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.