Sunday, June 27, 2010
On a whim becomes impaler.
One minute round and full of life,
A moment later causing strife.
In a single pop and many shakes,
The road now littered with rubber snakes.
Had we not left early, I would be cussin',
In hundred degree heat, with lugs I'm fussin'.
Oh look, a truck. Come to my aid?
Trouble is he, I am afraid.
An hour late for Jake to camp,
Just once on time? My foot I'll stamp.
And when you blew, I'm outta luck,
Some say you're nice....I say you suck!
Well there you go, my attempt to show that I am a Renaissance man. I mean poetry? Is there any medium I won't attempt? I will now answer that question through the artistry of interpretive dance. (anyone ever seen the dancing hippos in tutus on Disney's Fantasia?...just sayin') I guess I am a Renaissance man of sorts...just not a RenaiSsance FaiRe man. Don't get me wrong, I love going to the FaiRe, once a year, not in costume, to observe. I do not have a desire to spend much of my money on elaborate costumes and much of my time learning how to speak in OldE EnGlish...forsooth. (That's probably an OldE AlbaNian term but that is the word I imagine when I think of the FaiRe) I have been going for years and years though. I even helped Rosie make posies into garlands when I was a WeE LaD (cloSer?...maybe in Ireland) in San Francisco.
As they say on Monty Python...and now for something completely different. I don't know how I got onto that topic but let me try to get this train back on the track.
I considered changing the name of the blog to "What I did over the summer vacation" for the time being, except for two things...It's awfully cliche, even for a teacher, and I have zero idea how to do it. I am certain it can be done. A friend of mine, who has started writing her own, has changed the name of hers so I know it can be done. I have no desire to compete electronic ability wise...Uncle! already. (Kim, if we were still teenagers this last paragraph could have been boiled down to "Sup Kim! Woot Woot!"
As they say on Bullwinkle, now here's something you'll really like. (Focus Jeff...focus)
So Jake has taken off into the wild wild world of summer camp and we have taken off into the less than wild world of "camping" near him. Camping for us has now become pulling a 30 foot trailer to a site and then, after getting up after a good night's sleep on the queen sized mattress, plugging in the coffee maker. Sylvia doesn't like microwaved coffee, but we could! When the kids get up they might want to watch a little Disney Channel on the flat screen TV (maybe they'll be replaying Fantasia) before we use the stove to cook breakfast. If that makes it too hot we can always turn on the air conditioning to cool off. Roughing it does not enter the equation. Not to mention the fact that I am adding a blog post on my laptop as I lay on the couch. This camper has more than our house!
So while Jake is off sleeping in a giant tepee, learning how to tend to horses, and making sure to make noise to scoot away any animals that may be near the tent when he walks to the restroom in the middle of the night, we are going to be wondering if we should toast our croissants a bit longer. Pardon Me, do you have any Grey Poupon? (anyone who has ever changed a newborn knows that a dark yellowish runny food with the word poop in it's name was perhaps not the best idea)
Back to Jake. We all traveled up to Yreka in the truck yesterday to drop Jake and his friend off at a Christian camp where the kids learn to take care of horses. They are assigned a horse on day one and then it is theirs for the week. Just Jake and his friend are going to this camp this year. Kristiana and her friend are staying with us for the week. The girls went to Mt. Hermon Christian camp for the last two weeks together to learn how to serve by taking care of children. They are awesome. But it seems they have learned a secret code. They have been known to burst into song together, about going bananas, in a grocery store, with Sylvia and I trying to hide. Kristiana, who did horse camp last year, visited her horse, Spirit, before we were about to leave the camp. She is hoping the new person will brush him out and detangle his tail. Shocking!
Like I was saying, we traveled up yesterday and we left early because last year we were late. The kids missed orientation and we needed to fit them into the routine already in progress. (No problem for them...they could have fun at an insurance seminar) We had the system beat this year. We borrowed my dad's truck and left two hours earlier than last year. By the way, regarding the truck...this is purely for my dad who reads this blog..."The Whiiiiite truck is Youuuurrrrrssssss....The Reeeeeeddddddd truck is ouuuuuurrrrrrsssssss....Youuuuuu are getting sleeeeeeeepy....and when someone says avocado you are going to flap your arms like a bird." Not sure hypnosis works in blog format but I gave it a shot.
The red Duramax diesel truck has more power. We left early. What could possibly go wrong? As you have already read in my feeble attempt at poetry, blowout! I have now contributed to the bits of black rubber debris littering our nations highways. It's a little upsetting too since it was a nearly new tire. So for those of you who don't know me/us, let me explain a little. We take off in the summer in our camper and come back in time to teach. We have been across our glorious country numerous times. We have visited 27 states, three great lakes, and one foreign country. Never had a problem. We try to be a little early on a six hour drive and we just can't seem to make it happen.
Jake and friend (not sure if his parents want me to put his name in print...but let me just say that if there were ever a flood we would ask him to make a boat...wink wink) are at camp and Kristiana and her friend (her Biblical related name story is a teensy bit more obscure...but if anyone is looking for Elkanah's wife, look no further) are here with us. Yes, for those of you keeping score, we now have two teenage girls in our vicinity. I'll pause for you to say a bit of prayer for us. I think I'll pause just a bit longer, if you don't mind. From my working at the high school I know that teenage girls can cycle through 4 or 5 of the seven dwarfs on any given day. I just hope our girls don't invite over any new dwarfs. (when Kristiana reads this, I am gonna pay...grumpy?...that's one)
So, if we continue to have internet service where we travel next, I will try to update our adventures and let you know if anything interesting happens. And Dad....AVOCADO!
Friday, June 25, 2010
It is mostly fiction with a bit of truth. And the names of the teachers are from my life. Miss Smith was a teacher who loved our kids as if they were her own, Mrs. (Miss) Weber was a teacher who loved the kids in our family as if we were her own, and Mrs. (Miss) Streit is Sylvia who could out-teach me with one dry erase marker tied behind her back.
Here you go. Kristiana's words were...purple, teacher, and circle.
Hope you enjoy it.
Amy was a timid student who wanted nothing more than to blend in. She loved her teacher, Miss Smith, and even though she was very smart, she was very shy. She loved when it was time to come to the carpet because that was where the class talked about the calendar, practiced reading, and her favorite, listened to stories that the teacher read.
For Amy the stories were not just stories. They were times when she could drift away and ride along with Ralph on his motorcycle, float away tucked into a hiding spot on the giant peach piloted by James, or live off the land of the Adirondack mountains with a falcon as her best friend. Even though she loved school, it was difficult for her to do almost everything. Everything except listen to stories read by Miss Smith.
By the third grade Amy knew the way school worked. She knew that students were supposed to come in and sit quietly. She knew that you never made it all the way through the math book. And she knew that the teacher you had at the beginning of the year would be the teacher you had at the end of the year. That is why she was so sad and didn't understand when Miss Smith invited the class out to the field to have lunch one Friday. While the class sat on the crunchy dry grass, Miss Smith explained that even though she loved teaching and really loved all of her students, she needed to leave this school before the end of the year.
There were many questions and even more tears. Even at her young age Amy knew that there were some things that Miss Smith couldn't tell a group of children about, and quietly, sadly, accepted the fact that they would have a new teacher on Monday.
Back in the classroom Miss Smith picked up the purple circle. All of the kids quietly stood up, pushed in their chairs, and took their places on the carpet. You see, the purple circle was Miss Smith's special signal that told everyone, quietly, that it was time to come and sit down with her. On the carpet, Miss Smith told the class that she wanted to give each of them a book from her own library so they would remember her. Amy started to worry. She didn't like to be called on. She didn't want to be first. She didn't want to have her choice known to everyone. But most of all, she couldn't decide on just one book since she loved them all. When Miss Smith finally called Amy up to choose, Craig and Valerie had already taken the books she was thinking about.
While she looked at the shelf, she felt her face getting red. She didn't want to choose just one. She glanced at Miss Smith who was sitting next to the books with the purple circle in her lap. Suddenly, she knew! "Can I have the purple circle?" Miss Smith laughed and gave Amy a hug, happy for the diversion from the sad parade of students choosing their goodbye gifts. Of course she could have it. In reality the purple circle was just a leftover piece from a project long forgotten. The magic it held to quiet the classroom was assigned by the magic in the teacher. Miss Smith could choose something else if she went to a new classroom. For Amy, the purple circle represented all of the books read in room 31 and she wanted it more than anything else.
And years passed...
Miss Smith had turned into Mrs. Weber. She no longer worked in a classroom but in an office somewhere deep in the board of education for her county. She was very important to teaching but she still missed seeing students every day. That is why she always jumped at the chance to visit classrooms and give awards to teachers who had done well. Today was a day to visit Mrs. Streit.
Mrs. Streit, according to the paperwork that came to Mrs. Weber's office, had done a wonderful job in her first year of teaching and her principal had nominated her for new teacher of the year for the whole state of California.
When Mrs. Weber walked into the fourth grade classroom with the Award in her hand she stayed quietly at the back of the room with the principal. Mrs. Streit was finishing a math lesson. Mrs. Streit was used to people coming into her classroom to see her work with students, and she was told that there would be more visitors today, but she didn't know why. Mrs. Streit looked up at the visitors and was surprised that she recognized both of them. Always a professional, she kept asking questions and getting answers from her class. All the while she kept looking at the newest visitor and smiling slyly. Mrs. Weber noticed the smiles but wasn't quite sure what they meant. Had she figured out that she was the winner of the award even though it was supposed to be a secret? Had she met her before at some educational get together? This new teacher didn't really look familiar so she looked again at the award for Mrs. Streit.
As she looked down, all of the students got up, pushed in their chairs, and were walking quietly to the carpet in the corner of the room. At the front of the room, a smiling Mrs. Amy Streit was holding up a slightly faded purple circle.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Long long ago when Sylvia and I still had money (before kids) we decided to take a trip to see her high school friend Lisa in Arizona. There was a new baby involved and Sylvia (YDTTU = you did this to us!) had a need to see Lisa's new baby. Let's go. When? Since it was close to New Years we decided to make it an extended trip and add a visit to Las Vegas for good measure. For many reasons too boring to mention we decided to fly to Vegas, stay a few nights, then rent a car and make the drive to Arizona.
When we got to Vegas we called Sylvia's mom to let her know that we made it. Answering machine. Our flight across two states beat her parent's 20 minute trip home from San Jose. Get that? Flying is faster than driving. We were already relaxing in the Mirage hotel while her parents were trying to navigate confusing parking garages and Bay Area traffic. We didn't find this out until later.
While in Vegas we wandered around, gambled a little (very little), watched Siegfried and Roy make a horse disappear right in front of us, and found out I was allergic to the penicillin I was taking for strep throat. According to the newest ad campaign for Vegas I am not supposed to tell you about all of this but I suppose I can make an exception. It was a good trip and I could tell you about some of the adventures we had while there, but today is for Lisa and the drive.
When we left for Arizona it was uneventful enough. Vegas desert, Hoover Dam, more desert, more desert, tell me why we decided to save a few dollars to drive instead of fly? More desert, and then we hit civilization. Remember, this was back in the days before cell phones. I'm pretty sure it was back in the days before pagers but I digress. Our very detailed instructions from Lisa were, "Drive into town. Call." The convoluted directions to their base housing were too complicated to deal with. As soon as we got to a pay phone (remember those?) we put in our dime (remember that!?) and called Lisa. Excited screaming between old friends, yes we're here, OK, see you in a little bit.
