Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bored? Try Twilight

BigD reminded me last night that I haven't written anything to entertain him or the 3 other people who read this in TWO WEEKS. WELL...for starters between the two lax kids there have been something like 13 games in 8 days. It's been either raining or freezing, or both.
Loathe to write about lax yet - though I feel sure it's coming - I went to Imagination Prompt Generator!

Last quarter at school I taught an 'elective' Creative Writing for 8th grade students. Elective means it doesn't actually count. Creative Writing means you get an A unless you turn in absolutely nothing. That's what it means for students. For the teacher it means come up with something stimulating (Facebook) and 'worth my time' (Twilight) for a group of incredibly wise 8th graders. A solid characteristic of the 8th grade is that all students are bored, all classes are useless, all assignments are pointless and all teachers are numbingly stupid. Also, most have some strong opinions about Twilight.
In my search for constant 8th grade stimulation I found this little gem: Imagination Prompt Generator. It has a "Next Prompt" button that one clicks for a series of deep and stimulating questions, about which one might write. Whenever a student finished my genius assignment too soon (as in 5 minutes), I directed them to Imagination Prompt Generator and told them to write as much or as little as they wanted about as many or few prompts as they chose. If nothing else, it held their attention as they clicked 'next prompt' and snickered about the lameness of the prompts. Let's see what it does for me!
Does God care? Whoa, strong way to start! The answer is YES. Next prompt?
What should you be doing instead of sitting at the computer right now? Nothing is more important than absolute obsession with BravoTV and the lives of strangers strewn across the United States.
Maybe laundry.
Maybe not.
What remains constant in your life? Laundry.
Describe a trip downtown as a youngster. "Youngster"? Seriously? Even I think this is lame, due entirely to the word "youngster." Next.
My three closest friends.... The people who are sitting next to me in whatever bleachers I find myself.

Feeling low? Why? Is the other choice, "Feeling HIGH?" Not EVEN going there.

Look out the window. Write about what you see. I see a bunch of yard work that needs to be done. Do you really want to know about that?
What do you do with all of the things that you write about? Sorry, I don't understand the question. At all.
List five things you need. Will one do?
How old would you be if you didn't know your real age? I would be a vampire and I would be 17 forever.

Ten people who are alive today I would love to meet (and why). You can tell a teacher wrote this one because it is supposed to take a long time to write the answer. Alternate answer: the whole cast of the Twilight movie.
What was the last CD you bought? Debussy, like Edward Cullen. Because I live for Twilight.
Write about your favorite pet. Lame. Next prompt.

Did you have a bicycle? What was it like? Pink, I think. I read Fat Cyclist, does that count?

When someone asks for your opinion, are you always honest? Why or why not? Oh, please. Next prompt.
Without my children, I'd.... not be spending my life at the lacrosse field, that's for sure.
Do you have choices? Yes, and I choose next prompt.
How do you feel today? Bored, perhaps I will watch Twilight the movie. Oh wait, I forgot, the school play. Cinderella. Same thing.

How do you feel about the holidays? the ones where I should cook, clean up and decorate? or the ones where I don't have to go to school?
Does belief in a higher power matter? Again? See first question.

What is YOUR meaning of life? I'm done.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The rules of Mouth Noise

I have about 1876 pet peeves. Mouth noise is at the top of the list. And to make it worse, I have super-hearing, specifically to mouth noise.

I was born this way. My siblings made it worse. In those days, I called it SMACKING because that is what they did to make me crazy. I have a vivid mouth-noise memory involving salad. I was in what we now call the tweens or Middle School years. They should be called the miserable years, because I was miserable to be around. Especially when there was an abundance of smacking.

One particularly miserable night we were sitting at our little kitchen table, eating supper involving a salad which we were required to eat. Salad=crunchy, right? Right. Just ask my sibs. They used that opportunity to combine crunching of salad with the smacking enhancement of salad dressing. They could really tune it up.


THEM: Smack, smack, smack! Lickety smack.

ME: STOP IT! You are doing it on purpose. Stop smacking.

Them: Smackity, smack, smack, smack (leaning over right next to my ear) Slurp-smack.

ME: YELLING Mama, make them stop. I can't eat. (note, I didn't need to eat - perhaps it was some perverse diet thing they came up with. )

Them: Smack, smack, licking wet smack, stick-out-the-tongue-to-show-the-chewed-food SMACK!

ME: now screaming: You are doing it ON PUR-POSE. (ya think?) I'm going in the dining room.

The dining room was on the other side of the wall from the table in the kitchen. By moving to the dining room, I was moving roughly 6 feet away. The better for them to smack at me. I tried to slam the door, but it was a swinging door and wouldn't slam. That was a shame. I could have used a good door-slam about then.

Them: holding the door open with a foot and laughing hysterically. SMACK SMACK SMACK SMACK. Mouths wide open and food spewing everywhere.

ME: I'm going to tell Daddy when he gets home. Now crying.

They did this a LOT.

Imagine my dismay when I got out into the whole wide world and found out that mouth noise of all kinds makes me crazy. It is the root of my hatred of gum. What is the purpose of gum? Only two things - to generate mouth noise and to attempt to cover up something on one's breath - say smoking, which I never did.

So, I trained my children carefully to chew with no mouth noise. Which is impossible. Everybody makes mouth noise. Unfortunately, not everyone trains his or her children to eat with his/her mouth closed, which is rule number one of table etiquette.

I was horrified to make my first visit to my potential in-laws home to find out that no one taught them to chew with their mouths closed. It was bad. Old country manners, and open mouth chewing, plus talking with mouth full - EH, about closing up your Italian mouth when eating that sloppy lasagna? Actually I didn't say that. I thought it. Lots of times.

To make matters worse, I have some sort of uber-hearing related to mouth noise. Think of the whole drive-you-insane heart-beating scene in Poe's Telltale Heart. You know what I'm talking about, everyone in the world read's Poe's Telltale Heart in Middle School and again in High School. It's the MS/HS English teacher's dream story, because there are all kinds of recordings of it which take a bunch of class time. Except for me, who has never, ever done that for any reason. Bell-to-bell, every single day.

For me, it's not a beating heart that follows me throughout the house, it's the mouth noise. It seeks me wherever I go. Smackity-smack, smack.

And then, to top it off, I ended up with a child who has TMJ and so when said child chews, on top of mouth noise, we have the popping of the jaw joints. Pop-pop-pop, minor-smack-crunch-pop. Can't help it.

Also, I have children who go hide to eat, because they know I hate mouth noise.

My rules for mouth noise are these:
Don't make any.
If you must, don't do it around me.
No gum. The sound will seek me out and find me.
I do not want to see your chewed food.
I do not even want to think of your chewed food.
I also don't want to hear your chewed food.
Thank you.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Clean-up Fairy

Considering that PPP and I took a road trip, I missed two days of school. I anticipated that things would not be as I had left them. Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate the train-wreck caused by the clean-up fairy.

Ms K met me at the end of the hall when I got to school, walked down the hall, hovering at my elbow, murmuring apologies that built in urgency. Something tragic must have happened. Was somebody sick? Somebody fired? Did I get fired while I was gone? That seems to be a trend these days, it just seemed only natural.
At school, I use the "organized stacks" filing system, in which one carefully stacks sets of papers on strategic geographic locations on the desk, behind the desk, beside the desk, on the window sill, sometimes even on the floor. Papers are in alphabetical order, and the stacks are in date order. Every class has a stack. I know what's in each stack and mostly what order things are in, and I know where on the desk each stack is located. Perhaps there are sometimes extraneous papers and pens and cups spread around, things get knocked off but I manage that fine. The point is that it is MY stuff...MY mess, if you must insist.

When we walked in Ms. K said "Isn't this going to be a big help?" I couldn't at that moment figure out what "this" was. "I knew how much stress you're under, so I cleaned up for you while you were gone."
NO $*#! Surely, I had already been fired, my desk cleaned out, and I was there to just pick up my A to Z book ends. There are no stacks, no piles, no geographical landmarks on my desk to tell me that the 6th grade papers are here, while the 8th grade papers are there. Cleaned up? Wrecked? Same thing.

So...I started with the effusive thanks. Thanks so much for being so considerate. Thanks so much for all the time it must have taken. So, how much time did you actually spend in there? Thanks so much for ... thinking about me? And where might my umbrella be, since I have carpool in 3 minutes and it's raining? Also, any notion where the sub folders are?

I used to have a paper blotter, face up November, 2008. It's gone. Gone with it are lots and lots of phone numbers, like the cell phone number of my favorite florist and email addresses and websites that I have made note of for the past . . . however long. Tucked under those pages were receipts and more notes and more stuff of mine. Also gone.
I had some boxes of text books that we don't use any more, since we are a tech-forward LAPTOP school No more boxes. Now I have those un-used books stacked by size and color in my window sill.

How thoroughly sweet! The clean-up fairy cleaned up! She gave the sweetest and most sacrificial gift she could give me - her time. She made MY world look like HER world. Side effect - thoroughly unable to find anything, most crucially the things I had left ready for that very morning's worth of children, who would come pouring through the door in 18 minutes.

It has come to my attention that I am not a classically neat person. I am organized - in my head. It has been a point of contention with my mother ever since I got old enough to "make a mess." I don't see it as mess. It doesn't register in my consciousness as mess. It registers as stacks. And I know what's in each stack. Papers are in alphabetical order, and the stacks are in date order. I use the same system with my clothes, and I always have. Stacks. When the stacks get unruly, I clean up, but I always end up with more stacks. That has never been a popular position with Mimi, who believes that somehow I am doing an injustice to my family by using this organizational system. It does not seem to bother them, because for the most part, they all use the same system.

When I finally came around and sat down in that big blue chair I discovered that not only had she cleaned up my desk, she had cleaned up my trash. I had a box beside my desk for recycle paper. Beside it is a crate that holds things like last semester's exams, and projects, and study guides. Not any more. NOW, there is a box in which all of that paper - trash and exams, are stacked neatly - in one box. Somewhere in the corner of the window sill is another stack. One single stack. Five classes + trash in one stack. Cleaned up my trash - sorry, I am horrified. Also, terribly ungrateful. Ms K gave up a DAY to clean up my trash.

As the week went on, people stuck their heads in the door to ask "how was your trip....and how do you like your new room?" Apparently, the clean-up angel had started in on Friday morning, roughly 12 hours after I left the night before, in full clean-up regalia to TACKLE the project. She worked all day. She spent an entire day in my room cleaning up. And going through my every note and receipt. Also, plowing through my trash. And everyone in our school knew what she was doing and how much time she spent doing it. Everywhere I went people greeted me with thngs like "How is your new clean room?" or "Wasn't it great to come back to a clean room?" Those chipper people did not have their world re-organized, only with no key as to where things might be found.
So, while I was here with the Princess, the clean-up fairy was creating her own reality show "Extreme Classroom Make-over" in my room. One particularly perceptive colleague said "I wondered how you were going to feel about that." Yeah, wondered.

She gave up a whole entire work day, to spend it in my room, dealing with my mess, re-organizing my bookshelves, looking through my calendar, going through my trash. Is there not a piece of that statement that's a little bit creepy? Stupid, ungrateful me - feeling creepy about this genuine, loving, helpful gift. See?

I asked her if anyone else who might be in a position to care - principle? students? headmaster? parents? God? - had complained that my room was messy. NO, she assured me. No complaints. Did she have an inkling that people were talking a because my room was 'messy'. NO, it was just her, all her, and her desire to serve me. Because I am so, so ...what, pitiful?
I have spent the last days in serious conflict. Feeling bad because Ms K spent a whole entire work day in my room, and I am not squealing with joy. I'm feeling guilty because I feel so invaded; feeling wicked for my un-grateful, whiny response. Paranoid because someone went through my trash. Also concerned, wondering what actually was IN my trash.

I am waiting to feel the delight and relief that a really good clean-up offers. I'm not feeling it. I guess I would feel better if I had my order in my world, and not someone else's verision of order installed in my absence.

Is that pathetic? Am I that pathetic?

Before I left this week, I made sure it was at least a little neat. I flipped the pages of the calendar book, which I had carefully replaced at just the right angle on the clean desk. On the pages of this week was written in big colorful letters "Spring Break" Seriously? I needed some stress relief from the clean-up that I didn't do.
A teacher on our hall has whole boxes of chocolate and candy in her cabinet. We all make frequent stress-relief trips to the cabinet. Not so much. Lent.