Texas Turtle Day

World Turtle Day was a week ago, but we plodded slow and steady to the finish line Tuesday. One art student planted a Lone Star flag on her turtle log.

The background is our triangle rubbing/watercolor resist paper from last week. We added water reflections of clouds and trees, and then floating logs. The preschoolers liked a long line of turtles on a log. The elementary students cut loose, interpreting water, turtles, logs, reflections, lines, and clouds.

A bit of retracto-neck action with folded zigzag--age 8

Lots of reflected clouds--age 9

Three logs, three turtles--age 7

Big darn turtle in the C and O Canal last July

Big cloud reflections at the Heard wetlands

Baby red-eared slider at Oak Point this spring

The five year-olds were curious about World Turtle Day and why people need to help turtles. Keeping it simple I went with:
  • Because people sometimes throw bad things in water that makes turtles get tangled up or sick, like plastic or chemicals.
  • Because people sometimes find turtles and take them home, then let them go where they can't find the right food.
  • Because turtles are totally awesome and were living way before the dinosaurs.
So slowly and steadily wave your turtle flag. No rushing allowed. Here is an opportunity to participate in a citizen science turtle project.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Priority Do Not Bend Arms

Tomorrow will be the final day of the school where I've had the joy of teaching art for fourteen years. Our last art project was about turtles, but that post will have to wait for another day.

I asked the preschoolers who do not nap to draw a picture of themselves. In a dry-erase chalk talk I rambled through the development of figure drawing from toothpick stick figures to t-shirts and shorts. There was a detour through the Sixties and how WE ALL drew hair, lips, sleeves, and princesses in ye olde days of yore.

White board reenactment
This is when I happened to mention poofy sleeves to the preschoolers. Puff sleeves were the style for little girls for several decades. This should not be confused with the classic Puffy Shirt on Seinfeld. Also, this is absolutely, positively how you must draw lips. All princess dresses are colored magenta staying inside the lines.

It's always your birthday in your own mind if you are a preschooler. Every day is your day to wear the birthday-cake-with-candles hat.
And now the quick drawings by my students who can't keep from saying "poofy sleeves".


One last drawing that would be unsurprising as a primitive petroglyph except for the hat.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Catcher in the PQRye

I love my apartment. I love the balcony view of the swimming pool. I love the mallards swimming and barn swallows swooping. It's early still, so the shrieks and whoops of supervised kids are jolly! The pool is open.

I can still chuckle about the little boy whispering to his mother. She gestures him to the tall trash can. He pees behind the trash can, then jumps back into the pool.

It has been a week of bodily fluids at school. Poop. Pee. Barf. Rinse. Repeat. And now I worry about the summer ahead. Pool kids with less supervision. Kids playing Marco Polo. The pool out my rear window. Jimmy Stewart and I, just immobilized impotent lifeguards watching. Thank heaven there's no high dive.

"Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be.” 
― J.D. SalingerThe Catcher in the Rye

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Peace, Love, and Office Supplies

The totally groovy triangle post-it notes found on a nighttime Albertsons run blew all our little minds in art class Tuesday. It was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, I kid you not!

The self-adhesive on the little triangles kept the shapes from sliding during the texture rubbing process. Holding the paper in place while rubbing with a chunky crayon has always been a challenge for children. Here was a way to make it easier. We were sticking the post-its right on the table, setting the paper on top, then rubbing. We were going to San Francisco with flowers in our hair.

Whoa! One step more. Stick the post-its right on the back of the paper. Turn it over and do the rubbing. Reposition the post-its and do another rubbing. Create movement and controlled rubbings. Now what? Circle stickers, three-hole paper reinforcing circles, masking tape... Sugar magnolia, blossoms blooming! Paisley tie-dyed hot-air balloons lifting off at sunrise!

Have a Rub-In!

And by the way, you absolutely, positively have to see 20 Feet From Stardom ASAP! Yes you!

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Geese Police Espy Sasquatch

I spy with my little Care Bear eye something that is red and blinking on the Buick dashboard:


Boo, hiss, we do not like this! WE are not amused.

The dash warning light first came on after my Friday visit to Pigment School of the Arts, a very wonderful space. You just feel like you are floating in a pink bubble in the Pigment classroom. Alas, back outside the Buick is more red alert.

So, the Buick is in the shop. The biography of Red Cloud, The Heart of Everything That Is, is in the car. The book on cd by John Straley, The Big Both Ways is in the car.

Geese sneeze. All day students were wiping their drippy snoots on their shirts. It's


I have to thank my 365 Photo friend Richard for the idea of geese police.

