Friday, October 31, 2008

Fright Night

In honor of the holiday, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom will commence to list the things that frighten the bejebus out of her. Not real-life things, like decapitations and train wrecks and teaching. But Halloween-type thingies.

1. Halloween, the original movie. Let's just say that I am so old I have seen this movie in the theater. Granted, I was a tiny tot, but it put the fear of hockey-masked lunatics into me. One of my most frightening scenes is not what you might expect. It's the part where Donald Pleasence drives up to the loony bin at night, with that lady in the car with him, and it is a dark and stormy night, and what do they see but the inmates milling catatonically around the grounds, in white nightshirts, milling around like John McCain at a Presidential debate. That scene makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. Not Grandaddy McCain, silly. The zombie loonies.

Let's take a minute to explore HH's movie phobia. I know. This blog is all about ME...but HH is just a granny sissy-pants when it comes to scary movies. Not at all brave like ME. I found this out when we rented Friday the 13th. The original. HH was laying in the floor, as people are wont to do in the $17,000 homes of Hillmomba. He was enthralled with this cinematic masterpiece, when all at once, near the very end, HH squealed like a schoolgirl at a Miley Cyrus concert, and jumped about 3 feet off the floor. That must have been really hard to do, what with staying all stretched out like he was still lying down. I can not figure out how he defied the laws of physics like that. And I am a professional. The part that spooked poor pitiful HH was when Alice is in the canoe out in the middle of the lake, thinking she's all safe and whatnot, drifting around to some soothing tune, and suddenly Jason pops up out of the water to drag her down. I think HH might have tinkled a little bit in his tighty-whities.

2. Carrie, the original movie. The end where Sue Snead goes to the rocky rubble of the White house and bends down to place some flowers...and Carrie's had pokes out of the rubble and grabs Sue's wrist. Eek!

3. In real life, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom does not like to look in a mirror in a darkened room. No. Just no. She is afraid she will see someone behind her.

4. You won't find Mrs. HM in any empty school buildings at night. No way, no how, what with the incidents she experienced at her school in Cuba, Missouri. It's on one of the old blogs around late October. I'm too lazy to look for the link. That's just asking for trouble, going into a dark building all alone. Not a companion, nor an emergency light, nor an act of Congress can drag Mrs. HM into such a setting.

5. See number 4 but substitute a church. Not that Mrs. HM has ever been in an empty church at night, but it ain't ever gonna happen anyhow. You'd think she'd feel safe there in such a sanctuary, but NO. No empty buildings at night.

6. Go to a graveyard at midnight and sling a dead cat with her friend Huck? Not Mrs. HM. She will not approach a cemetery after dark. She does not even like to look into one when driving by at night. Could this stem from her years of living right across the road from a cemetery, and hearing footsteps in the upstairs bedroom throughout the day and night? Who knows? But you won't find Mrs. HM looking for the vampire grave, or asking if 'anyone' here would like to communicate.

7. Devil and demon movies are a big No No with Mrs. HM. She read The Exorcist and The Amityville Horror. Though one is based on truth, and the other is said to be a sham, Mrs. HM quakes with fear at the thought of watching the movies. At one time, she DID watch a version of The Amityville Horror with James Brolin. That will never happen again. That red-eyed pig Jody thingy and that rocking chair and the wake-up time of 3:15 was too, too much for highly-suggestible HM, who woke up frightened at 3:15 every morning for a couple of weeks.

The Exorcist was scary just to read. Mrs. HM didn't need no peein' Regan telling an astronaut he was going to die up there, or pea-soup vomit, or that devilish little brat telling a priest he sucked. Again, the book gave Mrs. HM nightmares so extreme that she felt someone lay down in the bed beside her, or she woke up seeing shadows on the wall.

And while we're at it, The Omen is also off limits. And those commercials for The Grudge had HM reaching for the remote control to ward off new nightmares.

8. Absolutely no GhostHunters for HM after 10:00 p.m. Nope. Too frightening, what with things starting to go bump in the Mansion around that time, since everyone else has gone to bed.

So there you have it. Some of Mrs. HM's spook-triggers. Yes, they're only movies, most of them. But if anyone can be scared to death, it would be yellow-bellied, spineless HM.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Will Not Be Taking The Day Off Work On Nov. 4

Here is the official Hillbilly Mom Rural Missouri Yard-Sign Poll from Monday. In a visual survey of approximately 200 yards in four towns and two unincorporated areas between 3:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on October 27, our poll showed McCain leading Obama 73% to 27%. Raw data totaled 21 McCain/Palin signs, 8 Obama/Biden or Obama signs, and one faded Confederate flag on an actual regulation flagpole. I think it was safe to include that flag in the McCain column. It must be noted that one yard had TWO Obama/Biden signs, so they are either really, really going to vote for Obama, or somebody stole a sign from another yard and put it there.

I have been planning my voting routine for next Tuesday. We can't vote early out here in Hillmomba. In fact, voting is a bit of a chore. When I lived in town, and worked for the unemployment office, where we did not look up people's confidential wage information just because they were mentioned in a debate, I voted two blocks away at the local firehouse. I could vote really early in the morning, around 6:00, and still make it to work in St. Louis on time. Oh, and the State of Missouri, my official employer, would allow us up to 2.5 hours off work to vote. That makes a difference if you have a 90-minute drive on a good traffic day, and get off work at 4:30. My carpool driver and I always preferred to get it over with first, and not take the 2.5 hour handout.

