But no Amelia Earhart

Time for the annual costume report from the school Halloween party. Since I never have an trick-or-treaters at the condo, I feel safe in reporting the tally this early. The best costume I saw all day was a little kid waiting with his mom at the grocery deli counter. Dang! He was Payne Stewart! That would have tickled my parents. I got so excited I bought some braunschweiger.


Back in the preschool classroom:

  • Race car driver
  • Black cat
  • Sock hop poodle skirt
  • Cheerleader
  • Supermans/Supermen and other superheroes
  • Ninja
  • Mermaid
  • Buckingham Palace guard
  • Bumblebee, ladybug, and butterflies
  • A "preeshus" peacock
  • Thomas the Tank Engine
  • Minnie Mouse
  • Penelope, no not Odysseus' wife. Some character from a kid movie with striped pants.
The elementary students have to dress as "real people not necessarily alive" and be prepared to explain their person. There was a major paradigm shift this year. There are always ballerinas, pop stars, professional athletes, and kids who dress as their parents. We met Yuri Gagarin, poet Shel Silverstein, an OB/GYN, and "Soul Surfer" Bethany Hamilton*, but no Amelia Earhart. The Dalai Lama stopped by.

* Not related to surfer Laird Hamilton, just FYI.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Teeny Tiny Woman in a Poodle Skirt

Picked up two felt leaf-shaped placemats and two sets of felt leaf coasters while waiting for my prescriptions to be filled. Maybe a cog would jog into my brain for a Halloween costume. Got a couple tacky table decorations, too. The line was too long at the pharmacy so I took another stroll for a bottle of orange RIT dye. With enough RIT and hot glue I will be queen of the world someday.

But first we had to complete our teeny tiny pumpkin house art projects. The kids really got into this, jumpstarted by the little pumpkin house I carved with windows of different shapes. I thought I'd found the perfect carving pumpkin, as it had so very little slimy goo inside.

Stilt house with white bird

A toad was invited to the pumpkin house party.

A Dilbert-esque spider

I carved the pumpkin Sunday afternoon, taught the class Tuesday morning, and by Wednesday noon the pumpkin was full of white filaments of mold. The kids thought they were lace curtains in the windows. By Thursday morning it had disintegrated into a blob. Shortest lifespan I've ever encountered for a jack-o-lantern, but at least it didn't ooze into my kitchen cabinets!

 A 4 1/2 year old drew hinges on a door!
We came in peace for all mousekind.
Creaky squeaky staircase
Yellow submarine
Mid-Century Mouse Modern
Fiendish 24 Hour fitness center
Do squirrels work out? 

Just pondering a Gold's Gym inside a pumpkin while standing in the pharmacy checkout line next to all those giant jars of  Whey Body Protein Powder I couldn't help but remember Mark Twain aka Hal Holbrook telling the story "Who's got my golden arm?" If you can't remember Twain's essay about how to tell a humorous story you can find it here, and it might be the high point of your day.

I'd really wanted to be the Pale Green Pants for Halloween. That would have justified my misguided twelve dollar purchase of scary clearance expanding Amanda jeans. I struggle to zip them in the early morning, but by lunchtime they are riding below my hips. And me without my sagger boxers!

RIT on a probably priceless vintage petticoat

Raccoon plus tacky

Fall fairy leaf bling

The felt leaves are glued on the golden RIT petticoat. So are the pine cones, tacky berries, parachute cut-outs, ribbons, beads, and a few critters--raccoon, squirrel, hedgehog, ducks, monarch butterfly, turtle, spider. I'm set to be a fall flower fairy. I'll wear my mother's gold acorn earrings since I'm clearly nuts, and Ms. Janie's ginkgo pin for luck.

Suggest your caption

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Sixties personality matrix

John Paul George Ringo

You've taken those personality tests in team-building leadership empowerment workshops, plus the make-up wardrobe perfect purse quizzes in teen and women's magazines. You've done Myers Briggs and True Colors. You know if you have a banana, pear, apple, or hourglass figure.

Were you Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, Lulu, or Cher?  Did you imagine writing in a chilly garret, or playing Old Mr. Laurence's piano? On gray, wet Mondays do you hum "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", "Rainy Days and Mondays", Michel Legrand's theme song from "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg", or "Riders On the Storm"?  Just asking.

Four girls born in 1955 living within six houses in happy suburbia.We each seemed to understand our place in the hierarchy. We all read Little Women, and we all bought Beatles granny glasses at Kresge's.

Rain, I don't mind. Shine, the weather's fine.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Whites in Night satin

Never reaching the end, that would be the day of the school Open House Night.  So very long and occasionally moody.  One of my college dorm roommates named Helen  played her Moody Blues album, "Days of Future Passed" so so so many times with that annoying poem at the end of "Nights in White Satin" haunted my waking and sleeping mind.

My other college dorm roommate named Helen never went to class, never left the room, and lived on popcorn.  Not healthy. She ate all my Triscuits, too.

What were the chances of having two roommates named Helen? According to the Social Security Administration, Helen was the 76th most popular name for girls in the 1950s, with about fifty thousand  pink blankies. Nancy was the ninth in popularity (not quite Miss Congeniality) with 286,000 pink rattles.

Open House Night went pretty well. No one was named Helen. It helped to take a walk on the Spring Creek Trail and photograph moths feeding on a white wildflower/weed. I'm too tired to search for the name of the white flowers or to ID the moths. Their wings beat so fast they were like dull brown hummingbirds.

Did the Helens turn out dull and brown? Did their hearts and wings beat fast?


© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Fore and aft

I want to be ready for when my exasperated daughters-in-law finally put me in a home. They will be completely justified in this action, I just hope it isn't next week. I still have all of my teeth and a few of my wits!

When the nurse and the social worker do the in-take interview they will ask me to count down from one hundred by sevens and to say the alphabet backward. That's why I'm making this cheat sheet to start preparing.

You could photocopy it, fold it down the center, and send it through the laminator. Add a festive tassel, and it could be a nice holiday gift for the AARP-agers on your Christmas list.

I'm so blessed to have two daughters-in-law with loads of common sense, great senses of humor, extreme tolerance and patience. I never expected to feel this powerful bond, this love and gratitude, and such enormous respect. Who knew a Grinch heart could grow two more sizes, and then more for a grandson?

And as for having all my teeth, don't make me eat that pureed stuff! Not the applesauce, not the pumpkin, not the pudding with ground up pills, absolutely no bananas, and especially not through a tube!

Cheery thoughts all. Why? Not remembering Howie's decline. I'm just sitting at the picnic table watching three to five year olds suck and squirt fruit purees from pouches. They've still got a Go-Gurt stashed away for afternoon snack-time.

If I were to scale K2, I maybe could gag down a fruit puree through a tube at base camp. Just like if I was so incontinent and used to the humiliation I could wear a Depends and grasp for the button to call the aide for a change. But I'm not.

Why are parents who have survived a toddler's teething sending tiny portions of fiberless squeezy tooth-rotting mush instead of packing green grapes, half a banana, or a peeled clementine in their preschooler's lunchbox? And now the food companies want adults to schlurp meals too???? Are we just consumer sheep? Are we still middle-schoolers squirting ketchup packets and Cheez Whiz down our gullets to impress acne-blooming table-mates?

Many tout themselves as organic, 100% fruit and with no added sugars — and while that may be true, they're not quite as deserving of their health halo as they seem, says Mark S. Wolff, DDS, PhD, of the New York University College of Dentistry. Gerber's organic apple puree has 11 grams of sugar — "a massive amount for what comes to a very tiny serving," Wolff says. "Because it doesn't come with the fiber from the whole apple, what you're actually getting comes really distilled down as sugars, a little bit of other stuff, and that's all."Unless you're vigilant about rinsing and brushing afterward, that sugar can linger on your child's teeth and contribute to tooth decay, Wolff says.

Fresh fruit is delicious and inexpensive in season.

Chewing is good. Texture is a treat. Biting is useful, just not of other people.

Wielding utensils is excellent for eye-hand coordination development.

Daughters-in-law are golden.

You gotta be kidding!  Twelve grams of sugar in a 3.2 oz. pouch of GoGoSqueeze natural applesauce?

It has been a long day. Winged monkeys are silhouetted when I close my eyes. I clicked my ruby slippers, but I 'm not in the home. I'm not even in assisted living! There's no place like....

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder

Peter Peter Pumpkin-Eater

Why couldn't Peter keep his wife?

As a child I loved the alliteration and the little red-haired girl in the pumpkin. Then I grew up and got all righteous and offended about husbands keeping wives locked up in pumpkins.

This Halloween season I'm seeing it in a new light. Maybe Peter had the eye-burning pumpkin farts and his little red-haired wife banished him from their pumpkin house.

Bulldogs and pumpkins and gas, oh my!  I don't know if feeding dogs canned pumpkin puree really aids digestion or prevents constipation and diarrhea. My son says his English bulldog puppy has ghastly ghostly toxic pumpkin gas. Otherwise, she's a very nice puppy and smart as a whip.

After I carved this little house for today's art class I gave the composting worms some pumpkin. Sure hope they don't get gassy! It could get difficult to live together in this little crooked house.

Mr. Short Stack was getting sweet potatoes out of the kitchen cupboard when we had our Sunday Skype. I was flooded with memories of my sons finding baking  potatoes, sometimes throwing them, or pretend cooking them in the pots and pans. Vague memories, too, of a story about a Sweet Patootie Doll in my childhood. The book by Mary Calhoun and illustrated by Roger Duvoisin was published in 1957, but I wonder if it appeared first in Humpty Dumpty Magazine.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Black coffee at the all-night truck stop

What's the matter with parents these days? Dang, they are so stressed. Still, I think they've lost sight of the long term goal. Their experience of parenting is "All Joy and No Fun".

Jennifer Senior's book, All Joy and No Fun : The Paradox of Modern Parenting comes out in January. It expands on her New York Magazine cover story from July 4, 2010.

Inhale aroma of burned down coffee carafe seasoned with diesel fuel. Stare the fried egg eyeball to eyeball. Get honest.

Parenting is moments of transcendent joy occasionally encountered in terrain of incredible tedium and stress. Parenting can destroy a marriage that already has cracks and crevices.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder

Cigarette ziggurat muskrat celery redskin bears

Time to expose another questionable treasure from the big black trunk. Tonight we are in Washington, D.C. between December 1943 and March 1944. Dad was twenty years old, in the Army, and attending the "Army Specialized Training Program : General Basic Course" at Georgetown University. It was big time bright lights big city for a kid from a town of a thousand people in Nebraska.

The football program seems equally insulting to bears and Native Americans. How far have we come in seventy years?

ziggurat (n.) Look up ziggurat at Dictionary.com
1858, from Assyrian ziqquratu "height, pinnacle," from zaqaru "to be high."

cigarette (n.) Look up cigarette at Dictionary.com
1835, American English, from French cigarette (by 1824), diminutive of cigare "cigar" (18c.), from Spanish cigarro (see cigar). 

celery (n.) Look up celery at Dictionary.com
1660s, from French cĂ©leri (17c., originally sceleri d'Italie), said by French sources to be from Italian (Lombard dialect) seleri (singular selero), from Late Latin selinon, from Greek selinon "parsley," of uncertain origin.
[O]ne day, in a weak and hungry moment, my roommate and I succumbed to a bit of larceny. A greengrocer's truck had parked down the street and was left unattended. We grabbed the first crate we could off the back. It turned out to be celery. For two days we ate nothing but celery and used up more calories chewing than we realized in energy. "Damn it," I said to my roommate, "What're we going to do? We can't starve." "That's funny," he replied. "I thought we could." [Chuck Jones, "Chuck Amuck," 1989]

muskrat (n.) Look up muskrat at Dictionary.com
also musk-rat, 1610s, alteration (by association with musk and rat) of musquash, from Algonquian (probably Powhatan) muscascus, literally "it is red," so called for its colorings. From cognate Abenaki muskwessucomes variant form musquash (1620s).

