Monday, April 30, 2012

The Cold Shoulder

Hillmomba, we have a problem.

Friday morning, I stepped into the shower to find myself in a tropical waterfall. And by tropical, I mean fed by fifty-degree underground springwater. I adjusted the control knob the best I could, striving for lukewarm.

Trying to change that water temperature was one mean feat. It has a little bit to do with Plumber H reversing the hot and cold pipes in half of the Mansion's faucets. There is no rhyme nor reason. Our bathroom sink is normal, but the shower is reversed. And it's got one big plastic fake-crystal knob with a red arrow pointing to HOT and a green arrow pointing to COLD. Except NOT. But I always forget if it's normal or reversed. You know, you adjust things out of habit after 14 years of living there, and when something goes awry, you don't remember which is wonky. And it's REALLY hard to figure it out when no matter which way you turn it, the water stays the same temperature. Cold.

Farmer H got up after my bone-chilling shower and determined that the breaker for the water heater had tripped. So he turned it back on. Because, you know, those things tend to fix themselves. Whatever made it trip was surely an anomaly. No need to investigate. We'll be in hot water for the rest of our live-long days. Except NOT.

Sunday morning, I had a normal shower. Farmer H did so as well. The #1 son could not even get hot water in his sink to brush his teeth or wash his face. I forget whether his sink is normal or wonky.

#1 texted Farmer H, who was on his way to the movies with The Pony. According to The Pony, that message was received. And Farmer H thinks the water heater has a bad element. So of course he rushed out and bought a new element and installed it so we could have normal hot water for the Monday morning showers. Except NOT. Farmer H let the goats out. Drove the Gator down to his cabin. Took the fake Gator for a spin. Roared across the front yard and up the road on our smallest, kid-sized, green 4-wheeler, emitting a cloud of gray exhaust. The water heater is on the other side of my office wall. No attempt to inspect it was made.

Farmer H is off on a business trip Tuesday morning through Thursday afternoon. A reckoning is in order.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Culture Clash

Farmer H took The Pony to see The Three Stooges movie this morning. The Pony pronounced it hilarious. I'm sure Farmer H shares his sentiments. He used to be a big fan of the Ernest movies as well. Yet he tells me I have no sense of humor. And that SNL is entertainment for morons. Because, you know, The Three Stooges is highbrow art. And I'm astonished that Jim Varney had not been posthumously awarded the Nobel Prize in Slapstick.

While they were gone, I caught up on some domestic engineering. I am mystified by a pair of The Pony's socks. One black. One navy. The Pony swears that's how they were rolled up in his drawer. And that there is NOT another pair just like them. That it's the only pair of colored socks in his room. I would love to go prospecting in there and mine the identical pair out of a pile of floor ore, but time does not permit such luxuries. His comeuppance will have to wait.

I might as well give up and let them run around Hillmomba in goat-skin, Flintstone-like garb. I don't think either would bat an eye. The only thing that gets their attention is when they run out of forks. The #1 son, on the other hand, is quick to shout, "SOMEbody needs to do the laundry." Because he is nearly walking upright, so as to save his knuckles for intricate electronic skulduggery.

When I told him that Farmer H and The Pony were going to see The Three Stooges, #1 groaned. "That movie looks SO STUPID!"

He's a regular elitist.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Like A Bucket Of Mop Water To A Toddler

It is with heavy heart that I report the demise of one of Hillmomba's baby chicks.

Thank the Gummi Mary, the Mansion hounds had nothing to do with it. Farmer H found it this afternoon when he returned home from work. It had fallen into the water pan and drowned. It was not one of the most recent batch of 12 chicks, but one of the hardier, older group of 4 chicklets. This one was a turken. One of the ugliest chickens ever to cheep cheep. Kind of like a scrawny buzzard baby. We have other turkens. This was a dark one. The first little white turken we've hatched is still kickin'.

Farmer H dumped all of his water pans, keeping only the original waterer thingy that you fill and turn upside down and water seeps out into a shallow ring at the bottom. An identical chick death occurred last fall. Farmer H was again the first one on the scene. He told The Pony that something must have eaten that chick, when in reality he fished it out of the water and tossed it on his cardboard fire. You'd think he would have learned his lesson then. But remember, we're talking about Farmer H.

I am relieved that The Pony was not the first responder. He is quite a little chicken lover.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Between Love And Salivation Lies Obsession

The Pony was beside himself with anticipation today. We drove T-Hoe to a nearby town for some errands after school, and picked up a Papa John's pizza.

The Pony LOVES Papa John's. There used to be a franchise inside The Devil's Playground. We would place an order and pick it up after shopping. Or, if the #1 son was with us, I would call it in, and he and The Pony would sit and eat while I was sparring with The Devil's Handmaidens. Alas, Papa John forsook The Devil, and The Pony was left high and dry without his favorite pizza.

As I pulled into Papa's parking lot, The Pony sat at attention. No gaming. No reading. He was on alert. "Are you excited?"

"Yes! I can smell it now. I can't wait."

I handed him the money, and he trotted across the pavement. Rain began to fall just as he entered the store. He returned to T-Hoe at a full gallop. "That was bad timing."

"Oh, come on. It's not raining that hard. It's not like you're going to melt."

"I'M fine. But the PIZZA could have got wet!"

"Are you salivating?"

"Uh huh. It's SO good. It was all I could do to keep from staining my shirt as I ran out."

"You mean because you were gripping that pizza box so tight?"

"No. From the saliva. I was almost drooling, and I didn't want to get it on my new shirt."

The Pony really, really likes Papa John's pizza.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Bridge, By Any Other Name

My classes are in the midst of the great penny-holding paper-bridge competition.

Today we used an online tutorial to review stresses that can affect building materials. Then students drew numbers to be placed into groups. Each person received a single sheet of paper with which to construct a bridge capable of spanning an 8-inch gorge that is three inches deep. Groups had to choose their most effective paper penny-holder.

No additional materials are allowed. No tape, no glue, no paperclips, no staples, no chewing gum, no spit, no snot, no eye-boogies. Nada. Tomorrow, I will issue each group a fresh piece of paper to recreate a bridge for testing. You don't think I'd let them bring one in, do you? I'm not a world-class bridge inspector for nothing. In past years, I have discovered tape, extra paper, two pencils, and an entire wooden ruler inside pre-made bridges.

The paper bridge may take any form. Plank. Tube. Box. Pouch. Travois. Coffin. Canoe. Pieces may be cut off and used as underneath supports. Or rolled up and stuffed into a folded bridge deck. My super-secret design held the record of 247 pennies for three years. Then I was beaten by my own design. Today I only saw one student with a rudimentary replica of my chasm-spanner. I won't share it until the contest is over. Bonus points are at stake, people! I'm not revealing any clues.

Groups are allowed to choose names for their team. Because all results will be written on the board. To date, my most colorful name has been The Narcoleptic Otters. Today, several teams announced names early. We have the Penny Loafers. Pennysylvania. The first and last name of another faculty member. The Bridge. And The Vicious Hillbilly Moms.

I might need to rethink this naming business.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yukking 101

The best thing about my job is that even on the worst of days, I can find a laugh.

Today was not the worst of days. Even if you consider how I gave the state standardized test of 47 multiple choice questions, and two students were done in 23 minutes. And another one fell asleep at #32, and I had to wake him to continue.

My freshman were not testing. Their assignment was an opinion report. One child did not have a pencil. There was a lengthy story as to why not, but I was not paying close attention. I sent her two doors down to purchase a pencil, since my offer of a chewed-up loaner were declined. Not for the teeth marks, but because she needed a pencil ALL DAY, not just for Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's class. Off she went.

During her absence, another student asked me to spell Sasquatch. I had just finished a gold-medal-caliber performance of adult spelling when Pencil Procurer returned.

"She wasn't in her room, but she found one, and gave it to me."

"A SASQUATCH?" The Sasquatch-writer was flabbergasted. Because time doesn't stand still while one is out of the room, and kids are sometimes slow to switch gears.

"No. A pencil. Why would she give me a Sasquatch?"

At the beginning of a later class, I read a few choice selections from the morning reports.

"...and even though I know a monkey might get mad at the drop of a hat and bite your face off, I still want to get a newborn monkey baby for a pet. Hey! I figure it's better than a lion, or a tiger, or a bear--"

"OH MY!" Perfect. Every single student. In unison. No amount of rehearsal could even garner the same tight response.

Thank you. They'll be here four years.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Rainbow, By Any Other Mnemonic, Would Not Shine So Sweet

The Pony and I saw an amazing rainbow fragment on our way home from school today. As we passed the bowling alley, it appeared between a church and the prison, a wide ribbon of a rainbow, ending in the apparent location of the Mansion.

"Wow, look at that!"

"That's a good one. And it goes to our house! Maybe we'll find a pot of gold."

"Yeah. That's gonna happen."

"Well, we can hope."

"That's true. Roy G. Biv."


"Don't you remember? Roy G. Biv. The rainbow."

"Oh, yeah. It has something to do with the colors."

"Uh huh. Don't you know them?"


"Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. The colors of the spectrum."

"Oh! I thought you said, 'BOY G. Biv.' That's why I couldn't get it."

It seems that ONE of us needs to work on diction.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Not Rocket Science

Kids these days. They just don't realize the importance of context clues. The Pony spends the majority of his time with his head in a book, his laptop, or his phone. I doubt that my students are much different. Except for the book part. They don't have time to rationalize. They need that instant gratification.

We have been reading Science World magazine. The cover story is about Jane Goodall's study of chimpanzees. Other articles cover various branches of science, subjects from space satellites to the uses of the element sodium.

I give assignments on the material we discuss. One of the most popular is a 30-question crossword puzzle. While students stop short of making up words to fill in some blanks, I fear that they are not taking a step back to consider the context of the question. To see if their answer makes sense.

For example, they had a question about primates. A gorilla, a chimp, or an orangutan might be referred to as a Great _________. Remember, they had a four-page article on this topic. I know they read it, because we read it out loud in class. The puzzle had three blanks for the letters. Most students had the first and last letter from other clues. So they were looking for an answer to fill in: A__E.

Well. Who knew? Apparently, many high school students refer to a gorilla, a chimp, or an orangutan as a Great ABE! And some of those Great Abes must be really ripped, because a few people think of them as Great ABS!

Another simple (in my mind) word crossed the Great A__E boxes. We don't really want to discuss those baseball officials who work behind home plate, calling balls and strikes, sometimes ridiculed by the fans: the UMBS.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Most Accidents Occur In The Mansion

The Pony put a foot wrong. It's true. Like Rooster Cogburn's horse, Bo, in True Grit. But unlike Bo, The Pony did not cause me to topple from his back onto terra firma, maybe or maybe not with a snootful of whiskey.

I was in the kitchen, putting away the weekly harvest from The Devil's Playground. My trusty assistant, The Pony, sidled up to see what was next on his disbursement list. I've really gotta get that boy some Tic Tacs to carry in his pocket so I can hear him coming.

I turned to tell him what to do, and I felt a sickening squish under my left foot. Not completely under it, like the time I stepped on a gray-and-black-spotted slug on the front sidewalk of my old house. The $17,000 house in town. No, this was a glancing squish. On the outer edge of my foot. Halfway between the toes and the heel. My stomach did a sloppy somersault. Not a Mary Lou Retton or Olga Korbut medal-worthy somersault. A come untucked midway through, middle-school gym class kind of somersault.

In my mind, The Pony's boy-hoof was trapped between burgundy-patterned linoleum and my white leather New Balance. I resisted the urge to scream like a singing slug in the cartoon movie Flushed Away. The Pony inhaled sharply. He pulled his base of support back under his center of gravity. There's a science lesson in here somewhere.

The image of a love child born of Stretch Armstrong and Gumby flitted through my brain. A pliable love child with a Silly-Putty-like wee-wee-wee toe about to do a rubber-band impersonation. Not the most comforting image.

The Pony and I looked down at the same time. I raised my foot and he yanked his back. "Good thing that was only my sock!" Indeed. I am SO glad that I bought The Pony that 10-pack of cushy, ankle-high, gray-bottomed athletic socks with room to grow in on a previous outing to The Devil's Playground.

A tragedy was narrowly averted. I am not keen on calling my Pony "Nub."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

And They Have A Quadricorn

The #1 son is off to his prom tonight.

I'm sure he's having a good time. He modeled his black tux with the baby blue vest and tie. It's a perfect match with his date's dress, and also with prom colors this year. The theme is The Enchanted Forest.

He left the Mansion around 2:30 to wash his truck and bide some time at his grandma's house before picking up the little woman around 5:00. She does not like corsages, so he had one less step to obsess over. Their plans include going out to eat with part of their group at 11:00.

Several schools in Hillmomba are having proms tonight. I can't help but worry until #1 is safely home. He has a good head on his shoulders. I'm sure he'll be fine.

Won't he?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hillbilly Mom, Tell Us 'Bout The Good Ol' Days

I am SO not liking this new BLOGGER overhaul. I do not like it on my screen. My thoughts on it are very mean.

This old dog does not need any new tricks. Just let me have my BLOGGER back. I had not even changed to the NEW BLOGGER that was out a couple years ago. Apparently, Hillmomba is no longer a free blogtry. Instead of that little banner that proclaimed changes coming in April, they might have included the message: You WILL upgrade. OR ELSE! So snap to it. Before we do it for you.

If I had my druthers, we'd all be listening to 8-track tapes, and LPs on rinky dink fold-up plastic stereos, while drinking Fresca and Tab from pull-top cans. Propping up our feet shod in Earth shoes. Showing filmstrips to our classes, and occasionally a reel-to-reel tape checked out through the mail from the regional office of the American Heart Association. Running copies on fume-emitting, purple-finger-making mimeograph machines. Eating candy chock-full of Red Dye #2. Spraying the fields with DDT. Returning glass soda bottles after using a bottle-opener to pry off their metal caps. Popping corn in copper-bottom pans on the front burner. Laughing at the thought of people PAYING for water in a bottle.

Ahh...the good ol' days. When gay was happy and thongs were shoes.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Ripping

Egads! Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has another stinging insect in her chapeau.

I think I can unequivocally state that I have eaten my last school lunch of the year. It's bait and switch time. Before 8:00, I look at the menu and decide if I'm bringing my lunch the next day. By afternoon, I have to check again. I'm onto those tricks. But it was what I received today that made up my mind.

