Who said red?

Thanks to suggestions from a NETLS earliest literacy workshop hand-out, I've started the After Nap Storytime.  The storytime routine helps the children have a quiet, special time in what was often a crabby part of their day.

What is NETLS?  The Northeast Texas Library System is a cooperative or consortium of libraries in thirty-three counties providing support and continuing education to member libraries.  My longtime friends shared what they learned at the workshop when I subbed at the library. 

One suggestion, the Color Box, from their workshop fit my immediate need to help our youngest students learn the names of colors.  I put together a box of red objects because I had a nice red box.  Each child pulls an object from the box with closed eyes. The child does a little show & tell about the object, naming the color, describing the object.  We joke about getting our hands stuck in the box by trying to pull out more than one object. From way back in my memory came the conversation, "Who said red?  Did you say red?  I said red."  That became part of our repetitive Color Box game.  I think it comes from Mary Serfozo's book, Who Said Red?

On another front I am addressing the division of Mom's collection of red Dansk pieces between myself and my siblings. So, who said red Dansk?


Last weekend I finally caught a red skimmer dragonfly with my little Canon camera.  Today I found a strange red lily growing between the condos and the creek.  It doesn't fit either patio or wilderness. 

I wonder if it ran away to become a carnival worker on the State Fair midway. The more I looked at it, the more the lily resembles the Tilt-a-Whirl ride at the fair.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Commuter's warning/Commuter's delight

Weeks are speeding by without any opportunities for reading Moby Dick on my Kindle.  I worry that I'll forget whatever I had learned about sperm whales by the time life settles down. 

Sailors are on my mind, though, as I head to work straight into the sunrise.  4 x 12 years ago, more or less, I learned a song from The American Singer elementary school songbook.  Our teacher must have blown her pitchpipe to start us singing:

Red sky in morning
Sailors take warning.
Red sky at night
Is sailors' delight.

Did anybody tell the sailors that sunset and sunrise colors are more saturated when the air is full of particulate matter like pollen and dust? 

Life is spinning along while I try to sell my father's house and manage finances.  At the same time, I am working on a continuing professional education packet about music, earliest literacy, and shared culture.

Did anybody tell the sailors that IRA redemptions are totally taxable?  After several attempts, I talked with one of my father's financial advisors about making funds available to pay Dad's bills.  Somehow I got hide'n'seek crossed with tax recommendations.  I just want to know why Ollie Ollie's oxen are tax income free.

And who is this Ollie Ollie fellow?  Does he drive to work when the sun is just rising?  Does Ollie lift a coffee mug from his cupholder to salute the morning?  Does Ollie ponder our shared culture, its musical connection, and the mangling thereof?

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Wise grandfather grasshopper

After an art class project with beautiful blue butterflies, we turned to green grasshoppers. We used up some upholstery fabric scraps, and my entire collection of green bottle caps.  The oldest children used collected tissue papers for the wings possessed only by adult grasshoppers. The middle group talked about different colors of green.  The youngest preschoolers started their insects with three shapes; a raindrop, a saddle, and a hot dog.

This grasshopper impressed everyone with its wise, inscrutable expression. The word "sensei" popped into my mind, along with images of David Carradine in that old "Kung Fu" television series.

The oldest group liked making chevrons on their grasshoppers' legs.  It will give them something to think about at the gas station.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


I'm forever buying soy sauce

I'm pondering the Disneyfied mysteries of supply and demand this evening as I attempt to make my favorite barbecue basting sauce.  I just bought a bottle of soy sauce.  I did, I did!  I'm sure it was Kikkoman.  Now it is nowhere, man.  I've twirled and twirled the lazy Susan cabinet organizers, and peered deeply into the pantry cupboard.  I'm forever buying soy sauce.  I'm forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air.

On the other extreme, I must be the soup spoon apprentice.  I've got three clean forks, and four each knives and teaspoons.  Fifteen soup spoons!  I can barely lift them.  I'm sure it's the doing of Mickey Mouse.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


How would life in the U.S. today be different if __________?
It's an interesting game to play, particularly on this ninth anniversary of 9/11.  Life in the U.S. and around the world would be very different.  Religious tolerance would still be an issue, but so many lives would be changed.  What if we could subtract the source of that chronic low-grade anxiety?

How would my life be different if I hadn't become a mother to Jeff, Mike, and Steven?  Just posing the question places a weight upon my chest.  Subtracting that joy is almost unimaginable.

How would my life be different if Dr. Seuss was subtracted?  Theodor S. Geisel created so many joys for children.  I carry in my mind an image of the Cat in the Hat juggling the fish in the pot every single day when I walk into work.  Life is juggling.  Sometimes the jugglees talk back like the fish.  Put me down, put me down, said the fish in the pot. 

When I supervise the three year olds on the playground slippery slide, I channel Brave Sneelock risking life on his patented life-risking track.  When a student won't speak up with a question, I wonder about the Whos down in Whoville.

