Fancy Costumes at Public School: Bring It Back!

Dressing up for Halloween in elementary school and going to school in costume- why not? We were told it was "too distracting" and we were not allowed to dress up today. But... but... but... ?! So what? I mean, of course it's distracting. But it's the Joy of Life Standard!

We used to have this parade of costumes. We just walked around the playground in a line up with our costumes on. During the school day. I mean, yeah, it wasn't the most amazing thing ever, but I think it enhanced my life.

They're not test scores. They're kids! They deserve to have fun now and then.

Anyway, Happy Halloween! We went Trick or Treating and had a huge party, so I guess I'm all good. :) The news says that Sandy affected as far west as Wisconsin, but I didn't see it.

Sparrow gives us words of wisdom:

"It's not that politicians are liars but rather that they use lying, the way an artist employs the color yellow." -Sparrow


We went wild and had a Halloween Party yesterday. I was excited about doing it until yesterday, about three hours before, and then I wanted to die.

It all went off without a hitch, in spite of our heroine- Little Z- having a fever! (We gave her some Motrine and she was fine. Went to the doctor today and she has Periannal Strep- don't google it! It's strep throat, except the other end. There's a South Park episode waiting to be made... I actually thought the Doctor was making it up, at least for a moment. You mean she has butt strep????)

At the party:

I set up a little photo booth to capture everyone's costumes. This picture is my favorite. The little fairy is one of Little Z's best friends. They don't see each other as much as they used to, and when the Fairy came, Little Z exclaimed,

"You're so much bigger than the last time I saw you!"

I'm glad no one said that to me!

The actual purpose of the party, which was not revealed to most, was to invite Little Z's preschool teacher over. Z never gets to see her, now that she is in kindergarten, and she misses her terribly. Her ex-teacher came as a bee. Ms. Bee.

Ms. Bee stayed until Little Z was ready to go to bed, and all the other guests had gone. Z was somehow naked in the bathroom when Ms. Bee decided to leave, so BAH put a robe on her. Z came out of the bathroom, threw off the robe, ran up to Miss Bee and gave her a huge goodbye hug in only her birthday suit.

Sometimes I've Forgotten Things, and Sometimes Those are Mildly Important Things

As you see, we fixed the steps. The "treasure I discovered at the dumps" is off to the right. (No, not my husband, that other thing! My husband is the treasure I discovered in Durango.) To let the new concrete dry, we locked the storm door from the inside, so we wouldn't forget and run out the storm door and jump on the fresh concrete. It seemed very sensible, no?

We have other doors with different locks. (Remember they have different locks- that's key!) (Pun intended.) We left through the side door this morning with the intention of coming home up the newly dried steps in the afternoon.

I got home in the pouring rain, grocery bags in tow, and I couldn't open the door! The storm door was still locked from the inside. My "key" for the side door did not open it. It must be the wrong key. Probably it opens my dad's house.

I tried several ways of getting in, with no success. I finally stood around in the rain a while. I found a broken umbrella in the car that still kind of worked. I ate some grapes from the grocery bags. Unwashed grapes.

I met the school bus with a broken umbrella, cold and embarrassed by the side of the road. So, we did the most sensible thing: Little Z and I went to McDonald's. Sanctuary! She played in the inside play area. I read a book. BAH finished work and came to meet us there. Incidentally, he didn't have the key to the side door, either. (This was shocking to me. I always thought he was so responsible!)

I won't tell you exactly how we finally got in, but, with a team effort, we did successfully break into our own house.

What a day!

No One Dares Defy the Dump Master

I went to our local waste transfer sight on Saturday. We don't have trash pickup out here in the country. The transfer site is run by a hunched old dude with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, the Dump Master. He recycles just about anything. If you throw something useful away, he lectures you a bit and takes it out of the trash, setting it aside for someone else to use. Because of this, there are lots of useful things hanging about our dumps, and sometimes Little Z comes with me and we "Hunt for Treasure".

