me to unearth from the back of the closet. "Oh no," she says. "I need them."

"What will you DO with them, Aunt Trudy?" I ask, straining to be patient as I move a box of very old-looking drapery hardware. "You have plenty of other bags."

"I use them when I sort things out," she says, as if sorting things out is something she does early and often.

The plastic grocery sacks she uses for garbage - quite literally since she refuses to USE the garbage disposal lest she "wear it out." She also uses them to line her trash cans and the extras area placed into this crafty-looking hand-towel plastic bag saver that an elderly neighbor gave her for her birthday ten years before. I would wager money that the FIRST bag she ever placed inside this thing still resides there.

If there is an after-market for 'disposable' microwave dishes, Aunt Trudy could make some nice pocket change. Each and EVERY disposable microwave dish that has EVER crossed her threshold remains in her kitchen until there is no space left. THEN they are stacked into like piles and put into bags and placed - yes! - on top of the washing machine with the paper bags. They too get moved down to the floor when a load of laundry is in the washer.

Yogurt and applesauce containers get stacked up too. After washing, they may get used to hold paperclips, rubber bands, nuts and bolts, staples, empty prescription bottles, tape, and old pens. They are everywhere. They are legion. Those unworthy of cluttering the house get relegated to the paper bag and will reside on top of the washing machine, to get a change in scenery whenever the sheets need laundering.

Since Aunt Trudy rarely buys shoes, the shoe box population in the house does remain manageable. These boxes are old and I imagine that anyone collecting old shoe boxes would consider them a treasure trove. On the bottom of most of the boxes are the lids - serving as coasters, no doubt, and spending more time on the bottom of the box than they EVER did in their rightful position on the top. The boxes have old coupons, old bank statements, letters, documents, medical bills, rolls of tape, address and phone books, clunky hardware, old tools, pictures, coffee cups with broken handles, key rings from touristy places, and painstakingly dated papers that need to be "gone over" before they are relegated to another pile, file, or the shredder tray.

"I could sure use these trays for paint at school," I say, hoping to reduce the clutter on top of the poor old washing machine.

"If you can use them, take them!" Aunt Trudy tells me, happy that her containers were saved and will now find a proper home.

"Wonderful! The kids will be so pleased. How about these? And these?" I hold up the bag of yogurt containers and plastic bread bags.

"Take them! Take them all." And before she can change her mind, I haul all this loot to the car, fully intending to recycle them once I returned home.

But later that night she calls my mother-in-law, in a panic.

"Kimberli threw out my containers! They were perfectly good! I can't find them anywhere."

"You gave them to her for paint at school," reminds my patient mother in law.

"Well.... I just hope I don't NEED any sometime soon." AS IF she couldn't use those useless newspaper bags.

The Packrat Files: Post 1

My 96-year old great-aunt is a packrat. ANY piece of paper that enters her home must be dated and then painstakingly read with her magnifier. Since this is a tedious process, the papers back up.

The stack I went through last week went back to 1998 - I kid you not, and MANY of these papers were advertisements for things she cannot possibly ever use. She is loathe to let ANYTHING go without having personally inspected it so I will try to be her eyes and speed the process up a bit.

"Fifth grade girls science camp, Aunt Trudy?" I ask ask I pass the ad to the recycle pile. "I guess not," she replies, somehow disappointed. "How about vinyl siding - Sears had a sale in 2004," I say with a perfectly straight face.

"I just got the house painted. Why would I want siding," she snaps.

"So - I can toss it?" (I toss it.)

"I don't know. You never know if you are going to need siding."

She has boxes and boxes and bags and bags of papers - receipts, old bills, flyers, company mailings, prospectuses, statements - you name it. One bag has cancelled checks from the 1950s written on a bank no longer in existence. But she won't HEAR of throwing them away because she may NEED them one day.

She has a shredder. Many, many papers are stacked on a tray in front of the shredder. But they don't get shredded until she's had the chance to "go over them" one more time - with the magnifier - just in case something was put there in error.

