Colonel Mustard in the billiards room with the tp tube

crazy it's everywhere we expect little kids to know their way around it with no GPS no map but that only works if the grown-up driving the car says look out the window there's a white horse in the field beside the old red barn falling down and a car carrier truck going over the bridge your fork is by your napkin but the spoon is next to the knife
It cuts It's clear there's a hawk on the pole
how old are you why do you shake
right side out can you fix your sleeves I say almost as often as did you flush are you sure
inside outside beside upside down on its side
over under below above beneath atop ready to drop in time square
like a boat
a cannon
a cave trapped in
clear see-through transparent go-go dancers white crinkle patent boots Millie the Model comic books on the revolving rack in the sunny window corner of the Rexall Drug

Octagon stop on the way to rest assisted nursing
base foundation construction structure
engineered pickles milk bottle mayo lids
kids insist the catsup mustard syrup shampoo
lids are toilets those same kids never flush
put the seat up put the seat down
tube cylinder cube sphere over here
not just put this there or point and nudge
standing up down flat
that match just the same
carry water turn it over put it under in the dark no way out
turn it around do the hokey pokey that's what it's all about
Ranch dressing behind between in front grid mesh holes right next to look through glass
at the corner in the middle at the center near the edge right by my name
together apart in your lap numbers letters
whale's tail trampoline jumping bean
please and thank you count to ten hot glue hot cool how cool now wait
together apart again repeat
tall short skinny wide tiny big small same different heavy brother
what where how rectangle triangle square o'er the rockets red glare
ring circle round flat bumpy smooth
the biggest green thing you ever did see hole in the bottom of the sea
leaning against pointing toward onward and upward
Christian soldiers scoot up closer to the table so you don't get crumbs
past present tense don't talk with your mouth

Spatial vocabulary is essential, but most of the time we don't notice when we use it. Children need to hear adults using spatial terms early in their lives to gain thinking skills for future math, science, and technology work. Dr. Susan Levine and her research team at the University of Chicago videotaped caregivers interacting with children 14-46 months of age in normal activities. On average adults used 167 words related to spatial concepts during 13.5 hours of video-recording, but the range of terms used was from five to 525. Early exposure to spatial language builds a habit of observing the world increasing kids' attention to spatial relations. It builds the ability to visualize and transform a mental image of a shape, to mentally rotate shapes and build spatial analogies, to notice similarities and differences. Can you put the pretzel stick through the Cheerio?

Pruden, S. M., Levine, S. C. and Huttenlocher, J. (2011), Children’s spatial thinking: does talk about the spatial world matter?. Developmental Science, 14: 1417–1430. Research supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and an award from the National Science Foundation's Science of Learning Center program to the University of Chicago's Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

Exhibit A
Shredder bag busting and dusting the condo. These are a few of my favorite things.

Right! Just like plastic Easter grass, dry Christmas pine needles, and sequins from little girls' shoes. Impossible to ever really vacuum up no matter if I change the vacuum bag or not. I was wearing my very fuzzy I'm-home-now-and-I'm-not going-out-ever-again socks when the bag popped. The plastic and the fuzziness and the shreds were electric. Static electric! My feet looked like two porcupines roasting marshmallows.

Exhibit B
A gift that keeps on floating around the house. Three shreds under the dining chair. Five stuck to the bath mat. They keep on clinging on. Snow flakes that stay on my ... wimple?
Exhibit C
I still sing (softly to myself only), "Silver white wimples that melt into springs." Just thought the song was about nuns as a confused kid. The real lyric is about winters. I got to make a wimple once for the nurse in a production of "Romeo and Juliet".

Exhibit D
It's cold here. I shouldn't whine, but I will. Two sweaters. A shawl wrapped over my head and around my neck and shoulders, quite wimplesque. Just since I started writing this, more shreds have appeared on the carpet. Tea, a drink with Janet Bread. She yodeled up 'cause the goatherd's throat hurt. If it were strep she wouldn't get to go to the play with Grandma.

