You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2009.

 I got a new toy today.  It arrived in a big box from my uncle in Colorado, taped to the gills, as usual.  I opened it, too impatient to wait for Mr. Apron to come home, and was greeted with a curved expanse of white plastic, not unlike this:

Was it a bread machine?  A laminating machine?  ( I do love the smell of melting plastic)  Something else ending in machine?  When Mr. Apron came home, we barely had time to eat dinner before I had to dash off to go tutor, but he did spy a manual of sorts visible from behind the miles of bubble wrap.  Words such as “needle” “thread” and “bobbin” jumped off the page.  A new sewing machine!!!

But not just any machine.  It’s a Viking Husqvarna Platinum 735 Royal.  I don’t know what any of that means.  I do know that we used Vikings in 8th grade home ec to learn how to sew (even though my mom taught me the summer before), and that they had lovely smooth action.  I also know that during the summer before moving out to Philly to be with Mr. Apron (shhh, I also had job prospects, but he was my primary motivation.  It’s a big secret.  shhh), when I worked ever-so-briefly as a seamstress for an Egyptian man  who owned a dry cleaning establishment, I had the pleasure of working on a Husqvarna, and damn! if that didn’t make my piece of shit $99 special from Ames’ going out of business sale feel inferior. 

I have always advised my sewing students, when they look for a machine to learn on, that all they really needed was forwards, backwards, and zig-zag.  I still feel that way, to some extent.  You can learn the basics of sewing from such a machine.  And now the beginner models are coming with all sorts of gimmicks and doo-dads — they’re like the Hyundais of the sewing world.  When I got home from tutoring, I waited politely for Mr. Apron to finish his blog, and then ran downstairs to rip open the box.  Taking off the stormtrooper helmet, we found this beauty:

I am so stoked.  I have already figured out how to thread it, a feat made easier by the drop-in loading of the bobbin (like on a film camera), and the automatic needle threader (I have yet to figure this part out).  I have found the bobbin holding tray, designed by brilliant Norwegians to keep threads from tangling (like they did on the trip from Colorado).  I have drooled over the decorative stitching.  I am in love.  I have no idea how to use 3/4 of the features this machine offers, and yet I will not know how I ever sewed without it.  Pretty brazen, you say?  Well, it is an odd house-warming gift, especially from one’s uncle, but one that will be used and appreciated more than a chafing dish or a salsa platter.

We’re getting the first floor painted.  When we moved in around February 19th, or 25th, or whenever that whole debaucle came to fruition, the house was in a state of change.  Our mission: to De-Old-Lady-ify the place.  She had lived here for 62 years, so even if she wasn’t an Old Lady when she moved in, she sure was when she picked out all those floral wall papers.  Still, we knew deep down it would be a beautiful House, and an intensely personal Home, if we could just strip away the layers of Bag Balm, hair dressing, and Stanna Stair lift. 

It begins.  The previous owners, perhaps recognizing the non-appeal to modern homebuyers, began to strip the wallpaper in the living room and dining room.  To say it was a hack job would have been kind.  Though we stipulated in our closing papers that those rooms would be “prepped for paint” (i.e., completely free of wallpaper), what we found was the sellers grand-son-in-law (or something like that) scraping away at c. 30 year old paper with a tool essentially no more effective than a spatula.  Which left bits of paper and backing, scads of glue, and huge gouges where crosses and needlepoint used to hang.  No so simple as a DIY job, much as we would have liked to develop that pride in our home by undertaking the painting ourselves. 

But Aaron and his crew came in yesterday morning and turned the place upside-down.  Our belongings are covered in plastic sheeting and painters’ tape.  I walked the dog this afternoon on a luggage strap — his leash was nowhere to be found.  Mr. Apron’s beloved Bluetooth is somewhere between the mounds of what used to be our dining room table set, and what used to be our cozy living room.  I’m just grateful he had the foresight to rescue our stack of unpaid bills from the mantle, or they’d be long buried. 

Yesterday I came home to mounds of plastic sheeting and drop cloths, our walls covered liberally in spackle.  Today, it was a different story altogether.  Despite being warned by Mr. Apron on a 7:16am voicemail not to freak out when I see the wrong color on the dining room walls — it’s just a primer, he calmly soothes — I was still excited to see the changes.  I walked into a different house entirely.  Surely this was not our home!  In place of the scraped “faux-finish” we joked that the sellers had left us, I found our colors.  Maybe they have more coats to put down, or finishing touche to make, but the essence of this idea that had been forming in my brain is now on our walls.  Let me tell you about our colors, if I may.  Prepare to get hungry, as they all (except one) ended up being food-related.

