Dec 7, 2004

Tchaikovsky's Head

Montessori is so great! The children learn about environmentalism. Monet. And Tchaikovsky. Which makes me feel a lot better about letting Jack check out an Early Reader book about the X-Men, which features superheroes with unnaturally muscular frames, and superheroines with Barbie-esque proportions. Oh yeah, and guns. Guns. I looked at the cover again, yep, it said "Early Reader," clear as day. It is "disappearing" from the house today. You can't let your guard down anywhere, even in the "Early Reader" section of your local library. Oh, and isn't it strange that unnaturally large boobs and guns are always in the same story?

But thank goodness for Montessori. In the car yesterday, Jack burst out with "Do you know what Peter Tchaikovsky did when he was a boy? In school one day, his teacher told him the top button on his shirt was unbuttoned, and he fell on the floor and screamed, "It's all my fault." In the next breath Jack asked, "Do you know who his favorite composer was?" "No, who?" (I really did not know.) "Mozart." "Wow. Really?" I looked it up and he was right!!! The Mozart part, anyway. Although Tchaikovsky was a bit foggy on his Beethoven.

The unbuttoned shirt incident is more elusive. I do notice in every photograph of Tchaikovsky that his shirt is fastidiously buttoned indeed. In a Tchaikovsky admirer's website it claimed, referring to T's wife, that "Antonina Ivanovana Milyukoff hurled herself at his head, declaring in a letter her love for him." Ouch. She was quite the multitasker. I assume she missed his head, unless she was airborne. Or maybe he was lying on the floor, having noticed his shirt was unbuttoned. Or maybe his hair was uncombed. That must be it.

Dec 6, 2004

High, Higher, Highest Education

"Are there any good museums in New York?" You would say that's a good question coming from a five-year-old. When you hear it was from an eighteen-year-old, then you would say, "Kids are so ignorant these days." Then when you hear it came from an art student, you . . . don't know what to say. (I work at an art college.) No, she wasn't being ironic. Trust me.

I know. I know. It's incredible. In the past, with fellow graduate students and then other faculty, I have made many a joke about student gaffes, errors, and bizarre (to us) gaps in knowledge. My first year as a teaching assistant at Temple I made a list of amusingly (to me, at the time) error-ridden sentences. No doubt I could have sold the list to Reader's Digest for an easy hundred bucks.

No more. Not that I don't still laugh--I photocopied a whole essay the other week for John to see--it's just that I could make one of those lists every month. Which would be very weird, verging on cruel. Now that I work in academic support and am not teaching in the classroom, the thing is this: I know the backstory.

This young woman of the art museum question, I'll call her Sarah, was on the upswing from a depressive episode at the time, voluble, chatty, and ready for anything, this after holing up at home for a few days, AWOL from classes and ashamed of her absence. Given the circumstances, I was heartened by her question, because it showed that she was looking forward to the next day's class trip to New York, ready to welcome the chaos and beauty of the world.

A few weeks ago, a student told me what she thought about the other women on her floor in the dorm: "They're all cretins." This from a girl with spikes sticking out of her nostrils? Ha ha ha. But I know more about this girl, whom I'll call Annie. Annie has two brothers, one dead and one disabled. She is not on speaking terms with her mother. And her father can't afford the $2700 to get her tested for the learning differences that she most surely has. If she could get her ADD documented, then our college is legally required to give her extensions on assignments.

So . . . Annie stays up all night working up to 14 hours on projects that "should" take only three hours. Well, I'd be bitchy too, wouldn't you?

Dec 2, 2004

Turkey Lurkey

We knew a farmer in Virginia who tried to raise free-range turkeys, but they just ran away. Da dum. No, it's true.

Our organic turkey, brined by John and Jack, turned out great! And it's still going, of course. . . . a lot more slowly now, though. The simple, dramatic turkey-as-turkey, on a platter, limbs intact, sprigs of rosemary and sage on the side, has given way to turkey chopped up, mixed with stuff (including the herbs), and baked.

Last night it devolved to the next lower level, which I call "re-presenting." Along the lines of "re-gifting" (giving people gifts that you received as gifts but don't want) and "re-designing" (moving your currently owned furnishings to new places in your house), "re-presenting" is a thrifty way to deal constructively with what you seem to be stuck with.

In this case, we had already had turkey casserole (brown rice, red peppers, edamame, carrots, lowfat faux white sauce, curry powder). But very small amounts of this tasty dish were consumed due to various people not liking various ingredients. Hmmm . . . what to do? Too much to throw out. Don't have a dog. Kato the cat would eat it and then vomit. Not good. So here's what I did.

Re-Presented Casserole McKinney

Half or more of a previous meal's casserole
4 to 6 slices of cheddar cheese
1/2 to 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Put casserole in a casserole dish that is a different shape than the one used on the previous night. Cover the casserole with slices of cheese. Sprinkle breadcrumbs over cheese. Sprinkle paprika over breadcrumbs. Bake approximately 20 minutes covered with foil and 10 minutes uncovered. Voila!

If anyone asks "What is it?" in that suspicious way they have, call it cheese casserole and stick to your story.

Dec 1, 2004

Virulent Contagious Disease Still Rampant on Playgrounds

Last night John and I learned that five-year-old boys still , after all these years, get cooties from girls who kiss them. Jack asked me how long cooties stay on someone, and I didn't really know, so I told him "less than a second." I can find no information about cooties from the Centers for Disease Control. What have those people been doing?

So, left to our own folk remedies, I suppose we must continue to contain the menace with those low-tech devices made out of notebook paper, folded in such a way that the forefingers and thumbs can be inserted and moved inside the device to "catch" the vermin without having to touch them. Generally, I believe children in the upper elementary grades are proficient in making these and passing the knowledge down, usually during math class.