Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why I Came to the USA

My students have been working on a big mural shaped like an American flag, made up of their writings about why they came to live in the United States.  It's not finished yet, but we made some progress on the stripes today. 
Are you a transplant in the United States?  Why did YOU come here? 

Monday, February 25, 2013

HIgh Point, Low Point

Low Point

Tearing up with my friend and colleague BK, whose non-profit English language school went out of business last month.  We met for coffee and to talk about how stressful it is to try to keep these types of  operations running.

High Point

The scene in Die Hard With a Vengeance when John McClane rumps out of the car, the car hits a truck, flies up in the air and takes out a low-hovering helicopter.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

In Small Ways

In small ways, today was like no other day.

We are getting ready for our November trip down the Grand Canyon already.  Yesterday, we had a phone interview with a couple from Colorado who would like to join us:  Arthur and Mari.  Mari has been down the Canyon twelve times; Arthur is a very experienced boatman.

Today, we got out Chuck's "new" raft that he bought last fall.  We have it spread out on the floor of the loft for repairs.

 You can see the problem, now that the boat is partially inflated:  one of the baffles in the floor is blown, causing a fat sausage on one side, instead of a tidy floor.  Chuck will cut is open all the way down the length, glue the baffle back together, then patch his incision. 
 I baked an Italian Cream Cake in the wood cook stove.

I felt rather irritated at Chuck's ex-girlfriend Marianne and her boyfriend, Jim.  They are also our next-door neighbors, unfortunately.  I do think it is unfair that they are able to berm me in; then break the steering column on the plow van so it no longer runs; then escape situation because of insufficient evidence; then use their top-of-the-line snow-blower to clear their parking area and their part of the road, while we stay buried. 

On the other hand, it is a lot of extra work for them to clear their part of the road.  More effort than it was when Chuck was plowing their section of road for them.  I do know that they shoveled until their snow-shovel broke: Chuck and I found it in the dumpster.  This is a bonus for us, because in the midst of all the fighting and vehicle vandalism last week, our snow shovel was run over and the handle was crushed.  Chuck retrieved Marianne's shovel from the dumpster and removed its handle, took it home and put it on our snow shovel, and we are happier now.  Still, today's low point was thinking about how mean they have been when we were trying to be helpful to them. 

Today's high point was centered around Tobi, our pet rabbit.  Nate is being a very good owner, happy to clean Tobi's cage and providing lots of snuggles.  This is Nate's first pet ever.  Si was allergic to dogs and cats, and poured cold water on pet ownership in general.  When he heard that Chuck and I had bought a rabbit for Nate, he voiced his concerns to the children:
1.  Had I considered the cost of pet ownership?  Was I sure that I could afford to feed and house a rabbit?
2.  Who would care for the rabbit when Nate wasn't there?
3.  Had everyone had a tetanus shot!? 
During the day, Tobi likes to hide; but in the evenings, he is more playful and expressive.  Tonight he came out from behind the wood stove to play make-the-fireplace-poker-go-"clink" with Nate.

Chuck has come to bed and is teasing me, wanting to know what I'm writing about.  He is sitting next to me now, reading his magazine, "Good Old Boat".  Time for bed. 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Son's Freakin' Potty Mouth

Nathan has a filthy mouth, and it's driving me up the fucking wall crazy!

Also, since taking Fifth Grade maturation class, he has a new view of himself as a sexual being.  Which of course, in playground vernacular is expressed as, "The girls are crazy about me, Mom.  I'm the hottest boy in my class.  I'm a ten-year-old LOVE MAN!

I kid you not.  He said that, then kissed his own biceps.

It's the swearing that I'm fed up with, though.  

I had to sit him down and tell him that every time I hear the words "shit", "damn" or "fuck", I am going to take his laptop away.  For one hour the first time, then two hours, etc... until he learns.  "Shit", "damn" or "fuck", alone or in combination with "mother" or "god", will bring down the wrath of mom and the loss of the laptop. 

"But, I can still say, 'Goll dangit', right?"

Yes, that's OK.

What about "flippin'"?  "Freakin'"?  "Sugar?"

[Sigh] I suppose.  I'm not a fan of those fake swear words, but they aren't worth fighting over.

He pondered this for a few minutes, and then brightened. 

"Well, at least I can still say 'cunt'." 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Are There Any Songs About Wednesday Nights?

One of my students, Ricardo, approached me with a question tonight.  I swear:  "Teacher, I need talk you."  will be the title of my autobiography, should I ever write one.

"Teacher, help me singing this song.  You know.  The song beginning, 'Wednesday night...'".

"Wednesday night?  A song about Wednesday night?"

"Yes.  It start, 'Wednesday night...'"