Back in the car Sylvia says, "She told us to drive to the Circle K and wait." At this point I need to tell you about the town Lisa was living in. It was one of those cities with the main road that is miles long. I should also mention that there is a Circle K convenience store on every corner! We were in Circle K heaven. The landmark we were looking for was mocking us with its sheer availability. It was like Starbucks and Subway had an affair and the prolific results all landed in this town. (for the record-I am pretty sure there were no Starbucks at this point in time but you get the idea) If you were in one Circle K and they were out of what you were looking for the clerk could check another store's stock by walking to the door and saying, in a normal voice, "Hey. You have any king sized Butterfingers over there?" Many, many, Circle K's. (I suppose that this part of the story could include pointing a finger at Sylvia's friend saying, Lisa did this to us! but I didn't want to get too confusing)
When it became painfully obvious (about 12 seconds after we started driving) that we were in trouble of going to the wrong Circle K we pulled over at another pay phone to call again! This time on the phone I hear laughing, followed by Lisa's husband coming to the phone to give Sylvia the real directions. We were met at the McDonalds parking lot which magically had a street name attached to it. Go figure.
We had a great visit with Jim and Lisa . We went to Sedona, I held the new little guy, he cried, and we got ready for the New Year's Eve party at the base where Jim was working. As we were getting ready, we talked about when we needed to leave the next morning (yes New Year's Day) after the party, so we could make the flight. This is when it gets interesting.
We had figured out how long it took us to get here, divided by the number of Circle K's, carry the two...if we left at 6 in the morning we would be fine. Then Sylvia out of the blue says, "We should leave at 5 just in case we have a flat tire." Not nonspecific difficulties, not traffic, not general car trouble. Flat tire. OK dear. We can leave at 5. Works for me. No problem. Now Lisa came in and asked when we had decided to leave. Sylvia, "We're going to leave at 5 in case we get a flat tire." Really Sylvia? I have never had a flat tire and, as far as I knew, neither had Sylvia. Why the sudden worry? No problem again. Let's go have fun at the party.
While at the party we were met with the usual "these are our friends from California" kind of introductions. Curious, the newcomers would ask, "Oh? When do you go back?" Sylvia again, "We fly out of Vegas tomorrow. We are going to leave at 5 tomorrow morning. Just in case we get a flat tire." Right now you have to picture me looking at Sylvia with my head tilted to the side, eyebrows scrunched into a curious shape, and my shoulders shrugged with my palms up. "Huh? What is this new fixation with the tire?" As the years go by and the number of times I tell the story increases, the number of times she mentions the impending flat tire increases. At this point I think I am up to 63 but in reality it was probably four or five. I was perplexed but managed to have a good time all the same.
In the morning the alarm went off, we got ready, we said good byes, and got into the car to drive to Vegas. At 5:00 A.M. (Just in case) Uneventful trip out of town. We counted nine hundred eighty two Circle K's as we left town and entered the desert to get back to Vegas to catch our flight. Not a care in the world as we traveled along the highway back toward the airport. I should take this opportunity to say that if you have never driven through the desert at sunrise, I would highly reccomend it. It is beautiful. Do not make the mistake of driving through the dessert at sunrise because that will just get whipped cream all over your car.
About two hours into the trip something happened. Now I'm sure at this point I really don't need to explain exactly what happened. I am not terribly secretive about my foreshadowing. There should be no mistaking it. In the middle of the desert at about 7 in the morning I heard, bump, thump, thump, thump, thumpthumpthumpthumpthump....
You have GOT to be kidding me! (This is exactly when you are supposed to be seeing me say, YOU DID THIS TO US!) A flat tire. At the side of the road loosening the lugnuts I call to Sylvia looking on from the other side of the car that she should get the camera because no one would believe this story! She sheepishly lifted her hands into view and showed me the camera. Apparently there were people in her past who would not have seen the humor in this situation and she wasn't quite sure how I would take her jinxing me into needing to change a tire. As I said, this was a long time ago. Before she realized that my philosophy of, If I am going to laugh about it in the future I might as well start now, is darn near bulletproof. And I am always on the lookout for a good story.
At the risk of having everyone reading this story think I am making large portions of this up I need to tell you the next part of the story. As I was beginning to change the tire on the side of the road, on New Year's Day, early in the morning, a lone car pulled up behind us. There were no other cars on the road...at all! In our moment of need this man jumped out of his car and grabbed a floor jack out of the trunk of his rather ordinary car. He came over and finished changing our tire. No questions asked. He just decided to do a good deed for us that morning. I was happy he decided to start his new year with us. I am also happy that I didn't need to do the trunk equivalent of the Rubik's Cube to get out the jack. I don't know who you are, Good Samaritan, or why God decided to send you our way but Thank You.
From then on the story is uneventful. We made it to the airport, turned in the car, and told them about the spare tire. After a short flight home we were picked up in San Jose by Sylvia's parents...they were still looking for their car.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I have learned that it doesn't really matter to me who wins. This is an odd thing to write as I have the U.S.A. world cup game playing in the background, but I think it is true. I am really interested in a good game with a little tendency to root for the underdog. Since I was not born with a sports gene I have learned this by watching Sylvia. It's funny to watch her enjoy a game. Even when we watch a Germany game Sylvia will cheer for the team making a shot on goal...whoever it is. And she will be be seriously disappointed if the shot isn't good...don't tell her mom.
Soccer aside, I have also come to realize that I do hold in reserve a smidgen of "win, Win, WIN!!" somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my psyche. The trigger for this jump into one-upmanship is apparently when I plant my bottom into the seat of a gasoline powered cart that sits very low to the ground. Who knew? The smell of gas, the high pitched whine of finely tuned lawn mower engines, the five point harnesses...I am hooked. It is not enough for me to master the course as we go racing around the track. I must get the people who are driving slower than I am behind me. I am ashamed to admit it but I have been known to, let's call it, nudge someone to announce my intention to push them into the wall...I mean pass.
I am not a monster. I have limits. I have never jammed a little kid into the wall...or spun them around...or rammed them into another racer to slip by on the outside. In order to clarify, my definition of a "little kid" is anyone under 58 inches. Did I mention that you have to be 58 inches tall to be a driver? Minor point to the story to be sure. Truthfully, I have never been aggressive to a dad and his child passenger because I wouldn't want that to happen to me. But not for the reason you might think. I would hate for my son to have to ask, "Dad. Why are there flames burning in your eyes?" or "Doesn't that sign say No Bumping?"
