C's bookshelf: read

The Peculiar
Maggot Moon
The City and the City
The Road
A Certain Slant of Light
The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer's Craft
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
Brown Girl in the Ring
Well Wished
The Innkeeper's Song
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art
American Indian Myths and Legends
The Left Hand of Darkness
The Return of the King
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers

C S Peterson's favorite books »

Thursday, March 31, 2011

On walking from the gym to my car at dawn

Dawn washed pearl grey
We have finally settled into spring
A robin’s lilting song


Wow!  What a wonderful thing this slice of life challenge has been!  I began with great trepidation, thinking “How am I going to fit in time to write every day?  I’m such a slow writer and I have no time as it is! And who would want to read anything I write anyway?”  But with encouragement from my friend, Linda, who showed me how to set up a blog, I started.  And now it’s finished!  And  I  am going to miss this community of writers and reading the daily snapshot of life on our planet that we create together.  What an antidote to the news you all have been; what a revelation, what a joy and a wonder it has been to read what you have written. Thank you!  Thank you!

 I think now I have a writing habit – and I will still sit here, in the pearl grey dawn of the mornings, writing.  I have new hope - maybe I will finish that novel! :-) Linda tells me that there is a Tuesday slice of life through the year, so we can wave at each other once a week.  I hope to see you all there!

And since today is the first day of poetry month, I would like to share one of my favorite poems:

By Tony Hoagland

I feel as if we opened a book about great ocean voyages
And found ourselves on a great ocean voyage:
Sailing through December, around the horn of Christmas
and into the January Sea, and sailing on and on

in a novel without a moral but one in which
all the characters who died in the middle chapters
make the sunsets near the book's end more beautiful.

and someone is hanging a lantern from the stern,
and someone else says, "I'm only sorry
that I forgot my blue parka; It's turning cold."

Sunset like a burning wagon train
Sunrise like a dish of cantaloupe
Clouds like two armies clashing in the sky;
Icebergs and tropical storms,
That's the kind of thing that happens on our ocean voyage —

And in one of the chapters I was blinded by love
And in another, anger made us sick like swallowed glass
& I lay in my bunk and slept for so long,

I forgot about the ocean,
Which all the time was going by, right there, outside my cabin window.

And the sides of the ship were green as money,
and the water made a sound like memory when we sailed.
Then it was summer. Under the constellation of the swan,
under the constellation of the horse.

At night we consoled ourselves
By discussing the meaning of homesickness.
But there was no home to go home to.
There was no getting around the ocean.
We had to go on finding out the story
                                                by pushing into it —

The sea was no longer a metaphor.
The book was no longer a book.
That was the plot.
That was our marvelous punishment.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Overactive Imagination

An homáge to Harold Monro and my Grandmother, Ruth

Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?
                                    I am eight years old living between
                                    Manhattan and mountains
Green glass, goblin.  Why do you stare at them?
                                    By all appearance an ordinary
                                    schoolgirl but I frighten my little friends
                                    ‘cause I know
Give them me.
                                    How to find real fairies in the garden
                                    flowers, how to find signs proving the
                                    frost witch has touched the maple leaves
                                    My Grandmother reads me poems
                                    while I draw or comb my fingers through
Give them me. Give them me.
                                    My secret treasure box containing frosted
                                    bits of sea glass, green and blue, broken
                                    rhinestones and nuggets of gold and quartz
                                    my grandfather dug from the mountain’s heart                                            
                                    Any small thing catches my eye –
                                    this could be it: the strange nickel that grants
                                    wishes, or the pebble from space that is really a
                                    telephone to the next galaxy, but no
Than I will howl all night in the reeds,
Lie in the mud and howl for them.
                                    I build goblins into the murky reeds of a drainage
                                    ditch and frighten myself while I search for
                                    young dragons                                                                     
Goblin, why do you love them so?
                                    I find a crack in the rocks by the trail and believe it
                                    a door into another world.  Isn’t that how the stories
                                    always start?
They are better than stars or water,
Better than voices of winds that sing,
Better than any man’s fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.
                                    How can this compare to reruns of Leave it to
                                    Beaver? Or Mayberry? My friends running home
                                    to canned laughter and TV trays
Hush, I stole them out of the moon.
                                    I’ll trade these any day for a journey to the moon,
                                    fishing with Winken Blinken and Nod, with
                                    Captain Kirk and Bilbo Baggins
Give me your beads, I want them.
                                    My Grandmother reads me poems,
                                    I hunger for them
                                    Why do you plague me with grammar and spelling
I will howl in the deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.
                                    My Grandmother reads me poems
Give them me.  Give them.
                                    Why do you burden me with
                                    the five-paragraph essay
                                    My Grandmother reads me poems

