Saturday, December 17, 2011

Extraordinary Chickens

While standing in line at Barnes and Noble this afternoon, a book from the "marked down" bin of book offerings caught my eye. They always put these second-class literary citizens near the checkout line so that some kind and dedicated book lover will take one of the titles out of their inventory.

This book was titled, Extraordinary Chickens, and was filled with large and colorful photographs of... chickens. In fact, these chickens were quite extraordinary and the photography was excellent.

The fact that this book didn't sell well is obvious: It is in the Last Chance Forever Bargain Book Bin. At least at Barnes and Noble. The next stop will be some outlet store book store that will plaster a bright red price tag on the tome and hawk it like it is some kind of discounted wonder.

But I must ask why. The fact this book didn't sell well perplexes me. It is filled with pictures of extraordinary chickens. Not "on par" chickens or "run-of-the-mill chickens," but chickens with attributes that place them in the upper echelon of peerless poultry.

These chickens have class, style, and that certain something that plain old chickens don't have. Why the general public would not buy this book in large quantities or give it as gifts is a puzzlement.

Further research indicates that these extraordinary chickens also have a wall calendar. That would be one picture of an extraordinary, peerless, and prized chicken each and every month!

That would be a bargain at twice the price. Really.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Climb that Mountain!

I know I've written at some point about my infamous "Shasta Disasta" of 2003. This was the trip planned by my sister and I after the holidays and involved climbing Mt. Shasta. The fact that Shasta is only a few hundred feet shorter than the highest mountain in California, Mt. Whitney, didn't faze us. I can still remember where I was sitting when she called - in the old brown lounger in our living room on R-11.

My memories of the trip are sensory. It was hot and muggy inside the tent, where Mike, Sue, and I attempted to sleep. It was close and somewhat stinky. It was still light out at 9:30pm. I had eaten too much French Onion soup and would pay for it with severe stomach cramping that forced me to use the "solar outhouse" which was technically unavailable on that particular day of the month. I didn't sleep, which did not bode well when we were roused at 1:30 am to eat breakfast and hit the trail. I remember the clomping of boots and a queasiness that warned me not to do this - but I did it anyway. At some point before a place euphemistically called 'Lake Helen' (there is no lake) I began throwing up and could not stop.

Sensory memories include the long, cold descent with Susan, who gave up her ascent
to take me back down the mountain with the guide who drew the short straw; the tent, a change of clothing, an attempt to sleep - and constant nausea.

None of the group summited that day. The weather and avalanche conditions prevented it. Nonetheless, I was disappointed - very disappointed.

Over the years, I shoved down those feelings and claimed I would never, ever do that again and that it was OKAY, really - it was. But of course, deep down, I knew that it wasn't okay.

There were three factors that contributed to my disappointment that day. First, I was not in the right shape. I was in decent shape, but certainly not as fit as I needed to be for that kind of hiking and carrying a pack. Second, we were not acclimated to the altitude. We arrived in Shasta only the day before and should have hit town at least 2-3 days before the attempted ascent. Third, my inability to sleep the night before caused dehydration and a lack of calories that sent my body into full-on rebellion. We told each other that we needed 3 days, not 2 days, to make this climb. The fact that Shasta Mountain Guides only offered a 2-day was a good excuse not to re-book anytime soon.

Today, I made the decision to book another climb. Shasta Mountain Guides now offers a 3 day expedition instead of an hellacious 2 day ascent. This means better sleep and more acclimation. This means more odds of success.

The trip I want is in June - after school ends. I have a full seven months to get into the kick-ass shape I need to achieve. Training for this trip will help me get off the last of my weight gain. I have been holding steady at 150 pounds for a couple months now - I am ready to proceed.

Knowing that I can be impulsive, I am waiting until next weekend (at least) to book the trip with Shasta Mountain Guides. I am hoping that I will have companions for this adventure.

I am just - hoping. And I dream of success, this time around.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

"Practicing" Medicine

I am reminded today why doctors "practice" medicine. It is supposed to take at least 10,000 hours to get really good at something but there has to be more to it than that. What if the right lessons aren't learned, or the practice-part is off-kilter?

These questions swirl around in my brain now because the poor communication skills of my mother's oncologist and his Galleria-mall-trained front office staff is really so much worse than asking the same stupid questions and approaching an ill old woman in front of God and everyone and announcing, "so yeah, you can't have chemo today or you'll die."

The head-smacking part is this: Way before the bladder cancer invaded Mom's pelvic wall and pressed on her kidneys, causing such agony she called 911 and had to deal with the dirty boots of local paramedics on her clean carpet, Mom was seeing this doctor for blood marrow problems. He is a hematologist AND an oncologist. There must have been some kind of special going on when he finished medical school - two specialties for the price of one. Plus, a discount card for the local coffee place.

In keeping with the tradition of this medical group's mantra of never speaking to other doctors unless absolutely necessary, he diagnosed a myo-something-or-another blood marrow disorder that danced all over her immune system and ate platelets for lunch. Since the gastroenterologist was never in the loop, this duo-immersion hematologist/oncologist apparently didn't know about the medication the stomach doctor gave her to squelch that pesky Crohn's Disease. Now here is the funny part: The immeron? The drug that fights Crohn's? (Wait for it...) It wreaks havoc with blood and kidneys!

Why did Mom's kidneys almost fail during chemotherapy, boys and girls? YES! And why did she need 2 blood transfusions, injections of a medication that costs $7,000 for five doses, and require half-chemo doses the last two treatments? YES! It seems patients who had Immeron CANNOT TAKE CHEMO! Go figure!

Being a good reader, I often make connections between texts I read and the real world. That often spills over into real life. At school, we are immersing ourselves in the work of Jim and Charles Fay, the developers of a self-discipline program called Love and Logic.

There are two logical responses I have for this practicing doctor who never told my mother that her bladder would eventually have to come out or that the chemo isn't going to kill everything because it will kill her first, and that 77-year old bladders cannot be called "antique" and made into stylish handbags.

The first response is vintage Love and Logic: I shall call the office, shake my head, and say, "Bummer." After waiting awhile, I will add, "There is going to be a consequence, but quite frankly I don't know what to do about this right now. But try not to worry... I will think of something."

(Now to re-read the NEXT chapter.)


Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The Surprise Laundry Toss~

At some point during my childhood, Mom gave up on laundry baskets and delivered any and all dirty clothing directly to the surfaces of the washer or dryer. The front door of her current house faces the garage entrance, across a small courtyard. The laundry is done in the garage.

For the past 20 years, Mom opened the front door and tossed her laundry onto the porch, until the good time for laundry presented itself. Mind you, this is not a whole load of clothes. This would be what she wore to bed the night before, some under garments, and maybe a towel or two. Mom has an obsession about laundry. We used to think it was a quirk, but now we call it by its rightful name. She goes through a bottle of laundry detergent in a week, often washing a "load" of clothes that equal one pair of pajama bottoms and a wash cloth.

Sue and I started staying with Mom to help care for her in early June. Our first clue about a laundry issue was the lack of laundry baskets - anywhere. Our own laundry had to be washed out in the tub because Mom swore there was never any room for our stuff - especially the clothes we wore for exercise. (Mom doesn't sweat, so she fails to understand why anybody else does.)

Mom often chooses to toss out the morning laundry while naked. This is because every single stitch of clothing that needs to be washed has to be tossed out the minute it is removed from the body. Soiled laundry on the floor is akin to Big Macs in a Hindu temple. But I digress.

We have attempted to speak to her about this lack of modesty which, for us, is really nothing new. We spent half our childhoods shielding our eyes and dying from the embarrassment of a naked mother carrying laundry around the house. Our concerns are laughed off because, as Mom puts it, she has no modesty anymore. (Ever?)

This morning, as she flung open the door to toss the few pieces of laundry, she was met by a shocked and horrified pharmacy deliveryman. Sue heard him gasping, "Sorry! So sorry!" repeatedly. She dropped breakfast preparations and ran from the kitchen to shield our naked mother and sign for the package.

The deliveryman didn't want to stay for a signature, running off with more apologies.

We hope the poor guy won't need some kind of therapy down the road.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Note from the Rabbit Hole~

My Mom can't do just one thing at a time. She has always been this way, but since her cancer diagnosis, it has gotten worse. This means that simple, straightforward tasks like making breakfast means going off on tangents, like finding the almonds (already on the counter), doctoring the coffee, and going to garage RIGHT NOW to find the floral piece she needs to make the living room floral arrangement JUST RIGHT. This is followed by heating up the coffee, then going back out to get another piece for the floral arrangment from the box in the garage, and starting a load of laundry.

She finally sits down for coffee, which needs to be reheated. Then, she has to take out the trash, even though the coffee hasn't been finished. She puts the TRASH into the open washing machine and curses while digging it all out aagin.

When she finally comes back inside to have coffee, she remembers to take Lasix and Potassium, which have been sitting next to the coffee. They also make her pee. Since she can't swallow the pills with coffee, she goes back into the kitchen for ice water (with ice and lemon) She sits down and fixates on the bottle of Asacol, which has about 12 tablets left - a week's supply. Immediately, she must go get the FULL bottle from bedroom cupboard and pour the old bottle of tablets into the full bottle. This brings on some grumbling about the cost of the prescription.

She gets up again to go to the bathroom but pees pants and gets annoyed because she wasn't wearing a pad. She changes her clothes and takes the wet pants out to washing machine, while complaining about the Laxix and potassium.

She comes back into the house to return to the bathroom to fix her hair and put on her "face" because Dan is coming down to do some household repairs she has fixated on for weeks and weeks. Bright red lipstick and chola-girl eyebrows later, she comes into the livingroom to complain about the hair that she swears is falling out, although no evidence of this appears in her comb.

Finally, she comes back out to sit in her chair. She turns on "Sweet Home Alabama" for the 23rd time this month, grouses about the televsion and complains that "nobody will let me drink my coffee."

And it's only 11:00. In the morning.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Angry Birds and Rock Stars~

Today was the 100th Day of School, a tradition that grew out of the more child-friendly educational practices of the 1980s. In fact, word on the street has it that a group of young child educators wants to make the 100th Day of School a national holiday. Except that nobody would come to school, which would create a problem.

Some our young learners created 100 Day Projects by using 100 objects in a creative way. Owen was a celebrity for a few minutes when he came to class with a battlefield glued down on tag board - complete with army tanks and 100 little plastic soldiers he counted himself. Zach used 100 Legos to create a facsimile of the space shuttle. He explained that he chose this project in honor of the space shuttle going up into space again soon. His classmates were very impressed. There were projects with 100 pennies, 100 stickers, and 100 Swedish fish in a painted fish pond. (Several kids were caught licking the fish. But I digress.)

Nobody was surprised when Beny decided to draw 100 pigs from the Angry Birds game. To say Beny likes Angry Birds is an understatement. Angry Birds define his world at the moment. His project is an instant hit: The kids abandon the other projects and surround Beny with cries of admiration. He is the center of attention and laps it up like a parched puppy. The kids point and make "ooh" and "ahh" noises. They pelt Beny questions and he holds up his hand and tells them he will take only one question at a time. In order to secure the project from admiring fingers, Beny asks me to put it up on the board. I clip it up there with a magnetic clip and admirers stop by all day to gaze at Beny's masterpiece.

At 11:30, Beny and Sam's mother arrives with Sam's drum set. While Beny was busily creating his Angry Bird Magnum Opus during evenings at home, Sam became a Facebook media star, performing a song he wrote tentatively called, "I Love to Count!" Using rhythm and interlude, snare drum and cymbals, Sammy pounded out his rendition of the classroom hundreds chart, complete with a chorus and earnest vocals about the joy of counting. In the video, Beny wears a mysterious hat and sits behind Sam quietly playing the keyboards. At one point, he gets up.

"Make sure you stop at 100," Beny advised Sam once the musician hit 50. The drummer agreed and Beny resumed his role as keyboardist.

So, the arrival of the drum set was not surprising. The K-1 class was promised an encore performance of Sam's famous, "Ode to 100: I Love to Count."

You might wonder why a teacher in her right mind would allow a 5-year old to bang away on drums with a full school in session. You might think that meeting Sammy's needs as a learner and showcasing his talents were the main objectives. You would be correct, of course, but there is just one little thing that appealed to the evil self that lives inside me.

You see, banging the drums would make noise. All day long,everyday, throughout the day and longer, we are subjected to the pitter patter of pounding feet as the children of the school descend and ascend the school stairs. Our classroom is right underneath and slightly adjacent to these stairs. Kids on stairs don't quietly walk. They pound. They run. The hit the hallways running before and after they hit the stairs. Our ceiling shakes. Our bulletin boards rattle. Our nerves tingle.

"Ode to 100: I Love to Count" was loud. The kids loved it and clapped along. Sam hit the cymbols and bass drum during the chorus. Those were especially loud. It was rhythmic. It was a HUGE hit. Move over, Beny - Sammy has just taken down the house.

The kids applauded wildly. They waved their hands at Sam the Drummer. They asked for his autograph and begged for "turns" at the drum. Sam complied with both.

After the drums were packed up and the students went home, Jenny and I fully expected to hear from our upstairs colleagues about the drum interlude. We steeled ourselves for glares and admonitions - but they never came because NOBODY heard us.

The pounding on the stairs and in the upstairs hallways drowned us out.


Sara is one of my younger students who stays all day twice a week. This means she gets to participate in first grade work quite often. On Thursday, we continued work on our Classroom Model Community project. Each first grader has selected a community leader or helper to represent. They are creating buildings for the community out of boxes and toilet paper rolls and anything else that captures their imaginations.

Zada is going to build an animal rescue center. She printed copies of such places off the internet and decided she likes a center up north that lacks kennels and cages. Sara offered to help Zada paint the buildings.

Young children love paint, glitter, glue, and other craft supplies. The underlying motto for all kindergarten projects is "More is Better." If a little glitter works, why not more? If a bit of paint covers the targeted area, why not glop the paint on for that tactile, more textured effect?

So Sara began "experiencing" Zada's red paint. As Zada worked on a small out-building for her rescue center, Sara tackled a larger box and painted it red. Disappointed that Zada didn't need her to cover other buildings red, Sara added more red to the painted box. Seeing that the paintbrush was quickly overhwhelmed by the volume of paint, Sara began fingerpainting the box. Soon, red paint covered her hands, dripped from her fingers, and began making its way up her lily-white arms.

Zada was a bit perplexed. She is a conservative girl with paint and supplies and could see nothing good happening from this very wet, very red, and very drippy experience with her younger helper. She backed up and kept working on her little building.

Jenny and I quickly discovered the finger-painter and did the old 'crossing of the arms' and 'hands on the hips' routine. Sara is not one to quickly admit to any kind of wrongdoing. She is, in fact, in the fast-lane to law school. So she opens her mouth to defend her actions - which weren't really as bad as our teacherly body language would indicate. In fact, she was ready to claim that she was out of town while the paint began covering her hands and arms. We know this because we know our Sara.

While I shook my head, Jenny leaned forward with her hands on the table. Zada looked up. "No Sara," my partner teacher intoned quietly, "We caught you red-handed!"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An Ongoing List: Things I Never Thought I Would Say at School~

There are times throughout the school year that I hear myself saying something that, out of context, would sound quite bizarre. I picture the fly on the wall, the secret video camera, the unseen visitor, doing the classic double-take and wishing they had paid closer attention.

I always have students who undress at school. They remove socks, shoes, belts, hats, shirts, and vests. Sometimes I find these things strewn about the room. Usually they are tossed in a corner or left on a chair or table. I have two students this year who remove their shoes and place them in their cubbies.

Sammy removes ONE shoe, then kicks it around the room.

"Sammy," I say, "Put your shoe back on."

He keeps kicking, then happily replies, "I can't."

"Sam, if you can't put your shoe back on, don't take it off," I say, using logic that is beyond him.

"But,I like to take this one off," he says.

We have this conversation regularly. "This one" is the right shoe. Always the right one. Never the left.

Emily and Mari also remove shoes. Occasionally, they will take of their socks but you know Murphy's Law of Socks. Inevitably, one goes missing and the kid goes home with one foot sockless. They swear to God they have NO idea where the other sock went. Days later, I will find it in the blocks or behind the Legos and attempt to return it. At this point, they swear on their mothers' lives that THIS sock does not belong to them. Never seen it before. Ever.

Well-meaning parents put their kids in layers, sending them to school certain that their little learners will be toasty and stylish. If it is a flannel shirt layered over a tee shirt or tank top, I will bet you money the shirt will be flung over something in the classroom and its owner will be reluctant to claim it.

Sara has them all beat. Her mother dresses her in layers too. No sooner does Sara hit the classroom, she begins to disrobe. Off goes the sweatshirt, sweater, or blouse. Then the tee-shirt. When she is happily bouncing around the room in her spaghetti-strapped undershirt, I start shivering.

"Sara, it's 10 degrees outside. Put your clothes back on."

"That's okay," says Sara, clearly not getting the point.

I gather up the strewn clothing: A sleeveless red sweatshirt, a blue and white tee shirt, and a bright pink scarf. I hand them to her.

"Put these back on," I say in my best teacher voice.

"I don't want to," counters Sara.

I clench my teeth and lead her to the bathroom. "Put the clothes back on. Hang the scarf up."

Sara emerges from the bathroom in the same state of undress as when she entered.

"SARA! I am not kidding. Put your shirt and sweatshirt back on."

"Okay," she mutters. I stand there while she dresses.

Eight minutes later I see her bouncing around the room again. In her undershirt.

I point to the bathroom. "Get your shirts back on. I am not kidding."

"I'm HOT!" moans Sara.

The thermostat reads a balmy 66 degrees.

"NOW, Sara."

"Okay," she sighs, trudging off to the bathroom. She emerges completely dressed. I smile and pat her shoulder. She bounces off to find her friends.

Fast forward about a half hour. Sara is nowhere to be seen. A quick scan of the room finds her curled up in a fetal position on my desk chair, in her undershirt, shoeless, sockless, with eyes squeezed shut, just certain that if she doesn't "see" me, I somehow won't see her. Some people will tell you they just LOVE this age!

"Sara," I say slowly. I breathe deeply. I think about safety pins and duct tape. She sheepishly stands up and I hear myself say it. The thing I never thought I would say in class:

"How many times do I have to tell you not to take your clothes off at school?"

Beny and the Bone~

At some point during our writing time today, Beny drew the outline of a dog bone, then cut it out. He carried it around for awhile, very proud of his handiwork.

After recess, we settle down for some reading and I hear barking.

Students begin to approach me because they are certain that I don't hear the same stuff they hear. "Beny is barking," they report. "He's barking at the wall."

Sure enough, I turn around and see Beny, sitting on his haunches, facing the wall, and....barking.

Knowing that this question is going to go on the "Things I Never Thought I Would Say at School," list, I ask, "Beny, why are you barking at the wall?"

Beny doesn't miss a beat. He yips, paws the wall with his hands, then replies, "Because that's where I taped my bone!"

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Magic Word~

There are two words guaranteed to send a classroom full of kindergarten students into gales of laughter. I am talking about 'horse laughing,' often accompanied by falling over and the clutching of bodies. Ask any teacher of young children and they will agree. These words are "naked" and "underwear." The fact that they all came into the world naked and hopefully WEAR underwear is superflous. The words evoke early childhood hysteria. (The other thing you can do as a teacher to provoke this same reaction is to drop something. But that is not germane to this topic.)

I tend to adore the quirky ones and this child fit the bill. She was later diagnosed autistic, but high functioning. She had a lot of repetitious behavior and often mimicked me to a degree of authenticity that gave me shivers. During large group discussions, she would sit aside from the group and rock back and forth, to keep herself calm. Sometimes a single word would evoke a response and she kept things lively by throwing a monkey wrench into my best laid plans and intentions. I loved this child.

On this particular day, I had a parent volunteer named Lori who knew the girl's mother well. During my lesson, she was taking down a bulletin board. Lori was drinking coffee, but listening with interest to our lesson.

I had been working with the kids on a book called, The Seasons of Arnold's Apple Tree. It illustrated the changing seasons very well and the children were engaged in a multiple-day project to create a piece of artwork that reflected the change of seasons. We'd drawn the 'winter' tree previously and discussed how the trees were bare - no leaves. This, of course, led to one of my boys (Michael!) declaring that the tree was NAKED and the entire class erupting in gut-wrenching laughter. So on this, the following day, I tried to quickly review the winter tree before introducing the tree in spring. I quickly sketched the winter tree and one of the kids called out that this was the winter tree and another one said that it had no leaves and then....... of course....... somebody (Michael!) loudly declared that this tree was NAKED.

I worked quickly to add leaves to the tree, praying that their attention would stay on the tree and not the fact that the somebody (Michael!) had said the word, NAKED in front of God and everyone. It almost worked.

There were a few little laughs but I was adept and quickly drawing and talking and keeping their attention. But then... my little special girl suddenly stopped rocking and shouted out, spurred on by the word.

"YES! Mommy and daddy... they were in the van... and they were.....NAKED!"

I was shocked and tried to keep working. Marisa loudly declared "that's disgusting" and poor Lori had to bolt from the room because she was choking on coffee and spewing it everywhere. (Seriously. Everywhere.)

The kids collapsed in laughter and I did my best to restore order. Since I was using my "teacher look," most of them (except MICHAEL!) calmed down right away. I continued the lesson and frantically drew leaves on the spring tree. But my special little girl wasn't finished. Apparently, this word had layers of meaning.

"Yes! Mommy and daddy were NAKED! I kept seeing mommy's..........elbows!"

At this point I put down my marker and had to get up. Lori had re-entered the room at this point and was trying to maintain her composure. The kids were slapping their shins and my little special girl was happily rocking back and forth.

Lori and I were locked in a head-to-head embrace while Lori whispered, "Her mother would be so proud."

This of course, got US laughing which got the kids going into Round 2. But I had to step out when Lori continued, ".......kind of makes you wonder what she thinks 'elbows' are......."

The rest of the day is a blur. We must have completed the spring tree at some point and the spewed coffee got cleaned up and I couldn't look my little girl's mother in the face for several days after that.

I bolted to the other side of the room when my girl was dropped off my her mother. I wanted to shout, "THE VAN? Are you kidding me? You couldn't WAIT?" The VAN?"

But I didn't. I just laugh about it periodically again and again, especially when I hear the word, "naked."

You wanna know what my dad says?

This story is prompted by the posting on Facebook of a clas picture from kindergarten class that will be graduating from high school next year. I got tagged in the photo and had fun naming all the kids and showing them to my new colleagues. Having your former students "find" you and "friend" you on Facebook, I think, is an honor. It means they remember you in a positive way. (That or they remember you lighting something on fire or sliding across the floor and landing on your butt. But I digress....

