Sunday, April 30, 2006

Pie Baking

Someone told me they were breaking the cardinal rule of blogging and requested a specific topic. I’ve never heard of such a rule, and it seems like silly tech etiquette to me, so I’m ready to break the rule. It’s just that the topic doesn’t have anything to do with kids, and this is, after all, "Lost in Kids." Not only that, this person asked for a topic that they think will be of great interest and astound everyone. But this story only demonstrates that life can take ironic turns for the worst.

The topic request is: discuss my legendary pie baking. This person tasted my incredible pies years ago and has heard family tales about them. The tales are true.

All my life I had a fixation and an aficionado’s appreciation for pastry. Especially pies. Many years ago, my older brother had a girlfriend who noted that I bought Mrs. Smith’s and Banquet frozen pies by the dozen. I told her I loved pies, always have. She asked me why I didn’t bake them myself, and I replied that I was a 23 year old bachelor and didn’t know how. She offered to help me bake an apple pie, and it turned out great. I immediately bought three dozen apples and started baking pies.

I discovered pie recipes, experimented in crusts and oven temperatures, discovered subtleties in pie plates, and found out for myself the distinction between corn starch, flour and tapioca. I was eating four or five nine inch homemade pies every week, so it didn’t take long for me to become very experienced. I started baking them for others to see and eat, so it became a hobby and ultimately an art form. I tasted other pies by women who were great cooks, and I discovered I was better than they were, although every now and then I would run into someone who didn’t know the difference and would choose their Mother’s pie over mine. Now that’s blind love, but I approve.

Over the years my pies got better and better. I remember watching a TV show with Julia Child and her guest baked the “perfect pie.” I didn’t learn a single thing. I remember Julia asked the lady why she wasn’t rolling the pastry from the center out to the edge. The lady knew the correct answer. It’s not necessary; it makes no difference. The lady knew her pie baking, but she seemed to lack enthusiasm, as if she wasn’t hungry for pastry when she was in the womb.

I was not a self-taught pie baker. I learned from recipes and experimenting with them, and from reading and rereading books and chapters from books on the subject of pie baking. I am competitive and this was a driving force in my desire to become a better pie baker. There were moments of drastic improvements, and I want to give credit to my mother-in-law, a woman of Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, who quickly taught me how to elevate my crusts to a new level.

The greatest story about my pie baking was probably the one about the pie bake-off between me and Margaret. Margaret’s mother won state fair pie contests in Illinois, Texas, and California, and Margaret had all her recipes and all her pie baking skills passed on to her. I made a casual remark that I made the best pie in the world. Boy, did that set Margaret off. She challenged me to a pie baking contest and was surprised I took her up on the offer even after hearing of the prowess and ancestral skills of her family. I told her if anyone could bake a better pie than me, I wanted to taste it. In fact, I was looking forward to losing. To beat me, she was going to have to bake one excellent pie.

Poor Margaret. We had our contest at a family picnic. Her lemon meringue pie was the best lemon meringue pie I ever ate and was, without question, better than my lemon meringue pie. The problem for Margaret was lemon meringue pie is one of my worst because of the meringue. My specialty was fruit pies, and knowing Margaret was good, I went with my best. I baked a deep dish, ten inch gooseberry pie from frozen, fresh gooseberries my in-laws brought to me from Indiana. Margaret bit into my gooseberry pie and without hesitating but with an almost sad expression said, “You win.” I tasted hers and agreed. She asked about my crust, and I gave her a few pointers. She used a similar recipe to mine using eggs and vinegar, an old Pennsylvania Dutch recipe, but she slightly overworked her dough when mixing, probably didn’t keep it cold enough, and it was a tad dry when rolled out because she used too much flour on her rolling surface. She listened and understood because she was an incredible pie baker and was willing to learn, even from a guy who was a truck driver at the time. I tried to learn from her about meringue, but I had already read her tips in cookbooks, and I really needed to view and witness her whipping the egg whites. I listened carefully, but I never mastered meringue.

I moved to Albuquerque in 1986. The moment I bought my first house here, I planted a pie cherry tree. I watered and fertilized and pruned and prayed for growth. We are talking a dream come true for a cherry pie lover. However, age had caught up with me. My cholesterol levels had risen like a Saturn rocket, my gut had increased in volume to the point that I looked like I was in my third trimester, and due to imperfect practice my pie baking skills slipped away like the hairs on my head. Practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect, and I had baked pies imperfectly for too many years. I was rushing the pies because I was in a hurry, making them from Splenda to lower the calories, and rolling out the crusts to .0365 inch thick to cut down on the fat.

I will now relate all this to kids, for after all, this is a "Lost in Kids" blog site. I was reading poetry aloud to my fourth grade students three weeks ago in order to familiarize them with the genre, teaching them to write poetry, and it all culminated in “Poetry Week.” One of the poems I read aloud to them was “Casey at the Bat.” That is how I feel when I think of my old pie baking skills. “…....But there is no joy in Mudville: Mighty Casey has struck out.”

Friday, April 28, 2006

What's the Matter With Kids Today?

Fifth grade teachers are required by our state to teach a Human Growth and Development unit. I am a fourth grade teacher so I am spared the stress of teaching that unit this year. However, the sole, male, fifth grade teacher asked if I would help him handle a question and answer session with the fifth grade boys, and I quickly agreed. I saw a golden opportunity to obtain splendid, outrageous comments about the operation of penises and vaginas, and innocent and sometimes purposely provoking stupid questions. I had my palm pilot ready. Each time one of the little hornets would say something hilarious, I would whisper into the voice memo what they said or asked, and I would later turn it all into a hilarious blog.

No such luck! What’s the matter with kids today? They all asked very serious, important, mature questions about sports injuries to the male crotch area, AIDS, and other relevant matters. I taught that unit just a few years ago when I was a fifth grade teacher. What happened to questions like, “If you have a boner and it breaks, how long does your penis have to stay in the cast?” or “How come the people in the movies are all out of breath when their clothes are off?” or “Can a guy get a girl pregnant if their butts touch each other?” or “What happens if puberty never happens?” or “I didn’t like the video on what happens to our bodies during puberty because it was scary.” or “What happens if a boy’s breasts start growing big like a girls?” or “Since you have nuts, can they get crushed like peanuts?” or “What happens if both balls get shoved into one socket?”

Yeah, those were the kinds of questions you used to get asked. Kids weren't afraid to ask all kinds of real questions and make developmentally appropriate, outrageous comments. What’s the matter with kids today?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

And It Only Took Whacking My Head Repeatedly on the Side of The Toilet

My upcoming birthday trip to see MBF Tracy has taken on a new twist. It was originally designed for me to visit for the weekend (plus a couple of bonus days) with Olivia, while Eric--assisted by sitters/friends/gypsies--would take charge of Jake. We've worked this routine out before, albeit with some flexibility from Tracy and her team of babysitters, and Olivia having to play docile possum in a stroller all day as we shopped and lunched our way through my hometown.

But The Weaning, or what we affectionately call The Day I Became an Epileptic, has released my charge of being the only one who can feed Olivia. So Eric has become point person, and will mother both the children as I fly off to Houston with absolutely no idea what to do with my new freedom. Currently when I sneak off alone, I periodically suck in my breath sharply with that fear I have left her, abandoned, in the back booth of Starbucks, or in the cart in the parking lot of the grocery store. These little jolts surely are taking time off the back end of my life, much like single cigarettes smoked while drinking out in the 80's, or that some days my exercise is limited to the reading of a pop-up book. Can you imagine the severity of these millisecond horrors when I have almost four days of zero-responsibilty? Men you don't have these brief terrors you've forgotten your children; if you're not with them it isn't a shock to your entire system. No, you are at work, or playing a round of eighteen, or in the bathroom. And as much as it sounds that I am complaining, I am okay with--some days in love with--that feeling of being totally responsible for a little person's, say, breathing.

Thus, confessing to you that I look forward to the next few days even with those little moments of confusion is not shameful. While I know Tracy will get irritated at my occasionally checking to see if she is hungry, or wet (sorry T, habits don't disappear overnight), I get to experience that male-hubris high of going to the bathroom alone.

I don't doubt Eric's abilities one bit. When I came back from the hospital, Olivia's outfit was on backwards, she was drinking her bottle with the orthodontic nipple upside down, and Jake had used an entire package of scotch tape (on delicate wood furniture) to secure his fort. But they were happy, safe, and Olivia was knocking back twenty-four ounces of formula per day. So who, then, can argue with a father's touch? Not me, for I intend to enjoy doing the "No Longer Breastfeeding Shuffle" by quaffing decent champagne and gormandizing caviar as an entree (MBF reading this, panicking, hiding American Express card). And enjoying that private guest bathroom, baby.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

No Child Left Behind

I find American politics fascinating in the same way that I obsess over the precancerous sore I have on my left ear. The dermatologist has told me the sore is not a good thing and could develop into something much worse, but nevertheless, it’s fun to pick at that little spot, peel mysterious flakes of mutated skin off, and examine them in my hand. It’s not disgusting, except for you to read about it, and it’s not terrifying either.

As an elementary school teacher, that’s the way I feel about the federal government’s No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initiatives; they are like that little sore on my ear. They aren’t a good thing and could develop into something much worse, but nevertheless, I get a real thrill out of picking at them and examining the wayward thinking that caused them to sprout.

In my lifetime, I have never seen or felt the fingers of bureaucracy probe so far up the private cavities of a society as NCLB. Teachers, bureaucrats in the local school district, and the State Department of Education are all jumping through federal government hoops. However, the benefits to the children of this country are nonexistent.

From a schoolteacher’s view, the impact of NCLB is:
- Tests, developed by out-of-state businesses, reap financial
- The bureaucracy of testing sets in. For example, a student who scores 60.1% on the standardized test is being “left behind.” The student who scores a 61.0% is deemed “proficient.”
- Teachers are deluged with paperwork. Paperwork that exists grows in size and more paperwork is developed.
- The emphasis on the effectiveness of the educational system shifts from the learner to the educational system. Modern political and social thinking now emphasizes teacher training, class size, administrative leadership, quality of learning materials and facilities, etc. as the key factors in student success. These are undeniable influences and factors on student learning, but the key to student success should remain with the student. It is the student who receives the grades, the academic successes, and the diploma.

Of course, I could be wrong and so could my dermatologist. The sore may just disappear someday. I am hoping that is what happens to my sore…......…and to No Child Left Behind.

Yet Another Thing to Feel Guilty About

Four days after releasing Olivia from the villainous once-
a-day-Coca-Cola-laden, occasional-ball-park-Nachos-tainted Breast Milk, she has learned to read.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Skinning a Cat

I received, over the past few weeks, many suggestions from dear friends on how to wean Olivia and actually obtain a night's sleep. Thanks to all of you for the great ideas. But of course, I had to go and do it my own way.

The last few days were spent, oh so spa-like, in a hospital after a migraine that turned really nasty and whammed me with a couple of seizures. Eric's definitive "we're going to the hospital" moment was that after one of them, I didn't know--for about five seconds--who I was. Literally. And while there are a few times in your life where you wish you could forget your own identity (oh god does a particular mid-80's party come to mind), when the CPU in your head actually does completely reboot, it is quite disturbing.

We skidooed over to the ER and I was admitted, assigned a neurologist, and told I needed medicines that would turn my breast milk into a dangerous toxic goo. So of course Eric and I agreed to the plan of his force-feeding Olivia formula over the next couple of days, which I was assured would be the minimum of my relaxing stay.

I have to admit that it was intriguing, in a "House" kind of way, watching the doctors put the pieces of the puzzle together, if not slightly unnerving that the puzzle was me. My neurologist (that's a great cocktail party dropper I haven't yet used) pinned it down to the fact that I have a "low threshold for seizures". This is good news, as it rules out the possibility of merely watching television and starting to flop and bite my tongue off. But, if I have what you might call The Perfect Storm--all things coming together exactly right--like:
  • nine months of serious sleep deprivation
  • an intense migraine
  • an hour and a half drive home during that migraine
  • extreme nausea and throwing up
  • being around Simon, the dog
then I can, possibly, have a seizure. And since one of mine included not knowing words for things around me (in this case toilet, bathroom tile, or Laura) she has put me on an anti-migraine, anti-seizure medicine for a few months.

Additionally I am to keep a food diary and find which foods trigger my migraines. This will be particularly fun for me, as I already severely monitor my diet due to diverticulitis. The cross-referencing and charting may possibly lead me to discover The Perfect Food Storm: that combination (say caviar and peanut butter/poppyseed sandwiches) that could in fact, actually kill me.

Olivia was a champion: she now drinks twenty-eight ounces of formula a day, and sleeps through the night. All of the weaning suggestions required my hearing/ignoring/denying her crying, and my "toughing it out". Though I respect and appreciate all of your methods, I chose going on a vacation. Well, one that is paid for via a deductible, anyway.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Kathryn's Oddity

I was sitting in the school cafeteria with my students, and I was sitting next to Alex who leaned over to me and said, “Let’s wave at Kathryn and watch her act strange.”
I was curious and asked, “What are you talkin’ about?”
“I’m gonna wave at her.”
I was confused, and inquired, “How are you gonna make her act strange by waving at her?”
“Haven’t you ever noticed what Kathyrn does when you wave at her,” he asked.
“No I haven’t.”
“Watch this.” Alex then proceeded to wave at Kathryn, who was sitting at another table. He waved until she saw him, and then Kathryn did something odd. She got a very unhappy and disgruntled look on her face, avoided his wave, looked away, and ducked under the table when Alex kept waving.
“She does that if you wave at her, Mr. R.”
This was odd. I thought maybe Alex had teased or bothered her, but I let it slide until a few days later when I waved at Kathryn and she did the same grimacing look, avoidance, ducking, looking away routine she had performed for Alex. All the kids in the class say that Kathryn doesn’t like it when you wave at her.
Kathryn won’t talk about it to me, so I dropped the subject. I respect her wishes and won’t talk with her about it anymore.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Alan's Look

One morning one of my fourth grade students in the class, Alan, was staring out the window more than usual. In fact, I thought I detected a tear in his eye. I went over to him and whispering, asked if he was alright. He nodded one of those classic, lying nods. For some reason I asked him if it was a girl. Actually, I know why I asked him that; I was joking, and I asked him that to relieve the tension. He would laugh and say, “No Mr. R., that’s not it.” The laugh would help things. But Alan shocked me. He looked out the window and whispered, “Yeah it’s a girl.” I am positive my jaw dropped, leaving my mouth wide open, but Alan didn’t notice. He was achingly looking out the window, and I knew I had accidentally guessed why he was crying. I asked if there was anything I could do, and he shook his head, one of those head shakes that say you made a mistake even asking.

A week later, Alan and I were sitting in the cafeteria eating our lunch, and Alan excitedly whispered, “There she is, Mr. R.” I looked up and saw exactly who he was looking at. Any aficionado of females would know. It was Elizabeth, one of the prettiest girls in the whole school. I then looked at poor Alan. I say "poor Alan" because Elizabeth, nay, I say no girl, no female, or no woman on this earth will ever gaze upon Alan the way he was mesmerized by Elizabeth. He had the same countenance as I imagine Sir Lancelot had when he gazed upon the Holy Grail, and the same look that the Dalai Lama will have when he again speaks to his countrymen at their mountain temple. Poor Alan.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

No More Fleeting Moments

There is a mentally and physically challenged girl named Alexis at the school where I teach. Alexis is tall, has dark hair, is in the fifth grade, and has an appearance that displays her obvious disabilities. An educational assistant is with her at all times to help her walk and do things other people don’t think twice about doing.

This Valentine’s Day I walked up to Alexis and gave her one of those Valentine’s cards that kids give out. I think it had the Little Mermaid or maybe Shrek on it. I also gave her a piece of candy, maybe a bite-sized Snickers. Then I whispered in her ear, “Alexis, you are beautiful! That is why I always come over to you and say ‘Hi!’ It’s because you are so pretty.”

Alexis blushes now every time she sees me, and she behaves like a girl with a crush. I realized that I hadn’t just said something nice; I had created a new and huge responsibility for myself. Now I must be extra thoughtful when I see her coming, to give her an expressive wink, an affectionate hello, or an especially attentive look, so that she knows my Valentine’s whisper wasn’t a fleeting moment.

Style Tip of the Day

Having seen two married relatives recently, and their newly-obtained, ill-fated facelifts, I am struck with a fashion rule I must share with you.

A marketing acronym you never ever want used by your plastic surgeon: BOGO.

Your Authors Are Bald

Yesterday was spent perusing some of the videos of Jake at six months to a year old. Despite being nearly twice the size of Olivia, they looked so much alike. It is so clear they are siblings; some of the video is practically interchangeable between the two kids.

The other striking similarity is the fact that in the video, as in present day, their mother looks like she just went through chemotherapy.

I am one of those unfortunate people who lose hair, practically a headfull, after having a baby. Most of you women reading this had a really thick mane during pregnancy--a result of those hormones telling your body to store up on everything, including tresses. I have thin hair anyway, so pregnancy gave me a normal amount of hair. I only needed three twists of a scrunchie to make a tail. But starting at about three months postpartum, my hair packs up and moves out. Large fistfuls in the shower, unfortunate clumps in my brush throughout the day, strands wrapped--tourniquet style--around Olivia's poor fingers, matted nests on my pillow during the night.

It grows back, slowly. But then I look forward to a year of two different hairlengths. No, no, I protest, Carol Brady's "do" was not my haircut of choice. That period of loss/growout (and subsequently despised family photos) is really painful for me, and it is not fair that the prettiest hair in the house belongs to Jake and the dog. I already deal with the fact that they sport the longest eyelashes.

And Walter, I apologize. I am keenly aware that the key sentence for you in this post is jumping out at you and slapping your face: It grows back, slowly.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Countdown

The twentieth of May is just around the corner for me. Olivia and Jake are staying with my very generous friend as Eric and I take a weekend away at South Beach to celebrate his cousin Tony's 40th. The very idea of thirty-six hours of sleep, lounging, and general celebration has us almost pre-drunk.

Large caveat: Olivia must be weaned and sleeping-through-
the-night before we inflict the kids onto Donna. And I am working hard on this; harder in fact, than I am on the last ten pregnancy pounds that now seem to be just part of my new makeup.

The inside of my brain looks like one of those prison walls where the inmate scratches tallies to denote time served. The scary part is that Olivia actually has digressed with her sleeping. She had graduated to a once-a-night waker (which I could have repaired with Donna with a healthily-loaded Nordstrom gift card) to (an unforgiveable, no present can repay) every two hours. And I have helped create that monster.

My darling infant is very amiable. When she wakes, a three-minute stint on the breast is all she requires to be completely content. I can then replace her in the crib and she is back asleep in less than fifteen seconds. Enabling her has been easier for me in the short term. I, too, am typically excellent at returning to slumber and managing the next day on clusters of two- to three-hour nocturnal naps. But it is starting to take a negative turn on me. I have the same sleep deprivation I had in her early days. My battle with migraines is becoming diurnal, and I am stuck in that can't-take-any-medicine-'cause-I-am-breastfeeding cycle. And truth be told, I covet a full nighter.

Be assured, I will not talk about various "get your baby to sleep" methods on this post. The mother vs. mother debate on this topic gets seriously ugly on various blogspots, and I won't name any books, or sleep expert's names for fear of my site being googled and discovered by the Attachment Parenting Police or the militant La Leche League. However, I have read enough to know that even my diminutive daughter's stomach is able to sustain twelve hours sans nourishment. And that this is an issue of her prefering to be lulled back to sleep by the human pacifier rather than by learning to do this on her own.

She falls asleep at 7:00 easily. She views this initial slumber merely as a nap, however, and wakes again around 9:00. A quick feed puts her back, but the two-hour stretches are now in motion. So last night, at around 10:00 as she called for a snack, Eric put the pacifier back in and we agreed to let her "cry". The fact is she wasn't crying, and she didn't need anything. She wanted something. The sound was much more of a yell, or a Native American war cry. This holler softened, then completely subsided, and she was back to sleep. But it was an agonizing ten minutes for me. She however did not stir again until 2:30, and I gave her a bite (I am first attempting the one-night waking indulgence and then moving on to the torturous sleep-through) and she didn't make noises again until 6:30 a.m.

I feel like a new person today. I won't even complain that my family tag teams me: Jake woke up once during the night, and Simon caused one flurry of "Whaaaaa, what's going on? A lizard, a frog???" For my goal is related to Olivia's sleeping. I know, you read earlier the part about weaning as well. I have attempted the bottle, which she bats out of my hand completely offended. I promise, there isn't a nipple I haven't purchased, a position I haven't tried, a person I haven't wheedled into trying to feed her. I have something up my sleeve tonight, a formula experiment if you will, and I will give you results later. But for the purpose of Donna's weekend, her learning to sleep is paramount. If she will give Donna a break at night, I can feel my friend will be rested enough to handle anything else. I can always call from the hotel to check on the kids. "What?" as I assume the role of concerned, incredulous mother, even through the haze of margarita. "She won't take the bottle? Hmmmmm...."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Taste Buds

As a child, my parents didn’t force feed me; they forced me to force feed myself, and it was grueling fare: navy beans, fried liver, baked eggplant, baked squash, peas, and other vile food that brought me and my younger brother Jack to the brink of puking. I can still see him straining to keep down a tiny, nauseating smidgen of dinner. When I was a child, dinner time was like poking yourself in the eye with a sharp stick covered in putrid food. I used to wonder why my father’s idea of a great meal was ham hock and lima beans and mine was a Snickers bar. Why did my parents try to instill in me a healthy lifestyle by forcing me to ingest wretched food I hated? I distinctly remember being in the fourth grade and absolutely convinced that the greatest meal that could be eaten by humans was a hot doughnut and cold chocolate milk. I am now leaving middle age behind and have a theory as to what was going on back then.

The most prevalent theory held by experts concerning the notable differences in the eating habits of adults compared to children is that our taste buds are different. Adult taste buds have matured and developed the love of exquisite flavors far too subtle or exotic for that of the younger tongue (Langer; Univ. of Minn., 1988). Also, adults are more concerned about their health, and this subconsciously can dictate a change in food preferences (L. O’Neil and U. Chariis; Princeton, 2000).

These types of theories are hogwash, and I can prove it. For one thing, the research I quoted is made-up. Also, I have my own culinary experiences to guide me, and here is what I believe about my child / adult taste buds. Now that I have passed middle age, I think that the greatest meal that can be eaten by humans is a slice of fresh berry pie (blackberry, blueberry, or cherry) and a diet root beer. Now is that exotic, subtle and mature fare compared to a doughnut and a half pint of chocolate milk? I say no! My taste buds haven’t matured one single iota.

I have left middle age behind and can speak with authority as to what I believe is really going on with children’s and parents’ taste buds. It is all a control issue, and some people even want to control what others put into their mouths. My parents had serious control issues and wanted to hold sway over every bite that caused me to gag. Now I don’t mind if Popeye’s Fried Chicken wants me to know they have a new location in town right down the street and they are cookin’ up some deelicious Fried Chicken jus’ fer me! I don’t mind that. What I mind is when someone tells me I can’t eat that fried chicken, or that I have to eat it. Krispy Kreme has every right to advertise, but no one should tell me I can’t eat one three five a dozen of their crullers fresh out o’ the hot grease, or that I have to eat even one single bite out of a doughnut.

This is a luxury Americans have, a blessing, really. We should be grateful we aren’t scrounging for a morsel to survive, and we should be trying to make sure that every child in this world has the luxury, the blessing, to pick and choose their food. But I digress.

I don’t tell kids what they have to eat. I find that most of them eat much healthier than me anyway, and I don’t worry about that. My students are probably going to outlive me, or at least that’s what I hope and pray.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Daisy Game

Around our house, we're wondering how "Kate" (name change protects my not-so-innocent son) feels about us this week. I solemnly promise the use of the word "us" is not a reflection on my suffocating, over-doting, living-life-through-my-child's-life parenting style. Rather, it is a reliable expression marking the exact impact whether or not Kate likes Jake has on the entire family.

She pursued my son briefly a few months ago, and he enjoyed the temporary spoils that come from one of the most popular girls in the school giving him an endorsement. This prompted wardrobe enhancement, hair gel investment, and twice-a-day teeth brushing. So naturally I wasn't complaining, and it took quite a while to be able to spot the true source of "good days vs. bad days".

Ever since Jake's first days of preschool, I have always looked forward to pick up. Don't misunderstand--I love maternal down time, but I usually miss my kids within a couple of hours of being away from them. But dismissal in the fourth grade has been much more of a roller coaster ride. Nothing is better than pulling up and seeing my shining 10-year old's face, slightly sweaty from running, and grinning the only way a kid can when he has lost almost all of his side baby teeth--making his front chompers appear monstrous. He jumps in the car ("HEY, Mom! Love you infinity!!"), checks on Olivia, and informs me of how ravenously hungry he is. Those are great days. He does homework with only a reasonable amount of prompting and assistance, we laugh a ton, and bedtime comes before even I know it.

Somedays, however, Kate is vague. She is expertly skilled in fancy yo-yo stunts with Jake's heart. At a young age, she has mastered the blithe, fickle manner that men find so attractive, and my poor son is so visibly a fly caught in her web.