All over the house are these stacks. With each stack there are boxes - small, medium, and large - filled with rubber bands, paper clips, stubby pencils, markers, grease pencils, odds and ends, measuring tapes, staple removers, antique staplers, index cards, string, pictures, business cards, letter openers, envelopes - and other detritus of the disorganized. The boxes are ALL old shoeboxes or vintage boxes that she could never part with and they all hold mysterious treasure. One has postage stamps going back to the Nixon era, along with penny and 2cent stamps to use when you have to make up the difference because postage is no longer 21 cents.

One day I arrived and she was indignant. She has fired, ONCE AGAIN, a companion sent over from an agency that charges well for its services. This woman's crime? She went through the cupboards and freezer - tossing out cans that my aunt had diligently labeled - with dates going back to the late 1980s. 12 "perfectly good" cans of cranberry jelly from the early 1990s were tossed, along with packages of meat that only the bravest of souls would have defrosted for further inspection. These meat packages had been laid ON THE FLOOR and my aunt was carefully reconfiguring them in the freezer.

"Perfectly good meat! On the FLOOR. Right there!" She was incensed. The wastefulness of some people is just something she cannot fathom.

And speaking of freezers..... on top of the erstwhile stack of paper nearest her magnifier was a letter from SoCal Edison offering rebates to anyone buying an energy-saving refrigerator or other appliance. Clipped to it were several refrigerator ads from the local paper that she had collected over the course of several days.

"Is there something wrong with your refrigerator?" I asked her, leafing through pictures of stainless steel side-by-sides and the latest Sears Kenmore over and under model - complete with icemaker, water dispenser, and a little compartment for those items you need in a hurry.

"No, of course not. It's only 28 years old," she snapped.

"Well...then why all these ads?" I ask carefully.

"There's a rebate. $50.00!" She huffed at me like I was some sort of buffoon.

"So.. you are going to buy a new one?" I venture, steeling myself for the verbal attack that was sure to come.

"Of course not! Why would I?" She answered.

"So... why do you want to keep these ads .... and this letter from Edison about the rebate?"

"Just IN CASE!" She snorted. "JUST IN CASE! It might be a good deal."

"All right. Shall I create FILE for you? A 'Just in Case' Refrigerator file?"

"No. I don't need a new refrigerator. This one's only 28 years old."

Monday, June 19, 2006

Fat Flush Detox

Once again, somebody at is posting about the latest miracle diet. And I crack up and just have to post this smart-ass response because the whole thing is just so silly. Billion dollars a year silly. This is supposedly something that you drink or some combination of foods that you eat and VOILA! Your system is cleansed and detoxified.

I get this most excellent vision of fat being gathered up and sent packing - right down the toilet. Wouldnt't that be excellent? But what happens the next time you eat? Are you full of fat again?
Then there are the 'carb blockers.' I picture them in the stomach holding up a military-type hand and saying, "NO!" to carbs and sending them packing - right down the - well you know. What about the recalcitrant carbs? What if they "let loose" and get absorbed by the small intestine anyway? After all, the small intenstine has a job to do. Will IT listen to the carb-blocker?

My principal and one of my colleagues did this "sewer water" diet. They drank this sludge they created using water, red pepper, and maple syrup. There might have been other ingredients but who knows? It looked just like sewer water and tasted that way too - according to them. "It detoxifies my system," reported my princy when I asked her about it. I am thinking that this is a college-educated woman and she honestly believes that red pepper and maple syrup will "detoxify" her system? Is this some sort of secret combination that the body recognizes as akin to Ajax or Mr. Clean? Why? And how did her "system" get "toxic" in the first place?

I remember as a kid an ad for something called Rollo. Remember that? It was this sponge thing that you swallowed and it supposedly blew up in your stomach and absorbed everything - so you wouldn't be hungry anymore. Then it would flush out. But as it is leaving, doesn't it just coat the inside of the intestine with all the goodies it absorbed while hanging out in the stomach?

