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. drugaĆ°, 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.


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