O is for Officer Observations

Major thrill alert! Ask your doctor if you are healthy enough to read this post.

It was an out of the ordinary morning at preschool. Our new Richardson neighborhood community support police officer cruised through the parking lot while the kids were out on the playground. We try to take the class out as early as possible each day to do our "observations".  That's when we each try to notice interesting things in the garden.  

Even observing a ladybug on a zucchini blossom can't compete with the thrill of the police car stopping outside the fence and a big, friendly officer with a shiny badge, a sense of humor, and a whole lot of patience climbed out to chat with the kids.  Lots of high-fiving ensued.  This genial man heard long personal stories from nearly every child, and answered all sorts of nonsensical questions.  The preschoolers liked this much more than when the garbage truck driver empties the school dumpster, toots the horn and waves. 

Later the kids drew pictures of the officer, and wrote the number three to mark the third day of school.  The school staff is pleased to have increased police patrols of the parking lot.  The wooded creek behind the parking lot became a hand-off spot for young adolescents and older procurers of beer this summer.  We liked it better when we just had families of gray foxes hanging out by the creek.  They didn't drive fast through the parking lot in red and yellow sports cars ignoring the traffic cones and school crosswalk.  The business landlords are finally taking action to prune trees and shrubs on their properties along the creek that made a perfect hide-out.  

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Caillebotte drops his chewing gum

If you walk all the way north on the High Line and then look down you might be able to spot the pink blob of Bazooka bubble gum on the pavement far below.  Gustave dropped it intentionally even though his mommy said "No," in a very firm tone of voice.

Caillebotte's On the Pont de l’Europe (1876-1877) is one of my favorite paintings at the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth. I love the close-up, cropped gentlemen, the almost monochromatic color, and the structural steelwork shapes.

This was my first visit to the High Line, and only my second trip to New York, so please excuse me for gawking like a yokel. Sorry that "Jeremiah Moss" is crabby about tourists and gentrification in his Chelsea neighborhood according to the 8/21/12 NYT column.  Maybe there's an anger management group for him that meets in the High Line amphitheatre.

The High Line has almost everything I could want in a destination:

Domino 1 2 3

  • Cool design
  • Repurposing of industrial space
  • Native plants
  • Awesome views of the city and river
  • It's free
  • A breeze
  • Gelato
  • All sorts of photo subjects
  • Benches for sitting down
  • Giant domino building and fire escapes
Construction zigzags

  • Oh, and zigzags. My tiny French student likes saying "zigzag". We fold our nap mats like zigzags at preschool.

Did I mention gelato?
Perhaps there will be another High Line post tomorrow. True, it will be the first day of preschool and then Gustave and I have to take a CPR certification renewal class. And where would we rather be?

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Silverlocks and the three chairs

Just right they aren't--I've got three too many family history rocking chairs in the condo...

Silverlocks sat in the first chair to rest her feet.  She had been standing at the library circulation desk all day.

"This chair is too big!" she exclaimed. So she sat in the second chair.

"This chair needs to be recovered!"  she whined. Then she remembered the time her eldest got his head stuck in the chair's back. So she tried the last and smallest chair.

"Ahhh, this chair is just right if you are only four feet tall," she sighed.  That's why, pretty and delicate as it is, mostly Grandma hung her stockings over the chair's back at night. Silverlocks sets the extra blanket for the guest room on it.

And then Silverlocks had that porridge problem. Sitting at the intersection of Hillcrest and Gateridge, she always thinks Gator-idge. This is why she had that bad dream about photographing a gator in a big puddle in the yard, then not being able to pedal away fast enough up the hill on her bike.

Glad the lizards on my patio are just right.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Where is the pasta fest?

Indeed.  Where is it?  Sounds great, but nobody mentioned this event to me.  In an instant I'm fixated on marinara and parmesan.

Where is the nearest pasta fest?  Hmmm.  I went to a fun flea food fest in Williamsburg (Brooklyn) last Saturday.  So tough deciding what to eat!  Finally chose a Moroccan lamb merguez sandwich and a mint iced tea. Delicious, but a long way from Dallas!


But, hey, nobody told me there was a pasta fest. I would not have packed a sack lunch.

I need to mail.  Where is the post office? Oops.  Oh that posta fess.  There is a mailbox across the street.

I need a stamp. Alas, the nearest post office is several blocks from here. And that must mean no parmesan for moi.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Slapping current events

For once an idiotic politician has disgraced himself and NOT been from Texas.  Don't you just want to slap that legitimate jerk?

Unfortunately we are living in our own news story, the West Nile Virus. Collin County had its first West Nile death yesterday. Texas has something like 580 cases of West Nile and over twenty deaths. Am I freaking? Nope. I just wish I was better at slapping the mosquito that's in my condo.  It's lurking in wait like Inspector Clouseau's servant Cato Fong  for me to arrive home from work.

Check out West Nile info for your state here. I love USGS maps...

This map does not show the great grey-green greasy Limpopo River where the Elephant's Child went after all his relatives slapped and spanked him for his 'satiable curtiosity.

O, best Beloved, remember how the Elephant's Child kept eating melons and throwing the rinds about?  There I was trapped in the Buick in bad traffic listening to Diane Rehm and her guests discuss contaminated cantaloupes and food safety enforcement.  Listeria...salmonella...ecoli...

And for a D'oh! head slap, I salute the United States Postal Service for its over-estimation of Simpsons stamps demand.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder

Back mostly

Back on the solid ground of North Texas.  Reentry has been difficult, but the cool temperature and rain showers are helping my outlook.

Of course it doesn't help that my email has changed to Outlook.com.  For sixteen years my Hotmail account worked  JUST FINE, THANK YOU VERY MUCH

Please do not fuss with things that waddle along splendidly, OR, if it ain't broken don't fix it! This goose is waddling splendidly in Hoboken, New Jersey. 

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Good, clean fun

Today I got paid to make fake dust bunnies. When the candidates orate about job creation, neither mentions this sort of endeavor.  These were American-made fake dust bunnies, not imported from some Asian sweatshop.

There was nothing artificial about the fun had by all the kids at the "Read to Your Dust Bunny" storytime.  After we shrieked with glee over Jan Thomas' Rhyming Dust Bunnies, the kids were authentically astounded to find dust bunnies under the library chairs, along with a missing mitten, a kitten, a frog, a dog, a rock, a lock, some socks, and a guy in a box. Not Houdini, just an orange Lego guy inside a plastic box, but apparently a significant surprise for these kids. They even pitched in to help sort a basket of socks!

Rock around the socks tonight

Parents, grandmas, and kids were all entranced by Nina Crews' photo collage book, Below.* They were obviously worried about little Guy when Jack dropped him into a dark hole under the stairs. In a simpler day I would always panic when Henry B. Swap asked Mike Mulligan how he would get Mary Anne out of the cellar of the new town hall.

What a rush it is to suspend disbelief, to be captivated in the best sense. And isn't a library storytime a wonderful free, charming and influential incantation!?

captivated - filled with wonder and delight
enchanted - influenced as by charms or incantations

Lego exhibit, National Building Museum, July 2012
This has been a complicated week in the Dallas area as communities struggle to decide appropriate responses to a large number of West Nile virus cases. One community has also had to act on the very big threat of artificial turf in front yards. Kind of makes me want to plant gigantic American-made fake dust bunnies in yards all around town!
*© Nina Crews 2006 Henry Holt & Company ISBN: 978-0-8050-7728-5, ISBN10: 0-8050-7728-6

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


I see wonderful things.

Blogger discovers one big dang dust bunny under bed.

What's down there? Dust bunnies. Alert the press! Fan Lord Carnarvon! The excitement is killing him.

Should I unseal the tomb and excavate the condo or plan Wednesday's storytime? Brainstorm storytime, obviously.

And the storytime could be about ... "Read to Your Dust Bunnies", with apologies to Rosemary Wells.

Read to your dust bunnies

What sort of children's literature do dust bunnies prefer?  Of course they would like a book starring themselves.

Walk this way

“...as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold - everywhere the glint of gold. For the moment - an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by - I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, 'Can you see anything?' it was all I could do to get out the words, 'Yes, wonderful things.” 


Howard Carter can't find his Special Bunny

Three other fun books for children about important missing objects:

And what do those hieroglyphics say on the tomb wall?  Do not, do not ever lose the Special Bunny!
Late 1980s

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Syncopated Journey

One of my tiny students is an unpaid intern at the Ministry of Silly Walks. She swaggers, sidles, sways, shimmies, sashays,and struts. If her dress has enough ruffles she swirls. She's only three, so skipping is a developmental step ahead.

When it is to her scheming advantage she staggers and stumbles, then bats her big dark eyes. What a world class manipulator in such a tiny body! Other times she acts just like that Snoopy bobblehead figurine I had in 1963.

Charles Schultz's book Happiness is a Warm Puppy was published in 1962. My tiny student has not graduated to performing the Snoopy happy dance.

Sas-far-as-I-know, I'm not dying (despite a recent recurrence of hypochondria and a lot of life-passing-before-my-eyes all in an off-beat a-patter). The song in my head is actually "Sentimental Journey" as performed by Glenn Miller and Doris Day crossed with Leroy Anderson's "Syncopated Clock", Takes me right back to birthday chats with the Organ Lady at Lee's Restaurant!

syncopation [ˌsɪŋkəˈpeɪʃən] n
1. (Music, other) Music
a.  the displacement of the usual rhythmic accent away from a strong beat onto a weak beat

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Gabriel Garcia Marquez checks his rain gauge

Can't prove any of it happened. Maybe it was all dreams in another night of restlessness occasionally interrupted by sleep. But if it was a dream, where was the overloaded moving van, the treks through snakely rock ravines, the  incomprehensible bus schedules, the cafeteria line lacking trays, those Persion carpet flying rollerblades, unprepared art lessons, unwritten term papers, lost keys, brakeless cars, unlockable doors, and recurring crumbling teeth?

But still, it seemed like it rained today right when the preschoolers were going back inside from the playground.  Did we or did we not let plump drops fall on our heads, arms, and even tongues? Did we sniff the scent of precipitation on the air? Later did we really find that eighth of an inch of water in the rain gauge?

The anole was first spotted last evening on the parrot wind toy munching a transparent insect that didn't quite fit in its mouth. "Please chew with your mouth closed," I ask the five and six year olds to little avail.  "Please stand quite still so I can photograph you," I ask the little anole.

That's about when my Canon stopped working, so I suspect the lizard is magic. It has a white horn sticking up from its snout.  I've spotted it twice on the patio today. I pray the white protuberance is not just a massive nose goobie. We have plenty of those at school. A rain totem animal is what we need.

If all of the raindrops
Were lemon drops and gumdrops
Oh, if all of the raindrops
Were lemon drops and gumdrops
Oh, what a rain that would be!
I'd sit outside, with my mouth open wide
Singing La la la la, la la la...

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Wallowing in self pity and melted Parmesan

Nobody wants to hear my whole tale of woe. It's not the sort of stuff for Fox News or CNN or even Judge Judy. Instead I will offer two enchanting new short reads and two tiny tales, just little woe-Lite. I will alternate, beginning with a woelette so as to end with an upper. Okay?

  • The squash vine borers found our brand new zucchini sprouts in the garden.  After the fancy dressing "bad boys" killed our first zucchini the schoolchildren dug and improved the soil and built a mound. They planted the seeds and waited for the sprouts. They decided which three sprouts looked the strongest, and pulled out the wimps. And the very next day the squash vine borers reappear. A five year old spotted the and started the special clapping signal for everyone to race to the garden. "This is gonna be BAD!," she announced. 

  • Chapman's Odyssey, by Paul Bailey is the stream-of-conscious life-passing-before-his-eyes tale of a British poet/actor/professor/novelist. While not as fabulous as I'd hoped, it gave me a new way to think of some of my father's ramblings toward the end of his life.

  • Seriously wiped out after my preschool day I got groceries and came home. Put things away in the kitchen, then spent a couple hours with a platypus. When I took the reusable bags back out to the car trunk I found the $3.76 container of shredded Parmesan behind the jumper cables.  The contents were melted into a solid glob.

  • Albert of Adelaide is the can't-put-down tale of the platypus by New Mexico lawyer Howard L. Anderson. It's delightful, but hard to explain.  The best description I've seen is "if Larry McMurtry had written Wind in the Willows", although I might have said it was The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly crossed with Watership Down. You will be amazed how suspended your disbelief can be!

Much have I not travell'd in the realms of gold*, silver, and bronze, but I did catch a segment on NBC Sunday recalling Olga Korbut at the 1972 Olympics. Found myself suddenly misty-eyed.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


Sad underwing

Thank you, Judith Viorst, for your children's books. Alas, this very minute I can't put my hand on my copy of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  It may be in Australia.