The menu advertised a chicken sandwich, mashed potatoes, and peaches. I scurried into the cafeteria ahead of 80 stampeding freshmen. The cooks already had five or six trays laid out for the students to grab. The few that were in front of me did, indeed, grab them. Normally, the teachers state to the first line cook what they want. Then a fresh tray is readied. We pay more, you see. Adults pay $2.80 per tray.

I announced that I would like the chicken sandwich, please. That means I did not want the other everyday choice of rectangular pizza. The cook had a tray in her hand. I said I preferred the chicken without the bun. Normally, they ask teachers if they want two. Not today. In fact, she whipped the bun off that sandwich and passed the tray along. She used the bun on the next sandwich for a student.

The second cook plopped a dab of mashed potatoes. AND THAT WAS IT! For $2.80! A bare chicken patty the size of a McDonald's kid hamburger, and a dollop of mashed potatoes. I could have chosen a tennis-ball sized apple, or a stunted banana for my dessert. But I didn't want to fill up, you know. And I was seething mad about the lack of diced peaches. I swear, that banana was so small that, had I greeted a long-lost paramour on the way to my table, my paramour would not even have thought to ask if I was just glad to see him. Because the banana in my pocket would have been unobservable.

I was flabbergasted. I told the ticket-taker, "Pickin's are slim today!" She murmured her concern.

"There's gravy! Don't you want gravy? Or a banana?"

"No. I'm thinking I should have brought my lunch today."

"Isn't that terrible?"

She knows. She knows that kids can't survive on that tray of, at most, 500 calories. I could hibernate through the summer and be none the worse for wear. But I'm sure some of those kids could feel their stomach digesting their backbone by 2:00.

 I sat down in shock. A lunch buddy came in and looked askance at my tray. Another sat down with a chicken sandwich, spoonful of mashed potatoes, and half pint of chocolate milk. I may not always appreciate my chicken-nugget-with-feather, colored-water-with-a-teaspoon-of-vegetables soup, and shredded-lettuce-with-three-cheese-shreds salad...but I normally don't think I'm being ripped off. Because if there are two kinds of fruit in tiny condiment cups, we teachers can have both. And there's usually at least green beans or corn. And sometimes a tasteless Bosco stick! With marinara sauce! But not today.

Would it have hurt to slice open a drum of corn? Or put five grapes in a tiny plastic cup?

I wash my hands of it! And I almost washed the tray for them. Because I seriously wanted to lick up the crumbs of oily breading that fell off my see-through chicken patty.

To get my money's worth, you know.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Looky Here!

The Pony has several daily chores around the Mansion. One of them is waiting on me hand and foot. He does an exemplary job of that. Another is fetching soda from the basement mini-fridge upstairs to Farmer H. The duty he enjoys most is bringing in the eggs each evening. He uses a small red-and-green wicker Easter basket for that.

The hens have just recently started laying after their winter break. I think they were puzzled by the lack of winter. But we have been getting about six eggs per day over the last month. Every now and then, Farmer H catches a hen getting all broody, and takes a few eggs to put under her for some chicks. We usually get about three or four from a batch. The last ones were two little turkens and a yellow chick, hatched by one of our two black hens. We have many mongrels, and six Ameraucanas that Farmer H bought at the feed store as chicks. They looked like little chipmunks, brown with black stripes.

Farmer H and I were in a deep discussion of serious matters on the back porch shortly after we arrived home, Farmer H resting his rump on Juno's doghouse, the better to formulate ideas, I suppose. The Pony grabbed his egg basket and took off around the porch. I heard him return through the front door, then he barged out of the kitchen door and into our conversation.

"Um...we have some new chicks. I went to collect the eggs, and Chicky had four chicks walking behind her!" Chicky is the original chick. The OC. The first one we ever hatched here at the Mansion. She's white, with black-tipped tail feathers. The Pony could hardly contain his excitement. He's normally excited after counting down the days, when Farmer H finds the chicks and breaks the news. This one was HIS discovery.

Farmer H went to inspect the new poultry. He called on The Pony's phone, but The Pony was in the basement and didn't get there in time. He called on the house phone. The Pony dropped what he was doing to answer. "Are you SURE? TWELVE? Dad says we have TWELVE chicks!"

Here is a partial picture, taken by The Pony on my phone.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

In The Spring, A Young Girl's Fancy Heavily Turns To Thoughts Of Boobage

I am not one of those teachers who patrols the halls looking for illicit clothing and contraband. It is enough that I must spend 50 minute increments ever-alert for poorly-concealed cell phones, brazen food and beverage smugglers, earphones snaked through hunched-up hoodies, and poochy-lipped smokeless-tobacco dippers. I don't have time to check for striped hair, chained wallets, shorts higher than fingertip level, and butt-holed jeans.

There are only so many items I can fit into my knowledge-imparting agenda.

Last week, I walked across the front of my class after first bell. As usual, my group was fidgety and non-front-facing. Because sitting in the cafeteria for 30 minutes before school starts is simply not enough time to catch up on what happened since 3:00 yesterday afternoon. As usual, I instructed them to face the front, then continued to my desk in the back. The only place my control center will function, due to the vines of electric, telephone, and computer cables that descend from the ceiling tiles. It reminds me of a Dr. Seuss arrangement. And not in a feel-good, nostalgic, childhood-memory sort of way.

I took roll. I've learned the backs of the students heads by now. I called for someone to pass out papers. A girl volunteered, and the class snickered. She went to pick up the papers at the front of the room, at my hand-out and collection station near the pencil sharpener and FrankenWindow. More about him another day.

One of the students said, "I would never leave the house wearing that." I sighed. What fresh heck was I about to become immersed in today? I didn't see anything wrong. Had Passer made a fashion faux pas? Jeans. A black stretchy long-sleeved shirt. A tiny short jeans jacket over that. There was a decal of some sort on the back of the tiny jeans jacket. Maybe that was it. Some logo that I was not privy to. An embroidered 4-20, perhaps. Stoner's holiday. But it merely looked like some kind of heart-shaped emblem to me.

"What am I missing here? Is this something I need to deal with?"


"What's wrong with that? Should I make her take it off?"

"NO!" That came from everybody.

"Well, I'm not seeing the problem."

Passer twirled around, showing me the back of her tiny jacket. "There's no problem."

Let the record show that she had been traipsing across the front of the room, doling out papers from a stack that she clutched to her chest. A chest I had not observed until she put down the assignments and trucked on back to her desk.

"I think that's a little low. You need to pull that up."

"Or button the buttons!" I had SO many helpers. So many concerned about the welfare of a single peer.

Passer hitched up the shirt. But that, much like her original presentation, was only for show. Passer took a sweatshirt from another student, and wore it while they worked on a floor activity toppling dominoes. Which was for her own health, really, as she could have caught a deadly chest cold from plopping those puppies on the cold tile.

At lunch, Passer had that V-neck down to her navel. One of my lunch table companions spied the contraband cleavage, and hoofed it over to instruct Passer to cover up, Buttercup, by putting on a jacket. Which she did, but left the zipper open. Mr. Principal joined us and surveyed the situation. He is not one to broach the subject without female backup. It's a litigious world we live in. He made sure she had already been informed of her indiscretion, and called her over in full view of all enjoying the delicious repast of nachos, salsa, and ice cream. Making eye contact only, he told her to zip up that jacket and never let those appendages see the light of day on school property.

Seriously. Don't parents know what their kids are wearing to school?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Agenda For The Rotunda

I suspect that my mother has an agenda.

