Archive for September, 2012

AN APPLE A DAY HELPS THE KIDDIES PLAY

I just finished washing fourteen apples to take to my reading class (of 14 first graders) this afternoon. Now I’m enjoying my first cup of tea and a chocolate chip cookie. I’m glad you’re joining me.

You may be wondering what apples have to do with a reading class when the teacher is taking them to the students rather than vice versa. Good question.

My students are from economically disadvantaged families and they are very happy to get a piece of fruit at 3:30 after school. So, I bribe them a little to get them to read. And anyway I’m sure you know that a hungry child is generally not as good a student as she could be.

I did some worksheets on fruits and vegetables. The first one was on apples, of course. Two of the boys had never tasted an apple. Many of the children had no idea that you could make pies, sauce, jelly, etc. using apples.

One little boy is determined to create another apple by putting his apple seeds in a cup of water. He will not hear of any other way of getting a tree to grow. He just understands that apples come from seeds and that seeds need water. He doesn’t yet get the soil and tree part.

The wicked witch had it right in the story of Snow White. Kids are really drawn to the bright red apples. They’ll eat any apples I bring but they prefer the really red ones. Those of course are usually more expensive.

I take the apples in a basket that the kids like. It has a handle and red and white checked fabric inside. I told them that it is my Little Red Riding Hood basket. Only one child understood what I meant. Seems that Little Red is a little old-fashioned.

I have the kids clean their hands with diaper wipes before they pick up an apple, but soon I see that they have placed their half-eaten apple on the carpet while they toss a Nerf ball around. They have been told to lay the apple on the table on a napkin, but they forget. No one has gotten sick and I’ve been giving them apples for months.

And now I have just one more thing to say on the subject. These kids are the apples of my eyes.

COMING NEXT: Seek at Least a Laugh A Week

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FIVE HORSE TALES

It doesn’t take much to make kids laugh. That’s what I was thinking about while I was sitting here with my tea and chocolate chip cookie. I have a large “toy” horse that is covered in a bright multi-color Pendleton fabric. I took it to my reading class one day and hid it under a make-shift circus tent. The next week, there was just a chair under the tent and the next week there were several Teddy bears. This all ties into worksheets that I have been giving the fourteen first graders. The kids were very eager to see what was under the tent. All I’d do is pull away the tent at the end of class, after they have guessed what is under it, and when they see, even just the chair, they whoop and are delighted.

I thought back to when I was a child, in the 1930’s, and a man came around the neighborhood with a pony and a little dog. A parent would pay for a photo of the child wearing a cowboy hat while seated on the pony. As a child, it was thrilling. I’d love to show you the photo but I’m not computer-savvy enough to download it.

When I was in high school, I went to Colorado with two friends and the parents of one. Somewhere there was a full-size fake horse rearing up on his back legs and each of us girls had our picture taken sitting on it. I don’t recall doing that but I also have that picture.

After I was married, my husband and I went to a small ranch in Wyoming that had horses for visitors to ride. Before we went, we took riding lessons on Western saddles. We went on trail rides in Wyoming and it was fun. The cowboy who guided us was named Curly. It’s true.

After we returned, we began taking riding lessons on English saddles. Big mistake because there’s no saddle horn to hang onto. One day in the ring with a bunch of other horses and riders, we were suppose to canter (for the first time). In case you don’t know about that, it’s the step just before you gallop (that’s fast). I was on a 17 hand high horse (that’s big) and suddenly he moved about two inches to one side. As I went to correct, he moved more the other way and off I went, sliding right down the side onto my head (covered by a helmet). Fortunately it had rained a lot the day before and the horses had chopped up the ground so it wasn’t so hard as it might have been. The lenses popped out of my glasses and I’m no more brain damaged than I was before I fell, but without glasses, I thought I was blind.

I don’t ride horses any more. There’s no gearshift and no brake pedal. I can put up with reins instead of a steering wheel but I want to be able to control how fast I go and when I can stop.

It seems that just about everyone has some horse tale to share. I’d love to hear yours.

COMING NEXT: An Apple A Day Helps The Kiddies Play

OVER-LAUGHING IS THE GOAL

Hello. I’ve been waiting for you. In fact, I was a little early so I’m on my second chocolate chip cookie and my tea is a bit cold. I’ve been sitting here wondering how many cookies I could eat before it would be over-doing it.

I never tell you anything you don’t know. We just share our ideas. But, have you given any thought to excesses? I think there are only two things in our lives that we can’t do to excess. Tell me if I’m wrong.

We can over-eat, over-drink, over-spend, over-dress, over-exercise, over-sleep, over-state, over-step, over-work, and a whole bunch of other “overs.”

The two things we can’t over-do are loving and laughing. I can’t take care of the loves in your life, but I am hoping to get you to the place where you almost over-laugh. I don’t mean hysteria. I just want you to start looking at life in a different way, one that will show you the humor in many problems.

I haven’t been able to find a statistic that shows the average amount of time an adult laughs during a day, but I bet it’s not very long. I had to stipulate that we’re talking about adults because most children laugh a lot during a day. Well, at least the elementary age kids. Things get more serious by the time they are in middle school.

We, as mature humans, are so hungry for laughter that we spend hours watching shows that we hope will make us laugh. We idolize Ellen, Tina and Oprah for many reasons, but a biggie is because they make us laugh and do it without insulting people or using horrible language. Their job is not telling jokes; they understand that humor comes right out what goes on in our lives. That’s the place for you to look as you go through your day.

I believe if you read my book, “Ticked Off and Tickled About It,” that you will begin to see how to find those funny moments for yourself. Also if you keep visiting me here, we’ll continue to keep looking at how humor can be found in everyday problems.

In case you haven’t read my book yet, let me explain that it is not a textbook. It is a book of 40 humorous essays that came right out of problems I’ve experienced.

I really look forward to your ideas about putting more laughter in your life.

Meantime, I’ve decided eating a third cookie might be over-doing it but the idea of downing all that chocolate just gives me the giggles.

COMING NEXT: FIVE HORSE TALES

DISASTROUS ADVENTURES IN COOKING

I may have to cut our meeting short today because I’ve got to get to a real bakery and stock up on chocolate chip cookies. As I have confessed to you in the past, I don’t like to cook so I eat packaged cookies. That’s got to change.

I’ve been reading a delightful book that is filled with references to bread (and other goodies) being made in a charming bakery in Seattle. It’s a novel but the author was a professional baker.* As I read, I can just imagine the wonderful smells that are wafting through the air. She doesn’t mention chocolate chip cookies specifically but I bet they were there along with the muffins and biscotti cookies.

When I read about food, I think maybe I’ll begin to cook, but when it comes time to haul out one of my dozens of like-new cookbooks, I remember dozens of things I need to do more urgently. Writing this blog, for example.

I learned about cooking when I was quite young. (Notice that I didn’t say, “I learned to cook.”) I recall making carrot cake cupcakes. The recipe called for a teaspoon of salt but my reading skills were as bad as my cooking skills at that time, so I added a tablespoon of salt. My dog, Lucky, would eat anything so I gave him a muffin. He looked royally insulted and wouldn’t even lick the muffin.

My best friend and I decided to make a chocolate cake from one of her mother’s recipes. It called for a half cup of coffee. We added a half-cup of ground coffee. We were at her house and there was no dog to tempt. (By the way, we were middle school age at the time.)

Shortly after I was married, I tried to broil steaks in an oven. It’s a wonder we didn’t die of smoke inhalation. Some friends dropped by unexpectedly and when I heard the knock, I was sure the firemen had arrived.

Years later, we had different friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. When I went to check on the turkey, I found that I hadn’t turned on the oven. We had dinner about midnight. (I was too young for a senior moment.)

My grandmother owned a boarding house and that’s where my mother grew up. The meals were meat baked or fried, potatoes baked or mashed, vegetables very much as they came out of the ground and some kind of simple bread. Desserts were probably the fanciest food grandma prepared. So that was the kind of food mom grew up on and it is the kind of food my family eats. I have tried gourmet dishes over the years but no one ever begs for them to be repeated. (Thank goodness. I wouldn’t want to have to prepare them again.)

I’ve got to go now. I drank my cup of tea with you today without a cookie. You can’t expect me to hold off any longer without my cookie fix. I’m off to the bakery.

*Author of book: Judith Ryan Hendricks
COMING NEXT: Over-Laughing Is The Goal

HERE’S HOW I DO NOTHING

Okay, you’re right–If I’m going to do nothing, I have to even give up drinking my hot tea and eating a chocolate chip cookie. We know that’s not going to happen. But I did want to confess to you that there are things I don’t do that generally fall under the category “a woman’s job.”

If you’ve read anything I’ve written, you already know that I don’t cook if there is any way out of doing so. But you may not know that I also don’t sew and I don’t do gardening.

The Public Schools and my mother did their best to teach me to sew. In school, I made a blouse that was too small and a skirt that was too big. Mom let me pick out material and patterns for me to make. By the time she couldn’t stand seeing them un-sewn, they were wrapped in cobwebs. Well, the goal was too high–Mom could tailor a suit. How could I live up to that?

My Dad was the gardener. All he had to do was look at a seed or a bulb, add a dash of water, and carry the results off to a gardening contest and come back carrying the blue ribbon. I, on the other hand, said that giving me a house plant to tend was like handing over the poor thing to Murder, Inc.

One time friends gave us one of those a-plant-a-month gifts. Each plant was dead by the time the next one arrived four weeks later. I did try to keep the lovely leaves and blossoms on the stem, but they would not mind me.

My husband and I have a beautiful yard. He picks out the plants and a gardener takes care of them. I sit and admire them–not just the plants but also the marvelous work of the gardener and the great plant choices of my husband.

“Boy, is she spoiled.” I can hear you thinking that through my magical internet.

Well, I do take care of the dishes that get dirty from the take-out food we eat. And I pay the water bills that are high because of all the water that goes on the plants. I show my husband where I keep the needles and thread when he has to sew on buttons. My biggest job is going to the market to buy the ready-prepared foods, produce and paper products. I do this as little as possible.

More to my defense–I raised a wonderful child and I had a full-time job all of my life. Now I write, although that is more for my own fun than for yours. (Wow, she’s also selfish.)

It’s okay with me if you share recipes or gardening tips but just be aware that they are not going to be used by me. Hopefully other readers here will enjoy them. (See, I know how to share.)

COMING NEXT: DISASTROUS ADVENTURES IN COOKING