I'd like to thank the Academy...

...for having jeans in my size on sale for $6.88 and $9.99. Okay, it's not an Oscar, but Academy Sporting Goods has been one of my top ten discoveries of 2003.

The new year is a time for lists, either looking back or forward. I am going to offer ten visions I'd like to see. To have them in my imagination is a sugarplum gift.

1. A friend has just moved back to Nebraska from Idaho. Her mention of seeing grain elevators again set off a terrible ache of geographic homesickness. I would love to see the flat, straight highway in the reduced speed zone, with the grain elevators, railroad tracks, and telephone wires off to the left. A light coating of snow on dark brown stubble neatly combed into rows under a slate gray sky would bring me to tears.

2. Sunrise over the South Dakota Badlands. I can smell the chalk, dust, and sage, see the snake and the magpie. Tall sunflowers grow along every fence. The late night short cut to the Badlands is a profound memory. We so rarely visit a place without artificial lights. The Milky Way seemed to swirl and wrap about us in ribbons.

3. Mexican freetail bats exiting Carlsbad Caverns. This sight is still one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life.

4. Hot-air balloons lifting off at the Plano Balloon Festival and skimming over the pink lake in the early dawn light.

5. The Monahans Sand Dunes of West Texas with their cleansing winds and shifting forms. Sandpaper for mental anxiety. Alternate candidate: The white lizards of White Sands, N. M.

6. A lapful of rapt little boys listening to stories about wolves and dogs.

7. The frozen purple midnight solitude at the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon following a March blizzard, and better yet, the last of the snow on the red rock formations the next morning.

8. Buzzards soaring over Dinosaur Valley State Park viewed while sitting on the river bottom and flying a kite. Lift! Soar! Tug!

9. The inside of an old-timey hardware store with three aisles, squeaky-dark wooden floor, tiny drawers built into the wall, a loft over the main floor, dust motes and light from the tall windows facing Main, and the smell of galvanized buckets.

10. A sandbar on the Platte River, preferably with the smells of oatmeal cookies, driftwood, and bonfire, and the sound of Bob Devaney's Cornhuskers beating the Oklahoma Sooners on an early transistor radio.

Few milestones in my life have been as satisfying as learning to zip a red plaid autumn jacket. The zipper pull is still a train engine, and the zipper is the train track. Matching the two sides of the jacket and coupling the parts of the zipper pull, to zip my jacket without derailment is still scented with dry pin oak, maple, sycamore leaves, and accomplishment.

The very best in 2004,



The Big Wash

Doing the manic Big Wash today--all the sheets, blankets, towels, comforters... The Empress threw a hissy fit this morning about her subjects' squalid living conditions, of which they seem quite fond.

Of the Big Three, the Big Wash is probably the least dangerous. The Big Clean usually involves ranting, raving, moving furniture, hauling black trash bags to the dumpster, and staying up half the night until there is a place for everything, and everything in its place.

The Big Cook rarely involves ranting, just making way too much food, and the results are never guaranteed. There's never enough Tupperware with matching lids and bottoms, either.

The Big Wash just makes it very tough to open the refrigerator or get out to the patio. We have one of the teeny tunnel laundry rooms obviously designed by a man. You can't walk through it if the dryer is open, let alone if there are heaps of dirty blankets and towels piled on the floor. After an episode of the Big Wash, no one ever wants to carry the clean, folded laundry back upstairs. No one can even imagine the concept of putting it away in a linen closet or the bathroom cabinet. So it just sits there adding to laundry room congestion. If you are a maternal sort you begin to wonder if the guys ever did put clean sheets on the beds, or if they are just sleeping on the mattress.

In the middle of the Big Wash my mind drifted to soft and puffy t-shirts all ready to be tie-dyed during summer art camps. I started running through my mental catalog of tie-dye techniques. It must be a memory year-end review to avoid forgetting something that I won't need for another six months due to lack of thought time. When I quit reviewing how to sew a lining into a vest, I quickly forgot the tricky technique. That worries me even though I haven't needed to line a vest for fifteen years. I always worry when I realize I've forgotten who sang "Ode to Billy Joe", because I'm sure some radio station will call me to ask that trivia question. If you need to win a million dollars and the keys to a brand new Corvette as much as I do, you can't afford to forget.

When the boys were much younger we used to have impromptu backyard tie-dye celebrations in the heat of the summer. All their buddies would ride over on bikes with their dads' white undershirts. We would tie-dye and spray-dye shirts on the driveway, and hang the shirts on hangers from tree branches. We would have rubber band fights, too. If you are feelin' groovy, I put a link to the Rit Dye site on the sidebar. It has cool variations on tie-dye shirts.

One thing about using Rit in the middle of the winter: If you are using the stovetop method with powder Rit, don't turn on your exhaust fan. The powder gets sucked up, and you wind up with a groovy, stained range hood.

As long as I'm in helpful hint mode, I don't recommend melting crayon shavings inside egg cartons in the microwave. It is quite scary when the microwave bursts into flames. Plus, you end up getting a new microwave for Christmas instead of something fun.

Some day I'll tell you how NOT to melt the Rubbermaid spatula into the Rice Krispy treats. Then you will understand about the Big Cook!

P.S. Bobbie Gentry.


Who buys all that STUFF?

Had a splendid outing today in lieu of exchanging gifts with a dear friend. We drove up to the cutesy, nostalgic county courthouse square to browse and walk. We loved that the old buildings weren't being torn down, but kept wondering how the shop owners made enough money to pay the rent. I'm allergic to antiques, and don't have funds for designer jackets and handmade soaps. Who is buying all this merchandise?

Had lunch at McKinney's famous Pantry. Loved ordering at the counter, then finding a table in the old building. Wood chairs declined to scootch out of well-worn grooves. Loved being hollered at when our orders were ready. Snarfed the chocolate cream pie! Good food, honest prices, and entertaining people-watching made for a glow of customer satisfaction, unlike any of our other browsings.

Stopped at the outlet mall on the way home. Again, so many stores, and so much merch. This is the "discounted" stuff, and there's tons of it. In theory, there's a clientele for the full-price merchandise in megaquantities. Then there are the outlet customers. Then there must be the off-price vendors. Then there must be big tax write-offs and overflowing landfills. How many collanders does the average homemaker need to purchase in one life? How many antique vanities? How many UT tailgate cookbooks? Is everyone over the age of 21 burning three scented candles per day?


Rodent obits

On Christmas Day there was an obituary in the DMN with a photo of a woman wearing Mouseketeer ears. I loved the woman, even though she had been an Avon representative. It seemed to me she had anticipated the many formalities after her death as a whole lot of Mickey Mouse. She would be in Cosmic Disney World, and the rest of us would still be reading the local newspaper before lining the bottom of the birdcage!

I won't be running an obit for my computer mouse. It decided to visit the neon exercise wheel in the sky today at an inconvenient moment while I was working on my year-end inventory. My tech support sons were unable to revive the mouse with CPR or artificial respiration. We bargained for its soul with edam, gouda, jalapena jack, brie, havarti dill, swiss, and NY cheddar. Spells and incantations to the Device Manager and Installation Wizard were also unsuccessful. Right now I'm borrowing a cordless mouse (thanks to the Farmer's Wife Who Never Saw Such a Sight In Her Life).

This year I suffered from delusions of spreadsheet grandeur after learning to make rows and columns, and enter data (sort of). Still can't make the data do any tricks. The data is obviously not as smart as my aquarium fish. The fish at least know that they are likely to be fed when their light is turned on. The data refuses to do arithmetic gymnastics even though I have established the range in the field that needs to be added. =SUM(bad:headache). Bringing in a descendant consultant didn't help. Sending a history major to help an artist is the proverbial blind leading the blind. At least Jeff could supply colorful oaths from several epochs to the battle. I could only add dreamland welding equipment.

And now I am wondering about a commemorative Rosie the Riveter hamster collector's edition...


Revenge of the Sugar Plum Fairy

When I was little I was terrified of the Rat King in the Nutcracker. Every year the black and white t.v. ballet special would be aired, probably brought to us by Kraft or Chevrolet. Every year I would watch through squinted eyes while asking, "Is this where the mice come in?" It was nearly as bad as the Oz flying monkeys.

Dreamt last night I was teaching my preschoolers in one of those morphing settings, part parlor and part warehouse. Very realistic mice were scurrying out from behind furniture, crates, and plaster molding. [Who ya gonna call?] There I was in my nightgown fighting off rodents with a blow torch. I felt like Carrie Fisher in the "Blues Brothers" stuck in a mousy early Tetris version. Clara needs those nice young men in their clean white coats...

I will have to abandon my hamster designer fashion collection due to Post Rodent Stress Disorder and Mousehole Tunnel Syndrome. Can I claim the loss as a medical expense?

If any creatures are stirring, nuke 'em.


Exercise wheel

What is it going to take to change my blog advertising banner from "Dancing Hamsters"?

What if I were to type
Teeny Tiny Toe Shoes
Moose on Ice
Moosepath League
Moose mobile
Moose fashions
Top Ten Moose
Dean Moose?

Would that be enough to instigate a blog ad change?

I'm just ever so pleased

Yippedy-skippedy, yee-haw! My links have been restored to their former glorious functionality.

Did my Christmas baking today:
Got a baker's dozen Einstein Bagels.
Mike seized the moment to slice a hydroponic tomato and mash an avocado (still two for a dollar) with cream cheese to create a breakfast masterpiece. Carpe Bagel.

While many's the time Mike has transported me to the gates of Anxious Maternal Fury, the boy does a wonderful job detailing my Buick. I may never need hand lotion again with all that Armour-All on the steering wheel!

Since Jeff is applying to grad school in Ft. Collins, I had to determine if I imagined the whole CSU library flood year before last. The flood really did occur, but way back in 1997. Ack! The years go by so fast. I imagine the book mold has really aged by now, becoming a noxious chemical agent. Haven't mentioned it to my buddy, Tom Ridge, but I worked on the cataloging of both the Emil Kopak gift collection and the Uruguayan literature collection during my formative years at UNL. Both batches of books were thick with domestic and imported primo book mildew and mold. Plus, I only weighed 107 pounds.

Imagine, if you will, the professional wine taster visiting the academic library:
"This volume has a Great Depression-era storm cellar body, with a bouquet of soggy Farmer's Almanac, an aroma of Patagonian papyrus, and a hint of leaky gutter."

Some other day I will write about the Mari Sandoz collection. Congratulations to Mary B. as she returns triumphant to that whole arena!



This is the blog of CollageMama, not TechnoCyberSavvyMama. That is why my blog links no longer connect to anything. Maybe elves will help me figure it out. Kids still say the darndest things, but this blog is ArtLetter Linkless.

Sad rope swing

Went for a long walk to cure antsiness, and to procrastinate cleaning house and folding laundry. Only three days before Christmas, and it is seventy-seven degrees! Returning to our complex, I decided to walk along the creek. "Our" creek is two blocks long, and the city calls this tiny wilderness "Rustic Park". Thought I would walk along to the place where a rope swing hangs from a tall tree over the creek.

We moved to this condo complex nearly seven years ago now. We moved out of the house where we had lived as an alleged two-parent family for seven years--the only house Steven remembered. When the boys discovered the rope swing, that spot along the creek became Steven's emotional tether to our new place. Snakes and a horrible bout with poison ivy did not dissuade him. Swinging on the rope helped all of us reconstruct our ideas of what made a family and a home.

With all the fall leaves gone, the creek looked sad today, especially around the roots of the rope tree. The most obvious eyesores were the plastic bags--EVERYWHERE. Styrofoam, bottles, cans, ropes, wires, a smashed grocery cart, motor oil jugs, small rugs and a garden hose for crying out loud... I found a large Sunkist produce box and decided it was a sign to fill it up before heading home. That amount of effort did not make the rope swing inviting for any new family making a stressful transition! Next time I'll wear gloves, take clippers, and bigger boxes. I'll listen for the woodpeckers I know are there. I'll celebrate how far we've come as a family, and honor a place that helped us along. I'll probably get a bit teary next time, too.


The Accidental Avocado

It is always a holiday when avocados are two for a dollar! Forget Christmas, Festivas, and the BCS. It is time for Guacamolefest, when all the Roos down in Rooderville consume all they can of that perfect food of the gods. Especially yours truly, Cindy Lou Roo.

Last evening Cindy Lou kept adding more avocados to the guac almost as fast as it was being consumed by the celebrants. Carols were playing (okay, if you count Led Zep). Bite-size Tostitos were falling, dusting Plano with a picturesque holiday glow.

When it was Cindy Lou's turn to ingest that magical, euphoria-inducing dish, she sat down in her favorite kitchen chair (the one looking out over the rooftops of Rooderville). She had consumed just enough guacamole to see the landing lights on the approach to Nirvana, when totally without warning, the chair snapped off a leg. Cindy Lou was thrown backwards into the kitchen onto her bazuzzi, whamming her head into the cabinet, and bashing up both elbows, wrists, and thumbs somehow.

Can you say, "ejection seat"? Can you picture demon-possessed home furnishings? Can you pull me up off the floor and get me some Tylenol? Fortunately, Jeff could, and he also lassoed the evil chair and took it to the dumpster. Fortunately, he didn't laugh, and was very concerned! I scraped the guac off my face and clothes feeling very sad. I think it was Dan Quayle who said, "An avocado is a guaful thing to waste."

Today I've been out spending my bonus on some new kitchen chairs. I hope they haven't gone over to the Dark Side, but there is no clear test available without posterior risk. I did buy seat cushions for the chairs since I'm going to need them for a few days. Cindy Lou Roo is thinking about getting air bags, too.

Whatever your holiday, practice moderation, and happy landings!



I am stunned. My preschool students are still mimicking my scissor voices after three weeks. [See 11/25] What do you suppose the percentages are for auditory, visual, and kinetic (?) memories retained at the age of three? What percentage of them still actively flavor our actions 45 years later?

House arrest

Have spent a lovely day marooned at home with no car. It is so freeing to not have the option of running errands. I finished reading "Cordelia Underwood; or the Beginnings of the Moosepath League", which I greatly enjoyed. I look forward to reading more in that series.

Making Chex Mix in the oven (the way God, in her infinite wisdom, intended), so that the boys will know I love them and it is really Christmas. It was a pretty day, so I also cleaned the patio and walked. Got rid of all the canna and elephant ears that went all gooey after the real freeze early in the week. If you aren't familiar with these plants, imagine that bunch of celery you forgot about in the vegetable crisper for a month, but on "designer" growth hormones.

Mike brought home a duffel of dirty laundry the size of a body bag. I don't know where the duffel came from, or the nature of its intended purpose. Ran the washer and dryer all day, and folded nice warm laundry till I zoned out. Is there a 12-Step program for hot lint junkies? And wouldn't Hot Link Junkies be a good name for a hamster rock band?

This week was good for improving my work attitude. All our classes did short story/improv dramas on the stage for their parents. I was astounded at the talents of the drama teachers. We team teach, but I rarely get to see them in action. Had lots of chances to tell coworkers, friends, and students that I like and respect them, and to receive similar comments.

Have been on a pet shop theme with art projects for the last month. This week we made teeny tiny hermit crabs out of paper muffin cups. While the project was really a disguise to get kids to work on scissor and folding skills, they squealed with delight over their little hermit crabs. Some classes also got to make pet carrier/habitats with sand, shells, gobs'o'glue...

On a walk earlier in the week I discovered a new approach to outdoor Christmas decorating. At one house the whole Halloween display of pumpkins and hay bales had been spray-painted gold, then adorned with tacky fake poinsettias. Reminded me of the Camp Fire Girl sewing "baskets" made with cigar boxes glued with macaroni, bow, and shell pasta. If you are my age you remember those Readers Digest angels with styrofoam heads and pipe cleaner halos. My personal favorite is still the LP heated in the oven until it rippled, topped with a styrofoam half sphere poked with dried weeds. Most of Steven's AP sculptures so far have had to be spray-painted black, white, or silver, causing me to have these flashbacks. Why didn't the Surgeon General ever warn us that Camp Fire Girls might cause hallucinations for the rest of our lives? [In one of my inspired teacher moments my assistant and I once taught at-risk kids from the Boys and Girls Club proper spray-paint techniques. So if you see any really classy graffiti...]

Modesty has prevented me from celebrating my stellar stage debut earlier in this post. I am still reeling from the accolades and movie offers. My 1st grade art/drama class had created a play about the case of the missing Santa. After a variety of plot twists, Mrs. Claus was supposed to realize Santa might be taking a hot shower. She would pull the curtains open a bit, and say, "My goodness, he was in the shower all along!" Santa was always an imaginary figment. My merry prankster team teacher who will remain unnamed, i.e. Loree, thought it would be fun to have a real showering Santa at the actual performance, and I won the job from a host of applicants. Mrs. Claus, completely unsuspecting, opened the curtain to find yours truly in Santa hat and white wig towelling off with much booty-shaking. Mrs. Claus was not the only stunned cast member, but since she was paralyzed she couldn't close the curtain. My terry cloth spotlight moment went on much longer than anticipated. Probably used up my whole fifteen minutes of fame.

May you all be snowed-in or under house arrest one day this holiday week!



On the hamster wheel to riches

Hamster fantasy fashions! I love it. Dog owners buy outfits. Why wouldn't hamster owners? We could make millions$$$$$ I always wanted to be the costume designer for Wishbone... I would love to see a hamster in Sherlock Holmes deerstalker and coat. Then a Sam Spade hamster. Then a Swan Lake hamster... I've been thinking about Lola, the Hamster Vamp, with bustier and fishnet stockings. Damn Yankees!

On a more practical level, I did all my holiday shopping in three hours this weekend. Spent another three hours wrapping and getting ready to mail. I am woman, hear me roar.

Now, what about a deep sea diving hamster? Itty-bitty goggles and spear? Moon walk hamster with helmet, flag, and golf club? Young Elvis and old Elvis outfits? Kung fu hamster with black belt? Julia Child hamster? No, too lifelike... Same thing with the Janis Joplin hamster outfit. Speedtrap hamster with helmet and motorcycle? Endorsed by Ponch & John... Star Trek hamster with snap-on Spock ears? Braveheart hamster with no undies... Reenact historic moments with your 1st President Bush parachute jump and 2nd President Bush flightsuit commemoratives.

No wardrobe would be complete without Prom Night hamster! Comes with its own little hotel room... Halo hamster with wings, harp, and poofy cloud? Little Mermaid hamster... Jetson hamsters with remote control flying cars. Superhero hamster capes...

Now I'm seeing hamster penthouses with tiny martini glasses and skyline views. Your hamster needs a new habitat for each outfit! Be the first on your block to own the hamster Star Wars cantina! For classier hamsters, visit the Globe Theater. Roll in cedar shavings in your own hamster Oval Office!


La Boheme

This week Steven and I had the great good fortune to attend the Dallas Opera's dress rehearsal of Puccini's "La Boheme". We went as guests of Steven's soccer coach who was performing in the opera chorus crowd scene. If I could figure out how to insert a photo at this point, I would. Instead you must just imagine the scene. Starving artists and poets are celebrating Christmas Eve in a cafe in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Love is in the air. Band members march through the square in bright red poofy clown pants, blue jackets with gold braid, and red Turkish fez hats, pretending to play flutes as they wind through the crowd of cartwheeling urchins. Perfect snowflakes fall while the tuberculine heroine sings her lungs out. It is just like my life, except for the singing part. When I had pleurisy in '95, I could barely inhale, let alone sing arias about embroidering flowers. To clarify, I could embroider flowers, but not sing about it, and couldn't do either while taking codeine. All in all, I sympathize with our heroine, Mimi. If you are going to embroider flowers, I really suggest being ten years old and sitting in a shady treehouse.

"La Boheme" did lead me to memories of my cold and starving artist days. I have written before about my art student experiences while oil painting in the converted brewery warehouse. We couldn't burn poetry or scripts in a furnace like Marcello and Rudolfo. If we had used a space heater the whole building would have erupted in flames from the turp fumes and rolls of canvas, not to mention all the dead bugs. We painted while wearing many layers of socks and sweaters, long johns, stocking caps, and sawed-off gloves. We drank tea heated with those electric coils, and adjorned often to the nearest warm tavern.

My favorite student watering hole was a bar in the backstage area of the former ornate gilded theatre turned into a doomed single-screen movie theater. The bar allowed one to enjoy a gimlet while staring up into catwalks, drops, and hanging weights. The entrance was down an icy alley to the old stage door. What a space that would have been for an artist studio/home!

Steven had to pick me up from work to drive to the opera hall. As we were going down the highway of death he asked me if I had ever heard a rustling in the glove compartment. Naturally I remarked that he should let the hamster out more often. Perhaps we have rodents eating the turn signal wiring (see entries about Cletus and Goober!). After the opera ,when we found ourselves lost in a seedy part of downtown Dallas, we were particularly concerned about big-fanged small mammal invaders blasting out of the glove box.

Coach wanted us to meet him at intermission for a quick backstage tour. Here is my true confession! My worst nightmare is when the beautician hands me the mirror to hold while she turns me around to view the back of my neck. I can no more look in the mirror to use a curling iron than I can play professional hockey. Something just shorts out in my brain, so when Coach asked us to meet him at the stage right door I conferred with my drama teacher associates for clarification. Actor's right is viewer's left, but we still missed our chance for a backstage tour.

