Ms. Frizzle

I'm adding a link to a NY middle school science teacher's blog. We seem to share a connection to Joanna Cole & Bruce Degen's fashion diva/teaching mentor. The advantage of teaching art, rather than science, is we have fewer fires, explosions, and funky smells.


Meanwhile, back at the monastery...

Intriguing discussions with my 8-10 yr. old class about George Rodrigue's "Blue Dog" paintings and works by Paul Klee yesterday. The girls arrived at the conclusion that Blue Dog is the artist's representation of himself, and that he puts himself in different situations by painting Blue Dog in those symbolic scenes. Pretty abstract thinking! Later we were looking at a Paul Klee watercolor with geometric shapes and very clean pastel colors. They were able to perceive a zigzag spatial effect, so we were chatting about the difficulties we had creating the illusion of space and perspective in our group "Pet Shop" mural. Then the girls decided the Klee painting was of a "trying-on-clothes place". Took awhile for me to understand they were talking about a folding Japanese screen. Sddenly one girl announces the painting, "isn't a screen. It's an empty mind." I love that kid. She's a breath of fresh air twirling Tibetan prayer wheels, or maybe the third eye of Sponge Bob! When her mom let her pick out a print at the MOMA show in Houston to give me for Christmas, she couldn't decide whether Van Gogh's "Starry Night", or a Dali of "hallucenogenic goddesses" best fit me.

If I can't be a princess, I wouldn't mind being a goddess!


Spending Wolfie's Birthday On the Mars Rover

Tuesdays, I sometimes muse on intelligence, genetics (nature vs. nurture), and music on the drive home from work. I have the treat of teaching the 4-yr.old son of the symphony conductor. The little guy is very verbal and formal, meticulous, has a sense of humor, is social without being rowdy, and has a long attention span. He processes verbal instructions, and can also give clear verbal instructions about abstract spatial concepts..."Ms. Nancy, could you please hot glue the spoon onto the red lid so that it can shoot the Martians in this direction?" After several tries we both conclude that the spoon cannot be attached to the syrup bottle lid atop the Rx bottle on the egg carton in the way he wants. I ask him to think about a different way to position the spoon to shoot the Martians. While he is problem-solving, the next kid walks up to me and says, "Ms. Nancy, I have poopy all over my hand." Indeed he does, and he has smeared it everywhere. There I stand holding a very hot glue gun in one hand, and placing my other hand on top of the pooper's hair to keep him immobilized so he won't touch me. I look around for the two most responsible kids who aren't actually reenacting professional wrestling moves to summon adult reinforcements. I give them explicit permission to run in this one-time situation, then I try to get two other kids to stop waving pipe-cleaners near each others' eyes, redirect the attention of the class now getting into the whole poop stand-up comedy scene, while continuing to weave away from the hand of poop like some sort of professorial caterpillar in a Fantasia-esque cartoon. Alas, the messengers have run off in the wrong direction to get help, so I wave the very hot glue gun to point them in the other direction. Now, at my other side, the conductor's son appears. He has found a new solution to the spoon gun problem that he would like to explain to me!

After class I explained to his mother how impressed I am with his verbal and problem-solving skills. She says he loves to build with Legos, but that his creations are always symmetrical. I look down at the junk-art Rover. It is not symmetrical. Maybe I'm a good influence, in my own crazed little tp tube way.

So, it was fun to hear the classical music radio DJ explain that today is Mozart's birthday. Genius, reason, creation, form, chaos, focus, and bodily functions!


Mind Bloggling

Once again I've been sucked into playing with the colors on this Itty Bitty Blog. This is even more satisfying than building a perfect Sim house, and I don't have to keep borrowing money...


Do Not Try This At Home

CollageMama's Top Ten Kitchen Disasters

These adventures are all true, but are not necessarily related to food preparation.
While some of these disasters are at least partly the fault of my sons’ father, none of them were major contributing factors to our divorce. In fact, some of them were high points of our marriage.
It is not entirely bad being asked not to bring home-cooking to potlucks.

