Friday, March 30, 2007

If it can be pawed, my cats will poop in it.

My deck is beautiful today. Yesterday, we went to Lowe's and bought bedding flowers and now all the planters are full of blooming wonder and it smells great, over at the far end of the deck.

The whole deck is beautiful, but that far end is a little more beautiful, besides smelling better.

I got multi-colors this year, because flowers, like people, are better when they're all mixed together. Somehow, each one stands out more, when everything around them is diverse.

No, no lesson today. Heh.

I'd take a picture of my beautiful colorful sweet-smelling summertime deck and post it here, but I can't. Not yet.

First, I have to somehow get rid of this pile of spilled charcoal and dust, and I can't clean it up yet because the cats pooped all over it ("Thank you for the new potty, Mommy.") and I don't know what they'd been eating but it was very obviously something mighty powerful, and until it all dries I can't really do anything with it. Well, I COULD, but you don't want me to throw up, do you? I didn't think so.

I hope it rains today, really hard.

Mother Nature, please clean this mess up for me. Make it go away with your mighty torrents. I'm leaving the house for a few hours, and I don't want to see it when I get back.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 3:07 PM | |

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Tale of Two Families.

My husband is on Spring Break this week, so we've actually SEEN each other a little bit. Today, we met for lunch at Arby's. I had coupons but I left them in the car.

Inside, it was packed. Spring Break. Fast food restaurants must really pack in the big bucks at lunchtime during Spring Break, that's all I'm sayin.'

In most restaurants we frequent, we have Our Table. Today, at Arby's, a couple of women and about ten thousand small wild children were sitting at Our Table. We took that as our cue to sit as far away from Our Table as was physically possible.

Not far from us sat another family. Actually, my friend Debbie's daughter, her husband and two small children, and an older lady who was probably a grandmother. Then again, she might have been my age, hell, who can tell these days? No, seriously, this lady was old.

Our Table's family was a pack of wild animals. The two women talked loudly, laughed loudly, gestured wildly, talked loudly some more, and totally ignored the ten thousand small children who were running all over the restaurant. One older little boy was trying to corral them all, poor thing.

Debbie's daughter's family was like a picture postcard. Her tiny little children sat politely, ate their food with a minimum of mess (there was a little bit of mess; they couldn't have been more than two and four years old) talked with their polite inside voices, giggled those hushed sweet toddler giggles that melt me like a grilled cheese sammich, talked in those serious little hushed toddler voices about how much they loved their toy and their food and 'this fwench fwy in my HAND wight here' (soooo cute) and my main point here is that they never once ran through the restaurant like a crazed baboon or climbed on the tables and chairs or threw food (or anything else) or annoyed other diners or vandalized the salt shakers or SCREAMED or SQUEALED LIKE A STUCK PIG and that their little asses stayed glued to their chairs the entire time they were in the restaurant, until they had permission from their mother to move them.

When Our Table's family left the restaurant, they left behind a disgusting mess.

When Debbie's daughter's family left, they first cleaned up their entire mess, picked up the big crumbs from the floor, put one of their tables back where they got it, and the two tiny children were in charge of pushing each chair back under the table. Before they walked out of the restaurant, Debbie's daughter picked up her son and asked him to check the tabletop to make sure it was clean for the next people who came there to eat lunch, and he took this very seriously. Only after he pronounced their area clean enough for other people did they leave. It was obvious that this was routine for them. It was also obvious that leaving behind a gross mess was routine for the other family.

I guess my question is, what made these two families so different?

Could it be. . . . . ."Parents who required proper behavior in public?" <--I vote for that one.

Thank you, Debbie, for doing such a good job with Marci so that she is doing such a good job with her children. I bet these children will be good students and good citizens. Marci was a joy to have in class because of Debbie, and Marci's children will be a joy because of Marci. And so on, and so on, and so it goes.

Nice job, Our Table family. Thanks a lot. I bet these children are and will be the same wild animals in school that they are in a public restaurant. Probably both mothers were brats in school, too. These people are the way they are because they were allowed to be so by their parents. And so on, and so on, and so it goes.

Could this sort of thing be coincidence? I think not.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:31 PM | |

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Oh holy cow, why didn't somebody TELL me?

Honestly, I haven't laughed so hard since my mother-in-law fell in a puddle in the woods and couldn't get up; she just lay there and we thought she was dead until she started wiggling her tiny little arms and legs and kind of choking because of the mud. . . . . Okay, I wasn't actually THERE, but I saw her walking out of the woods all covered with mud, and my husband still can't tell the story without laughing so hard he nearly has an aneurism. I won't let him talk about it if he's eating something; he could seriously die. Fifteen years or so after the fact, and even now all it takes is one little finger motion to set off the entire family. Yes, it was that insanely funny.

Item: I didn't laugh in front of her as everyone else in the family did. I consoled her, and I laundered her filthy mud-covered clothing for her. But on the inside, I was laughing just as hysterically as was her son, her sister, her brother, her in-laws, and her grandchildren.

I did my out-loud laughing behind her back. She's my mother-in-law, and I love her, and I figured she could use an ally.

But seriously, folks, if you could have SEEN this tiny little woman face-down in a very deep mud puddle, lying still as death, her audience hushed in horror as they awaited any sign of life from her, and the nearly-synchronized burst of laughter as those little arms and legs started to wiggle. . . .

Ahem. What was I blogging about? Oh, yes. M*A*S*H Scrubs. Thank you, dear Belle, for buying me Season One. I'm nearing the end of it and hope to get my hands on Season Two soon, and Season Three. . . . yes, there is a pattern here.

It's been a long time since I was in love with anything television had to offer. Let's see, when did M*A*S*H go off the air? Yes, that long.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:07 PM | |

Monday, March 26, 2007

Barney Can't Carry A Tune To Save His Life, But Gomer Can?

Pink and blue hyacinths, crocuses of various colors sprinkled like stars all over the lawns, red tulips, yellow daffodils, both miniature and regular, all nodding in the intense breeze like fragrant little headbangers all grooving to Queen. . . .

What's not to like about Spring?

Besides the mud, that is. The incessant, shoe-sucking, sock-drenching, tracked-in mud. . . .

But except for that, what's not to like?

I can't think of a thing, off-hand.

I do, ridiculously, resent the fact that "spring" is not supposed to be capitalized, but that is one of the few rules of standard English grammar that I take great pleasure in ignoring. I capitalize Spring. For winter, summer, and fall, I'm not so adamant, but Spring is too much like a human being not to be capitalized. I don't even feel bad about not capitalizing 'autumn,' but then, autumn is not Spring.

It's really here, too. I know it is. The wasps are out in full force today, and until we spray the deck, I can't go out there barefoot any more. Plus, someone down the road mowed their grass yesterday and we can smell the cut grass-and-wild-onions all up and down our road. I love that smell.