Actually, there are signs all over the place that say, "No Bumping." Only in my go-cart mania am I able to see 72 signs that all say the exact same thing and think, "There is wiggle room in what they are trying to tell us." This is strange for me. I am a black-and-white, right-and-wrong rule follower. Running around a pool? NO! Take more than one mint at the bank teller counter? Not me. Mix lights with darks? The devil you say! Wear white after Labor day? Well, I never really understood that one, but you get the idea! I have, "There is a rule for a reason." tattooed on my soul. (it is written in a nice Old English font, and there are no needles involved with a soul tattoo) I do not understand what flips the switch in my mind over to, that doesn't apply to me. Perhaps, since the publishing money hasn't come rolling in, I could do a government funded study about this phenomenon. There won't be any waste in my project...cross my heart.
Speaking of money...the reason we were in the vicinity of go-carts at all was to celebrate Jake's birthday. There is a place called Boomers out in Livermore and we had decided to let him take a few friends to come. They have mini golf, video games, bumper boats, games of chance (for tickets and prizes) and, of course, Go-Carts!
We researched it and found out that just showing up with a crowd was cheaper than booking an actual party and showing up on a Tuesday was even better! Their slowest day of the week must be Tuesday since they have specials to entice people to come in on that day. Sylvia and I figured it out, if we used their special, didn't do all the attractions ourselves, and brought our own cupcakes, it would be do-able. We must have missed the small print online and it seems that what we wanted wasn't what they would do. No problem, I only have a van load of boys standing behind me all prepared to bust out their puppy dog eyes if I start to talk compromise. I hope our kids enjoy bean and rice for about a week. That's not a typo...I plan on slicing the bean as thin as I can until pay day.
So I am coming down now from my go-cart madness now...sure wish that happened last night before the ride home, when I boxed out a Mercedes to race a Cooper Mini to the offramp.
Monday, June 21, 2010
This would be somewhat understandable had I just taken my class of kindergartners to the circus, not so much if we were studying prepositions. (Unless, of course, they said, "I saw a monkey's butt ON the hill." That was actually a sentence I used during my observation.) Lucky for me, we went to the Oakland Zoo.
School has been out for two days. I think enough time has passed to start talking about some of the goings on. I don't want to be disrespectful and talk about students in the class. But like I said, it has been two whole days. I might change the names to protect the hysterical.
The Oakland Zoo did not disappoint us. There were monkey butts as far as the eye could see. It wasn't like the time we went to the aquarium and we saw the walrus. The walrus was in one of those pools where there was a window that lets you watch them swimming. I really, really do not want to start being crude (I personally think that shows a lazy writing style) but let me say that a walrus has a super power. It can't fly or leap over tall buildings in a single bound...its super power involves the ability to make males of other species feel inadequate. This is the sort of thing that could make a group of kindergarten students giggle uncontrollably for weeks. Luckily, the Oakland Zoo has no walruses. I mean, we had a good time and there were only a few of "those" sort of incidents. I didn't have to explain to anyone that the animals were "play wrestling" and they weren't hurting each other.
As all teachers know, the true measure of a successful field trip is to come home with the same number of children as you left with. I failed. I mean the caretakers offered me a lot of money to keep one for the new North American Carpet Monkey exhibit and the millions haven't started rolling in from the blog yet. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. Actually, a parent checked her son out of the trip and we had one less than we came with on the bus ride back to school. Even with a signed document that states something like, Teacher, you are no longer responsible for my kid today, I still felt weird all the way home. I say home but I really mean back to school. It's an expression but it may as well be true as far as the students are concerned. Mr. Garrett lives in room 1. I could live in the classroom and on some days it feels like I do but I don't. It has two bathrooms, loads of books, and a kitchen. True, the kitchen is made of wood and all the food is plastic but I think I could make it work.
The way a field trip works is, for those who have never had the pleasure, I (the teacher) get volunteers (the unsuspecting parents) to come and watch a few kids for the day. Depending on various factors I set up groups to minimize disruptions, keep parents with their own kids, allow me to be in a group all by myself for a day. No seriously, the Oakland Zoo know how tough it is on teachers so one of the selling points to get you to choose them is they offer a key to "The Lounge" for the day. The lounge is a secret place complete with noise canceling headphones, a margarita bar, and (massuessi? massagists? masewers? masseussers?) people who rub your backs...16 tables, no waiting! OK, you got me, there is no such secret place in the Oakland Zoo but there should be!
In reality we had a fairly uneventful field trip but there were a few instances that raised my eyebrows. Trying to gather twenty seven five-year-olds together to get on a bus is a lot like trying to count a room full of cats. Most of the of the difficulty we had revolved around the group leaders trying to squeeze ten more minutes into the day but we got onto the bus without too much trouble. In retrospect I am thinking that starting the busload of kids singing "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" might have not been the best idea I ever had, but I guess I know better for next time.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have heard those words. I'm not sure how saints became the high water mark for patience, but that seems to be how people compliment kindergarten teachers these days. Especially, I believe, six foot three inch (5 foot fifteen inch if I am feeling you need to be "messed with" when you ask) male kindergarten teachers.
Having said that I want to talk about my impatience. There are several things about which I have absolutely no patience at all:
Adults with absolutely no logical reasoning.
Driving slowly in the "fast" lane.
Pets that bite...even though the little rodent is just "being cute" and "it doesn't hurt."
And now, it seems, for NOT being offered millions of dollars to write a book and eventually get interviewed on TV to talk about it.
Because of the last one, I thought I would take this opportunity to interview myself. No seriously, I think it can work. But since I do not have multiple personalities I will have to turn up my imagination knob. (If you were in my kindergarten class you would know that the imagination knob is located just behind your right ear...The volume knob is located behind the left ear but all of them have been disabled at the factory) Here I go, bear with me.
Jeff: So now that you are famous. How do you deal with the notoriety?
Jeff: I'm not sure you know who I am. I am not famous at all. I teach kindergarten. I write a blog.
Jeff: Number one in the New York Times, Number three in Canada, required reading in American schools. Have you made any extravagant purchases with your new found wealth?