But seriously - it is a matter of physiology, is it not? In order to lose weight one must spend more calories than one takes in - which means eating the right foods and exercising to increase metabolism. IF any of these things actually WORKED, wouldn't it be headline news? Leading articles in the Journal of Medicine and cover stories in Time and Newsweek. Wouldn't the price of this stuff go way UP as everyone and their fat mother raced out to buy it? And then the copycat products would begin and huge arguments would brew because schools would begin implementing this stuff in the cafeteria in order to combat the childhood obesity crisis. Then there would be segments on Dateline and Oprah as the "downside" is discovered and millions of tiny, skinny, human beings begin dropping dead from the clogged arteries they STILL have because they never changed their eating habits.

But hey! They get buried in a size 6!


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Clutter! Oh... the Humanity!

SAVE me from the clutter! I can't stand the clutter! I can't stand the mess! I worked last night in the room until 7:30pm (outlasted ONLY by a die-hard second grade teacher and the custodians) trying to get the cr*P cleaned up and out.

There exists in the world a contingent of messy, messy children and I get them EVERY
single year. They are like Hansel and Gretl with with an endless amount of detritus,
from home and other places, that follows them around and is dropped WHEREever. They buy millions of pencils from the pencil machine but I find VOLUMES of tiny little pin-prick-razor-sharp little pencil stubs, everywhere! They drop crayons, markers, highlighters, and pencil-top erasers EVERYwhere and then swear to GAWD that the dropped items are not THEIRS, only to wail plaintively and accusingly that SOMEBODY STOLED THEIR __________ as soon as the dropped item is needed. They misplace their scissors, glue sticks, and green monster finger-pointers.

Papers? HA! Despite harping, nagging, cajoling, pleading, voice-raising, and threats, PAPERS litter the floor, the spaces in front of their cubbies, their 'desk-es,' their friends' 'desk-es' and everywhere else but where they are SUPPOSED to be -INSIDE their neatly-marked and clearly-defined CUBBIES!

And INSIDE the 'desk-es?' Nests for rats, mice, moles, and other rodents, complete with sleeping chambers, eating places, and livingrooms. Bombs could go off inside these labyrinths and the denizens would call it an "extreme makeover." They wail pitifully that something-very-important-that-the-teacher-just-asked-for has been STOLEN, LOST, HIjacked, and is MISSING! Clearly they are victims of grand theft here. And when faced with the said item, retrieved by the teacher's hand as she snakes through the labyrinth and disturbs the sleep of the tenants?


Are they shame-faced? NO! Are they at all embarrassed? NO! Do they think
that CLEANING up might be in order? Oh, HECK no! And jackets? Sweaters? Sweatshirts? Hats? Glove (yes, glove)? Scarves? THEY exist in a writhing, twisting, tangled and moaning mass of synthetic and natural fiber that could provide enough soft but pungent warmth for a developing nation. Hooks, so thoughtfully provided by the school? HA! Hooks are wall decor. Jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts, hats, glove, and scarves are MEANT to be thrown in Jackson-Pollack HEAPS that develop aesthetic qualities and, when provoked, block the path of any well-meaning citizen attempting to enter the room.

Occasionally these items MIGRATE, of their own accord and without their owners' knowledge, to the far-reaches of the playground, cafeteria, handball courts, restrooms, and the LAST RESORT: Lost and Found. (Which is a wet and oozing pile of forgotten clothing dumped unceremoniously on the sidewalk outside the cafeteria.)