We always have Easter dinner at her house. A larger spread you've not seen this side of Oliver Twist's workhouse, where Mr. Bumble presided over a sumptuous feast that surely made the table groan with pain.

Mom makes the main dishes, and my sister and I bring various standards like deviled eggs, potato salad, Oreo cake, chocolate pudding pie, plates of cookies, vegetable dip, slaw, bacon-wrapped green beans, hash brown potato casserole, etc. Mom baked a ham and a pork loin. She made stuffing because The Pony likes it. And elbow noodles for my niece. And chicken strips. And three kinds of rolls. With real butter. A pecan pie. A vegetable tray. A salad. Olives and pickles. And a tray of cheese for ham sandwiches. The cheese looked like the variety pack from The Devil's Playground. Swiss, Colby Jack, Hot Pepper, and Cheddar.

I'm stuffed just thinking about it. Of course there was food left over. That's Mom's goal. So we drop in the next day for lunch. And then she packs up leftovers in mismatched margarine tubs and Cool Whip tubs and foam take-out containers that she has washed, and zip-lock bags, and recycled hot & sour soup containers.

Image my surprise when I unpacked my bounty at home, and found that she had not given me the cheddar cheese off the quad-cheese tray, but a stand-alone ziplock bag of the kind that individual slices come in. To hear Mom tell it, "I gave your sister the cheese from the tray we had Sunday. But here's some of the cheddar that stuck together when I was putting it out."

It was Alpine Lace Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese.

Really, Mom? Really? Are you trying to tell me something?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Curious Incident Of The Hag In The Afternoon

I was shocked last week by an incident after lunch. It is SO uncommon in Hillmomba and Newmentia that it momentarily caught me off guard.

For the most part, Newmentia is one long hallowed hall of learning. People do not show up at the door, pop in, soak up valuable learning time, or otherwise disrupt the educational process. The Pledge of Allegiance is spoken en masse every Monday morning, just after first bell. Crucial announcements concerning sports practices and after-school activities sound over the P.A. system five minutes before final bell. When a student's presence is requested in the office, a discrete phone call comes from the secretary to the classroom where the student is located. Learning. Loose students do not roam the halls. You can open a classroom door to look out when class is in session, and observe a tiled and concrete-blocked wasteland, bereft of even a tumbleweed.

So it was with shock that I was jolted out of my phospholipid bilayer reverie, into which I had fallen while giving a group on-line quiz to my biology class. The EOC is coming up in two weeks, you know. And I'm all about preparing them in a way they will retain knowledge. Pencil and paper book-learnin'? Not so much. A lively argument between two opposing factions as to whether the answer is B or C? Yeah. Vitriol is a prime motivator.

Into our hotly-contested cell membrane argument came two seniors. I do not teach seniors. The reason these older women appeared in my class of contentious juniors was soon revealed. "Can I borrow Stylist to fix may hair?"

"No. We are reviewing for the EOC test."

"You mean you won't let her fix my hair for senior pictures?"

"No. She needs to be here."

"You want me to get my picture with my hair like this?"

"You can do what you want to your hair. But Stylist is staying in class."

"I can't believe you won't let her fix my hair."

"Believe it. We're in the middle of a lesson. You need to leave."

Hairy Mop-Fur rounded up her little sidekick, whose job appeared to be Supportive Eye-Roller. And who apparently was no good at fixing hair. They left in a huff. Like I was the hag, for refusing such a polite request.

Good riddance to bad interrupters. That's what Mrs. Hillbilly Mom always says. Though she's had nary a reason to use it for nigh on twelve years now. Well...maybe that one time, when a kid showed up wanting his earphones from a buddy under my care and control, which are forbidden fruit, so the joke was on him.

Handbaskets, people! We are all on our way to Not-Heaven in handbaskets. With messy hair.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Drawing The Line

It's that time of year. Tensions run high. What's a lowly teacher to do in order to protect what is hers?

A colleague has a problem. Each day, between leaving the cafeteria and arriving in her classroom, a bold student pilfers her foodstuffs. Because, you know, he's not full after eating his school lunch. Or, perhaps, just to establish his top-doggedness. To pee on her territory. Show he's the boss.

Several solutions come to my mind. Lock the door. Boldy can't eat what he can't get his grubby little hands on. Put away your treats. Off limits is off limits. Put them in the cabinet. Or at least out of sight. Out of sight, out of the mouths of pilferers. Read Boldy the riot act. No more noshing on your nourishment. Further transgressions will be dealt with in a disciplinary manner. Piece of cake. This ain't my first boundary-pusher roundup.

Snack Victim had other ideas. Granted, the situation has grown out of hand. What was just a mischievous Boldy opening her fundraiser peanut-butter popcorn (throwing caution to the wind, hopefully not in the direction of the peanut-allergic classmate) and chowing down on handfuls before she appeared, has now morphed into rifling through Snack Victim's purse and taking out her Chex Mix to munch on. To me, that calls for desperate measures. Though not so desperate as Snack Victim is contemplating.

"What do you think would happen if I put something in it? Something that wouldn't hurt him too bad, but would make him stop?"

"Um. I think that's not a good idea. You could get in trouble. Real trouble."

"I was thinking, maybe, make some brownies and put Ex Lax in them."

"Uh. No. You could really get in trouble for that."

"Who has to know?"

"Well...I wouldn't tell. But he would know."

"He would just think he was sick. And I would never tell."

"No. You can't."

"Remember when you brought me the Chex Mix?"

"Yeah. Now that would be funny. With the cat food in it. But put a label on it that says, 'Do Not Eat. Experiment.' Or, 'Do Not Eat. Contains Cat Food.' Then it's his own fault if he eats it."

"He would still eat it."

"Yeah, you're right. But he was warned. You'd still probably get in trouble, though. For putting something like that in your purse, where a student could go through it and eat something he'd been warned not to eat, that was clearly labeled as 'cat food'.

Mr. Principal arrived, and Arch Nemesis. We giggled. Snack Victim filled them in. "We were wondering how much trouble I would get into for putting Ex Lax in food that Boldy keeps taking out of my purse."

I put in my two cents. "I told her a lot."

Mr. Principal weighed in. "Pretty serious. Like termination serious."

"I told her it would be bad. I was thinking, like, loss of license. But then, I'm an eternal optimist."

Arch Nemesis almost busted a gut. But she refrained from giving advice. Then someone came up with the idea of putting hot sauce on the Chex Mix. Which received neither a red light nor a green light from Mr. Principal. I'm thinking he did not consider the issue one that would eventually reach fruition.

Seriously. This is like that SNL skit where the waiters told the customers, "Hot plate. Be careful. It's really hot." And they all touched it to see if it was hot. Until the last one burst into flame. How much clearer do you have to make it so a kid will stay out of your stuff?

I still say a discipline referral will do it. Or in this boy's case, a quick email to his mom. She will go all apocalyptic on his butt. But the problem will be solved. Without a trip to the emergency room.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Something Lost In Translation

"Kids. Can't live with 'em. Can't eat without 'em." I'd love to take credit for that quote. But it came from my old work friend, a fourth-grade teacher.

Every day, I hear the most unique things out of the mouths of students. Kids say the darnedest things! Yeah. I can't take credit for that one, either.