Kate has ignored him today. I can recognize this now because he walks slowly to the car, backpack dragging through the dust. He lacks confidence, joie de vie. "Hey, Olivia" is the only sentence he manages.

"Are you hungry?" I query.
"Any homework?"

He would never succumb to my probing into the source of his disappointment, back in the days before I knew what was wrong. No, this took months of fancy charting and dot-connecting to find the direct relationship between his attitude and Kate's attention that day. And even now that I am au fait with his car-approach, and able to coax him out of his black mood with patience and bribery, he loses his snappy step that day, is less quick-witted and sprite. As I tuck him in bed that night, he requires snuggling, more praise, extra attention.

Kate-ish women will plague Jake his whole life, I see it. He always likes the ethereal girl, the one a little distant and demure. He loves her attention, but respects her aloofness. And I will just have to watch his heart ache as he waits for her to decide.

Maybe Olivia will be that girl out there, and I will worry in a different way, watching her play with the heartstrings of the boys in her class. Or perhaps I will have had the requisite practice with Jake, and oversee her sitting by the phone, waiting for the boy she adores.

This has been a long weekend, with school closed for Good Friday. Jake is enjoying the time off, but I know he is eager to get back to school Monday, lest Kate forget him entirely. Either way I will be ready for after school pick up, and work on being at peace with the fact that the emotional climate of my family that night lies in the hands of another female.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Because of Kara

I have my moments as an elementary school teacher when either a single student or the whole class will push my buttons until I become agitated. I hate it when that happens, but not for the reason you think. The class in general or individual students will deserve that I raised my voice, and many of them deserve consequences much more serious than a teacher’s raised voice.

I regret raising my voice because of Kara. Her father developed a inoperable brain tumor last year, and his symptoms were irrational anger, frustration, and violence, and he was eventually institutionalized. If I raise my voice just a little, she will cry right there in the classroom. The laws of physics are suspended, and her teardrops will be larger than any other teardrops in the whole wide world, snowballing down her cheeks, falling timelessly through space and splashing like car wrecks on her blouse. She won’t tell anyone why she cries sometimes, even the school counselor. But I know why she cries when a man raises his voice. It’s because it reminds her of a disturbed father who changed inexplicably on her, and he scared her, and he has been taken away to a strange, uncomfortable place that she reluctantly visits, and he is gone now, and things will never be the same. I try hard not to raise my voice, and because of Kara I do it less than I ever did in the past. But on the recent, rare occasion that I do, I wish I hadn’t. Because of Kara.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Lesson in American Justice Gone Astray

One of my favorite components of the curriculum that I teach fourth graders is a social studies strand on the three branches of the federal government. Our class starts with the teacher (me) as the dictator, the “King,” and I actually have a gold crown that I wear. Then the students set up a government. They choose a political party, meet with their party members, conduct a primary election, then attempt to get their party members elected: two Senators and one member of the House of Representatives, a President and his Vice-President, and a judge. Each of these represents the three branches of government.

The legislative branch writes bills, and the President signs the bills into law. Then a law gets invariably broken. I choose which lawbreaker will make the best case, and then take that person to court. The whole lesson cumulates in a field trip to the Metropolitan Courthouse where, due to my connections with a parent of an ex-student, we go on a tour of the courthouse, sit in on a real trial, and then go into a courtroom to meet a real judge, court reporter, and a bailiff. They answer questions and then assist us in conducting our trial.

This year, I was the defendant. I did this because every year it’s the same ol’ same ol’. For example, somebody will chew gum, which is now allowed due to a law written by our legislative branch, but I arrest them anyway because they are chewing too loudly, smacking, or blowing bubbles. Usually they are found guilty.

This year I have a very audacious class, and they encouraged one of our Senators to pass a law stating that the class will have a party once a month for students that do all their homework. I decided that the perfect case would be for me to break that law. I would follow the letter of the law, but not the spirit of the law. Our Judge, Judge Gabriella, with the guidance of the real Judge, would find me guilty and I would be forced to make up the parties with a reasonable length of time.

I had a party on February 28, but the party lasted for six minutes. I remember yelling, “Hurry up and drink your soda pop! Faster! Faster!! Now let’s play a game. Instead of ‘Heads up Seven up’ let’s play ‘Heads up Two up’ because we don’t have time for ‘Heads up Seven up.’ Hurry! Hurry! Party’s over!!”

There weren’t too many complaints until the next day. I informed the students that I was going to have March’s party on March 1. “Hurry up! Everybody hurry and get a drink of pop. Hurry! Party’s over!!” The whole thing lasted under five minutes, and they finally complained strongly. I told them the law didn’t say how long the party had to last. I just was following the law. I had to encourage them to arrest and indict me. It is, after all, a learning experience, but with my guidance and encouragement, they arrested me. I was indicted and pleaded innocent during the arraignment. That is when things started to fall apart.

As a defendant, I thought it would be wise to have the brightest mind and the most formidable thinker in the class as my attorney, so I “hired” Melissa. She is a gifted student and yet is a year younger than all the other members of our class due to her pre-Kindergarten language skills. She is small in stature yet a mental giant, and she would be a registered genius if the U.S.A. registered geniuses. The best part was Melissa believed I was innocent because I followed the law as stated, or as I instructed her, “Mr. R. followed the letter of the law.” I taught the students how to behave in a courtroom, how to conduct a trial, and gave some advice to the attorneys. I reminded them that opening and closing statements had to be made, what their case was really about, and instructed the Judge on how to make a decision based only on the evidence provided in the courtroom.

Trial time came, and there we were in a real, fancy, well-appointed courtroom with all the students plus eighteen parents armed with video cameras to capture the darling moment when their precious children would pretend to be lawyers, judges, and witnesses. The judge, attorneys, and the witnesses had working microphones so that everyone in the courtroom could hear them. The real Judge loaned Judge Gabriella her black robe and gavel, and Gabriella was so proud. We were to go through the lesson as I had taught it: opening statements, prosecution witnesses then defense witnesses, cross examinations, rebuttals, closing statements, the whole works. However, I noticed that my attorney, Melissa, was on the edge of her chair from the moment court was convened. What came to mind at the time was that Melissa reminded me of Michael Jordan at the tip-off of the last game in the NBA Championship Series. She was more than ready. She was focused, hungry for victory, and little did I know, but she is a vicious and determined cross-examiner.