10. My earliest kitchen disaster took place in the hospital kitchen where I had my first “real” job. The hospital, for reasons I will never fathom, occasionally served hot pickled beets to the patients. After supper was served and cleaned up, one teen part-timer stayed “late” until 7:30 p.m. to assemble and deliver trays to patients admitted or given permission to eat after supper time. Small amounts of the supper foods were kept in a multi-tiered warming oven. Never bursting with self-confidence or coordination, I was very freaked about making up a supper tray, and spilled the pan of pickled beets when I pulled it out of the warming oven. The smell of those burned-on pickled beets haunts me to this day. Just seeing a certain dark crimson color or smelling hot vinegar can set off a panic attack. After fessing up to the supervisor, I cleaned the oven, kept my job, and became a mostly competent member of society, much to my continuing surprise.

9. As newlyweds we lived in a one-bedroom apartment at 1822 H St. in Lincoln, Nebraska. We had nary a dime despite being the managers of the eight-plex. The apartment had Cornhusker red shag carpet, and the kitchen took up one corner of the living/dining room. In a moment of festive insanity I blew all our discretionary income on a Halloween pumpkin, and placed it on top of the kitchen cabinets. Do not ever doubt that heat rises! Arriving home from my library peon job on a surprisingly warm October evening, I opened the door to an incredible stench. My overactive mystery-reader imagination led me to believe a corpse had been wedged next to the water heater in the utility closet. I was too scared to open the door until my law student spouse arrived home. No corpse. In a scene from a crime/thriller movie we began opening doors and cabinets. Imagine my horror at finding gelatinous goo dripping into the cabinet that contained the Corel plates and bowls! Yes, the overheated pumpkin had slimed, oozed, and dripped in a cross between “Ghostbusters” and “Seven”.

8. In 1980 we moved, still dimeless, to Omaha. Once there, my spouse began returning to vegetarianism by way of a seafood /alcohol diet. AND he began hanging out in parking lots to buy his fix from “Fresh Seafood” panel trucks. I used to be pretty fond of shrimp, scallops, rainbow trout, lobster, and friendly fish sticks. One experience with squid was to change all that. But even that was nothing to compare with the Night of the Giant Satanic Fish. Cliff brought home some sort of fish that would require an 18x12” sheet of paper to trace. He began to slit, cut, bone, and hack the evil thing apart. No matter what he did the thing got bigger and scalier. In a moment of enormous disgust and surrender he scraped the whole mess into the sink and turned on the garbage disposal. Grr-skrit--CRUNK. The disposal died with the stinking beast lodged . Unable to afford a plumber’s service call, we struggled for days to dislodge and remove the damn thing. Cliff escaped to his job each day, while I was stuck in the reeking house…Okay, when people refer to throwing the kitchen sink into disagreements, they may have a scaly disposal episode in mind.

7. One son later I had another attack of holiday madness, and made Rice Krispy treats for the holidays. While I was adding red food coloring to the melting marshmallows I failed to notice that the rubber spatula was coming apart in chunks. Fabulous! I distributed plates of the festive pink Rice Krispy treats to everyone on our gift list. Remember, we were still dimeless. It’s been twenty years, and people still insist that I don’t need to bring any food to their pot-luck dinner or party! There will be asterisks in future family trees about the woman who melted the spatula into the Rice Krispy treats, just like the ancestors with six toes.

6. Another son later we were living in the house where I expected to spend the rest of my life. We had made it to the big time of suburban Omaha. We had a split-level on a cu-de-sac with a walk-out basement on the green belt, earth-tone wallpaper, skylights, and a double garage. I had a dream-come-true laundry/mudroom inhabited by Harriet, the Hamster That Would Not Die. What more could anyone want? And then came that fateful day when I let Mike lick the beaters. He somehow got the beater hooked under his chin and over his bottom teeth. I managed to extricate him so he would not grow up to be the Man in the Eggbeater Mask, but the details are a blur. In flashbacks there is batter petrified onto all the cabinet doors. Mike grew up mostly normal, but may have to deal with suppressed memories in expensive therapy one of these days.

5. In the late ‘80s we moved to Edmond, Oklahoma. Our rental house had many of the desirable features of that era--a ”great room”, cul-de-sac with poison ivy and jogging trail address, wet bar, deck, fake redwood paneling, skylights, rodent infestations, and built-in microwave. Just months before the big move I had allowed a microwave into my kitchen, ignoring all my convictions that it would cause brain damage and birth defects while communicating with evil galaxies. So I now had two scary microwaves. Too stressed with three boys under the age of six, I kept using the portable microwave that I had begun to understand back in Omaha. Cliff, ever the intrepid kitchen adventurer, chose to nuke broccoli in cheese sauce in the unfamiliar built-in microwave, but then failed to remove and eat it. Weeks went by as I dealt with a new kindergarten and schoolbus routine, unpacking boxes, flea bombs, and Fundmentalist neighbors praying for our souls. When the smell started to attract our harried attention, we attributed it to Steven’s diapers, chicken pox, or a decaying relationship. Some say that when a window closes a door opens. Check your microwave!!

