Nebraska Jones & the Temple of Doom

When I was a kid in Nebraska's capital city, we used to have bagworm infestations that came straight out of a Hollywood B movie. Bagworms love juniper bushes. They build themselves creepy hanging homes of chomped off juniper needles and bug spit that look like inverted ancient Cambodian temples in that Indiana Jones movie with Spielberg's new wife. The blond one. Not that she was necessarily a bagworm or even a gold-digger. Anyway, my dad would send we three kids out with buckets to pick the bagworm temples off the bushes. I don't know if he was eco-conscious, or just fiscally opposed to lawn chemicals. When we would get a good harvest, he would throw the buckets of bagworm bag-homes into the hot coals after broiling our Nebraska corn-fed T-bone steaks. The fire would make the bags seem to dance and sway while hissing a demented curse. Then the bagworms would emerge, glowing red hot and still taunting us. Decades later my dad admitted that this was probably too creepy for children to witness.

When I moved with my own tiny boys to Edmond, Oklahoma, I was amazed at the variety of nature's vermin in that place. Armadillos burrowed in my flower beds. Mice from the field across the crick invaded the house and left souvenirs in my shoes in the closet. Huge nutria lived in the crick. Tarantulas wandered casually around the infield during t-ball games. Outfielders stomped on fire ants when they weren't watching trains go by.

Plano, Texas, has plenty of annoying species. I'm not talking politics here, just the fauna, ma'am. Fire ants, killer bees, vicious diurnal black and white mosquitoes, and possums (that burrow under the condo foundation only to die there and have to be extracted at great expense). In the Nineties we had the Year of the Nauseating Brown Cricket Stench. We would drive into the parking lot of the Braums Dairy Store, and climb out of the soccer mom minivan into heaps of live/jumping and dead/stinking crickets. Business operators had to shovel them off the sidewalks near lighted doorways, and it's tough to find a snow shovel in Texas. The crickets attracted the grackles, another annoying species.

Plano is Texas Termite Country, with a big T, little e, r-m-i-t-e. We are still not talking about Dubya, Cheney, Dick Armey, or Governor Goodhair. This is swarm season for termites. Termite swarmings are good, in that they often provoke margarita parties for large groups of afflicted homeowners. The homeowners are desperate to escape their homes in much the same way as the termites. Termites devour tunnels ever upward through your home. When the teen termites start getting on everyone's nerves, the teens spread their wings and glide from the ceiling down toward the floor. If you are lucky, they do this in your open garage, and float away on the breeze. (Termites can't actually fly). If you are unlucky, the teen termites just glide from your ceiling to your floor and start wandering around. Imagine yourself in one of those big corn-poppers at the megamovieplex. Instead of exploding kernels, you are in a small, enclosed space with aimless adolescent insects using up all the cellphone minutes and leaving sweaty socks in the living room.

How, you are surely asking, does the annual termite swarm season affect the average Texas preschool art teacher? Thank you for your kind concern. In years past I taught in a wonderful school that had black and white checkerboard floor tiles. Some spring days during class, the teen termites would begin gliding down from the ceiling onto kids, paintings, teacher, and eventually floor. It is the job of the teacher to remain CALM, even though her skin is crawling, and she is remembering those health class warnings about flashbacks. Her students are off on the greatest hopscotch/sockhop/bug squish/ee-yew-ish mass distraction of all time. The memory is way too Lewis Carroll for comfort, and yet it still can't compete with barbecue bagworms.

Checkmate, and will we still be roasting marshmallows?

Ask Dr. Mom for her recipe

It's the pits being really sick on your own for the first time. I still remember it--shivering in my bunk in the dorm. Sliding woosily down the wall onto the floor in the art dept. bathroom. Trudging through knee-high snow drifts to take a Spanish final exam when I had mono.

Mike is sick. He writes:

I'm really sick. I think I have a cold, but it is not like a
stuffy nose, it hurts really bad to move my head. I also have a sore
throat. I've been really busy lately, studying for a test I took today.
I also had class all day long, and I just got done with lab. I need to
catch up on homework for tomorrow, and tomorrow I need to do a big
take home exam/project.

Dr. Mom says, "Take tylenol! Drink gallons of water! Hot tea! Hot Tang! Hot chicken boullion cubes. Sleep. Lots. Even when it's dark out! Suck zinc cold drops from Walgreens, or just plain lemon drops. Gargle with hot salt water. Sleep sitting up. Moan and sway."

I tried to make a hot "bed buddy". The real way is to get someone to buy a bag of rice for you. Pour the rice in a tube sock & tie a knot. Heat it in the microwave for two minutes, and drape it around your neck. My theory was that rolling up a towel and heating it in the microwave would do the same thing. Alas, you have not lived until you have smelled an over-nuked bath towel. It smelled almost as bad as the salmon cooking fire of two weeks ago.

Just moan and sway, and skip the nuked towel!