Every witness for the prosecution was dragged through the mud by Melissa during her cross-examination. I realized that in front of everyone, Melissa was running all the witnesses through a proverbial wringer in order to extract testimony that would favor me. All those little children, my precious little fourth grade students, were now mere pawns in Melissa’s determination to get me off scot-free. Here is an excerpt from the transcript provided to me by the court reporter. The court reporter did not correct grammatical errors, but I will, adding or leaving nothing out.

“Did you write the law?”
“Did you think about it before you wrote it?”
“You did? Then why didn’t you write the law so it would tell how long a party should last?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you think about putting how long a party should last in the law before you wrote it?”
“I don’t know”
“I don’t think you thought about it. Did you think about it?”
“So you wrote the law without thinking about it?
“I guess.”
“Did Mr. R. have to figure out what the law said because you didn’t think about it?’
“Did you have fun at the party?”
“Yeah, I guess so.”
“So the party was fun?”
“A little bit.”
“I am finished with the witness, Your Honor.”

I was stunned! I am in charge of the confidence and the psychological protection of my students, and here is my attorney blasting away at everybody like she’s Denny Crane or Alan Shore, two over-the-top defense attorneys on TV’s “Boston Legal.”

After all the witnesses had been reduced to mumblings or long silences by my attorney, the trial finally came to a close. That is when another unexpected thing happened. The real Judge said, “Everyone in the courtroom except the defendant and the attorneys will be on the jury. Please raise your hands if you think the defendant is guilty.” (There was a pause as the hands were tallied.) “Please raise your hand if you think the defendant is not guilty.” (There was another pause as the hands were tallied.)

Then the real Judge whispered to Judge Gabriella, who then announced, “Mr. R. is found guilty.” It was a close vote, but then I was expecting to be found guilty. That is when Melissa lit up. She loudly whispered to me, “This isn’t right. We didn’t want a jury trial. I’m going to complain.” I told Melissa, to just forget about it. I was looking at the clock and it was approaching time to get back on the bus to return to school, and the lesson had turned out as I planned. “Don’t worry about it, Melissa. It’s OK.”
“No it’s not,” she said. “I’m going to complain.” Then she leaned forward in her chair and loudly spoke into her microphone, “Your Honor! Your Honor this isn’t fair. We asked for a Judge to decide whether my client is guilty or not. Somehow a jury decided it. We don’t want that. We want the Judge to decide the case. This isn’t fair! I think this is a mistrial, and I want to appeal the decision. This is wrong!”

Judge Gabriella and the real Judge went into a private conversation. The real Judge said, “Counsel for the defense is correct. Your client asked for a bench decision.” After another private conversation between Judge Gabriella and the real Judge, Judge Gabriella said, “I’ll decide whether Mr. R. is innocent or not. I decide that Mr. R. is innocent.”

I now have to accept the fact that I taught children that the judicial system in America can sometimes misfire and let a guy off scot-free who is guilty as sin. As an adult, I can live with the possibility, but I don’t believe that I should be teaching such skepticism to fourth graders.

The poor kids. I inadvertently stole their party time, time they had worked for and deserved. Actually, it was stolen from them by my incredible attorney, Melissa. I am reminded though, of Mark Twain’s saying, “The two sweetest words in the English language are 'not guilty'.”

A footnote: This week, Alex, the senator who wrote the original bill, rewrote another bill that was signed into law that states that a party will last at least one hour and the law is retroactive to February. Therefore, the party problem has been solved. However, the kids are going to have to live with the injustice of a guilty defendant freed by a flawed judicial system, and then continuing to teach them.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

This Week in Boca

The grocery stores in Boca are running on extra staff this week. They even have baggers at every aisle which is unbelievable around here. Most of the time I now bring Jake shopping with me, even with the countless "Can I have that? NO! Can I have that? NO!", because he is becoming quite an efficient bagger, as I actually pulled this out of the plastic a few days ago.

As this is my first conscious Passover/Easter living here (last year I was four months pregnant and out of my mind sick), I was really looking forward to the plethora of Passover products from which I would be able to choose. I know that there are endcaps and spaces dedicated to the flour-free everywhere this week, but man-oh-man...we have aisles stocked with various legal goodies.

Publix has been stocked for Passover since the first of March. While I looked to see what they had, I didn't purchase anything. I had until the second week of April anyway. And with that selection, and with a high Jewish customer base, why even bother to stock up until the last minute?

Because you live in a city with a high Jewish customer base, that's why.

I went yesterday for my official Passover shopping: roast, kugel ingredients, eggs, gefilte fish. Wait a minute...where was the coconute flakes (for Macaroons), the whole wheat matzah, the parsley? The shelves were near empty. Gone, purchased, safely stored in the cupboards of all the people around the neighborhood, except mine.

Okay, so I will improvise (meaning drive around today and tomorrow like a maniac looking for coconut, parsley, and Premium Gold gefilte). Thank God our souls will be saved by Tony and Lisa's second night Seder, properly performed and prepared by her and her charming parents. And it is always fun, after we get the first fifteen minutes out of the way: trying to answer Eric's grandmother why we don't see/call her/Eric's dad enough.


My friend Donna really feels sorry for Jake that he doesn't get an egg hunt, and my Spring basket of goodies didn't make her one bit happier.

As we were driving down to her house Friday night for the relaxing weekend on the west coast, she called me on the cell. "Listen," she said in her inimitable way. "Do you eat pork?" Well, it just was a little out of context as I was thinking she was calling to know why we were late.

"Um, yeah."
"Good. 'Cause we're having pork chops tomorrow night, and Buddy said I needed to check whether or not you ate that. I told him you did, because that was just silly." I adore Donna and her frankness. I promise next year I am inviting her to the Seder, because how silly would she think that Matzoh sandwich of horseradish and apples and raisins would be!?!


Jake is studying the Holocaust in school, and has really had some heartfelt observations.

I picked him up yesterday and asked how his day was.

"Fine," he answered. "We don't have much homework."
"Great!" I told him.
"And," he added. "I really hate those Nazis."


Meanwhile Simon has stopped biting. He is on doggie Buspar, and the good thing is he has calmed down enough that if I need to, I can wrestle him down for half the tablet for myself.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Selective Hearing

I have done amateur psychological research projects using my classroom students as subjects. Here are the results of one of my experiments on a subject I shall refer to as Joe:

Joe is the perfect subject. He is capable of zoning out, or shutting off his mind, to all classroom distractions. I have talked to him about it and he has admitted that he engages in what I shall simply refer to as “daydreaming.” I noticed that Joe wasn’t paying any attention to a math lesson on how to change fractions to percents, so I decided to use that moment as an opportunity to experiment on Joe. I began with the sentence, “Everyone please pay strict attention because this will be on the test.”