Today, my classes calculated speed in centimeters per second. They did this by lining up dominoes and toppling them. As you might imagine, fourteen-year-olds do not have the steadiest of hands. Especially those who have Mountain Dew and chocolate eggs for breakfast. After a myriad of, "Oops!" and, "Sorry. My bad." followed by the tinkling of unstoppable domino cascades, I heard today's notable quote.

"I'm going to beat you with my red-headed stepchild!"

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Behold, The Power Of Bird Poop

Kids these days! It takes so little to impress them. Today, for instance...

I stood at my post in the hall, snarfing up all manner of germs from the tailwinds of passing students, trying to hold my breath for an adequate amount of time as each cougher passed by. Upon hearing exclamations of awe emanate from my classroom, I turned to observe what fresh torture the students had in store for me.

They were gathered near to back of the room. One brave or very unenlightened lad actually stood at the window behind my desk! That's a no-no. I cautioned him to move away. He apologized.

"I'm sorry. But have you SEEN that van out front?"

"No. I don't pay that much attention to what's outside the classroom."

"Whose van IS that?"

"Don't know. Don't really care. You all need to sit down."

"Well, those birds have really been going to town on that van!"

Yeah. I looked as I returned to my desk. Big deal. It was a dark blue older-model van with a few white lines of bird poop down the back side. Whoop-ti-freakin'-do. Of course, the kids assumed it had happened while parked out front. I don't think so.

Their tender brains do not have the deduction power of one with so many rings as myself. They are but neophytes in the world of forensics. You see, no other cars out front had such poopy markings. The van was not under any power lines, trees, or wires. No poopy perches from which our avian friends could bombard the auto. Which points to a van parked at home, perhaps under a carport edge, or other aforementioned vantage point for our fine feathered poopers to drop their chalky white bombs.

It was really nothing to write home about. But something eye-catching to fourteen-year-olds.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Between A Peninsula And The Deep Blue Pacific

Stop the insanity! Take away cell phones and iPods and X-Box! The youth of today are the first generation less-learned than their parents.

I had some kids yesterday who did not know where the Pacific Ocean was located. THE PACIFIC OCEAN! It's not like I asked about the Sargasso Sea. One asked if it was the water around Florida. Another asked if it was the one between the United States and Europe. The entire question was about where radiated debris from the Fukushima disaster would end up. And I even told them that Fukushima was in Japan. A little gal actually asked permission to use her tablet thingamajig to look up a world map to find the Pacific Ocean. The kids oohed and ahhed when they found out where it was.

The sad part is...they have a geography class. Now according to them, nobody has ever taught them where the Pacific Ocean is. Oh, they have homework. But they just take it home and do it. Sometimes it's a map. But they don't remember if the Pacific Ocean was ever on the homework.

Today, they had a crossword puzzle with clues for sciency article information, and pop culture information. Only a handful knew the monetary unit in India is called the rupee. Even though they had the letters r_pee. I tried to give hints. "See? You only need a vowel. Go through the vowels until one seems right. You know the vowels, right? Even though you have Language I? A, E, I, O, U. The vowels." Yet somebody still asked me if Indian money was the rApee. Yeah. Pronounced rape-eee. I don't think so. Do you see a problem here?

I KNOW that these things are being taught. I used to teach the at-risk students. They brought in homework, because I checked with teachers every day to make sure that I wasn't being hoodwinked. And there were plenty of maps, and states and capitals to be memorized, and histories of other cultures. I seriously doubt that these classes are now leaving out this information. Especially since there has been no teacher turnover in that subject.

Sure, I used to have the occasional kid who thought Canada was a state. And that the Chinese bombed the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, Japan. Then there was that whole class who thought the south won the civil war, because " see trucks with the rebel flag on them, and nobody would go around showing off a loser flag." But knowledge seems to be regressing.

For example, a state with two peninsulas. Aside from answering the question, "What is a peninsula?" I thought they should be able to figure it out. But after many blank stares, I gave a hint. "It's in the north. It borders on the Great Lakes."


"New York!"

"Georgia? Is it Georgia?"



Oh, my. I thought I might faint. But I made one last, valiant effort. "One peninsula looks like a mitten."

ONE KID knew the answer. And just in case nobody ever taught you geography in your geography class...the state with two peninsulas is Michigan. Of course, like my students, you will need me to tell you the abbreviation: MI.

But don't be discouraged. Everybody knew Joe Jonas.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Hillmomba Triangle

I packed a leftover lunch for school this morning. A ham sandwich on a wheat roll. Some green beans. And potato casserole. Those all came from the kitchen of my mother. The potato salad, I was saving for our supper.

Imagine my pleasant surprise to see that the cafeteria was serving GRILLED CHEESE today! I LOOOOVE their grilled cheese! So I left my leftovers stashed in my mini-fridge for tomorrow. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Just before the 10:53 bell for 1st lunch, I stood in my classroom doorway, chatting with my student. You heard that right. I have one student that hour. It's a different kind of class. And my roster has declined by 83% since the first week of school. I can't help it that they run afoul of the handbook. One day they were there, the next day not.

So I'm standing there discussing the pleasant smell emanating from the kitchen. It's right across the hall from my room. I definitely detected the aroma of brownies. My student suggested chocolate cake. And who should walk up the hall at that moment other than the teacher of all things cooked. Actually, the teacher of all things built went by first, but I knew better than to consult his olfactory senses, so we just waved. But the food teacher raised her nostrils to follow the imaginary cartoon stream of wafted scent. She pronounced it chocolate cake. The teacher of all things made simpler went by. I'm amazed that any work gets done around this place, what with the traffic in that hallway at 10:53. Miz Learning Made Easy declared the smell to be a combination of chocolate cake and Play-Doh.

No matter how you slice that aroma, I voiced my opinion that we would never see it on our trays. That has happened for years. We will smell the most delicious treats...yet they never materialize. It's like the cafeteria is a Hillmomba Triangle where tasty dishes disappear.

After 3rd lunch, I caught the eye of the teacher of all things cooked as she went back to class. She was beside herself. And she was beside me, ranting about the meal. "You were right. It certainly wasn't on the tray. There was only one thing they made on that tray: the grilled cheese! Canned soup. Frozen waffle fries. Boxes of raisins. Canned diced pears." She should know. She's the expert.

But you all know how Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is a cockeyed optimist. The grilled cheese was real. And it was spectacular.

Monday, April 9, 2012

An Entire Generation Is Deprived

The Pony is entranced by the Target commercial featuring folks in brightly-colored unitards hopping out of a hot air balloon to spread their hues across the lives of everyday people.

He hummed the song until I told him the name. Then he consulted his laptop. A few moments later, his laptop started singing. The Pony looked up the meaning of the lyrics. "It's not a very nice song. It's about a lark. And plucking out its feathers: I shall pluck your head! And your beak, and your eyes, and your wing, and your tail! Oh! It's about torturing the little birdy."

Of course, that does not keep him from singing it at odd moments. So far, he says he has not burst into song at school. He's an odd duck. I don't suppose it would come as a surprise to anyone.

Funny, what they put on TV these days. I'm surprised PETA hasn't inserted its snooty beak into this matter. Can't we just go back to the good old days when we tucked our kids in at night with visions of nursery rhymes dancing in their still-forming noggins? Harmless tales about hacking off visually-challenged rodents' tails with carving knives. Persecuted little non-roast-beef eating piggies. Starving dogs facing bare cupboards. Arachnids frightening young girls away from their cottage cheese. Pie-escaping blackbirds nipping off noses. Nine-day-old porridge. Obese eggs falling off walls and being smashed to smithereens. Cradled babies crashing to the terra firma.

The price of progress. Exacted on our young.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Roasting The Rabbit Would Be Simpler

Welcome, one and all, to Deviled Egg Central.

Mrs. HM is draggin' her wagon today, folks. Because she failed to complete her holiday treat prep yesterday. Never mind that she fell asleep in her recliner at 11:30, and awoke at 3:00. Did you know the Easter Bunny is not very clever with his egg-hiding at that time of morning?

Farmer H tried to bail on the egg-coloring Saturday night. He said, "You and the boys can handle the eggs. I'm going to the auction." So I conveniently moved up the dyeing time. He would shove the baby birds out of the nest as soon as the last fragment of shell fell off their feathers. I, on the other hand, would fill their flapping beaks with regurgitated worms as long as they clamored for sustenance.

The Pony wanted to color eggs. Even the #1 son dropped his latest electronic quest to join in. Farmer H came in at the tail end, to micromanage, making The Pony so nervous that he dropped an exquisite pink egg that had been soaking for thirty minutes. It was beyond salvage. The CRUNCH when it hit the floor was the first clue. The Pony's long face was the second. He started to throw it off the back porch. Then King of the Castle H commanded, "Why would you do something like THAT? I'll eat it." So he retired to the front porch for his pre-dinner protein feast.

After unsuccessfully waiting for the boys to sleep, perchance to ignore my clumsy efforts at egg-hiding and basket-filling, I succumbed to the not-so-elusive ZZZZZs. You would think one might be refreshed after a 3.5 hour nap. Not so. I muddled through my holiday duty. The baskets were set by the front door with care, to allude that the Easter Bunny once had been there. In case you're wondering, I had asked #1 if he was too old for an Easter basket. "NO!" I think he made his stance on that issue crystal clear.

This morning, I still needed to make my chocolate pudding pie, bake the Oreo cake, and peel and devil two dozen eggs. I had to awaken both boys so I could get on with it. That blasted E. Bunny had hidden eggs in my kitchen. After a foray for 44 plastic eggs, we were still short 11. I could not believe the sheer, unbridled inattentiveness of two teenage boys. I told them, "After this little exercise in egg-hunting, I am ready to call the optometrist and schedule appointments for Monday." Further failure to find shiny metallic eggs inches from their heads, ensconced in wicker broom and butterfly wall-hangings led me to reconsider. "Forget that! We're loading up and heading to the ER to have an ophthalmologist diagnose the problem with your peepers!" After some fruitless efforts at, "You're getting warmer. Warmer. Your head is going to burst into flames!" the final eggs were found. That's why we use plastic.

#1 ate some chocolate, and hopped back into bed for a thirty minute nap before church. Farmer H took off to town for his barroom breakfast buffet. As if a bar would be open on Easter Sunday morning. I let him go. He figured it out on his own. My word would not have been good enough. The Pony gathered up his laptop and headed to the basement for intermittent gaming until I needed him for errands.

My first task was cutting Oreos in half to ring my cake when finished. The ones that don't cut cleanly are tossed in a bowl for chopping, then included in the batter. After putting the cake into the oven, I turned to the batter bowl. The Pony always refused to lick it, because for so many years, we told him it wasn't good for a child of his tender years, what with the raw eggs itching to give him salmonella. #1 was napping. So the job of cleaning up that bowl enough to wash it fell to me. I was promptly rewarded with a string of brown batter down the front of my shirt. I guess that's why real chefs wear aprons. While the cake was in the oven, I put together the pudding pie and set it in the freezer. Cake done, I set it on a rack to cool while I prepared to peel 24 eggs. A task easier said than done.

I woke up #1 to get ready for church. On his way out the door, I asked him if he wanted a bite of potato salad to tide him over. Boy does not live by chocolate alone. He needed a serving of the breakfast of champions, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's Potato Salad. As he was scooping a forkful out of the home container, he saw the cake cooling. "What? No batter bowl?"

"Nope. It's already washed. You were sleeping, I thought."


He finished his potato salad and went to grab his stuff. I walked through the living room to call to The Pony, and saw in the mirror a line of dried chocolate cake batter on my chin. "Why didn't you tell me that I had batter on my chin?"

"You did? I didn't see it?"

Sure. That's what reminded him of the batter bowl, I suppose. Or else we really, really DO need to get a vision exam. Duly embarrassed by my gluttonous faux pas, I returned to the kitchen to commence skinnin' some chicken fruit.

After approximately 75 minutes of peeling, slicing, chopping, dashing, smashing, squirting, and grinding...the filling was ready for the egg whites. I put a bit on a sliver of not-so-perfect white, and called my loyal kitchen helper, The Pony. Together, we determined that it needed more fresh-ground pepper. I filled the egg halves, applied two slices of olive to each, wrapped up the ones going to Grandma's, and slathered the rest on the rejects. The Pony feasted. I think his total came to four. He was ecstatic that #1 was not there for a share. And that Farmer H was only getting two. Because, you know, he would be full from his barroom breakfast buffet.

For the record, no eggs returned from Grandma's house.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

And Boy, Is My Arm Tired

I've been hard at work preparing the traditional Hillbilly potato salad for Easter dinner at my mom's house. I also boiled 48 eggs. None from our chickens, mind you. Their hen fruit is not conducive to boiling and peeling. Beside, they are already colored. Tan, brown, blue-green, green-blue. I will, however, use three of them in my Oreo cake later.

I like to use the Klondike Rose for my potato salad. It is not mealy. But it IS a bit gummy after boiling. As I removed the skins with the back of a knife after they'd cooled from their 30-minute, 212-degree Jacuzzi, my hands and blade became clogged with skin. Those potato jackets clung to me like a timid toddler being dropped off for his first day of preschool. You've never seen such a cauldron of potato salad as I whipped up this morning/afternoon. I needed a child's sand shovel to stir it. Over and over. I think I may need rotator cuff surgery.

That potato salad is a hit wherever I take it. Like a celebrity welcomed with open arms. It's very time-intensive. So I don't take it many places. One year I made the mistake of taking it to an end-of-school potluck. Oh, it was popular, all right. More popular than the "Presidential Potato Salad" that one of the coaches picked up at The Devil's Playground on his way to school. But the joke was on me. It took him ten minutes to prepare his dish. It took me 2 hours. One of the teachers loved my potato salad so much, he still talks about it. And the last time I took it to school was 2004.

Besides potatoes, it includes diced boiled eggs, diced onions, diced dill pickles, pickle juice, yellow mustard, Kraft mayonnaise, fresh ground pepper, and ground sea salt. The last two are new this year, because my teaching buddy, Mabel, gifted me with those grinders for my birthday. WE LOVE THEM!

I made about five quarts of this delectable ambrosia. Only four made it into Frig. I had to sample it, of course. And The Pony declared the he might have just a bite. Then he decided on a small bowl. Then he carried over a large bowl and said to fill it up. The #1 son returned home from an aluminum-selling session, $90 richer, and declared that he was famished. So he knocked back about half a quart of the Hillmomba treat. Farmer H had called dibs on a fair share for after he finished mowing the front five acres. He had worked up an appetite taking apart my mom's lawnmower carburetor five times. Looks like she's going to have to rely on #1's machine until the parts come in.

