Saturday, August 30, 2014

School Supplies, Therein Lies a Great Angst.

Last week I wrote about the end of summer. When I was younger, the year was divided into two separate, but unequal parts, Summer and School. Now that I drive one of those yellow buses part time, the year is again divided into those two parts.

Summer is fading quickly and School is approaching like a freight train, loaded with pencils and paper, that is late for a delivery to Walmart. School supplies, therein lies a great angst. 

When my children were in grade school, it made sense to get five, one-inch binders, in the five different colors that the teacher specified, because when the teacher wanted to teach the science lesson of the day, he, or she, simply would say, “Students, we are going to start our science unit for the day. Please clear off your desks and get out your purple binder, three sheets of paper and a pencil.” Simple and easy; no difficult directions. Each student took out his or her 2 and 3/8 inch, purple folder and was ready to study science. No student accidentally pulled out an English folder, or math folder, or last week's tuna sandwich.

I suspected that as the children progressed from elementary school, through middle school, and into high school, the lists of school supplies from teachers would become less and less specific.

I was wrong.

Littlest is a Junior and Middlest is a Senior at our local high school. This means that they each have over a decade of experience in a formal learning environment. They have figured out how they learn the best, they know what systems of note taking and keeping work well with their learning styles. Additionally, they are female--females with highly developed senses of personal style.

Yet, there are still teachers who want to dictate what size and color binders they should use and how many pens and pencils they should have on their desk at all times. Sometimes I think that some of these high school teachers are secretly “wanna be” elementary school teachers, but were unable to teach well enough to be entrusted with our most impressionable, malleable, and, eager to learn students.

In the past, the school would send home schedules a week or two before school started. This would allow time to correct errors in the schedule and then to figure out what items the teachers would require the students to have, and then to go shopping for them. At this late stage, most of the items in the department store were picked over and more often than not, Beloved and I would have to go to an office supply store and pay top dollar for some purple 2 and 3/8 inch binder.

This year, our local high school has developed a new schedule and rather than sending it home, in an effort to “go green”, they were simply going to hand out the schedules on the first day of school.

This  schedule is quite complicated and never-before been done by our high school. It is something like an eight day, six block, rotating schedule; honestly, I am not sure exactly what they call it. The best way I can describe it is to imagine watching the Olympic diving competition on television. The diver prepares to dive, the crowd hushes, and the television announcer’s voice quietly and intensely narrates, “Now the high school schedule is up to dive. This should be an eight day, 6 block, rotation, with a double gainer, and a half-pike.” The diver leaps off the board, executes a blur of twists, turns, and somersaults, before straightening out, just in time to plunge head first into the water. Finally, the exultant diver emerges from the pool, all wet.

As for myself, I am partial to that age-old standard dive, the belly flop.

Many students and teachers believe this schedule will be a flop, the administrators of the school believe the schedule will be graceful and score high marks.

My daughters believe that it’s all wet.

Either way, I foresee more shopping.

Oh bother.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer is Quickly Coming to a Shopping Halt

For my family, this is the end; of summer that is. There were such high hopes for this summer. Early in the summer, I spotted a tweet from a twitter friend, Rachel @girl_onthego, referring to her grandfather’s brain museum. More correctly, it is “The Museum of Neuroanatomy,” and it is located in Buffalo, NY, which is a scant hour drive from my home. It sounded off-beat enough to pique the interest of my daughters and me. I thought it would be a good thing to do.

Although it was on our list, it didn’t get marked off as done; we have decided to keep it on the list.

We did have a busy and wonderful summer. Littlest, Middlest, and I went with a group of teens out to Greenville, Illinois for a week of Bible Quizzing competition. As a family, we spent a day at the fair and an evening at a ball game (I wrote about that adventure last week). This past week, Beloved and I celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary. The details of that celebration will be kept under-cover.

Any long-time reader of my blog knows that I dislike shopping and the end of summer means more shopping: school shopping. I am not sure which I dislike more: school or shopping. Be assured, gentle reader, that I went to school. I even have a bachelors of arts degree in something or another. Notice that even though I was confirmed a bachelor, I still married, and being married is way better than school. Even if my wife works at an educational institution and drags me shopping.

Going shopping with women folk is an experience. Once in a while I will be asked whether I like one piece of clothing over another. The interrogator will hold each piece up over her appropriate body part and look at me expectantly.

I rub my bearded chin softly and make fluffy noises to my self with my brow furrowed. Then I reach out and touch the fabric of each item; I examine the quality of the stitching. Then I pronounce judgment on which one I like the best.

I always end up choosing the least expensive item, for, you see, while caressing the fabric and examining the stitching, I always look at the price tag.

While on one of these recent school shopping escapades, I was thinking to myself, “Self, it will be so nice when school starts and the shopping will be done.”

Beloved, as if reading my mind, hugged my arm and with a warm giggle said, “As soon as everyone gets back to school, we can go Christmas shopping.”

Oh bother.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How Did I Celebrate My Birthday?

It was my birthday this week and I took some time to review my life, especially in relation to birthdays. At least this is what I told my wife, when she asked why I hadn’t loaded the dishwasher yet.

A few years ago I received a book of quotes from Mr. Rogers, the children’s television personality from here in the United States. One of my favorite quotes is, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I have never been good at birthdays, so I keep trying.

When I was 12, I was out riding my bike on my birthday. Like most 12 year old boys, I wanted to be a cowboy, and so I pretended my bicycle was a horse. And like most cowboys, I held a long piece of grass in my mouth. I am not sure where I saw a cowboy engaging in this blade of grass chewing behavior, but it was probably on television.

It was a wonderful warm summer day, and the breeze felt good as I rode my bike at a full-out gallop. I rounded a corner and the hooves of my horse slipped on loose gravel. I was elated that I had not suffered too badly and escaped with only a few minor scrapes.

Unfortunately, that entire day I had a scratchy throat. Nothing seemed to help. Not drinking water, not drinking a carbonated sugar-filled beverage, not even the homemade ice-cream roll my mother made for my celebration.

At the end of the night, mom asked me if everything was alright. I finally told her about my scratchy throat and explained that it felt like I had a sliver in my throat. She rolled her eyes, grabbed a flashlight and looked in my mouth, all the while muttering about my odd way of describing things.

Then she stopped. She stepped back and looked at me, and then looked down my throat again. In absolute amazement she called my father; “Come look at this, he has a sliver stuck in his throat.”

That sentence was repeated a few more times at the hospital emergency room to nurses and doctors and then they repeated it again once they looked at my throat. It seems that when I fell off my bike, that long piece of grass had slid down my throat and a small piece had impaled itself into my flesh.

 I am not so good at birthdays.

A few years later, as a college student, I was working at a camp. I stopped into the office early in the morning to pick up something I needed and the office manager stopped me and handed me some mail. It was a letter from my mother. I put it in my pocket and promptly forgot about it until lunch time. Then, when I had the chance, I sat down and read the letter. Mom started out the letter by saying, “If I timed this right, you should be getting this letter on your birthday.” I stopped short, realizing that, indeed, it was my birthday. I had squandered half of the day in ignorance, not realizing it was my birthday.

I am not so good at birthdays.

Therefore, I decided some time ago, to keep working at my birthday, specifically my 26th birthday. All year long, when people ask how old I am, I say I am 25. Then when my birthday comes, if it is a success, I will move on. So far, they haven’t been a success.

This year was no exception. It started out wonderful, with a trip back home to the county fair, with my wife, daughters, and a couple of their friends. I visited with my mom, and my sister, and her granddaughter, who developed quite an attachment to Eldest. (Even though my sister is the youngest in the family, she is older than I). It was a wonderful day. We ate funnel cake, since birthdays and cake go together. We bought some maple syrup to pour over homemade waffles (I love breakfast, and real maple syrup is amazing).

Things were looking quite successful.

Then in the evening, the family and I went to a baseball game. My alma mater, Roberts Wesleyan College, was holding an alumni picnic before the game; it was great to see friends. My youngest and middle daughter spent a little time with the college mascot, Reggie, and there was food.

Things were looking quite successful.

It was a chilly night, with temperatures in the mid 50’s (F). This was not a bad thing, since I sat between Beloved and Eldest, and they snuggled close to keep warm. I like snuggling with family almost as much as I like breakfast. But, about halfway through the game, it began to rain. A light rain, just enough to make us all damp and to make it feel even colder.

Not only that, but the hometown team was losing, by quite a significant margin.

I am not so good at birthdays.

So again, my birthday wasn’t a success, but I will “try, try again.” It’s tough being twenty-five again, but I will persevere.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I Think I Caught a Virus

I have a virus. I was at work this past weekend, minding my own business, passing medications out to the residents, when one of them coughed on me. The person in question was sick, and this was not a little clear-your-throat cough, it was a full blown hack-cough.

Consequently, I have a virus.

After twenty-five years of working with people who score a little lower than you or I on some silly test and being a father to my three daughters, I have endured much. I have had pink-eye twice, a broken foot, Bell’s Palsy (due to trauma), strep throat, countless stomach viruses, and numerous upper respiratory infections. Therefore, it comes as no great surprise that I have been infected, yet again, with some malicious virus, causing me to sneeze, wheeze, wipe my eyes, and generally moan.

I have a cold.

I want to call down curses upon the head of the gentleman who gave me this illness. I want to stamp my foot and look him in the eye and say, “How could you be such an insensitive cad?” Then I remember, he once had the same symptoms that I now have, and so I scowl to myself and ponder how long I will be ill and what kind of revenge I can exact. 

Honestly, I probably won’t exact any revenge, but I find comfort in making up evil plans.

After all, I have a virus.

Due to my self-imposed isolation, I have been catching up on reading, since I have a few books that need finishing. I have also been reading the news from a variety of news sites and now I feel guilty. There are people in Africa, stricken with the Ebola virus, who are more likely to die, than to live. That is heart wrenching and I pray earnestly for those dear people. I almost feel guilty whining about my cold when I consider their lot.

Then I sneeze and cough and groan as my throat feels like its being torn to shreds. And my family wishes I would die or at least move to Africa, so they could have some peace and quiet.

You see, I have a virus.

I would write more, but my computer screen says that McAfee has finished a scan and is going to shut my computer down.  

Apparently, I have a virus and it doesn’t want it.