Nurse Nancy


Wax On, Wax Off

Productive yes, productive no. Purchasing yes, refunding no. I am experiencing the zen of the Easy Path of Consumerism, the inevitability of dissatisfaction, and the detachment of prescription allergy medicine. Purchase Epson Stylus C82 print cartridges, they are inevitably the wrong cartridges, return Epson Stylus C82 print cartridges. Purchase windshield wiper blades, #Uniform Nineteen, return windshield wiper blades, #Uniform Nineteen. "Uniform Nineteen" has such a great sound to it. It stirs streams of Steely Dan, sweaty collective team sport effort and attire on sunny mornings, Beatle echoes of "number nine", Orwell, of course, the voice of Donald Sutherland, and ID checks at the Zoo Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska. U19 on, U19 off. The wiper blades need to be more narrow. Bummer, man. "Anxiety is the shallow breathing of a narrowed mind." Where did that quote surface from? I am not anxious. It is spring in Dallas. The redbuds seem neon against the gray sky. The humidity smushes mere mortals to the sidewalk. The wind coats the cars with a thick layer of sticky, green pollen. Uniform Nineteen. Not coughing, not sneezing. Breathe in, breathe out.


Blue Jello

In spite of insurance intrigues you don't want to know about regarding Tuesday's lunchtime car crash, my blood pressure was good enough for my dear gynecologist today. It's always great to see her, even when I receive lectures about weight, blood pressure, self-exams, tetanus boosters, cholestrol, exercise, calcium, and mammograms. She's been my doctor since 1990 when I had three sons under age six, and she had her first baby. She has helped me through depression and panic disorder, health concerns when I learned of my husband's extracurricular activities, and this bizarre, never-ending phase of Merry Peri-Menopause. She laughs when I mark my marital status as "Divorced, Thank Heavens!!!" Each annual visit is a time to assess my year and chart my progress as a strong, self-confident, healthy, and happy woman. I am grateful for her.

Only three lap swimmers at the pool tonight. The water was so still and clear I felt like I was gliding through almost-set blue jello. I'll probably dream tonight of Jacques Cousteau, and of my first real job in the basement hospital kitchen during the mid-Seventies. The aquatic center and the hospital kitchen share a subterranean feel, fluorescent lighting, concrete walls, bleach smells, and strange acoustics. Jello at the hospital was usually red, and never blue. My first task was to slice baking sheets of jello into cubes, and dish the cubes into dessert bowls. Lucky patients, and unobserved kitchen employees, got real whipped cream on the jello cubes. We felt sorry for patients who couldn't have whipped cream, or worse, got fake dietetic gelatin cubes. We didn't understand the full-time employees who took as long as possible slicing and dishing the jello cubes to fill their eight-hour shift....

Our High School Juniors, the Future of America

Only five kids at lunch. Steven and Christopher were sitting at opposite ends of the table, with Christopher in front of the mini-blinds. They were taking turns trying to finger-flick ("place kick") mini carrot sticks across the table into each other's mouths. They teed up the carrot sticks on the pop tops of their DP cans. Whenever Steven missed, his carrots were impaled on the slats of the mini-blinds. Sometimes these carrots became too dusty to rekick. When Christopher missed, his carrots went flying around the kitchen, dinging off cannisters and rolling under the fridge. The weirdest part was that I was able to figure out what they were doing from my room just listening to the sounds. The girls considered this competition further proof that males are hopelessly and permanently immature, and put pitted black olives on their fingertips. After the girls left, I became an enthusiastically parental spectator, and warned the guys they would be the subject of today's blog. Poor Alex seemed stunned by the concept of old ladies with blogs.

The Dallas Museum of Art has a new sculpture that consists of a baby grand piano on a "cloud" of potatoes with accompanying still photos from some avant garde film. Surely Steven's film friends could make a documentary of the making of the "Carrot Bowl" cult classic. Then I could sell the museum the mini-blinds with impaled dusty carrots.

And may all your twistedness be bright.


Have I Mentioned...

...how glad I am that Steven wasn't driving a cute little '71 Datsun 240Z when he was hit by the SUV??? He is still sore, and I am sore in sympathy, of course.


Lunch Crunch

Steven's car (okay, his dad's old van) was rear-ended by an SUV following too close while stopped in a line of cars behind a jerk making an illegal left turn on Independence near the Parker Road Tom Thumb. Thank heaven Steven, Ryan, and Jason were all wearing seat belts. They each got an ambulance ride to Plano Med Center, and the car was towed away in bad shape. Ryan has contusions on his knee, but no fractures showed up in the xrays. He was in the "captain's chair" that became unhooked from the floor of the van and fell over backward. Jason was in the front passenger seat, and had just turned his head to compliment Steven on stopping safely when they were hit. His xrays were okay, but he has lots of neck and back pain and Vicodin. Since Steven could not remember the impact, the police sent him to the ER. He knew he had braked safely to a stop. He knew he climbed out the car window because the doors wouldn't open. He just couldn't remember the actual impact. He had an xray, then a cat scan. Steven's okay, too, but we have to watch for warning signs of head injury, such as "Decreased interest in sex." Yikes.

My thought is to never post about ERs again! It's a bad sign when you recognize the ER doctor and the guy pushing your gurney to xray.

The voice on the hospital intercom calling for "Respiratory STAT" sounded just like Slim Pickins in Dr. Strangelove.


This Is a Test

This is only a test!

This is a test of the Emergency French Music for Clarinet and Piano System.

If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed to take your CD player into the nearest bathroom, put in your CD of Debussy, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie, and Saint-Saens, lock the door, light candles, and fill the tub with hot water and bath oil.

We will now resume our regular programming of the Dave Brubeck Quartet.

Take five.

Call of the Wild and Crazy Art Teacher

This is my wish list for summer art supplies:

"Hawaiian" shirts in sizes from 4 toddler to XXL adult (needed for drama)
Neckties, no matter how ugly
Trouser hangers with the cardboard tube--I need hundreds
Sewing scraps of fabric and trims
Quilt batting and polyfill stuffing from those craft projects that never really happened
Rx bottles
Plastic Easter eggs
Buttons, snaps, zippers
Wine corks--no questions asked
Styrofoam containers from grocery fresh mushrooms
Cardboard rings from rolls of masking tape
Old keys
Old eyeglasses
CDs--we use hundreds
TP and paper towel tubes
Film cannisters
Altoid boxes


Oh, Dem Golden Slippers

Steven suffered from a serious lack of traction in today's game, so we set off to buy new cleats (and Neosporin for all his scrapes). His eye was caught by some Nike Total something-or-others that have the lacing off center "so it won't mess up your kicks." The shoes fell within my price limit, so okay, but they were SHINY SILVER! They looked like soccer shoes for the Tin Man in Oz, a knight in shining armor, or maybe Freddy Mercury. I was dreading the conversations on the sidelines:

"Which one is your son?"

"Well, he's the one with silver shoes."


I asked Steven if the reasoning for the design was to create glare in the opponent's eyes, and he said, "These are too small. Do they have any eleven-and-a-half or twelves?" And so my tale ends happily. The clerk and I couldn't find any larger silver shoes. Steven was satisfied with black ones. I did a little tap dance in my ruby slippers on the way out to the parking lot.

Oh, Dem Golden Slippers
Composed by James A. "Jimmy" Bland in 1870
Very popular minstrel tune of the 1880s, especially in the northern bluegrass tradition

Oh, my golden slippers am laid away
Kase I don't 'spect to wear 'em till my weddin' day,
And my long-tailed coat, dat I loved so well,
I will wear up in de chariot in de morn;
And my long white robe dat I bought last June,
I'm gwine to git changed Kase it fits too soon,
And de old grey hoss dat I used to drive,
I will hitch him to the chariot in de morn.

Chorus: Oh, dem golden slippers! Oh, dem golden slippers!
Golden slippers dat I'm gwine to wear be-case they look so neat;
Oh, dem golden slippers! Oh, dem golden slippers!
Golden slippers I'm gwine to wear to walk de golden street.

Oh, my ole banjo hangs on de wall
Kase it ain't been tuned since way last fall,
But de darks all say we will hab a good time,
When we ride up in de chariot in the morn;
Dars ole Brudder Ben and Sister Luce,
Dey will telegraph de news to Uncle Bacco Juice,
What a great camp meetin der will be dat day,
When we ride up in de chariot in de morn.

So, it's goodbye, children, I will have to go
Whar de rain don't fall er de wind don't blow,
And yer ulster coats, why yer will not need,
When yer ride up in de chariot in de morn;
But yer golden slippers must be nice and clean,
And yer age must be Just sweet sixteen,
And yer white kid gloves yer will have to wear,
When yer ride up in de chariot in de morn.


Mr. MacGregor's Texture Garden

Who is that trying to sneak in under the gate? Peter Rabbit, of course. My plans for a project about complementary colors red and green, scissor and glue practice, fine-motor work on tearing, folding, crumpling, and curling gradually evolved over several classes into a celebration of Peter Rabbit's famous adventure. Once again I am convinced that children's literature gives meaning and motivation to children's art. The children did not care about tearing paper for it's own sake, but were delighted to rip it to shreds to make lettuce leaves for Peter Rabbit to nibble. They were engrossed in holding scissors the correct way so that they could cut orange paper snips for carrots. They were intrigued to glue a piece of corrugated paper just along one edge so that the "gate" would still open for Peter, where they would have just squirted out big puddles of Elmers. Little hands worked hard to crumple pink tissue paper into "roses" for Peter's mother, and peel red circle stickers for tasty radishes. They gave great effort and concentration to putting the copper brad through the punch hole on the "gate" so Peter would be able to use the "doorknob". One student even created a tossed vegetable salad in a bowl for his bunny! Others tried to create 3-D fences out of straws. Pretty amazing for three to four year-olds.

I'm delighted to find tiny lizards on my patio fence and window sills today. It is eighty-four degrees! Yesterday was my ex's fiftieth birthday, but I mainly remember that March nineteenth is the first Burpee day for planting peas and radishes in Omaha, Nebraska. All danger of frost is past down here, and the air conditioner is running!


Five Star ERs

I am glad to report that visits to the emergency room have dropped off sharply now that the boys are in their late teens and even twenties. Think the last visit was a broken collar bone due to an incredibly stupid Thanksgiving tackle football game between the speech team and the tech theatre crew.

There are major eras in the parenting of three sons, and the eras may overlap. Toilet-training, allow ten years. Camouflage attire, allow ten years. Automotive lust phase, allow ten years, but with frequent relapses. And then there's the ER phase. You remember those Wonder Bread commercials where your child grows amid red, yellow, and blue balloons? The emergency room phase grows from stitches and asthma through broken arms, legs, and collar bones, past eye injury emergencies, weird bug bite reactions, hideous (smelly) skin rashes, strategic poison ivy, and allergy shot overdoses.

Boys have a talent for injuring themselves during family vacations. It's a gift. And so I thought other parents might appreciate a travel guide to emergency rooms. The best one we visited took an xray of a plastic ninja turtle to dispel anxiety. We kept that xray film for years....Other parents might appreciate my hard-won hints for dealing with Blue Cross in other states. The travel guide was one of many great ideas for getting rich. Another was a line of holiday cards featuring the caroling peanut family...

Social Event of the Season

Fan me while I swoon! Just got my invitation to the WASTE (Wonderful Art Supplies for Teachers and Educators) spring giveaway of containers from Raytheon's manufacturing processes and shipping containers and Alcatel's recycled office supplies. To an art teacher this is bigger than the debutante ball and Miss Ellie's Southfork barbecue combined. Part Easter egg hunt, part million dollar beat-the-clock shopping spree, part tailgate party, part professional discussion round-table, part eco shave-the-whale rally, all art teachers going ooh-aah over Really Good Junk. Yankee ingenuity way down south, and the saved string and canning jars in grandma's cellar going high tech.

What to wear? What to wear? Hawaiian shirt and parrot-head? Demure pink satin and pearls? Retro leopard-print suit and red pillbox hat? Lab coat and 3-D glasses? Serious racing spandex? Fishnet stockings or elbow-length white gloves? I'm so excited I could repair the Hubble telescope single-handedly with pipe-cleaners, free AOL cds, and egg cartons. Ah, adrenalin.

My Rainbow Sparkle costume might be the most practical attire. Rainbow Sparkle has a groovy tie-dye patchwork shirt, simply lavendar eyeglasses, fabulous tiara of pink feathers and irridescent curling ribbon, and groovy glitter magic wand. Rainbow Sparkle is the fairy personification of every preschool girl's "favorite color".

My little sister once reported that her new Sunday School teacher, "had on pearls and high heels." How very Manet's "Olympia"!


Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Started the morning with eye drops to get the red out. It was difficult getting to sleep with the intense smell of salmon smoke permeating the whole condo. Didn't smell any better at six a.m. This morning's "Texas Taste" section of the Dallas Morning News featured hints for roasting a whole hog in some sort of Cuban Chinese box. Steven and I wondered if we should hide the section from our college chef. The stench from a small piece of salmon caused respiratory difficulties. Imagine the effect of torching a whole pig! Maybe I should pitch a new reality show combining Jackass and the Food Channel.

While teaching at my Montessori school this morning I received a three word message from our fearless leader: Eggs Under Flamingoes! I tried at first to interpret the code as a suggestion that I stop and buy some plastic Easter eggs to put under the plastic flamingoes. That's not it. I knew it. You know it...

The spiteful tough ducks laughed at my endeavors! They dug a salad bowl-size depression in the bare dirt directly under a plastic flamingo's tail. Mom duck laid eggs in the depression and worshipped the fertility flamingo. Tough ducks thumbed their beaks at my pruning efforts. Cruel. Cold. Mother Nature meets Ma Barker. Does Halliburton do duck deterrence?

The Claw Update

Dear Nancy,

Those gray holders that are on the end of each shopping cart are for our new
program called Shop and Scan. This will be coming to the Plano stores very
soon. When it is nearing your store, you will be notified with flyers and
additional information.

Laura Hayes

Trouble McDuck

We have a problem with ducks at work. The ducks waddle to the school from the pond over the hill. Most of the time the ducks are harmless, although not as cute as Robert McCloskey's illustrations for Make Way for Ducklings. I read once that McCloskey took a bunch of ducklings up to his apartment, and let them sip wine so that they would slow down enough for him to draw. Ducks are messy enough without being drunk. I sure hope McCloskey's apartment lacked carpeting. Or, maybe the Caldecott Medal paid for the Steamatic. Ducklings should never accept an invitation to come upstairs and look at a man's etchings.

Mommies and kiddies like to waddle along after the ducks, and sometimes feed them sandwich crusts and cheetos. Once in awhile the ducks will turn ugly, and a mom and kid will end up standing on top of the picnic table surrounded by tough ducks.

One daddy claims you can intimidate the tough ducks by walking straight at them instead of backing away. The ducks supposedly back away from you, until you have backed them into the pond. This is not as glamorous as being a horse whisperer, but maybe Danny DeVito could star in the movie, "The Duck Backer".