Enter to a living room in a buttery warm yellow.  Turn to face the fireplace, and find an accent wall in “light eggplant” (my terms; I can’t remember the MAB paint names), with an offset fireplace in the same yellow.  The eggplant continues up the stairs, bring a richness to our upstairs hallways that is amazing me.  Go back down now, and into the dining room, where you’ll find a chair rail, separating two colors.  The bottom, where you’d find wainscoting if we were that cool, is a yellow one shade lighter than the living room.  The upper — squee! — is Cherokee Red.  Cherokee Red is a Frank Lloyd Wright color, the one he used liberally at Fallingwater.  It allows me to bring a small piece of architectural inspiration to our otherwise ordinary twin home in a suburb of Philadelphia.  There are no fewer than 5 replicas of our “style” home in the surrounding neighborhood.  But no other, I wager, has Frank Lloyd Wright’s Cherokee Red.  It’s a dark red, full of metallic rust, with insistent orange tones leaking out.  Mr. Apron convinced me to let the painters do the inside of the front door, too, and I suggested we carry the Cherokee Red there, too.  And damn! if that doesn’t look good!  Move back into our little L kitchen, and you’ll find Lemon Meringue (I did remember that MAB name), which I hope will complement our1950s decor, including a candy red dinette set (complete with red vinyl chairs), a kelly green canister set (with red and yellow decals), white with gold-flecked Formica (TM) countertops and backsplash, and authentic 1950s curtains: kelly green with red and yellow cheese graters, whisks, egg beaters, and spoons.  It’s going to be so cool when we put the furnishings back together, assemble a few shelves, and hang some artwork.  You’ll have to come visit!

I was going to vent about work today, about not having enough time to see all the kids because I had a meeting with my supervisor (“just 2 minutes” turned into 45), about her being critical of my report writing, which runs contradictory to the feedback I usually get from her, and having to rewrite the report, which is just another thing I have to do, and a colossal waste of time, as the report is just an exercise I have to do before I become a full and proper speech language pathologist.  But instead, I was struck by the infusion of color and overnight De-Old-Lady-ifiction our home had taken on as I burst through the door, hoping the dog wasn’t overcome by fumes.  And of course he wasn’t — we opted for low-VOC paint.  So overwhelmed was I by the colors, I decided to write about that instead. 

I hope that in the months and years to come, coming Home will mean I’m able to leave my work anxieties, frustrations, and agita at the threshold.  That I’ll really and truly feel as though I’m coming Home.

Today I bring you three stories of color from preschool aged anthropologists and sociologists.  I love watching children develop and notice differences, whether it’s that we’re all wearing short sleeves now, that Julissa just got a new backpack or that they themselves are sporting new haircuts.  It’s developmentally appropriate, and, I feel, a perfect opportunity to start a discussion of race and/or differences in a safe environment. 

A friend of mine’s daughter is a precocious four-year old.  Her family is multi-racial and spans the spectrum from light to dark, even among siblings.  She and her mother were down visiting some family in the South, and the little girl grappled to understand how she could be related to both brown and white people.  Her mother, sensing a Teachable Moment, explained that though they each had different colors, they were all family.  She herself had had a continuing argument with her sister growing up whether they were brown or black.  So far as I know, it is still unresolved.  Suffice it to say, this little girl looked herself up and down, and proudly announced that her coloring was Peanut Butter.  And so it is.

Not long ago, I was fortunate to be at the breakfast table in one of the preschool classrooms I work in.  This class is racially diverse, including African American children of varying shades, South Asian children, Middle Eastern Children, Hispanic children, and Caucasian children.  Because this is a 3-5 classroom, with children at varying abilities within that range, from kids just figuring out where to hang up their coats to kids ready to run the classroom and lead circle, it stands to reason that their observations on color may vary greatly.  I myself have been told by a more observant child that Kimi and I looked alike because we both had black hair.  While I wasn’t about to correct the child on the finer point that my hair is dark brown, I did laud her efforts at matching her Jewish teacher’s appearance to that of the little Chinese girl in her class.  In the other classroom, however, the children had a more refined view of differences and color.  Breakfast is a social time, and it stood to reason that children get talking and making observations.  Jessica and Jasmin began discussing very insistently, “Well, you and Quadir are brown, and so is Taylor, but Tutti and Sara are just light brown”  “Yeah, but Jonathan is dark brown.”  “And Kuran is just white.”  “No, he’s light brown, too.”  The Indian girls whose coloring has been determined to be “light brown” just looked at each other and shrugged.  Their teachers, a woman the kids would probably determine is “brown”,  and a woman who would likely be “just white”, both looked at me, their eyes alight with amusement as they let the kids observe differences and answer that age old question of color.

Finally, I bring you the other half of the “Transformer Tea Party” saga, from Friday’s post.  I was having lunch with Marco in his Head Start classroom.  For some blessed reason, the class was not playing the “quiet game” for once, a tool the teachers invented so as not to have to listen to social chatter at lunchtime.  I was taking full advantage, asking Marco about activities at home and school.  He told me about playing in the house, how he was the Dad and there was a baby and on and on.  Then he started talking about a party. 

“What kind of party?” I inquired. 

“Oh,” he replied, “a tea party”.  And as if to shock me more, he added, “A Transformers Tea Party”. 

Now that I wanted to hear more about.

Marco started telling me, “All the white kids can come to my party,”  so I pressed on. 

“What about the other kids?”  I asked, unsure if I wanted to go this route. 

“Oh, the brown kids can have their own tea party.” 

What is this, Brown v. Board of Education?  So I tested him:  “What about Jordan?  He’s your best friend.” 

Marco considered.  “Oh, well he can come too.”  And quickly, I was able to let him notice color while supporting him to realize he actually wanted the whole class at his Transformers Tea Party.  He was simply expressing that he noticed difference in his class.  He had separated the colors of his peers in his head, but not in his class, where they sat boy-girl-boy-girl, in similar little uniforms, a sea of different colored faces.

1).  It’s too soon to be hot.  April 26 and 88 degrees do not mix.  I am not ready yet.  We can’t just jump from pleasant spring days in the 60s to summer humidity overnight.  I’m not ready!  I don’t remember how to be sweaty and disgusting by 9am.  I’m not used to carrying my refrigerated water bottle around like a binky.  I haven’t cut my hair away from my neck.  We don’t even know how to use the air conditioners in this house.

2) A working oven is important.  When I met Mr. Apron, he had not, in the time he’d been living in his bachelor studio apartment, used the oven.  Stovetop?  Yes, for omelets.  Foreman grill?  Yes, for burgers.  Microwave?  Yes, for Salisbury “steak” “dinners”.  But oven?  No.  I brought with me, on my first trip to stay with him (shh, don’t tell the unconceived children!), a tub of homemade cookie dough, and showed him how to work his oven in the service of hot fresh cookies.  The next trip, I brought him an oven light. 

Today, our 30 year old HotPoint double- oven ruined a double batch of cupcakes, necessitating a trip to the store for more ingredients because I had baking needs.  My coworkers and friends are expecting baked goods this week.  The oven, supposed to be set at 350, suddenly shot up towards 500, setting off the smoke alarm and turning 24 cupcakes into charred lumps of coal.  Maybe that’s why the batch of meringues last week inverted and burned?  So I sat next to the oven, through the next 3 batches (40 total cupcakes in my fridge…come on over), obsessively checking the oven temperature (so glad we have a thermometer), letting precious heat out of the oven and into the 80 degree April kitchen every five minutes as I peeked at the thermometer.  But they turned out edible.  Sigh.  Guess this means a trip to Worst Buy.  As Mr. Apron reminded me, we discussed this potentiality back in November, when we first looked at the house and cringed at the appliances.  He was wary, and I was optimistic.  “If they die, we’ll just replace them as they go!”  I cheerfully replied.  Now, of course, I just want the fool thing to give me more cupcakes and stop taking my money. 

Spoiler alert:  If you have not seen “Earth”, I revel  some “plot” points.

3) The predators never get sympathy.  Well, almost never.  We saw the Disney Nature film “Earth” last night, amid the loudest house of children and adults I”ve ever witnesses.  From the curly-haired girl bouncing (but quietly) on her seat for 90 minutes to the grown man shouting out, “That’s some fish!” when the shark snapped up a seal (sea lion?), to the mother hailing the mother elephant for pushing her calf onwards towards water, “Go mama!”  Yes, really.  I wouldn’t mind the “Oohs” and “Ahhs” when the cute animals babies first poke their heads out of caves, tree trunks, or pouches.  I even may have uttered a few myself.  It was a beautifully shot movie, full of extreme close ups on the big screen.  And James Earl Jones’ narration led the audience to develop sympathies for the baby elephant as he blindly walks into a tree, the gazelle as he tries to escape a cheetah, and the ducklings as they fall with grace from a tree.  Why are we always sympathetic to the prey?  to the herbivores?  Why did no one cheer the cheetah on as he ran for his lunch?  Why did no one applaud the lions when they at last scored an elephant?  We cringed, we  recoiled, we looked away.  Only when in the final scenes of the movie, we realize the fate of the stranded, starving, and wounded polar bear, do we feel sorry for him.  We feel guilty about global warming and ice caps melting perhaps, or we feel sorry that his family is so far away, or we feel as if his plight in the unfriendly climate is hopeless.  We finally sympathize with the predator. 

4.  Dog should get PE tubes.  When children have chronic or recurring ear infections, they often get tubes to let the fluid drain.  By the time the tubes fall out, their ear canals are better able to drain fluid by themselves, and they’ve outgrown this pesky problem.  Our poor dog has seemingly unending ear infections.  We recognize the signs and symptoms:  he incessantly fwaps his head back and forth to try to alleviate the irritation, and his ear smells like a rotting squirrel carcass doused with vinegar. However, we cannot simply call in a refill on his ear medicine because we’re obliged to go down to the vet for a full wallet-cleaning.  They have to confirm our observations, run labs and cultures, tell us he’s overweight, has a heart murmur, and needs his teeth cleaned, and charge us another $150 before releasing another small tube of ointment and instructing us to do exactly the same thing we would have done if we had the ointment in the first place.

5.  Buying a house is the watershed moment for people to start nagging us about making babies.  Doesn’t matter how old we are (27 and 28), how long we’ve been married (2.5 years), how employed we are (affirmative), or how much space we have (not enough, ever).  My mother’  housewarming gift came with an enclosure that hoped we’d fill our new home with the scents of baking cookies, and, maybe someday, baby powder.  Didn’t waste any time, that one.  Others have started asking, hinting, insinuating.  So much so that I’m using new terminology on the House Tour.  My old highschool friend came to see the house last night.  We showed her the upstairs, introducing the master bedroom, the office/crafting room, and, as I’ve now taken to calling the smallest bedroom, “The Elephant in the Room”. 

6.  Shelves can be assembled while wearing a long skirt and flip-flops, using a dying power screwdriver in about an hour, so long as they’re in the relative cool of the basement and one doesn’t mind tripping over said skirt and dropping assorted and sundry items on one’s toes. 

7.  Sunday night always feels like a precursor to Monday.  And that’s always sad.

It was a long day.  I saw 5 children for an hour each at 3 different sites, on a beautiful spring day when all I wanted to do was be outside.  I did get to go for a short walk with Dante’s class around the block.  Obstacles included such things as mud puddles, craters, loose concrete, and broken glass, but thankfully no condoms (used or new) or dime bags.  It’s not a terrible neighborhood, during daylight hours. 

Dante and Louis, the child I see after Dante, both attend a church basement daycare.  The staff really cares for the kids and has, on the whole, non-yelling, non-screaming, non-day-care-butt-wielding staff members.  They’re pretty hands-off, which means that when I go with the kids into the indoor “gym” (see basement of the church basement, formerly known as auditorium/multipurpose space with stage), I’m the only one interacting with kids, so they gravitate to me like nobody’s business.  My supervisory remarked, “No wonder they go to you; their teachers are all sitting in chairs socializing.”  Yes, teachers need a mental break.  But gross motor play is just just a wild, unruly play time for kids to get their wiggles out.  It’s also a valuable opportunity to teach turn-taking,  support language skills, and encourage cooperative play on many levels.  So I play with the kids.  The teachers like the kids, but they have no idea about developmental appropriateness.  This ranges from having 2.5 year olds do coloring pages of “I is for Iguana” where they’re allowed 1 crayon each and told to “color nicely”.  It also includes Ms. Sasha taking her 4 year olds on hour-and-a-half walks around the neighborhood, into the dollar store and drug store, to tire them out for their naps.  I have much work to do at this school.  But I digress. 

This afternoon, as I was cutting up kiwis for Louis’ class, two girls were playing the game little girls play where you rescind friendship for minor offenses, uninvite people to your non-existent Transformers tea parties, and stand there verbally mocking each other.  Charity had just told Betzaida that she couldn’t have any of her kiwi (which, of course, I was the one cutting and doling out to each child.)  Never mind that there were enough for each child to have one entire kiwi.  Never mind that prior to my peeling and cutting them, Louis had said, “Potatoes?  Dat’s nasty!  I don’t yike potatoes.”  Now that they saw that cool green hue, and heard my solid sales pitch, everyone wanted a piece of the action.  So Charity said her piece, and Betzeida responded with a solid, “You’re not my friend.  I hate you.”  Louis, remembering his Wednesday morning sing-along with Pastor John and his guitar, said, quite clearly,

“Jesus don’t yike dat.”

Damn straight Louis.  Rock on with your character education and guitar sing-alongs.  Rock on, Pastor John. 

The best part?   Louis’ speech goal says something about expressing himself in clear 3-5 word sentences to express needs or make comments.  What communicative act does moral reprimand fall under?

That reads “Disney Squared”  for all those not accustomed to writing math terminology on a QWERTY keyboard.  Ahem.

A while back, I was at a daycare center of some sort, and a child approached me with a book.  This is not uncommon.  I am often barraged by joyous children as I walk in the doorways of their classrooms.   As a sometimes-itinerant speech language pathologist, I have similar status to a grandmother. 

Wait, that came out wrong.  Hear me out. 

What I mean is, I am allowed to come into a classroom or home, stay for an hour, and leave behind whatever ruckus or mess happens while I’m there.  While I do support teachers and parents in ways to improve their children’s undesired behavior, I largely don’t have to deal with consequences of promises to have a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party, bribes for eating healthy lunches, and crashes of overly sugared children.  I also do not have to deal with classroom “housekeeping”, both literal and figurative.  While it may sound strange, I did actually see one perk of becoming an SLP as not having to change diapers for work.  Don’t get me wrong: I”ve mopped up pee puddles, iced split lips, been boogered, sneezed, and coughed on, and had paint lavishly applied to my clothing, face, and hair, but I have not yet changed a diaper on the clock.  In my itinerant work, I come in, pay attention to children, play with them, and then leave, as mysteriously (to the kids) as I came.  They always ask where I’m going. 

“To eat my lunch,” as I leave them to their meals and naps.

“To go home,” as they watch me get in my car at the end of the day.

“To go play with Jeremiah,” as I walk next door to see another child at the center.

“To wash off all the bodily secretions you’ve just lathered on my person in the hottest water available,” as I jet for the nearest sink.

One day, as I was saying, I was approached with a book, in a classroom which did not have many books to choose from.  I was pleased to find this Little Golden Book wasn’t missing any pages (a rarity in this classroom of 2-3 year-olds) and was only minorly torn.  “101 Dalmatians”. 

I’m frequently amused at book adaptations from familiar Disney movies.  They try to keep in the key “plot” elements, often condensing character development into an anecdote the children will remember from the movie. 

I read “101 Dalmatians”.  I remember this movie thrilling and scaring me.  Cruella DeVil was just the embodiment of evil in a “Crazy Lady Driver“, unceasing in her attempts to get the friggin’ dalmatian puppies.  For some reason, she needs 99 to make a dog-skin coat.  Dog-skin coat.  That’s a line I remember from the movie.  Because of course she’s fur-obsessed.  Anyone can see that in her sumptuous characteristic coat and matching hair-do.  Anyone can see her coat and know those puppies are destined to become her summer wardrobe.  So you can imagine how shocked I was to read that, according to this Disney-licensed (no NYC street-vendor knockoff beach towel) book, she wanted to sell them to the circus.

Let that sink in for a moment. 

Take a breath.  Ready to continue?   Because Dalmatians are so exotic and rare?  Because they’re so eminently trainable (which, as a breed, they’re actually not)?  Because in her heart, Cruella is just an enterpreneur and wants to jump in on the market for dog circuses?

No, because Disney, famous for woosifying such classics as the Little Mermaid (newsflash: Ariel dies at the end of the Grimm Bros. tale), Cinderella (the evil stepsisters cut off her toe & heel to try to fit into the slipper), Snow White (Evil Queen actually wants Snow White’s lungs and liver, to eat, as proof that SnowWhite  is dead), and Pocahontas (don’t even get me started), just bastardized their own story.  Usually, the Disneyfication (patent pending) is to make them have happy endings, to decrease bloodshed, to introduce more sidekicks and related best-selling songs, or to sell more merchandise.  This time it was to…?  Apologize for making an evil character have evil intentions?  Appeal to PETA?  Reneg on their own movie?  Make the character of Cruella have no villianous integrity whatsoever? 

Is animal cruety so taboo we can’t even have villians scheming and plotting, even if they’re thwarted at the end, as they always are? 

If the movie wasn’t too scary for children, then the book shouldn’t be either.  That’s my point.  And if they’re suddenly becoming PC, then Disney has a lot of work to do with Peter Pan.  The “what makes a red man red” song always rubbed me wrong, and I’ve since childhood preferred the Mary Martin live action version on Betamax.  You just can’t beat it. 

My point is this: if I’m going to indulge in a little Disney, give me dog-skinning, cigarette-smoking, peroxide-abusing Cruella DeVil over her regentrified dog-circus ringmaster iteration anyday .

The curl of her lips
The ice in her stare
All innocent children
Had better beware
She’s like a spider waiting
For the kill
Look out for Cruella De Vil

Cruella DeVil
Cruella DeVil
If she doesnt scare you
No evil thing will
to see her is to
take a sudden chill
Cruella,Cruella DeVil

Children get hurt; this is a fact of life, of preschool, and of buildings with less-than-ideal (though up to code) facilities.  For example, the play “yard” was not big enough for the number of children at the center (hovering around 55 now), so they tore out the shrubberies around the perimeter to give an extra square foot all around, thus making the area legal for whatever number of children could potentially be in there at one time (18, I think).  However, they never replanted anything, put down turf, impervious or otherwise.  So when it’s muddy, we’re up to code, but forced back to the original, space. 

But up to code.  And when many children are forced into a small area, accidents happen.  When electrical boxes are placed at eye level of a 4 year old, and not adequately covered, children run into them.  When this happens, incident reports are filed.  The report reads something like this:

Juan was running in the yard.  He turned his head and hit the electrical box which was at his eye level. 

Then there’s a section for corrective action.  This is supposed to help us learn what we can do better, but not paint us in a bad or negligent light.  So, we’re not allowed to write, “Will cover with high-density padding.” if that’s not actually going to happen.  Nor can we write, “Will be more careful next time,” implying we were not careful this time.  We’re supposed to write, “Will continue to exercise caution when children play in this area” or some band-aid such as, “Will continue to place playground equipment in such a way as to obstruct access to the electrical box”.  Will continue.  Which makes us not negligent.  Yet it happened anyway. 

A few weeks ago, I was in a classroom working with a child.  Another child came over to our area.  She tripped over my extended big-person feet and fell face-first into the carpet, biting her lip.  Would you like to know what my corrective action was?  “Will remove objects from her path” which was corrected by the program director to read, “Will continue to…”  Of course.  Because otherwise it makes us seem like we’re placing stumbling blocks, filets of fish, beds of nails, puddles of Jello, uneven curbs, Crisco, hidden driveways, Jersey barriers, Civil War mortar shells, or dead cats in front of children with physical disabilities.  This particular child has Cerebral Palsy and could and does fall even with a wide open runway of bathtub daisies and gripper pads, wearing YakTrax, Crampons, or golf cleats.  If typical children without paralyzed bits and balance issues regularly run into doorknobs and split their chins on glass coffee tables (does the whole world have that distinctive chin scar, or am I exaggerating?), what chance do developmentally delayed kids have?

Which is why our incident reports do not fit.  They’re designed for us to take corrective action to prevent recurrences, but they don’t fit in situations where the common factor — instead of being electrial boxes or poles in the middle of the play yard — is the child.  They fit “stupidities” as my tenth grade chemistry used to tell us, but do not fit true accidents”. 

Yesterday, I was seated at my desk, writing my unending end-of-day notes on the 16 (!) children I managed to give a small portion of my day.  My desk is one of those 1950s style painted metal desks you see in cop movies and shows like Law & Order.  Well, as I finished my last note, wrist lying limp in agony, I threw down my sweaty pen, and turned to go raid the chocolate tin in the main office, thus slamming my knee into the corner of my desk with the full force of someone who has just finished writing 16 notes and needs chocolate to make it through the rest of the work day. 

“GAAAH!”  I did not stifle my scream.

“Are you okay?” asked the coworker in the main office, who was probably guarding the chocolate tin.  You’re supposed to eek out a meager, “Yeah” and move on with life in the grown-up world, so that no one has to follow up or be concerned.  Which they’re not really anyway.  I broke rank. 

“Noooo!”  I moaned, clutching, writhing, stifling, sucking in my teeth the way you do when you can’t scream with the true force of agony. 

It hurt.  I do have perpetually bruised knees, mostly from shoving myself under child-size tables, scooting into child-size table legs, and generally crawling around a child-size world as an admittedly not so large adult.  However, one question remains:

What does that incident report look like? 

“While rotating out of chair, I fucked up my knee on the motherfucking corner of this Titanic desk that’s older than I am.”

“While taking a break from my overwhelming caseload duties, I slammed my kneecap directly into the corner of the metal desk, screaming in agony.”

“My knee got bitch-slapped by my desk.”

What I’d really have trouble with is the corrective action.

“Will continue to exercise due caution around objects of a certain hardness, i.e., metal office desks.”

“Will continue to search for new jobs which have more forgiving office furniture.”

“Will continue to wrap corners of desk in high-density foam padding and/or bubble wrap.”

“Will continue to wear knee pads and/or snow suit to prevent all future contact between patellar surfaces and any/all desks.”

Feel free to contribute your own corrective action ideas.  Don’t forget to CYA with the magic, forgiving “Will continue” or you may inadvertantly be perceived as negligent, and may receive your very own corrective action.

There was some repetitive children’s picture book I came across last summer about a small boy fishing off a dock of a very polluted lake.  In every other page, he says, “I wish, I wish, I wish for a fish.”  And then, on the next page, pulls out a boot, a tire, or a tin can.  Finally, on the last page, he pulls out a whopper.  Happy ending.  It’s great for story prediction.  Kids are always pulling for the protagonist, who disappoints each time.  Until the end, and then the therapy session is over.  My favorite part about this particular book is that the young man I read it with was one of those Aspergian precocious readers who read the book to me.  I didn’t have to exert myself.  I just had to keep him from ruining the surprise of the next page by holding it down while he predicted the boy would land the big one on the next page.  Ah, those were the days.

Today, I wished for fish of a different sort.  My preschool center has a “kitchen” similar in some ways to your college dorm kitchen, if you weren’t actually allowed to have a kitchen.  The adults are allowed to use the microwave, the toaster oven (though not at the same time –fuses and such), and the fridge in the staff lounge to preserve and heat our Lean Cuisines, leftover pizzas, sandwiches, soups, and soft pretzels however we choose. 

For the children, questionable comestibles passing as nutritionally balanced meals are trucked in around 11:30, kept warm in a “Hot Box” (no, not like that, you potheads) for nearly an hour, and then served to the children.  The food is supposed to arrive around 160 degrees, and be served to the kids at no less than 140 degrees.  That seems mighty hot to me.  For some reason, whether it’s that my center is last on the route, that they’re using some inferior hot box, that they’re using it incorrectly, or that our thermometer is reading in Celcius (Kelvin would have been funnier, but less accurate), the food has several times arrived not hot enough.  And, because we are equipped with only a fridge and a sink and an industrial sanitizer, we are not allowed to reheat food or cook it in any way.  Worse than a college dorm with a microfridge, actually.  We have been forced to send it back to be — I don’t know — reheated?

Imagine now, the lunch that was to have been served this fateful afternoon: pale foodservice-grade fish filets, army-green foodservice-grade wilted broccoli stalks (with 4-5 florets per class), inconsistently edible potato chunks, and pineapple chunks.  The whole meal spread looks decidedly pale.  Ketchup, what’s that?  I’m thrilled that the nutritionists, or whoever they are, make efforts to get kids to eat real food, instead of “kid food”: ghastly  pink yogurt in a tube, dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, Lunchables, dubiously named “fruit” snacks, Dora ice cream, Spaghetti-O’s, and Hannah Montana cereal.  But, they could at least make it look appetizing, if not edible.  Though I doubt any vegetable kept warm for an hour would fare well.  And of course, the grown-ups’ party line has to be to present each meal as a gift from the gourmands in foodservice, though we’re all gagging as we serve some of the meals.

Especially the fish.  As I walk through the small corridor leading to the classroom I spend my Monday afternoons in, I can immediately recoil from gag on detect the odor from a fish day.  Imagine my surprise when I was informed lunch would be late because it was already 12:30 and the fish was too cold.  The program director (Head Wolf) was out all day, the adminstrative assistant (She who really runs the show) does not work Mondays, and the lunch lady was freaking out.  We could not make the kids wait for a lunch to come at 1:30, when the children in the afternoon program are only there till 2:30 anyway.  So we send the social worker to Pathmark to buy cheese. 

She bought 1.5 lbs for approximately 55 children.  My sliced cheese comes in squares a little less than 1oz per slice.  16oz per pound.  1.5 pounds = 24 oz.  24 slices’ worth of cheese for 55 children.  Guess we should’ve thought this through better.   The teachers made finger sandwiches with quarters of bread stashed away for such emergencies, and paired them with pineapple chunks.  The six children I supped with demolished every slice of bread and every square inch of cheese.  Some even ate pineapple.  I’m sure the kids in the other classrooms ate similarly. 

The irony is that the fish lunch, being my most abhored hands-down favorite, is picked at by all the children.  Many eat potatoes.  Some nibble on fish if it’s chopped up and disguised with contraband ketchup.  Few eat broccoli.  They probably consumed more calories in their bread and cheese today than they usually do on a fish day.  So before I let myself feel bad for starving the children, I just recall the fish smell, feel the bile rising in my throat, and move on, hoping the next fish day is far, far away.

I wrote yesterday about the Craft Fair, and how many adult-like people asked me “What are they?” about the I Spy bags.  Aside from having no signage and having one woman repeat after me, “Ice Pie?  You mean you put it in the freezer?”, it occured to me that my readers (are there 2 of you yet?) might not know either. 

I shall elucidate.  The classic I Spy game is based on one person naming an object in clue form, “I spy with my little eye, something luminescent, radiant, and electric” to which the other person, upon scanning the room, says, “Is it a lightbulb?”  Kids probably say, “I spy…something blue” and then stare directly at it, waiting for you to name the dog’s water dish, while you give chase, naming all the other minutia in the room that is blue.  An I Spy bag is also a hide and seek game. 

I fill a 9″x9″ pouch with doll beads (PVC pellets) and 40-someodd small dollar-store toys (baby shower supplies are choice, small plastic animals, GI Joe figurines, party favors, hair clips) and junk-drawer mess (paper clips, bread tags, binder clips, foreign coins, buttons, puzzle pieces, bottle caps).  Then I seal it up and attach a tag listing the contents.  Here’s what my bags look like:

An I Spy bag

An I Spy bag

You can see I attached a laminated tag with a picture of all the contents.  My contents tags have a word list on one side, and a picture map on the other side.  I love the pictures because pre-literate kids can match what they find to the pictures, or go looking for an item on the card without needing a grown up to read it to them.  “Mom what’s this?  What’s it say?  Mom, what should I find next?  Mom?  Mom!”  Here’s what a picture map looks like:

I Spy bag contents

I Spy bag contents

The grid is an added “feature”.  Kids can challenge themselves or others to find all the items in box 7.  They’re grouped in some sort of order, by farm animals, round objects, vehicles, buttons, or beads. 

Here is the value:

Waiting in a doctor’s office, sitting quietly in church, riding in a shopping cart, enduring an endless car ride, children can entertain themselves quietly, with no lost pieces, no noisy buttons, and no need for adult support, even for young kids. 

Therapeutically, I can see speech language pathologists using them to build vocabulary, practice articulation targets (imagine a bag filled with just /s/ words!), follow directions (“Find the pig, then the dragon.”), teach language concepts (“Where’s the big round bead?”), or use them as a reward for doing other work.  I also work with occupational therapists, so I now understand the value of an I Spy bag in this field as well.  First, they’re weighted.  They provide sensory feedback to kids who crave it.  They also require manual manipulation to move around the pellets.  You can use one hand to strengthen it, or both hands to learn coordination.  You can squeeze it, poke it, shake it, etc, trying to find the objects and you’re not even thinking about therapy.  I received an e-mail today from a woman on who made one for her 4 year old who has vision challenges.  With her I Spy bag, she is working on tracking, visual discrimination, focusing, matching, and never realizing it’s therapy. 

Did I mention how awesome these things are?  I think they’re worth far more than the $18 I’m offering them for.  I just need to figure a way into the market.  I know it’s a great toy.  Kids do, too.  Their parents just need to realize it.  And then pay me money for my creations.  And then all will be well in the world.

Today was the 2nd annual Library Craft Fair.  Last year I went as a spectator, and said to myself (of the presenters), “I could do this!”  I nudged Mr. Apron and asked him to remind me about what I said at some later point in time.  He did, and I sewed my pants off these last few weeks, and lo and behold — I did it!  My first craft fair.


Here (if I figured out how to imbed a picture in my blog — wordpress makes things complicated) is my setup. 

I offered”I spy” bags (pouches filled with tiny treasures to locate), zippered pouches (like a coin purse), potato-stamped onesies, retro purses, reversible tote bags, sock monkeys, and baby jumpers.  I actually sold 2 onesies, 2 sock monkeys, 3 zippered pouches, 1 I-spy bag (stock), and 1 I-spy custom order.  The funny thing is, my mother-in-law works at the library, and has a tote bag similar to the ones I brought with me.  My mother made it for her as a birthday gift, and she received so many compliments (and covets) that the Library Ladies begged me to make and sell some.  No one bought them.  Alas, I digress.

I had many positive interactions with adults and children, inviting the kids (who were constantly being told “Don’t Touch”) to come and play with the I Spy bags.  Teens were interested in the zippered pouches but spent an inordinate amount of time with the I Spy bags.  People in general gave me good feedback about my wares, lamenting they did not have babies to buy for.  (Though one grandma about to buy a jumper for her almost-3-year-old was told abruptly by her 5 year old grandson, “She never likes anything you pick out.”) They were impressed that I made everything myself and seemed to be drawn to the colorful (if a bit chaotic) table, even if they did not buy anything. 

I learned many things today. 

Here is a short list (oh, how I love lists!):

  • Cluster all baby items together.  I think many people thought all my stuff was for babies, so they didn’t even see all the lined tote bags.
  • Use more signage.  I got many “What is this?” questions about the I Spy bags.  Kids were quick to figure them out, but adults need help. Other things which did not scream, “I Am A Tote Bag!  Buy Me”! need signage, too. 
  • Play up the therapeutic angle of the I Spy bags.  My friend the fellow SLP bought one to use in therapy.  Adults remarked they’d be good for OT (yes, I agree).  Parents can often be Wolves (see post “Girl Crush”), and don’t see the inherent value of quiet self-entertaining play.  Next time I’ll emphasize the language and occupational therapy uses. 
  • Figure out how better to display the jumpers and onesies.  I like the clothesline idea, but it was shaky at best, and the jumpers were just pinned to the tablecloth, making them inaccessible for people to fondle. 
  • Make signage to make it clear I am not just making baby clothes.  really.  Make more adult clothes to emphasize this point.

All in all, it wasn’t a resounding success, but a good first try.  My friends came to support me.  Mr. Apron stood/sat by my side.  I sold some things.  I took a custom order for an I Spy bag.  I gave out many business cards, which will hopefully turn into business!  I may be so inspired as to give it another go at the upcoming Philadelphia Independent Craft Market fairs this spring/summer.

Have you done a craft fair?  What have you learned?  What would you buy?  What do you look for?

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April 2009