BACKpacks? Those items I would like to BAN from public schools forever? Those rolling, swaying, thumping PITS of garbage that have every school notice, every spelling paper, math homework, reading buddy bags, and all matter of kitchen-sinkdom entering and leaving my classroom each day? The rolling ones that need to be re-classified as weapons? The walking commercials for any and all of the hottest and latest action figure and Saturday morning cartoon characters? The ones graffitied and marked up by older siblings with signs that probably translate "death to teachers" and "life sux" and "I wish I could be suicide bomber and not die a horrible and painful death?" The ones holding snacks foraged from the pantry 12 days ago, joining forces with a quarter inch of juice left over from breakfast and a cheese stick that was opened, half-eaten, and forgotten? The rodents living in the desk-es gaze LONGINGLY from the livingroom section, KNOWING there is a smashed cookie in that backpack but to attempt retrieval across the coats and glove is to risk losing life and/or limb because the children LOVE animals.

And if I am misguided enough to give them a bag of something like, oh say... PEANUTS so we can do some AIMS peanut math and science activities? Sigh. Ever see the floor of a bar room? Or a restaurant that uses peanut shells as day-core so they don't have to clean up real good? Yes! We will be walking over peanut shell remnants for a VERY long time. They blend well with the home-made PEANUT BUTTER that was carefully placed on CRACKERS during a 'fraction' activity. How in the world PEANUT BUTTER made it from the CRACKER on the desk-es to the floor is a divine mystery and has something to do with the rodents living in the desk-es, I am sure.

Yes, these children are MINE. I get them EVERY year and am convinced of a conspiracy. A meeting that takes place without my knowledge, behind closed doors, during the late spring of every school year. Any child who resembles Pigpen from the Peanuts comic strip is placed in my room, where he/she can take apart puzzles and put pieces in the bookshelves, behind the cubbies, under beanbags, and under the RUG they so thoughtfully stash other things under on a daily basis. Any child deemed NOT MESSY ENOUGH is placed in another classroom.

I need a maid. I need a very large and powerful central vacuum. I need industrial
strength carpet cleaner. I need velcro. Lots and lots of velcro.

Monday, June 12, 2006

3 Down, 3 Across

I have to think of this as a cosmic bad joke that will show up as a clue in the L.A. Times crossword puzzle next year. What will the clue be?

1. Double loss
2. A two-fer
3. In happens in threes, but minus one
4. Trusty Terrier and Daddy-O

or should it be... Daddy-0 and Trusty Terrier?

Who would think in one's wildest dreams that I would call to make arrangements for a cremation and then bury my dog - within a week of each other? 5 days?

Or maybe I should use the word Duke in the clue because according to one of the speakers at Dad's memorial, it was a song they sang together, do-wop style, Duke of Earl. I wonder why he never told me. But the clue "Duke and Max" would lead me to think I'd lost Duke also. Duke the dog, not the Duke of Earl.

I need better clues.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Cherry Pits

For over a week I've had a craving for cherries. To say that I LOVE cherries is expressing it mildly. Since I was a child and my mother would never BUY cherries I have craved them. My gramma felt as I did she had them periodically - we would share them and she would tell me about how when she was a little girl she would loop the double-stemmed cherries over her ears - like earrings. This I've done a few times as homage to her - the grandmother who would buy me cherries.

One of life's pleasures is reading a book and eating cherries. The best way to do this is horizontal on the couch. If I had a hammack it would be better. I usually put the little bowl for pits and stems on the floor, right next to me, pitching the pits and stems into it while reading and eating.

One day a few summers ago I am pursuing this - a most wonderful past time - when I hear a distinct crunching out of the corner of my ear. This is not an unfamiliar sound because the dogs chaw away on their rawhide bones regularly and create this sound. The grinding and scraping of dog teeth against rawhide is a normal sound. If I had to put a percentage on the amount of attention I was paying I would guess about 11%. I could hear the sound but was not really processing it. Which reminds me, when I reflect on this, that this must be how it is for people with auditory processing disorders - they HEAR what we yammer at them but they don't process it. It's like a dog's teeth scraping on a rawhide bone.

At some point I look over and down at the bowl to determine how much space is left for pits and stems - and discover that it is empty. Where did I put them, I think to myself but then realize in an instant that Duke, my littlest dachshund, has been happily crunching away on every single stem and pit I put in the bowl. Ever since then, I have to be vigilent but that little dog is tenacious. When I fling cherry pits into the compost pile Duke is out of the house like a shot and digging for treasure.