And when this insect rode all the way to work on the top of my car, it seemed pretty unbeweevilable.  Hard to believe a real-life insect as weird as a Dr. Seuss creature, but true.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder

Ruby-throated battle bots

This is prime hummingbird time in Plano, Texas. My tiny patio is filled with seven-foot tall cannas topped with red blossoms. A cypress vine with red trumpet flowers has grown up the iron birdfeeder hook.

Beyond my privacy fence the soapberry tree on the next patio provides perches and shade for hummingbirds when they aren't engaged in territorial battles for control of the birdfeeder and the galaxy.

A striped garden caterpillar is eating the cypress vine crawling around and around the hook like a candycane stripe.  It nibbles oblivious to the air raids. 

Baby anole lizards less than three inches long are jumping from one canna leaf to the next.  And then there are the dogfights! Fabulous aerial duels between hummingbirds make me wonder why there aren't any hummingbird flight simulation video games.  One hummingbird pumped up on testosterone or sugar water attacked this large, clueless cloudless sulphur butterfly today.

It's a wonder I got anything done today!

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Being discovered

The older next-door neighbor girls convinced us that sitting in the front yard making clover chains was the way to be discovered.  If we smiled, tucked our knees neatly under our gingham dirndls, or had a nice suntan, a photographer from the Lincoln Journal would surely drive past and be captivated by our youthful innocence, industry, and enthusiasm. 

The photographers never drove down our street during clover chain season, nor during our marathon endeavors making "Chinese" jump ropes from linked rubber bands.  On the positive side, the Lincoln Journal paperboy would ride by on his bike to donate his extra rubber bands and notice how nicely our suntanned knees looked tucked beneath our checked dirndls.  We would notice how nicely suntanned he was from delivering newspapers, too.

Tom Mix was allegedly discovered on a barstool in a main street saloon in Guthrie, Oklahoma.  At least that was the story told me by a bored bartender on a dusty afternoon when I was the only patron having my leg pulled in the joint.  Since I'd never heard of Tom Mix I wasn't properly impressed with this tall tale.  "Tom Mix" is such a fabulous name of brevity, bravado, easy-spelling, and small town possibility.  However the cowboy made the alleged jump to silent films, he's given a boost to my imagination for over two decades.

Twas Lana Turner who was mythologized for her Hollywood discovery in a soda shop.  The tiny caterpillar I found on my cypress vine would rather not be mythologized or live under the camera's eye.  It would rather not be the inspiration for new lesson plans and art projects.  That fame doesn't predict long life and uneventful metamorphizing.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Grasshoppers grinding

Last time I walked at Oak Point Nature Preserve, the grasshoppers were everywhere. The grinding sound of their chewing formed a scratchy foundation under all my other sights and experiences.  Whenever I strayed off the paved trail, I was inside a grasshopper corn popper. 

Don't jump.  Don't jump so. Don't jump so close to me.

All grasshoppers should be on a leash.  There are very few insects that strike instant abhorrence in me nowadays.  I'm just not fond of wasps, grasshoppers, and bagworms. 

Don't jump. Don't jump so. Don't jump so close to me.

Last Wednesday the art project was "Big, blue, beautiful butterflies" inspired by Graeme Base's Animalia.  This week I'll be grinding my teeth as we do green grasshopper art. 

My dentist won't let me grind my teeth.  Don't grind.  Don't grind so.  Don't grind...

Still, it has been a grinding weekend researching Medicare D plans, skilled care facilities, and home sales in the 68510 zip code. 

Found a fun new online toy--The Free Sound Project.  Downloaded recordings of grasshoppers and cicadas to play for my little art students when we make our great green grasshopper art this week.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


Vision, focus, lighting, heat

I spy with my gecko eye the reason why in this digital age we still need poetry. Does the camera lie? Is vision not from our eye? Does the subject defy the abilities of our camera?  Are tweaking efforts doomed to fall short of reality?

Leaving school on a blazing afternoon at five p.m., the North Texas sky was dramatic.  Thunderheads were building like weightless popcorn, but the chance of real raindrops from those clouds was next to nothing.  The camera image is way too chilly of a blue, and the clouds look too dark to taunt me with no measurable precipitation.  The photographic image just doesn't match my experience, no matter how much I Photoshop it.

After a recent Girls Night Out/Opera Lecture, but before our Baba Ghanoush buffet at Fadi's, we saw a splendid Maxfield Parrish sunset over Mockingbird Lane from the North Central Expressway.  My Texas sky feels like a super-saturated Hollywood musical picture show with Gordon McRae bursting into song.  There's a bright golden haze on the meadow, but there's nothing like a dame. There's no place like home, either.


Humphrey Bogart, Mike Hammer, Guy Noir and I were looking out the patio window the other night. The security lamps had turned on to illuminate sidewalks between condo buildings. It only took a minute for the geckos to come out from their hiding spots to await tasty insects drawn to the light.

I haven't mastered the photography secrets to capture shady reptiles in deep shadows near intense artificial lights.  Only poetry can explain both the subtleties and the glare.

© 2010 Nancy L. Ruder


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