Sunday, April 30, 2006

SAT words for the kindergarten set

Since JT got his Lone Ranger DVD, we've had the pleasure of these sorts of questions:

"Mommy, what does 'ambush' mean?"

"Mama, what does 'outlaw' mean?"

"Mommy, what does 'fugitive' mean?"

"Mommy, what does 'show no mercy' mean?"

"Mama, what does 'all nice and legal' mean?"

And my personal favorite, my six year old son threatening to "call the law" on us.

Friday, April 28, 2006


Problems I have solved on this Friday morning:

- Organized sit-down with JT's blankies to ensure all parties have received their fair share of cuddling time. Crisis averted.

- Figured out Jersey-style detour for River Road construction, thus shaving 15 minutes off of my commute.

- Finally summoned the will to confront driver of the white dented Toyota Prius who routinely makes a left hand turn from the right lane at the DeMott jug handle turn and then drops off his child at school. Pointed out that I was going to ask the police to monitor the intersection. Felt empowered in a Jersey-broad kind of way.

- Wrote American Government quiz in less than 5 minutes.

- Printed the correct label from the postage machine in the office. I know this doesn't seem like an accomplishment, but previous "incidents" with the machine suggest otherwise.

- Developed plan to tame 2nd period class.

And it's only 8:41 am. Clearly, I am on fire.

Update: Plan to tame 2nd period class shot to hell when two teenage boys grabbed the Onion daily calendar off of my desk. Much inappropriate laughter ensued. Can't blame the kids for being amused but the Onion calendar has now been brought home for good. Discussion of Japanese internment camps during WWII failed to tame snorting laughter from the back of the room. Monday is a new day.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A New Kind of Workout

I love the eliptical trainer. It is an instant gratification machine. You tell it how hard a work out you desire, and it complies, keeping track of the time and then reporting just how many calories you have burned. I can run on the eliptical without danger of black eyes or a knee blow out. It is a most magical machine.

In the ideal world, a work out is just me, the magic machine, and my ipod for 35 happy sweaty minutes. I work hard to let off steam and the lovely endorphins are my pay back. Most lovely.

I rarely get an ideal workout. Mostly, my workouts are punctuated by requests from the no-longer-tiny tyrant that I open snack foods, admire his artwork, or review his TV viewing options. Sometimes, I do all three at once from my sweaty perch on the machine. I can cope with bad workout days because the end reward is still pretty good but lately the machine has been issuing a piercing loud rhythmic whine ----- like a teapot whistle on steroids. It's shrill and annoying and was really reducing my workout pleasure. I have no idea how to fix this sound. I told Lisa about it last weekend and she nodded, as if to imply that she was listening to me. Of course, what I meant was "please fix the eliptical" but what I said was "it's making a noise" and so, of course, what she heard was "it's making a noise." I digress and that is material for another posting...... My response to the noise: turn up the sound on the ipod so as to allow the Bee Gees singing "Saturday Night Fever" to drown out the noise or, alternately, destroy my hearing, thus rendering the noise the least of my problems.

I got home from work late yesterday afternoon and so I started my workout just as Lisa was also unwinding from the day. We had already agreed to feed the little beast and eat our own supper later. Lisa set about feeding the monster and I got on the eliptical trainer. Soon, the eardrum piercing noise began. I turned up the ipod but within seconds Lisa arrived, armed with WD-40 and on a mission. She began spraying every part of the machine that could benefit from a little lubrication while instructing me to run forward, then backward, then faster, than slower. I complied. Within seconds the irritating noise had been banished from my workout. In its stead were the powerful fumes of aerosol oil. So I finished my workout with the added benefit of the smell of WD-40.

I was huffing and working out at the same time. Awesome.

"I am going to make some more."

Thanks to Shelley and Tracy, I've gotten into to Artist Trading Cards. I told my friend Circe, who teaches art at my school and she told her students (many of whom are also my students) and now I am awash in trading offers. I like the fact that History class each day starts with a discussion of Artist Trading Cards. It's tasty pocket-art. And I mean that literally as I have one in my pocket right now. It's a smile at the ready.

JT was skeptical, of course, though he is a most prolific artist himself. Perhaps he felt that the size was limiting? Mostly, he wasn't willing to trade with me for my girly cards. But Circe made him some terrific army guy cards and once he heard about those, he could not say no. We traded this morning and he walked off to kindergarten reviewing the list of classmates that he would be recruiting for this project and announcing, "I am going to make some more." This makes his mama's heart sing.

The only downside of the cards is that they have proven a distraction from my day job. I can hear myself now, "No class, I haven't graded your exams, but I have made these lovely cards that I will happily trade."

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Birthday Madness

JT and I had a big plan for Lisa's birthday and in hindsight, we executed it well. The firepit was selected during the pre-birthday weekend. The picture above is the fire that we enjoyed on Sunday evening. We even had the smores to go with our fire. Everybody enjoyed the fire ----- who doesn't like smoke and melted marshmallows? Also, though I frequently shouted "watch out" JT remained burn-free.

On Tuesday, the nice people at Lands' End delivered with their usual perfect timing and so Lisa came home to find two large boxes on the front porch. It would have been nice if I could have put the Adirondack chairs together by myself.....but they would not have been suitable for sitting had that been the case. So Lisa had to do the hard work of construction. Then she was able to reap the big reward (photo removed to protect the innocent). The chair is out on the back deck right now, waiting for its sister chair to appear.

All in all, JT and I give ourselves an A for effort and execution.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Happy Birthday Lisa!

Me: I had this dream last night where I was driving home from work on a broomstick. I was flying around on a broom, but there was traffic and I tried to call you on my cell to say that I would be late.

Lisa: You, on a broomstick? Well that explains a lot.

And that is why I love her so much.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

When I woke up this morning, the NPR station reminded me that it was Holocaust Remembrance Day. There is a math teacher at my school who makes an announcement on this day and every year it surprises me.

Kevin stands up at morning meeting and with no fanfare starts to talk about things he saw at the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. He says a few different things each year, at least I think he does. But the end is always the same: in the center of a room at that museum is a display with children's shoes. And by those shoes is a sign that says 1 million children died in the Holocaust. It is a most shocking number and though I have known this fact for years, every year I am overwhelmed by it. I can see those shoes quite clearly in my mind and the savagery of such an act leaves me breathless.

The first time I heard his announcement, four years ago, I didn't see it coming and it brought tears to my eyes. The next year, I was ready for it. And still I didn't see it coming. Tears again. By last year, I knew what Kevin would say and how I would react. So I rolled with the emotions (and the tears). This year, Kevin's announcement was the first thing I thought of when NPR said it was Holocaust Remembrance Day. And I knew better than to try to be ready for it.

I heard the announcement from the back of the lounge, amongst sophomores who seem barely to be paying attention to announcements. But the bell rang and all they could talk about was Mr. Merges' announcement. They will hear that announcement every year that they are at Rutgers Prep. Kevin will see to that.

But they will remember it for the rest of their lives.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Dumb, yes; Stupid, no

Despite accusations to the contrary, we try to have standards in our home. So when JT announced on Saturday morning that George W. Bush was dumb, the mommies paused. Should we allow our son to call the president dumb? Yes, it turns out, we determined that truth will out. GWB is dumb and so JT may call him dumb.

Give him and inch and he'll take a mile and so JT next announced that the president was stupid. Here we drew the line: JT may not call the president stupid. We advised that ignorant was a better choice. And so JT trotted upstairs pronouncing that President Bush was dumb and ignorant.

It was a proud moment for us all.

Friday, April 21, 2006

I Love My Job

Yesterday, 5 teenage boys in Kansas were plotting to open fire on their school. One of the students talked about the plan on his myspace website and that's how police found out. The students were arrested before anything bad could happen. Meanwhile, here in New Jersey 3 teenage boys in my 2nd period class greeted me at the door of the classroom by blowing bubbles. My boys were very proud of themselves and it occurs to me that the same can probably be said of the boys in Kansas.

But they couldn't be more different from one another.

