If the election were held today...

Preschoolers love to raise their hands. They are unclear on the one child/one vote concept. Preschoolers subscribe to the vote early, vote often theory.

The kids held an election today to select a pretend costume for the class pet rabbit. It was difficult to devise a polling arrangement for fair and accurate voting with this unregistered group. We had several nose-pickers with hanging chads exercising their right to vote. Preschoolers don't wait for a better option very well. To get the foursies vote you want to be high on the ballot!

Nine children chose the fortune teller costume with plastic crystal ball for Norton. All analysts agree ballot position was a large factor here.

Thirteen children voted for the traditional, conservative, tested but unimaginative ghost costume for the bunny.

Four children opted for the Aesop's tortoise costume. These children give me hope for the future of America. Their candidate was not fast, flashy, or magenta sparkly. The kids had to understand a bit of history, philosophy, and humor.

One boy waited to raise his hand for the plastic glasses and fake mustache. This kid knows what he likes. He can be a bit aggravating, but in twenty years I bet he'll be convincing his network of friends and classmates to vote for his candidate.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


The new printer's devil

Took my lucky pen to the persuasive writing workshop at the Dallas Morning News today. So many pointers to record!

Yesterday the kindergarten students made styrofoam prints of their skeleton drawings--black ink on white paper. Bones made a perfect match for their ability and the linear necessities of drawing into Styrofoam. Alas, my choice was made because of my calcium musings and not brilliant teacher insight. Still, success is good!

Don't know when the pen began to leak. The ink on my hands seemed leftover from the printmaking, not fresh during the writing workshop. None of the editorial writers or volunteer contributors mentioned that I had odd, rapidly-multiplying black spots on my face. Maybe they thought I was going to a Halloween party as the bubonic plague, or else they were awfully polite.

This brings to mind the phrase, "printer's devil". A printer's apprentice was always covered in black ink from head to toe, like an art teacher. Wikipedia offers other explanations for the expression.

Looking in the mirror, I wondered what happened to our media-fueled obsession with black mold. Stachybotrys was the asbestos of the mid-Nineties, but when did it last make headlines? This is what the Center for Disease Control currently advises:

What should people to do if they determine they have Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) in their buildings or homes?
Mold growing in homes and buildings, whether it is Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) or other molds, indicates that there is a problem with water or moisture. This is the first problem that needs to be addressed. Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water. Mold in or under carpets typically requires that the carpets be removed. Once mold starts to grow in insulation or wallboard, the only way to deal with the problem is by removal and replacement. We do not believe that one needs to take any different precautions with Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra), than with other molds. In areas where flooding has occurred, prompt drying out of materials and cleaning of walls and other flood-damaged items with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach in 1 gallon of water is necessary to prevent mold growth. Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. If a home has been flooded, it also may be contaminated with sewage. (See: After a Hurricane or Flood: Cleanup of Flood Water [external link]) Moldy items should be removed from living areas.

In summary, Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) and other molds may cause health symptoms that are nonspecific. At present there is no test that proves an association between Stachybotrys chartarum (Stachybotrys atra) and particular health symptoms. ...

What should persuasive writing students with spotty faces do? The CDC recommends not worrying about it until after trick-or-treating.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Dem bones

My recent bone density scan showed a 9% improvement in my spine, although I'm still in a danger zone for osteoporosis. The improvement over a year and a half was not due to the expensive prescription I couldn't afford and eventually forgot completely. It was partly due to taking calcium supplements. Calcium is inexpensive. Take it!

I mainly credit my role model efforts at preschool lunchtime for my bone density improvement. Every brown bag lunch I make contains a food from the dairy group. Lately I've rediscovered cottage cheese with fresh tomato slices, black pepper, and dill weed. It's simple and delicious.

Been pondering how to sneak some nutrition education into a pre-Halloween art class about dancing skeletons. One group will use styrofoam and draw skeletons for block-printing. The youngest kids will work together to make a skeleton on the longest lunch table with Wikki Stix, then make a crayon rubbing on butcher paper. An older group will take turns posing while classmates draw toothpick/raisin figure drawings. The oldest kids will work together to make a skeleton paper sculpture by folding, cutting and curling paper strips.

