Very Low Budget Vacations

1. Buy several jars of marinated artichokes at Kroger's.
2. Consume the contents of one jar.
3. Peel off the label, and send the jar through the dishwasher.
4. Place jar in your aquarium to make a happy crystal solitary palace for the fish.
5. Repeat steps 2-4, and gradually build a crystal fish high-rise.
6. Watch international soccer competition on the Spanish channel while keeping one eye on the compartmentalized fish.


Spanning the Globe

A dearly demented friend introduced me to the thrill of TerraServer yesterday. Since then, I've enjoyed several hours exploring with this online source for aerial photos. I've haven't exactly spanned the globe, but I've traveled I-35 from Guthrie to Edmond, Oklahoma, gone over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house, and checked whether people in India could view the junk on my back patio. If you have zero bucks in your travel budget, try surfing around on this site!

Most of the aerial photos are in black and white, or more properly, in different values on the grayscale. You can also check the topographic maps for the same location. This can be made into a game of The Earth is Flat, but it is flattest in _______________. Try pitting Levelland, TX against Ouray, CO, or Lubbock, TX against Hot Springs, Arkansas. By the way, Hot Springs was the home of K-GUS radio, with" fifty thousand Sparkling watts of clear power" a long time ago. I am honored to work with a former drive-time DJ from K-GUS.

The voices of Curt Gowdy and Jim McKay were constants in my 1960's childhood, but they did not carry the same gravitas as the voice of Walter Cronkite. "Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport. The thrill of victory; and the agony of defeat. The human drama of athletic competition. . . ." was a powerful media impact on my generation, right up there with the spinning plates on Ed Sullivan, if not a Gemini countdown.

As I look at aerial photos of crop circles near Grant and Imperial, Nebraska, I see spinning plates, but also quilt blocks made by of several generations of women living in white houses during the Dust Bowl era. Looking at the photos of the De Soto Bend National Wildlife Refuge where the Missouri River repeatedly jumped its banks and changed course, I see Diebenkorn and Thiebald paintings. My grandma's house was on a corner lot. From her big, shady porch I can follow the diagonal walk to the intersection, then look at the lake formed by damming the mud bottom creek where we used to wade.... Visit the quarry lakes near Fremont to see some lovely lace. Follow a river down the "agony of defeat" slalom.

Several years back I found a paperback called Desert Skin at a used book shop. The book by Thomas Miller has grayscale photos of the Colorado Plateau just itching to be studied and painted by young students. Every time I use the pages from the book, now mounted and laminated, the students gain a greater understanding of shading and value, and of the patterns created by natural forces on the surface of our planet. The tempera paintings are always frame-worthy.

Water Cooler Tantrums

Dear Mr. Selig,

Opened the newspaper this morning, and saw that another MLB pitcher, Kenny Rogers of the Rangers, injured himself punching out a water cooler. Rogers will miss at least one start with a broken bone at the base of his pinky on his non-pitching hand. If I were signing his paycheck, I'd be pretty disgruntled, but I wouldn't take it out on an inanimate object. That is why I have a suggestion for you that might solve several problems you are facing in Major League Baseball.

Bud, if I may call you Bud, you need Designated Dugout Moms. It worked in Edmond, Oklahoma t-ball, and it could work for you. Back in Edmond we took turns in the dugout, because we also had to be Designated Baby Watchers and Designated Toddler Chasers. We had to contribute to the cheers of "Be a hitter, MAN", "Way to watch'em", and "Good eye, good eye!" Still, the Designated Dugout Moms made a significant improvement in the baseball experience for all parties.

Bud, face it. Baseball just has an awful lot of waiting around. Players in the outfield can generally amuse themselves safely by stomping on bugs, watching passing trains or planes, rearranging their underwear, or picking dandelions. They are spread out so they can't put the bugs or dandelions down other players' underwear. Probably it was a mom who decided that one player was enough each for right field, center field, and left field no matter how unlikely it was that any of them could catch or throw a ball from way out there. Probably it was the same mom who invented minivans with three rows of seats. Bud, that's just the kind of creative problem solving MLB needs.

Players in the dugout are a much more challenging Mom Management issue. You've seen those stories about how caged animals behave more aggressively with increased population density, right? When you put a whole team of kids in a dugout without a DDM, someone is bound to get hurt. Players climb the chain link, get their arms stuck and broken (I won't name names, but it wasn't one of mine!), they pick up broken glass and sharp cans left by previous unsupervised players. They stuff dirt and grass down each others' shirts which leads to poking eyes and bickering. They drink from each other's squeeze bottles and get cooties. They trip over the catcher's gear, swing bats around, swipe each others' gloves, and throw caps over the fence. They eat chocolate, which is a really dumb thing to do when you have to run in 95 degree, 60 % humidity weather. They taunt each other, and cry. They become convinced the other players are getting more turns to bat, and they put stupid things in their mouths.

Designated Dugout Moms don't tolerate this stuff. They make players watch the game just in case they could learn something. They tie shoes, and not together. They get the catcher in and out of that ridiculous lobster costume, and put helmets on the upcoming batters to speed up the game. I'm sure it was a DDM who first taught players how to make rally caps and shell peanuts so they would keep their hands to themselves. Moms say, "We don't do that here", "spit that out RIGHT NOW", "I don't think you really need a band-aid", "let's put a little ice on it for a minute", and "respect your teammates". They recognize the dance when a player needs to race to the outhouse before the next inning. Most importantly, DDMs do not allow tantrums, because they don't want all the younger siblings to get the idea you can behave badly just because you struck out.

The history of baseball tantrums resulting in injuries is long, and reinforces the old stereotype of the dumb jock, and the new stereotype of the professional athlete as hoodlum. A Designated Dugout Mom would be quick to tell the water cooler-punching player, "If you're going to act like that, no mom will ever invite you to a birthday party or over to play at her house." Dave George had a few thoughts on the matter,Cox News Service Friday, May 13, 2005 :

"Everybody has a boiling point and I think it's about time I vented," said [former Baltimore manager Ray] Miller, who addressed the media later with a bag of ice on his hand to reduce the swelling from punching the wall. "I think I've done all that's been asked of me as far as promoting the team. I think I'm entitled to snap every once in a while."

Words to live by, as long as you wear a baseball uniform to work and not a postal worker's.

Marlins pitcher Brian Moehler believes in another piece of timeless wisdom. "My mom always told me," he said, "if you're going to start a tantrum go up where they can't see you."

Bud, I've sure enjoyed this chat. I hope you will put my suggestion of Major League Designated Dugout Moms into effect immediately. If not, I sure hope the next commissioner is somebody's mother.


Having an Escher Moment

My plan for today, beyond a pleasant lunch with an art teacher/junk aficionado at Corner Bakery (Collagemama recommends the Corner Combo of 1/2 Caesar salad and 1/2 Chicken Pomidori panini), was to do the materials prep work for the next summer session.

After tying 224 double knots in jute to make handles for fifty-six treasure chests, I moved on to cutting the ocean waves to make a pirate ship on stormy seas hat (think wavy crown). Thank heaven the leftovers from the hat cut-outs form the parrot wings for another camp project! Can you spell "blisters", boys and girls?

Cutting along in this mindless task, I got sucked into a fantasy version of the Allman Brothers playing, "I'm No Escher". Wasn't that the song about starting a fire in your canoe??

... No I'm no angel
No I'm no stranger to the dark
Let me rock your cradle
Let me start a fire with your spark
Oh come on baby
Come and let me show you my tattoo
Let me drive you crazy
Come on and love me baby...



Never underestimate the importance of color-coordinating and finding the right handbag. A matching guitar is always a fashion plus!

Feverish Frog Dreams

Didn't sleep particularly well. Nightmares of frogs dipped in hot wax... Rev. Bobby Welch doing the limbo... Armies of evangelicals wearing fun foam frog visors with large googly eyes... the serious worldwide decline in frog populations... and that decline as an indicator of the environmental health of Planet Earth... folks who are so eager for the rapture of the endtimes that they can justify their continued destruction of the ecosystem.

What, I ask you, is Rev. Bobby Welch doing for the frogs?
He seems to live in a fairly new housing area built over a traditional migratory breeding route for amphibians. He admits publicly that frog squashing is commonplace on his street. Has he considered the possibility of assisting the frogs to reach their destination by encouraging the neighborhood developer to construct amphibian tunnels under the streets?

Welch produced one of the more memorable sermon props in recent history when he displayed a dead frog from the pulpit. "You know how that flat dead frog got this way? A concrete truck ran over it, just down from my house," he said. "This frog's cause of death was not that concrete truck. This frog's cause of death was confusion. This frog belonged in the deep, but he hopped in the street. And that's' where his end came," he said. "You see, if you're destined for deep water, you better go that way. The consequences can be dangerous." He then produced several more smaller dead, flat frogs. "You know where I found all these little dead frogs? Following this big dead frog...." Welch said, holding up an even bigger frog to laughter. " Just because that frog's a big croaker and a high hopper doesn't mean he's going in the right direction." Welch said he regularly sees dead flat frogs when he leaves his home. "And you know what? Just about every day I go around and in the countryside I see a flat dead church and a flat dead bunch of Christians because they got confused and they left the deep. We can go further. We can go deeper. We can do more for the glory of God and the sake of souls if we will get off the bank and go to the deep."

I wish each and every delegate to the convention would get off the bank and off their bazoozy to spend a week in the woods studying frogs outside of ziplock bags. They would learn more about the glory of God and the wonder of Creation than they did in that Nashville convention arena. They might even get a mildly Almighty worrisome itch back behind their right ear that they are not on this planet alone, biding time until their souls are sucked through The Cosmic Pneumatic Tube to the Promised Reward.

"Overall, six significant threats to amphibians and reptiles can be identified: habitat loss and degradation, introduced invasive species, environmental pollution, disease, unsustainable use, and global climate change. " The Center for Applied Biodiversity .