And back in the woods, the ground is covered with Trilliums. This thrills me, it really does.

Obviously, since I'm sitting right here, I'm not outside breathing in the fresh air, but that's because the sun is out in full force, and I can't do that. Not any more. Gosh, back in the day, I used to mix baby oil and merthiolate and coat myself, and lay out by the side of the public pool to marinate. Now, a few minutes in the bright sunshine and my skin nearly explodes. Yes, I am the extremely large and really pale and pasty one, there in the corner. I have tons of hats, but I can't stand for something to touch my head, so I just wait until darkness falls, like the vampire I so obviously am.

But I can see it all out the windows, and for now, that's good enough.

Welcome, sweet capitalized Springtime, we greet thee in song.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:27 PM | |

Nightmare Number Three

You know how in some science fiction stories there's a toxic being whose bodily presence shuts down computers and stops elevators in their tracks and causes cars to stall and makes the machines go all Benet? (bonus points for source) You don't? Well, I think I was that person this weekend.

First of all, I tried to stop by the grocery store and was headed off at the pass by a teenager rounding up cars who told me that the store was having computer problems and nobody could enter. Furthermore, anybody already in the store, with stuff in their carts, had to stay until the computers were fixed if they wanted to take home their milk and Kraft cheese and Ben & Jerry's.

So, I got back in the car and drove across town and stopped at another grocery store, only to be stopped in my tracks by a man in a white apron who was standing in front of the doors holding a big sign that said "computer problems, store is closed." Well, so we didn't have any milk Friday night. We survived.

Tonight, Hub and I decided to run into town and grab some Steak and Shake. We pulled into the parking lot, parked, got out, and were stopped at the door by the manager who was just in the act of taping a sign to the door, a sign that said, "computer problems, restaurant closed."

I don't know what distresses me more: that I had to wait to buy milk and Kraft cheese, or that we had to go to McDonald's instead of Steak and Shake?

That every business I tried to patronize went computer-up the minute I approached it?

Actually, I think what distresses me most is that even though I realize that these businesses like to keep close tabs on inventory, eg having the computers in the first place, they all lost a LOT of business this weekend because apparently not one employee in any of the three buildings was smart enough to add up a column of numbers and add the tax, on paper.

I find this very, very scary.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:47 AM | |

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Golden Girls We're Not

Last night I met the Girlfriends at the Shoney's Chinese. It was as it always is: wonderful. My old high school Girlfriends are still close, even though the years have made us even more different from each other than we were in our teens. We love each other, and we always will. Nothing has or ever could change that fact. We don't always approve of each others' choices, but why should we? There are no two of us even remotely alike, but again, so what? We sat there at a long table, chowing down and catching up with our lives, and it was as though nothing had ever changed: there we were, all together again, laughing at the same stuff (and different stuff, too; we ain't static, ya know!) remembering the same people, going all Das Boot on certain happenings, and laughing. Oh, we've always laughed.

There are nine of us who are still close, no matter how far apart we might be forced to get. Last night, seven of nine (heh) were able to meet, and we sat around that table and became kids again. Most of us met in grade school, some of us in kindergarten. We've supported each other through marriages, divorces, kids, deaths, illnesses, tragedies, despair, and delight. I would share anything I had with any of them.

We have bonds. We have understandings. We have blackmail. . . . .

What we have, is history. We have a shared history.

So, Janice, Carol, Brenda, Rosie, Darla, and Jill, who were able to come last night. . . Vicki and Ann who couldn't make it this time. . . . I loved you all back then and I love you all today.

Oh, and remember that heavy silver ID bracelet that Mike gave his girlfriends to wear, back in high school? That bracelet we all wore at one time or another? I had it first. And I had it several times after that, too. There was a time when that would be a 'brag,' but now it's more of a sheepish admission of weakness. After all, he lived across the street; it was just too easy.

'Till next time then, girls.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:44 PM | |

Friday, March 23, 2007

Choice? I'm All For It.

People all over the world are concerned about the fate of Knut, the baby polar bear. Its mother turned out to be a "fertile woman with no maternal instincts" (bonus points if you know the source of that quotation) and rejected the cub and its brother at birth. The second baby died. Mom still doesn't care. She's free of any obligations and restrictions now, and can go about her life doing her own thang without anything to tie her down. She hoped both of the babies would die, but ultimately, as long as she didn't have to deal with them any more, she really didn't care. They weren't babies to her; they were inconveniences. Mom has rights, you know.

There are a lot of people who don't believe Knut should have been allowed to live.

But the surviving baby has been reared and cared for by zoo officials, and it is thriving. Sweet, friendly, loving, playful. . . . people all over Europe can't wait for Knut's offical debut at the zoo.

Public outcry saved Knut from the fate certain animal activists still insist would have been the right choice. Now that the baby is thriving, these activists have backed down a bit, but they still maintain that the baby should have been killed.

Meanwhile, up in the frozen north, businessmen who deal in fur, and "sportsmen" are still advocating that clubbing baby seals is not such a bad thing. Any videos you might have seen, showing grown men clubbing a baby seal to death, or trying to run down Humane Society boats who want to film these hunts so people can SEE what's going on, or showing a skinned, still-alive baby seal swimming away, are nothing but propaganda, and that screaming running skinned baby. . . that's nothing more than a simple reflex, comparable to a beheaded chicken dancing around the barnyard. Seals eat cod, and people eat cod, and people should have ALL the cod, so the seals should be killed so people will buy have more cod. People also need to keep warm, and sealskin keeps people warm. It's not the peoples' fault if baby seals have the prettiest skin. People have rights, you know. They want to be fed and they want to be warm and they want to look good. Those are all rights. Rights that people will pay money for.

I am all for animal rights. I just find it ironic that people who will send money, protest in the streets, and offer to take in animals, people who work night and day for the right of a lobster NOT to be boiled alive, don't seem to give a shit when it comes to human babies.

They won't eat boiled lobster, or wear fur, and they are appalled when a mother polar bear would rather be free and unencumbered than deal with her own babies, but when it comes to human babies? Hey. Keep your laws off my body. I'll kill it if I want to.

Back in the seventies, I thought like that, too. I wrote paper after paper about how an inconvenient unwanted fetus was no different than an inconvenient unwanted appendix or tonsil, and that disposing of any unwanted inconvenient mass of tissue was the same as the other. I believed it, too. I marched in the streets. I carried signs. "Our bodies, our own."

And then I grew up.

And when people grow up, they are supposed to realize that each person is responsible for her own actions, and if she is inconvenienced by the consequences of those actions, well, that's too damn bad. No man is an island. Everything we do touches someone else in some way.

