Sunday, October 28, 2007

Shot Down in May!

I have blogged before about excrutiatingly difficult dinner times when I was a child, and the memory of a certain breakfast meal came to mind from my last blog, "Mystery Breakfast Food."

When I was a child, you were on your own for breakfast. Breakfast was OverLord/overseer free. You could eat what you wanted. Except there's a loophole, an asterisk the size of Texas on that last statement. My mother stocked only health food. That meant there were no cookies. No doughnuts. No sugar coated cereals.

My younger brother, Jack, and I yearned for Post Sugar Crisps. They were peddled with cute commercials starring a snuggly little bear, the Sugar Bear, and he looked so happy and plump eating those tasty treats of sugary, wheaty goodness. Jack and I had tasted them at other children's houses, but that meant diddly-squat. We ate breakfast at our house. That meant Kellogg's All Bran. At first, All Bran ripped through me like a gallon of Metamucil through a two year old. By the time I was twelve, my intestines had developed the capacity to digest enough roughage to contipate a horse.

We yearned for Sugar Crisps.

Finally, one day, a miracle happened. Jack and I were with our mother at the grocery store and with the inspired amount of cajoling, tears, and persuasion, our mother relented and bought us a box of Sugar Crisps.

We ate the whole box in one morning. We were like those cowboys in the western movies that had been stranded in the desert for two weeks and were dyin' o' thirst, and their horses had crumpled in the last scene, and the cowboys were mumblin' incoherent crap, and their lips were all crudded over and whitish, and the people that found them had to keep them from taking too big a swig of water all at once because their parched throats would swell up. Except we had no one to grab the canteen and keep us from drinking too much water. We were alone in the breakfast room. Alone. All by ourselves. Only the two of us.......and a box of Sugar Crisps.

Our rugged little constitutions couldn't handle that much pleasure, that much joy, that much sugar all in one morning. Hell, we couldn't have handled a whole box of All Bran. We squirted hot broth out our bung holes until we were in a state of exhaustion and compliance, and then our mother informed us we were never to eat those diabolical diuretics ever again.

You're ridin' high in April. Shot down in May!

Mystery Breakfast Food

My fourth graders were having a discussion of what constitutes a healthy breakfast. This discussion was brought on by an onslaught of weakness and anemia just before lunch time. I thought a group discussion would be of some instruction to my students who think two bites of a Pop Tart is a nutritious meal. We went over all the different foods that would be bad to eat, including junk, sugary breakfast cereals, then we discussed more positive choices.

At the end of the discussion I asked if there were any questions. Mark raised his hand.

"Yes, you have a question, Mark?"

"Yeah. I was wonderin'.....what exactly is 'shreaded meat?' "

"I think you misunderstood, Mark. The class was taking about Shreaded Wheat."

"Oh. What's Shreaded Wheat?"

"It's a breakfast cereal. It's a healthy breakfast cereal made from whole grain wheat. You've never heard of Shreaded Wheat?"

"No. I eat Count Chocula!

Mmmm. Chocolate for breakfast. Lucky Mark.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A.K.A. Michael Myers

A fourth grade student in my class, Nicole, was talking to me at lunch about Halloween and some scary movies she enjoys. In a very excited voice, Nicole described her favorite scary movie.

"My favorite scary movie is that one where the guy wears the hockey mask, and the mask is kinda white, and he chases after this girl and he won't die, and he has this knife, and it's on Halloween, and it is so scary!"

I'm thinking that this is definitely 'Halloween,' the original thriller starring a young Jamie Lee Curtis.

"Is it 'Halloween'?" Is that the name of the movie?"

"I don't know, Mr. R. But the bad guy's name who wears the hockey mask is Michael Marion Stinkbaum."

Being of older mind and even slower thinking, I asked, "What's the guy's name again?"

"Michael Marion Stinkbaum."

Then Nathan, who was sitting with us interjects, "No it's not. It's Michael Myers!"
Nicole looks at Nathan confusedly and says, "I thought his name was Michael Marion Stinkbaum."
I had to guess at the spelling of the pseudonym Nicole has given Michael Myers. Michael Marion Stinkbaum is his alias, I suppose.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Endless Love

We fully comprehend our future parents-in-law responsibility that came part and parcel with birthing Olivia. The pre-wedding talk with her intended will be well-rehearsed. It will point out the benefits of marrying a girl with a demanding nature, the plus sides of forming a partnership with a girl who is decisive and sure of her wants, and the obvious financial upsides of her still sporting an inexpensive size 6X as an adult. But where we will be of no assistance to the young man will be in the affection department.

As I drove Olivia to school this morning, I reminded her that I loved her a great deal. "Nooooo!" she screamed, as usual. "Yes, Olivia," I persisted. "And you love Mommy, too."

She looked out the window and sighed. "What's goin' on here?" she muttered.

You're on your own, dear son-in-law.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

An Incredible Resume

I sent out a volunteer form to all the parents of the students in my fourth grade classroom. I use this form to find parents who are willing and able to tutor math and writing, and I schedule them to come together in groups of three of four at a specific, appropriate time when they can assist in the classroom. The volunteer form also has a survey that asks parents if they have an area of expertise they would like to share with the classroom. Any parent who is unable or unwilling to come into the classroom on a regular basis but who would like to talk to the kids about their hobby or their area of expertise are welcome.

Nathan's father responded, and I was amazed at what I read. I mentioned his response to Nathan.

"Nathan, you're father is really somethin', isn't he."

"What do ya mean, Mr. R.?"

"Well, for one thing, your father is a colonel in the United States Air Force."

"He is?"

"Yes, he is. Did you know that he was a colonel?"


"Do you know what that means?"


"That means your father has very many people that he gives orders to, but very few people who give him orders. He is very high up in the chain of command. He is an important person. Did you know that?"


"That isn't all, Nathan. He flies some of the greatest fighter and bomber jets in the world. He flies F-117 Stealths, F-4s and F-4 Phantoms, F-15s, the F-22 Raptor! Did you know he flew the fastest jets in the world?"

"No. I knew he flew stuff."

" 'Stuff?' Nathan! Your father flew F-16s in Operation Desert Storm! He is a fighter ace! He teaches Air Force pilots how to fly all kinds of incredible aircraft, and now he is involved in some kind of project involving a new jet that has new technology....the F-22 or something. Did you know that about your father?

"No." Then with an excited, suddenly animated voice, Nathan exclaims, "He plays football and bakes cookies!"

I guess I'm with Nathan. My eating disorder precludes me from asking his father to discuss the boring aircraft he flies. Nah! Let's get him to bake cookies!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

School Days 2007

Olivia was one of the last to get photographed. It was a horrific twenty minute wait, as Olivia watched the children before her become more and more upset with every camera click. She sat down, nervously, and just there on the right, at her knee level, I think you can see a portion of my shirt.

After a substantial amount of flashes, the photographers asked me to please remove her from the bench; they had enough pictures already.

I had the only child who screamed as she was being taken away from the big bad picture man by her mother. As we passed the next terrified child waiting in line, she stuck out her index finger to him. "Don't be scared," she said with the authoritative voice of experience.

Add about 40 years on you and see how much you love that camera, O.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Funny, And I Always Try To Lay Everything On Eric

Simon has been an amazing surprise from the day we brought home Olivia. He was so intensely...uh, playful with Jake that we assumed that around the first of September 2005 it was going to have to be a decision between keeping him or Olivia. We wanted to see if she was a colicky baby before we committed to a decision.

But not to worry. Simon took his charge of Olivia very seriously. Even while running through the house after Jake with his maddest pace--and not that I am screaming at them or anything while this is occurring--he avoids her completely. She can take his bone from his mouth, try to stick a finger at his fascinating rear end, or pull his body hair to help her stand up; he just patiently licks her. His only ill behavior is a rabid consumption of her puzzle pieces. She will bring us another mangled piece, with a sad expression, and we take it from her. "Oh Olivia," we say. "How sad. Simon ate the puzzle."

We were driving to school the other morning, and we passed a snarl of traffic due to a stalled auto. "What is that, Mom?" she pointed to the disabled car.

"That car is broken, Olivia."

"Oh," she said knowingly and sadly. "Simon got it."

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Can-Can

I have a little tradition that every class loves, especially at the beginning of the year when it's fresh. Whenever a child has a birthday, the parents and I plan a surprise party. They bring the cookies, cupcakes, or whatever, and sometimes I supply the drinks. They arrive with these goodies during the kids' last, afternoon recess. Then, when I go get the students who are lined up to come in, I have one of them "rat" or tattle on the birthday child. The "stoolie" will complain about something the birthday child did during recess, and while I am "chewing them out" in the hallway, the other kids line up at the front of the room and sing "Happy Birthday," "The Birthday Rap," and "The Army Birthday Sound-Off Song" to them when the birthday child enters the room.

John and Damian share a birthday, so I contacted both of their parents, plotted and planned the surprise birthday party, the day of the party arrived, the last recess came, the goodies arrived via one of the parents, the recess ended, and I set out on my last contribution to the celebration: to get John and Damian in trouble. Sure enough, Bailey had a complaint about both of them as plotted and planned, and I was out in the hallway giving the two birthday boys a bit of "advice" about playground behavior.

Only I notice they both of them seemed totally unconcerned, and I thought, "Well, we've only done this twice, but Damian is pretty sharp, may have seen this coming, and may have warned John about the possibility of a secret party." I finished my speech, headed into the classroom, and when Damian and John entered, the class started singing our three birthday songs. Except little Damian had figured it out, and he and John had practiced the Can-Can. We watched them dance the Can-Can while we sang to them.

It was a bizzare moment, witnessed by a fifth grade teacher, Mr. N., who came into our classroom to talk to me about a girl in the Chamiza Chorus. I don't know if he told anyone what he saw, but if he did, it must have been a peculiar tale: two, fourth grade boys, arm-in-arm, dancing the Can-Can, with music provided by everyone else in the class singing three birthday songs.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Just Sittin' Back Watching Every Adult Die

Damian is one of my fourth grade students, and what a fine, young man he is. One of his recent stories that he wrote and that I was helping him edit during Writer's Workshop class has me still laughing. After you read this blog, you'll either laugh with Damian and me, worry about me, or worry about both of us.

I assigned a prompt, an idea that gets the writer's mind to thinking, and it starts every classroom writer off with the same idea. The prompt was, "You are on a class field trip to the zoo. While walking by the duck pond, you see something glistening under the water. Upon closer inspection you find.........." Each child is then asked to finish the story.

I was checking Damian's prewriting, and he wrote that he saw something shiny under the water, sneaked into the pond, looked under the water, saw a doorknob that looked like a gigantic diamond, pulled on the doorknob, and opened a door that led to a vortex that started sucking all the adults into it. The story continued, but I was intrigued by this unusual development, so I inquired further.

"Damian, did anybody else get sucked into the vortex, or was it just the adults?

"It was just the adults, Mr. W."

"Was it the adults that were in the zoo, all the adults in Albuquerque, or all the adults in the United States?"

"No, it was ALL the adults."

"All the adults in the whole, wide world?"

"Yeah. All the adults."

"Well Damian, your story leaves out some of the details. If every adult in the whole, wide world got sucked in, how long did it take for them to get sucked into this vortex?"

"I don't know. A couple of hours, I guess."

"Well, your story is missing these details. Let's write this down in your prewriting plan...........OK. We have that written down. Now tell me, what did you do during those two hours?"

"I just sat there and watched."

"So every adult in the world, every, single one of them, are being sucked into this vortex, and you sat there and watched for TWO HOURS?"

"At this point, Damian started giggling. "Yeah. Heh, heh, heh! I just sat there."

"What were all the other kids at the zoo doing while all these adults were disappearing? Were they watching too?"

"Heh, heh, heh. Yeah. They were sitting there watching too. Heh heh!"

"So when all the Chinese adults were pouring into this vortex, you looked at all your classmates and the other kids and said, 'Well, there goes all the adults from China.' "

Damian is, by this time, in stitches. He's laughing pretty hard, and I'm starting to get a kick out of this, too.

"Heh heh! Yeah. I guess we just sat there watching 'em go in!"

"Damian, did any kids go get popcorn or a corn dog while all this was happening, or did they just sit there with you and watch?"

Damian is really laughing now. "Mr. W., they just sat there. All the kids just sat there and Ha! Ha! Ha! just watched the adults get sucked into this alternate universe! Ha ! Ha! Ha!"

Damian is an African-American, so I went for the jugular. "When all the adults from Africa got sucked into the vortex, did every kid say, 'Oh look! there goes all the Africans!' "

Damian is unable to stifle his giggles, and said, "Hah! Hah! Hah! Oh my God! I think I need to rewrite this part."

I said, "Damian, I think you're pretty smart for getting my offbeat sense of humor. Let's just say that your story needs detail. We'll let this part go as it is, for now."

Damian, still laughing, says, "No, let me try changing it."

I gave him his story and he went back to his desk. I am really curious as to how his story will play out.

PS. I am referring Damian for the Enriched (Gifted) program. His academic and thinking skills, combined with his abilty to "get" his teacher's unusual sense of humor, make me think that this is one smart boy.

Or, like me, a nimnut with a wacked sense of humor.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Saved By A Technicality

I ask the kids to fill out questionnaires on the first few days of school that help me get to know them, and we use them to get to know each other. One group of questions are:

"Do you believe that Santa Claus is real? Answer yes or no."

"Do you believe that the Easter Bunny is real? Answer yes or no."

"Do you believe that the Tooth Fairy is real. Answer yes or no."

I'm sitting there watching the kids eagerly fill out this questionnaire that has them writing about hobbies, loves, favorite things, etc., but in the middle of the writing, Hannah looks up somewhat distressed and raises her hand. I go over to Hannah's desk and quietly ask her if she has a question.

"Yes. I want to know if I can change one of my answers."

"Of course, Hannah. Which one do you want to change?"

"This one," pointing to her "No" answer as to whether Santa Claus is real.

"Do you want to change these two?" I asked, pointing to her "No" answers on the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.

"No. I don't want to change those. I want to change this one," she said, pointing to her "No" answer to Santa Claus.

"You go right ahead and change your answer, Hannah."

But when I go back to my chair, I see Hannah writing away on her paper. The word "Yes" doesn't take that much time to write, so when I get her paper back, I go straight to the question, "Do you believe that Santa Claus is real? Answer yes or no." Here is her new, revised response.

"Tecknikally yes. tecknikally he is real. He isnt really real but he is real on a technikality.

This is heavy. "I think. Therefore I am on a technicality."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Indiscernible Conversation

Hannah is a girl who was born to converse. She is in my fourth grade class, and her third grade teacher warned me that she was a talker. Talkative in class? No. This girl was born to talk.

Last week, during a quiet work time in class, she came up to me and whispered so quietly that I was unable to even hear her.

"Mr. R., I was woing se whisper you widolf whisper hail moo sif ydjhd blah blah whisper whisper whisper?"

I was struck by the fact that Hannah could even consider the possibility that another human being with the limitations of homo sapiens' physiological auditory capabilities could ever hear anything that quiet. I have blogged about my hearing loss before but it's not THAT bad, so I thought, let's find out if Hannah really even heard what SHE said. Whispering as quietly as possible so that no human ear could possibly hear, I replied in total gibberish.

"Hannah, i dunt whisper whisper no nanhe blah blah gibberish nonsense blak blah blah whisper."

Hannah looks at me without batting an eye and says, "Oh! OK. I see."

And then she walks off! For Hannah, it's not the quality of conversation, it's about the quantity, and I had satisfied her need, for the time being.