Monty Python might put it thus:

NOBODY expects the destruction of the food chain! The chief threat is habitat loss...habitat loss and degradation...and introduced invasive species.... Our two significant threats to amphibians and reptiles are habitat loss and degradation, and introduced invasive species ... and environmental pollution.... Our *three* significant threats are habitat loss and degradation, environmental pollution, and disease ...and unsustainable use.... Our *four*...no... *Amongst* the significant threats to amphibians and reptiles are.... Amongst the threats...are such elements as habitat loss and degradation, introduced invasive species, environmental pollution and disease, unsustainable use, and global climate change....


A Three Hour Tour

When the Howell's finally got off the island, were they able to look back on their experiences and consider it a vacation success???? Don't millions of people go on expensive trips every year looking for a memorable experience far out of the realm of their normal day-to-day life?

What about Alice??? When she returned from her adventures in Wonderland did she feel oddly refreshed? Were her normal concerns and frets absent from her mind? Was she musing in pinafore moments about dancing the lobster quadrille with a handsome stranger who looked a bit like Emile de Becque? Like some enchanted evening you will meet a dormouse..

It's the first day of my mid-summer break. My son went to stay at his dad's for the weekend, so I slept in this morning. Got up mighty late by my standards, 7:20 or so, made coffee, and read the paper (Yes, the Dallas Morning News had one of those annoying yellow stickers on the front page today.) Spent over an hour organizing my internet "Favorites" bookmarks into more usable and alphabetical categories, a typical library junkie neverending activity.

Spent another hour plus reading about the Southern Baptist Convention president, Rev. Bobby Welch waving around a ziplock bag of roadkill frogs to encourage evangelism. I wanted to get beyond the two paragraph item in the DMN Saturday "Religion" section, and look for his recipes. Didn't get as deep in the GoldenPalace.com on-line casino purchase of a fence from the Grassy Knoll that didn't actually date from 1963. Next time I find a dead mouse or lizard out by my patio fence, I will either bag it for Rev. Welch or sell it to the casino as a religious icon. Book'em, Dano!

Decided it was time to get going, shower, and have breakfast about 10:30. Constructed a plan for errands:

  1. Half Price Books in Richardson to seek a VHS "Pirates of the Caribbean", and a tacky world music calypso CD with the limbo song.
  2. The nail salon to have my painful broken toenail and frightening cuticle helped and beautified. A student stepped on my toe yesterday, and four weeks of clay, paint, and dye have ravaged my hands.
  3. A run by the library.
  4. A massive grocery expedition at Kroger's.
  5. Return home to spend the afternoon reading Elmore Leonard's latest, The Hot Kid, by the condo swimming pool.

Bet that was what The Professor had in mind for the rest of his day after the three hour tour on the Minnow. Sometimes a vacation day doesn't go as planned. Ask anyone who has ever locked the keys in the rental car at a July fourth fireworks display at Kirtland AFB, had to have the divers retrieve their son's molded plastic arm splint from the bottom of a water slide pool at Wet'n' Wild, spent time being questioned in the ER of some vacation town's hospital about their child's black eye and broken arm, knocked the oil pan off the bottom of their Chevy Nova driving on a gravel road in the San Juan National Forest, or had the transmission go out on their 1961 Pontiac Catalina on the drive down from Pike's Peak. Need I mention the jellyfish stings, impetigo, food allergy reactions, corrosive diaper rash due to overdosing on Gerber Baby Cherry Juice, claustrophobic toddlers who refuse to sleep in tents, and traumatic misplacings of "The Special Bunny"?

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
a tale of a fateful trip,
that started from this tropic port,
aboard this tiny ship.
The mate was a mighty sailin' man,
the Skipper brave and sure,
five passengers set sail that day,
for a three hour tour,
a three hour tour.

The weather started getting rough----It was nearing one hundred degrees in the Metroplex, and hotter than Hades on the strip mall asphalt parking lots. On my fourth stop in search of music and video I entered the twilight zone of the Barnes and Noble music department. The first clerk listened carefully to my three Sphinxy-Jinxy questions:

  1. What is that cd being played overhead with the singer who has an even smaller vocal range than Robert Earl Keen's three note, and makes me feel like I've swallowed sandpaper and many cups of truckstop coffee from styrofoam cups then banged my head repeatedly against a concrete block wall outside a rundown cinemaplex with rotting cricket-infested concession garbage and flickering neon?*
  2. Is there a soundtrack cd for "Riding Giants"?
  3. Where would I find a cd sort of like this Putamayo World Music recording of traditional calypso music, but way more tacky and K-Tel-ish with the limbo song and that one about the lime in the coconut?

This young, spiky-haired, pierced fellow was gently entertained by my queries, and gave me some guidance. He even explained the wonders of the headphones and search systems, sensing that I might be a middle-aged woman who doesn't get out much. Unfortunately, he went off on break. I spent over an hour searching for surf music, luau party cds, Chubby Checker's "Limbo Rock" recordings, calypso, Jamaican steel drum bands, pirate and Errol Flynn movie soundtracks, all of which is actually pretty cheap entertainment. I think my dad needs to go to his Barnes and Noble, and listen to the Brubeck cds. Anything I can do, he can do better!

One of the goodies I found was the Ventures' Greatest Hits**. This cd includes the Hawaii Five-O theme, but I wish it had Wipe-Out. Doesn't matter. I'm one with the big waves. I went on to the nail salon feeling like Gidget.

* (Don't try this at home!)

** ***

...the tiny ship was tossed.
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
the Minnow would be lost.
The Minnow would be lost.

Just as I was starting to think I could be Ginger if I just had a peel and stick beauty mark, fake eyelashes, and a Barbie gold lame dress, a crisis of Vesuvian magnitude struck. The gal doing eyebrow waxes tripped and spilled her pot of hot wax all over my new special [groovy black and lime green nearly perfect] purse, and over my sandals. All the nail salon ladies, and even their elderly male manager, collaborated and commiserated on efforts to remove the wax from my purse, but finally they had to concede the purse was a goner. My purse contents were placed in a plastic grocery bag, my salon services were on the house, and I was off to DSW to purchase a new purse while impersonating a bag lady. [This is a cautionary tale. Always zip your purse at the nail salon. That way a hot wax accident won't ruin your phone and everything else inside!]

No phone, no lights, no motor car,
not a single luxury
like Robinson Crusoe
it's primitive as can be.

Strange day in an alternate galaxy, but I am oddly unperturbed. I feel like Steve in Daniel Pinkwater's Wallpaper from Space***. I feel like a space explorer mountaineer tobaggan team mouse looking for gumballs and cornflakes, and I haven't gone five miles from my house. Time to write a Travel Guide to Disasters, Ointments, and Copays for Under $50 a Day.


Going Strapless, Stripeless

Fred MacMurray visited me in the fitting room yesterday while I tried on assorted white capri pants. The Son of Flubber was whispering whale blubbery insults in my ear.

The Dallas Museum of Art, in conjunction with Starbucks, presented Isaac Hayes in a free outdoor concert to celebrate the powerful exhibit of Gordon Parks' photographs. The huge crowd presented fabulous people- and fashion-watching opportunities. The clear bra straps quite visible on women around me snagged my attention, and sent me off on a reverie. Nothing perverse here, as I was pondering possible reuse options for plastic six-pack beverage holders. Think of all the aquatic animals who could be spared entanglement if the beverage rings were otherwise occupied hoisting up major buhZOOMS. The safety of otters is at stake here!

One of the inexpensive art reproductions hanging in our basement when I was a kid was similar to this Toulouse Lautrec painting. I used to worry, while I was supposed to be practicing the piano, how the woman kept her dress on. Being a skinny eight year-old, I had a lot of trouble just keeping my swimsuit straps on my shoulders. Still, when we attended the Shrine Circus, I was disappointed to learn that figure skaters and circus performers weren't really in danger of falling out of their costumes. It made their amazing feats seem far less amazing if they didn't have to keep their outfits on by sheer force of will.

Through the miracle of plastic bra straps, just about anyone can look like a circus performer. Through a different miracle, I was able to purchase an outfit that doesn't have stripes. A realio-trulio outfit all in white, and NO STRIPES.

I don't know how it happens. I go into a store to get a floral or solid top. I try lots of them on. But once I've checked out, I realize I've purchased something striped instead. I'm never sure at what point in the shopping mission my brain has been taken over by aliens switching remote control toggles from their spaceship. It's another magical mystery tour through Kohl's.

I suspect that our living room curtains during my very early childhood are the real mind controllers. The curtains were bleached muslin with horizontal stripes in the primary colors, gray, and black. Stripes were equated with the safety of home, so now my homing mechanism nearly always arrives at the stripes.

Please celebrate my stripeless accomplishment with me by playing the White Album. Enjoy, too, these interesting Images of Antartica taken by a blogger named Seth White. I hope I won't look like a walrus.


Green Suede Shoes

Recently I've been afflicted with a growing conviction that a pair of tasteful, narrow, white capri pants would solve my life. I wake up at 4:33 a.m. to spend a few moments visualizing these white capri pants, and then try to get back to sleep for another hour or so. When I get distracted by Raffi singing "Baby Beluga", or by trying to sort out Captain Ahab vs. Captain Nemo, and Mr. Christian vs. Captain Bligh, sleep can be elusive. And what was the story with the Ancient Mariner and the albatross and Ken Griffey, Jr.? And, my, oh my, what about Randy Johnson, even if he did join the damn Yankees. Whatever Lola wants, Lola forgets!

The last time I had a pair of white pants was in 1975. They were sailor-style wide bell bottoms with gold buttons. The pants went with a green and white striped shirt, and some spring green suede shoes. That was the last time I had green shoes, too.

Now I've got these green sandals, and they are an albatross around my ankle.

Please, please, don't let me look like an albino manatee!

Nurturing Your Inner Etymologist

There are so many lowest common denominator reality shows on t.v. Why isn't there a librarian nerd wannabe show? There's already a librarian action figure! If you can't cut it in the rough and tumble world of the university library reference desk you are fired. When your friends describe someone as a "muse" for a roommate because that person has meals ready in advance of the roommate's return each day, and provides certain amusements, is "muse" being used correctly?

This is the life of a wild & crazy etymology junkie:

The ancient Greek Muses, the goddesses of the arts, are the daughters of Zeus and Memory. Muse comes from the Greek Mousa. Related words are museum, music, and mosaic.

To muse, (ponder or meditate), and also bemuse, are from the Latin mus which means snout, as in sniffing around.

Amuse and amusement are from the Latin muser, which is close to mus, but not the Greek Mousa. Muser means to idle or dawdle, or to stare fixedly. Musetta, from La Boheme may be named for the small French bagpipe of the same name (infer what you will) which derives from muser.

Mouse isn't from Mousa, but from Greek mys, which means muscle. Thus, one might muse about the expression, "What are you, a man or a mouse?"

The library reality show would have added drama with federal, state, and local investigators demanding user records. Eric Lichtblau's story,"Libraries Say Yes, Officials Do Quiz Them About Users", in today's New York Times reports that,despite what the Administration claims, officials have made at least 200 inquiries for library records. They must be from the Latin mus for snout!


I Meant to Do My Work Today

but Al Gore's Web got in my way...

I've got a song in my head, but the tune in my mind is "I've Got the World On a String". It only took me two searches to figure out that "I've got a song in my head" is not one of the verses to that song. Not bad, really. Under three minutes.

Another two searches to find the poem that doesn't go, "I didn't do my work today..." Another five minutes.

The reason I didn't do my work today was that the song in my head was the theme from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". Admit it. Can't you already hear the opening strings and the vague grunting chant? What is it they are grunting? There must be lyrics somewhere. There must be lyrics, and I must find them, if only to save other poor unfortunates from having this song stuck in their head with no relief. I will spare no effort, leave no Google unchurned!

I first heard the theme in 1967 over the earphone of my transistor radio tuned to the Top Forty-Nine countdown on KLMS. Then a skinny kid named Randy brought his 45 to church, and we played it on the Sunday School gray institutional phonograph. Eventually it became one of the two unofficial theme songs of my junior high youth group, the other being Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love". I know, I know. Not exactly "Onward Christian Soldiers", but there you have it.

I remember being confused in 1967, and thinking that Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 had something to do with "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". We were just learning about South America, and the music sounds strange enough to derive from some lost tribe up the Amazon. But why were they singing, "Uh wonko, Waco"? What did it mean in their language? Why didn't Sergio Mendes change the name to Brasil 67? Why didn't he spell it with a "z"? And why was the movie in the Sergio Leone Mountains in California?

In 1967 we had the World Almanac, a Webster's Collegiate Dictionary and the encyclopedia set from the Safeway grocery store. All other research involved going to a public library. Enquiring minds did not feel it was a black mark on their Googling skills if they couldn't find the lyrics to the song, if the grunts could actually be called lyrics. Enquiring minds needed to finish their math homework so they could go babysit the neighbor kids for thirty-five cents an hour. If they survived three hours of that they could walk to the mall on Saturday to buy a 45 rpm record after they finished digging dandelions and listening to the KLMS countdown.

The Webster's was useful when Mom told us we were being "obnoxious and belligerent". We shaped up a bit, but knew she really loved us. It was vacuuming my brother's room that shortened her patience with us.

Sometime between "obnoxious" and "obstinate", my research obsession got out of control. The subject matter was never a cure for cancer or world peace. It was usually identifying butterflies, locating word derivations, or finding pop culture trivia. What exactly did Al Haig say when Reagan was shot?*

When my spouse told me I was being "obstinate and recalcitrant" on a vacation, I knew he didn't really love me, and I wasn't crazy about him anymore, either. No vacuuming was involved. The vacation was already hitting bottom with one son needing stitches, and now I didn't even have a dictionary. It's probably best I didn't have one, or I would have bonked him over the head with it and said, "Uh wonka, Waco!"

And so, I meant to do my work today, but I spent over an hour on an unsuccessful search for the meaning and correct spelling of "Uh wonka, Waco!" I learned that Ennio Morricone composed the soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns. As far as the lyrics, I did not pass Go, and I did not collect a fistful of dollars.

I Meant to Do My Work Today
by Richard LeGalliene
I meant to do my work today,
But a brown bird sang in the apple tree
And a rainbow held out its shiny hand—
So what could I do, but laugh and go?

I never did see the Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns. Mom wouldn't have approved, vacuuming or not. I did see one really strange Sam Peckinpah movie in college about bringing the pasta Alfredo or something. And what was the name of that boyfriend???

I'm exhausted, and the condo is still a mess. I feel like I've been trapped in Tom Robbin's Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates. You're just going to have to track that down by yourself!

*This is a freebie: "As of now, I am in control here in the White House." (3/30/81)


Pixielated and updated

Pixies are often easier to believe in than pixels. I can see pixies if I just kind of squint, but pixels require reading camera and software instructions without the aid of a troll translator. The photos were grainy and pixelated because the camera has a digital zoom instead of an optical zoom reports the techno troll. Fortunately, an artsy fairy explained that digital zoom photos look like an elf worked all night to enlarge my photo onto gigantic graph paper, colored the enlargement in the squares with washable felt pens, then left the graph paper on a stone park bench to await the morning dew.

Whoa. I used to love sitting in the tree house and filling in the squares on sheets of graph paper with my first felt pens. That's why I like Lite Brite*, and the Color Game by Ted Naos.