One drama teacher starred in "Annie Get Your Gun". She probably believes the tough ducks are doin' a-what comes naturly". Alas, what ducks do naturally can be messy, scary, violent, smelly, and traumatic to children (and many mommies). Ducks like the low ground cover outside our office window for nesting. I will refrain from reporting about what leads up to the nesting, since this is a family blog. I will say that duck sex is rarely consensual, and doesn't involve chocolates, roses, or sweet nothings in the lady mallard's ear.

Isn't that cute? The man at Home Depot scolded me when I went in search of duck nest deterrents, saying I was "Anti-Daffy". And I hadn't even mentioned Dubya! The problem is hordes of ducks make a major slick poop mess all over the sidewalk when they waddle by to visit the nesting mom. Sometimes the mom duck deserts the nest, and the whole thing rots under the Texas sun. You do not want to be the person who has to clean up that mess!

I am woman, hear me prune.


Reefer Madness

Remember when Health class teachers and school guidance counselors gave the junior high drug speech? They always talked about how drugs would cause a person to have "flashbacks" at some later [guaranteed to be inconvenient] time. "Flashbacks" would certainly make wallpaper appear to be crawling with insects....fuzzy caterpillars in the case of flocked wallpaper. "Flashbacks" would make a person do really dumb things including, but not limited to: Jumping out of windows. Removing clothes during community awards banquets. Buying hideous brocade curtains with swags and poofy valances. Pasting crinkle-look mirror tiles on the wall. Doing the Macarena. Wearing white pants. Hosting NU/OU football parties for the karate school. Volunteering to organize the PTA fundraiser. Running with old knees. Being a parent to teenagers.

So here I am, nearly forty-nine years old. Steven wants to buy a canary yellow 1971 Datsun 240Z that needs a new carbuerator and would have to be towed home. It has only "80,000 original miles". Is that like original sin? All this for only $2000.

Sure, my high school/college friend had a '72 silver Datsun 260Z. Sure, we went on a spring break road trip all the way to Purdue and Michigan State in 1975. But, really, now? In this flashback is the really dumb thing to let him buy the car? Or to prevent him from buying the car?

Is it time to rent "Easy Rider" again at Blockbuster? Help me Rhonda. Help, help me Rhonda. Please register your opinion on the car purchase!


Texas Tech Pink Raiders

My son and his five loads of laundry have come home for spring break. I'm glad to have him back. He's looking healthy and happy, and I'm willing to ignore his hair. I suspect barbering has not yet been discovered in West Texas.

Mike has acquired a fair collection of Red Raider t-shirts and sweatshirts, but they look like they've yet to encounter a dorm laundry room. They are so very bright red, unlike his brother's Longhorn garments in college year four. The other clue that the Tech spirit attire has not been laundered is that Mike's "whites" are still white, not pink.

Can't exactly say I was proud to be one of the "Sons of the Pink and Black (fight for your alma mater)." Millard Lefler Junior High didn't have a mascot, but the school colors really were pink and black. It was a huge embarrassment to Alma Mater's sons in their difficult early adolescent identity crises. Alma Mater's daughters of 1970 weren't amused either. Pink and black were soooo old-fashioned, so Fifties, so poodle skirt. We wore fishnet hose with Twiggy minidresses, carried our day-glow "Slicker" notebooks and suede-fringed shoulderbag purses. We looked groovy in Jean Shrimpton Yardley white frosted lipstick and blue eyeshadow. We knew how to dance to the Jackson Five, and to chant, "War! Who cares? What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!" We listened to the Top-Forty countdown on our transistor radios every Saturday. We knew we should go to the refreshment table when the local band started playing "In-a-gadda-da-vida" during the dance in the gym. When the song dragged on and on, we could count on an unglazed donut food fight. In my mental file cabinet, in the "pink" folder, there's an image of chewed Double Bubble gum stuck in the combination lock of my salmon-hued locker outside Mr. Troester's social studies classroom.

Mr. Troester's student teacher assigned me a report and class presentation on the 1954 battle of Dien Bien Phu. I wrote my index cards in turquoise ink with circles to dot the i's, but I was being forced into a world with larger issues than onion rings at the drive-in, and friendship rings.

In-a-gadda-da-vida, baby,
Don't you know that I'll always be true...

Spill the wine and take that pearl...
I was once out strolling one very hot summer's day...
I dreamed I was in a Hollywood movie, and that I was the star of the movie.
This really blew my mind, the fact that me, an overfed, long-haired leaping gnome should be the star of a Hollywood movie...
I was taken to a place, the hall of the mountain kings...
Out of the middle came a lady.
She whispered in my ear something crazy.
Spill the wine and take that pearl...


It's a sickness

For approximately an hour and a half I've been unable to access either of my email accounts. I can't get to Hotmail at all, and my PeoplePC account in Outlook Express absolutely refuses to send or receive messages. It is always annoying and uncooperative, but now it seems to have taken a vicious dislike to me. Reminds me of a hamster the kids used to have...

I was trying to find out about The Claw that has appeared on the grocery carts at Albertsons in our suburb so that many enquiring homemakers could rest easier. I wanted to contact Al's at

albertsonscustomercare@albertsons.com, but NO!.

I wanted to email the Glenn Mitchell Show, gms@kera.org on KERA, 90.1, which features "Anything you ever wanted to know", but NO!

Evil hamster email refuses to run in its little wheel...

Not one to let minor setbacks interfere with my ever-sunshiny disposition, I set to work, like the Little Red Hen, to find out all by myself. I have learned a great deal about the past and the future of grocery carts. I have been inspired by tales of Sylvan N. Goldman, a Latvian Jew who emigrated to the U.S., to my old OKC, and patented the grocery cart in 1938. When my kids were little we used to visit the Omniplex Museum in Oklahoma City, where there was an exhibit about this invention that changed American life. [There are some really fun places to visit with kids in OKC, and I'll put a link over there -------> on the right. The Forty-fifth Infantry Museum is terrific. I'll put a link for the history of the grocery cart, too, with funny old photos.]

In my high school days, oh those many years ago, we used to listen to LPs of The Firesign Theater. The details are a bit foggy, but I do remember a line saying, "The future's not here yet!" But in Israel it is:

‘Smart Shopping Carts’ Could Be Coming to a Supermarket Near You
Wireless technology is now moving into the supermarket, making the drudgery of grocery shopping with its dreaded checkouts a distant memory.
One of Israel’s largest supermarket retailers Blue Square Ltd. has introduced the supermarket Smart Cart, with a POS system, promising to make grocery shopping a breeze.

"This cutting-edge technology, which we are implementing for the first time anywhere, will lead to a true revolution in retail culture," Yoram Dar, Blue Square’s president and CEO, told RetailTech. "The fundamental concept behind the Smart Cart is simple and focused: to enable the greatest possible shopping convenience by eliminating checkout lines."

Designed by Buy Pass Ltd., an Israeli startup, the supermarket cart is equipped with an embedded scanner, computer terminal and a display screen that lists all of the cart’s contents, along with a running total of purchases.

As the shopper moves from aisle to aisle, picking up items and placing them in the cart, they are constantly informed of their total purchases as well as of any special offers. If an item is removed, a new total is automatically calculated.

Mr. Dar said that the Smart Cart will help the company reduce operating expenses while enhancing customer service.
(Additional Source RetailTech)

Alas, I still don't know if I'll be able to get my email. If I can't I may become overwrought. Once, when I was an overworked, under-appreciated homemaker, the plastic grocery bag broke as I lifted it from Mr. Goldman's cart. The gallon of milk crashed to the parking lot, spraying me, and flowing off down the hill. I became overwrought, and I released the empty grocery cart and let it also crash all the long, loooonnnnggg way down the hill to Custer Road. The moment had a zen-like slow-motion, blue-light-special effects quality, with the "Chariots of Fire" theme playing in the background. It was a very freeing moment. The evil email hamster should take note.

Still don't know about The Claw, but I'm thinking about writing a horror movie screenplay.


Dueling cameras

I tiptoed through the tulips with my sixteen-something son at the Dallas Arboretum's big "Dallas Blooms" spring event for several hours today. It was a near miracle that he chose this outing with his old mom on his only day off from work at the bank during spring break. For many years a trip to the Arboretum was a powerful threat in the Mommy arsenal. "If you boys don't quit that, I'm taking you all to the Arboretum!" "No, Mom, no, PLEASE! We'll be good!"

I marvel that one of my little ninja turtles could grow up to be a nature photographer, and a mighty darn good one at that. For twenty-one years now I've been the mother of boys, immersed in mud, sand, bugs, Tonka trucks, Hot Wheels, toy farm implements, toilet-training, volcanoes, dinosaurs, Legos, falling into duck ponds, fishing ponds, and zoo exhibits, buzz cuts, fishing tackle, karate punches, tool sets, sword fights, camouflage, canteens, Ghostbusters, model train layouts, G.I. Joe amputees, baseball trivia, computer dogfights, science fiction, Civil War reenactments, trumpet practice, cigarette lighters, sweat-petrified soccer socks, smelly casts, chess strategy, crutches, melting green army men with magnifying glasses, creek-soaked Keds, falling off roofs, slide-tackling, muddy cleats, used car classifieds, oil leaks on driveways, guitar lessons, and mustaches.

My 35 mm slr camera weighs ten times as much as his digital camera. I forget to take my zoom lens into the Arboretum. My arm shakes with my "ET" essential tremor. He contorts his body around trees and pillars to get stunning shots he can instantly save or discard. We take photos of the same subjects. We marvel at the glorious afternoon, and get slightly sunburned. He listens to my tales of the many times he and his brothers fell into ponds, escaped from grocery carts, or refused to be buckled into their car safety seats. I remember him in fuzzy fleece one-piece pajamas, pulling himself up to stand in the crib. This little Raffi duck song addict who knew what street we were driving on when he was too little to even see out the car window! The same one who listened to the "Little Mermaid" soundtrack every naptime, and Texas Rangers baseball broadcasts to fall asleep many nights. Who sobbed inconsolably at the fleeting nature of rainbows, hot air balloon flights, and goldfish lives. The funny little kid who stayed sane through his parents' divorce by swinging on a rope over a shallow creek... and who continues to amaze his old mom. I hope he will remember this day as I will!


Good weather, good reading

The North Texas weather is generous to those of us too broke for a road trip over spring break. We get to savor the best that Texas weather has to offer, so nanny-nanny-boo-boo to everyone on the slopes or the beaches.

Read out on the patio for hours this week. It's not quite warm enough for the little lizards to wake up and sunbathe on the fence, but quite pleasant in shirtsleeves if you are out of the wind. I'm so glad I got bifocal sunglasses this time!

I've been spending my time off in Maine, Nebraska, and North Dakota, letting cold winds clear my mind, and acts of human kindness warm my heart. These books each have their own delights:

Once Upon a Town: the Miracle of the North Platte Canteen, by Bob Greene. Greene interviews those vets who experienced the generosity of a community who greeted and fed every soldier on every troop train crossing the U.S. during WWII, as well as the community members who showed the very best of the American war effort on the home front.

Daniel Plainway: or the Holiday Haunting of the Moosepath League, by Van Reid. The third installment in this wonderful series continues to satisfy in the manner of James Herriott's stories or The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. These books have healing voodoo. Get well soon!

The Master Butchers Singing Club, by Louise Erdrich. I hope that Master Butchers is the beginning of a new set of novels intertwining Delphine, Fidelus, and Cyprian's families in the way Erdrich wove and embroidered tales of her Ojibwa ancestors in earlier books. That the writing is by turns stark, poetic, and convoluted fits with my own experiences of family story-telling and family secrets of the Great Plains and the Great Depression. The book may not be for those who lack the patience and curiosity to listen at family reunions.


Spring Break Cleaning: Day Four

The commercialization of Dr. Seuss's creations makes me very sad. Hollywoodination, Happy Meal toys, the WWHD?* books all depress me. It's bad enough to have Sylvester McMonkey McBean in the White House with his cabinet of Grinches. It's worse their mommies never read them Yertle the Turtle, The Lorax, or the wonderful story of the pale green pants with nobody inside them, "What Was I Scared Of?" in The Sneetches.
On the other hand, our McBean did seem to learn some tricks for his WMD on Mulberry Street.

I am employed, for which I'm extremely grateful. So many people in this area have lost jobs during McBean's administration. Many of them are still unemployed, or under-employed, while McBean is busy running all of us through the Star On and Star Off machines. It's time to wake up, fellow Sneetches! McBean is driving off down the beach with every last cent of our money. And what am I doing about it on my Spring Break? Thank you for asking.

I'm doing what I do nearly every break. I'm cleaning McElligott's Pool, yes, spending quality time mucking out the aquarium. Today it became obvious that siphoning was not going to be sufficient, so I caught the eight fish with my net--"I bet with my net I can get those Things yet." Now they are living in a fishbowl, though they all said, "No, no!". Probably half of them will have heart attacks from my inept network. No serve, and no backhand. Did the one-woman bucket brigade emptying the tank, then hauled it outside to scrub. Then did more bucket aerobics with fresh water. The new water has to sit and warm up for a few days. Then I'll have to catch the fish again, put them back in the tank, and wait for them to get fatally homesick for their filthy former home.

This is not the Spring Break experience that merits souvenirs, although my t-shirt did get wet! The day was far too young for the limbo competition at the luau, so I went to Albertsons and bought salmon steaks and fresh asparagus. Back home that seems kind of disgusting and repetitive, but with a squeeze of lemon!

*What Would Horton Do?


Spring Break Cleaning: The First Hour

Not knowing quite how I wanted to attack the absolutely necessary monumental task ahead of me, I thought opening windows for fresh air would be a good first step. When I went upstairs it was impossible to walk to the windows, so I started from the doorway sorting the sculpture tools and supplies in The Bedroom Formerly Occupied By Mike. It is now the Teen AP Sculpture Studio, and littered with dangerous sharp objects. It also houses a front seat from a Geo Prizm draped with a coat purchased at Goodwill for fifty cents, heaven knows why, the box containing the artificial Christmas tree, a giant speaker from a Dodge Intrepid, and the heaps and stacks belonging to its former occupant. (Allow twenty minutes. Extra credit for keeping blood pressure low in the presence of the car seat.)

One window opened!

From the Teen Studio, I was able to cross into the bathroom to find a rag for dusting--while just squinting my eyes to avoid the view. Threw gross towel and bathmat in hamper.

Two windows opened!

After a low-intensity dusting of certain surfaces of the Teen Studio, I was able to bring two more sculptures upstairs from the living room. The coffee table won't be visible for quite awhile. Figured as long as I was washing the towels, I would do the Teen Sculptor's sheets and blankets. Hauled the laundry hamper downstairs and started first load. Had to go back through the Teen Studio, because the Teen Bedroom is still impassable. (Allow fifteen minutes. Do not breathe deeply during this phase.)

