Monday, November 24, 2008

Seamus the Greyhound

Seamus, my dog with little brain, has finally found his calling. He is a greyhound in disguise. Who knew?

Jealousy led to the creation of this "incredible hulk"-type transformation. It is a powerful motivator.

First, let me backtrack a bit:

Ziggy, Danny and Brandy's 7-month old labrador, has been living with us since early August. It is quite apparent that a happy and peaceful house is predicted upon and inversely correlated to Labrador Exercise. It is not sufficient to take Ziggy for hour-long walks around the neighborhood. This activity is good only for dachshunds. The Zigrador requires vigorous exercise. Real vigorous - the kind that induces huffing and puffing and sweating on the part of the exercisor.

So - Brandy and I began taking Ziggy for runs. He runs while one of us pedals my bicycle. Over the past couple months, he has gotten quite good at running on the "house" side of the sidewalk and stopping (on a dime) when the pedaler yells "Stop!" (A good safety feature.)

A couple of weeks ago, the brown dog started going into jealousy overload. He just couldn't stand it when the puppy got to go running and he had to stay INSIDE. As a joke, I leashed Seamus up and took him for a lap. It was a disaster, with the brown dog all over the place, determined to knock me over and strangle himself - while in full motion, naturally.

But, because hope always springs eternal in my heart when it comes to the brown dog, I leashed him up and tried again. He tried to kill me several times with unfortunate leash entanglement accidents - always involving the leash, the running dog, me, and a high rate of speed. Staying on the same side of the fire hydrants and streetlights were merely suggestions for Seamus. Several instances of me sprawling out flat and the bike going sideways led to near strangulation for Seamus. Near death is a good teacher.

Seamus is not a natural hiker. He goes because we all go, but he starts making excuses early on to flop under bushes and take frequent breaks. He never wants to keep on going when we stop for water, like Duke and Augie. He would be perfectly content to turn around after about 8 minutes or so.

But for some reason, Seamus loves running. His short legs just pump away and there is a smile planted across his face as we fly around the neighborhood, up and down hills, in and out of driveways and avoiding trash cans and cars parked across the sidewalks.

On the downhill stretch, Seamus pulls ahead of me and it is all I can do to keep him from pulling me like a water skier around the corner, onto the flatland stretch behind the house. He runs on my right side, away from Ziggy, who is running off-leash on my left. Occasionally, Seamus cuts in front and then pulls to the left, just to ensure that the view on the laborador's side isn't better than his own. He gives token barks to the neighborhood dogs and just keeps right on running.

Today he ran 5 laps and didn't try to kill me at all. This is a new record.

I wonder if he thinks he is a greyhound?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Need Ink? Call Utah....

Yesterday, one of my teaching colleagues stayed late to gather the materials needed for next week’s language arts lessons. She sorted the black line masters, made a list of which teacher on her team needed what, figured out the numbers of copies, and carefully paper-clipped everything together with detailed instructions for the clerk who does the school’s major copying.

When she arrived in the work room, however, she noticed a sign on the duplicating machine. It was out of ink – again. My friend then walked up to the school office to ask the secretary about the status of the duplicator’s ink order. The secretary replied that yes, she had placed an order several weeks ago for a box of ink. Each box costs $38.50 and holds two ink cartridges. The district office was holding the purchase order because the budget is frozen. No money can be spent from the district’s depleted coffers – so the duplicating machine has no ink and a fresh supply is not forthcoming because, Virginia, there is no Ink Fairy.

We discussed asking teachers to chip in so that a box of duplicating machine ink could be purchased. This would cost less than spending time and money at Kinko’s over the weekend. We discussed trying to do without copies at all – but some skills just have to be practiced with paper and pencil.

But the best idea is to go to the Mormon church and ask for a box of duplicating ink. Not all of my colleagues agree with me on this one, but my ideas tend to be a bit outlandish sometimes.

I figure it works this way: The Mormon church outspent every other denomination supporting efforts to pass Proposition 8 and deny homosexuals the right to marry. It bothers them immensely that “Adam and Steve” want a wedding cake, a gift registry, and to file a joint tax return. The church phone-banked out of Utah to sway California voters on this issue. Coupled with deceptive television ads that scared John and Jane Q. Public into thinking schoolteachers were drafting lesson plans to “teach same sex marriage,” the strategy worked and the Proposition was passed by a narrow margin.

America is a democracy and this church, along with countless others in our nation, have the right to express their opinions on this matter and put their money where their collective mouths are – such is the sanctity of freedom of speech. As any basic philosophy class will teach you, all rights are coupled with responsibility. If public education is “the great equalizer” in a democratic society, then the public has the responsibility to ensure that the institution of education is adequately supported.

Since Arnold and his fiscally irresponsible state legislature can’t seem to properly fund education in California, maybe the Mormon church can help out. A box of duplicating ink costs around $40.00 and we could use some a couple boxes of Kleenex too.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Family Drama Cycle

This morning, I hopped on my bicycle to take the dogs for a run. I can’t run all the dogs at once so we take turns. First up is always Ziggy, because the energy of the Labrador puppy is something that needs to be expended early in the morning if you want to drink coffee in peace. I ride a quarter mile loop around the neighborhood, staying on the sidewalk for the safety of the dogs. I see neighbors on occasion, but rarely get entertained with family drama. This morning was an exception.

Loop 1: Ziggy is running at top speed and I am pedaling furiously. When we reach Argyle Lane, we see the garage door open at the corner house and Todd, the 15-year old resident, come out in his pajama bottoms, gray tee shirt, and a motorcycle.

Loop 2: Ziggy is still running at top speed and I am pedaling furiously. I am grateful that nobody has parked their car across the sidewalk and that the path has been clear of any obstructions. Todd is pushing the motorcycle up the street. I am venturing a guess that he is trying to start it. He looks pained.

Loop 3: Ziggy is running and I am pedaling. His tongue is hanging from the side of his mouth but he doesn’t let up except to double check that I am still there. Todd is now sitting on the motorcycle with a scowl on his face. He scowls at me and Ziggy. Ziggy runs over to comfort him but Todd does not respond and Ziggy catches up with me. My “good morning, scowling teenage boy,” went unanswered.

Loop 4: Ziggy is running at a fast trot by now and I am encouraging him by pedaling faster. Saliva is escaping the side of his mouth and I can hear him panting. Todd is now cursing the motorcycle and kicking it with his pajama-clad leg. The effect is somewhat comical but I refrain from laughing since snarling teenage boys lack a sense of humor, especially at their expense from middle aged bicycling women. Ziggy refrains from running over to Todd. I think it was the kicking – but I am not sure. Maybe the Zigrador was just getting tired.

Loop 5: Ziggy and I go around the loop on an even keel. He runs and I pedal and we reach Argyle Lane to hear Todd in the garage yelling at his mother. The motorcycle is on the ground and Todd is generous with words that include the Father and Son but not the Holy Ghost. I am not thinking these are church-going words or that Todd and his mother are having a prayer session. I pedal faster because this scowling mood of his has gotten worse and I don’t want him kicking anything else.

Loop 6: Ziggy has entered the house for water and breakfast. He is replaced by Seamus, the brown dog, who has taken well to bicycle runs. He is very cute with his short little legs pumping away and his pink little tongue hanging out. We see Todd’s mother backing the big blue truck out of the garage and Todd waiting on the motorcycle. He is shouting directions at her and she is looking wearing sunglasses and looking annoyed. I don’t look inside the truck long enough to notice details, but I get the impression Mom is wearing jammies and hasn’t brushed her hair yet.

Loop 7: Seamus continues to run and I continue to pedal. I am wondering if I should take him another loop. When we pass our house, the brown dog keeps going, so I guess the answer is YES. When we turn onto Argyle Lane, the big blue truck is slowly driving up the street. Todd has apparently affixed the recalcitrant motorcycle to the back of the truck. He is yelling at his mother to “F%$#%@ slow down!” as she guns the engine. I don’t think that Todd is happy. We cycle past and I call, “Good morning!” to Mom.“ She waves back and Todd continues to shower his mother with expletives. He is liberal with the F-word and I refrain from calling him a potty mouth. I reflect on his use of the word as an adjective and a noun. This is a versatile word.

Loop 8: Seamus is still going like the energizer bunny. We cycle at an even pace and I have to slow down a bit on Argyle because he is beginning to lag a little. Mom is still attempting to pull Todd and his motorcycle and she has inched up the street a few houses. Todd continues to scream at his mother and every other word begins with an F. She is, according to him, not only “F^%$#%@$ stupid,” she “F%$#%@ can’t hear.” I nod to Patty and she gives me a half wave. I reflect upon the disrespect that the scowly, potty-mouth boy is showing to his mother. I call out to her that she should run the motorcycle over. She smiles and nods and Todd unleashes a stream of expletives regarding his mother’s hearing, driving abilities, and intelligence level. He refrains, however, from kicking anything, since he appears pinned beneath the motorcycle. His NFL football jammies are getting dirty but I refrain from offering laundry tips.

Loop 9: Seamus still does not want to stop so we go for a fourth loop. The brown dog is slowing down but still trotting. We reach Argyle Lane and there is no big blue truck, no annoyed mother, and no snarling, potty-mouth teenage boy. There is no motorcycle and all is quiet. I wonder if she just gave up and pulled the truck back into the garage. Had she run over the motorcycle and the boy, it would have been messy. There is no evidence of carnage, no matter how well-deserved.

Loops 10 and 11: It is now Augie’s turn. There is no sign of life on Argyle Lane. In a way I am disappointed.

Loop 12: Duke trots along the bike for one lap. We stop and visit a neighbor for a few minutes and Duke shivers, shakes, and yips at me to get going. We finish our loop and head home.

So ends our Sunday morning drama.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ghost Writing~

Browsing at Barnes and Noble this afternoon, I noticed a display filled with books for the Halloween “season.” I looked over several titles and came upon a box, sealed in cellophane. The outside of the box said, “Ghost Writing.”