All week the guys selling cherries have been on the street corners. These are the same guys who sell strawberries, flowers, and various statuary. They are ubiquitous. I often wonder if they are related and this is a family business.

"Those cherries sure look good," I say to my commuting partners. They look horrified. Apparently buying fruit from a roadside vendor who keeps extra stock in the trunk of an '81 Oldsmobile just not the same as swiping your card at Albertsons.

Driving to Quartz Hill today took me past another roadside vendor, holding up bags of cherries with a rather pleading look to him. I rationalize that I will buy a bag on my way home - but dang if it doesn't look to me like the same bag when I drive past him again. So I go to Albertsons.

At the market I have to search for the cherries, much like our ancestors had to forage for food. The price is higher than a gallon of gas and I have to rationalize this purchase as worthy because I've had a long and hard week.

The cherries are certainly delicious. But I have to hide them from Duke.

Stick Snakes and Short Hikes

Thursays are long - gratifying, but long. After working all day, having meetings in the afternoon, and then teaching at the university - I wake up on Friday drained. Not to say I don't LOVE Fridays - I do - but through a fog of slight exhaustion.

Ceci and I planned to hike Devil's Punchbowl after work on Friday and we were both disconcerted to discover that the Kindergarten Roundup was scheduled for Friday from 3pm-5pm - in the Kindergarten rooms. No escape for the weary! I kept busy the whole time and Ceci and I ended up at the punchbowl around 5:45pm.

"We'll do a short walk," Ceci said as I contemplated blowing the whole thing off. "We'll stop for frequent breaks. Up the hill and down. Easy." It's good to have a hiking buddy - she convinced me.

Ceci has two wonderful dogs - Buddy who loves our walks and Summer who is a young dog trapped in an old dog's body. She is "fluffy" to put it gently and suffers from bad hips. I had convinced Ceci to bring Summer along for the walk - I couldn't bear to look at that pleading face when Buddy was being leashed up.

As we plodded off UP the hill, which is a 30 minute climb on a good day, it became apparent that Summer was less than enthusiastic. Ceci plays a game with Summer called "Smack the Dog." Another version is called "Kick the Dog." It is very cute. The game I played with Summer UP the hill is called "Drag the Dog."

When we reached the top, after numerous stops for Summer and her recalcitrant hips and fluffy dog ways, Ceci suggested going to the creek - about 15 minutes further. This truly is a nice part of the hike so I agreed. Summer perked up and both dogs enjoyed the creek.

Now, in MY mind, it is time to turn around. It has been a long day but a lovely hike and now it is time to go home.

"Let's go a little bit further," Ceci asks, and I agree since it is a lovely evening and we are engaged in thoughtful conversation. Summer is game and we set off. After 10 minutes Summer wants to play "Drag the Dog" again and I suggest to Ceci that we turn around - after all, this activity is new for Summer and we are going to have to go all the way back - an hour at least. AND, I reason - it will be getting dark.

My friend Ceci is nothing if not a tad ...... stubborn. "Oh, no.. it will be fine," she says. "Summer is doing great!"

"We should turn around though...." I begin, but Ceci is so hopeful and I keep going. And going. And going. Just call us the Energizer Bunnies. There are birds singing and lizards flitting about. And we ran into a hiker, a fellow teacher from a neighboring district who talked our ears off for 10 minutes about everything - he even unpacked his backpack to show up all the stuff he had for protection when I made the mistake of warning him about SNAKES.

Then we head back. By now it is starting to get dark. I tell Ceci that I do not, I DO NOT want to run into any SNAKES on the way back. This is the time for them, I tell her, and a close encounter will just ruin my evening.

We make it back to the creek and it is dusk. I tell Ceci we have to GO NOW and she begins Dog Negotiations with Summer, who would be perfectly happy at this point to spend the night next to the creek.