After I switched from being a poor, cold art student to being a poor, cold library employee, I quit singing about embroidery and got married. Alas, I walked home through the snow to our apartment one freezing night to find that my law student spouse had sold our waterbed, beanbag chairs, concrete block & board bookshelves, and macrame plant-hangers to a foreign graduate student for $200.

Many thanks to Coach and the Dallas Opera for this musical trip down memory lane!


You know when it's time to go!

Watched a little boy about 2 1/2 years old drag his mom toward the exit at the craft fair Saturday. He was saying, "I'm ready when you are. I'm ready when you are. I'm ready when you are..." Each time he said it as one long word. He had my complete sympathy.


Holiday reading

During our Thanksgiving feast I got the giggles about the recipes I'd discovered by accident in Joy of Cooking while looking for the turkey instructions. "You know," I told the guys,"I found this great recipe for armadillo." This led to what would be called a "challenge" in Scrabble. I got out the reference volume, and indeed there was a recipe for armadillo. Also muskrat, raccoon, beaver tail, porcupine, possum, squirrel, rabbit with chili beans, and woodchuck. Clearly, this was new material for a holiday dramatic reading. Yes, I know, not every family needs a reference library for a holiday meal!

A few years back the guys and I went to Fredericksburg so that we could spend Thanksgiving climbing Enchanted Rock. Our motel was next door to an emu farm. We stared at the emus, and they stared right back at the same eye level. It was a bizarre Thanksgiving moment, and makes the holiday memory hit parade every year when we baste the large bird.

I always travel with a reference section in the back seat. Who knows when I might want to identify a bird, lizard, or butterfly? Where would I be without my Roadside Geology of Texas? A dictionary is good, too. Sure, this might have something to do with my husband calling me , "obstinate and recalcitrant" on a trip while we were still married. And there I was library-less and wondering if "recalcitrant" had something to do with deposits on teeth! Never again will a vacation go [further] down the tube for want of Webster's.

You will have to look up the armadillo recipe for yourself. This is my grandma's recipe for Ginger Creams:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease two 11x16 cookie sheets.

Heat and stir in a large saucepan
1 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1 c. Crisco or oleo
1 c. molasses

Remove from heat and stir in
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 t. cinnamon

In another bowl stir together
3 c. flour
2 t. baking soda

To saucepan add 1 c. boiling water, then stir in flour/soda mix to make a stiff batter. Pour into cookie sheets. Spread and bake till done. Check with toothpick after 10-12 minutes. Let cool.


Sift very well and measure
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar

5 T cream or milk

2 T Crisco
1 T butter
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t salt

Add 1/2 c. of the powdered sugar to the Crisco mixture. Alternately blend in the scalded cream and the rest of the powdered sugar until it reaches a nice spreading consistency. Let sit a bit, then cut into squares.

For 1/2 recipe of Ginger Creams use 2/3 recipe of frosting.

Take a walk in the fall leaves or winter snow, then eat!


News from the education fornt

On a sad note, the high school marquee says "THANKSGIVING BRAKE 11/26".


Little Rabbit Foo Foo

On Monday a three year-old was singing music from Sunday church:

All night, all day
Angels bopping over me my Lord.


I found a new way to get little kids to practice with scissors more than just making snips around the edges of a piece of paper. Because I am feeling magnanimous, I will share it, but you must be willing to make a complete fool of yourself.
1. Visualize a hula skirt.
2. Give the kids long pieces of scrap paper (about 18x6").
3. Don't give them the scissors yet.
4. Demonstrate the cutting of the paper (in this case to make a macaroni feather for Yankee Doodle's hat).
5. As you cut you must narrate, "Now I'm going to cut and cut and CUT and cut and cut and cut and CUT AND CUT and cutncutncut almost to the end".
6. Switch to your very best opera singer imitation and repeat step 5.
7. Switch to your cheatin' heart country western voice and repeat step 5.
8. Switch to your Mickey Mouse voice and repeat step 5.
9. Go into your tired Little Blue Engine voice and cut all the way to the top of the mountain so the boys and girls on the other side will have toys to play with and good foods to eat, and repeat step 5.
10. Pass out the scissors. [Make darn tootin' sure they are Fiskars, or else why bother?]
11. Fade into the woodwork and listen to little kids imitating your imitations as they cut that whole piece of paper...
12. ...and another one...
13. ...and beg for another...
14. Let them know how terribly sorry you are that you must collect the scissors so they can go home, but promise them in your Transylvanian accent that they vill get to cut again real soon!


Today a kid told me that he had gotten a flu shot, so his mom bought him a "nactivity scene". Is that the one with ninja turtle wise men?

Goober and Cletus have tried another exorcism of my Evil Blinker. $36 for the latest attempt, but $64 for the rental car. I am sad to say the Enterprise employees who helped me were May and December Texas university graduates. They asked if I wanted to supersize the compact car I rented.


Down and across

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for
Iago, Othello villain
Elon, N.C. college
Enid, Oklahoma city
Eli, Yalie
Edina, Minneapolis suburb
anil, indigo dye
Etta, James of jazz
tse, fly half
Ott, Giant legend
Alou, diamond family...

Without them what would crossword puzzles be?

With gratitude to Will Shortz and Maurice Chevalier.

Linky in love

I can't remember how that saying goes about being lucky in love, unlucky at cards... Anyway, with the help of my teen webkid, I have working links on my blog, not just dead ends.

Unlunky at cards?


Recipe for Seven Dollar Squash

Went shopping for the autumn still life, and I found a magnificent turban squash with a tangerine red bottom and lumpy dark green top. I snapped it up, along with eight severely varigated gourds, one basic acorn squash, two mini-pumpkins, and a six-pack of Indian corn. Got home and looked at the receipt. Damn yam and squishy furthermores! That magnificent turban squash weighed in at 5.15 lbs., and cost $1.49/lb.! Clearly, this was not a squash to be discarded at the end of the painting exercise. This was a squash with expensive tastes and powerful friends.

After trying to give the squash away to everyone at work, I hauled it home along with the other still life veggies. I explained the situation to Steven's lunch gang pals. One of the guys responded in that newly deep sixteen-year-old voice, "No vegetable is worth seven dollars!"

Days passed. I started hiding the gourds like Easter eggs, but without the plastic grass. A roving herd of high school juniors passed through long enough to ponder the Indian corn. They put an ear in the microwave, and lined up to watch the show. It wasn't as good as nuking marshmallow Peeps, but it was entertaining enough for two sequels.

Despite these diversions, the responsibility for the Seven Dollar Squash weighed heavier on me each day. I resolved that Friday I would bake it, feed it to the lunch gang, and be free, free, FREE! Ha-ah-HA-HA!

Upon carving the turban squash in two, I was relieved to find it was orange. Its power over me had grown to the point I expected cosmically-charged fluorescent pickle green. I scooped out its guts, but it still strove to lure me over to the Dark Side. I cut the halves into rough sections, and placed them in a Pyrex pan lined with foil (not a coffin of Transylvanian dirt). I gave each piece a pat of butter and sprinkled it lightly with ground cloves. I looked for the brown sugar in the cupboard, but could only find a lonely honey bear bottle full just to the knees and crystalized. [Parental warning: Open the lid of the bear bottle before nuking it for thirty seconds. Wear oven mitts to remove it from the microwave, then squirt it on the evil squash with vanquishing farting noises. Ignore all comments.] Cover pan with more foil. Place in preheated 350 degree oven and bake for two hours. That is when the high school gang arrives. Since I am my mother's daughter, the squash will not be tender at the appointed hour. It will still be hard as a rock. The teenagers will get off easy without having to consume the magic squash potion. They will not have to contend with Lewis Carroll and the Mad Turban.

I don my pale green pants, and holler, "Oh save me from this turban squash with honey bear inside it!" I bake and bake and bake this Seuss squash. I bake it, then I fridge it. There's nobody around to taste it, and I'm starting to hear voices of Gary Oldman, Vincent Price, and Bart Simpson taunting ... taunting. The hidden gourds are singing the "Oompa Loompa" song hour after hour in California raisin voices.

And then the Durst acquittal hits the news. I've already gutted the squash, cut it up in sections. Can I get away with dumping it in the bay? No. A Seven Dollar Vegetable Must Be Consumed. Clean your plate. There are starving children in China.

Morning dawns after yet another sleepless night. I know what I must do. I scoop the squash sections into a large bowl, and pour in the liquid from a small can of pineapple. I mash it up with the mixer. Put it in a well-greased baking dish. Sprinkle brown sugar (yeah, I know, it was just hiding behind that 1982 bottle of Karo syrup) liberally, and dot with more butter. Cover with foil again and bake at 325 degrees along with a nice rump roast. Make a colorful tossed salad, and some broccoli with cheese sauce for returning college students. The squash is vanquished. Viva le $7 vegetables!

I'm thinking about teaching figure drawing next...


Preparing for Thanksgiving

The preschoolers have really enjoyed having a autumn still life in the classroom, especially when I let them touch all the gourds, squash, pumpkins, leaves, and baskets. They have explained to me that I should put apples, little pumpkins, and "Vivian corn" in the "cornucoconut" for decoration.


Paintbrush envy

This update in the celeb gossip column--Maurice will be going back to France tomorrow because he received a recording contract! After hogging all the painting action in Intermediate Art today, Maurice, that skinny, pointy-haired paintbrush, has lit out for the falsetto big time. It's a good thing, too. Maurice's cousins here in TX, Fluffy and Muffy, were seriously miffed that Maurice was making kids forget to use big brushes for big jobs. Muffy had been handling the day-to-day paint jobs while big sister Fluffy had some R&R in Hawaii. You know--get a tan, put some space between you and the preschoolers, breathe the tempera flowing out and the watercolor flowing in. Most of the year Fluffy is in the trenches teaching small children not to use her like a mop, a toothbrush, (or a weapon), only to be cast aside unrinsed and unloved. Fluffy deserved a break, but had to rush back to entertain that pipsqueak visiting French cousin, Maurice. Muffy had hoped to be in charge much longer. Muffy is a mid-sized brush, not really ready for the big jobs, yet too pudgy for the fine details. As an apprentice to Fluffy, Muffy never gets the freebie tropical vacations, or the cutesy-wootsy preteen fan club of little Maurice. Who could blame Muffy for harboring those fantasies of plaster of Paris overshoes...



Steven was quite concerned to arrive home yesterday to find a large box marked Simon's Catfish Filets on the doorstep. Who could tell when UPS had delivered the catfish. The box could have been sitting there for hours on a rather warm afternoon. He stood next to me while I cut open the packing tape and took out all the filler paper. He was poised to flee, and possibly barf. The boy does not have a future in operating rooms or fisheries! I'm pleased, and he's REALLY pleased, to report we received our shipment of clear bags and boxes for our upcoming craft shows.