The box is sealed, but there are helpful pictures on the front and "directions" on the back. Apparently, with this Ouija-looking ‘planchette,’ you can contact the dearly departed. A special pen is provided that you insert into a hole in the palette thing. You put your fingertips on the edge and wait for the spirits to start writing. This contraption costs $19.95, before the membership discount.

Now, Barnes and Noble is a reputable bookseller. This isn’t some hole in the wall, San Francisco boutique that caters to the occult. This is a suburban retail outfit.

I would be thrilled if such a pen and planchette could actually be used by my dead family members to chat with me. Heaven knows we have stuff to talk about. Nobody wants to believe that this is possible more than I do. But something about this niggles at me and I just couldn’t add the “Ghost Writing” box to my stack o’ books.

I do wonder though – IF you buy the box and the contraption doesn’t work, will Barnes and Noble refund your money? Or will they blame the customer because the ghosts don’t want to write? Or will the harried, eyebrow-raising clerk inform you that since you didn’t BELIEVE hard enough, OF COURSE the damn thing didn't work?

K (who is scratching her chin hairs here….)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bad Doggy Gramma

Danny has reported to San Diego for Game Warden duty and Brandy is visiting family in Las Vegas. So, I am on Dog Sitting Duty.

This morning Ziggy awoke early. He is now five months old and at least 50 pounds. He is used to getting up with me at 5:30am but THIS is not a 5:30am day.

Saturdays mean nothing to him. My precious sleeping-in time is of no consequence to the black Labrador. It was O’Dawn Thirty when panting puppy breath, just at eye level, invaded my peaceful weekend slumber. I turned over. He licked my neck.

I am assuming he came upstairs because nobody downstairs would wake up. When licking my face didn’t work, he began working on the brown dog – trying to get his attention. Seamus was having none of it. He growled at Ziggy, sighed a doggy sigh, and went back to sleep.

So naturally, Ziggy attacked the bath mat. He killed it and then killed it again. Then he shook the carcass and ran it around the house, announcing his victory. Next came the bathroom trash can and its plethora of fun contents.

When the spewing of old tissue and the chewing of used Q-Tips failed to elicit response, Ziggy went after clothing on my closet shelf. Down came the brand-new, white and fuzzy hooded sweater, the one on sale. He killed it. Then he shook it and paraded the remains around the house. Nobody applauded his victory. I opened one eye while Dan yelled at him to SETTLE DOWN! He didn’t.

So, back to my face with his puppy panting. I noticed white sweater threads and a piece of toilet tissue around his snout. Feeling suspicious, I got up.

I took him outside and ordered him to “go potty.” He gave me a “pity pee” and began running around the yard. I threw toys, his ball, and an old bone. He dutifully ran after them and plowed into my legs with all of his overgrown puppy force. I stepped in mud trying to avoid broken bones. I found bathmat and white sweater wreckage around the family room. He attempted to wrestle the parts from me and kill them again.

I went upstairs to take a shower.

Now, Ziggy thinks all bathroom activities require canine attendance. A closed shower door is an invitation, apparently, to hurl his 50-pound-plus body against the glass and howl miserably, demanding entrance. Huge puppy paws clawed at the glass. The idea of sharing shower space with a stinky dog first thing on a Saturday morning is less than appealing, so I told him NO and he flopped down to wait. Mostly.

In between waiting episodes, he tried to get the brown dog to play with him. Seamus wouldn’t budge. He jumped on the bed but that didn’t work either. The brown dog does NOT get up early unless hell has frozen over. The weather has cooled, but there is no evidence of freezing over.

So, Ziggy tried to get into the closet but I ordered him, through soapy hair and water-blurred vision, to LAY DOWN! He did, temporarily.

But what does a moving bath towel mean to a Labrador puppy? YES! Tug! Tug! Tug! This explains the loose threads in my favorite $50.00, extra-plush bath towel. All mysteries are eventually explained.

FINALLY, Ziggy got breakfast. A few more throws of the ball were obviously NOT going to cut it, so I saddled up for a bike ride around the block to tire the dog out. The loop is hilly and Ziggy runs like he’s possessed. This is a GOOD thing for exercise so we rode around and around and around and around. He kept up with me until the fourth go-around, so I slowed down. Then we went around some more. He kept running, smiling his doggy smile, panting his doggy pant.

Until he stopped running. Just like that. No warning, no slowing down, nothing. Just… errrrk!

I noticed he was sending doggy saliva all over the place. We stopped at a corner house down the street where a pair of nice ladies were watering. They were more than happy to hose down the hot puppy and provide water.

“I don’t think dogs are supposed to foam at the mouth,” one of the hose ladies said.

“He’s not just tired?” I asked, feeling like Gramma of the Year.

“Um, no. He’s getting over-heated,” she replied, covering Ziggy with cool hose water. The dog flopped onto the shade of the sidewalk, licking up water and looking generally exhausted. It was really pitiful.

“Well, shoot. I’m not a very good doggy Gramma,” I confessed. Ziggy rolled over so the nice lady could hose down his belly. He snorted and looked more pitiful.

“Let’s just hope you do a BETTER job with the real thing,” said the hose lady. Her tone of voice indicated that SHE would never encourage a dog that kills bath mats and new sweaters to run around the block to the point of exhaustion. SHE would know when to stop.

Feeling contrite and wracked with guilt, I walked Ziggy home. To add to my misery, he began limping.

When we reached the house next door, Ziggy revived. He ran at the neighbor, rolled on the grass, and demanded a belly rub. Then he did a somersault and tried to bit the neighbor’s inert weed whacker. Then he resumed limping home.

I think I am forgiven because the black lab is asleep ON my foot right now and the bath mats of the house are safe from doggy destruction.

K (Bad Doggy Gramma)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Our House... is a very, very, very, fine house...~

My house is an insane asylum.

Brandy and Danny left their animals with us for a few days while they take care of some business.

Ziggy, the 12-week old Labrador puppy, can’t stand it that Duke, the 14-year old dachshund, doesn’t like him. The solution is to stalk the poor geriatric dog all over the house.

Seamus goes ballistic if Ziggy comes near me. Ziggy always comes near me. Seamus needs Prozac.

Tallulah, the cat, can’t stand the fact that she was moved without her permission. She is pissy, nasty, and actually HISSES at me in my own house. Every move she makes attracts the attention of Augie, who won’t let her be. This adds to her “mood,” I am sure. Augie sits for hours on “point” outside Danny’s bedroom door. The cat sits inside, plotting my demise.

Koka, the red-tailed boa, won’t eat. “Little Guy,” the ball python WILL eat. I am tempted to smear the cat in mouse droppings and have her “ visit” the snake enclosure “by accident.”

Otis refuses to come inside, favoring the garage and the back patio. Until the Zigrador figures out he is there – then the gray cat hides behind the compost pile or jumps into the yard next door, where there are only 3 dogs in residence.

Dan keeps trying to “talk” the dogs into calming down. During the last negotiation session, I took the Zigmeister outside to run around. He promptly mistook my hand for a tennis ball. It still throbs. When the swelling goes down, I will check for broken bones.

And Dustin won’t believe me when I tell him that the dachshunds just belted out the last portion of the Jeopardy! theme song. He served up some leftover dinner, ate standing up, then drove out of here like a bat out of hell, saying something about me seeing the Virgin Mary in the Grilled Cheese Sandwiches next.

He didn’t take ANY of the dogs with him.

If the ball python won't dispatch Tallulah, I’m going to put that bitchy little feline in HIS room and won’t HE be surprised…….


Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Report from Tallulah~

This is my second report on Day 2 of my captivity. You will note that one of the ugly animals from my Male Staff Member's former home has breached the security gate. He is even worse than I expected and dared to IGNORE me after glancing at my comely face and beautiful body.

This despicable creature actually JUMPED onto my throne and proceeded to chew on one of MY toys. The woman who wants to be a staff member, actually LAUGHED at this and I shall not forgive her.

Her resume will be placed in my litter box along with my latest aromatic deposit.


Tallulah: Report from Captivity

Notes from the Trenches: Report by Tallulah the Cat.

This is my second full day in this hellhole known as my Male Staff Member's former home. There are big ugly animals everywhere and they keep coming to my gate. Luckily, they are too stupid to climb over so I am safe from their slobbering, ugly, disgusting faces for now.

The woman, who needs to submit a resume in triplicate, keeps coming in the gated room to see me in an attempt to placate and curry favor. It is not working. The ugly animals follow her and she is too nice to them. Her position as a future staff member is very much in question.

I allow petting, but only because I need it at particular times and places.

Send tuna and be quick about it.


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Couch Cushions

Today I got off on a cleaning tangent and went after the family room couch cushions. They are dirty and this has been bothering me. The main reason is that my daughter in law is moving in next weekend and I don’t want her to think I put up with dirty couch cushions on a regular basis. I would like her to think that dirty couch cushions are an anomaly in our house.

The dogs like to lick the couch. I am sure this is just a "dog thing," but no amount of harping, yelling, clapping, or "pssting" at them makes the licking stop. They just like to lick. After awhile, the couch cushions have little spots that are probably full of dried dog-spit residue. They also come in from outside and go straight to the couch. This is AFTER rolling in something smelly and dirty. Although they do lick their paws on occasion, it is rarely before jumping onto the couch after digging in the mud.

Cleaning these couch cushions are an effort in physical strength. It takes a lot to get the cushion covers off the bottom cushions so that they can be put in the washing machine. It also takes a lot of strength to put them back on – this is not an easy task.

The most annoying thing about this whole endeavor is that I cannot do the job well. The bottom cushions and the matching pillows have zippers for somewhat-easy removal. But the top cushions are affixed to the couches and big chair. You cannot remove them for proper cleaning.

This makes me wonder what in hell the couch designers were thinking. “Oh yes, let’s make this furniture family-friendly. Let’s put zippers on the cushions so that the covers may be easily removed for cleaning! We will use a microfiber that looks a lot like suede! This couch will look rich and inviting.!” I can almost hear hands clapping together in delight at the prospect.