Brought up trashbags and the vacuum. Moved enough shoes, photo frames, and books to reach the window.

Third window opened!

(Aerobic edge is lost while standing there staring at the huge mass of black shoes. Avoid this temptation.) Stack and push enough free weights, car stereos, footballs and soccer balls around so that the floor is visible for vacuuming. Retrieve empty hangers from the closet. Neatly line up the packages of Triskets, pretzels, Girl Scout Thin Mints, and banana chips. Take hangers downstairs, and switch laundry loads. Vacuum up huge toenail clippings, disappointing future archaeologists who hoped DNA would prove the existence of woolly mammoths into the twenty-first century. Haul vacuum back downstairs, cleaning the stairway carpet as I go. (Allow twenty-five minutes. Bonus points given for not swearing with the windows open.)

I'm feeling sure I have lost five pounds in the first hour, but I can't go in my bathroom to weigh myself. I need to clean that room first!



I am not the only one at home who's burned out and needs a spring break. Our lightbulbs are burning out at a rate of one a day. I guess it could be worse. I could live in the Nebraska State Capitol building. I never did particularly want to live there, but I did imagine running away to live in the state natural history museum sometimes.

Capitol chandelier has glow on
BY SCOTT BAUER / The Associated Press

So, how many state workers does it take to change a light bulb?
Well, five or six if the bulbs are in the 3,500-pound chandelier hanging in the Capitol Rotunda. The delicate process of lowering the bronze chandelier to change its 136 bulbs, an annual event, took place Friday. "It's real critical when you come to land it," said Tom Kaspar, an architect with the state building division. "It's like the lunar lander coming down." The chandelier hangs on a steel chain 80 feet from the top of the Rotunda's dome and 30 feet above the floor. "This is way too high to use a lift or scaffold on," Kaspar said. A winch housed in a closet on the seventh floor --off-limits to the general public and just above the dome --raises and lowers the chandelier. It takes two people about 30 minutes to bring it all the way up or down. "I throw 100 cranks in myself," Kaspar said. The workers in the winch room communicate via walkie-talkie with another three or four people below who navigate the chandelier onto wooden supports. Once on the supports, the work begins to unscrew and replace all the 40-watt bulbs. Even though not all of them are out, all 136 are replaced each time the chandelier is lowered. The 12-sided, cast-bronze chandelier, with black enamel and gold plating, was installed around 1928, Kaspar said. Work on the building was completed in 1932. On each of the chandelier's 12 sides is one of the signs of the Zodiac. Corn cobs and stalks of wheat, a consistent theme of the building, also are prevalent. About three hours after the first crank of the winch early Friday morning, the chandelier was back in place and shining bright again.

Thank heavens we don't need a winch around here! I have replaced the refrigerator lightbulb, desk lamp bulbs, hanging lamp bulbs, aquarium lightbulbs, front porch lightbulbs, and itty bitty dining area "shandy leer" light fixture bulbs, all without a so much as a ladder. I am not on a schedule, like the capitol engineers. These lightbulbs aren't replaced all at once. They aren't the same type or wattage. There's just some disturbance in the force, Captain Kirk, and they are all burning out. Scottie can't give them any more power! It is the Tribbles fault, of course. They are beaming down, disguised as common domestic Dust Bunnies, to knock out the Power Grid!

On a happier note, my preschoolers have turned on a lightbulb for me. You know that saying, "Less is more"? For the last week they've been providing a visual demonstration. The art department received a brand new classroom jumbo package of Crayola markers all divided by color into cute little sections in the box. I'm sooooo into sorting and cute dividers and new markers that this box gave me visions of sugar plums and magic fairy dust, but I digress.

Since we've been learning about sunflowers and Mr. Van Gogh, I set up a vase of fake sunflowers. I gave each child a margarine cup of brand new markers corresponding to the Van Gogh sunflowers--yellow, black, brown, two greens, two oranges, red, peach. Once I explained why they didn't get any blue, they were quite happy to draw big, bold sunflowers taller than people, and with deep, branching roots, glorious bumblebees, and centers full of seeds for the birds using this limited palette. Then came the lightbulb moment! They were also more careful with the markers, conscientious about matching lids to markers and putting the lids on tight than they have ever been before. They even double-checked that they had taken good care of their markers before going to free playtime.

When preschoolers have a big tub of assorted markers plunked down to share they don't put lids on, or if they do the colors don't match. They tend to spend lots more time "building" with the markers than drawing. Their drawings tend toward cliche rainbows and hearts, or volcanic scribble eruptions.

There are many things to ponder here about how we raise our children, and how they raise us. Is it better to be the conscientious guardian of a few toys, or plow through heaps of media/marketing tie-ins?

And now, if you would just help me push my soapbox over there, I might be able to reach the ceiling fan light!

This is Tom Bodell for Motel Six. We'll leave the light on for you.


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