As we walk it gets darker and I tell Ceci my innermost fears. Using the language of my teenager-hood I tell her I am FREAKING OUT. Every stick looks like a Mojave Green and I am fully realizing that we are almost 45 minutes from the parking lot and another 30 minutes away from any kind of civilization. Being bit by a Mojave Green at this point would mean certain and instant DEATH. I am not ready for that.

It gets darker and Ceci is engaged in a vibrantly pleading game of Drag the Dog, coupled with periodic Dog Negotiations. We have to stop every 3.5 minutes.

"I am freaking out," I tell Ceci. But I pointedly DO NOT bring up the fact that I wanted to turn around 30 minutes ago. I don't like stopping because now I am no longer a moving target. I am a standing still target. Any snake with an attitude and purpose can end my Freaking Out RIGHT NOW.

One of the more beautiful parts of the trail is above the creek. But I will tell you that it is NOT beautiful in PITCH BLACK DARKNESS. (Okay, pitch black duskness.) I stop short because I swear to god, people, right there on the side of the trail is a young snake. Ceci and the dogs practically run into me.

"What?" asks Ceci. "What do you see?"

"I don't know." I am peering through the darkness at the snake. I can't tell if it is a friendly gopher snake or CERTAIN IGNOBLE DEATH.

"Is it a Mojave Green?" she whispers excitedly. The dogs pick up on her tone and rush (well, Buddy rushed, Summer lumbered.....) toward it. I hadn't heard Ceci screech up to that point but her beloved dogs sniffing instant and certain death sure provokes a verbal response.

We stand there, leaning over and peering ahead, the dogs safely behind us.

Ceci pitches a rock towards it and nothing happens. The first time, anyway. The 2nd rock provokes it to move and we both go flailing backwards with me uttering the worst profanity I can think of - a word I never ever say just comes flying out of my mouth.

"Maybe we can just walk on by it..." suggests my friend. I look at Summer who is as wide as the trail and make some kind of snorting sound. The trail is STRAIGHT up on the left side and straight OHMIGOD down on the right side. And - the snake may have family and friends.

We discuss options.
"I need a stick," I say. "I dont' want to hurt it I just want it OUT OF THE WAY."

I locate a stick. We discuss whether or not that stick is a snake and then I pick it up. Ceci gets brave and takes the stick and then proceeds to poke at the snake. Nothing happens. Finally, she gets really brave and sends the snake down the side of the mountain - there is a definite thudSMACK sound as it lands.

"That was not a snake," Ceci declares.

"You mean to tell me," I sputter, "That we hae been standing here freaking out for the past 10 minutes over a GODDAM stick? A GODDAM stick?"

But this little respite was good for Summer and we continue. This time I am tromping along. Noise and vibrations will dissuade snakes. "Don't go there! Some entity is tromping along. We might get smooshed," think SNAKES. We stop every 2 minutes for Dog Negotiations and further episodes of Drag the Dog.

I will cut this short by asking you to imagine trying to get down a PITCH BLACK hill with a recalcitrant dog and every stick in the universe perched menacingly on the trail. We stopped every minute and a half.

"I'm sorry," Ceci says.

"I am being a good friend," I reply. "I am pointedly NOT saying 'I told you so' with every freaking out breath I take."

"You may not remember me telling you this," I say as I step over numerous stick snakes on the trail - but I have a childhood phobia. Of snakes...."

"Oh, that was pretty evident back there..." replies Ceci.

"I may LOOK fine with MY snake and snakes I know are coming," I continue. But unknown snakes bringing certain death in the dark, miles away from life-saving help, FREAK ME OUT."

"We are just paranoid," Ceci observes. "In the old days, people just WALKED around at night - all the time."

"And they DIED!" I reply but under my breath.

"I can't hear you," Ceci says and we have to stop for more Dog Negotiations.

They DIED because they stepped on snakes and they fell into holes and they got infections from loose nails and other road detritus. Life expectancy was like 40 years old. I'd be dead by now if I lived back then.