  1. catch sight of.
    "she espied her daughter rounding the corner"
    synonyms:catch sight of,

    "he espied a niche up in the rocks"

My youngest son, formerly known as the Woolly Mammoth, has returned to civilization after camping in Shenandoah National Park. He promises to send photos of creatures he swears are black bears and not a pair of sasquatches, but there's no proof yet.

The bear went over the mountain to espy what he could espy. iˈspī/ with my little eye ObamaCare being a good thing for people in my demographic. So nice to have no out-of-pocket expense on a mammogram and annual.

A friend has returned from Barcelona after visiting the Benedictine Abbey on Montserrat. That mountain is sometimes called "la cuchador", meaning "the spork" unless Wikipedia is pulling our legs. And there for a sec our unreliable narrator espied a nacho up in the rocks.

I'm having trouble with singular/plural. Marc Trujillo's oil paintings remind me that when a child brings a single-serving plastic container of chips and dips, that product is called a "Lunchables". So what is the plural of "Lunchables"? Lunchabli?

And what about sasquatch? The plural is sasquatches according to Wikipedia, but then it gets worse. The plural of Bigfoot can be Bigfoot, Bigfeet, or Bigfoots.

Thanks to the 1946 Caldecott Medal winner, Miska and Maud Petersham's The Rooster Crows we have these wonderful rhymes stuck in our heads even when the coolant is low:

A chick in a car and the car won't go
That's the way to spell Chicago.

A knife and a fork and a bottle and a cork
That's the way to spell New York

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.
Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.
Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn't fuzzy, was he?

And thanks to church camp we have:

As one black bear backed up the butte,
The other black bear backed down.
They were only playing leapfrog.

Maybe my son is selling his sasquatch photos to a grocery check-out tabloid with geese police.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


A thing of Buick is a joy forever

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep 

Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.

Sadly, Keats never got to drive a Buick, an Olds, or a Plymouth. Dying at age twenty-five, he would have had difficulty even renting a car for a weekend road trip.

This beauty is a 1970 Buick Skylark GS Convertible.A shiny joy to look upon on my way into work this morning, it does not much resemble my old 1996 Buick Skylark From Hell except in the indomitable spirit department. Perhaps a '96 Buick Skylark bred with a 1961 Plymouth Sport Fury to win the Triple Crown ... and California Chrome was an obvious bet for all ladies of a sorta nearing sixty demographic. Our hair is not gray. We sport models have shiny chrome.

Neither Keats nor Beethoven wrote an "Ode to Buick" for flash mobs of the future. Alas.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


All in favor of feet, say aye!

Wikipedia image
No one noticed the snail hitchhiking into school on the cabbage leaves picked from the garden. It was a delightful snail, quite large, not easily frightened. We all got a good look, but of course, I'd forgotten my camera. What do snails eat? What are those antennae thingies? (They are tentacles with eyespots.)

"OOoooh, it's so cute!" To a Disney pink princess preschooler, many, many creatures are so cute! This was an opportunity for some natural science education. Turns out it led to some math ed and a great picture book, too.

One Is a Snail is a counting book by feet. A snail has one foot. You have two. A dog has four. Insects have six, spiders eight, and crabs ten if you count the claws.

This is an odd and even book. One is a snail. Two is a person. Three is a person AND a snail. Four is a dog. Five is a dog AND a snail. I'm starting to dream about this book!

"OOoooh, you are so old!" I am indeed five crabs + two dogs + one snail old. OR I am four crabs + three insects + one snail old. OR I am seven spiders + one person + a snail old. I could even be seven spiders + one human + one snail. Who knows? Some days are crabbier than others!

These days my feet are not so very stressed.

I love my Skechers bungee sneaker shoes.

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?

O that this too too solid flesh would melt.

Now is the winter of our discontent.

If music be the food of love, play on.

The trail is muddy and the creek is full.

Is it "Iamb walking in the woods," or "I am bwalking in the woods"?  Bwahahaha.

A good walk in the woods, a bad trip in the wood chips.

 Methinks a little sense would help a lot.

A fashion show the playground should not be. 

Kids need to run and skip injury free.

Iamb here to say saddle shoes were great for play.


Multi-family going green

Met with staff from the city commercial recycling division this afternoon and I am wowed by the progress in Plano.

Almost one third of the multi-family units in Plano have recycling services, or about fifty complexes.

Six more multi-family complexes get on board with recycling each year.

Each multi-family complex saves several hundred to several thousand dollars per year on waste services by adding a recycling program.

