Random Thursday: Random Kidstuff

The kids are finally out of school!

Now what?


Summer Fun!  Or Not!

A nearby cosmetology college offers a short-term day camp so kids from first grade to twelfth grade can learn about skin, hair, and nail care, exercise, nutrition, and all sorts of other things.  So all this week, Jane has been learning about face masks and nail files, doing Zumba, and putting makeup on model heads.^   She’s stoked.

Sunny is going to YMCA Camp.  She’s . . . not so stoked.  In fact, she’s ticked, and the main reason she’s so angry is that Jane doesn’t have to get up as early as she does.

This is unfair, Jane is hogging all the age, and there is no way  we will ever catch Sunny having fun at Y Camp.

‘What did you do today at camp, Sunny?”

“Nuffin’.  It was not fun  and I didn’t like it.”

“Did you swim?”

“Yes.  I got a purple band, ’cause I can swim without a floaty all across the pool, so I could go in the big pool with the big kids and there were all these noodles and Marla and I played Cowgirls and Jason was the bad guy and Orson was a whale-cow.  And we did crafts and played a running game—my team won because Marla and I are sneaky!”

“Wow! Sounds like you had fun.”

. . . No.”


Fountain of Youth

Watson thought we could rig one of these for the front yard.  You know, to class up the place.

Fountain of Klass

I showed Jane the image and she said, “Let’s do it!  Please?”

“Well, we’d have to find out—“

“And can we make it so we could swim in it?”

“You mean make the bottom pool bigger?”

“I guess.  But you could just leave the top part off.”

” . . . The part that makes it a fountain?”

“Yeah.  It would be so cool.  Don’t shut down the image, Mom—I want to show Sunny!”


Slightly Creepy Convos

You ever really listen to the conversations you have with your kids and think how odd they would sound out of context?

Matthew Clarke did. And then he took it a strange step further:

There are three of them now, if you’re interested. The second one is my favorite so far, probably because it’s really familiar—in context, I mean.


What about Fahrenheit 235?  I’m in  rush . . .

Summer Reading What

Summer reading lists are appearing at the library.  I like the early birds—they’re happy and relaxed in the knowledge that they have plenty of time to browse through the options, find stories they’ll actually enjoy, and put their choices on reserve or InterLibrary Loan if they aren’t on our shelves.

It’s best to savor the peace, because all too soon, the late birds—aka “Toast”—will be running around, desperately judging books by page counts instead of covers, and discovering that all the titles with the fewest pages were just checked out—for three weeks—and the only ones left are War and Peace and the complete works of Thomas Hardy.*

Both flocks have provided me with the impetus to look over the kids’ summer learning lists before late August, even though my children tried to hide them from me in the bottom of their trash can.**

Sunny’s  first grade prep is mostly not forgetting how to read over the summer and to keep trying to tie her shoes, but Jane’s fifth grade prep is a little more substantial.

Luckily, her required summer reading is School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari—she owns a copy, she’s read it, and she could tell me all about it when I asked.


Before you raise an eyebrow at the title, it’s about four kids with phobias who are sent by their families to a special school, run by very strange people, to learn to overcome them.  Weird things happen, as they tend to do, and while the kids aren’t completely cured by the end—according to Jane—they’re at least functional enough for a couple of sequels.

Now, if we could just get Janie’s math phobia under control . . . wonder if there’s a School of Bored within driving distance?

(Ms. Daneshvari has one of the coolest author websites everby the way.  Go see!)



Janie showed me this one yesterday. Her  cosmetology camp played them over lunch, presumably to encourage table etiquette.  Or something?

I honestly have no idea why this is so funny . . . but it is.

Most of the other videos these guys make are a similar combo of Wayne’s World and punk’d, and clearly not for my demographic—though I can still remember  why I would have found them hilarious about fifteen years and a common sense filter ago.***

Still watched ’em though.  And laughed.  Don’t judge me.

Warning:  If you show your kids this video, you will have to restrain them from doing the T-Rex bit during the next meal.  If you’re more worried about the Rhino . . . good luck to you.


^Rule in our house is no makeup until she’s 13 or older unless she’s onstage as a clown.  She’s negotiated down to lip gloss, but only if I can’t see it shine from across the room.  But at least she’s learning how to apply the stuff with brushes instead of trowels, which is more than I can say for a lot of kids I see these days—and I was a teenager in the eighties, so I know about heavy makeup.  And clowns.

*This is when we field questions like, “Do you have Apocalypse Now?  Someone told me it was based on Heart of Darkness.  Or something?”  Or “Does this book have themes? Because I only have three days.”

**I’m glad they didn’t know the school sent me digital copies, or I’d be looking for my missing laptop right now.

***Hush, it’s around here someplace.


Academic Fare-thee-well

Seal of Delaware.Signed. Sealed. Delivered.

This morning, Jane and I wrestled her Academic Fair Project into the school: a large tri-fold presentation board festooned with all things Delaware, including a timeline, an economic collage, a biography of Annie Jump Cannon, a map, and a letter from the governor with autographed photo, etc.; a huge foam-board-backed image of the Rock Monster from the Dover international Speedway to top the tri-fold; and a box containing a labeled map of the Speedway, a foam board beach house, a diorama of the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge, a couple of matchbox cars, and a stack of hinged explanations for each and every piece.  Plus a roll of clear packing tape suitable for attaching huge foam-board-backed Rock Monster images to things.

All complete and turned in on time.

Dear Lord, it took a village.

Her aunt helped with the images.  Her mother helped with the writing. Her father supplied foam board 3D effects.  My MIL provided cookies and cardboard boxes.

And we all encouraged, reined-in, applauded, and nagged, either in tag teams or in tandem.

The actual Lower School Academic Fair is Thursday  evening (Happy Valentine’s Day, school board!) and Jane still has to practice her presentation in front of the class this week and decide if she’ll be passing out complementary and culturally-significant cups of sarsaparilla soda, but those are not the village’s problems.

It’s over.  It’s done.  It’s Miller Time.

Until next year, when Sunny is a first grader and we’ll have two simultaneous projects to complete.

We’re gonna need a bigger village . . .

Poetry Wednesday: Little Lamb

Sunny and Jane started a new school year today. I belong to a fourth grader and a kindergartener, now.

This would normally have me reaching for my vast assortment of Time Keeps Slipping, Slipping Away poems, but Sunny was so excited, from her sparkle-toe gym shoes to her curly hair and Janie was so protective this morning that I couldn’t resist going for the happy, especially when I saw the images I took this morning:

I’d like to note here, that the poet of this familiar nursery rhyme was not Mother Goose, but a self-educated widow with five children who supported her family with her writing skills—in the 1820s.

After publishing poetry and several novels, Sarah Josepha Hale became the editor of Ladies’ Magazine—which in 1837, became Godey’s Lady Book, the spiritual ancestor of all influential women’s magazines—and remained so for nearly fifty years.

She promoted female writers and higher education for women throughout her career.* Her book, Woman’s Record; or, Sketches of All Distinguished Women, from “The Beginning” till A.D. 1850, was the first book solely about women’s accomplishments throughout history.

Plus she wrote a little ditty** that has become so entrenched in American culture, that I’ll bet most of you who grew up here have the tune stuck in your head right now.

Or someone’s tune, anyway:

*Though she did think they had better things to do then vote or run businesses. Nobody’s perfect.

** I like to imagine she wrote it for her kids, to keep them from torturing the cat.

Dear Ms. W . . .

This Sunday, I cleaned out the part of the garage dedicated to the boxes full of my past that Dad won’t stop keeps bringing up when he and Mom visit, because I simply couldn’t ignore them anymore—not out of nostalgia, but because starting tomorrow morning, I’m going to be schlepping both kids to the same school,* and I would prefer that the back driver’s side door of my car swing open more than five inches so loading children and their stuff into the back seat is a slightly less complicated logistical ballet every morning.

So I went through eight boxes or so of children’s books and textbooks, folders, notebooks, Glamour Shots™ , computer media so old I’d have to beg the Smithsonian to retrieve the data, photos and negatives, old band uniforms, and all kinds of etcetera, while the kids drew chalk pictures on the driveway and Watson assembled piles of stuff into three categories—keep, donate, pitch**—and fished things out of the recycling bin with the barbecue tongs whenever I changed my mind—or temporarily lost it, tomato, tomahto.

In among the tons of future blog fodder, I discovered a stack of letters written to me by the junior high English students I taught for my practicum over twenty years ago—an experience which gave me an undying respect for those intrepid educators who have the talents, skill, and calling to dedicate themselves to guiding young minds in a classroom setting  . . . and the unshakeable suspicion that I was not one of them.

My  mentor, who was under the impression that I was still wavering between teaching junior high and high school,*** gave a final assignment to the students to write down their opinions about that and to give me any teaching advice they thought I might need.

And they did.

Boy, did they.


Dear Ms. W^ . . .

I think what makes a good junior high school teacher is responsibility and caring for your students.  And a lot of courage to get through these halls at rush hour.

To be a school teacher take’s a lot of work.  You have to come in which you are tired miserable.  When you want hit a kid or just sit and scream at him you cant.  When you had a bad day and you want to take it out on your last period class you cant.  But when these kid’s grow up to be real important you can say you helped them get there.

To be a good teacher you need to get the kids to like you.  Some ways you can get kids to like you is to let them chew gum.

Listen to their answers and consider it.  You shouldn’t just count it wrong if it isn’t like the textbook says.

If you decide to teach Jr. High you will have a few surprises.  First we are much more mature than kids in the elementary level.  Second we have a lot more problems.  That means grades, family, and our sex lives.  That might be fun to help with.

I think it takes a lot of things to be a very good teacher like not giving a lot of home work and not being so stricked.

To teach any grade level it takes patients and dedication, espesialy patients.

I think the qualities of a good teacher are that she is funny, has a good personality, is nice, don’t give you a hard time but pushes you enough to do your best and get your work done.

You should be a junior high school teacher.  Because high school students are too wild I think.

I think you should teach  jr. high school so you don’t have to put up with those high school kids.

It would probally be harder to work with the high school people cause they are probally meaner, especially if you meet my sister who is in 10th grade.

It would be hard to do lot’s of things here the kids don’t listen much here.

I am going to tell you what it takes to be a junior high teacher.  One thing it takes is a sense of humor.

I think it takes having a good sinse of humor, and know what you are talking about.

I think that you should develop a creative way of teacing and make learning fun.  You don’t want the kids to doze off.


Solid advice, I think, even if I chose another path.  Thanks, guys—hope I didn’t scar you for life.

And I’d really like to thank those of you who are gearing up for—or have already started—a new year of teaching kids just as weird, wise, and wonderful as these.

Including mine.


*Expect a weepy post about my Last Baby entering Kindergarten as soon as I have images of her doing so.

**Don’t yell at me—some of these had been soaked and dried and bent and spidered and spindled and moused, and others were half- eaten by their own acidity.  If they were still in print, I threw ’em out rather than infect anyone.  And it still wasn’t an easy decision.

*** Instead of wavering between graduate school and “You want fries with that?”

^I didn’t have to change my monogram when I married, which would have been more convenient if I moved in the sort of social circles where monograms are de rigueur, instead of the surname-on-laundry tag-with Sharpie circles to which I am more accustomed.  As it was, I thought I’d never stop sticking stray parts of my maiden name into my married one . . .

First Day Back

Three boxes of 64-count crayons, a box of ten washable markers, one calligraphy marker, two dry erase markers, two boxes of facial tissue, four one-subject notebooks, one drawing tablet, four pocket folders, twenty #2 pencils, one large eraser, six red pens, one yellow highlighter, twenty-four colored pencils, pencil sharpener with cap, two rulers in inches and centimeters, two glue stickers, scissors, small calculator, one pair of gym shoes, a clean sock for erasing the dry erase board . . . and one small box for supplies.

Hair: newly bobbed, slicked back in a headband.  Outfit: Orange tee and jeans.

Socks: clean.  Breakfast: Eaten.  Teeth: brushed.

Shoes:  amazing.*

Mother: more than ready.

Kid: already in the car, honking the horn.

Ride: quiet, until we see the school down the street.

“Do you want me to walk you inside, just this once?”

“No.  I’m a third-grader not a kindergartener.”

“Okay, if you’re sure.  You have a lot of stuff to carry.”

“I”m sure.”

“All right.”

“You’re the best, Mom.”



I pulled up in front of the Lower School building.  She unbuckled, leaned up, and kissed my cheek.  “I love you.”

“I love you, too.  Have a good day.”

“I will.”

She backed out of the car, dragging her overfull backpack and shopping bag  full of tissue boxes and art supplies after her.  She slammed the door, and started up the walk, my cool third-grader in orange tee-shirt and funky sneakers.

Halfway there, she turned and smiled at me.  Just checking.

She looked back once again at the entrance and waved.    I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a shooing motion—she dropped her bag to blow me a kiss.

Then she bumped her way inside and was gone.


*Sunny wanted me to mention that her shoes are identically amazing.  You can’t tell, but the shoelaces are sparkly, too: