Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lights Out

I am blogging when I should be grading narratives. But! I'm having a problem this year: some of these stories are good! It makes me want to read them, not grade them. A lovely problem to have.

"'How dare he play off beat!' she said to John. He frowned and nodded in agreement. She went to find the drummer to tell him off, but when she saw him, a great wave of sadness suddenly overtook her, and she almost began to cry. She couldn't help it. She had never in her life seen a man with such miserable eyes."

I know it isn't The Most Original Ever Thing, but I was pretty much dying to know what happened next, and why that poor drummer was so sad. Right? And it was prettily put. I like that "she couldn't help it." (That was a blended quote, btw, which every one of my seventh graders can do--blindfolded, and with their hands tied behind their backs.) I like the rhythm of the thing. Rhythm is so crucial in writing, even expository writing, and I don't know why no one gets this. Rhythm in writing, the sounds of the words in your mind as you read them, is key. Just my opinion, people, but I'm right.

I think the reason my kids are writing so much better this year is that I don't entirely suck. I've figured out my style, and I'm in it. I used to struggle to find something that worked, watching other teachers and trying to be like them if they were good. But I'm not imitating anyone anymore. I'm teaching the same classes I taught last year for the first time ever, and I feel completely spoiled having everything prepped out. I mean, I change it, but it's to make it better, not to ohpleasegodletmehavesomethingtoteach
themtomorrowsoicangohome. And I can make it a lot better, because it was thrown together the first time through. I'm in my own room all day, and nobody is in there but me, so I don't have to spend time moving my work space. 

Also, I've learned a lot about classroom management. I've created this persona, and it totally works. I yell, and I whisper. It's very dramatic. I'm very formal and stiff, but then, when they least expect it, I kick off my Danskos and perch on the air conditioner and twirl my scarf and shoot the shit with them. It is so much fun. When someone in the classroom does something like interrupt me, I take my time. I take a long pause. For drama. I am mortally offended, etc, etc. Last year I would've rushed, thinking I had so much to cover I didn't have time to glare for 35 seconds. This year I know better. If you glare for 35 seconds, they think you're crazy. They whisper about you in the hallway.

"Did you hear about Ms. S totally flipping out because Ashwin tried to speak while she was speaking?" 

This is very effective: you want them gossiping about you. All I did was glare. Or maybe I whispered, "excuse me." But I play that shit out. I don't care if it takes the entire class period. The next thing you know Ashwin is telling his buddies I threatened to launch a nuclear missile because he doesn't wanna seem like a wuss, and everyone is writing four drafts of their narrative when I only asked for two. Real drafts, even--that look totally different from the version before. With growth and process and shit.

The other thing I do is I tell them why I freak out. I say, "I want to get your papers back to you on Monday. So, I do not wish to spend 16 hours correcting things you already know, or moving your staple because you put it in the wrong place." And here I sometimes pause and twitch for a bit, acting as if the mere thought of a misplaced staple is ghastly and debilitating. It kind of is, actually, once you've moved 150 times however many papers they write. You'd think it doesn't matter where the staple is, but you'd be wrong. These are seventh graders. You try reading a paper that is stapled in the absolute middle, or in the shape of a goddamned boy band. (I know. You cannot fathom. I couldn't either, at one time. I mean: what shape is a boy band, anyway?)

When I give my How To Turn In A Paper speech, the students are riveted. They're taking notes. Nobody told them to. But I walk by, and they are letting each other copy the parts they missed, and on Sean's paper, it says, "STAPLE. Only one! Not in middle! Not in shapes!" And I haven't even really started yet. Then I start talking about what it means, on a karmic level, to waste the life you have been given and the moments of everyone else's lives in this classroom saying anything less than relevant. And then! I give them Cs. Not all of them, mind you. But some. The ones who half-assed it. I mean: really? You are getting me for free, and you don't try? This is the statement you want to make with your moment? This moment? The one that you will never have again? I do not think so.

When I was in grad school, there was a principal I really admired. She used to be an English teacher. She said to me once, "Men have lots of power. The only power women have is drama." I dismissed this comment (but not really, since I remember it) as sexist. Now I see that she was only responding to the rest of the world's sexism. And she was right.

We all think of drama as a bad thing. I suppose. But those kids wrote four drafts. Four, people. Not all of them, but definitely a third. Today we had a department meeting, and I asked, "um. . . the 7th graders this year--is anybody else having them write four drafts?" 

"That seems a bit much," said one. "Why do you do that?"

"No, I mean--are they doing this without being required to." 




