Flat Stanley Goes Smockless

International celebrity Flat Stanley, visited my preschool art class today for the very first time. We were painting our fish tank projects, but Flat Stanley did not have a paint shirt so he had to stay inside a plastic sandwich bag. You can see that he resembles a French mime in a "box".

Like Tom Cruise, Flat Stanley is smaller in person than you would expect. He listened politely when I read Lucy Cousin's Hooray for Fish, and was interested in the preschoolers' work.

Flat Stanley has logged millions of travel miles visiting classrooms and families around the globe. His intense work schedule helps keep him trim. I read in some newspaper or newspost that F. Stanley was in this country to help Michele Obama with her project to prevent Puffy Stanleys and Chunky Stanleys.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Sweet pea in a bag

It was confusing for Sixties kids sitting too close to the tv in the dark basement. It was sort of "Don't ask, don't tell." We couldn't figure out how Popeye and Olive Oyl got Swee'Pea. The mystery added to our storky worries about the source of babies. Swee'Pea did not seem to have legs. He/she/it crawled around in a bunting jammie bag wearing a goofy bonnet or a captain's hat.

Without help from me, my Sweet Pea Seed Kit is growing on the window sill. I forgot all about it for at least a week. Thank heaven the vines haven't started weaving upward through the mini-blind slats.

Pre-adolescents on the loose at Gateway Mall in the mid-Sixties used to nab freebie datebooks at the Hallmark Card Shop. These month-by-month calendars were about 4" square, so too big to be magazines for our Barbie dolls. The calendars were just big enough to write in names on the birthdates for friends and family. The calendars were also a much-studied source of information about birthstones and birthmonth flowers, plus traditional wedding and anniversary gifts. We expended great effort memorizing this information, and a whole generation of female shoppers was trained to buy birthday gifts and cards OR feel very inadequate.

I read another horror story of bullying in the newspaper this morning. A young teen hung herself after months of bullying. I know of only one case of true bullying in my growing-up, and I occasionally wonder how that incident impacted the victim and the perpetrators over the decades.

Teasing was rampant back then, if bullying was rare. I was a victim of birth month flower teasing, if you can comprehend this offense! Due to my April birthday I was scorned for my sweet pea birth flower by playmates jealous of my diamond birthstone. These were the years when diamonds were a girl's best friend, gentlemen preferred blondes, and sweet peas were assumed to be stinky pee-you!

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Old furniture, furniture, furniture

I'm sure I should know which bird sings the "old furniture" song. It's not the cardinal's "cheer, cheer" call, or the "chick-a-dee dee dee" of the black-capped chickadee. Thanks to Hot-Air Henry, I know the red-winged blackbird sings, "Okalee; can't catch me."

Killdeer say "kill deer". Bobwhite quail say their name, which was the name of a kid in my high school class. Bill White is running for Texas governor against Rick Perry. Bill White's song is still getting out to Texans. We already know Rick Perry's song to his conservative good hair base.

The hawk that oversees my condo complex says "keck". Just "keck".

At the Heard Nature Sanctuary I learned that a tufted titmouse calls "peter peter peter". The Carolina wren sings "tea kettle, tea kettle, tea kettle".

Now I'm going to read James Thurber's story about the effect of a whip-poor-will on an insomniac. Please don't make me wax my furniture.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Cedar Brake Loop

"Cedar Brake Loop" suggests a modern dance creation for spring in North Texas. I wonder what became of my favorite choreographer, Bruce Wood. The Cedar Brake Loop trail at the Heard Nature Sanctuary near McKinney, TX calls for percussion musicians and a modern dance choreographer of Wood's abilities.

Any moment I expect Hansel and Gretel to tiptoe along the trail, scattering bread crumbs and imagining a witch's whispers as the cedar bark rustles.

It is cool and shadowy down in the Cedar Brake area of the nature preserve. The trail is primitive compared to the Eagle Scouts' swamp boardwalk project on the Wood Duck Trail. I can't advance far on the mud trail, but it is a sufficient distance to be caught in the wind-blown sounds of stick rattling against stick.

Hansel and Gretel can't get very lost. They are more likely to leave the plastic wrap from their juice box straws on the trail than bread crumbs. Even the most jaded child would have a few moments of Grimm anxiety in the Cedar Brake darkness.

Far overhead the cedars are green. Sunlight quickly reaches my squinted eyes. Down here on the trail it's removed to a black and white woods with tiny hints of spring green.

The branches rattle and clack in waves of percussion. I can't wait to go back!

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Goatweed leafwing

My one-block walks are solidified in my MWF afternoon routine. The walks take close to an hour now, since I'm drawn to both sides of the creek. Wednesday afternoon I finally got a photo of the illusive orange butterfly. My knees are complaining about the scrambles up and down the creekbank.

I've lived in subdivisions as flat and "earth tone" as a camouflage leafwing butterfly in a pile of old leaves. The streets had names like Bankside, Creekside, Parkside, Whispering Creek, Stone Creek, Ripple Creek, Sandy Creek, Timbercreek, Timberview, Stepping Stone, Hickory, Shadybrook, and Edgewater.

None of these street names have hinted that boys wading in the creeks would stain their socks a rusty red no amount of Clorox could remove. Even the most rustic appellations did not suggest there was a six-lane street two blocks over.

This vanishing artist is also one block from a six-lane thoroughfare. Maybe somewhere there are streets named Goatweed and Leafwing. When the Goatweed Leafwing flies, its wings are a bright and velvety rusty orange.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Repo Man

My dad's wheelchair has not yet been reposessed. I'll make another call to Lincoln's best-known home health supply store at 8:30 a.m. confirming our intent to purchase the wheelchair. I've given my dad strict instructions to bite the leg of any person who wants his wheelchair and to NOT LET GO.

Should you happen to watch a tv commercial for a powered wheelchair store, stay skeptical. Dealing with Medicare and wheelchairs is not a done deal. Dealing with it all long distance is a royal bite in the ankle.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Not that Green

Mylar balloons have joined juice-drink pouches on my Most Wanted List of litter criminals. This St. Paddy's Day balloon snared along my shallow creek of moss and Mr. Mallard Ducks makes me crabby.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Playground pronunciation update

"Cardinal" pronunciation remains unsettled. The staff was pondering this on the playground. Do we pronounce the i? Is the pronunciation the same for birds, baseball teams, sins, and ecclesiastical hierarchy? I do know the birds are named for the red robes, not the other way around.

The mama cardinal was pleased I hung a birdfeeder just before our First Day of Spring six-inch snowfall. The cardinal couple and some married ringneck doves are enjoying sunflower seeds this week. Ringneck doves are only slightly smarter than mourning doves. They are always surprised that the feeder swings and swirls when they land on it. Perhaps because the doves seem like black and white television birds, I've started thinking of these two couples as the Kramdens and the Nortons from "The Honeymooners".

Cardinal Cushing? Cardinal Richelieu? St. Louis Cardnals. There is no i in "team", of course! I say Car di nal Cushing, but Cardnal Richelieu. How 'bout you?

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Return of the purple heart

Thirteen years ago I moved my home, my sons, and some bits of this plant to our new condominium. A few years later I broke off the stalks of "purple stuff" aka "purple heart" and plunked them into the mud behind another condo.

The plant is popping up at our first condo, but not yet at my current home. The shoots remind me of demanding, hungry baby bird beaks.


Learning differences

This is a quick update on themes in recent posts or maybe the things that never got written. My one-block walks continue, providing mental health at no cost to taxpayers:

Teen groups could also apply to cedar waxwings. They move as attention-deficit flash-mobs from tree to tree. I'm collecting images for a future textile collage of waxwings in the soapberry tree.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

If you drive, don't draw

Cellphone use is already banned in many school zones. Soon they will crack down on pencil use. Scrawling on scrap paper and post-it notes will become a criminal offense. And then how will I remember the highlight of the day?

The most hilarious sight of the morning was a middle school boy traveling to school on his metal scooter. He was loaded down with the typical two-ton backpack. Dangling from the backpack by its handle was the boy's violin case. With each leg-kick push of the scooter, the violin case bounced on the sidewalk.

This is much more amusing if you are not the parent making revolving payments on a dang orchestra or band instrument for a middle school student.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Jump Up Dance Around

It's got a good beat. You can dance to it.

I'm having great fun displaying our latest art project and explaining the importance of lifesize art to kids and adults. Unfortunately this wonderful moment has caused an annoying song to be stuck in my head. I'm having to jump up, jump up, and get down like I haven't since Danger Baby was home from college one summer. Danger Baby was totally into House of Pain's "Dance Around".

Each of my sons has an interest in music that overlaps with mine. Each is different. House of Pain is not in an overlapping area. I will not say "Jump Around" is a "low point of American music", as I can understand the energy. Plus, I wouldn't want to repeat a memorable dinner table pronouncement from my dad thirty-five years ago when he was annoyed by my music.

Enjoy the energy in the art. The little students are jumping with excitement.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Montessori Teen Insight

I was working with a four and a half year old girl studying teens and place value. You know, eleven is one ten and one unit. Thirteen is one ten and three units... So, I asked this little girl in her black crinkle patent go-go boots, "What does teen mean?"

"It means you are in a group!" Very true words from a little girl Teenagers are all about groups!

Besides her go-go boots, this little person has more interpersonal intelligence than I can comprehend. You've heard of Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences?

I can zip my boots, and I'm mighty glad I survived parenting teenagers. The teens mean many ten groups vs. ever-tired parental units.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Too many elections, too few voters

We will have four elections this spring. It's great to have many candidates vying for positions, but so many elections seems silly and wasteful to me.

This photo was taken in rainy early February before the statewide primary election, our second election of the year. We had already voted in a special election to fill a city council seat, but that election went to a runoff.

Early voting in that runoff between Davidson and Fang is in progress but I can't remember if it is partisan or nonpartisan. Still ahead we have the state primary runoff in April. Then there are county and school district elections in May.

I try to be a responsible citizen, but I'm nearing voter overdose. On the upside, many Collin County old folks are finding frequent employment as early-voting poll workers. Let's put Americans back to work by having more elections!?

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Four Quilt 3 Dog Night

So very cold last night. Outside my window the snow kept making soft plopping sounds. I would half-wake and wonder if these were the sounds of a plomphing, hopping rabbit rustling under the bed. Didn't I put the rabbit back in his cage for the night?

After a particularly scary nightmare about rebuilding a corrugated cardboard wheelchair on the top of a hill during a windstorm, I sat up wide awake. My blankets and quilts had slipped onto the floor leaving me shivering, but the preschool rabbit was safely in his cage.

It was clearly the fault of the CBS sportscaster who proclaimed, "It's raining threes on the University of New Mexico!," during the sad second round basketball game last night. Things didn't go well for the Lobos against the Huskies, and threes seemed to rain in my dream.

Now I have the Three Dog Night version of Paul William's song, "Old Fashioned Love Song" haunting my waking hours. On the good side, I'm remembering the graphic impact of the old-fashioned four-block quilts on display at the IQSC in February through March 28th.

Just an old-fashioned love song
One I'm sure they wrote for you and me
Just an old-fashioned love song
Comin' down in 3-part harmony

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Grocery art

Spring break did not include tourist meccas or sandy beaches, but I hit two brand new grocery stores on my staycation. Neither had super-saturated color postcards for sale on a revolving metal rack.

What's the buzz? Tell me what's happening? This is the grand opening of the Frankford Road/Marsh Lane Aldi store at 10:30 Thursday.

Aldi has come to DFW. Comparison grocery shopping is a serious recreational sport here, and our area is often a test zone for marketing concepts.

Besides the first store openings of the German-owned Aldi chain, this week also marks the opening of the Park Lane Whole Foods store with a dedicated shopping cart escalator to the lower level parking garage.

The preschool rabbit was miffed that I'd given him raw asparagus last evening instead of fresh cilantro. He led me a merry extended chase eating up the minutes on the game clock. He was the victor, thwarting efforts to get him out from under the bed where I store dining table leafs, my mom's phone journals, and a big portfolio of watercolors. I was too frazzled to pack a sack lunch so it was an excuse to visit the new Whole Foods store. I figured I could brave the pouring rain to grab a salad bar box lunch.

Hurrying and Whole Foods don't go together. Unlike Aldi where the employees were caffeinated and ready to explain shopping cart deposits and the green implications of self-bagging, the wheat-germ gang at Whole Foods hadn't quite gotten the tongs to the salad bar at 8:45 a.m.

I'll go back when I'm not late for work. As I whizzed away from the check-out, I glimpsed an Art-o-mat machine. I need a technicolor postcard of that!

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Magnets on the move

Have appts. Need magnets. Sounds like a cheap classified ad.

My walking buddy moved her father out of his apartment into an "independent living facility with amenities." You would think the amenities would include fresh refrigerator magnets, but we are not living in utopia! This is not a nanny state. Sometimes we have to tough it out on our own.

Medicare doesn't cover refrigerator magnets even if yours are pitiful and don't stick anymore. My buddy's dad has doctor appointments to keep track of so he needs magnets.

Medicare doesn't cover my own dad's wheelchair now because he is in a skilled care facility instead of assisted living. This post cannot detail the convoluted thinking behind this ruling. I'm thinking that Dad's wheelchair has a lot of metal parts where we could use magnets to post advertisements at a price--Sort of like a slow-moving sandwich board to promote crocheted kleenex holders handmade by some lady named Ruby.