That is why we must be careful about what we do. Because every action has a reaction, and if you don't want that reaction, DON'T DO THE ACTION IN THE FIRST PLACE; or, if you know you're going to do it anyway, use protection. It's not rocket science. Duh.

No, I am not calling anyone a slut. I am not advocating punishment for women who love sex. I am not a nun who belongs back in a 12th-century convent. I do not live with my head in the sand. I just. . . grew up.

I am simply a grown-up woman who believes that people should not put themselves in the line of fire of a consequence they do not have the balls to carry through. I am a person who understands that all actions have consequences, and that if the original action was sloppy, then the consequence might very well be severe. Yes, you asked for it. No, your body is no longer your own; you are now sharing it with another body. Yes, you were there first. No, the other body did not ask to be invited to share yours. YOU brought it there of your own free will. Sure, you can change your mind and kill it rather than see the consequences of your own action carried through; that is your choice.

Choose wisely. You have to live with it.

As for the legislation that would require all women to see the ultrasound before they made up their minds. . . . I'm all for it.

I think only those who felt guilty in the first place would find anything objectionable in asking that the women see the faces of their victims. I think all who kill in any way should be required to look their victims in the face. If not before, then after. There is not enough guilt in the world today; people think guilt is a bad thing. It's not. Sometimes, guilt is the only thing that separates human mentality from that of a mother polar bear who kills her baby.

Thirty years ago, I would have never believed I would feel this way. Now, it's hard to believe I felt THAT way. Young women, please be careful. Show your body some respect, and don't let anybody who doesn't show it respect ever see it, let alone touch it.

Please. If you aren't smart enough to make bloody determined SURE you won't get pregnant, don't screw around. And if screwing around is your thang, PLEASE use reliable birth control. And yes, it IS my business. Babies are everybody's business. If you don't want one, make sure you don't create one, and if you've already created one and don't want it, there are a million people out there who would take it in a whipstitch and give it all the love you don't have.

I won't make friends with this post. But this issue is everywhere, and this is my take on it. And I am not talking about rape or incest or any other dealings with monsters. I am talking about a woman's CHOICE, which is: "Do I or do I not have sex with this hot guy, knowing full well what the consequences might be." THAT'S what choice is. Pregnancy is a consequence of that choice.

And as I said, thirty years ago my opinions were the exact opposite as they are now. I changed.

I grew up.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:25 PM | |

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bill Engvall Had The Right Idea

I swear, all these variations of the same old scam. . . . let me transfer my money into your account and you can have some of it. . . .I think I've heard from every country on the planet now, and every kind of royalty from Prince to Princess to King to Queen to Emperor, Duke, Duchess, Lord, Lady, and Prime Minister. Are there really people this stupid, that they'd give out all these personal account numbers to strangers? Well, sure. America may have been founded on the premise that Royalty is Not For Us, but the truth is, Americans are fascinated by royalty. Fascinated, and apparently easily taken in.

Do I feel sorry for these people when they turn to the press all teary-eyed and flabbergasted that the nice Nigerian prince stole all their money?

No, actually, I don't. I think they got pretty much what they deserved. When people don't use their brains, they pay a price.

I'm sorry these people are hurt, but I'm not sorry they fell for a scam so stupid that even a ten-year-old-child would laugh at it. Then again, an average ten-year-old-child is pretty computer-savvy.

Nope, I'm still not sorry, and I still think people who fall for this one are stupid.

Then again. . . .

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:45 AM | |

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Car bX-3pf18y Where Are You?

I don't know what the deal is, but I can't access my blog with Mozilla Firefox any more; all I get is this error message from Blogger: bX-3pf18y, and I'm told to inform Blogger. I informed Blogger, but I haven't received any answer.

I can access my blog via Internet Explorer, but not via Firefox. On the bX-3pf18y error page, I can click on the Blogger button in the upper right corner and get to my dashboard, but I still can't call up the actual blog.

This blows, because I hate Explorer. But right now, I hate Firefox, too. Whassup with this? It started yesterday evening; I'd hoped it would have righted itself by now but nope.

Blogger, are you listening? That's error message bX-3pf18y, and in case you haven't gotten around to reading my first 'help' message to you, I'm yelping again right here.

Where are Toody and Muldoon when I need them? Oh, right, that holdup in the Bronx. . . .
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:54 PM | |

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Parents Who Want Their Daughters To Be Whores, and How To Spot Them At The Mall

Remember when little kids were allowed to look, dress, and act like little kids? You know, before idiot parents started dressing them like whores Britney Spears?

Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me if little five-year-old girls started getting off the school bus with shaved heads and no underpants. Wouldn't that be COOL?

I hope you don't think I was being harsh up there in paragraph one where I used the politically incorrect expression "idiot parents." Because you can save your energy; I should have used a harsher word than merely "idiot." Small children don't buy their own clothing, you know, nor should they have more than a "do you want the red or blue shirt" say in the choosing of said clothing. So when we see tiny little girls prancing along the sidewalk dressed exactly like the two-bit prostitutes leaning against the lamppost there by the alley, who's responsible for that? Madison Avenue? The Gap? MTV? Nuh uh. Whatever adult, be it Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, or Aunt Matilda, who bought the outfit, that's who's responsible. Don't try to make excuses and blame anybody or anything else; the fact is: a little child wears whatever the adult in charge puts on him/her. And from the looks of some of the little children in the mall the other night, there are some pimps out there masquerading as parents.

I let my children have a voice in the selection of their clothing, sure. The same voice they had at dinner: take it or leave it. As they got older, they were allowed a little more voice, but the fact was, I paid for their food and for their clothing and therefore, I was the one whose choice ultimately won out. I did not dress my children like whores and thugs because I considered that mentality a joke. I mean, what decent parent would DO THAT?

They don't, that's what. Parents who do that are not decent parents. Their mentality is stuck in seventh grade, and their morals are leaning against the lamppost by the alley, and they were standing behind the door trying to keep their pants up when judgment was passed out.

Sorry, I'm ranting again. But I really think that any adult who dresses a child like a hooker or a cheap thug is someone to watch very, very carefully. They obviously want their child to appeal to a certain kind of person, and I find that extremely scary.

Oh, look, a seven-year-old girl in fishnet stockings, Daisy Dukes, and a halter made of two rosebuds and a piece of velvet ribbon! Isn't that just the cutest thing? Her whale-tail just MAKES that little outfit! And the little boy with four inches of underwear showing, and the t-shirt with the obscene remark about teachers on it, complete with graphics? So cute. Such a little man.

Gag me with a spoon.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:15 PM | |

Friday, March 16, 2007

. . . these are a few of my most favoritest things. . . .

PLEASE go check out the latest Carnival of Education over at the Education Wonks. I can't believe I forgot to mention this sooner. Yes, it's THAT IMPORTANT. Get over there now.


