Dry Trout Mouth

Janacek's Jenufa is in the cd player. NASA's photos of Mars are on my monitor. Kris Kringle Krunch aka Chex Mix is in the oven. All the digital clocks and timers are blinking their LED numerals because of Friday night's gullywashing storm. I have a bad case of Dry Trout Mouth.

Does "drought" rhyme with trout or mouth? When we used to visit our grandparents and great-aunts, the conversation would always get around to The Drought. I got the impression The Drought was the antithesis of The Flood of Noah. A little Sunday School can confuse a kid, so I imagined my ancestors dressing like the people in the Children's Bible illustrations, particularly, but not rationally, Jacob wearing Esau's clothes and fur.

Some of the old folks said "drout", and others said "drouth", and it was a long time before I discovered the silent g. Half my ancestors lived near Norfolk, Nebraska, and the other half lived near the Republican River. I believed that all the Southern slaves had to get across the Republican River to get to freedom in The North. That would be because Abe Lincoln was a Republican, and Nebraska was a Yankee state, and the Yankees won the baseball game on tv every weekend.

Norfolk, Nebraska, was pronounced nor-fork or nor-foke. It wasn't ever said like Norfolk, Virginia [(nawr-fuhk, nawr-fawk)]. Folks explained to me that "Norfork" was named for the north fork of the river. The North Fork of the Elkhorn River is actually many miles northwest of Norfolk. At least an elk's horns resemble a fork.

When I found out about the silent l, I realized why big Norfolk had to let little Pierce be the county seat. Somebody found out about the Norfork spelling and pronunciation conspiracy, and Norfolk had to be punished. Either that, or all the rocking chairs, hassocks, and porch swings in Pierce made it a natural seat. From Grandma's porch swing you could almost see the courthouse.

The Online Etymology Dictionary indicates that Norfolk is named for North Folk:
Nordfolc (1066) "(Territory of the) Northern People (of the East Angles)." The Norfolk pine (1778), used as an ornamental tree, is from Norfolk Island in the South Pacific, northwest of New Zealand.

As for drought, it's O.E. drugað, from P.Gmc. *drugothaz; related to drugian "dry up, whither" + -ith Gmc. suffix for forming abstract n. from adj. Drouth was a M.E. variant continued in Scot. and northern Eng. dialect.

A linguist at the University of Cincinnati Department of Anthropology explains the trout/mouth problem this way:

Some of those "th"s may be spelling pronunciations. Some people, particularly in the generation born in the early 1900s who attained some measure of education were difficult to persuade that words need not be and many were not pronounced exactly as spelled. They believe if there was a letter in the spelling, there had to be a sound for it in the pronunciation. That's why some people pronounced the "t" in often and the [k] for the "c" in 'arctic'.

1538, possibly a variant of M.E. golet "water channel" (see gullet).

Some sources suggest that "gullywasher" is a Southern expression, but we always used it in Nebraska. That would mean it swam across the Republican River. I can't really explain how these gullies got to Mars, but neither can NASA at the moment:

Bright new deposits seen in NASA images of two gullies on Mars suggest liquid water carried sediment in the past seven years. Liquid water is considered necessary for life, so these new findings heighten intrigue about possible microbial life on Mars. These findings were provided by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor.

The atmosphere on Mars is so thin that liquid water cannot persist at the surface. However, researchers propose that water could remain liquid long enough, after breaking out from an underground source, to carry debris before totally evaporating and freezing.

If you need current drought information, I suggest the USGS Drought Watch site:
http://water.usgs.gov/waterwatch/?m=dryw&w=map&r=us It's good to have your facts straight if you run into any north folks.


Bringing in the sheaves with Vincent

Woke up at four a.m. again, with this song in my brain:

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
Goodness how delicious, bringing in the sheaves.

Glad I could go back to sleep, and didn't have to put on my sabots to walk to the wheat field for a day of reaping, binding and gleaning. The powerful images from the Dallas Museum of Art's current exhibition, Van Gogh's Sheaves of Wheat, played a slideshow inside my eyelids to go with the song.

The exhibit was crowded on the day after Christmas, of course, but it was a rare chance to see it with my son. The show ends January seventh.

Because we are so bombarded with reproductions of Van Gogh's paintings on everything from slick magazine ads to umbrellas, his raw drawings are more commanding. The women workers in the charcoal drawings have the mass and strength to challenge John Henry and his hammer. In contrast, the pen and ink landscapes with repetitive strokes and delicate detail look like patterns for embroidery.

The exhibit puts Van Gogh's wheatfields in context with lovely works by Millet, Breton, Gaughin, and Pissaro. I've never heard of the artists of two of my favorite pieces. I quote Gaile Robinson from the Fort Worth Star Telegram:

Threshing Machine-Loiret (1893) by Gabriel Rigolot is a rare example from the late 19th century that depicts the first piece of mechanized farm equipment. Before its invention, the process of removing the chaff from the grain was done entirely by hand, providing painters ample opportunities to find laborers in the fields.

Inclusion of the threshing machine called to mind the DMA's exhibit of Charles Sheeler "Power" Series. We take just three steps:

  1. Van Gogh's monumental women working in the field, bending over to bind the sheaves by hand.
  2. The Rigolot painting of the threshing machine.
  3. Charles Sheeler's paintings of monumental machines in which the human figure has almost disappeared.

I've never heard of Rigolot or Ernest Bieler. The DMA label reads "Ernst Bieler" on a work that stuns me again this visit to the exhibit. My son is equally impressed by this large painting of two girls plaiting straw. It looks like a Japanese poster composed with the girls' faces almost lifesize and disconcertingly near the top of the picture. It resembles the German marquetry pictures my father and uncle brought home from WWII--very linear, and graphic, but within each outlined shape is a subtle pattern like wood grain in cut lumber. I haven't found much information about Ernest Bieler, but he was Swiss, and lived 1863-1948. After studying in France, and exhibiting at the Salon, he went to the Swiss alpine villages to paint.

So I found an image of a Bieler painting very similar to the one at the DMA. I Photoshopped it with peanut butter to make it look like inlaid wood. It's so close to the wonderful marquetry pictures that hung on the walls at my grandma's and great-aunts' houses. Those images were my childhood concept of, "Once upon a time..."

Peanut butter.

Peanut butter...

A peanut sat on a railroad track.
Its heart was all aflutter.
Round the bend came Number Ten.
Toot, toot, peanut butter.



Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,

Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;

Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.


Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,

Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,

Vince and I are eating, eating goober peas.


The Tongue-Twister Bowl

My three guys are going to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. It will be a road trip for Larry and his brother Darryl and his other brother Darryl. Male bonding is good, and so is overcoming childhood sibling rivalry. I'm all in favor of team-building among the males who will put me in a retirement home someday. (Sooner somedays than others!)

Can you say "Alamo Bowl" three times fast? I can't for the life of me.

Hangman AquaNet Gender Challenge

Boys play the classic snowed-in recess game of Hangman like penmanship-impaired Spaghetti Western extras hanging out at the cantina. Clint Eastwood's Blondie (aka The Man With No Name) and Eli Wallach's Tuco play around with hanging in The _ _ _ _, The _ _ _, And The _ _ _ _. String 'em up fast, then maybe shoot 'em down with a dead-eye shot at the very last minute!

At recess, the guys choose very short words. In their minds a man is hung as soon as head, arms, stomach, and legs are drawn on the rope. By then they have frequently forgotten the word they chose, and no one can read the letters that matched or missed anyway because the scrawls are so illegible. Their version of the game is very loud with sound effects and lots of jumping in and out of their chairs and skootching them closer and closer to the board.

When just girls play Hangman, it is so very different. They choose the longest names of teeny-bopper stars possible. Girls use all the different colored dry-erase markers. There's a lot of giggling and whispering and writing in cursive. Most significantly, they make sure the victim is fully accessorized before hanging!

Oops! I forgot the fingernail polish!

White Christmas in Plano

Just a dusting of white this Christmas Day, and only inside. I've dropped the flour cannister again! Slipping and sliding through the mess on the kitchen floor is enough winter sports for me. Not a major kitchen disaster as mine go, but when I went to answer the phone I tracked white footprints through the house. I finished vacuuming just as the runzas came out of the oven.

A German mother did a presentation for my little students about German holiday traditions, and I've been hungry for runzas ever since. German-Russian and Bohemian immigrants to Nebraska brought many of the traditions and tastes I associate with Christmas.

The most difficult part of making runzas is getting them spicy enough. The meat filling inside the bread dough pocket is usually just ground beef, chopped onions, chopped cabbage, salt and pepper. I don't eat onions, so I chop up lots of celery, garlic, and green pepper, and add ground mustard, parsley, and lots of paprika. They tasted pretty good, but would have been better if preceded by a real walk in outdoor snow!


Hardware holiday season from hell

What set off the flashbacks today was the Drugstore Shopping Spree on Slate with the slideshow of ten gifts under $30 that you can buy at CVS at 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Yes, I'm having flashbacks to my holiday season from hell. That would be Christmas 1987.

I have only the smallest inkling of the post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by war vets and victims of violent assaults. My stress level was much less extreme, but the personal vehicle known as my Self did not have adequate emotional armor that winter.

My oldest son was barely five when he started kindergarten in an Omaha suburb in August of '87. By Labor Day my spouse was transferred to Oklahoma City, and I was single-parenting and trying to sell our house (the nearly perfect house where I had hoped to live the rest of my life). Try having your house ready to show on an hour's notice when you have a kindergartner, a two-year-old, an infant, and an extremely malodorous anti-social hamster!

We moved to Edmond, Oklahoma that Thanksgiving weekend. Having "Thanksgiving dinner" at Waffle House No. 131 on I-35 with three little kids was the bottom for comparing all other Thanksgivings! Friday morning we woke up early at the motel, and my spouse dropped us off at our freezing rental house to meet the moving van. The house had a bizarre floorplan that defied all logical furniture arrangements, and our necessary belongings were in a mountain of boxes. My eyebrow began to twitch, and we all began to itch and scratch.

My spouse was working fourteen-hour days. I had lost my entire support system, and thought our itching was stress-related. After a few days the boys and I were covered in welts, and I had to find a doctor. Our rental house was infested with fleas, and they were attacking us for want of the former canine residents.

After Jeff left on the schoolbus one morning, I got the younger two bundled up and strapped into the minivan. We were on a mission to Westlake Hardware on Broadway Ave. to buy flea bombs. I was so stressed that doing all my Christmas shopping for grown siblings and in-laws in the hardware store seemed perfectly rational. With the little guys sitting in the shopping cart I bought up sweater shavers, de-icing spray, duct tape, a tiny bicycle with training wheels requiring some assembly, kitchen towels, mini-crockpots, bird feeders, padlocks, Phillips-head screwdrivers, chef's aprons, flashlights, shower curtains, shower squeegees, extension cords, and timers for electric lamps.

When my spouse finished work late that Christmas Eve, we loaded up the minivan and white-knuckled it all night driving through the scariest ice storm I've ever experienced. Made it to Grandma's house in Omaha in time for the morning opening of presents. My oldest immediately came down with chicken pox.

Flashlights are the perfect gift for everyone on your Christmas list! If you are just now starting your shopping, be sure to pick up the right size batteries for each flashlight. Preschoolers love flashlights for playing bedtime superheroes as they learn cause and effect. Older kids love reading Harry Potter under the covers. Everyone can use a flashlight with fresh batteries--teen drivers, tornado alley residents, people with overloaded power grids, those afraid of monsters in basements and closets or werewolves on the moors, those trapped overnight in the natural history museum, mothers looking at their kids' tonsils, campers, amateur film-makers doing primitive special effects, people who can't pay their utility bills, spelunkers, those signaling drug-runners or alien spacecraft, Rudolph wannabes... Say "ahhh"... Ahh is calm. All is bright...

Did a bit of hardware store shopping this Christmas season. My youngest is moving into his first apartment after the winter break. I've elegantly wrapped his Rubbermaid Covered Bowl Brush Set like a magnum of expensive champagne. It's a primo toilet brush--White. Plastic. Caddie opens with light pull of brush handle-closes when brush is replaced. Ventilated back. Bristle squeegee action hugs contour of bowl. One piece. Won't rust. Non-matting bristles. Made in United States. $4.99. I'm so envious! Makes me want to shine my flashlight back behind the john.

Life is good. I'd like a flashlight view of my future, but my kids have grown up terrific. They even occasionally clean their bathrooms. The hamster and the Waffle House are far in the past. The eyebrow twitch is subsiding. I hope Santa dips some chips in the queso warming in the mini-crockpot. Then we'll all gather to watch a demonstation of the open and close action of the toilet brush caddy.

Officer Krupke! Gee, it's a mystery!

When it comes to Police*United States*Fiction, Los Angeles leads the nation. At my small, crime-fiction-friendly library, the score is LA 86 to NYC 56. Not even a contest! LA shoots and scores.

I'm vacationing in the lovely library catalog theme park as I often do at this time of year. It does me almost as much good as a real week on the beach with palm trees swaying. My wonderful former librarian employer actually pays me to go on this trip AND I get to do complex yet repetitive catalog maintenance tasks that require considerable concentration and attention to detail. It's like shiatsu massage for my brain.

Visualize a raked Japanese sand garden like the one at the Admiral Nimitz National Museum of the Pacific War down in Fredericksburg. How do those Zen monks keep the sand so perfectly ordered? Mindfulness. Or maybe working the bugs out of the subject headings!

There were so many books in the catalog listed as Police*United States*Fiction that it was time to add further specifications. Imagine being informed that your kitchen junk drawer needs to be sorted! Kitchen*Drawer*Collections isn't going to be sufficiently informative to those guys trying to find the marshmallow roasting skewers or the unidentified padlock key.

The results surprised me as each book was reclassified for a particular state or city. This is a totally unscientific analysis:

86 Police*California*Los Angeles*Fiction
56 Police*New York (State)*New York*Fiction
33 Police*Massachusetts*Fiction
26 Police*California*Fiction (all the non-LAPD officers)
25 Police*Florida*Fiction
20 Police*Washington (D.C.)*Fiction

No big surprises there, although I expected lightweight mysteries with American alligators to be more popular than the snow and history mysteries about Boston.

19 Police*New Mexico*Fiction (I call it the Hillerman factor.)
17 Police*Louisiana*Fiction

16 Ed McBain's imaginary 87th Precinct has to remain vaguely Police*United States*Fiction. Then I'm mystified by a tie between Illinois and Minnesota. Chicago needs all the fictional police, but Minneapolis doesn't catch my imagination as a fictional hotbed of crime.

15 Police*Illinois*Fiction15 Police*Minnesota*Fiction
12 The rest of New York (State)
12 Police*Georgia (U.S.)*Fiction Not to be confused with the former S.S.R.

11 Police*Michigan*Fiction
11 Police*Arizona*Fiction
11 Police*Pennsylvania*Fiction
10 Police*Washington (State)*Fiction I imagine all those Birkenstocked writers keying away on their laptops at tables in Starbucks without buying enough lattes need quite a bit of law enforcement.

9 Police*Colorado*Fiction
6 each for Texas and Alaska
Living in Texas, I would think we need lots more fictional police. It would take more than six just for the cheerleading squad scandal up the road in McKinney! Maybe we will make up for the shortage with Private investigators*Texas*Fiction.

5 for Virginia
4 each for Arkansas
3 for Oklahoma and Kansas
only 2 for Oregon, Ohio, and Iowa

As you stroll through the stacks remember the words of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus: Hey, let's be careful out there. You never know when you might need to rake some West Side Story lyrics out of your inner sand garden. I'm smiling at the memory of asking my mom, "What's a social disease?" I got the impression it was like sixth grade square-dancing in Phys. Ed. class with Brent, the boy with warts on his hand. That was better than breaking the pinata with Karen who needed twenty stitches after biting through her lower lip. Maybe the real mystery is how we all survive sixth grade!

ACTION Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It's just our bringin' up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly
we're punks!
ACTION AND JETS Gee, Officer Krupke,
we're very upset;
We never had the love that
ev'ry child oughta get.
We ain't no delinquents,
We're misunderstood.
Deep down inside us there is good!
ACTION There is good!
ALL There is good, there is good,
There is untapped good!
Like inside, the worst of us is good!
SNOWBOY: (Spoken) That's a touchin' good story.
ACTION: (Spoken) Lemme tell it to the world!
SNOWBOY: Just tell it to the judge.
ACTION Dear kindly Judge, your Honor,
My parents treat me rough.
With all their marijuana,
They won't give me a puff.
They didn't wanna have me,
But somehow I was had.
Leapin' lizards! That's why I'm so bad!
DIESEL: (As Judge) Right! Officer Krupke, you're really a square;
This boy don't need a judge, he needs an analyst's care!
It's just his neurosis that oughta be curbed.
He's psychologic'ly disturbed!
ACTION I'm disturbed!
JETS We're disturbed, we're disturbed,
We're the most disturbed,
Like we're psychologic'ly disturbed.
DIESEL: (Spoken, as Judge) In the opinion on this
court, this child is depraved on account he ain't had
a normal home.
ACTION: (Spoken) Hey, I'm depraved on account I'm deprived.
DIESEL: So take him to a headshrinker.
ACTION (Sings) My father is a bastard,
My ma's an S.O.B.
My grandpa's always plastered,
My grandma pushes tea.
My sister wears a mustache,
My brother wears a dress.
Goodness gracious, that's why I'm a mess!
A-RAB: (As Psychiatrist) Yes! Officer Krupke, you're really a slob.
This boy don't need a doctor, just a good honest job.
Society's played him a terrible trick,
And sociologic'ly he's sick!
ACTION I am sick!
ALL We are sick, we are sick,
We are sick, sick, sick,
Like we're sociologically sick!
A-RAB: In my opinion, this child don't need to have his head shrunk at all.
Juvenile delinquency is purely a social disease!
ACTION: Hey, I got a social disease!
A-RAB: So take him to a social worker!
ACTION Dear kindly social worker,
They say go earn a buck.
Like be a soda jerker,
Which means like be a schumck.
It's not I'm anti-social,
I'm only anti-work.
Gloryosky! That's why I'm a jerk!
BABY JOHN: (As Female Social Worker) Eek! Officer Krupke, you've done it again.
This boy don't need a job, he needs a year in the pen.
It ain't just a question of misunderstood;
Deep down inside him, he's no good!
ACTION I'm no good!
ALL We're no good, we're no good!
We're no earthly good,
Like the best of us is no damn good!
DIESEL (As Judge) The trouble is he's crazy.
A-RAB (As Psychiatrist) The trouble is he drinks.
BABY JOHN (As Female Social Worker) The trouble is he's lazy.
DIESEL The trouble is he stinks.
A-RAB The trouble is he's growing.
BABY JOHN The trouble is he's grown.
ALL Krupke, we got troubles of our own!
Gee, Officer Krupke,
We're down on our knees,
'Cause no one wants a fellow with a social disease.
Gee, Officer Krupke,
What are we to do?
Gee, Officer Krupke, Krup you!


It's not unusual to have naptime breakdown

I planned to read my very favorite book, Margaret Wise Brown's Pussy Willow, for the naptime story Friday. As you may recall, it begins, "Once there was a little pussycat not much bigger than a pussywillow..." I got that far and little three year old Andy started giggling, then saying "pussycat" over and over. Other kids picked up the giggling and chanting, and Andy started singing like Tom Jones--Pussycat, pussycat, I love you! Yes, I do! Andy added some Wyclef Jean imitations to his version. So much for a naptime story!


You dance funny!

That's what the three-year old told me this morning. "You dance funny, Miss Nancy. You dance with your body instead of your hair!"

So that's what I was doing wrong.


Polonaise, not Polonium

Sitting at the red light, I wasn't revving my Harley. The Buick wasn't shaking with the output from it's custom car stereo system. It doesn't take all that much to make the Buick quiver, but the little Skylark was happily grooving to a Rimsky-Korsakov polonaise on WRR 101.1 f.m. Stunned that I was able to identify the music as a polonaise, I patted myself on the back for surviving Mrs. Bathel's piano lessons in the late Sixties, and cranked up the volume. That's when I realized the teenage passenger of the car in the left-turn lane was trying to get my attention. He seemed to be pointing at the Buick's backseat. Could it be that my volume was intruding upon his audio space? Was he a Nice Young Man alerting me to a malfunctioning brake light?

We both rolled down our windows a couple inches. "What is that???," he asked. So glad not to be the victim of a carjacking, I answered, "It's a papier mache lizard pushing a vacuum cleaner, but it's upside down back there!"

The lizard has resided in my office for six years, vacuuming day and night. My job ended today. Our little school site is now highly coveted real estate near the "High Five" interchange. The world of real estate development has enough scheming and coercing for Hamlet's Polonius and an assortment of spies. It is a sad day.


Eyes Bigger Than Their Stomachs

Being a runway nutrition role model is serious business. Several times each week I eat a meal or snack with my preschool students. The kids watch me closely when I open my lunchbox and spread out my food. They take careful inventory of my carrot sticks, and interrogate me on my juice choice. They wait for me to pop the top on my Rubbermaid sip bottle, because it always squirts uncooperatively. Since they've all experienced uncooperative juice boxes, squeeze bottles, and those drink pouches with fiendish straws, my problems bring on mass hilarity attacks.

The kids always tell me my lunchbox is cool. Gosh. What I would have given for that school cafeteria approval rating in the Sixties! It makes up a bit for never having had a "nothing blouse" or a "fruit loop" shirt in elementary school.

When my lunch includes a yogurt dressing for my chef salad, it's big news on the junior foodie network. They all eat Go-gurts, fruit-gurts, drink-gurts, and Mongolian yurts, but they don't eat vegetable salads if they can help it.

Yesterday was pretty long and hectic, so I wanted to eat my supper when the little students had their afternoon snack. I raced through a convenient Arby's to pick up an original roast beef sandwich and a small iced tea on the way to school. After I read the snacktime story, Jumanji, I sat down to eat my sandwich. The preschool paparazzi circled closer and closer, and observed me with great interest.

The kids wanted to know why I went to Arby's. Why on earth did I need to eat supper at snack time? What is roast beef? Is it junk food? Why do they call it "Horsey Sauce"? Did I lose my cool lunchbox? Why did I warm my sandwich in the microwave? I sure was glad I hadn't ordered curly fries, because that's a role model kids don't need!

School lunchbox meals don't need to be over-packaged or gimmicky. They shouldn't contain more than your child will realistically feed himself within twenty minutes. Some schools send the wasted food back home in the lunchbox so parents can adjust serving sizes. Unfortunately, most uneaten food goes into the trash along with all the packaging. If the child refused to eat the supper casserole last night, why on earth do parents send the same thing in a lunchbox? It sets up child and teacher with struggles that interfer with school attitude and work.

Texture, sound, color, and shape are essential lunch features to kids. They like to have some foods that serve as pointers when they pontificate on a range of subjects. Some foods are useful for stacking and building into small walls. That was why I liked canned diced beets as a kid.

Kids like to have one thing that they can rely on, even though it seems boring to adults to have a half PB&J or cheese sandwich every single day. Daily roast beef sandwiches helped me survive the ordeals of junior high school. My youngest needed a daily strawberry yogurt from first through eighth grades.

Kids don't seem excited about a hot lunch at this age. They struggle with the height of tables and chairs. It is tough to spoon soup out of a tall Thermos if you are only three feet tall. Spills don't brighten anyone's day. Hot chocolate seems like a fun idea, but it's another spiller.

Leaking lunches are the bane of the cafeteria. Make sure lids are screwed on tight, and that your child doesn't help make her own lunch by adding a popsicle when you aren't looking!

What will kids eat at lunch? Based on twenty-five years of packing lunches and being in school lunchrooms, I'd suggest:

  • Mixes of yogurt-covered raisins, craisins, peanuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, Cheerios, croutons, and pretzels that they help make.
  • Carrot sticks. They like to dip them, and yogurt is good for dipping*
  • Seedless grapes
  • Peanut butter on saltines
  • Orange sections (Most kids won't eat apple slices that have turned brown, and won't bother with a whole apple.)
  • Plain popcorn
  • Plain granola bars. They like chocolate ones better, but still eat the plain ones.
  • Crunchy banana chips
  • Dried apricots
  • Cheese cubes and string cheese
  • Crunchy still-frozen peas (excellent rattle factor)
  • Chilled pasta with grated cheese
  • Half a bagel with cream cheese
  • Sliced deli ham or turkey rolled up

*Yogurt dip or dressing:

4 oz plain yogurt

1/2 t lemon juice or rice vinegar

shakes of dill, cumin, paprika, and garlic

It helps to remember that someday your child will be a parent and get to enjoy this struggle from your point of view!!


Glueygators vs. the Governator

The naked elf worked into the wee hours of the morning gluing together the pieces of felt and ribbon laid out the night before by the poor, tired art teacher. The elf added olive green spangles for eyes, beads for nostrils, and strapped each felt alligator to a glue stick like a fat Hells Angel on a Harley. The elf knew the children would be happy to see the Glueygators at their winter holiday school party, and he whistled "Born To Be Wild" while he worked. The elf never suspected that come morning he would not receive the customary suit of teeny-tiny tie-dyed clothes created by the grateful art teacher. Neither did he guess he would be the breakfast for Stephan Pastis' Zeeba Zeeba Eata fraternity members.

Inspiration is a crockpot, I always say. You chop up everything, throw it in the pot, add liquid, and let it simmer until needed--years if necessary. As long as it is still slow-cooking, you don't have to wash the dishes.