This was not such a day, yesterday. I was alone in our Ford truck. The Dump Master has a particular way that he wants people to drive around the dumps. Basically, it's a one way street that goes in a loop around a barn.

So, I was making my way around this loop yesterday, and there was this guy in his Ford truck who was driving the wrong way. He crossed in front of me, waved, and drove onto the lawn by another building. I stopped behind him to let someone back up in front of a dumpster, and as I was sitting there, this guy who was going the wrong way before and waved hit me.


Now, I have never had the experience before of being hit while sitting still. One thing about it is clear: it wasn't my fault!

Which is why I thought it was so odd that this guy did not apologize right away, but just started looking for dents in my truck. I started looking, too, and then feeling the metal, and he was feeling, too, and suddenly we were these two odd people, feeling a truck at the dumps.

There were no dents. He had hit my Ford truck with his Ford truck, and there was no damage. In some sense, it was a little bit disappointing, because I felt that he should be punished for his inconceivably poor driving. I had actually seen him coming towards me, and starting honking the horn, and still he had hit me.

And then, feeling the truck for dents, I hadn't noticed the Dump Master there. He came over and reamed the guy who hit me! It was the most words I had ever heard the Dump Master say,

"That's why you're supposed to go the other way! That's why I have the signs there! You see what happens when you don't follow my directions?!"

Dump Master to my defense! Nice.

I found some treasure, too: a little lawn ornament bear.

And as I was loading the bear, I looked up and noticed the Dump Master, lecturing the guy again on his poor driving.

He's my favorite Dump Master ever.

The Babyfoot Chronicles, Part II: Babyfoot's Revenge

BAH has always maintained that the reason he fell down the stairs was because there was something wrong with the stairs, specifically that step #2 has a ledge on it that grabs your foot, twists it in a weird way, and sends you flying.

I was willing to fix the steps, but, last weekend, I did let slip a little bit of doubt about the actual brokenness of the steps. I can't remember my exact words, but BAH and Babyfoot were not at all amused,

"I know how to walk down stairs! I have fallen down those stairs not once, but twice! There is something wrong with those stairs!" said a very emphatic BAH (with a little Babyfoot creeping into his voice, no doubt).

"Let's fix the stairs, then," said I, reacting to his sudden intensity.

And we didn't. The stairs remained as they were.

Yesterday, I ran out the back door to go meet the school bus with Little Z, and darned if that second step didn't grab my foot and trip me. I barely saved myself from falling down to my knees on the concrete. I got off with a slightly sprained ankle and sore top of the foot. It was a less serious injury than the Bad Assed Husband's, but damned if it wasn't the exact same part of the ankle and the exact same part of the foot that were hurt.


I guess there's something wrong with the back steps!

And, yes, I did grant BAH a few moments of, "Okay, you were totally right and I was totally wrong." Because, as those of us in successful long term relationships know, love is always saying you're sorry!

Poor Little Z. She has no one to race across the lawn with. (Unless you count the chickens.)

(There are 22 chickens.)

And, of course, the babysitter:

Things to Emulate

Duncle Ennis wants me to do another music video for him. I was thinking something like this:

The Jessica Fletcher of Teaching or How The Flaming Lips Saved My Status as a Role Model

I think every year I've taught, except for the first year, someone has died where I was teaching. It's usually a coworker. Once, terribly, it was one of my favorite students' mother. This year, a coworker died over the summer, and there was a memorial at school for him today.

Nobody really likes talking about death. It's especially difficult when you are supposed to be a role model. The children suddenly take everything I say very, very seriously.

In class after the memorial, I talked about how, when someone dies, it makes me so thankful for the people I love who are still alive. The usual bunch of yahoos suddenly became very contemplative and appreciative, some of them sharing journal entries about the people they cherished. One kid said,

"I love my mama, because she gave me life! and she take care of me!" I didn't know what to say, and then it came to me,

"Have you told her that? Do you realize you need to tell her that? You should all tell them! Let them know you realize that life goes fast, and it's hard to make the good things last." I said the last part very slowly. I think my eyes were big. I tried to look at everyone individually.

A quiet moment passed. Then some kid jumped up and screamed,

"She doesn't know anything! She's just quoting Flaming Lips lyrics!"

Oh, wait... no one did that. That was in my head.

Actually, the plagiarized words of the great Wayne Coyne just weaved themselves into the fabric of our lives, and the deep conversation continued.

Thank you, Flaming Lips, for giving me something wise to say.

Binders and Binders Full

BAH is busy making muffins for his coworkers. As the house fills with that luscious smell, I can't help but think of all of the binders and binders full of men I had to gather together, all to find a man to fill this special position: the Muffin Man.

Two Minute Book Club #2

I now have two minutes to rave about a book I love.

Havana Bay is a mystery novel. It is written for adults, and takes four or five hours to read. It's about this morose, suicidal Russian detective who travels to Cuba to help a friend, and finds that the friend is possibly dead. Then, as he sits in his room trying to kill himself one night, an attempt is made on his life. Figuring out why people are trying to kill him now becomes his new reason to live and so he stops trying to kill himself.

If this sounds ironic, that's because it is.

I loved this book.

Two Minute Book Club

Now I have two minutes free to rave about a book I love.

The View from Saturday is a children's book, really. But it's also about accepting each others' differences, about being smart and trying to fit in, about winning, about having a disability, and about being a teacher. And it has this mystical element to it. It takes an hour or two to read. It's well worth your time. It's essentially a children's book, but I am a children's book kind of reader, at times.

Wandering around in consciousness

I have a tattoo of a spiral. It is difficult to explain why I have a tattoo of a spiral, and what it represents. All I can really say, when pressed, is that it represents the experience of time for me.

I read this post in the Futility Closet today, and realized that the post almost describes my tattoo. The post claims that about 5% of people have an image or map of numbers in their mind. This is fixed for their life of thinking about numbers. Everyone who has this kind of number map in their mind has a different one; no two are alike.

I have this image, not so much of numbers, but of time lines. Your typical time line looks like this:

It is a straight line. As though every new experience in your life were truly new and unique, as though days never repeated themselves in slightly different variations, as though progress were not always two steps forward and one step back. To me, time is more of a spiral; we make some progress (outward) but we repeat many of our experiences over and over. Time is spiraling outward, repeating, going back upon itself, yet progressing outward, as we are ever growing. Therefore, a true time line should look more like this:

I always felt like a circle in a square peg, until I got the spiral tattooed on my arm. Then I felt a little bit better. Why? No idea. I guess I had this map of time in my mind, and I had to let it out. I have this theory that everyone is just a little bit crazy, and that's what keeps us sane.


We were reading in class about a girl in West Africa who had been orphaned when her mother starved to death and her father was shot. A girl in the class, T, said,

"You can die of that? Starving to death?"

"Yeah, Retard," said another kid (who is usually much kinder), "Of course you can die of that."

"How long does it take without eating?" T asked me. I didn't know. Then A, who is always compassionate and kind, said,

"A week. It takes a week to starve to death. That's what they said in Health."

I was thinking of the biography of John Lennon I read, where he fasted for a month once, and I informed them that it could take a few weeks, depending on how large or how healthy you were to begin with.

"Well, it don't matter none, anyway," burst out T. "My mama keeps the cupboards full of food all the time, so it don't matter none, anyhow."

This seemed callous to me at the time. I went on with the class and didn't think about it until afterwards, when I realized: first, that T's father was recently shot and almost died, and second, that she is not being selfish in saying it doesn't matter because she's got food; rather, she's actually concerned that her family members are going to die and leave her alone. She's going down the list: Dad got shot, he could die! But we've got food. We won't starve to death. Mom won't starve, at least. I won't be an orphan like the girl in this story.

Handkerchief or Breaking the Rules of the Debate?

Such sleight of hand! Very well kept under the podium.

Obama was working really hard the whole debate on his sketching abilities (which is why he looked down the whole time),

Say what you will about Obama's debate performance, but it's a pretty good likeness, you have to admit.

Free Sugar

I'm a teacher of reluctant readers. Reluctant readers are people who do not like to read. My job is basically to teach reluctant readers not to be reluctant readers. I'm supposed to make them like reading. My students are fourteen years old.

I have this monthly "book tea" where I give the kids tea, and we sit around and sip tea and talk about what books they have been reading. I try to distract them from the fact that they are basically doing an oral book report by giving them a novelty drink.

Today, we had our first book tea of the school year.

The first book tea, you have to teach them a bit about tea. For most of the kids, this is the first time they've ever had real tea. They like to try different types, smell them, experiment with cream and sugar. Today, all of the kids were done making their teas and pretty much ready to talk about books, except for this one, Big C. Big C was still over at the tea table- which I decorate with a lace table cloth, of course- trying to brew the perfect cup of tea. He asked me for a spoon several times. One of the other kids yelled over,

"The tea's so hot the sugar just disintegrates!" Nevertheless, Big C needed a spoon. I finally dug out my Thinkgeek titanium spork and loaned it to him.

A few minutes later, Big C was ready. We went on to talking about books. It was wonderful.

Everyone talked about a book they had recently read. Literature was discussed. Discussed, savored, argued over. A great beginning towards a love of literature! I smiled to myself, thinking of the positive energy going around the room, all about books. It was just what I wanted. Everyone talked about a book they had finished recently, one by one, sipping tea... everyone except Big C.

"I didn't finish any book. I don't wanna talk." Well, okay, I thought. Over 90% participation isn't bad. You can't force a kid to talk about books. Big C sipped his tea and whispered to the boy next to him, the one with the football book he didn't quite understand. I didn't catch what he was saying. I didn't pay it much mind.

We finished on time, the class helped me clean up, everything was cool. They left. I was putting things away.

I noticed that my sugar container was completely empty. The sugar that was supposed to last the whole school year, nine book teas, was completely empty. I looked around for a pile of sugar... and then I realized.

The reason Big C's sugar wouldn't dissolve was probably because the ration of sugar to water was way too high. What I mean is, Big C drank a whole cup of sugar. That's why it took five minutes longer for him to make a perfect cup of tea. He was making syrup!

I'm not sure how to end this... this is so typical of my experiences, every day. What can I say? Sont är livet.

Free Milk

This is a story about milk. (I'm trying for the most boring first line ever. How am I doing?)

Last month, Little Z started kindergarten. She's a carry-your-lunch type of kid, but she mentioned on day three or so something about "the milk at school".

"Do you drink milk at school?"

"At the snack time, they give me milk."

Not wanting to steal milk, I sent a five dollar bill to school with her the next day, in an envelope marked "milk money".

That was the first day we got the email from school, warning us that our account was low on cash, and that they didn't run a "credit based system". No charity to be found. You pay always before you eat at school, or no food for you! It was very clear.

The funny thing about that was, when there was no money in her account at all and she was drinking milk, it was no problem. However, once we put money into the account, the account was low, and we received a warning.

Now, every single school day since then, we have gotten an email stating that her account is low and only has five dollars in it. And every school day, Little Z drinks milk at snack time. Still, we have five dollars in the account. No money is ever deducted for milk.

I've been incredulous. Does she really drink milk every day at school? Yes, she does. She described to me in great detail the process of pouring out the leftover milk into a special tub and then recycling the milk cartons in a special bin.

Little Z gets really indignant when I quiz her about it. She is, after all, a good girl who would never steal milk.

"Do you think you are accidentally stealing the milk?"

"No! They give me the milk!"

"Is it someone else's milk?"

"NO! We line up at the bin and get the milk."

Still, the emails keep coming: Only five dollars left in the account.

I told this story to a coworker who gave me a long, knowing look. Finally, she said,

"This is your first experience having a child in the public school system, isn't it?"

What can I say? It is.