I just got home from hanging out with some of my most favoritest people in the world, one of whom is my Tumorless Sister. The other two know who they are, and I hope they also know they're on my Most Favoritest People List, too. (They're currently on the lam or I'd mention their names.) (No, they are not ax-murderers.) (Thank you for asking, though.)

We met at Noodletown and stayed 'till they turned off the lights. I haven't laughed so much in a long, long time.

Happy Birthday, Tumorless. I love you. There's no therapy like laugh therapy. (Don't go getting all manic on me, now. . . . .)

I love my two Non-Ax-Murdering friends, too, but I'm not going to get all publicly mushy on them. Unless they want me to, of course.

I had such a good time that I stopped at Marsh and bought some chocolate-covered-peanuts, diabetes notwithstanding. I thought several times on the way home about cracking open the sack and diving in, but I managed to wait until I got home to do that. (As I approached the causeway, I noticed that John Mellencamp is having another party tonight. ) (I thought about trying to get through those big iron gates, claiming that John was waiting for this bag of chocolate-covered-peanuts, but I decided I wasn't really dressed for the occasion.)

As soon as I got home I turned my computer on. (It thinks I'm sexy.) And as soon as my computer came on, I started in on the peanuts. It was a tiny little bag so it didn't take long to get to the chocolate crumbs at the bottom.

And then, lo, just when I thought I was finished snacking for the evening, I felt SOMETHING slide down my, um, front. You know, 'between.'

I panicked, thinking things like "big bug," and "bigger bug," but when I reached, um, "between," I discovered it was a stray chocolate-covered-peanut, melting from the heat, so I ate it. And I'm really glad nobody is in this room with me to see me occasionally stick my finger, um, "between," and lick it.

Run with it, Google.

Oh, come on, people, invite me over for dinner. My table manners are great. I'll bring dessert.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 11:52 PM | |

You have asked, I'm afraid, the only thing in my power that I cannot grant. Please don't ask it again.

Erik, oh Erik. How could Christine have chosen that insipid Raoul (or his brother, Phillippe) over you? It might even have been worth living forever in the dark, by the lagoon below the Opera House, to be with you. . . . to listen to that voice, that beautiful dubbed voice. . . that beautiful accent. . . oh, Christine, how could you choose the Fockers over the Phantom? Erik, Erik, pick me instead? I know you murder people, but nobody's perfect. Sometimes, I have those thoughts myself, although I haven't your courage of conviction. And after hearing and watching this duet, I'd go anywhere with you. Oh Faust Erik. . . .

Ahem, um, excuse me, you were saying? (Blush) I tend to take anything that contains Charles Dance a bit seriously. Can you blame me? I mean, look at that chin. . . .Don't worry; I wouldn't really run away with Erik unless he asked me to in which case I'm gone, sorry kids .

I know that some people poke fun at this version, but I don't care. Every time I see it, I entertain thoughts of. . . . well, never you mind.

Is it hot in here or is it just me?
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 1:19 AM | |

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Beware. . . .


CAESAR: Ha! Who calls?
CASCA: Bid every noise be still.--Peace yet again!

[Music ceases.]

CAESAR: Who is it in the press that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music, Cry "Caesar"! Speak, Caesar is turn'd to hear.
SOOTHSAYER: Beware the Ides of March.
CAESAR: What man is that?
BRUTUS: A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March.
CAESAR: Set him before me; let me see his face.
CASSIUS: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
CAESAR: What say'st thou to me now? Speak once again.
SOOTHSAYER: Beware the Ides of March.
CAESAR: He is a dreamer; let us leave him. Pass.
Bad call, Caesar. Forsooth, the soothsayer spake sooth.

Also, you're running around with a bunch of backstabbers, but it never does any good to try to tell someone that. Nobody believes it until it happens to them.

I hated Shakespeare in high school; the teachers took all the delight out of it and turned it into a "lesson." It wasn't until college that I realized how incredibly cool it was, how awesomely wondrous was the vocabulary and the cadence and the personalities of the characters. My high school teachers didn't talk about how people in Shakespearean times washed their hair only once a year, and that their clothing was in so many sections because, since they so seldom bathed and Ice-Blue Secret hadn't been invented yet, the armpits faded then rotted away, as did the crotches of those skin-tight silk or linen pants the men wore, that kids nowadays believe are stretchy nylon but which are actually really that tight. Check out the Elizabethan clothing in the museum next time you're there; if it survived at all, it's got rotten armpits or crotches. We weren't allowed to discuss the breast-flatteners or the corsets that suffocated babies in the womb. High school teachers did not tell us about dowries and forced marriages and a life-span of about forty. They didn't mention the lice and the rats in the mattresses and the mice tunneling underneath the carpets. They didn't talk about how Juliet would have gone to hell for bigamy if she'd obeyed her father and married Paris after Romeo was banished. Nobody talked about how poor Benvolio was left alone in his generation, after all the other young men his age were dead. Nobody ever wondered why Tybalt was living with his aunt and uncle instead of with his parents. My teachers never talked about why Friar Lawrence freaked out and ran away so nobody would know he was unclean. In college, they did, and it was wonderful. Complicated, colorful, and wonderful. I'd never suspected such fun and poetry and coolness lurked in Shakespeare's pages.

I have always believed that the study of any kind of history or literature is vastly improved and made very interesting indeed, if it also includes the study of the customs and trends and art and music of the times. Proper context makes everything more clear, whether it be a word or a lifestyle. After all, how can we best determine how a culture really is, unless we peek into the windows of the regular people? What are they wearing? What are they doing? How do they speak? How do they conduct weddings, or funerals, or baptisms, or dinner? Not just the educated, and especially not just the government or politicians: I mean, the people. Like us.

Learn about them, and you learn about the culture for real.

Dates? Important, yes, but only in context. Stats? Ditto. Who cares about a list of dates or stats if there are no accompanying lifestyles or genuine people to go along with them?

Well, standardized tests love them, of course, but who gives two hoots in hell about that?

Well, the government does, but is it really important, now, really, is it?

Well, if you want money for your school it is, but would a district really sacrifice genuine education for money?

Of course they would. They would, and they will, and they do. And they'll rationalize it, too.

Get involved in your child's school. PTO. School board. Aide. Volunteer. Be diligent, and vigilant. Fight, if you must.

And if your child is studying Shakespeare, and I really hope he/she is, be sure to ask about the palms of the hands and the rustling in the pillows. If it's being done well, your child will smile and tell you the answer.

Be sure your child knows what "wherefore" means, too. Hint: It has nothing whatsoever to do with "where."

I've met English teachers who really believed that "Wherefore art thou, Romeo" meant "Where are you, Romeo?" This disturbs me greatly. ENGLISH teachers!!!!! Shame, shame, shame.

And now I guess I'll go to bed. After all, it's nearly 5 a.m, and the Ides of March are upon us.

Watch your backs, everyone.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:22 AM | |

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Crampons. Tampons. Let's Call The Whole Thing Off.

Well now, something I haven't had to think about or buy for several months now was mentioned over on Y's blog the other day. Y is possibly the most breathtakingly beautiful woman on the internet anywhere, including celebrities and all the women in any kind of "after" picture, and I wouldn't miss reading her blog for anything short of blood and major surgery. Seriously, I can't stop staring at her, she's so amazingly beautiful. In real life, she'd probably be scared of me because I'd probably stare then, too, and she'd think I was a stalker or a pervert and run screaming. Honest, dear Yvonne, I'm harmless. I just can't stop staring at your beauty. You've got an unattainable level of looks that I never had and never will at this stage. Sigh. So, so beautiful, and so, so cool. Do I love her? Duh. (Not that kind! Honestly, you people!!!)

Anyway. She was talking the other day about tampons, and I have always thought "tampon" was a really funny word. This one time, in band camp back in the middle school, we had a sentence that contained the word "crampon," which has nothing to do with a tampon except for the coincidental rhyming and spelling factor, but which cracked up the whole class anyway, including the teacher, who looked a lot like me before I turned fat. I mean, think about it. "Crampon." If you were fourteen years old, or maybe over fifty, wouldn't you crack up, too? Especially if the sentence read something like this: "When hiking in the snow-covered mountains, don't forget to pack some crampons in case of an emergency."

Crampons. Hahahahahahaha

But I digress.

Y's mention of tampons reminded me of something that happened long ago, before I got my first permanent teaching gig, back when I was subbing and doing a lot of time down in the boiler room of a local elementary school wherein was housed the Special Education class.

I had no special ed training whatsoever, but there I was, 21 years old and expected to run the class, teach a little, and know how to feed, change, diaper, adjust braces, give physical therapy, accommodate, cater, and otherwise do all kinds of things that I had no idea under the sun how to do. They just threw me into the room and closed the door behind me. Thankfully, there were two aides who knew how to run the place; it was just that legally, they needed me there and since I was there, I was expected to help, too. I have no problem with that. I wanted to help. I just didn't know how to help.

But since I was going to be there for two weeks, I knew I'd better LEARN how to help. So I did.

When it was recess time, I had to take the fifteen or so kids who could handle recess out to the playground by myself, because the aides had to stay in the room to take care of the ten or so kids who were strapped to boards and helpless. Yes, they really were. It was a HUGE class and the fact that it was a Special Ed class made the size all the more disgraceful. The students ranged in age from five to 19. What the heck was up with THAT decision? Money, of course. Sigh.

Day one on the playground, a girl grabbed my earring and pulled it completely out of my ear, ripping down through my earlobe and leaving me with one good ear and one flapping raggedy ear. I never got the earring back; she ate it. That was the last day I wore earrings to school there.

Day two on the playground, a boy tackled me so hard, we flew across the yard like two cartoon characters and stopped only because we hit the side of the school. He had such a good time doing this, I had to stand by the wall after that because he and all the others wanted to repeat the experience. I was honestly frightened, all alone out there, day after day for two weeks, with those huge kids.

Once back inside, the older boys were still so excited that it was very difficult to keep them from, um, still playing. I also learned that it was my job to discourage them from this very popular activity. I tried, but I got slapped around for my trouble.

I left that room with fresh bruises, less hair, raggedy body parts, enlightened sexual knowledge, and a migraine, every day.

Lunch time was difficult, too. Each student had a different lunch, most of them loaded with their drug cocktails and catering to allergies. There was absolutely no sharing allowed, for obvious reasons, but the portions were small and it was really hard to keep the kids from stealing food from each other's plates. Especially when you're distracted from the scene by having to spoonfeed the other half of the group.

Three people were not enough. What was this system THINKING? How did the regular teacher manage? And by the way, she was absent because she'd been kicked in the gut so hard, it ruptured her spleen and she had to have surgery. And meeting in the boiler room. . . . the janitors were in and out, because, doh, the boilers were in there. Every time the door opened, somebody tried to run for it. I wanted to, but I didn't.

The worst day of all, however, was the day one of the teenage girls started her period there at school. Don't ask me how we found out; you really don't want to know. We called the nursing home (most of these kids did not live at home) and asked them to bring some supplies. They did. It was my job to put them on her.

Except, because of what they brought, it became my job not to put them ON her, but to put them IN her. Yup. They brought tampons. I was told to take the girl (screaming and yelling and flailing and cursing and kicking; that was her thang) into the restroom and insert a tampon.

You know, at 21, I hadn't been using tampons all that long, myself. I did not know how to insert one into someone else's body. However, I do now.

With a little bit of luck, I never will again.

I would like to say that schools do not conduct classes side-by-side with a hot boiler any more, or that special education classes are now a lot smaller and divided more logically, or that a young substitute teacher or even an older regular teacher would never be ordered to insert a tampon into a dangerously wild or even a comatose student, or that the bruises and blood and migraines are a thing of the past. I would really like to say those things, but I can't, because in some schools, it's still like that. I'd venture to say that in most schools, the migraines are rampant.

One day, while still at this substitute gig, I called home and asked Mom to bring me a pile of my brother's outgrown jeans to the loading station behind the school (that was our classroom door) because most of my teen boys were wearing jeans that were in rags. How raggedy were their jeans? Let's just say that it was very easy indeed for them to continue 'playing' long after recess was officially over.

They were all delighted over the jeans, and they all stripped right down and put them on. They spent the rest of the afternoon admiring each other's asses in the new jeans. The next day, they were all wearing the raggedy jeans again. The nursing home 'couldn't find' the nice jeans. They never did find them, in fact. Uh huh.

Where is this weird ramble going? Beats me. Blame Yvonne. She mentioned 'tampons' on her blog, and I get too distracted envying her gorgeousness to make any sense.

I think about those students sometimes, even now, all these years later. They had no one to stand up for their rights, and the school certainly wasn't going to shell out any money on them if they weren't forced to. I know several parents with special children, and they are all vigilant about seeing that things are done properly at school. I salute you, parents, for loving your children so much that you'd make yourselves unpopular at school for their sakes.

Public schools are supposed to be for every child, so if yours is not properly accommodated, get over there and speak up, and don't stop speaking up until things are made right.

This goes for parents of gifted children, as well as parents of special children.

They're ALL special.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:42 PM | |

Sunday, March 11, 2007

If The Title Is "Heidi," Fraulein Rottenmeier Had Better Be Rotten.

Why is it that whenever Hollywood makes a movie out of a beloved book, the writers feel they have to take the plot, characters, location, everything about the book that made it beloved, and change them? WHY MUST THE SCRIPTWRITERS DO THAT? I hate it.

They take a friendship and turn it into a romance. They take London and make it New York. They take cousins and make them lovers. They leave out characters and events that are absolutely crucial, but then, after the book is altered so much, nobody and nothing in it are really all that important. They change names. They change ethnicities. They change occupations. They change motivations. They change time periods. They change who does what. Nothing is safe. Nothing is sacred.

By the time the movie appears, the only thing it has to do with the book "on which it is based" (hah, what a joke) is the title. And sometimes, the writers change that, too.

Can anybody give me a good reason for this? IS there a decent legitimate viable reason? I mean, one that has nothing to do with money? Or with tailoring it for a specific popular actor? Or catering to people who don't read and have short attention spans? I would love to hear a good reason. The only reasons I can come up with are really, really stupid ones.

I hate leaving the theater with the distinct impression that the writers of a movie changed it because they think I wouldn't be smart enough to understand it as the book's author intended it to be. That there MUST be romance. That there MUST be violence. That some guy in Hollywood who never even read the original book thought it would be better for profits if there were liquor and cigarettes and a hint of scandal. When Hollywood scriptwriters change the book, I feel condescended to.

Also, I hate my mirror.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 8:32 PM | |

Saturday, March 10, 2007

North End Drywall Blog: The Prequel.

Speaking of this town's highest-rated tourist attraction, this is what it looked like before the house itself was condemned and demolished. The signs, and many more of them, are still there, but it's now a bare lot. A bare lot covered with big slabs of drywall. Big slabs of drywall covered with nastiness and libel. Why doesn't someone crack down on it? Nobody knows. Maybe the people mentioned are like many of the kids in our schools: Negative attention is better than none at all. It is also very, very true that many people occasionally agree with what this man has to say. Most of the time, though, he's just nasty. People with young-yet-literate children try not to drive up that way; it would be hard to know how to answer some of their innocent questions.

I guess that in this town, a person has a right to do whatever they want with their own land. I agree with that premise, up to a point.

Of course, if somebody's grass gets too high for too long, the town is all over it. But libel? Come on over and say whatever you want.

Be somewhat careful, though; remember, this is the town wherein resides the bank that foreclosed on our only homeless shelter. Foreclosed, and auctioned off the furnishings. Which bank would that be? Good question, and many people have asked. The answer is, of course, that nobody will tell you. But then, homeless people don't generally have bank accounts, so why would the bank care? And quite obviously, it didn't. They swept down on that shelter like piranha on a cow's hind leg and POOF, it was gone.

This is not a good town in which to be homeless, or driven out of your home by abuse. If you're a woman, that is. The men's shelter is still intact.

Whatta you bet that bank is run by men?

Mysteriously, nothing about the bank was 'posted' in the North End Drywall Blog. Mysteriously.

Notice, though, that the grass around the drywall is lookin' good.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:44 PM | |

Thursday, March 08, 2007

No More Mrs. Nice Guy

For all my big talk about being strict, I'm really kind of a softy when there's a good reason for a student's absence. For example, I have one student who has to miss occasionally because she's undergoing chemo; I consider that a viable excuse. She's very good about her make-up work, and conscientious about everything. Another student's husband is quite ill and has undergone two serious operations in the past month; she, too, is very conscientious about making up everything she must miss. Vomit? Stay home. Migraine? Ditto. Extremely sick child? Good heavens, a child is more important than a gerund. Take care of your child.

Sniffles? Get to class. Hangover? Life is full of choices, isn't it. Get to class. Oversleeping more than once in a semester? Forget it. "MUST take a nap NOW?" Nope. Got a chance to go to King's Island for a long weekend? Have fun, but you aren't making up the work. Mommy and Daddy are leaving for the Bahamas the week before or after Spring Break and you want to go, too? Toodles, Muffy, but you're not taking the test late, and your project that's due BEFORE break will still be due before break. Bring it in afterwards if you want, but you won't get any credit for it.

And if you've missed three weeks of class, including the day your class took Midterms, and try to talk me into allowing you to take that missed MidTerm Exam, and I fall for your excuses, and tell you to come to my room at 9:00 this morning because I've made a special effort to bring your exam to class and make a place for you in the classroom where other students in another class are taking their exam, you'd better by golly show up, because if you don't, you've failed the class.

I waited for you until noon, absentee student, and you never showed. No email or phone call from you, either.

So tomorrow, when I'll get yet another whiny email full of excuses and pleadings from you, forget it. I'm not going to fall for your act again.

The majority of my students are wonderful, hardworking, trustworthy people, and they all show up every week and they all showed up this week for the big exam, and if there are privileges to be handed out, they're going to get them, not you.

Let me say that again: not you.

My advice? Go to the registrar and withdraw. Try again next semester. Maybe by then you'll have grown up a little more.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 4:03 PM | |

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

My Scenic Town

This town has a lot of interesting places, but only a few of them are on the internet as an official interesting place.

One official interesting place, however, is the yard of a local gentleman who, because of his rather outspoken viewpoints on every issue under the sun, mostly the ones that are none of his business various issues, has been banned from almost every church, public meeting, and school function. Therefore, to present his side, he props up big slabs of drywall in his yard and spray-paints his opinions on them for the world to see.

This man doesn't care who he offends, either. He posts people's names in his yard, along with terrible slurs and what many people would call 'libel.' Many people and a book of law, in fact.

Sometimes, he puts a big sign or two in the bed of his pickup truck, and drives around town to bring his opinions to the people. He likes to park in a big busy parking lot so he can share his POV with others.

Not everyone approves of his opinions, of course. That has never prevented this gentleman from posting them. I guess his yard is his blog. And if you think some of these signs are offensive, you ain't seen NOTHING yet. He used to live in a a house that belonged to the yard, but the house was condemned and torn down. He lives somewhere else now, but he drives over to the yard and updates the signs every few days. You know, as if the signs were a. . . blog.

I would arrange these pictures artistically, but I have no idea how to place them; I just know how to click on the Blogger picture icon to post a pic. Where it appears is pot luck. Well, if you're me. YOU probaby know how to do it right. And even though you're snickering and wondering how a community could allow a mess like this right in the middle of town. . . . . well, many people have wondered that for many years. But it's still there. And when you come to visit me, you'll ask to see this yard, too. Everybody does.

I'll post about the haunted pyramid some day.

(One of my students had to explain what "3825-U" meant.)

See? Pyramid.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:54 PM | |

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Monsters in the Sky

The airplane that crashed into the house behind mine yesterday. . . . the pilot did it deliberately. The police are calling it a homocide/suicide.

Apparently, the pilot and his wife were divorced and the wife had custody of their 8-year-old daughter. The child had spent the weekend with her father, but yesterday morning, the school called the mother to report that the child had not come in that day.

The father called his ex-wife on his cell a few minutes before the crash and told her that "I've got her and you're not going to get her."

The mother was at the police station filing a missing person's report almost exactly as the plane was crashing into her parents' house.

The little girl's principal (a friend of mine) described the child as ". . . a dear little girl" who "got a kick out of things and enjoyed life. She just was one of those really friendly, really open little kids."

Little children trust their parents, even parents who aren't always nice to them. Little kids trust most adults. I will never be able to comprehend how a parent, or any adult, could do something like this to a child. People get angry, sure. People feel mistreated, sure. People win, and people lose, sure. People are frustrated and driven and upset and desperate, sure.

None of these things is any kind of excuse for laying a violent hand on a child, or including a little child in a cowardly act of 'revenge,' no matter what the circumstances. What this man did is unforgiveable. I wish I could erase the mental images of this little girl's last moments, the worst of which would be the knowledge that her father was perfectly willing to murder her because he was mad at Mommy.

Obviously, he was mentally unstable. I believe all people who do horrible or criminal acts are mentally unstable. I do not believe that is a viable excuse or defense. He was scum.

And oh, that precious, beautiful, innocent, betrayed little child. . . . .
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 2:15 PM | |

Monday, March 05, 2007

Golden Crocuses and Luck

Spring is here. The crocuses always know.

Not much happening here, unless you're my neighbors down the road and behind. A small airplane crashed into their house today.

The radio and tv stations, and the police band, were saying only that the plane crashed into a house near the airport, and since that fits my house's description, my phone started ringing off the hook with concerned friends. To those concerned friends: I thank you all for caring. That means a lot.

The small airport just a little ways down the road gets a lot of traffic. Besides the many local people with small planes, the airport is used a lot by General Motors and Ford, and various other businesses in this area. The Navy uses it a lot, too; there's a huge naval base near here. That's right, a naval base right in southern Indiana. A really, really big one, too. We've lived here for thirty years, and I know of only three serious mishaps concerning the airport, counting the guy on the motorcycle who was killed by a deer. We're not allowed to skate on the runways any more because of the deer.

But then, I'm from a generation that played close to incredible danger and didn't even know it. We used to lie on the banks beside the railroad tracks, our toes almost touching the rails, so we could feel the breeze as the train sped past. We used to walk through those huge sewer pipes, during the dry season, and pretend they were caves. There were a lot of them right in the middle of town, and we called them all "Dead Man's Cave." And since this is southern Indiana, there were, of course, real caves everywhere. And quarries! But I digress.

It's spring, even though the calendar doesn't know it yet. And I am feeling very fortunate today; my house is intact and so am I.

God bless the family of the pilot.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:43 PM | |

Sunday, March 04, 2007

I'm Cool With That

Don't mess with a mom who knows how to be one.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 9:05 PM | |

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Mixmania Playlist Time, With Asterisks

Today is the day we post our Mystery Theme Mixmania playlists, so here's mine.

Mixmaniacal Mystery Theme

Disc One

  1. Love Hurts – Nazareth
  2. Love Set Fire – Moxy Fruvous
  3. Dreaming With Tears in my Eyes – U2
  4. It Doesn’t Matter – Alison Kraus
  5. Evaporated – Ben Folds
  6. Someone Else’s Story – from Chess
  7. Gollum’s Theme – Emiliana Torrinni
  8. Picture of the Moon – Gary Moore
  9. And So It Goes – Billy Joel
  10. Fly – Moxy Fruvous
  11. To Make You Feel My Love – Garth Brooks
  12. My One True Love – Petra Berger
  13. No Distance Left To Run – Blur
  14. Regresa A Mi – Il Divo
  15. When You Love Someone – Bryan Adams
  16. On My Own – Bernadette Peters
  17. What’ll I Do – Louden, Rufus, & Martha Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle
  18. Love Minus Zero – Eliza Gilkyson
  19. Outro With Bees – Neko Case

Disc Two

  1. Forgive Me Love (a cappella) – Alanis Morrisette
  2. Diamonds and Rust – Joan Baez
  3. If Only It Was So – Elaine Paige
  4. Smile – Harry Connick, Jr.
  5. Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler
  6. Dance Me To The End of Love – Kate Gibson
  7. Lee – Moxy Fruvous
  8. Endlessly – Muse
  9. Girl in the Tower – from King's Quest 6
  10. I Was Made To Love Magic – Nick Drake
  11. How Can I Not Love – Joy Enriquez
  12. Haunted Heart – Jane Monheit
  13. Dream – Michael Buble
  14. It Hurts So Bad – Susan Tedeschi
  15. White Flag – Dido
  16. Not Enough Love – Faithless
  17. Dream a Little Dream of Me – kd lang and Tony Bennett
  18. Lullaby – Lester Norton *
  19. True Love Is Hard To Find – Toots & The Maytals and Bonnie Raitt
* Look closely at # 18: It's our very own Solonor!! Not only is his blog a really good read, but he is an extremely talented musician and you will probably want to order his cd, because, I'm telling you, he is really, really good. Click over and check him out. He's very nice and seldom bites people any more. And oh, man, is he ever a wonderful musician.

I got my mix several days ago and it's fantastic!!!!! I'm telling ya'll**, sign up for Patriside's Mixmania over on his blog when he posts the next theme, and you will be glad you did. Lots of free music and the chance to experience the musical tastes of other people.

**I'm tired.

Last night I wrote five midterm exams for five different classes. It took a while. I'm still really tired from the stress. Writing tests is something I actually enjoy, but midterms are big and five of them kind of wore me out. I could have used the book tests but they are not good enough for my students. Plus, the fonts on those book tests are very small, and I think that intimidates the students, besides making them squint. A good test should not be scary-looking or hard to read, and if a student is going to be left with a headache after taking it, it should not be from the effort of just trying to decipher it. So now, next week, my students will be taking midterm exams that are, of necessity, lengthy and detailed, but the questions are now crystal-clear, the choices are not ambiguous, and the content is fair. ***

***"Fair" as in "right and proper," not "fair" as in "so-so."

Besides, this semester, most of my students are over 35, and their eyes**** ain't what they used to be. Neither are mine.

****. . . and not just eyes, either.

Now I'm going to the kitchen to cut up some onions and potatoes and carrots***** and dump them into the pot with the roast beef, which has been cooking for almost two hours and is almost done.

*****Carrots first.

The roast is taking a long time because it was frozen, in case you are wondering. I should have taken it out of the freezer last night but I forgot, because I was busy writing exams.

And I don't like to thaw big hunks of meat in the microwave because I haven't figured out how to do it without partially cooking the edges.******

******Translation: crispy and burned.

It's a cold, cold night: perfect weather for a good boiled dinner. It's spitting snow. And there's a full moon, and an eclipse a little later.

Come on over for dinner. We've got plenty. And you can watch the eclipse ******from the deck in the back of the house.

******It's going to be a Shakespeare eclipse; a bloody devoured moon.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:13 PM | |

Friday, March 02, 2007

Hands Off My Pencils or You'll Be Sorry

When I was a little kid, one of my favorite days of the year (besides Christmas Day) was the day the newspaper posted the list of required school supplies, and Mom took us to Crowder's Drug Store to buy them.

I loved looking at that list, and Mom always let me be the one who got to put the little checkmark beside the items as we put them in our basket.

Prang paints. Check. Paint pan. Check. Rectangular eraser. Check. Blunt-tipped scissors. Check. Etc. Check.

On the first day of school, I loved bringing my beautiful shiny school supplies into my new classroom, and I loved arranging them all inside my desk. I loved to look inside my desk and just savor the sight: all those cool things I could draw with and paint with and write with. . . and they were mine, all mine, and nobody else could touch my things unless I gave them permission. Me. I was the boss of my desk things. I took such pride in my school supplies, and mine were usually still looking pretty good even at the end of the year. They were mine, you see, and I had a vested interest in them; therefore, I took pains to take care of them. Back then, down in lower elementary, the school supplied only the special fat pencils and the weird orange pens.

When Belle and Zappa were little kids, I looked forward to Buying School Supplies Day with just as much delight as I did when I was a little kid. New binders. New pencils. And the most fun of all, choosing the new lunchbox. My own children loved the new school supplies, too. I think it is of vital importance that all children have their own school supplies; it is the beginning of them learning the pride of possession and the importance of caring for one's own things in order to keep them for any length of time.

It's not like that in many schools nowadays. I learned, to my horror and dismay, that many teachers do not allow their students to have their own supplies now; the little sack of a child's very own things is taken from the child on that first day, and dumped into the community pot for all the kids to dip into and out of. There are no "my scissors," there is only a rack or box of scissors for everyone. "Look, there are the scissors I picked out at Walmart; my name is engraved on them; I wish I could use them but they're so cool, other kids grab them first every time. . . ."

I fully understand that the community pot of supplies is much easier for a teacher to control. I wasn't, however, aware of the fact that teacher convenience was any kind of issue here. I taught in the public schools for 26 years and I never expected things to happen for the convenience of me; that wasn't why I was there.

I fully understand, too, that some children's little sack of supplies won't be as individualized or cool as another child's sack of supplies. That's life; that should not even be an issue. Some children's shoes aren't as cool, either; do we throw shoes in a box and let the kids take pot luck with those, too? I understand that in some classrooms, a child's packed lunch is sometimes taken apart and distributed, lest some child have a treat that another child doesn't have. Teachers should keep an eye out for those kids who don't have supplies, and the school should supply them, but after that point, they become the child's own and he/she should be required to take good care of them, just as any and every kid should be required to take care of his/her things.

When I was a child, I had very little that was my very own. Everything that was supposedly mine was expected to be shared with anybody else in the house that wanted it at any given moment. But at school? In my desk, in my very own desk, were things that were inviolably mine, and I can not even describe for you the sensations that went through me when I looked at those things that my teacher had ruled were mine and only mine. Kids who violated another kid's desk were quite properly labeled 'thieves,' and they soon learned what happens when a person put his hands on property that was not rightfully theirs.

Things are very different now. I hate it. The rare teacher who takes the time and trouble to allow his/her students to have their own things is often castigated by the other teachers who are taking the easy 'community property' route. Kids are sharing more than gluesticks and pencils, too; I don't even want to THINK about the incredible pot-o-germs they're dipping into daily. Gross. My child using a pencil some other child gnawed? I guess so, because teachers who don't want to bother with a child's private property are forcing the kids to dump it all in the pot for everybody to use. "Don't be selfish." "Share." Well, you know what? I don't like that kind of forced sharing. I had to share everything, EVERYTHING, and that little pile of school supplies was my only private stash of anything. I do not feel it was selfish, or is selfish, to want to keep school supplies that were carefully chosen, to oneself.

This business of everything being community property in the classroom causes problems in the upper levels, too. Junior high, high school, even college students, are expecting things to be available for them without any effort on their part. Upper level students come to class without pencils, erasers, etc, because they're used to having those things always available in some community bin somewhere in the room. They have never been required, or allowed, to maintain their own things, and now they don't know how to. The stuff was always just THERE, for a student to help himself to. And now that they are supposed to maintain their own, they really don't know how. Plus, why should they? HEY, I need a pencil, Teach, gimme one.

Well, it worked down in the lower grades, with community property. You just get up and help yourself; everything in this room is for me, ain't it? Gimme that pretty one, I want it.

But guess what, kids, it doesn't, or shouldn't, work when you hit the upper grades. I'd like to have a penny for every hand that tried to help itself to things on my desk, because, well, they were there. I've even had students who opened my desk drawers, looking for supplies. Not poor kids who didn't have any; just a kid who didn't bring any and expected everything to be supplied because, well, down in the elementary, everything WAS.

Oh good grief, teachers, let the little kids keep their own things, put their names on them, and learn how to be responsible for them. Secondary teachers and future employers will greatly appreciate it.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 12:36 PM | |

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Different Kind of Arithmetic

Okay, I've got nothing, so I'm going to quote some more Sam Levinson. I'm telling you all, or "y'all," depending on how tired I am: This man's books are wonderful. He was a genuine teacher, in the best sense of the word. He was truly a wise man. Was? Is. He might be gone now, but his essence lingers. I learn something every time I re-read his loverly books.

This piece is from "In One Era and Out the Other."

In school we learned one kind of arithmetic; at home another. 1 + 1 = 2 was fine with our teacher, but not good enough for Mama. She demanded to know 1 + 1 = 2 what? Mama's was a method of remedial arithmetic aimed at remedying our poverty by judicious spending. It worked something like this:

1 pair of skates = 12 violin lessons. Cancel out the skates and carry over the lessons. She balanced the equations on her scale of priorities and made sure the needle pointed to our future.

1 phone call = 1 carfare to a museum
4 movies = 1 shirt
1 bicycle = 10 pairs of eyeglasses
5 ice cream sodas = 2 pairs of socks

It was a form of reverse budgeting, planning ahead not only for what not to buy but for buying the instead of, which she could not afford not to own. This kind of juggling, borrowing from our desires to meet our needs, forced minuses to become pluses and liabilities to become assets. She knew the world would never examine her books, but it would examine her children. (She had only one set of these.)

A few paragraphs, a few simple words, an important lesson that many adults today still haven't learned. And when our adults don't know how to do Mama's arithmetic, how can we expect our kids to know how to balance the equations of real life?

First things first. Ice cream will feed the moment, but warm socks and eyeglasses and shirts and museums will feed the soul, and that which feeds the soul lasts forever.
Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 7:30 PM | |


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