"We're spoiled," says Ceci. "We're soft."

I just worked a 55 hour work week and I am SOFT? I just hiked for 3 hours at high altitude after a 10 hour day and I am SOFT?

Okay, I didn't plow a field or deliver a baby and go back to washing clothes on rocks. I didn't go to a barn-raising on Saturday. (And bring a covered dish.)

"I can't hear you," Ceci calls as she stops for more Dog Negotiations. A promise of treats gets Summer moving again.

When we hit the parking lot I am convinced we are going to have to pick up the dog and put her in the back seat. Surely she is exhausted and unable to move. But Summer leaps into the Sentra with a spring in her step.

"She's been holding out on us," I say accusingly, ready to play Smack the Dog with serious intentions.

"No, she hitched up when she landed," assures Ceci.

We drive away in pitch blackness. It is 9:15pm and not a soul on the road until I hit Littlerock. The road is covered with stick snakes.


Sunday, May 21, 2006


I had a week full of momentum. It started of high and I just kept going. The eating was under control and I was walking with the dogs. And then - like a balloon deflating, here comes Saturday morning and I feel myself getting lower and lower. Today I feel sick. Achy and awful. I know this is why I am down but the depression is in there somewhere, rooting around, looking for a toe-hold.

Does the medicine work? Why? Why UP and then down? Why down for weeks until I just want to weep in frustration? Hormones? What wicked concoction of metabolism, brain chemistry, and hormones makes me like this?

I am thirsty but can't get enough to satisfy. The heat is radiating up through my head and my scalp is hot. I want to read but the book is dragging me down. Her writing is so good that I relate - too much.

I need something cool.

Jackson and Osbaldo

Today, the kinders painted as a "may do" center over by the sink area in the classroom. All of the children love to paint so they are usually calm, quiet, and enthralled by the whole process. For some reason, Osbaldo Chavarin wanted to liven things up a bit. In the time it took me to refill some water cups, Osbaldo loaded his brush, wound up like a baseball pitcher, and flung paint from here to Palmdale. It splattered on the walls, the bulletin board, jackets, backpacks, paper, hair, and any other objects in the trajectory. He was chagrined to say the least - and I was too tired to do much more than shake my head and admonish him that painting of THAT sort was best done at HOME, in mom's LIVINGROOM, especially when she has new white carpet. Merri Lynn comes over to see what the commotion is about. "Osbaldo is being Jackson Pollack today, " I say, as the young artist stares at his shoes. Merri Lynn pauses. "I wonder what Jackson Pollack's kindergarten teacher said to him?"

"Hmmm...." I say, bending over to begin the clean up process. "She probably said something like, 'Jackson is being Osbaldo Chavarin today.' "

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Corkscrew Woes

About a year ago, Dan solved a Plethora of Problems by purchasing a new cork remover. And since the kitchen is HIS domain, he always opens the wine and he uses his handy dandy Dream Corkscrew Thing.

Now, sometimes I like to open a bottle of wine and have to do it if he isn't around. Well~ the contraption clearly doesn't like me.

Everytime I open a bottle, the faux cork remains seated. It won't get up. I cannot remove it no matter what I do. So I leave the faux cork ON the Dream Corkscrew Thing and Dan finds it and removes it and all is well. He never says anything and I don't complain. It is a good arrangement.

For Christmas, my sister's family bought for Dan a Most Excellent Top of the Line Corkscrew Remover - complete with a stand. This is because Dan is difficult to buy for - so he gets a lot of unusual kitchen gadgets. This Most Excellent Top of the Line Corkscrew Remover is apparently offended by the Dream Corkscrew Thing and so it remains hidden in the cupboard and is unused. It seems kind of silly to display it - and it doesn't fit the kitchen decor.