DanActive yogurt drink is the popular new kid in the the school lunchroom. DanActive is milk fermented by Lactobacilus casei along with sugar and live yogurt cultures. Students usually bring a 3.3 oz. plastic bottle of DanActive contains 90 calories. DanActive is supposed to reduce cases of pediatric diarrhea and allergies. A bottle contains 10% of the daily value of calcium needed, while containing 17 grams of sugar, or about four teaspoons.

Do kids really need to drink Lactobacilis casei everyday? What's wrong with drinking milk? I'm not a dietician, but I am curious. Please comment if you know the answer.

The lunchbox thermos bottle can be a creepy source of bacteria if not washed properly everyday. That was not my favorite task as a mom doing the dishes after supper. Even if washed carefully, thermos bottles still get a certain odor that taints the flavor of the milk. I can understand parents wanting an easier solution for the daily lunchbox.

Most students bring milk in the form of a Horizon organic single-serve aseptic package, similar to a juicebox. The plain unflavored box (120 calories) has 12 grams of sugar, or about three teaspoons in 8 ounces. The flavored strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla 8 oz. drinks contain between 27 and 31 grams of sugar, or about seven teaspoons, and 180-200 calories. The drinks contain 30% of the daily value of calcium needed.

The bottle of 2% milk in my refrigerator has 12 grams of sugar, or about three teaspoons in a single 8 oz. serving. A serving provides 30% of the necessary calcium daily value, and clicks in at 130 calories.

Other kids bring Silk soy milk in 8.25 oz. aseptic drink boxes. These drinks provide 35% of the daily calcium requirement, and have 16 grams of sugar, about four teaspoons. 130 calories.

Many times in Grimm's tales, a child is sent off with a hunk of bread wrapped in a cloth. The lucky child, or the favored son might also leave home with a chunk of cheese. A kindergarten student was learning about mountains today, and vague recollections of Johanna Spyri's Heidi and Peter sitting with the goats on the mountaintop flitted through my mind. Cheddar cheese contains no sugar, but has a high level of saturated fat. A one-inch cube meets 12.3% of the calcium daily value. I'm thinking chasing goats around in the Alps might negate the saturated fat...

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Older and wiser owls

These lovely owl prints were made by seven and eight year olds. The owl sitting on the utility pole is an original solution. Hawks often perch on a utility pole near the school playground, visible to the students.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Chocolate flights

"Blimp", we might think after a delicious chocolate dessert, while forming the international hand signal for fatter-than-ever-thighs. "Blimp", we don't usually think in creating that delicious chocolate dessert. And so tonight I write about my favorite exhibit at the Frontiers of Flight Museum at Love Field.

The museum is a perfectly wonderful hangar salute to shiny airplanes. My sons would have loved it a decade and a half ago. As a MOBO I logged hundreds of hours listening to enthusiastic young males carry on about airplanes, aerial battles, and flight simulation programs. None of it stuck beyond the Cub Scout song about "Junior Birdman"--up in the air upside down!

"Oh, the humanity!" I do know a bit about zeppelins from Indiana Jones, the Hindenburg, and Led. The Frontiers of Flight collection includes a china service from the "Graf Zeppelin." Even better, it has a metal mold for making multiple chocolate zeppelins. Sweet Raiders of the Last Eclair!

Upstairs there's a fashion parade of Pucci-designed Braniff flight attendant uniforms from the Twiggy era. Downstairs, the command module from Apollo 7 invites inspection.

Thanks to the Dallas Opera's Figaro in Flip-Flops educational program for another excellent program. Dr. Stephen Dubberly's lecture about Rossini's "The Italian Girl in Algiers" at the museum last evening had his small audience pumped for the upcoming season.

Instead of a zep mold, I have a Sixties era toy science kit metal mold for a Mercury nosecone. Planning to melt some chocolate in it before adding a Rossini farce froth creme filling.

Up in the air, Junior Birdman
Up in the air upside down
Up in the air, Junior Birdman
Keep your eyes upon the ground

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Three by fives

Whooooo00 inspired this owl art project?

My brittle copy of Garth Williams' Baby Animals, a Little Golden Book, is 1956, c1952. Turning its pages today, I was surprised to find that each illustration resembled one of my students. Williams had a gift for knowing the facial expressions common to both baby animals and little people. The baby animals have such personality and curiosity that this comparison in no way insults my students. If the book was in good enough shape for me to share in class, I know the kids would be as captivated as previous generations.

All the children adore Owl Babies by Martin Waddell and Patrick Benson. Thank heaven October comes around every years so adults can read this book to the children they love!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Magician prescription

Take two owls and call me in the morning.

These two owls are drawn and printed by young ladies, age 3.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


What will you orbit for Halloween?

"I wanted to be Superman, but I have to be the Incredible Hulk," my student says. I commiserate. Mick Jagger said it best. You can't always be what you want, but you still get a big bag of candy.

"What will you be?," he asks. [My student, not Mick Jagger].

Ah, good question. "I'm going to be Outer Space," I reply without much thought.

"Whoa! Cool!"

At that particular moment, being "Outer Space" sounded very appealing--even better than "Being John Malkovich." Ever since, I've been pondering how to make my galactic costume without investing a lot of time, money, or effort.

I have four panels of rust-dyed and bleach-discharged fabric. Think they can be made into a simple broomstick skirt. Perhaps when I twirl, I'll look like the Milky Way!

Took an old black knit top from the box destined for Salvation Army. Used a bunch of rubber bands to wrap it, then misted it with bleach. The discharged fabric is orange, and the shirt will go with the broomstick galactic skirt. I have some crescent moon earrings. Now, if only I had Hector Dowdy's motorized model solar system on my beanie to complete the ensemble!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Demolition of the Canaan house

Late this week the former Honorary Consulate of both Monaco and Germany was demolished in the Town of Highland Park, Dallas County, Texas. The house at 4700 Saint Johns Dr., had intrigued me over the many years I worked nearby. Sitting back from the streets on a half-acre corner lot overgrown with myrtle groundcover, the 1910 house was low-slung with a broad porch around two sides. Near the front door were the plaques designating the residence as a foreign consulate for Texas.

The residents were an elderly couple with a tiny pinkish unstyled poodle mix dog. Whenever we passed on the sidewalk they would smile, but stay quiet, even the little dog. I eventually learned their last name was pronounced kuh-NON, and that the tiny, frail man in the overcoat had been an architect. His wife seemed somewhat younger and stronger. I vaguely wondered if they were keeping a diplomat somewhere inside their house.

I'm not a hard-core preservationist. Old structures are expensive to maintain and to adapt for current uses. In most situations, owners need to be able to use their property to suit their needs. Still, I like to learn about the history of a property, and the lives of its owners. I was sad about the demolition in part because I suspect an over-the-top faux castle will soon replace it.

I didn't even know how to spell kuh-NON when I went searching for information about the house tonight. Gershon and Doris Canaan were interesting people to research. Doris Canaan was commended by the Texas State Senate for being the Honorary Consul of Monaco in January, 1973, according to papers in the University of Texas Library.

A German Jew whose family fled to Palestine before the Holocaust, Gershon Canaan contemplated his religious and cultural roots after his arrival in Texas. Mr. Canaan was the Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany for Texas when he founded the Dallas Goethe Center in 1965 to promote reconciliation and understanding between Americans and Germans. The Dallas Goethe Center continues to promote those aims. The Center's 2002 memoriam of Gershon Canaan is beautifully written. Each time I read it I learn more. I hope the Center will not mind that I have reprinted it below. The influence of Mr. Canaan will last far beyond the demolition of his home.

The tiny man with the pinkish dog was also a student fellow of Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West in 1947-48. The house at 4700 Saint John's had a certain Wright Prairie Style feeling. Perhaps I can learn who designed the house when the book about Highland Park architecture becomes available in November.

Dallas, TX
June 29,2002
Dear members of the Dallas Goethe Center,

With great sadness I have to report to you that yesterday, June 28, 2002, Gershon Canaan, the Founding President of the Dallas Goethe Center, passed away in his sleep. A great life has ended.

Gerhard Kohn grew up in Friedenau, a small middle-class district in Berlin, between Steglitz and Schöneberg. Marlene Dietrich is from there, and I lived there shortly in the seventies. Promptly, with the "Machtergreifung" of the Nazis, the Kohn family had to go into hiding in the Bismarckstrasse in Charlottenburg. Gerhard's father was a banker with the Dresdner Bank, and therefore an immediate target for the SA. The Kohn family succeeded in fleeing to Palestine, where young Gerhard became Gershon Canaan, who attended the Technicon in Haifa to study architecture. Then came the war. Gershon volunteered for the "Jewish Brigade" of the British Armed Forces. He fought in both the African and European theaters. After the war, the Jewish Brigades were instrumental in secretly, and against British policy helping concentration camp survivors and Jews who had come out of hiding. These "displaced persons" were herded in camps mainly in Southern Germany. The Jewish Brigade helped these people break the British blockade of Palestine. Upon discharge from the military, Gershon went to the United States to further his studies in architecture. He became an apprentice with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West, a compound near Scottsdale, Arizona. But soon, military duty called again. Israel had to defend herself in the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. Gershon now assumed the rank of captain and fought for the survival of Israel. Having that accomplished, he returned to the United States and ultimately settled in Texas, where he married Doris.

As his architecture practice thrived, Gershon found time to contemplate his religious roots as a Jew and his cultural roots as a German, and found them not mutually exclusive. Consequently, he set out to devote his life to promoting mutual understanding between Americans and Germans. He was a driving force behind the recreation of the "German Day in Texas", again celebrated on October 6, during the State Fair of Texas. He was the Founding President of the Dallas Goethe Center, an organization devoted to foster German language culture. He became the Honorary Consul of the Federal Republic of Germany, and for all his accomplishments the German President bestowed upon him the Bundesverdienstkreuz. I mention the latter as the epitome of the all too numerous honors that Gershon Canaan had received. He enjoyed each one of them, and the brief limelight that came along with them.

A victim of the darkest hours of German history, Gershon was an unlikely candidate to become a leader in the German community in Texas. But it may have been just that; Gershon Canaan saw that for peace to happen there needs to be understanding between the people. So, in overcoming the divide caused by recent history Gershon Canaan became a giant of a man. A victim, a military hero, he became an architect of human relations, of reconciliation and understanding. His wife shared with me that Gershon was excited about the prospect of a "Goethe-Haus" in Dallas, and would have loved to design it. It is too late for that now, but following the wishes of the Canaan family, the obituary will suggest memorial donations to the Dallas Goethe Center. Hopefully, sometime in the future, Gershon's dream may come true. One thing is true: the Dallas Goethe Center will honor the memory of Gershon Canaan as long as it will exist.

Tillmann Hein

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Koo koo ka choo okra Aunt Beru

It's that overabundance of okra again that's got me jealous of Luke Skywalker's Aunt Beru. Sure, she was married to a moisture farmer, and lived on the dusty planet of Tatooine. But, she got to live in that fab earth-sheltered desert dome home with the totally futuristic kitchen! It was Star Wars (1977). We didn't have microwave ovens or food processors back millions of years ago in a galaxy far, far away. We had electric Fry Baby Juniors and harvest gold crockpots. George Lukas could have freeze-framed the whole galactic saga right then. I was completely in awe watching Aunt Beru stuff weird vegetables into her streamlined kitchen appliance. That weird vegetable looked a lot like okra. Jawas probably live on okra, and fight over it like mutant Tasmanian devils.

Things went badly for Beru and Uncle Owen, I'm sad to report. Imperial Storm Troopers torched her sci fi home after Luke Skywalker went off to pal around with C3PO.

What can Aunt Beru's kitchen teach me about an efficient home? Closer to my own millennium, in 1923 Le Corbusier described a house thus:

A house is a machine for living in. Baths, sun, hot-water, cold-water, warmth at will, conservation of food, hygiene, beauty in a sense of good proportion. An armchair is a machine for sitting in and so on.

Did Aunt Beru empty the dregs from her cutting-edge okra processor into a worm bin? How did Tatooinians deal with waste? It seems to me that efficient home would provide for reduction and recycling of waste. If it can be compacted and reused at home, why transport it to the landfill? Can the house also be a machine for reducing waste?

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Escher Okra Steers into Skid

It might have been my fan ineptitude that set me off on a nightmare about driving on ice. Sleet has covered the windshield, and I'm on the freeway cloverleaf. At 2:48 a.m. I'm wide awake after spinning out of control on black ice in dreamland.

But it could have been the irritable lizards on my patio fence. These anoles are seriously pissed off. They have turned dark brown instead of happy green, and they are chasing each other in circles just like M. C. Escher's.

Then again, it may have just been the political spin doctors and the financial downward spiral. We are all skidding on black ice there. Don't know if it helps economies, but in drivers' ed we learned to take our foot off the gas, keep it off the brake, and steer into the skid.

The okra plant in the school garden has become an enormous Yeti. This is an abominable snowman of indomitable spirit. Nothing fazes it. One plant. Bushels of pods.

Abominable--detestable, loathsome, thoroughly unpleasant. I don't have the stomach for okra.

Abominable Snowman--a hirsute manlike animal reportedly inhabiting the snows of the high Himalayas.

Indomitable--incapable of being overcome, subdued, vanquished.

And so, the classroom is decorated with okra Escher geckos scurrying up the walls and around in circles. Anything to keep me from climbing the walls or spinning out of control!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Flipping fan failure

Even if I could carry a tune in a bucket, I would never make it as an opera diva. Sad, but true--I can't flick open and flutter my folding fan in a flirtatious manner. Rats. I can't flick it open at all. I'll never sing the title role of Bizet's "Carmen" or flutter in "Turandot".

We had a school demonstration of Tai Chi with fans this week. Tai Chi is a slow, soft martial art best known for relaxation, meditation, and range-of-motion exercise. I'd never seen Tai Chi done with music and fans before. The children were anxious to get their hands on one of the fans. Some of them were instantly able to mimic the motion required to open a fan with an impressive, loud snap.

When it was my turn, I was hopeless. "It is easy," the Tai Chi master said, "just like using chopsticks!" Go ahead and rub it in. I'm just as inept with chopsticks as I am with a curling iron.

My great aunt gave me a fan decades ago. I got it out of the cupboard and tried to get a grip on the fan flip technique. The tricks seem to be in flicking down to open up, and letting gravity do the work.

Some interesting links about fans:

A Painting in the Palm of Your Hand: 18th-Century Painted Fans from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection of the Dallas Museum of Art.

The Language of Fans--While use of this language is a forgotten art, when we see it in a painting or opera the meaning is usually obvious.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Blog Action Day--Poverty 2008

I've been intrigued by Dallas Morning News reports of a project created by University of Texas--Arlington architecture students that received an award from the AIA of Dallas:

Holding House, Buildingcommunity WORKSHOP, Urban Edge Excellence in Sustainable Design Award and Community Award

Holding House is on Congo Street in a blighted, crime-plagued 62-block area of Dallas being revitalized as "Jubilee Park". The "Holding House" is a place for a family to live temporarily while their own home is being renovated and brought up to code. The house is a two-bedroom, one-bath, 698 square foot home with a front porch. The design allows the temporary residents to remain connected with their neighborhood.

The design is also energy-efficient and constructed of salvaged materials, and was built for $44K. It is aesthetically pleasing, and would make a fine design for a fishing cabin. Perhaps Buildingcommunity WORKSHOP could sell the plans to continue financing construction of urban improvement projects.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Mini mental vacation refreshes

My trip to the symphony was a desperately needed break from my routine. I feel like my brain has been washed, dried, ironed, and hung neatly in the closet ready for the coming week. The conductor and the violin soloist both looked younger than my sons. Actually, the conductor was 32 and the violinist 26. Sitting in the choral seats behind the timpanist let me watch the conductor's interaction with the musicians. The Sibelius violin concerto was outstanding. Kimberly Hale Harris gave a very informative and entertaining preconcert lecture. Even riding the DART train and walking to the Meyerson Symphony Center was a refreshing change. Seems like I should be able to deduct the day as a medical expense on my taxes!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Guilt by association

Breaking news: Barack Obama has a supporter who drank beer mixed with lemonade back when she was a college kid, and debated the possibility that violent methods might be necessary and justifiable to end a war and provoke positive societal change. We discussed major issues of the day from every conceivable viewpoint because that was the purpose of higher education back in the Seventies. It is still the purpose of higher education, and don't forget it! True, we discussed it in unheated apartments while wearing goofy clothes and eating carob chips. We were young. There is a tendency, if not a statistical assertion, that college students change their minds and behaviors after graduation! I haven't knowingly eaten carob chips for a quarter century.