I really love my job.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

My Little Rascal

Pete the dog on the Little Rascal shows of my youth had a dark circle around his eye. It made him look goofy and slightly nefarious. When I picked up JT on the playground this afternoon, he had that same dark circle. But his was made of dirt. Seriously, my kid was totally dirt-covered. It was like dirt camouflage. I love that while I get work done after school JT is out on the playground having a big ole' time. But honestly, I have never seen such a dirty kid in my life. And don't get me started on the state of my laundry.

We came home and I hustled the dirt-master right upstairs to the shower where the volume of dirt on his body enabled him to make mud pies before Mama arrived with the soap.

Now he's clean and sweet-smelling and headed up to the playroom.

The clean won't last.


Every morning on my drive to work, I see a billboard on the side of the road. It's actually two billboards and they are side by side. Okay, you're saying to yourself, big damn deal. But here's the deal: the billboard on the left is an advertisement for Wawa while the billboard on the right is an advertisement for Rolex. Every day I am struck by the same thought: is there a big market for people wearing a Rolex and dropping by the Wawa to score a bag of corn nuts?

For the non-Jersey among you, Wawa is an uber-zippy mart. Wawa is the place you go to get 64 ounces of Coke and the snickers bar you need to round out your nutritional breakfast. They sell food and zippy mart stuff: Combos, Cheetohs, and pork rinds. Wawa is the place to turn for a pretzel sandwich and a packet of Tastycakes plus a tasty cup of coffee (with flavored-creamer!) to go with it.

There's nothing wrong with Wawa. As zippy marts go, it may even be a cut-above (they don't sell lottery tix, which says something, I think). But I just can't imagine that Wawa customers and Rolex buyers are the same demographic group, you know? So it strikes me as weird and funny.

Now for the sad part: I spend a good 10 quality minutes of my day, every day, thinking about this.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Cheese Brown!

From the depths of the shower tonight, we heard JT yelling "Cheese Brown" and then laughing uproariously. Obviously, we couldn't let this pass and we asked some questions. JT reported to us that his music teacher has been playing the kindergarteners a song that ends with the singer shouting "Cheese Brown." The boys are quite impressed with this and go around the playground shouting "Cheese Brown."

We suspect that the shout at the end of the song is actually "James Brown" but honestly "Cheese Brown" is so much better.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Congratulations on being born in America!

I have followed the recent debate about immigration policy with a good deal of frustration. All of these blowhards who want to build a giant fence around to border and deport illegals seem extraordinarily proud of themselves just because they had the good sense to be born in America. Whatever.

I am a native of California's Central Valley and so I grew up around a lot of people who were illegal, mostly folks from Mexico who were working the agricultural jobs in the area. All I can ever remember my parents saying is that farmworkers had hard jobs, the hardest jobs around and jobs vital to the success of agriculture and our community. So I grew up admiring the work ethic of people who struggle so much for a buck. As far as I am concerned, they are welcome in this country, this nation of immigrants. Open the gates and invite 'em in.

A few weeks ago I was working late at school and the late-night maintenance crew kept checking on me. I don't know if these folks are illegal (and I certainly could care less). I do know that they are hard workers and they are nice people. Most don't speak much English (and God knows I speak no Spanish) and so we would have these polite smiling conversations that night. Finally, dope that I am, I realized that they were worried about me --- worried that the teacher was working so late and still had to teach school the next day. But they were working too and I'll bet that the maintenance job at school was a second job for all of them.

I was working late because I'd spent the weekend playing with my son and relaxing with my family. I should have been writing midterm exams. But I didn't because I was having fun. So here I was writing exams at 11 pm on a Tuesday night. The hardworking people around me were likely at their second jobs of the day. They would get up early the next day and work yet another 18 hour day. They were missing time with their families just so that their kids would have food on the table and a warm bed to sleep in. And they were worried about me.

Heaven knows we need more good people like them in this world. And if the good people want to come to America to work ----- like the 11-12 million good people who work here illegally right now ----- then we should welcome them with open arms. We owe it to them, we owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to our ancestors, the ones who worked hard to come to America so that their descendents could be born in the land of milk and honey.

Do we really want to be the generation that finally shuts the door to the land of opportunity?