I had a principal at the time that I dearly loved. She was an outstanding leader. She respected me, shored me up, and joked around with me - a LOT. As the school year began, I noticed her walking around the outside of my classroom quite a bit during the morning drop-off. After a week or so, she asks me for "the scoop" on the father of one of my students. We both agreed that he was easy on the eyes. Then she peppered me with questions.

"Is he single? Does he have a girlfriend? What's the story?"

This line of questioning meant only one thing. I had to find these things out. I knew he was single because he'd told me he was raising the boy on his own. But I asked around and was told he had a gorgeous girlfriend who made the boy's lunch. It was not easy to tell my boss these things. Being a principal meant long hours and not a lot of time to scope out the local dating scene. I think she had her heart set.

So, a few days after I crushed my wonderful principal's hopes with this news, the boy is sitting with his classmates coloring something. I can't remember what it was, but the activity was part of a larger activity and means for me to begin pulling the kids to me individually in order to accomplish something more meaningful. But, first, I had to pick up scraps of paper off the floor. As I bent to do this, the boy, who was mischevious, articulate, funny, and quite the character, casually asked the boy next to him, "You wanna know what my dad says when he comes home from work?"

I didn't think much of this question since I am predisposed to believe all parents come home and ask relevant, probing, meaningful questions. As I continue to pick up paper, the boy asks his classmate again, "You wanna know what my dad says when he gets home?"

The other boy is rather shy and quiet. He doesn't know my little charmer very well and he refrains from answering. His Air Force father has him believing all kids shouldn't speak unless poked with a cattle prod. I don't think this admonition lasted very long.

Finally, my smiling boy raises his voice just a bit. "You WANNA KNOW WHAT MY DAD SAYS WHEN HE GETS HOME?"

Being one those kids willing to go along and get along, his table partner finally replies, "O.K. What does he say?"

Skipping only one beat as I am picking up the last of the paper scraps on the floor, the boy proudly exclaims: "You wanna have sex!?"

Since the other boy hasn't a clue about what his new friend is telling him, he doesn't say anything. I, however, am choking on the floor and trying to be nonchalant. I look up my little cherub, who is smiling at me quite proudly. I refrain from responding at all.

Instead, I walk to the newly-installed classroom phone and I call the principal.

"What do you want, Lingling?" she says. This is what she calls me. "Lingling" like the Chinese panda. I'm okay with it.

"You want to know what Mr. Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love says, first thing when he gets home?" I ask.

She pauses. "What?"

I am laughing and trying not to draw the attention of the kids. I lower my voice and try not to choke.

"He says... 'You wanna have sex?'"

Dead silence greets me on the other line. This is unusual since my wonderful principal is a talker. Non-stop, yak-yak. We tease her that the "all call" intercom system was installed so she could hear herself talk. She doesn't deny it.

But anyway. After the pause, she says, "Looks like you are going to have to call him."

"Um, NO," I reply. "This is the job of Administration. I have to teach. YOU call him."

She is firm. "No, Lingling... you call him tonight."

I protest but she reminds me that she is in charge and how in the world will I grow and develop if I don't take these risks and meet these challenges?

So after work, I arrive home, dreading the phone call. What do I say? I actually HAVE to use the sex word with a drop-dead good looking guy 10 years younger than me and I have to say it in my own home and not to my husband.

My kids are home so I go into the bedroom and place the call.

Mr. Hunka Hunka Burnin' Love answers the phone.

"Um. Hi. This is Mrs. L. Your boy's teacher."

"Uh oh," he says warily. "What did he do?"

Well. What to say, what to say?

"Um. Well... (I use his name.) You about 'life's little embarrassing moments?'" I ask.

"Yeah...." he answers slowly.

I take a deep breath. "Well. You had one today."