"Huh. No, don't be crazy. Nobody does that. Are they sick? Like OCD? Are you making this up?"

Today somebody called me to say her kid was having a hard time in my class.

"Good," I said.

She laughed. "You're such a bad-ass. We love you."

This was not the response I expected. Parents are all so relieved to have somebody working their kids. It's like nobody else does it. Could this be?

This brings me to a related (not) topic. My child has the massively annoying habit of switching on and off the light switch and locking and unlocking doors. He loves to do this. It sounds not so bad, I realize. But you have to be here. He cannot stop. He has broken lamps, trying to play with them. He has plunged us into darkness at the worst possible time. He has made our poor morning eyes suffer from too much light. He has shut the cat into every room, one at a time. He's locked us all out on the balcony. Locked in, locked out. It all sucks. He cannot resist. I have forbidden him to touch any lights or locks. He knows and can recite. 

"What are the only two things I ask of you in this life?" I say. 

"Don't touch any locks or lights," he says, as he turns off the kitchen light at the exact moment I need to look at something which is BURNING OVER AN OPEN FLAME. Then he dances over to the balcony and locks himself out there, for good measure. Why, why? Just: why?

The end.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Myers Briggs

Casey, my Houseguest, was staying at my house the other week, as a Houseguest is wont to do. B was in San Francisco. Casey helped with Ari. Then we stayed up late (for me) and sat on the porch a lot, as is required in my house, for anyone, really, but especially Houseguests.

Casey is into quizzes--like personality ones. She has a book on genotypes, and is also into the Myers Briggs, and the Enneagram, and oh I don't know a ton of stuff. She has categorized the bejesus out of me and my family members. My genotype is hunter, which explains why I love meat (also--it is good, yo) and why I jump ten feet at any sudden noise and am a morning person and why my sense of smell is better than is good for me and why I'm graceful mostly, but a total spaz if I have to carry shit. (Other genotypes do the carrying. I only carry a spear, mothafuckas!)  I'm an enthusiast/helper on the Enneagram thing (You are supposed to pick only one, but my score was tied! What am I supposed to do?) I am, or so I'd thought, an INFJ on the Myers Briggs doohickey. And a rat and an Aries with Cancer moon and Cancer rising, and my favorite number is 7, or sometimes 9, except when it's 326 (kidding--who the hell likes 326?), and my spirit animal is the Tasmanian devil (or sometimes, Animal from the Muppets), and my colors are blaze and leaf and seafoam. (I may have mentioned this last bit before. If so, deal with it. Colors are fun!)
This is Casey's spirit animal. But, I think she cheats: Human beings don't count as spirit animals. If they did, we'd all be David Bowie!
For some reason, recently, I've been feeling more like an E than an I (on the Myers Briggs), so I took the test again. And! My whole situation has altered!

Imagine my alarm. First of all, the test authors cannot spell extrovert. Doesn't that seem like something they might want to check on? I mean: If you're writing a word 23593 times all over your site, here's a tip: look it up! But, beyond that, what does all this mean? Well, from what I understand I now like other people more than self, and I am a P instead of a J. P is for pussy. J is for jerk. I think actually it's supposed to be perceiving and judging or some shit. Whatevs. We all know what Myers and Briggs were afraid to say. 

Evidently, though, B and I are much more compatible now that I am a pussy instead of a jerk. And I am more compatible with Casey and many other of my peops, too. I guess because, by definition, a pussy will bend to the will of others. Perhaps I should change my spirit animal because Animal is no pussy. But, what shall I be? A dove or something? Gag me. Right? And a dove is not an extrovert. So, I guess I'd better be a phoenix. Or a penguin? Phoenix is kind of badass, and now that I'm a pussy, I don't get to be badass anymore. Bumble bee would be cute, even if it is a bug. And they totally seem like emo, extroverted pussies. I don't care what any of you bitches say: I'm not being an elephant! Just drop that idea right there. I shan't be an enormous, smelly beast, no matter how genius it is. I do not care that they cry and shit, either. Cry all you want, elephants; you'll never be my spirit animal. Sigh. It is all so complicated, this navel-gazing we must endure from selves! How does anyone survive it? Truly.

The end.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Game That Don't Make Sense

One time in recent memory, Ari was barfing. I'm his Preferred Vomit Receptacle. Meaning: He feels he cannot properly barf without me holding him and pressing my skin as completely against his as possible for the duration. For some reason that is probably extremely anti-feminist, I like this. Except, of course, when it is happening. Then, I think it's gross. But I like to brag to people about my status as the PVR. It is an honor. Truly. It pretty much requires that I catch the disease, and then we barf and refuse to eat in synchronicity, and poor B, who has a stomach of steel, has two babies to deal with.

It was at a time like this, when Ari began to enjoy games and conversations that make no sense. It's difficult to confuse me; I'm actually pretty sharp. So I have to hand it to him. If I can't make sense of this stuff, no one can. But, just in case--here are some examples:

Exhibit A
Scene: the bathroom. Everyone is naked, to prevent clothing from being barfed on.
Ari: (spinning a ball on a string and paddle around in circles) Mommy! Waiw's (aka where's) the ball?
Self: (pointing) There.
Ari: (giggling, because this is so much fun) No. Waiw's the ball? 
Self: Bunny, I just told you! It's right there.
Ari: (giggling more) No, mommy. Waiw's the ball? Be pesific! (aka specific)
Self: Look. I just told you where it is. Whaddya want? Latitudinal coordinates or some shit?
Ari: No, thank you. Just tell me waiw the ball is!
Self: Is this a trick question? Does it even have an answer?? The ball. Is in. The bathroom. With us. Attached to a string, which is attached to a paddle, which is in your hand!
Ari: (calmly, and still giggling) Mommy, waiw's the ball?
Self: If you don't shut up, I'm going to throw the ball in the toilet and flush, buddy.
Ari: (singing) Waiw, oh, waiw has my little ball gone?
Self: Oh, my god. I hate this game.
Ari suddenly barfs, missing toilet and hitting me.

Exhibit B
Scene: Car on the way home from school.
Ari: Mommy, I can't dwive.
Self: I know, bunny. It's okay. 
Ari: But, how wiw (aka will) I learn?
Self: When you're 16, you'll take a class.
Ari: But I can't dwive! How wiw I be able to dwive? I can't even wead, so how wiw I know the speed limit?
Self: (being drawn into the five-year-old logic) Well, you can read numbers. The speed limit is a number. (Pause. Then, an afterthought!) Oh, but! When you are 16 you will be able to read.
Ari: I wiw?
Self: Yes. I am fairly certain. I'm a reading teacher. I can tell these things.
Ari: (suspiciously) Okay. If you say so. (Pause) But, Mommy! I don't know waiw the go button is, and I don't know waiw the stop button is, and I can't see over the steewing wheel!
Self: Yes, I know, sweetie. This is why five-year-olds don't drive.
Ari: (panicking) How wiw I get to work? How wiw I get to Tarjay (aka Target)??
Self: Please try to calm down. I will take you until you're old enough to drive. That's what parents do. And you don't have a job, bunny.
Ari: But I wiw! Or how wiw I pay the biws (aka bills)??
Self: sigh.

Exhibit C
Scene: In line at the DMV, or similar.
Self: Ari, stop touching that.
Ari: (flailing arms and legs in hyperactive five-year-old manner) Why?
Self: Because you are going to knock that pole over, and then the ropes will fall down, and no one will know where to line up.
Ari: Okay. (runs to the trash can, embraces it
Self: Ari! Stop that!
Ari: Stop what? (puts both hands and face into the trash and pokes around in there)
Self: Stop touching the trash.
Ari: Why?
Self: Because it's dirty.
Ari: (playing dumb) Twash is dirty? (laughs uproariously)
Self: Ari.
Ari: (runs around with arms out like plane, in order to maximize damage) Vroooooom!
Self: Really? Am I being punked?
Ari: (still running around, knocking shit over) Yes, Mommy. Weally! What is "punked?"

Exhibit D
A story
Ari: This is a pwetend stowy. One night! Mommy told me not to go downstaiws, but somebody took me downstaiws and took me home. And he took me into a dawk, dawk, dawk cave waiw thaiw was lots of bats, and they scuwwied (aka scurried) out of the cave, and they went into a school bus. And they flew all awound the school bus and when they came out, they were somewaiw else! Thaiw was a weally big, scawy monstew, and they flew all awound him in a circle and made a tornado. And then the monstew fell down! Mommy, when does space end?

Exhibit E
Scene: The living room
Ari: (in plain view) Boo!
Self: . . .
Ari: Mommy, waiw you scared?
Self: Does it look like I'm scared?
Ari: Mommy!!!! I want you to be scared!
Self: It's good to have goals.
Ari: Be! Scared!
Self: Ari, you were in plain view. You have to hide to scare me.
Ari: (freaking out) NOOOOOOOOO! You Bad Mommy! Be scared!!
Self: (faking it, but a trained actor, so not badly done) Ah!
Ari: That wasn't good enough. Be scareder.
Self: (trembling quite believably) Help! Help! A five-year-old! How terrifying!
Ari throws fit.

But, honestly, if I act scared at such a non-scary thing, what am I teaching him? I mean. He should put more effort into it, right? He's five, not stupid.

At times like this I find it helpful to hear my Parenting Power Song. ("You're Gonna Miss This"-Trace Adkins, in case anyone wants to know.) I can't get through the third verse without tears streaming down my face, and Ari's always like, "WTF, Mommy?" But it makes me into a super parent--I can tolerate anything and still remain loving. I can play endless games that make no sense, get barfed on like a champ, be scared of whatever.
The end.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Things You Need to See, Swimming Class and Opera, Whooping Cough and Power Lines

This makes me so satisfied it almost causes a heterosexual moment.

But, of course, please don't stop, because you are cute, and because that is the trademark club lyric.

My fantasy football team logo, which I stole from somewhere and doctored.
Today at swimming class, I almost got homicidal. There was a man there who insisted on singing opera, in the original Italian, while watching his children swim. He had a very good voice, and he sang quietly, and I adore opera, so I don't know what my problem was. I have analyzed this from a number of perspectives, truly. Whatever the case, the dude would not stop. His wife was there, too, and she seemed strangely unaffected. Perhaps she was used to it. She was hot. Way too hot for this nimrod.

It got to the point that I was relieved to hear the sound of a shrieking toddler because it drowned out this dude's opera. I even wished more children would scream! I wanted Ryan Gosling to bloody him up. Maybe I hated the attention-grabbiness of it. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood. I don't know what bothered me so much, but I was dreadfully upset. I gave him a death glare for ten minutes at least, but he was immune. Too absorbed in his little opera land. His children came out of the pool, and he kissed them both (one infant, one toddler) and raved over what good swimmers* they were. You'd think I would've been grateful for this little intermission because, of course, he couldn't talk and sing opera at the same time. Instead I was even further nauseated by his gross display. I wondered if Mary Poppins would come. I considered being mean to Ari when he came out of the pool just to balance things out. I didn't--calm down.

But! Dear world, Please do not sing opera at swimming class. Also, could you leave my pal, Ev, alone already? K, thanks.
Love, me.

Ev's car is under there somewhere.
Now, I shall tell the story of Ev. He and his toddler had RSV, and they went to the doctor where they were diagnosed (additionally!) with pertussis, and Ev's wife, who was away, also has both of these diseases at the same time. The CDC locked them all down, saying that because they'd all been vaccinated it was a "mild" case, which means they'll only cough for "two months." Also, Ev's wife is pregnant. They can't even go to the grocery store, but they couldn't anyway because, as it happens, a power-line and a tree fell on their car. Both! Is that really necessary? That's like the tree + power-line version of RSV + whooping cough! Oh, and of course--they have no power. I said to Ev, "Dude. You really need to repent and fast on Yom Kippur or something because god is pissed!" Not that I believe in god or anything, but you know like--just in case. 

Then I woke up the next morning, which was Rosh Hashanah, so Ari and I were home from school, and rushed out to Minute Clinic to get flu shots. They were out of the five-year-old dose, so I just got mine. I was so scared of diseases I almost cried. I said to the nurse, "Look, can't you just give him something? Some other shot?" I mean: Aren't they all the same? Do the viruses know the difference? They don't even have brains. And, yes, normally I know that's not how it works. But in this weak moment, I considered bribing the woman to give him whatever. Meanwhile, I got a TDAP (whooping cough) booster, even though I couldn't remember if I needed one.

I don't know whether it was the TDAP or the flu shot, but at about 9:00 pm I suddenly felt terrible. I was so uncomfortable I couldn't sleep or read or chat or anything. I stumbled to the bathroom to get some Tylenol for my entire aching body, and on the way back, I grabbed the thermometer. Luckily, it was a temple thingy because I was in no state to deal. My fever was only 100.3, which did not seem at all proportionate to the degree of agony I was feeling. I gotta say I was disappointed. I swallowed my Tylenol, and in 20 minutes I felt better enough to sleep, which I did, until the fever came back at 5:00 am, when I was too discombobulated to think of taking more drugs. I managed to doze until about 8:00, when I heard Ari leaving his room to go downstairs and watch cartoons on the iPad.

This is his new thing on weekends--and again school was closed for Rosh, so was weekendish. He gets his own breakfast (i.e. we put it out for him the night before) and lets us sleep until 9:00. It is wonderful.

I got up and managed to put some Tylenol in my pocket and crawl downstairs. It had been like 19 hours since the shots. Surely, this could not be! It could not be that I was almost dying, crawling around on the floor whispering "agua" with my shallow breaths, over some vaccines from 19 hours earlier. Perhaps I was dying of an actual disease! It is not so uncommon! 

Once I decided this I felt better. Well, not better, exactly--I still felt like I'd been hit by a truck. I mean, if I had an actual disease instead of just a reaction to a vaccine then I might still be dying, but at least I'm not a pansy.

The end.

*They could not--neither one of them--swim.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Summer Wine Groove #5

Song: "Last Request," Paolo Nutini 2006 
Wine: Desiderio Jeio Colmei Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2008

Make sure you get the 2008. I'm not sure why all these Vivino bitches give it three stars, but trust me: They are mistaken. I'm not even sure you can get this wine for less than $20, and it's pretty hard to find. Still it's here on my Summer Wine Groove because it is that good. 

I've loved this song, hard, for seven years. Paolo Nutini isn't an old man, though he sounds like it, and he's more Irish than Italian. He was 19 when this single was released. He had help with it, but I have reason to believe (research, people -- I don't know him) he wrote the lyrics himself. His live impact is undeniable. I love how at the end of this version, he seems to not know where he is. When I was a drama major, we all fought for that feeling. We acted more to transport ourselves than any audience, when we were doing it right. Acting is the best way to lose yourself in a story. But I feel sad that Nutini had to live this story so young. 

"I realize all about your lies, but I'm no wiser than the that fool I was before." Yo. I hope she did it with him one more time. I would have. I mean: look.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Shit my students write:

"I am crazy, and I know it."
"I understand people are not in your life forever."
"I understand it's hard for adults."
"I cry when I think of the sheer number of mosquitos on this planet."
"I am secretive and understanding."
"I dream about plum trees trapping me inside."
"I worry about the many possible apocalyptic scenarios."
"I am technical and rigid."
"I understand the migration of birds."
"I am diligent and responsible."
"I try to be strong and courageous."
"I am humble and obedient."
"I pretend to like vegetables."
"I worry that I'll get old."
"I worry about being embarrassed."
"I dream about dreaming about dreaming."
"I wonder why I read so many books."
"I cry because the ocean is so dirty."
"I say you can learn a lot from tv."
"I wonder if there's a cure for the bitterness cancer leaves behind."
"I see dreams buried deep in darkness."
"I pretend characters become part of me."
"I understand that I am small."
"I try growing strong in my weakness."
"I feel free when I'm alone."
"I understand friendships may be hard."
"I dream of out-living my death."
"I try not to argue with ignorant people."
"I hope that my youth will not end."
"I want more parakeets."
"I wonder why stories sound so fake."
"I pretend not to be annoyed when I am."
"I say that time and money are cruel."
"I want to be known."
"I want to be seen."
"I want people to know who I am."

Monday, September 2, 2013

Knock, Knock

Ari: Knock, knock.
Self: Who's there?
Ari: Light-up diaper
Self: Light-up diaper who?
Ari: Baby man
Self: Light-up diaper baby man?
Ari: Yes
Self: (laughing) Okay.
Ari: What are you laughing at, Mommy? Light-up diaper or baby man?
Self: I'm laughing at you.

Ari: Mommy, knock, knock!
Self: Shush, sweetie, I'm working.
Ari: Mommy! Knock! Freaking! Knock!!
Self: Okay, okay--who's there?
Ari: Mommy, I wanna jump in the toilet
Self: Mommy, I wanna jump in the toilet who?
Ari laughs hysterically.

Ari: Knock, knock
Self: Who's there?
Ari: Wiggly bug poopies
Self: Wiggly bug poopies who?
Ari: Don't you wish you were a wiggly bug poopy?
Self: Not particularly.
Ari laughs so hard he falls over and knocks down the box of ten thousand Legos, which spill everywhere and somehow even get into the (wait for it) toilet even though the bathroom is on a different floor.
Self: (sighing) Maybe so, actually. Must be nice to have no responsibilities.

Ari: Knock, knock
Self: Who's there?
Ari: Knocky knocky
Self: Knocky knocky who?
Ari: Knocky knocky wants to fire the computer and sit in the toilet and put the computer in the toilet.
Self: Sometimes I feel just the same.

The end.