Red was bad news for muskrats, too.

redskin (n.) Look up redskin at Dictionary.com
"American Indian," 1690s, from red (adj.1) + skin (n.). Red as the skin color of Native Americans is from 1580s; red man is from 1580s. Cf. red cent.

Redskins (from Forbes) Link
"When it comes to showing that a trademark is disparaging,the plaintiffs must meet a two-part test:  (1) the likely meaning of the mark and (2) if that meaning refers to an identifiable group, that the meaning is disparaging to a substantial composite of that group."

The bear went over the mountain and all that he could see was a really dysfunctional Congress and NFL players with brain injuries.

Because one preschool girl has become the center of a cult and does all the assigning of roles and turns for her blind followers, I've had to recall choosing rhymes.  One potato two potato, and eeny meany miny mo without disparaging labels. Cigarette ziggurat muskrat bear sounds like a choosing rhyme. Who will be IT?  O-U-T spells out goes she!
Bonus Question:  How much celery could a Chuck Amuck chew?

Back in August I posted advice from AARP about regrowing romaine from the end of the head. Several attempts led to gooey, unsightly veggie material that became food for the composting worms. Tried again with celery this week, and the results have been more aesthetically pleasing. I liked how the celery began to look like a step pyramid or ziggurat.  Then it sprouted a  new little stalk, like tiny palm trees on an island just big enough for one shipwrecked sailor. And it is just the right season for making newspaper cornstalks!

Enough rambling. Time to get out of my PJs and face the day.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Guyku, GEICO, let's call the whole thing off!

skin of my teeth
nick of time
final notice
hanging by a thread
down to the wire
eleventh hour
not a moment to spare
cutting it close
typing two carbons footnotes required
ball about to drop
a gecko's sticky toes
haiku's on first?

And yes, the car insurance payment is due. Printing out the liability proof while my sticky toes grasp the window screen.

Excited about a zen reptile discovery in my incorporating-poetry-into-art-class search! Check out Guyku : A Year of Haiku for Boys, by Bob Raczka; illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. It is almost as fun for girls as for guys, and extra chuckles for MOBOs (mothers of boys only). These are my favorites:  

With the ember end
Of my long marshmallow stick,
I draw on the dark.

Hey, who turned off all
The crickets?  I’m not ready
For summer to end.

Winter must be here.
Every time I open my
Mouth, a cloud comes out.

The website www.GuykuHaiku.com has projects, activities, and free stuff for teachers:

Haiku is not an activity.  
Haiku is a way of seeing the world.

Guyku are haiku,
always in the present tense.
Like these instructions.

 © 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


LIFE as we knew it

Setting Dad's "war relics" aside for this evening, although they seem to be hanging around my shoulders and my dreams. Maybe it is just the continuing gray drizzle, but it feels heavier.

Tonight I am tackling the trunk's contents related to the assassination of President Kennedy fifty years ago. I worry that if I recycle these Lincoln Evening Journal newspapers, the LIFE magazine, and the Omaha World Herald clippings the Kardashians will have won. Our society is so shallow not because we are isolated, but because we are inundated. We put on our goggles, shut out peripheral vision, flutter kick, and just gaze on the Rainbow Fish's pearly bubbles.

I envied the Eastridge Elementary students with the bright yellow raincoats. Mine was clear plastic and had a weird smell that made me hope for a drought. We walked home for lunch that November day, and in my suspect memory we had Campbell's Beef with Barley soup before we heard the news.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder