Friday, November 30, 2012

From The Efforts Of Many, One Kick-Butt Punchline

Yesterday I had a bit of tampering with my school laptop. That's how I see it, anyway. A piece disappeared, and the mouse and number pad were plugged in to different hole thingies, resulting in the number pad looking like he had drawn his last breath. Oh, and the fluorescent light over my desk went kaput, and my clock stopped at 1:50 a.m. All in a night's work for somebody, I suppose.

My first thought was that an insider was pranking me. I went straight to Arch Nemesis and flat-out asked her if, perhaps, she had borrowed my laptop after school. She borrowed it once before when I was out sick several years ago. Besides, she works an after school program, PLUS she has a master key. Uh huh. I hear all of your CSI minds a-hummin'. While I am hummin' Baba O'Riley "...mmm blah blah teenage wasteland..."

Archie, however, denied any wrongdoing. I believed her. She is nothing if not direct. Once caught, she will confess and pat herself on the back for her stealthy outsmartyness. I pushed it a bit further, to see if she would crack under greater pressure.

"Oh, and while you weren't in my room messing with my laptop, did you, perhaps, climb on a chair and disable the light over my desk?" I knew that she had not, because it went out while I was there.

"Now that, I DID do. Heh, heh. But seriously. Did you hear what I did to Mrs. NotACook?"

I had not. But I was about to hear the sordid tale. Seems that Archy needed to borrow a laptop a couple days before my vandalismization. She asked NotACook, who was away from her room doing class-within-a-class duties. We both know that NotACook is even more tech incompetent than I. NotACook agreed. With conditions.

"Can you do that? I've never had it off that black thing. Do you know how to take it off without breaking it?"

Archy assured her that she could. She removed the laptop from the dock and used it for a class period. At the end, she made a bit of mischief before returning it.

"Her laptop was just like the day it came from the factory. Blue screen. No screen saver."

I nodded a knowing nod. Without revealing that mine, too, had the blue screen and no fancy add-ons.

"So I installed three screen savers. The first one looked like NotACook's blue screen, but it had a big crack across it. The next one was a group of, um...Christmas men. The third one was a fluffy feel-good Christmas screensaver. I told NotACook that I had put her laptop back. She asked if it was okay, and I told her yes. That she should check it out. I followed her into her room. She logged on and I waited."

NotACook said it looked fine. I saw that screensaver pop up. 'LOOK! It's broken!' That didn't phase her. She acted like it was nothing. So I fiddled with it like I was going to fix the crack. I put the Christmas Men on there. When they popped up, NotACook almost hyperventilated. She loud-whispered to get that off of there. So I did. And the fluffy one came up, and she said nothing. I told Mr. Principal the story. At lunch the next day, he asked her if she knew why the Tech Guy had called and told him she had inappropriate material on her laptop. She was flustered, but told him it wasn't her fault. Now she's paranoid."

This morning as The Pony and I navigated T-Hoe onto the road beside school to get to the back parking lot, I saw NotACook walking back and forth down the sidewalk on the front side of the building. The sidewalk that runs in front of my room and hers, with a small expanse of grass between the sidewalk and the building. I couldn't wait to tell Arch Nemesis that not only had she driven NotACook to laptop pr0n, but that she had apparently sent her over the edge, on the way to ruin, as evidenced by her new hobby of streetwalking.

NotACook went down the hall and I motioned her over. "I know what you did. First you put a naughty screensaver on your laptop, and the next thing I know, you're out walking the street."

"Oh, you heard about my laptop! Ha ha. I wasn't walking the street. I thought I saw a pill bottle out my window, and I knew we couldn't leave something like that laying in the grass. So I went looking for it. But it was only a mints container."

Sometimes, people hand you a punchline on a silver platter, with a food dome keeping it fresh. "So you mean that not only are you a pr0n downloader AND a streetwalker, but you're also a drug-seeker?"

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Crown, A Trophy, And A Blanket Of Roses

It was a close contest today, my friends. Two competitors, neck and neck, rounding the curve, pounding down the home stretch, surging toward the finish line. Nearly a photo finish. But not quite. One clear winner emerged.

Yes, today was a red-letter, blue-ribbon day for kids saying things that made them shall we say...less intelligent than they really are. You see, I am confident that the way it came out was not the way these students really meant to say it. They couldn't. Surely.

The first runner-up is...

One student was selling saver cards. Those fundraiser pieces of plastic that entitle you to benefits worth more than you pay. I have one myself. A couple of different kinds, actually. One is like a credit card that I can show and get a free Burger King chicken sandwich with the purchase of one. Or a free Big Mac when I buy one. There are other bargains, but those are the two we've used so far. Did you know that's a savings of more than $3.50 a pop? And there are unlimited pops until September 2013.

Anyway, this one kid was selling a saver card for a pizza chain. It was a little different, because it was a peeler card. Once you use a deal, it's done. The restaurant folks are supposed to take that little sticker when you use it. This card happens to have eight peelers. They're good for things like two-liter bottles of soda, or half off on a lunch buffet, or two dollars off on a pizza.

So...Runner Up agreed to buy one tomorrow. And Seller joked about him buying two. Runner Up said he couldn't. That was way too expensive. Seller said it wasn't. Because look at all the sticker deals you can get for your ten dollars. Runner Up stopped in his tracks. Leaned toward Seller.

"You mean you can use more than ONE?"

Sweet Gummi Mary! I was sure that one would take today's cake. But I was wrong, my friends. OH SO WRONG. Because not even fifty minutes later, I was pitched one high and outside, just where I like it, begging to be smacked into right field.

And The Grand Champion is...

I was pleasantly puttering at my desk, doing something trivial, like grading papers and entering them into my gradebook program, while the class finished up an assignment. And out of the blue, I heard, "Where do those people come from? Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, do you know? Those people who speak Arabic?"

Oh, dear. I couldn't help myself. She's usually such a bright girl. I'm sure she knew this information. She just drew a blank.

"Let's see. I'm going out on a limb here. But I'm going to say that the people who speak Arabic come from...wait a minute...wait for it...ARABIA!"

Thank you. They'll be here all week.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Has The Nose Of A Bloodhound

My students are so considerate.

Just after lunch, one asked me if I had manure in my room. Well, no. As if I could stash such a treat in there without people knowing. The canary started singing that I DID TOO have manure in my room. Because Boot Boy walks through it every morning, and then scrapes it off at one of my desks first hour. Such conspiracists they are! Turning mud into manure.

Canary commanded me to command Boot Boy to get a broom and clean it up. Like it was her business. Like I wanted to hunt him down and invite such a spectacle into my classroom to distract my students from their lesson on groundwater. She has not, perhaps, heard of this newfangled concept called a custodian. Does not realize that we don't make students do the manual labor for free? Okay. They DO stack the chairs after lunch out of the way for a good floor-mopping. But I believe those boys are paid in diet soda.

No fewer than two other canaries sang that sad song later in the afternoon. I smelled a rat. Not manure. Either three canaries were out to get an alleged poop-tracker, or a rat was running his mouth about soiling my classroom for hall cred.

Yes, these kids are SO concerned about the cleanliness of my classroom. The same kids who leave granola bar wrappers, pieces of styrofoam cup, gum packages, used tissues, handed-back work with their name on it, unstarted-work with their name on it, broken mechanical pencils, bobby pins, used band-aids, and errant shiny colored candies upon my floor are worried about three flakes of mud.

I also smell a teenage romance gone bad.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

No More Mrs. Nice Guy

I am feeling quite cantankerous today. Angry, even. Like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli. Perhaps it's simply full moon fever. Something has gotten into me. But rather than let my hair-trigger temper fire off a spiteful spate of vitriol, I shall use this space to mourn the loss of innocence.

The Pony started it. As we were leaving Newmentia, we spied a friend of his walking home across the parking lot, down the gravel trail that the city fathers poured after one young daredevil was smited by an SUV mirror in a game of chicken on the edge of the roadway early one sundrenched morning. I would have used the word smitten, but that would sound like he was in love with the mirror, not beaten black-and-blue by it. Allegedly.

Accounts of the original incident vary. The smiter never even knew she smit him. And the smitee declared that the poor woman veered thirty feet off the road to hit him while he walked along a copse of trees. Poppycock! Many a morning, I saw him walking on the road-edge, refusing to yield to oncoming traffic, drivers squinting into the just-risen sun. Let's just say that no charges were filed in the incident, the smitee wore an arm sling for one day, and after he enrolled elsewhere the trail magically appeared.

The Pony's friend is a nice young fellow. But one who would probably rather ride than walk in the thirty-four-degree chill. In a simpler world, I would have called to him and offered a ride. The Pony and I were driving his direction. We could have dropped him off a mile or so away, in town. But that simple gesture is not possible in this day and age. I have no chauffeurs license. I could be subject to a lawsuit in an accident. I could be accused of hinky wrong-doing if some agenda-ed person saw Friend climb into my T-Hoe.

Welcome to present-day Hillmomba. Where Mrs. Hillbilly Mom cannot be Mrs. Nice Guy.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mrs. HM Needs A Flapper Necklace Made Of Garlic

I am about 38 winks shy of feeling rested.

The students are trying their best to share every ailment known to the common man. The nerve of them! They dare to walk down the hall while coughing. To hand in a paper that has not been run through a UV light chamber. To borrow the one pencil that I loan. To turn their head in my direction as I walk by. To lean on my desk, touching papers that I need to touch. To lean over my shoulder in order to see their grade on the monitor.

I am being proactive. I try to take in a big breath when I see a student headed for my desk. To let it out slowly, so as to achieve negative air flow from their breath. I refuse to raise my hands above my shoulders until I have doused them with Germ-X.  No nose-rubbing, eye scratching, lip touching, movements for me. I have already been sick this school year. I remain forever vigilant.

The Pony has a sore throat. His third one since mid-October.

I am thinking of sending him abroad.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Don't Let Him Carry The Nuclear Football

From the man who lost a donut under a chair at St. Louis Children's Hospital, and the man who lost a banana peel in a La-Z-Boy recliner, and the man who lost his partial plate in a mouse-hole until his Christmas Eve prime rib workplace dinner...I bring you:

The Man Who Lost His Medication On The Bathroom Floor

Seriously. What is he doing in there? Three times in the last month, I have found one of Farmer H's pills on the bathroom floor. Don't think I'm some Sherlock-Holmes-hatted, magnifying-glass-wielding gumshoe. I discover them by stepping on them with my bare feet. Usually the heel area. It is not pleasant.

The pill in question is some kind of gel-cap. It's a bit bigger than a Tic-Tac. Clear to light amber in color. See-through. Gooshy. I am shocked that my feet do not pop this pill. Not that they are drug-seeking feet. I mean pop as in explode. Not that my feet are so bony that a sharp point could do damage. They are wide, flat, spread-out feet. Like you see on people who live in the wild and don't wear shoes. I suppose the fact that my soles envelop the pill speaks for the thick cushion of fat in the heel bursa area. That I even feel it under my foot is, perhaps, the miracle. Thank the Gummi Mary, nobody is slipping a pea under my mattress.

Does Farmer H make a game of drug-taking? Toss each pill in the air like a puffy popcorn kernel, to catch it in his mouth, high-five worthy, to impress himself in the mirror? Does he have a hole in his chin? Take so many pills that losing one goes unnoticed? Shove them in his mouth by the handful? Does he even know when he drops one? Does he replace it in his pill-swallowing line-up, or go without? I questioned him after the first two drug discoveries. He said it was just a vitamin of some kind. A vitamin prescribed by his doctor, and paid for each month at the pharmacy. I believe Farmer H is taking this acceptable-loss attitude a bit too far. When I tell him of my discovery, and place it on the counter by the sink, he tells me to throw it away.

I fear that I might have to start wrapping Farmer H in a towel so he can't flail at me with his arms, clamp his nose shut, stuff the pill in his mouth, put my hand over his lips, and stroke his throat until he swallows. I'll let you know how that goes. Just as soon as I grow a third hand.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Letting The Pony Express

The Pony has grown a bit contrary and argumentative in his teenage years. I don't know where he gets it. I'm pretty sure from his father, but to pose that hypothesis would bring on a quarrel.

This morning we battled over him wearing his dark blue Adidas slides with the white stripes in The Devil's Playground. I of the opinion that it is November twenty-freaking-fourth, and slides are not worn with Carhartt-colored carpenter pants in public. The Pony of the opinion that since I let him wear his slides before, it was fine now. Never mind that before was in the summer, with shorts. Yesterday we had it out over whether he had to wear ankle socks with his pants and slides, even though he was remaining in T-Hoe while I went in Save A Lot. My argument being that with a temperature of forty-one degrees, and twenty mile-per-hour winds, socks were necessary. Which was actually a continuation of the disagreement over why he could not wear shorts instead of pants.

Today on the way to town, I pointed out a frozen rack of deer ribs on the right, on the banks of the creek we had just crossed via low-water bridge. I like to act as tour guide. Spout little-known facts. Hey! I've done it since my kids were captives in rear-facing infant car seats. And they're both pretty accomplished in the halls of academia, so I will take full credit for expanding their little minds as I saw fit. You never know what they're going to absorb.

Let the record show that The Pony refuses to ride in the shotgun seat. He sits behind me. No amount of coaxing or cajoling can get him to move up front. So I never know if he's responding to me or doing his own thing.


"There's a rack of frozen deer ribs."


"Well, excuse me. I was just pointing it out. They were there yesterday morning, with a dog gnawing on them."


"Yeah, but I never know if you're listening to me."

"I always listen."
"That's a dirty lie. I'm going to come back there an set your pants ablaze. Liar, liar."

"I would let them burn. Until they were shorts-length, and then I would put them out."

"Very funny. You DO NOT always listen. Sometimes you have your head in a book. Sometimes you have your head in your laptop."

"Well, I didn't yesterday. You should know that. You would have heard my fingers clicking on the keys."

"I don't know what kind of superhuman hearing you think I have."

"You can hear slightest murmur of discontent in your classroom."

"I'm trained for that. I can always hear discontent."

"Like a drill sergeant."


I WILL take credit for The Pony's sense of humor.

Friday, November 23, 2012

To Change His Spots, A Leopard Must First Have The Desire To Change His Spots

He's baaaack. That potty-mouthed leopard who creeps around my 44 oz. Diet Coke store, waiting to pounce. I had been Diet-Coking it up, happily shed of him, for some weeks now. Our schedules don't mesh. The predator had to make do with other prey. Until last evening.

There it was, my 44 oz. Diet Coke store, an oasis along the savanna of Thanskgiving. The lights glowed at dusk. Exotic and domestic cars, trucks, and motorcycles crouched by the gas pumps to sip, headlights wide open, wary of waiting watchers who would slink out of the shadows and overwhelm. Inside, blocking access to my own personal oasis, the soda bar, was Potmo, the potty-mouthed leopard who just might share a few genes with the howler monkey family.

As usual, Potmo launched into his monologue as soon as he spied me over his shoulder. Under the guise of drawing a 44 oz. draught for himself while talking shop with a co-worker, he once again offended. Killed any good will I might have shown in regards to our past parting acquaintance.

"Yeah, so this deal with Loretta is f*cking crap. I had her Monday night, and Lenny had her Saturday night. It's a crock of sh*t."

I have no idea who Loretta is, but I suspect she's one of the older ladies who tolerates no nonsense from Potmo. Thus his outrage. And by had her, I imagine he's talking about working a shift with her, not about knowing her in the Biblical sense. Lenny is the one who gives me the deep discounts on my soothing carbonated elixir. He's a stand-up guy, aside from defrauding the business by proffering me free soda. I can't imagine his issues with Loretta. He seems to get along with all co-workers every time I'm in there.

Help me reposition this thorn in my side. It's not feasible to remove it. The cost would be too great. I can live with it. But that doesn't mean I will like it. In fact, I might need to alter my activities until that thorn works its way loose. Bend a bit. Avoid actions that might aggravate my condition.

As I have mentioned before, Potmo is a former student five times removed. That's about how many years he's been gone from the nicely-waxed halls of Newmentia. He was that kid who would raise his hand and wait to be called on, then ask an off-topic, polarizing question to get the class off track. He was the kid who would bring up evolution in civics class, or abortion in English. Smart enough not to break the rules and draw a disciplinary referral. A chip-shouldered young man without a circle of friends to encourage his behavior. One to start a fiery discussion, then crawl under a cool fern and watch, amused, while sketching death-heads and swords on his art pad. We always thought he would go into the tattoo business. He was quite talented in that style.

Now he's a convenience store clerk. Who loudly spouts profanity every time our paths cross. What about the people who bring their children in there while they buy cases of beer and rolling papers? Kids don't need to be exposed to that kind of language!

I would find a way to complain to management, except that Potmo and I share a past. I don't make it my business to go around trying to get former students fired. I would not wish to get anybody fired in this economy. Yet I would like to conduct my business without fear of profanity being flung in my direction. Even my business of procuring a free soda every now and then.

There comes a time to put away childish things. And that time is when you're on the clock at your job in a convenience store.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Still Fighting To Clear Her Name

Yesterday, The Pony discovered over a dozen eggs in the chicken house.

"But Mrs. Hillbilly Mom," you might say, "isn't that where you would EXPECT to find eggs from your multitude of chickens?"

Yes. And no. The chicken pen has an open gate policy. That's because some of our birds are too stupid to fly. This way, they can come and go as they please. They roam the grounds all day, feeding on delicious bugs and seeds and sometimes dogfood right out of the dog dishes on the porch. At night, some sleep in the chicken house. The fliers roost in the cedar trees. Every now and then, a broody hen will set up shop inside the chicken house, and remain for three weeks until her babies emerge from their shell prisons. During that time, other hens will lay in there in hopes of her hatching their eggs.

Over the last month or so, The Pony has only been finding one egg a day. Maybe two. Farmer H has accused my little dog Juno of eating his hen fruit. I object. Exhibit One is Tank the Beagle found inside the chicken house every evening when The Pony embarks on his collection odyssey. Sure, Juno has beautiful, shiny, silky black fur. The kind the internet purports results from the dog eating a raw egg a couple times per week. But Juno is not in the chicken house. She won't fit. Nor will our other egg-eater, Ann, the black German Shepherd, who is probably part Lab. I have seen Ann carry eggs in her mouth, then bite them and eat them when she thinks nobody is watching. But she does not lay on the floor of the chicken house 24/7 like Tank.

Farmer H has been on vacation from work this week. He mentioned that he was going to fix the chicken house so that Tank would not be able to get in. Something tells me that Farmer H is not going to make the connection between the multitude of eggs and the absence of the Beagle.

Not even if it showed up as a plot on Law and Order: Special Chickens Unit.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

That Should Be Classified Information

An interesting thing happened on the way to the teachers' potluck. Not on the way, like when I was walking down the hall at 10:53 a.m., my lunch time. On the way, like the class period before lunch time.

There I sat, monitoring a film I was showing my smallest class, steering them toward the conclusion like a seasoned tournament bass fisherman steers an outboard motor toward his honey hole. Two students came bursting through the door to interrogate me. Okay, to be accurate, they knocked at my door, then entered when I motioned them in.

One girl was carrying a list and a pen. She was what we in the scientific world call the data recorder. The other was the interrogator. Or, more accurately, The Interrogator's handmaiden.

"Did you bring something for the teachers' dinner?"


"What was it?"

"What is this? Why do you need to know?"

"Don't hate the messenger. We were sent here."

"Who sent you?"

"Mrs. Pinky."

"Why does she need to know that?"

"We don't know. She just sent us."

"There's a list on the table in the teacher workroom. It has everything you need to know."

We're only doing what she said. So...what did you bring?"

"It was a cake."

"What kind?"

"A Mississippi Mud cake!" My statement was accompanied by a heavy sigh and an Olympic-caliber eye-roll.

"Okay. Thanks." They went on their merry way to interrogate more of the innocents.

I got on the hotline to my buddy, Mabel. "Did some girls come in and ask what you brought for the potluck?"

"Well, one girl did."

"Don't you find that highly suspicious? And smacking of an ulterior motive?"

"I know what you're getting at. But I think it's just because we have to switch rooms, and they want to make sure all the food gets brought in."

"If you think so. I don't." Because, you see, it's not like there's going to be food squirreled away in secret stashes on the day before Thanksgiving break. Everything brought in would be in a pile on the kitchen counter in the FACS room, or in one of the two fridges there.

Here's the deal. Many years ago, an insult was made toward my lunch shift, the accuser being none other than the instigator of today's inquisition. Not only were we insulted, we were insulted in the form of a giant handmade sign on pink posterboard, taped up in the dining area where we held the potluck. It was the first thing we saw upon entering the room. The sign announced that the last lunch shift needed to eat, too. Why The Instigator did not just walk in and start oinking at us, I'll never know. But it was a rude gesture that has been festering for many years now.

The Instigator was quick to point the finger at a handful of teachers. Neglecting to consider how support staff, office staff, counseling staff, and retirees who wander in to celebrate holidays at precisely the beginning of first lunch shift had a hand in depleting our resources. Those unfettered souls who normally eat at a later time, bum-rushing the potluck buffet the moment it was set out on the counter. Some of them came early to warm the food, since they were not tied down in a classroom. And stayed through all three lunch shifts. They snickered upon seeing our outraged response to the pink posterboard insult. They bought into our presumed guilt, and self-righteously refused to warm the food in later years. Do you know how stressful it is to set out the food and warm it and eat it in the span of twenty-three minutes?

To add insult to that knife in the back, The Instigator only brought a bag of frozen corn that year, which was left in the freezer.

One of our crew, not known for wearing his heart on his sleeve, sat at the lunch table today without eating. When questioned, he replied that he didn't bring anything, so he didn't feel welcome to eat.

Next year, I fully expect to be weighed before and after lunch, to see if I consumed more than my fair share.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

They Grow Bolder

They grow bolder. Like jackals creeping ever-closer to the fire.

The timid little freshmen ain't what they used to be, many short months ago. They have lost all fear. Scoff at my rules. If I didn't know better, I might think they were unweaving the fabric of society, one tiny stitch at a time. I present, for your reading horror, four hair-raising examples. All observed in a single day. A MONDAY.

A conundrum of a lass arrived in my classroom thirty minutes before first bell. THIRTY MINUTES EARLY. Even though she is constantly tardy, passing right under the nose of Mrs. HM just before the tardy bell on several occasions, and deliberately going the other way. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is not a sitter service. She does not rake in the big bucks for tutoring, nor encourage direct student contact for Career Ladder purposes. Her time without students is used for working. To stay caught up. Conundrum, let's call her Conny, asked if she could leave her books on her desk for first hour. NO. Because then I would have to let every loquacious lost layabout cart his books in while I was trying to get ready for the day. They never just put down books, you know. They stop to chat. They bring a friend. Then two. Then three. Next thing you know, your classroom is the new teen hangout. Like vampires, once you invite them in, you can't keep them out. There are plenty of teachers who encourage visitors before school. I am not one. Students are made away of this on the first day, and reminded pretty much on a weekly basis.

It's spirit week. The first basketball game of the season was Tuesday night. The theme for Monday was Wear Pajamas. I don't know why. They don't have clever reasons like Red Ribbon Week. Just Wear Pajamas. Notice that the directive is to wear PAJAMAS. But no. Some students pushed that theme to the limit. Slippers. Robes. Blankets. Pillows. Call me a curmudgeon, but the day that I allow a pillow and blanket to cross my threshold will be the day the learning dies. I sent the Travelodge Sleepy Bear packin' his gear back to his locker. My explanation was lost on him. Perhaps I need to make a recording so he can absorb it subliminally during a nap.

I caught a Scofflaw strolling around my classroom before the tardy bell, DRINKING FROM A WATER BOTTLE. Water bottles are forbidden. As are all beverages. I called him into the hall. Sent him to throw it away in the cafeteria garbage can. I couldn't have him toss it in my wastebasket, because some other copycat might fish it out and drink from it. Freshmen are like that.

The epitome of the boundary-crossers was caught caressing my file cabinet. The one which has a bottom drawer reserved for snacks for The Pony and Genius. Like a Yellowstone Grizzly was he, all sniffing and pawing, showing a lack of fear and respect for the top human. That is not acceptable. Students should never have any reason to OPEN MY FILE CABINET. He had his hand on the handle, did Eppy. He would have slid it open quicker than a Ghost Hunter inspecting a morgue drawer, had I not peeped in from the hall, around the corner of my door, and caught him in the act. Even then, he was slow to withdraw his lingering touch.

I must remain ever vigilant. Booby-trapping is frowned upon. A ring of torches will soon lose their effectiveness. I fear that marking my territory with my own urine will be an act so misconstrued as to render me a lead story on the evening news. I'm pretty sure stun guns are not allowed on school property. I do not have certification to dispense tranquilizer darts from a propulsive device.

I will try to leave a journal detailing my final days, in the event that I turn up missing.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Is That Some Chicken In My Pocket, Or Are You Just Glad To Feed Me

Pardon me. I have an embarrassing confession to make.

I know that some things are better kept to myself. Just like I told that paraprofessional years ago, whose job it was to mind the library all day, since our only librarian was in another building. She really did not need to sit at the lunch table, lamenting, "Well, I fell asleep again at my desk for two hours." Uh uh. No need to air that soiled linen. No good could come of it.

This evening I felt especially energized. Ready to go. Fired up to whip out a couple of blog posts. Ideas flitted willy-nilly through my gray matter. I swear, in the span of ten minutes, I had four ideas. Solid ideas, I thought. Easily workable. Humorous, even. I was rarin' to go. Couldn't understand the sudden upsurge from yesterday's doldrums.

Then it hit me. I had stopped for a 44 oz. Diet Coke! Normally, I don't imbibe through the week. But it's a short week, by cracky! And I deserve a treat! It just so happens that my spurt of inspiration came upon sipping a couple of inches of my magical elixir. Sure, I had one yesterday. But I peaked early, and put off writing until the evening. My best-laid plans went swirling down the...drain.

Tonight, Farmer H and the #1 son were away at a basketball tournament. Our team doesn't play until tomorrow, but they wanted to get into the swing of the sports season at the get-go. So The Pony and I picked up a quick meal AND A 44 OZ. DIET COKE at the gas station chicken store on our way home.

And here's the embarrassing part. Look away! I'm hideous!

I carried my dinner down to my basement lair, to nibble on computerside, while my fingers flew in a flurry of idea-frenzy. A bite. Wipe my greasy paws. A sip. Type type type. Repeat. I was having a heyday. The simple things in life provide me pleasure.

Something caught my eye, lodged at the top of my shirt pocket, ready to slip down into my blue, pin-striped, button-collar, short-sleeved, relaxing-at-home oxford shirt. It was a chunk of chicken breast. White meat. Flesh. Seconds from slipping into my pocket. There is the edge of slovenliness, and then there is the abyss.

Thank the Gummi Mary, I caught myself before I had fallen with no hope of getting up.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Is Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Full Of Today?

I'm not Heloise. But I'm chock full of helpful household hints.

Okay. The chock full part may be a bit of a stretch. By chock full, I mean I have one hint that is rattling around in my noggin today. And maybe a couple more stuck way back behind one of my little-used lobes. I'm going after them in a minute, with a purple metal mini flashlight, and a poking stick made out of a black plastic fork that lost two tines. Hey! That's a hint on how to make a poking stick to root out forgotten hints. I might start working on a coffee table book about coffee tables in my spare time.

Did you know that you can clean soap scum off a fiberglass shower stall by using oven cleaner? It's true! I read it on the internet. And I tried it myself after lunch. Be careful. You have to use the BLUE CAN of oven cleaner that is NO FUME. The internet called for Easy Off, but I found a store brand at a grocery store that I rarely frequent. It's still in a BLUE CAN. And has NO FUME.

I sprayed it on my shower floor and left it. The internet said you can leave it on for a whole weekend, and it turns to powder. That's not happening here at the Mansion, because we are clean people. We shower at least once a day. While Farmer H was away this afternoon, I foamed up the nubby bottom of the walk-in shower stall. I left it there for three hours. Just a little spot, the size of a pumpkin pie. I went back to find that the foam had liquified and turned clear. I was not optimistic.

The next stop was the laundry room, for a dryer sheet. That's what the internet said to wipe it with. I grabbed two used dryer sheets. There's no shortage of them on the floor. I send The Pony to bring me the laundry basket so I can fold, and when those sheets blow out, he leaves them where they land. They are quite slippery on gray ceramic tile. Just in case you might need to know that. IT'S A HELPFUL HOUSEHOLD HINT!

I folded those two dryer sheets and dampened them in the sink. Then I set to wiping off the oven cleaner on the shower floor. That spot was clean! I had to rub a bit on the outer edges, to get down between the nubs, but the task required surprisingly little elbow grease. The internet was right! I sprayed a lot more, and called Farmer H to tell him of my discovery, and let him in on the delightful secret that later this evening, he gets to wipe it off. Next weekend, I'm going to whitewash Aunt Polly's fence.

That BLUE CAN of NO FUME oven cleaner did a way better job than the scrubbing bubbles cleaner we normally use. And don't even mention CLR. That dirty dog is only good for glass shower doors around here at Hard Water Central.

While you were reading that, I managed to use my two-tined fork tool to dislodge another HELPFUL HOUSEHOLD HINT. It was as easy as coaxing a walnut out of its shell using a metal nutpick. The hint is, if you want to keep jeans from losing their color too fast, turn them inside out in the laundry. If you have boys, they'll even help you by taking them off so they're already inside out. Don't tell them that helps you. Or they'll stop doing it.

That's a helpful child-rearing hint.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Sight of Blankness

Here's a little folksy tune from my garage band, Mommy's Got a Headache. I'm sure Simon and Garfunkel won't begrudge me my Weird Al-anism of their original.

The Sight of Blankness

Hello blank screen my old friend
I've come to type on you again
Because no vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision never planted in my brain
Gives me pain
Upon the sight of blankness

In restless dreams I wrote alone
Sometimes on slate and sometimes stone
'Neath the gooseneck of a desk lamp
I clenched my fingers from a writer's cramp
When my mind was seized by the thought of my hopeless plight
Failure to write
Behold the sight of blankness

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand words, hopefully more
Words I'd written without thinking
Words I'd typed with eyes not blinking
Words telling stories that eyes had never shared
No one cared
Just like the sight of blankness

"Fools," said I, "you do not know"
Blankness like a fat goat grows
Read my words that I might teach you
Touch my arms that I might reach you"
But my words like unseen lizards lay
And basked upon the sight of blankness

And the people bowed and prayed
To the blogging god they'd made
And the page flashed out its warning
In the message it was forming
And the page said, "The words of the stupid are written on the Blogger site
In the dead of night
Deleted to the sight of blankness"

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Finally Finds The Way

The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.

The way to a teenager's chore bone is through letting him have a friend over.

Sure. It lost a little something in translation. Doesn't really have a nice ring to it. But it speaks the truth. I can harp like the harpiest harpy who ever harped, until I'm as blue in the face as a Na'vi from the planet Pandora, and the #1 son won't lift a finger to clean up. Let the record show that he is paid extra allowance for chores over the basics like taking out the trash and helping Farmer H in the fields. And that he always needs money to feed his gadget habit. Still, no worky-worky.

Wednesday evening, he sprang the news on me that he might have friends coming out Friday evening. Not "might" as in, if I would allow it. He meant "might" as in, if they didn't have anything else to do. I did not like the idea. Told #1 that he would have to clean up the common areas, like the pool table/big screen room. And the basement NASCAR bathroom. The resistible force shook hands with the immovable object. The  fallow fellow took the bait.

Not only did he don a pair of yellow Playtex gloves to scrub the toilet...he took the spigot assembly off the sink faucet and soaked the screen and screwy thing in vinegar. That's after he used CLR on it to no avail.

I can't believe it took me this long to find something to hold over his head. You know, what with me being nearly a member of MENSA and all.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fifteen Things

Ripped from the headlines of Reader's Digest online, and poked and prodded to suit Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's plagiarism protocols, I proudly present to you...

15 Things Teachers Don't Tell Students

1. We like you. We really like you. Not in a creepy way.

2. During the winter, we do a little snow dance each evening when conditions are right.

3. We will tolerate a lot of misbehavior if only you stop when told, and show respect.

4. We do not believe the reasons you give for not having your homework.

5. We are normal people when we are away from school. Normal people sometimes smoke, drink, gamble, curse, have boyfriends or girlfriends, and drive too fast.

6. Those times you were "picked" to receive a prize, or had your club dues paid anonymously, or prom tickets purchased on your behalf, or were sponsored for co-curricular trips or sports equipment...a teacher was behind it.

7. We will tell your secrets in a heartbeat if we sense that you are in danger if we don't.

8. We must give homework and tests to provide documentation that you are learning, but many of our lessons are absorbed by you informally, and subconsciously.

9. We don't really eat the homemade treats that you bring for us.

10. We will buy an item from your overpriced fundraiser catalog if you are the first student to ask us.

11. We tolerate you when you stop by the teacher lunch table to chat, but in reality, we would rather be sharing adult companionship for those twenty-five minutes.

12. When we see you walking along the road after school, we would really like to give you a ride. Sadly, the attitudes of today's society, along with fear of a false accusation, prevents it.

13. Joking that "I might as well kill myself" or that you are so mad at somebody, "I could just kill him" will result in a conference with the counselor and principal. Such jokes are now regarded as threats to be investigated.

14. We don't give a hoot if your wear your hat in the building, but we enforce the rule because we are the enforcers.

15. Our eyes tear up when we see you walk across the gym to receive your diploma.

Shh...these trade secrets must not fall into the wrong hands.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Just A Taste

You people are in for a treat tonight. I am going to let you inside the world of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, Intellectual Giant.

I am the Siri of my classroom. Students, denied use of their cell phones, call on me for the answers to those burning questions that just can't wait. Here is a smattering of today's queries:

Do you have a pencil?
Can a person be buried alive?
How can a live person get out of a coffin?
Can rats get into a coffin?
What makes people decay if stuff can't get inside the coffin?
Do bones stay in a coffin or do they rot?
Have you ever been to the pet store in Hillmomba?
Would you eat worms?
Will a hermit crab die if it outgrows its shell and you don't buy it a bigger one?
Are you afraid of snakes?
How much is 74 kilograms in pounds?
Can a snake swallow a human?
Why are lemurs only in Madagascar?
Hey, aren't there lemurs in zoos?
What is a wind turbine blade made out of?
How does a wind turbine make electricity?
How much does it cost to run a wind turbine?
Can a cat kill a person?
If I brought a cat to school, and put it in Buddy's car, could I get in trouble?
Can we bring an Ouija board to class?
Can we listen to music?
Do you drink soda?
Can a person live without a pancreas?
What's a pancreas?
Did Kentucky Fried Chicken change their name?
Why are they serving us chili dogs the day after we had chili?
Can a person get in trouble if they put one of those Chile mummies together wrong?
Why don't they just bury the dead like normal?
Can we get that Kim Il Sung mummy to come here, like, to our elementary?
Why is New York against the soda when cookies have way more sugar?
Why is it so cold in here?

Those are just the questions. You really don't want to hear the comments. Like the one about the corpse in the coffin that got a nosebleed during the funeral service.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Working Himself Into A Lather

To my blog buddy, Kathy, I apologize. I'll do it in the style of William Carlos Williams. Because I'm plagiarizatastic like that.

This is Just to Say

I read your stuff
about rules
on products
that are dumb

and which you
already used
in a 
blog post here

Forgive me
I have plagiarized
your thoughts
for my blog.

Alrighty then. That dirty little non-secret is out in the open. Kathy wonders why BenGay comes with instructions that it is intended for external use only. Or why glass top stoves caution you not to stand on them. And why people drop in to ask for free pooper-scooper bags like she's some kind of grand charity for poop-pickers.

I think I have the answer!

Some people really don't know any better!

Really. They are sheltered, perhaps. Have their mind on other things. Saving the environment, for instance. Why people can't just easily fight off somebody who is choking them. If butterflies smile. Or the proper way to apply conditioner to one's hair.

"Hey, you guys. When you put on conditioner...I know you wash your hair first. And then you put on the conditioner. Then you rinse it out. you wash your hair again after you rinse out the conditioner?"

Thank the Gummi Mary, there are directions on conditioner. It must be the lather, rinse, repeat portion of the shampoo instructions that are throwing him off. He may not know when to stop. Because you have to keep repeating.

It's a wonder he has time for school. But I must say, his hair is beautiful.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Performance Of Notes

The Pony is performing in a patriotic concert tonight. That's where I am. Not here. Fooled you, huh?

As a member of the Newmentia concert band, The Pony was issued a uniform last week. I daresay his pride approached that of the veterans when they first received their military uniforms. He has black slacks, a crisp white shirt, and a gray patterned vest with a shiny back. I kicked in some black socks, and The Pony picked out a pair of black shoes. He will be sliding his trombone in style this evening.

High school band can be a scary place for a freshman. That's what I've heard from my students over the years. Thank the Gummi Mary, The Pony is not so diminutive as to be stuffed into an instrument storage cabinet. That was the fate of one young lad a while back. Yes, I fear the shenanigans surpass the percussion section making walrus tusks with their drumsticks.

I remember the percussion section from my own high school band. Those kids marched to their own drums, by cracky! The freshman bass drum player acted like he was attempting to crack open a steel pinata holding a lifetime supply of Slim Jims. Our director yelled at him daily. "STEVE! The war is over!" None of us really understood that remark. But all of us except Steve knew that it meant he was too loud.

Yes, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom was in the band. First clarinet. Not only a member, but band president. The clarinets were the red-headed stepchildren of the band. Relegated to marching at the very back in parades. The showy brass section got the good spots up front. And there WE were, bringing up the rear. Behind even the percussion section. The clarinets were the harried moms of the musical army. Drop a flip-over piece of music? Drop a drumstick? One of your spats fall off? "Pick it up! Pick it up! Pick it up!" Everyone else marched on by. Stepped over it. But we, the last echelon, were expected to break stride, bend over, and pick it up. We were The Cleaners. Like Newmans for the muffin stumps.

The Pony will be in the front lines when he marches in the school carnival parade in May. Lucky dog.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Try The Next Gift-Wrapping Station, Please

How do you wrap a unicorn?

You there. The large, hairy dude eating a banana. Any way you want? I'm sorry. That is not the correct answer. I'm going out on a limb here, but I suspect that you sleep anywhere you want. Is that right? Thought so. I'm psychic like that.

The one in the back. Eating a towering bowl of soup. In bacon, you say? I'm sorry. That is not correct. PETA called. They want your head on a platter.

You, ma'am. With a toddler on each hip, eating Cheerios fed to her one at a time by sticky little fingers. Late Christmas Eve, after eating four Oreos and drinking half a cup of milk? I'm sorry that is not the correct answer. No ma'am. Not even if that's the only time you can find to do it. Please don't cry.

The answer, dear readers, to the question, "How do you wrap a unicorn?" is: THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A FREAKIN' UNICORN!!! You might as well try to wrap a moonbeam. A cloud. A flibbertigibbet. A will-o-the-wisp. A clown. You might as well try to solve a problem like Maria, you do-gooders, you!

That's the problem I'm faced with this Christmas. Not do-gooding. Aw, HECK no! Trying to wrap something that doesn't exist.

The #1 son has asked for a pair of track pants that are not fleeced. Just the smooth polyester kind. Perfectly do-able. Until you hear the other specification. With a butt pocket on the left. ON THE LEFT! They don't exist. Unless they're the preferred trousers of unicorns in Shangri-La. Nobody wants a butt pocket on the left except the ten percent of the population that is left-handed. And the women lefties surely don't want men's track pants. So we're looking at a product that can be marketed to roughly five percent of the world population. And I'm pretty sure many corners of the world are happily ignorant of track pants. The boy might as well ask for a $221,080 education from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sweet Gummi Mary! There has to be a way to turn this closed door into an open window.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

How Do You Yank My Chain? Let Me Count The Ways.

Those of you who are not educational insiders may not know this, but we're at war. The teachers and the students. It's sometimes unspoken. But patently obvious.

Perhaps you remember the drill from you own school days. How you might steal the headmaster's picture book on anatomy right out from his desk drawer, and accidentally rip a page when startled by a snooping classmate. Oops! That was Becky Thatcher. But you know what I mean. All the little things you did to drive your teachers crazy. Like dampening the powdered pink soap from the girls' bathroom, rolling it up, and laying the balls in the pencil tray under the lid of your desk, hoping the teacher would think them candy, and swipe one and eat it, so bubbles would come out of her mouth.

Different students. Same drill. Torment the teacher while appearing innocent. My students have an affinity for test day shenanigans. It has to be a conspiracy. Surely fourteen-year-olds could follow such simple directions if they so desired. It's not the first week of school. Our testing procedure has remained the same. It's no secret that I have more than one version of the test. I flat-out tell them that fact. No trickery there. I'm not trying to set them up to take the fall in a cheating sting. Forewarned. Forearmed.

Here are the instructions. Try to keep up. "I am passing out the answer sheet. Take one, and pass them back. Put your name on it now. Here is the test. Take one, and pass them back. Put your name on it now. You may write on the test. The answer sheet only needs the letter of the answer. For example, A, B, C, D. Not the whole word or phrase. You only need to do that on the fill-in-the-blanks with the word bank. Any questions? When you are finished, put the answer sheet on top of the test, and turn them in on the front desk where you always turn in your papers. One stack. You may begin."

I am not even including in the chain-yanking tally the question: "So, you say we only need to write the answers A, B, C, D. Would that be the actual order of the answers, maybe?"

"No. It's possible. But not a clue to the right answers."

Nor the question: "How many questions? They're all multiple choice, right? No? FIFTY?"

[Obviously a lad who had garnered information from a student who had taken the adapted version of the test during the morning hours.]

So let's count the ways these cherubs innocently yank Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's short chain. These are discovered upon picking up the stack of tests to grade, mind you, and show each student his score before the class period is over. A task that is very do-able if the answer sheets lay on top of the test questions. Sort them into two stacks. Grade with appropriate key for each test version.

* answer sheet with no name

* question sheet with no name

* questions sheet on top of answer sheet

* answer sheet with no question sheet

* papers face down

* two stacks, not one: questions on left, answer sheets on right

* two stacks, not one: random questions and answer sheets in both

* papers brought to me instead of turn-in area

* words, not letters, written on all fifty questions

* the final question (Write your name on the blank.) answered with the letter "g".

* the final question (Write your name on the blank.) answered with "your name".

[I counted this as a right answer. Because the two students who did it were, like Abby Lockhart on ER explained to the young kidney patient who asked if she was a good nurse, "...technically proficient, despite certain attitude issues."]

* a phone going off with a terribly loud obnoxious Japanese-game-show-sounding ditty

* a phone going off with a terribly loud obnoxious Japanese-game-show-sounding ditty AFTER Mrs. Hillbilly Mom told the offender to turn it off, and confiscated the contraband

* answer sheets not matching the question sheets, belonging to two students sitting in close proximity

[Let the record show that the ANSWER sheet was graded with the key for that ANSWER sheet. It makes Mrs. Hillbilly Mom no nevermind that the questions came from the other version of the test. Crime does not pay. Switching out your test questions is not recommended. It is obvious when your test belongs to the next row, not yours.]

This ain't Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's first rodeo.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Wasn't Free Public Education Based On The Premise That A Democracy Needs An Educated And Informed Electorate?

I have been holding out on you. Now my news will come in an untimely manner. Better late than never, I suppose.

The teacher lunch table was abuzz with voting horror stories. That's the price those people pay when they live right in the school's backyard. Thank the Gummi Mary, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is one district removed from her own. Thus the pastoral church setting that is her voting precinct, where the most angst accrued is from rubbing scaly elbows with dehydrated old people. Or playing chicken with a first-timer amongst the round-table-maze where the voting happens.

Play a loop of Psycho stabbing music in your head. Or the haunting theme from the original Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween. No names will be used, in order to protect the horrified.

"There he was. The fifth-year senior. The one I just gave ISS to last week."

"My polling place was crowded. There was absolutely no privacy. Anyone could walk by and see how you were voting. I tried to be very aware of who was around me, in case it was one of our parents."

"I looked up, and there were five of my students. 'Hey, Coach! Who should we vote for?' It was a nightmare. And they had five votes. They just didn't know for who."

"People at my voting place were filling in all the holes. ALL the holes. Like, for every candidate. The old ladies running it said it had been happening all day. The scanner kept kicking out the ballots because people voted for every single candidate."

"I heard a guy asking, 'Hey, do I have to fill that all in? Is a check mark okay?' Even though there were signs ALL AROUND THE ROOM showing how to fill it in. It was on the ballot, too! You'll never guess who this guy was. One of our teachers! Who teaches that subject!!! He didn't even know how to vote. And he's not young!"

Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you now that it's dark. Don't go in the basement.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

It Ain't Heavy, It's My Soda

I got my hair cut today. Thank the Gummi Mary, it was a day off for The Butcher of Seville. Maybe she doesn't even work at Good Cuts anymore. Maybe she accidentally lopped off some customer's head. I imagine that sort of behavior is frowned upon in a business establishment. You can't just go around decapitating people willy-nilly without expecting repercussions.

I was disappointed that the Janice Dickinson look-alike was not at her station. I've grown kind of fond of her. She always gives me a good trim. Even though she's a little rough around the edges, we have common ground for conversation. Her favorite topic being Hillbilly Handfishin'. The show on Animal Planet, not the sport. She is mostly shocked that people pay good money to crawl around in murky water and jam their hands into the root mazes of submerged trees, eagerly waiting for a giant catfish to swallow their appendage. She is even more shocked at how people can make money by taking in boarders for a week and walking them up and down a muddy river.

Today I got the girl I think of as Chatty Patty. She talks nonstop about whatever pops into her head. The problem is, she talks with her hands. So a haircut takes a while, because she stops cutting while she's talking. She likes to look at herself in the mirror while she gesticulates. When she shuts up for a minute, she clips away efficiently and accurately.

Chatty Patty asked what our plans were for the day. No, she was not referring to me and the mouse in my pocket. I had taken my mom out for the morning while I had a medical appointment. She loves to go for a ride even more than my childhood miniature poodle. Of course, Mom minds her manners, and does not stick her head out the window. I told Chatty Patty that we were going to my very special convenience store in order to purchase 44 oz. Diet Coke refills for the low, low price of eighty cents apiece. Chatty asked if I had ever tried a soda from That One Convenience Store.

I know the establishment of which she speaks. My sister the ex-mayor's wife swears by it. She LOVES their soda. She even brings one to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Yeah. We're a classy family. Far be it from me to question another's taste for a carbonated caffeinated beverage. But I did ask Chatty Patty what made those sodas from That One Convenience Store so special.

"They're heavy soda. Oh, they're SO good! I love them. I always go there."

Pardon me. But I am not familiar with the term heavy soda. I have heard the term heavy water in passing. So I Googled it just now, and will probably turn up on a watch list of some sort. I did not mention heavy water to Chatty Patty. But I DID ask what she meant by heavy soda. If you can't ask your hairdresser, who CAN you ask?

"It is full of syrup. It's SO sweet. It's delicious."

Okay. So Chatty Patty takes her soda leaded, not unleaded. I'm not sure what Sis drinks. But that could explain her affinity for the stuff.

Another day, another factoid filed in the recesses of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's brain.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Ya Gonna Clothe 'Em Down On The Farm

The Pony is in the doghouse. Not all the way in. Just his front hooves and his ducked head. He will re-emerge as soon as the shaming wears off.

We stopped by The Devil's Playground this afternoon to get a jump on the weekly shopping, and to buy The Pony some black shoes to wear with his band uniform. I also made him pick out a pair of pants, because he insists on wearing shorts to school in below-freezing weather. That's not healthy for a growing Pony.

In the middle of the main aisle I spotted a rack of hooded sweatshirts. The Pony also refuses to wear a coat. He has a hooded sweatshirt, but I noticed that it is too small. He wears it on his daily egg-hunt, and to feed the goats while Farmer H is away on business. The hooded sweatshirt is not flattering to the gangly Pony. He's grown since last year. It looks like a Little Lord Fauntleroy jacket.

I told The Pony to pick out a sweatshirt. He declined. "But I already have TWO sweatshirts."

"They're too small."

"Uh uh. One of them is too small. I started wearing the bigger one. It fits me just right."

I took his word for it. Assuming that the one I saw him in was the too-small sweatshirt. We went on our merry way to the sorely-lacking-in-cargo-style men's pants department. Of course you know what happened. We arrived home, and The Pony donned his sweatshirt for egging. "See? I told you it fit me."

The sweatshirt he claimed as the better, fitting, tailored-to-his-physique sweatshirt was the one I had seen. It looked not only like a Little Lord Fauntleroy jacket, but a LLFJ that had been washed in hot water and dried on the "High Heat-cotton" setting.

Of course there will be none of the special sweatshirts left when I go back. The Devil works in obvious ways.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Annoyed Orator Speaks

From high above her crowd of one, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom speaks from her antique, yet sturdy, soapbox.

Any teacher in the audience? You, there. You. The only person who showed up for my speech. Are you a teacher? Thought so. The hairstyle, you know.

Do you remember way back when you first started teaching? Okay, not the one-room schoolhouse on the banks of Plum Creek. A little more recent. Back in the days when the cutting-edge educational philosophy promoted Instructional Management as the be-all, end-all solution to making knowledge stick to the brains of children like adhesive sticks a price tag to an item you desire to be unmarred. Yes, Instructional Management ensured that no child was passed before his time. Master the criteria so it can be recorded on your individual checklist, or you won't be passing to the next grade. That's a fact, Jack. Never mind the nightmare of paperwork and record-keeping.

Maybe your first assessment tool was the Basic Essential Skills Test (BEST). It showed that students were ready to face life in the real world. Didn't it? Because everybody bent over backward to prepare students for the BEST.

Heavens to Betsy! Maybe those were not the proper tools for measuring student achievement. Because along came the MAPs. The tests of the Missouri Assessment Program. The one where students had to write out longhand answers to ambiguous questions. Which were sent away to be graded by a myriad of different people.

Then high schools began testing for End of Course knowledge. The EOCs. A computer-answered list of 30 multiple choice questions. That were supposed to show everything you needed to know at the end of that course.

But wait! Now we have Common Core standards knocking at the door. Pounding it with a battering ram. Clamoring for more depth of knowledge in the subject-matter assessments.

If I can hang on a few more years, I may be able to retire before a new program sashays down the pike. It's getting rather difficult to climb up on this soapbox in my advanced age.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mrs. HM's Lividity Knows No Bounds

I am livid. LIVID!

Perhaps I should have raised my sons to be poopyheads. Okay, maybe I did raise one like that...but today he was the wrong one.

The Pony and I stopped at our regular gassing-up convenience store to feed T-Hoe. Let the record show that this is neither the gas station chicken store, nor the cheap refill 44 oz. Diet Coke store. Just the gas store. I hopped out (okay, gingerly slid down the side of the leather seat to see if my toothpick legs would hold my sweet-potato body) and pumped the gas. The Pony is the payer. He trots inside and dispenses the cash.

Today our pump divulged $38.12 of gas. That's only half a tank for T-Hoe, but we top him off when he's half empty. I gave The Pony two twenties and twelve cents. Because, you see, I did not want to add to my barrel of change on the console. I wanted to get rid of some change. And get two ones back.

The Pony returned with one dollar and eighty-eight cents.

Sweet Gummi Mary! I need to fire up the ol' handbasket factory forthwith! What misbegotten third-grade dropout cannot make change for $38.12 from two twenties and twelve cents? The poor Pony bore the brunt of my misplaced ire.

"Why are you bringing me a handful of change? Didn't you pay with the twelve cents?"

"I DID! But she gave me back a one and eighty-eight cents! I even told her, 'The twelve cents is there. I already gave you the twelve cents.' But she just looked at me and didn't give me more back!"

"I should go in there and ask for my twelve cents!"

"It isn't worth it. That's why I just left. It's only twelve cents."

"It's the principle of the matter. Do you think, if you just gave her thirty-eight dollars, that she would forget the twelve cents? I THINK NOT! She would demand that you pay the twelve cents you still owed for gas. Yet now, she has taken twelve extra cents. That's not fair."

"Just forget it! It's not worth it."

"This is how it starts. What if she does that to customers all day long? She is stealing. If she's that dumb not to know what she did, she might be LOSING money for the store. But I doubt THAT is what's happening."

I did not go in to complain. It was raining. And 41 degrees. At home, I explained the situation to the #1 son. "Would YOU have just let her forget it?"

"No way! I would have said, 'How stupid ARE you that you can't do simple math? Give me my twelve cents change!'

I'm hoping he meant he would say that AFTER he had politely explained the error in her calculations. And I notice that he did NOT say, "Give me my MOM's twelve cents change."

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Opening Statements In The FishPeeGate Hearings

Thump, thump. The gavel grabs everybody's attention.

Arch Nemesis, Chairman of the Hall: I call this investigation to order. We shall begin our inquiry by considering direct testimony from nose-witnesses to the atmosphere of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's classroom at eleven-twenty a.m. on the second day of November, in the year two thousand twelve. I must remind all witnesses that you have been sworn. All statements will be regarded as truth. Any witness who chooses to perjure himself will face the penalty of in-school suspension for a term of not less than one day, and not more than ten days. We will now hear from our first witness.

Student Witness #1: The bell rang at the end of lunch. I ran down the hall to Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's room, because I like to be the first one in. The first one makes the automatic light come on. It's cool. On that day, the room stunk more than usual.

Chairman Nemesis: How would you describe the smell?

Student Witness #1: I don't know. But it wasn't like normal. Usually, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's room smells like somebody smoked a cigarette through their butt, and then farted. But this was worse.

Chairman Nemesis: Thank you. Next witness.

Student Witness #2: I ran down the hall to Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's room, too. No I didn't. I know running is against the rules. I speed-walked down the hall, but Student #1 ran, and that's how he beat me. He always beats me. From running. He needs to be written up, I think.

Chairman Nemesis: Please comment as to the smell of the classroom.

Student Witness #2: It smelled like crap.

Chairman Nemesis: Next witness. Please try to provide more detail.

Student Witness #3: I rushed to Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's room as soon as lunch was over. I like to get there early, so I can hide just inside the door and jump out at people. Then I can take people's books and stuff them in random desks after they set them down and go out for a drink. Or I can threaten people to give me gum. Right before the bell, I ask if I can go down to my locker to get my book, or go to the bathroom. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom always says I can, but she's going to count me tardy. Can you believe that? I was one of the first ones in the room. But she counts me tardy. That stinks. Just like Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's room did that day.

Chairman Nemesis: Can you describe the smell?

Student Witness #3: It was like something old ladies eat for lunch.

Chairman Nemesis: Next witness.

Student Witness #4: When I got to the room after lunch, everybody was gagging. It was bad. It stunk like pee. That's what I said, "It smells like pee in here!" But other people said it was something Mrs. Hillbilly Mom cooked in her microwave.

Chairman Nemesis: Does Mrs. Hillbilly Mom use her microwave when you're in the room?

Student Witness #4: No. Why would she cook AFTER lunch? She does it before we come in there. That's why I think it was pee.

Chairman Nemesis: Why would the classroom smell like pee?

Student Witness #4: Maybe Mrs. Hillbilly Mom couldn't make it to the bathroom. Or maybe she has a coffee can under her desk that she uses to pee in. Maybe she wears Depends. I don't know. All I know is, that room smelled like pee.

Chairman Nemesis: Let's have the next witness.

Student Witness #5: Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's room always smells. That's why we pour out perfume, and tell her that a bottle broke in our purse. Or that the lid came off. We take turns. Sometimes the boys spray on a bunch of Axe while Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is standing in the hall. Or somebody will put on lotion, and say they have too much, and wipe it on about ten people's hands. Every now and then, a girl will polish her nails. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom yells at us because she says she has to stay in that room all day. She coughs and blows her nose and clears her throat. Sometimes it looks like she's crying. She tries to tell us she's allergic to that stuff, but I think she's just a drama queen.

Chairman Nemesis: But what about this day? How did the room smell?

Student Witness #5: Not like normal. That's like the reptile house at the zoo. This smell kind of made me sick to my stomach. I couldn't even eat the strawberry shortcake that I had hid in my sweater pocket. I was afraid it would pick up that smell and I wouldn't be able to eat while Mrs. Hillbilly Mom was grading papers.

Chairman Nemesis: Final witness, please. I understand you have the class before lunch in Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's room.

Student Witness #6: Yes. I have Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's class before and after lunch. We asked what she cooked that stunk, and she said she cooked the exact same thing she has had for lunch every single day of the school year: a frozen chicken sandwich. She said that smell must be from the kitchen. We had fish shapes that day. Everybody ate them, but then said Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's room stunk.

Chairman Nemesis: Did you believe Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's story?

Student Witness #6: She's never lied to me before. She says the ventilation system pulls air from the kitchen into her room. Last year, I remember being cold every day before lunch. And Mrs. Hillbilly Mom said the cooks opened the back door, and the cold air got sucked into the vents in her room. The day after Fish Pee, the room didn't stink so bad. So she might have been telling the truth.

Chairman Nemesis: This hearing is adjourned.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Simply Cannot Resist A Good Zinger

I enjoy interacting with my students. As long as it's during the regular school day, of course, and the exchange does not take away time from learning.

There is a sensible lass who often discusses her job activities, outlook on life, and goals for the future during the dead time between the lesson and the passing out of the assignment. A while back, Sensible Lass became the envy of her after-school-job compatriots when she announced that old men give her tips. Since her employment involved working behind a counter rather than waitressing, her cronies were all a-tizzy. "They give you TIPS? Nobody at my fast food place ever gives ME tips!"

"I make sure I'm always really polite. 'Yes, Ma'am. Yes, Sir. Is there anything else I can get for you? Enjoy your meal.' When I'm ringing them up, these old men say, 'You're such a polite young lady. Here's a little something for you.' And they hand me a five. It's great. I'm just doing my job well, and being nice."

I can attest to the fact that she is unfailingly polite. The Pony and I stopped in one afternoon when she was working. She yes-ma'am-ed me quite effectively. Just enough, but not enough to seem smarmy or condescending. I did not, however, give her a tip. I don't do that at counters.

Sensible Lass mentioned that a lady came into her place of business, and by the time she left, she asked Sensible Lass if she could friend her on Facebook. Sensible Lass agreed. "I never turn down any friends on Facebook. There's some really weird guys on there. One of them asked me where I live. So I told him, 'In your closet.' I would never tell anybody my real address. I try not to be mean, but to tell them something ridiculous, but funny."

"You need to be careful. His goal might really be to have you live in his closet."

"I know, right? I never give away anything personal so they can find me. And that lady that wanted to be my friend? She was kind of odd. She had her little boy with her. Or her grandson. She was really OLD. White hair and everything. I almost didn't let her friend me because she was so old. But I never turn anybody down."

Yesterday, Sensible Lass told her posse that she wants to be the cool mom when she has kids. "I want to be the house where the kids hang out. I want them to be able to talk to me. Have them ask me my opinion on stuff. To be somebody they can relate to, and call or text if they have a problem."

I couldn't resist. She tossed it in there just where I like it, a giant grapefruit hanging over the plate, high and outside, for me to smack into right field. "Yeah. But behind your back, they'll be telling their friends, 'She's so OLD.' "

Friday, November 2, 2012

Rocks: Special Victims Unit

Today my classes learned about metamorphic rocks.

Some days, I pair up names from a neon index card stack of class members. Everyone who wants a partner gets a partner. Not always the partner of their dreams, yet still a partner. Today, I let students choose their own partner to complete the assignment.

A partner. One other person. Not two. No super mega groups allowed. Not two or three pairs of partners working in close proximity. Oh, three girls tried to covertly triple up. Their subversive glances alerted me right off. So I put the kibosh on that unapproved union.

This left a little gal without a partner. She tried to lure in the new girl she refers to as THAT GIRL. Funny how THAT GIRL replied that she preferred to work alone. Little Gal appeared crestfallen, even though she regularly refers to THAT GIRL as THAT GIRL. Even though they are on an extracurricular team together. "I think she hates me," said Little Gal.

"She DOES!" chimed in a handful of instigators. THAT GIRL turned to me and bemusedly rolled her eyes. But she did not profess her not-hate for Little Gal.

Little Gal spied a boy working alone. "Boy! Do you want to be my partner?"


They were joking around. I do not torture my students emotionally like this as a matter of course. "Oh. Kids can be so cruel. That's like kicking a puppy out the door when he runs in to greet you."

Boy said, "You're right, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom." He picked up his book and crossed the room to work with Little Gal.

Over the course of the assignment-completing, one young lass, she of the attempted illegal trifecta, declared that she HATES rocks.

"How can you say that? Rocks are like the puppies of the earth's crust! Embrace them. Don't be hatin'. You'll be wishin' you had a rock when second semester rolls around, and you're obeying Newton's laws."

For the record, Young Lass declared that she much prefers law and order to gamboling rock-puppies. We'll see. I have not yet observed her to be a strict law-abider.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Naming Of The Crew

Hey! You know how some businesses have names that kind of suit them? Like a little mom and pop restaurant called the Do Drop Inn? Or a clock repair store called the Tick Tock Shop? Or a chain where you can buy kids' playthings called Toys 'R' Us? They leave nothing to the imagination. You know what you're getting when you walk into one of those establishments.

You know what is misleading? A medical clinic called Convenient Care.

Woe is me, having been inconvenienced by that place three times in the last two weeks. The first issue was the flu shot debacle when the young receptionist/voodoo priestess kept us waiting over an hour without even handing out paperwork until after the fact. Then we showed up yesterday between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., only to find a sign on the door proclaiming: Closed Wednesday. Visit Our Location in Twentymilesawaytown.

Today, we tried again. Both boys have been sick with lingering sore throats, and an ongoing fever for the #1 son. At the counter, the receptionist/voodoo priestess told me that she was busy now, so I should have a seat, and she would get to me in a few minutes. No taking of names. No insurance card. No paperwork clipboard. Just the brush-off. Thankfully, there was another angry mother to share my outrage. We commiserated until her feverish son was called back. Twenty minutes had elapsed since my grand entrance.

A couple came in and stood at the window. The nurse practitioner herself greeted them. I protested. "I have been here twenty minutes, and that girl did not even take my name. She told me to sit down and wait until she had time." Well. You would have thought I pulled out a six-shooter and brandished it over my Stetson.

The NP, playing so nicey-nice with the very new couple, asking their names, writing them down, etc., snarled at me. "I'm not calling them back now, Ma'am." Like I should just sit there and shut my gaping yawp, and remain as anonymous as if I had never entered the door.

Another ten minutes. The receptionist/voodoo priestess came back to the window. Told me she could take my name now. Said she knew we had been there recently, so she didn't need the card or to give me more paperwork. The NP flitted around in the back. Asked the R/VP if my two boys had been there before the new couple. Yeah. THAT'S why I objected to being left without a sign-in. I'M the bad guy for standing up for myself. The left hand needs to tell the right hand what it's doing. Then they both need to be rapped with a ruler.

We spent an hour-and-a-half at Inconvenient Care. Got two antibiotics prescriptions and passed a strep test. My blood pressure, on the other hand, would have made my optometrist worry.