Weeding out boxes in my closet, I found a bonanza of elfin green felt. Then NPR had a segment about Schwarzenegger, aka the Governator, going enviro-friendly green. I had visions of Arnold morphing into Lou Ferrigno, (The Incredible Hulk), who just celebrated his fifty-fourth birthday in November. For heaven's sake, a new Hulk movie will be released in 2008, with a cryogenically frozen Bill Bixby!

Pearls Before Swine doesn't always pump me up when I read the daily newspaper comics at 6:30 a.m. I'm about as fond of Rat and Pig as I am of having bitewing x-rays taken at the dentist. Stephan Pastis' clueless crocodiles* are the strip's best characters. I doubt his Fraternity of Crocodiles inspire all that many perky, G-rated Christmas craft projects. If you know anyone crocheting a sequined zebra toilet paper cover, please let me know!

Nature Girl isn't Carl Hiaasen's best, but it does have some gator-wrestling. It doesn't have my favorite character, Skink, the former governor of Florida living on roadkill. Still, it was nice, light reading over Thanksgiving.

*Proud members of Zeeba Zeeba Eata, a fraternity dedicated to the destruction of Zebra and other prey, the crocodiles are Zebra’s next-door neighbors. Stupid, slow and barely articulate, these particular crocodiles are a disgrace to their species.

And that, my slow-cooked friends, is how the Glueygators were born.


You'll be out of the will!


I thought that I had seen everything until I went to the Sunday matinee of the Dallas Opera. Waiting just ahead of me to enter our section of the balcony was a young man the same age as my eldest. This dapper dandy was wearing black corduroy pants embroidered all over with tiny white skulls and crossbones. He had paired these pants with a black and white herringbone sport coat, and was obviously proud of this fashion statement. I couldn't help wondering if his mother was equally impressed. What about his grandfather who grew up during the Great Depression? I'm sure he has a grandfather like that, but if he doesn't, he should. I wouldn't blame the wizened geezer if he whacked this particular grandson about the knees with his cane!

Ever the compulsive Googler, I had to find out if these pants were the official uniform of Yale's Skull and Bones Society. Sure looked like some members of the royal family were marrying their first cousins and producing offspring with no-limit credit cards and no sense.

Good grief! Our whole country needs to walk ten miles to and from school (uphill both ways)through waist-high snow drifts with only an Oscar Mayer balony and Miracle Whip on Wonder Bread sandwich for lunch. The young man's pirate pants were available for $185 plus shipping and handling. Even more depressing, he might also order pants with the embroidered skulls and bones wearing Santa hats from J. McLaughlin!

Shouldn't each pair have a Surgeon General's warning sewn into the waistband next to the washing instructions?

Spending good money on these frivolous trousers and wearing them out in public will likely result in bruising about the knees and calves and being written out of the will. You're darn lucky if you aren't keel-hauled.

Music: Frank Churchill
Lyrics: Ned Washington
Premiere: 1941

When I See An Elephant Fly

I saw a peanut stand,
heard a rubber band,
I saw a needle that winked its eye.
But I think I will have seen everything
When I see an elephant fly.

I saw a front porch swing,
heard a diamond ring,
I saw a polka-dot railroad tie.
But I think I will have seen everything
when I see an elephant fly.

I seen a clothes horse he r'ar up and buck
And they tell me that a man made a vegetable truck
I didn't see that I only heard
But just to be sociable I'll take your word

I heard a fireside chat
I saw a baseball bat
And I just laughed till I thought I'd die
But I'd been done seen about everything when I see an elephant fly.


Waves of runners

For my young artists, these marathon runners are almost life-size. They are creating a mural to energize racers arriving at the Mile 16 aid station during the Dallas White Rock Marathon next week. The photo is of the work in progress. Thekids have added swooshes and lightning to the shoes for added speed, and drawn IPods for some racers. Yes, the runners are all still bald, but that will be remedied soon.

This project fits in with our travel unit. We are considering modes of transportation, journeys, and destinations in our art. We'll add maps of the race course around White Rock Lake to the types of maps we study. Runners come to Dallas from all over the country and around the world to run "The Rock". Maps help kids understand point of view and aerial perspective. We may look at the helicopter coverage on WFAA of runners on the course to help make that connection. But of course that will require me properly programming the VCR for race morning!

The preschoolers were very excited about the big numbers for the paper racers. My youngest taught me well so many years ago. When he was three he desperately wanted a shirt with a number so he could kick a soccer ball around. His bigger brothers had uniforms for soccer and t-ball, and the shirts had big numbers, of course.

Having just taken the Buick for service, I knew where I might get some numbers for our paper runners. Thanks so much to Steve Fortner of Ewing Buick's service department!

"The Rock" will have about 14,000 participants this year, not counting the mural racers! Speaking of numbers, that's a lot of cups of Gatorade at the Dallas Running Club's Mile 16 station.

Rossini's Scalp Treatment

Thanks so much to the Dallas Opera for acknowledging the classic 1950 Chuck Jones Warner Brothers short, "The Rabbit of Seville", in the current volume of its online newsletter. With apologies to Robert Fulghum, all I ever knew about opera I learned from Looney Tunes, at least until recent years. How fun to see Bugs and Elmer Fudd with just one click!

My favorite part of the cartoon is Bugs using his toes during Fudd's scalp massage. How did Ben Washam figure out Bug's presto digital foot movements? I'd have as much luck figuring out how to do Michael Jackson's Moon Walk!

Portrait of the blogger as a middle-aged teacher

According to my early elementary art students, I look like one or all of these drawings. We spent Tuesday afternoon analyzing faces and head shapes, and we all drew each other. It was only fair if I drew them, that I would sit for a portrait, too.

Let me just say that is a scalloped neckline, not chesthair!! Next week we will talk about shoulders.

At the end of class the students drew primate portraits from photos. They did an impressive job analyzing the faces of gorillas, snow monkeys, orangs, and chimps on their own.


Ballet legs and back dolphins

Breathe in.
Breathe out.
Go with the flow.
Be one with the chlorine.

Get in touch with your inner mermaid.



Thank heaven for the written tests of my Phys. Ed. years. How satisfying to know the rules of tennis, basketball, volleyball, golf, field hockey, and softball! Without the opportunity to ace those tests and counter my failing skills tests, I never would have passed P.E. You would think I'd have nightmares about being an AARP member trapped forever in junior high gym class wearing a dorky light blue bloomer gymsuit with my name written in laundry marker on the pocket. Instead, I'm trapped in Viking Navigation.

Physical fitness is a fabulous idea, especially when balanced with the concept of "recess". Kids need to experience organized sports, but it is essential that they have time to run, stretch, and create their own games. The social and physical benefits acquired while playing jacks and jumping rope are equal to any adult-led league/trophy sport. Does a child learn more hanging from his knees and pretending the jungle gym is an apartment building for gorillas, space aliens, pirates, and princesses or by wearing a batting helmet and pounding ants with her baseball bat in a chain-link dugout?

All of my personal highlights reels occurred in the Wonder Bread years. Since I believed that Lyndon Johnson would personally review my performance, I trained to stun my P.E. teacher in both the sit-up and pull-up events of the President's Physical Fitness tests. When I actually caught a fly ball in deep, deep, deep center field, the entire addled isxth grade class had to be scraped off the playground with spatulas.

My friend will be having extensive kidney tests in the morning. When I send positive vibes, they keep swimming out of their groovy cosmic Age of Aquarius lanes. The first motel swim pool in my childhood memory was a kidney-shaped pool in Topeka. The sky was gray and heading toward lightning. My swimsuit was a one-piece shrimp pink and coral "bubble suit". My bathing cap had a cluster of color-coordinated sea-anemone rubber flowers and an irritating chinstrap.

Please visualize your kidneys as twin swimming pools with perfectly synchronized swimmers backstroking in lovely sequinned costumes and aquafabulosa headware! Add a halo of tiny bubbles.

Requirements of synchronized swimming include wearing a noseclip and a hair bun, which is kept in place with unflavored Knox gelatin. When one is truly in the white light and the flow, it is easy to perform ballet legs, back dolphins, and other cosmic synchro routines.

1531, "act of receding," from L. recessus "a going back, retreat," from recessum, pp. of recedere "to recede" (see recede). Meaning "hidden or remote part" first recorded 1616; that of "period of stopping from usual work" is from 1620, probably from parliamentary notion of "recessing" into private chambers. The verb is from 1809.


Labor Saving Devices with Celery and Garlic

I'm getting used to Internet Explorer 7.0 and the other automatic Windows updates beamed into my computer this week. It took time to readjust my toolbars and settings, and I'm still clicking in the wrong place for my favorites. Of course, I still look for spoons in the drawer where they were in the old condo. We moved into the nearly identical new condo in July of 2000, and swapped the silverware drawer with the placemat drawer to make it more logical and efficient!

With the condo full of sniffling and coughing people, it was time to make soup. Mid-morning I started sauteeing celery and garlic. Divided that into two pots for two kinds of soup. In the first pot, I added chopped mushrooms and broccoli, then a can of Swanson Low Sodium chicken broth. Into the second pot went chopped green pepper, carrots, parsley, leftover turkey, yellow squash, peas, a can of broth, and a can of crushed tomatoes in puree. The steam was making me feel better already. The empty cans went into the recycling basket, and the dishes filled up the dishwasher.

On a roll now in the X-Soup championship of the world, the leftover mashed spuds went into Pot One, along with boiling water. Dill and cayenne were next. Over in Pot Two, oregano, thyme, basil, cumin, Worchestershire sauce, and a bay leaf. Oh, the savory steaminess of it all! My sinuses were happy enough to realphabetize the spice rack.

Just about the time the mashed potatoes were blended delumpily into the broth, and I started stirring in milk, my socks got wet. Huh? The dishwasher was leaking. I'm braver with annoying appliances than with certain computer applications or soup recipes. I am woman with True Value 4-in-1 screwdriver, quarter-inch six-point nut driver, and needlenose pliers, hear me roar! Checked the float, the gasket, cleaned the drain screen, and removed the front access panel to peer into soggy darkness. My How To Fix Everything book was helpful, but offered no guidance for standing on my head or curling myself into the dishwasher without getting wet. I needed a miner's headlamp, a dentist's mirror, and clown car experience! My respect for repair-persons was growing the more I contorted.

When the professionals arrived, they quickly determined that the part and repair of my dishwasher would cost more than a new one. I hated spending the $54 for the service call, so I pumped them for recommendations for reliable dishwashers. Keep it simple, they said. Get a dishwasher with a dial, not a control panel. They must have known about my spoon drawer and the Windows toolbars!

Home Depot will deliver my new, very basic, GE dishwasher in a few days. By then the fans will have dried out underneath the cabinets. We've enjoyed the soup, but I'll have to handwash Pot One and Pot Two.


Recurring Nightmare Variation Survey

Viking Navigation. Mr. Sanders. Room 348.

That was the class I forgot to attend until the big research paper was due. I had attended it a few times last semester, but I got confused and started attending a math class in a parallel hallway instead. You know how if goes. Neither room was anywhere near the salmon pink dream locker with the impossible combination. Upstairs. Downstairs. Down one-way halls. So naturally, I failed the final and had to take the class again.

This semester I could barely lift the textbook for remedial Viking Navigation. I didn't attend class, although I had my schedule written in pencil on a tiny scrap of a crumpled envelope. The period was always over before I could get the paper flattened out to see where I was supposed to be. Kind of like my life right now. Worse, I forgot to go to the counselor until I could no longer withdraw passing. I had to withdraw failing she said, right after she announced to the world that "another one's run afoul of Mr. Sanders." Maybe that's a fowl, since this is Thanksgiving Day. After much consultation, the counselor assigned me eight days of community service, and switched me to Mrs. Barry's English class. Mrs. Barry was much fatter than she was in 1973, and had dyed what was left of her hair a melon orange color. The class was studying underwriting of poetry in an ancient steam-heated lecture auditorium with wooden folding chairs.

I'm just thankful for waking up from that mess! All in all, it wasn't as bad as when I dreamt I forgot to go to third year German and lost my car keys, or those dreams when my fingers are too fat to "dial" my cell phone.

Just as a survey question, please add a comment about which particular class you forgot to attend until the final exam! And yes, Millard Lefler Junior High did have a one-way hall and salmon pink lockers.


Black Olives, O Best Beloved

"What are you having besides turkey?" That's been the question of the week, and I'm not really sure. There will be turkey, sage dressing, mashed potatoes, cranberry jelly, and sauerkraut. Most important of all, there will be pitted black olives. Turkey is optional, but black olives are essential!

My most culinary son and his special friend-girl will be here for the holiday. They are globe-trotting members of the foodie generation. They like to cook together. We'll make our final menu plan together.

Several of my little students will be having turkey "for dessert". Life is short, the saying goes, so eat dessert first. One student announced he will be having "turkey burgers, and they don't hop away." That's something for the gratitude list. With his wide blue eyes he patiently explained to me that turkeys hop away, but turkey burgers don't. Hope I don't have hopping turkey burger nightmares...

That is why I like pitted black olives. Once you put them on your fingertips, they never hop away. For that I sing "Amen, Amen; Amen, Amen, Amen" along with another three year old in class. He was singing Hymn 2072 like Sidney Poitier and the nuns in "Lilies of the Field"*.

None of the preschoolers expressed strong opinions about cranberries. No matter what the foodie generation decides, I will stick with Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce.

My oldest ate a whole bag of fresh cranberries, and wrote me wondering if his innards would bog down. He loves the bitter taste. I'm thankful for the memories of his eating cherries and berries as a toddler! Who would have guessed that cranberries were the tart trend for twenty-somethings?

Amazon.com essential video
*Sidney Poitier won an Oscar for this endearing movie about a handyman who thinks he's just passing through a little town in New Mexico, and ends up staying awhile to build a chapel for a cluster of German-speaking nuns. The renowned actor is highly entertaining in his combative exchanges with Lilia Skala, playing a Mother Superior who survived Hitler and makes no bones about bullying the goodhearted, itinerant worker into doing more and more for her. The film has an ambling, easygoing style with several memorable moments, not least of all is Poitier leading his holy hostesses through verses of the gospel song "Amen." Lilies is directed by the late Ralph Nelson, a pioneering director of live television who also made a number of popular feature films with notable performances (Jackie Gleason in Requiem for a Heavyweight, Cary Grant in Father Goose, Cliff Robertson in Charly) in the 1960s and 1970s. --Tom Keogh


Too cold, too old

If it's too loud, you're too old. So says the rock festival mantra. I'm not old! I'm still hip and groovy, or at least hippy and grooved. I had a great time at Eric Clapton's Guitar Festival at the Cotton Bowl a year or so back, and at Santana and Steely Dan concerts with my sons. I play an occasional game of The Sims on the computer. I can send text messages on my cell phone, although I tend to use complete sentences and punctuation.

Earlier this week I was just too darn confused navigating the unfamiliar Park Lane DART Park & Ride station. Dropping a friend to catch the train, I got bogged down in the parking lot instead of the drive-through Throw-Mama-From-The-Train-A-Kiss-Goodbye lane. My only escape route led up a ramp and through a parking garage. I emerged on the backside of a Best Buy store. Tired and frustrated I drove around the building, only to encounter a campground of wacko Playstation 3 sidewalk scouts. I was ever so relieved to finally find the access road to the freeway without running over a sleeping bag!

Who are those deranged folks camping on the Best Buy #58 sidewalk? Don't they have real jobs and schools? Why would they stay there when the temp dropped forty degrees and the wind gusted to forty mph that night? I just don't get it, so maybe I am too old after all. Even after reading all about the comraderie of the sidewalk campers in the Dallas Morning News, and learning that most of the campers intended to buy a Playstation 3 at midnight to sell it during the day for 3-4 times the cost, it still seems nuts.

Since Tuesday, I've tried to think of something for which I'd be willing to camp on the sidewalk outside a store. Peace on earth? Yes. Affordable, universal health care? Yes. An end to the ridiculous emphasis on standardized testing of school students for political purposes? Probably. A breakfast at my grandma's house with kolaches and sausage? Yup. That's it though. Let me know the release dates on those, and I'll get my sleeping bag down off the shelf. All is calm, all is bright...

Real candy

The preschoolers are still talking about Halloween. We asked them if they had any candy left. One girl said she still had some M&Ms, but no "real candy". What is "real candy," we asked her. "You know," she said, "Big chocolate bars."

Indeed I do. Skip the bite-size individually-wrapped items, the Smarties, and Pixie Stix. Cut to the big Milky Ways and Snickers, Hersheys, and Dove bars.


"It is a good day to die"

"Check engine" is not what we like to see on the dashboard when zooming off to a D.A.P.E. workshop on preschoolers' development and guidance. Like most preschoolers, I wanted to ignore the warning and keep pedaling my tricycle in crazy circles, faster and faster past all the other kids. Unlike most preschoolers of my acquaintance, I had a nagging fear that something was wrong with this plan. The Buick is tired and creaky. Sometimes it's cranky. It's due for its safety inspection, and we are entering a holiday week. The Buick is usually uncooperative at safety inspections, and has been known to have major meltdowns at holidays. Maybe the Buick is the preschooler in this scenario, not me.

Our morning was crisp, sunny, beautiful, and perfect for driving my Skylark tricycle in crazy circles. Instead, I drove it to the dealership like a nervous old lady. I did not want to die, or to have the car die, even if it was a good day.

Monday I typed up Native American poems for the elementary students. The poems and chants always strike me with their spareness and rhythms. They have the clean, honed feeling of haiku, but the rhythm that makes me want to drum or to dance. I wanted to pull out my old copy of John Neihardt's classic Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux. It is cool that there's an electronic edition available. In Neihardt's chapter 25, page 204, Black Elk tells of the massacre at Wounded Knee:

...An old man by the name of Protector was there, and he ran up and held me, for now I was falling off my horse. I will show you where the bullet struck me sidewise across the belly here (showing a long deep scar on the abdomen). My insides were coming out. Protector tore up a blanket in strips and bound it around me so that my insides would stay in. By now I was crazy to kill, and I said to Protector: "Help me on my horse! Let me go over there. It is a good day to die, so I will go over there!" But Protector said: "No, young nephew! You must not die to-day. That would be foolish. Your people need you. There may be a better day to die." He lifted me into my saddle and led my horse away down hill. Then I began to feel very sick.

John G. Neihardt spoke to me once, and I've never been quite the same. Actually, the poet laureate of the state of Nebraska spoke at a school assembly in the auditorium of Millard Lefler Junior High in about 1970. Neihardt was a tiny man in his nineties with flowing white hair slightly more tamed than Einstein's. He could barely see out over the podium, but when he began to speak about Black Elk's visions we were transfixed. We were pulled from our world of buying candy and gum at the Ben Franklin 5 & Dime by the power of his words. Ever tried to get the attention of even one junior high student??? Our principal, Kathryn Hurst, often ranted to us after an assembly that we were the worst class ever to blight the Millard Lefler auditorium, but this time we were held silent by his electrically-charged presentation.

My check engine light was speaking wisdom due to overly-charged spark plug wires. Consumer Reports has tips for what to do when your Check Engine symbol lights up.
The Buick is much improved and revitalized after its day at the dealership. I'm thrilled that it passed inspection without the annual rebellion by the left rear lights.

Thank heaven the Buick doesn't need to be planning for an Orpheus Society bequest to the Dallas Opera in its will. It will live to enjoy another fall day, pretending to be the shiny tricycle coveted by all the preschoolers. The Orpheus letter arrived to solicit my bequest, but I'd already enjoyed the day. The Buick and I both felt recharged.

Old Lodge Skins, played by Chief Dan George in the 1970 movie of Little Big Man tells Dustin Hoffman's character, Jack Crabb, that "It is a good day to die." In a way, the wise Old Lodge Skins is telling us to check our personal onboard diagnostics:

"It is a good day to die" is a native American expression that has oft been misinterpreted. Usually used in Hollywood movies by stoic noble savages heading into battle it's true implications are far beyond mere warrior bravado. Simply put it means to live each day as if it was your last and make sure you have no regrets when you have to leave. If every day is a "good day to die, how would denying yourself the emotional experience of being human serve any purpose.

(from Leap In the Dark blogger Richard Marcus, 6/18/05)


Our lovely baby llama

I'm pleased to report that Aaron Chimbel of WFAA did another video news segment about my caddy-corner cria at Custer and Park in Plano. On Monday I saw the baby llama sitting on the back of its llama mmama while she was resting. It looked ever so much like the rare pushmi-pullyu in Hugh Lofting's The Story of Doctor Dolittle. At least it resembled my mental image of that fictional creature.

One of the most lovely things about reading is creating our own mental images of the story. I avoid movies based on books I've read because they rarely jibe with my personal version.

We went to see Disney's "Mary Poppins" at the old State Theater on "O" Street in 1964. I was horribly embarrassed to be seen crying at the end of the movie. It was the first time I cried at a movie, but far from the last. I was crying because the ending was sad, but also because Julie Andrews was nothing like my personal vision of P. L. Travers' nanny from reading the book. I was nine years old, and confused. Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Ed Wynn, and Glynis Johns were all wonderful in the movie, but it just wasn't sooty and foggy enough!

After that I didn't want to experience the clash of expectations by seeing Rex Harrison in the 1967 Dr. Dolittle, or Dick Van Dyke in the 1968 Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. Ian Fleming's book is a favorite to this day, but I dreaded a clean and sparkly Hollywood version.

I read Jean Craighead George's My Side of the Mountain for the first of many times after I saw the 1969 movie at the old Joyo Theater. It still bugs me that the endings are different. The movie images make it impossible to create my personal mental illustrations whenever I read the book. I still love Sam Gribley, Fearful the falcon, the wonderful librarian Miss Turner, and the Baron weasel. I still entertain the idea of running away to the Catskills and living in a hollow tree. It beats being stranded on Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins with a pack of wild dogs with only my own imagination!

And so, if you have a personal mental image of a charming baby llama on an historic farm in the middle of a built-out suburb, please don't view the WFAA link. Get your colored pencils and watercolors. Hold on to your interpretation!


Waiting for Stonehenge to dry

Way back in the olden days of the 1960's when we walked to school through the snow, children did not have free AOL internet cds to use for tracing circles. It was a cold, dark, and primitive time. We had to use our Etch-a-Sketch and Spirograph to pretend we had the thumb-clicking computer games that hadn't been invented yet. We actually wore clothes made from gingham and rickrack. [Be sure to remember us when you plan your holiday/tax deduction-inspired charity giving! Many of us are still in therapy.]

I belong to the Romper Room Do-Bee generation.
Miss Linda on Romper Room could see all of us through her Magic Mirror, and name us by name. Her circular mirror was an amazingly powerful device.

In those dark ages, parents did not let their children run with scissors. You had to be at least thirteen to carry a sharp, pointy compass in the zippered pencil bag inside your three-ring Slicker binder. We learned early, though, to draw an accurate circle with two pencils connected by a length of string or wire. Primitive people are resourceful, and that is why they are able to create the felt circles to make poodle skirts!

Maybe that is why I've always been fascinated with the circles of Stonehenge. How did people nearly five thousand years ago lay out the circles for pits, berms, and stones? Never mind the astronomy aspects of the project! How did that mom on Salisbury Plain tell her kids to stop bickering about it?

You, Nyorg, will stand here and hold this stick to the ground. This is the most important job. You must do it very quietly for the magic to work. You must stand still and be strong until your dad gets back from hauling those fifty ton stones twenty miles. [At least that's what he claimed he was going to be doing.]

Now, Snyurg, you have the most important job. You must take this length of rope woven by the Grandmothers, and attach one end to Nyorg's stick. Then you must attach the other end to Klorgle's stick. This magic will only work if you hum quietly to yourself all the while and keep your finger out of your nose and your loincloth.

Klorgle, my brave girl. You are the dancer who has the most important job. While Nyorg stands still holding his stick to the ground, you must stretch Snyurg's rope taut and dance with your stick all the way around the flat meadow. Your dancing will make the sun rise and set [and keep you out of the hut while I make moss stew for supper and feed baby Gleurg. ]

Why yes, Nyorg, that's a very good question. A henge is an earthwork system of bank and ditch. Please keep standing there holding your stick very still. [Makes me think of Charlie Brown on the pitcher's mound.]

My students are waiting for their clay Stonehenge projects to dry so they can be fired in the kiln. After that, they will paint the projects with watercolors and have them done by the solstice. If we stand just so and really squint, we might discover the Big Poodle and the Little Poodle in the night constellations.


It isn't over until the fat...

... man snores.

Everything about the Dallas Opera's 50th anniversary production of Verdi's "Nabucco" is fabulous. Fabulous!! Dallas artists Frances Bagley and Tom Orr designed sets worthy of a Wonder of the World like the Babylonian hanging gardens.

I'm happy to report that the man seated behind me announced that he did not have season tickets. That was even before he fell asleep and started snoring loudly during the famous chorus of the Hebrew slaves, "Va pensiero", in Act III. What if the supertitles projected above the stage read, "sleep apnea"? What a wonderful commercial this would make for those Breathe Right nasal strips for athletes and snorers!


My new neighbor is a cria

Cria is one of our vocabulary words for this lovely fall day. A cria is a baby llama, and there's a very new one at the farm caddy-corner from my condo. Every condo should have a caddy-corner cria!

The Haggard Farm's llamas are featured in two online videos made earlier this year. The YouTube video features lots of wind and traffic noise from the busy Custer and Park intersection, so turn your volume down. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujRY_PbHRXk. The second video comes from WFAA's mobile journalist, "Mojo" Aaron Chimbel. Just hang in there through the Toyota commercial for the llamas.

I was reading on LlamaWeb that llamas and alpacas are camelids, and remembering my introduction to camels at Lincoln, Nebraska's old Antelope Zoo. The camel was in a fenced area outside, and it was a notorious spitter. We lived close to the old zoo when I was a toddler, and my mom used to take me to the zoo in the stroller so I would be distracted while she cut my fingernails.

Spitting is also the llama way of saying "Bug Off!" According to LlamaWeb, spitting is "normally used between llamas to divert annoying suitors, ward off a perceived threat or, most commonly, to establish pecking order at mealtime, an occasional llama who has been forced to tolerate excessive human handling may have developed an intolerance for or a fear of humans and will spit if they feel threatened by them."

Turn your volume back up before you listen to the audio clips on The Llama Question and Answer page. I can't find our old copy of Peter Spier's picture book of animal sounds. Gobble, Growl, Grunt was a favorite of my oldest son. He liked the buffalo that said "ballooo" best. It seems to me the llama was on the page of silent animals with the mute swan, spider, and tortoise, so I was surprised to learn that mama llamas and crias hum to each other. Somehow, it isn't all that surprising that male llamas orgle, our second vocabulary word:

Males will make a very strange sound while they are breeding which is called an “orgle”. (101k) They will sometimes make this sound if there is an open female on the other side of the fence. A breeding will typically last twenty minutes and will often go longer, with the male orgling continuously. All of the other females will gather by the fence to see what is going on as soon as they hear an orgle. Often the male is quite attentive to the female during the breeding process, nibbling lightly on her ears and rubbing her neck with his front feet. The female, on the other hand, usually looks completely bored and will sometimes eat grass, occasionally looking around at the male, as if to say “Aren’t you done yet?”

...Each male has a slightly different orgle. The previous orgle was Lazo who was actually trying to persuade Beverly to lie down. She didn’t but he was certainly trying, and eventually gave up. The next recording is Conquistador breeding Socorra. (56k) He was also having his toes trimmed at the time. This is often the easiest time to work on the male’s feet as his mind is completely occupied and doesn’t even seem to notice the manicuring. [emphasis mine]

I was going to get manicure sets for my grown sons' stocking stuffers this Christmas, but there are some things a mother doesn't need to know! I'm not ready to be a grandmother, although the little cria looks very cute and cuddly.

Bobbing for pumpkins

One of our favorite sights at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo was the outdoor pool for the tigers. Tigers are great swimmers, which is always a surprise, and they loved playing with the empty aluminum kegs floating in the pool. The zoo's cat complex is the largest cat breeding and management facility in North America.

Tigers were the only thing missing last Sunday morning at the Dallas Arboretum! The fountain pool in front of the Camp house featured all these floating pumpkins in every color and size.

Only the good towels die young

Finally finished the grout and caulk repair on the downstairs shower, so I can get to work on the upstairs caulk issue before the Thanksgiving houseguests arrive. Now there's a new problem, and you can sing along:

Where have all the bath towels gone?
Long showers passing
Where have all the bath towels gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the bath towels gone?
Gone to college every one
When will they ever learn?
When will I ever learn?

A coworker says her mother-in-law gives her a new set of bath towels every Christmas. I think that is very thoughtful and sweet. A mother-in-law would understand well that it's a treat to have some fluffy towels to put out when guests are coming instead of the tired towels that don't really dry any more.


Flying Non-Stop

Thank heaven our Governor GoodHair has finally simplified all the air travel issues plaguing us in North Texas. Governor Rick Perry sat next to San Antonio megachurch evangelist preacher, Reverend John Hagee, on a red-carpet red-state stage on the Sunday before Election Day. "If you live your life and don't confess your sins to God almighty through the authority of Christ and his blood, I'm going to say this very plainly, you're going straight to hell with a nonstop ticket," Mr. Hagee said during a service interspersed with religious and patriotic videos. Perry said afterwards he didn't hear anything he would take exception to.

It's unclear if the Governor sat at the left hand or the right hand of the inerrant Rev. Hagee. It's also unclear if those of us going to hell in a handbasket can use the overhead carry-on bins, or have to check our luggage. Yes, I know, you can't take it with you, but the luggage restrictions for the unbaptized and unsaved are as blurry as the fine print on the repeal of the Wright Amendment! Here we got all excited about flying out of Love Field on Southwest Airlines with one-stop ticketing. Now we don't even get to wander the halls of the purgatory motel looking for the ice machine to fill up our plastic bucket.

What will be the color-coded terrorist threat level for passengers winding their way through the maze of ropes at the security checks at DFW Airport? Seems like folks destined to burn in hell forever should get to take moisturizing shampoo and conditioner, aloe vera lotion, chapstick, and lots of bottled water. Will seating be Southwest Airline cattle-call style or assigned?

Whenever I think of Texas Governor Rick Perry, weighty issues like salvation, border patrol, or school accountability are not on my mind. Instead I ponder his hair and wonder if it is fake anything or real Dynel.

Dy·nel (dī-nĕl') is a registered trademark product from Union Carbide, a copolymer of vinyl chloride and acrylonitrile employed in making fire-resistant, insect-resistant, easily dyed textile fiber. The Dynel advertising slogan ("It's not fake anything. It's real Dynel") is just one of the memorable slogans created by Jane Trahey in the 1960's. Ms. Trahey was best known for Blackglama's "What Becomes a Legend Most?" campaign, and for Danskin Inc.'s "Danskins Are Not Just for Dancing."

With the travel destination and mode determined, it is alway wise for the tourist to pick up a phrase book of the local idioms:


O.E. hel, helle "nether world, abode of the dead, infernal regions," from P.Gmc. *khaljo (cf. O.Fris. helle, O.N. hel, Ger. Hölle, Goth. halja "hell") "the underworld," lit. "concealed place," from PIE *kel- "to cover, conceal, save" (see cell). The Eng. word may be in part from O.N. Hel (from P.Gmc. *khalija "one who covers up or hides something"), in Norse mythology Loki's daughter, who rules over the evil dead in Niflheim, the lowest of all worlds (nifl "mist"), a death aspect of the three-fold goddess. Transfer of a pagan concept and word to a Christian idiom, used in the K.J.V. for O.T. Heb. Sheol, N.T. Gk. Hades, Gehenna. Used figuratively for "any bad experience" since at least 1374. As an expression of disgust, etc., first recorded 1678. Hell-bent is from 1835. Hell-raiser is from 1914 (to raise hell is from 1896); hellacious is 1930s college slang. Expression Hell in a handbasket is c.1941, perhaps a revision of earlier heaven in a handbasket (c.1913), with a sense of "easy passage" to whichever destination. Expression hell of a _____ is attested from 1776. Hell or high water is apparently a variation of between the devil and the deep blue sea. To wish someone would go to hell is in Shakespeare (1596). Snowball's chance in hell "no chance" is from 1931; till hell freezes over "never" is from 1919. To ride hell for leather is from 1889, originally with reference to riding on horseback. Hell on wheels is from 1843. Online Etymology Dictionary


We need a what?!

My county is still advertising for a Bioterrorism Planner. It's been at least a month since I first noticed this job opportunity, and I'm amazed that the county hasn't changed the job title to something like "Bioterrorism Response Planner". Maybe it's a trick to entrap particularly dimwitted terrorist plotters who wouldn't mind the $44K salary and good benefits for devising nefarious contagious schemes.


Veni, vidi, vici

On August 2, 47 B.C. Julius Caesar took off his shoes in Syria after he conquered, but history does not record that part of his pithy dispatch to Rome. Yes, he came, saw, and conquered, but Suetonius fails to mention if he remembered to buy groceries on the way home.

On July 20, 1969 A. D. the erupting celebration at Mission Control drowned out the last of Neil Armstrong's famous communication from the moon. [Houston. Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.] Buzz and I are putting on our bedroom slippers and having some instant cocoa with freeze-dried marshmallows. (+ Play Audio)

On November 1, 2006 A. D. I came home, took off my shoes, and was finished for the day. It didn't matter that I forgot to buy milk, bread, and lightbulbs on the way home. Once the shoes are off, they don't go back on! I wanted to translate my motto into a catchy and pithy Latin slogan I could have printed on t-shirts, but the Inter Tran free web site translation server for English to Latin was unsuccessful when it came to shoes.

"Veni domus, I took off my shoes, meus dies est perfectus" isn't going to sell on t-shirts and coffee mugs. Inter Tran couldn't handle Julius either:

EGO venit , EGO saw , EGO victum.

So I'm going with this for the t-shirts:

The EGO has landed, but she forgot to buy bread, milk, and lightbulbs.

Order your shirt now in S, M, L, or XL. [minimus, medium, magnus, susicivus amplus]

It's as confusing as going to Starbucks. If EGO could figure out the small, tall, grande, and venti cup sizes, she could probably conquer the world, get the 2% at Albertsons, and even keep her shoes on after seven p.m.