Our philosophy professor used to host "Large General Parties". He invited everyone interesting he knew, and they invited everyone interesting they knew. He filled his refrigerator with quart bottles of cheap beer and pitchers of lemonade. Everyone added lemonade to their paper cups of beer. At one of these parties a sociology professor showed a film about the Students for a Democratic Society and the Weather Underground. It was probably the 1976 film, "Underground" about Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. None of the people at those large general parties became domestic terrorists. Nearly all of us got jobs, got married, had kids, and don't want to relive the Viet Nam Era. We mostly worked to improve our neighborhoods, our kids' schools, and the environment. We changed our minds sometimes, and had a tendency to stay informed about current events. We kept listening to philosophers while finding the most appropriate and practical way to live in the real world.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Nero fiddling in D minor

Woke up from a hot sweaty nightmare with a vivid mental image of tiny technicolor reptiles running around on my floral skirt, and the word "liquidity" on my lips. In the background of this horror show, a military band played "Garryowen". Crap. It's Wall Street's last stand with Escher lizards at 2:42 a.m. CDT.

The financial crisis will impact me in indirect and potent ways. Bobby Dylan tells me I've got nothing to lose, since I've got nothing. Seems like the economy has been slapping me with a wet towel in the junior high locker room for many months already. I march out each morning like some poor enlisted fool in Custer's 7th, about to be shot full of arrows because of arrogant, short-sighted commanders. Boys and girls, can you say "Greasy Grass"?

As a mental health expense, I purchased a package of buy four/get one free super cheap seats above and behind the orchestra, with the performances scattered out over the year. Thank heaven for that brief splurge. I've been hanging on to the prospect of a Dallas Symphony Sunday afternoon concert for weeks now. The newspaper review says the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor will be moody and challenging. Sounds like my preschoolers, or perhaps the markets. Children, can you say, "volatility"?

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Good News Flash

(And couldn’t we all use some good news!)

Here in Plano, TX, we can put plastic containers with the numbers 1-7 in our recycling carts now. We still don’t put any plastic bags in the carts, and no Styrofoam, or “packing peanuts”.

My condominium complex is getting two more recycling carts to handle the added items. We are filling nine 96-gallon carts to the brim every week now as we enter our fourth year of recycling.

Just what do the different plastic numbers mean?

PolyethyleneTerephthalate (PET)
Soda, beverage and mouthwash bottles, food jars

High DensityPolyethelyne (HDPE)
Milk and water jugs, detergents, cleaners, oil bottles, toys

Polyvinyl Chloride(PVC)
Cooking oil bottles, garbage cans, salad dressing bottles

Low DensityPolyethelyne (LDPE)
Food storage containers

Polypropylene (PP)
Most bottle tops, video cassette cases

Polystyrene (PS)
Clean food trays. Plastic cups, throwaway utensils, plastic toys, garbage cans.
--------------NO STYROFOAM

Plastic containers, plastic plates

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Adler Planetarium

There's always a point in the campaign debates where I just can't take it anymore. Tuesday it was the third time McCain referred to the Zeiss planetarium projector as an "overhead projector". Whether McCain can't discern the difference, or if he is that disingenuous with the American people, it's alarming and annoying. I wanted to Ralph Cramden him to the moon!

Saturday's workshop about teaching "stress-free" preschool might have been stretching the truth a bit, too. Teaching preschool has built-in stress. The presenter was terrific, and she used a real overhead projector with transparencies.

The Field Museum, Adler Planetarium, and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago are some of my very favorite places. The Adler was the first planetarium in the western hemisphere. Every forty years or so, the projector that displays the stars on the dome wears out.

This is not the night sky. It's my rust-dyeing experiment. The rust results weren't dramatic, so I tie-dyed the ochre fabric with RIT black, then discharged the fabric with a mist spray of bleach. Think I'll dress as a black hole for Halloween.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Rooftop alien or houseguest?

The kid with the really loose tooth was the first to spot our playground visitor. The praying mantis was sitting right there at the peak of the playhouse roof.

After trying to stare us down, the mantis began roaming around the roof. Rather than trying to avoid the paparazzi, it seemed to be testing our mettle and preparing to charge the photographers! For the students this was as good as a circus.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Good roots at the Gross Clinic

What a gift! A gloomy, rainy day in North Texas is precious, and especially wonderful on a day off from school. This was "Fair Day," allegedly an opportunity for children to visit the State Fair of Texas, but equally important, a day for teachers to schedule doctor and dentist appointments. The unfamiliar rain sounds made hitting the snooze button seem extra luxurious at 6:15 a.m.

Spent the morning at the dentist's office having my teeth cleaned, and a full set of x-rays made. The good news is I have "great roots"! I think this could be a real asset on an AARP online match-making site. The dentist removed an old silver filling that wasn't doing its job, and replaced it with a sexy composite filling.

There's no way to explain to students why "gross" and "floss" don't rhyme. The hygienist was pleased with the results of my New Years resolution. My brushing is much improved, so now it's time to get serious about flossing.

Which reminds me what I forgot to write before, but I'm now officially in an absent-minded phase of life, and can't be blamed for such lapses. A student brought a sealed medical pouch for Show & Tell. It contained six rotten teeth pulled by a dentist. Boys and girls, can you say "gross" and "floss"?

Every so often I check the Curious Expeditions blog. Today I found a post about an early Pennsylvania operating clinic. I'm not sure if its the famous clinic of Dr. Samuel Gross. Thomas Eakins painted Dr. Gross in the surgery theatre. I grew up pondering Eakins' "Portrait of Jennie Dean Kershaw" at the Sheldon Gallery on the UNL campus.

Gross c.1347, from O.Fr. gros "big, thick, coarse," from L.L. grossus "thick, coarse (of food or mind)," of obscure origin, not in classical L. Said to be unrelated to L. crassus, which meant the same thing, or to Ger. gross "large," but said to be cognate with O.Ir. bres, M.Ir. bras "big." Its meaning forked in M.E., to "glaring, flagrant, monstrous" on the one hand and "entire, total, whole" on the other. Meaning "disgusting" is first recorded 1958 in U.S. student slang, from earlier use as an intensifier of unpleasant things (gross stupidity, etc.). Noun sense of "a dozen dozen" is from O.Fr. grosse douzaine "large dozen;" sense of "total profit" (opposed to net) is from 1523. Gross national product first recorded 1947.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Elwood Goes to Lewisville

What would have happened if inpatient V. Van Gogh had been scheduled for twice daily rabbit therapy? Could Vince have gotten his act together while petting a nonjudgmental animal in his room at the Saint-Remy asylum. As a starving artist, Vince must have filled out applications to qualify for the sliding fee payment scale.

I can see Jimmy Stewart and Harvey doing hospital volunteering--you know, chatting with the inmates, helping them mark their meal menus. Elwood P. Dowd has some grand pookah rabbit healing powers.

This afternoon I get to go to the "bunny farm" to get supplies for the classroom pet. Or maybe I just misunderstood when the nice young men in the clean white coats said, "funny farm".

They're coming to take me away, ha-haaa.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Chicken Little and Curious George

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve the ridiculozillion dollar bailout package today. Ah, yes. Again the fools rush in where angels fear to spend.

"They didn't know it was GEORGE. They thought it was a real fire." This line from the classic picture book, Curious George, has been lurking on the edge of my mind the last week or so.

Maybe there really is a crisis. Still, it seems we, and our elected representatives, should be getting a bit more suspicious when the Bush Administration declares another Impending Destruction of All Life As We Know It Unless We Act NOW. This time around it's Wall Streets of Mass Destruction. Colin Powell has been replaced, but the Administration has proven intelligence to know exactly where the WSMDs are hidden.

Maybe I've just been hanging out with preschoolers too long. If you tell a preschooler to hurry up and wash his hands, he will drag out the process as long as possible, annoying his classmates, and watching his reflection and your reaction in the mirror to see if you will flinch.

I wish Congress would have dilly-dallied a bit to see if Dubya and his crew would flinch. I'm afraid the new administration will be sworn in, and Curious George and his cronies will be riding off with their golden gazillion $ balloons.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


October Open House wreath

This was my dream. In the beginning there was a giant corrugated cardboard circle with the middle cut out. Then children began making orange and ochre paper rings like they do at Christmas for tree chain decorations. But they were gluing the paper rings onto the cardboard circle. When the whole cardboard circle was covered in rings, the children began thinking about initial sounds and prefixes, to make a wreath of October work for the school Open House.

Now in the musical, "Fiddler On the Roof," Tevye tells a dream like this:

All right, This was my dream. In the beginning, I dreamt we were having a celebration of some kind. All of our beloved departed were there. And the musicians...Even your great uncle Mordichai was there. And..and your cousin Rachel was there. In the middle of the dream in walks your Grandmother Tzietal, may she rest in peace.

Golde: Grandmother Tzietal? How did she look?

Tevye: Well for a woman who's dead 30 years she looked very good. Naturally, I went up to greet her.

Now in no way am I comparing meeting the families of my students at Open House Night with greeting Grandmother Tzietal, but the song did pop into my head. These things can't be helped. I'm not even thinking about Orack Borama.

But back to the October wreath, I dreamt that all the students made prints of an owl or an octopus, and each hung one print on the wreath. Then we could add some of our overwhelming okra harvest. We could take funny photos of the smallest students turning the lights or faucets ON or OFF, and let them trace those letters to add to the wreath.

Slightly older students could cut out red octagons and make STOP signs to hang on the wreath. Some of these students have been doing work about opposites. They could draw OPEN & SHUT, OVER & UNDER, INSIDE & OUTSIDE, and OLD & YOUNG, or do math work about ODD & EVEN numbers. Young observers might consider OPAQUE & TRANSPARENT. We could hang their drawings on the wreath, or weave them in and out of the paper rings.

We have been studying occupations since the semester's onset. Some students would be happy to draw opera singers, oceanographers, organists, Olympic athletes, opticians, astronauts in orbit in outer space, baseball outfielders, ornithologists, orthodontists, mommies and daddies working at "the office", and surgeons performing operations.

Montessori students love studying animals, so they would be glad to draw an okapi or ostrich, an otter or ocelot, an orangutan, oryx, or ox. A teacher might share her photos of Phil, the patio opossum.

The music teacher must surely have some ideas about ocarinas, octaves, opera singers, and orchestra conductors. The art teacher could contribute outline drawings and Georgia O'Keeffe orchids to the olio. The elementary teacher might offer students some opportunities for studying Ohio, Oregon, Oklahoma, Oahu, Omaha, and Odessa, TX. Her assistant would contribute original recipes with oregano, olive oil, or onion.

I hope an octegenarian great-grandparent will attend Open House to observe our community of learners. "Our" is a very important word for the school. Students come from diverse backgrounds, but at school we are one community.

Parents at Open House could hang other "O" words on the wreath--oxygen, opals and obsidian, ovens or ogres, omelets at one o'clock a.m., Oman, ounces or orchards. Sure, someone might need to oversee and organize the project, but there are some outstanding options.

I've obviously gone overboard. I'll start my little outboard motor and putt-putt offshore.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


Renewing raindrops

I like this fabric, too. It reminds me that the anticipated storm brings the needed moisture to the soil allowing growth. The storm is not just a sky show.

The brown doesn't work with all the car window blocks. I'm a bit concerned about the fabric fading.

While I was waiting for the clerk to measure and cut the fabric I was subjected to Neil Diamond's 1971 "I Am, I Said." I'd have preferred B. J. Thomas singing "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head," from 1969. Thank heaven it wasn't the 1968 Richard Harris version of "MacArthur Park." I don't think that I could take it, as it took too long to bake it--Even longer than this project has taken!

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Flying Purple People Quilter

It's a challenge trying to get a true color in a series of photos from different distances. My camera and photo software have both "helped" me until you wouldn't think this purple batik fabric is the same in all three views.

I bought a little end-of-bolt piece, and the color does work with the car window blocks. The pattern has a rainy feel to it.

I'm just not sure if I'm a purple person!

Sure looks strange to me!--Sheb Wooley, June 1958.
Well bless my soul, rock and roll, flyin' purple people eater
Pigeon-toed, undergrowed, flyin' purple people eater
I like short shorts
Flyin' little people eater
Sure looks strange to me (Purple People?)

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

Into the Wild

Awake at 4:42, I made the pot of coffee (with no bats), and wrapped in my "vision quest" quilt to watch the rest of "Into the Wild". Something made me check out the dvd when I worked at the library Saturday. Since then I've watched a bit of the movie each evening. Several times I discovered tears sliding down my cheeks.

The movie is so beautiful, so well played by Emile Hirsch and Hal Holbrook. I'm am trying to recover my limited understanding of "aesthetic distance" from Nelson Potter's philosophy class of thirty years ago. The story seems only an onion skin away. Finishing my viewing left me with a raw, scraped feeling, and again the tears.

We each want for our children happiness, of course. I hope they find wisdom, as well, and enjoy self-motivation and self-discovery and great contentment, as I do for myself. Still, as a mother, I can't imagine the pain if one of my sons felt he needed to disappear to find those things.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder


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