Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Ok. Now, as I was saying, I have some interesting events that happened with kids years ago that I could tell about. Just a minute. There’s not enough salt on this glass.
That’s better. I can’t stand it when there’s not enough salt on my margarita. You take a sip and there’s no salt! And another thing. I can’t stand this glass. It’s really just a plastic tumbler. Of course, it holds a lot, but it doesn’t have that look, that South of the Border festive margarita look that’s almost a champagne glass in appearance. That’s what I need…….uno de los vasos grandes para margaritas. But this plastic tumbler will have to do. Actually, it’s one of those Big Gulp cups that I got down at the Corner Store gas station. I like those 64 oz. ones, except if they’re filled with diet Coke, your bladder really gets worked overtime, and you have to pull over and use all sorts of public restrooms in varying degrees of cleanliness, and then you get hyper and start quivering and everybody thinks your happy and excited to be alive, but all you really want to do is get to the restroom again. But I digress.
I have some old blog ideas. But first, I’d like to express how tough summer vacation is on male teachers. You see, if you’re married, you still have a boss, a foreman, a principal if you will, a supervisor, someone to answer to, and the work continues. But I did get my back back in place. Rememer all the work I did getting my classroom ready for the summer/ Dr. Wu gave me an acupuncture treatment yesterday to relax the muscles, and then today he put me in the “Adjustment Room.” I love the “Adjustment Room.” He contorts my body, then tells me, “Mr. Aw, you need to rerax. Rerax and breafe out. Rook ray ova you shoudah. Dats good. Now rerax.” Suddenly, without warning, he snaps my body into a new and special shape, an interesting krackle sound comes from the spinel column, and I feel imediately better. So I driive home, am sitting straigt up at the computer, and blogging blah blah because of that big Gulp I purchased as a celebrationato on the way home. But I digress.
Anyway, I need more satl on this margarina because I run out before the teqeela and the Tripel Sec is gone, so just a menuto.
Ok, I’m back. And I guess thats it fer now. I’ll blog later many of the fascinating ing things that have hapenned with kids bbefor Laura and meacytualluy starred the bloggging site actually opened. And I promise to not to be inffected by 64 ounces of caffeine and this Biggulp margarina.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
With an incredulous voice, Michael asks,“What is that?”
I look at the picture of a cute little weasel for the hundreth time and see that Michael is pointing to its tail. “That’s a weasel, and that’s the weasel’s tail, Michael.”
“No, Mr. R. Here is the weasel’s tail. What is THAT?”
“Well I guess that’s one of his legs.”
“No, Mr. R. Here are his four legs. Look. One…two…three…four.”
I looked a little more closely and realized the weasel has five legs, and one of them is coming out at an unusual angle from an unexpected location. I told him, “Michael, you are very observant. No weasel has five legs. Humph! They messed up.” I left it at that.
Michael is very observant. Nobody else has ever spotted that. And I am going to submit that music book page to Jay Leno to show on “Headlines.”
Monday, May 29, 2006
All the teachers at my elementary school were so happy to have the summer break arrive. This is what I heard all the women teachers saying in the hallway the last week of school:
“One more week and then everything will be ok!”
“We can do this!”
“Hang in there! Only four and a half more days!”
“Are you looking forward to the summer break as much I am?”
“Oh I so need a break!”
“I am going to Washington D.C. this summer for a couple of weeks to see the sights because my husband makes three times what I do so money’s no object.”
“The kids are drivin’ me nuts!”
“T-Minus four days and counting!”
“My kids aren’t acting normal. They are off the wall. How are your’s behaving?”
“Three and a half more days and we’re home free!”
“I hear you’re going on a cruise. I’m going to France with my husband who makes eight times what I make.”
“Yes we are going on a three week cruise because my husband makes ten times what teachers make. I hope I don’t gain too much weight”
‘I can’t wait to be FREE!!”
“I am SO looking forward to summer! What are you going to do this summer?”
“Two more days!”
“We’re having our house painted this summer. It is going to be so much work watching the paint dry. My husband hired the best paint contractors in town because he makes fifty times what we make. I can’t wait!”
“Hang in there! Only one and a half more days!”
“Whew! Break’s almost here!!”
“Only one more day!”
‘This is it! We made it!” I am so happy!”
The whole thing is disgusting and makes me sick. Well I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I didn’t get hired for summer school so I am going to worry about money, and I’ll limp around the house with a back that went out on me because I had to move four computers and eighteen hundred pounds of textbooks to get my room ready for the summer. My material for blogs is going to run thin so my writing will degenerate into stupid little stories about seeing kids in the supermarket and they’ll all go like this:
“Hi Mr. R.!
My wife will say, “Who is that?”
I’ll reply, “I don’t know. They look familiar so I guess they are a student at the school.”
I’ll also miss the kids, and I'll look forward to August. Am I nuts or what?”
However, there is a ray of sunshine in this bleak summer of pain and loss. My niece, Laura, and her family are coming to visit.
I have been noticing that lately your stories have not only been their ususal entertaining pieces, but you have been so very prolific. I have been absolutely struggling putting pen to paper. But today, as I ticked off on my fingertips the various events I could discuss with everyone (Olivia’s nine-month checkup, upcoming
airplane horrors trips) and found none of them even remotely interesting, I realized that the reason I have such a mental void regarding my blog is dread.
Because as of this Wednesday, 2:15 pm, Jake is on summer vacation.
Oh, I am very excited about enjoying some time with Jake; it is just that I know that as of this Thursday, 2:15 pm, he will be insatiably and incurably bored. And I will have made myself hoarse by loudly and incessantly telling him how much I love him. Ahem.
Do you think you and I view summer break totally differently? I have a mental picture right now; you are lounging poolside, inwardly chuckling at all the antics of your schoolchildren the last year. Your laptop is in front of you, and you are plucking hilarious and awwwww-producing stories out of the very air before you. I, meanwhile am too busy to write, what with checking the liquor cabinet to make sure that Thursday won’t catch me blindsided and force me to navigate through June, July, and nine days of August without the proper armament.
Yes, camp helps us mothers. In a way, because school, with homework and papers to sign, manages to carry us all the way until bedtime. Camp, on the other hand, is free-wheeling, spirited, creatively motivating and engaging, so that when I pick him up at 2:00, he just sees this. And there’s those hours from 2:00 on that are filled with “I’m bored”, “Can Michael come over?”, “Can I have some chocolate milk?”, and “Uh, does chocolate milk come out of your bedroom carpet?”
Look, I understand, you need these two months to recharge, otherwise you couldn’t do what you do so well from August to May. But us mothers, we just want, well, we just want September to arrive. We all say it to each other, only it is in code. Casually we ask, like the subject actually is the amazingly rapid passage of time, "Can you believe school is out already?" We answer, faux enthusiasm on our faces, "Oh, I know...summer is here already!" Using that lithe, cheerful tone with those sentences is prepostorous, i.e. "Can you believe I get my appendix removed, without anesthesia, already?"
Sigh. Think of me some days, figuring out what to do with two children, ages so far apart that there isn't anything I can do at the same time with both of them. I'll think of you: reading a book, watching a movie mid-day. I still love you.
P.S. When we come in July, will you make me a gooseberry pie? (You have time.)
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Rock Scissors Paper is still popular. If you don’t know how to play that one, don’t worry, you’re not missing much.
Hand Jives are popular among the girls, but the boys avoid them for some reason. Two kids will slap each others’ hands, clap their hands, and do all sorts of motions in a certain order. Speed develops with practice, and little poems are sung along with the clapping. The poems are nonsense. Here is an example:
(Repeat the above faster)
Touch the ground!
Jokes are popular. Example:
Where is George Washington buried?
Answer: In the ground.
Why is George Washington buried at Mt. Vernon?
Answer: Because he was dead.
By the way, these are the good ones. Some are so horrible the kids don’t even laugh.
Kids also like to tap each other on the shoulder when you’re not looking. Then they act completely innocent like they have no idea what you are talking about when you ask who keeps doing it. It is usually spoiled by tattle tales, dern ‘em!
Kids also sleep on the bus. One student I had two years ago never failed to fall asleep on a field trip. Coming or going, it didn’t matter. The sound of the concrete passin’ under the wheels simply knocked her out.
They also like to jump up into the air if the bus goes over a speed bump. When the bus bounces up, then up they go, adding to the boost of the bus by giving a little jump. This activity irritates the bus drivers for some reason. Maybe because it’s not against the rules. The back of the bus bounces considerably more than the front, so speed bump freaks get in that back row and pray the bus driver goes through every parking lot in town to get to the museum. One student of mine, a particularly rowdy speed bump freak, actually hit his head on the roof the bus. It was a proud moment, and he wrote about it during an open-ended writing session.
Many kids like to pull down on an imaginary air horn in order to get the semi truck drivers to blow their horns. Semi drivers used to let go a little blast to the delight of the kids in the bus. For the last few years, the semi drivers have not been cooperative. The truckers are not paying attention anymore or they have become a bunch o’ stick-in-the-muds, but there are some kids who never give up hope of talking a semi driver into hittin’ his air horn.
Staring out the window isn’t popular, but it’s done. So is finding words on signs that begin with the letters of the alphabet. By the time you get to Q, it slows down, but then you race to X and stop for awhile looking for a copying place to see the word Xerox. Kids that are on a field trip to the Zoo are usually guaranteed success.
Sometimes I’ll sit next to a parent and talk intelligently, but now we are out of the “Games Kids Play on the Bus” territory, and we are into adult things. Boring!
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Heads head for the desk. A child’s skull can feel like it weighs up to two hundred pounds and holding it up in the air can wear the student down. After awhile, they just need to rest it on their desk. If I remind them not to take a nap, I merely move the skull into the palm of one hand while the arm holds it up in the air.
Tinkering increases. Kids will tinker with erasers, pencils, pencil shavings, pens, jewelry, paper, scrap pieces of paper, paper clips, watches, clothing, threads sticking out from clothing, anything on the floor, any object not moving in their desk, any object moving in their desk, fingernails, cuticles, strands of hair, barrettes, hair clips, combs, mechanical pencils, mechanical pencil lead, boogers, eyelashes, mystery objects undetectable to the adult eye, food particles, etc.
Eyes glaze over. Serious cases of eye glazing can lead to total facial muscle relaxation, a dead giveaway that narcosis is setting in. My friend Herman gets total facial muscle relaxation during a boring sermon on Sunday.
Stretching increases. If you let it go for awhile, it’ll look like a class full of Hatha Yoga practitioners really working those neck muscles over.
Time obsession sets in. I have the clock in the back of the room so they won’t stare over my head. However, the clock’s location does not prevent time obsession. It merely forces the students to implement their Hatha Yoga neck stretches in order to see if the fulfillment of their hopes and dreams is approaching, and the eternal and deadening classroom existence that is wearing down their life force will finally pass.
Stifled yawning becomes an art form. The various grimaces and facial expressions can be amusing if you are into that sort of stuff.
A high grade state of mesmerization sets in. The voluntary muscles begin shutting down yet an extremely mild form of consciousness remains. I have felt this sensation when I too am being instructed, usually at professional development seminars conducted by well paid drones who would rather bore me than teach kids.
When I see these symptoms setting in, I try to shake things up a lot. If you shake things up a bit, it only delays the inevitable: boredom is setting in and you have to change your style. Anything helps as long as it is a fairly extreme change in curriculum and/or instruction. A teacher change every now and then would help too, but that doesn’t happen until mid-school or junior high.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
This whole headache thing must cease. One or both of my hands constantly massaging my head is starting to be part of my makeup, and being one who has incredible disdain for chronic illness (‘just get over it” I scream to myself), I am really struggling here. Plus walking around with one of those blue eye masks is absolutely ruining every outfit.
This past weekend was the Weekend of Freedom I have been crowing about for two months. Eric and I pawned off the kids on my good friend Donna and her husband Jim, pretended we even still knew the direction to
Friday night started with a casual dinner, and I was sleepy (as usual) by about 7:15. It turns out my body had no idea that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It supposed everything was business as usual, and that I would need to be up in less than twelve hours, starting yet another shift of “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, formula-mixing calculations, and complex, impossible-to-diagram sentences like, “That’s a flower. Isn’t it a pretty flower? Do you want to smell the flower?”
The attempt at drinking a margarita to make myself feel like a grownup did not succeed; apparently I needed something more substantial, like an amphetamine lick in the kitchen. And as Lisa was completely remiss as a hostess not to provide this, we said goodnight at 11:30 and fell immediately asleep, promising ourselves that tomorrow would Be A New Day—one in which I would resurrect that witty, interesting, pre-marriage self, and would also magically fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans.
Saturday was spent poolside, in a cabana, while many of the guests played a friendly (Tony: “Eric, move over, MOVE OVER, you are standing in the wrong spot. Three hits, THREE HITS!”) game of volleyball. And I lounged, completely relishing the fact that I was not putting sunscreen on an unwilling Jake. Later that evening, just as the party was at its apex at a Significant Restaurant at
Sunday when I picked up Jake and Olivia and I buried my nose in Olivia’s cool little cheek and breathed in, I swear I had never smelled anything so lovely in my life. It makes the fact that the next stop on the Headache Cure Train is a 24-hour EEG—with my head covered with electrodes transmitting to a receiver I wear on my hip—seem tolerable and reasonable. Missing a party because of my head is one thing, missing time with my children is quite another. So until this whole brain pain thing is understood, if you are in Boca and see a woman wheeling an Imitrex Drip, be sure and say hi—it’s me.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
As part of the class party activities, I had positioned balloons all over the walls. Each balloon had a note in it telling the kids to follow some odd, quirky instruction. For example, they had to walk backwards and talk backwards at the same time, chase an imaginary butterfly, or stand with their back against a wall and make doofy faces at each other. Every now and then, with no warning, I’d pop a balloon, read the instructions, and sit back and laugh. The parents quickly asked me to give them some notice, and they would get their camcorders ready for the fun.
One of the instructions was to act miserably sad and depressed, to whine and cry, because school was about to end and their rotten summer was about to begin. It was hilarious listening to all the fake whining. Then I noticed that Kara was crying. Real tears. I didn’t know what to think, but I didn’t want to draw attention to her, so I started the musical chairs going and forgot about it for awhile.
During lunch, I went to Kara and asked her why she was really crying. Kara looked at me, and quite seriously whispered, “Mr. R., I am really going to miss you.” Then she started to tear up again. I went to her, and we hugged.
Monday, May 22, 2006
When he returned to class, I called him to my desk and asked him how he was feeling. He replied, “I was in the hospital. You see this spot on my arm here at the elbow? That is where they had me hooked up to a hose.”
I inquired, “A hose? A great big garden hose?”
“Yes, Mr. R. It was for stuff to go in.”
“Are you sure it was a hose? A big hose like you water your lawn or wash your car with?”
“Yeah, and I might get sick again so my Mom wanted to know if I got sick could you please send me to the nurse?”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, sure. But let’s get back to this hose thing. Are you sure it was a hose? Maybe it was just a little tube.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s what it was. It was a tube.”
“That’s what I thought, Andrew. I saw you hooked up to a garden hose and that sounded scary, like they turned on the faucet and were filling you up with water.”
Andrew didn’t laugh like he normally would have, so I kept an eye on him, and sure enough, two hours later, I sent him to the nurse and he went home. He has missed a lot of school at the end of the year. Poor Andrew is missing all the class parties. Bless his heart.
Even still, all my life I have wanted to do this. My little girl in her first barette.
And to think I thought I was going to have to buy a Shi Tzu.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
The boys have no such paraphernalia to doctor themselves up with, but I did see Martin shooting some breath spray into his mouth at the end of the show, just in case one of the fifth grade girls wanted to reward him for his fine solo work.
“Andrea, who do you like?”
“I like Casey.”
“Does Casey like you?”
“No he doesn’t, Mr. R.”
“Why do you think he doesn’t like you?”
“Because I kick him.”
Friday, May 19, 2006
“Mr. R., we recommend that Johnny lose every recess for the rest of the year, and he has to do extra homework for the rest of his life.”
They think they learn this from adults. That’s what they feel like adults do to them. Children see their own crimes as small and insignificant. There are so many plausible and wonderful excuses that seem to justify their forgiveness and subsequent redemption. Yet adults will dispense justice with an iron hand. Kids believe their punishment for what they did is horribly unfair; they suffer from Human Nature, so they overlook their sins yet never forget their punishments.
So when it comes their turn to dispense punishment, they follow what they think is the example they have been shown. That means the guilty party must seriously suffer.
“Mr. R., the class’s decision is that since Mary will not shut up in class, she has to sit in the back of the room by herself for the rest of the year, nobody ever talks to her, and if she talks anyway, we cut off her hair and make her eat dirt.”
“Mr. R., the class has decided that since Jim won’t play fair on the playground, he has to do extra homework every day, he can’t go outside to recess for the rest of the year, and he can’t play on the playground forever and ever, Amen.”
One example of Hell: As the defendant in a civil trial, you are found guilty. The jurors are convening to decide the compensation to the plaintiff, and the average age of the jurors is 9.4 years of age.
“Your Honor, we find that the defendant has to give the plaintiff all his stuff and everything he owns, and he has to apologize, and if he doesn’t apologize really politely, we run his testicles through a Ronco Juicer while they’re still attached.”
If you are judged by kids, throw yourself on the mercy of the court. Pray. Cry. Beg. That'll work, hopefully.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
I am a little different than most teachers. I don’t keep their nose to the grindstone ‘till the end. Throughout the year I give more homework than most teachers, and almost the most of any teacher in the school, and by the end of the year I also require an important written report to be turned in with one week of school left. This year the report had three parts: our state’s Geography, History, and what is happening in our State Today. But when it’s time to say goodbye for the summer, I want to spend some time having fun, so our class parties.
I pour soda pop for kids until they have to go to the bathroom with burstin’ bladders. We eat pizza that generous parents donate. Parents volunteer supplies for a strawberry shortcake party and an ice cream party. We dance, we do the Limbo, we play class games such as “Heads Up Seven Up,” “Murder,” Ghosts in the Graveyard,” “Magic Circle,” “Almost Kissing,” “Musical Chairs,” “Musical Mystery Boxes,” etc. We play lots of competitive party games that involve relay races to pop balloons by sitting on them, bobbing for apples, bustin’ piñatas, and more games than I can mention. It is two and a half days of exhausting fun. Then we sit still, pass out report cards, make speeches, and say goodbye to each other.
I have never had a parent complain about lost academic time, and I have never had an administrator question me more than once about it. We invite the principal and the parents, and the parents bring cameras and camcorders and enjoy themselves as much as the kids…….almost. The kids have never complained either. I send them off with a real fine memory of school.
It’s Almost Party Time!!
I had a great Case in Point that happened yesterday afternoon, and it is such a common occurrence that I had forgotten it, and the resulting dent/scratch is not too bad.
In line at Jake's carpool, waiting for him to stop pretending that he hadn't seen me and get his butt in the car please, the woman behind me wanted out of line badly and hit me as she was trying to go around my (completely stopped) vehicle. My car, of course, rocked, and I looked up as she was going by. I must have been sporting a surprised expression, because she mouthed out, with hands in the air, "Whaat??? I'm soooorry" before she drove off.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
So it was that at 4:00 this morning I awoke to the gentlest of all rhythmic taps. Quieter than the rain, barely audible above the air conditioning, a tiny tap could be heard every ten seconds. That much time between taps makes tracking the noise very difficult;
I walked through the house pausing, counting the seconds, whipping around when the sound appeared to be in the direction from which I had just come.
Aha! The fireplace. I hear it! And in my glee of locating the sound, I forgo all common sense and open the flue. And you have the mental picture: water that had piled up, releasing itself only in drips, now liberated.
All I know is, I was petrified that water was going to spot Donna's new drapes. And that 4:00 in the morning is becoming really fun around my house.
Monday, May 15, 2006
I believe Laura is uninformed as to how modern teachers are “under fire.” Some of our other readers may also be uninformed. That means I will have to open up and relate to you some of my own horror stories, which means I will have to tell you about accusations made against me by crazed parents. I fear you will say to yourself, “If he was accused of this, maybe he did it.” Or you will do like some of my friends have done. “A parent accused you of that? Did you do it?” No one goes through life telling others about complaints made against them at work. “Yeah, my boss thinks I am stealing from the company.” “A customer charged me with sexual abuse and I have been suspended form work until the court case decides my innocence or guilt.” You’ll tell close friends, and then find out who your REAL friends actually are. So here goes. There are so many I don’t know where to start. However, I am going to go easy on myself and tell a few of the less questionable and more ridiculous accusations, although any one of them, if found to be true, could have cost me my teaching license.
A parent who persistently had me “under fire” would obviously debrief her son every time he came home from school. I taught second grade, and her son was only seven years old. Sometimes events became distorted and some facts get left out when you are seven.
I was accused of refusing to let her child use the restroom. It is true, kind of. He wanted to go inside the school building during recess to use the indoor restroom where there are no duty teachers. This is against the rules and has been for years. He said, “I need to use the restroom.” I said, “You can’t come inside the school building. Use the playground restrooms. You are at recess.”
The same boy was purposely getting in the way of people coming down the hall in the other direction. I hated to touch him, but there were a lot of witnesses, so I took him by the hand and walked with him down the hall. Suddenly, he yanked on my arm and yelled, “Ouch! That hurt! You hurt me!” Fortunately, another teacher saw the incident or I would be back in the wholesale millwork business.
In one of my more stupid moments, I used an expression that was popular but never caught on. That expression was, “Take a tablet!” meaning relax and chill out. The whole class was very rambunctious so without thinking I said, “You guys need to take a tablet.” This same parent accused me of threatening to drug her child, and she got a couple of other nut case parents to go along with her.
All of these incidents required the principal, the parents, the school district’s legal representative, a “school investigator,” and me to attend a meeting. They would usually be taped for legal reasons. I got off (found innocent) of all these accusations. There were more accusations though, lots more. The principal recommended I leave the school. He said that if I ever actually do something, even slight, and admit it, I would probably be terminated because all the accusations made against me, though false, would lead the school district to accept the defendant’s claim that a pattern of behavior had been established.
I left that school after the principal made that statement. Just a few days before I left, a new teacher in the school stopped me outside the school building and started talking about my predicament. I could tell she wanted to talk so we went on awhile about my situation, and then she opened up to me.
Four or five years before she had been a first grade teacher in a nearby school district. Her class watched the Walt Disney film, “Lady and the Tramp” as a class treat. A week later her class was doing a unit on their family tree. All the students were asked to research their genealogy with the help of their parents and then give an oral report to the class. All the children were making nice speeches. “My family is German.” “My family is part Cherokee Indian.” "My family is this and that.” One of her students went to the front of the room and started crying. The teacher asked what the problem was and the student said something to the effect that her family didn’t know what they were. They were a mix, and they didn’t know their family tree. The teacher then used the analogy of “Lady and the Tramp.” Lady and a lot of the dogs in the movie were pure bred, but the hero of the story was a mixed breed. She told the child that is what they were like, a mixed breed, like “The Tramp,” with a lot of other breeds mixed in, but maybe that made them the hero.
Within a few days, the teacher had been accused of referring to children as dogs. She admitted it. Her school district told her that written letters of apology needed to be submitted to all the parents and the school district. Once the written apologies were accepted, the teacher was startled to be told that she was terminated. I was shocked she was terminated for that, but I now realize that parents have a lot of power. I am sure I wasn’t as shocked as this teacher, though.
This teacher had been telling me this story and then started crying like a baby. I didn’t know what to say, but I knew that my recent battles “under fire” had drawn her to me as possibly someone she could talk to, someone who might sympathize with her embarrassing and humiliating situation, maybe someone that might understand. She got herself emotionally together and said that our school district had hired her reluctantly and given her a stern warning that her employment was under constant scrutiny and no mistakes would be tolerated. I told her that someone needed to apologize to her for the years of shame and agony she had undergone, and I apologized to her for those who had hurt her. I apologized profusely, and she started crying again.
When I suggest that teachers are criticized, I don't mean that their rudeness has been thrown in their face. They have that coming. I am talking about accusations of crimes commited against children. I'll tell more if I get requests, but some of them upset my stomach and bring back terrible memories I would rather forget.
Thank God I have such amazing friends; life is only tolerable when fully armed with a comfortable, reliable posse. And I would do anything for them as well, as I hope they know. Four grueling hours later (that includes some breaks and problem-solving debates in between), we had windows that absolutely make the room. Note their handiwork below:
I am not quite as lazy as I sound; I didn't feel well (common occurance lately since the hospital stay for some unknown reason). Even so, I appreciate that they are still willing to be called my great friends, as I have a feeling I reminded them a little of this.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
“I want to be an orthopedic surgeon.”
“That sounds very impressive.”
“I just have one problem. I am afraid of touching raw hamburger meat.”
“Do you think that means you’d be afraid of touching one of your patient’s flesh?
She grimaced and said, “Yes. Ick! I can’t even touch raw hamburger meat.”
“Well then it sounds like you have a problem. Maybe becoming an orthopedic surgeon isn’t for you.”
“But there’s one thing that’s good.”
“I’m not afraid of blood. Like when I get a cut, I even like to suck the blood out of the cut.”
“Well then there is a chance you have a future in medicine.”
Friday, May 12, 2006
Because when Jake (who is off school today) said, "Mom, I am so bored" for the umpteenth time and I answered "well, go find something to do", I found him a few minutes later doing this:
But you probably noticed that whatever aberration you felt was short-lived, because within two minutes Jake had abandoned the popcorn kernal removal and was chasing Simon with the vacuum cleaner. And I was back to my much-practiced maternal role of yelling about somebody needing to make better decisions.
1. A permission form must be signed by a parent.
2. The child needs to be able to fog a mirror.
My chorus performed for our school this week with two performances. I directed and accompanied three soloists on songs I arranged myself. There were 82 kids on the risers and we sang for forty minutes. One of the emcees was absent so the other emcee took over and did a splendid job. I am SO lucky I chose to have two emcees!
Our program went like this:
1. If I Had a Hammer
2. Putting on the Ritz
I believe this to be one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, song where the melody and lyrics are complimented by and appropriate for each other. Irving Berlin was an incredible, prolific talent. We had a lot of choreography in this song, with the kids struttin’ around “with their noses in the air.”
3. Old MacDonald
Not your standard version. One of the extremely talented and charismatic boys in the chorus directed the Chorus. He held up signs to guide the Chorus with all the animal noises. Then, on purpose, he would “accidentally” fall down, thus spoiling the ending. The Chorus would make all the animal noises in a raucous display, and then our director got control of them for a very rousing ending.
4. Little Rabbit Foo Foo
One of my favorites because of the great acting. One of the girls dressed up like a rabbit and would grimace and have a ferocious look on her face as she bonked the field mice on the head. The Good Fairy sang nicely, and was all dressed up with pink wings.
5. Missin’ Recess Blues
Sung to the tune of “Folsom Prison Blues,” the punch line of the song was
“I’m spendin’ time with teacher
For throwin’ spit balls.
She never would’ve caught me
But they stuck to the walls.”
I made the kids sing that last note as low and as loud as possible.
6. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head
The kids love this one. During the interlude in the middle of the song, I had frequently asked for smiling faces while we stood there for a few measures waiting to pick up the lyrics again. For the show, I made a doofy face. It worked. They grinned.
7. Young at Heart
I reused an idea I had thought of six or seven years earlier. We sang the song through, then the accompanist picked up the melody while the kids in the chorus did “kid things” for the audience. These included jump roping, hula hoops, “heelies”, cartwheels, etc. Then we sang the song through again. My favorite.
8. Bare Necessities
Sung by a quartet of boys who did a decent job.
9. The Second Star to the Right
Sung by our chorus’ best vocalist, a fifth grade girl. I thought my arrangement of that song was solid because I had never heard the song as originally recorded until after I did the arrangement. We didn’t copy it; our arrangement was unique.
10. I Got the Sun in the Morning
Another Irving Berlin classic, written for a female vocalist. We had a girls’ quartet sing that one. It is a rambunctious number and my most difficult arrangement.
11. We Will Rock You
This was an a cappella piece that probably everyone knows. Our talented boy directed the Chorus and sang lead. The kids didn’t sing it “hard” enough. It needs more work for our final show for the community and parents.
12. Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu
Lots of choreography, dancing, and a swaying ending (swaying back and forth towards the audience). This was the audience’s favorite. I told the kids “…go wild” and they did. It was exuberant.
13. Emcee says goodbye. Show’s over!
I have very mixed feelings about this show because it is my last. I have to quit because I am burned out and exhausted from all the work. The amount of time required to find an accompanist if I direct, or a director if I accompany, choose music (important work), organize a show, write scripts, figure interpretation and choreography, train soloists, paperwork, receipts, arrange field trips, make announcements, write newsletters, train a riser/electronics crew, attend every hour and a half rehearsal, etc. is excessive. There are Chorus Directors at schools, and that is all they do for a living! That’s their only job! I do all of it on the side in addition to teaching. Sometimes I feel like a chump, a person who has been taken advantage of because the school has stipend money and has never paid me a penny. This year they paid over fourteen thousand dollars to teachers at our school to do paperwork. I do get Middle School Initiative funds for running an “after school program.” I get paid $720 per year, much less than even minimum stipend money. I could take two piano students on Thursday instead of Chorus practice and triple that Middle School money and not have a tenth of the work….or the heartache and stress.
Yet this was my last performance, my last directing job. It was so satisfying and wonderful to perform, but so sad to know that the chorus program is in jeopardy. However, It will not die………yet. Five years ago one of the chorus members and a frequent soloist was named Lauren. She was taken with performing, took voice lessons, joined her high school chorus, volunteered to assist me with soloists last year, and took over the soloists this year. I have convinced her to direct the chorus next year. She is extremely mature for her age and is qualified to do the job. She is actually capable of being a better director than a teacher I once conned into directing for a few years. So the program has a chance if the administration at our school will find her some backup………teachers who are willing to do all I did. I have warned the principal that I will give directing/leadership/musical teaching advice to this high school girl, but I will not help with chorus. If they allow her to take over the chorus, it will be for two years at the most. When she leaves, I am sure the program will die because I won’t do it again. I am wracked with mixed feelings: relief and loss.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Let’s say your initial reaction to that sentence was, “Yes, and rightly so.” This puts you in the category of the new American parent, the one who believes that the villagers that are raising the child should openly confront each other when they disagree on how to do it, and there is a definite pecking order. Teachers are near the bottom.
Let’s say your initial reaction to that first sentence was, “What a shame.” This puts you in the category of the old school American parent, the one who believes that the villagers that are raising the child may disagree but not undermine each other’s best efforts.
One of the teachers at my school was being attacked by a new American parent because of her teaching practices, which was not the real problem. This was jeopardizing her reputation and possibly her career, and the teacher was emotionally yet rationally upset. During lunch in the teachers’ lounge she made the remark, “I love teaching, but sometimes the parents scare me. I guess the perfect job would be teaching orphans.” Every teacher in the room roared with laughter. You didn’t have to be there; you have to have been a teacher who has been “under fire.”
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
The transmitting end of Olivia's monitor is stationed next to her crib. So either this overly-exuberant, time-confused, fucked-if-only-I-owned-a-gun Bird is right outside her window, or my little Tippi Hedren is in big trouble in there.
All that practice I had with her waking up every two hours for a petite dejeuner means nothing now that I have had a couple of weeks of eight-straighters, and I am stumbling through the house like Lee Remmick in "Days of Wine and Roses". I make it to her room, peek in and see that the bird is in fact, outside, thank God, but Olivia's eyes are open because that bird is the loudest m'fing bird I have ever heard in my life.
I tiptoe (why, who could hear my little footsteps above the din of all that racket?) back to my room, where I lay back down, attempting to ignore Olivia's (now rising) cries and The Bird. But then I worry she's scared. She never cried at night, only yelled for me to come serve her, and now she sounds like she is actually producing tears. Because she thinks that The Monster outside her window is coming in, and I swear myself that I can now hear that It is wielding a glass cutter. So I go and put the pacifier in her mouth, which soothes her a little, but now I am WIDE AWAKE.
Of course, in an OCD-kind-of-way, I start thinking maybe I should Google what kind of bird this is ('cause that's just the kind of curious girl I am), and I should turn off the alarm and go outside and chase him away by chunking rocks at his big head. But pretty soon It finishes singing, or drives off or something, and Olivia falls asleep and I am awake for the day, at 4:00 a.m.
And then I wonder, did MBF Tracy send this Bird over to sing me Happy Birthday? Scary, because warmly, within one interrupted sleep, I feel like I am welcoming someone with whom I had become quite familiar: that insane, non-sensical, sleep-deprived girl whose butt landed right in Boca Community Hospital.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
I casually remarked that people are interesting and odd. Andrea paused, and pensively replied, “Yes, I know what you mean. I have a friend who is scared of toothpicks and another friend who is terrified of dimes." She paused, and then added, "People are strange.”
“People are Strange.” That is the title of a rock album by a group known as The Doors. I’ll bet Jim Morrison, The Doors’ lead singer, took a lot longer than nine years of age to realize what Andrea has already noted, and if he did notice, I’ll bet it took him a lot longer to get around to saying it.
Monday, May 08, 2006
“No one was chasing you. I was there and there was no one behind you.’
“I’m new to this school and I didn’t know it was against the rules.”
“This is the month of May. You have had almost a year to learn this rule. That’s no excuse.”
“Well, I have this head injury.” He then pointed to a spot over his right eye near the hairline. “I have a hole in my head. It’s right here. Or it was but now it’s gone.”
This kid was gettin’ to me. This last remark deserved an award for comic relief and over-the-edge gall.
“I think your brain is an excellent brain. There is no damage to your brain.”
I knew I had him. That’ll shut him up. Sure enough, I started writing the ticket and he stood there watching. I asked him his name and his teacher’s name, filled out the ticket, handed it to him, and he said, “This sure is a lovely room. I like this classroom.”
That was when the scales o’ justice started tipping the other way. Suddenly, I saw a clever, intelligent, sophisticated boy needing to be rewarded for his charm and his silver tongue.
“You’re Mr. R.?
“Yes I am.”
“I have heard a lot of good things about you.”
(More serious tipping of the scales) “Oh really?”
“Yeah. All the kids say you’re cool. And this is a cool room.”
(I’m rippin’ that ticket up) “Thanks. It’s just a regular room.”
“No, this is a cool room.”
“Are you gonna give me the ticket?”
I felt so cruel and horrible and mean and strict, but I stuck to my guns. I remembered the highballin’ speed he had achieved, and I did the ogre thing. “Yes. (a long pause as I reconsidered my decision) Don’t run in the halls anymore.”
“Thank you, Mr. R.”
I watched him go out the door thinking I just hated to give him that ticket. Somebody should reward hutzpah and charm like that. I hope I didn’t discourage him. What a future he has.
"Jake, I know I've been annoying since I got the camera."
He looked me straight in the face. "Mom, that is not something that happened after getting the camera."
I'm sooooo glad I can give him the Big Laughs,
because now I can catch 'em and keep 'em.
Saturday, May 06, 2006
About six years ago, we were going to perform for about five hundred people, mostly parents and family members. It was going to be a Big Show: fifty minutes of music, choreography, three soloists, and a fine, young, fifth grade boy sharply dressed was to be our emcee.
During warm-up before we went onstage, a girl in the second row of the Chorus came to me and told me she had an upset stomach. I was busy handling 120 kids so I told her to get a drink of water. We went onstage, and during one of the songs, that same girl became nauseous. Food that had been ingested earlier in the evening had soured in a manner that required its immediate expulsion. However, this girl didn’t want to vomit right there on the spot and she didn’t want to leave the chorus right in the middle of a song, so she got the bright idea of puking up her sizeable dinner right there in front of everybody while attempting to keep the barf from coming out by holding her hand tightly over her mouth. Unfortunately, the body’s desire to expel rotten, unwanted crud from the stomach is a powerful force backed by very determined muscles, and this sickly, tiny little girl’s barf became a force to be reckoned with when increased in pressure by her hand.
The actual vomiting looked a bit like a lawn sprinkler turned on its side so that instead of watering a horizontal plane along the ground, this girl’s chunks were sprayed in a vertical, semi-circular spray that encompassed an area about the space required to hold 120 kids. If you are wondering how powerful the eruptions were, breathe in deeply, hold your hand as tightly as possible over your mouth, and then breathe out as rapidly and as forcefully as possible. Then, in your mind, replace all that air with vomit.
Our emcee caught most of the first explosion, although everyone in the first and second rows pretty much got showered, including the ceiling. The second and third “pressurized eruptions” were just as spectacular because your attention was now captured in a horrifying moment of comprehension.
We kept singing and didn’t miss a note, although I stopped directing to call the school nurse who had seen the incredible event from her seat in the back and was already coming forward to help out.
The girl dropped out of chorus from sheer humiliation. I told her it was my fault, that I should have pulled her from the show and sent her to her parents. I promised her I’d watch her closely and it wouldn’t happen again, but some people won’t get back on that horse after being thrown.
I still regret that mistake, but at least I am being fair and showing both sides of the coin of life.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Thursday, May 04, 2006
I teach elementary school, and on the side I conduct an elementary school chorus. Each chorus performance spotlights soloists. One of the soloists I taught and featured in a performance was a girl named Carla. Carla caught my attention during the audition, but I didn’t have a song that suited her, and I told her so. A month later she sang an appropriate and catchy song she had practiced for a month. I liked what I heard and put her in the show. Carla had latent talent and succeeded in getting a solo in our big show because she had the desire, dedication, and determination.
A few years went by and I saw Carla in a pet supply shop. She was with her father, who happens to be the most popular TV weatherman in our city. I am positive that everywhere they go, people say, “Hey! Aren’t you _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _? You’re the weather guy, right?” But I’m Lost in Kids. I saw Carla, went over to her, hugged her, complimented her up and down because she is now a beautiful high school girl, reminisced about chorus, updated info on our lives, said goodbye, and I went back to my cash register line.
A couple of days later I saw her dad in the school office and there he was, the local weatherman that everybody in the city knows. I realized that I had barely spoken to him in the pet supply store because I had spent all my time talking to his daughter. I went to him, said hello, and then apologized for my slight in manners. I remember his words. “Don’t worry about it, Walter. It was a nice change.”
I thought about what he said and realized what he meant. I am proud of that silly moment. I guess that’s as great as I’ll get, but I’m Lost in Kids.
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
It was with great excitement that I flew into Houston this weekend to celebrate (a tad early) my birthday. Tracy had designed a fabulous, kidless trip, and I knew most details beforehand so I was properly revved up. We had "Carmen" to attend, Mark's for a true affaire gastronomique, most definitely good champagne in the fridge, and a friend with such a wonderful desire to spread happiness that the ability to procure anything I wanted was a mere request away. So who would think that the most thrilling part of the trip would be stepping into Tracy's giant, under-utilized, walk-in closet?
Now everyone who knows Tracy, or knows me and my stories, knows that MBF is frugal. She comes from a Mayflower stock that believes in hard work, and not living off the principal of your earnings. So today, in part because of her parsimonious nature and in part because her husband is a Wharton-bred executive, she and her family live in a large, beautiful home in Houston. She has decorated it well, while comfortably, and there is only one room that required serious attention. And it was in that room that I was prepared to engage her in a parting of clothing that would leave her with three shirts hanging, a pair of running shoes, and a pashmina. But I didn't have to tug hard; she surprised me by being very ready to part with her fabric past. There were amazingly few pieces that required convincing ("well, Trace, I think that it is a little worn, but you've really had good use of it since 1983"); she jumped to the word "Out!" several times before I even could. And even her panicking sense of money being stuffed into charitable bags was quelled by the fact that who really should keep a pair of shorts they remember being bought for their 28th birthday? Not her, as they flew off the hangers with abandon. I am so proud of her.
I admire my friend's lack of relationship with material goods. It is a great contrast to my relationship with them, one that actually includes visiting favorite purses at the store. Symbiotically, she allows me my admiring of objects of desire, while I allow her to visibly think, "you so don't need that", as I finger the goods. And I am very aware that the emptying of her closet was a big deal.
I know, people change as they get older. And my friend, so generous with others, really stepped out of her box by dumping old clothes and being generous with herself. But what will never change is that quick run through of the pockets she did, wisely, just in case....
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
“The federal deficit is what the federal government in Washington, D.C. spends that they don’t have. Let’s say you have only one dollar but you spend two dollars. You can do that by borrowing the dollar you don’t have. That is what the President and the Congress are doing. Say they tax everyone a billion dollars. That means they have a billion dollars to spend. But they borrow another billion and spend two billion. That means that some day when you guys get older there is a chance you will have to pay for some of the stuff that us adults today are spending. What do you think of that?
Andrea looked over at me and said, “Think of what?”