Please note: No response from Joe, either in head movement, eye focus, or body position.

I paused a few seconds and then said, “Everyone please pay strict attention because I want to give everybody a handful of Jolly Ranchers*.”

Please note: Joe’s head immediately spun on the spinal column, and his body position turned approximately 160 degrees, both actions occurring in a little under two seconds. Also, his eyes refocused.

Then I waited two days. I noticed that Joe wasn’t paying much attention to a math lesson on how to change percents to decimals, so I decide to use that moment as an opportunity to continue my experiment on Joe. I began with the sentence, “Everyone please pay strict attention because I want to give everybody a handful of Jolly Ranchers*.”

Please note: Joe’s head immediately spun on the spinal column, and his body position turned approximately 160 degrees, both actions occurring in a little under two seconds. Also, his eyes refocused.

I had to settle all the students back in their chairs and this took some time, effort, and lying. As soon as they were settled, I began the math lesson again and then said, “Everyone please pay strict attention because this will be on the test.”

Please note: No response from Joe, either in head movement, eye focus, or body position.

This is what you call Selective Hearing. If all the data in my experiments are correct, then my hypothesis will turn out to be correct: Joe will grow up to be a balding, fourth grade elementary school teacher with a ferocious sweet tooth and a wife named Peggy.

* a hard candy popular among ten year olds
* a statement that can break up a fourth grade classroom for several minutes

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Melissa Says the Darndest Things

Everyday after teaching school, I drive to clients’ homes and teach their children how to play the piano. It started out as a way to make extra money, but since I love music and kids, I get a double bonus: I get paid to sit beside remarkable children and teach them how to play music on the piano.

Without question, the liveliest, most charming, and cleverest of all the piano students I have ever taught is Melissa. I pull up to her house and she greets me by running out to the street to give me a hug. I sure look forward to that hug an awful lot. Then she starts making excuses for not practicing, and I have learned that she isn’t ever going to practice very much. Melissa will not become a great pianist and that’s fine with me, for nothing I will do could ever improve on her.

Then we start the lesson, and that’s when she starts saying the darndest things.

Melissa said, “This is a menacing song.” I told her, “Melissa, you have used the word ‘menacing’ a lot today.” She replied, “Yes. It is my 'b u z z w o r d' of the day.” During the very next lesson, she leaned over to me with a devious look on her face and whispered, “Do you want to know what my 'buzzword' of the day is?” I cautiously said, “Yes.” She lowered her voice and whispered, “Conniving.”

I asked Melissa to play a song. She said she wasn’t sure if she could. I told her, “Just try.” She said, “I’ll try to play this song, but it could turn out ugly.”

Melissa knows I have a horrific sweet tooth and am crazy about candy, so she politely asked me if I wanted some candy. I answered, “No thank you.” She immediately got a terrified look on her face and yelled, “MY GOD!!! WHO ARE YOU????!”

I asked Melissa if she had been practicing. Right at that moment she went on a long coughing spell and didn’t quit for some time. As soon as she stopped I was about to ask her if she was alright, but before I could say anything, she said, “I wasn’t making excuses for not practicing. I was coughing my brains out.”

On a different occasion Melissa had another cold. During the lesson I told her, “You should be concentrating on the melody in the right hand.” She said, “I couldn’t. The whole time I was playing I was thinking about the drizzle coming out of my nose.”

I told Melissa to play Swan Lake. She mumbled, “Of all the songs you could have asked to play, why THAT one?” I replied, “Isn’t it funny how teachers are psychic?” She mumbled, “Yeah. Or psy……cho.”

I told Melissa I had to write some assignments in her music book. She told me, “While you do that, I’ll talk, which is what I am meant to do.”

Friday, April 07, 2006

Strike What I Just Said, I Haven't Slept

Olivia, or The-Child-Formerly-Known-as-Mellow, has turned into Satan is cutting teeth.

And of course it is on a weekend when we are staying with friends at their second home on the west coast of Florida. Additional pressure is that this soon-to-be-ex-friend dear woman has volunteered to be the first to keep Olivia (along with Jake) for the weekend in late May, so we can attend Eric's cousin Tony's 40th Birthday Bash an important business function. It was a perfect idea, like when you schedule a dinner party to make you clean the house. For that gave me a deadline to get Olivia OFF THE FUCKING BREAST gently weaned and sleeping through the night.

This is my punishment the way it goes after you tempt the fates like I did the other day and say how great you feel being an unemployed, broke a satisfied SAHM.

I must run; Beelzebub my darling Olivia is calling.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Budding Comic

Today during social studies, I asked my fourth grade students, “What is a pioneer?”

No one had an answer, and I was not surprised. Elementary school teachers know that most kids do what the President of the United States does: act as if you know what is going on, even if you don’t. They even get that little look of confidence on their faces, the look that says, “I am feelin’ strong. I know this. No problemo. I’m in charge. Fear not. I’m just pausin’ so I can plan just how to express this in a way that will astound you.” Other kids drop their heads, their faces staring at the surface of their desk. They let everyone know they don’t have the answer and are already too open and honest to be President, at least not at this time in our country’s development.

I always give the kids some wait time before I provide the answer, and sure enough, at last, Thomas finally raises his lone hand up in the air. “Thomas, do you know what a pioneer is?”

Thomas grins and says, “A pioneer is a person who bakes pies.”

Everybody laughed, and I was so proud of Thomas. He is coming around. His timing, his delivery, everything was right on target. However, I approached him after the class and asked, “Was that your line, Thomas, or did you steal it from somebody?”

Thomas paused, and with shame on his face said, “Mr. R., I stole the joke from Sponge Bob Square Pants.”

“Yeah, but your delivery and timing are much better than Sponge Bob’s, you are a heck of a lot better looking, and your joke got a great laugh from me and the students.”

Thomas’ pride in his comedic accomplishment returned, and I expect more good punch lines from him in the future, even if they might be “stolen,” a la Milton Berle.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

And the Rhode Island Red Wins

Jake and I had a great day yesterday. It was full of jokes and silliness, and it was one of those mothering days where you don't feel like gouging your eyes out with a Bic pen. Most of the time this is a thankless job, but on the days where you get some form of positive feedback, there's no other job I would have.