So a couple weeks ago I open a bottle of very nice Pino Grigio (on sale) and cannot remove the faux cork. Logic dictates that one would simply twist the faux cork in the opposite direction one twists the corkscrew, no? HA! The whole corkscrew twists neatly off the Dream Corkscrew Thing. It has a screw-type thing at the end of it and it screws neatly into the Dream Corkscrew Thing proper - therefore I am no better off than when I started to remove it. You can't yank it off or heave it off, or use pliers to remove it. I tried. Apparently, Dan never noticed or he didn't try to open a new bottle. So it remains on the Dream Corkscrew Thing, a permanent fixture, it seems.

I am an educated and logical person. I study the problem. Knives WILL cut the faux cork but this stuff is designed to seal wine until the next ice age, so... you aren't going to pull those folds apart. Nosirree Bob! (And HE was no help either!)

So, I get out and dust off the Most Excellent Top of the Line Cork Remover. I study it because it is MOST complicated. I manage to get everything locked into place and remove the faux cork! But, the way the thing is designed, there is no way in Hannah that I am going to get this faux cork off! You can't get a finger in there to twist. And are there instructions? OH HELL NO! Mr. Julia Child threw away the box!

So here I am with tin foil over the top of this nice bottle of Pino Grigio (on sale again) and TWO corkscrew removers with corks stuck in them. Dan is out of town - fishing. Which means the faux corks remain. What if he can't get them out either? What to do? Am I destined to have to buy a new cork remover for every bottle I ever open? Are these things made in a disposable version? And am I going to have to nurse ONE bottle of a good Pino Grigio (on sale) until he notices that his wife is a corkscrew spazz?


Friday, May 19, 2006

Our current theme for OCR and ELD is ocean. So, the kids have been learning a lot about sea life. They were fascinated by Sea Stars, which have the ability to grow a new arm if one is lost. In fact, a new arm can sprout a whole new Sea Star. This is neat stuff for Kinders!

One of our workshop activities today was a sea star craft - the kids cut out 5-armed sea stars and glued "suction tubes" to the edges to simulate a real sea star - which uses the tubes to hang on for dear life on the ocean floor. Our tubes happen to be macaroni and beads - very neat stuff for Kinders.

In order to properly affix the beads, the kids need glue. Do you know what one of the Kinder Mottos happens to be? YES!

More is better! This means if a 'little' glue is called for, MORE must be better! If a bit of glitter is required, MORE must be better! Same with sea stars. MORE glue is definitely better for affixing suction tubes. So - the sea star projects are completed and moved to a table for proper drying.

You KNOW what happened, right? YES! Many were stuck to the table. One yellow sea star was so thoroughly affixed I that I considered decoupaging it to the table's surface permanently. But alas..... I got it off but at great expense to one of the arms. I was annoyed when I pulled it free and the arm fell off. Seeing my consternation, Gianncarlo called over to me, "Don't worry, Mrs. Lengning. He'll grow a new one."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The LowDawg Blog

So maybe this is the venue for posting all my stories. And my insatiable need to log my weight loss. Which is ongoing. We have the Exercise Roll Call on the Tnet board, but how detailed does everyone want to get? Sometimes it is just TMI - too MUCH information. Does anyone really CARE how much food I eat and how many sit-ups I've done?

How many times have I lost these same pounds? You would think they would get the message about now. I have been "virtuous" as Ann would say, for 5 days. "Five Days!" sounds like a headline weight-loss plan. "Lose 5 pounds in 5 days!" (Uh huh. The last time I lost 5 pounds in 5 days I gave birth.)

I am afraid to get on the scale and find that it hasn't moved since April 1. Yes, I probably gained weight after April 1 and THAT is the weight that might be coming off now. So how do I know? I want to get on that scale and find that I am UNDER 180 pounds. I was 184 pounds on April 1. So maybe I will get on the scale this weekend so the other shoe can finally drop. Not that I would would WEAR shoes on the scale. Only the doctor's office makes you do that - stupid skinny ass wenches that work there - they take great pleasure I am sure just telling us to "step on the scale" and make silly little eye rolls when we try to disrobe. (Clothes weight a LOT!)