Nine years ago Plano had one apartment complex with recycling and added one condo complex. The progress has been through education and attraction, not by mandates. Multi-family parents want a clean, healthy planet for their children just as much as homeowners. Let's make it convenient for them to recycle.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder

Tap-dancing chocolate bunnies

Ladies and gents, step right up for the preschool funny bunny extravaganza!

Cirque de Bunnies

Picasso bunnies

Wooden bunnies from Crate and Barrel  =  inspiration.
Wood pieces for pattern. Trace edges. Photocopy on cardstock.

Running rabbit

Chocolate bunnies tap-dancing

Oh brother, where art thou?

 What does Oreo, the class bunny, need? The preschoolers can't wait to chime in:

  • A cage
  • A full water bottle
  • A food bowl
  • Lettuce, spinach, cabbage, mint, and radish leaves
  • Hay
  • Soft paper bedding
  • Stairs to climb down when he gets stuck on top of his cage
  • Tacos!*
  • A fabric mat on the wire when the cage door is open. It helps his feet, and keeps us from tripping on the cage door.
Smiley bunny

What materials do we need for this project?

  • Clear plastic boxes
  • Black Sharpies
  • White cardstock
  • Tissue, vellum and construction paper scraps
  • Washable colored markers
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Fat drinking straws or old marker lids
  • Squares cut from old finger paintings.
  • Rectangles 1"x3" brown butcher paper
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scotch tape
  • Good kid scissors

Fire up those fine-motor skills:

  • Roll the finger-paint paper for the door mat
  • Tear the tissue paper for bedding
  • Tear the construction paper for veggie leaves
  • Snip the vellum to make hay 
  • Fold cardstock strips to make steps so the bunny can get back down
  • Practice opening and closing the plastic box
  • Draw stripes and plaids for the cage wires
  • Twist the pipe cleaner for the water bottle holder
  • Slide the drinking straw in and out of the water bottle holder when you pretend to fill it up
  • Adjust the interlocking pieces so the cardstock rabbits can stand up
  • Roll snips of vellum hay in the brown butcher paper to make tacos

Oreo was an inspiration too.
Grown-ups needed:

  • Cut out the rabbit pieces
  • Hot glue the water bottle holder
  • Help with opening plastic boxes
  • Tape the tacos
  • Tape the assembled rabbits

* Bunny taco recipe:

Bunny tacos are fabulously popular with both preschoolers and Oreo. Put the fresh leaves in the cardboard tube. Stuff the tube ends with hay. Place taco in cage and sit back to watch the hilarious show!

  • tp or paper towel cardboard tube
  • very fresh garden spinach, lettuce, cabbage, or radish leaves (any snails removed)
  • very fresh garden mint, rosemary, cilantro in season, basil
  • timothy hay

Go ahead. Make your own fun!

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Spinach-ham-mushroom quiche trivia

The downpour finally ends. Wade out in my gardening galoshes to the grocery store for essentials--carrots, hummus, paperclips, a padded mailing envelope, and olive oil.

One of the weirdiddlies of moving is sudden total recall loss of basic home office supplies. Somewhere over the rainbow in some totally unrelated box there's a pot of gold with post-it notes, pushpins, highlighters, and a small rubber goat. In my desk drawer I find three screwdrivers, one Phillips, two flatheads, but no pencils. Whoa! Distraction Will Robinson in the office/school supply aisle between seasonal/pet and Charmin/picnic paper goods by these spiral paper clips. I might have to pierce my nose just to wear one!

And then I spot the Trivial Pursuit neon triangle sticky notes:

 I  M U S T  H A V E  T H E M ! 

The art teacher possibilities are endless, as are the decompression stress relief options. Probably Obamacare should cover this mental health purchase.

The storm is over. The colors are fabulous and straight out of the camera with no fussing. Nice angles.

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder


Lost in the rough, pt. 1

While trying to take photos of barn swallows swooping through the apartment complex, I became a not entirely disinterested observer of the Friday afternoon drama across the way.

A teen driver deposited a carload of kids in the parking lot after school and sped off. I went about my business. Who knows what business the kids went about? Some hours later the single mom who lives in that apartment arrived home, and an assortment of teens were booted out the front door with little but their cellphones for diversion.

Again, let me proclaim I was just watching for the barn swallows. There seems to be a nest in the rain gutter above my stair landing. The chirping that starts about four a.m. every morning is a chorus of hungry young. The frazzled parents sometimes sit on the railing outside the door to smoke a cigarette and wonder why they ever thought having kids was a good idea.

As a single mom of teen boys back a decade or so, I wonder how many times my home resembled her home when I was away at work. By her, I mean the woman with the silver car, not the barn swallow, but I wish them both a happy Mother's Day.

Staying alive!

© 2014 Nancy L. Ruder