I sat down, dinner in the oven (his warmth toward me assisted by the fact it was enchiladas, his favorite), to fold some of Olivia's clothes. Jake had been playing a Flintstones game with an internet opponent on He turned around to face me and said, "Mom, you never stop working. I mean really, you do so much." He was incredibly sincere, and as he didn't ask for Michael to come over or to go to the pool, I assume he was being merely observational.

A thousand miles away, at the same time, MBF Tracy gets the same words from her ten-year old daughter. Okay, is this something that's part of the curriculum right now? We both marveled at the genuine tone they had sported, that they didn't slyly request any gift after, and at the unbelievable coincidence of their both bestowing their yearly compliment on the same afternoon.

I pictured, briefly, the way he might speak about me after I am old, or no longer here, and I felt that it would be kind. I suddenly knew in my heart that there is a distinct possibility that the way he talks to me now has no bearing on how he will speak of me later. And all of the sudden, I felt like I had won the blue ribbon in the Mom's State Fair.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Years ago, I set out on a quest to discover the single greatest writing topic that could ever be assigned to students in an elementary school classroom, a prompt so inspirational that the kids would frantically search for a pencil and paper, and the tips of their tongues would stick out of the corners of their mouths as they single-mindedly focused on their writing. I wanted them to write with such dedication and desire that no recess bell could stop them, and their little faces would be part joy, part expectation, and part enthusiasm as their eyeballs did donuts in their sockets while they planned for and expected to write the definitive fourth grade essay, the greatest essay of all time.

I have discovered that topic, that prompt, and I will share it with you now. I am like a magician who reveals his secrets and the chef who gives away his treasured recipe. You want to watch your kid write? Here’s how. Look at them intently and inquisitively, and speak these words very slowly, calmly, and yet intently: “This is important. I want you to write an essay for me. I don’t want a list. Don’t make a list. Write in your own words and tell me this: ‘What are your favorite things?’ Tell me your favorite colors, your favorite foods, your favorite sports, your favorite everything. Now remember, don’t write a list. Write sentences, and tell me all of your favorite things.”

You may have to answer a question or two like, “Do you want me to write about my favorite fill-in-the-blank?” or “Can I write about my favorite fill-in-the-blanks?” Always answer yes, suggesting to the writer that every single favorite item is important.

Do you remember the classic film, The Christmas Story. Remember Ralphie writing the essay to his teacher about what he wanted for Christmas? That is another classic writing prompt, a great one, yes. Ralphie wrote about the Red Ryder BB Rifle, and he wrote with all his heart, and all his strength, and all his mind. Then the teacher did a terrible thing. She gave him a C+ and a note at the top that said, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”

I have learned to always give every student an A if it is a personal, inspired, treasured essay. What you want for Christmas, what you want for your birthday, or how wonderful your mother, father, or family is also merits an A. Maybe an A+.

But no topic gets ‘em wound up quite like, “Name Your Favorite Things.”

Monday, April 03, 2006

It's a Crap Shoot, Baby

I am having to outweigh risk vs. pleasure/necessity. Everyone in every big city loves to tell you that they own the worst drivers in the country (I say country firmly because I know of the horror stories of third-world international driving), but please understand that they mean, "well, at least outside of South Florida".

You get in with your children, you buckle everyone up, and you take a deep breath before inserting the key. You're sure you will pass at least two or three accidents, one with jaws-of-life doing its magic, but "please please please" you say, "let today be another day where I merely pass an accident", with no involvement other than well-wishes, and stiff-necked forward looking so as not to:
  • be one of "those" people who gawk
  • be in a resulting accident.

You're shaking your head right think you know all about it, and that you have drivers identical to ours. I've lived in several major cities, and I don't think it is merely age that makes me the white-knuckled wheel-gripper I have now become.

It is not uncommon to be taking a left turn at a non-arrowed green light (meaning both ways have a green light), and when you do not turn fast enough (i.e. manouvering a Frogger-like turn, weaving between oncoming vehicles), the car behind you will lay on its horn. It will then swerve over into the right lane (no doubt cutting someone off who will now give them a five-second horn salute), and then race around you, making a left. The driver will shoot the finger at you, or glare, and then piss off the oncoming traffic that has to slam brakes/swerve to avoid hitting them. Those drivers (our friend from behind us now long gone) then glare and shoot the finger at you because clearly you should have taken a death-defying left and then that asshole wouldn't have had to get so angry. It's 7:30 a.m.: you have heard the wail of at least three horns, you have relieved yourself of the morning's coffee, and congratulations--you have now taken the first left out of your subdivision.

The road behind my house has a 50 mph speed limit. This makes complete sense for several reasons, not the least of which it is a cross street from several neighborhoods to a large Orthodox synagogue. The Sabbath takes on a whole new meaning for these observant, pedestrian Jews. How lucky you feel, after a day of rest and reflection , and you tuck your offspring into bed Saturday night. "We made it!" you must feel like crowing, feeling particularly chosen that day. Additionally, the street is laden with businesses, and we all know nothing is more satisfying than pulling out of the grocery store, bags flying, with less than three seconds to get up to the speed of oncoming traffic. Oh wait, what are you saying? They're not going 50....

...they're going 60!!!!! Because as we all know, those pesty little limit signs are only a suggested speed, an "oh-only-if-you're-not-running-late" mph guideline.

Do you need more proof? It costs nearly $5,000/year to insure a sixteen-year old male in Miami. It costs me $1,400/year for myself, and I have a safe-driver discount. More? Okay, it was on the news lately that the crosses/memorials that people set up around town to remember their deceased (from accidents) loved ones have to start coming down, as they are so ubiquitous they have in themselves, started to cause more accidents.

So, risk vs. reward? I think about it all the time. Are those five-mile-away tennis lessons for Jake worth it? Is there any possibility Olivia will grow up to actually be a prima ballerina? Nah, let's just stay home, where it is safe.

Oh, but only after we've purchased 25 gallons of bottled water and put up the hurricane shutters.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


This year's calendar fleeces me of a splendid opportunity to play a practical joke on my students because April Fools! falls on a Sunday.

Our class has a routine. Every day I post the night’s homework on the chalkboard for the students to copy in their agenda books, but on April Fools! I put some extra stuff up there............not enough to make it obvious, but enough to cause consternation. I play it straight for quite awhile, then yell, "APRIL FOOLS!"

DURN! I'll miss that!