Anoles on Fencebook

Got home from work to find a lizard flash mob on my patio fence. Anoles of various sizes, dressed in either green or brown, were everywhere, but not close enough for slow-dancing. What was the occasion? I didn't get an e-vite.

Suddenly there was a leap from a bush onto the brussels sprout plant. Oh my! I see that caterpillars are in a feeding frenzy on the plant. Big green "worms" are on every leaf and stem, chomping away. And now this slim green anole, my hero, leaps into the fray and frass. It grabs the biggest caterpillar in a choke hold and shakes it like a Boston terrier with a slobbery sock. Grrrrrr! Grrrrr!

See the brown lizard in the background?

Not since I saw a roadrunner try to eat a snake on the run in Alamogordo have I seen such a crosswise attempt at lunching. Oh, wait, there was that time the preschool girl ate her banana like corn on the cob. It's not easy to choke down a cabbage worm without a Budweiser! The lizard had to leap back to the bush and rest for quite awhile. Then it took up a spot on the fence to stare down the other anoles who might like a trip to the buffet table.

Two of the lizards on the fence have lost and regrown part of their tails. They've been on the other side of the buffet for some bird, I guess.

Life is a jungle, but I don't know why my hero won't share the spoils. The brussels sprout plant is covered with green caterpillars. The anoles and I have already acknowledged that he is The Man. It's time to talk about accumulating political capital, building war chests, and reaching across the aisle. Put the tiniest lizards to work sending text messages. Build goodwill by inviting all to the brussels sprout plant to feast on the bounty instead of hording it.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Pronghorn Antidote

That is exactly what I need--a "pronghorn antidote" to teaching preschool. My student is learning the animals of the Grasslands of North America biome. His mispronunciation cuts through my brain clutter. I need an antelope adjustment.

It's been a day when I felt seldom heard and generally discouraged. And the skies were quite cloudy all day. Too rainy to take the deer and the antelope out to the playground.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Soap leaves

Wow! Just had a trip into the Way Back Machine on account of receiving a package of soap leaves by Nutcracker Designs. These soap leaves are scented, colored, and oval, but they evoke a vague memory of rectangular sheets of soap dispensed in Sixties public restrooms. The soap leaves I remember were like tiny egg roll skins.

I remember the motion of my flat, upturned palm pushing forward and a leaf of soap falling into my hand. School soap in those days was dispensed as a gritty powder when we pushed up on a knob with our upturned palm. Soap leaves must have been dispensed in other public restrooms. Was it in the cavernous Ladies Room on second floor of Miller and Paine's department store? Please comment if you have a soaf leaf memory.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Driving missed daisies

Memorial Day used to mean driving the '54 Chevy right into a sea of daisies. We would arrive at the cabin along the Platte River between Ashland and Gretna. To push the seatback forward and escape out one of the two car doors into daisies up to our waists announced that we had arrived in a magical place--Nature!

A rope swing hung from a high tree branch. With a good launch, we could ride it in large arcs and loops way above the daisies until finally jumping off.

My rural friend Janie gave me three daisy plants in February. Plunked down out back, they are quickly spreading to take over my little condo patio garden. The daisies must know I need a serious dose of magical Nature with a capital N.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Occupations A to Z

The call for a superhero is projected against the night sky above the metroplex of Big D. A lone caped figure stands on a rooftop. It will be a long night riding dragons through downtown and rescuing cats stuck in trees.

But suddenly the Domino Dude is not alone. A preschool student has been assembling a puzzle about alphabetical careers. ..A is for astronaut; B is for baker... Deeper she goes into the alphabet, the more intriguing her job descriptions:



© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Domino Boy and Dot Girl Save Dallas

Don't know what I was thinking when I decided the preschoolers could make superheroes out of dominoes. Inspiration is like that. It's difficult to say where ideas arise, and how long they've simmered. Found two incomplete sets of dominoes in a box. Added a visit to the Bent Objects blog. Turned in a vague plan for six weeks of art based on one illusive idea.

Adding to the mix, the kids started playing Duck Duck Goose on the playground. It is hilarious watching the cogs turn as the preschoolers grasp the rules and highly advanced strategy of Duck Duck Goose.

My dictionary says the plural of domino can be either dominoes or dominos:

Today we built a set for our downtown Big D photo shoot with the domino superheroes to the rescue. Our city set is like a skyscraper puppet theater. The end result won't be a movie, but probably a class scrapbook for parents to see on conference day, and then for the school library.

Next week we'll be choreographing some downtown dancing worthy of the Ed Sullivan Show and a little bit of Gene Kelly with umbrellas. Now if only our dynamic dot dudes could really save downtown Dallas by resolving the convention hotel and Trinity River debates. Delivering a pizza would be nice, too.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Lariat Lou and the Paper Towel Posse

"Miz Nancy, Miz Nancy! The cows are out!" The preschool girl is alerting me, and I'm jumping onto my pony. I gallop from the nap room to the restroom where three little girls stare at me with wet hands and bovine eyes. There are no paper towels in the dispenser. Indeed, the towels are out. Oh, Lordy, weez all agonna die!

Not since the Christmas singing of "Dudolph da Dead-Dosed Deindeer" have I had such a profound pronunciation moment. Greetings from Lonesome Dove Preschool!

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Travel writing

When Dwight Garner of the New York Times does not like your book, it's pretty clear. His review of Gringo: A Coming of Age In Latin America, by Chesa Boudin, reminds me of sitting through Kevin Costner's "Water World" and "Wyatt Earp":

Mr. Boudin’s Up With People prose sounds more than anything like a college admissions essay; it perfects that form’s ingratiating, smug but searching tone...

This kind of guff ... belongs in a yoga magazine, not between hard covers.

Please make it stop.

[Boudin's]... future should not include committing sentences to paper with the intention of distributing them widely.

Stuart Ferguson's Wall Street Journal review of A Man Apart: The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, 1774-1781, serves tantalizing tidbits like hors d'oeuvres to truly increase the appetite. I would like to listen to it on cd while driving, although my trips don't count as picaresque. Reading would probably be more fun "with the improvisational spelling and punctuation of the time."

Both these books combine the personal with the political in describing a journey. Maybe one is better than it's review, and one less interesting. I'm going to look for both as instructive for blogging.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Honk if you love hawk haikus

Fascinating afternoon art class with the first-third grade kids during the downpour. Being encircled by the charcoal clouds and shockingly green foliage seemed perfect for our brush drawing session.

Because the kids are still talking about the presentation by Blackland Prairie Raptor Center last month, I chose owls and hawks for our subject. The children were introduced to haiku earlier this spring.

Popped a cd of Chinese bamboo flute music in the player for the children, but I really wanted to hear some Mary Lou Williams piano jazz. A dark, rainy day, a bamboo calligraphy brush, and piano jazz were always ingredients for successful paintings in Gail Butt's classroom overlooking the Sheldon sculpture garden.

After a very short practice of needle, bone, and growth/decay brush strokes geared to the children's level, we tried to discover the essence of owls. "Essence" isn't a word for this age, so we tried to find what is important about owls, what owlness makes them owlish.

We brainstormed owlness:

fly silent
hollow bones
talons hold
soft feathers
big eyes
eat mice
head turns all the way around
huddles in crook by tree trunk
night hunting
feather tufts make taller
ears high and low
spread wings
sleep days

We had the beginnings of a brush drawing and maybe even a poem. I told my experiences walking in the woods near my house in Millard, Nebraska, being surprised by great horned owls, and then surprising the owls and sending them flying off down the creek. Although I had to move away, this place is special in my memory because of the owls, I told the students. This intrigued the children. They wanted to know why I left this place where the owls meant so much to me. Was I a little kid then? Was I a grown-up? Was I a mom? Why did I like to walk in the snow? Why do families change and move?

Far too many questions to answer, even if I could. Still, the job of the artist and the poet is to describe the owlishness of life in the most economical, clear, and beautiful way possible.

I don't have any photos of the brush drawings. They are still in the drying rack. At the end of class the children wrote poems and haikus on scraps of paper using our brainstorming phrases.

If you are counting syllables to make a 5-7-5 haiku, it's tricky deciding whether owls is one syllable or two. Owl? Ow-ull? Awles?

One boy circumvented the problem by writing about red-shouldered hawks instead:


I Like How They Fly

The[y] eat Mice

Honks are Cool

Honks are indeed very cool, but that is a different chapter in my story.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


What is a bonnet?

Go placidly just a bit east of the noise and haste of Custer Road, and a little north of Spring Creek Parkway. Sit your bizoozy right down amidst the bluebonnets, unless, of course, it has been raining.

It is spring, time for commencement addresses, and other urban legends. I've been feeling my Bohemian prairie girl ancestry lately while listening to Willa Cather's My Antonia on cd. Cather celebrates the grasses, the flatness, and the horizon I love so well.

The preschoolers are learning about Texas plants and animals. The wild bluebonnets hold a magical power in this Lone Star state far surpassing the Nebraskan's appreciation of the Western meadowlark. I will never consider myself a Texan, but I definitely claim the bluebonnet as my inner state flower.

The preschoolers are vague on the concept of bonnets. Bonnets are hats for sun protection, I tell them. Each floret of a bluebonnet stalk resembles a teeny tiny pioneer girl's sunbonnet.

Cather's Antonia is as full of life as Laura in Little House on the Prairie. Antonia and Laura both resist wearing the bonnets that would protect their skin from the sun. Which brings me to that fabulous, fictitious commencement address* never delivered by Kurt Vonnegut at MIT in 1997:

Wear sunscreen.
Pick a bluebonnet. Just don't overdue it. One or two, max. Otherwise Mother Nature will be pissed even if it isn't illegal. That's another urban legend.

The commencement speaker at Texas Tech in 2007 told me to play chess. A month from now I'll be listening to the University of New Mexico commencement address. Willa Cather will be there. I may need to reread Death Comes for the Archbishop.
*Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune, 6/1/97

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder



Charming new sculpture in Prather Park

Prather Park, home to the Town of Highland Park's pixie sculptures now has another bronze piece, "Grace Eternal". The sculpture is a gift from the Grace Royall Foundation. It represents a pigtailed girl sliding down a slippery slide with glee, and a boy waving from the top of the nine foot tall slide. A dog is at the bottom of the slide's ladder.

The sculpture was dedicated yesterday in front of a large crowd. Late in the afternoon I walked over to see it. A bride and groom were having photos taken on a nearby park bridge. A teen couple was eating a fast food picnic at a bench. The tennis court was busy, and two young families were playing on the lawn around the sculpture.

The foundation also made a $50,000 gift to Children's Medical Center Dallas this week to improve treatment of septic shock.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Who buys all those plastic eggs?

What happens to the gazillions of plastic Easter eggs after Sunday? They've been filling the "seasonal" aisle of every grocery store in America since Valentines Day. Are they reused? Are they taking space in landfills? Are the darn things recyclable in your community?

Either this is all very hush-hush, or CollageMama is having a Google-searching failure. If you know where they come from or where they go, please comment!

The ABCs of Easter Egg Recycling offers suggestions for reusing plastic eggs if you absolutely must buy them:

I would add reading The Enormous Egg aloud to your kids, and letting them put their rubber dinosaurs inside the plastic eggs for sandbox play.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Staff Salad/Stone Soup

We had staff salad lunch to celebrate spring. We are growing three kinds of lettuce in the school garden. Everybody brought things to add to the salad. We had broccoli, sliced cucumbers and mushrooms, red, yellow, and orange peppers, jicama, purple cabbage, two kinds of cheese, grape tomatoes, fresh dill, homemade french dressing, plus warm french bread, homemade sun-dried tomato bread, whipped cream cheese, and a melon bowl. Oh, I forgot the grated carrots and crunchy chow mein noodles. It was a feast for the eyes, as well as the perpetually dieting tummies.

It was nice to each contribute, and we ended up with enough salad for another meal for everyone. Collaborating on a project less stressful than the spring music festival helped most of us feel like a team again.

Maybe it is time to rewrite Marcia Brown's classic "old tale" of Stone Soup. I drive past a community garden plot several times a week. Community and backyard gardens are on the increase. People are both aware of the benefits of eating fresh foods and stressed in the household grocery budget. In this city of six-foot privacy fences, it would be nice to create some true community with a good salad supper!

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


ch ch ch ////Changes

Turn and face the strain as this has been a tough week. The Buick is unhappy. It should probably have been hauled off to the auto cemetary long ago. It sometimes acts dead, but I keep hoping that it's just pretending. Maybe E. O. Wilson has dripped a drop of oleic acid on it.

I've been laughing about NPR's April Fools Day story of ant pheromones for a week now. It seems that an ant can look dead and be dead, but other ants don't care unless it smells dead. On the other hand, an ant can be alive and look alive, but if it smells dead its friends will drag it to the cemetary. Ant communication is all about pheromones and smells. Ants don't care about phonics.

Phonemes, phonograms, and digraphs seem like upturned panicked insects to me. My sons celebrated the wedding of Q and U in kindergarten, but I don't remember them mentioning when C and H moved in together without so much as matching tattoos.

I wait for the repair folks to call with an estimate. The ch-ch-ch-children are facing the ch-ch-challenges of blended sounds.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strain)


Oh, look out you rock n rollers

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strain)


Pretty soon now you're gonna get a little older

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Lovely Colorado Lady Engaged to Wed Elwood P. Dowd

Got to laughing about some of the characters my eldest son played in his childrens' theatre years. As our family learned lines together, these plays became part of our family lore.

I trust his beloved is not marrying him because his name is Ernest. Perhaps at the wedding rehearsal cucumber sandwiches should be served.--Algernon Moncrieff in "The Importance of Being Earnest".

This lovely lady with the bearing of Audrey Hepburn must have passed a rigorous language investigation by my dreadful Hungarian.--Zoltan Karpathy in "My Fair Lady":

And although she may have studied with an expert dialectitian and grammarian, I can tell that she was born - Hungarian! Not only Hungarian, but of royal blood.

She's sharp enough to follow a "Who's on first?" explanation, and find her way out of the muddy base path. I think she even knows the territory as well as any Iowa anvil salesman.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Peter, Paul, and Memory

Been puzzled about this hardy plant in a pot on my patio. One of my green thumb friends gave it to me a couple years ago, and I haven't killed it. Alas, I'd forgotten the plant's identity, but whenever I watched its leaves unfurl I started humming "Leaving On a Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul, and Mary.

Peter, Paul, and Mary were already on my internal fm radio playlist because we are considering snakes as members of the reptile class of vertebrates at school. The children love Peter, Paul, and Mary' Boa Constrictor song.

The first concert I attended was Peter, Paul, and Mary performing at Lincoln, Pershing Auditorium for UNL's homecoming in 1969. My scrapbooks aren't fancy. Sometimes the glue has discolored the memorabilia. The information and the memories are still there, though.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Preschool pea plants

Perhaps sugar snap peas weren't the best therapeutic relaxation garden choice. It's been many, many years since I planted peas. Now I remember why.

In the big pots of enriched dirt, 90% of the pea plants decline to wrap their tendrils onto the supporting garden stakes to climb toward the sky. In spite of my efforts to redirect them, they prefer to tangle together in a big clump. Then they complain, "He's touching me!," or "She looked at me funny!"

You think you've assembled everything for a nurturing environment--attractive hands-on classroom full of enriching visual, musical, and tactile materials, a supporting stucture, fresh air and sunshine, patience, humor, and consistency. Still the preschoolers want to tangle together 90% of the time.

All children occasionally wrap onto a support and grow. They usually do it with greater frequency the older they get. Humans have a much longer growing season than pea plants. I'm probably the one who needs more sunshine and Miracle-Gro.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Stimulus package with lye

Barack. Tim. Let's talk.

I don't know where the gazillions of dollars approved by Congress are going. Are they flowing like Smetana's Moldau grandly to the sea? Or are they going down the drain?

I am rooting for the drain and cheering for keeping the flow open. I want transparency and full accountability, and especially no hair clogs. No more trickling.

Every trip to Albertsons to buy Drano is better than not stimulating the economy at all.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

I'm not a doorbell, but I play one on t.v.

How many months does it take to screw in a door chime? Maybe another one. Back in February the doorbell went crackerdog-flopbot. It was buzzing loudly. Normal low-cost remedies, like chasing all the spiders out of the chime box, did not help. I disconnected the whole gizmo.

I eventually dragged my carcass into Home Depot to buy a Do It Yourself doorbell repair kit. How difficult can it be? Hubris alert! Voop-Voop! Hubris alert!

Unpacked the kit on the kitchen table. Since I have to shut off the circuit for the overhead lights to fix the doorbell, I can only work on it when there's lots of daylight in the upstairs hall.

Weeks went by. Occasionally someone tried to ring my doorbell. I saved ten bucks by not hearing the Girl Scout cookie salesgirl.

The first time I visited the woman who would become my walking buddy for going on fifteen years now, I was impressed with her front door intercom button. It said, "Don't talk to me. I'm broken." Well, actually, that was written on the button panel. Many days I've felt like wearing a sign with that message. What my doorbell needed was a message:

A close runner-up was, "I'm a doorbell, not an engineer."

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Pooka garden plants

My fairy gardens are doing well and I especially like this little plant growing around the tiny chair. Don't ask me to pronounce it! Lysimachia Nummularia "Goldie". Got it at Home Depot.

Wish I'd taken better notes of plant names at the fairy garden workshop at Blue Moon Gardens. The miniature plants are healthy and happy, but I've forgotten their names.

Ah, yes. That would be a Senior Moments Fairy Garden ... Or maybe a pooka garden at Chumley's Rest.

I'm missing my sons this evening. This is a prop portrait of my eldest as Elwood P. Dowd next to his tall rabbit buddy. I did the drawing for a production of "Harvey" about fifteen years ago. I'm grateful for the joy and wisdom our family shared through rehearsals of this wonderful play.

Harvey would love playing tricks on this April Fool's Day.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


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