When I walked in the warm noon woods today I had to tell myself, "My mama says there aren't any zombies, ghosts, vampires, demons, monsters, fiends, gobins, or things.". It was just an itty-bitty bit scary because there were these big camouflaged moths with sad underwings flying out at me from the tree trunks along the trail.

How big? Nine centimeter wingspan, and hey, there were a whole lot of 'em! Five or six on some trees.Catocala maestosa is the Sad Underwing Moth (Hulst, 1884). Sad Underwear is Viorst's book of poems for children. It may also suggest it's time to clean out the top drawer of the dresser.


Oregon Trail family reunion logistics and other personal inadequacies

Inadequate.  Been on that trail a long time.  Inept. Inarticulate. Introvert. Sometimes I was given a label. Other times I hung labels around my own neck. There's been a long-running competition in my head and gut between those lethal quicksand labels and others that dubbed me a creative, funny, responsible artist, teacher, and wordsmith.

On the trail I couldn't ever shoot enough game or ford the river.  Those traveling with me died off rapidly of starvation, snakebite, and dysentery. I rarely made it to Chimney Rock playing the old Oregon Trail "educational" computer game in the early Nineties.  My youngest, the Woolly Mammoth, could get his wagon to Oregon every time even though he could not read the prompts and probably should have been taking an afternoon nap with his Special Bunny.  Back then the game graphics were primitive, and no voices narrated the trek.

One of my precious daughters-in-law prompted me to get on the stick and organize my kin into a virtual wagon train headed to Oregon for an approaching holiday. Seven adults, one baby, one very small dog (not Jack, the brindle bulldog), three time zones, five airports. Looking for relaxing reunion lodging with some kitchen facilities.


© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder

All Gaul is divided by corn pokies

In the summer Julius Caesar used to fire up his Weber gas grill and remark to his third wife, Calpurnia, who was above suspicion and had a secret marinade recipe, "All Gaul is divided by corn pokies."

Gaul, it seemed, was divided into folks who had the good sense and manners to eat corn-on-the-cob using corn pokies, and into the rest of the folks sans corn pokies known as "barbarians". Although the ancient Greeks may have first had an idiom πας μη Ελλην βαρβαρος meaning "whoever is not Greek is a Barbarian", by Caesar's time the idiom had evolved.

At a recent family gathering my sister was astounded that my part of the clan still used corn pokies. I was equally astounded that her part of the clan did not. Ew. Greasy fingers! Each group felt the other was undignified. We agreed to let each person follow their preferred practice. Fortunately, my sister still had some corn pokies way back in a kitchen drawer. Maybe she will come around to the Right Way yet.

So our family dinner did not turn into a Gore Vidal/William F. Buckley debate. We did ponder just what the real names are for those little ear attachments. We reminisced about the fun of twirling corn-on-the-cob in those little plastic husks for perfect butter coating.

Various pokie names found online:

  • corn cob nobs
  • cob knobs
  • corn skewers
  • corn handles
  • corn pokers
  • corn picks
  • Hold Rs


  • fingers

Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.  Julius Caesar, De Bello Gallico, bk. 1, sect. 1
Caesar's second wife, Pompeia, was the one he divorced.  Caesar's wife must be above suspicion.

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


August gecko mosaic


Every Wednesday for seven years I've rolled out the eleven recycling carts for our condo complex to be ready for the earlyThursday morning collection. Neither rain nor snow, heat nor sleet, preschool nose goobies or other wardrobe malfunctions. It's a little piece of my heart I give to my community so I don't have to ever serve on the HOA board of directors, thank you very much!

Each first Wednesday in August since 2008 I've been surprised to uncover a family of tiny geckos living under the same cart.  Love that I can almost set my watch by these baby geckos about an inch and a half long. When I roll away their shady home they scatter like a billiards break. The little one's reaction time was slow, and I was able to dig my phone out of my pocket after moving the cart. The sun was suddenly blazing down on the little reptile, so I wanted both of us to find shade soon! The rest of its family scurried down a crack in the sidewalk. Not a good photo, but I'm intrigued by the camouflage for life in a parking lot. Plus, I can imagine an intriguing mosaic project for somebody.

Just yesterday, way back in July, I was sight-reading hub.  Today I'm wondering about the hubs of hell. Does this expression come from Dante's rings, or from an hour spent in frustrating phone menu spirals? It's only 105 degrees here...

What would August be without Janis? The puzzles are Escher. The livin's easy.  

© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder


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