Jeff: Is this a joke? I have not written a book. I write a blog. Say it with me...blllooooggggg. It's not important or life changing...it is for fun and I would love to someday be paid for writing but right now I am just having fun.
Jeff: What gave you the idea to write a best selling book?
Jeff: Am I being Punk'd? Ashton? Where are you? The idea for writing a blog...BLOG...came from the movie Julie and Julia. The movie was very good and it reminded me that my sister had suggested that I write a blog. I actually wrote about this in some of my first entries...have you even read any of these? And this isn't even a best read blog. There are only 22 followers and mostly it's my friends and family but I would love to hear what others are thinking. I added a Facebook share button on the blog so others can send it to their friends. I think a big accomplishment for me would be to become a "Blog Of Note" for Blogger. I would like that. It isn't like music where I can suddenly hear one of my songs on the radio. They don't read blogs over the radio.
Jeff: Since you've been invited to throw out the first pitch at the World Cup and I know this is your first time in South Africa, how are you enjoying the weather?
Jeff: Sir, you need some sort of help. Really. Have you ever considered shock therapy? There are so many things wrong with what you have said. The pitch in soccer is what they play on, not what gets thrown. The World Cup people have no need for anyone to begin the match much less me, who has never played soccer in my life. And, I have never been to South Africa so I have absolutely no idea what the weather is like. I think it is beginning to be their winter season soon though since they are in the southern hemisphere. I could look it up if you...do you really want to talk about the weather in South Africa?
Jeff: If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?
Jeff: That's it. Take this microphone off. I'm outta here.
Jeff: Given the strife in Smurfville, do you think it is time for Papa Smurf to step down and name a successor? What about the rumors about him and Smurfette?
Jeff: Did you see "One Crazy Summer"? I liked that movie.
Jeff: Goodbye! Get my agent on the phone. Wait, I don't have an agent! This never would have happened on the Bonnie Hunt Show. I miss that show.
Jeff: Is it a burden being ridiculously handsome?
Jeff: Finally! A serious question.
Jeff: No, I was just kidding. (music playing) Well tune in next time when I interview Abraham Lincoln and ask him, was it difficult getting used to zero gravity on the moon?
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Seriously though, I have occasionally learned something from this show. I learned that a "blue warrant" means a warrant for your arrest because you are violating parole. Were it not for this show I (hopefully) never would have known this. The show I am talking about is called The World's Dumbest Drivers. In case you have never seen this show let me give you the Reader's Digest version of the show. People armed with video cameras send in clips of others with extraordinarily bad judgement. Picture America's Funniest Home Videos with injuries and arrests.
Another feature, different from AFV, is there are celebrities that add colorful commentary on the unfortunate doofuses' (is it doofuses or doofi?) escapades. These celebrities typically have something in common. The celebrities they choose are known for making unbelievably bad choices of their own. A couple of the celebrities are Todd Bridges and Danny Bonnaduce. Both have had difficulties with certain substances, euphemistically speaking. The show also has figure skater Tanya Harding who is known for having an opponent whacked over the knee with a crowbar. They all have fallen from grace and none of them have ever really recovered in terms of status. In fact they all seem to have come to grips with their shortcomings and even poke fun at themselves to add to the humor. It isn't terribly thought provoking but it is entertaining. Following the last day of a long and loud school year I was thankful for a couple episodes of bubble gum for the mind.
It was while watching this show that I learned something that shook me to the core. Sadly, I have come to realize that Sylvia did not know exactly who I was. What happened? You may ask. No, I mean go ahead...I give you permission...ask. I'll wait.
Well tonight as I was watching the show Sylvia was working on something for school in the kitchen. As the celebrity commentators came on Sylvia would guess at who they were. She pulled Tanya Harding out of the air...score one. She knew who Todd Bridges was...one and a half. Danny Bonnaduce...two points.
"That's Leif Garrett."
Here it comes. Prepare yourself..."I used to have a huge crush on him! I was going to marry him."
So I started thinking...Leif Garrett...interesting...my last name is Garrett...(I always think with the three dots between thoughts)...wait, my first name is close to Leif...it's only two letters different...L E I F - J E F F...HOLY COW!!! Sylvia thought I was famous! Uh oh. I had no idea! I mean, she has seen my driver's license and passport! It may have been poor judgement on my part to alter the spelling on both of them but she has heard me sing!
And there it is. It's out there. I am but a poor similarly named substitute for her famous teenage crush. Honestly, Leif and I are probably related. You know what they say about Kentucky, 8 million people...five last names.
Well all I can do now is try and live up to the person she thought she was marrying...minus the trek into drugs...and minus being on TV making fun of people who are being seriously injured for not putting on the parking brake and being run over by their own car. There was another show later on, where some poor dumb guy's wife screamed "get the spider!" He hit a spider to kill it...it worked (arachnidae deceasidae)...problem was the spider was on the bed and his wife was in the bed. When this dingbat whacked the spider, he also whacked his wife! What a dork!
Now make no mistake. I do not think I am better than these poor unfortunate people who seem to make one bad decision after another...they just happen to have friends with cameras. And the show about the spider was more like a personal anecdote. It really happened...to me (and Sylvia)...tonight.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Well it is completely obvious to me that there is a large group of people who will never see the pattern, a few who know it's there but still walk into it occasionally like a just-cleaned patio door, and still more who shall not be teased, ever, for any reason, thank you very much just the same. I love the first group. I love the challenge of the second. And the third group might as well hang a blinking sign around their necks with an audio message that loops, "Jeff! Mess with this guy!" I do love a challenge.
One of the quickest ways to mess with people is to ask questions that have little or no basis in reality. I got my wife (she has her own sort of tease group category reserved for people who I allow to "smack me" when they've been gotcha'd - for the right price I would be willing to teach a publisher the secret initiation handshake into this group)...anyway...Sylvia moved into the gotten category the other night when I ordered a pizza for dinner. It was about 6 (I don't need to say P.M. right?) and I ordered online from Father Jonathon's. I came into the kitchen where Sylvia was talking to a friend who was visiting. I was looking down at the printout of the order in my hand so Sylvia asked the obvious question, "When will it be ready?"
This is it...my moment to shine...Sylvia, distracted by the conversation, lobbed an easy ball over the net. My answer to her, "What time is twenty one hundred hours?" She says, "2100? 21 minus 12 equals 9. NINE!!?! Are you serious?! We can't wait until nine!" Then she spied my smile. "No. I was just curious about military time. I need to leave now to get the pizza." (and to avoid getting smacked by Sylvia)
That is an easy way to catch people off guard. If you ask a question people want to answer. A lot of times they won't think about why the question was asked and they will just start on in with the answer. It also helps that most people don't walk around wary that they are about to walk into the trap of a chronologically grown man who admittedly cracks himself up!
In the interest of being a quasi-self-help book I thought I might include some possible questions that you can annoy, I mean amuse, your friends with. I am trying to diversify since I checked and there is no "Goofy Ramblings" section in the bookstore. There is, however, a self-help section so here goes...
Opening the mail: Honey your tests results are here...What does communicable mean?
Looking at a report card: Does "F" mean fantastic?
While holding your wife's favorite clothes: Did you tell the kids they could tie dye?
On April 23rd: When was I supposed to mail the taxes?
While running from a dinosaur: Probably shouldn't have smeared ourselves with barbecue sauce.
Now if you said to yourself, "Hey! That last one wasn't a question!" Tell me this...running from a dinosaur... and you are worried about it being a statement? Did I getcha?
OK, I need to finish writing my report cards and then I need to think about comments to talk about each student...how do you spell sociopath?
Sunday, June 13, 2010
In case you, like me, have no or very little idea about what a Ripstick is, let me explain. Picture a greased Popsicle stick on edge balancing on a high wire suspended over a yawning chasm and add a few linebackers who are trying to push you off for good measure...blindfolded! Actually, that is not the real description but I thought I needed to put in something really ridiculous to soften the blow. I should warn you...the real description isn't much better.
In the Ripstick we have a skateboard that has been cut in thirds. Throw away the middle third. Shave the two ends down to the shape of smallish footballs. Connect the two footballs end to end with a medium sized piece of pipe. Oh yeah, don't secure the pieces to the pipe...it should let the footballs swivel back and forth. Then, the original two wheels on each end? Let's take one off each side and place the single wheels in the middle. And those wheels...make 'em wobble! Then charge a hefty sum for the pleasure of owning this. You get the idea? The people who designed this must have been into the liquor cabinet a little early this last Thanksgiving.
This is what Jake wanted for his birthday and, against my better judgement, we got one for him. With this piece of engineering hilarity I figured the learning curve would be fairly high. A few timid trials and errors in front of the house before he came in and did the Ripstick for the Wii...version 2.0. Jake, of course, picked it up like he was born to have a wobbly caster under each foot. He took off and kind of wiggle-shimmied around the block, up the curb, down the street, and then spun around to do it again. When he came back he stopped in front of me and said, (are you sitting down?) "Do you want to try it?" At that moment I felt like the father in the parable of the prodigal son...Jake is after his inheritance! I explained, politely, that I thought it would be a better idea if he were the one to ride it and I would be the one to stand in amazement at abilities that would never be available to me.
Do you want to try it? Are you serious?! I was the guy who owned a skateboard but could do little more than stand on it...on a flat surface...in complete pads and helmets...with a person holding each hand. (OK I would have been crying a little too but I wanted to retain some of my dignity) If you ever see me within a three block radius of a skateboard, and it looks like I may try to ride it...grab your video camera and get ready to be ten thousand dollars richer from that funny video show. I only ask that you take Sylvia a meal and send me a nice card in the hospital.
Jake on the other hand has been all over the neighborhood on this contraption and is going to be even more unbelievably athletic in the process. I mean seriously, do you need to go below 3 percent body fat to show up your old man? I don't set the bar really high you know! And could you pass me the onion dip?
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Now Wait! Before you label me an insensitive clod, let me explain two things. I am a teacher and I would never use that word to describe a person...ever....EVER...gun to my head NEVER. Second, I taught special education for a decade and I heard this word a lot from others and my thinking was to educate and confuse to take the power out of the word.
adj retardé, retardée [ʀətaʀde]
1 différé qui est remis à un autre moment
une arrivée retardée
While soccer doesn't seem to be part of my DNA like some people I know, I have an appreciation for soccer on many levels.
I love the fact that The Cup is the best of the best. I think there is something about the human condition that longs to find out who is the best...at anything. (notice that publishers? I said "the human condition" so that must mean I am intellectual and worthy of millions for my book) As a kid, my brother and I found millions of competitions in our everyday lives. Who can hit the street sign with the rock? Who can stick the pocket knife into the tree from here? Who can throw the rock farther across the lake? Who can grab the phone number from mom to the pretty girl who is looking for something to do on New Year's Eve? (I won...and continue to win...but that is another story for another day) I'm not too interested in all the qualifying rounds that gets the teams into the World Cup competition but once all the teams get into the cup I'm hooked.
I like that there are many countries coming together with a common goal and, most of the time, a common respect. Bragging rights are a good thing when taken in moderation. I have no interest in the people who become mean when talking about another country based on the performance of a team. A team who, let's be honest, has not been influenced in any practical way by anyone but the coaches. Around our house we are rooting for Germany with a mix of Italy and a dash of USA. We like to cover our bets so to speak.
I am also a big fan of teamwork as well. There are not many things that show the positive effect of teamwork as soccer. When teams work together, they score. When teams don't work together, they lose. It is good to work in a team with a common goal...or should I say GOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!
There was a scene in the movie Vision Quest where a cook was describing to the star that he was watching the soccer star Pele do his signature over his head kick into the goal. The cook said that he got emotional about it since this was a human being, "a species he belonged to" who was able to do amazing things. I understand that emotion. I live that emotion. But of course I am a guy so I never let anyone see that...don't tell.
And finally, it is nice to see sports for sports sake. I am not someone who begrudges anyone making an obscenely large amount of money...I hope to be that someone someday (soon)...but I think it is more interesting to me to see someone play a sport and not have the announcer talk about buckets of money.
"Well fans, here we are back after the fifty eighth commercial in the first three minutes of play. You all may find it interesting that the quarterback is making 180 thousand dollars while I finish this sentence and in the time it took me to blow my nose during the break, he financed his daughters' braces."
I like that these soccer players play for prestige, honor, and the love of the game.
I would love to write more but the USA England game just started and I need to hang this up. Wish us luck!
And to dispel any misconceptions you may have about someone who doesn't watch sports nonstop being a wimp let me tell you that I lettered in high school sports...TWICE! (Hey! Badminton is a sport!)
Friday, June 11, 2010
Today, being Jake's 12th birthday, I thought I would reveal his true identity. (And I guess I could talk about what an awesome kid he is and a bunch of other mushy stuff...but mostly I want to goof on his being part of the ninja clan)
Jake was how we found out that Sylvia and being pregnant were not terribly compatible. Not that she couldn't get pregnant, quite the contrary.
"Honey, I think we should start thinking about having another bab....did I just feel a kick?"
Nope, getting there wasn't a problem. The problem started when Jake (who was named Zachary for most of his early little life...we had to change it due to his ninja status in the witness protection program...don't tell) decided to park his little body on Sylvia's sciatic nerve. He also started his chemistry experiments early, but most of what he concocted made mommy sick...she didn't have morning sickness, she had all pregnancy sickness. And what did the doctor have to say? "Morning sickness is a good thing. It means a healthy baby." Thanks a lot Doc, where's the bathroom?
Well, we got to the end of the pregnancy and late late one night Sylvia woke me to say that it was time. She let me sleep until it was obviously time to go. So sweet.
Anyway, in the hospital, things are going along pretty much the same as when Kristiana was born until it was time to push. Then the doctor said in as panicked a calm voice as I have ever heard he said, "Nurse. Page Dr. Scott to the delivery room. Code 999. Stat!" Now I am not a doctor, I have never even played one on TV, I don't have any idea what "code 999" is, but I KNOW that "stat" means NOW! Our little guy didn't want to arrive and needed some help.
(this is the section that describes the National Geographic portion of our blog...in order to maintain a certain dignity and decorum parts of this blog have been omitted by the author...You can, however, purchase the DVD narrated by Wilford Brimley at ...)
So Sylvia is lying back looking at me. I am standing holding her hand and looking at our new son trying to reassure her that everything is going well. Problem was things were not going well. Our little Zach (I mean Jake) was the darkest color purple I have ever seen on a human being. They rushed him across the room and three people worked on him with oxygen and goodness knows what else. All the while one of the nurses was saying in that calm panic voice, "Come on. Come back. You can make it."
(In the words of Forrest Gump...That's all I'm gonna say about that.)
He made it. His APGAR score (I went to ALL the prenatal classes) was a 2 and then an 8 and then he was in Sylvia's arms. She, luckily, has very little recollection of the exact events but they are indelibly etched in my mind.
Now the name. When the nurses asked what his name was, we said, "Zachary."
"Oh! The doctor just had a baby Zachary." Someone I worked with had just had a baby Zachary. Someone Sylvia worked with had a baby Zachary. Being teachers, this was a big concern for us. We wanted him to be unique and not be in a classroom full of Zacharys. So we named him Jacob after two days of debate. If you look at the year end stats for 1998, Jacob is the most popular name that year. It was the most popular name for years since. I am pretty sure it is the most popular name ever. You can't swing a dead cat at his school without hitting a "Jacob" (so I only swing gerbils).
Common name aside, He is inventive and artistic and he regularly amazes me at all his young mind can accomplish. Years ago he made a "monster" out of cardboard boxes complete with red gory sharp teeth. He had it in the living room on the floor and had strapped string to it. The string he draped over the lights in the ceiling fan and brought them behind the rocking chair. As I came in I decided to suspend the "What the heck do you think you are doing" speech as he jumped down from the coffee table.
"Watch Dad!" He walked over to the chair and pushed it. As the chair rocked the string made the mouth open and close. OK, I'm impressed.
Besides what we see, Jake has passed the "parent test" and people come to us to tell us what a good boy he is. One of the moms at school told Sylvia that she was proud of Jake. Boys were teasing her daughter and Jake told them to leave her alone. (It's part of the ninja oath) He has turned into quite a fine young man and we are very proud to call him our son.
Happy Birthday Jake!
Monday, June 7, 2010
Where was I? I was at the second happiest place on Earth. Well, maybe thirteenth or fourteenth. We were at Marriott's Great America...wait, Paramount's...no, Six Flags...not now? Oh come on! Bob and Ethel's Great America? That Guy Over There on the Bike's Great America? Actually, it is California's Great America this year...I hope California kept the receipt because it seems like there are dozens of companies who could claim they own it now.
I tease but it is a fun place to go. The kids like to ride the rides and I like to notice the different types of people that come to these places. There are several groups of people that come to amusement parks and I think most of them were represented here last weekend. There were gaggles of giggly girls. There were groups of guys who were too cool to be in a group so they walked in a line...wearing matching outfits. There were parents who were dragging their kids around and kids who were dragging their parents around. There were the people carrying around the stuffed animals that were bigger than most hybrid cars. There were the people who were running from the ride exits to the ride entrances. There were the people waiting at the exits of the "scary" rides...with a look-at-my-watch, pace-back-and-forth sort of attitude. In this last group there was a subset of people who were waiting outside the ride but were also made to hold all of the hats, purses, backpacks, sunglasses, cell phones, keys, wallets, jackets, security blankets, hair extensions, light bulbs, flower arrangements, and half eaten bananas.
I, as you probably have guessed, belonged to the final and most prestigious group. There I sat complete with my newly acquired flowered purse waiting for everyone to come off the water ride. It's not that I am terribly worried about roller coasters or things that spin you around upside down. I just really hate to get wet when I am not wearing a bathing suit. (it's a real hassle in the shower every morning) So there I sat observing all the people and writing about them in the phone. This is where I lost all of the things that I had written to send myself but I am not bitter...and I didn't take out my anger on a stuffed animal that someone had won at the carnival. I swear their heads are supposed to be floppy like that.
I really enjoy watching all of the people and how they interact in a crowd. There are some very interesting people in this great Great America of ours. It is gratifying to realize that there are people out there that are just as odd as I am. On the other hand it is a little disturbing realizing that there are people out there that are as odd as I am without the public place filter that keeps some things private. (It's even more disturbing to think that those filters are there and some of these people are on their best behaviors) Now since I was raised right and my mom taught me that if I couldn't say something nice I shouldn't say anything at all so let me conclude by saying, "______________________________________________________!"
We were able to secure season passes to the park this year so I am sure I will be able to write more about this educational setting (makes me feel smarter...sorry mom) before the summer is through.
I also want to explain, and apologize, for being a little behind in the writing lately. I am trying to write often since it is so much fun for me, but it is report card season. I have tons of ideas, I am just a little low on time at the moment. I am about as busy as a millipede in a shoe tying competition. Wish me luck. By the way, if you notice a rhythm to this post it is unintentional...the ticking of the countdown to the end of the year clock is like a giant metronome in my head...not that I am looking forward to it or anything!
Saturday, June 5, 2010
I mean which other utensil has become a verb? Well, knife can technically be considered a verb...but only in slang...and usually in Quentin Tarentino movies. And it doesn't approach the romanticism of a newlywed couple who decide to "spoon" on a quiet, sunny, Saturday afternoon. It is actually quite a noble and distinguished instrument.
I can't help but think that the other utensils tease the spoons in the silverware drawer late at night.
"You didn't even have a speaking part in Beauty and The Beast."
"There are two types of ME on the table."
"I was used in a horror movie."
"I was the one in that cannon scene in Pirates of the Caribbean."
All of these may be true, the spoons were the synchronized swimmers in the dinner scene, there has never been a slasher who chose a teaspoon as his weapon of choice, and no one will ever forget the wooden eyeball scene on the pirate ship, but nothing compares to the spoon.
It is still the spoon for me. The spoon, from the Latin 'soupus slurpitupicus', is quite possibly my favorite. I mean which other tool can be at home on the most formal place setting on the dining room table, in the kitchen next to the everyday bowls, and with someone who is curled up on the couch with a midnight snack (not that I know anything about those personally). And which other utensil is as specialized as the spoon? I can choose between a fork and a spoon when eating a noodle casserole and do just fine. But if I have cereal, or soup, or even ice cream (yum) there is only one choice. The spoon! All others are mere imitators, imposters, and totally unreliable.
So keep this in mind next time there is a 60 Minutes special extolling the benefits of being a knife, the spoon is a fine choice when trying to get food into your mouth. I think I have made my point...with a completely blunt utensil.
***Now before you start calling Sylvia and asking if she needs help taking me to the hospital, let me explain that I have not been painting with the windows closed, I have not started mixing medications, and I did not drink that partial can of expired apple juice we found behind the water heater...(even though Jacob triple dog dared me).
Following Kristiana's 8th grade graduation ceremony she complained about the one assignment she disliked the most. She was supposed to write a 500 word essay about "the spoon" for Writing. In the spirit of "I won't ever ask you to do something I wouldn't do myself" I used when I was a manager, I told Kristiana that I would dedicate my next entry to the spoon noble implement that it is. And I, if nothing else, am a man of my word. If anyone cares to count to see if I actually made it to 500 words, you have even more free time than I do! (kidding...579)
Now if you'll excuse me...there is a valley girl at the door who is mentioning something about being gagged with something or other.
Actually I am exaggerating (I do that...like a billion times a day) but the computer is noisy. It ranges from the pulsating wheeze, to the pie plate in the shredder, to what I affectionately call the last gasp. I'm not terribly worried about it. After all it's not like anyone has offered me millions to write a book that I could lose from the hard drive if the computer dies. I've become accustomed to the thought that I may not be offered millions for a first book from a rookie.
Although, (You have to imagine the last "o" in this although lasting an impossibly long time...like when Sylvia agrees with something I have said and then says "althooooooooo we could __________" to show that she didn't really agree.) I did find two fortune cookies that no one had claimed last night, as I was straightening up before bed. The first said, "Success will come to your plans." Hah!! I knew it. But it's just a fortune cookie. The next said, "Success will be yours at home and in business in the next month." They were impossibly stale so I only got the fortune. Well I toyed with the idea of eating them. Ok, so I ate the darn cookies...sue me! Don't get the wrong idea, I think fortune cookies have about the same predicting power as a magic eight ball, a tossed coin, or a TV weatherman, but every once in a while it is funny how close they come. Before I even met Sylvia (officially) I got a fortune that said, "Someone you see likes you." I thought of Sylvia right away. (I will eventually tell this story, maybe when I get a few thousand followers...kidding) I actually took this fortune and put it on the refrigerator in my apartment. Ask Craig my old roommate. Actually, don't ask him, he won't remember anyway.
I do have a secret to tell though. I tease about making a lot of money, but my actual plan has been to have someone who has never heard my real voice tell me that my scribblings are worthwhile. I have had several friends tell me, "I can totally hear YOU saying that!" It's nice, and having a voice in writing is a wonderful compliment, but I am wondering if it translates to someone who hasn't seen my jolly self acting out the many stories I enjoy telling (complete with straining facial expressions). I also am concerned that my mom will run out of money paying people for comliments...she is already almost tapped out paying Sylvia to stay married to me. I would also like to be paid, by someone, for something, because in my mind after you are paid to write, then you can call yourself a writer. Now, I just have a hobby. Not a problem though, I am going to have success in the next month, right?
Anyway, back to the original idea for today...the noisy computer. It is making the sustained wheeze mixed with a little "scattering of dry leaves in a fall breeze" this morning. It's ok. I can live with it. If I'd eliminated everything in my life that made funny noises... I'd never have gotten to know my uncle.