“Well, uh… what about the top cushions?” asks the smart-aleck young design assistant. “You show these top cushions as being sewn into the back of the couch and chair – how will the owner remove THOSE for easy cleaning?”

The designer probably gave the youngster a withering look and said something about creative license and his or her complete misunderstanding of the whole design concept. "My furniture is ART," the designer undoubtedly cried out. "Don't bother me with insignifant little details!"

The smirky young assitant might have mentioned something about the magnetic attributes of dog hair and the oily residue of human heads that rest after a long and hard day of toil.

The designer then said something about “steam cleaning,” which is what one must do with all the fabric covering the furniture anyway. "So what difference will it make," was the final comment, said through a clenched jaw and a mouth full of pins.

We all know that steam cleaning and other methods of dirt and stain removal on furniture is half-assed at best. Where does all that crud GO once the hot water and cleaning fluid is shot straight into the attached cushions and furniture frame? It simply cannot come out with the poor amount of suction used by whatever piece of equipment is being employed. The dirty liquid and dirty stuff is THERE forever, under where you are sitting, festering and becoming more and more disgusting as time passes. You can vacuum and dab with a wet cloth until the cows come home, but you will never, EVER, get that part of the furniture as clean as the portions you can throw into the washing machine.

Despite the whole couch getting a good vacuuming on a somewhat-regular basis, there is always dirt and cherry pits and dog hair under the cushions. I often ponder how all that stuff gets there in the first place because I don't remember SEEING anybody actually put little rocks and tiny safety pins and coins under the couch cushions. And for what purpose, anyway?

There is little posterity for old couches. They get dumped somewhere or carted away by charities who take them places where they are bought by people who are probably not bothered by the lack of removable top couch cushions. Some people put their old couches on their lawns in an effort to return to white-trash roots. But the last time I tried this, the couch was gone the next day.

My next batch of family room furniture will have 100% removable outer wear. What is left should be able to withstand a good hosing-off. In fact, lawn furniture just may be the way to go.

Leo Drives~

I admire the way Leo drives. He has his eyes on the road and he isn't distracted by the radio or other vehicles. He just pays attention to what he is doing. I think that is commendable. There are so many drivers who could learn from Leo's fine example. He has excellent driving habits.

The best thing about Leo, as a driver, is the absence of a Bluetooth. Leo does not feel the need to be constantly connected to a cellular phone and the incessant demands of human conversation. He chooses not to look silly and ostentatious with an earpiece attached to his head, talking to himself while he drives. In fact, Leo doesn't talk at all while at the wheel.

Leo just......drives.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Clayton on Friday

Yesterday, I opened the classroom door and I saw Clayton across the lawn, standing by the outside cafeteria door. He was supposed to walk to the room, but for some reason he was just standing there. The custodian was telling him, not too kindly, to go to his classroom. Clayton was just standing there.

I propped open the door and looked over at him, then waved. He saw me, bolted across the lawn, and flew into my arms. (Then he asked if he could go play on the trikes.)

Right before we went home, Clayton looked up at me. I was certain he was going to ask about the trikes again. “Teacher,” he said.

“Yes, Clayton,” I responded.

“I love you teacher.”

“I love you too, Clayton. I am happy you are in my class,” I said, as I leaned down to hug him.

“Teacher?” asked Clayton when I stood up.

“Yes, Clayton,” I said, stepping over backpacks to reach the front of the rug area.

“Can I go home now?”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Long Trike Trail Home

Clayton is truly one of the only students I’ve had that has a slack-jaw. I know this is unkind and that I will be dipping the soles of my feet in hell for this, but the boy is out to lunch and has room to rent upstairs. He processes only key words that mean something to him. These are his favorite:

1. Play
2. Recess
3. Eat
4. Cars
5. Tricycle
6. Home

I tell him where to go sit and his jaw drops. One minute later, as the kids are settled at their tables, he will at my side, demanding to know where to go. I resist temptation and repeat my instructions. He usually tells me that he doesn’t want to go there. I again resist temptation and lead him to where he needs to go. If he goes limp, I threaten the loss of the toy cars. He relents but makes it clear he is NOT happy about this.

He never remembers to hang up his backpack when he comes in. He just plops down and starts playing. If the cars are not out yet, he will wander the room looking for them because he can’t remember where they are stored. If I remind him to hang up his backpack and take care of business, he ignores me, snarls at me, or just says “NO.”

Tuesday, I introduced the trikes to the class and painstakingly went over rules and procedures. In doing this, I created a monster because now, no matter what, Clinton doesn’t wish to do anything that doesn’t pertain to the tricycles.

He began asking about them when he arrived this morning, during group time, during group time again, during rug time, and during story time. He spent all recess on the trikes and then demanded to be let out to play on them again when we came in. He asked about them during lunch and after lunch. During P.E., he refused to step away from the trikes and rode around the track again and again – until somebody else wanted a turn and he impatiently waited to ride again.

After P.E. he demanded that I let him go ride the trike because “I never let him ride the tricycle.”

When I said no, that we have other things to accomplish today, he demanded that I take him home RIGHT NOW. I said no, he would ride the bus home later. He said, “NO, drive me home RIGHT NOW.”

It’s been a long two weeks with Clayton. This is the boy who pushes his work towards me when we work at the tables and says that he “doesn’t want to” do what I am asking him to do. He ONLY wants to ride the trike. This is the boy who snarled at me all day Monday and when I said he was grumpy he snarled at me again that he IS NOT GRUMPY!

“Somebody needs to go to bed early tonight,” I said, feeling every inch of my years and carefully cultivated patience. “NO,” was the immediate response.

“Oh yes,” I said, “I will be calling your daddy when you leave today and I will tell him that Clayton needs to take a NAP!”

“NO!” he says in response. “No nap!”

So, his demand that I take him home “RIGHT NOW” really spoke to me.

Because I am evil and going to hell anyway, I told him that if he really wanted to go home “right now” he could ride the tricycle. He just stared at me. Then I pushed it even further and told him to stay on the sidewalk, be safe, and look both ways when he crosses the street.

Five minutes later I look up and he is standing near the back door with his backpack on, trying to reach the key to the tricycle shed.

I could almost feel the flames licking my feet.

Hey! A Rooster Shaw!

I have this little character in my class named Victoria. She thinks my name is “Hey!” although we are working on this. Victoria loves me dearly but listening to me is a different thing all together. Victoria would rather talk than listen. Victoria is up in everybody’s business. I need to appoint her Prime Minister or something.

I made the mistake of measuring her first on our class growth chart. Every morning, after she yells, "HEY!" at me, she demands that I "see how tall" she is. I keep telling her that her height has not changed since yesterday, but she only processes the part about "growth" and "blah blah blah blah."

She has been singing this little ditty for days now – to the point of distraction on my part. She sings, over and over again, “A rooster shaw, a rooster shaw, a rooster shaw shaw...” She does it during group time. She does it loudly in the bathroom. She sings it before recess. She sings it after recess. She is loud and proud in the cafeteria, “A rooster shaw, a rooster shaw, a rooster shaw shaw!”

I have been going nuts. I could not figure it out. She is an English language learner, so it is even more strange, since I can’t think of anything in Spanish that even closely resembles “a rooster shaw.” She even does this without an accent and during the most inopportune times. It is a brain worm, I thought, at its worst! All day long Victoria sings, “A rooster shaw, a rooster shaw, a rooster shaw shaw!” (And then she yells for me, “HEY!”)

So today, I put on a little movement song by Dr. Jean that gets the kids moving when they need to get the wiggles out. It is perfect for the end of the school day. The song is called “A Tooty Ta.”

We were all singing and swaying, “A tooty, ta, a tooty ta, a tooty ta ta….,” gyrating our hips and pointing our thumbs. And there is Victoria, singing at the top of her lungs, “A ROOSTER SHAW, A ROOSTER SHAW, A ROOSTER SHAW shaw!”

HEY! I am really dense. It takes SO LONG to get it sometimes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Missing Carrot

Today my kinders were sitting at the tables "following directions." They were to color each picture to match the color word that appears on the page. They are making a little book called, "Orange is a Carrot." We do this book one page at a time, with me carefully controlling the crayons.

The kids were supposed to be coloring the carrot orange. I did not give them access to any other colors because my experience has taught me that they don't CARE if the color matches the color word. Purple carrots are just fine in KinderWorld. Normally, I could care less - but THIS project requires adherence to the directions in order to achieve a product that practices emerging skills.

Isaias decides halfway through coloring the carrot that he needs to get up and go to the restroom. His book falls on the floor and when he picks it up, he places it back on the table upside down.

When he returns from the restroom, he opens his book from the back cover and smoothes it down. Then he sees the blank backside of the last page of the book. He begins hollering at me, "Teacher! Teacher! Teacher!"

"What is it, Isaias," I say with kindness and patience. "What is the matter?"

His eyes are wide as saucers as he looks down at his book and then up at me. "MY CARROT IS GONE!"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Possibilities: What if People Cleaned Up After Themselves?

Today’s paper ran a story about a new park opening in downtown Los Angeles – the first open space made available to residents since the late 19th century. While the article was very upbeat about this, my first reaction had me wondering how long it would take before the park became dirty, vandalized, and dangerous. The local residents interviewed for the story seemed happy about the park and called it a refuge and a place to run and play.

But how long before the lavatory doors are ripped off their sparkling new hinges and sold for scrap or taken to the nearest recycling center and exchanged for cash? How long before broken sprinkler heads shoot water in every direction except the new grass that depends upon the irrigation to stay alive? How long before picnic tables and building surfaces are covered by gang graffiti and turf wars erupt over the coveted open space?

Call me a cynic but these were my thoughts as I read the article and shook my head reading the sound bites offered by the city’s politicians who stopped by to take credit for the 10.5 acre site. I had to ponder – who is going to take care of the litter? Who is going to weed the planters of soda cans and clean up after the numerous family picnics that will descend upon these grounds while the weather is still warm? Will those families take care of the city-provided restrooms and teach their children to do likewise? One look at any public restroom in any public place and the outlook is not good. It never ceases to amaze me how many women have difficulty getting dirty paper towels INTO the provided receptacle. And what is it about cleaning up after yourself when you use a toilet? Does anybody in their right mind honestly think somebody else wants to be confronted with your private mess? Or is the anonymity of the whole thing the perfect camouflage for our most basic instincts?

People are notoriously unwilling to clean up after themselves. A visit to any discount store will illustrate that reality. Clothing, shoes, and other store merchandise is often picked up, examined, and then discarded – on the floor, thrown across shelves, and under displays. At some point an apathetic clerk will come along to replace the jumbled items, but it is a Sisyphian task. These minimum wage earning individuals do nothing their entire shifts but clean up after people who are perfectly capable of cleaning up after themselves.

Carts are abandoned in parking lots because many people are too lazy to return them to the store. How long, really, does it take to bring a cart to the parking lot area designed for carts? Entire companies are in business to retrieve carts from people who think nothing of removing them from parking lots altogether.

And litter? It is ubiquitous. Any neighborhood walk will reveal trash that didn’t make it to the trash can or was hurled from a passing car. School grounds are full of trash that blows out of poorly-designed receptacles. Parks and other recreation areas are strewn with the remains of some family’s good time.

I often wonder at the loss of productivity we as a society experience because people are rarely taught to clean up after themselves. What if retail store clerks did not have to spend time picking up and replacing items tossed aside by lazy customers? Would it be possible for “customer service” to make a comeback? How about teaching school children to clean up playground litter – would a respect for the environment and the world around them be encouraged? How about just an old-fashioned sense of responsibility for the world around them?

With regularity, I have my students clean up common areas in the school. I am regarded as eccentric for doing this. Many teachers and most school children walk by the campus litter regularly. Bending over and picking it up is a possibility that rarely enters the repertoire of possible actions. It is amazing and it is sad. In Japan, school children actually clean up their own schools. In America, the classified workers unions and middle class parents would go ballistic at such a suggestion. But think of the possibilities: If school children cleaned up after themselves, classified employees charged with those thankless tasks would be free to work on other neglected areas of the school, things they cannot do because school children think nothing of creating messes and then skipping away from them.

What if park-goers actually cleaned up after picnics and parties and made sure their children put trash in the wastebaskets? Would a message be sent to criminals that this place is valued, cared for, and inappropriate for graffiti and other acts of vandalism? What kind of respect for humanity might be engendered in that instance?

I had a neighbor once who swept his sidewalk and driveway every weekend. He also scooped up all the debris that collected in the gutter in front of his house. I have to wonder – what if everybody did that? What if the city-financed street sweeper crew could actually work on other, more public areas and keep them pristine and attractive? Would people then be less likely to hurl beer cans out of their cars?

It is utopian, my view of a world populated by responsible people. The idea that people could actually clean up after themselves – such an idealistic concept.

I wish the people of downtown L.A. good luck with their park and an abundance of trash cans.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Hiding the Bones: Another Dog Tail

Today, I gave each dog a meaty bone.

Duke’s was heavier than he is but he solved the problem by dragging it to just the right spot and then putting his paw on it for stability while he went to work. He was busy for a long time and I am not sure where the remains are located. The chewing and gnawing and paw-steadying wore him out – he’s asleep on the chair.

Augie took his meaty bone under the table and made quick work of removing the meat and marrow. He’s outside on the patio “digesting.” He’s placed the bone on the grass, in the sun, for proper “drying.”

Seamus, however, is beside himself. After working on what was probably the biggest bone in the package, he took it upstairs. There was much thumping and bumping as he relocated the laundry basket, the trash can, my shoes, the sheets on the bed, and my pillows, in search of the “perfect” spot for hiding. Dog compels the brown dog to bury the bones and the questionable meaty parts he is saving for later. But what he lacks is the understanding that 2-story houses built on concrete foundations lack the necessary components for appropriate burying of bones.

Upstairs, laundry is dragged all over the room. My pillows are off the bed, the stack of books on the floor are now a pile, and several shoes are in the bathroom. Standing amid this disarray is Seamus, with the bone in his mouth, looking perplexed and agitated. Hanging off the bone is a rather brownish piece of meat that has to be harboring bacteria that is rapidly multiplying while the poor dog looks for adequate storage.

He eventually settled on my bed and began what sounded like an expedition to China. Then he plopped down on the bunched bedclothes and expelled a very angst-laden canine sigh.

Somewhere in between my blanket and top sheet is my dog’s prized possession. On top, is Seamus – sleeping a righteous sleep and dreaming big doggy dreams.

It’s time to change the bed anyway.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hiding the Bones: A Dog Tail~

I have been giving the dogs real meaty bones lately. They seem to enjoy them but I am concerned about Seamus.

The brown dog spends an inordinate amount of time with his bones and then more time trying to figure out where to HIDE them.

I hear wild scratching at all times of the day and night - only to see my dog-with-little-brain trying to "unbury" a bone from the couch cushions, the throw pillows, a carpet runner, or from where he WEDGED it under the couch. (How he gets in under that far, I have no clue.)

This morning, after my bike ride, I jumped in the shower. When I emerged, I heard a ruckus in the closet. I see Seamus dragging the laundry basket around with his teeth - he has a hold of Dan's underwear and is trying to pull it through a slat in the laundry basket.

He is very intense about it. I tell him to leave Dad's tighty-wighties alone and push the basket back into place.

A minute later, same issue - the brown dog is trying to pull the drawers through the slat.

Now, Seamus follows the motto, "No brains, no headaches." But he usually leaves DH's underwear alone. So, I investigate and SURE ENOUGH... he has yesterday's meaty
bone wrapped up in Dad's "yesterday" underwear.

THIS explains the "clean" meaty bone in the dryer last Sunday.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Ball Changes

Today Doctor Dave's evil assistant called to invite me back in to the surgical center to replace my testicles. It seems the plastic things floating around inside do nothing for the aesthetics of these instruments of torture and Doctor Dave simply will NOT have me going around looking like that.

I dressed for the occasion, including underwear and a sports bra. Lacking a decent place to properly pin the balls to my clothing, I gave up and inserted one on each side of the bra - where the bra's "cups" would be if I had breasts. Since the balls are deflated due to this giant suction thing they are performing, the effect was a like oversized and inverted nipples.

For some reason, this made my appearance rather humerous. The office staff frantically grasped their collective sides and appeared to wet their collective thongs. The Evil Assistant then took a series of pictures reminiscent of the good Doctor's "before" and "after" shots that document his careful work.

She is of the opinion that Doctor Dave will either become very annoyed with her for using his camera on "breast work" he did not perform, or he will wet his drawers.

Since I get to see the good Doctor tomorrow for a tube change and a bandage-check, I think it would be decent of me to bring a gift. But I am at a loss: Tighty-wighties or Scooby Doo boxers?

Lightbulb Ideas~

My friend Kelley is very annoyed about having to use to new energy-efficient, enironmentally-safe, mercury-filled "last forever" lightbulbs. She feels that we, as consumers, are being forced to buy them and she will never do so. Since incandescent lightbulbs will be out of the stores within a few years, she and her sister plan to hoard the incandescent versions. They will stockpile them in garages, attics, cupboards, and unused nooks and crannies around the ol' homesteads.

Me? I am not in agreement. At all.

Personally, I prefer candlelight. I have hoarded candles since 1980 and dutifully recycle the wax to make new candles. My "candle recycling" enterprise is crude but efficient. I waste tons of natural gas heating up all the chips, chunks, and other waxy droppings. I do this on our stove! Then I pour the melted wax into various containers I have recycled over the years - soda cans, peanut butter jars, wine bottles, yogurt cups, and pickle jar lids. I buy wicking by the mile and store it in old wrapping paper tubes.

I am currently experimenting with outdoor lighting by pouring a bit of wax from each melting session into an old PVC pipe I found along the side of the road. Somebody actually threw it out! The form is perfect for creating what I hope to be a huge "torch" that will light part of my patio and enhance my garden daycore. I will "plant" these in my yard! Solar garden lights? HA! They will PALE in comparison to these babies. I just need to ensure that the plants in the vicinity are non-flammable.

We have had many close calls over the years with pesky little house fires, but worry not! I save all the charred materials and either continue to use them, recycle them into wall and yard art, or burn the remainders in my fireplace very winter. I repaint the damaged walls every spring - just like changing out the batteries in the smoke detectors - I repaint and caulk damaged surfaces! And those smoke detectors work, believe me. With a bit of engineering ingenuity, an engineer-pal of mine got our smoke detectors to play guitar riffs from "Smoke on the Water" and "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." Now, annoying little fire mishaps are transformed into musical interludes!

Oh yes.. there have a few other 'unfortunate' incidents involving my long-haired cat. Suffice to say that he sleeps hangs out in the closet now and the latest skin graft is healing nicely.

Incandecent lightbulbs? PUHleeeeze. Y'all are so backwards it's laughable!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Advice from Jim, my favorite Outlaw~

Since Jim and Anita are Brandy's parents, I get to call them my "outlaws." I was pleased to get an eMail response from them today regarding my surgery and what Jim refers to as my "newly acquired hotness." He warns that I must use my powers for GOOD.

I chuckled when I read it. Then I laughed out loud. I would have gone into a full knee-slap, but my tender post-surgical areas disallow that. So, I carefully considered this new illusion of "hotness" and then replied accordingly:

Oh yes, dear Jim….. I am hot. And then I am cold. And then I am hot again. I drip sweat while shivering… this is because of “reduced body volume” and my newly hot body attempting to get used to it.

I have two hand-grenade things attached to tubes that that go into delicate body areas. They drain a lovely color of liquid constantly. I finally grew balls! I am wearing a strait-jacket thing that velcroes well to itself and to delicate lower body hair. It has sharp edges that are gouging my upper legs and hip areas. Since I have reduced sensation, I don’t notice these secondary injuries until they start bleeding or the irritation causes me to look. (That or Augie Doggie attempting to “clean” the wound.)

My back aches from taking over from my newly tightened torso muscles – which were in good shape to begin with but couldn’t be seen or heard. Now they are on a 15-day strike because their delicate sheaths have been stitched and yanked and heaved into a new location.

I have the stamina of an sloth, drink water constantly, pee hourly, and have to sleep with every pillow in the house. I am awake every 2 hours to pee or turn over so I don’t get bedsores. The only good night sleep I’ve had in 6 nights was on Tuesday – when I took an anti-anxiety pill and chased it with a pain pill. I slept for 12 solid hours. I did not get up to pee and I did not turn over. It took me 20 minutes to unwedge myself from my pillow cocoon. Then I had to hobble to the bathroom with a bladder worthy of a racehorse. Something tells me this little drug cocktail would have gotten me on television if my last name were "Hilton" or "Spears."

When I finally got to shower, after three long days, I couldn’t do it alone. Only a TRUE best friend would come and help with such a task. And I have one. The only downside is the fact that three of us know about this little arrangement, and one of them is my husband who was at work at the time. He said he wished he’d known – he’d have come home with his camera. (Yeah, to two middle aged women taking a shower… one of them wearing party beads and plastic testicles.)

I have to shower with the testicles slung through bright green Mardi Gras beads since those were all I had handy in the bathroom when I needed something to keep the 17 yards of aquarium tubing from sliding out of my body when the hand grenade portions hit the ground. Not that they could – they are sutured to a very delicate area in the body that is not reacting well to its unexpected shave and foreign objects of attachment. Re-read that part…SUTURED. I want you to picture 17 yards of aquarium tubing SUTURED to an area within centimeters of YOUR, uh…. “drains.”

Oh yes, dear OutLaw Jim.. I am HOT.


New Computer

The old computer has been on its last legs for a long time. It has been sluggish and unreliable the last few months and a game of Free Cell caused an automatic shutdown in the afternoons if the humidity was under 65%.

I tried to buy one from a local vendor but had no luck. The local vendors were either closed when I went looking or were staffed by fat foreign guys who tried to sell me what I didn't need while constantly flipping open their cell phones. This happened twice.

I went to the big box store and was amazed at the variety of computers. What amazed me more was the variety of teen-somethings with big-box name tags and absolutely nothing to do. When it dawned on me that customer service from these sloths was not forthcoming, I fled the store and came home to hide.

With credit card in hand, I went online to Dell and ordered this new machine. It is very nice. It lacks a media card reader, but I didn't know what a media card reader was when I was ordering, and when Dell "strongly recommended" one, I clicked on by. Now it seems I need one in order to use the memory stick for the camera. Go figure! Seems to me if something is "strongly recommended" as a component, then maybe Dell should just include it as part of the package.

The new machine arrived but I had no time to clean files off the old one, dismantle it, and then set up the new one. For two weeks the boxes sat in the living room, rather forlorn.

There were two graduations. There was a wedding. There was a quick trip up north. And then I had surgery.

No problem, I thought - I will set up the new computer a few days after surgery.

It took me hours BEFORE the surgery to clean out the files and copy them. It also took me hours AFTER surgery to unplug all the cords. I would travel to the computer, unplug a cord, and then go rest. Since the machine has many cords, you can imagine how many days this took.

Once the cords were unplugged and tied with little bread wires, they had to be moved into the livingroom next to the old keyboard - the only component I could move off the desk myself. Then I had to wait for the Y-chromosome people to find time and MOVE the computer carcasses off the computer desk and into the livingroom, next to the neatly wrapped cords.

And DUST? Can we just talk a minute about the dust? You can't set up a new machine in old dust. So - it took several trips to the hall closet to get the vacuum, remove the carpet attachments, roll the vacuum into the computer room, and then go rest. It took a few more trips to actually VACUUM.

Dustin came home at one point while I was vacuuming the middle portion of the computer desk. "You shouldn't be doing that," he said, leaning against the door frame.

"Yeah, I know. Feel free to jump right in," I replied, moving slowly around to face him. By the time I pivoted enough for a full-face conversation, he was gone. So I turned off the Dyson and went to rest.

The other Y-chromosome guy in this house said he would move anything I needed - just ask. When I asked, after resting, he said just a minute because the mother of all horse races that won't be repeated for another 30 years, is coming on. Then it was the U.S. Open. So I rested some more.

Then I decided to open the boxes. I got some nice scissors and settled down to the task from a seated position on the couch. It took me an hour to open them all. It took the Y-guy 30 seconds to pull out anything he didn't deem important and pile the unimportant stuff and the computer packing materials into one of the boxes. In the time it took him to move the new components to the nicely dusted computer desk, I was able to fish out the Owners' Manuals, the back-up CDs, the power cords, the Quicken software box, the Norton Anti-Virus package, the packing slip, and the computer mouse.

"Did you vacuum?" he asked, all indignant.

"What makes you think that?" I asked, gently easing myself up from the floor with about a thousand dollars worth of unimportant stuff.

"Okay, because I told you I would do that..." he says as he heads back to express his preference for Tiger Woods and horses with original names like "Brown Horse."

After proudly connecting the keyboard and the mouse to the appropriate places, I went to rest.

The next day, Ann came to the rescue. We set up the computer in a timely manner. This involved Ann vacuuming, Ann removing excess cords from computers long dead sent to electronic heaven, and Ann setting up and initializing the computer. I watched and she let me push a button. Then I rested. Ann installed the computer speakers and registered all the software.

Now I am going to go rest. It is strongly recommended.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jordan's Bad Day~

There comes a time in each teacher's life for writing a letter home to parents. Today, I had to write a letter to Jordan's parents. Below is a copy.

Dear Jordan's Parents,

Jordan had a bad day today. I am writing because this was a really bad day. Normally, I would have sent Jordan to the office and the principal would have contacted you, but I have reached the point in the school year with Jordan that I need to try something different.

During Group Time we have 4-5 activities. Today, one of those choices was the completion of a May calendar. The children were asked to fill in the dates, which they could copy from our class calendar. They had to mark two upcoming events and then color the flowers if they wished. This is good numeral practice and good for vocabulary development. We also practice patterning because the students color the date boxes to match the pattern for the current month.

Jordan didn’t want to do it. He made this perfectly clear from the minute he ran from the bathroom and did a perfect slide into home base. He flipped around on the floor, did a headstand and a back flip. Had I been grading for P.E., I’d give those maneuvers an 8.1. Then played with his friends – who somehow managed to finish.

Jordan chose not to complete the work during recess or lunchtime. He managed to bang his head against the wall (check for bruises), roll on the floor, visit the restroom several times, fall of his chair, and sit in the recycling bin.

None of this helped him to finish the calendar.

He stabbed his shoes repeatedly with classroom pencils. Luckily for me, we have a pencil sharpener.

Jordan is fine example of stubbornness in action. Hopefully this will pay off in the future when he goes to college. In the meantime, please help him complete the calendar. I am enclosing the original work for you to admire.

Please sign the completed calendar and return it to me.

Thank you for your continued support. School is out in 11 days. I send my condolences.


Jordan's Kindergarten Teacher

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Slow Fall~

During recess today, Andrew ran up to me, upset because Diego had pushed him down. Not only did Diego push him down, he added to the indignity of the whole thing by pushing him down OFF the swing.

Diego was on Andrew's heels, coming to defend himself, at all costs.

"Diego," I said, "Andrew tells me you pushed him down."

"Off the swing," added Andrew.

"NO," said Diego, shaking his head. "I didn't! I didn't!"

"He pushed me down off the swing. It hurt me," said Andrew, rubbing his rear end for added emphasis.

"No, no, no.........." argued Diego, "I didn't push him down! I didn't!"

"Yes. Yes. He pushed me down," said Andrew.

"No," said Diego. "I didn't. I didn't."

"Okay," I said, mustering up some patience. "Diego. Why did you push Andrew down?"

Diego is silent for a few seconds, considering whether to lawyer-up. Then he says quietly, "I didn't."

"Diego. If you didn't push Andrew down, how did he fall off the swing and land on the ground?"

Diego pauses to think. Then he says, "Verrrrry slowwwwly."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bicycle Ruminations

Today, I bought a new bicycle. This was not an impulsive purchase - I have been thinking about bike riding for a long time.

Influencing my decision was my dear friend, Ann, who used to ride fanatically but now rides regularly. She has an almost vintage racing bicycle that has logged many miles. She is very attached to it and lifts her eyebrow at the mere mention by Jim, her bicycling spouse, that the trusty steed could use some updating.

The new bike is a Scott racing model. I like it for many reasons. It is lightweight, white like my favorite car color, and damn good-looking. There are other, technical reasons, but I am reluctant to go into them here. When I know what those technical reasons are, I will pontificate accordingly.

I took it out for a ride this afternoon and noticed a few things that I never really considered before. I will list them since I am a good list-maker:

1. Bicycle shorts are not merely an affectation used by cyclists to look professional. That extra padding around tender areas comes in handy after about 4 minutes.

2. Brakes need to be at the top of the handlebars, not in front of the bike. Aerodynamics, shmerodynamics - when I want to stop, I want to stop, not give my hand ligaments a good stretching.

3. Bike lanes shouldn't be politically correct after-thoughts. Bike lanes should be mandatory on all roads.

4. Bike lanes are for bikes. They are not right turn lanes for cars.

5. There is an abundance of crap all over the road. Isn't somebody in charge of clearing crap from the road? SHOULDN'T somebody be in charge of clearing crap from the road?

6. Speaking of crap, what is with all the broken glass? Do people just go outside and fling glass for the hell of it? I don't get it.

7. Road surfaces are not even-steven. They should be even-steven. In Spanish-speaking neighborhoods, they should be equal-pasqual. This is not a mountain bike.

8. Driveways are rarely flush with the street. Why IS that? It makes no sense. Aren't these things generally done with an eye on meeting up at some point?

9. Some cars are too quiet. They sneak up on you. Cars shouldn't be sneaky. It hurts the neck to look back on the left side.

10. Dogs are more interested in chasing a cyclist than a walker with 3 loud and energetic weinie dogs. Does that chihuahua down on Argyle Lane really think he can catch me?

11. Does the bicycle seat make my butt look fat?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Diego and the Duck Joke

There is a joke I like to tell my students towards the end of the school year. Kindergarten kids, for the most part, don't understand jokes unless they have something to do with "underwear" "the bathroom," or "naked."

If the kids can retell the joke, it is always a good laugh and I often hear from parents later that they "loved the duck joke."

Okay. So the joke goes like this:

Duck walks into a supermarket and looks around for the manager. When he finds the manager he waddles up and says, "Hey! You got any gwapes?"

The manager says, "No. I don't got any gwapes."

Next day, the duck walks into the supermarket and looks around for the manager. When he finds the manager, he waddles up and says, "Hey! You got any gwapes?"

The manager answers, "NO! I don't got any gwapes!"

Next day, duck walks into the supermarket and looks around for the manager. When he finds the manager, he waddles up to him and says, "HEY! You got any gwapes?"

The manager stops what he is doing and yells at the duck. "NO! I don't got any gwapes. You come in here tomorrow and ask me for gwapes, I'm gonna staple your feet to the floor!"

Next day, the duck walks into the supermarket. He looks around for the manager. When he finds the manager, he waddles up to him and says, "HEY! You got any staples?"

The manager says, "No. I don't got any staples."

Duck says, "Good! You got any gwapes?"


Sometimes the kids get the joke and sometimes they don't. This is a "don't" year but that didn't prevent them from asking me to tell the joke again at lunch today.

Diego stops eating and excitedly tells the class that HE knows the joke and will tell it.

"Duck walks into the market. He says, 'hey, you got any grapes?'"

Then Diego stops. He is clearly thinking.

"What happened next, Diego?" I asked.

"Oh yeah!" he yells, getting up on his knees, arms waving wildly.

"Duck looks for the manager. He finds the manager."

"What did the manager say," I prompt.

Diego doesn't miss a beat.

"Manager says... GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!"

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bad Words

Upon returning from the computer lab last Thursday, they just couldn't wait to descend upon me, one after the other, to share the news that "Alyssa said a bad word!" I half-ignored them in my attempts to hurry them along so they don't miss the bus. "A bad word? Really? Alyssa?" I say incredulously, when several more approach me to share the exciting news.

Alyssa vigorously shakes her head. "NO!" she says with vehemence. "I did not!"

"Yes she did!" shouts Raymond and Brandy gleefully. "In the computer lab!"

Alyssa keeps shaking her head and contorting her face in a wild attempt to stem the tide of eager tattling over her newly-discovered truck-driver mouth. Figuring that, since Alyssa was relatively new to our classroom, she didn't know about the "shut up" admonition, I did what all harried teachers do while trying to hurry an excited group of kindergarten children out a doorway that is suddenly much too small.

"What did she say," I asked Jessica, lowering my voice in case it was "stupid" or worse, like "idiot."

"She said F*#k!" reports Jessica dutifully. The kids unanimously agreed.

"I did not say f&^k!," yells Alyssa, folding her arms and sticking her head out and bobbing it in front of Jessica's face.

"You did! She did, teacher," says Brandy, eyes wide and flashing, "she said f^&k!"

"I did not! No, I didn't say f&^*!" Alyssa shouts, whirling around to face down each of her accusers.

Raymond approaches me seriously and tugs on my shirt. I lean down, while putting my hand out in a vague attempt to stop the yelling of "f%$k" each time Alyssa denies it. "Teacher. She did. She said "f&%k," intones Raymond. "I heard her."

"Me, too," says Tabatha, thrilled that it is somebody else getting in trouble over the uttering of bad words.

I send the other kids to the bus line and signal for Julie to take my kids with hers, holding on to Alyssa's backpack as she attempts to skitter away towards her dad, who is waiting outside. Where there is smoke, there is fire, and Alyssa senses it as I lean down and whisper into her face.

"Tell me the truth. What happened?" I ask in my best no-nonsense teacher voice. She caves and looks down. "Okay, I said it."

"Were you mad?" I ask.

"No," responds Alyssa, shrugging at me and smiling.

"Were you annoyed?" I ask.

"No," she replies, kicking at the cement with her shoe and watching her dad out of the corner of her eye. As he comes closer, she whispers, "I made a mistake. I was just talking to myself."

Still wanting a reason for such uncharacteristic behavior, I ask if she was wearing the headphones and didn't realize other people could hear her.

"No!" she laughs, finding that notion clearly ridiculous.

"Well then, WHY, for heaven's sake? That is an awful word and it doesn't sound right coming from your mouth," I say.

Alyssa nods solemnly. "Okay, teacher. I won't say it anymore."

"What's going on?" asks Dad.

"Alyssa said a bad word. But she won't be doing that anymore, will you, Alyssa?" I say, raising my eyebrows.

Dad looks surprised. "What?" he says, peering down at his daughter, folding his arms.

"I won't anymore," she promises, grabbing her dad's hand in an attempt to stop this conversation from going any further.

"What did she say?" asks Dad, falling into the same trap I did, but sensing that we aren't having a face-to-face over "stupid," "idiot," or "shut up."

"Um... it rhymes with truck," I say, "And she won't be doing it again."

"Oh," says Dad, putting his hand over his eyes. "I'm sorry. I let that one slip now and again."

"Yes well.....," I begin, but Alyssa is dragging at his hand, clearly embarrassed for both of them.

"He won't say it again," the child assures me, leading her mortified father down the sidewalk towards the parking lot, pausing only to turn around and yell back to me.

"If he does," Alyssa shouts, "I'll tell you, teacher!"

Laundry Day

Last week the PTO sponsored a Pioneer Days assembly. It was an interactive activity that the children adored because they could go from station to station, experiencing life just like 19th century pioneers.

Well, not exactly like the pioneers. It was as close as you can get when housed in the cafeteria of a somewhat rural school in the middle of the Mojave Desert, with air conditioning and plenty of adult help for the more difficult tasks, like carding wool. And there and no wild animals, infectious diseases, or sod houses close by.

For 45 minutes, three classrooms of children worked side by side, playing with authentic wood toys, making authentic dyed-pasta bead necklaces, shaving with authentic shaving brushes and real butter knives, panning for real fool's gold, and grinding real corn in an authentic grinder. There were no behavior problems the entire time. They waited patiently for turns at the grinder, yielding enough corn meal to make a mini-muffin, after much hard work. They gladly sifted their fruits of their efforts, over and over again.

The biggest hit, without a doubt, was the washboard and wringer. The kids took turns washing a towel and then putting it carefully through the wringer, only to wash it again. And again. If they weren't involved with the washing, they watched, eyes round and mouths agape - fully entranced by the whole process.

So, the next day I brought in a vintage washboard that has decorated my laundry room for several years, serving as a reminder that I must always be grateful for Maytag and Sears & Roebuck. I put the washboard in a plastic tub filled with soapy water and scrounged around for the one and only towel in the classroom.

I wasn't sure how they would react when faced with this little set-up, which I'd placed on an old wood table that was abandoned in the kindergarten yard years ago. The fact that they were enamored is putting it mildly. They vigorously scrubbed the towel against the rusty washboard, rocking the rickety table in the process.

Tricycles gleamed in the sun, unridden, while the children lined up to "wash" the towel. Jump ropes were forgotten and the play equipment sat abandoned once Raymond realized that his attempts to coax his buddies onto the slide was for naught. "Come on, guys!" he shouted hopefully. "I'm a superhero!"

Seeing that his friends would have none of it, Raymond got in line for a turn, only to become exasperated when the current washerwoman wouldn't relinquish the coveted spot. Calls of "hurry up!" soon became screeches, as each launderer pushed the bounds of kindergarten reason and washed until anarchy and chaos was threatening. I suggested that they count to 50. Might as well make it academic.

I don't know why I was so surprised at the popularity of the old washboard. These are the same kids who yawn at carefully constructed phonics lessons but "oooh" and "ahhhh" over my cleaning of the whiteboard. "Look! A rainbow!" they exclaim, as the dark ink drips down the board and changes into a plethora of inky paints and blend again to create more color spectacles. "Do it again!" they shout, convinced that one MORE squirt of the noxious whiteboard cleaner will yield another batch of drippy rainbow colors.

"Hurry UP!" they shout at each other, becoming impatient with the current washer person. "Hurry UP! TEACHER! Raymond is taking too long!"

"Count to 50," I reply serenely, thrilled with the spectacle of Raymond's look of complete wonderment and concentration as he vigorously rubs the soapy water along the old ridges of the washboard. I am secretly pleased with myself for thinking of this and happy that the accumulated dust is now swirling around in the tub.

More pushing ensues and Raymond flounces off when he can't convince his buddies to extend his turn to the count of 60. I am pleased that Raymond understands that 60 is ten more than 50.

This is the same group that laughs when I drop something and snickers at words like "underwear," "snot," "poop," and "naked."

They are belligerent with turn-takers who keep scrubbing after the count of 50. Almost as appalled as the saying of "bad words," which usually elicits repeated rounds of breathlessly excited tattling. For Kindergarten kids, "bad words" include "shut-up," which I declared off-limits early in the year, and "stupid," which loses its shock value around second grade.

When they reluctantly leave the washboard to return to the classroom, I notice there is a fringe benefit to all this scrubbing. For the first time all school year, my kids will go to the cafeteria with sparkling clean hands.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Is it today?

Below is a transcript of a phone conversation I had this morning with Tabatha's grandmother.

The phone rings. I pick it up and answer in my usual manner.

Me: "Lengning."

Gramma: "Hi Mrs. Lengning. This is ____ _____, Tabatha's gramma."

Me: "Good morning, Mrs. ________."

Gramma: "What time is Tabatha coming back from the field trip today?"

Me: "Today?"

Gramma: "Yeah. The field trip. What time is she coming back?"

Me: "The field trip to Placerita Canyon is on Monday, Mrs. _______."

Gramma: "No. It's today. I need to know what time she comes back 'cause I have to go to the valley."

Me: "The field trip is Monday, May 5, Mrs. _________."

Gramma: "SHE thinks it's today! She keeps telling me it's today!"

Me: "Mrs. ________, SHE also thinks Diego is going to marry Hannah Montana."

Gramma: "It's supposed to be today!"

Me: "Every homework packet since early April has said that our Placerita field trip is on MONDAY, MAY 5, Mrs. ______. We also sent home a reminder, and Tabatha got TWO permission slips, which you signed. They all said Monday, May 5. Cinco de Mayo."

Gramma: (sounds of exasperation)

Me: "I will be sending home a paper today with the afternoon drop-off time on it. She will be coming home with the big kids on MONDAY AFTERNOON."

Gramma: (More exasperation.)

Me (deciding to take the high road): "I am sorry for any confusion, Mrs. ____________. "

Gramma: "Yeah. Well. I'm just glad I CALLED."

I resisted the urge to retort something that would underscore how ludicrous this entire conversation was, given that the woman obviously doesn't READ what we send home.

When Tabatha arrived at school, I said, "Hey, dippity doodle, WHEN is our field trip?"

Tabatha paused and looked at me like I was only employed because the district gives equal employment opportunities to middle-aged Boneheads. "TODAY," she says, rolling large brown eyes.

"When is our field trip boys and girls?" I called to the children, who were gathering on the rug for our Morning Meeting.

"MONDAY!" they shouted, "3 more days!"

Tabatha looked disgusted. Then she mumbled something under her breath.

"What was that?" I asked her, "I didn't quite hear you."

The child folded her arms and flounced down to the floor. Then she said, rather loudly, "I wanted it to be today!"

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Lost Things and Dog Hair

This morning the unthinkable happened: Mom lost her Address Book. This isn't just any old address book, it is the ADDRESS BOOK. Everything is in there with the exception of the last novel by Dickens.

I've seen this book and it amazes me. Phone numbers and addresses are only part of the bounty to be found in this book. Mom has birthdays, anniversaries, blood types, complete health histories, clothing sizes, yoga workouts, and dog names in that book. The complete maintenance history of her last two automobiles is in there somewhere, along with the names of her favorite mechanics at PACC Auto.

It has a filing system that only she understands. There are rubberbands, paperclips, and sticky notes holding important places and delineating special sections. When she can't remember the names of family pets, she finds the special page that has all that information, in her compacted and unique penmanship.

The loss of this book was huge. It was all Mom could do to concentrate on her telephone call with me. Finding this book was so important that she was considering the possibility of going through the trash can.

Mom doesn't like trash and the idea of going through the trash is so unappealing that I could hear the stress in her voice and the feel the tension of her muscles, steeling themselves for this most distasteful of chores.

"Why would you have to go through the trash?" I asked, "You would never throw it away!"

"I might have forgotten and thrown it away," Mom replied.

"I don't think so, Mom... it's too important. You wouldn't do that, even if you were distracted."

"You never know. I've been really distracted lately."

She told me to wait while she checked one more place. "No, it's not there..."

"Where?" I asked.

"A place I didn't check yet. It wasn't there."

"Oh... have you checked all your purses?" I asked.

"Yes. All of them. If I don't find it soon, I will HAVE to go through the trash before it gets picked up tomorrow." She was sounding anxious.

"When did you use it last?" I asked, trying to be helpful.

"I used it to mail back Haley's phone charger. I had to double check. I know the address, but I just had to double check. So I had it open. When Haley was here, she left her phone charger."

"So it's all HALEY's fault," I said. But Mom didn't laugh. She was clearly very agitated. I told Mom that I always have to check too, because I forget the zip code.

"Well, THEN what did you do with it?" I asked, trying to sound thoughtful, "after you double checked?"

"If I KNEW that, I would know where it is," said Mom.

"Did you take it with you to mail the phone charger?" I prodded.

"No. At least, I don't think so. No. I can picture it... it was open."

"So you didn't mail it to Haley with the phone charger?"

"Mail it? Why would I mail Haley my address book? No. No. I don't think so," Mom replied. But the pause in conversation lead me to suspect she was considering that possibility. Then she was probably mulling over how she was going to call Haley and ask about the address book.

"Okay. Well, think carefully about where you were when you had it open. Then what happened next?"

"I don't know. Maybe I just won't think about it."

"Yeah, Mom.. if you don't think about it, you will remember."

It sounded like a plan.

"I will go take a shower. The hot water will sooth me. Maybe I'll remember."

"Good idea," I said, trying to sound cheerful.

"I really don't want to go through the trash," Mom said again. "I really have to find it. EVERYTHING is in that book."

"Maybe you should do that prayer... to the Patron Saint of lost things."

"The saint of lost things? Who is that.... I can't remember." Mom was born half-Catholic and dragged to Mass often enough but that wasn't helping in this situation.

"What was it that Auntie Chickie said about finding lost things... the prayer?"

"I can't remember," sighed Mom.

"Okay, I hope you find it," I said, before hanging up.

It came to me later, something about dog hair. My aunt had read this wacky thing about using dog hair to find lost items. My Mom and sister and I had chuckled over it.

But I was about to call Mom to tell her about the dog hair when she called me back.

"I found my address book," Mom announced with relief. "It was in the car. In a plastic bag. I looked one more time."

"Oh good.... so you DID take it with you," I said.

"I don't know why, but I did. Thank goodness. I didn't want to go through the trash."

"Dog hair, Mom," I said.


"Dog hair. Auntie Chickie said that Dog Hair helps find lost things."

"Oh. Okay. Whatever you say," said Mom, clearly not remembering the whole laughing-out-loud conversation we'd had in November about Auntie Chickie and the Dog Hair.

Mom signed off and probably spent a few minutes wondering about dog hair. I, for one, will be brushing Seamus tonight and mailing Mom some dog hair.

You just can't be too careful. I mean, that book has EVERYTHING.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Strange Fruit

There is an abundance of this botanical specimen growing all along the Lake Hughes portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Its interesting shape demanded a picture.

Mike, a fellow teacher and one of my hiking partners for the day, carefully picked it and began opening it with his pocket knife. His efforts were hindered by my dogs, who wanted to get at it. The fact that we found it interesting was enough for them.

It looked and smelled a lot like a cucumber on the inside and Mike and I double-dawg dared each other to taste it. "I'm sure it's fine," I said.

"I bet the Indians ate it," added Mike.

"I don't THINK so," said Heather, Mike's fiance. She tossed the halves into the underbrush.

Further along, we spied some fruit growing off a different shrub - this one looked remarkably like apples, only smaller and not as round.

"Looks like an apple," I remarked to Mike and Heather.

"It's NOT an apple," she replied.

"Hey! Remember when we picked one on that one hike?" recalled Mike, suddenly animated as he aimed his camera. "It tasted...what? Kind of sour?"

"Yeah, it was sour," I said, continuing to walk. "It had kind of a dry after taste."

"You tasted it?" asked Heather with incredulity. "You are kidding, right?

" was kind of sour," said Mike.

"Not like an apple at all," I added.

"Good heavens," said Heather, with a tone in her voice that lead me to believe she didn't share our courage and unsettling willingness to try new things.

"We're still here," said Mike, rather smugly.

"It's a wonder," said Heather.

"Why? What's a wonder?" asked Mike.

Heather sighed and shook her head. "It's a wonder," she said, "that the human race has survived this long."

Cave Explorers

Today, the dogs and I joined Mike, Heather, and Nellie (Mike's mom) for a hike along the Lake Hughes portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The trailhead going northwest has some interesting features, including some mine shafts that look a lot like caves. I knew Mike, a fellow teacher and hiking enthusiast, would love them.

Nellie and Heather weren't so sure, choosing to stay outside while Mike prepared to explore a little. Unsure of what wildlife may be resting inside, I kept a handle on Duke and Seamus, but Augie would have none of it. If Mike was going inside, Augie was going inside, preferably AHEAD of Mike. This is a pack leader kind of thing that Augie finds extremely important.

"Don't go in there," warned Nellie. "You don't know what's in there."

"It's okay," Mike assured his mother, as he entered the opening and disappeared into darkness.

"Mike! Don't go in there... come back out of there," coaxed his mother.

"It's okay, mom... really," said Mike, from somewhere in the bowels of the earth. Nellie said something in Spanish that I loosely translated to mean blood, guts, gore, snakes, and certain death.

"Heather!" called Mike, an echo radiating off the walls of the cave and wafting outwards to the bright sunlight. "Come on in. It's nice."

"Um. No," replied Heather, "I don't think so."

"It's great.... oooh look.. there's a jar with something in it...."

"Um. No. Not unless you found yourself a flashlight," retorts the fiance, not moving a muscle and fixing the cave's opening with a baleful stare.

Nellie murmured something that sounded like "mi dios" and again exorted Mike to come back out.

"Hey! There's fresh scat in here," called Mike, with much excitement. "And look.. a nest!"

Heather put her hands over her face and sighed. Nellie looked like she was ready to start praying the rosary.

"Mike, you come out now," she said. Nellie is living proof that mothers continue to worry and cajole, long after their offspring pass thirty.

When Mike emerged, he had a plastic jar with numerous messages written on scraps of paper and crammed inside. He pulled them out, examining each one like an archeological treasure.

After taking pictures of the messages, Mike and Augie returned to the back of the shaft to return the jar to its original place.

