sagegreenshirtShe used to iron his uniform, I think he called them fatigues, late at night. I watched her from the floor, sitting under the kitchen table. Sounds like a strange place to sit, but from there I could see the small black and white television on the breakfast bar in the kitchen and talk to my mother while she did her work.  Mom colored at night at that kitchen table, hand-tinting black and white photographs with oil paints before the relentless advent of digital photography. She worked at the photography studio during the day but her real world seemed always at night. I watched all the old horror movies holding onto my mother’s legs under that table, secure in their strength. The scent of turpentine, linseed oil and thermos-glass instant coffee was her uniform.

The old metal frame of the ironing board would squeak as she pressed the creases into the khaki, the hiss of spray starch punctuating between creaks. Serious work, those uniforms. He had been wearing them since he was fifteen, when my father lied about his age and joined the Navy. In the Air Force now, Dad worked on the radios of the B-52 bombers. I watched him polish his heavy brogans in that kitchen too, ebony black. Dad’s real world always seemed to be the morning. Up at the literal crack of dawn, whistling, always rushing, packing. Dad worked. I watched him walk back to us from the flight line, his distinctive walk helping me pick him out from all the others. The smell of boot polish, starch and the Brilcreem in his hair was his uniform.

Imaginary/The Daily Post


She had that look about her. A rough life. A face like an old linoleum kitchen floor that had two layers. One layer cracked and pulled back at the edges to reveal the original faded colors. Her face had layers of covered up pain, smoke-filled, hungry and resigned.


publicdomain Pixabay


The Deer Garden

potatoes160430_0005We nicknamed this sturdy enclosure the deer garden. At ten by ten wide and six foot tall, our local deer have not yet been willing to jump in to eat our vegetable garden. I love our Texas wildlife on our little farm, but I love having fresh vegetables. The thick gauge wire panels have also discouraged the rabbits, raccoons and armadillos that frequent our back yard.

My husband spent yesterday topping off the garden with sweet-smelling pine shavings to discourage the weeds and when hilled will allow more potatoes to develop. A spring garden is a wonderful thing. I am looking forward to real tomatoes (not those horrid grocery store things), onions, strawberries, cucumbers, four different types of peppers, potatoes and yellow squash.Ar14636489521

Closed Door Deer GardenYou may wonder how we came to have such an ominous looking pen as a garden enclosure. A few years back we adopted a stray dog; a full-blood Bassett Hound that we named Sweet Pea. She wandered down the street with our neighbor, who was looking for her owner. My husband, who was not prone to doing that sort of thing, said ” We can keep her.” She looked sweet. But beneath that sad-sack face lay a wounded psyche. Lord knows what mental scars happened to that dog before she came to us, but we found in a hurry that she hated thunderstorms. We had a great, warm dog house in our large back yard where she stayed during the day with our other dog. But if it thundered once, it was all over. Sweet Pea tore through every chain link fence we ever had. She’d either dig and slither under the fence or grab the thick wire and bend it up with her teeth. She’d make a bee line for our neighbor’s house, go in through their dog door and be in their house playing with their dogs. Our neighbors were very understanding. Have you ever smelled a wet Basset Hound?

So, the deer garden enclosure. Purchased at our local farm supply, they said you could keep a lion secure in this ten by ten foot enclosure. We put Sweet Pea and our Dalmatian Jasmine in the enclosure under a small shelter with their doghouses when it threatened rain. It did work, but it made me sad because she struggled so to get out. Even her strong jaws were defeated. When we finally lost Sweet Pea to old age, we buried her on our property just outside any fence. It seemed fitting. That was always where she wanted to be.




The little white lie, the unconscious or sometimes conscious offensive turn-of-phrase can wound, but let’s face it, it won’t kill you. It is a disappointment. In the grand scheme of things, the person who gossips or cuts me off in traffic is not my biggest worry. The safety of my family and the core beliefs I hold are worth defending, but if you need to go faster than me on I-20, knock yourself out. However I will be hoping that the DPS will give you a big, fat ticket as you speed by me.

It is an entirely different thing when children disappoint you. Over the past twenty-one years of teaching I have seen some kids say and do some pretty awful things to each other. I vacillate between instantly swooping down with “the appropriate thing to do” and waiting to see if the aggressor and intended victim can work it out themselves. Kids have a highly developed sense of justice. Watch them divide candy and you’ll see what I mean. I am always optimistic that they can learn how to treat each other kindly. If not, I am there to intervene. Quickly.

Good behavior, defined in my class as what you say and what you do, should be modelled first by me, explained carefully and specifically and followed up on consistently.  Sounds easy, but it isn’t.

Testing the “truth” boundaries is a normal part of growing up. I think of kids lying to me as a kind of, “Let’s stick my finger in this electric outlet and see what happens.” sort of moment. If the lying has consequences, then a child learns not to do it again.  But your response to lying has to be smart and appropriate to the offense.

These favorite teacher phrases produce very predictable results.

Did you do that? ”  I didn’t do anything.” (What did you think they were going to say? ” Yes teacher I did it. Take me away.”)

Were you running? ” I was just walking fast.” (Teacher, did you define running, skipping, hopping and other modes of movement as off-limits? Yes, I have actually had a line of students practice walking. Sigh.)

Were you talking? ” He was talking to me.” (Did you define talking? Which in my room means talking, whispering, singing, humming, making sound effects and talking to yourself, your friends or your imaginary friend.) A footnote here is the uncanny ability of kids to drum or make noise with ANYTHING. I have a theory about this. Each child that drums on stuff is creating their own identifying sound, like animals saying, “Here I am.” in the muffling noise of a forest. No proof, just a theory.

Did you take it? ”  No.” (What did you think they were going to say? Even when it is hanging out of their pocket.)

Did you hear me? “No.” (What did you think they were going to say? Duh.)

But recovery, forgiveness of the lie, is  an integral part of the learning. It says , “Your behavior was bad just then, but I still like you.” I can usually muster up that feeling when looking at a sweating ten-year old who just got caught in a lie.

I hope that when I handle these situations correctly, maybe we can avoid that adult who thinks it’s ok to go through the fast check out lane with fifty items instead of ten or to park in the handicapped place when they are able-bodied. The bigger stuff adults will just have to reason out on their own. And quitting drumming on the table.

Photo CCO license





The Melon and Other Disasters

On the Move

We have a disaster happening in our back yard judging by the sounds.  The neighbor’s flock of guinea hens is moving through the tall grass at about nine in the morning while we are having our Saturday morning coffee.  Picture the scene in the first ICE AGE animated movie, where the dodos rush to save their last melon and you’ll get an idea of the scene.

RALPHThe lookout guinea has spotted  some imaginary danger and is screeching at the top of its lungs. People in the Texas countryside prize this noise. No one can sneak up on you with a flock of guineas around. We have no problem with this because each guinea hen eats its weight in voracious grasshoppers and other bugs. They also kill snakes. Come on over my friends.

These birds always seem to be in a state of panic about something. Reminds me of some people I know.

Snow White

My husband and I look at each other each time we see them and simultaneously shout, “The melon, the melon!” and laugh (is this as weird as it sounds?) We love their visits.

Yes, I Broke the Paper Cutter

Austin & Dillan 6thI broke a guillotine paper cutter once cutting rolls of newspaper. A paper cutter is an expensive piece of equipment for a public school, and they are remarkably durable  so I was shocked when the bolt that holds the cutting arm just flat sheared off and the arm came away in my hand. My first thought was “Hmmm….how am I going to explain this one.”

A hush fell over the classroom, broken finally by a student with a penchant for the obvious. “Well, we’re gonna need a new paper cutter.” I was still counting my fingers. I blame Pinterest. See a more sensible lesson plan here that uses smaller tubes.

We were making icosahedrons out of newspaper in my 6th grade art classes. An icosahedron is a geometric form; a polyhedron with twenty faces. Per Wikipedia each regular icosahedron has thirty edges and twenty equilateral triangle faces with five meeting at each of its twelve vertices. This requires a LOT of newspaper tubes. A LOT that have to be cut to equal lengths. Twenty-five tubes per student. Of course a paper cutter is not designed to cut that many thick paper tubes. But it did for a while.

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I was proud I could even pronounce icosahedron, since saying I am mathematically challenged is like saying the Titanic had a small leak. But newspaper was cheap and readily available from the library and classrooms. Ahhh…the digital world is changing that now.

I also was proving to my students how incredibly strong layers of newspaper are when rolled into a tube and taped into triangle faces. They worked together to construct their icosahedrons which were pretty impressive when they got them done. We had a blast making these, and I always wondered where they ended up when the students got them home.


The Daily Prompt – Colorful

A wonderful website called artyfactory.com has a Pop Art lesson plan that produced some very colorful Mona Lisas from my 5th graders a few years back. They grid the drawing and copy it square by square, then paint each square with a different color, texture or tone. It always suprises me how the mind balks at drawing hands. Tough stuff, but such good practice at isolating shapes. I hope you have as much fun looking at them as we did making them. Here’s the lesson site.

The Daily Post – Voice

loud voice pexels-photo

It may just be me. But I am not a person who likes loud voices.

Don’t know where it came from. I’ve yelled at many a football game and at the television when the Dallas Cowboys are playing, but at work, not so much. I teach art you see, so a loud adult voice to me indicates a teacher that has just had her or his last nerve stepped on and the festivities are about to begin. Back away. Not that I have not done my share of raised voice talking (ok…yelling). No saint here, I’m always a work in progress.

It took me a few years of teaching children to realize that the normal decibel level in some households is “jackhammer” level, where my home is more “passenger car” level. It takes some time to convince a student that if my hair is blowing backward and I am blinking a lot when you are speaking, your voice level is a little too high. I now think of my group classroom voice level as “bee hive”. A little buzz is good, a sign of industrious artwork happening. Attack of the killer bees is not so good.

When I first started teaching over twenty years ago, I had a young man who both spoke loudly and spit when he talked, a dental thing I think, so someone (not me) had told him to hold his hand in front of his mouth when he talked. This was a second grade student, so it was rather dicey to talk with this young man, who had interpreted this instruction as “Hold your fist in a perfect “O” around your mouth.” This had the effect of channeling the spit right at you when he talked. His other fist he kept in the air with an index finger pointed up as if to punctuate the little shower you were getting with an exclamation point. I always imagined he went into politics.

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The Daily Prompt – Price

EygptI am a teacher of ten to fourteen year olds. I watch them. I watch over them. And they watch me like a hawk.

My students know my strengths and they know my weaknesses; just as I know theirs.  I have often heard my words as a teacher repeated back as students talk to each other. I have heard their parents words and actions too, echoed back in a smaller body as the truth.

And now the angry and divisive language of this election campaign has descended on our country like a noxious cloud. And I am astonished at these adults who want to run our country. And I am worried.

My students are listening. They are watching.

You may win the election. But at what price?