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

April Ice

Another three minute poem:

On the pre-dawn drive to the gym I determine not to complain
Friday is April but ice crackles and I walk with duck like care
Ah! It will melt by noon and I won’t have to water the yard!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pirate Lightning

            We took our four kiddos to a truly amazing exhibit about the pirate ship Whydah.  My youngest son, who is seven, awoke this morning, dressed himself in his pirate costume (a bit small – it was Halloween from two years ago) and fed himself, all before the rest of us even knew the sun was up.  He woke his oldest sister, face painting kit in hand, asking her to paint a mustache, beard and gold earring on him – “quick, ‘cause we’re leaving any minute!”

            The exhibit exceeded every expectation.  We tied knots, walked through a life size model of the ship, raised the pirate flag, looked at real cannon and REAL pirate treasure, last touched by REAL pirates, whose names we now knew.  There were costumed interpreters as well: a period pirate with attitude and a proper Boston matron.  After talking with them about Boston in 1717 the matron asked my sons about where they lived.  The boys then spent a full fifteen minutes trying to explain the wonders of modern technology to the matron.  My ten-year-old son tried explaining electricity:
            “It’s like lightning, traveling along wires.  And we hold the wires up in the air on big wooden poles.”
            “Heavens above!” cried the Matron, “That sounds terribly dangerous!”
            My seven year old walked away shaking his head in wonder, “I guess they really didn’t have cars or electricity back then,” he said.
            There was a healthy dose of serious history as well.  The Whydah had left Britain as a merchant marine with money and goods used to buy slaves in Africa.  From Africa it went to the Caribbean to trade slaves for sugar and tobacco.  Then back to Britain to sell the new world goods and start the circle all over again.  But then pirates captured her!  We found that pirate ships were run as a democracy, albeit a violent one, with men of all colors and cultures elected to positions of authority by their peers.  British navel vessels at the time were strictly hierarchical based on class; the lower classes usually treated like dirt. 
            We got to the room where we saw the ship capsize in a fateful storm and sink to its 300-year resting place.  My seven year old sat next to me on a bench.  The light was blue, dim and flickering; we might well have been sitting quietly at the bottom of the sea.
            “Mom,” he said, “I think that the pirates actually got all their money from stealing.”
            “Yup,” I answered.
            “Stealing is not a very good thing to do.”
            “You’re right,” I said.
            “But the other guys were selling people to be slaves.”
            “Yup,” I answered again.
            “That’s not a very good thing to do either.”
            “You’re certainly right about that,” I said.
            He sat silently for a minute, then turned and looked at me.  His face was so solemn I felt my heart twinge.
            “Mom, now I’m not sure who were the good guys.”

Sunday, March 27, 2011

And After They'd Killed the Dragon...

It is spring break and, inspired by the fact that I have found time to write my slice each day, I have decided to commit an hour a day to writing for the week.  This morning it turned into an hour and a half, more if you count this slice writing now.  I am writing a book and trying hard to ignore all the reasons shouting in my head that I shouldn’t bother.  It is becoming a secret indulgence.  I get so excited about the story; I have the plot all mapped out and have written most of my favorite bits a few times over.  But now there are these parts that I approach with dread.  How do I get my characters from important fun bit number one to important fun bit number two.  They are a bunch of heros on a quest, but sometimes there just seems to be a lot of hiking involved between monsters and storms.  Well today I found out that my characters really like just hanging out with each other and they are just as much fun when they are not in a pinch.  Writing every day is teaching me to trust that when I sit down to write something will come out – I don’t have to have it all planned out ahead of time.  Oops – my youngest is throwing up in the bathroom – writing is done for today.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spring Break, first day

Well, spring is in the air.  And today is the first day of spring break, beautiful, awash in warm sunshine and potential.  My family is up and excited by the prospect of a week off.  What to do, what to do… I’ve gone swimming and three loads of laundry are in progress.  I noticed a lot of garden chores that need doing when I came home from swimming.  I am sitting upstairs trying to think what to write.  The kids are downstairs singing “I’m blue, da ba dee da ba dye da  ba dee da  ba dye, if I were green I would sigh da  ba dee  da  ba  dye!”  They have made blueberry pancakes and cleaned the kitchen.  I am overjoyed and grateful but now I don’t know where all those important papers are that were piled on the center island.  My husband has finally gotten into the shower and is singing, at the top of his lungs, little ditties of his own creation. I sit here still trying to think what to write for slice of life post.  My eldest daughter comes in and starts telling me a story of the complicated relationship shiftings in her high school.  I try not to let my eyes glaze over.  My second eldest daughter comes in to tell me we are out of toothpaste.  I tell her to start a list.  The boys are in the backyard now screaming with glee and chasing wild bunnies in the bushes.  Perhaps I will quietly close the door and take a nap.