4. My family calls Chex Mix by the name “Kris Kringle Krunch”. Arriving in the DFW standard metropolitan statistical census area, we took up residence in Plano, Texas. I had yet another dream house where I planned to live the rest of my life. I had three sons between age three and third grade. My spouse lived in the greater metropolitan area, and my territory had shrunk to four square miles. It included the elementary school, the aquatic center, grocery store, post office, ice cream store, gas station, public library, and t-ball field. My only escape from this limited range was the spouse-sanctioned jog on the high school track. To complicate this imploding life-style, a young girl was kidnapped and murdered. Life consisted of getting kids to and from school safely. On the upside, we were enjoying being in a major league sports city. The Texas Rangers and Dallas Cowboys competed with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Legos for our affection. Cowboys games required Krunch. One day I left roaster pans of Chex Mix in the oven with instructions to my spouse to turn the oven OFF when the timer rang. Instead he turned the oven dial the opposite direction past BROIL before he left home. I got back with the boys, unlocked the door, and was hit with a cloud of black smoke. Opened the door and fought through the smoke to turn the oven off, then amused the boys in the yard until we could enter the house. Have you thought much about cremation? My dear friend wants to be cremated and then have her ashes made into maracas. I was getting mighty close to making my spouse into a percussion instrument!

3. Tie between the crayon-resist microwave fire and the RIT dye exhaust fan episode. Art and kitchens are not a good combo. Forget the apron and get a haz-mat suit.

2. These days we are paralyzed by the switch from buying coffee in metal cans to plastic canisters. As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with Cheney, Ashcroft, and Rumsfeld opening Pandora’s box and letting slip the dogs of war, we now have to wonder what to do with the bacon grease. Post-divorce, I had a job requiring “grown-up clothes” while still feeding ravenous boys. One morning I donned my new chocolate brown knit Lands’ End dress, tights, and shoes, and went forth to spill the hot contents of the grease can all down my front. Who knew that hot grease could bleach the color out of clothes? Back to the shower….

1. Six month’s back I bought a groovy, skinny, wheeled storage cart to hold cans of soda and beer in the wasted space between the refrigerator and the laundry room. This afternoon I rolled the cart out into the kitchen to restock, but it was top-heavy and tipped to the floor. Punctured soda cans sprayed the kitchen and laundry room with Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke, and 7-Up. My hair is fixed in a Cindy Lauper spiked look due to dried soda mist. Clean clothes have to be rewashed, and mopping the kitchen floor isn’t optional. Out of the frying pan and into the frequent fire? Where's Mr. Clean when you need him?


Tourist Town

This weekend CollageMama attended an all-night celebration at the Dallas Museum of Art. No, she didn't stay up all night, but she did enjoy seeing lots of families visiting the museum. Some of the children were viewing the exhibits in their pajamas, and others wore their Girl Scout uniforms or Hobbit attire. It was energizing to see the variety of art on display, and to do some serious people-watching. The event reminded me to be a tourist in my own town much more often.

Tourists and artists both take time to notice things a special way. They pay extra attention to detail, and celebrate the present moment. When we get stuck in the day-to-day operations of a busy family, it's really easy to forget time for visiting our wonderful museums, parks, concerts, and cultural events. We forget that those activites fuel our children's imaginations and our own. Those special family efforts to become "tourists in our own town" are inspirations planted, even if they take years to bloom.

Speaking of people-watching, I'm inspired to start portrait painting and figure drawing units in the weeks ahead. This week, pretend You Are Here on vacation and take the scenic route!


Wear Corduroy

Those two words constitute my advice to the Democratic presidential candidates going into the New Hampshire primary. Corduroy sends the message that you are dressed warm enough to satisfy your mommy, and you are sensible, thrifty, soft, down-home, honest, and ribbed. Ribbed is close enough to backbone, and to possessing moral fiber for those of us living on Quick Oats, Minute Rice, and Ramen Noodles. Corduroy tells Baby Boomers you have leadership ability. Every Baby Boomers knew a student body president who wore cords and a thrift shop tweed sport coat back in the day. Corduroy pants also tell voters you are hip to Atkins and South Beach. By the end of any day corduroy is relaxed and saggy enough to create the illusion of miraculous weight loss. Now to address our true axis of evil foe--carbohydrates!

The local newspaper quotes former Senator Alan Simpson on Howard Dean after the Iowa caucus:

He looked like a prairie dog on speed.

I didn't see Dr. Dean on tv since I don't watch tv, but I did hear the sound bite on NPR. I was glad he knew the names of so many states. Could he go head to head with Dubya in a geography bee? I'm an old Great Plains gal. I know prairie dogs. I love prairie dogs. Some of my best friends are prairie dogs. My middle son managed to climb into the prairie dog exhibit at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha in 1987. I was extremely pregnant, and had to climb down into the enclosure to haul Mike out. Many, many prairie dogs were traumatized. Anyway, as fond as I am of the little critters, they don't exhibit presidential attributes, especially if we disclose their methamphetamine addictions.

Now we resuscitate Senator Kerry, who has been diagnosed with "Long Disease" by my coworker. Remember when you could put Silly Putty on the Sunday comics, then stretch the characters? That is what happened to Kerry. I'm pretty sure it happened to him in Nam, and the VA has been remiss in addressing this problem. Have any candidates with Long Disease ever been elected president? Not since four score and seven...

And now on my server webpage I see the headline, "Japan's saves leader joining White Sox." Good God! I tell my youngest, "Japan has invaded Chicago!" Steven calmly explains that there is an apostrophe s. Japan didn't save its leader from becoming a baseball player. We can all breathe easier.

Think I'll go watch "Dr. Strangelove". No fighting in the War Room! Nothing says electable like corduroy.


Mad Fish Disease

Just as our 4:00 classes were starting a woman burst in the door sobbing and screaming. I was so involved in transitioning the kindergarten tacklers and ticklers into an allegedly structured enrichment experience that I didn't grasp the weirdness of it all. Our poor director didn't know if the woman was a homicidal maniac, or a homophobic Episcopalian, or what. Turned out someone had hit her car out in front of the school and left the scene. She was lucky. If I ever need the kindness of strangers, our new director is the perfect soothing, sensible stranger.

Had a downer fish in the aquarium this morning. I didn't eat it, nor did I let its aquariummates eat it. I only turned it into fertilizer and feed in the indirect flush scenario. My brain is still a bit spongy worrying about the ramifications for the world economy.


We are experiencing technical difficulties

Please stand by. I am fussing with the colors. Following directions isn't my forte. If you have a sensitive stomach, you might want to look away until I change all that salmon and blanched almond. I speak html the same way my preschoolers count in Spanish.


Last one in is a...

Have some very entertaining new preschool students in the Thursday classes. I announced that I was going to start the clean-up music (Putumayo), so they could pick up the construction sticks. One little guy hollers, "First one to clean up is a rocket egg!" What a great image. Most four year olds now have never encountered a rotten egg anyway.

In the afternoon class the word for the day was "stylish". The four and a half year old girls were admiring each other's art* with, "Oooooh. Isn't Tiffy's painting stylish?", "Did you see Dharma's stylish picture?", "Boo-hoo! I wish my painting was as stylish as Octavia's!" Next week they will probably air-kiss.

Is a rocket egg like a quidditch ball?

*Texture rubbings as wax resists for groovy liquid watercolors.


Big Bird

On Wednesdays I teach at my Montessori school where everything is child-sized. That means the table surface is just above my knees. We were working with clay today to develop hand strength. I show the children how to roll the clay into balls and "snakes". Just visualize an ostrich with its head in the sand. I spent the whole morning on my long legs with my big rear in the air and my head back down at table level making eye-contact with the itty-bitty kids while guiding their hands with the clay. Even my ankles hurt... Sure, I could squat down to kid level, but then the sound of my knees cracking might scare the more sensitive ones.

Better to be an ostrich than a flamingo.


Learning to count

The preschoolers were showing off that they know how to count in Spanish. This is how it goes:

Uno, goose, tres...

In the late 1950's I attended a preschool Spanish class once a week. We learned to count, and say "adios". Since I knew how to play Simon Says with my neighborhood friends, I used to wonder about Quatro Cinco Says. I imagined Senor Q. Cinco with an eyepatch and a parrot on his shoulder. Must have mistaken the goose for a parrot. He may have had a hook. Anyway, I was sure it was best to do whatever he said.


No wine, no mink

Leaving Austin, & heading NW to Lampasas, I ran into a music lecture on the radio about soprano/piano songs of Massenet and his students. It was interesting, and the traffic was too crazy to find another station anyway. Plus I couldn't figure out how to spell "Massenet". That's how I got hooked into listening to Act Two of "Werther" on the Chevron-Texaco Metropolitan Opera Live. I was heading into the hill country, so the reception was off & on. I'd be driving along listening to Albert, Charlotte, Sophia, and Werther singing about butterflies and flowers, while I looked out the window at goat and llama farms and roadside stands selling deer blinds. Then I would lose the signal. A mile or two later, Sophia and Albert would be singing about the pastor's 50th wedding anniversary. I would figure out that all the guys standing around their pickup trucks & chatting on the shoulder of Highway 183 were actually hunters, and the radio would nudge itself over to a staticky mariachi or hiphop station. Two hills later, Charlotte and Werther would reappear singing about dueling pistols, and I would be in a reduced speed zone looking for Mobil station in a town dating from 1854. As a person who thinks "Goethe" is pronounced "Goyth", and that everyone in the story would feel a lot more relaxed if they had a couple Sloppy Joes and a Budweiser, this was a very culturally-improving weekend. I think I missed the part about Werther's pickup with the gun rack. Like a rock.


Looking high and low

Still stunned by the reappearance of branches on the cotton ball trees. Did you know street signs have words on them? What a trippy marvel it is to get new glasses. Lucy in the sky without the blue, pointy, diamond frames! I may look like Dame Edna, but I can see like Albrecht Durer does San Francisco '68.

The storybook of the week is Diary of a Worm. So far we've launched into clay, papier mache, and cut paper projects from it. You've got to love "Worms In Black"...

Soccer memory hit parade

It was a nice sunny afternoon in Soccer Land, 11-02-02, with few goals, and an average number of tears and boo-boos. Steven reffed the Orange Butterflies vs. the Mermaids, the Hightower Powerpuffs vs. the Sharks, and the Superkicks vs. the Weatherford Eagles. One team had a goalie named Xena. The rest of the girls seemed to be named Alexa, Avery, Amber, and Amanda. The American Girls and the Purple Panthers were playing for the championship of the world and all the Barbies on the next field over. I thought one coach might have a stroke. He kept yelling, "Katie and Courtney!!! You CAN'T HOLD HANDS!!!!!"


Y'all watch what you eat!

No more muu-muus for CollageMama. It was back to Art Land today. First thing this morning I dyed several dozen socks purple, green, and brown for upcoming stitchery and puppet projects. (You'll just have to wonder about those for now.) Hung all the socks on the clothesline in the art room. Had a great time convincing all my preschool students that the Old Woman Who Lives In a Shoe had stopped by over the holiday break to wash her kids' socks. I love it when a few students realize I'm just messing with them and start playing along, adding to the tall tale.

The first grade kids started a new papier mache project. There's nothing like papier mache for bringing out the collective weirdness in any group. The kids had a heated discussion of whether cannibalism is legal and why California squid tastes best. I figure we can draw Donner Party flip-books next week. After all, Texas is the home of Roadkill Chili.

It's just as well that we are all on New Year's diets.


Tie-dye muu-muus

Women my age all over the globe, or at least in Nebraska, North Texas, and Columbus, Ohio, are planning for their golden years. After lots of brainstorming, they are getting close to establishing the commune they never got to join in their college days. Yes, ladies, you can pack up your troubles, and move to our AARPie commune. The generation that identified with both Opie and hippies will soon be getting back to nature. Our needs are simple, and our talents are many. We want a good library, places for long walks, plenty of chocolate, primo Canadian prescription drugs, comfortable shoes, and macrame bikinis. Oops. Delete the last one.

How will the AARPie commune be self-sustaining? Making dreamcatchers for walkers is just the beginning! Remember "Our Bodies Ourselves" by the Boston Women's Health Cooperative? Now think travel guides for the mature Thelma and Louise. "Our Roadtrip Ourselves"..."Zen and the Art of Menopausal Maintenance"..."The Electic Shocker-Thingee Chiropractic Test"..."All We Are Saying Is Give Fleece a Chance"...


Miraculous New Year's Weight Loss

In just two hours I was able to decrease the size of my email account by half! Yes, one resolution accomplished already.


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