Crawdads and Roses

Mom's Roses
Mom’s Roses

My parent’s house was on the south side of Fort Worth, Texas, a city of about almost 800,000 today, but back in 1969, when I was 13, it was about half that. Point was, Fort Worth didn’t seem like a big city then; the neighbors we had were friendly and their kids wandered the small streets without fear. Not so much today.

I remember mom telling me that they bought the small L-shaped ranch-style house because of its location right next to Kellis park, which touched the west side of the house. “You kids needed space to play.” The small back yard was chain-link fenced. The front had split-rail fencing that was covered in mounds of climbing roses. A long concrete driveway ran up the front of the house ending in the attached two car garage. The driveway was framed on the left by the same split-rail fencing sunk in a flowerbed, with the same sprawling rose bushes. My mother loved roses. My dad didn’t want anyone using the driveway or front yard as a bicycle ramp into the park so the rose fence was beautiful and to my practical, retired air force master-sergeant father, served a good purpose. Secretly, I believe he loved the roses as much as mom.

The house was big enough for three kids, but not spacious. Four bedrooms, one used to be a den at the front of the house; a large living room with a white brick fireplace and a large kitchen on the back with a door that connected to the garage. My brother had a basketball goal mounted on a pole just at the corner of the garage and practiced incessantly when he wasn’t hitting tennis balls against the garage doors.

It was true that the best feature about that house for us the was the park. My sister was three years older and my brother nine years younger than me, and we all loved the park for different reasons. It had a ramshackle tennis court and playground equipment (swings, teeter-totters) and a city swimming pool! We all learned to swim there, in chlorine-laced water that brought us home disinfected, pruney and red-eyed in the summer.

The park had another attraction, a sort of combo creek and city rainwater drainage system. Now being a country girl from Jacksboro, Texas, my mother told us that there were probably crawdads in the creek and told us how to catch them. We would steal bacon fat from the refrigerator and armed with a safety-pin and string, would regularly yank the ONE lone crawdad that we managed to find under the rocks at the edge of the creek. He was a big sucker with ancient blue claws that could pinch a blood blister anywhere he latched on to.  That poor crawdad got hauled out of the creek over and over while we laughed and watched him furiously try to seek his revenge before we tossed him back in.  There were even a few spotted sun perch and tons of minnows in the creek that my small brown terrier Ginger would try to catch; blowing bubbles through her nose while in hot pursuit of a fishy snack. The back yard had a sand box built primarily for my brother Billy. Many a fort and imaginary off-road track were built in that sand box, while he wasn’t burying our dogs up to there noses in the cool sand. The dogs loved it during the hot Texas summers.

We also waded through the pond by the child-sized concrete drainage pipe to get golf balls out of the water for my father. He would pay us for all we dredged up. I actually think it was ransom to get us out of the house for a while. My father did not play golf. It makes me shudder now to think of it, but I regularly used to crawl through the drainage pipe under the Trail Lake intersection to the other side of the park. It was a time in childhood where you know nothing bad could ever happen and you would be home by dark for supper.

Great memories live in that house. My parents are dead now and my brother, but the house is still there. I have only driven by the outside one time. Hopefully the family that lives there has children who laugh as much as we did there.  And I hope the grandchildren of that poor crawdad are still putting up a good fight.

Footnote

legoIt’s cold here in Mineral Wells, Texas today and we had indoor recess at my elementary school. Part of my recess gear is a tub of Legos, which includes windows, doors, propellers for making planes, wheels, basically any kind of gizmo to fill a child’s imagination.

I’m at my desk listening and watching the kids play, when I overhear one child say, ” See I made a Doctor’s office.” Uh oh. My ears perked up for a possible intervention, but I did not say anything right away. She went on describing how the patient would be lowered through a window onto a slide that deposited them neatly onto the examining table. I’m thinking, ” That would be better than sitting in a germ-laden waiting room.” “This is the doctor. He’s just finished my mom’s examination. ” Now I’m up out of my seat moving in for a full-fledged intervention before any more details emerge, when she says ” Yes Mam, your foot fungus is cured!”

Sorry mom, there are no secrets in the elementary classroom. But it made my day.

Simple

#mwisdthankful

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Today I am thankful for the simple things that can make a teacher’s day.

  • My husband packed my lunch for me.
  • I actually used the right key to my classroom door instead of trying to open it with my car key like I did yesterday.
  • The copier was working and had toner and paper in it when I got there.
  • There are Oreos in the snack machine in the teacher’s lounge.
  • It didn’t rain today so there was no indoor recess, in fact it was beautiful out there today at the bus circle.

Life is good.

Speedy

#mwisdthankful

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You just can not beat kid stories. I am so thankful when they make me laugh.

A  student steps up to the plate with something to tell you with “that” look on their face. (“Oh this is gonna be a good one, you think.” “Swing, batter, batter……”) Every one of these is true. You can’t make this stuff up.

“Yeah, my mom just got a new puppy. It’s real little and hairy, I can’t remember the name but it starts with a P. Oh yeah, it’s a Parmesan.” I said, ” I think you mean a Pomeranian. Yes?” “Yes.” Close, he was very close.

“My mother was in a car accident and lost a leg.” I said, “Oh I’m so sorry. Is she ok now?” Child says “Oh yes, she’s ok now, she has a prostitute.”  I said, ” I think you mean a prosthetic. A leg made for her by the doctor, yes?” “Yes.”

One child to another: “Well you know, if you use your inhaler when you don’t need to, you can get ammonia.” I said, ” I think you mean pneumonia. I don’t think you can get that from using an inhaler improperly.” “OK, but that’s not what my mom said.”

“Now what was the name of the artist we studied yesterday that used the pointillist technique of painting?” Student, waving hand wildly says, “I know, I know…Sewer Rat!” I said, ” I think you mean Georges Seurat, yes?” “Yes.”

A few years back a student in my 6th grade art class tells this story as his “one Good Thing that happened to you this weekend” story. We are talking about Thanksgiving dinner at the time and this young man says, ” My Dad likes turkey but he doesn’t like to shoot them, so he catches them in a bag.” I let that sink in for a minute and then said, “Really?”  ” Yeah,” he says.

“We have some property that’s fenced in with tin and we corner the turkeys. But this one got out and it chased me and pecked me.” Laughter fills the classroom as he is enjoying the telling and I’m thinking, “Probably so.” He goes on.” So we kept that one as a pet.” “Really , the one that pecked you?” I said. “Yep.” he says. ” I named it Speedy.”

Priceless.

What Does Art Mean?

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#mwisdthankful

Today, Friday November 10th, I am thankful for the experiences my students give me.

As an elementary school art teacher, I get asked a lot about the meaning of art. What does this abstract art mean? What is the purpose of my child taking art? What did the artist mean when he or she painted that? My reply is,” What does it say to you?”

You want to know what art means?

Today it means a tall, timid shell of a girl, with wispy hair, standing at my desk with a paper card in her hand. “Today is my birthday.” she said quietly, not seeking the ranting Happy Birthday song that usually follows that news into a classroom. “Well, Happy Birthday!” I say, “Are you doing anything special?”

“I don’t know.” she says, eyes darting away from my face. I sense I’ve said the wrong thing. “But my Dad made me this.” She is holding out the card. “You want to see?” “Sure.” The card shows a princess in a Disney–style gown; a scroll proclaiming “Happy Birthday Princess” in elaborately hand-drawn tattoo letters. The card is a much folded piece of white paper, the image beautifully drawn in delicate pencil.

“My Dad is in prison. He made me this for my birthday.” Her eyes search my face for any sign of disapproval. I mentally bless this father who loves his child.

What does this art mean?

When I look at this card I imagine time melts away for the artist as he works and the air takes on that super-charged feel at the edge of a storm. That moment when the summer air is replaced with the cool rush edge of the weather and the first round, fat drops splatter your face. This art says all things are possible. It says “Child, you are loved in this world.” It says, Child, wait and see and don’t lose hope. Ever.”

“Tell your Dad I think this is wonderful and he is very talented.” She smiles at the father that is miles away, but here in the room as she folds the card carefully into her pocket.

That is what art means for me and for this child today.

Punkin Time

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#mwisdmatters

Doing clay with fourth-graders in thirty minute classes is problematic. I know you are thinking, “Are you nuts?”, but it can happen. This lovely lesson from Ceramic Arts Daily filled the ticket with a cute little ceramic Jack-O-Lantern.

Check out their great how-to video here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnViFPenWeo

Prep

We watched a short video on where clay comes from and what it is used for in every day life. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhYWuAGVU8k My kids had no idea that things like sinks and toilets are made from ceramic. I portioned out the correct size balls of clay for each student before we began the project. I covered the work tables each day before they arrived.

Day 1

I demonstrated how to make a pinch pot. Students used sharpie to label a quart-sized sealable baggie with their name and class period. Whoa they were excited.

Day 2

Students made their pinch pots using a circle on their work table to measure their pot size. The idea was that it could be no bigger than the paper circle and that both pinch pots had to be approximately the same size. Both pinch pots went carefully back into the baggie until the next day.

Day 3

The students scored and slipped the edges of both pinch pots and joined them together. I gave each student a new portion of clay for the stem. They shaped and attached the stem. Using a sharpened pencil they carefully engraved their name on the bottom.

A Few Days Later

leather hard

I’ll admit it, I almost waited too long. The pumpkins were pretty hard when I went to carve the faces. I carved the eyes and the mouth with an X-Acto knife for each student. The idea of X-Acto knives and fourth graders made me a little queasy and to be honest I thought they might crush the pumpkins trying to carve through them.

Air dry for at least 10 days or until bone dry and fire to bisque. Glaze and fire again.

My students were so pleased with their Jack O’ Lanterns. I wrapped each one in tissue paper and hopefully they  made it home in their backpacks in time for Halloween.

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Across the Line

 

four-square-1622867_1920Four square. A playground game that has been around since I was in elementary school.  I was supervising a group of
sixth-graders playing four-square at recess today and I blew it.

You know, it’s been a long time since I played the game and I forgot that the inside lines are out-of-bounds if the ball touches it and the outside lines are in-bounds if the ball touches it. Read that sentence a few times and it makes your eyes water.

I preferred a simpler solution. If the ball touches a line, you’re out.
Wrong old-teacher-lady. So wrong. The drama-llamas hit full bore whine-o-rama level when I started enforcing that rule. An eleven-year-old has a more finely developed sense of justice than a life-time supreme court justice.

After much gnashing of teeth during recess I did what any good teacher does, I googled four-square rules when I got back inside.

So tomorrow I must do a mea culpa and let the outside lines be in-bounds at all costs. For Pete’s sake, there must be SOME order in this world.

But there are still no cherry bombs.