When I visit Dad it is depressing to see the family photos on the old fridge. My sister, brother, and I are gathered in these freeze frames from the weekend after our mom died in 2005. We look exhausted, stiff, and weepy stuck up with assorted magnets, frozen for the long haul at a very bad moment in time.

I'm opposed to grimy, old refrigerator magnets, and support No Refrigerator Left Behind. The other day I followed a pickup truck hauling a refrigerator. The fridge had been wrapped in many rounds of Saran Wrap to hold the door shut and all the magnets and photos in place like a sandwich-wrapped appliance mummy in situ. I tried to take a photo with my phone, but took a photo of myself instead!

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder



Today I got sufficiently foolhardy to climb down the slope to the creek. I was following an orange butterfly, and hoping for a better view of the tiny fish enjoying the sun-warmed shallow water.

The butterfly was long gone when I got down there, but I got a good reminder that tree roots are holding this whole bank together. The limestone chips and erodes easily, creating concavities.

The macho mallards weren't interested in my insights into the precarious nature of the whole enterprise on their spring break afternoon.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

The woodpecker of the day

Take my picture, please, please, please!

Today the red-bellied woodpecker wanted to appear on the cover of the supermarket checkout tabloid. It was jealous of yesterday's downy woodpecker. There's no other explanation for its cooperation with the papparazzi.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Honoring a dead anole

Fifteen years ago when I desperately needed a connection to nature, I found small, color-changing anole lizards appearing on my patio, outside my workplace, and sunning on every rock. They were all telling me to Pay Attention, to start looking outside myself and my little drama. I probably wouldn't have noticed, except that they suddenly seemed to be everywhere. In a way, those anoles saved my life, or at least my sanity.

Now I am paying attention to the changes in an anole on my front sidewalk. He first appeared on my front stoop in mid-February, way too early for anoles to be out. When this lizard appeared again the first week of March, still stressed and brown. I hoped he was a sign of arriving spring. I put a warm towel on the sidewalk next to him and hoped he would feel better.

A few days later arriving home after work I found him again on the sidewalk, this time dead. Surely a cat, rat, or opossum would carry him off in the night.

It seemed too sad to scoop the lizard into my trash bag on the way to the dumpster. I could bury him, but maybe I should wait for insects to consume him and save his skeleton to show my students.

Each day for over a week I've expected the anole to disappear. Instead the skin shows more color everyday. No profound insights here about life, death, or returning to dust. I don't want to be morbid or gross. I'm just thanking the lizards for their insistent command to observe nature, and to notice by paying attention once again to a small reminder.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Princess socks and fairy shoes

Fairies will soon be dancing all along my creek judging from all the pink shoes and booties hanging from the branches of the redbuds. I suspect the tiny ruby-crowned kinglets will be their green-clad handsome partners. I'm remembering the many groups of children I've seen act out the story of the "Twelve Dancing Princesses".

For thirty-five years I've wondered what provoked my 300-level drawing teacher when he assigned our class to "change a shoe into a flower". The gruff, arrogant, heavy-smoking assistant prof did not seem likely to be inspired by a fairy tale or a spring walk along a creek. We believed he thought up the assignment as a particular torture for juniors who were starting to feel comfortable as art majors.

I'm still wondering, and that's more influence than I wanted to credit his teaching in the mid-Seventies. For today, I'll believe a redbud princess once danced before his eyes.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Accepting photography limitations

I've almost, but not quite, given up trying to photograph the birds I see on my one-block walks. Today's walk was a festival of woodpeckers, and this little downy woodpecker was a real show-off. It seemed jealous that I was slack-jaw agog over a pair of bright red-bellied woodpeckers higher up in the next tree.

The creek was a busy place. I backtracked several times savoring sightings of tiny ruby-crowned kinglets, slow-moving robins, flying ducks and a soaring hawk. I walked through several swarms of gnats and wondered about tiny gray birds flitting about much higher than the kinglets hop. Maybe they are gnatcatchers.

It's time to get out the bird book. I'm still pretty hopeless identifying birdsongs, but my slow walks have helped me notice the rhythm of rustles in the brambles that hint of kinglets.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Caps For Sale surprise

My brief run through the Sheldon Gallery offered a real surprise. I had no idea that the author/illustrator of the beloved Caps For Sale was a pionerring American abstract artist. I've never even been sure if Esphyr Slobodkina was male or female. Now I know she made wonderful, whimsical found-object collages in two and three dimensions. You can see the works of the exhibition "Rediscovering Slobodkina" on flickr.