Once HH and I built and moved into the Mansion out here in Hillmomba, our polling place changed. And not for the better. We live 5 miles outside the nearest town. We vote at a little church about two miles past the turn-off to the Mansion. It's on a blind curve on a winding lettered state highway, with a parking lot that holds about 15 cars if they're not all LSUVs. The voting area is in the basement of the church. It's a real basement. Up over a toe-catcher of a threshold, and down about 6 dark-red-carpeted stairs with no handrail. I, myself, prefer a handrail, as I assume most of the frail old people who vote there would prefer, but what are you gonna do? I don't think private church places have to comply with the ADA, or else they just haven't had a complaint. Though I suspect a gaggle of prayin' bitter gunclingers would rally around a wheelchair-bound voter and hand-carry that wheelchair up and down those steps. Once they set down their guns, of course. Because we're neighborly like that. I make do by going down left leg first instead of just walking down the steps normally, because I don't always trust my twice-operated knee not to give out and embarrass me with no handrail to save face.

Once you get to the basement proper, there is a line of two or three long tables set together with the white-haired volunteer ladies. The first two have giant books of alphabetical printouts with registered voters. First they have to look up your name, then you have to show a picture ID, then you sign the book beside your name. I don't know if it's a state rule to show ID, but they ask for it at my polling place. No fancy schmancy computer verification for US.

Therein lies a problem. About 3 years ago, my name started being left off the rolls. Go figure. I voted in the same elections HH voted in. We have lived out here for 10 years. Nothing has changed, not even our phone number. Yet there would be HH's name, and not mine. Even his brother who moved into town from Las Vegas, and was only here about a year and a half, would be listed. But not me. So they would take me out of line, over to the counter where the church kitchen was, and take a little bitty keyboard and a phone-looking electronic gewgaw, and check somehow with the courthouse records, and make me fill out a change of address card with my SAME address, mind you, to get me back on the rolls. Finally, after 3 times, that seems to have worked, because I was on there the last time. I will be hoppin' mad if it's messed up again this year. I guess my point is that you can't always cry racism when somebody gets left off the voter rolls, because it has happened to me out here in lily-white Americana 3 times in the last 4 years.

After you are verified as a real person who has registered to vote in time for the election, you go down the table to get your ballot. Sometimes they ask if you want a Democratic or Republican ballot, depending on what the election is about. Then you sit on a red-cushioned pew along the wall and wait your turn to go into one of the two voting booths, which used to be curtainy little compartments, but lately have been just little flimsy cubicles with an electronic ballot thingy. We only have two of them, so sometimes there's a wait. And there's usually a separate 'booth' if you want a paper ballot instead of going the electronic route. Some people are not patient, and jump up and request the paper one after waiting a while. Because if there's one thing you can say about old people voting...they don't rush through it.

The last two times, I have taken my #1 son into the booth with me (after getting permission from one of the white-hairs) so he could see what it's all about. Poor kid. His birthday is in December. He won't get to vote in a Presidential election until he's 21. That's a shame. He'll first get to vote in the same Presidential election as The Pony, who benefits from a February birthdate. I imagine they'll cancel each other's vote. The #1 son is all hyped up about getting to vote. The Pony couldn't care less.

After voting electronically, you take your ballot thingy to feed into a machine that I suppose tallies the votes. It's like a standardized test answer sheet looking thingy that you feed into something that reminds me of a paper shredder. Then you get a sticker that says you voted. Which is wasted on me, since I'm only going to drive home in the dark and rip it off my shirt and throw it away.

With all these precautions, I seriously doubt there will be any irregularities at my polling place. The only thing I noticed one time was people standing out on the short 5-foot sidewalk with signs. They were not handing out anything, just holding signs. I don't think they were far enough away, but they didn't sway my opinion, so I considered it no harm, no foul. Maybe they measured from the actual voting booth or something. Because if they had been the right distance from the door, they would have been getting run over in the road, or standing in the woods.

My biggest concern is that the mini-parking-lot will be full, and I'll have trouble getting in to vote. I'm going right after school. That means I can get there around 4:00. That should leave me plenty of time. Alas, I don't think my little buddy can go with me to vote in this historic election. He will have basketball practice from 5:00 to 7:00. His grandma might have to ferry him to and fro that day. She votes early. I am not going to fret if there is a line at my polling place. Because all signs point to a McCain majority out here in the heartland, and that will only mean more votes for not-Obama.

I think I can squeeze in a full day of work and still make history on November 4.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Terror In The Heartland

HH and The Pony went to pick up the chickens this morning. The chickens HH is going to raise on our 20 acres, unfenced, with every family out here having 2 or 3 dogs roaming loose. HH and The Pony picked up the wire crate out of the back of the truck, and carried it to the front yard so I could admire the two hens and a rooster that are expected to establish our chicken dynasty.

Tank the Beagle was the first dog to investigate. He ran round and round the cage, sticking his nose to the wire, getting a peck every now and then. When the chickens arrived, they were happily clucking away in their chicken lingo. After 5 minutes of swirling from side to side in the cage to avoid Tank, they became silent. Grizzly the old dog went next. He was more cautious. That's until HH put all 3 chickens in the dog pen. Without the dogs, people. It's the wire pen we had to buy when The Veteran gave us Tank for free one Christmas. Ann the black Shepherd joined her partners in crime at the pen. They each got on a different side, with Tank and half-Beagle Grizzly baying like they'd just discovered the internet inside a giant Easter Bunny.