Seuss on the loose

"I was cutting through a neighborhood between the doctor's office and my precinct polling place, and I came to a big yellow sign that said, "HUMPS AHFAD". I was still thinking it must be one of the Islamic terrorists when I hit the darn speed bump. The brain is the first thing to go..."

I first had this experience in April of 2002, so was surprised to see that the sign is still scratched after a year and a half. Since then I have learned lots more about both dromedaries and Bactrian camels! "So if you like to go bump bump, just jump on the hump of the wump of Gump."


Baby You Can Drive My Car

Woke up to the ringing phone at 5:34. Cliff was giving Steven a wake-up call. Steven needed to drive Cliff to the DART station in order to use Cliff's van to drive to school and a zit dr. appt.

Had to drop my car off at the mechanic at 8:00. The circuit board replacement two weeks ago did not cure my manic depressive turn signal. Dropped the car off, then had a lovely walk home in the cool morning air, and felt virtuous about "exercising". Cleaned house a little, and prepared a delicious lunch for Steven's gang that comes here every Friday. I made a dozen giant turkey-bacon-tomato-swiss sandwiches on Kaiser rolls. (Now I'm wondering why I capitalized Kaiser, but not swiss!) There was a relish plate, chips, red grapes, ripe pears, and three kinds of mustard. I know, I know! My father, the Condiment King, would be embarrassed by such a small array. And also, there were Dreyer's fruit popsicles for dessert.

My friends of weememories.com were working at a craft fair. They called at noon to see if I was coming to visit them as I often do, and would I pick up fast food for them. Alas, I explained, I had no car, but I had a lunch and that's a start. So I made two box lunches, and Shawn drove over to pick them up.

Instead of the usual six teenagers, eight arrived. The band kids had early lunch for a change, but they had to do without cold Dr. Pepper. Eight sixteen year-olds fills this condo! They devoured all the food, wrote up a physics lab, discussed religion, world events, computer games, and people who drive them crazy at school. I kept out of the way by cutting out photos of eyes, noses, mouths, and ears from old magazines. All my students will be doing a face/mask unHalloween/Halloween project this week. It takes a lot of eyeballs.

Steven left school, drove to the zit dr., drove home, put coolant in his dad's smoking vehicle, and got changed for work. The mechanic called and said my car was ready. Steven dropped me off on his way to work. My car was not out front. The guy who isn't named Cletus, but should be, told me the guy who isn't named Goober called the wrong person and my car wasn't ready but would be shortly. I read magazines about bass fishing, hunting, and classic Chevys for 45 minutes, and started to wonder if the guy who isn't named Goober would actually finish it today. Darryl's other brother Larry told me that Goober had my car "fixed", but when Cletus drove it out front it got manic depressive again. Now Goober is going to have to order another circuit board, because the lights and the circuit board "aren't talking to each other". Okay, fine. I walked home again, home again, jiggity jig, with a ride from Shawn for the last leg.

The day vanished like the sandwiches, but moon-flowers are blooming on the patio. Have a good weekend, ladies and gentlemen.


Itsy Bitsy Irritations

My students have a new nominee for most annoying song to hear for two straight hours. It goes like this:

There's a spider on my head, on my head.
There's a spider on my head, on my head.
There's a spider on my head, and I wish that he was dead.
There's a spider on my head, on my head.

While we've been doing some very groovy art projects related to The Spider Weaver, by Margaret Musgrove, I won't have the strength to report on them until I de-web.


Jelly Avoids Recall: Strawberry Leads Charge

120 students cast votes in the 2003 Jelly Popularity balloting during the first part of October. Jelly-lovers beat bread purists by more than two to one. Strawberry beat its only major rival, Grape, by a Wonder Bread margin. Results show upstart squeeze-bottle jellies have loaves to go before they overtake traditional jar jellies, also known as "knife jellies".

During this time voters made still life artworks with an analogous color scheme, and explored color-mixing, transparency, translucency, and paint viscosity. That's really just a fancy way to say they had a fabulous time making gloriously goopy pictures, and pretending to paint with jelly, jam, preserves, and chutney. Materials included colored cellophane, tissue papers, crayons, and my own home brew of Pseudo Smucker Paint.

If you can't get enough jelly, read
Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban. What goes into jelly anyway? Read Eating the Alphabet, by Lois Ehlert, and guess what would make good jelly. Yam jam?

Precinct results:

Pro 85
Con 34

Jar/Knife 42
Squeeze 31

Flavor Favorites
Strawberry 31
Grape 23
Cherry 9
Raspberry/blueberry mix 5
Orange marmalade 4
"Goober" (PB & J mix) 3
Blueberry 3
Honey 2
Blackberry 1
Chocolate 1
"Plain " 1
Strawberry/banana 1

If you want to know how to mix jelly paints from grape to gooseberry, do contact nlrudr@peoplePC.com. You don't even have to send the million dollars. I would just spend it on scrambled eggs and toast, anyway.


Roses are red, white, and blue

Francis Scott Key is having a severe allergic reaction. Our Commander in Chief has written a poem to the First Lump. If it were hung on an art museum wall, many people would say, "My kid could do this!" They would be right. Still, I am glad that the Republicans have brought The Arts to the forefront of The Public Consciousness. Dubya has done for poetry what Arnold has done for politics--power in the wrong hands, and painful to hear.

Soon we will hear Lieberman playing "Chopsticks". I ask you, "Can Dean paint Elvis on velvet? Is he presidential?" Bush's GOP convention acceptance speech calling for An Aesthetics Administration will leave me wishing for the kissing Tipper. Can Ashcroft go the distance as the armless Venus de Milo?


Whistler's Mother

Came home from work, sat down and did the crossword puzzle, then went to sleep sitting up in the chair for about two hours. Now I'm so groggy, I can't do anything. This all makes me feel like such an old lady.

When I used to have to sell Camp Fire Girl candy around our neighborhood, I always dreaded going to one house. The woman who lived there taught sixth grade. I thought she was a million years old, but she was probably the age I am now. She would invite me in, offer me a chair in the living room, ask me about school, and fall sound asleep. I would just keep sitting there dressed in my Camp Fire uniform, white anklets, and saddle shoes, carton of candy boxes at my feet, afraid to move or sneeze, let alone sneak out the door. After an eon she would wake up, ask me a question about my family, and drift off again. It could take over an hour to sell her a two dollar box of chocolates.

Now that I think about it, maybe acting like I'm asleep might be a new approach to classroom management! Immobilize wild savages with my deep, even breathing...

Early poll exit interviews indicate a very conservative trend in the world of jelly. Non-jelly votes are almost equal to all jelly flavors together. In the flavor category, grape and strawberry have forced out most of the other candidates. Few indie jellies have turned up, although I thought I had some votes for "pumpkin jelly". Turned out that Welch's has some Halloween pumpkins and ghosts on the grape jelly glass. Some students think pink jelly is bubble gum flavor. Bubble gum preserves is a scary concept!

It is somehow reassuring to know that kids still drink out of jelly glasses. Alas, our childhood Welch's Flintstone glasses did not survive.


Election day at last

To coincide with the California recall, this was the beginning of the biennial Jelly Popularity Poll. Since kids age 3-8 influence the spending of billions of grocery dollars, the results should not be taken lightly. Students can vote No to jelly, or vote Yes for their favorite flavor. They may not vote for jello, non-fruit condiments, bodily fluids, or health/beauty products. If they vote for a flavor with a format choice, they may then choose between squeeze-bottle jelly, or traditional knife/jar jelly. The Supreme Court has ruled that the jelly election must include jams, preserves, chutneys, and marmalade options. Also, the Green Party has won two spots on the ballot with mint and jalapeno for the first time.

It could take up to two weeks for Al Franken and Mr. Peanut to certify the results. In the meantime, I will be reading "Bread and Jam for Frances" sixteen times, doing the voices for Father, Mother, Frances, Baby Gloria, and Albert.

Approximately 250 voters are registered, but it is unclear if this is a hot-button, get-out-the-vote issue. Some registered voters will be too busy playing with the new drinking fountain, or squirting all the liquid soap out of the restroom dispenser to state their choice. Fox News has dismissed the lead-up campaign as "just more fruits engaged in slimy behavior". The mainstream media has drowned the public in Lunchables coverage leaving it incapable of making its own sandwich, let alone its own mind.

I'll be mixing up many, many jars of liquid watercolors with glitter tempera and/or Elmers glue so we can paint with "jelly". We will squash down many pieces of irridescent, pink, and red cellophane on to the paint for "glass jars".

Do you feel under-represented in this fun? This is Texas, of course, and we can probably redraw your district. Jif and Wonderbread are calling your name...

If you would like to make the Jelly Poll a national plebiscite, or just need a Smuckerpaint recipe, please email a million dollars to nlrudr@peoplePC.com.

Oh, and it isn't really a good idea to pretend that colored chalk is eye shadow.

Current Mood: currant


Alas, poor Buick!

You can smell it, Horatio. A banana-strawberry-kiwi-mango smoothie has been spilled in the Skylark. I don't jest about the scent. I'll probably have fruit flies in residence by morning. I'm ping-ponging between Lord of the Flies, Hamlet, South Pacific, and Happy Days. One nameless sixteen-year-old has jumped the shark.
He will have to wear the Scarlet "S" for Smoothie Spill.


Table matters

Been out back in my pith helmet, hacking back the cannas, elephant ears, and vines that have completely overgrown my tiny patio. The weather is lovely. Little lizards are hiding among the vines on the fence, and monarch butterflies are floating over.

The high school Gang of Six was here for lunch. I fixed a big bag of frozen hash browns, a bag of Little Smokies, ten scrambled eggs with a half bag of grated cheddar, and a quart bowl of fruit salad. They devoured it, all washed down with the requisite Texas national beverage, Dr. Pepper. Guess they were glad for a change from nachos, hot dogs, and pizza. Today I learned about the prevalence of french kissing in the school hallways, but I don't really eavesdrop.

One evening this week I gave my son The Talk about STDs and oral sex. Always wonderful dinner conversation! Normally we have the (equally disgusting) discussion of Dubya and his daily dastardly deeds. Lysol! Lysol! Clorox! Raid! Weedwackers! At breakfast the two of us don't talk much, but growl and hiss at the newspaper reports of the Texas Republican redistricting power grab.

The "Get Fuzzy" comic series on spray adhesive/deodorant for Satchel reminded me of my olden days in the art department's studio space. The building had been a brewery warehouse before being annexed by the university. It was devoid of windows and any climate control, and primitively partitioned into "private studios" for senior painting majors and grad students. All the rolls of canvas were a happy haven for miller moths. I HATE miller moths! Okay, I'm mostly over it, but there had been traumatic experiences in my childhood and teens that took years to work through with pharmaceutical assistance. The moths were so bad in the studio that they brought out my Dark Side. I came to enjoy, yes, enjoy, bringing down a moth with a well-aimed shot of aerosol artists fixative to the wings. Hell, I felt like Wyattetta Earp and Annie Oakley.

Yeah, I know you are trying to imagine kinky moth traumas! When I was little it was so scary to get up in the middle of the night, walk down the hall to the bathroom, switch on the lightl, and set a dusky miller moth flying at me. The only thing worse was when grasshoppers as big as cigars would jump at my bare legs in our parched backyard when we were sent out to get "fresh air".

When I got my driver's license, my dad drove a red and white '61 Plymouth Sport Fury with push-button transmission and rectangular steering wheel. This is quite possibly the greatest American car ever made. Should I ever be interviewed for one of those "County Snapshot" columns in the newspaper, I know I will name that as my fantasy vehicle. (I waver a lot on the guests for my fantasy dinner party, and my desert island books though, not due to any lack of consideration). The only trouble was my dad parked the Sport Fury in a gravel parking lot with the windows rolled down at his office. In the evenings, my hip-hugger, bell-bottom, macrame belt self would get the chance to drive to choir practice or cruise Taco John's. Mere words cannot describe the total panic of losing control of that car when a miller moth would fly up my flared pant leg while driving on "O" Street. Especially with Alice Cooper on the radio!

Did I happen to mention bagworms? We had mind-blowing infestations on all the bushes in our yard in my impressionable junior high years. My anti-chemical/fiscally strapped dad sent all his natural born children out to pluck the hideous things off the junipers. When we got a good coffee-canful of bagworms, we would roast them in the charcoal grill. The bagworms would emerge from their bags and writhe, but refuse to die. On the good side, I got to take my transistor radio with the earphone out on these shock and awe operations, tuned to KLMS Top 40. "Last Train to Clarksville", "Georgie Girl", "To Sir With Love"...

Alas, we still have bagworms in the Bushes.


There's a bright golden haze on the meadow

I've heard the saying that every smile is a prayer. I've smiled so many times this week remembering our Sunday morning soccer game.

The Crimson Tide Under-19 recreational soccer team had an 8:00 a.m. game. High school boys don't really relish seeing eight a.m. on Sundays. You know none of them curtailed their social life in order to be well-rested!

When we got out to the fields, some parents had set up a card table with tablecloth, and loaded it with kolaches, donuts, and orange juice. The parental cheering section got to munch and visit before the game. It was our first time wearing lightweight jackets! Hot air balloons were landing nearby. The breeze was lovely. Two fields over the cricket teams were playing their mysterious game wearing their perfectly white outfits, lending a tea-and-crumpets air of British colonial orderliness to the gorgeous morning.

The sweaty players had their turn devouring goodies after the game, very relaxed after their intense play, sharing jokes, compliments, and respectful post-game analyses. "Coach, could you get us some more eight o'clock games?" "You 'spose we could have brunch after our ten o'clocks?" Then with many thanks, they were off to do body work on their cars, talk about sub-woofers, take 45-minute showers, put off homework, and call girlfriends. Glistening, busy scarab beetles with cell phones!

Sometimes you think there could be nothing sweeter than first grade soccer guys running through the arch of parents' arms to get to the ice chest of juice boxes. Their shinpads and socks reach all the way up into their shorts. They've been swarming on the field, picking dandelions, and entangling themselves in the nets. Take lots of photos, but don't be sad. It just gets better and better.

And in glorious technicolor panivision Gordon McCrae is singing, "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning".


Wardrobe issues

Broke out my denim shirt with the scarecrow embroidery and pumpkin appliques today. It's a comfy shirt, and not Halloweeny so much as autumnal, but it has a two month season. It requires ironing, so I can only squeeze in eight wearings per year. I feel totally schoolmarmish in it.

A few years back I went to a Jim Trelease workshop. In attendance were a few public library folks like me, three dedicated parents, and the rest of the auditorium full of elementary school teachers and media specialists. ONE HUNDRED PER CENT of the elem ladies were wearing holiday sweaters, vests, and embroidered shirts with holiday button covers with their plus-sized denim skirts. Ever since, I've had this internal argument going between my aging hippie non-conformist eternally skinny (obviously deluded) voice, and my seductive crossstitch reindeer/snowflakes too-many-cookies teacher lady voice.

Seems like this bickering has been going on for thirty-three years now. On one shoulder Paul Simon is singing, "I Am a Rock", and on the other shoulder cheerleaders with perfect long blond hair are chanting "S-P-A-R-T-A-N-S! Spartans are BEST!" Granola is going mano a mano with glazed donuts. Paper or plastic? Cloth or disposable? An environmentally concerned brain in an SUV body...

And you think the Crocodile Hunter has a dangerous life!


Say "Ah"

My intermediate students were so into building constructions out of tongue depressors and the colorful lids from Crayola markers that I had to force them to go home at the end of class. We save all the lids when we throw out dead markers, and they accumulate rapidly. The class explored ways to build the constructions for balance and sturdiness, and got into a friendly competition for the most levels/stories. The results are quite trippy! Viewed from the side, the tongue depressors disappear, and the bright marker lids seem to be standing in space. Next week we want to put the constructions on a lazy susan. I'm thinking about possibilities for related collages and crayon resists, and looking at Amish quilts.

Feeling flashed-back to my first visit to the Poster Joint in 1970 Lincoln, Nebraska. A failed gas station had been converted into a black light gallery near the campus. My dad took me on this junior high counter-culture expedition. I purchased a Clark Gable GWTW poster, and a glow-in-the-dark Tweety Bird with my babysitting money. From there it was a slippery slide to fringed purses and Peace Sign candles from Pier One.

The DMN Fashion section featured Twiggy/Jean Shrimpton looks last week. I'd be very scary in fishnet stockings and white lipstick from Yardley! I could go for a Marimekko paper dress, though.


Alexis Trebek

I didn't actually resemble Joan Collins during my volunteer stint at the senior high Whiz Quiz Invitational tournament. Okay, I admit I looked like a cross between Julia Child and Roseanne. My quiz show fantasy had major holes in its hot air balloon.

I had imagined myself reading the million dollar question, or at least those Helping-Mankind-While-Twirling-My-Baton questions for sequined beauty contestants. Everyone was relieved that the bathing suit competition was dropped.

No, I didn't get to be Alex Trebek at the tournament, which is a VGT. For some matches I was the judge, which meant I ran a back-up score sheet, timed six seconds for teams to hit the buzzer after the question was read, dreaded handling any protests to a question (which thankfully didn't happen), reminded everyone to turn off their cell phones, drank bottled water, and listened to interesting questions. I was supposed to be aware of situations where teams didn't have their captains give their official answer, and where team members did not wait for the question reader to recognize them before they blurted their answer. I wasn't very good at that, but we had an experienced reader, thank heavens. For other matches I got to be the timekeeper/scorekeeper. For those I set a sixty-second timer for the speed round, and did the official scoring. I got a box lunch from Jason's Deli, plus bagels from Dunkin Donuts (not as good as Einstein Bros.). I observed smart kids having fun and being polite, and heard some very funny questions. It was less stressful than judging at speech tournaments.


Bad Day At Black Rock

My dad used to report during supper that his day at work had been a "bad day at Black Rock". I think this line came from one of the I-Can-Read-It-All-By-Myself book club books we got in the mail. The book was about good guys and pirates. The good guys put on diving suits while they dropped a swarming beehive on the bad pirates. I am pondering whether the only way to defeat the political pirates is to put on old-fashioned diving suits and drop swarming beehives on them. Does Wesley Clark know how to smoke the bees?

My dad used to leave the house each morning to walk down the hill to the bus stop with his brown bag lunch. He would ask my mother, "If I quit before noon, should I bring my lunch home or leave it there?" This deep philosophical question resonates with me more than the tree falling in the forest.

Nowadays my mom asks the question. "Howard, would you rather take care of the dead possum on the north side of the house before or after your tea and cherry pie?" It's something to think about. I plan to ask the boys, "Would you rather unload the dishwasher before or after you take care of the dead possum on the north side of the house?" "Would you rather clean your bathroom before or after your tea and cherry pie?" "Would you rather eat the dead possum on the north side of the house or make yourself a sack lunch?"

In a simpler time, I used to ask the boys if they would like to take a Lunchable to school. They would answer that they would prefer to wear underpants on their heads than take a Lunchable to middle school. Boxers or briefs?


Freezer burn

I think it is cruel and unusual punishment that they postponed the California recall election. We will have to listen to that media circus for months and months. An observant co-worker, who shall remain nameless, says Gray Davis has "liver lips". He always looks to me like someone who was cryogenically frozen, then set out to thaw and forgotten when you got invited out to dinner.


Early Childhood Influences

Lately, whenever my youngest whines, "Well, what should I eat?????????", I want to belt out, "Have a yogurt, Mr. Goldstone. Is there any little thing that I can do?", in my best Ethel Merman voice. Yes, it's a Gypsy flashback. That's the first indoor movie I can remember seeing. I was four at the most. There I am at the movies with my Broadway musical-loving parents.

I haven't had this prolonged of a flashback since my youngest took up the trumpet for middle school band in the fall of 1998. I refrained from sharing that he should "bump it with a trumpet", but on the other hand, you do have to have a gimmick. And that stands for T, and it rhymes with P, and that stands for pool. And I know all you folks are the right kind of parents... It was probably a forgone conclusion that I would be a librarian if I wasn't a burlesque stripper.

Before Gypsy, I can remember seeing a double-feature at the drive-in. I was probably expected to be asleep in the backseat of the 1954 pea-green Chevy. The first movie must have been something about Sinbad. There were pirates running around in poofy pants, and someone hiding in a rattan chest. The pirates plunged their swords into the chest. I recently viewed a '50's movie of "The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad". It had the feel of that early memory, but not the actual sword scene. I'll have to keep searching for my roots.

The second feature presentation was "Porgy and Bess". While I have golden brown, shadowy memories of that movie and the legless Porgy, I still have a deep fondness for Gershwin music and those scooter/dollies kids race on in Phys. Ed.

My parents were shocked when I let my sons, then aged 10-14, watch Steve Martin in "Roxanne". "Good grief," I muttered, while I secretly sang, "You gotta do it with finesse!"

Butter or Sour Cream?

Yippee! Baked potato weather has returned to Texas, if only for a day. All week I've been teaching kiddos that hippos have no corners. Hippos are shaped like baked potatoes, and everybody can draw a baked potato! Diving boards do have corners, but they are pretty easy to draw with straight lines. It's really easy to draw a hippo doing a flip off the diving board since they spin around so fast that it's almost like a scribble. You have to practice to do a flip. You have to practice to control the lines you draw, too. You should always make sure you won't land on anyone before you go off the diving board. You should always look out for crocodiles in the river, too. Crocodiles have lots of straight lines, and very sharp teeth. You can't see their feet if they are in the river. If you can see their feet, you should run away FAST. The good news is that crocodiles can't climb the diving board ladder or the trees by the riverbank. You will definitely need a hippo gray Crayola marker, a bright green marker, a jungle-ly lime green marker, and turquoise for the river. After all that diving you will need a mint green marker because everyone likes mint chocolate chip ice cream cones after swimming. And then you do have to ponder whether hippos wear bathing suits or goggles, use snorkles and flippers, drink Gatorade, or throw frisbees. From a health and color scheme standpoint, you have to worry that hippos will forget to use sunscreen. But back to the baked potato! Everyone knows that hippos have fat pear heads with little green grape ears and big cheerio nostrils. They have hamburger feet, but hot dog tails. None of this makes me crave a fresh spinach salad with celery and zucchini. I WANT the baked potato and the ice cream! I don't have to explain what happens when I teach pizza color wheels with complementary color pepperoni for a week at a time. This is why art teachers of a certain age tend to be built like papier-mache covered balloons.

Check your library's new book shelf for:

The new hippos / by Landström, Lena.
Stockholm; New York : R. & S. ; Andover : 2003.
Subjects Hippopotamus -- Juvenile fiction.

Neighbors -- Juvenile fiction

ISBN: 9129658233 :

Description: 32 p. : chiefly col. ill. ; 25 cm.

Summary: When a mother hippo and her little hippo arrive at the hippo village on the edge of the river, they do not receive a warm welcome. Accepting new neighbors is sometimes hard.

Genre: Children's stories -- Pictorial works.


Diets for Pets

Overweight American couch potato pets have been much in the news this week. As with people diets, there are always conflicting opinions. Alas, I am sad to report that the Petsmart on the east side of town has opposing views to our westside Petsmart's zucchini diet for aquarium fish. There's going to be a rumble between the Jets and the Sharks over this, and my fishies are going to be terribly disappointed if I cut them off from zucchini cold turkey. They have been sooo happy with their veggie. Perhaps TOO happy! Maybe zucchini should be a controlled substance.

The soccer monsoons have begun. The first game was set for 8:30 tonight, but it's been pouring since noon. It's also the height of ragweed and cedar elm pollen season, and our ozone level is dangerous, no thanks to the previous governor of the Lone Star state. The sunrises are an intense red due to all the particulate matter in the air. It's a scene right out of Don DeLillo's "White Noise".

Struggling with national economic employment issues. Is it cruel to pizza delivery guys to expect them to drive here in this weather? Is it more cruel to deprive them of the tips that make it possible for them to put oil in their leaky old cars, buy a six-pack, and go to the laundromat?

Steven's car has a blown engine, and now has a salvage value of forty bucks. He used it to get to his job. His job helped him buy the '91 Geo and insure it so he could get to his job... Since I have that extra zucchini the fish can't have, maybe I should let Steven have it!


Addendum to the codicle

The U.N. Purse Emissary has announced a clarification to Part One, Draft One. She wishes to indicate that a legal size envelope should fit in the purse - you know so all types of bills can be carried around in your purse until due date.

North Korea has already ratified this addendum. Refreshments were served.

This post addresses a hot-button issue for many Americans

Specifications for the Perfect Purse for the Middle-aged Woman, Part One, Draft One.

Background: The U.S. retail industry has largely ignored the wishes and needs of a huge segment of the consumer population, thus forcing millions of shoppers to spend hundreds of hours every year in an absolutely futile search. The cost to the economy is not limited to the volume of lost sales, but has trickle-down effects in worker productivity, employer costs for mental health insurance coverage, and use of personal leave days. The only beneficiaries of the status quo are the makers of newsprint paper, and of those strange little packets of something you should not ingest found in purses for sale across this great country of ours.

How, then, must a purse be designed to maximize aesthetics and efficiency for the pre- and post-menopausal members of our society? What, then, must be our rallying call to action? Before this decade is out we must find the cure for Traumatic Purse Shopping Stress Disorder, henceforth TPSSD.

I offer these thoughts with the hope that this effort can be an international unifying and stabilizing force. I am willing to arrive on the deck of an aircraft carrier wearing a flight suit IF I only had the Perfect Purse. I am also threatening to host a pledge drive AND run for governor of California.

1. The perfect purse would not be deep enough that (a)you have to dig down to find the mysterious items in the bottom, or (b)large enough that things you never use move in and take up residence for years.

2. Disposable diapers should not fit because WE ARE DONE WITH THAT!!!

3. The shoulder strap should be that medium length so the bag rides between elbow and waist.

4. The surface should never be scratchy or itchy.

5. It should have those little straps with velcro for holding a key ring. [For instance, my old purse had one I used for the mailbox key. Then I didn't have to turn off the car to get the mail, and I could locate the key even in the dark since it wasn't floating around.]

6. The perfect purse would have zippered compartments for excess credit cards, feminine supplies, and pills. [We wouldn't need those antidepressants if our purse was perfect].

7. The purse must have a cellphone holster that allows us to actually hear the phone ringing when our ex-husbands call to say the child support check will be late.

8. It should also have compartments to hold pens, business cards, and the card for recording our blood pressure readings at the grocery store pharmacy.

9. You should be able to tell the front from the back (or maybe it's the left from the right) by touch alone so everything can be located in the dark, especially gum and Dramamine.

10. The lining of the perfect purse should be guaranteed against tears for twenty-five years.

11. The contents of the outside pockets should not fall down under the passenger seat when you swerve because your coffee spilled in your lap.

12. Country western embroidery and rhinestones are prohibited.

13. After years of study, U.N. Purse Emissary, Shawn, has determined that the Perfect Purse must be the size of legal paper. (a)If that isn't big enough, you need a briefcase, day-timer or a tote bag anyway. (b)My current purse is the size of letter paper, but my glasses case barely fits. (c)Purses must be brought into compliance with international treaties.

14. A 24-hr. waiting period and an ID check should be required before a consumer can purchase a purse with (a)bamboo handles, (b)fringe, (c)sharp corners, (d)poodles, (e)plush fabric, (f)macrame, (g)see-through plastic, (h)the Eiffel Tower, (i)the international symbol for a martini glass, or (j)anything that looks like it was made from the pelt of a Hells Angel or (k)his jacket.

15. All purses should be full of money instead of crumpled up paper.


Imelda Marcos Day

I've already written about this being Blue Shoes week in my classes. Had another packed preschool class today with three sets of twins and many other sibling combos. Add Keano to the list of student names, with Kobe and Gwyneth. It is another big year for preschoolers named Jack, but I also have a Frank. The wave of Sams has passed.

Anyway, back to blue shoes. Met my allegedly intermediate art class. Right now it is just five girls, with an age span 8-13. We did drawings of our own shoes in all the blue media I could round up, and brainstormed different fashion styles and practical considerations of shoes. Then we made very blue mixed media drawings of shoes lined up on closet shelves--Cinderella's glass slipper, roller skates, curly-toed elf shoes, retro groovy boots, glittery fashion shoes, tennis shoes, bunny slippers... Two of the girls very conscientiously drew pairs of shoes neatly lined up on the shelves. Some drew mateless exotic shoes. One girl drew pairs of shoes, but jumbled up like the bottom of my closet, with wonderful multiple sketches that made the shoes seem to wiggle and dance. I should probably clarify that the single exotic shoes were not dancing on tables! After that we made clay prototypes of flowered flip-flops, ladybug high heels, kitty cat slippers and caterpillar slippers...Earlier in the day 7-year old boys made shoes with computer chips, cobra snakes, spiders, and cell phones. Maxwell Smart meets Johnny Quest.

With all the design energy out there, why can't someone create the Perfect Purse for women my age???


Sweater weather

It's confusing when North Texas suddenly changes from 100+ degrees to dark, rainy, and 80 degrees. We want to wear sweaters, eat baked potatoes, chili, and oatmeal. Not that we want to turn off the a/c set at meat locker, but we stiill expect snow flurries.

My Tuesday classes are packed. We're reading a cute new book, Two Shoes, Blue Shoes, New Shoes. It's funny watching the lights click on when I ask if anyone has blue shoes today? What about new shoes? What about two shoes??! I do! I do! I do! We're using all sorts of blue mediums, and when we're finished my good helpers each collect all the blue markers, crayons, colored pencils, rubbing crayons, and texture plates. The three year olds learn about sorting and categories, the four year olds love being the collector/enforcers. The five year olds get bogged down writing their names on their paper. The six year olds ponder why we say we are "blue" to mean sad, but a whole painting of blues makes us feel like jumping in a swimming pool. Seven year olds draw baboon astronauts zipping through space in crazy shoe shaped rockets with the shoelaces trailing behind.

Take your blue suede shoe out for a flight around the galaxy! Be sure to wear your crown and fairy wings. Make that shift into warp speed.


I can barely walk today after my mad frenzy of cleaning and rearranging yesterday. My calves and thighs are really stiff and sore. Maybe that means I "lifted with my legs", since my back is fine. The college guys have gone off to school so first I mucked out their bedroom, closets, and linen cabinet. Then I made the semiannual attack on the boys' bathroom. Took the shower curtain out back and shot it. By this time I'd entered a whirling dervish consciousness of unlimited strength and energy. I was seeing neon colors, man! I dealt with the storage space under the stairs. Moved a bookcase upstairs for all the required high school English books and college stuff students can't bear to sell. Stashed the sci-fi paperbacks, "novels" by Star Trek alumni, and role-playing books in a cupboard. Moved a table downstairs, and the sewing cabinet and rocking chair upstairs. Moved the computer from the dining area into my room, and moved the bookshelves across the dining area so the table finally sits centered under the ceiling fan! It was like Tetris nirvana! Rearranged everything in my room so the computer would be near the window and phone jack. Took a trunkful of stuff to Goodwill, and three black trash bags to the dumpster. In the middle of this religious experience Steven showed up with his pals for lunch unexpectedly. Their view of this sweat-drenched, crazed 48-year-old maenad wearing, gasp, a sleeveless shirt, flapping her arm flab and heaving stacks of National Geographics around the living room will probably haunt them for years. Plus, there wasn't anything good to eat, and I sure wasn't cooking. They'd have been better off cruising for fries.

Spent the afternoon today studying the blue damselflies sitting alongside the pool. Watched ants scurrying on seemingly random paths. Observed clouds forming and dissipating in a largo bass violin concert. A streetlight loomed its brontosaurus neck above the privacy fence.

Gave the new black and orange mollies in their pristine aquarium a slice of zucchini to nibble. They are ecstatic. To them, something wonderful fell from the sky!


Bounteous harvest

The mail brought another batch of return address labels from non-profits today. That makes three batches this week alone. I used to feel guilty about using the labels without sending a check, but now that I get enough labels to wallpaper a small bathroom, I'm over it. My mom used to make us throw out the Christmas Seals that came in the mail because she wasn't contributing, instead of letting us paste them all over the cardboard shoebox that held our crayons. We grew up taking the U.S. Mail, like most everything else, VERY seriously. The feds finally got Al Capone for violation of the Christmas Seal Abuse statute, you know. When they captured Pretty Boy Floyd, he had Christmas Seals pasted all over his brown Florsheims. You don't even want to know about Bonnie and Clyde.


Reentry difficulties

I feel like a Gemini astronaut returning to earth and having trouble with the increased Gs. I'm splashing down after an intense week in an alternate orbit. Freeze-dried ice cream may be required, or at least spiked Tang.

Had a terrific, memory-making visit with my folks. They arrived Thursday to spend time with the boys heading off soon to college, and to attend the last Capers' summer camp "show day". It was a hoot to have my parents and my sons attend my preschool students' "Magic Carpet" show, see our funny art, and hang out with my dear friend/coworkers.

Howie & Fritz feel very connected because my students use all the recyclable goodies collected from the Lincoln bridge club ladies and golf buddies in their art projects. My folks have perfected a process for removing RX labels and washing bottles, then they ship the goodies to me. Their efforts have mushroomed to the point where the bridge club ladies' next-door neighbor's friends are saving Rx bottles for my students. We do worry about the ladies that forget to use up all their pills before they contribute the bottles. I received some interesting bottles this time from a woman who is on her very last chemo. She is as good as she will ever be, but she still gets a kick from sending odd containers for our art constructions. I'll send her photos of our "Magic Carpet" genies and bazaars as soon as I can download them from the digi camera. I hope the photos will make her laugh. Our genie puppets were made of seriously groovy mid-1970s polyester fabrics. Our Arabian bazaars used many recyclables. We went with the idea of camel caravans trading goods and stories. We had little clothespin people dressed as shopkeepers, princesses, thieves, genies, and heroes. We even had litters for the princesses made of plastic strawberry baskets with "silk" curtains. (There was some confusion between "litters" and "scraps".) One girl kept removing the clothespin people's clothing to put them into the Rx bottle hot tubs she had glued on the roof of her bazaar. Even Scheherezade needed to unwind sometimes!

Had a great trip to Ft. Worth's Cultural District on Saturday. Saw the Egyptian exhibit at the Kimbell, the new Modern Art Museum, and the expanded Amon Carter Museum. That was a lot of walking for my dad, but my mom just kept getting more excited and energized as the day went on.

Celebrated Sunday with breakfast at the old-fashioned cafe we've been visiting together since 1990. The folks have watched the boys grow from kids to men on 2 eggs over medium, 2 sausage patties, and 2 pancakes. Now it takes two orders of french toast plus black coffee, bacon and grits for those "little guys"! My sentimental 18-yr. old had the waitress take our picture. I get teary when I think of it!

Put on a lunch break spread Monday for the HS juniors with open campus. Six kids can consume vast quantities of food and Dr. Pepper in half an hour. My folks' outlook for the next generation was drastically improved by the neat, respectful, funny, ravenous students. My dad went down Memory Lane to the late night snacks his mom prepared for his HS buddies back in the Great Depression. I can't "whomp up a meal" like my grandma could, but I do think teenage boys can be the sweetest humans on earth. Some moments are worth all the smelly sweat socks in the living room and growing oil spots on the driveway!


My dear college men:

You are about to embark on a grand adventure, but be sure to wear flip-flops in the shower so you don't get foot fungus! There is much to be said for independence, freedom, self-determination, cooperative living, and partying on. There is nothing to be said for foot cooties. What are your ideas about a shower caddy for hauling personal hygiene products to the potties (I can't help it if I teach preschoolers) There are some small buckets in the shed. Try to stock up at your dad's on shampoo, soap, hayfever medicine, ramen noodles, envelopes, stamps, vitamins, Tylenol, phone cards, detergent, deodorant, LOTS of deodorant!

You are welcome to take any towels and washcloths from upstairs EXCEPT the navy blue ones. Please check with me about blankets, but you are welcome to most of them. You can take ALL the Christmas coffee mugs, and it would be a great relief to me if you did. You are welcome to the icky silverware. I would be glad to show you what qualifies. I don't want any of this stuff back, ever! I have dreamed of this day for years.

Please sell off some role-playing books and card collections before you leave, or else store them in your dad's attic. The same goes for non-classic sci-fi books, and free weights.

I think you should take your suits and dress clothes for interviews and convocations. Do you need a refresher course on ironing?

I need all your dorm address and phone info, and your roommate's name. You do not have to like your roommates, but you do have to be respectful and pleasant. Set clear boundaries. Expect the same from them. Ask yourself, "How important is it?," when they leave their used dental floss on your desk. It's just like being brothers, really, and you have a lot of experience with that. If they bring a pet turtle and smuggle canned veggies from the cafeteria to feed it, you might be able to get a new roommate. It is not okay to make them eat their Moody Blues album. I speak from experience here.

I will continue to pay for your gas, especially if you are driving to a job! I will try to pay for your cell phone for awhile, but we will have to see how that goes. Try not to use it as your primary communication device.

Take the Zout and Shout! Remember, the longer dirt and sweat stay in clothes, the less they wash out! Composting is not the answer to your wardrobe needs. Somehow this reminds me that you may want to register to vote in your new town, or apply for absentee ballots!

Make sure you have all your health insurance information and cards from Dad. I can make copies of your immunization record if you need that. Remember you are both allergic to Ceclor.

Turning yourself blue with fabric dye can make you sick. If you must tattoo or pierce yourself, make sure it will never be visible to your mama or any potential employer. If you are going to do weird things with your hair, get it out of your system soon. If you are going to get religion or become a vegetarian, please expect a lukewarm response. Avoid box-cutters and gambling on football games.

Remember that I love you!!! Email me every week so I don't worry. When I worry, I call very, very early on Sunday mornings. I am so proud of you both. The world is lucky to have you on board.



Twenty-one son

My oldest son turned twenty-one today. What an amazing adventure this parenting has been! Threw me for an emotional loop today, reminiscent of the post-partum hormonal weirdness of August, 1982. Had to have a cheeseburger and fries for lunch to make it through the day. I'll bloat up like a parade balloon tomorrow. Twenty-eight preschool students with fake tattoos will struggle with the tether ropes to keep me from bumping into buildings. Twenty elementary girls in pink sequin flip-flops and "Princess" t-shirts will do Kilgore Rangerettes routines. Eight elementary boys will keep water in their mouths all the way back from the drinking fountain, looking like tuba players (so they can spit it on the classroom floor). Five GOLDEN rings....


Ozone Alert

Poor air quality is predicted for the next few days. In fact, we are at level purple in the DFW area; dangerous for all people and poodles. When I go out to get the newspaper at 5:45 a.m., I expect to see a purple haze hovering over the parking lot. Purple haze. All in my brain. Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! My lyrics are starting to braid. It's quite a double helix.

Today we did fabric mache on top of the papier mache camel. We're trying to get the camel texture with frayed and thread-bare terry towels and offensive double knits from the Bridge Club Ladies' Polyester Amnesty Program. If it turns out weird when we paint the camel, we'll give it a splendid saddle blanket. Fabric mache makes the project stronger, but I have never used it as the final layer before. This is the most inspiring papier mache book I've ever found:

The Simple Screamer: A Guide to the Art of Papier and Cloth Mache, by Dan Reeder.

We've had fun reading these stories about camels:

What's the Matter, Habibi?, by Betsy Lewin.

The Camel Who Took a Walk, by Jack Tworkov.

How the Camel Got His Hump, by Rudyard Kipling.

Then, of course, there's the seven hump Wump in One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, by my hero, Dr. Seuss.

Voodoo-zoodoo! I'm getting an inspiration for an art project with camels brushing their teeth, [and it's about time!], like the kitchen kangaroo project.


Roomier nest

Sending my second son off to college soon. I feel so relieved and grateful to know I have helped raise a child to become a reasonably self-sufficient young adult! I enjoy my email relationship with my eldest. We don't talk on the phone very often during the school year, but I like it when he calls with a problem we can brainstorm together. We now have more respectful conversations between two adults. I love NOT knowing if he ever washes his sheets and towels during the semester. Since he's lived on campus for three years, I haven't had to worry about him driving, or living on Ramen noodles. It's nice hearing how he has solved his own problems, or found people to give him good advice. I like finding that he has good sense choosing friends, has gotten along with roommates, and has learned (the hard way) to keep track of his bank card expenses. I haven't agreed with all his choices, financial or academic, but he's chosen wisely more often than not.

In some ways, having the guys go off to college is like the transition from pregnant to parent. There's a lot of accepting that I don't have all the answers, and I can't control it all. When a college kid smiles at you, it is almost as mind-boggling as that first baby's first smile. Heavens! I've helped create a young citizen of the world!

Building a better camel

Ah, but it feels good to be in the final camp of the summer. The theme? "Magic Carpet Ride". Not the Steppenwolf song, but the Arabian Nights with poofy pants, magic lamps, and strong-willed floor-coverings. Okay, I admit I would jump on a Harley chopper with Peter Fonda if it wasn't too hot outside, but this is a different fantasy. Imagine a hooded cobra saying, "Charmed, I'm sure," in Alec Guiness' voice during polite introductions. "Swish and slither," according to the girls. "Suck-all-your-blood reptile convention", add the boys.

The preschoolers think the camel armature is a "Campbell", so we may have to name our desert creation, "Soup". Henry, age four, says the camel is not real because, "it is made of materials". Recycled materials, I might add. My favorites are the plastic jugs that held the sourdough pretzels from Office Depot. It is always good to know you are contributing to an artistic masterpiece and an environmental nirvana when you are compulsively chomping on pretzels. Oscars for Best Supporting Junk in a Documentary go to poster mailing tubes, wire coat hangers, egg cartons, plastic Easter eggs, Sara Lee foil pie pans, and sponge packing materials (from Raytheon, our corporate recycling genie). Held together with several rolls of clear packing tape, the camel/Campbell is now ready to papier mache. Of course, the empty rolls from the packing tape will be transformed into the golden bracelets of Wali Dad:

The Gifts of Wali Dad: A Tale of India and Pakistanby Aaron Shepard, Daniel San Souci (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 4-8
Edition: School & Library Binding

It is good to rub the lamp and free some magic on a day when it is 108 degrees. It is good to imagine being Wali Dad, the grass-cutter in his small hut. Help us all find moments of self-sufficiency, simplicity, clarity, and contentment.


It's not velour, it's dust!

2300 hours---Noticed homeland obscurity on every surface. Was it as thick and plush as the red shag carpet in my 1977 apartment? 'Fraid so. Does the enemy wish to lull us into fluffy complacency in the face of a parental visit? Must snap out of it!

0800 hours---Embarked on Operation Lysol Liberty. Was I excited? You bet! Was Rummy on hand to provide play-by-play and color? Or off trying to spin confusion from clarity?

0900 hours---Elite team of one began search for Webs of Dust Encrustion. Were they in short supply? Hardly!

1000 hours---Convoy delivering Greased Lightning, Fantastic, and Windex encountered smoke screen from evil enemy vacuum cleaner belt. Would I use my complete chemical arsenal against the enemy? Would I consider a nuclear attack? Would that be safer than Scratch and Sniff?

1100 hours---Doubt entered stage left. Could I go the distance? 24-7/11-365-409? Did I have the psychological stamina, hormonal drive, and enough trash bags? Should I expect resistance from the local sofa spud residents? Duh.

1200 hours---Sixth Texas Laundry Load unit arrived at ironing checkpoint. Did Tony Blair use spray starch on dress shirts? Could the French change recessed lightbulbs?

1500 hours---Struggled against enervating heat to move $110 of groceries from armored vehicle to mess hall. Were native males available to assist? Shirley, you joke.


Dragon demographics

8-year-old boy:

"You know, there are more boy dragons than female dragons, but there are more girl females than boy females."

Pass the Paint

The preschoolers were pretty quick to catch on to Pass the Paint today. They learned to stop painting when the music stopped, and which direction to pass their color in less than three repetitions. There was only one minor spill, and just a few instances of polymorphously-perverse tempera-wallowing.

We were painting our bug castles. These are small box castles just the right size for the Queen Bee, her ladybugs-in-waiting, dragonflies, knight crawlers, and roly-polies of the round table to inhabit. The castles have paper towel tube towers, french fry box balconies, and teeny-tiny jewel-encrusted thrones. Alas, sometimes this idyllic kingdom of the Queen Bee is attacked by the evil Spider Queen and her minions. Don't get me started on what a weird word "minions" is. I see this scenario where Condoleezza Rice's brain is swapped with a scallion's brain, and everybody wears collander hats connected to tubes, wires, and ancient hair-dryers. You remember that Yogi Bear episode with the scientist in the Airstream trailer, swapping Yogi's brain with a chicken's? Of course you do! It is a Jellystone classic.

There are lots of advantages to playing Pass the Paint. Everybody gets every color eventually. Everybody gets to paint along to the "William Tell Overture" and the "Return of the Valkyries" with great gusto. Everybody gets to ooh and aah over every color like Santa had just brought them a pony. Everybody gets to argue about which musical selection was in Jurassic Park, or Fantasia Two, or the hit kid movie of the day. Everybody gets to practice a routine, master it, and correct their neighbors (a four-year-old's favorite activity), but the game has no winners or losers.

Sometimes I ponder redecorating the condo in one long game of Pass the Paint. Could my little castle home glory in the creamy paint application of Thiebald and Diebenkorn? Could it have the metallic accents of Whistler's Peacock Room? Could I revel in squishy purple polka dots on glitter pink walls? I want gift wrap tube towers and a cardboard drawbridge! Ms. Nancy, Ms. Nancy, let down your hair!


Revenge of the Storytime Lady

For seven years I've gathered small children in a circle to listen to stories. There are few things more magical than sharing books and stories with children. They respond to the words and illustrations so openly. I try to rise to their eager anticipation and rapt attention. In perfect moments we all become fused in the enchantment of the story. In other moments, there are Velcro shoes.

Velcro is to the Storytime Lady what Lord Vordemort is to Harry Potter. One child has the power to destroy the bubble of enchantment. Just one child with Velcro shoes can bring down a sparkling rainbow communion. Just one child, innocently, but inattentively, adjusting the straps on shoes that light up when stomped and sport a registered trademark movie character. SKRWASH. SKKRWASH. SKKRWASSSH. SSSKKRWASSSH. It's more contagious than yawning or SARS! In five seconds every child in the circle save one is doing the Velcro Thing. Once is not enough. The Velcro always SKKRWASHES twice, thrice... Nails on the blackboard. Dental surgery. Indiana Jones with snakes and rats. Diaper rash. Steel wool loofahs. College statistics classes. Bus rides. Athlete's foot. Campground restrooms. Machine coffee in a paper cup on a nocturnal crosscountry drive... And now that one non-SKKRWWWASHING child has covered his ears, assumed the fetal position, and is moaning for his special bunny....

The Storytime Lady finally acts. After seven years! The magic number. Yes, the Lady of the Swollen Feet, oh She of the Dark Fatigue, wraps herself in the Cloak of the Mastercard. She joins the Quest for the Perfect Shoe. She finds wilderness sandals that look like sawed-off walking boots with tire tread soles. Each sandal has four Velcro straps. The Storytime Lady lusts for the power! She becomes a crazed, stomping ,orthopedic, menopausal robot on the rampage. Rambo Reader draped in Velcro ammo belts... It's the whole nine yards! Anything you can SSKRRWASSH, she can SKRWWASSH better. She can SKKRWASSSH anything better than you. .......

But now all is quiet. So quiet Bambi and his mother could walk out into the meadow. The Storytime Lady slowly opens the book. She begins to read "Millions of Cats", by Wanda Gag.


I think I'd like to invert the Shoemaker & the Elves. I'd make whimsical things by day, and the elves would spirit them away to sell to the king for fantastic amounts each night. Then the elves would leave a cute suit of clothes, and maybe some bread & cheese, on my work table.


Crossing over to the corrugated dark side?

A question came up today about Corobuff. The product didn't ring any bells, especially since I imagined it being spelled "Korobuff". Somehow that sounded like a perfect Greek Adonis or Cretan bull-leaper with a Zonker tan, so I was curious. After all, I'm old but not dead.

Did a little Dogpile search and eventually corrected my spelling. Oh, yeah, Corobuff is the printed corrugated paper rolls we use for stage sets, prom decor, scalloped bulletin board borders, parade floats, and patriotic grocery store displays. I found the site for Bemiss-Jason, the maker of Corobuff and lots of other great art materials like Spectra tissue paper. As I clicked around the site I suddenly found myself in The House of Darkness, a Stephen King website. Get me outta here! This is too much like the day I've had!

While squeezing a plastic bottle of fabric glue this morning, the entire top of the bottle blew off. Out plopped 4 oz. of something that looked like a Ghostbusters prop or industrial-strength Pillsbury cinnamon roll icing, and smelled quite mind-altering. The weirdest part is that the glue now coating my hand seemed to have an ultra-violet glow. Or maybe it was the fumes...

Haven't had so much fun since squeezing the tube of gold printing ink onto the brayer plate a couple summers ago. The bottom of the tube popped open shooting groovy gold goo back on me and my brand spanking new walking shoes. Just beam me up to Oz, Slimer.

Perhaps I should lie down with a cold cloth on my forehead. I keep seeing Mediterranean surfer dudes riding waves of blue bulletin board borders. Alternately, I could go rent "Shirley Valentine" again at Blockbuster.



Out of the blue the garbage disposal just yawned and belched like a crocodile that ate a poodle. Gave me the willies. I have goosebumps up and down my arms. The sounds of running major appliances are the background music of my life. If they all cease at once I wonder if my heart quit beating. (Oh, Lordy, Mizz Amana, we'z all agonna die!) Still, I never heard the disposal belch before in all my born days.

My mom used to admonish us for burping by chanting, "To squelch a belch and bear the pain, or belch a belch and bear the shame?" In my family shame was clearly more horrible than pain. A belch could go down on your Permanent Record, after all.


Scuba drama

Had to "dress up" for this camp's performance day. I love having a job that requires jeans and tennies 99% of the time. I can get by without pantyhose even on show days, which is a dang good thing in Texas. Today I couldn't wear my natural linen pantsuit with the raspberry knit shell that perfectly matched my toenail polish. I had to wear the black sleeveless challis and the Cornhusker red linen jacket with my uncomfortable black sandals. My toenails clashed!

At the end of the preschoolers' Australia play the kids who were the scuba divers in the Great Barrier Reef were supposed to say, "That was a fantastic adventure!" Everytime they ran through it this one little girl would belt out, "That was an enphastic adventure!"

"Enphastic Adventure" was probably the name of Clashing Toenails' first rock CD.


Beatles' Stewardesses

From tempera paint to Techno Woman! Whoo. Whoo. Whoo! I managed to make a link turn underline blue in the mysterious realm of html. Just visualize Granny from the "Beverly Hillbillies" making a guest appearance on "Mission Impossible". Be sure to visualize it in black and white on a 15" screen. Squint at it while drinking Quik chocolate milk and eating a tuna salad sandwich on Wonder Bread down in the neighbor's basement among framed National Geographic maps, souvenirs from The War In The Pacific, and dressmakers' forms. The smell of a baking Duncan Hines chocolate cake should lurk on the fringes of your consciousness.

Barbara Feldon. Agent 99. Great hair. Great voice. Smarter than Maxwell. That is who I wanted to be when I grew up.

Spent many happy Sixties hours playing "The Beatles' Stewardesses" with the three other girls on the block in my grade. As stewardesses, we had to dress up in sparkly plastic Cinderella shoes, old, itchy petticoats, and Julie's grandma's ancient fox furs with the eyes, teeth, and claws. We had to be so charming that the Beatles couldn't help but fall in love with us. There are probably sociology and psychology masters theses examining "Tribal Status as Predicted by Childhood Imaginary Beatle Boyfriend". So as to foster a spirit of openness in this blog, I must reveal that I was always George's girlfriend. I was very sad when he died forty years after our idyllic imaginary romance.

This is Julie's 48th birthday. She was always Paul's special stewardess. We played this game on the basement stairs, while listening to her big sister's LPs on the family stereo that was as big as a house trailer. It was just like the cardboard stereo in Barbie's Dream House! When we got tired of catering to the Fab Four's in-flight whims, we adjorned to the "mud room" to drink warm bottles of Coke, and eat potato chips from a large cardboard tub. My fondness for the burnt chips confirmed my status as George's girlfriend. John's imaginary girlfriend grew up to write contracts for industrial carpeting and Christian romance novels. Paul's girlfriend is the hostess in her husband's Mexican restaurant. Ringo's girlfriend achieved professional success despite that early stigma.

I'm hearing "A Taste of Honey", but smelling Julie's cat's litter box. I'm a day tripper....


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