"Your dog insists on being ahead of me," said Mike, attempting to find his way with only the camera flash and the light from his cellphone to guide him.

"He's showing dominance," I said.

"So...he'll protect me?" Mike calls from the darkness.

"Uh.... I don't think so. He just likes to be first," I said. And sure enough, Augie emerged from the cave first, with Mike behind him. I'm sure Mike appreciated the view of Augie's butt as he tried to climb out.

We continued along the trail, stopping to wonder at the wildflowers and occasional lizard.

"If a snake surprises me," I said, "I may utter an expletive. I apologize in advance."

Mike and Heather laughed.

Nellie looked worried.

I hope it was because of the possiblity of more caves, snakes, and lizards... not because of me uttering swear words.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Too Many Cats

Because the kids are grasping addition and subtraction concepts so readily, I decided to challenge them a little bit and assess how easily they are transitioning to more abstract approaches to solving equations. They are still in kindergarten, but their sense of number is developing rapidly.

Most of them still require something concrete to solve for the sums and differences, as I expected. Some of the kids just whip through the problems and ask for more. Being a glutton for the punishment only small children can dish out, I decided to bump up the instruction a knotch and see what happens.

I worked with the class in small groups to help them figure out how to solve equations that don't give them anything to count or cross off. I showed them how to use their fingers or to draw dots on the paper to help computation.

Kael was doing pretty well on his own but was stumped with 0 + 6. The "finger" method wasn't quite working for him, so I tried to make it more concrete.

"How many cats do you have, Kael?" I asked.

"I don't have any cats. My gramma won't let me."

"Okay.. so you have what...? Zero cats?"

"Yeah. I can't have any cats. My gramma is allergic to cats."

"So, you have zero cats."

"Yeah, I can't have a cat. My gramma... her eyes get all puffy and then she can't breathe......."

"Okay, Kael," I interjected, sorry that I ever mentioned cats. "So you have zero cats. Let's say that SIX cats came into your yard."

I quickly drew six little dots to represent cats.

"Now, how many cats do you have?"

Kael stared at the six dots.

I waited.

"Kael. If you had zero cats and then six cats walked into the many cats do you have?"

Kael stared at the dots some more. Then he looked up at me with alarm and replied loudly, "TOO MANY!"

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Sneezes that Seizes~

This morning I awoke and remembered that I ate some ice cream sandwiches when I got home last night. I do not know how many and perhaps this is best. Naturally, I feel fat and bloated.

I went downstairs to have breakfast before swimming, which starts at 9:00 on Saturday mornings. The best part is that we get to stay and swim longer, something I dream about all week. I was looking forward to swimming immensely. Last Saturday we couldn't swim because Robin was busy. Next Saturday, I have plans.

There are allergens in the air so I sneezed. It was one of those Big Bad Wolf sneezes. I blew loose a rib or something. I am grateful I didn't pee, but upsetting the balance of ribs, muscles, and joints in the upper core region isn't that much better. Especially since I am supposed to be in good shape.

I babied myself during my breakfast and then went to get my swimsuit. It was hanging on its nice wooden hanger in the laundry room. I reached way up to get it down and promptly finished the job on my upper back and ribcage.

Now, I don't think I would have been so upset about this had I not sent my upper legs into spasms earlier this week attempting to repeat a stair-stepping move over and over again with my kindergarteners, all of whom wanted to do "20 of them holding Teacher's hand," followed by "lunges because those are so much fun." I repeated sets of 20 many times during recess that day. I felt virtuous, until the muscle soreness set in the next day. And the next.

So here I am, virtually immobile in my lower body and wracked with pain in my upper body. I remind myself again how lucky I am that I didn't pee. Some people pee when they sneeze. I didn't do that. I am in good shape!

Swimming, I tell myself, is going to feel SOooo very good in the warm water. I can stay late, as usual on Saturdays, and swim, swim, swim. My damaged upper body will unseize and my throbbing legs will untighten.

I mince my way to the car and drive carefully the half mile to the wellness center. In the left turn lane, the car stalls because I forget to keep enough pressure on the clutch. I park and it takes me awhile to disengage from the driving position.

I decide against my water fins for today and hobble into the lobby to sign in. I am SOOOOoo very much looking forward to swimming. I need to get into that water and just..... be.

There is a note on the sign-in sheet. "Sorry. Water fitness ends at 10:00 today."

I make a noise that must have sounded somewhat like a gasp. I stare at it. Then I flick it with my finger - since my fingers don't hurt. "Sorry, Kim," says Renee at the front desk, "Robin has an appointment this morning." Yeah, yeah, yeah. But what about ME?

When I get into the water I am so upset and I hurt so badly I can't look at anybody. And the water? It is tepid. It is lukewarm at best. It is NOT warm and comforting. It seems SOMEBODY forget to adjust the thermostat last night. I silently curse SOMEBODY because this water is not meeting with my very rigid expectations.

I begin my warm-ups and burst into silent tears, feeling like an idiot. Everyone is staring at me. Nobody wants to say anything. I know they are thinking that somebody must have died or that one of my dogs is sick. I can't say anything because I feel so stupid for crying in the first place.

I say nothing until Elyssa asks if I need a hug and I tell her I feel ridiculous. She responds that I look ridiculous, so I laugh.

Then I tell her I sneezed this morning and something came loose. Half the class is menopausal women so they all laugh in commiseration.

"Yeah, we understand," calls Barbara. "Just don't sneeze in the pool."


Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Unbearable Lightness of Napping

Otis J: The picture of contentment.

Food Fight~

Today, when the kids were finishing up Group Time, I let them play for about 10 minutes while we finished up a few things. I walked over to the rug area and noticed that several students had dumped ALL the classroom beads onto the metal trays we use for magnetic letters. Every single bead in the classroom - mini-beads used for stringing and patterning, beads used for counting and sorting, and the larger beads used at the beginning of the year.

"Yikes," I said, "what are you all doing?"

"Making food!" replied Alyssa.

"Yeah," said Jason with way too much enthusiasm, "we're COOKING... making food!"

Several other kids nodded in agreement, happily pretending to mix, stir, and allocate portions.

"Okay," I said, "But this mess will have to be cleaned up as soon as I get back from the restroom."

They nodded their assent and continued to "make food."

"Don't burn anything," I warned as I left.

Five minutes later, I returned to the classroom. Mrs. Aguilar was standing at the rug area, hands on her hips, looking very unhappy. My parent volunteer was shaking her head and the student assistant was hiding her face in her hands, trying to control her laughter. There were beads EVERYWHERE, all over the place. They were under the tables, in the workroom, strewn about the rug, and scattered in all directions.

"What happened?" I asked.

Jason and Alyssa answered with much excitement.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Senseless Death~

This morning I opened the L.A. Times to find the death of a 21-year old local boy in on the front page. He was killed in Iraq. His body was flown by the military to the local airport. The photographer took the picture as the mother and sister were leaning over the casket.

I read about this stuff all the time. A couple weeks ago, it was another SoCal boy - I cried then and I just let loose this morning. His mother was hugging a flag-draped box. Cold comfort when your child is dead.

I don't know this boy. He attended the local Christian high school. The hearse carrying his body drove by the school and teachers and students lined the sidewalk to pay their respects.

I know devastating loss. We all probably do - and the older we get, the more familiar we become with the shock, the pain, the grief - and the anger.

When my father died, I felt all these things and continue to mourn him. But he was 67 years old and in poor health for years. In a way, his death wasn't senseless in the way this boy's death is senseless. My father lived his life the way he wanted to live it - this boy never had that chance.

The Times reported that the young soldier joined the army against the wishes of his parents. He wanted to be a teacher and spoke of it often to his high school counselor and often returned to the school after graduating to sit in on his favorite teacher's class.

Not thinking he was ready for a full-time college career yet, he joined the army. He wrote to his father while in Iraq, telling him he still wanted to teach. He just wasn't sure how to go about it yet.

I think of the mother and grandmother and the sister and the father. I think of them and the awful grief they endure, because of circumstances. What happened to their son was certainly nothing they planned or wanted. What happened to him was the result of policies by people in power - who get to make these decisions. Death was not on this boy's mind when he joined the army - life was on his mind. He needed time to think and to grow. He thought joining the army was a good thing.

I also think of this teachers. They taught him. He sat in their classrooms and he joked around and he did his work, or he didn't do his work. They scolded him, they talked to him, they made marks on his paper. They read his words. Maybe they smiled and shook their heads when he cocked his head just so.

I work with teachers who have lost students to senseless death. We don't talk about it much. We just say something in passing, or poke a finger at a picture in the paper and someone says, oh yeah, I had him. Or somebody plants a tree in memory of a child who was the passenger in a car that was in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The tree grows and half the students don't know this girl's name anymore. Her teachers remember, but nobody goes out to the tree - or trees. There are more. But most people at school don't remember anymore. Just the families recall.

My first class of students will graduate from high school this year and they don't look or sound anything like the little kids who rolled around on the rug and painstakingly learned how to write the letters of their names. I have lost only one of them to senseless death. She was ten years old and died in an off-road vehicle accident. She would be in high school now, being a mean girl or sending text messages to her friends. But she died a completely preventable death and I grieve for her when I think about it.

I can't know how this young soldier's teachers feel. I think they are very sad and some of them are taking his death harder than others. Sometimes it is just a matter of personality. There are teachers who love each and every student and there are teachers who keep them at arm's length, letting close only a chosen few. Me, I love them and let them go. I cried when my first batch of firsties left for middle school. Now, I think, I won't see them anymore unless they come back.

I think that some of his teachers are proud of him and his sacrifice for our country. Like me, they are patriotic. But maybe they are unlike me in that I am getting cynical about this need to be in another part of the world, policing them, when we have so many reasons to spend that energy, that time, and and that money here at home.

The money it cost to transport his body to the regional airport could have paid for tuition, books, and clothes to wear to an interview.

He wanted to be a teacher. And he can't come back.