Friday, March 25, 2011

14 Cows for America

This Thursday and Friday are conferences here at our school.  The parent’s organization has set up a book fair in the lobby of the school and I got caught by a book as I walked through this morning.  It was a deceptively sweet looking picture book with a slightly kooky title: 15 Cows for America.  I walked past the table and saw that our admissions director was weeping as she read it.  So of course I picked up one of the copies.  It was a straightforward story, told in clear, simple prose.  A young Masi man returns home after studying medicine in the United States.  The events of 9/11 are in recent past and the young man tells the Masi what happened.  They are moved and make a gift to the people of the United States.  The line at the end of the book brought tears to my eyes:

“Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded.
Nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”
-from 14 cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy and Wilson Kimeli Naiyomh

We are so connected to each other, even without the Internet, here on our violent blue jewel.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Looking through Hubble in 3D

Three Three-line Three-Minute Poems:

Romantic inspirations twinkling above
Tight Embraces fusing elemental compounds
Weight increasing to an explosive iron nova

Dervish whirlpools in the swift dance of eons
Sucking stars into their crushing chocolate centers
Spread along the bubbled edges of sea foam

Chaos theory miracle of spontaneous appearance, or seeded, or created,
A mystery floating through nets of space and time
Encased in the violent beauty of our blue jewel

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Slice of Mild Insanity

There is something so cozy about being snuggled up in warm blankets and listening to the wind roar and howl around the house corners outside.  I sit in bed; my knees have a pillow underneath and Ziploc bags full of ice on top. As long as I ice the complaining bits right away after a run the muscles maintain only a low level grumpiness.  If I forget, it turns into flaming rebellion and outright refusal. I’m trying to run a marathon before I turn 50.  This is, I fully admit, a mild insanity brought on by a midlife crisis.  With my parents passing last year I was deluged by helpful reading material, dropped off by well meaning friends and hospice volunteers, about the grieving process.  Grief is, to say the least, not pleasant.  Death sucks.  But I was, despite literate preparation, blindsided by the same emotions I had experienced when I left home as a young adult.  As these were slamming away in my brain I started watching, on the Internet, a man my age, who had never run seriously, run 43 marathons in a row around the UK.  I thought, “If he can do that, I can at least run a mile!”  I was staying at my parent’s house, at 9000 feet.  I went outside, ran ten steps and had to spend twenty minutes catching my breath.  Now I’m up to ten miles, as long as I ice my knees.  So here I sit in bed, wind outside, cozily ignoring mortality and denying age.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Take Away

The Denver aquarium was crowded and loud today with families on spring break outings.  But here in Colorado, almost as far away from an ocean as it is possible to get in North America, four students and I sat for half an hour in dim light, knees pressed right up against the glass, and sketched sharks and sea turtles as the glided gracefully past us.  These large ancient creatures, so frightening and fascinating, swam circuits of their tank, oblivious to our existence, as far as I could tell. 

I’ve been hearing a new catch phrase in the air: “Take Away.” 
These kinds of things irritate me and I have heard this one a lot lately.  A docent at the aquarium said that the stocks of large fish in the world’s oceans have gone down to only ten percent of what they were fifty years ago.  It is true.  I just looked it up online.  The study was published in the journal Nature in May of 2003.  Maybe that is why “take away” irritates me so much.  It’s like a naïve punch line for the culture of heedless unsustainable consumption that I swim in, oblivious to the sources that sustain my existence, as far as they can tell.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


A friend of mine collects and sells antique ephemera.  She is from Austria.  I spent today sorting my antique ephemera, oh how it does pile up: my to do list from three years ago, a report card from the kindergarten class of my youngest, who is now eight, notice on an overdue electric bill – I think I paid it.  The lights are still on, at any rate.  My parents both passed away last year and I have boxes and boxes of ephemeral slips of paper they felt moved to keep.  All these little bits of writing: the bill for my father’s violin lessons when he was five, at the height of the depression, a Christmas card I made out of gilt paper when I was six – a nativity on the moon.  

It’s called ephemera I guess since it wasn’t meant to last.  All these little bits of writing; not even slices but glimpses of slices of a day, a time, a childhood that slipped away a moment ago when I was busy and not paying attention.  My Austrian friend grew up speaking a medieval dialect of German – way up in the mountains somewhere.  When she went to university, literature students would ask her to read ancient passages out loud to catch the sound of the past.  The dialect is all but gone now.  Spoken words, shimmering ephemerally, living and dying as they leave the speaker’s lips.  The writing, like an Egyptian sarcophagus, holds bones, shrink-wrapped with leathery skin, in a stab at immortality.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Dark Leprechauns

My first attempt at a book spine poem, this one entitled:

Dark Leprechauns

Just in case the picture is hard to read:

The bad beginning
Deep survival
Thinking in pictures
Where children sleep

Friday, March 18, 2011

Message in a Bottle Loose on the Digital Sea

I have discovered something!  There is a “stats” button on the blog dashboard.  It tells me something almost incomprehensible.  One hundred sixty people have read something I have written in the last eighteen days.  Amazing!  

Here I am, just overjoyed that I have been able to clear the space to write everyday, amazed and blessed to be part of this little community who read each other’s slices and then leave encouraging and thoughtful comments.  Here I am, just toodling along, writing bits of this or that daily snippet that strikes me as funny, interesting or beautiful. And I find I have visitors – from all over the United States! From China! From Mexico, Estonia and South Korea!  From the United Arab Emirates!  Is this possible?  

I thought I was passing notes to friends in class, but no.  I have been rolling up small notepapers and tapping them into bottles, sealing them with a dab of wax from my late night candle and setting them lose to float along in the great digital sea, where other sailors have picked them up and…read them?  Glanced at them?  Worked out the random English grammar?  Or heard a familiar voice with the sound of home?  Perhaps some are just machines looking for an unprotected site to spam, but I am so hopeful.  

Can it really be possible to reach across oceans and continents and converse about ordinary human moments as we hurtle through space together?

Bonjour!  你好!  Hola!  أها!  Tere!  안녕하세요!

20,000 Years of Fashion in One Day

The art museum was today, all day, with just an hour of Latin as an appetizer.  What a joy and privilege to be the guide on a whirlwind tour of western history, from Ancient Egypt to yesterday, all through fashion as seen in art.  In the car on the way there we chatted about what fashion was. 
            “It is what is cool.”
            “How do you find out what is cool?”
            “Sometimes when your friends have it.  Like when everyone came to school with silly bands last fall.”
            “How do they find out?”
            “Fashion shows!”
            “But who decides? Why do they decide?  Why do fashions change all the time?”
            “It's what kids find in the store that looks cool.”
            “Do you think if Mrs. Obama wore a certain style other people would like to dress like her?”
            “Hmm… Maybe, but I don’t think she wears silly bands.”

We chanced to meet a wonderful docent on the way in and told her our mission: to see how modern western high fashion looks back into history and across to world cultures to find inspiration and comment on the present.  She guided us to the perfect piece to start our quest.  It was a modern work, 1999, by an artist born in Taiwan, but who lives and works in Beijing. Alas I left the artist’s name written in my journal at school.  A tall female manga character in a sleek, space age, silver and blue body suit was the central character.  Her blue hair floated about her head like a halo, a video effect made her large eyes move ever so slightly.  She stood on a small field of bright green Astroturf, bordered on three sides by colorful cartoon flowers.  Behind this figure was the blurred architecture of a medieval nave. At her feet Twelfth century European saints, popes and bishops gazed up at the central figure.  Above them, rank on rank of angels rose, and all had golden halos glimmering and shimmering ever so slightly as they gazed adoringly at the Manga Madonna.  It was the perfect start! 

We moved through Egypt, Greece and Rome.  When we arrived in medieval Europe my students cried out in recognition as they saw the many depictions of the Madonna surrounded by ranks of adoring gilded angels.  We talked about beauty; watched as the ideal changed over the centuries.  The students were amazed at the extremes people went to in order to shape their bodies to fashion.  We tried on corsets and a bum roll we found in a discovery closet near paintings from Elizabethan England.  Marveled at the stiffness of children dressed as miniature adults.  Watched neoclassical style turn its head back towards Greece and Rome. Saw pastoral peasants relaxing in an idealized countryside.  And on up to modern silver body suits inspired by the first space walk. 

In the car on the ride home the students talked about fashion again as they searched for and found parallels between images from the last fourty years of Vogue and all the bits of history we had wandered through that day.
            “I wonder if two hundred years from now people will think our fashions are funny?”
            “I wonder why people try and change their bodies so much to be fashionable?”
            “What would fashion be like if it was just for normal body shapes?”
There was power in their discoveries today, and I hardly taught at all!  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Grading Math

Today I am grading and writing comments for the third quarter.  The grading is not so bad; it is objective for math, though, in my mind I do have heated conversations with my students as I mark their papers.  But the comments – this is the hardest writing that I do.  Each word has such weight: to encourage but not gloss over, to attempt to celebrate successes and yet to point a path to climb out of weaknesses or areas of confusion, with just the right amount of encouragement, to remind each student of responsibility and ownership, and then not to repeat myself.  In the end I hit the print button, ignoring the anxieties knocking about in the back of my brain.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wizards and Particle Physics

Today was a day for making connections.  I finally put the whole list of spring topics I will be designing field trips for into my spreadsheet.  It is like Christmas, opening up all these bits of science, history and art that our students want to study.  I love my job.

My own children have told me about a game that has become popular in the high school.  First one player picks two wildly unrelated topics, “carrots” and “World War I” for example.  The second player then looks up the first topic, “carrots” in this case, on Wikipedia.  Then, clicking on only the blue highlighted words in the wikipedia articles the second player creates a trail of links from the first topic to the second, trying to make it in as few moves as possible.  Then the first player comes up with two topics to challenge the first player.  The winner is the one who has linked between the two topics with the smallest number of moves.

I felt I was playing that game after a fashion as I made my topics list, noticing links and connections between the topics as I typed them in, musing about the possibilities for our adventures: One student wants to know all about Astronauts, one about Space Stations. Well these obviously connect, we will go to the museum and look at space suits and models of the ISS, and perhaps the student studying the Universe should come along.  Well the Universe, that topic connects to everything, doesn’t it!  

The Elements and Particle Physics they connect.  Oh!  I wish I could take them to a virtual reality interactive Periodic Table so we could walk around inside it and move the elemental atoms around, experimenting with how they stick together and pull apart.  Perhaps we should go to a Chemistry Magic Show.  Well that kind of trip would obviously connect with the student studying Wizards and Their Potions.  Didn’t Chemistry start as Alchemy after all? 

And then there are the children studying Italy, the Renaissance and Venice.  There is a walk through five cities of the Italian Renaissance at the Art Museum – we should go there together.  But the Wizard student and the Universe student should come too.  How could we miss living for a moment in the environment that gave birth to Western Science out of Magic and shifted our Western view of the Universe from ridged hierarchy to one where “Man is the Measure of All Things?” And the student writing a Fantasy Novel, shouldn’t she come as well, to Space and to the Renaissance, to meet the Tibetan monk and to see the Komodo Dragons at the zoo, then to sit with the child studying the Universe creating their new vision of a magical world?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Slice of Pi

Yesterday was Pi day, you know March 14 (3.14).  Well at our school we don’t have math on Mondays so we are celebrating today.  But today I am attuned to all things circular.  

Thinking about this relationship between the radius of each circle and its circumference enlarges the mystery of the world as I walk through it.  I am surrounded by infinity invisibly enclosed in every finite ring, ball, clock, orange, drawer pull…it is so common. An infinity that is common, concrete, touchable yet still invisible and unreachable, what a wonder.  I can even draw one with my pencil, doodle little circles and bubbles all over my planner.  And then my mind wanders to the circles I draw around myself, including and excluding.  Infinity becomes warm and confining at the same time.  I think about one of my favorite quotes:

            “Beware of the power of circles. 
             If you want to destroy something in this life, 
             be it a blemish or a human soul, all you
             need to do is surround it with thick walls.  
             It will dry up inside.”
                               - Elif Shafak

Monday, March 14, 2011


            The key to getting anything done is to trick myself into the habits of starting.  The key to getting out of bed and going to the gym is just doing it, without thinking about it. It’s trite but true!  If I set the alarm too early, with time enough to hit the snooze once or twice, then somewhere between the first and second hit I start rationalizing:
            “I could just skip today…” floats through my mind, “I could reset the alarm to forty-five minutes from now.  I’m not really snoozing anyway; I’m worrying.  And, if I reset the clock, then I can really go back to sleep and finish this dream.”
            I’m just holding on to the ragged edges of the dream as it unravels, like knitting, in my semi-conscious mind.
            “There was something about my grandfather explaining why there were five silver fish in the apple tree…no, no, it was my mother, and she was cleaning the fish – no wait, there was something urgent. Was there something I was supposed to remember to do today?” 
            The alarm goes off again, my husband’s hand flails across to my side of the bed, patting at the pillow and trying, in vain, to stop the noise.  I hit the snooze again. 
            “Now was that the second or the third snooze?  If it was the third snooze, then I might as well just sleep because there won’t be time to get enough of a work out to justify getting up.” 
            At this point if I turn on the light my body will switch to automatic; if the light stays off I’m sunk.
            If I do turn on the light, then all moves follow the groove of habit and I glide, choice-free, from bed to gym.  I pull on the sweats lying on the floor next to my side of the bed, my bags are already in the car, the drive is routine, I park always in the same spot. I’ve chosen what workout to do the night before as well. 
            When I’m about halfway done the beginnings of righteous pride begin to sprout.  By the time I hit the shower, they are in full bloom, “That was not bad at all, that little bit.”  I muse, as my soul sings paeans to the genius that engineered hot showers at the push of a button. “I feel pretty good actually!  If I had more time I’m sure I could have run at least two or three more miles.”
            I’m positively smug.  And by the time I’m walking out to the car the great snooze button struggle has shrunk to distant dreamlike insignificance – but in truth, that was the hardest part!  

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Spring into golf!

Happy William Willett day!  

We do this now for golf.  
That’s what started it, golf and after work amateur bug collecting.  
Finally pushed through because of the war effort for two world wars, but after the crisis it was golf that fought the repeal!  Oh, the backyard barbeque lobby, the 7-Eleven lobby and the French fry lobby all threw in their support.  
But in the end, as it was in the beginning, it was all for golf!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hoping for no events today

I am hoping for no events today
No world shaking
No consuming fires
I am hoping for the forty days of rain
And melting sliding mud floods
To drain back from whence they came
Cataclysms lengthen a horrible instant
Into an eternity of dreams
Repeating the video
In the back of my mind
But take time to process
To clean to bury
Time for the gentle turn of the equinox
To warm and chirp and echo laughter
From the playground down the street
I am hoping today
Just to see the buds swollen a wee bit more

Friday, March 11, 2011

What a day

I woke up dreaming about Godzilla.  Apparently my husband tried, unsuccessfully, to wake me and tell me about the earthquake when it happened.  He had been sitting up and talking with his sister on the phone to keep her company.  She was in Connecticut staying awake to keep the sump pump going – her ancient septic tank had burst with all the rain and melting snow.  All the way round, it was not such a good night.  My friend in Tokyo posted on facebook that she was O.K. but things were still shaking.  I took students to the space exhibit at the Nature and Science Museum.  The students researched their questions about mass and weight, the possibility of colonizing Mars, the life cycle of a star.  All the while in the background, projected on an enormous globe, were the progress of the shockwaves and resulting tsunamis from 2004 and a live feed of the earthquake news on the screen next to it.  Tonight is opening night for my younger daughter in HMS Pinafore and for my older daughter in Once Upon a Mattress.  So I took them out for chocolate afterwards. We all needed a bit of chocolate. What a day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I ate nothing but cookies today

I ate nothing but cookies today: Girl Scout thin mints.  I slept in ten minutes, so skipped breakfast and no time to make lunch.  I walked into our office and there they were, sitting on the bookshelf, minty chocolate, one sleeve already opened.  Now, I do keep very healthy cereal in my desk drawer for just such a time, but I’d overfilled my morning and didn’t have time to walk across to the cafeteria for the milk. “Just one thin mint to tide me over,” pop! Mmm, “one more perhaps,” pop!  And off to Latin class.  Then an anxious math student worried about today’s test, pop! Talk with another teacher about next year’s class configuration, pop! Pop! Oops, lunch meeting in three minutes – too late to run across to the cafeteria, pop! Pop! Pop!  I was having a little trouble focusing. I get nervous speaking in meetings under the best of circumstances, but all the important things got talked about and I managed to jot down some good pointers.  At one o’clock I had fifteen minutes till my appointment with a student who had missed the last two weeks of math class.  Just enough time to run out and buy a burrito.  Tonight I’m making lunch before I go to sleep and I’m giving up cookies for Lent!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Goose Eggs

Today I found out that one goose egg makes an omelet just the right size for one child and that the child will eat every bit of that omelet because they are so amazed that their omelet was made out of just one enormous egg and that they will then ask if I could possibly get hold of an ostrich egg so I could make Daddy an omelet of his very own out of just one egg too!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


When we moved from Connecticut to Colorado several years ago one of our children received a stuffed “Waldo” from the “Where’s Waldo” books.  It is a small, skinny doll, about a foot long and a very good likeness of the character.  He was packed in a random box and forgotten.  One morning, two years later, my oldest daughter ran into the kitchen screaming, “I found Waldo!”  Since then he has been lost and re-found many times in our increasingly cluttered house.  Our whole family participates in the cluttering.  My husband never passes a garage sale without finding some treasure.  Used furniture actually finds him.  He has helped friends in need furnish whole apartments with items from our basement. He also has a soft spot for old luggage. Of course I am at fault as well.  I have been known to bring home the occasional armload of truly amazing used books.  Neither my husband or I are very organized about housekeeping either.  Other stuff is more important, or becomes more important.  So, things do tend to pile up.  There is a perpetual pile of socks in front of the DVD player with the idea that when we watch a movie we can pair up some socks at the same time.  We always mean to, but the pile remains.  Most mornings at least half the family will dig for socks some time before breakfast.  We are friends with a many comedians, jugglers and street performers, so we have a lot of guests, which we enjoy very much.  When we have guests, the boy’s room turns into the guest room and we make up a bed for the boys in our big bedroom closet (it makes a great hide out J).  The pillows and blankets never quite all get put back and they have been accumulating in pile at the foot of our bed over the fall and winter.  Yesterday my husband, having some unnatural fit of spring-cleaning fever, cleared up the pile of spare pillows and blankets.  It took me a full five minutes to realize why our bedroom felt so unnaturally empty.  As I was falling asleep last night I couldn’t get comfortable with my pillow, perhaps my husband had switched it out for one of the ones in the pile?  It felt all lumpy.  I put my hand under the pillow and…there was Waldo!  I opened my husband’s sock drawer and put one sock on each of Waldo’s legs (the socks did not match) and closed the drawer.  This evening I came home and Waldo was sitting on my side of the bed, leaning back comfortably on my pillow reading one of his books.  Hmm…where should Waldo travel to next?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Key Cutting in the Matrix

I don’t know whom I’m teaching
But I know some of whom I’ve taught:
Several good parents, a community organizer,
one’s a thief in jail, one was shot.

There is a character in one of the Matrix movies that makes keys and sometimes that’s what I feel like I’m doing as a teacher, making keys to open doors. At our school students pick a topic they are passionate about to study in depth.  Their core teacher designs curriculum around their topic.  Then there are five of us who design field trips related to their topic where the students can do something hands on or interview an expert.  So, that’s straightforward – student has pointed out the door, I go to work on a key.

But today the five of us worked on a key important to us.  We are trying to intentionally diversify our contacts for field trips, especially the experts we ask to speak with our students.  It is a key and a door I don’t really want my students even to be conscious of.  I just want to walk them into a room that looks and sounds like the future I want, where no one bats an eye at an African-American physicist or a Latina astronaut.  It is an awkward key to make.  I’m working on becoming a better communicator but I’m always uncertain and the potential of offence scuttles around and works its way into my fluttering stomach.  Cutting this key is taking a lot of patience, trust and stumble tolerance.  But we have good allies, and today I am very hopeful.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Fire and Ice

Church – Daniel 8 – there’s some fire.
We don’t stay to chat long, just one quick coffee. 
Our kids went to church in their snow pants. 
They walk to the car, donuts in hand.
The skis are in the back.  We drive up to the mountain.
Gliding down the hill – there’s some ice.
For the last Sunday before lent, that will suffice.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday’s sweet delusion

Ah! Saturday!  To swim slowly up to quiet consciousness, no alarm clock, fully rested, the day spread out before us, unscheduled and pregnant with potential.  Warm husband, sleeping children, hmm… the possibilities. J And then think what we could accomplish in this empty day!  All those things we usually don’t have time for but live in the back of our minds – we could lounge together, go for a long walk, stand ‘round the piano and sing a few tunes, paint a mural, go swimming, go to a museum, read Midsummer Night’s Dream aloud and all take different parts.  We could finish the quilts, cook something fun, clean the kitchen, the garage, clean the whole house even, from top to bottom using only non-toxic organic homemade cleaning products.  We could wash all the laundry; go through all the papers that lie in piles here and there.  I could look online at colleges with my daughter.  I could help the boys clean their desks so they don’t have to do their homework on my bed. We could even finish doing the taxes.  And, of course, I could take some time and really write, 5000 words at least if I set my mind to it. We could do it all today!

I know, I know – the day will unwind itself into a dozen half knotted strings.  I lie in bed, drifting back to sleep.  The sun grows brighter and, as time washes over me in great lethargic waves, I relish my sweet delusion of an open day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

My son spent the afternoon in the principal’s office...

I have four children: two girls Prima, 17, Secunda 13, and two boys Tetro 10 and Quatro 7.  Quatro decided to sit in my lap while I wrote the daily blog.
             “Quatro, what happened today at school?”
            “It’s really hard to explain.” Quatro sighs deeply and looks at the computer screen, “What are those numbers that keep changing at the top of your screen?”
            “I don’t know.  Can you tell me what happened at school today?”
            “I said it is hard to explain.” Quatro sighs again, “Mom, can I play the math computer game on your computer.”
            “No, not until you tell me what happened today at school.”
            “Ugh! Mom, I TOLD you it is really hard to explain!  I don’t even know how to say it!”
            “O.K. – just tell me what happened first.  Did your day start out alright? Can you read what I wrote?”
            “I can’t seem to figure out that last word.”
            “I meant to write: all right.  So did your day start out well?”
            Quatro slides off my lap to go watch the movie trailer his dad is watching.  It is “The Fighter.”  Daddy will be watching it this evening after going to a jazz concert our friend's son-in-law is playing. The movie was recommended by a friend.  Quatro climbs back into my lap.
            “In P.E. I was with Emily and Makayla. Makayla accidentally hit Grace with an ice pack right here.” Quatro puts his left had over his left eyebrow.  “Makayla was going to return the ice packs and...”
            Daddy chimes in, “What were you craving from the grocery store my love?”
            “A Clementine Izzy,” I answer
            Quatro continues, “I said: and when Makayla gotten back to P.E. she had her necklace caught and it got broken, and it was very special”
            “The one you gave her?”
            “No but that one got broken when it got into the dryer.”
            “Then Makayla started crying and I was trying calm her down and when we got back to class Ms. Hannon said one of the teachers is a jewelry fixer.”
            “Um hm”
            “And maybe at Friday Fun Time we could go to the jewelry fixer teacher. But I forgot the teacher’s name.”
            “That’s O.K.”
            “And she stopped crying.” Quatro pauses, “That’s all I could tell you.  All the other ones are way too hard to explain.”
            Daddy chimes in again,“My Love, don’t close this window on my computer while I’m out; I’ve got a movie downloading.”
            “So, Quatro, what happened when you were sent to the office?”
            “UGH! Please…I don’t want to tell you that.  Mom, this is way to hard to explain!”
            “Well, what book was your group reading today?”
            “Arthur’s Eyes.”
            “Did you like that story?”
            “Not that much.”
            “Why didn’t you want to write answers to questions about the story?”
            “Ugh! I have no idea." Quatro thinks a moment, "Mom, you want to know what I wrote about?  I wrote about our tornado in Connecticut.  Now can I play a math game on your website on your computer?  Can I?  Mom, just answer me.”
            “Not yet.  I still want to know why you had to go to the office to finish your writing?”
            “If I only had one wife, I’d want her to be a lot like you!” Daddy says as he leaves for the jazz concert.
            “Mom, why’d you write that?”
            “That’s what Daddy said.”
            “Mom, don’t write that down!  Mom, just let me play a math game on your computer.”
            “I need you to tell me why you went to the office.”
            Quatro starts typing on my computer.‘’’’’  ‘’’’ “Mom, how do you make those little curvy things on the top?”
            “You push down the shift, and while you are holding it down you push the quote mark button, like this.”
            “”””””” “Oh.”
            “So why did you have to go to the office?”
            “I had to finish some work.”
            “Why did you have to do it in the office?”
            “I don’t know.” Quatro sighs, “I wanted to go home.”
            “Why did you want to go home?”
            “School was boring.  I wanted to go home.”  Quatro sits up on my lap, “Can I play a computer game now?”
            “First you have to write me something that is not boring.”
            Quatro writes: playing
            “Now can I play a computer game?”
            “First you have to write me two sentences that are not boring.”
            Quatro writes:   ruing a round playing gams with my bruthr
            “Wait,” Quatro says, “you forgot the e at the end!”
            “So did you.”
            Quatro rewrites: running around playing games with my brother
            “They still aren’t sentences, I don’ know who is running and who is playing.”
            Quatro writes: Quatro likes running around.  Quatro likes playing with his brother.
            “See, can squeeze the words in right there.  Now can I play?”
            “Did you eat dinner?”
            “We ate a lot of samples at Cosco.  I ate some meat," Quatro looks at me very seriously, "It was a lot of protein.”
            “But just for twenty minutes. O.K.?”
            “O.K. Mommy.”