I'm hoping that there's enough potato salad left to take to dinner tomorrow. The deviled eggs will provide a distraction. A new item to sample.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pest-Laden Plans

This is the last holiday hurrah of the school year. A glorious four-day weekend of a spring break! Now that it is nearly 25% over and I've accomplished absolutely nothing except two meager loads of laundry, a trip to town for Easter dinner supplies, mailed my Missouri tax payment, and picked up some gas station chicken...I feel depressed.

I had plans to hole up in my basement office and write up a storm. The #1 son, however, had a different agenda. Which involved sleeping until 10:00, requesting a burger on my trip to town, and popping in and out of my dark lair to update me on his latest photography project. I'm going to miss him tremendously when he goes off to college. But right now...not so much.

This project involves breaking light bulbs. Yes. He's true modern artist. I would provide more detail, but he will provide photos if I post it on my "good" blog. The one with 39 followers instead of 8. That boy's no fool. He desires maximum exposure.

I, on the other hand, desire maximum solitude. The Pony was farmed out to Grandma's house overnight, and will be returning shortly. Of course, he's pretty much self-sufficient. A tube of Pringles Multi-Grain Sour Cream and Onion, a can of Sprite, and an occasional slice of pizza, and he's at my beck and call to reconnect my internet, fetch a cup of ice, bring a box of tissues, set the DVR, and screen my phone calls.

But the night is young. I might still be able to squeeze in some creative writing. Perhaps Farmer H will seek some treasures at the auction. #1 will be busy fixing his photos into a form that won't take four hours to show up on my inbox. There's nothing good on TV tonight.

I'm getting my second creative wind.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Rules For Thee, But Not For ME

Ahh...the youth of today. Without them, I would not have a livelihood. I tell myself that often. That's how I make it through the third-quarter doldrums. They came late this year. I hope there's not a song in there, akin to the gales of November coming early. We all know that didn't end well.

Actually, my bone to pick with the youth does not involve the majority. Most of my day is filled with freshmen. They are quite tractable. Pleasant, almost. Because I can anticipate their shenanigans. They are not yet hardened scholars. It's the handful of older adolescents, struggling to break from authority, to forge into adulthood, who get my goat.

I am shocked by some of the opinions I overhear. They are crying out for character construction, if only from a sham character ed instructor who talks the talk but has not yet learned to walk it.


"I got mad at this lady that came through the drive-thru. She heard me cuss, and said, 'You need to watch your mouth.' So I said, 'You ain't my mother! I'll cuss if I want to.' "


"You couldn't do that at MY work. There's cameras everywhere. I got in trouble for spitting in the trash can. I wasn't even clocked in. But they said it was unsanitary. And then someone called and gave my whole name and said to watch me, because I chew at work. I wish I knew who did that!"


"I don't know what the big deal is about chewing. Everybody does it."

"Maybe because it's against the law?"

"It's not against the law to chew! Where'd you get that idea?"

"You can't buy tobacco products until you're 18."

"Well, yeah, they have a law you can't buy it. But that doesn't mean you can't chew!"

"You can't buy alcohol until you're 21. That doesn't mean they let you drink before then."

"Well, that's different. They have to enforce alcohol. But people drink anyway."

"But would they let you do it at work? I don't think so."


"I've been clocking in not as a carhop. We get less money, because of the tips. But I've been getting more money, AND my tips. If I get caught, I'm going to say, 'What? I didn't know I was supposed to do that.' It's not fair to pay us less."


"Sit down until the bell. I have to tell some of you this every day."

"That's stupid, to sit down. The bell's going to ring."

"And when it does, you can get up."

"I'm tired of sitting. I've been sitting all day."

"So you should be able to stand up and wander around whenever you feel like it?"

"I don't know why not."


Same with sleeping. They're tired. They should be able to sleep in class. It's not like we're doing anything. And how come I don't have a pencil to loan them that's a normal size, and has an eraser? Because that one's crap. And if I'd just hand out mechanical lead, we wouldn't have to argue over a pencil. Because they can't help it that they run out of lead. Why can't I take it out of my pencil and give it to them to put in their pencil? It's my fault that work is not getting turned in. And how come they got a zero on yesterday's assignment? That's not fair. No. It wasn't turned in. But that's not a zero. Because they're going to do it.

Enjoy your salad days, kids. Because real life is going to rudely awaken you. Even if you're tired.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Greater Hillmomba Copy Machine Wars

Perhaps I've mentioned my ire with planning time usurpers who monopolize the Kyocera. The saga continues.

My lunch buddy ceased her copy-hogging behavior after I heatedly informed her that other people need copies, too. And that we are not her paper-feeders, misfeed unjammers, or ladies in waiting. In fact, she now comes to ask me if I will be needing copies that day. And if so, she pauses her copy job so I can utilize my prep time for prepping. I thought we had reached an understanding.

I hoofed it up to the copy room as soon as the tardy bell rang to start my plan time. There was a huge job running on the fickle Kyocera. A multi-paged packet, stapled, that showed a remaining time of 22 minutes. THAT IS ALMOST HALF OF MY 50-MINUTE PLAN TIME! My internal thermometer nearly blew its red-alcohol bulb. I hauled my test to the office. Explained that I would be using that copier due to the other one being in use. I ran two sets of a 3-page test. Stapled. 24 tests in all. Plus 24 single-sided answer sheets. The machine jammed after the third answer sheet.

We all know how to work on the Kyocera. That's because it's so unreliable. We are like greasy mechanics sliding under the carriage on our rolling boards with black-vinyl-covered foam rubber headrests. We know the drill. The order to search for crinkled copies. Not so on the king-of-beasts office copier. It rarely jams. We are neophytes.

My teaching buddy, Mabel, came in looking to make some copies. Because, you see, there was a big job running on the Kyocera. The people's copier. She looked at me and sighed. "I only have 21 singles left. I have removed five papers from the guts of this glorious copier. There is one jam left. But I can't find it." Mabel pushed up her white sleeves. She fiddled with a lever next to the one that the machine showed as jammed. She removed a full piece of paper. My hero!

The copier said to reset the paper. We put in more. It still said to reset the paper. I straightened the left stack. Mabel the right. All systems were go. My 21 pages shot out in no time.

At lunch, as Lunch Buddy approached, I threw her a warning sign. A rattlesnake's got nothing on me. "I hope you brought a rawhide chew toy," I hissed. "Because you are in the doghouse again."

"Why? I haven't done anything."

"Those copies. Again with the packets? I could not copy for 22 minutes."

"Those were not mine. Mine finished before my plan time was over. I had all of mine. Did you look at them?"

"No. They were so big, and so many, that I just knew they were yours."

"Are they still there?"

"I don't know. I ran my copies in the office."

"I'll look when I microwave my lunch." She returned with a smile. And a steaming Michelina's frozen entree. "I knew they weren't mine. Not even my subject. They belong to REDACTED."

Aha! Good to know. I apologized. Lunch Buddy was quick to accept. "I'm just glad it had nothing to do with me." A sentiment she echoed a few minutes later, when another luncher mentioned how many phone calls he'd fielded already this morning. "I can enjoy my lunch. Because I know I did nothing wrong for anybody to complain about this week."

