Friday, January 25, 2013

Cleaning Up My (Linguistic) Act

A few times in the past couple of days, there have been discussions involving swearing. Patrick Madrid, on Tuesday, hosted an episode of "Right Here, Right Now" where he called out people who use profanity in social media (or anywhere, really).  Then, Katharine Grubb, the 10Minute Writer, brought up the topic in the context of her ongoing series on chivalry.

I'm not one to use the F-bomb, but I do have a couple of other "choice" words that could stand to be eradicated from my vocabulary. Especially the whole "taking the Lord's name in vain" thing.

It's been on my mind.

So this morning I was on my way to school, same as any other Friday morning. My timing must have been a bit off, because I got stuck behind a school bus that I don't usually see. As I drove through the neighborhood, that bus kept turning down the same streets I was about to use.

I hate following school buses, especially the ones that go to the early-elementary school, because they take for-ev-er to go anyplace, and kids' moms stand there chatting with the bus driver while the little STOP sign sticks out from the side of the bus and the red lights blink, so I can't pass.

School buses just don't drive with the same sense of urgency I do.

Once again, that bus turned the same way I was about to go.  "Jesus Christ!" I yelled.

Then I thought better of it, figured I'd turn it into a prayer. "Have mercy on us, and on the whole world."

Immediately, the bus made yet another turn--down a street that was not on my route.


Friday, January 18, 2013

Score One for the Big Box

I shop at "big box" stores as much as anyone else. Around here, there doesn't seem to be much of a choice. We don't have a Main Street in town; instead, it's strip malls along a state highway.

But when we (infrequently) host parties, we've always gone to Party Land to get our supplies. Because of the store's location, it's close but inconvenient--less than 1/2 a mile to get there but three times that to get home. It's worth the trip, though; it's a local business and we'd rather purchase plates, cups and tablecloths there than at (insert name of big box store here).

As the kids have gotten older, birthday parties have gone by the wayside, so except for graduations, we haven't needed to visit the party store. I go there every February to stock up on colorful tablecloths for the Cub Scouts' Blue and Gold Dinner.

This year I did that shopping a little early, because Party Land won't be here in February. Just before Christmas, Party City opened directly across the street, in a strip mall owned by the same landlord. It's got the advantage of a location with much more foot traffic.

I told Little Brother when we first saw the signs for Party City that Party Land would close within a year. Unfortunately, it only took a month.

So yesterday I headed over to Party Land before it closes its doors for good--to pick up blue and gold tablecloths for next month's Cub Scout dinner.

As I told TheDad this morning, I felt really crummy doing so. And I don't quite understand why. I needed to get those tablecloths anyway. I was going to buy them at Party Land anyway. I just wasn't going to buy them until February. Yet when I walked into that store yesterday, it was crowded with five times more customers than I'd normally see in the middle of a school day. People were loading up carts with all kinds of things, squealing over going-out-of-business bargains.

All I bought was a dozen or so blue and gold tablecloths. That didn't stop me from feeling rotten as I stood in line behind people with loaded-up shopping carts.

I'm glad that this will be the last year I do a Blue and Gold Dinner. I don't think I could stomach getting those tablecloths at the competition.

And now my town will have one more empty storefront as one more family business owned by a local guy for over 25 years will close its doors.

That doesn't really feel like progress to me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Future Green Builder Of America (and maybe a deacon too)

Little Brother spent most of the car ride to and from tonight's play rehearsal to discuss his future aspirations. He wants to play professional soccer and then become a deacon--if it doesn't take too long to prepare for Holy Orders. He also wants to be a doctor. (I didn't bother to burst his bubble by telling him that it's probably quicker to prepare for the diaconate than for a career in medicine.)

As we passed a new neighborhood-under-construction, he mentioned that one of his classmates might move there. "The builders took all the trees down," he observed. "What do you think they did with them? Will they use those trees to build the houses?"

"They don't build houses that way anymore," I told him. "I don't know what they do with the trees; they might grind them up right there, or they might take them someplace else to use for firewood or something. But the builder is going to get his materials from a lumberyard that has everything already processed."

"That's a bad way to build houses," he commented. "When I grow up and become a Builder of Houses, I'm going to use the trees I cut down to make part of the houses. And if I have any leftovers, I'll give them away so someone can make notebooks."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Library Tales

I was the substitute for the librarian/computer teacher at Little Brother's school today. I'm there every Friday anyway as a volunteer helper, so I know the routine--but it is different when you're on your own.

Someday I want to bring my resume along, because there's a pre-K aide who seems to think I'm generally clueless and inexperienced. It's true that I haven't taught 4-year-olds before, but I am a certified teacher who has taught grades 1, 2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10 and college. Maybe I'm misinterpreting her remarks that I was "brave" to go it alone today. Brave or not, I'm qualified to do the job.

The day kicked off with a very pleasant second-grade class. They like to tattle, but that's their only issue. I don't like tattling so I don't reward it, and that drives them crazy. I love this bunch of kids, though, and we had a good time and enjoyed a story after they checked out their books.

Normally when the librarian brings a class into the computer room I stay in the library to shelve books, make bookmarks or organize displays. When I'm substituting, those tasks wait until the kids are back in their classrooms, and I'm in the computer room with them as they work on projects. I enjoy helping them with their research, though their keyword skills can make me crazy. The 5th grade is studying explorers and using Pages to make brochures with biographical information. Some of them needed assistance, like the boy who found that googling "Cartier" didn't produce the results he was looking for. "Does 'Cartier' mean something else?" he wondered.

One of his classmates, meanwhile, was mystified by her explorer's cause of death. She wanted to know the definition of "dysentery." I asked if she really wanted to know, because it was kind of gross, but she insisted that she wanted to I told her. She was horrified. "People died from that?"

"Well, in the 18th century, yes," I said. "It's not like they could just take some Immodium. They didn't have all the medicines we have now."

I should apologize right here and now to the 5th-grade teacher for my "TMI" description of this disease. I'm kind of curious about how it will play in the final report.

I expected the eighth grade to give me more trouble than they did, after I wore a Notre Dame shirt to school last week and the boys all yelled "Roll Tide!" I was prepared to eat crow over Monday's game, but a couple of kids made quick remarks and then that was over with. They were chatty, but busy, and our biggest problem was that no one could figure out how to print a Powerpoint slide in "portrait" instead of "landscape." Finally I gave up and just told them to save their work until the librarian returns and can show them how.

After two 20-minute whirlwind classes with the 4-year-olds it was time for lunch duty, where I supervised the beverage table and then wandered around the cafeteria making sure kids ate their lunches. I called one 3rd-grader by name, which surprised his classmates who then quizzed me on the name of every kid in the class. I got them all except the new boy, and since I haven't seen these kids since June, I was pretty pleased with that.

Then I had half an hour to eat my own lunch before heading back to greet the kindergarten. Everyone checked out books, then we read a story. They enjoyed the story so much that they didn't even notice their teacher returning to pick them up.

The biggest wrinkle in the day came after all my classes were done, because the 4th graders came in to use the iPads. The secretary had given me the code to the locked cabinet, but there's a trick to opening that lock and I couldn't figure it out. I sent up a distress signal in the form of a text message to the librarian, who clued me in on what to do and the cabinet opened right up. And then I had the chance to kick off my shoes and go on Lysol Patrol in the computer room, wiping down tables, chairs, keyboards and mice. Oddly enough for this time of year, I didn't have to run Tissue Patrol all day--there was no visible snot. I used the cleaning time to listen to a podcast on my phone. Now the computer room and library are neat and clean and ready for the librarian to return on Monday.

And I am tired.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

I Played My Best for Him

I love Christmas carols--always have. If you ask me to choose my top 3, it's an easy choice:  "O Holy Night," "Silent Night," and "The Little Drummer Boy."

That last one hardly fits into the category of "traditional Christmas carols," but I can't help it. That song makes me cry every time--always has. I don't think I've ever been able to sing the line, "I played my best for him" without choking up.

The Little Drummer Boy gets it right. He brings his gift--not something that can be opened, but his talent--and he gives his best effort to honor the newborn King. As a musician, it's what I try to do, Sunday after Sunday. And I love that after the Little Drummer Boy offers his humble gift, Baby Jesus smiles at him.

Pass me a tissue, please.

Why would I choose bongo drums to illustrate this post? In art, the Little Drummer Boy is always pictured with a snare, sometimes slung around his neck, and drumsticks in his hands.

But my Little Drummer Boy (AKA Little Brother) has bongo drums. We sang "The Little Drummer Boy" on Tuesday at church and will do so again today. (It's not "orthodox;" it's not in the hymnal, but it's better theology than a bunch of what is in there.) Little Brother has learned to play the song on his drums. On Tuesday he knelt beside the guitarists and nailed that drum part, even meriting a thumbs-up from Bill, a former drummer who's very particular about how percussion is played.

I love that my kids have had the opportunity to offer their musical gifts in worship, to play their best--even when they're beginners musically. I teared up on Tuesday when my Little Drummer Boy played his best, right alongside me. And it's pretty much a given that I'll cry again today.