HH said the dogs were fine, though I insisted they were going to tunnel under that pen and eat some chickens. After about 10 minutes of this barking frenzy, HH grabbed a stick off the nearest tree, and whacked Grizzly in the head. "Enough!" he shouted. Because everbody trains their dogs to know that 'enough' means to stop barking at chickens. The #1 son captured the moment on his iPhone. He was laughing his fool head off.

I have made it clear to HH that I did not want these chickens. I told him they would be dead before nightfall. When he put them in the dog pen, I told him they would fly out over that 6-foot fence. HH said, "Aw, these are young chickens. They don't even know they can fly yet." Then he went off to pick up his Number One Son with his stepkids, who are 9 and 5 and 4.

The Pony waited eagerly for them all to get back, because the were going to work on a chicken house and have a hot dog roast down at HH's shanty. The chickens had arrived around 11:00. By 12:30, The Pony went out to see if HH was back yet, and ran in the house all excited. "I saw two chickens down by the edge of the woods! I think I can catch one of them." I told him no, it would just get out again. And anyway, The Pony is no match for a flogging, pecking chicken. He didn't even know that you're supposed to grab them by their legs. OK, maybe that's not good for the chicken, but that's how we caught them when my old school Athletic Boosters loaded chickens for Tyson. That means we went to a chicken farm and walked down those LOOONG rows of cages, and reached in and grabbed out chickens to put in cages on tall racks of cages, like the rack of bread the Wonder Bread man pushes around in The Devil's Playground. That's what we earned money for, getting those chickens loaded onto a big truck. From there, I suppose they were whisked off to Tyson to become various entrees.

I called HH, who was almost home, who said the chickens would be fine. He drove up, and still declined to catch them, saying, "They can fly up in a tree if anything gets after them." I reminded him of his earlier words. "I thought you said they were so young they didn't even know how to fly." HH's reasoning was that of course they knew how to fly. But he still said they couldn't fly out of the dog pen. He said they jumped up on the small dog house, then to the big dog house, then to the top of the 6-foot fence, from where they jumped to the ground. These chickens need their own cartoon adventure show.

I started writing this around 1:30. At 2:00, the #1 son called me from his iPhone in the front yard. He was on the Scout with the 3 little kids, and he said, "Um...there are two dead chickens in the front yard." I told him to take the kids back down to the MiniMansion, and tell his dad. Well, that went about as well as you would expect. The whole pack of them came back up, and watched HH call the dogs over and stick a dead chicken in each one's face and then beat them with the dead chicken until they'd had enough.

I know some of you are cringing, others are sobbing into moist Kleenexes, a few are cheering, and one is dialing 1-800-PETA-POLICE.

Welcome to my world.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Random Thought Thursday 10/23/08

I am at Parent Teacher Conferences this very minute. I am very tired. My feet hurt. It has been a long day. I had my teacher observation visit this morning. We had Pasta House for supper while waiting for parents to show up. And I pre-programmed this to post now when I typed it last night. Fooled you. Thank the Gummi Mary I am psychic.

Kids nowadays have no respect. I unlocked my classroom after lunch, kicked out the doorstop, stepped into the hall...and turned around to see The Vegetator pick up my magenta rubber ruler off my desk, and twist it seven ways to Sunday. Then he carelessly tossed the crippled mess back onto my desk, where the kid who thinks no one should talk unless he has invited them into his conversation picked it up and did the same thing. I gave them my opinion of their actions. Tomorrow, I think I will walk over to The Vegetator's desk, pick up that book he carries around and tells people it's a hundred years old, crack back the spine until it is wide open, bend it a couple times, and toss it back on his desk. Then I will say, "How do YOU like it?" Well, that's what I do in my teacher-gets-even daydreams, anyway.

I cooked the #1 son some hot wings last night. I gave him a paper towel. He told me, "I really don't need that, you know. I just wipe it on my fur pants." That's what I call his hairy legs. Fur pants.

My son wants me to order him a book that I suppose is written for young adults, what with it being in the Newmentia library, and the kids there reading it. It concerns a society where the kids can be 'unwound' if the parents don't want them. That means they are taken by the government, and body parts are hacked off of them to use for transplants. One kid is a 'troublemaker', one is being unwound to save money for the orphanage where she lives, and the other has some sort of religion where it has been planned that he will be unwound. If they can live until 18, they are safe from unwinding. Yeah. Kids these days. Oh, and if it sounds interesting to you, the name of it is: Unwind, by Neal Shusterman.

Is anybody else ready for a snow day?

HH is getting some chickens on Saturday. I don't know what he's thinking. The dogs will eat them within an hour. He plans to put the chickens in the dog pen for the first week. Duh. Those dogs will go crazy trying to tunnel in and eat the chickens. I know they are not going to last. I don't want to be the one the kids tell about a pile of bloody feathers. This is about the dumbest idea HH has had since he wanted to put the cedar-shavings dog pillow on our bed.

School fundraisers have got to stop. It's not even clubs. Club fundraisers, I could understand. I don't go for this school-wide fundraiser crap. Newmentia is the only building that doesn't force the kids to sell expensive crappy crap in the hopes of getting a prize that costs $2.00 and is probably made in China, and thus more likely than not to kill them slowly with various toxins. The Pony came home with a booklet selling wreaths, and they were all $50. Yeah, right. He couldn't even tell me what they were selling them for. One year, there was the Home Interior candle fundraiser, and when you read the papers closely, the school was only getting half of the profit. Some lady who does Home Interiors was getting the other half. That's a sweet deal if you can get it. An entire elementary school full of kids to go sell your product. I boycotted that one.

Gas was down to $2.49 this afternoon.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Boogie Man

Several days ago, I promised you the story of the Boogie Man. Be careful what promises you hold Mrs. Hillbilly Mom accountable for. And be very afraid of the Boogie Man. I hope you don't have a nightmare after reading...

It was late in the day. I rearranged my desks and whipped up a new seating chart. I have to fit 26 chairs in there, so some are put together, like Banana Twins, the Little Debbie snack cakes. Since this class only has 22 kids, some got to sit single in a double chair. One such single young lady asked to go to the bathroom. That's fine with me, as long as they leave their cell phones on my desk. No clandestine texting on my watch.

When she returned, she sat down, looked at the empty chair beside her, and said, "I'm going to vomit." That kind of got my attention. I asked what was the problem. "There's a giant booger on that chair, and it wasn't there when I left."

I did not doubt her word, for once. This class is rife with nogoodniks. I immediately looked for the ones with the biggest smirks on their faces, and had my two suspects within two seconds. "Get a tissue and clean that up." The one with the biggest smirk said, "Why? I didn't do it!" So much for honor among nogoodniks, because the 2nd biggest smirk said, "But it's YOUR booger!"

OK. That was almost too much for me to digest. "Get it cleaned up. Now." The biggest smirk knew that I meant business. He set to work. After scooping it up, walking to the wastebasket holding it like a prize bass in a $10,000 tournament for all to admire, he threw it away. I must say, it was quite a specimen, all greeny-brown, textured, and about an inch long. Like a miniature piece of greeny-brown bacon.

I then made him get a paper towel and some Fantastick out of the cabinet, and decontaminate the chair. While this was going on, the second biggest smirk made some idle, unmemorable comment. I said, "If I was you, I wouldn't mention it again. It may have been HIS booger, but how did YOU put it on the chair? What did you do, pick his nose for him?" By the reddening of his cheeks, I knew I'd hit that nail on the head.

Kids can be so nasty.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Generic Adhesive Bandages For The Teacher's Soul

I am not a do-goody, lift-you-up kind of person. I don't have tales of woe that end with a light shining through the clouds, inspiring you to look for the silver lining in difficult times. That's not the kind of gal I am. I could no more write a chicken soup story than I could save a chipmunk from a cat by placing it on a tree branch. If you've forgotten THAT true story, I'll tell it again some time if you ask nicely. But I think the only people who read about my high-fallutin' Mansion life have already heard that story.

So it is with mediocre enthusiasm that I kick off my new imaginary book: Generic Adhesive Bandages for the Teacher's Soul. First of all, we have to buy into the premise that teachers DO have souls. Secondly, we have to accept the fact that, unlike chicken soup, a sheer adhesive bandage does not heal you. It merely covers up the boo-boo so you don't reopen the wound 10-12 times a day, its sticky edges transparent so as not to draw attention, and allows you time to heal yourself. That's what my imaginary book will do: give teachers insight into the pus-filled corners of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's classroom, in a classy way, and let them think to themselves, "I'm not that bad. After all, look at what happened to Mrs. Hillbilly Mom!" Yes. I'm here to provide a service. I'm here to make other people feel superior to me.

You may have noticed a change in my attitude this year. Although the 1st Quarter ended this week, there is no joy in Hillmomba. It seems as if the school year will never end. Quite change from last year, when the school year was almost over every week. I seem to have acquired a lemon. A lemon that by any other name would taste just as sour. My lemon's unlemony name is The New Crop of Students Fresh from Basementia. Granted, they are not poison lemons. They are just lemony lemons. And I seem to be fresh out of a recipe for lemonade. Don't get me wrong. I still like them. I have not found one yet that I truly dislike. They are just OH SO HIGH-MAINTENANCE. I was spoiled by last year's batch of ambrosia. Now I am paying for it in lemons.

Here are a few quotes for the front of the book. Not the cover. The inside page, before the one before the table of contents. The one before the glowing reviews. Just after the copyright page. These are quotes that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom should never have to say. Ever.


"No, you are NOT going over there to smack him, so stop saying that. All he asked was, "Do you wear lipstick?" That is because you were talking to the girls about 'the black shade', and one minute you were talking about fingernail polish, and the next they were talking about lipstick, and you have that girl's hair scrunchy on your head, and that lip piercing, so I am not surprised that the question came up. But that was it. He did NOT call you 'gay', he asked a simple question. All you had to do was say, 'No.' So stop dwelling on it and threatening him."

"Put your feet on the floor. At this school, we do not put feet on top of the desk. Ever."

"No. You can not play 'Chinese rock/paper/scissors' in my classroom."

"Put down your hood. It's the same as a hat. You can't wear it inside the building. The only people who want to wear hoods are those who are trying to sleep in class, or listen to earphones."

"Take off the sunglasses. I don't care if they are your safety glasses. We are not doing a lab. They are tinted. You do not need them here. Take them off."

"No, a permanent marker will not wash off of jeans. That is how it got its name, 'permanent marker'. You see, some people use it to mark names in clothes. It is not called a 'will wash out with detergent marker. It is a permanent marker."

"Why would you tell me you just got a phone call? Do you want me to take your phone and turn it in to the office so you get an automatic day of ISS? Because that's what I'll do. Any time we see or hear a phone, we take it. So you must want me to take it off your hands. Otherwise, you would have remained silent like your phone."

"Get away from my desk. You are not allowed to shoot staples into your hand so you can chew on them or throw them at people."

"Stop breaking pencils. Pick up all the pieces."

"No. You can NOT throw a paperwad. Just because you have gone for a whole month without throwing one does not mean that I will give you permission. It only means that I stopped calling you The Paperwadder for a month."

"Get away from that window. This is not your classroom. You do not control the entrance, exit, windows, thermostat, furniture, whiteboard, SmartBoard, refrigerator, or cabinets. You must have permission to change anything from the way it was when you entered the room."

"Yes, you WERE disturbing class. Holding up a paper with 'We Declare War' is a distraction for everyone, and a threat for the two people who were meant to see it."

"We have been in this building since 2001. And this is the first time I ever had any student write on the wall. What is wrong with you people? Do you do this at home? Would you like me to come to your desk and write all over your jacket or your shoes?"

"What are you doing in my cabinet? You can NOT just open it up and use some GermX when you feel like it. That is my personal stuff in that side of the cabinet. You did not even have permission to get out of your seat. Don't ever do that again."

"Do not spit on the eraser and then try to erase the DRY-ERASE MARKER. Nobody wants your spit all over stuff. Especially not me, and not on my stuff."

"No massaging! Keep your hands to yourself. I don't care if you do it everywhere else. There will be no massaging in my classroom."

"It is sad that your grandma sat on your kitten and killed it, and that you didn't find it for a month, and only then because you said, 'Hey, Mom, have you seen my kitten?' and she said, 'Look under the chair cushion' and it was there and all stiff and dead...but we need to get back to the lesson now."

"Just in case you need to make a note of it, when I am talking, I am not talking to myself. I have heard all of my stories. I have created all of these lessons. I am actually talking to YOU, but you would never know it, because either you all don't care, or I am speaking some strange language, of which you are happily ignorant."


That looks like all the quotes I can fit onto two pages. Though there are many more. I think I will start my book with the story of The BoogieMan. Tune in tomorrow, you might get a sneak preview.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Fingernailer

Yes, it's true! From the same author who brought you The Vegetator, hot off the flying fingers of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, it's The Fingernailer. Truth is stranger than fiction, my friends. I can call you that, can't I? Grandaddy McCain hasn't copyrighted that or anything, has he? I'm no scofflaw. And I'm certainly not a maverick.

I'm a bit late in reporting this true tale of terror and intrigue. Politics has gotten in my way. The incident happened on Club Day. Mabel knows the crapolafest that is Club Day. The kids get the first Wednesday of each month to go clubbing. Not a fun kind of clubbing, like the ol' baby seal days, or even the last days of disco. No, they go to meet with others of their ilk, be it furniture builders, housewiving leaders, prayors, copy machine fixers, whale-savers, prayin' jocks, book-readers, geniuses, little politicians, actors and stagehands, or future enterprisers. OK, I stole that last one from Risky Business, but all the others are our actual clubs.

It happened just after the meeting I lose the most students to: the prayors. I have a real issue with allowing this club to meet at school, but I don't dare bring it up. I don't want to be seen as the anti-Christ teacher. My view has to do with legality, and opening ourselves up to someone who decides they want to start a club in demon-worship, in which case we probably wouldn't have a leg to stand on, since worship is worship, and if one is permitted, the other should get equal time. Anyhoo, that's neither here nor there. The saintly woman who runs this club must have had her fill, because she sent them back to class with 10 minutes left. They came in to find that the 7 non-prayors in my class had taken different seats. So the prayors sat where they wanted.

My nightmare started when one of the prayors squealed, "Ooh! There are fingernails in that desk!" 'Please, please let it not be true!' was my first thought. I hate all things FEET, and last time I checked, toenails look very much like fingernails, and fingernails remind me of FEET. Also, let me explain that my desks were inherited from Mabel's old classroom at Basementia, and they are two-piece flat-topped desks with separate chairs. I set them up so the book-holding opening is pointed away from the chairs, so I can see that they don't fill them with verboten candy wrappers, or obscene notes, or textbooks they don't want to carry to their lockers. Or fingernails. Apparently someone slipped this by me. They were not there the day before. And this was only 2nd hour. While all this flitted through my mind, another prayor was busy distracting me with small talk. I turned my attention back to the fingernail desk, and saw nothing in the hole.

"Thanks for cleaning those up." The girl looked at me funny. The boy sitting at the fingernail desk said, "Oh, I just traded my desk for one against the wall." No. No no no no no no no! "You can't just put a desk full of fingernails against the wall! Switch them back!" He did so, amiably. But he didn't want to clean out the fingernails. Not that I can blame him. The Original Fingernail Cryer jumped up. "I'll do it!" I told her to bring it up to the front of the room, and shake the fingernails into the wastebasket. She's a big, strong gal. She carried that 4-legged metal desk up front and commenced to shaking. I held the wastebasket. "Don't let any of them fall on my arm! I mean it!" I was dead serious. I was gagging. Those fingernails were huge. Paul Bunyan would have been proud.

A really good boy at the back of the room said, "Here. I'll show you how." He came up front and took the desk from the OFC. Unfortunately, one of her legs was tangled in the desk legs, and we almost had an incident to report in triplicate. But she recovered nicely. She might try log-rolling in the future. The RGB tilted that desk so all the fingernails slid down to the corner. Then he shook shook shook it. They all slid out. Except for 3. "Hey, some are stuck in there. OFC, get a tissue and scoot them out." OFC was having none of that. "I can't do that. That's nasty." Not that I could blame her.

The RGB said, "They're only fingernails." He set down the desk, took a tissue, and scooped out the last 3 fingernails. Then he took the desk back, and returned to his seat. OFC stood at my desk with her mouth hanging open. It was not a flattering look. "Can't he go wash his hands or something? Those are fingernails!" I agreed heartily in my mind. But I didn't want to seem weak in the eyes of my students, what with having just nearly vomited over some fingernails in a desk. "RGB, do you want to go wash your hands?" He looked at me like that Victrola dog,

only more puzzled. "Why? They're only fingernails." I said, "Well, at least get some GermX out of my cabinet, and clean you hands. Please." He complied.

Next came the task of fingerprinting the fingernailer. I knew it wasn't the kid sitting at that desk. His fingernails were pink and blue. Not a combination. That would be just wrong. I mean that thumb, middle, and pinky finger were blue, and index and ring finger were pink. Pastel. The other hand was just the opposite. Those giant desk-fingernails were regular fingernail color.

I went through the day's seating charts in my mind. My main suspect was the 1st hour dude. 2nd hour was the pastel guy, 3rd hour nobody sat there, 4th hour was a chick in 9th grade, 5th hour was the chick's 11th-grade brother, 6th hour was plan time, and 7th hour was a tiny sprite of a young man, the smallest student in all of 9th grade. The only other serious suspect was that 11th-grader. His hands were big enough. I asked the chick if she bit off her fingernails and put them in her desk. "No! I don't bite my fingernails!" Once again, I was distracted by a student smalltalker. Jeez! You guys don't understand how tough my job really is. I looked back at The Chick to ask if her brother bites his nails. "No. He never does," she said with her fingers in her mouth, contentedly munching away. "Hey, you said you didn't, either! And now I catch you biting your fingernails." She stopped. She gave me an exasperated grimace. "But I don't bite them OFF! I just chew on them." Thanks for the clarification.

I asked The Brother himself 5th hour. He said, "No. That's disgusting." I asked the wee tot 7th hour. "No. Why?" So I had to go through the whole story. Being sleuths-in-training, or perhaps just wanting to waste time away from the lesson, the class asked, "Who else sits there?" So we went through all the suspects, and they agreed with me. Except for one, a friend of the prime suspect, who stood up for his buddy and declared, "I don't think so. He EATS his fingernails after he bites them." Now that's loyalty. Saving his friend from false allegations, even if he DID make his friend out to be a much freakier fingernail-eater.

After the final bell, as I stood at my post in the hall, the Prime Suspect walked by. "Hey, did you bite your fingernails and leave them in your desk 1st hour?" He stopped. He looked down at me. He said one word, one word which sealed his fate. He said, "Fingernails?" Oh, buddy. That's the oldest trick in the book, repeating what was asked to stall for time to think up a really good alibi.

Signed, sealed, delivered...he's mine. "Don't ever do that again." Not a peep out of him. He went off to catch his bus. Fingernail-less.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How Many Roads Must A Manatee Ride Down...

Dennis, we hardly knew ye! Oh, excuse me. I haven't introduced you to my new friend, Dennis. Wait! I almost forgot. I can't introduce you now. That's because Dennis is DEAD! Yep. He kicked the bucket, bit the dust, bought the big one. He's taking a dirt nap, six feet under, in a better (?) place. That's because Dennis was murdered. OK, I can't prove it, but by my calculations, if the powers that be had simply left well-enough alone, Dennis might be here with us now. Not literally, because, well, Dennis would not like to be in my basement lair, watching me type up my blog post for tonight. Nothing against me, of course. Of any blogs to watch being typed, I'm sure Dennis would have chosen mine. What's not to like? Except maybe the political stuff for people who don't agree with my skew of the world. But let's get back to Dennis, because if it can't be all about ME, it might as well be about HIM.

Dennis was a manatee. You know, a big sea-cow-looking critter. That's what Mr. S called him: a sea cow. How rude! That's almost as bad as the male cattle in Barnyard having those ridiculous udders. But if Dennis was here today, I think he would forgive Mr. S the slight, because, well, if he was here today, that would mean Dennis was still alive! Technically, the actual 'sea cow' is extinct, but some people, like Mr. S, use the term interchangeably with manatee. Here's a website that tells all about these creatures. Did you know that the term 'sea cow' came about because these aquatic mammals taste like beef? Me neither. I read that somewhere else. I can't verify its truth. It makes me question where Mrs. S shops for meat.

But getting back to dear, departed Dennis...he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Cape Cod is the wrong place for a manatee. Not only is it too cold, but there are too many save-the-whaley folks on the east coast. Let Dennis show up in Missouri, and there would be no expensive rescue effort. Dennis would be ground up between two buns quicker than you could say, "Grilled manatee burger, anyone?"

This article explains the basics, but I'll tell you my take on the whole debacle anyway. Because aside from criticizing my former compatriots, the Democratic Party, nothing pleases me more than sticking it to those animal rights people. Picture poor Dennis, swimming around feeding near Cape Cod. Dennis did not know he was cold. He's an animal, by cracky. They just are. They eat and poop and eat some more. That's their life, animals. Eating and pooping, with a little hanky-panky to make more of the same if they can find a member of their opposite sex. Except for earthworms, but let's not go there tonight. So here's our Dennis, not even knowing that his name is 'Dennis', swimming around, eating and pooping. Then the crybaby we-demand-Ben-and-Jerry-make-their-ice-cream-with-breast-milk folks spot Dennis, and hereby commences the beginning of the end.

Touhey said the manatee was first spotted Sept. 24 near Fall River, but when the animal lingered in Sesuit Harbor, volunteers and workers from the animal welfare fund began working to capture and remove it to safer environs for treatment and release.

Um...Dennis had been there since September 24. He was OK. WTF did he need treatment for, alcoholism? He was already 'released'. I know! Those people are racists against the manatee species. That makes them 'specists', I suppose. Sure, Dennis was fine with them if he was just there for a visit. But once he lingered, and it looked like he was moving in, they had to ship him out.

"When Dennis was pulled from the water, his body temperature was 73 degrees, 24 degrees below normal, Cutter said. During transport, crews were able to raise his temperature to 89 degrees."

Puhlease! Dennis wasn't broke. Why'd they have go and try to fix him? So what if his normal body temp was supposed to be in the low 90s? He was still kickin' before they tried to SAVE him. Maybe the stress of being out of the water, trucking down the highway with a needle stabbed in him for IV nourishment, all the while wrapped in warming blankets, was a bit much for that 27-hour ride. Heck's bells, people! If somebody came into my dark basement office and lured me into a net with a bait of sweet, sweet Histinex, you can bet that I would be suffering by the end of a 27-hour ride. A ride where I was held captive and fed through a needle, immobilized so that I could not kick off the covers if I got too hot.

"The animal suffered from cold stress from being in the cold water and an environment it was not accustomed to," said Lauren Skowyra, spokesperson for SeaWorld. "The animal was headed to the rescue and rehabilitation facility for treatment and care until it would have been released into nature."

Whoa, Nelly! Dennis was suffering from stress due to an environment he was not accustomed to? Unlike being out of the water for 27 hours, strapped to a truck bed in warming blankets with a needle in him, unable to feed on tasty aquatic plants, listening to the roar of passing traffic, fighting gravity without the sweet, sweet buoyancy of water that had surrounded him for his entire life.

Cutter said he did not know the expenses for caring for the manatee and transporting it to Florida, but believes it cost tens of thousands of dollars.

"Most of our costs were manpower, but we had a lot of support from local Cape businesses that donated to the net we used to catch the manatee," Cutter said. "Besides the truck and gas to get down there, we had everything we needed here."

Seems there were not enough of those save-the-whaley-people to donate their efforts without pay. Gosh darn it! They had everything they needed right there...but decided to truck My Manatee Dennis to Florida.

"They definitely did the right thing moving him," Burnham said. "Everyone knew he wasn't going to survive in the New England waters and they did all that they could to save him."

Too bad that saving Dennis killed Dennis. If only that one little thing hadn't happened, it would have been a great rescue! "Everyone knew that Dennis wasn't going to survive in New England waters." Wow! Everybody up there near Cape Cod must be psychic, or have a direct hotline to God.

Did these geniuses ever stop to think about taking a huge, 800-pound critter out of the water for 27 hours? Sweet Gummi Mary! Anybody who watches that Inside Brookhaven show knows that you can't drive an 800-pound MAN down the highway for 27 hours. He can't lie down that long. His own body weight will crush him so his diaphragm can't work, and he can't move air in and out of his lungs. And a man lives his whole life out of the water. How do you feel after swimming for an hour or two, when you climb up the pool ladder and feel the drag of gravity on your frame.

Poor Dennis. Let's sing a little Dylan for him:

How many roads must a manatee ride down,
Before we know that's certain death?

RIP, Dennis.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Space: The Final Frontier

Perhaps I've shared with you my disbelief in all things moon landing. I don't see that we had the technology way back when. Mabel disagrees. She met Wernher von Braun, after all. I'm not saying he didn't design a rocket capable of launching astronauts to the moon. I'm saying that I don't think we had the technology to land them and bring them back. That we lacked the tools for such precision. Think back to the 1960s, people. If you can. If not, think back to Leave It To Beaver reruns. For cryin' out loud, there were not even home computers or cell phones. A calculator for the Beaver to use on his math homework? Try an abacus, Beav.

But I am in the business of molding young minds in the science persuasion, so I go along with the textbook and recorded history. But I DO show them a tape of Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon. I taped it years ago off the FOX network. That's reliable, isn't it? Anyhoo, I have them write a little paper listing 3 of the items in question, with reasons why they believe these items to point to truth or hoax. We have some good discussions.

Then those pesky MythBusters horned in on my act. So I recorded their shenanigans, and showed their program after we watched the conspiracy tape. My classes have some good critical thinkers. For example, when the MythBusters got some moon dust to try and replicate the boot footprint with no moisture, they pointed out some problems with the experimental design. Guess where the MythBusters got their moon dust. Yep. NASA. It is a bit fishy to get your key ingredient from the agency you are trying to discount. Oh, and it wasn't REAL moon dust. There's not enough of that to hand out to any ol' TV show that asks for it, apparently. So NASA gave the MythBusters synthetic moon dust. The stuff they use for training astronauts. And guess what! It left a footprint just like the one the astronauts left on the moon! Who didn't see THAT coming?

Anyhoo, our book mentions the first man in space, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. The other day I ran across THIS. Here's the fake russian. It says that Gagarin was a simple farmer's son, and did not go through all the cosmonaut training. He had only 5 successful parachute jumps when he joined the cosmonaut training, and not nearly as many flying hours as the other cosmonauts. It also questions his landing, and suggests that the REAL man launched into space died, and Gagarin was a fake to save face, that Gagarin merely parachuted from a plane. In the pictures, he has no space suit with CCCP on it, and no astronaut helmet. Pictures of his space capsule, which landed on LAND, far from the rescuers, are not consistent. Some show the capsule in a meadow, some in snow. The radio transmission is thought to have been a tape recorder. Gagarin spoke in generalities, i.e., "The Earth is blue. A certain region is covered with cumulus clouds." He also said he was over America, but at that time, his ship was over the ocean. Some think he merely parachuted from a plane at his flying club. Others think he hid in the basement of a house until time for the 'rescuers' to come get him. There was no recording of the launch. What kind of way to run a space propaganda program is that?

Then I checked a bit more, and found some stuff about two brothers who tracked radio transmissions from Soviet space missions, supposedly hearing several of them take their last breaths. If you scroll down through the comments, there's a picture of a burned-up cosmonaut who crashed on re-entry in 1967. A crispy russian critter. Not that you might want to see something like that, of course. So I kept looking, and found a bunch of pictures, some tiny pics, you might say, and some more on Soviet missions. Just for you conspiracists to browse through.

Which brings us to those tricky Chinese, taking time off from trying to take over the world by slowly poisoning every other nation, to launch some men into space to go for a walk. Or DID they? Check this out. It's a regular chinese conspiracy, by cracky!

It's really hard to get away with anything in today's techno society.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Random Thought Thursday 10-2-08

It is not really considered polite, when your teacher chooses names for partners to work together, from neon-colored index cards upon which she has painstakingly block-printed each student, to, upon hearing your partner's name announced, shout, "I'm screwed!"

It is not considered very smart to leave a wadded-up worksheet, with your name still attached, under Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's computer table.

The Pony is in student heaven, what with his latest assignment of a project to build a Native American model village. He excitedly announced that he thinks he got his first choice of Nez Perce, since nobody else wanted them. Plus, the entire 5th grade is taking a field trip to Cahokia Mounds in a couple of weeks. The Pony lives for that stuff. He wants to be an archaeologist. He wanted that even before he saw an Indiana Jones movie.

Note To Selves: never ask the #1 son to bring you a Bufferin or a Pepsid, because the copious amounts of perspiration coating his palm will have the tablet half-digested before it gets to you.

I detest Club Day. Mabel, too. Not that I detest Mabel. Mabel also detests Club Day. There. I think I made myself clear.

A student announced that he is collecting aluminum can tabs. Not the cans. Just the tabs. Because they are worth more, he says. They are pure aluminum. He doesn't want the cans. I can't figure this part out. Wouldn't that give him even more money? Does he not want to deal with the cans? Go figure. He is saving to get his own apartment after he graduates. Can't fault him for saving. He is putting away $50 from each check. He is currently in 11th grade. I respect ambition. But I don't understand the tab reasoning.

I am drowning in the minutia of my everyday life.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Vegetator

To those of you who tuned in to hear more about the fake Russian man in space, I promise I WILL get to him. Maybe around Friday or Saturday. Right now, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has bigger fish to fry. Take, for example, The Vegetator...

Our faculty lunch table is close to the student tables. We don't have to eat in the cafeteria, but we do. Then nobody is left alone on weeks when they have lunch duty. Besides, it's our way of keeping our finger on the pulse of the throbbing student body. And a way to warn others or catch up on who might be stirring things up on any particular day. Forewarned is forearmed, I've heard.

Only yesterday, a green bean sailed across the short expanse of speckled tile and landed behind Mrs. B. I looked at the table, and judged by the trajectory and smugness factor which student had launched the legume. Mrs. B has duty this week, and so lectured the table. I have the boy in class right before lunch. Today, I told him that I was onto his tricks, and the vegetable catapulting must stop. Every day, you see, a different healthy food item flies with the greatest of ease to land near our table. I actually think the target is a student at the launching table, but the flinger is just a bad shot.

I told the lad, "I know you threw that green bean yesterday. No, don't argue. I saw where you were sitting, and where the person you are blaming was sitting, and you are the only explanation for the trajectory of that bean. Today, we are having baked beans. There had better not be a bean in my future." He agreed. But I went on. "Every day some form of vegetable comes flying our way. It needs to stop. You are an instigator. In fact, I am going to give you a new name: The Vegetator. That's because you are an instigator, and your weapon of choice is a vegetable. It will stop, or I will take further action. Are we clear?"

The Vegetator hung his head. He nodded.

At lunch, right as I was in the middle of my story about the christening of The Vegetator, a baked bean landed behind Mrs. B. She really needs to sit somewhere else. Anyhoo, Mrs. B turned and lashed out at the table. The Vegetator had an alibi. He was sitting where it would have been impossible to launch the baked bean, unless it took a sharp turn in mid-air. And besides, not 5 minutes earlier, I had told him I was onto his tricks. The principal had heard the Vegetator story. After Mrs. B was done, he turned to that table. "You can stop laughing. YOU are not innocent, Vegetator!"

The Vegetator turned a lovely shade of red, starting with his ears. I think he learned a lesson today. If not, at least he got a new name.