Reading about Slobodkina brought even more surprises, although I suspected the connection to Margaret Wise Brown. Slobodkina was born in Siberia, and grew up in Manchuria, before traveling to the U.S. to study art in New York City. Plus, the wonderful peddler of Caps for Sale has a name! It is Pezzo.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


18-hour Playtex cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye

Thank heaven for the arrival of spring break. I'm hung-up, under-wired, and wrung-out. What that means in my fifty-something life is I'm as as tired as a bra-strap caught on the cosmic washing machine agitator. I've been pulled this way and that for a whole cycle, stretched thin. When I finally get into deep sleep, I have nightmares of shopping for bras.

Tide and Bounce sitting in a tree. K I SS I N G.

Cross my heart promise:

Phrase uttered by children after making a promise to indicate the depth of their sincerity: the speaker is so committed to the action just agreed to that they offer self-inflicted pain and a death wish as proof of their seriousness. Must be accompanied by a gesture of drawing a imaginary X across the speaker's own heart, or else it doesn't count.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

A wonderful idea for runners

A woman came into the library yesterday wearing a "Walk like a champion" shirt. We usually chat. She said she was involved with an Alzheimers walk and ended up with all the leftover shirts. I said art teachers need shirts, but she had a much better idea. She gave them to a Medicaid nursing home. She said the patients sometimes arrive there with nothing but the backless hospital gown they are wearing. What a great idea!

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Looking for a sign

Walking along my usual route thinking it sure would help to receive a clear cut omen, directive, or prophecy. Nothing Delphic from some oracle who inhaled too much sulphur. I don't need, "Put your faith in a wooden wall," thank you very much.

Then, right at my feet in some worm castings I see the sign. The sign is 2. I was expecting doves or smoke signals, but the sign is a plastic square that probably escaped from a child's game. The surrounding clover isn't four-leaf, but I'll overlook that (with apologies to Mort Dixon).



"How big is baby? So big!"

We all want to know if how big we feel matches how big we look. That's the reason for all those newspaper comics and late-show monologues about whether this dress "Makes me look fat?"

My art students are delighted with our trace-around project. They get to see evidence of how big they really are, and then paint their paper twin.

It's been a few years since I tried this project. My current teaching arrangement doesn't have the big drying space that makes it feasible. I'm trying to work around the logistics problems because the life-size project is such a hoot!

The youngest group of preschoolers listened to the classic 1944 picture book by Marie Hall Ets, In the Forest. I'm sad that wearing a folded newspaper hat and imagining a parade of animals in the forest is too low-tech for children now. Will Peekaboo be the next to fall? When I am in charge of the world these things will be preserved as the Yellowstones of children's literature.

Two old-time (ancient Twentieth century) activities helped me understand my childhood stature. The first was the annual class photo shoot. You could always find me in the "short row".

The second activity was having my foot measured on the Braddock Device at our shoe store, Brady's Juvenile Shoes. I believed that Prince Charming traveled about the countryside measuring all the female feet using just such a device to find his Cinderella.

The kids love this book about life-size animals. Look for it at your library (even if you are a grown-up!)

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Nitty Gritty & it's a pity

This is not the first time I've ranted about lunchbox juice drinks, and it won't be the last. I've been trying to ignore the litter along the creek when I take my 365 Project one-block radius walks.

Toward the end of a glorious hour-long photo tramp and birdsong concert I spotted a mangled, upended grocery cart, half-buried in the mud and leaves near the water. The late afternoon sun glinted on the crossbars, making it resemble a Native American bone breastplate. Here lies the fallen warrior beside the clear-running stream ... Bury my cart at Wounded Knee.

I crossed the bridge to walk along the creekbank, following a smart-dressed sparrow and a cardinal's song. Listening to this little suburban creek trying its best to ripple reminds me of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. In the middle of the stream there's a dang Capri-Sun drink pouch reflecting the low sun rays.

I've got ripplin' water to wake me
To the mornin', my woman, and love.
Tall pine trees are pointin' us easily to heaven above.
Blue spruce clingin' to the grate in the evening
They take the chill away fine.
Cut the telephone line and the story's the same.

There are senior moments and menopausal moments of forgetfulness. Then there are the John Denver moments. Did Jimmy Ibbotson write that song? Did someone forget to dispose of their juice pouch in a responsible manner?

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...