"Ricardo, I don't know a song about Wednesday night.  In fact, [I begin to laugh at the realization] I don't think there are any songs about Wednesday night in English!  We NEVER sing about Wednesdays!"

"Sure!  Listen!

Wednesday night has come/
And the land is dark/
Is the moon...

What next, Teacher?"


Yeah, Ricardo, I know that song

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bermed In

 It's been a loooong snowy winter in Utah.  Dirty, murky snow is piled up at the edges of the parking lots; heaped behind the mail boxes.  Drooping wearily against the glass of the French doors. 

Once again, as I did many years ago, I'm living in a little community with a private road, so we have to keep it cleared ourselves.  This is accomplished by several people who have plow-blades on their vehicles, with varying levels of success and grace.  Chuck is one of them, with his piece-of-shit white van.  Lately, it's getting harder.  No places left to push the snow, the parking areas getting a little smaller after each snowfall. 

Compared to my life in the "old place", much farther up in the mountains with a much more difficult, shared parking area, this is no big deal.  In the old place, I would sometimes spend the better part of a day digging out a parking space after a 6-8 foot (Really!  No kidding!) snowfall, only to get home after work and find some other person had parked in it.  Sometimes I would put a little sign in the parking place that would say polite and dainty things like, "I shovelled all day to make this parking place.  I don't get home from work until 10 PM.  I would appreciate it so much of you would respect my hard work, blah, blah blah..."  I would return home to find the note torn to pieces in the snow.  Then I would daintily yell,  "FUCK!  FUCK, FUCK, FUCK!" 

So, nothing I see here looks like a breach of common courtesy.  These spoiled folks down near the bottom of the mountain do not know the meaning of snow!  Chuck spent a couple of hours on Monday plowing as best he could and assured me at bedtime that I would have no problem making the early morning pilgrimage to drop off the kids at school. 

It was cold when I got up at 6 AM.  Figuring I would encounter no one, I dressed, but then put my fluffy bathrobe back on over my clothes, put my coat on over all that, and trekked out to the mailbox in search of the morning paper.  Naturally, since I was dressed like some sort of weird combination of Russian Cossack and old-fashioned, fleece robed parish priest, I encountered several people on their way to work. Smile and wave, Kate.  Just smile and wave.  I digress, though.  The more important discovery was a big-ass pile of snow right in the middle of the road. It was a lot of snow, frozen into a massive lump.  Huh.  I stared stupidly at it.  I looked all around.  Maybe it walked here?  I looked up.  Did it drop from the sky?  From some massive tree limb far above?  I don't know about you, but I don't like to face early morning challenges while in my bathrobe in the snow.  

I approached Chuck with this mystery.  He rolled sleepily out of bed and peered out the window.  Mystery solved.  Remember that our little road begins at our house, then makes its way past the cabin in which Chuck's ex-girlfriend, Marianne, resides.  After that, it wends its way past a few other places and out to a bigger road.  He cleared their section of road when he cleared ours, but he had left a 12 inch berm behind their cars.  He had to: there was no where else to push it; and his hydraulics are broken.  He couldn't properly groom their parking area for this reason. This was their way of getting even.  Oh, blah.  I prefer vengeful neighbors on mornings when I don't have to have my daughter at her middle school by 7:30 AM.  I got out there and got shoveling.  It was solid.  It needed to be chopped before it could be moved.  Soon, I was chipping madly, while Sara shoveled and Nate reminded us that it was getting "later!  Mom, you are going to be soooooo late!" 

I finally went for it. Got stuck.  Had to run back up to the house and ask Chuck to come and push me out.  I wondered if Marianne and her boyfriend, Jim, were watching from the house and laughing at us.  Well, at least I was no longer wearing my fluffy bathrobe.

Well, so much for my little adventure.  I missed all the good stuff that came later.  Why am I never in the right place when the brawl breaks out?  Here's all the stuff I missed!
1.  When Chuck saw Jim and mentioned to him that his shoveling techniques left a few things to be desired.
2.  When Jim got up in Chuck's face and told him that his existence left a few things to be desired.
3.  When both parties deemed it highly desirable to yell.  A lot.  About the other one's undesirability. 
4.  And more!  Police!  Unauthorized persons (well one person - Jim) climbing into the van!  Broken steering column!  Neighborly assistance to tow the van out of the way!  Lots of gossip, lots of ridicule.   

Besides entertaining the neighborhood, it also made for excellent office cackling, especially when Chuck showed up with flowers later in the day.

We are without a plow, now. If there is any more snow, we will have to park out on the section of the road where the county plows run.  I don't care.  At the old place, I had to do that all the time.  I suspect Marianne won't enjoy it, though.  Want to borrow a sled, Marianne?  You'll need to to haul your groceries.  And your dirty laundry. Of course, everybody has already seen it.