I was fortunate to visit the "Color Pattern Grid" exhibit at the Austin Museum of Art in April, and I almost had to go buy graph paper.

I'm elated to report that I have Pixie Updates. First, the real title of the Highland Park sculptures is, "Frolicking Pixies". The bronze sculptures were created by sculptor Deran Wright, and given to the town by the Crow family. The sculptor specializes in trolls and other little folk, so click the link to his website. Second, I have some photos of the kids' fairyland mural.

GRATEFUL DEAD lyrics - "Morning Dew"
Walk me out in the morning dew my honey,
Walk me out in the morning dew today.
I'll walk you out in the morning dew my honey,
I guess it doesn't really matter anyway,
I guess it doesn't matter anyway,
I guess it doesn't matter anyway,
Guess it doesn't matter anyway.

*My retirement plan includes occasional days off from playing with Legos to play with Lite Brite.


Naps and cool weather wasted on the young

That poor devil, my youngest, is stuck in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He's been eliminated from competition in the Billiard Congress of America Junior and Collegiate 9-Ball Championships on the University of Michigan campus. He is unhappy, and wants to head home early. Wouldn't you want to rush back to ninety-eight degree Dallas? How awful to have a very nice hotel room overlooking the Michigan campus all to yourself, and nothing to do but enjoy walking in the seventy degree weather, taking photos, napping, or reading? I am soooo jealous!

I'm especially envious because he could attend a very groovy performance of Shakespeare in the Arb's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the Nichols Arboretum tomorrow night. The performers and audience all wander along the trails. It would be a perfect evening as I am deep in the fairy mindset!

Yes, there really is a Billiard Congress of America. It has been "governing the sport of pocket billiards since 1948".

Finding fairies, paging pixies, translating troll talk, and sprites with Sprint

Yesterday the preschoolers made combination wireless Pixy Pagers/Troll Translators. These state-of-the-art technological wonders allow mortal users to keep in touch with pixy associates out in the field searching for fairies, and to receive instantaneous voice-activated translations of troll conversations. An easy-to-use toggle button cycles users through all functions at the flick of a digit. Personal units have wrist cords, rechargeable Pixy Dustbunny Energizer batteries, handy volume controls right on the antennas, and patented Touch-button Wanda-Zappo Pixy Wake-up Alarms. These devices are clearly your all-in-one-hand Fairy Blackberries!

I have more of the wonderful Highland Park pixy sculpture photos ready now. If you would like to go see them, click on this map.

The HP Library has wonderful storytimes for wee folks:

Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. for threes and fours
Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. for age six-month to eighteen-month lapsitters
Thurdays at 11:00 a.m. for twos and threes
Fridays at 10:30 a.m. for threes and fours


Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Toto, I think we're all in Kansas these days. We are all being given the gift of ignorance by the Republican effort to squelch public broadcasting. Ignorance, it's not just for Kansas anymore!

"Ignorance is God's gift to Kansas."

Quote from Richard Dawkins, FRS, the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, at Oxford University.


Hand-knitted mittens

I grew up in a multi-cultural neighborhood. You wouldn't have suspected, but I lived next door to second generation Scandinavian-Americans in our GI Bill housing subdivision in the 1960's.

I always considered our family "The People". Most tribal names boiled down in the tribal language translate as "The People", or "The Real People", "The True People", "The Blondes", or "God's Chosen People". But my family was the realio-trulio genuine article True People. Still, I often felt less than solid in the face of the Industrial-Strength Heavy-Duty Wagnerian Blonde Oldsmobile people next door who claimed they were "The People".

Us vs. Them on Black and White Pay-per-View
Broiled sirloin vs. McDonald's
Fireworks vs. movie
Christmas tree decorated 12/21 vs. Tree decorated 12/2
Horton vs. Babar
Jackie Gleason Show vs. Wonderful World of Disney
Peeled apple sections vs. Whole apples
Jumping on the sofa vs. Painting the playhouse with mud
Nibbled vs. Gulped
First-Aid Cream vs. Bactine
Motels vs. Camping in tents
Jo March vs. Amy
Elephant's Child vs. Flicka, Rikka, & Dikka
Campbell's Beef with Barley vs. Starkist Tuna salad sandwiches
Sunshine Hydrox vs. Oreos
Bouffant Barbie vs. Ponytail Barbie
Saltines vs. Graham crackers
Skippy vs. Jif
View t.v. with lights on vs. Watch t.v. in the dark basement
Beer vs. wine
V.E. Day vs. V.J. Day
Temperas vs. watercolors
Runner sled vs. saucer

Smile a Wee Smile

It is fairy time/summer time again. Go "poof" and blow dandelion or cottonwood fluff in the air. Walk on cool stepping stones surrounded by moss. Listen to a small creek burble over some stones. Look for spider webs glistening with dew. Sip from honeysuckle flowers. Put an acorn cap on your thumb and draw a face. Get drowsy by the pool, and look at blue dragonflies out of the corner of your eye. Put on your leotard, and dance barefoot in the living room to the 33 1/3 rpm mono recording of "The Nutcracker Suite" or Vivaldi's "Four Seasons". Climb the maple, or find a cool "cave" under the branches of the pine tree with a soft floor of needles. Use the biggest umbrella or parasol you can find to act out "The Elf and the Dormouse", by Oliver Herford:

Under a toadstool crept a wee elf
Out of the rain to shelter himself.

Under the toadstool sound asleep
Sat a big dormouse all in a heap.

Trembled the wee elf, frightened, and yet
Fearing to fly away lest he get wet.

To the next shelter--maybe a mile!
Sudden the wee Elf smiled a wee smile.

Tugged till the toadstool toppled in two.
Holding it over him, gaily he flew.

Soon he was safe home, dry as could be.
Soon woke the dormouse-- "Good gracious me!"

"Where is my toadstool?" loud he lamented.
--And that's how umbrellas first were invented.

Be watchful for fairy rings of toadstools in the forest or meadow or your backyard. You are mortal. If you step into a fairy ring, the fairies can capture you and take you to fairyland. Don't eat their fairyland food, or you can never go back. (I'm sure it is made with sparkling Splenda!)

*Wonderful pixy sculpture in Highland Park, Texas, across the street from the Town Hall.


Bad crafts and good fairies

Last week I received the gift of a milkweed plant from a butterfly gardener. Milkweeds are the host plant for monarch butterflies. They are the host plant for memories of Blue Bird day camp at Roberts Park, too.

Roberts Park had a tiny creek running through it, with reeds and milkweed plants along the banks under the spotty shade of big trees. As a Blue Bird, I learned to make a sit-upon out of newspapers, and a drum out of an oatmeal container. I learned to be very careful sitting on splintery picnic table benches wearing shorts, and that crying wouldn't get my mom to take me home.

When I "flew up" to become a Camp Fire Girl, I got to make far more advanced craft projects that all seemed to require gold spray paint. We glued dry macaroni onto a cigar box to make a sewing basket (and I liked the cigar smell!). When spray-painted gold, and loaded with straight pins and a measuring tape, we young ladies were ready to make quilt squares for orphans, which was a step up from making holiday napkin rings for nursing home residents out of tp tubes. I still have the same strawberry pincushion from 1965.

Camp Fire Girls attended day camp at the more remote, large, and wild Pioneers Park. I rode out there every summer day with the day camp director in the far, far back of her pale blue VW Beetle. We went early and were the very last to leave. Due to a terror of falling down a porta-potty, I was forced to stay dehydrated for ten hours per summer day.

We used a mosquito repellent that resembled a glue stick, and was called "6-12", or something like that. Coated with the smelly mosquito repellent, the bonfire smoke, itchy dried-on sweat, and the camomile lotion on yesterday's bites, avoiding the potties, and afraid to drink the instant Tang (in spite of the astronauts), I spent more days on splintery picnic benches and woven newspaper sit-upons. We hiked around the park collecting leaves to glue onto more oatmeal containers, and sandwiched other weeds between clear Contac paper to make bookmarks. We learned to coat the outside of an iron skillet with Joy Dishwashing Liquid to keep the skillet from turning black over the flames. We learned to not coat the inside of the skillet with Joy Dishwashing Liquid to avoid getting diarrhea. We learned to put nail polish on the tips of wooden matches and store them in metal Band-Aid containers in case of emergency. We learned to put our head between our knees if we felt faint, and to lean back if we had a nosebleed. We learned that "nature" was when you used four pieces of tree bark to make a picture frame. "Art" was making a lanyard out of plastic braid. I've got the beads and patches to prove it!

During the winter months we had weekly afterschool Camp Fire meetings in our basement. The high point of all meetings was having "treats", which were usually Hi-C and cookies or popcorn balls. Each December we made crafts like the classic Reader's Digest angel--again with the gold spray paint. Another biggie was making a pomander out of an orange and cloves. Do you know how many meetings it takes to cover the surface of an orange with cloves at one hour per week when you are ten years old??? I would rather go through induced childbirth than make another pomander in Camp Fire Girls!

The all-time greatest bad Camp Fire Girl craft project involved collecting milkweed pods, cattails, and other weeds in Roberts Park. Then next meeting, our amazing leaders brought LP 33 1/3 rpm record albums that had been baked in some fool's kitchen oven until the vinyl rippled and ruffled out from the spindle hole to the edge. Where the record label was, we glued on a halved styrofoam sphere. Into the half-sphere, we poked the stems of all the dried weeds and milkweed pods. Then the leaders spray-painted this aesthetic nightmare in gold. We were able to take these lovely creations home to use for Thanksgiving table centerpieces. You know, we gather together to spray-paint the milkweed...

I've done some dumb kitchen stunts in the pursuit of children's craft projects over the years, but I can't imagine the bravado and stupidity that would allow a young mother to bake LP's until they rippled. I set a microwave oven on fire trying to melt crayons for a wax resist project. I tinted the wallpaper around the kitchen exhaust fan a lovely blue by switching on the fan at the same time I sprinkled a package of dry RIT dye powder into a boiling pot of water.

If you would like to see a sweet video about fairies, look for "Kristen's Fairy House" at your local library or video rental store.

Don't know my own strength...

...or The Search for Smock

We used to be able to buy vinyl smocks with cloth backing and cloth bias tape edging that held up for years of use by kids. The velcro fasteners were attached , and did not rip off the vinyl the first time the smocks were worn, tearing the vinyl apart, and making art teachers very grumpy.

Doesn't anybody sell those sturdy smocks anymore? If you know a source, please comment!

We are using "big daddy shirts" and old soccer jerseys these days, but they need frequent laundering. I have to haul the hamper home, and run the shirts through hot water pre-soak and wash cycles.

On the positive side, I do get some very colorful dryer lint!


Hot carnauba!

Aunt Shirley came to visit us sometimes when I was very little. Aunt Shirley was memorable because she painted her toenails, and sometimes mine, too, in Candy Apple Red polish. I remember nothing else about her visits in the late Fifties beyond the yellowed mental snapshots of Shirley and Mom on the patio, and the smell of nail polish.

Preschoolers love nail polish, as I learned forty-five years ago. For performance day I did my nails in a splendid purple chrome polish. The kids were in awe, although the polish is reminiscent of an amateurish Cub Scout Pinewood Derby car.

Sally Hansen's "Royal Purple Chrome No. 10" is the exact same color as a dorm acquaintance's Plymouth Barracuda. Or Baccaruda, if you can't say "Barracuda". Or just say, "Rhino Boots". The Fruit of the Loom grape purple Baccaruda wore some groovy Seventies Rhino Boots for campus parking violations.


U C D V?

The five and six year olds were so excited about building their own palaces of Wali Dad that I couldn't get their attention. I wanted them to fold their pieces of tag board in half, open them again with the spine/crease up, and fold the two ends to meet at the center. If you fold up the tag board and look at it edge on, you will see a V-shape, and then a W.

Regaining the students' attention often requires a weirdness factor. If I just speak louder, all that happens is the noise level and my blood pressure rise. I've never had good luck with the Clap-Clap-clap-clap-clap class signal, and turning off the overhead lights communicates a level of teacher desperation, not control.

That's why weirdness works best for me, although some would say it's just doin' a what comes naturally. Start wearing a paper hat, and kids get curious. Start directing an incoming 747 on the tarmac with two tp tubes, or tap kids gently with my magic wand, and they get curious. Start pantomiming the next step in the project, and they realize the teacher is from another planet*. Start singing, and I scare the children, so that's out for me. Start dancing, and I can usually get the class back with me, although it's not a pretty sight. Then start speaking in fangy Transylvanian, faux French, or Muppets Swedish Chef, and they are eating out of my hand. Putting a Buddy Holly cassette in the tape player and playing air guitar is good, too.

Monday was the first time I ever started writing in secret code. William Steig's classic book, CDB flashed into my mind, and I wrote "U C D V?" on the dry-erase board. A couple kids started to sound out the word. (Go ahead and try it. Sounds like a kid trying very hard not to be carsick.) I shook my head no, and pointed to one letter at a time. More kids were noticing. I started silently demonstrating with the folded tag board. V. V. V... Moved on to demonstrating the next fold like a flight attendant for the hearing-impaired.

U C D W?

O S, I C D W!

To William Steig, I have to say, "N Q!"

And now, at the end of the day, "I F-N N-E N-R-G".

*Some say men are from Mars and women are Venutians, but I think teachers have to be from Saturn with the spinning rings. I'm not the only person who compares teaching to the man with the spinning plates on the Ed Sullivan Show.

C N-E?


The Great Turtle Mother Swiffers the Kitchen Floor

A soccer friend sent me a link to a doll hobbyist's convention, of all things. One of the award-winning dolls was called, "The Great Turtle Mother Meets Yoda".

I could be the Great Turtle Mother. I haven't actually met Yoda, but I have survived three sons' sci-fi phases, including the most annoying "Star Trek Deep Space Nine" phase. This was the extreme hanta virus version of "Trouble With Tribbles". The acting was so horrible it could have been performed by owl pellets with more emotion and credibility. And the costume/mutation design was done by a brother-sister team of psychos: one did the facial tattoos on old Barbie dolls by heating pushpins with a lighter; the other melted and merged GI Joes and Happy Meal toys with a magnifying glass out on the summer Texas sidewalk.

The Great Turtle Mother Does Luke's Laundry. The Great Turtle Mother is really tired of discussing college plans with Luke Skywalker. Sure he wants to become a Jedi knight or go to Starfleet Academy, but it's difficult flipping burgers with a light saber and the Force. The Great Turtle Mother is sick of doing her Captive Galapagos Tortoise Eating Iceberg Lettuce impersonation.

The Great Turtle Mother Stepped in Something Sticky on the Kitchen Floor. When my sister got me that introductory Swiffer set of dry-sweeping and wet-mopping cloths back in January, she probably thought the packet would get me through February. The Great Turtle Mother Is Not All That Worried About Grimy Disturbances in the Force/Floor. Yoda and I discussed it, and just decided not to go barefoot in the kitchen. Before we go buy more Swiffer cloths we are going to stop off at Mos Eisley's Cantina.


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