Exhibit E
Now wild geese fly with an app on their phone, forget the moon on their wings. These are a few of my favorite things.

wimple,  headdress worn by women over the head and around the neck, cheeks, and chin. From the late 12th until the beginning of the 14th century, it was worn extensively throughout medieval Europe, and it survived until recently as a head covering for women in religious orders. The wimple originally was adopted as a chin veil by Western women after the crusaders brought back from the Near East such fashions as the veil of the Muslim woman. The wimple, usually made of fine white linen or silk, framed the face and covered the neck and sometimes part of the bosom.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


If you want to hang out you gotta eat kale

Last week I made a huge crockpot full of kale soup. It was sooooo good. The only thing that would have made it better would be leaving out the kale.*

I was grateful for the soup, of course. Especially grateful that I soaked the kale in a big bowl of salt water until the worms floated to the surface. Mom taught me to always soak broccoli and cauliflower in salt water to force out the worms. Effective, yes. Appetizing, no.

Finding a monarch caterpillar on milkweed is groovy. Peace, man! And milkweed doesn't have a song for ear worms. Kale, on the other hand, has J.J.'s "Cocaine", a song that won't unstick from my head even in salted water:

If you want to hang out
You gotta take her out
If you want to get down
Down on the ground

After the soup, there was still half a head of kale in the fridge. Dang. So I made kale pesto. Kale pesto is half-way between rabbit food pellets and silage. You blanch the kale after you get rid of the worms, then drain and squeeze the liquid out in a towel. Lemon juice, olive oil, grated parmesan, a clove or two of garlic (go with one!!), and the kale in your food processor, and voila! Warm up some bagel chips.
The leftover kale pesto is still in the fridge in the morning just waiting to go in my school lunchbox. Driving to school Renee Montagne of NPR's "Morning Edition" is interviewing Sam Dagher of the Wall Street Journal about the situation in Syria:

DAGHER: It was just horrible. I mean to see some of these people who eventually came out - women who were carried on stretchers, others who could barely walk. I mean I met a woman who was 95 and she told me that kids were picking grass in order for her to eat. And then she broke down in tears. 

Trying to eat the garlicky kale concoction on celery sticks all I could think of was the 95 year old woman eating grass. We got a new rabbit for the preschool classroom. A bunny needs to eat lots of grass. It needs to be busy and curious, and to promote calm and peace in the preschool classroom. A bunny can do that. 

Maybe we should send bunnies to Syria. If not rabbits, then humanitarian kale and crockpots.

Marcia Brown's Stone Soup with Kale
*Make very small meatballs with ground Italian sausage and brown. Drain off grease. Put in crockpot with a box of lower sodium chicken broth; a peeled and diced potato; a can of diced tomatoes seasoned with oregano; a half bag of dry white northern beans; a half head of kale washed with veins (and worms) removed, chopped; a couple carrots peeled and chopped; several stalks of celery chopped; a quart or more of water; and a parmesan cheese rind. Most 'specially, O Best Beloved, do not forget the parmesan cheese rind. Cook it on HIGH until it wakes you up in the night, then on LOW for a day or so. Stones and kale optional.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder



Mirrorlike, the surface of Rowlett Creek was a study in blues and browns. Following the Caddo Trail above the creek, I was both disturbed and transfixed by a solitary floating Whataburger styrofoam drink cup. Just the two of us moving at the same pace. 

Around two more bends, the cup would meet the snarl of fallen trees and snagged litter that blocks most of the flow. My pace will slow with snarls and snags ahead, too.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


I spy with my little tiger eye

You must have mistaken me for a cat person. This confused cat has been hanging around my condo, sometimes yowling out front, other times staring me down from the back fence. What does it spy?

This shelf fungus on the knob of a fallen tree intrigues me as I climb over the log. What does the inside look like?

A macro photo viewed actual pixels size resembles the tiger's eye gemstones that intrigued me as a junior rockhound.

It would be a nice fairy tale if the chatoyant gemstone was actually formed by geologic eons of mushrooms grilled on the Weber, but that is not the case. Not even with teriyaki sauce!

The old big red dictionary says cha-toy-ant is from the French, and means having a changeable luster like the gleam of a cat's eye. Chat from the Latin cattus for yowling outside my window at three a.m.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Vacuum your brain, not your ear

Wake up an shake those darn cockroaches out of your ear! Set your priorities straight! Yes, there is something that should be done while the coffee is brewing during that long half hour after you take the darn thyroid pill.
Mr. Short Stack's Dirt Devil vac.
The first email of the day, the latest post from Jonathan Neal's intriguing "Living With Insects" blog, reports that using a vacuum cleaner is not the best method for getting a cockroach out of your ear. It seems cockroaches seek warm cracks and crevices when they aren't feeding, and your sleeping ear is just about perfect. "The doctor, no stranger to removing cockroaches from ears, remarked that was by far the largest one she had removed yet."

The second email is the New York Times headlines, and I can't resist the illustration for "Goodnight. Sleep Clean."  Inside the brain little janitors are sweeping and vacuuming the mental debris of the day. Otherwise your brain would resemble a fish tank with a broken filter. Great visual, if you could see it through the film of algae! The janitors and the working fish tank filter are, drumroll, sleep.

My brother had a tick in his ear once when we were kids. He also had a singing cricket in his cowboy boot when we were out trick-or-treating. I just had a moth fly up my bell-bottom jeans while I was driving.

Maybe the teeny tiny janitors in my brain will inspire me to do more housekeeping. I degreased the kitchen and removed the horror vacui accumulation of paper and magnets on the fridge. Went around knocking down cobwebs as big as hamsters.

On a sunshiny Sunday walk I found a praying mantis egg sack. Didn't mean for it to fall off the twig when I touched it, but since it did I brought it home. No, I didn't wake up with baby praying mantids in my ear. Thank you for your concern. Instead the egg sack went to school for show'n'tell. Tomorrow we will find a good spot for it on the playground. That's the sort of educational experience that makes us tick.

If you put a bug in someone's ear, you give him or her a reminder or suggestion relating to a future event.

If you put a flea in someone's ear it may mean you are planting a suspicion, or giving her a severe scolding.

If you find out what makes someone tick you have discovered what motivates him to behave a certain way.

A vacuum cleaner will not help if you wake up with a song stuck in your head. The earworm du jour:

Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter.

Who knows what the teeny janitor was sweeping away, but you can watch it here with Spanish subtitles! Hey Mr. Arnstein, here I am.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


The sun'll come out tomorrow

Trapped in a dense fog advisory, I become more worried for the future of our country and our species every darn day. Yup, I've got that old existential angst environmental acid rain blues again. Seems like nobody's seeing much, and talking about it even less.

Oregon is beautiful. The fog is romantic and atmospheric and so bassoony cello. Well, yes, that would be the first two days, but when does the sun reappear? Seventy-two hours in, I needed a SAD lamp.

Back in Texas I still need the SAD lamp. We've got a bad case of dense fog. We are having line time in the kindergarten class, describing the day.

It's Thursday. It's winter. It's 2014. It's January. It's number nine.

Dense fog advisory

Look out the window.  What can you say about the weather?

I don't know.

What can you see?

I don't know. Leaves are falling to the ground.

Well, yes, the leaves fell to the ground in the fall, but now the branches are bare. What can you see out the window?

It's leaves falling to the ground.


It's cold.

Okay. Is it before lunch or after lunch? Is it morning or afternoon? (It's a nightmare!)

It's leaves falling to the ground.

Did you have pizza for lunch?

I don't know.

It's freezing.

Is it really?  Can you look at the big thermometer on the tree outside the window?

The arrow is on the other side of the big white line. It is not freezing. It is cold.

You are right. Is it afternoon?

I don't know.

Is it a bright sunny purple dot sky? What can you see?

It is sunny.


It is purple.

Hmmmmm? Can we go to the playground?

It is raining.

It is wet.

It is muddy.

When are you going to read a book?

Whose woods are these
I think I know
His house is in the village though

(Susan Jeffers' illustrations are filled with surprise animals -- hares, owls, foxes, songbirds, weasels...)

What did you see in the book?

Sunny purple spots freezing. Robert Frost, he's the snowman, right?

The sun'll come out tomorrow, tomorrow, but things are looking mighty bleak. We have a crisis of curiosity, observation, vocabulary, and conversation. We are pretty darn SAD.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


The Tunnel of Doom

So glad the Big Square Punch called to me from the art closet, "Woooeeeoooweeeooo."

There was no real good reason why the Big Square Punch was needed for the paint mixing project. The Art Teacher Paint Fairy was already signed on to dance around adding tiny spoonfuls of white tempera paint to the mixing trays of thirty-two students.

The youngest students would be adding white to red to made, drumroll please, PINK! The oldest group would add white to blue to create radiating forms like flowers or snowflakes.

But what about the kindergarten kids in the middle? "Woooeeeoooweeeooo." All hope abandon ye who enter here.

It's time to enter the Tunnel of Doom with our guide. No, not Virgil. Fluffy the Paintbrush!

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


A patch of prairie Wheat Chex

Late last summer I first heard of a patch of sorta native prairie grass at my dear Oak Point Nature Preserve. The park will be the site of a live music festival called, of all things, "Suburbia Music Festival" next May. The city has given $625,000 in seed money for the event. Event promoters and prairie preservationists were suddenly going head-to-head over ten acres I could not find on a park trail map.

Now I know if I'm driving on Los Rios Boulevard and see this odd round relic, the patch of prairie is across the street. True, there's no place to park a car to gawk at the stalks of native plants. Through the cedar trees I can see the fire station across Los Rios to help me get oriented.

It's a nice patch of prairie on a hill with a long view in most directions. The city will surround most of it with a split-rail fence. I have it on good authority the city will add interpretive signage highlighting the land's history, the city's reclamation effort, and the prairie ecosystem. Recent signage additions in other parts of the preserve about Blackland prairie wildlife and the Austin Chalk formation are nicely done. Paved trail extension work was continuing when I took these photos December second just before the ice storm.

I have to hope my city that had the wisdom to create two nature preserves, one on either side of the city, will protect Oak Point through the music event. Plano has a successful annual hot air balloon festival, and should bring that expertise to managing the music festival. If the event offers a way to educate visitors about nature, terrific! My next concern is about how "green" this event can be with recycling, trash collection, and biodegradable serving containers at food vendor trucks. Can Plano apply aspects of its Learn 2 Live Green expo to the music festival?

The hawk wants to hear Robert Earl Keen, just saying.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Angler fish face

Mr. Short Stack is not pleased with the service at his high chair gourmet dining spot. He is pouting and showing us his angler fish jaw. He wants the banana slices before the beans and broccoli. He wants more sweet potato bites faster and faster please with or without bioluminescence!

Flight crew prepare for landing. We are descending  over Arlington, Texas on our approach to DFW airport. My carry-on items are properly stowed under the seat in front of me, and my tray table is locked in its upright position. My camera is not within reach as I witness this holly jolly winken blinken blitzen holiday sight.

Six Flags is lit for a night of Holiday In The Park, twinkling a chase along the roller coaster tracks. The Cowboys' domed stadium is a glowing pearlescent snow globe. It's beautiful from above, and absolutely as close as this No Crowds Please lady wants to be to either of these tourist destinations.

Our weather is riding a roller coaster. The chill wind howls and clouds race just hours after a shirtsleeves sunny walk at the nature preserve. The storm drain condo cat howls louder than the wind outside my front door. It is nobody's cat, but somebody got it shots and a collar recently.  The cat somehow senses my allergies and short fuse. I want an angler fish car.

Items may have shifted in the overhead bins. Heads may have been shifted over the break. Please use caution.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Measure twice, cut...

...to the chase?

Double your pleasure, double your commute?

Scrimp in haste, repent on the freeway?

Old saws:

*saw (n.2) Look up saw at Dictionary.com

"proverb, saying, maxim," Old English sagu "saying, discourse, speech, study, tradition, tale," from Proto-Germanic *saga-*sagon- (cf. Middle Low German, Middle Dutch sagezage, German Sage "legend, fable, saga, myth, tradition," Old Norse saga "story, tale, saga"), from PIE root *sek(w)- "to say, utter" (see say (v.)).

We won't say just what I uttered when I realized I'd forgotten to fill my coffee travel mug and turn off the cheapo Mr. Coffee before driving to work.

When my wonderful coffee dispenser went flopbot crackerdog and leaked all over the kitchen counter I was feeling seriously broke myself. So I purchased the least expensive twelve-cup Mr. Coffee  at WalMart. Geez, I berate myself just for shopping there.  How much worse can I feel?

Lots of time to ponder this in the traffic jam on 75N aka Central Expressway driving back home from work because I forgot to switch off Mr. Coffee.  Lost over an hour of pay to prevent the darn pot burning down, smelling up the condo, and setting the place on fire by the time I got off work this evening.

Yep, next time I'll spend the big bucks for the automatic shut-off model and consulPoor Richard's Small Appliance Almanack

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


The Coveted Nancy Awards for 2013

Piled on the reading to beat the ball drop in Times Square, plus spent some quality time in airport terminals lately. There were good late entries into the competition, and as usually happens I had to redefine the categories for the 2013 Coveted Nancy Awards.

For the Most Creative Book to Share with Your Favorite Child of Any Age:

For the Most Likely to Show Up in Your Dreams we have a tie between

  • Beetles, by Bernard Durin
  • Skulls, by Simon Winchester/Nick Mann
For Most Addictive Series in Audio Books
  • Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole books beat out
  • Hilary Mantel's Cromwell novels
In the category Way More Interesting than Dave Egger's Hologram for the King
  • Care of Wooden Floors, by Will Wiles
  • Greg Baxter's The Apartment
Entertaining Cookbook with lots of photos and pretty easy recipes:
  • This is a Cookbook:  Recipes for Real Life, by Max and Eli Sussman (two guys who like to cook)
Picture book most likely to inspire art class projects:
  • Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner/Christopher Silas Neal
Never be quite the same again nonfiction book:
  • The World Is a Carpet
Current issues fiction:
  • Tale for the Time Being 
  • Flight Behavior

[I am a failure in the poetry category, but I read more poems online in 2013, and none of them were bawdy limericks.]

Cornucopia of Fascinating Historical Fiction:

  • Elixir of Immortality
  • Girl You Left Behind
  • Light Between Oceans
  • Last Runaway

I always appreciate your reading suggestions. I check them out, but I don't always get them read!

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder


Sea foam and fish cakes

Christmas in Oregon offers alternatives to the traditional snowy white version. My first experience of sea foam drifts offered loud, crashing ocean waves and spouting jets of sea water.
We were on the Captain Cook Trail at Cape Perpetua Scenic Area south of Newport, Oregon in the Siuslaw National Forest. The contrast between the white foam and the jagged black volcanic rock was stunning.

A Cape Perpetua visitor unaccompanied by a toddler could do some philosophic contemplation about permanence and transience, creation and destruction, our little moment of time in geologic history. With a toddler that person might just sing the Opposites Song--black/white, soft/hard, wet/dry, loud/quiet...

When my mom used to make sea foam punch for birthday parties, the recipe was lime sherbet, ginger ale, and pineapple juice. She would make the shaped fish cake from the Baker's Coconut cookbook. My brother got all those pirate and fish theme parties mateys. Aarrgghh.

The recipe for real sea foam is more complex. You needs waves and wind and water, of course, plus salts, proteins, fats, and decaying organic matter from algae die-off. This is not Johnson's baby bubble bath! For some people and animals it can cause respiratory problems.

We watched a sea lion surfing around these rocks, but I didn't get it in the zoom photo.

The Spouting Horn is pretty impressive, and more frequent than Old Faithful. Pooooooofffffff!
It was time for a sustaining lunch of crab burgers, steamed clams, and fish and chips at the South Beach Fish Market.
You can read about this character-loaded joint on Michael Stern's Roadfood. The crab burger did not knock my socks off, but the toddler gobbled the steamed clams and played open/shut with the shells.

Opposites. Om.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder