Friday, May 27, 2011

Civil War in the suburbs

Apparently spring has bypassed Connecticut; snow to sunburn –that’s how we roll in the nutmeg state. And like clockwork, the moment humidity reaches 80% and temps top 90 – it’s time for 5th grade Civil War Encampment Day!
Ah, blazing sun, wool tents, campfires, potato and bacon hash and the unforgettable aroma of 100 pre-pubescent 5th graders in full dress uniform marching through the war torn streets of suburbia. Can you see it? Can you SMELL it?
This is a BIG deal in our little neck of the woods, with months of lesson plans and prep work culminating into one unforgettable day. The kids love it; teachers, too. (OK, maybe not those relegated to the chow lines.) This is my second-go-round with Encampment; here’s a little snippet of last night’s conversation between my sons. (Keep in mind they are 14 and 10 – slang abounds.)
Oldest: “Yeah – encampment is kind of cool.”
Youngest: “Is the food disgusting?”
Oldest: “Nah, it’s kind of sick. And you get to chuck stuff on the fire.”
Youngest:  “Fire’s cool.”
Oldest:  (slow head nod) “Way sick.”
Youngest: “Does anybody shoot real guns?”
Oldest: “Nah; and you can’t bring fake guns or knives; total rip off.”
Youngest: “Not cool; what are we gonna fight with?”
Oldest: “You don’t fight; you just pretend-die and stuff. You get stabbed or shot, try and get stabbed, it’s more fun and you get more blood.”
Youngest: “Cool.”
Oldest: “Sick.”
This went on for another 20 minutes, but you get the gist. Listening to my Mensa candidate offspring, I couldn’t help but wonder if they actually grasped the struggles and heartache associated with war? (Too much?) But this morning, my doubts vanished.
As I backed the Mom-mobile out of the garage, my little soldier yelled from the backseat.
“Mom, don’t forget to put the flags outside this weekend for the troops – it’s Memorial Day.”
Proud Mom moment here; he gets it – at least on a 10 year old level.
 The moment was fleeting.
“I hope I get stabbed today, that would be sick!”

Monday, May 23, 2011


When we first moved into our home my husband and I went on a, (how do I phrase this…) frenzied landscaping binge. Like a lot of new homeowners, we picked the pretty stuff with labels marked HEARTY. (Hearty=Hard to Kill.) No thought, no planning, just plants we liked and couldn’t massacre; what could go wrong?
Um, lots; learn from my mistakes.
Mistake one – Plants grow; allow for them to do so. Never place anything creeping next to something spreading. Visual aide – think of a weird Thanksgiving table where the grabby-handsy uncle sits next to the big boned visiting cousin; creepy and spreading – bad neighbors, encroaching on each other’s space in icky ways.
Mistake two – Perennials come back every year UNLESS planted within 10 circular feet of basketball hoops or swing sets; aka the Ring of Death.
Mistake three – Never prune angry. Hedge trimmers and rage are not a good mix.
Mistake four – Dog poop is just poop, not fertilizer. Do not assume becuase Fido leaves you a gift in the garden it is good for the plants; this can contribute heavily to the above mentioned Ring of Death.
Mistake five – Trees, once planted, are best left planted; think long and hard before digging that hole. Relocating can lead to Husband Hernia Syndrome and subsequent Wife Wait On Hand And Foot Disease. Neither syndrome is pretty, and very avoidable.
Off to bake the only cure for Husband Hernia – a large chocolate cream pie with an Ibuprofen chaser.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Summer and the speckled bowl

Ice cream trucks, lightning bugs, the smell of Coppertone; all sights and sounds capable of spontaneously triggering pleasant memories of childhood summers long gone by. For me, summers always began with one clear, unmistakable sign - the Red Speckled Bowl.
A bowl? Yes, but not just any bowl - a priceless family heirloom. The Red Speckled Bowl (RSB for short) has a history, all starting with my late grandmother, Jane.
After the last day of school, we packed up and headed off to my grandparent’s house for a swim. When we arrived, there it would be, center stage on the patio table, (insert Halleluiah Chorus here) – the Red Speckled Bowl!  That beautiful lead-based-red-and-white-Formica sign of summer’s official start!
Grandma Jane, much like her beloved eldest granddaughter, was a fierce creature of habit.  RSB snacks never deviated, consisting of three choices; pretzels, grapes or carrot sticks. During my ‘chunky’ pre-teen years, there were a lot of carrot sticks in the RSB. For added fun, Grandma Jane often challenged me to dive down and retrieve sunken leaves from the bottom of the pool, (aka – secret exercise and child labor law violation) I got a nickel for each leaf. I swear one summer I got the bends at the $0.20 mark.
The pretzels were mostly for my brother, they forced him to slow down, chew, breathe – if pressed he could swallow a whole grape or carrot and keep running wild like little boys do – pretzels weighed him down; did I mention we called him Mad Dog? My sister, the youngest, rarely reached the RSB before Mad Dog demolished its contents.
As we aged, the bowl became a running joke – appearing at random family gatherings; weddings, anniversary parties– even funerals; each time bringing smiles.  My advice today - find your Red Speckled Bowl, and fill it with more memories than carrots.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pollen: Public Enemy!

This is my final rant at Mother Nature. OK, that’s a crock, and you all know it, but it has to be said, the allergies this season – nightmare! And it’s all her fault; flower crown wearing freak! I’d like to know what’s got her toga in a twist – did Father Time stand her up on date night? Baby New Year cutting a tooth? What!!!!
OK, I’m better now, I find it helpful to blame excessive pollen counts on fictitious characters over global warming. I’m sure this upsets Al Gore, but he never RSVP’ed to my last BBQ, so he can suck it!
You’ll have to pardon the potty mouth; it’s been a long week. (Yes, it’s only Wednesday.) Between the coughs, sneezes and general mucus oozing, sleep has been scarce in our house, leaving us all crabby, even the dog.
A big believer in natural remedies, I tried a friends suggestion and gave my kids a teaspoon of locally grown honey each morning. Know what I got; runny noses, sneezing AND a sugar high.
I can’t win.
Drugs – I’m going with drugs. Big, strong, knock you on your butt drugs. I may be drowsy, I may not be able to operate heavy machinery or drink alcohol – but I have no immediate plans to take a drunken nap while plowing a corn field  - so drugs it is!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teachers and other saints

I’m not a teacher, and the world is a better place for it. Trust me, there are those who possess the patience, skill and talent to work with young children – I am not one of them.  I volunteer, occasionally, in very, very small doses. And teachers, grateful for the extra hands, give me projects involving cutting, copying or other busy work– no student interaction; they scare me – I scare them , this arrangement works best.
In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, today’s Babble is a big, public thank you to all the educators out there making a difference.
You know you are a teacher if…

  1. Crayon sales excite you.
  2. You use cat litter to mop up vomit at home.
  3. Arguments with your spouse involve asking him/her to use their inside voice.
  4. When someone asks how many children you have, your immediate answer is 20 or more.
  5. You still get excited on snow days.
  6. Every garment you own has a paint, marker or ink stain.
  7. You secretly yearn to start an algebra lesson with, “You’ll never need this stuff in real life.”
  8. Open House should come with Open Bar.
  9. Graduation night makes you cry, too.
  10. The students you nurture take far more than knowledge from your classroom – they take a little piece of your heart, and leave the same with you.