Friday, December 28, 2007

Ten Year Anniversary

Last night for dinner I cooked a family favorite and we were contemplating how long ago I found this recipe. We realized it was the tenth anniversary of Harira. (tambourines and oboes playing...) Harira is a traditional North African soup that is served in the evenings to break the fast of Ramadan. I found the recipe in the Washington Post food section in November 1997 and it looked terrific. It was filled with all my favorite foods: onions, garlic, lentils, tomatoes and cilantro. It just begged to be cooked, and from the first time I served it to my family, it was a hit. It remains everyone's favorite after all these years. Just google it and you will find pages of recipes and commentary. It is a food somewhat like potato salad: there is a basic, agreed upon form, but everyone's mother has her own personal version and there isn't just one "Potato Salad". Harira seems to be this way, too.

The recipe I use calls for lamb chunks, but since lamb was uncommon where I lived when I got this recipe, I finally found blade cut lamb shoulder (a really inexpensive cut) and I brown it, but then I cook it with the bone in for the first part of the recipe, and take it out and cut it up into chunks later on. Also, many of the recipes I found call for celery. Mine doesn't have celery. Some of the recipes thicken the soup only with the egg/lemon juice mix; mine calls for flour/water paste plus lemon juice/egg. The basics are: tomato, chick peas, lentils, noodles and spices. My friend calls it "air soup" because it uses so little of each inexpensive ingredient and yet ends up being a delicious and filling hearty meal.

Our daughter who lived in Morocco serving in the Peace Corps is visiting, and as we ate last night's harira she told us about the soup she consumed there. It turns out my recipe is the Rich Lady version. Most of the people whose tables she shared made it meat-less just because they couldn't afford to put meat in an everyday dish. It is a more utilitarian food there--being served every day for a month. But it gave her bonus points with her families that her mother cooked harira, too.

Once I was teaching a cooking class in Relief Society and my theme was using "The Three Friends: Beans, Legumes and Grains". I was telling my audience about harira and one sister turned to my other daughter, just home from a mission in Spain, and asked her (with great skepticism) "Oh, come on--did you kids really eat this?" My daughter replied solemnly, "If mom had been willing to make it for three meals a day, every day, we'd have gobbled it up---it's that good." I rest my case. And the ladies sampled it and were converted.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

We talked about the earliest memories we had of Christmas today as we ate dinner. I remember my dad setting up our first t.v. It had a little round screen and a huge wooden cabinet. I would have been five years old. Cool Guy remembers as a tiny kid going over to his grandmother's house which would have actually been the home where his mom was born nearly fifty years earlier. This grandma was really the second wife of his grandfather, his mother's mom died when her children were quite young.

Most of my memories of Christmas are all about food, and I realized still that food is what I think of when the holidays come around. I buy treats I never have around any other time. I make things I'd never cook any other time of year. Here's a partial list:

Chex mix (homemade)
gingerbread cookies
pumpkin bread
poppyseed bread
pecan pie
Chocolate refreshers
candy canes (I don't even really like them...they just look nice)
butter cookies

Something my mom made that I loved and will probably never make in my life: suet pudding. I wouldn't even know where to get a recipe! And where does one buy suet? She also made fruitcake that was fabulous. Everyone maligns fruitcake, but hers was so good. It was an elaborate ceremony to make it. It seems like she worked up to it for days, cutting and chopping dried fruits and shelling nuts. She mixed the batter in a huge pan and baked loaves and loaves of it. It all got wrapped up and put in the basement for a week or two before we could eat it. She didn't soak it in brandy or anything. It just needed to age. It doesn't make any sense now, because why wouldn't it go bad or at least get stale? But I remember eating lots of it--laying a slice of cheddar cheese on a slice of fruitcake and just savoring every bit. Yum...honest! So I don't know why fruitcake gets such bad press.

Anyway--food. That means Christmas to me. Not the gifts, not the decorations, nothing but music is as powerful a signal to me that the holiday time is here. Food, glorious food. Long live Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2007

2 Days of Christmas Memories

My parent's farm was in rather remote valley that wasn't particularly near to anywhere urban. I've said to friends that it was 90 miles to K-Mart. And it still is. So, the big thrill signaling the beginning of the Christmas Crave season was the arrival of the Toy Catalogs. J.C. Penney, Sears, and Montgomery Ward all had a special Christmas catalog that arrived sometime in November that had pages and pages of toys. We'd pore over the slick pages of these tomes and dream and covet. I remember marking them, circling the EXACT thing I wanted. I don't know how much of our Christmas my mom ordered from them, but I rarely got the exact items I'd lusted for. Mostly though, my gifts were wonderful and I loved them all. I do remember really, really wanting the book Album of Horses by Margaret Henry and not getting it. But I recovered from that disappointment. I barely remember any of my childhood gifts except for the cupboard my grandpa made. I see from photos that I always received a new doll, lots of toy dishes and other girlish things. I don't feel I was too programed, because I did grow up and become a good cow milking/horse riding/hay hauling farm girl. I did get a Barbie (finally) at age 11 and my sister sewed me an entire wardrobe of fabulous clothes for it. I still have that Barbie and her clothes. My own daughters got a Barbie at about 5 years old from grandma, but that Barbie met an untimely death at the hands of GI Joe and was buried in an unmarked grave in our yard in San Diego. I didn't replace her. We went with My Little Pony mostly. They seemed to be able to hold their own against the Joes.

3 Days of Christmas Memories

When I started the tradition of going to friends' houses on Christmas Eve with my children, I don't think I put it together that my mom had always done that too. She'd bake all these awesome things and, on Christmas Eve make doughnuts. She'd arrange plates of her treats (which include handmade chocolates) and we'd hold these treasures steady in the backseat. We went to widows, old bachelors, disabled people, and a couple of just good friends. But mostly, she took her bounty to people who could not make these foods themselves. She could talk to anyone about anything and seemed completely at ease chatting with these folks as she brought them Christmas plates.

I started it with my kids one year when were we so poor that we only had gifts for the kids because the grandparents had sent some. I'd had a baby in the fall and had to give up my day-care, so money was extra tight. I had been moping around feeling sorry for myself because we had no money for Christmas when I had an epiphany like the Grinch: It isn't about tinklers, packages and bows!! So I organized the children and we baked cookies on Christmas Eve, they decorated them (and they looked like the work of a 3 and 2 year old) and when Dad got home our plan was to take these to friends' houses and sing to them. It used up the whole day and kept us very busy and was very satisfying and wonderful. And our friends loved it, too.

It was a good way to spend the loooong hours of Christmas Eve day in the ensuing years and we've done it ever since. Our children carried on the tradition when they went to college and on missions, and now as adults with their own homes they still bake and sing for Christmas. Multi-generational traditions are fabulous.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

4 Days of Christmas Memories

I think I was a freshman in high school when my mother had to have back surgery and was hospitalized at Christmas. One of my sister's came home from college (maybe both of them were in college) and each of them tried to be the "boss" since mother was gone. It was the saddest Christmas we ever had. Even though we had all the food, presents, and activities of the other years, the mere lack of her physical presence was so depressing that it didn't even seem like a holiday. I tried to remember this as I became a mother and started our own family traditions. It isn't the things you do, it's who you're doing it with that makes the Christmas spirit work.

5 Days of Christmas Memories

It's about Arizona, again. Even though my mother's parents lived down there half the year, they were a prominent part of our lives. When I was in sixth grade we even visited them in Mesa during the 10 day school holiday. My mother's younger brother, the air force pilot, was also living there, stationed at Luke AFB and he was scheduled to leave for Viet Nam in the spring (I think) so it seemed urgent to my mother to go there for Christmas. This does not seem like a big deal: go to a warm place during Christmas break. But--it involved hauling nine people in an Oldsmobile 88 sedan for a thousand miles and back again. In addition to that (I was oblivious at the time) my mother was pregnant (none too happily) with kid #8 who was due in July. She would have been at the nauseous, exhausted stage, packing for nine people and trying to figure out how to squish us all in there with the luggage for the two day journey. My dad had to spend an entire afternoon at an electronic guru's house trying to get our car radio to work (I was hanging around in the backseat for this ordeal, bored out of my skull.) And at last--what to do about the cows? The previous summer one of my second-cousins was our live-in hired helper, and he had proven himself reliable enough at 17 that my dad was willing to pay him and another kid (also 17) to live at our house and milk for the week we'd be gone. I can hardly imagine the courage this took. But all went well. (Except on Christmas Day when my dad had called and called and finally got an answer around 11:00 A.M. because they'd only just finished milking--by hand--because of a power outage.)

So we hit the road. I barely remember the driving. I do recall the waitresses peering through the round window of the door leading into the kitchen of a small cafe and counting wide-eyed as we entered, and entered and entered. Yes, table for nine, thank you. It was southern Utah. You'd think they'd seen a big family once or twice. I remember reveling in the palm trees and green grass at my uncle's apartment on December 24th and realizing that there were parts of the world where it wasn't frozen for months at a time. (Foreshadowing...) My adorable 4 year sister gave away my only present, a purple stuffed dog, to her new friend she met on the block where my grandparents lived. No one could figure out where it went and I never saw it again. She told us later.

My uncle took us out to eat at a really nice Mexican restaurant and none of us could finish our food---too spicy. He kept apologizing and explaining that usually it was much more mild. We had naive palates. We also went to see the movie "Goldfinger". At least the grown-ups went and I got to go too; it was a rare priviledge. Again my uncle apologizing to my parents...naked girl all covered in gold paint was the first thing on the screen. And wasn't there a character named "Pussy Galore"? That went right over my head. I was thinking kitty cats.

Anyway the whole trip was filled with amazing adventures, plants, and sights I'd never experienced. Saguaro cactus, yucca and joshua trees, Hoover Dam, Fremont Street in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve 1964, eating in restaurants, staying in motels!! My lack of sophistication was endless. The whole thing was incredible and unforgettable. I'm sure sitting in the backseat with five other people was appalling, and I have no idea how my parents financed the whole thing, but none of that even mattered. It was really a Christmas to remember.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

6 Days of Christmas Memories

Every Christmas we would go to our other grandparents' house either on Christmas Eve or Christmas afternoon to visit. They lived only a couple of miles from us, and didn't go away in the winter. They raised my dad after he was orphaned at eight years old, but he didn't take their name. (It was many years before I understood they were actually blood relatives, but it is a convoluted story I won't go into here.) Their house was a huge ante-bellum style dwelling with vaulted ceilings built early in the 20th century. In fact, the plumbing was added some time later, as was the electricity. Their Christmas tree was enormous. It went right up to the ceiling in their living room, at least fifteen feet high. My aunts would decorate it with amazing precision--each icicle carefully placed until the whole tree was a shimmering cascade of tinsel. I was in awe, icicles were very tricky to put on artfully. We'd always get a gift, we often ate Christmas dinner with them. Sometimes our cousins from Salt Lake City were there, too. There was a long wooden bannister to slide down, and boxes and boxes of ancient magazines upstairs to read during boring times.

One Christmas Eve we went there to have a rather formal reading of the scripture story and gather reverently at the feet of our somewhat scary grandpa. However, one of my older sisters had perfected her imitation of Snaggle Puss, the cartoon cat, and had been going around quoting him for weeks. Remember? "Well, now, let's get out of here, EEEVUUN." So when Gandpa got to the part where the shepherds say "Let us go now, even unto Bethlehem" he read it in his sonorous voice and suddenly the four of us big girls were stifling ourselves and trying really hard not to all burst out laughing together at our mental version in Snaggle Puss' stupid cartoon voice "Let us go now EEVUUN, until Bethlehem." Our mother gave us SUCH a look---we didn't dare laugh. But none of us can read Luke 2 without remembering that horrible moment when our rather pompous grandpa would have kicked any of us right in the fanny for messing up his ceremony. We still laugh!

7 Days of Christmas Memories

When I was about 8 years old my grandfather (the one who'd send fruit and nuts from Arizona) made my sister and I a piece of furniture. It was a small hutch, with an upper cupboard, a counter top with a drawer under it, and a lower cupboard. It was painted pink, with aqua drawer pulls and interior shelves, a mirrored backing on the countertop and even plate rails in the upper cupboard shelves. It is a masterpiece of craftsmanship. He was an artist with wood, truly. Then, "Santa" filled it with tiny cake mixes and other mixes and we received an Easy-Bake oven that year!! Wow!! We had a blast with that thing. All of our toy dishes went into the cupboard, the drawer actually had a divider so we could separate our eating utensils from our mixing and stirring utensils. We played with our cupboard every day, I'm sure. We quickly went through our mixes, and I don't remember getting any new ones. And I don't know what happened to the oven.

But last year, just before my mother passed away, she insisted that we load up the pink cupboard in Cool Guy's truck and take it right then to our house. The sister with whom I shared it died two years ago, so I am the sole inheritor of that wonderful relic of our childhood. Two generations of kids played with it--first, my sisters and I, and then our children. It's quite worn, the countertop is peeling up and the drawer pulls are missing. But we'll fix it up and my grandchildren will get their turn rolling out pretend cookies on the counter and standing the plates up in the shelf rails. It is still a work of art--I don't know what inspired my grandpa, if my mother asked for it or if he just thought it up on his own. But I cherish it and I'm thrilled to have it for my kids.

Friday, December 21, 2007

8 Days of Christmas Memories

Our first Christmas tree after we married was rather small, and I didn't have extra money to buy decorations, so we got lights for it, but I made the rest of it. I rolled and cut out gingerbread boys, poked a hole in the dough before baking them, and when they cooled, I hung them with red curly ribbon from the branches. I also tied red bows on the tree and it looked adorable. I baked cookies for the decorations for several years until I found a kit for brown felt gingerbread boys. I sewed them (complete with red sequin eyes, and rick-rack "icing" trim) and they were our first permanent ornaments. I've had fun over the years adding to the homemade (well..."handmade") ornament collection. Plus our children have contributed a whole variety of awesome new ornaments from Cub Scouts, school, and just their creative minds. I also started buying an ornament from each of the American history destinations I've visited, so several tiny colonial style buildings are also hanging on our tree, too. The result is eclectic and sentimental. We like it. A lot.

9 Days of Christmas Memories

We always had a real pine tree for Christmas. My dad usually scouted it out while elk hunting in October. He'd go back up and chop it down, it would be propped up by the fence for a few days, and then we'd bring it in for the exciting challenge of fitting it into the stand. When a tree is growing on the side of a mountain, its scale is altered. It seems shorter and smaller than when it is standing in the living room. There wasn't a year that my dad successfully estimated the height of our living room. The tree always had to be sawed shorter. But it was also a very fresh, fragrant lush pine tree and it made the whole house smell fabulously. It was such an exciting time.

My mom had a string of lights shaped like birds that had some type of liquid in them that would bubble when they got warmed up. These were in addition to the regular tear-drop shaped multicolored lights on the fabric wrapped wires that clipped onto the branches. It seemed to take my dad forever to get the lights put on the tree so that we could then hang the ornaments. Someone always got too excited and dropped a glass ball, and reprimands and crying would ensue. [So, as a mother myself I sewed most of our Christmas tree decorations so that no one would have to get in trouble on tree decorating night.]

But finally the last string of "icicles" was placed and the angel adjusted and we'd turn off the living room lights and turn on the tree lights and oooh, aaaah---it was the BEST time of year!! It still is even today. Christmas trees are one of my favorite part of this holiday.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

10 Days of Christmas Memories

Today I made "Chocolate Refreshers" to take to my co-workers. This is one of my favorite Christmas memories. We always and only had them at Christmas because the recipe calls for dates, and dates were not available except at that time of year when I grew up, where I grew up. Actually, again, my grandpa would send them to us from Arizona--freshly harvested, ripe dates. My dad was the only one who would eat them undisguised. I still do not like ripe dates. However, my mother found a recipe that disguised them in the very best way you have ever eaten. I guess I have no choice but to include the recipe here, huh?

Chocolate Refreshers
1 ¼ c. chopped dates (you can buy them already chopped and the 8 oz. pack is enough)
¾ c. brown sugar, packed
½ c. butter or margarine
1 ¼ c. all purpose flour

¾ tsp. soda
½ tsp. salt

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 beaten eggs

½ c. orange juice
½ c. milk

1 c. chopped walnuts

Combine dates, brown sugar, water and butter in large saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until dates soften. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate pieces and beaten eggs. Sift flour with soda and salt, adding alternately with orange juice and milk. Blend thoroughly. Add nuts. Bake in a greased and floured 15 x 10 x 2 inch pan at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool, spread with glaze. Cut in bars.

Orange Glaze:

1 ½ c. powdered sugar

2 Tbsp. soft butter
1 to 2 tsp. grated orange peel

2 to 3 Tbsp. cream

Okay, you make them now, and have a moist, orangey, chocolatey treat for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

11 Days of Christmas Memories

Yesterday our journal writing prompt was "List some gifts that don't cost money". My students were mostly stumped. They couldn't imagine something that would be worthwhile that didn't cost money. We finally talked it over and got some ideas about coupons for service, or spending time with a sibling, etc. Today I read them a storybook that one of my sisters sent me a couple of years ago that also tells the story of a gift we gave our dad each year for Christmas. I didn't hear this story until I was an adult, although Pearl Buck wrote it many, many years ago, and the church has made a movie of it, too. The book is very meaningful to me because the illustrations are so vividly similar to my home and barn as a child. My sister also knows the illustrator, so I have an autographed copy. It's a really lovely story and I encourage you to buy one, too.

We'd get up early on Christmas and sneak out and milk the cows before my dad would wake up. Then we'd sneak back in and hide in our bed in our clothes (we'd hear his alarm ringing as we'd come in and just barely have time to evade detection.) Then he'd come up and "wake" us up, we'd pretend to be sleeping, he'd go out and VOILA--already done! I remember doing this at least once, and I know my older sisters did it once or twice. But apparently we didn't do it often enough for him to expect it because he'd always go and check. It was a great surprise for him, because he'd come back in and go back to bed. I think we did it a couple of times and the second or third year, we just told him so he wouldn't have to get up and go out. He was a hard guy to get something for and this gift was just perfect.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

12 Days of Christmas Memories

I'm once again copying someone who is doing this, but I really liked it, so I'll just be a copier. Plus, I'm about three days late on the "12 Days" business. But that is just about right this month for my entire life. I'm behind in everything! I feel a slight breathlessness about the whole season. I realized on Sunday that I would not be able to finish and mail on time the gifts that go out of town. People will be receiving their gifts from me after Christmas. I won't have my cards out before Christmas. I will be lucky to have my laundry done in time to wear my Christmas shirts to school this week. ACCCKKK! I don't know why I'm so far behind. Maybe I'm just getting tired-er and slower as I age.

A memory: I remember receiving a package each year, as the holiday season approached, from my grandfather who'd migrate from Wyoming to Arizona for the winter. It contained, among other things, pecans from the most recent harvest in the Southwest. It was a great treasure to receive these. It also meant a lot of work. Our job as the children was to crack and shell them carefully, trying very hard to keep most of them whole. It was important, too, to clean off all of the membrane from the inside of the shell because it was very bitter and really ruined any baked product it got into. But, pecans were really yummy to eat while you shelled because, unlike walnuts, they didn't make your mouth sore. My mom would bake them into all the yummy things she created for Christmas and--best of all---pecan pie.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Some Old Friends

We were sifting through a drawer and found some pictures from a trip a few years ago. It was like getting a Christmas photo in the mail! It reminded us a of fun times and past acquaintences. Here, I'll share:

This Mr. Bendo... He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, outside a muffler shop. He used to have a muffler pipe in his upraised hand which he, of course, was bending. He looks quite sad. That's because his girlfriend lives in Blackfoot, Idaho, where she works as a waitress serving french fries. They don't get to see each other much, as it is difficult for him to get off work and harder still to get on a plane.

We're hoping some day to facilitate their courtship by, oh, I don't know--win the lotto and buy them both so they can share the same pedestal outside a little taco shop in National City, California?

How Did They Know?

I opened my mail on Friday and it made me look around my kitchen for tiny cameras, or perhaps bugging devices in the light fixture.

The top of the page read in huge letters: EXPERIENCING HOT FLASHES?

Um, well, yes. How did you know? You mean it's that obvious to everyone? Well, don't just send me letters, HELP!

Oh, as I opened up the whole page it was actually a solicitation for some clinical study. Okay. It was sent to women of a certain age--us Elders of the Tribe. Okay--call off the search for the surveillence items.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

I Vote YES

Here's a story from the world: CSM to which I just have to give a resounding "Hear! Hear!" These things are a huge scourge in the desert. Everywhere you go they are billowing and blowing. Most obnoxious invention of modern times.

Rare Weather

It rained gently all day Friday in Las Vegas. This is noteworthy because it rarely rains here, and my experience with precipitation in the desert has been mostly storms of the flash-flood variety: wind whipping, gale force, torrential cats&dogs rain. So, this rain was pleasant and non-threatening and lasted and lasted. It was nice that it was a kind storm because at the end of every day we teachers are still required to go and be traffic-cops as our families drive up to retrieve their students, and I didn't have to risk having my umbrella flipped inside out or getting soaked from rain being blasted sideways.

I was commenting to Cool Guy as we drove to the Thai place for dinner that the students were completely nuts because of the weather. Then suddenly as I had the thought "It's like they've never seen it rain before," I realized that, in fact, they have RARELY seen it rain. It rained on Aug 27, the first day of school, but it cleared up by noon. And the last previous rain was probably eight months earlier. So, in their lives of less than 10 years, there have not been many opportunities to feel rain falling on their skin and see shimmering drops of it running off the fences and cars. No wonder they act so silly and excited.

When we got to the restaurant, a block or two east of the Strip, we were treated to another rare event. Fog had descended over Glitter Gulch. All along the strip low clouds hung over the hotels and lights. The tops of all the buildings were obscured and the lights were all muted in the shrouding mist. We were two blocks from the Stratosphere, but we could not see the top. The towering legs went up and disappeared like the top of the Tower of Babel. It was quite surreal, especially because the fog was limited to Las Vegas Boulevard; the rest of the city was clear after the storm.

As we traveled home we drove along the east edge of the valley bowl toward our house and looking west, it was very strange to see the sea of lights suddenly blotted out in the center leaving only a glowing blur--Vegas, Baby, was gone.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

You Know You're in Utah...

...When the fast food place doesn't even ask if you want ketchup, but automatically puts in Fry Sauce.
...When Fry Sauce is pre-packaged into little containers.
...When there IS Fry Sauce.
This is not an East Coast thing. But, since I love fry sauce, this is a good thing here in the West.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Post Holiday

I found another thing I'm thankful for! Warm weather and southern (Nevada) living. We visited in Wyoming and Utah over the four days, and the high for three of those days was 29 degrees. Brrrrr....When we got married Cool Guy was in the Navy and he (therefore we) were stationed in San Diego--for 14 years. He just got transferred from base to base working on a succession of flight/shipboard control trainers. But, if you've got to be "stuck" somewhere, San Diego is a wonderful place for it! We reveled in the day-after-day perfect weather. We moved north for a couple of years, and then immediately sought a transfer back to Southern California's predictable pleasant weather. Six more years of boring bliss followed. So now after ten years on the east coast (weather there is varied and extreme) we are here again in the world where the temperature spends most of the year in a very lovely zone. We've even grown to enjoy the Hades-like summers blessed as we are with air conditioning and the swimming pool.

But we've totally become weather sissies and spending time in the frigid northland made us realize it even more. Then I could have worn my coat more often. A sweater or jacket just isn't enough when the air is below freezing. But the thing I really appreciate about visiting in the cold part of the year is that I don't have to do any more than visit. I no longer have to go out and milk the cows for two hours twice a day when the weather is like that. I no longer have to feed the chickens, or the calves, or any animal in the cold. I don't even have to be cold unless I choose it. It's a great feeling. I've embraced lizard-life. Bring on the desert.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Day of Thanks

Thanks Giving Day is a great day. It doesn't have political or religious content and so it is celebrated universally by people of every culture. I've noticed this since becoming a school teacher. Kids who come from all the groups of people who've moved to the United States celebrate Thanksgiving the way everyone in the country celebrates: having a big meal with their extended family. The food choices often include turkey, etc. but they also incorporate the foods of their heritage: tamales, sticky rice, curry, pineapple cake.

I celebrated with my extended family and, as we went around the table, enumerating our blessings, my brother-in-law stated his thanks that our sister lived there in our home town still and was a willing hostess. Since we became orphans last year with the death of our mother, it has seemed weird and disconnected to celebrate holidays. So I, too, am grateful for my sister and her husband's big house and fun-loving spirits to invite all comers from our large family. We had a really good time and it was a small step towards maintaining family ties in the wake of the loss of our center.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

2 Days of Thanks

Today I am thankful for stuffed ham. This is one of those "local" foods that one discovers when you live the nomadic lifestyle and move every few years. It is a dish that no one makes anywhere else and everyone in the town knows and loves. This is quintessential St. Mary's County, Maryland food. It is so YUMMY. And last night Cool Guy opened up his suitcase and brought forth about two pounds of it, all packed in ice, JUST FOR ME...Now that is true love. Really. It's just wonderful. And now all of his clothes smell like boiled kale and onions.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

3 Days of Thanks

Today, thanks goes out to all the geniuses (and I use that word for its exact Webster's meaning) who dreamed up computers. This one tool is such a life-saver for a teacher.
  • making documents
  • revising documents
  • my lesson plan template w/cut & paste tool
  • making and printing off labels/lists
  • clip art
  • report card programs
  • in-house e-mail
  • learning programs
  • the INTERNET (and the jillions of sites to help you with ANYTHING)

Probably there are more things that could go on this list. I couldn't teach like I do without this fabulous tool. Just being able to write my own spelling tests on a template that I can easily revise each week is only one little tiny piece of the whole gamut of useful uses. I revel over computers! I rejoice for computers! I love, love, love computers for being such a workhorse in my classroom.

Plus, I really love having this blog---I'm a born blabber-mouth---this blog is the ultimate outlet.

Monday, November 19, 2007

4 Days of Thanks

I am thankful that parent conference day occurs regularly. After several weeks of dealing with the students, some of them tend to take on exaggerated qualities. The boy who never stays in his seat, but wanders the room harrassing others. The kid who calls out a meddling remark no matter who you are speaking to, always exacerbating the situation. The girl who has made it her job at school to pick on this other girl and when you ask why tells you that she doesn't like her. And my suggestion that she could just leave her alone and play somewhere else is dismissed completely since it is important that the other girl be reminded several times an hour that "I'm not going to be your friend!" Sigh.
But on parent conference day, when these students enter your room with an adult, suddenly they shrink back into a child. You and the parents sit down together and talk about their schooling, looking through the portfolio, checking the progress report and the student is suddenly outnumbered by concerned adults. It helps me get my perspective back, and forces me to put things into a dispassionate form so that we two adults can be a united front for the student. It usually happens that way--really. Sometimes it doesn't last long, but the kid knows that I've met mom or dad and they know what I know and it changes the dynamic. For a while.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

5 Days of Thanks

Today I am thankful for music. Music of all kinds is essential to life, for me. When we got married we had a lamp, an ironing board, a car, a motorcycle, and 150 record albums. Oh, and Cool Guy also had a stereo system with which to play the records. We graduated to cassette tapes and finally CD's, and now everything is on-line or IPOD. Sigh. We have the soundtrack of our life in so many formats...Once when he was deployed overseas to a very bad place, he'd been gone for months and it was starting to wear on us both. You lose track of reality and start to forget what the other person's voice sounds like, or what they smell like. (I used to bury my nose in his motorcycle jacket, but finally it just started smelling like the rest of the house.) One day I got a letter from him (this was before the internet) and it was just five pages of hand-written song lyrics, nothing else. As I read the lyrics, I knew that he remembered me and I could remember him and everything felt okay again for awhile. The last page was this song. That is what is so awesome about music. It transcends physics: I can be any age, be in any place, or be with anyone I want to, just by listening to a song. Music stirs memory so vividly that every detail is there. We've been separated several more times for long stretches because of work but I just remember that the rainbow will always be there and we cope.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

6 Days of Thanks

The temple...I'm thankful I can go, I'm thankful one is so near my house, I'm thankful for the things I learn there. It's a pure place in a troubled world and it is a huge blessing.

7 Days of Thanks

Friday: Today I am thankful for cusines of the world. Tonight I went to eat with one of my colleagues from work. We chose the India Oven, a restaurant that Cool Guy and I have frequented. The food there is excellent, and one hint is that many of the tables are filled with East Indian families. Anyway, as I ate my aloo ghobi and prawn korma I was reminded of something my mom said once. I was cleaning out a purse that belonged to my deceased grandmother and found a grocery list on which was listed "spagety". My mother was amused too, but she pointed out that the notation actually meant elbow macaroni, because her mom would never have cooked anything so exotic as spaghetti with Italian sauce. The fact that her mother had branched out to any kind of pasta at all from the cooking she learned in her Scottish immigrant mother's kitchen was quite a leap. Then my mom got ethnic by introducing spaghetti and Italian sauce to us children. I ate my first "Mexican food" at a Taco Bell in Utah while going to college. So, we learn to expand our culinary lives bit by bit. It is a shock now and then, to still meet people who've never eaten Thai or Indian food which seem so ordinary and American to me. But I've lived for many years in parts of the country where a variety of immigrants live and opening a restaurant is a popular way to earn a living. Anyway, I'm thrilled to have experienced the food variety the world has to offer. And I'm still a fan of the old menus my grandmother taught my mother to cook.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

8 Days of Thanks

Okay, today, I am thankful that some of my students can't read too well...Let me explain why---this is the only incident in which I am thankful for their illiteracy.

We were doing an exercise using the dictionary. They were to turn to any page and look up different things: a two syllable word; a word with multiple meanings; a word with a long vowel sound, etc. I was helping two boys who can't read on grade level (or hardly at all...) and the job was to find an adjective. So I was looking at the page upside down and running my finger down the columns slowly as they looked for the little italicized "adj." when I saw one, but they didn't yet. Just as I was about to point it out, I looked at the entry word--"horny"--!!!! I quickly choked off my words and kept my finger moving down a little further. They, not being readers, didn't even notice. Whew. They would TOTALLY have known the meaning of that word, in slang, NOT the dictionary's definition "covered in a horn-like material". I don't even remember what word we settled on. But it only had one (non-sexual) connotation.

So, today I'm thankful for illiteracy, in a limited capacity.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nine Days of Thanks

Today I am thankful for cats. Especially pet cats. We've had a number of pet cats in our family and I am also thankful that Cool Guy likes cats as pets, too. Some men don't. Our current cat is no less wonderful than all our other marvelous kitties. One of our favorite things she does is act as life guard when we are in the hot tub. Whenever Cool Guy is in town we close the day with a pre-bedtime soak. We're in the tub blissed out in the warmth and, right on schedule, Kitty Cat strolls out the door and steps over to the edge of the tub. She gives us a sniff and then goes on about her appointed rounds. Every night she marches along the same path around the whole pool, stopping to sniff at each plant, sitting and gazing off into the distance at a pre-determined spot, then continuing the stroll until she has circled the pool and returned to the spa where we get checked out again. All she needs is a little whistle and one of those floats with a rope on it. After she concludes that we're not drowning (or running or engaging in unsafe horseplay or whatever life guards worry about) she steps through the fence onto the grass and flops down to watch us in the darkness. Every night---the same routine. We feel very safe.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

10 days of Thanks

Today I am thankful that I teach nine year olds because I get to read their essays. It is often illuminating and ALWAYS entertaining. A recent assignment was to draw a very detailed picture of the place you visited with your family (from a previous assignment) and then write a paragraph to describe that place you drew. Use lots of details, don't tell about your activities, just describe what you saw, heard, smelled, felt. It was hard for them to stay on topic. I'll share one: (I've corrected the spelling...)

Three days ago I went to my cousin's house. Their house used to have lots of cockroaches but not any more. Their house isn't that neat or that small. They have two dogs. One is very sick and one is just fine. The dog is sick because it ate a water hose so now it can't poop. They have lots of grass outside too. Lots of my cousins were there, too. Outside they have a table with food and drinks.

So, isn't that fun? Here's the picture that accompanied this story. She has great details. This dog looks a little too happy to be the sick one, so I guess the hose-muncher is lying down in the back.

Monday, November 12, 2007

11 Days of Thanks

Today, I thank veterans. I realize that yesterday, November 11th, is actually Veteran's Day, but I'm having a holiday today in their honor, so I'll take this occasion to offer my thanks. Cool Guy is a veteran and so was my dad. Most people of my dad's generation were veterans because of WWII, many of my generation are veterans because of Viet Nam and the draft. But whatever the motivation for joining the military, the outcome is the same: that person who joined gave up their choices for several years to be subject to the needs of the common good. Most Americans live their lives with little concious thought of the military or what it does. That's a good thing: that means that the military is doing its job well. We're massively blessed in our country because we haven't had a battle fought on our soil (Pearl Harbor excepted) since Lincoln was the president. The military helps to keep it that way. Thank you to all the people who maintain the traditions of their family and sign up. Thank you to all the people who sign up to "give back" because they know they live in a great country. Thank you to all the people who sign up just because they want help with college. Until you've been in the military you don't realize that they own you, body and soul, 24/7. It's not like a regular job. So, thank you all you veterans and all you people still serving.

Late Again...12 Days

Today I am thankful I can play the piano. My mother decided that she wanted her six daughters to have piano lessons. (One of my brothers is still sorry that he didn't ask for lessons, too.) So she bought a piano for $200 and used her egg-selling money to pay our piano teacher. Actually, we paid for the lessons each week with two dozen eggs and a dollar bill. Our piano teacher's goal was for us to become proficient in playing hymns so we could be useful at church. I wasn't a particularly diligent student. I practiced, but not with much fervor. I was terrified at recitals, no matter how well prepared I was. I can't remember any of my recitals where I didn't end up crying either in the middle of the performance or after the performance. And one dreadful occasion I froze after my first mistake, jumped up from the bench and ran out to my parents' car to hide and cry. My favorite piano playing, even still, is to just sit down when I'm all alone and play through a few books that I've been playing since teenager-hood and enjoy myself.

However, I eventually did get proficient at playing the hymns because I moved away from Mormon-land where so many people had taken lessons, just like me, to be able to play in church. Oddly I've ended up in congregations several times where I was the only one able to play AT ALL. So, it was me playing for Sacrament meeting, and then for Primary, too. The reason I became skilled at the hymn book is this: When I was first married, the ward where I lived was in charge of the church services at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot: boot camp. They asked me to help when they discovered I could play. Plus, I had no little children to mess with so I was free to go down there on Sunday mornings at 8:00 A.M. I practiced my three hymns diligently for the first meeting, and that all went well until the man conducting stood at the pulpit and asked the congregation what they'd like to sing for "singing time". My heart sank. These recruits were all headed for Viet Nam after they finished their time in San Diego and so naturally they wanted to sing "Come Come Ye Saints--4th verse especially" and "We Are All Enlisted" and "Behold a Royal Army" and "Onward Christian Soldiers". None of these were in my repetoire, so I was reduced to one-fingering most of them. To avoid this humiliation for the next week, I went to the church most afternoons on my way home from work and practiced the whole hymn book (well, the popular ones) until I could play almost all of them.

So, I thank my mom, the chickens, Mrs. Cranney and the Marines that I can play well enough to help out in church wherever I live. And, thanks Mom, too, for giving me that awesome old upright grand piano you bought so long ago.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

13 Days

Today my thanks goes out to Orville and Wilbur Wright. We were out driving around on the motorcycle, getting lunch, buying Cool Guy new jeans, just enjoying the beautiful, clear, 75 degree desert afternoon. We were almost home when we realized that the Thunderbirds Air Force jet performance team was overhead doing their amazing tricks. I'd forgotten that this weekend is Aviation Nation--the annual flight show at Nellis AFB. So we continued north, past our house, until the street ended at the fenced edge of the air base. We were in an excellent viewing area (so were many others who'd arrived before us) up on the hill that marks the base boundaries to the east. WOW!!! Airshows are really awe inspiring and heartstopping. I've watched the Thunderbirds practice nearly every day since I moved to Las Vegas into this north end of the valley near the base. But I've never stopped marveling that you can fly so fast and so precisely. So, thank you Orville and Wilbur for your determined research, practice, and belief in the principle of flight that started the whole thing off. It still looks like magic to me.

14 ( A Day Late)

I am thankful for the astonishing sunset I saw tonight. It was cloudy all day, almost looked like it might rain a couple of times. In the late afternoon I was driving around doing errands, and from my high-on-the-east-side location, I can always see the sunset. And it is usually really spectacular here in the desert. There is a large, craggy mountain range on the west side of the valley facilitating it. But tonight's sunset was especially memorable. The clouds were lifting and a breeze had started and the entire sky was brilliant orange with sunrays shooting up from the mountains. The broken clouds were indigo against the flaming sky. WOW. I just pulled over and stared.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

15 Days

Hey, I like this idea, so I'll copy it.

Today, I'm thankful for Cool Guy because he loves me and will be coming home tomorrow (Friday). I was looking through a container of things I brought back with me after my mother's funeral 18 months ago. A few photos, some doilies, the pages about me that I tore from her "baby book". She had a spiral notebook in which she recorded our births and vaccinations. I even have my original blessing and baptism certificates. We were going through her dresser drawers looking for some official document that we needed for the bank or Social Security or someone, and one drawer was filled with correspondence. We each took back letters, announcements, and photos that we'd sent her over the years from us and our children. But one letter I found I'd never read before.

It was written before we were married by Cool Guy to my dad, asking his permission to marry me. It is a couple of pages long and is very articulate and thoughtful and every word has come true of his prediction to my father that he would love me and support me and our future children. I've always been thankful for that and I'm still thankful.

Mail Call

All of my life I've always eagerly anticipated opening the mailbox and seeing what surprises await inside. Today we received such a groovy collection, I have to share: (but really almost any day has its own candidates for ridicule)
  • a card soliciting us to try another insurance company addressed to "Our Friends or Current Residents"... (in case we've had a falling-out)
  • A very official postcard from the National Vehicle Headquarters (be sure to lower your voice as you say this and sound stern) SECOND NOTICE Notice: VEHICLE WARRANTY EXPIRATION, and then there's a little box checked :Immediate response required, but the boxes labeled return receipt required and signature required aren't checked (WHEW!!)
  • a solicitation from an insurance company "Just for Members" of my credit union. But, it is in an envelope that has a very official type of label along the top declaring: IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS ENCLOSED, PLEASE FOLLOW DIRECTIONS INSIDE, TIME SENSITIVE DOCUMENTS, DELIVER IMMEDIATELY and then there's an admonition to "deliver to addressee only" and it has an elaborate approval code, also. Double Whew!
  • a $10 gift card !! from Shell Oil!! (mutter when you read this next part) activated only when you apply for their credit card...
  • my paycheck direct deposit statement--whoeee--I often get so wound up during the day that I totally forget that payday is coming tomorrow.
  • my "hometown" newspaper---having not lived in this hometown for 34 years I guess it isn't a surprise that I recognize no one from the obit column or the wedding announcements.
  • a catalog from the company that imports craft crap from Asia--I bought something once and cannot get off their mailing list
  • a coupon flyer from the teacher store "Learning is Expensive"
  • two more catalogs from clothing places--I ALWAYS order on-line--puleez don't kill more trees sending me your catalogs
  • a brochure from a plastic surgeon the cover of which is a close up color photo of the torso of a woman who used the services I guess---she's also had a Brazilian bikini wax and you can count the number of her empty hair follicles on a part of her body I'd rather not see that up-close and personal---I'm thinking that the doctor's office number printed on it keeps it from being classified "porn" so it can be mass-mailed.

So that's the mail delivery here on November 8, 2007 at our house. What did the USPS Fairy leave under your pillow?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I Hope You Don't See Me on TV

If there was a hidden security camera tonight in the physical therapist's lobby then you'll be seeing me on some reality show, I'm sure.

I got into the elevator on the first floor of the two-story lobby. (I've been in this elevator many, many times--PT three times a week for four weeks.) I pushed the 2R button. The doors closed in front of me and the car rose gently to the second floor where the PT offices are. I felt the car brake, I heard the bell ding. I waited, waited, waited three more seconds for the door in front of me to open. But it didn't...

Then, I realized, the door BEHIND has opened, about 6 seconds ago, as it always does to let me off at the second floor. The door in FRONT of me is NEVER going to open on that floor because of the two-story lobby...

Doh! I rushed to go out the door and it closed on my face. DOH! Push button, open door. If anyone would have been standing there in the lobby waiting for me to get off that elevator while I contemplated the wrong door...sigh.

So, I hope there aren't security cameras because FOR SURE someone would put that one on t.v. with the little pixels over my face.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


It was trash day. I took it out. It was also recycling day. But when I set out the two milk jugs filled with used motor oil, I saw that one of them had no lid. So, I poured the last of the milk into a cup for my breakfast, put the lid on the oil-filled jug and put everything by the curb.

As I came back into the kitchen, there sat Kitty Cat on the counter, licking her chops in an unsuccessful attempt at cleaning off the milk on her chin. Little drops of milk were scattered between her and my breakfast...arrghh...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A "Successful" Family

Today, the journal prompt for my students was "Tell why you like (or would like) having a brother or sister." For twelve years I've had to explain to my students that there MUST be something you like about being a sibling. They are ready with all the reasons why they don't like it. I tell them that it is too easy for them to complain, so I want to know what is good about it. And sometimes for a few of them the only good thing is to have someone handy to tease...or someone else to take out the trash occasionally.

But, when pressed to find something good about the situation, most of them can write something actually quite nice. In fact many of them are really sweet and I encourage them to go home and tell their family member what they wrote.

It made me realize what I like about our family: the one Cool Guy and I gave birth to. Our children are friends with one another and enjoy getting together and doing things. I can hardly think of a more satisfying thing for parents than to have their offspring choose to stay close emotionally and socially when they no longer are close in proximity. We feel like successful parents.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Watch Out for La Llarona Tonight

About 15 years ago I became aware of the Mexican mother's "Boogie Man"---La Llarona, or the Crying Lady. When I was student teaching in California I was trying to get the students to understand the concept of scary stories, and getting nowhere. My teacher stepped in and told me to ask the kids about "La Llarona" and I did, and suddenly all their faces lit up and their hands shot into the air. EVERYONE had a horrible, TRUE story about her. Their uncle had seen her, their grandma heard her outside the house, their mom, their cousin...someone. ALL TRUE!!

So I found a really great copy of this story (my version has no redeeming characters in it at all) in an anthology and every year I read it to my students. In Maryland, no one had every heard this story. But back here in the West, with about 1/3 of my class in my new school who speak Spanish at home, again, many TRUE LIFE stories of this scary lady.

This week we read one scary story each day, and the students were to rate it in their journal. Then today, after La Llarona, we voted and, of course, she won. Sometimes I don't know if it a good thing to read this. At nine years old, the students are still really believing, and if it comes from a book and their teacher is reading it...Well...But that's the whole point! If it isn't a little believable---it just isn't scary.

So, don't stay out too late tonight. And if you hear someone's wailing voice saying "Mis hijos!! Donde es mis hijos??" then you just better run really fast for home, because La Llarona is looking for some kids so she can get into heaven, and she isn't fussy about which kids they are.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A Real School

I'm sure you're tired of me blogging about my new work site, but I can't seem to get over how nice it is to work there in vivid contrast to the previous one.

For instance, tonight we had the annual Harvest Festival. It is a big fall carnival-like thing the PTO (instead of PTA) sponsors. The teachers all must participate (we have three mandatory evening events written into our contracts). So I asked the fourth grade teachers if they'd like to do face painting since I have a bunch of brushes, palettes, and craft paint, and I knew it was fairly easy and you get to sit, too.

We were a hit. I made a poster showing the six designs we'd make (jack-o-lantern, spider, ghost, hippie flower, that "S" from the Stussie company, and a peace sign.) If you set limits at the face painting booth, then you don't get requests for the logo of every sport's team or the skyline of Paris or something else too hard. We had a crowd lined up down the sidewalk and painted our fingers off until the party ended. We were all obligated to stay until 8:30 when the whole shebang was over (including an auction of donated items) and cleaned up.

But--the PTO ordered up deli sandwiches for all of us because we had to stay after school. At the face painting booth, the VP kept coming by and plying us with water and cupcakes (which we were too busy to consume) and everyone in the whole school just had just a great attititude about helping everyone with everything. And the families who came were polite, took turns, all the parents insisted their children thank us for our work...

I love working at a normal school again! I feel sad to know that the kids who go to the school where I worked before are just a small example of thousands of kids all over our country who live in big cities where very few of them are being raised by parents who teach them small things like saying thank-you and taking turns. Instead, they are living in a world where everyone just grabs and snatches because there may not be any left if you wait a turn, and there isn't any social reward for kindness. But there isn't any reason for this attitude. In this nation, there IS enough for all and plenty of ways for it to be accessed. But if no one ever teaches you to be polite and show regard for others and gratitude then you may think there isn't enough. Sad.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Su Troubles es Mi Troubles

I got a new job at church a couple of weeks ago: 1st counselor in Relief Society. If you're not a member of the LDS church, then that means that I'm part of a small group of women in charge of a large group of women. We attend to their spiritual and temporal needs. I've always liked RS because of the many friends I've made and talents I've cultivated, by necessity, through my involvement. And I don't mean craft talents: I mean leadership and service talents.

However, I haven't been in a leadership role in RS for at least six years. I was involved with little kids for most of that time, and although it requires a lot of effort (especially if you are the leader, and I was for at least half of that period) it is very different from leadership in RS.

Today, I learned of a death in a sister's family, sudden unemployment in another, and serious illness in a third. And those were just the ones I heard about. Today. The ramifications of my new church job are that all the sisters' troubles are now mine, too. I'm officially part of the triage team, the short-term care team, and the long-term care team. Whew. I forgot about this part. Good thing there are a lot of other willing hands and hearts.

It really drives home the need for us to make connections with others and help when we can, so we will have a network to help us when we need it. Because WE WILL NEED IT. It is inevitable that we will be receiving some day. I don't mean we should serve in a calculated, investment type of way. But that we should understand that we shouldn't live isolated lives, trying to do everything on our own in a mistaken sense that we can actually do that. We need other people. We need them so that we can get joy from helping them, and give others joy when they get to help us.

Even though I felt the weight of these sorrows from these ladies' lives descend on me today at church, I also felt the joy that I can actually do some small thing to help them. I have connections, I know people, I've been there and done that, so I can help them through this time. It's the best part of this religion.

Friday, October 19, 2007


I realize that I haven't been blogging much lately and one reason is that I experience so much less outrage these days...
  • because I changed schools, I have a much better working environment
  • because I changed schools, my students' lives are more ordinary with fewer bizarre life problems
  • because I changed schools, I don't drive much
  • because I don't drive much I rarely have to deal with the many idiot drivers I formerly experienced
  • because I changed schools, I rarely drive in that very poor part of town and so I don't see trash and graffiti and homeless people on a daily basis
  • because I changed schools I don't have to experience the amazing rudeness of the other head secretary to many of the parents and some of the staff
  • because I changed schools, I don't have high blood pressure
  • because I changed schools I smile a lot more

So, I guess I mostly blogged as a way to whine and moan, huh?

Friday, October 12, 2007

24--the Copy of the Copy Cat

I decided I'd copy the Copy Cat and see if my last 24 have any compelling excitement.

10:00 P.M. Suddenly, I was totally exhausted, and instead of correcting anymore papers, I dropped into bed.

11:00 P.M. Awakened from dead sleep by the phone. It took a minute before I could figure out what the noise was. It was Cool Guy from Maryland. He'd just finished dinner/talk with some old friends and was calling me to say good night. He felt very badly about waking me. And it was unusual that I was asleep already at that time of night. His phone call was probably planned by Kitty Cat because I realized she wasn't sleeping beside me. She was peering through the patio door hoping, hoping, hoping I'd sense that she needed to come in.

4:30 A.M. Emergency! Emergency! Kitty Cat needs to go back out! Wake up and open the door! Get up! ok, ok...

6:38 A.M. My eyes snap open and I realize that it is far too light. Why didn't my alarm ring at 6:00? Oh, apparently last night, in my attempt to stop the noise, I reached over and turned down the sound on my radio/alarm clock. ACCKK!!

7:52 A.M. Hustle through the school door, 2 minutes late. Oops.

8:40 A.M. Bell rings and the marathon begins...

10:50 A.M. drop off my students to P.E. teacher, go to ladies room, then spend the rest of my planning time sitting in on a fifth grade class "observing"---a big pet program of our principal--watching other teachers to get ideas for your room. It's actually one of the most useful training tools ever.

11:40 A.M. Pick up class from P.E. Get everyone in line to go to lunch. Pass out lunch tickets. Get everyone back in line to go to lunch. Start down the sidewalk to cafeteria door. Stop. Get everyone to BE IN LINE, ONE BEHIND THE OTHER (not beside) LOOKING IN THE SAME DIRECTION AS YOUR FEET ARE MOVING, ON THE SIDEWALK. Drop off class to lunchroom.

11: 55 A.M. Eat part of lunch.

12:05 P.M. Return to cafeteria and pick up the students who come to my room for 3rd period. They earned total class detention for hideous behavior the previous day. We return to my classroom where I allow five students who consistently have excellent behavior leave for the playground. I rant a little, then set the timer for five silent minutes. I eat the rest of my lunch while the time ticks off the loooong minutes, then the students go up to the playground.

12:25 Rinse lettuce out of my teeth and go up to pick up my class. We arrive downstairs for the afternoon marathon. Second period comes in and act like model citizens. Yeah!

1:30 Third period comes in and act much, much better now that they know I really will put them in my room in lieu of recess.

2:30 Fourth period.

3:25 Direct chair stacking, trash pick up.

3:28 Lead wild, loud students out the door and onto playground where they are dismissed.

3:30 Stand watch over parents' drive up spot to load up their children. Today, no fist-fighting in the bike rack--good.

3:45 Write tomorrow's objectives on the board, grab up all my stuff and leave, two hours earlier than normal.

4:30 Physical therapist office for intake interview. My foot is deteriorating because of the incredible flatness and pronation. I'm learning some foot exercises to develop the muscles that will help support my feet better and strengthen them. But ultimately, granny-shoes with orthotics is in the future. Blah

6:00 eat my sandwich from Port O' Subs as I drive home in heavy traffic. Brush teeth at home, have shower, snatch up temple bag.

6:50 Slip onto the bench next to my friends at the temple.

9:30 Conclude conversation in the parking lot, go home, feed cat.

10:00 Iron clean laundry while watching "ER". Eat watermelon.

I guess it's not as exciting as poopy diapers and stitches in the emergency room, but I really thought after my kids grew up and left home, I'd have more unstructured time. Not yet.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Real Horror Story for Halloween

On Foxyj's blog she complained today about various aspects of Halloween, so for those (two) of you who've never heard about why my children mostly have good teeth, here goes:

Our first little house, in which we lived till we got four kids, was not visible from the street and so no one ever came by to trick-or-treat on Halloween, thus preventing our children from learning about this tradition. I didn't promote it since I had never gone out on Halloween door to door as a child because I lived on a farm and we had no near neighbors. Instead, we'd dress in our costumes and go to a party always held at our church where the moms brought popcorn balls and fudge and we played at the "fish pond" and bean bag games. We all went home with some candy and had a fun night. In addition to our rural environment there was usually a lot of snow on the ground by Halloween and it was too darn cold to traipse around in the dark for candy.

By the time I had my own children I'd become a militant anti-candy, health food freak who baked and cooked every morsel my off-spring consumed, and so I was not about to send them out into the urban landscape to scavange for sugar. At their school there was a day-time party that mimicked the fun I'd had as a child complete with mothers and the fishpond game, so I was satisfied to make their little costumes and go help with the school party and call it a holiday. In fact, as a little girl, Foxyj once said she liked Halloween because "We can just have fun and not have to think about the "deeper meaning" because there isn't one." True!

Well, finally we had to move to a different house. We needed more room. The next house was on a normal street and when Halloween came around, so did the trick-or-treaters. And now my children had become the age where they realized that they, too, could go out and get the goodies. I finally caved in and let them go. BUT---here were the rules:
  • you could only go to two blocks
  • when you got home, you had to dump out all the candy
  • then you sorted it: one for the kid, two for the mother
  • she passed her share back out the door to other kids

So, that is why our children do not have the extensive dental restorations that their mother has. And it is also the reason why in college they always won the "Weirdest Parents" story telling contest. Their parents concealed Halloween from them for nearly a decade.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I don't know the significance of this information but it has caused me to ponder it all week.
Last Friday in our fourth grade team meeting, it was revealed, as an aside, the ages of each of my co-workers.

I have two children who are older than any of my three partners. Hmm.

#1 It made me realize that I am old.
#2 It made me realize that my kids are also old. Well, I mean, full-grown adults. But that's not to say that I didn't know that. It's just that it seemed more concrete.
#3 It made me appreciate them (my co-workers) even more because they don't treat me like an old lady, but as a peer.

Then one of my sisters had a round-number birthday and she said something about having only about 20 years left, and it really stunned me. The previous twenty years seems to have just zoomed by in a flash. If in twenty years we're done...or at least she is---I could be too--well then, well then...I don't know what. It just seems too much to think about.

Anyway--that's the data for the week. I don't know what it all means. But it seemed significant.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Season of Mourning

It is now time to mourn the late, great Summer. Today is the Autumnal Equinox. This means that every day now, for the next three months, we will spend fewer and fewer minutes in the presence of Old Sol, my good friend. More and more of our day will be spent in darkness. Stupid Daylight Savings Time will kick in and WHAMO: I'll walk out of school to the dim glow of the streetlights in the parking lot. No more tomatoes fresh from the vine. No more lying on the patio furniture pressed into the cushions by the ferocious blast of midday heat. No more pleasant afterwork hours in the pool. Night swimming only works when the air is still shimmering at 105.

I've always felt this way--not just since I've come to live in the desert. There is nothing less desirable than pulling on your layers of chore clothes and stepping out into the waning minutes of daylight at 5:00 P.M. in the Rocky Mountains knowing that you will be spending the next two hours in the barn, milking. It always seemed colder right then at sunset than just an hour earlier, or even an hour later. I can't think of any science that supports a temperature plunge at sunset, but it sure seemed colder. Perhaps it was the effect of just having left a house filled with the scent of fresh baked cinnamon rolls and drying laundry and now you are crunching your way across brittle snow to the barnyard where you must be on the alert for frozen cowpies so as to not break your toe, and looking out for fresh ones so as to not slip.

Perhaps my ancient ancestors were Druids or something. I mourn the passing of the long long days of sunlight. I just trudge through the weeks until late February when again the earth's orbit puts us in the path of light. Someday I'll have to go visit Stonehenge and see if I feel some primordial sense of homecoming.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Commentary on Previous Post

My sister sent this photo to me as part of an e-mail that had a series of really beautifully composed pictures of animals that were all very endearing. But this one!!

Well, let's just say, if there was a big fresh cowpie behind any of those cows, and the floor of that barn was made of wood: this was MY (our) LIFE when we were children. There are so many erie similarities:

#1 He is sitting on a single leg milking stool. We had those. They were "manufactured" by our dad who'd take two pieces of a 2 x 4 and hammer them into a "T" shape, and voila---milking stool. The milkmaid just balanced on top of this item, using her two feet as the other "legs" of the three legged stool. Somewhat comfy, completely practical, cheap, and easy to snatch up as you leapt up to get out of range of a flying soggy tail or flailing hoof.

#2 He's milking a Guernsey cow.

#3 Check out the old Surge milker on that background cow---hooked to a vacuum line, milk pulsing out of the cow into the bucket fastened below the titcups. You carried it from cow to cow.

#4 Squirting milk into the kitties' mouths.

#5 Wearing the knee-high rubber boots.

#6 The straw hat: our dad ALWAYS wore a straw cowboy hat for work.

#7 The sun streaming through the open door and also the actual walls of the barn. We, too, had "natural" air conditioning in our barn. Too bad it was below freezing so often when we were out there...

Anyway, it is a total trip back in time to look at this photo, and we wanted to share it with you.

If I Were a Cat...

  • I'd be a barn cat because then I'd be a valuable member of the team. I'd eat the mice that ravage the stores of grain that the cows need.

  • I'd be a barn cat because I'd always have a cozy place to sleep in the hay all snuggled up to a warm calf.

  • I'd be a barn cat because there are so many places to hide my new babies from the prying eyes of little children.

  • I'd be a barn cat because I'd always have a companion; no farm ever has just ONE cat.

  • I'd be a barn cat because some bored cow milker will always try his aim and fill my mouth with warm milk. Barn cats never drink cold milk.

If you were a cat, you could do worse than these two!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fall is in the Air

Wow, it only got up to 95 degrees today here. Brrrr...

Okay, not really "brrr..." but it was so different than the previous three months of over 100 everyday. I've had my "acceptable" temperature settings so warped because of the swimming pool. When it was 110 degrees routinely in the afternoon, I'd come home from school, peel off my sweaty clothes, and get in the swimming pool for 40 minutes or so.

We don't heat our pool because we aren't gazillionaires (we're saving up for solar panels to supplement the sun). When the air temp is 100+ all day, the water is just perfect. But it doesn't take long when the air temp falls below 100 every day, plus it was windy, for the water to cool right off.

I do have a tolerance for chilly water. We lived for six years by Hueneme Beach where the water temperature is rather arctic-like. First: it is California, north of L.A., so the water currents are traveling north to south--the water spends a lot of time off the Alaska coast on its way to Hueneme Beach. Second: "Port" Hueneme is so named because it is--duh--a port. There is a natural submarine canyon that created a lovely deep-water port that is used to export citrus crops and import autos and other items on container ships. So, the beach just to the south of the port is the destination for the water that upwells from the canyon---brrrrrrr.

Cool Guy and I used to take an early morning trip on our little city's bike trail to that beach and go swimming for a few minutes each day. In March that is a mighty chilly swim. The surfers routinely wear wetsuits except for maybe August and Sept. I'm sure they thought we were nuts! Maybe we were!

However, now that I've enjoyed the luxury of the desert backyard pool, I almost regret the passing of the Furnace Months of Summer here. It's still nice to swim when it's in the 90's, but that initial leap into the water is a little more Hueneme-like than I'd prefer.

Friday, September 14, 2007

English! What a Language!

Today, being Friday, was Spelling Test Day in Fourth Grade. This morning as we were collecting homework, one of my students whose first language is not English pointed to a word and told me how her mom told her not to study it because it wasn't a real word.

Her mom had been "all mad when I was doing my homework because she couldn't figure it out. And then my dad got home and he got all mad because it just didn't make sense to him either. And they wondered how it could get on my list."

I looked at her list and asked her which word she meant and she said, "Now here." I looked again and tried to see where "here" meant on the list. Which number? "This one, " she pointed and pronounced again, "Now here."


#16--nowhere-- As in--"I grew up in the middle of nowhere."

Now here--nowhere--hmm.

That was a new one for me!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Seafood City Supermarket

On Monday we decided we wanted to grill fresh fish, but we live in the desert---far, far, far from the sea. So what to do? In Maryland, we could go to any number of establishments where the owner went out that morning on his boat, caught the fish, and sold it that afternoon. I had a favorite grocery that I would stop by on Friday nights and get my pound of big old shrimp for a reasonable price and high quality and bring them home to stir fry with garlic and onions.

Well, luckily I chanced upon this store and WOW, it was a treasure. Their fish is extremely fresh and you can get it whole, or fileted or ground up, or turned into an unbelievable variety of foods that I've never consumed nor imagined. But seriously, they have anything you may need that lives in the ocean and can be eaten. And they'll clean it for you--free while you shop.

If, perchance, your recipe calls for a cup of pork blood, or the long cut of pig's feet, or perhaps you need a giant squid, or a container of pig's brains, THIS IS THE STORE FOR YOU. Perhaps you need five different kinds of bananas? A case of mangoes? Balute? They'll sell it to you!

While we waited for our red snapper and sea bass (aka rockfish for the Chesapeake Bay denizens) to be cleaned, we perused the aisles. It reminded me of Woo Chee Chong's Oriental Market on G Street in San Diego. I'm fairly certain that Woo Chee Chong's is no longer there, probably that part of G Street is also gone. But when I first moved there more than 30 years ago, it was one of my favorite places to shop. I was amused in the meat department because they carried all the parts of the pig or cow that my mom usually discarded. Ears, nose, feet, brains, stomach. I never learned to cook these parts, but I was always impressed that someone came there specifically to purchase them for their dinner. I mostly shopped there for the fish and vegetables.

Anyway, we grilled our fish and they were mighty tasty, too. We'll go back! I want to eat at Jollibee, the fast food place, and then buy some coconut ice cream, sticky rice, and a mango, and try to make my favorite Thai restaurant desert at home.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

New School

Here are some things I like about my new school:
  • The principal, not the head secretary, actually runs the place.
  • I'm indoors with a classroom that has a window by the door that looks out into the hall.
  • The hall is illuminated by a skylight.
  • I can step out of my door, and lean into some other teacher's class if I have a need to.
  • It smells nice.
  • They have a PTA.
  • It's 1.6 miles from my house, no stoplights.
  • When I go upstairs (we're built into a hillside) to the playground, the Las Vegas Temple dominates the view to the east--it is about three blocks up the street from my school. Cool.
  • Everyday, one of the administrators, or office workers, or another collegue asks me if they can help me in any way---and they REALLY MEAN IT.

The Long Silence

I realize that I didn't post anything for a long time and the reasons are:
  • I had to move everything from the old school to the new school, unpack, put it away and ...
  • we drove up to BYU to watch our oldest daughter graduate with her master's degree...
  • I therefore had only three days of my 12 day vacation in which to do--whatever--and I just didn't spend any of it on the computer.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cool Guy is THE MAN

I came dragging in from the First Day of School, tired, sweaty, foot-sore. You other teachers know what I mean. (It was a good day--more later.) I was invited out to a freshly cleaned swimming pool (pouring rain and wind all night had left a morning layer of debris) where I jumped in and floated away the cares of the day.

Then, (and here's why he's getting the Shout-Out) Cool Guy pointed out that he'd turned on the hot tub heater in anticipation of my tired, sweaty, foot-soreness and would I like to soak for a while?

Wow. Would I! And so I did, and it was mighty nice.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Meteor Shower

We checked into our cabin at Delight Hot Springs, Tecopa California, around 8:00 P.M. I'd packed supper in a cooler so we ate it sitting on the screen porch watching twilight fade away. It was 98 degrees, but it seemed cooler. Something about being in the desert after dark makes it feel not as hot. We soaked in the hot springs and then drove out into the desert even a little further so we'd be surrounded by total darkness. We were. Also total silence. There weren't even any bug sounds. The wind wasn't blowing either. It was amazingly still. I've grown accustomed to the sound of machines when I'm outdoors here. If I sit in my yard I hear air conditioners, airplanes, cars, and music. But out there, about 80 miles from home, it was very quiet and dark.

Yes, we saw meteors. Quite a few--some small and quick, some large and lengthy. But it is a Slow-Motion Thrill. They don't come along very rapidly, one after and another, and only once did we see more than one at a time. It takes patience to star gaze. We finally packed up the lawn chairs and drove back to our cabin around 2:00 A. M. because we kept nodding off.

When I was 8, 9 or 10--I'm hoping one of my sisters will remember the timing of this event--our neighbor stopped by our house to get us to come outside and look at the sky. It was a cold, clear night in March (I remember the month because it was lambing season and that's why he was out late at night). I don't know if my parents were in bed yet, but I was, and he came knocking at our door in excitement for us to come out and look. I'll never forget the sight of hundreds of meteors zooming through the millions of stars. It was like fireworks, but completely silent. It was exhilarating and scary all at once. I wondered if it meant the end of the world was coming. I've never seen anything like it since, and I wish I knew what galactic event it was. I'd love to watch again the sight of so many shooting stars.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stay Up All Night

You are here-by being given permission by your Mama to stay up late. Tonight is the peak viewing time for the annual Perseids meteor shower. Look in the NE sky to see lots of shooting stars. Cool Guy and I are driving out into the desert, far away from the Bright Lights, Big City with our lawn chairs, snacks and binoculars to watch. Of course, I don't have to get up and go to work tomorrow (cheers of delight fill the room) so we're sleeping out there, too, at Tecopa Hot Springs. So, anyway, let's get out there and enjoy the view.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could.

Another successful school year behind me: ie: no felonies committed.

But it was a close call for the last 20 minutes.

Last Day

I t h i n k I c a n
I t h i n k I c a n
I t h i n k I c a n

I think I can I think I can I think I can I think I can I think I can I think I can I think I can I think I can I think I can I think I can


Thursday, August 09, 2007

My Alter Ego

I've turned into Mrs. H---, my seventh grade English teacher. It's not a good thing. She would sit on the edge of her desk and drone on about "self-discipline" and how we needed it. We'd yawn. Surreptitiously.

This week our character "Word of the Week" is self-discipline and today I wrote it on the board and droned on to my miserable students about how they needed it. The only thing missing was my sitting on the edge of my desk, with my skirt hiked up a little with a couple of inches of my doughy nylon-covered thigh showing. EEK--

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Repeat after me: "Two More Days"

You know, I imagine that all of my readers (both of you) are entirely fatigued with hearing about my class this year. And I apologize for once again talking about it. But your fatigue cannot even begin to approach the fatigue I have with these students.

Again today I heard over and over the rudest things directed at---me! Whining about having to work, telling me that I could just go ahead and call her mother--her mother doesn't do anything to her when I do. Her mother "don't care" what I say. And the wandering around the room! And we were standing in the hallway taking turns with the restroom/drinking fountain when I asked two boys to step back because they were blocking the way for others who were coming down the hall. Their immediate reaction was to step out into the hall just a little further while watching my face for a reaction. I reached for a book a boy had picked up off another table when he was supposed to be listening to me. So he quickly thrust it out of my reach and waved it wildly around trying to prevent my taking it from him and replacing it. And laughed, and so did three of his friends. I could go on...but I won't because it makes my blood pressure go up again.

Wed, Thurs, then Fri when at 12:20 they leave the school grounds. I am signed up to check out at 3:15 and then I leave the school grounds. Tick tick tick---time will go by and hopefully I will have achieved another year of teaching w/o committing a felony. I sometimes have to really restrain myself.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

This Adjective is for Cool Guy

earth sign mama --


Visually addictive

'How will you be defined in the dictionary?' at

Okay, okay, I'll stop now.

My Obit

'What will your obituary say?' at

And the best part is: if you don't like the one they first tell you--go back and click again till you like what they say!

The Definition

earth sign mama --

A real life terminator

'How" will you be defined in the dictionary?' at

Okay, this is fun!!

The Personality Test

Okay, I read about this on Foxyj's blog and I thought it suited her EXACTLY. But I don't know about mine.

For instance: I "adopt new things immediately"--hah! I'm always being dragged kicking and screaming into the future---just ask Cool Guy about our first answering machine. But I am getting better at accessing new stuff. Hmmm... and the "low neurosis" part. Not so much. But you read and decide. On the other hand: extrovert? Well, ya.

Your Five Factor Personality Profile


You have high extroversion.
You are outgoing and engaging, with both strangers and friends.
You truly enjoy being with people and bring energy into any situation.
Enthusiastic and fun, you're the first to say "let's go!"


You have medium conscientiousness.
You're generally good at balancing work and play.
When you need to buckle down, you can usually get tasks done.
But you've been known to goof off when you know you can get away with it.


You have high agreeableness.
You are easy to get along with, and you value harmony highly.
Helpful and generous, you are willing to compromise with almost anyone.
You give people the benefit of the doubt and don't mind giving someone a second chance.


You have low neuroticism.
You are very emotionally stable and mentally together.
Only the greatest setbacks upset you, and you bounce back quickly.
Overall, you are typically calm and relaxed - making others feel secure.

Openness to experience:

Your openness to new experiences is high.
In life, you tend to be an early adopter of all new things and ideas.
You'll try almost anything interesting, and you're constantly pushing your own limits.
A great connoisseir of art and beauty, you can find the positive side of almost anything.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Splash the Flash

May I just say: every Middle-Aged Woman should own a pool so that at the end of a difficult, sweaty day she can just slip into the cool water and swim her troubles away. Ahhhhh...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Life in the Portable Classroom:

The power went out yesterday just after the students left and this morning some electricians came in and fixed it up just in time for us to have class. But it was about 90 degrees in there since the AC had been off all night. We only had to survive for an hour and then the kids could go in the main building to music class.

But, in order to access the electrical panel to see why I didn't have any power, the electricians had to move my file cabinets. They were illegally set up right under the electrial box all year. I didn't know this was a safety violation until a week ago and I just hadn't taken time to unload them and move them. (They didn't actually block the electical panel door, but no one could stand there and do anything with the system since the file cabinets were there..)

So now the file cabinets are standing in the middle of the room, placed there by big men who didn't need to unload them first to move them. I can't budge them until they are empty. And anything that had previously been on top of them or near them on the floor is piled up randomly in a corner. These are all the items that I had piled near them on the floor to safeguard them from prying students, kleptomaniac students, greedy, nosey students.

I will eventually unload all the files and put them in boxes (or the trash) when I move out, but I still need to teach for a few days, and as sure as I take out or discard something, I'm going to be reaching for it so I hate to take it all away just now. Probably I'll unload some of the things from a couple of drawers that I'm somewhat confident I won't need, or I could unload them and keep the filled boxes in the room for a few more days...just till the curriculum is finished.

But the only real way to survive the last week of school is keep everyone busy, busy, busy.

Just one more drip from the Chinese Water Torture that this school year has been for a long time now.

6.5 days...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Movie Time

We just came home from seeing "Hairspray" the new musical-movie version of John Waters' film. A hoot!! I recommend it. John Travolta is outrageous as Edna Turnblad, Christopher Walken is super as Mr. Turnblad, everyone is really peppy. Really, it is good and we enjoyed it and we laughed over and over.

After having lived in Maryland all those years, and going to Baltimore so often, it felt quite homey to see the rowhouses, the familiar skyline, and the narrow streets with the shops. It was weird to step out of the theater and be in the middle of a casino in Las Vegas. I had been transported back East for two hours.

That's the dilemma of moving around. Too many places have become "home" and when I leave them, I keep missing little parts that I really loved while I lived there. Whenever I go back to Maryland, I realize how I liked this and that: the trees, the big rivers, a real city like Baltimore, all the history. But when I go back to California I totally love seeing the ocean, the golden hills, just the feel of the air and quality of the sunlight. It's so great there. Then, this week, Sunset magazine came and inside they have several pages of Grand Teton National Park and I left it open on the counter for two day to savor the sight of the sagebrush, the mountains, the aspens. can I be homesick for all these places at once??

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Now Arriving At the D Gate

Yeah! We picked up Skye at the airport last night! She is home now from her Peace Corps Volunteering. She looks great huh? And this is after about 15 hours of traveling.
Her luggage did not come home with her. But it will arrive today sometime. It would not have been a good thing to be the customer service people at the Delta desk last night in the Las Vegas airport. Not a good thing at all.
Not because of us....we have the luxury of being in our own home and the luggage coming over today isn't much of a problem. It was all those other people, a couple of flights worth, whose luggage was MIA, that were in the long, long line, hoping to have a nice vacation but now have no clothes, who were questioning the "service" in customer service.
Skye pointed out that we Americans actually expect service. She was serene through the two hours of trying to figure out where, what, why because she has lived in a world where people don't form neat lines, or wait politely, or expect that they will receive satisfaction ultimately. So waiting and being patient and calm are qualities that she has developed and perfected.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Flywheel in the Freezer

There have been many unusual things occur in our home through the decades because of the motorcycle that lives in our garage. Parts have been baked in the oven, greasy rags have been cleaned in the washer (and then the washer drum has needed EXTENSIVE de-greasing.) Once, in a really sleazy rental house, an entire chopper was painted in the spare bedroom.

Today I came home to find the freezer rack on the counter and the ice cube holder out by the sink. My first thought was "Oh no---the fridge has gone KAPUT and all the food in the freezer is ruined!" I opened the freezer to find:

This S & S 93 cubic inch Stroker flywheel cooling off.

That way when it was time to fit the bearings on the shaft, Cool Guy could heat up the bearings on the stove and their metal would expand and the flywheel metal would be contracted and Voila--ease in assembly. problem. Whatever is needed so that the motorcycle can be reassembled and I get a ride.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Atmospheric Pressure

There was something going on in my classroom this afternoon. Whew...we'd just gotten things settled down after I'd called in the student dean to take out two girls who were in shouting match that had been preceded by a note-writing "shouting match" that included ugly remarks WAAAAY past "I'm not going to be your friend." I only involve the dean when cursing and racial epithets are used.

Then, I was attempting to pass out homework when Girrrl A walked over to Girl B and used the classroom scissors to sever her backpack strap!!!! Girl B was very upset, "I'm going to be in trouble when I get home." And I assured her that no, it was Girrrl A who was in trouble. Just then out of nowhere, Girrrl C hauled off and smacked Girrrl A right in the face and the brawl took off.

I dashed right in and pushed them apart, and then wrapped my arms around Girrrl A trying to get her to calm down and sit in her chair. Nothing doing. Girrrl C is still shouting and snarling. Girrrrl A is writhing and kicking--down went two desks. She reached out and grabbed a chair--I pried it from her hands before it could get thrown.

I directed all my students to immediately take their backpacks and go outside to the next door neighbor's classroom. IMMEDIATELY. There was some foot dragging---Hey---it was quite a show. Most of them left, and that teacher quickly came over to my room to see what I needed. She pushed my call button, which I couldn't get to since I was busy trying to keep the tornado under control so she couldn't hurt me or herself.

Finally the Tornado spun herself out and lay on the floor sobbing. The bell rang, the VP and the Dean both showed up. We collected the Hitter, the Hittee (aka Tornado) and walked ourselves over to the office to write up some letters to parents: Your child is suspended until you come in for a conference.

I need to figure out how to get some Valium to put into my auto-air freshener that spritzes out a refreshing scent every thirty minutes. I can set it for as short an interval as 3 minutes. I think that'd keep the pressure down a little more. 16 1/2 days...