Now I must mount a new attack. Lunch Buddy advised me to mention it to the culprit. "Of course, she'll start crying." Yeah. So I have to finesse my will onto this one. I have an inside track. A battle plan in place. If it does not work, there's always a way around the enemy's flank. I am, after all, closer to the copy room. I can get there first. I can run an unimaginable amount of copies at that time if I set my mind to it. Why should I wait until after school for those big jobs? I want to go home and watch Jeopardy, too. And in a confrontation, I have the reasoning that it IS my prep time. So I'm prepping. What are YOU doing here?

And if all else fails, I will just trot on up there at the beginning of REDACTED's plan time, and set a tall stack to copy before she can get there. Fight fire with fire.

Mrs. HM is one of Hillmomba's finest.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

They'd Better Not Be In The News Tomorrow!

First, let's get the creepiness out of the way. This story is not about creepers who ruin the teaching profession for the rest of us. It's a tale of infatuation. Childhood crush material. Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher style. Except that Tom was not in his fifties, Becky was the crushee instead of the crusher, and nobody gets lost in a cave.

At the end of class this morning, I heard the kids giggle-whispering about a certain teacher. They carry on about him all the time. Not because he's young and handsome. He's kind of an old fuddy-duddy. They discuss his wild, Paul-Bunyan-like stories. The ones he purports as truth. Year after year. If you ever have a question about something obscure, he's the one to ask. He's a master of trivia. And a bit long-winded.

I asked the kids what was going on. They were not in the least bit shy about telling me.

"Happy and Bashful have a crush on Mr. Trivia."

"Oh, that's hard for me to believe."

"No, really. I heard Happy say it yesterday."

"I'm sure she was making a joke."

"I don't think so. But Bashful really DOES like him. Ask her!"

"Bashful! Do you hear what they're saying?"

"But...I really DO like him."

"Oh, come on. You're teasing me."

"No, I do."

"What is it about him that you like? The beard? His height?"

"Well, I do like that he's tall. But he's so SMART! He knows EVERYTHING!"

"See? I told you. She's going to be one of those stalkers once she graduates. She'll follow him all over the place."

"No I won't! I just like him."

The bell rang, and the students filed out. Bashful was one of the last to leave. "I just like to hear his stories. Everybody else makes fun. But I think he's interesting." She dropped her voice. "One time, I asked him to borrow a pen!"

"Why? Did you KEEP it? Did you make a little doll of him or something at home?"

"Oh, no! I really had my own pen. But I just wanted to talk to him."

She left the room, all aglow. It was kind of cute. A fourteen-year-old girl who is not all about stalking and inappropriateness. An old-fashioned, school-girl crush on the safest man in the building.

A throwback to a former era.

Monday, April 2, 2012

But Who's Counting?

Just when the old school routine has finally settled into place, when we're coasting downhill to summer vacation, only 32 school days remaining...A monkey wrench is tossed into the cogs of our well-oiled machine. The squeaky wheel gets a fly stuck in the ointment of its grease. Our parade has been rained on. Our chains yanked. Our bubble burst, our balloon popped, our milk spilled. Oh, we're cryin', all right.

I always take my phone outside on parking lot duty. To call inside in case of emergency, duh! But more usefully, to gauge the elapsed time. School time is five minutes ahead of real world time. That's because the buses run smoother that way, amongst Elementia, Basementia, and Newmentia. We're pretty sly in Hillmomba. Got it covered, thanks.

I always go back in the building when there are five actual minutes left until the first bell. That gives me time to get in, check my lovely lady mullet in the girls' bathroom mirror, stand in the hall for a moment and seep in the day's school climate. Then when the bell rings, I can see my students heading down the hall to my classroom. Their Basementia teachers trained them well. They do not enter until they get the high sign. Even if the door is unlocked. They are as awesome as those dogs who can sit with a biscuit on the end of their nose until their master says to toss it and eat it.

But today, as I entered the building at my usual time, I noticed a plethora of preening adolescents traipsing the hallway. That is not allowed. When I am not in the parking lot keeping cars from crashing, it is my job to turn them back to the cafeteria or gym. No loitering. And yet, they were on the loose. Every last one. Not a soul sat in the cafeteria.

And by my classroom, a mob. "I wonder what's going on down there? Where did all those kids come from? Is there some group going on a trip? Are they meeting by the drinking fountain? NO! It's my class!" I walked all the way there without motioning them in. "What's everybody doing? I was outside on duty."

"The bell rang."

"We're just going to class."

"We didn't know where you were."

"We waited."

"Okay...go on in."

"Oh, your light's on. But we didn't do it. None of us went in. Your son just went in there, and it came on."

We have motion-sensing lights, you see. The room goes dark after ten minutes. So it should be dark inside if nobody has been trespassing. "Did the bell ring early? Because it's not even time yet."

Two colleagues down the hall looked at me like I was crazy. But I was able to get a, "Heck, YEAH!" from the last classroom on the right. Thank you. I've been verified.

To make matters worse, the bell was allegedly adjusted, but rang five minutes LATE to end the class. Instead of a fifty-minute class period, 1st hour was sixty minutes long. Dang! And I was all out of severed-baby-pinky-finger stories!

And yes. The final bell was five minutes later. My wall clock does not lie. It's battery operated. We are now working ten minutes more every day. I'm not calling it to administrator attention. But I guarantee you that if this happened in Elementia, an angry mob would descend on the office. With boiling oil, torches, and pitchforks.

If there's one vital piece of insider information that I've gathered in my dalliance in various school districts, it's that elementary teachers work by the minute. Don't be giving anybody three extra minutes of lunch or plan time. It WILL be noticed. And remedied.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Big Jim And Lola

Uptown got its hustlers. The Bowery got its bums. Forty-Second Street got Big Jim Walker...Mrs. Hillbilly Mom flaps her gums.

Okay. So I'm not really the subject of Jim Croce's song. And I'm flailing my fingers instead of flapping my gums. But I've got to let the annoyance flow out of me tonight. I spent the day working on my tax return.

Dang the Department of Revenue for not sending out those tax booklets any more! Like I want to waste MY money on ink and paper and an internet connection and a printer for the privilege of doing my taxes. Because have you heard? Only people with a low enough income can e-file for free. That's right! That little perk is reserved for folks who not only don't work to PAY taxes, they still get a hefty four-figure "refund." To spend on big-screen TVs, shotguns, and four-wheelers. It's called Hillbilly Christmas around here. It just comes shortly after January 1st.

I know I should not be grousing about the less fortunate being able to afford life's simple pleasures. But I can't help it. I bought my TurboTax software. I paid to e-file my Missouri return. Because by the time I fill in those online forms and print out my bar-coded mailables and assemble them and pay postage, I haven't saved any money. My time is money. I have to cut a check to one entity. And the refund from the other is not enough to cover that check.

Dang the #1 son for turning seventeen in December! He robbed me of a child tax credit. Dang Farmer H for having his stock turned into a retirement payout when his old company went through different hands! Dang us for having a reasonable mortgage with reasonable interest! More income. Fewer deductions. We earned more, but lost money over the course of 2011. How is that possible? It's a mixed up, muddled up, shook-up world.

Rich will be poor, and poor will be rich. Oh, it's already happened and I'm in a fix. And so's Lola. L-O-L-A, Lola.

Well, probably not. Because I'm pretty sure Lola gets paid off the books. In cash.