Oddly Orange Citrus Quivering

After the students went off to their trick-or-treating last evening I made a collage of leftovers from the class project. It made me happy (and I know it, clap my hands!) with its transparent and translucent layers over geometric patterns.

The day after Halloween is more frightening to teachers than any bowl of slimy eyeballs. Little kids who are already goofed up because of the end of Daylight Saving Time ratchet up the weirdness with sugar and overstimulation. They are cranky, and they can't stop saying, "booger, booger, booger."

Next year, I'm happy to report, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 goes into effect. Daylight Saving Time will begin on March eleventh. That's the only date when I've ever personally known three real live humans who share a birthday. It fills up the square on my calendar with Roger, Judy, and Heather, and now this time change!

Daylight Saving Time will end on November 4 in 2007. Maybe by then the Halloween '07 chocolate rush will be played out.

For today, the vibrating patterns in the collage seem appropriate. The Grateful Dead meets The Great Pumpkin and overdoses on candy corn.


Most of the students finished their mixed media drawings of their transparent constructions. This one is especially successful in showing both the transparency and the structure. The artist is in first grade.



If you see a gray ribbon loop magnet on the bumper of some Buick you'll know it's commemorating National Delete-A-Thon Week. Gray being the color of both dust bunnies and the pulled-out hair of a tech service phone call, it seems appropriate to launch this first annual awareness campaign.

The Delete-A-Thon hasn't found the right celebrity spokesperson or perky animated mascot yet. Rather than sending each donor a pledge gift coffee mug, the Delete-A-Thon promises to smash an ugly mug for every fifty dollars pledged. For one hundred bucks I'll take a monogrammed totebag full of recyclables to the collection cart.

I'm cleaning out both cyber email folders and accumulated crap in the physical realm. It's slow going, and I could use your donation of aid, either monetary or emotional.

One Riot, One Ranger, Many Rivers

There's ever so much I will never know about this great Lone Star nation of Texas. I will never wear the folk knowledge of this place next to my skin like fine dust and sweat. Although we moved here in 1990, I have never immersed myself in this state. I am still an other, resisting the claim of this land. I fight against being a Texan, but curiosity catches me up.

My sons were all born at Methodist Hospital on Dodge Street in Omaha, Nebraska, 68114, for heaven's sake. That should make them Nebraskans, right? I tried so hard to raise the boys as Yankees, as Great Plainsians, and as grandchildren of The Drought/Great Depression. I wanted my children to be little Democrats that JFK and FDR could be proud of, possessing enough sense to use the restroom before donning snowsuit, boots, and mittens. In their teens I wanted them to always have a dime for the payphone in their penny loafers, and to know that carbonated beverages are called "pop".

None of the guys have ever said they were "fixin' to" do something in my presence, but they indiscriminately refer to all carbonated beverages as "coke" when they mean Dr. Pepper. I doubt any of them know the significance of the Nebraska Unicameral, but I'm proud of them anyway. If I were to call them on the phone, they could tell me about the Come & Take It cannon, and the origin of the phrase, "One riot, one Ranger".

That phrase, which stirs a true Texan of either the big belt buckle or the Austin pierced eyebrow variety, derives from the peace officer career of one William Jesse McDonald. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety's Texas Rangers website :

The law authorized four Ranger companies of a maximum of 20 men each. The career of Company "B" Captain W. J. McDonald, and a book written about him, added much to the Ranger legend, including two of its most famous sayings. The often cited "One Riot, One Ranger" appears to be based on several statements attributed to Captain McDonald by Albert Bigelow Paine in his classic book, Captain Bill McDonald: Texas Ranger. When sent to Dallas to prevent a scheduled prize-fight, McDonald supposedly was greeted at the train station by the city's anxious mayor, who asked: "Where are the others?" To that, McDonald is said to have replied, "Hell! ain't I enough? There's only one prize-fight!" And on the title page of Paine's 1909 book on McDonald are 19 words labeled as Captain McDonald's creed: "No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin." Those words have evolved into the Ranger creed. During the first two decades of the Twentieth Century, Rangers found themselves up against men in the wrong as always, but some of the law enforcement problems these officers confronted were as new as the century itself.

Experts.com has a different rendition:

Texas Rangers gathered at El Paso to stop the illegal Maher-Fitzsimmons fight, 1896. At the front row from the left are Adj. W. Mabry, and Capts. J. Huges, J. Brooks, Bill McDonald (author of the famous phrase) and J. Rogers.One of the most enduring phrases associated with the Rangers today is One Riot, One Ranger. It is somewhat apocryphal in that there was never actually a riot; rather, the phrase was coined by Ranger Captain William "Bill" McDonald, who was sent to Dallas in 1896 to prevent the illegal heavyweight prize fight between Pete Maher and Bob Fitzsimmons that had been organized by the eccentric "Hanging Judge" Roy Bean. According to the story, McDonald's train was met by the mayor, who asked the single Ranger where the other lawmen were. McDonald is said to have replied: Hell! Ain't I enough? There's only one prize-fight!Although some measure of truth lies within the tale, it is largely an idealized account written by author Bigelow Paine and loosely based on McDonald's statements, published in Payne's classic book Captain Bill McDonald: Texas Ranger in 1909. In truth, the fight had been so heavily publicized that nearly every Ranger was at hand, including all the then-captains and their superior, Adjutant General Woodford H. Mabry. Many of them were not really sure whether to stop the fight or to attend it; and in fact, other famous lawmen like Bat Masterson were also present for the occasion. The orders from the governor were clear, however, and the bout was stopped. Bean then tried to reorganize it in El Paso and later in Langtry, but the Rangers followed and thwarted his attempts. Finally, the fight took place on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande near Langtry, and all the Rangers could do was watch. Fitzsimmons won in less than two minutes, and according to their testimonies, they enjoyed the event very much. The motto appears on the pedestal of the large bronze statue of a Texas Ranger in the Love Field airport, contributed in 1961 by Mr. and Mrs. Earle Wyatt.

Rocking my babies in the middle of many nights, I chanted the mantra of Omaha's downtown streets running east-west:


I can imagine an exhausted Texas mother with a colicky boy singing the old "Texas River Song" in much the same way:

We crossed the wild Pecos
We forded the Nueces
We swum the Guadalupe
And we followed the Brazos
Red River runs rusty
The Wichita clear
But down by the Brazos
I courted my dear

Singing li, li, li, le, le, le
Lend me your hand
Li, li, li, le, le, le
Lend me your hand
Li, li, li, le, le, le
Lend me your hand
There's many a river
That waters the land

Now the fair Angelina
Runs glossy and gliding
the crooked Colorado
Runs weaving and winding
The slow San Antonio
Courses the plains
But I never will walk
By the Brazos again

She kissed me and she hugged me
And she called me her dandy
The Trinity's muddy
But the Brazos quick sandy
She kissed me and she hugged me
And she called me her own
But down by the Brazos
She left me alone

Now the girls of Little River
They're plump and they're pretty
The Sabine and the Sulphur
Hold beauties a'many
The banks of the Neches
There are girls by the score
But down by the Brazos
I'll wander no more

We mothers survive the colic and sleep-deprivation, and still rock in those chairs of the Drought/Great Depression. Our sons root in the place where they've grown, no matter our efforts otherwise. They, too, will chant rivers and streets beneath full moons in their turn.

Obama vs. Pajama

When the shrieking crowd greeted Senator Barack Obama in the House Chamber of the Texas State Capitol Saturday at the Texas Book Festival, I was in the Senate Chamber at the other end of the building. I wasn't lost, just well-rested.

On our road trip to Austin, pajama party time beat out the rising star of the Democratic Party. We three didn't get up and moving nearly early enough to stand in line for a wristband for admission to the House Chamber. MOBOs of a certain age like to wake up slow, read in bed, and have a leisurely breakfast, and we aren't crazy about crowds.

MOBOs may be an under-appreciated voting bloc. Mothers Of Boys Only like to take time to smell the roses once our sons can all tie their own shoes (or pay for their own car insurance). MOBOs get more excited about the Botanical Garden in Zilker Park than the famous Austin night life. MOBOs are concerned about responsible environmental policies, improving health care, and keeping our sons out of Bushy's Iraq.

There wasn't any shrieking in the Senate Chamber, but there was plenty of laughter. NPR essayists John Moe and David Rakoff were talking about their experiences writing humorous first person articles and books. Moe is the author of Conservative Me: How I Tried to Become a Righty with the Help of Richard Nixon, Sean Hannity, Toby Keith, and Beef Jerky . Rakoff is a contributor to "This American Life".

I'm putting this one on my To Read In My P.J.s list.


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